I’m always asking about others’ wine preferences and the most common response that I hear is “I like Cabs”. I’ve learned to either assume that this means “I like full-bodied, fruit-forward, jammy red wines” or I’ll actually ask to clarify and the response typically points in that direction. Since Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is so prominent and accessible in the United States, it’s common to associate Cab Sauv with these traits. However, Cab Sauv is a very diverse grape that has traits that span from earthy to sweet.
I chose this Esser Cabernet Sauvignon because I tasted it in a recent project to develop a Cab Sauv tasting box of Cabs from around the world (Home Wine Tasting Box – Cabernet Sauvignon), and it was surprisingly different than I expected from a California Cab. California Cabs (specifically Napa Cabs) are often as previously described (fruit-forward and jammy) whereas Cabs from Argentina, Chile and other cool climate regions often exhibit Pyrazine. Pyrazine is an aroma and flavor in wine that resembles green bell pepper. For those whose wine palate is limited to jammy Napa Cabs, Pyrazine can be a bit off-putting.
This Cab was very typical for a cool climate production. The look is fairly consistent with other regions: a deep burgundy and full bodied. However, the smell of this Cab had the traditional green bell pepper traits, currant, licorice and cigar. The taste furthered the green bell pepper notes with black pepper, more licorice, toast, vanilla and quite velvety tannins. A Cab Sauv like this one greatly benefits from decanting or aerating and softens significantly afterwards. The green pepper traits were far stronger in the aromas than the flavors.
I gave this wine a 4 out of 5 cork rating. This 2014 Esser Cabernet Sauvignon from Monterey, California received a 90 point rating from the Beverage Tasting Institute and typically retails at about $14-18.