About the California Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon wine is produced in large quanities throughout California. Cab is particularly at home in the Napa Valley. During the 1950s, Inglenook Vineyards, Charles Krug, and Beaulieu Vineyard surged to the forefront of the state’s wine industry based on their mastery of Cab.

The 1960s saw both successes and setbacks. Progress was made as vintners began widespread experimentation with different levels of exposure to French and American oak. Following Bordeaux’s lead, barrel aging gave California Cabs a higher level of complexity and age-worthiness.

At the same time, thousands of acres of the varietal were planted in Monterey County during the 1960s. Hastily developed, the grapes from many of these vines ripened erratically in the cool climate. This lead to the derogatory name “Monterey Veggies” for these wines’ green flavors.

The most significant development of the 1970s was the experimentation of blending different varietals with Cab, most noteably the traditional Bordeaux varietals. Merlot and Cabernet Franc came first, followed by Malbec and Petit Verdot. Nonetheless, most Cab continues to be made as a single-varietal wine in California.

During the 1980s, Alexander Valley began to excel at Cab production. Originally planted with low-quality, but prolific clones, wines from the region were not immediately embraced. Thankfully, this changed as the AVA was replanted with quality in mind. The other Bordeaux varietals also have important roles in Alexander Valley.

About the California Cabernet Sauvignon

The 1990s was a great time for California Cab. The decade saw an increase in the recognition of the role terroir plays in shaping the profile of the varietal. For example, the warmer Rutherford and Oakville AVAs produce Cabs that have blackcurrant and plum flavors framed by firm tannins. On the other hand, Cabs from the cooler Stags Leap AVA are more reminiscent of cherries and have a softer texture.

Napa Cabs have been good to outstanding in recent years, and most will age nicely. Recently, several boutique wineries have emerged that charge over $100 a bottle for their Cabs. The top California Cabs peak 20-30 years after bottling. That being said, the vast majority are mature after 2-5 years.