The Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 5% Petite Sirah, 5% Malbec and 2% Tempranillo grown in Wente’s estate, sustainably farmed vineyards in the southern section of the Livermore Valley AVA, east of the San Fransisco Bay (south and west of Lodi) in the Central Coast AVA of California. Wente Vineyards has a long and distinguished history in California winemaking, they were founded in 1883 and are the oldest continuously operated family owned winery in the United States. They survived Prohibition by selling grapes to home winemakers and if you search for information on Google for grape clones you will find Wente’s name in every article. The Wente Chardonnay grape clone comprises 80% of the Chardonnay grown in the US and I had a Bordeaux winemaker tell me he uses the Wente Cabernet Sauvignon clone in his vineyards because it is hardier and more disease resistant than the local grape clones. The Wente vines used to develop the clones originally came from Bordeaux, so it’s a case of what goes around, comes around. Wente has a profound impact on American wine and is still going strong today, the 4th and 5th generation of winemakers are currently running the show. Portions of the Southern Hills Cabernet was aged in French and Eastern European oak barrels for 16 months with other portions aged in neutral oak barrels and stainless steel vats. Neither neutral oak barrels or stainless steel vats impart oak flavoring to the wine, they leave the juice bright and fruit-forward. Stainless steel does not allow any air transfer into the wine, while neutral barrels do allow a tiny amount of air to interact with the juice, giving the wine a slightly different character. Blending the oak barrel lots with the stainless steel and the neutral oak lots gives the winemaker the exact flavors and textures they are looking for. The alcohol content is a moderate for a California Cab, 13.5%.
The color is a dark barely see-thru raspberry jam red with black highlights. The nose is very good, menthol, spice, blackberry, blueberry, Thanksgiving herbs, black pepper, dark chocolate and ripe plum. This Cab is medium-bodied with a smooth, plush mouth-feel. It tastes of ripe raspberry, light Altoids’s spice, blackberry, pepper, and tart cranberry. The mid-palate adds cherry, a little vanilla cream, pepper spice (soft, not too strong) and chocolate covered blueberries. The tannins are soft, the acidity is balanced, this Cab can do double duty, work well as a food wine and be a patio sipper. The finish is full and refuses to go away.
The Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 is an extremely tasty California Cab. It has bright, delicious fruit flavors to go along with the exotic and complex oak barrel flavors, and both elements work together seamlessly. I found the Wente Southern Hills cab for about $13 on sale, which is a very good price and a quick check of the web shows it selling in the $11 to $17 range with most prices somewhere in the middle. That is a very good price range for an estate grown, 16 months in oak, real deal California Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a plush, fruit driven wine with just enough complexity to peak your interest.