Time for anatomy 101

in Wine by

Anatomy? 101? Sure sounds like a class to me! And not a wine class at that!

But, we are here for wine, so wine our class will be. Anatomy will just be an easy way for us to remember the name of this week’s wine.

We’re traveling to Napa Valley this week, home of some of the best cabernet wines in the world. Some of the most expensive, too, but relax. We’re in good shape.

Just knowing our wine is from Napa seems to make us ready to like it. What is it that makes Napa cabernets so good? The easy answer is the soil and climate, or “terroir,” as it’s known in France.

Here are some specifics:

Napa is extremely friendly to cabernet. Three factors are credited with making this happen.

First are the microclimates, which are specific sites that have just the right sunshine, day and night temperatures, exposure, wind, rainfall and even drainage.

Second are the types of soils. We have learned different varieties grow best in different soil types. In Napa, sandy loam is one of the more dominant soil types. The sand keeps the soil lower in nutrients so the grapes and vines have to work harder as they grow. Harder makes for better flavors and textures in the wines.

And third are winemaking techniques and details. Obviously, each Napa Valley cabernet has its own specifics, which means we have to look at each and every new wine.

Cabernet sauvignon flavors are important. Let’s face it: We like a wine because we like how it tastes. Cabernet wines are full-bodied with dark fruit flavors and savory notes. From Napa, and some other New World vineyards, cabernet has black cherry, licorice and black pepper as primary flavors. These are followed by vanilla.

New World cabs have a bit less tannin and acidity than their Old World-style cousins, and more alcohol. But, more alcohol is needed to support more flavors in a wine so everything is in proportion.

Cabernet wines, with their complexities and tannins, go with meats with more fat.

Our wine this week is the 2012 Anatomy Cabernet Sauvignon. It is 89 percent cabernet, 11 percent merlot and 4 percent Syrah.

Forty-four percent of the grapes come from Rutherford AVA; 21 percent from Coombsville AVA; 11 percent Atlas Peak AVA; 8.6 percent Sonoma County AVA; 7.1 percent Yountville AVA; 4.1 percent Sonoma Mountain AVA; and 4.2 percent Saint Helena AVA. A total of 87.3 percent from Napa, but it’s very definitely a blended wine.

Our Anatomy Cabernet is rich and dark. Full of blackberry, cranberry, black cherry, sweet oak, licorice, black truffle and coffee flavors. But, mixed in with all of its complexities are some subtleties, nuances that you have to pay attention to or you’ll miss them. Hints of cocoa powder, a green herb twinge, a kiss of tobacco, a whisper of dust. Subtleties like in a good French Bordeaux, and still boldness like in a Napa cabernet. The best of all worlds.

The winemaker, Phillippe Langner gets credit for this wine. His experience in the wine industry is also a blend. He grew up in Africa, graduated from the University of California at Davis with undergraduate and double master’s degrees.

After school he went to France to see his family, and worked at Chateau Clarke, a Rothschild property in Bordeaux, with his brother-in- law. This was the beginning of his love for winemaking.

In 2000, Langner returned to South Africa and worked at wineries. Since 2008, he’s been back in California. Napa specifically.

Lastly, one final detail. Cabernet Day is the Thursday before Labor Day. It’s closer than we think. But at least now, we have a new cabernet we can try. Anatomy class or not. For $20.97.

Enjoy.