Winery: Callaway Vineyard & Winery
Product/Varietal: Cabernet Sauvignon
AVA on Bottle: Temecula Valley
Winemaker: Craig Larson
How They Describe It
Deep, rich and spicy with notes of juicy blackberry and dark cherry pie. Piquant black peppercorn and whole clove meet flavors of dark chocolate cherry and fleshy black currants, all laced together with easy tannins that are elegant, not aggressive. A Cabernet to sip, savor and share.
Interesting Fact: A process called delestage was used during fermentation for the purpose of stabilizing color, softening tannins, fruit quality, and is used for wines that have a better age potential.
Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Aging: 21 months in 100% French oak
How I Describe It
Like most Cabernet Sauvignons, Callaway’s 2016 Wild Yeast Cab Sauv is medium ruby (see this previous post for what “medium” means).
Cherry and red plum aromas are pronounced, along with blackberry and raspberry. Adding complexity, black pepper, hints of green bell pepper (capsicum), dill, nutmeg, toasted wood, and rose can be detected.
The Callaway 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet Sauvignon features heavy red and black fruit which follow the nose, along with the fruity astringency of cranberry and spiciness of black pepper. Elements of brioche reflect the wild yeast’s impact. Tannins are present, but surprisingly smooth. Almost two years in oak manifests as vanilla, clove, nutmeg, and cedar. Green bell pepper, turned earth, and musty forest floor make the wine additionally compelling. There is also a hint of mushroom and rustic farmyard brett.
This is a dry wine, with alcohol on the higher end and medium acidity. It has pronounced flavor intensity and a long finish, but with more focus on fruit than from a Napa Cabernet.
Why is This Wine Special?
There are very few wineries in Temecula with the kind of legacy Callaway has. For one, the winery shares its namesake with the golf industry leader. As one of the first commercial wineries in Temecula, it also helped shape the AVA’s reputation for decades, for worse or better. Despite pigeonholing the region as “white wines only” for a few decades too long, they now produce a full portfolio of red and white wines. Which brings me to the 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet Sauvignon…
Terrior is a term commonly used in the wine industry. In short, it’s the sum of all of the natural factors which affect grape growing and wine making in an appellation: soil, average temperatures, sunlight, rainfall, natural fauna and flora, etc. Callaway’s natural yeast wines (they also make a Wild Yeast Syrah) are, quite possibly, the best representation of Temecula’s terrior. Not only are the grapes estate grown, the 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet Sauvignon ferments in yeast which only naturally occurs in their vineyard.
For context, yeast naturally occurs everywhere. However, wine yeasts are carefully bred to produce only desired flavors. Wild yeasts, though, are a total wild card. Some strains could produce flavors similar to laboratory-bred yeasts, while others could make the wine taste rancid. To mitigate these risks, when harvesting grapes, most winemakers take painstaking measures to kill off these yeasts before than can have an affect on the wine.
Callaway took a big gamble creating a wild yeast wine — even more so since Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most recognizable varietals on the market, making any faults especially visible. In this case, that gamble paid off in spades.
Callaway’s 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet Sauvignon has the same kind of fruit-forward elements you’d expect from a Paso Robles or Alexander Valley Cabernet, along with an extra interesting bouquet of flavors one can only find by using local wild yeasts. Make no mistake, this wine is distinctly Cabernet Sauvignon, but it is also distinctly Temecula in the best way possible.
When & How I Would Drink It
This is what I would call a cool weather wine — bundled up by a fireplace after a long day, coupled with a warm, hearty meal.
As with similar wines, the 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet pairs well with red meats like steak, prime rib and burgers, as well as lamb and short ribs. For lighter fare, aged cheeses work well too.
It’s worth noting, as with many Temecula wines, the price point is higher than what you’d commonly find in a grocery store. That said, like all wines with the Temecula Valley AVA stamp, this is a craft wine. Case in point, most of wines you buy in the grocery store come from suppliers which produce tens of millions of cases each year (there are 12 bottles in a case). By contrast, there are only around 2,000 bottles of 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet Sauvignon in existence. In addition to quality and originality, you’re buying the wine’s scarcity.
How to Get It
Bottle Price: $58 ($46.40 for wine club members)
Cases Produced: ~170
Have you tried the Callaway 2016 Wild Yeast Cabernet Sauvignon? How did the tasting notes compare with your experience? Leave a comment below.