An unsung hero. That's how vintner Chris Hanna describes our wine-of-the-week winner -- the Hanna, 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $39.

"While we're best known for our Russian River Valley sauvignon blanc, our Alexander Valley cabernet is a bit of an unsung hero, which is a puzzle given its high quality," Hanna said.

Hanna's winemaker, Jeff Hinchliffe, said what makes the cabernet sauvignon a standout is "all about managing the light."

"In cabernet, and sauvignon blanc, mastery of light in the canopy is the key to creating appealing aroma and flavor," Hinchliffe said. "In the winery during harvest it's about extracting flavor and texture from the grape. Timing is everything. It's an all-out frenzy of activity when we are fermenting cabernet."

The house style Hanna is shooting for is one that is big and rich "with lots of stuffing and alluring aromas but low on astringency," he said.

Hinchliffe decided to be a winemaker after discovering the magic of fermentation.

"I was working at the Arcata Community Recycling Center, reading (Charles) Bukowski, playing handball and becoming a college dilettante," said Hinchliffe, who was studying journalism at Humboldt State University. "Then I discovered fermentation, first grains and then after tasting a bottle of 1980 Dry Creek Vineyards sauvignon blanc," he said. "I was an incredulous 21-year-old when a friend said, 'You could get a college degree in fermenting things.' "

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or