2016 Cabernet Sauvignon
Its funny how smell and memory are linked. I smell the 2016 McGraw Cabernet and I’m transported back to the time just before grad school when dad and I made some wine from my grandfather’s vineyard. The unmistakable aroma of Cabernet; a wonderful mix of cassis, mulberries and leaves. We didn’t make wine after that as I was off at University, but smelled this again when dad came out to visit me in Arizona. We drove to Napa and Sonoma on that visit and ended up at Chateau Montelena not really realizing how famous they had become. Although we had not arranged anything, they were gracious enough to show us around and I got the opportunity to climb up on a ladder and smell the ’83 Cabernet while it was fermenting. I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to do this now, insurance and liability concerns would have stopped that, but there it was: the unmistakable aroma of Cabernet. Chemists might be able to tell us that this is a class of compounds called pyrazines, also found in bell peppers, but to us it was the smell of magic. Instantly back to Harley’s shed and our grapes fermented in concrete tanks (way before such things were cutting edge as they are today) and pressed with an ancient wooden press. The stuff of memories.
I love that aroma, but don’t see it as often as I would like. Pick the grapes too early and the leafy note becomes bell peppers and as much as I love roasted red bell peppers I just don’t want to drink them. Pick too late and cabernet loses its distinctiveness and just becomes ripe black fruit and they all taste the same. Picked just right though and you have the ripe tannins and wine structure while still retaining the flavor of Cabernet. A glass of this ’16 McGraw cabernet starts the journey to that place. Not exactly the same of course, since new French oak barrels were not a possibility in those days. Here they just buttress the wine, still letting the vineyard and grape speak. 2016 was a great year for Cabernet in Sonoma and Napa and I’m confident that this wine will richly reward those who cellar it for up to 10 years, even though it is ready for drinking now.