I think of Cabernet Sauvignon like a tuxedo, and I enjoy drinking the former about as often as I can be seen in the latter. It is a wine that varies greatly depending on occasion, location, and attitude. Worn in France, Cabernet sports a sleek physique sculpted by fluctuating and dodgy weather, and can come off anywhere from elegant to austere. That same suit strapped on in sun-drenched Napa Valley can appear to burst the seams not unlike Mr. Creosote from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Cut off at the knees, add a pair of flip-flops and lose the tie and you would end up with a no-nonsense, no apologies Australian version of the wine. Fortunately though, wine doesn't always conform to comical and stereotyping metaphors.
Far up north, in the oft overlooked and cool coastal hills of the Santa Cruz mountains, there lies a great winery. The history of wine growing in the area dates back to the early 1890s when vines were planted here with cuttings from world renowned Chateau Margaux. The Mount Eden Vineyards' current vines only date back to 1980 but still carry on with the elegance and tradition of their French inspiration. The wines made here are well structured and beautifully balanced. And while they may not possess the same specific terroir of their European counterparts, they certainly do not lack their charm.
The 2005 Mount Eden Vineyards Cabernet is refreshingly light on its feet. Solid dark and juicy fruit is tempered by mouth watering acidity and well integrated tannins. The blend is mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a good dose of Merlot and a splash of Cabernet Franc. This wine is like a great house guest, a pleasant surprise when it arrives, purely enjoyable during its stay, and well aware of when to leave, which it does gracefully. If more producers in California could sculpt a Cabernet Sauvignon into this type of wine, I would happily drink them more often. Traditionally paired with steak, this wine would of course rise to the occasion, but it would just as easily compliment grilled salmon or lengua tacos. You really do not need any food to enjoy this wine although it would help if just to slow you down. One could easily find the last drops of this bottle hitting their glass before realizing that they forgot to pour for anyone else.
Mount Eden's 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon retails about $23.
[Photo by Flickr user stevendepolo]