Magazine article Sunset

Well-Crafted Cabs

Magazine article Sunset

Well-Crafted Cabs

Article excerpt

For a special bottle to give or drink, California's classic winemakers deliver elegance and balance. BY SARA SCHNEIDER | PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANNABELLE BREAKEY

IN THE RACE of the last decade for higher and higher scores from key wine critics - and for more of our dollars for the most popular red in this country - some top Cabernet Sauvignon makers went off the deep end. They let their grapes get iiber-ripe in the vineyard, for the sake of irresistibly plush and sexy fruit, but at the sake of the bright acidity and moderate alcohol level a Cab needs to live long (or to be a good partner for dinner tonight). And if those Cabernet grapes came from hallowed ground, the wine joined the cult commanding multihundreds of dollars a bottle.

Enter a recession, and exit important critic Robert Parker Jr. (widely considered the world's most influential wine voice, and known for rewarding rich, highalcohol wines, he handed off the baton for tasting California wines for his Wine. Advocate). Now, I'm seeing more bottles showing some restraint: a little less alcohol, a little less new oak, a little more fresh acidity.

In recent tastings here, though, my favorite Cabs - balanced and elegant, with moderate to low alcohol levels - all came from old-guard winemakers who never lost their way in the first place. Their wines aren't even close to inexpensive, but compared with the stratospherically priced cults, they represent good value.

OUR PICKS

Chappeltet 2009 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley; (49; 149%)· Brooding olallieberry, black currant, pipe tobacco, mocha, and gravel are pulled up by violets, fresh mint, and raspberry. …

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