We chose Cabernet Sauvignon to talk about this month. With its bold, hearty flavors and high tannin content, it pairs perfectly with the heavier, warming dishes of deep winter. It’s also often recommended for pairing with chocolate, which would be nice around Valentine’s Day. Characteristic flavors of exemplary Cabernet Sauvignons are blackberries, creme de cassis, black cherries, boysenberry, blueberry and chocolate,and may be mingled with vanilla or chocolate and toast flavors from the oak barrels in which it is most often aged. Their color is dark red, with aromas of blackcurrants and cedar.

On the vine, the berries are small with thick skins, giving a greater skin to fruit ratio, which imparts more tannins to the finished wine. You will feel these especially at the sides of your palate as a dryness that pulls at the mouth. This is what allows these reds to pair so well with rich red meats. (The fat in the meat coats your mouth, toning down the wine’s acidity and accenting its delicious fruitiness. Your next bite of food will taste as fresh as the first, because the acids in the wine have actually cleansed your palate.) These puckery tannins allow Cabernet Sauvignon to age extremely well. As the wine ages, the tannins will mellow, and the wine will become smoother and more harmonious, picking up flavors of leather and tobacco, gaining the character and complexity that makes older reds so special. Try aging a bottle in a cool, dark place for five years or longer, then serve it with a nice steak or prime rib dinner to showcase all the virtues of this delicious dry red wine.

The Cabernet Sauvignon grape is probably the best known wine grape in the world. It rose to prominence in France, where it is one of the mainstays of the famous blended wines (made from a blend of different grapes) of the Bordeaux region. Here in southern New Jersey, our climate is actually very similar to that of Bordeaux. This makes our red wines similar in style to the Europeans, rather than the big, bold and very fruity wines of California. Our somewhat lighter, cleaner style makes the wine more food-friendly, that is, easier to pair with a greater variety of foods. Cabernets from the Outer Coastal Plain region here in South Jersey have the potential to retain all the wonderful flavor characteristics of the grape, without becoming overpowering.

These grapes thrive in a warmer climate, needing a lot of sun and ripening late. They are one of the last varieties we harvest in the fall. Our dry, sandy soils and low water table let the roots grow deep without pulling in too much moisture, allowing concentrated flavors to develop. We have 3 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in our vineyards, which produces on average about 10 tons of grape for us each year. This equates to approximately 7,500 bottlesof this deservedly popular dry red wine for your enjoyment!

This grape is quite versatile, producing wonderful varietal wines (made from mainly one grape variety), and also adding its structure and flavors to blends. Here at Bellview we blend it with other traditional varieties like Cabernet Franc and Merlot, as in our double gold medal-winning 2010 Lumiere. Our silver-medal winning 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon varietal is on the shelves now at the winery, and is a delicious example of what New Jersey can produce from this grape.

As a very special release, on Feb. 1st we will bring a limited quantity of our 2001 Cab Sauvignon out of our temperature controlled warehouse, where the bottles have been carefully stored and aged for nine years. This vintage is at its peak, to be enjoyed right now, and will be available for purchase in our tasting room only, as long as supplies last.