I am a huge wine geek! Show me soil samples and I am in heaven. Speak of choice in barrel size, length of aging, blending techniques, and I am endlessly fascinated. I know there are many wine geeks who read this blog. I also know I have a large audience who are not wine geeks. It is my hope I give enough geekiness for the geeks but not too much to lose the interest of the non-geeks. Today; however, we are in wine geek heaven! But you non-geeks don’t despair whether you are geeked out or not I have a couple of delicious wine recommendations!
A few weeks ago I received a fascinating email sharing details of a fun wine project Herzog Wine Cellars has undertaken and inviting me to be a part of the experience. They cleverly called the project “Battle of the Barrels.” The idea was quite straight forward:
“Herzog Variations Oak is a special wine series that journeys beyond the variations of California wine country, and into a Battle of the Barrels. We start with North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon – grown in well drained, volcanic (YES!) soil. The wines are then separated into two sets of barrels: one in 100% new American oak, and one in 100% new French oak. Both wines are then carefully aged for 9 months, bringing out right nuances in the flavor, profile and texture. The results are two complex, layered and rich textured wines. So who will win this battle? The decision is yours!”
The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes were cultivated in the Beckstoff Vineyards, which is recognized for producing high quality grapes. Beckstoff pioneered innovations in drip irrigation, vine spacing, and farming management resulting in improving grape quality with a commitment to sustainable farming practices. The French oak barrels come from one of five forests and average in age between 120 – 150 years old with a fine grain. The American oak barrels come from White Oak with an average age of 80 – 100 years old with a medium grain.
How do the wines taste?
Herzog Variations American Oak Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2014: penetrating ruby in the glass; cherries, plums, currants, baking spice highlighting anise, red licorice, toasted hazelnuts on the nose but toasted walnuts on the palate; silky on the palate with penetrating acidity, round tannins, much more earthiness on the palate than on the nose, layers of flavors that time will integrate; mouth-coating, long finish; alcohol 15%.
Herzog Variations French Oak Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2014: penetrating ruby in the glass; cherries, plums, pomegranates, red raspberries, baking spice highlighting nutmeg and allspice, very faint floral notes, ending with hints of vanilla and almonds; lush with considerable length on the palate, flavors more integrated with smooth texture; round but less penetrating acidity; mouth-coating, long finish; 15% alcohol.
These wines are very young; I would love to see how the oak treatment continues to develop and the wines integrate in the bottle over the next few years. My preference today is the French oak variation because it is softer and more integrated with a more pleasing balance of fruit and earthiness. That being said, both wines are lovely, would pair beautifully with a hearty meal today. Even better, buy each and cellar properly for a few years for a real wine treat!
Herzog Wine Cellars is located in Oxnard, California. The Herzog family has a remarkable history of wine making (both kosher and non-kosher) beginning in Slovakia before WWII by Baron Phillip Herzog, hiding in the Slovakian countryside for safety during WWII; Eugene, Phillip’s grandson, returned to winemaking after the war only to be forced out of Europe three years later by the Czech communist regime. In 1948, Eugene packed up his family and moved to New York where he worked in a kosher winery with his sons. Long story short, in 1958, the company became theirs. They named it Royal Wine Company after Phillip. In 1985 they expanded the winery operations to California where they make wines under two separate labels: Baron Herzog and Herzog Wine Cellars. Under the supervision of head winemaker Joe Hurliman, Herzog Wine Cellars has created a center for high-end contemporary winemaking in a tradition that dates back nearly six centuries.
Herzog Wine Cellars crafts a large portfolio of wines. I encourage you to visit their web site to learn more about the winery, their beautiful history, and order wines for yourself.
My Song Selection: I love the fact that Herzog has such an enduring family history and is a winery filled with tradition, yet they still seek and embrace innovation in modern wine making techniques. Furthermore, the entire idea behind “Battle of the Barrels” is not only fun but educational, and of course delicious! I selected this song for a few reasons: 1) it’s a classic rock n’ roll song; 2) though it is perfect in its original form this is a great cover from two great artists; 3) the two Herzog Variations Cabernets are full-body wines that are refined with layers of flavors and textures that I think pair beautifully with a high octane rock song.
Get your own Herzog Wine Cellars Variations American and French Oak Cabernet Sauvignons and let me know which you prefer and what song you pair with them. Cheers!