Thursday, February 18, 2021

Cassata Sonoma Unleashes Cru-Level Quality In Wine Releases

Cassata CRU Cabernet with Herbed Rack of LambThe cru designation is reserved for Europe’s greatest vineyards. Does a Sonoma “cru” wine live up to the label?

The Search For Utopium

When I learned that Cassata Sonoma’s line of wines is called Utopium, a smile lit up my face. After all, isn’t everyone searching for Utopia? It’s a turn of phrase that conjures up the ideal world (or wine) in every respect.

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The Cassata Sonoma Family Vineyard is located in Glen Ellen, California, known for its exceptional soils and climate. The vineyard, purchased by Tom Cassata in 2002, is located in Sonoma, also known as the Valley of the Moon. The vineyard is farmed bio-sustainably with plants, animals and nature all working together.

Cassata Cork“We believe in creating excellence through sustainable winemaking practices,” said Cassata. “This ensures that the vineyard and its environment can continue to produce wines for future generations and is the ultimate in sustainability.” The Cassata Sonoma brand Utopium features four grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Sauvignon Blanc. In addition, the vineyard also produces four bio-sustainable varieties of olive oil.

A Sonoma Cru

What riveted my attention is a special designation on two recent Cassata Sonoma releases. The winery offers a 2014 Sonoma CRU Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2014 Sonoma CRU Reserve Zinfandel. How did the cru vineyard designation sail across the ocean and land in California? My inquiring mind wanted to know.

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The fruit for the two CRU wines comes from a very specific part of the vineyard known for producing high quality fruit. The wines are also barrel aged for five years. We had the CRU Cabernet Sauvignon, so I was ready to uncork and get to the bottom of the lingering question: Is the cru label deserved?

We decided that the wine would be the centerpiece of our Valentine’s Day dinner. Rather than grabbing a Styrofoam clamshell takeout dinner, we decided to whip up a gourmet caliber meal on our own. (I say “we” because I did make the potatoes!).

The entree was Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb with a luscious coating of breadcrumbs, rosemary, mustard, and several other secret ingredients known only to my wife. My side dish was Crushed Yukon Gold Potatoes with Lemon, which was executed brilliantly by yours truly. Roasted vegetables rounded out the plate. The crowning touch was the 2014 CRU Cab.

Decant De Wine?

My mind was probably elsewhere as dinner preparations unfolded. I posted a picture of the wine on Instagram and got some nice reaction including a comment from the winery that I should open the wine to let it breathe. Aha, I thought, the perfect occasion for my swan-neck decanter. I only bring it out on special occasions because of the gyrations needed to clean it the next day.

I merrily poured the wine into the decanter and proudly posted a perfectly composed photo. I was soon pinged by the winery and was informed that the wine shouldn’t be decanted and the bottle merely opened. We’ll I certainly wasn’t going to chance spilling any of this noble wine by pouring it back in the bottle. I also reasoned that just opening the bottle only exposes about one square inch to the softening effect of air.

Cassata Utopium CRU Cabernet SauvignonSome of the best discoveries have been made by accident, and I’ll list this decanting adventure under that heading. When we sat down to our beautiful meal and sipped the CRU Cabernet, it was magical.

On the nose there were delicate aromas of mocha and red fruit. Some wines getting significant aging in barrels can become as impenetrable as oak itself. Not so with this wonderful CRU. The tannins were smooth and dialed back. The palate was awash with coca, black cherry, and deep flavors of butterscotch and caramel. The interplay between the CRU and our lamb entree was spectacular.

The Cassata Sonoma 2014 CRU Reserve Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon delivers a memorable experience at a mere $60 SRP. It certainly drinks like a Cab for which you’d expect to pay twice that amount. The CRU label properly calibrates your expectations.

Another Trip To Utopium

Our enthusiasm for the CRU Cabernet shouldn’t distract you from the other wines in the Cassata Sonoma portfolio. We also sampled the outstanding 2012 Sonoma Zinfandel.

Deep ruby in color it has plum and cocoa on the palate wrapped in notes of warming berries. There is a dash of pepper to accent the finish. It’s a big wine and the 14.9% ABV was apparent at the start, but the impact smoothed as the sipping continued. It’s well-made and well-priced at $39. It did leave me wondering how the CRU Zinfandel would compare.

For those of you who may not be able to pop in to Sonoma, Cassata has announced that its CRU Wine Club will open in Bonita Springs, Florida, this month. It will feature a wine room for tastings and pairings. Featured will be the line of Utopium wines plus the Talisman Pinot Noir from the Los Carneros AVA. We can’t wait to pay a visit.

Full Disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

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