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Hayes Valley Cabernet

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Country/State California

Region Central Coast



Type Cabernet

Read About the Wine

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The very first Vitis vinifera vines – European ones that we now commonly refer to by varietal names such as Cabernet Sauvignon -  were planted in California not by “Americans” (or at least not 13-colony Americans), but by Spaniards, Franciscan monks who pilgrimaged up from New Spain, starting in Baja California Sur, and continuing some 600 miles north, to present-day Sonoma.

This trail, the El Camino Real, established missions every one-day ride, or about 30 miles, to facilitate commerce, colonization, and of course, proselytism. Whether that was bad or good for California and its historical natives you can debate all night long (hopefully with friends over a good bottle of wine, like this one), but one thing it definitely did do is bring European vines to California – and where there are Catholic missonaries, there will be sacramental wine. So about every thirty miles, California received the blessing of a grape vineyard, eventually to make wine. (In addition, ash trees were planted to mark water springs, and mustard seed was scattered along the road’s shoulders, creating a golden flower border to the road.)

One of the farther north missions to be planted was—no, not Napa Valley—but rather, Hayes Valley. Hayes Valley, with its cool nights but sunny days, was found to be one of the best places for growing grapes and thus creating wine. It took nearly 200 years, but by the 1880s, Hayes Valley became famous for its quality wine.

And then you can guess what happened. Prohibition, in 1919, which essentially ended California’s wine industry, and ended wine production in Hayes Valley, period. And it really never recovered – by the end of Prohibition, no vines were left in this sleepy valley, and by the 1960s when California’s wine industry restarted, what little interest could be found in California wine was trained on Napa.

There is probably a question in your mind – where the heck is Hayes Valley? Trust me, it’s not so easy to find. And no, if you Google it, it’s not the district in central San Francisco. Hayes Valley is actually south of Silicon Valley, on Highway 101 due east from the coast at Santa Cruz. I would guess that if San Jose is tech money central, than Hayes Valley is probably something like tech money horse ranch central.

Which actually brings us to our wine today. Bill and Brenda Murphy started growing Chardonnay in 1987 in their backyard in Saratoga, California. The idea was just for landscaping and gardening purposes. Of course, like many people (including me) in the wine business, a little bit of avocation can suddenly turn into a vocation - the dream of being small-scale vintners entered their minds and hey, it never left. And upon doing a little research, they discovered that one of California’s old-school, most respected growing sites was less than an hour’s drive away – Hayes Valley. In 1992, they rekindled this historic grape-growing area, and are now making tremendous Cabernet:

Powerful aromas of black cherries intermix with fully ripe blueberries, cassis, violets, fresh figs and vanilla wood.  It is as complex as it is pronounced.  But there is more.  The palate is power-packed with white chocolate, blackberries, espresso and mocha flavors.  The tannins are sweet and integrated, imparting a smooth, supple quality to the wine, one whose finishing flavors are measured in minutes, not seconds. This is an absolute knockout Cabernet, perfect for drinking right now (as I am), or to be tucked away in the cellar for three more years.

Uncovering history leads to great drinking! Cheers.