Every once in a while I’ll taste a wine that makes me philosophical. That’s 2008 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 1886 named for the year the winery was founded. You can lose yourself in a glass of this beauty. Its texture is heavy, its aromatics intoxicating, its color dark and rich. It gets me thinking: what kind of wine was served at the last supper and what was in Caesar’s golden goblets at those Roman bacchanals?
Don’t let anyone tell you summer’s no time for cabernet. Light the candles on the patio and sit in the ocean air, think, and drink deeply. “Our owners made the decision to run it like an Old World wine estate and we have great wine,” says vintner-GM Kevin Morrisey of the winery, started by the late French philanthropist Jean LeDucq, who willed that 100 percent of its profits benefit cardiovascular research. “We have 100 percent control of 100 percent of our grapes,” says Morrisey whose pedigree includes Château Pétrus, Etude, and Stags Leap. “We’re not counting on what another vintner is growing or how they’re farming. Another really cool thing is that year after year it should taste like it came from the same place. At other wineries the blend is different because the sourcing is different.”
Some years Ehlers 1886 has been 100 percent cab, but the 2007 that I tasted, and is now sold out at the winery but still available in retail shops, was a Bordeaux blend, and so is the 2008 with merlot (4 percent), petite verdot (1 percent), and cab franc (12 percent). “Winemakers come to buy our cab franc,” says Morrisey. “It’s got a local cult following that the press has never jumped on. It’s big, full-bodied and never gets green flavors like some other cab francs. There’s nothing but red fruit; it’s awesome for blending.” The merlot adds a velvety mid palate thrill, part of this wine’s magic.
Pour it and you’ll likely stop all conversation with the first sip. Cherries, violets, cinnamon, blueberries, fill the air. But don’t think it’s girly. Men love its heft and intensely concentrated flavors. Sure it’s $95, but it is a guaranteed showstopper, one of those Napa wines justified in commanding its price. In its handsome embossed bottle, it would also make a great gift, if you could bear to give it away.—Anne Valdespino