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What our expert thought of Viano, Contra Costa County, Cabernet Sauvignon

the tasting

The Tasting

A medium-plus garnet shading to brick around the rim, this is relatively light for a Cabernet Sauvignon and looks a little more mature than its five years.  It’s just about the perfect colour for a Cabernet-based wine, looking absolutely ready to drink.
The warm, earthy, quite high-toned nose confirms it.  Ripe, dusty blackcurrant and black cherry scents are backed up by a strong herbal waft: mostly sage but shading into tomato leaf.  It smells sun-baked, rustic, mature and curiously Italian, despite the classy claret-like hints of cedarwood and cigar box that emerge with a little air.
The palate is filled with sweet dark berries but is fully dry, with unexpectedly good acidity for a wine that smells so ripe.  Black cherries dominate, supported by some blackberry and plum, with only a hint of Cab Sauv’s trademark blackcurrant.  Like the nose, the fruit is dusty and earthy.  It’s full-flavoured though not all that much more than medium-bodied.
There’s an intriguing rusty nail quality to the spicy and savoury finish, on which juicy acidity just wins out over ripe, powdery tannins.


California is famed for its fusion cuisine, mixing influences from its various immigrant communities.  This is fusion wine, though resolutely old-fashioned and not at all trendy.
On the one hand it’s very Bordeaux-y, having lots of the qualities of a fine mature claret (which would cost twice as much). Yet at the same time it has this sun-baked, earthy, herbs-and-sour-cherries character that is very Italian.  There’s even a hint of the Lebanon’s great Cabernet-based red, Ch. Musar, in there as well.
Many mid-range Californian reds go over the top by European standards: fruitbombs with too much alcohol, too much oak, and too high a price.  This one shows admirable restraint, combining Old World influences with Californian sunshine to create a savoury and satisfying red that punches well over its weight.

Tasting notes

clear medium+ garnet, mature-looking

Intensity medium+

Aromas earthy, dusty, a little rustic, ripe black berries (blackcurrant, cherry), herbs (sage, tomato leaf), oak/maturity (cedar, cigar box)

Development developing

Sweetness fully dry, but sweet-fruited

Acidity medium+

Body medium(+, just)

Tannins medium(+?), powdery but ripe

Intensity medium++

Flavours black fruit (cherry, also blackberry & plum, just a hint of blackcurrant), mineral (earth, dust)

Length medium+

Flavours mineral (rust), spicy, lovely acid/tannin balance (juicy acidity wins)
Other notes
Remarkable restraint for California - 13%. Very Bordeaux-y, yet smells sun-baked & curiously Italian. Hints of Musar too. Savoury & food-friendly. Restrained use of oak.

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