California cult wines are usually very tannic upon release, heavily oaked, and highly extracted (they are a mouthful). The term coined for this type of wine is “cocktail cabernet”.
I tend to prefer European wines as they are generally higher in acid and lower in sugar (alcohol), therefore pairing better with food.
One alternative to the standard California Cabernet “recipe” is Dunn Vineyards.
Although Dunn wines can be very tannic on release, they purposely keep the alcohol low in their wines. They are so adamant about their wines being below 14% that they often “dealcoholize their wine.
There are two main ways to reduce the amount of alcohol in a finished wine:
1. Add water (secretly known as Jesus units).
2. Use technology (like reverse osmosis).
There is some debate as to whether this produces “better” wines. Father and son certainly disagree. Many believe that this conviction has cost Dunn Vineyards favorable reviews from wine critics.
I was fortunate enough to sample a 2004 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet from Imperial (Imperial=Quadruple Magnum or 8 bottles of wine). A limited release- only 100 of these were produced (see the bottom of the bottle above). This wine was dealcoholized when it came in at around 14.3 percent.
But, is it good…now?
After 10+ years it is still primary and “hot”. If I didn’t know it was held to 14% alcohol I would swear it was 15%+. Ripe Dark fruit, vanilla and still some apparent oak. It changed/evolved in the glass which is a sign of a great wine.
Yes, it is very good but will keep getting better. Try and hold off on drinking this wine. If you can’t wait- decant it for a few hours…or a few days…seriously.