I was so excited to try this Cabernet Sauvignon from Stony Hill. Even more so than the Chardonnay — but don’t ask me why. I guess there’s some pretense when you see the words “Napa” and “Cabernet” on the bottle. It can turn some people off because it may automatically connote “big, bold, chewy” -type vocabulary. But not so here, and this predominantly has to do with seasoned winemaker’s, Mike Chelini’s, winemaking techniques. According to the winery, Chelini is constantly monitoring the vineyards throughout the season, harvesting by chemical balance rather than by flavor alone. Testing the grapes for the perfect amount of pH versus acidity, means grapes with just enough acid to encourage ageability in the resulting wines. So what Chelini produces are both red and white wines that can age for years to come or be enjoyed straight out of the bottle. And with this Stony Hill Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon — you can honestly go either way.

About the Wine: Stony Hill Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from 100% Cabernet grapes harvested from the Stony Hill estate vineyards located in the Spring Mountain AVA of Napa, California. Stony Hill’s vineyards sit at an elevation of 800 to 1550 feet with a northeastern exposure between Richie Creek (to the north) and Mill Creek (to the south). This specific piece of the Spring Mountain AVA enjoys both volcanic mountain soils and, further beneath the soil surface, limestone rock. According to the winery, constant dry farming over nearly 70 years has allowed the vines to stretch deep into the earth, thus the grapes are influenced by the varying layers of geological structure.

13.5% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open the bottle of the Stony Hill Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon and breathe in immediate aromas of blackberries and fresh oak wood. On the pour, this Cab is a perfect garnet, settling into the glass a bit darker, duller — more like a scab-red at the very center and fading out to a rusty rouge along the perimeter.

You can’t escape that oak wood scent as you take your first whiff of the wine. There’s a clear line of acidity that floats in the back, reveling initially subtle fruit aromas of blackberry and black cherry. Swirl and awaken those fruits further, push back the oak, and get a little bit of red chili and a potpourri of flowers.

The palate of the Stony Hill Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a nice medium body. Surprisingly, the fruit flavors come first and are immediately tart on the tongue. The finish, in contrast, is drying with flavors reminiscent of dark chocolate dipped raspberries.

Dominant flavors are of raspberries, wild strawberries, chocolate, creme de menthe, and fresh cedar wood. The acid is a solid medium; tannins are medium, leading to that drying finish that is neither gritty nor grippy, but purely textural; and the body is a well-rounded medium as well.

All in all it’s an almost refreshing Cab because of the opening, and yet that finish closes the door completely.

Food Pairing: I paired the Stony Hill Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon with a crispy skin duck breast, and a simple salad of fresh apple, dried cranberry, topped with brie cheese and tossed in a light apple cider vinaigrette which was stirred with a cinnamon stick.

What was absolutely lovely was that subtle hint of cinnamon with the brown sugar note in the vinaigrette and the apple — perhaps because of the spice-filled sweetness of this — this combination calmed the dryness that dominated the finish. Indeed, it brought out more of those fruit flavors, more of that acidity, and provided a sense of balance both in the flavors and textures of the wine. The duck (which by the way was cooked spot on if I do say so myself), with its innate fattiness, gave the wine a deepness, a complexity, with additional flavors of smoke, coffee, and that chocolate again — the Cabernet became absolutely unctuous. Lastly the cheese — you may be thinking this is a weird addition to a salad, but I tell you right now I do it all the time and in the right mixture (like this one) it works. The sort of funkiness that brie has brought forward more earthiness in the wine; and earthiness that I was missing when sipping it on its own.

My point: perfect pairing.

More Info: I received the Stony Hill Vineyard 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon as a sample for review. (Cheers Sam!) Retail: $75. For more information about Stony Hill, their wines, and to purchase wine directly, please visit the Stony Hill Vineyard website.

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