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We usually look to Sonoma for Pinot Noir, but there are outstanding Cabs to drink too.

The prevailing wisdom in the wine world is that for the finest New World Cabernet Sauvignon we turn to Napa Valley and for the best Pinot Noir we look to Sonoma. The most widely grown red grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon is firmly at home in Sonoma County, where it thrives on around 12,000 acres, which, surprisingly, is almost as many acres as there are of Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon has a naturally thick skin, and in colder regions in Sonoma the grape’s protective outer covering can be even thicker, adding to wine’s rich tannic structure. Ample aging in oak barrels contributes additional tannins and top notes of baking spices and vanilla.

Cabernet Sauvignon was first brought to Sonoma during the Gold Rush of the 1850s and has been extensively cultivated there for more than 150 years. Many well-known estates have been producing excellent single vineyard versions since the 1970s. With bold tannins, rich black and red fruit flavors, and bountiful earthy and spicy notes, Cabernet from Sonoma packs all the power you expect from this noble variety. Here are our picks for drinking right now or maturing to further perfection for a few more years.

Cornell 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County California

Henry and Vanessa Cornell purchased 240 acres of land tucked away in the Mayacamas Mountains and planted 20 acres of vines. They hired Francoise Peschon and Elizabeth Tangney as winemakers and in 2015 invited the winemaking team, vineyard crew, and their families to live on the property year-round. Their 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of 98 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with one percent each of Petit Verdot and Malbec. It is aged for 20 months in 62 percent new French oak barrels. The wine has alluring aromas of cassis, purple flowers, and black plum with flavors of dried cherry, vanilla, and mocha. It has bold tannins and a touch of Indian Curry powder in the finish.

– Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, August 2023

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