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Wine of the Week: A Cool-Weather Cabernet Sauvignon from California

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When we think of "California Cabernet," the next two words that come to mind are invariably "Napa Valley" -- the AVA (American Viticultural Area) that changed the way the world perceived American winemaking back in the 1970s. Since that time, "Napa Valley Cab" (oh, how I wish people would stop saying "Cab" for Cabernet Sauvignon) and the opulent style in which it's vinified have become synonymous with luxury and connoisseurship in our country. From Stag's Leap to Silver Oak to Opus One, the so-called "cult Cabs" (ugh, that ugly word again) are indelibly associated with an elite and elitist concept of fine dining and lifestyle that has come to define the ruling class of our country.

One of the elements that characterizes these wines is their lack of acidity. They tend to be made in a concentrated, heavy style, where rich fruit (boysenberry? blackberry?) is often referred to as "jammy."

Beyond its reasonable price (under $20), one of the reasons why I liked the above California Cabernet Sauvignon (note the correct ampelonym, i.e., grape name) by the Pellegrini winery was that it had genuine acidity and, together with black fruit and berry flavors, it tasted of earth and minerality.

The style and substance makes it much more food-friendly than the stereotypical Cabernet Sauvignon from California, and as a result it has a much wider range of applications. I'd love to pair this with a grilled steak (the classic dish for this category), but this democratic wine will also work well with spicier and brighter flavors.

The next time you think of California Cabernet Sauvignon, think again.


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