When wineries put the word “reserve” on their labels, it’s meant to signify a more prestigious bottle, a wine with more select grapes, or longer aging, or more limited production, or all these things. In some appellations in some countries — Italy and Spain come to mind — there are strict requirements for use of the term.
In others, not so much, and it’s not uncommon to see “reserve” on budget, mass-produced wines for which the word is nothing more than a marketing term with no real significance.
One that truly is authentic is Rodney Strong’s Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014. This $45 wine is a superb, middle-range Cab from the large Sonoma County winery, whose offerings begin with a “Sonoma County” line at $17 or so and extend to a single-vineyard collection of Cabs priced at $75.
By “middle range,” I’m talking mainly about price. As California Cabs go, this one is a significant value in terms of quality, even though it’s not inexpensive. You’ll get what you pay for here — and more.
I opened it recently to serve with a grilled steak, a classic combination, and was immediately struck by its balance and polish. Though still young, its tannins are relatively smooth and provide a refined framework for its vivid fruit, mainly blackberry and cassis. There’s some graphite and milk chocolate on the nose and palate, along with a mineral note. Ample acidity balances the fruit and tempers the alcohol level (listed at 14.5 percent).
The blend is 96 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 3 percent Petit Verdot, and 1 percent Malbec, and oak influence (a little over two years in new and used French oak barrels), is subtle. In short, this is my kind of California Cab, one that I could enjoy often — and plan to.