Obsidian Ridge Estate-Grown Cabernet Sauvignon

Tasting Notes: Blackberry jam, black cherry, plum, and chocolate, cedar, vanilla and cinnamon.

Pairings: Dark chocolate, The Grill

Price (approximately): $30

Producer: Obsidian Ridge

Region: Red Hill, Lake County, California

Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon

Buy: Fujioka’s Wine Times


My Musings:

As the mainland U.S. is trapped in an impenetrable cold chill, finding a strategy to stay warm is paramount. For me, that recipe often includes a bottle (or two) of Cabernet Sauvignon. When I don’t want to drain the bank account to procure it, Obsidian Ridge tops the list.

Obsidian Ridge is perennially one of my favorite full-bodied Cabernets under $40. Full-bodied and densely concentrated with plenty of youthful tannins that could benefit from decanting (or, ideally, time in the cellar). Nonetheless, any Cab fanatic would do well do pick up a bottle or two at a value price (relative to the Napa Valley prices that often start in excess of $80).

Lake County is a little-known American Viticultural Area (AVA) located amongst the dormant volcanic hills of Northern California. The region’s climate and terroir demonstrated to its early residents an efficacious agricultural haven. By the 1850s, immigrants whose hope had faded in the gold rush disavowed a laborious life in the coal mines to focus on agriculture in the fertile, volcanic soils of Mendocino and Lake County. Soon thereafter, vineyards were established. Where there is a way, there is a wine.

Traversing Mount Konocti, a dormant volcano overlooking the famous Clear Lake, one will find Red Hill Lake County, one of the newest appellations in California, recognized in 2004. Vineyards here are the highest in California, and scattered with remnants of black volcanic glass, called obsidian, and red, iron-rich volcanic soils. Elevation permits breezy air currents from the Pacific Ocean to reach the inland appellation. This moderating influence, combined with diurnal temperature variation, low humidity and the varied topography, yield small, concentrated berries with thick skins. The result is an intense wine with tremendous tannic structure and complex phenolic composition. These wines are robust, fruit-driven, and built to age.