Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (1.5 Liter Magnum) 2013
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Initially used for storage, oak barrels, and their transformational qualities, have long been a matter of close study by winegrowers. In the New World, oak has become a flavoring agent, especially when fruit from young cabernet vines is used with winemaking strategies adopted from Bordeaux’s Left Bank. In fact, the premier cru wines of the Médoc—and the grands crus of the Côte de Nuits—have an unparalleled ability to eat new oak, so that rather than genericizing the wine, making it fat and delicious, time in new oak barrels adds a frame to the wine, becoming almost an invisible element of the taste. This is something that is rare, both in the New World and the Old: In 35 years of blind tastings, I have never come across a California cabernet that handles oak as graciously as this vintage of Diamond Creek’s Volcanic Hill. In recent vintages, winemaker Phil Steinschriber has adopted the somewhat controversial practice of introducing a second round of new oak barrels during the aging of his cabernets. He does it selectively, and in 2013, it may have helped to both tame the wine and frame it for long aging. Volcanic Hill starts out with a trumpet blare of black cherry flavor, a deep blue savor to the fruit, an explosive richness that’s transformed into silken delicacy by its time in oak, in the way that a young Charmes-Chambertin might feel in a great vintage. This vineyard, on a south-facing slope of white volcanic ash, often produces the most powerful of Diamond Creek’s wines. As I tasted this wine over the course of several days, there was a moment in the chaos of a young Napa Valley Cabernet when it reached the sublime.
Covering the most vine acreage in the state compared to any other red wine variety, Cabernet Sauvignon produces as much wine in California as Merlot and Pinot noir combined. The state’s diverse terrain and microclimates, as well as the freedom of its winemakers, allow for an incredible range of wine styles from this single grape.
California’s most famous region—and especially for Cabernet Sauvignon—is the acclaimed Napa Valley. While Cabernet is successful throughout the world, rarely has it achieved such merit as it does from the Napa Valley. At this point the two are so intrinsically linked that it is difficult to discuss one without the other.
Napa’s closest neighbor, Sonoma County, does an impressive job keeping up with Napa’s fame and glory. Alexander Valley, Sonoma Mountain, Moon Mountain and Knights Valley contribute to the lot of some of California’s top-rated Cabernet Sauvignon.
Lake County in California’s North Coast has become a focus for some of Napa’s more respected growers. From the Central Coast come iconic examples of classic California Cabernet; Lodi and the Sierra Foothills are great budget-friendly sources of amicable Cabernets.