Domestic Selection: Cabernet Sauvignon, 1986. Sebastiani

Samuele Sebastiani had been born into a peasant family who toiled in the vineyards of Tuscany, Italy. In 1895, he borrowed mon­ey for his steerage to California. In 1904, Samuele Sebastiani started what was to become California winemaking history.

Today, when you visit the Se­bastiani Winery in old town Sono­ma, you will be shown the hand crusher, small basket press and 501-gallon redwood tank used by Samuele to make his first vintage of Zinfandel. One of the few func­tioning wineries during Prohibi­tion, Sebastiani stayed alive by producing medicinal and sacra­mental wines. He also set up a fruit and vegetable cannery next door to the winery to keep up his employment and protect his land investment.

Samuele died in 1944 and was survived by his son August who began to make some changes. He must have been a visionary be­cause at that point, all Sebastiani’s wines were sold off to other bot­tlers and marketed under different labels. August began bottling his wines under the family name. This gave rise to vintage dating and va­rietal designation long before the emergence of the sophisticated wine consumer of the 1970’s. When the demand for identifiable vintaged wines grew, Sebastiani was the first on the block to fill the bill. August died in 1980 and his oldest son Sam took over through 1986. Sam left to start Viansa Vineyards and August’s youngest son, Don stepped in and is current­ly the head honcho.

Cabernet Sauvignon is the no­blest of red wine grapes from the Bordeaux region of France. It pro­duces wines of considerable aging potential and complex character. Our selection this month was vint­ed by the Sebastiani Estates Group, who is responsible for the winery’s premium wine line. This vintage was named after the then three-year-old, Emilia Sebastiani (in fact, she is responsible for the label artistry).

“Emilia” has an intense magen­ta/purple color that turns brick red at the edges of the glass (showing its age). The nose is full of dried fruit, cherries and oak. The body is medium/full with the cherry fla­vors coming through wood and earth notes. The finish is full of fruit with softening tannins prom­ising longevity.

Serve at room temperature with barbecue steak or kebab. Would be wonderful with squab or other game birds.

Cellaring Notes: Fairly soft and complex now but will continue to improve through 1996.

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