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California is the heartland of wine production in the US, and the state that brought prestige to American wine thanks to the pioneers who built early wineries like , , , and in the 1800s. Its large geographic area ensures a great diversity in growing sites, varieties grown, and quality levels. Generalizations about the state's wines have numerous exceptions; however, a few key facts generally hold true—ample sunshine, dry weather during the growing season, and moderate winters prevail. and continue to dominate the state's production—albeit in continually smaller percentages, as growers continue to diversify. More than 100 different varieties can be found throughout the state.
Cabernet Sauvignon is a thick-skinned variety that is high in color, flavor, tannin, and body, displaying aromas of black currant, blackberry, violet, bell pepper, and black cherry. It is late-ripening and therefore struggles to grow in cool climates. Quality can vary tremendously depending on terroir, vineyard management, and winemaking style, with the highest quality wines coming from the and in , and and in .
The powerful flavors, tannin, and body of Cabernet Sauvignon make it well suited to ageing and allow it to stand up to a large proportion of new oak without overpowering the wine. 225-litre barriques are the most popular size barrel and French oak is commonly used by the best producers to add structural complexity and flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and clove to the nose and palate. The best wines, many of which are below, can age further in the bottle for decades.
Old-World Cabernet Sauvignon is often blended with , which ripens earlier than Cabernet and adds plum, softer tannin, and lighter body to this . These wines typically have earth-driven aromas such as wet leaves and truffle along with bell peppers and leather. producers such as , , and consistently produce some of the highest-quality Cabernet Sauvignon-based blends.
New-World Cabernet Sauvignon is seen both as a blend and single varietal. Warmer climates and long sunlight hours result in an extended growing season, bearing grapes with richer fruit, bigger tannin, higher alcohol, and lower acidity than their Old-World counterparts. Some of the best expressions of these full-bodied wines come from producers like , , and .
All Cabernet Sauvignon pairs phenomenally well with meat-forward dishes such as rib-eye steak, short ribs, lamb shank, or a cheeseburger. Vegetable-forward dishes featuring mushrooms are also a great choice for this variety.