I think I’ve written plenty at this point about White Zinfandel and why it may not exactly appeal to everyone. I was hanging out with a good friend recently, another East Coast transplant to wine country, who was telling me about a White Cabernet he had. Intrigued, I asked him to tell me about it. He said, “imagine the perfect cab. Dark, dense, rich. Imagine all those flavors you love about Cab: Raspberry, Cherry, Strawberry, Leather, Dark Chocolate. Now imagine that those flavors exist in your mouth without tannins. That’s something like what I experienced with White Cabernet.” I was, obviously, incredulous. No way could such a thing exist. Flavor, after all, comes not just from the free-run juice, but mainly from the contact with the skins, right? What was the catch?
There is no catch, not exactly. White Cabernet, in this case Bell Wine Cellar’s 2015 Clochette d’Or from Napa, California, was exactly what he described. The tasting, by the way, was exemplary. We were greeted with glasses of Chardonnay, given a brief tour of the winery and adjoining vineyards, and settled in the make-shift tasting room in the middle of the production facility where the owner and chief winemaker was busy working on his barrels. If you have a chance, I would recommend Bell Wine Cellars purely based on their tour, though their wines are phenomenal. Flavors of dark chocolate, leather, cigar smoke, and vanilla mixed seamlessly with strawberries and blackberries with only the barest hint of tannin. The color is something like the lightest rosé you’ve ever seen. No residual sugar, 100% neutral French oak and 100% Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon from Rutherford. And yes, you read that correctly, this wine is from 2015, making it the youngest Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever had. But with none of the tannin or overwhelming acidity to worry about, there’s no risk here! The wine tastes beautiful.
So what makes this wine so special? Well, let’s be honest: name a white cabernet you’ve had. None? Really?? Yeah, so this is the first I’ve ever had, or even heard of, though other notoriously red varieties are made into white wines (like Grenache or Merlot). As for aging potential… well, we really don’t know. The owner/winemaker at Bell said, when asked, that he believes the wine will take on the qualities of dry Semillon after 5-7 years. I guess that remains to be seen. In a year when only 408 bottles (34 cases) were produced, I’m certainly not about to drink mine early.
What can you take away from this? If you’re in Napa, check out Bell Wine Cellars for their exquisite White Cabernet. And if you have a chance to try anything new or weird or inventive, do it! That’s what being a wine enthusiast is all about!
Have any questions about wine that you would like answered in a column? Email me at [email protected]! I look forward to hearing from you! Cheers, Zach.