When you think Monterey, what varietals do you think of? I’m going to guess the brain heads straight to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Indeed, the overall cool climate of the larger Monterey AVA is known for its maritime influence, as it’s nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Monterey Bay — ideal conditions for the picky Pinot Noir and for crafting Chardonnay with crisp acidity. But when Monterey was first embarked upon as a winemaking region, the first vineyards planted were to, none other than the king of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon.

Of course what we know now about soil composition and climate has greatly changed. Our enhanced understanding has allowed grape growers to plant grapes where they’ll thrive best. The Hames Valley, where Ranch 32 grows their Cabernet is one of the warmer portions of Monterey. Located at the foot of the Santa Lucia Highlands, the valley is sheltered from the afternoon winds and cooling temperatures that otherwise stream through the regions. And it is because of this warmth, along with the shaly loam soils, that Cabernet reigns supreme in the Hames Valley. 

About the Wine: The Ranch 32 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is made up of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sourced from the Ranch 32 estate vineyards located in the Hames Valley AVA (56% grapes sourced here) and the San Lucas Ava (44% grapes sourced here) of Monterey County, California.

After harvest, individual lots were sorted, destemmed, crushed, and then fermented dry in open top containers, undergoing daily punch downs. The wine fermented in 100% stainless steel for 10 days. The wine then aged in combination French and American oak barrels (exact percentages unknown) for 12 months.

13.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Pop the cork of the Ranch 32 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and breathe in something wholey un-cab like: fresh cranberries, boysenberries, and the soft, comforting aroma of milk chocolate. The look of this Cab is a rich, vibrant, garnet red on the pour, settling into the glass a bit duller, darker, more maroon at the center and fading out into a lighter, friendlier cranberry shade of red.

Initial aromas are of oakwood along with those cranberry notes, subtle dried floral aromas, and a vibrant acidity. Swirl, and that oak scent becomes more prevalent — and fresher: you can almost smell the oak tree itself, leaves and all. The decadence of that chocolate comes through, as does the vivacity of the fruit aromas — add to the list the tart raspberries as well.

The palate of the Ranch 32 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh and refreshing. There’s a strong use of acidity that brings vibrancy to the fruit flavors. Tannins provide a backbone and structure, but never overwhelm or even touch the palate. Dominate flavors are of chocolate, anise, raspberry and cranberry.

Food Pairing: I paired the Ranch 32 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon with a very simple apple and blue cheese salad, topped with thinly shaved fennel, seasoned with fresh thyme and tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette. A Cabernet this alive deserves a simple and fresh meal like this. The apple and the fennel brought out some darker aromas and flavors, not sensed when tasting the wine on its own, including plum, plum skins, and a roasted coffee note. The vinaigrette finds some vegetative notes, but also the vibrancy of those lighter fruits sensed earlier. The fresh thyme revealed some florals, like fully bloomed flowers, plushy, ready to shed its petals. And I loved the blue cheese with this wine. The creaminess of the cheese brought out a bit of texture in the wine, while the wine down-played the funky mildewy-ness of the cheese, bringing the meal to a complete, well-balanced circle.

More Info: I received the Ranch 32 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon as a sample for review. (Cheers Jean and Marjorie!) Retail: $20. For more information about Ranch 32, their wines, and to order wines directly, please visit the Ranch 32 website.

BriscoeBites officially accepts samples as well as conducts on-site and online interviews. Want to have your wine, winery or tasting room featured? Please visit the Sample Policy page where you can contact me directly. Cheers!

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