Cab is King!

Cabernet Sauvignon has been coming in over the last couple of days, and examining it on the sorting table reminds one that the old adage might be true indeed; that “Cab is King!”

In the 1990 s, Professor Carole Meredith of UC Davis (now retired, and co owner of Lagier -Meredith Winery in Napa with her partner Steve, and my- and a million other people’s- go to for this kind of info!) established the genetic identity of Cabernet Sauvignon as being that of a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. She estimates that the chance crossover took place in the mid 17th century, in the Bordeaux area. Needless to say, Cabernet has been on one heck of a roll ever since!

Most famous as the anchor for the great Left Bank Bordeaux blends, Cabernet has made it’s way into every major wine growing area of the world over these last couple -a- hundred years. The hardy nature of the grape makes it resistant to many diseases, frost, and rot, making it a vigneron’s favorite. Late bud break is a key characteristic of this variety, so Paso Robles’ classic Mediterranean growing season (hot days/ cold nights) is ideal for it’s excellence. The Cabernet cluster is a tight one, with small berries of thick skin, giving it the potential for dark, rich musts when fully mature and well macerated. This high “pip to pulp” ratio endows Cab with the ability to age in oak for long periods without losing its fruit character, when managed properly. Cabernet’s characteristic cassis, blacberry, cherry fruit and tobacco and cedar box aromas and flavors seem to win over most lovers of fine wine. There it is, then!

Here at L’Aventure, our Cabernet blocks (over a dozen separate ones) have produced stunningly beautiful fruit in 2013. That is, most of them. Stephan reports that roughly 10% of the fruit was tossed at the sorting table because it was dessicated. Guillaume added that most of this was “top of the hill” fruit, and that it looked great yesterday. In his own words, Stephan says ; “I’m pissed! So much good fruit gone, and more work at the sorting table”.  The pace of harvesting so much fruit simultaneously simply caught up with us, and cost us roughly 2 bins of the 17 harvested today, or roughly 12% of the days pick. That’s 1,400 pounds of fruit gone by the wayside. That’s what sorting tables are for. And keep in mind, this selection was made following the rigorous selection made in the vineyards as shoots were thinned and clusters were dropped. All in all, we are looking at roughly 60% to 70% of the 2013 Cabernet not having made it into the destemmer!

The quality of the fruit that DID make into tank is excellent! At 2.3 tons per acre, the density, color, and must overall looks great.  Dave explained to me that many of the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon from this 2013 vintage came in from blocks that have been dedicated to the Double Guyot pruning method. This model utilizes new canes annually as a base for the vines shoots instead of relying on the same cordon year after year. Two shoots are extended out from the vine’s trunk, emulating a cordon, but they are fresh, young shoots, and this makes for more efficient nutrition delivery, as the heavier cordons are burdened by dead wood that absorbs a portion of this energy. A Vertical Shoot Positioned canopy then extends up the wires in the form of shoots that eminate from each cane. The canopy tends to be more open and more even, as tends to be the fruit line.  Yields are about the same. In a high density plantation of 2,100 vines such as we have here at L’Aventure, the Double Guyot also decreases competition among vines for nutrients, which is important, given that nutrients are a finite resource in soils.

The verdict will not be in until the wines are finished and tasted, but for now, as Guillaume says, the Cab looks “Beautiful”!