12 Rows of Vines
Cabernet Sauvignon Clajeux Vineyard
Sonoma's New "New World" Cabernet
I wasn't lucky/old enough to taste epics like the 1952 Beaulieu Cabernet Private Reserve Georges de Latour or the 74 Heitz on release, but tasting this wine makes me think that the days of Cabernet that lasts, that inspires after decades, are not lost in California.
Leaving Arnot-Roberts I couldn't help but think over the diversity of wines I had just tasted: a Jura-inspired Trousseau sampled out of tank, a skin-fermented, white field-blend from the old-vine Compagni Portis vineyard... and a slew of Syrahs and Cabernets.
While all the esoteric wines would have left any wine geek's or Francophile's head spinning, looking for a reminder that they were in Forestville, CA, what really struck me was how the Cabernets at Arnot-Roberts stuck with me.
This is far and away the most exciting Cali Cab discovery for me in many years; the Cabs of Arnot-Roberts are delicate, fresh, nuanced, unique... interesting.
After tasting at Arnot-Roberts, I left with the overwhelming impression that California Cabernet - one of the most famous categories of wine in the world - could still be sensually exciting, intellectually stimulating and TRUE to terroir, just like any great French Bordeaux. I went to Arnot-Roberts expecting to be wowed by the boundaries they were pushing with offbeat varietals, and I left in love with their Cabernet Sauvignons.
Today, we feature my favorite bottling, what I believe is simply one of the greatest Cabernets being made in California: The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Clajeux Vineyard.
Located along the famed, red-soiled Mayamacas Range in the Chalk Hill AVA in eastern Sonoma, the Clajeux vineyard has a remarkably cool climate thanks to breezes coming from the Russian River Valley and the Pacific to the west.
|Clajeux Vineyard, Chalk Hill, Sonoma County|
Rocky volcanic soils in the Clajeux vineyard force the vines to struggle and produce naturally low yields; excellent drainage here means there are no fat, dilute berries, just those of concentrated yet detailed flavor thanks to long, cool hang times.
Duncan and Nathan, childhood friends from Napa who look like they could be brothers, have tended their 12 rows of vines by hand here since 2003. They believe in the kind of winemaking philosophy that, sadly, puts them in the minority in California: an emphasis on farming, native yeasts, cautious use of new oak, even whole cluster fermentations.
Nathan's father was one of the early California coopers who imported French oak to produce high-end, American-made, French oak barrels. Arnot-Roberts obviously have access to some killer barrels, yet they use them sensibly, responsibly, with thought towards accentuating the wines, not polishing over their delicacy or evidence of terroir.
The Clajeux Cabernet shows licorice, Provençal herbs and a black peppery spice. There is a beautiful layer of bright red fruits and flowers along with ripe but firm tannins. I had the pleasure of drinking this recently with duck, and it was a fantastic pairing, the finer structure not overwhelming the dish - though, to be sure, this will also shine with your more "classic" steak-and-Cab dinner. See Stephen Tanzer's full note below.
It will also improve for years - quite probably decades - in the cellar.
I wasn't lucky/old enough to taste epics like the 1952 Beaulieu Cabernet Sauvignon Private Reserve Georges de Latour or the 74 Heitz on release, but tasting this wine makes me think that the days of Cabernet that lasts, that inspires after decades, are not lost in California. I believe Arnot-Roberts is making some of the "next generation" of those kinds of wines.
That said, this is a small operation, only around 150 cases of the 08 Clajeux Vineyard were made - we have only a small parcel.
For those of you who have been worn down and tired by the triple-digit pricing and monstrous alcohol (bigger is NOT always better) of so many Cali Cabs, this is an inspiring bottle. For fans of Corison, Copain, Pax, Bedrock, Scholium Project (they are all friends) - the Arnot Roberts are not to be missed.
To order, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the store at (212) 980-9463.
Fine and Rare Wine Specialist
Crush Wine & Spirits
Cabernet Sauvignon Clajeux Vineyard
Josh Raynolds, IWC: "Vivid ruby. Flamboyant aromas of cassis, botanical herbs, licorice, lavender and cracked pepper. Dense, fleshy and sweet, with a slight medicinal reserve to the intense flavors of dark berries, bitter cherry, floral pastilles and spices. The impressively sappy, long finish features fine-grained tannins and lingering floral notes."