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Christopher Michael Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Christopher Michael is proud of their 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, which gets its character and fruit from across the Columbia Valley, a widely respected region any big red would proudly call home. Eager to be opened, this wine is bursting with blue and black fruits that are framed by sweet vanilla and coco from the oak on which it was aged.
Blend: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, and 10% Merlot.
The wine business is a somewhat unlikely landing point for the Harms brothers, who were born and raised in the Midwest, where well drilling or dairy farming might have been more obvious family ventures. But, for reasons that can only be deemed fate, both brothers landed on the west coast in the wine business – Ryan in Oregon and Eric in California. After more long-distance phone brainstorming sessions than either can remember, small inklings for how they might one day work together gave way to one big idea for what is now an expression of their collective experiences in one label – Christopher Michael Wines.
Each contributing their own unique skill sets (Ryan is a winemaker by trade and Eric a financial analyst in the wine biz), they also bring equal parts passion and work-ethic and the kind of never-ending drive that only those with entrepreneur in their blood can claim. In business together since 2009, they are committed to making wines that are true to each varietal they work with. Not afraid of vineyards in the far reaches of any growing region, the Harms brothers are focusing their efforts on finding expressive fruit that produces vibrant and fresh wines. Without worrying about geographic boundaries, Ryan and Eric look to work with growers that farm sustainably and seek out the best expressions of their grapes. Be it Oregon Pinot Noir or Washington Cabernet, what matters to the brothers behind Christopher Michael Wines is finding fruit that will make a delicious wine, regardless of varietal or origin.
A large and geographically diverse AVA capable of producing a wide variety of wine styles, the Columbia Valley AVA is home to 99% of Washington state’s total vineyard area. A small section of the AVA even extends into northern Oregon!
Because of its size, it is necessarily divided into several distinctive sub-AVAs, including Walla Walla Valley and Yakima Valley—which are both further split into smaller, noteworthy appellations. A region this size will of course have varied microclimates, but on the whole it experiences extreme winters and long, hot, dry summers. Frost is a common risk during winter and spring. The towering Cascade mountain range creates a rain shadow, keeping the valley relatively rain-free throughout the entire year, necessitating irrigation from the Columbia River. The lack of humidity combined with sandy soils allows for vines to be grown on their own rootstock, as phylloxera is not a serious concern.
Red wines make up the majority of production in the Columbia Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant variety here, where it produces wines with a pleasant balance of dark fruit and herbs. Wines made from Merlot are typically supple, with sweet red fruit and sometimes a hint of chocolate or mint. Syrah tends to be savory and Old-World-leaning, with a wide range of possible fruit flavors and plenty of spice. The most planted white varieties are Chardonnay and Riesling. These range in style from citrus and green apple dominant in cooler sites, to riper, fleshier wines with stone fruit flavors coming from the warmer vineyards.
A noble variety bestowed with both power and concentration, Cabernet Sauvignon enjoys success all over the globe. Inherently high in tannins and acidity, the best bottlings of Cabernet can age beautifully, with the ability to last fifty years or more. Cabernet Sauvignon flourishes in temperate climates like Bordeaux's Medoc region and forms the base of the Medoc reds, which are typically mostly Cabernet with Merlot and smaller amounts of some combination of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. (Enjoying a great deal of success in various regions around the world, this blend is now globally referred to as a Bordeaux Blend.) Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious, age-worthy and sought-after “cult” wines.
In the Glass
High in color, tannin and extract, Cabernet Sauvignon expresses notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, currant, spice and tobacco. In Bordeaux and elsewhere in the Old World you'll find the more earthy, tannic side of Cabernet, where it is typically blended to soften tannins and add complexity. In warmer regions like California Washington, Argentina, Chile and Australia, you can typically expect more ripe fruit flavors upfront.
Cabernet Sauvignon is right at home with rich, intense meat dishes—beef, lamb and venison, in particular—where its opulent fruit and decisive tannins make an equal match to the dense protein of the meat. With a mature Cabernet, opt for tender, slow-cooked meat dishes.
Despite the modern importance and ubiquity of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is actually a relatively young variety. In 1997, DNA profiling revealed the grape to be a spontaneous crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which took place in 17th century southwestern France.