||And the usual stuff from the bloody pulpit:
I've followed Amador Cabs from the very start; the early Montevinas and
the Harbors made back in the mid-'70's. Primarily at the urging of Darrell
Corti. I was always struck by their lack of definitive Cabernet character.
They almost always came across more like Amador Zin than Cabernet; lots
of blackberry/briary character. But, being as Cabernet is recognized as
a "great" grape, and Zinfandel is not; I was convinced the Amador (by Amador,
we're talking strictly the ShenandoahVlly; don't think there's any/much
Cab planted in Fiddletown or the lower elevations) Cabernet would eventually
evolve into a "great" Cabernet w/ maturity. That apparently isn't
the case. Although some of these wines had evolved quite nicely; they were
still very Amador-Zin in character. I had to really struggle to find much
aged Cabernet character in them. The Liberty School probably showed the
most, but that was probably the Caymus oak treatment that was coming thru
more than anything.
Amador RubyCabernet: I remember being quite struck by this wine in its
youth for it intense green olive/herbal Cab character; and its black color
and tannins. I was convinved it was a long liver. And it was. It
showed much more Cab character than any of the Cabernets did; maybe even
a bit on the underripe side. It strikes me that this is a variety that
should be persued in Amador. It could be used to blend with their Cabs
to give them more Cabernet character. I'm not sure why CaryGott planted
these vines originally, but he must have seen some potential for it up
there. I'm sure Montevina/SutterHome has long since grubbed up those vines.
Easton Cabernet: I was particularly interested in trying Bill's Cabernet;
partly because of the price. But more importantly, he owns and sources
his Estate wines from the old Ed Baldinelli property and wanted to
see what he could do w/ those grapes. It showed more Cabernet character
than any young Amador Cab I can recall, though it still seemed to be mostly
like a briary Amador Zin. Don't know as I'm perspacacious enough to detect
anything in common with this young Easton and the old Baldinellis. But
it is a big wine, well-made, with the structure and backbone to age I feel.
It'll be fun to watch its evolution.
Today's Amador Cabernet: Obviously, Cabernet is regarded throughout most
of Calif as being capable of producing "great" wines. And fetching high
prices. As a variety, it has not seemed to catch on in Amador. If you don't
demand that it taste & smell like Napa Cabernet; I think it produces
a wine in Amador every bit as good as their Zinfandels (but not as great
as their Syrahs). Cabernet is still grown on the Deaver Vineyard I believe.
I recall when I visited w/ Ken Deaver (Sr.) back in the mid-'70's; he was
griping about the heavy/unruly foliage that it puts out and planning to
pull it out in favor of Zin. Ben&Katie Zeitman used to grow Cabernet
at Amador Foothill, but I believe they grafted it all over to Sangiovese.
Lee Sobon at Shenandoah Vineyards/Sobon Estate still continues to grow/make
Cabernet. I've also tried the new Serenidad Cabs that I thought were mighty
fine. But, like with his Rhone varietals, Bill Easton stand in a league
by himself in Amador County.
Carneros Creek Amador Cabs: Frank Mahoney went up to AmadorCounty in the
early yrs of Carneros Creek, when he didn't have much good Pinot to work
with, to buy grapes for his wines. In addition to his Eschen Zin, he also
bought Zin and Cabernet from the Ernie&John Esola vnyd. He gave up
on Zin with the '78 vintage, but continued to take all the Esola Cab grapes.
He felt it made great blending material to go into his Napa Cabs. Because
of its black color; it would only take 5% or so to knock the color up a
notch on his Napa Cab. Occasionally, over the yrs, Frank would bottle a
small lot of the Amador Cab when he had enough left over. Alas, my collecting
of the Carneros Creek Cabs over the yrs has been pretty spotty and I haven't
many left. It would be interesting to do a full retrospective of these
wines at the winery sometime. And, IMHO, Frank Mahoney has never received
the recognition over the years that I think he deserves for his NapaVlly
Cabernets; some of them have been truly wonderful.
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