Cabernet from Napa and Sonoma is a key part of California wine’s reputation – big, bold, ripe, and not for the faint hearted. Some wines have almost become parodies of the style, with too much oak, too much extraction and too much alcohol. Thankfully, they aren’t all like that, and balance is becoming more fashionable again.
Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (14.2%, RRP €80 at O’Briens)
The Alexander Valley AVA is part of Sonoma County and was purportedly named after the first man to introduce vines to the area in 1843, Cyrus Alexander. After prohibition it remained a bulk wine area until the late ’60s when innovative, quality winemaking returned to the area. For all my talk of balance above, the wines here are still powerful and voluptuous. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the leading black varieties and Chardonnay for white.
Silver Oak was set up in 1972 by business partners Raymond Twomey Duncan and Justin Meyer. They originally set out to make just top notch Cabernet Sauvignon, matured in American Oak and able to repay decades of cellaring. Napa Valley Cabernet and this Alexander Valley Cabernet are the twin kings of the winery, with other varieties released under the related Twomey label.
The 2012 vintage of this wine consists of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon with just a 2% splash of Merlot. Seven years after vintage it is settling down nicely and ready to drink, but should develop for a further 15 years if kept well. The nose has powerful blackcurrant and red fruit aromas with vanilla from two years in oak. Cassis is also present on the muscular palate, along with a distinct spearmint streak and cocoa powder. Fine grained tannins seal the deal.
This is a very well made, enjoyable wine. It may look expensive without context, but for this quality in the Médoc even more money would be exchanged. Due to its heft this should be saved for a treat (who drinks €80 bottles on a weekday, anyway?) to be shared with fellow wine lovers. And what a treat!
Disclaimer: there is no link between this wine and the Spearmint Rhino clubs