Saddleback Cabernet Sauvignon and a thick burger–a great combination.

S ome days you pick the wine to go with the food and some days you pick the food to go with the wine.

Friday night we sort of picked them independently of each other, but we had a great time. It was a day of celebration and a little sadness. I spent the day at a planning retreat for a board I was leaving after about 15 years.

I firmly believe in rotating off boards after a few years, but I had been enjoying my time on this board, and since they didn’t ask me to leave I stayed on and on and on. Then we instituted a board rotation and my term expired at the end of the school year. I will miss being on the board, but they let me come to the planning retreat, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

I hate being in meetings, but I love being around when a group of people feed off each other’s energy and create great ideas. That happened Friday. So on the way home I decided we should pop open a great bottle of wine to celebrate.

Teri and I were tired of cooking so we decided on takeout or eat out. Pizza sounded good to me; hamburgers sounded good to Teri. There’s no suspense to what we decided on: Gary’s Hamburgers. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s how to say, “Yes, dear.”

Saddleback Cab 1995

As we walked in we spotted some folks I knew from church and then we saw one of the best chefs in town, picking up a hamburger in a white paper sack. Whoa! Suddenly I didn’t feel so bad about just having a hamburger for dinner. The chef and all around nice guy said he was just stopping by to see someone who happened to be out of town, but he did leave with a white paper sack. It made me wonder if he would go back to his kitchen and eat privately, or if he would just eat it in the car so no one would know.

No matter. I took this as another sign that we should have a great wine with our burgers. Teri agreed.

As it so often does, the selection just jumped out at me: Saddleback Cabernet Sauvignon 1995. Saddleback is one of my all time favorite Cabs, and I have bottles from several different years. I was curious to see how this one was holding up after 17 years.

It was spectacular right out of the bottle. I poured it through an aerator, and that was all it needed. It’s a beautiful deep garnet in the glass. The wine was powerful, but fresh and young. Lots of blackberry and plum, and firm structure, but no bitter tannins. It was smooth, supple and with a long finish.

Of course, it paired well with my double cheeseburger, cutting through the grease and standing up to the ground beef flavor. I know a lot of people think burgers and beer are the perfect combination, but I think you can’t beat a burger and a Cab. Our Friday night dinner just reconfirmed that.

I probably should have decanted the wine because there was a lot of sediment in the bottle, and some of it slipped into our glasses as I poured. We were careful not to drink the grit, though, so it turned out OK.

Sediment deposited inside the bottle after several years in the cellar.

You can see the sediment on the bottle in the photo on this page. I stored the bottle on its side (to keep the cork moist and not allow air into the bottle) so the sediment piled up on the side of the bottle. The sediment is a natural product that forms when you store red wine for five years or more.

It comes from the tannins and other solid material that give the wine character. It doesn’t hurt anything, but it doesn’t taste good if you accidentally get some on your tongue.

The age of the wine was interesting because the 1995 seemed in its prime. About a year ago I opened a 2000 Saddleback Merlot that was good but well past its prime. That’s a good lesson, because I think Cab can age much longer than Merlot, if stored properly. I know some Bordeaux Merlot blends last a long time, but I’ve never had much luck aging Merlot beyond 5-6 years.

I probably paid around $50 for the bottle years ago. The current vintage (2007) sells for $66. I bought the wine from a longtime friend, Alex Heck of Wine Direct Selections in Santa Rosa. He looks for spectacular wines that you often can’t find in local wine shops and then entices me to buy them. The interesting thing about Alex is he has never shipped me a wine that I didn’t absolutely love. You can reach him at 800-964-9463.

From: Napa
Winery: Saddleback was established in the Oakville district of Napa Valley in 1982. Legendary winemaker and owner Nils Venge is known as the king of Cabernet, and with good reason. No matter the vintage, he always seems to get the most out of the grapes, crafting powerful, elegant wines.

Nils’ philosophy on making wines for Saddleback is that they must reflect the best qualities that Napa Valley has to offer; sometimes a single vineyard, sometimes a single appellation, or a blend of appellations to make the best wine in a particular vintage.

Nils’ grandparents and his father Per migrated to the United States from Denmark in 1939. The family thrived in New York, but when grandfather Knud retired from the silver business they headed to California.

Per met his wife there, and after World War II he started a wine, beer and spirits distributor business in downtown Los Angeles which specialized in Danish and European products. While growing up, Nils worked for his father on weekends and the summer holidays.

When he graduated from San Marino High School, it was Per’s wish that young Nils would take over the family venture. They both agreed that they really needed to know more about wine. So, Nils enrolled at the University of Davis where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Viticulture with a minor in Enology in 1967.

When he returned from military duty in Vietnam in 1970 Nils decided he really wanted to work in Napa Valley. He worked at Charles Krug, Sterling and Villa Mount Eden. He and his father-in-law purchased the property that would become Saddleback in 1976.

In 1982 he became a minority partner with Dennis Groth in Groth Vineyard. He gained fame as the winemaker for the 1985 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon that was the first California wine to earn a perfect 100-point score from Robert Parker Jr.

Nils’ first Saddleback was produced in 1982 and released in 1983.
Cost: $66
Year: 1995
Goes with: If you are fortunate enough to find a Saddleback Cab it will go with all kinds of red meat and hearty foods. It’s perfect with steak, meat loaf, burgers, lamb and winter stews. Although it is a little over the top for a hamburger, the wine was a perfect match.

Write A Comment

Pin It