Domestic Selection: Cabernet Sauvignon, 1988. Lone Oak

In 1974, the Smith horse ranch and the Hook cattle ranch were converted into vineyards. A good 250 acres of vines were planted there, split between Cabernet Sau­vignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Thus was the Smith and Hook Estate created as a Cabernet Sauvignon “chateau”.

Our selection comes from the Lone Oak Estate, a separate entity, owned and operated by these same people, the Nicholaus Hahn fami­ly. Located on the Santa Lucia Highlands, overlooking Monterey County’s fertile Salinas Valley, cooled by off-shore bay breezes, these sun-drenched vineyards en­joy a microclimate ideal for wine.

Once, returning south from a Monterey Bay weekend, I drove through this area with my wife and daughter. We took the back road, Route G-17, to try a short cut (as well as to relieve ourselves from the touristy hustle and bustle of Cannery Row). Driving through some of the most soothing agricul­tural countryside imaginable, we passed acre upon acre of this firm’s plush, beautiful vineyards. Our discovery was, however, that viticulture was not new to this area. A few miles down the road we stopped at “the old Soledad Mission”, a landmark of early Cal­ifornia history (we had passed it and just had to go back). Next to the crumbling old buildings, remained just a few of what had to be the oldest grape vine stocks I have ever seen, big and thick around, almost like tree trunks! (These were, more than likely, of the so-called “Mission” variety.) When it came to matters of the vine, the mission padres obviously had their priorities straight.

This wine, on the other hand, was produced from 100% Caber­net Sauvignon grapes. Originally from France’s Bordeaux region, Cabernet Sauvignon is the pre­dominant grape in most chateau bottled reds produced there. When transplanted to other districts, the variety maintains its ability to yield full-bodied, long-lived wines, dis­tinguished in flavor and elegance.

This fine example sports an inky-dark red color. The nose has lots of fruit, with hints of pear, strawberry and a touch of hay, typical of the Monterey style. It is very smooth on the palate; dry, but with pleasing fruit flavors and just a hint of tannin. The finish is clean with the fruit flavors linger­ing on.

Serve at room temperature with roast leg of lamb, or fowl roasted in a cherry or berry sauce.

Cellaring Notes: Ready now, but will complex through 1994.

Reviewed by Larry Tepper

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