Wine Talk

Snooth User: DawgByte

Is there hope for Cali Cabs?

Posted by DawgByte, Feb 20, 2011.

I just finished reading 10 pages of very interesting, insightful and articulate posts about the perceived demise of California Cabernet Sauvignon. There was a lot of data contributing to the perception that California is in the middle of a high alcohol "fruit bomb" era.

I'm not going to pretend to be Robert Parker Jr., James Laube or even several of the more knowledgeable participants on this blog, however what I can tell you is that I've been following Napa wines and going to wineries in that region since the mid-to-late 60's. Having grown up in So. Cal. with parents who loved and appreciated wine and wanted to expose their offspring to their passion at an early age, I was fortunate to try a lot of different wines and get to know the flavors of the region. Over that 40+ years of consumption and observation, one of the unmistakable attributes of California wines is their natural tendency towards both setting and being destroyed by trends.

California has always considered itself a trend setter, making the market and milking it for every dollar it could squeeze out of a product. Californians, whether influenced by Easterners, or just following their own pioneering spirit have always tried to be a winner. When Californian's make up their mind to do something, by God they're going to do it better than anyone else. All of which leads to a desire to create a product, set the market and push it for all its worth. California in spite of their altruistic self assessments is highly motivated by the almighty dollar. Who can forget the white Zinfandel craze of the 80's, where suburban Yuppy moms were driving their kids to the local soccer field in the minivan while sipping a Zin cooler. Can anyone say... Bartels & James madam? It only took a few years for the market to become saturated with the stuff and like all good things the Zin craze went up in smoke. God rest its soul!

Fast forward to the next decade and Reggie Perrin's rise and fall of Merlots. Merlot was the wine in the 90's and once again California over produced, the market got saturated and Merlots became lighter fluid. Merlot had been Zinned.

Now the problem is high alcohol fruit bombs that resemble little of the 1965 BV Cab I was raised on. So what has happened and what will likely happen in the future. Like all things Californian, the pendulum has swung too far to one side. Producing wines to get Robert Parker's blessing has indeed changed the nature and balance of Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Today's Cabs bare little resemblance to their 60's & 70's relatives. The consumer has once again duped by a pyramid scheme consisting of influential critics, distributors looking for scores and wine makers doing whatever the trend tells them to do.

The future... There may be enough negative buzz around chocolaty, Smucker Jam Cabs that hopefully can create a course correction. I have faith there are still enough wine makers with a spine willing to buck the trend create Cabs the way RP wants them to be made. It would be nice to buy a Cab for $25-30 that actually has a nose, some body and doesn't taste like it rolled off Chines Prune candy factory. I have hopes...

 

1 2 3 next

Replies

27
1257
Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 20, 2011.

Dawg

Going to far to satisfy consumer trends is not just a Californian thing, Aussie Shiraz has suffered from the high alcohol Parker trend.

My personal view and not being a Cali native but an Aussie is that Cali Cabs will continue to be great wines because you have a great cabernet growing region and will produce great winemakers, maybe even seduce a couple Aussie, French, Italian Winemakers to your shores.

We have just gone through a huge RTD [ready to drink] phase here with massive increases in the sales of any cheap spirit mixed with any sweet soft drink in a 330-375ml bottle.  Targetted fairly at teenagers, particualrly young girls.  It is creating a whole lot of serious debate around health issues and underage drinking.

Consumer trends will continue to impact winemaking, some good, some bad.  Hopefully the long term outcome is continued improvement in wine and excellent wines in the affordable consumer range [USD equiv 15-40 per 750ml bottle]

 

20
5936
Reply by dmcker, Feb 20, 2011.

DB, is this the thread you were reading:

What's wrong with California Cabs?

Or something else?

0
27
Reply by DawgByte, Feb 21, 2011.

dmcker - Yes, that is the thread I was referring to above.

3342
326
Reply by VegasOenophile, Feb 21, 2011.

I'd agree there is a great many large production CA cabs following the trend, but there are plenty of lesser known (and thus harder to get your hands on) cabs that are just delightful and made how the earth leads them in the hands of a skilled winemaker.  To some extent, CA cabs are just more prone to be younger, more fruit forward style wines than in the old world, due to their age and the terroir.  But, high alcohol is all about the process and that is completely to be blamed where blame is due in that regard.  Some people make wine their way and don't care about scores, but again, those are more your artisinal crafted wines from much smaller production and often available only direct from the winery or in small speciality shops, but they're out there.  And those wines, I find to be my favorites most of the time because they ARE balanced.

152
1818
Reply by napagirl68, Feb 21, 2011.

Yes, there is much hope.... in small lot vintages. Many amazing cabs made here.   But perhaps you just prefer a Bordeaux?  If so, why bother tasting CA wines?

27
1257
Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 21, 2011.

NG - sadly all of our favourite wine regions get tarred from time to time because they overdo the latest consumer trend.

Winemakers are damned if they do damned if they don't in trying to provide us the fickle consumer with wines we enjoy.

You guys have good dirt, the right weather and good people so I have no doubt you will always make great wines, some off course will be better than others and different wine styles appeal to different palates.

The important thing is that you guys, the Cali natives keep them honest by continuing to be active critics of their wines because they can never afford to lose their best consumers, the locals.

By the way I had the 08 Flowers Pinot the other night and it was great. Looking forward to trying some more from Sonoma Coast.

152
1818
Reply by napagirl68, Feb 21, 2011.

glad you liked the flowers! 

Not being snarky at all, but some of the most amazing cabs have been from California, IMHO.  Slam me, I don't care.  I have tasted very extensively over the continents, and this is what I come back to. 

27
1257
Reply by Stephen Harvey, Feb 21, 2011.

NG - I have no doubt that Cali can and does make some of the most amazing cabs in the world, I just have not had enough to judge [and you probably have a lot of CaliCab drinking years on me]

I think all Cabernet regions that have good soil and weather can make great cabs, that is then the skill of the winemaker.

Just so many wines, so little time [ and you got think about your poor liver occasionally]

 

75
2343
Reply by JonDerry, Feb 21, 2011.

Sorry to repeat myself, but there are only two real choices for top Cabernet Sauvignon and that is Napa Valley and Bordeaux. 

Yeah, a good many Cali producers got off track there for a while, but the jammy stigma is out there, and I don't believe any of the respected producers will bend towards this style going forward. 

Plus, now that Parker is no longer rating California wines...well I guess that can only help.

0
2672
Reply by gregt, Feb 21, 2011.

I think the problem is the American tendency to keep pushing. Maybe not American, but we tend not to favor understatement.

So you go from Farah Fawcett to Pam Anderson.  From Steve Reves to the steroid-bloated Mr. America of today.  If you like junk food, you get the "big gulp".

CA, and Napa in particular, had a target in mind when they were establishing their wineries.  They wanted to best the Bordeaux wines because that's what the US valued the most in the 1970s. 

Maybe a lot of CA would  be better for grapes like Touriga Nacional - I don't know.  But there was a phase - if your wine was big and overwhelming out of the chute, I'll see you and raise you .5% alcohol.  The end point of this was wine that clocked in at 15+ alc and that in some cases was undrinkable. 

There have been producers, and they've been there all along, who produce wines that they think will be good.  And I'm NOT disparaging all the other producers - many of the high-octane wines are pretty good.  But CA is blessed with a lot of sunshine.  Their problem is not being greedy and taking too much of a good thing. 

I think asking whether there is  "hope" or not is a rather arrogant question as it assumes things are so screwed that the question  merits posing.  A better question might be whether or not CA can produce enough stylistic variety to satisfy even the most jaded palates.  And to that question, I'd answer yes. 

152
1818
Reply by napagirl68, Feb 21, 2011.

When tasting CA cabs.. taste only napa, and out-lying areas: howell mtn, diamond mtn, spring mtn, and districts within napa like stags leap. 

24
313
Reply by hhotdog, Feb 22, 2011.

interesting NG...is this what you consider the lesser fruit bombed areas?  or just better soils and climate for cabs.?

3342
326
Reply by VegasOenophile, Feb 22, 2011.

I may have to take slight issue with the "best cabs are CA or Bordeaux" mindset.  Of course taste is subjective and we all know this, but I'd say Washington and Chile are doing some damn impressive things if you find the right producer...

20
5936
Reply by dmcker, Feb 22, 2011.

Still haven't found anything from Chile, Vegas that's close to the heights of CA and Bordeaux, Vegas. And I've been hunting for awhile, and have had some good bottles.

What labels are you proposing?

152
1818
Reply by napagirl68, Feb 22, 2011.

I recommended the aforementioned areas because I tend to find good cabs from these regions more consistently than from other CA areas.I'm sure it is a combination of things: soil, climate, and perhaps more winemaking experience in general in this area.  I think paso robles and inland central coast cabs are "different" in taste, and I prefer the Napa area to these warmer areas.  I'm sure there are a few good cabs from CA areas other than the ones I mentioned, but I have not found any I like better than the napa area.  JMO.

20
5936
Reply by dmcker, Feb 22, 2011.

i take it you're not a Ridge Montebello fan, NG?

8
549
Reply by Girl Drink Drunk, Feb 22, 2011.

Montebello is my favorite CA Cab.  Ain't nothing better, particularly for someone who doesn't much care for CA CS.

75
2343
Reply by JonDerry, Feb 22, 2011.

As NG alluded to, it seems the hillside vineyards in Napa have been a lot more reliable during this jam juice era.  Will have to try some Ridge Montebello when I get a chance, have heard about it before.

Vegas, to your point the only Washington producer I can think of that's entered top Cab discussion is Quilcedas Creek.  South America and the Pacific Northwest are definitely emerging, so it'll be interesting to see how they develop.

20
5936
Reply by dmcker, Feb 22, 2011.

Quilcedas is another jar of jam juice, at least those I've had. Other better ones over in the Walla Walla area.

75
2343
Reply by JonDerry, Feb 22, 2011.

Never had the pleasure of trying a Quilceda's, but i'll keep that in mind.

1 2 3 next



Continue to the end of the thread to reply
Back to Categories

Top Contributors This Month

125836 Snooth User: dmcker
125836dmcker
103 posts
324443 Snooth User: outthere
324443outthere
77 posts
847804 Snooth User: EMark
847804EMark
66 posts

Categories

View All





Snooth Media Network