CABERNET SAUVIGNON. 1980–TOPOLOS AT RUSSIAN RIVER VINEYARDS
by Paul Kalemkiarian Sr | August 1983
This winemaker has flair. He does things in a different way. His label is sideways on the bottle!.. He puts his name on the label preceding the name of the winery, with the preposition “at” possibly implying that he comes first over the winery! He expounds that his wines are hand made!
Michael Topolos and his brother Jerry took over The Russian River Vineyards in 1978. It was previously operated by the Riebli family who made wine exclusively for their restaurant located on the winery property.
As winemaker, Michael’s philosophy is basic. ” The process starts in the vineyards. Great wine is grown, not made” he says. The grapes he uses come from 25 acres adjacent to the winery and 100 acres on Sonoma Mountain. “We are most proud of these vines, because they are mountain grown, non-irrigated and display all the concentration and character possible.”
His winemaking is meticulous. He is a stickler for housekeeping, and baby-sits his wine through the fermentation and ageing. His wine shows it.
When he has time, he teaches a course in wine appreciation at Santa Rosa JC. He has authored three books on the wine industries of Napa and Sonoma county. If you are ever in the area, call ahead and stop by and see him and his winery. They all have flair!
Cabernet, the traditional premier red grape of Bordeaux, has earned a reputation in California that threatens overshadowing its French counterparts. At its best in California, it demonstrates varietal character that is powerful both when young and when aged. Typically it has a bold aroma that is intense, richly herbal, and points to a dry taste when young. On ageing the bouquet develops to woodsy, cedar scents, less assertive but penetrating. In taste, tannic usually overides the varietal flavor when young, but ageing mellows the taste to new sensations that were not present earlier.
A word about “unfined” wine! It is considered by some winemakers as the way to go. The final step of preparing a wine for bottling involves adding natural fining agents to remove some particulate matter and clarify the wine. Most wines are fined, but the proponents of not doing it claim you keep important elements that contribute to better ageing.
Our wine is purplish red, and nearly opaque. It has a penetrating, spicy cabernet nose, with some berry overtones. It is full bodied, with a glycerinny texture. The flavor explodes with fruit. It is dry but not austere. Chewy. Tannin is apparent, but the fruit extends into the finish over the tannin. Serve at room temperature with main entree of beef, steaks, or roasts.
Cellaring Notes: Will mellow and develop for 10 years.