Cabernet sauvignon - California
California Cabernet Sauvignon is well-known and has earned a reputation in the global market. The state has planted and produced this grape variety in a similar manner to Bordeaux.
In 1976, a wine tasting called the Judgment of Paris helped popularize Californian Cabernet Sauvignon in the global market. This occurred when a 1973 Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon won a blind tasting against wines from the top Bordeaux estates, such as Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Montrose, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Léoville-Las Cases, judged by French winemakers.
During the 1980s, California suffered a phylloxera outbreak that caused significant damage to its vineyards, requiring replanting. Although there were rumors that Cabernet vineyards were replaced by other types, such as the Rhone Rangers movement, it is a fact that the number of Cabernet Sauvignon plantings in California doubled between 1988 and 1998. This grape variety continues to dominate many wine regions, such as the Napa Valley in Yountville and the Alexander Valley in Sonoma.
Cabernet wine is becoming increasingly popular in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma Mountain, and Mendocino County. Cabernet wine produced in Sonoma County tends to have flavors of anise and black olive, while Napa County Cabernet wine has strong notes of black fruit.
California Cabernet Sauvignon wines exhibit diverse styles, mainly determined by the location of the vineyards in hills or valleys, with the Central Valley being a significant example.
Vineyards in the Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Mt. Veeder, and Spring Mountain districts, located in the hills of Napa, produce smaller grapes with thinner skins and more concentrated flavors, similar to Bordeaux wines, which require prolonged aging due to their less fertile soils. Yields in these vineyards range from 1 to 2 tons per acre, much lower than the 4 to 8 tons produced by more fertile valley soils.
Wines from vineyards in the mountains are known for their deep nuances and strong cherry fragrances. In California, there are numerous wine regions capable of fully ripening Cabernet grapes. These regions can produce robust, fruity wines with an alcohol content that exceeds the 12, 13, or 14% average of Bordeaux.
For a long time, California Cabernet wine has been aged in oak barrels. American oak barrels, especially new ones, have been a popular choice among winemakers. In the 1980s, some winemakers attempted to produce wines that were more food-friendly using less mature grapes and reducing the influence of oak, but they were unsuccessful. Later, winemakers returned to paying attention to oak barrels, but focused on limiting their impact and using a softer touch.
As a result, many winemakers began using French oak or a combination of new and old barrels.