Where It Comes From Really Does Matter

4 mins read

By Celia Strong

Just like oysters from the Chesapeake Bay have different flavors, sizes and textures than oysters from the gulf; just like peaches from South Carolina, cigars from Cuba, bagels from New York; the same grape variety grown in different places will produce wines with differences as well. One of the best ways to see this is with Cabernet Sauvignon — specifically California Cabernet.  Many wine drinkers are well aware of the qualities of Napa Cabernets, but what about the quality of non-Napa Cabernets like Sonoma Cabs, and in particular Alexander Valley Cabernet?  

Alexander Valley is the source for many well-known, highly-rated and pricey Cabs like Silver Oak Alexander Valley and Jordan, but there are other Alexander Valley Cabernets — more obscure and sometimes not rated at all because their producers don’t send sample bottles to all the magazines, and much better priced for everyday drinking. 

Alexander Valley is the largest and most planted AVA in Sonoma County. Located in the northeastern part of Sonoma County, it was granted AVA status in 1984 with amendments in 1986, 1988, 1990 and 2001. The Russian River runs through Alexander Valley. In 1975, one of the first vineyard-designated wines from California was a Chardonnay from the Russian River area of Alexander Valley. The predominant soil content is alluvial and there is a range of warm to hot days followed by cool nights. The combination of this soil and this climate helps produce the characteristic profile of Alexander Valley wines. Rich, fleshy mouthfeel with a voluptuousness and juiciness. For Cabernets specifically  this means rich wines with chocolate notes in wines that can be accessible when young but also capable of aging. And these Cabs have intense fruit flavors balanced with a minerality. They are gripping, have staying power and long finishes. 

Outlot is a producer located just outside the Healdsburg city limits. They chose their name because of that location. This area has a history of great ranches and exclusive resorts. Its soil, more important for vines than resorts, is 24 feet deep in some places. In the 1800s, there were orchards and fruit farms here. The vineyards came later, when dedicated farmers fought to keep the area with farms and vineyards. The area was known as the Magnolia Peninsula, another nod to their heritage that Outlot wine labels has taken. 

Outlot Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is our wine this week. Out of bounds. Beyond the pavement. Out of plain sight. Exactly what we’re looking for!  A non-Napa Cab that is outstanding, and we can afford it. The grapes for this wine, 100% Cabernet, are harvested in the morning, crushed and fermented in stainless steel. (Stainless steel fermenting can take advantage of cooling temperatures that augment the fruitiness of a wine.) It is aged in French oak barrels, with a variety of ages and degrees of toast, for 30 months. Our Cab is deep purple and ruby colored with aromas and flavors that include black currants, dark cherries,  mission figs, bell peppers, fennel, roses, cola and black licorice. It is full-bodied with plush tannins and ends with baking spices in a firm finish. Overall a spectacular Cabernet, capable of competing with others from what some consider to be better places of origin and at higher prices. For $19.97. Enjoy.  

Celia Strong works at Bill’s Liquor & Fine Wines on Lady’s Island.

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