Tue 6 Mar 2012
The cambium is the sheath of cells that lies between the bark and inner wood of any woody plant that transports water and nutrients from roots to the canopy of leaves. Appropriately, then, Sequoia Grove named its new, limited edition cabernet sauvignon-based wine after this essential anatomical feature not only of trees but of grapevines. The winery was founded in 1980, so it just slips into the criterion for this series on Old-School California Cabernets, that is, from producers founded in 1980 and earlier. By “old-school,” I also mean wines that do not tread hard on the pedals of overripe fruit, high alcohol and sweet, vanilla-tinged new oak.
Sequoia Grove occupies the sweet spot in the Napa Valley, between Rutherford and Oakville. President and director of winemaking is Michael Trujillo; winemaker is Molly Hill. The grapes for Cambium 2007, the wine’s inaugural release, derive from Rutherford and Oak Knoll and, in the opposite direction, from a high-elevation vineyard on Atlas Peak. The blend is 76 percent cabernet sauvignon, 12 percent cabernet franc, 8 percent merlot and 4% petit verdot; the wine aged 22 months in French oak barrels. The task here obviously was not to pinpoint the character of a particular vineyard or even a small appellation but to embody some spirit or essence of the Napa Valley, at which I think the wine succeeds admirably.
Sequoia Grove Cambium 2007, Napa Valley, presents a dark ruby color with a blacker interior; scents of spiced, macerated and slightly roasted black currants, black raspberries and plums are permeated by the essential nature of cedar and tobacco, leather and lavender and nuanced whiffs of black olive and thyme. These qualities are all classic features of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon wines. In the mouth, well, think dense, thick, chewy, authoritative; nothing ingratiating here, nor would we want it to be. At this availability and price — see further down — we want a wine that expresses purity and intensity of its constituent parts with robustness and rigor, precision and dignity, and that’s what we get here. Yes, black fruit flavors (with a shade of blue) are certainly present, but the wine’s dominating factors are velvet-flocked and graphite-laced tannins and unimpeachably firm, resonant and deeply spicy oak bound by the crucial element of vibrant acidity. There’s a touch of the dreadnaught about the wine, but it’s skillfully made, so despite its resoluteness it’s neither heavy nor obvious. 14.4 percent alcohol. Drink from 2013 or ’14 through 2020 to ’24. Production was 350 cases. Excellent. About $140.
A sample for review.