It’s pretty bad when the foothills can produce Cabernet which stylistically overshadows what Napa, Paso, and large portions of Sonoma have become. Or it’s pretty awesome–depending how you look at it. But El Dorado does it right. Forget all your burnt, ripe Amador, Lodi and Calaveras species–once we get north of Shingle Springs, everything changes. Thick ruby-garnet in the glass, clear and bright, but staining. An edgy vegetal nose, high on rosin and pine-bark and thick humus decomposing slowly in the shade of giants, frosted by snow for a few months and shattered by rocky, volcanic upheaval all spring. This is Sierra Mountain farming, where seasons bring a un-ending supply of stones to the surface, and hot summers turn the roots deep into the cool red soil as everything on top wilts. Maraschino spice and perfect pond-water cassis and newsprint frame the bouquet of dark muddled cranberry and licorice.
And then you taste it. Holy wow, I mean WHY can’t more Cabernets be made like this??? Wines that tasted like this used to be dime-a-dozen in Alexander Valley and Calistoga and Mendocino, and now we need to look to the EAST SIDE of California to match these vibrant qualifiers. Rich black cherry comes on early and carries its weight throughout the palate. Far into the finish, the black fruit chugs on, ripe and golden, reeking of sunshine but also of cold mountain air. The madrone-riddled hillsides make their appearance known early-middle, where the harsh grate of acid begins its staccato-dance into tannin. But the fruit is never obfuscated. This is EXACTLY how cab in California is supposed to be. But the whiney throngs of oak-addicts and alcohol-addled bling-bros have skewed the metric into vapidity. THIS IS REAL WINE. This REEKS of Cabernet and tastes of it too.
Obliterating tannins wake you from your decadent reprise. This wine will NOT let you get too comfortable. And here’s the deal: California Cabernet at this age shouldn’t completely please and satisfy you. That is the great litmus you need to apply to wine-bro’s posts. Sure, it’s gorgeous now. You would be an idiot to criticize otherwise. But there’s this edgy application of spirit on wines like this that solidify them into the halls of CA Cab. Taste it. Feel it. Know it.
2017 LAVA CAP Cabernet Sauvignon El Dorado California 14.3