Growing up in Los Angeles, Humboldt county in far northern California always had an appeal. Remote. Forested. Some said there were legendary if cold waves to surf. And of course, there was weed. Pot. Ganja. Call it what you will, but the world knows Humboldt for its marijuana.
I imagine John and Kimberley Cabot might get annoyed if everyone mentions pot when talking or writing about their wines. I'm not helping. Or maybe they don't care. It's just that Humboldt isn't known for wine. Humboldt embodies rugged, and the Cabot's own labels feature a topographical map with a clear "X" marking their location. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
Probably surrounded by pot farms. Ok, enough already.
So you're forgiven if you've never had Humboldt county...wines. I never had until last weekend, when Michael Alberty of Storyteller Wines locally invited some people down to the shop to taste through a selection of Cabot Vineyards bottlings, which are only recently available in this market.
I'll spare the details of a shipping mistake that left us with wines intended for a tasting in New York City. We still have a variety of things to try and I was impressed, and interested to try more from this clearly below the radar (for the moment) producer.
A quick look at the Cabot web site makes it clear that John and Kimberly are committed to organic viticulture and hands-off wine making. That shows in the wines, which reminded me a bit of Edmunds St. John, one of my favorite California producers that make wines accentuating the unique fruit of California with an energy and cut you typically find only in the old world.
We started by trying two vintages of the Klamath Cuvee Red Table Wine. The 2005 was my preference, showing more syrah character than anything else (60% syrah, the rest cabernet, zinfandel and merlot). Dark fruit, white pepper, beef and iron aromas, with a lovely texture, floral blackberry flavors, good length, acidity and grippy tannin, just love this. The 2006 is 60% syrah but 40% cabenert sauvignon, and the cabernet seems to dominate here. More like cabernet franc, with gravel and green tobacco aromas and cassis and tobacco flavors, very Bordeaux with a roundness familiar in California wine. Nice tannin keeps things from being syrupy. Good, but not the 2005 to my taste.
Then the 2006 Syrah Aria's, named for the Cabot's daughter. Dark colored, apparently this is Cabot's hommage to new world syrah. It's not that dark though. Rich red fruit aromas, some syrah character but maybe I wouldn't pick this out blind. More typically floral in the mouth, coffee, fine tannin as all these wines show, good grip and edge to keep things interesting. I hear this had some whole clusters in the fermenter. Nice stuff.
Finally the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, with 7% cabernet franc blended in. This reminds me of old school California cabernet, maybe from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Only medium/dark ruby, translucent. Cinnamon, stalky red fruit aromas, nicely perfumed without too much weight or heft. Slightly diffuse and broader than I like in the mouth, but again more elegant than hefty cabernet, my style. Should improve with a few years of age.
I left feeling very interested in trying more Cabot wines. The clincher? The Klamath Cuvees are $20 full retail, the others more around $30. These are terrific and interesting wines for very reasonable prices. I was shocked especially that the first wine wasn't twice the price. So check them out if they sound good to you. I know I'll be looking for some. And I'll spare any comments about case purchases coming with a free eighth. No, in fact they don't.