Cabernet Sauvignon is a French grape that resulted from a naturally occurring cross fertilization of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. It is most famous for being the principal variety used on Bordeaux’s Left Bank and in more recent times has become well-known for its use in Napa Valley. Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the Sierra Foothills, especially those from El Dorado county, can be very similar to Napa’s hillside versions which are also grown on rocky, volcanic soils, but the Foothills versions come a fraction of the cost. It isn't unusual for “Napa Valley AVA” wines to have up to 15% of Sierra Foothills Cab blended in to help bring down the cost without sacrificing quality.
FOOTHILLS WINO PANEL SELECTION
BEST CABERNET SAUVIGNON
With 40-year-old vines planted atop a literal lava cap outcropping and with most of the recent vintages being constructed under the thumb of Cab-master Joe Norman of Heitz Cellars fame, it should come as no surprise that Lava Cap would have our top Cabernet Sauvignon in the Sierra Foothills. Though the competition is getting stiff, Lava Cap's consistency, intensity, and complexity make it again the champ in this heavy weight category.
OTHER FAVORITE FOOTHILLS CABERNET SAUVIGNONS
The OG. Greg and Sue Boeger started everything that would become post-Prohibition El Dorado County wine. In the early 70's Greg planted Cabernet Sauvignon near the top of his high elevation vineyard, and almost instantly world-class wines resulted. Check out our blog (linked here) of our recent tasting of a delicious 1976 version. Modern versions are just as good!
Karen J. Wood has been making natural wines from her immaculate vineyard since before the term natural wine was a thing. In 2015 she decided to plant Cabernet Sauvignon and give it a go. We are lucky she did! Though the vines are still young, they are already producing wines worthy of the Cedar Creek Ranch name. We can't wait to taste the evolution over the coming years!
Complex, yet subtle, nose of black cherries, black plums, chocolate, and herbs with just the right touch of some pyrazines to give the wine pure varietal character … oak is well integrated, and the wine is perfectly balanced (as is always the case with this impeccable producer!).
Eric and Emily Hays have a passion for making handcrafted wines and for worshipping the planet. The winery is enchanting, and the wines are sneaky-good. The care that goes into their artful creation, both in the vineyard and the cellar, is crystal clear. This nicely balanced Cabernet Sauvignon, layered with complexity, will not only delight your senses, it will make you want to be a better person.
Flavor mastermind Chaim Gur-Arieh pulls no punches when it comes to crafting this extra complex Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes comes from two different blocks planted to two different clones. The processing involves cold soaking, a submerged during fermentation, and extended maceration. Some Cabernet Franc and Touriga Nacional are also blended in. And then the wine is aged in oak for 24 months. The result is a taste sensation!
The Delfino Farms Cabernet Sauvignon is an intense masterpiece, made primarily from grapes grown on the Canavese Vineyard, one of the (if not THE) highest and oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in California planted by the legendary Edio Delfino. A delicate touch of oak allows the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, with a little bit of Syrah blended in, to sing for themselves while echoing the past.
Leave it to Bill Easton to make the only Cabernet Sauvignon from Amador County to make our list. This age-worthy beauty grown on the Terre Rouge estate is a testament to Easton's skilled hands. Rich, elegant, refined, and understated, this wine will leave you wanting another sip.
Yes, Gwinllan makes great non-sparkling wines, too. With this Cabernet Sauvignon, fresh blackberries and black currant lead the way in this earthy delight. This wine is a mix of Old World flare and Fair Play terroir and is crafted with great skill by one of the region's rising stars.
The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from Miraflores is an intense and powerful wine that definitely puts us in the mind of some classic Napa Cabs from 20-30 years ago. Miraflores also produces some Meritage (blends of Bordeaux varieties) that are also delicious and worth a try.
Sierra Vista makes two different versions of Cabernet Sauvignon, both from nearly 50-year-old own-rooted vines, and both are delicious. This one from the Tiger Lily line of wines is from a different clone and vines planted higher on the slope. New winemaker Ryan Wright, who trained under Lava Cap's Joe Norman, is just starting to get his hands on this fruit. We would not be surprised to see this wine at the top of this page in a few years.