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Wine of the week: Flambeaux Wine, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Flambeaux Vineyard

Art Murray is behind our wine of the week winner — the Flambeaux Wine, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Flambeaux Vineyard, 14.4%, $70. Black raspberry aromas follow through to the palate with black cherry and a streak of tart cherry.|

Tasting Room: Cabernet sauvignon

Flambeaux Wine, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Flambeaux Vineyard, 14.4%, $70, 4.5 stars. Black raspberry aromas follow through to the palate with black cherry and a streak of tart cherry. Lightly toasted, this cab finishes with a kiss of vanilla. Balanced, supple and impressive.

Dough Wines, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, 14.9%, $50, 4 stars. A lovely cab with layered aromas and flavors of blueberry, plum, black cherry and anise. Firm tannins and nice length. Top-rate.

Smith-Madrone, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, 14.3%, $65, 4 stars. A tasty cab with black cherry, cassis and an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Supple texture and well-crafted.

Grounded by Josh Phelps, 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 14.1%, $18, 3.5 stars. Black raspberry aromas with notes of cranberry and cherry. Pretty.

In French, “flambeaux” means “flaming torch.” During the New Orleans’ carnival of Mardi Gras, dancing torchbearers light up the parade.

Vintner Art Murray, who hails from New Orleans, said he chose to name his brand Flambeaux Wines to evoke the shared celebration of Mardi Gras.

“There’s a definite connection people feel during Mardi Gras, the city-wide party that brings people of all walks of life together,” he said. “We want our customers to have that same feeling when tasting with us.”

Murray is behind our wine of the week winner — the Flambeaux Wine, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Flambeaux Vineyard, 14.4%, $70. Black raspberry aromas follow through to the palate with black cherry and a streak of tart cherry. Lightly toasted, this cab finishes with a kiss of vanilla. It’s balanced, supple and impressive.

“We make a cabernet sauvignon that is fairly unique among California cabs,” Murray said. “Our Dry Creek Valley cab has lots bright red fruit and minerality, which is very French in style. It’s something the typical California cab is not, in my opinion. Again, we are not pushing that profile. We just happen to have a special property that expresses itself in that way. ... Our winemaker Ryan Prichard excels at working with this somewhat picky variety, never pushing the grapes to be something they’re not, but always giving them the tools to be the best they can be.”

The Flambeaux vineyard sits 400 feet up from the valley floor, above the fog line, which allows it to cool nicely at night.

“These are the extremes that cabernet sauvignon really likes,” Murray said. “Adding to that, we have a special soil. It’s an iron-rich soil that can only be found on hillside land, and it makes a very special cabernet. But making a really great wine does take some sacrifice. We typically drop a lot of fruit, trading yield for quality, a quality that really shines in our 2018 Dry Creek Valley cabernet.”

Murray, 47, works remotely in his day job, as an environmental lawyer for his family’s law firm in Louisiana. He has been making wine in Sonoma County since 2014 in his “other job,” as president of Flambeaux and one of its four owners.

The vintner said he didn’t know he would get into the wine business when he bought the property. His idea was to retire on a vineyard. There was no plan to make wine, but after watching his fruit hauled off by a respected local winery, the flicker of an idea became a full-fledged business.

“Sonoma County is truly my favorite wine-growing region,” the vintner said. “The size of the county and the range of terroir that it gives us as vintners is amazing. There are so many options. While Napa’s beautiful, it’s smaller and more restricted in its range of varietals. I also love that Sonoma still has a lot of small family wineries. From a growing perspective, Dry Creek Valley is a really special spot.”

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

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

Tasting Room: Cabernet sauvignon

Flambeaux Wine, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Flambeaux Vineyard, 14.4%, $70, 4.5 stars. Black raspberry aromas follow through to the palate with black cherry and a streak of tart cherry. Lightly toasted, this cab finishes with a kiss of vanilla. Balanced, supple and impressive.

Dough Wines, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, 14.9%, $50, 4 stars. A lovely cab with layered aromas and flavors of blueberry, plum, black cherry and anise. Firm tannins and nice length. Top-rate.

Smith-Madrone, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, 14.3%, $65, 4 stars. A tasty cab with black cherry, cassis and an undercurrent of cracked black pepper. Supple texture and well-crafted.

Grounded by Josh Phelps, 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon, California, 14.1%, $18, 3.5 stars. Black raspberry aromas with notes of cranberry and cherry. Pretty.

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