Readers, I’ll be writing extensively about cabernet sauvignon wines from California throughout the next month, including a major post on classically proportioned wines from some old-line wineries; debut wines that I thought should be embraced or avoided; and caberets from a series of younger producers.

We start today with two wines from a small producer in the Red Hills district of Lake County, the county just north of Napa. Red Hills was approved as an AVA (American Viticultural Area) in September 2004. Lying at the foot of Mt. Konocti and along the southwest shore of Clear Lake, Red Hills is an appellation encompassed within the Clear Lake AVA.

Snows Lake Vineyard offers two wines, called, appropriately, One and Two.
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The Snows Lake One 2005, Red Hills, Lake County, is 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. It ages 21 months in French oak, 64 percent new barrels. The bouquet offers an immediate burst of slate, lead pencil, cedar and tobacco leaf, smoky and toasty oak and hints of intense and concentrated black currants and black raspberries; given a few moments, the nose draws up touches of leafy, dried herbs, brambles and underbrush. All of these elements testify to the wine’s structural integrity and tannic power. In the mouth, though, Snows Lake One 2005 feels sleek and elegant; it’s packed with spice and black fruit flavors but it’s neither fleshy nor over-ripe. The wine gains depth and dimension in the glass, darkening, as it were, as more mineral, tannin and oaken qualities make themselves known. The finish concludes with another burst of spice and a wild high-note of foxy plums. This would be great with a crusty rib-eye steak just off the grill, but will drink best from 2010 or ’11 through 2015 or ’16. Excellent. About $45.
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Snows Lake Two 2005, Red hills, Lake County, is a blend of 72 percent cabernet sauvignon and 28 percent cabernet franc. The oak treatment is slightly different; the same 21 months aging in French oak, but 46 percent new barrels. The alcohol level is slightly lower, Two having 14.2 percent and One measuring 14.5 percent, which seems to be the standard nowadays. The cabernet franc lends Two a bit of a darker color and perhaps its sense of being a little denser; certainly the cabernet franc also contributes to the wine’s intensity of licorice and lavender, its touch of astringency balanced by a cleansing element of blueberry tart. Two is compelling in its vibrancy and resonance and the concentrated of its spicy black fruit flavors, but the tannins are rigorous, and they seem to grow more powerful, and the mineral quality grows more forceful, as the minutes pass. Tasted side by side, these cousins reveal, as they should, similarities of place and grape variety as well as the divergences that derive from different intent and treatment. Give Two a little more time, say 2011 or ’12 through 2016 to ’18. Excellent. About $45.
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