Drinking this wine easily checks down all the boxes why Bruce McGuire’s older Happy Canyon Cabernets have garnered so much praise from me. This is a stunning cab, nearly perfect from top-to-bottom, and at 4, not even CLOSE to potential. Black and staining in the glass, the deep purple ruby of the body thins to a sliver of pink and clear at the rim. The nose is a powerful, explosive thing: cranking out concentration of fruit with deft care to avoiding overt chubbiness or blackened obfuscation. Nutty and thick, with copious layers of leather and spice below, the cherry so pure, the blackberry so muddy, the Christmas fruit-cake an event sodden with perfect alcohol and earthiness. But nothing out-of-control. It resides confidently in its bulk, showing vegetal and barnyard in careful doses, the glory of Cabernet the Main Event. Decanted heavily.
Tasting it emphasizes the ability to go 15 or 25 years of careful storage with ease. The fruit thick and delicious, hammered home from the very beginning with gobs of pithy and sharp structure. Crisp green tannins identify early, acid wracking the whole mouth-feel, a gigantic wine so perfectly in balance with itself, so redolent of fine versions of the grape before maceration, alcohol and oak became calling-cards for hi-scoring versions of the variety. It IS California, though, and comparisons to Left-Bank wines will only work in the lushest vintages. Gravel and peat base the deep cherry and pomegranate firmly and decidedly, angry notes of adventure discipline the finish, where the fruit purifies itself into a bright tincture of black walnut and cheery herbaceousness. Palate-coating and unforgettable, smoky under-pinnings guarantee a wine where fruit will co-exist perfectly with tertiary when that time comes. A near-perfect wine.
It’s shocking how under-the-radar these wines are in the Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez wine-scene. And the price is astonishing. If you drink Corison, Togni, Forman and Dunn, Sbragia’s, Hafners or pre-2015 Jordans, I BEG you to find this cabernet and give it a spin. No, they don’t pay me a goddamn cent and these are not samples. You just need this wine in your life. As many as you can afford. This is their current-release Cab.
2016 SANTA BARBARA WINERY Cabernet Sauvignon Happy Canyon Santa Ynez Valley Santa Barbara 14.4