Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
He’s the most popular kid in school. You’d believe it just to look at him. Just to smell him as he sauntered passed you in the hall, a striking whiff of athleticism and his dad’s expensive oud cologne kicking you in the nostrils. And though he has a long and fancy French name he’s better known by his friends and everyone that wants to be his friend simply as Cab Sav.
He’s in a gang. Not a violent one. Not a petty criminal one. Not a cool one. His is more a kind of adolescent rabble: they play lacrosse, they help each other cheat on exams, they fancy each others sisters and mothers and they spend too much time in locker rooms, flexing before mirrors and arguing over the best haircare products. They are the five Boys of Bored-Oh! All of them tall, dark and handsome: Merlot plays the cello, Malbec is good at maths, Petit Verdot is a really good wrestler, Cab Franc an aspiring chef. All of them looking to their left-handed leader: Cab Sav.
He speaks five languages. He’s adaptable, amenable. He’s accommodating. He’s generous and forgiving. He’s lived everywhere. He (kind of) comes from France though he is so well travelled that his accent has turned mongrel. His family have money. He’s a star player on the sports teams and argues passionately about European political history. He’s the guy who goes to church with his mum and the guy who sells weed to the teachers. He turns up at every dinner, at every party, on very wine list. And though his prominence is comforting to some drinkers, to others it’s a bit like ‘…you again?’ He’s the workhorse you can lean on, the parsley of the herb garden: reliable, willing, capable. Some say perfect, righteous, good. Some say over-used, over-planted, over-grown. He is rendered controversial through popularity and expectation. He is: Cab Sav.
If left to his own devices, without a guiding hand, or without the gifts of community, he might seem a little flat, a little unfinished. But when the Bored-Oh! Boys get together… as they first did in Bordeaux, and as they continue to do all across the globe, as they have done at Domaine Eden: beauty and leather, cassis and smoke, muscle and splendour combine. I’m not saying he’s no good by himself, but some of us (like The Beatles) are just better with a little help from our friends.
The 2014 harvest was hard. Drought stricken, low rains, reduced crop, early September harvest; what the estate has themselves called a hard year. But ‘hard’ doesn’t necessarily translate as ‘huh’ in the glass, more often than not ‘hard’ can become ‘hellacious’. The Domaine Eden Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 may well be just that: the Bored-Oh! Boys, at their low yielding, mountain-dwelling, natively-yeasted, French-imitating, American best.
It looks like the lush red-black of calligraphic ink, the edges spinning plum. It smells like a liquor cabinet, bees-wax shined and boozy. It tastes like a sugar-crusted, berry-stewed winter fruit pie cooling in the window, watched eagerly by famished crows. This is wine that demands to be drunk. There’s a little crunch of fresh mint. There’s nutmeg spice and a heavy flourish of dried fruit: dates, prunes, raisin. And just nosing the glass one might expect to be overwhelmed by the explosion of flavour when it hits the palate and you almost are but the integration of a medium reaching acidity and black or blackened fruit, the marriage of jamminess and tannic grip gives the wine bounce, ensures it comes across as beauty. And it’s chauffeured by a whiff of smoke, a kind of rush of fire and flame-turned oak. The Domaine use an equal split of French and American and it shows; the coconut and dill undertones of American oak not overwhelming the coffee and dark chocolate undertones of the French, and vice versa. Each varietal before blending getting a 22 month stay in barrel, pushing the wooded curl, the black-tea soak, the ashen perfume of Bordeaux-esque classics that the Eden blend imitates. Only here, as is often the American way, the fruit is more generous, the profile less austere, the grandeur rendered feminine.
This is that frat boy who surprises you with the strength of his throwing arm and his aptitude for tender pottery. This is that formerly homophobic Uncle who marches with PFLAG when both his children come out as gay. This is that brown paper bag of blackberries, softening in the afternoon heat, against the handlebars of your BMX. This is that boisterous comrade at the work function you had always avoided, thinking volume equated potential annoyance, but you meet them and are charmed not only by their poise and political leanings but by their wisdom, by their aura that seems to sing about grabbing life by the balls. And you kick yourself for your presumptions, for your judgement, for the years lost on account of your ignorance and unsociability. This is the beginning of your friendship with Cab Sav.
There’s also the sweet dust off a mirage of ancient cherry trees in an arid desert. And the sticky fruit of torch-finished dessert, hugged on the plate by softening cream. And it left me thinking of freshly tarred roads that roll through the foothills of California; a long and winding stretch that begs to be explored on long weekends with picnics packed, tanks full and engines warm, that fast wind rushing by your cheeks and some old rock n roll crackling out the Kenwoods.* And wherever you stop is some kind of eden, some kind of hanging garden, because it’s just you and a bottle: it’s just you and the high trees, you and your checkered blanket and your old friends the Bored-Oh! Boys, your old les amies from Domaine Eden, your new American boyfriend who studied French and bakes pies, your new love: Cab Sav.
*Don’t drink and drive.
tasted March 2021