The Wine Cellar: The king of reds: Cabernet sauvignon

Cabernet sauvignon is one of the most widely-planted varieties of grapes and is sometimes referred to as the world’s dominant wine. The Bordeaux region of France is well known for this type of grape, as is California, specifically the regions of Napa Valley and Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. Some areas in the Yakima Valley of Washington state have also been able to grow this grape. Often, cabernet sauvignon is blended with other wines, such as merlot, cabernet franc, or shiraz/syrah.

The cabernet sauvignon grapes are small, with very thick skin that is a dark purplish-black in color. Because of this thick skin, the grapes are fairly tough and can withstand poor weather conditions. This characteristic helps make it one of the most popular red wines and the most popular red wine produced in the state of California. The grapes require a moderately warm region, and a long growing season. They are also some of the most dependable grapes when it comes to aging.

In addition, cabernet sauvignon has great flavor appeal. Some of the aromas include blackberry, cherry, strawberry, vanilla, coconut, oak, peppers, olives, cedar, spices and mushroom, as well as various others. This wine pairs well with a nice steak or with red-sauce pasta dishes, such as spaghetti and lasagna. It can even be paired with pizza, hamburgers, lamb, pheasant, ribs or with stronger-tasting cheeses. In general, cabernet sauvignon is full-flavored, and tends to have a smooth finish. Following are some to try:

Columbia-Crest, Washington—This wine has hints of black cherry and chocolate, along with a general fruity taste. It’s also nicely priced at around $13 a bottle. This one would be great with most pasta dishes.

Forest Glen, California—This cabernet is loaded with fruity flavors, along with a touch of oak. It also has what you might call a velvety texture. This wine sells for around $10 a bottle.

Blackstone, California—This wine has hints of plum and oak. It is also priced at around $10 a bottle, and would go nicely with a roast or steak.

Hogue Cellars, Washington—This cabernet is full of fruity flavors, and has an aroma full of chocolate and caramel. It’s a great deal at only $10 a bottle. This wine would also be great with a nice steak, or you can even try it with a dark chocolate dessert.

Chateau St. Jean, California—A unique feature of this wine are the hints of coconut, almond and spearmint. There is even a touch of licorice to this wine. It is a bit more expensive at around $27 a bottle.

Stags’ Leap, California—This last recommendation is a bit more expensive at around $48 a bottle. It’s perfect for a special occasion. It has hints of cherries and other wild berries. The aroma has a hint of violet to it, as well as hints of chocolate, coffee and other spices. The most noticeable characteristic is its ruby red color.

Nicole Lindsay is an administrative assistant at Rockford College and a resident of Loves Park.

From the Feb. 14-20, 2007, issue

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