I’ve come to love anything Grgich Hills produces: from their bodacious Zinfandel to their textural Chardonnay; their light and lively Fumé Blanc, and even their seemingly ‘crazy’ rosé. But nothing says “Napa love” like a glass of their Cabernet Sauvignon. I was first introduced to this wine almost one year ago, and was taken aback by how simultaneously rugged and voluptuous their 2013 vintage was — all the while maintaining a certain lightness from start to finish. While the 2014 seems to kick it up a notch, Grgich Hills reputation for friendly Cabernet, expressive of its Napa estate fruit, is absolutely in tact.

About the Wine: The Grgich Hills 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 4.5% Petit Verdot, and 2.5% Cabernet Franc sourced from Grgich Hills Estate vineyards located in the Yountville, Rutherford, and Calistoga regions of Napa Valley. The backbone, the Cabernet, came from the Yountville estate vineyard.

Each vineyard lot was fermented and aged separately for 9 months in neutral French oak barrels, after which the final blend was created. This final blend was then aged for an additional year (total aging time: 21 months), also in neutral French oak.

14.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Grgich Hills 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon and become immersed in the savory scents of black olives, worchestshire, and soy. On the pour, this Cabernet is a pure red, the sanguine red of fresh young blood. In the glass, the wine becomes a bit denser, impenetrable in the center and fading out to a red dust.

Initial aromas are quite floral, reminiscent to a wild flower bush on a damp night — velvet roses, brambly branches, foggy air, and damp wet earth. Swirl and add to that initial floral aroma bits of white acacias and vanilla bean. Additional aromas include milk chocolate, white pepper, and just the faintest essence of caramel.

The palate of the Grgich Cab is quite full, textural, the tannins soft as suede and working as the firm foundation to the wine. The acid is similarly almost negligible through most of the tasting, adding just a kick post-swallow and allowing some refreshing relief to the palate as the tannins simultaneously coat the tongue for a very solid finish. Dominant flavors are of black cherry, milk chocolate, leather, dried tree bark, and plum skins. The after taste, delightfully, is reminiscent of a slightly burnt chocolate chip cookie.

Food Pairing: I paired the Grgich Hills 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon with a mushroom, olive, and truffled-parmesan flatbread and a spinach side salad. What I loved about this pairing was the truffle. Indeed, the truffle brought more of that chocolate essence forward and — perhaps because of its “stink” or the dryish texture of the cheese — actually helped round out the overall mouthfeel of the wine. Meanwhile the spinach, with it’s almost tannic texture, did play a bit with the texture in the wine, but the flavor of the spinach — that bitter vegetation — actually brought forward more floral notes in the Cabernet.

Perfect pairing? I certainly enjoyed it and would do it again — especially since this pairing was what I was in the mood for this particular evening. However, I could see this wine pairing well with a more “elevated” dish. Perhaps a grilled filet mignon with truffle mashed potatoes and steamed broccolini. Either way, I’d encourage you to give the wine a little funk to play with (like the truffle) and something textural to talk to (like the spinach or broccoli).

More Info: I received the Grgich Hills 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon as a sample for review. (Cheers Ken!) Retail: $72. For more information about Grgich Hills Estates, their wines, and to purchase wines directly, please visit the Grgich Hills website.

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