2017 Waxwing, Cabernet Sauvignon, Star Lane Vineyard, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara County.
The brilliantly dark garnet/purple Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon pumps out some serious fruit, while still being restrained and well balanced with opulently ripe black fruits, acacia flowers, a dusting of tannins, being a youthful wine that feels somewhat reassuring and there is a sensation of spice, herbs and energy with a touch of French oak sweetness. In recent years Scott Sisemore at Waxwing Wine cellars has been crafting some excellent wines with his Pinot Noir and Syrah bottlings especially, but to spread his wings, no pun intended, he has started doing some other grapes including Riesling and now very excitingly Cabernet Sauvignon. Last year Sisemore got some Dierberg Syrah that was fabulous, so the news that he was able to source their (Dierberg) Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon from the Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara AVA, I was thrilled. Scott has a wine school, UC Davis friend that works for the Dierberg/Star Lane and was excited that along with the Syrah grapes that he could get some of the Cab to explore Bordeaux varietals for the first time, and judging by this one, he will be doing it again.
Happy Canyon is a unique part of the Santa Ynez Valley that suits the Bordeaux grapes and in more modern times there has been some amazing wines done in this region and there has been quite a bit of interest from top winemakers, in fact Star Lane had Paul Hobbs consult early on and then there is Screaming Eagle’s sister winery Jonata with the talented Matt Dees making some mind blowing stuff near by there, in neighboring Ballard Canyon to the west, while Star Lane makes their own version of note along with a classy effort from Broc Cellars and new comers Conway Family Wines, Union Sacre and Gorham Vineyards making Cabs that have received notable press, to name just a few.
Scott fermented the 2017 Happy Canyon Star Lane Cabernet Sauvignon using 100% de-stemmed grapes that were extremely and meticulously sorted and with a seven day cold soak to extract color and intensity of flavors in a open top upright puncheon. The primary fermentation lasted just over two weeks with hand punch downs of the cap three times a day before being racked to a single, once used French barrique, where it went through malos and was raised for fourteen months. Sisemore did a gentile filtration prior to bottling, with a total of 24 cases made in total and a finished alcohol of 14.6%, but it feels significantly less, even though there is a full bodied impact on the palate. Blackberry, cherry, cassis, bitter coco, tobacco, sage and anise all collide in the mouth and linger on the finish.
This Waxwing Cabernet is well presented in a lovely bit of packaging with a short burgundy wax capsule and its classic Bordeaux sloped shoulder bottle and what shows up in the glass is just as impressive and stylish, this should improve in the bottle if cellared for the next 3 to 5 years, though the vintage’s smooth nature makes it appealing even now. Waxwing is a tiny boutique winery that does a tight and quality collection of between 5 and 10 wines per vintage, no more than a couple barrels of each, and mostly available direct and on his mailing list.
($60 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive