Cardinale established itself to be in the midst of a handful of the most consistently exceptional red wines in the world. It is an intricate composition of superlative vineyard sites with stand-alone excellence. Definitely Cabernet Sauvignon, predominately from the Napa Valley, wine comes from three mountain estate vineyards on Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain and Alexander Mountain. Cardinale provides a powerful sensory experience rich in complex aromas, layered flavors and seamless texture. In the words of Robert Parker Jr.'s, The Wine Advocate, Cardinale "is one of the profound wines being produced in northern California." Less than 3000 cases produced.
In 1983, Jess Jackson, proprietor of Kendall-Jackson Winery, decided to produce a world-class red Meritage wine. The name comes from the original Cardinale vineyard site at Kendall-Jackson's Lakeport winery. The wine is made predominantly of Cabernet Sauvignon blended with small amounts of Merlot and, in certain years, Cabernet Franc. Grapes are harvested from hillside vineyards located in both Napa Valley and Sonoma County. The wine is aged in 100% new French oak Chateau barrels to produce a forward, seamless oak character to match its intense fruit.
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It's hard not to think of Napa Valley when thinking of California wines. The region is, after all, the one that brought world recognition to California wine making. The area was settled by a few choice wine families in the 1960's who bet that the wines of the area would grow and flourish. They were right. The Napa wine industry really took off in the 1980's, when vineyard lands were scooped up and vines were planted throughout the county. A number of wineries emerged, from large conglomerates to small boutiques to cult classics. Cabernet Sauvignon is definitely the grape of choice here, with many winemakers also focusing on Bordeaux Blends. Whites are usually Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Within the Napa Valley lie smaller sub-AVAs that lend even more character specifics to the wines. Furthest south is Carneros, followed by Yountville, Oakville & Rutherford. Above those two is St.-Helena and finally, just granted an AVA, Calistoga. These areas are situated on the valley floor and are known for creating rich, smooth Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay. There are a few mountain regions as well, nestled on the slopes overlooking the valley AVAs. Those include Howell Mountain, Stags Leap and Mount Veeder. Wines from the mountain regions are often more structured and firm, benefiting from more time in the bottle to evolve and soften.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.