Sonoma doesn't get the recognition for cabernet sauvignon that its chic neighbor Napa Valley receives, perhaps because Napa so defines the flavor and body of the typical California red. Sonoma, closer to the ocean, has a slightly milder climate, which lends itself to creating a more elegant cab in certain areas like the Alexander Valley and Sonoma Valley. These leaner, less robust wines have a hint of softness amidst their bright fruit and higher acidity. Some even have a hint of spice, bringing their complexity forward as you sip on the wine, and a great deal of structure that makes these wines great for aging.
Now, knee-deep in snow, I find myself drawn toward these wines, for their comforting body, rich and full, ripe with fruit and tannins and not just a little of that warming feeling that comes from California wines. Sonoma, with its delicacy, means wines perfect for right now: these wines are gorgeous decanted and enjoyed with a meal, whether a hearty roast of beef tenderloin or rich and smooth mac and cheese; however, full-bodied as they may be, they're not too overwhelming to sip after the end of a long day, a little more warmth after the sun's early descent.
3 Sonoma Cabernets To Try:
Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $52
This rich, bright red wine is a blend of cabernet sauvignon (77%), merlot (18%), and petit verdot (5%). Inky purple in color, it has a gorgeous bouquet of black cherry and violets, sweet spices, and oak, and once you sip it, its silky tannins, pepper, and blackberry fruits remind you how gorgeously juicy a wine can be. This wine will only get better with age.
Simi Landslide Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, $35
Simi has a long history of red wine production, as one of the few California wineries that continued to make wine throughout Prohibition. This cabernet from the Alexander Valley is full of bright cherry fruits, with cedar, tobacco, and spice on the finish. Simi wines age gracefully, with structure that gets more elegant with passing years, and this one should be no exception.
Chateau St. Jean Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, $25
Aged in a blend of French and American oak, this rich, fruit-forward red is full of the flavors of cassis and blackberry, chocolate and vanilla, leather and sweet tobacco. Its big, smooth mouthfeel is thanks to its well-integrated tannins, the result of a bit of age.