Monday, August 18, 2008

Sol Rouge 2006 Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon

This is one big wine. I was hesitant to purchase it at first because I fished around online and all the reviews I found mentioned how powerful the tannins were. I don't have a wine cellar, so at the most, I'd probably save it for a year or two, waiting for some special night to open it. But I didn't want a wine that would take decades before I could drink it and potentially spoil because of unideal storing conditions. I e-mailed the winery about it, and Bryan Kane, one of the owners, responded:

"It's a bigger, more structured wine than my Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon and will most likely out live both (according to the Sommeliers who tasted it blind side-by-side this last weekend). It will last a good 10-15 years."

However, he also said its drinkable now, as long as you let it decant for a few hours (he lets it decant overnight before serving it to the trade). So I purchased two bottles from The Wine Spies for $27 each.

I actually met Bryan earlier this year at the ZAP festival in San Francisco -- an annual event that specializes in zinfandels. At that event I liked their 2006 Barbieri Vineyard Russian River Valley Zin. It really stood out among the hundreds of wines there as something special. After the harvest, the owner of the land decided to rip the vines up, so this was the last time anyone could get this particular bottle of wine. It retails for about $39.

When I saw a Sol Rouge offering on The Wine Spies, I figured it's time I jump in and try some of their non-Zin offerings.

Last night my friends Rob & Liz invited us over for dinner, so I brought one bottle, eager to see how it would turn out.

I popped the cork when I got there, and asked Rob for a carafe or some container to put the wine in to air out for a bit before we ate. All he had was a large French press, which I said would work fine (Rob pointed out how perfect that image is for my blog - I'll need to start putting more wine in coffee apparatuses and start snapping away!)

I put the French press outside to cool, since all the cooking was making their apartment warm. We were in the Berkeley Hills, and the fog was rolling up over the front of the yard and onto the porch where the wine-filled glass container sat on a stool.

About an hour later dinner was served, and a first bottle of wine was finished. I wanted to give the Cab some more time outside, but we decided to dive in.

Initially, I didn't get much on the nose. Whether it was because was too chilled, lacked enough decanting, or muted because of the strong Indian spices in the plate in front of me, I just couldn't pick out any noticeable scents. It was dark purple in color, very dense in appearance.

Despite not smelling much in the glass, in the mouth the wine easily makes itself known. Loads of blackberries, some red fruits as well. Mouth-staining tannins. Rob, who hadn't tried the wine yet, looked at Liz and I and said ``Cabernet Sauvignon turns people into vampires, and you guys are definitely there.''

I was very impressed with this wine. Yes, it has strong tannins, but they're not harsh and overpowering. The wine is nicely balanced, with several layers of complexity and a long, long finish accentuated again by blackberries and the tannins. As the night wore on, and the wine had more time to breath, I started getting a woody-cedar scent on the nose.

This thing could definitely age for years, and at the price, is certainly a blockbuster deal. It tastes like a wine at least twice its price, and you can really tell the quality and care that went into making it on the first sip. I was sad that this bottle went so fast, because it's one of those wines you just want to swirl, sniff and sip for a while to really appreciate it. Luckily, I have that second bottle stashed away for some later date.

According to a blurb on Sol Rouge's site, the wine comes from grapes grown at high elevations ranging from 1800 feet to 2600 feet.

Sol Rouge, which means red soil in French, gets its name from the red volcanic soil where the family-owned vineyard is located, north of Napa Valley in the foothills of the volcano which forms the North Coast wine country. The 70 acre estate, between Mt. Konocti and Benson Ridge in the Red Hills Appellation, is planted with Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise, Petite Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc, with plans to add Cinsault.

Definitely try this wine, or any other of their offerings, if you get a chance.

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