The 9 Best Cabernet Sauvignons From Sonoma to Buy in 2023
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The prevailing wisdom in the wine world is that for the finest New World Cabernet Sauvignon we turn to Napa Valley and for the best Pinot Noir we look to Sonoma. The most widely grown red grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon is firmly at home in Sonoma County, where it thrives on around 12,000 acres, which, surprisingly, is almost as many acres as there are of Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon has a naturally thick skin, and in colder regions in Sonoma the grape’s protective outer covering can be even thicker, adding to wine’s rich tannic structure. Ample aging in oak barrels contributes additional tannins and top notes of baking spices and vanilla.
Cabernet Sauvignon was first brought to Sonoma during the Gold Rush of the 1850s and has been extensively cultivated there for more than 150 years. Many well-known estates have been producing excellent single vineyard versions since the 1970s. With bold tannins, rich black and red fruit flavors, and bountiful earthy and spicy notes, Cabernet from Sonoma packs all the power you expect from this noble variety. Here are our picks for drinking right now or maturing to further perfection for a few more years.
Brion Wise is the name behind Brion and together with winemakers Julien Fayard, Mark Herald, and Massimo Monticelli this amazing team makes stunning wines in both Napa Valley and the Moon Mountain District of Sonoma Valley. This 2019 Sonoma Cab is garnet ruby colored with aromas of ripe black plum, black cassis, and red raspberry. Grapes are grown on iron rich soils so you can definitely feel the mineral and metallic notes in the palate along with rich red and black fruit flavors. The tannins are velvety soft and flavors of black currant, black plum, and red raspberry intermingle seamlessly. There’s a pleasant splash of bright acidity in the back of the palate before the long, long, finish.
Buy Now: $210
This enchanting wine is a tribute to founders Angela and Edoardo Seghesio who in 1895 planted the family’s first vineyard in North America. “Omaggio” is inspired by Italian Super Tuscan wines and is a blend of 60 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 40 percent Sangiovese. The winemaking team noted that harvest lasted 30 days from the beginning of September to the beginning of October 2021 and yields were down, but they were very happy with the quality of the grapes. The 2021 Omaggio has aromas of black currant, mocha, and forest floor and flavors of ripe red cherry, violet, vanilla, and black plum. The tannins are well integrated for such a young wine and there’s a splash of bright acidity in the post palate.
Buy Now: $85
Named to honor their great, great grandfather Marshall Hutchinson, the grapes for this stunning Cab are 100 percent estate grown by his heirs on land established five generations ago. The wine is a blend of 78 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 15 percent Cabernet Franc with touches of Merlot and Petit Verdot. It is aged for more than two years in French oak barrels and receives battonage (stirring of the lees) for the first eight months. There are aromas of pencil lead, black berry, and cassis with flavors of black plum and red raspberry wrapped in a soft tannic sheath.
Buy Now: $100
This lovely wine is composed of 87 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 13 percent Cabernet Franc. All the grapes were grown on the Hamel Family Ranch in Sonoma Valley and only 550 cases were produced in 2018. It is aged in French oak barrels for 20 months but only about half of them are new. It is inky purple in the glass with aromas of black raspberry, black currant, and cedar shavings. In the mouth it is silky with soft tannins and flavors of black plum, red raspberry, and tobacco leaf. Drink now or over the next decade.
Buy Now: $160
Luc and Jodie Morlet make stunning wines from Napa and Sonoma grown grapes. Luc is French born so perhaps that’s why their wines have a distinct “old world” flavor. In 2014 Robert M. Parker, Jr said, “Luc Morlet is not only a fabulous winemaking talent, he knows how to bring the French savoir faire of complexity, elegance, and precision to the ripe, concentrated, intense fruit of California,” and we couldn’t agree more. The 2015 Mon Chevalier is predominately Cabernet Sauvignon with a few touches of Cab Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. It is drinking beautifully right now with aromas of ripe red fruit, cassis, and a whiff of smoked meats. On the palate, there are flavors of black plum, red raspberry, and red currant with soft, silky, and velvety tannins. Drink now or over the next five to seven years to catch it in its prime.
Buy Now: $242
Henry and Vanessa Cornell purchased 240 acres of land tucked away in the Mayacamas Mountains and planted 20 acres of vines. They hired Francoise Peschon and Elizabeth Tangney as winemakers and in 2015 invited the winemaking team, vineyard crew, and their families to live on the property year-round. Their 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of 98 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with one percent each of Petit Verdot and Malbec. It is aged for 20 months in 62 percent new French oak barrels. The wine has alluring aromas of cassis, purple flowers, and black plum with flavors of dried cherry, vanilla, and mocha. It has bold tannins and a touch of Indian Curry powder in the finish.
Buy Now: $175
Hanzell is named for Hana Zellerbach whose husband James David Zellerbach (U.S. Ambassador to Italy) purchased 200 acres in 1943. His first plantings were Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and he is credited with many winemaking techniques still in use today. This enjoyable Hanzell Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of blueberries, red raspberries, and cassis. It is soft on entry into the mouth with flavors of black raspberry, black plum, and cedar shavings. The tannins are silky smooth and there is a touch of brown baking spices in the finish.
Buy Now: $149
Grapes for Archimedes are sourced from three separate vineyards in Alexander Valley; Archimedes Vineyard in Pine Mountain Cloverdale Peak which sits above the fog line at 2,100 feet, Gird Creek Vineyard, and Newman Vineyard in Knights Valley. This blend allows for a specific aroma and taste profile beginning with a bouquet of ripe black fruits, mocha, and caramel. In the mouth there are flavors of black currant, tobacco leaf, and brown baking spices wrapped in a silky tannic sheath. Drink now or through 2028.
Buy Now: $75
Grapes for this single vineyard Cab come from the Rockaway vineyard which has an elevation of 750 feet and was established in 1994. Most of the vines in the Rockaway vineyard are Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is also planted with four other traditional Bordeaux varieties. This alluring wine is aged for two years in 100 percent new French oak barrels. It is garnet colored in the glass with aromas of ripe red raspberry, black currant, and red plum and it is full bodied with silky tannins and flavors of black plum, saddle leather, and cigar box. Drink now through 2030.
Buy Now: $90