The hot new thing in California wine? A brand with a 125-year production history


The bottle: Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, $125

The back story: We often classify wine from California as “New World” in its style and approach. But don’t be fooled: the state has some winemaking history to it. Take the case of Mayacamas, a Napa Valley winery that goes back to 1889, when one John Henry Fisher purchased land and started making wine that he sold by the barrel. By 1941, the winery, under new ownership, came to be known by its present name, which refers to the mountain range that divvies Napa and Sonoma valleys.

Over the years, the brand, now owned by the Schottenstein family, the Ohio-based retail giants, has maintained its place as one of the distinctive names in California wine. Its 1971 vintage was selected as part of the famed “Judgment of Paris” tasting when California wine held its own against its French (or “Old World”) counterpart.

Braiden Albrecht, Mayacamas’ current winemaker, says the company continually relies on “classical” techniques and benefits from its location “high in the mountains with cool temperatures.” The brand is best known for its Cabernet Sauvignon, with the the current release, the 2014 vintage, marking its 125th year of production.

As a smaller, more connoisseur-oriented brand, Mayacamas isn’t known for huge volume. But it is nevertheless part of the boom in California wine. From 2002 to 2017, sales of California wine (as measured by retail shipments) in the U.S. increased from $21.5 billion to $35.2 billion, according to the Wine Institute.

What we think about it: For those who equate California wine — and in particular, California Cabernet — with being overly lush and fruity, a Mayacamas Cabernet is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way. This is a restrained, class act of a Cab. The fruit and flavor is there — the winery says you should pick up notes of everything from bay laurel to black olive to mulberry — but in an welcoming, elegant manner.

How to enjoy it: This wine goes with a range of food options, says the Mayacamas team. One suggestion: roasted duck with figs and rosemary.

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