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Wine of the week: Rombauer Vineyards, 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

This week’s blind tasting

Rombauer Vineyards, 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $68. 4.5 stars. A full-bodied cabernet with generous fruit — red cherry, blackberry and a streak of black raspberry. Sage and toast in the mix. Firm tannins. Supple texture. Lingering finish. Impressive.

CrossBarn, 2018 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $45. 4 stars. This is the flight’s runner-up, and it’s a cab with nice bones and lively red fruits. Its high-toned raspberry on the palate is irresistible. Briary, with firm tannins. Nice length. A steal for the caliber of this cabernet.

Smith-Madrone, 2016 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.3%, $58. 4 stars. A striking cabernet with black and red fruit, coupled with savory herbs. Generous fruit, yet manages to be balanced. Lingering finish. Lovely.

Chappellet, 2018 Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend, 14.5%, $39. 4 stars. A complex cabernet with a range of flavors. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, currant and sage. Balanced. Firm tannins. Savory finish.

J. Lohr, 2016 Cuvee Pau Paso Robles Red Wine, 14.9%, $50. 3.5 stars. A cab with generous fruit. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, anise and cedar. A hint of tobacco in the mix, with a kiss of cherry on the finish. Pretty.

Sleep is an extravagance, one that can be enjoyed in 2021. That is the mindset that gave Richie Allen, winemaker of Rombauer Vineyards, the stamina to tackle the trials of 2020: fires and the pandemic.

“The growing season continues no matter what, and you have to find a way to work around the challenges,” Allen said. “We have an incredibly thoughtful and supportive team. We are being safe and following (pandemic health and safety) guidelines, but we are also moving quickly and making delicious wine. The wheel doesn’t stop turning.”

Allen is the winemaker behind our wine of the week winner — the Rombauer Vineyards, 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at $68. The full-bodied cabernet has generous fruit — red cherry, blackberry and black raspberry, with sage and toast in the mix. It has firm tannins, a supple texture and a lingering finish. It’s impressive.

Our runner up is the CrossBarn, 2018 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon at $45. It’s a cab with nice structure and lively red fruits. Its high-toned raspberry on the palate is irresistible. The cab is briary, with firm tannins, and it has nice length. It’s a steal for the caliber of this cabernet.

Other tasty cabs include: Smith-Madrone, 2016 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $58; Chappellet, 2018 Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend, $39, and J. Lohr, 2016 Cuvee Pau Paso Robles Red Wine, $50.

As for the Rombauer Vineyards’ cab, the goal is pitch-perfect balance, Allen explained.

“We want it ripe, but not overripe, with varietal intensity,” he said. “A rich mid-palate and enough tannins to give it structure. It’s all about balancing the fruit, tannin, alcohol and acid.”

Allen, 42, also is the director of viticulture at Napa Valley’s Rombauer Vineyards.

“I grew up is Australia, and I fell in love with wine while traveling the world, rock climbing,” he explained. “In 2004, I came to the USA for six months to rock climb. I was invited to a surprise birthday party that was a day of wine tasting in Amador County. And that was it, I was hooked. I realized I could use winemaking to travel the world and keep climbing.”

Making wine, like rock climbing, is adventuresome and requires diligence, Allen said.

“I love the art and science of winemaking,” he said, “and I am a little obsessive when it comes to making wine.”

The winemaker said he’s particularly fond of crafting cabernet sauvignon because of its depth and structure.

What some may not know about cabernet sauvignon is that it is a cross between cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc, Allen said.

“The result is the most widely planted and loved variety in the world, for good reason,” he said. “It makes fantastic wine.”

Looking forward, Allen said he expects 2021 to be a less challenging year. For now, these are his three takeaways from this tough year:

Making wine may be challenging, but it’s possible under any circumstance.

Those who move fast can make it work no matter the challenge.

You can rest in 2021.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

This week’s blind tasting

Rombauer Vineyards, 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $68. 4.5 stars. A full-bodied cabernet with generous fruit — red cherry, blackberry and a streak of black raspberry. Sage and toast in the mix. Firm tannins. Supple texture. Lingering finish. Impressive.

CrossBarn, 2018 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $45. 4 stars. This is the flight’s runner-up, and it’s a cab with nice bones and lively red fruits. Its high-toned raspberry on the palate is irresistible. Briary, with firm tannins. Nice length. A steal for the caliber of this cabernet.

Smith-Madrone, 2016 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.3%, $58. 4 stars. A striking cabernet with black and red fruit, coupled with savory herbs. Generous fruit, yet manages to be balanced. Lingering finish. Lovely.

Chappellet, 2018 Mountain Cuvee Proprietor’s Blend, 14.5%, $39. 4 stars. A complex cabernet with a range of flavors. Aromas and flavors of blackberry, currant and sage. Balanced. Firm tannins. Savory finish.

J. Lohr, 2016 Cuvee Pau Paso Robles Red Wine, 14.9%, $50. 3.5 stars. A cab with generous fruit. Aromas and flavors of black cherry, anise and cedar. A hint of tobacco in the mix, with a kiss of cherry on the finish. Pretty.

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