Wine of the week: Cache Creek, 2020 Majestic Elk, Cache Creek Vineyards, Lake County Red Blend

This week’s pick is complex with a supple texture.|

Tasting Room: Red blends

Cache Creek Vineyards & Winery, 2020 Majestic Elk Red Wine, Lake County, 14%, $58, 4.5 stars.

Cormorant, 2021 Red Wine, Santa Cruz Mountains, Black Ridge Vineyard, 13.5%, $47, 4 stars. Black cherry aromas and, on the palate, cherry notes and a hint of white pepper. Pretty.

Fidelity, 2021 Red Wine, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, 14.7%, $22, 4 stars. Striking notes of cherry, cranberry, herbs and pepper. Seamless texture and well-crafted.

Pedroncelli, 2021 Sonoma Classico Red Blend, Dry Creek Valley, 14.4%, $22, 4 stars. Aromas of black raspberry, black cherry and cracked black pepper follow through to the palate. Lovely.

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pegmelnik.

Wine in the bottle is consumable art.

That’s how Derek Holstein, winemaker of Lake County’s Cache Creek Vineyards & Winery, explains the sublime drink winemakers are determined to craft.

The winemaker is the artist behind our wine of the week winner — the Cache Creek Vineyards & Winery, 2020 Majestic Elk Red Blend, Lake County, 14%, $58. This Bordeaux blend has aromas and flavors of black raspberries and plum and an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Complex with a supple texture, it’s striking.

“What makes this blend a standout is the culmination of so many efforts all pointing to the same objective of creating a complex and beautiful wine that has both intensity and subtle nuances,” Holstein said. “It was inspired by the great Bordeaux (wines) in France and it’s actually the product of many years of effort to capture the essence of what winemakers have aspired to for centuries.”

The most challenging part of making a blend, the winemaker said, is bracing for the unexpected.

“It’s important to know limitations as well as the potential attributes of varietals to find out about the synergism and how those attributes express themselves in the blends,” Holstein said.

The winemaker said visitors from Europe have sometimes said his wine seems European.

“I’m flattered when I hear that, because it’s not easy here to do that,” he said. “Our alcohols tend to be higher, and our pHs tend to be higher (in red blends made in the United States). The consequence is ‘fatter wine’ that can taste wonderful for a couple of years and then fall short of their potential in just a few years,” Holstein said.

The winemaker, 70, joined Cache Creek Vineyards & Winery in 2005. It’s been his main focus, although he’s also a consulting winemaker for several other brands.

You could say Holstein followed his nose into winemaking.

“When I was very small, my parents commented that I never tasted something without smelling it with my nose first,” he said.

When Holstein was 15 years old in Ojai, he witnessed a gallon of apple cider ferment and he became fascinated with the process of fermentation. Soon he was making fruit wines with the help of Berkeley’s “ak Barrel Winecraft, an equipment supplier that also offers classes. The original owner, John Banks, suggested Holstein go to UC Davis. He followed his advice.

In 1973, Holstein transferred from UC Berkeley, where he was a pre-med student, to UC Davis for its fermentation science program. Upon graduating in 1975, the winemaker worked at several wineries, including Napa Valley’s Domaine Chandon and Trinchero Family Estates, as well as what’s now Langtry Farms Vineyard & Winery in Lake County.

“I think I’m a good fit to be a winemaker because it (wine) is a passion that I’ve been able to turn into a career,” Holstein said. “My hope for anyone going into their career is that they, like myself, are lucky enough to be able to turn their favorite hobby into something that can support them and their family.”

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pegmelnik.

Tasting Room: Red blends

Cache Creek Vineyards & Winery, 2020 Majestic Elk Red Wine, Lake County, 14%, $58, 4.5 stars.

Cormorant, 2021 Red Wine, Santa Cruz Mountains, Black Ridge Vineyard, 13.5%, $47, 4 stars. Black cherry aromas and, on the palate, cherry notes and a hint of white pepper. Pretty.

Fidelity, 2021 Red Wine, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, 14.7%, $22, 4 stars. Striking notes of cherry, cranberry, herbs and pepper. Seamless texture and well-crafted.

Pedroncelli, 2021 Sonoma Classico Red Blend, Dry Creek Valley, 14.4%, $22, 4 stars. Aromas of black raspberry, black cherry and cracked black pepper follow through to the palate. Lovely.

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @pegmelnik.

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