I grew up with the more classically styled form of this variety as my benchmark. Andre Tchelistcheff, (winemaker at Beaulieu for decades, putting it on the map, and considered the ‘dean of CA winemaking’) was the consultant at the first winery I worked at in the early 80’s. I was fortunate to be invited to regularly sit down with him and the winemaker over several years for tastings of our wines as well as benchmark wines of the world which he used as a teaching tool for us young’uns. Without consciously choosing, I found that this set my aesthetic thermostat, so to speak. Classical style has always been a touchstone since then.
My father decided to plant Cabernet on the property for the first time in the late 198o’s. It is one of his best decisions for both farming and winemaking reasons. It is relatively easy to grow (c0ompared to the Petite Sirah it replaced, Zin and Pinot Noir, at least) and loves the soil and climate in this special Alexander Valley location. From a winemakers perspective, it is a relatively sturdy base that tends to absorb any mistakes the winemaker makes (compared to Pinot Noir, especially) and yet with a careful hand towards restraint and balance, creates a truly age worthy wine.
My approach has evolved over the decades, currently being extremely minimalist when you look at what handling (or lack of) the wine sees. I do not know of any other winery that carries this variety from pressing to bottling without any racking once in barrel for nearly three years. It just isn’t done. However, it works really well for us and this material, bringing better texture, more perfume and better longevity since the wine has not had its total oxygen appetite squandered with unnecessary movement and aeration. I also value the savory and lightly herbal elements of the variety that disappear once the fruit is seriously overripe. So we do not over-expose the fruit on the vine to excessive direct sunlight and we harvest at appropriately modest maturity levels. We are not into additives designed to sculpt the wine into a profile that should garner high scores from critics, either. A good site has the natural material to be almost self-sculpted with only the assistance of gentle hands and well-timed action such as harvesting, pressing, etc.
Cassis, mint, a hint of dill and Christmas spices on the nose give way to a mix of red and dark fruits, herbs and Christmas spices on the mouth with a very long, mouth-watering finish. Here’s Antonio Galloni’s take on it: “The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Scherrer Vineyard is a bit richer and deeper than the straight [Alexander Valley] Cabernet. That extra kick of fruit richness plays off the more savory notes so well. Dark cherry, plum, leather, spice, licorice and dried flowers add striking nuance to this racy yet classically-proportioned Cabernet. 94 points ”