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Cornell Vineyards, Cabernet SauvignonSonoma County, California 2018 (750mL)

From the Wine Shop

Cornell Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County, California 2018 (750mL)

“It’s easy to find $200 California Cabernets—all too easy—but it’s a real challenge finding one worthy of its respective price and the soaring reviews they so often receive. Hear me now: Cornell’s 2018 is 100% deserving of the near-perfect scores and mythologizing it’s currently receiving.”

Some 20 years ago, Vanessa and Henry Cornell found this remote property, perched at 1,900 feet in the Mayacamas Range, with a history of vine cultivation dating back to the area’s earliest settlers. Of the 240 acres they acquired, they devoted 20 to painstakingly farmed Cabernet vineyards and enlisted a dream team to craft classically styled, critically acclaimed wines. The winemaking is headed by 2019 San Francisco Chronicle and 2021 Vinous “Winemaker of the Year” Françoise Peschon. 

The Cornell’s vineyards fall within a relatively new Sonoma AVA (American Viticultural Area) called the Fountaingrove District, which was once famous for a “cult” winery of a different sort—that of utopian spiritualist Thomas Lake Harris, who ran a sizable ranch and winery in the area in the late-1800s. The soils combine sedimentary loam and gravel mixed with volcanic deposits, at altitudes that often climb above the “fog line” that makes this one of the coolest sub-appellations in the Napa Valley. The relatively mild temperatures at altitude, combined with intense luminosity, combine to create wines that are intense and concentrated, yet balanced and complex.

Over the course of three weeks, Cornell’s vines were carefully monitored for optimal ripeness and harvested by hand. In the cellar, the grapes fermented varietally separate, by parcel, and were then blended together to begin their 20-month journey in high-quality, tightly grained French oak barrels, 62% of which were new. After bottling in June of 2020, the wines were then allowed to rest for an additional months before their allocated release. This is such a sensational, plush, seamlessly constructed Cabernet. It fills a Bordeaux stem with an opaque dark purple core and returns superbly lifted, highly intoxicating aromas of black raspberry, cassis, ripe black cherry, crème de violette, pencil lead, cigar wrapper, tobacco leaf, charred earth, crushed black rock, and heaps of mouthwatering baking spices. The full-bodied palate sweeps through with luxuriously smooth, dark-fruited textures that reverberate for nearly a minute on the finish. It’s a profound Cabernet, one that will easily coexist in a cellar filled with First Growths for decades to come.

  • CountryUnited States
  • RegionCalifornia / Sonoma County
  • Sub-RegionFountaingrove AVA
  • SoilSandy Loam & Volcanic
  • FarmingSustainable
  • BlendCabernet Sauvignon 98%, Petit Verdot 1%, Malbec 1%
  • Alcohol14.5%
  • OakFrench Barrels, 62% New
  • Temp.Serve at 60-65° F
  • GlasswareLarge Bordeaux Stems
  • DrinkingNow-2038+
  • DecantingOne Hour
  • PairingFilet Mignon w/ Pepper Cream Sauce

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