2018 Desire Lines Wine Co., Cabernet Sauvignon, Lichau Hill Vineyard, Petaluma Gap AVA, Sonoma County.
Cody Rasmussen’s Desire Lines Wines Co. label is certainly one of the coolest and best new wineries to emerge in the last few years and his latest set of wines are absolute gems with his Syrah bottlings being some of the best in the state, but I just discovered his Cabernet Sauvignon and it is also a killer wine, especially interesting coming from this unlikely place, its dark and pure flavors a joy on a cold January night. The Lichau Cabernet Sauvignon is deeply saturated with an almost opaque black/purple and garnet tinted color which is ultra compelling and the nose is a classic mix of black fruit, floral notes, a light wood toast and chaparral that leads to a very youthful, but surprisingly supple tannined full, bodied palate that comes through in dense layers of blackberries, creme de cassis, plum and cherry fruits along with licorice, cedar, minty herb, a touch of vanilla and with some earthy loam and graphite. The vintage, long and somewhat cool, allowed for a smoothing of the structural elements, fresh detailing and gave well developed ripe fruit complexity, all adding up to a powerful and graceful example of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon that delivers a top notch performance in the glass and making for an exceptional value for this grape and it is just beginning its evolution and should only get better and better over the next few years or the decade head. With some air and food the 2018 Desire Lines Wine Co. Lichau Cabernet behaves impeccably and its raw grip fades into a luxurious richness, much the same way you’d expect and want from a big red wine and there is a lot to admire here, especially the constant play between hedonistic fruit and savory notes and a lingering sensation of acacia flowers and blueberry. Fans of Mountain California Cabernet will love the rustic and or old school style, but it is still a quite polished and pretty really and am reminded of wines like Mount Eden and Chappellet, which is a good thing.

Cody Rasmussen and his wife Emily started this micro (family) winery in 2014 when they made their first wine, a Mendocino Syrah from the Eagle Point Vineyard, before creating a more wide set of wines over the next few vintages, which include a fabulous Griffin’s Lair Syrah, an expressive dry Riesling from Cole Ranch, a juicy Carignan blend from old wines in Contra Costa County, a pure Mourvedre and another gorgeous and opulent Syrah from the much heralded Shake Rigde Vineyard in the Amador County, as well as this impressive single vineyard offering. Rasmussen, who is the assistant winemaker at Bedrock Wine Company under the guidance of Morgan Twain-Peterson MW and one of the great wine minds of California, and has a fantastic selection of top vineyard sites to work from. His own label wines have the quality and refinement that you see in the highly regarded Bedrock wines, but still have a unique distinction and show his own personality as well as the individual terroir characteristics, which is clearly on display on this wine. Rasmussen says he didn’t intend to make a Cabernet when we started Desire Lines, but just by chance along a hiking trail, the Lichau Hill appeared to him and he was intrigued by this remote vineyard. So in 2018, he followed up on his instincts and got grapes from Lichau, which is set on Sonoma Mountain’s western side with a southwest facing and a mix of rocky soils, along with a slightly cooler coastal influence. The Lichau Vineyard, as Cody notes is thoroughly singular, it has the only Cabernet Sauvignon planted within the Petaluma Gap AVA, and at a good elevation, it misses most of fog and gets warm enough to fully ripen the Cab grapes, proven here beautifully in this 2018 version. Rasmussen fully de-stemmed the Cab clusters, but he did not crush the berries, fermenting them on the skins for thirty days in tank, and then he aged the Lichau for about 15 months in 225L French oak barriques with 40% new oak. This is a wonderful effort and a great addition to the Desire Lines stellar lineup, I highly recommend it and all of the wines, this is winery to watch.
($45 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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