Crimson Cabernet is a relatively new grape varietal, a hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton. If you’re a West Coast wine lover (or from virtually anyplace in the world except Eastern or Midwestern United States), Norton is probably unfamiliar to you. That’s because no one grows it unless they have to. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, Norton is relatively cold hardy , disease-resistant, and ripens early. But it’s a difficult grape to manage in the vineyard and it produces small berries with lots of seeds so it’s a challenge to extract enough juice in the winery. Although Norton doesn’t exhibit the “foxy” flavors of other native American grapes, and has bold, intense fruit expression, its high acidity and sometimes odd earth and vegetal aromas make it hard to love (although it has many devoted fans in the regions that grow it). Thus it makes perfect sense to cross it with Cabernet Sauvignon to get the best of both worlds—Cabernet’s structure and refined flavors with Norton’s ripening characteristics.
Commercially available since 2011, Somerset Ridge, located a short drive southwest of Kansas City, was the first to grow Crimson Cabernet and arguably has the most experience with this new option for Midwest wineries. In addition to this fine Crimson Cabernet, Somerset Ridge is one of the few wineries in the region to successfully grow v. vinifera grapes, especially Cabernet Franc.
The Crimson Cabernet shows black cherry and freshly turned earth with touches of mint framed by shy cedar. Not quite as dark-fruited as its parent Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s aromas are threaded with floral notes that add complexity.
Blueberry wrapped in dark chocolate and coffee grace the medium-bodied palate. Tame but palpable acidity, and persistent yet gentle tannins make this quite accessible. Very well-integrated with nothing out of place, the mouthfeel is smooth but not plush as the finish, imbued with pepper and herbal notes, shows an endearing rusticity. A thoroughly enjoyable wine. Aged for 18 months in American oak, some of it new.
Not at all flamboyant but there is plenty of subdued complexity, and elegant rusticity best captured by Lyle Lovett’s My Baby Don’t Tolerate.
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