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Ramey Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Napa Valley, California, $65

After many years of working for and with other winemakers, Dave Ramey used that wealth of experience to found his own winery in 1996. Although his earliest efforts showcased chardonnay, Ramey soon expanded his winemaking philosophy of harmony and balance to producing exceptional cabernet sauvignon, as well.

The current release of Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon is 6 years old, but still shows the deep ruby core with magenta-tinged rim of a younger cabernet. The nose is a mélange of black pepper, cedar and caramelized black plum-compote, with black cherries emerging on the palate. Sur lie aging relegates the impact of oak to a supporting rather than starring role, portrayed as delicate smokiness. The wine is smooth, succulent and beautifully balanced with silky tannins and crisp acid.

A stellar example of great depth and restraint, to be enjoyed now or over the next several years.

Pair it with: beef sirloin with roasted pepper sauce, portobello mushroom burgers, and glazed pork chops.


Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018

Paso Robles, California, $45

Founded by the Hahn family more than 40 years ago, Smith & Hook was created for the specific purpose of exploring Central Coast cabernet sauvignon. Head winemaker Megan McCollough sources 100 percent Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon grapes for this reserve, crafted in the bold style for which these wines have become known.

This Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is the very definition of a “big red.” It’s a dark cherry red in the glass, and the potent nose offers up smoky wood notes and baking-spice aromas, accompanied by dark fruits. These dark fruit flavors intensify on the midpalate, displaying as blackberries and black currant jam. Clay dust dances in the background, becoming more prominent on the finish, which showcases cacao nib-like tannins.

Devotees of big, California cabs, will enjoy sinking their teeth into this powerful Paso Robles rendition.

Pair it with:ground espresso bean-rubbed pork ribs, Texas smoked brisket, and grilled strip steaks.


Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Columbia Valley, Washington, $24

Washington continues to develop its reputation for quality cabernet sauvignon, its most widely planted grape. Intrinsic Wine Co., created five years ago by Columbia Crest’s head winemaker, Juan Muñoz-Oca, is owned by Columbia Crest, but treated as a separate brand where Muñoz-Oca can take a deep dive into experimenting with cabernet sauvignon.

Medium ruby, Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon’s heady nose whispers of smoke before revealing herbal aromas with a hint of cherries, redolent of a savory cherry and thyme reduction sauce. You will pick up on some leather if you linger. Crisp acid and mellow tannins mingle in a base of candied cherries, layered with oregano and eucalyptus. The soft and buttery finish brings the wine full circle with the suggestion of sandalwood.

A stunning label by Brooklyn street artist Zimer adorns the bottle of this quality Washington cab, imparting a “vineyard meets street” feel.

Pair it with:lamb shanks, bacon cheeseburgers, and grilled sausage and peppers.

Renée B. Allen, CSW, FWS, CSS, is a wine and spirits expert and the director of the award-winning Wine Institute of New England, which offers wine and spirits education and events. Allen is a professor at the University of New Haven, a wine competition director and judge, and can be seen on WFSB’s Better Connecticut.

This article appears in the September 2021 issue of Connecticut MagazineYou can subscribe to Connecticut Magazine here, or find the current issue on sale hereSign up for our newsletter to get our latest and greatest content delivered right to your inbox. Have a question or comment? Email editor@connecticutmag.com. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram @connecticutmagazine and Twitter @connecticutmag.