A blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot
5% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec.
In its inaugural vintage, our 2007 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon matches straightforward,
fruit-focused character with finesse and grace. The wine opens with a deep purple color and
ripe black fruit lifted by toasty oak and vanilla. Well-integrated tannins carry the blackberry,
currant and plum flavors through the middle and into a lengthy finish. Smooth and polished,
the wine holds a fine balance of firm, ripe fruit and lively acidity, making a versatile pairing
for a variety of foods, such as a rustic Italian torte or grilled steak dressed in fresh herbs.
With this wine, we wanted to translate the purity of the vineyard into the glass, ushering the
grapes from field to bottle with minimal intervention. We used simple, traditional techniques,
extracting the maximum aromas and flavors with extended maceration and frequent
pump-overs. For complexity and character, we aged the wine for 16 months in American and
French oak barrels.
Sterling Vineyards was born in the 1960s, a time when creativity and entrepreneurial spirit abounded, especially in California. In 1964, Peter Newton, once a paper broker in England, purchased 70 acres of land in Calistoga and became a Napa Valley winemaker. He planted grapes others did not, bottled varietals others did not, and built a dramatic winery with an aerial tramway. His innovations put Sterling Vineyards into the public eye and helped establish the Napa Valley as a premier travel destination.
When Newton began planting his estate, Cabernet Sauvignon was the preferred variety. He planted the esteemed Cabernet, but his decision to also plant Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot was a bold move. His Merlot vines were the first significant planting of that variety in the Napa Valley. Newton saw potential in the soft, velvety Merlot fruit, and in 1969 he took a chance by releasing California's first vintage-dated Merlot. This decision flew in the face of traditional standards, which held that Merlot was merely a blending grape, and forever changed the perception of red wine. People started to enter a restaurant and ask for a glass of Merlot!
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Beyond Napa and Sonoma in the north you find a couple of other counties producing great wine. Among these are Mendocino and Lake County. The northernmost California winegrowing regions, these two counties are right above Napa and Sonoma, geographically. Yet, wine-wise they are very different – both from their southern neighbors and from each other.
Mendocino has a high amount of organic vintners and vines. The first winery to settle here was Fetzer, which practices organic viticulture and holds some of the most vineyard land in the area. Mendocino has many pockets of micro-climates while Lake County, being smaller in size, is less diverse climactically. As for the grapes, Chardonnay is the most popular in both counties, but there are also some excellent Sauvignon Blancs, particularly in the Lake County. In red wine, Zinfandel leads the way, followed by Rhone Blends and Petite Sirah. The reds in both counties are complex and sumptuous. Anderson Valley is a sub-AVA of Mendicino and is quite well known for its excellent cool climate, producing the delicious Roederer Estate sparkling wines and some wonderful cool-climate Syrah.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country unto 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.
I recently had some Sterling Cabernet Sauvignon at a party and really enjoyed it so I bought it here. This was very different from what I enjoyed at the party. First of all, it's made from organic grapes. That may make a difference. Also, it has a screw on cap which surprised me...I know that doesn't necessarily mean cheap, but that's how it seemed. The taste was different and I didn't care for it as much as what I had before. I normally prefer white wine (a little sweeter than chardonnay) and have recently acquired a taste for red so I may not be the best judge. This isn't horrible, but once we finish what I bought, I won't buy it again, even at this price.
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 & Fruity
Red wines that are more fruit-forward and lighter in tannin and body.
Smooth & Supple
Medium bodied reds that go down easy, with smooth tannins and supple fruit.
Earthy & Spicy
Wines where earthy and/or spicy dominate the flavors – typically medium to full body.
Big & Bold
Full bodied wines that have concentrated fruit and are higher in alcohol and/or tannins. Some need age.