Kenwood Six Ridges Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Alexander Valley
Cost: $34-36
N early all wine drinkers know about Napa Valley, but many know nothing about Sonoma, the next valley over the mountains to the west.
That’s a shame because Sonoma is home to many great wineries, and they produce many wonderful wines. It is home to 18 distinct American Viticultural Areas and 60,000 acres of vines.
A great example of excellence in Sonoma is Kenwood Vineyards. I have enjoyed many of their wines, including the Jack London wines, reserve wines and the artist series. Now I have discovered their Six Ridges series.
The wines are named in honor of the mountain ridges that border Kenwood vineyards and create the distinctive terroirs that shape their wines. I tried their cabernet sauvignon ($34-36) and their pinot noir ($29-31). I loved them both, but I thought the cab was especially tasty.
The grapes come from the Alexander Valley in the northeast portion of Sonoma County. Mountains protect the vines from the cooling Pacific breezes, making it ideal for growing cabernet grapes.
The wine is a beautiful deep red in the glass with inviting aromas of blackberry and raspberry. On the palate I picked up the same flavors, with a hint of baking spices. The wine has a silky mouthfeel with muted tannins and a toasty finish from the oak barrels in which it was aged.
The wine is 96 percent cabernet sauvignon and four percent malbec. The grapes were picked by hand over two weeks, and each lot was fermented separately for 15-25 days. The wine was racked twice before aging for 20 months in small barrels, 65 percent French, 15 percent Hungarian and 20 percent American oak.
The Six Ridges line also includes chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot and zinfandel. The winery selects grapes from the top vineyards in Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Valley and Sonoma Coast and then ferments each lot separately to preserve the unique flavors of each vineyard before the winemakers blend them.
The pinot noir was packed with dense ripe fruit aromas with flavors of strawberry and cherry with a lush mouthfeel. There is just a touch of spice on a lingering finish. The wine is 100 percent pinot noir from the Russian River Valley. After fermentation it spends 11 months in French and Hungarian oak barrels.
Chief winemaker Zeke Neeley said he wants his wines to reflect the area where the grapes are grown.
“It’s my responsibility to craft what the vineyard gives us,” he said, “no matter the wild forces of nature controlling it and showcase the unique personalities of each site in the glass.
“Even as a kid growing up, Sonoma County was one of my favorite places, and these wines showcase the vibrant fruit and balanced complexities for which this beautiful region is known.”
Winery: Kenwood Vineyards, which has been in operation since 1970, is on a historic property, with cellars dating back to 1906.
With more than 125 stainless steel tanks and large oak upright containers, Kenwood is positioned for a small lot style of winemaking to take advantage of the many microclimates in its vineyards. It also uses 17,000 small French and American oak barrels to age its wines.
In addition to 23 acres surrounding the vineyards the winery sources grapes from Sonoma County’s best appellations. With all these options winemakers have many choices when making blends.
Kenwood is known for its Jack London wines. It has an exclusive agreement to buy grapes from the neighboring Jack London vineyard, which is still owned by his descendants. Some of the London ranch was donated to the state for Jack London State Park.
The varietals they work with include chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, merlot, pinot noir and syrah.
They have several tiers of wines: Artist,Single Vineyard, Six Ridges, Sonoma, Reserve, Jack London Vineyard and Yulupa (which is available only to restaurants and includes a sparkling wine).
The property on Sonoma Mountain began as the Kohler & Frohling Winery in the 1870s. Jack London bought it and adjacent land for a total of 1,400 acres which he named Beauty Ranch.
He planted grapevines and hay and managed the property using sustainable principles until his death in 1916. His family kept the land intact until 1959 when they donated 1,100 acres to create Jack London State Park.
They replanted the vineyards in 1972 and produced the first vintage of Jack London cabernet sauvignon in 1977.
The superb quality of that first cab bottling prompted neighboring Kenwood Vineyards to enter an exclusive agreement to purchase the grapes from the Jack London Vineyard. That agreement continues today even though ownership of Kenwood has changed.
Goes with: We had this rich wine with bell pepper stew, a favorite meal from my childhood. The dish is basically stuffed peppers in a tomato-based sauce. It is rich, with complex flavors, and perfect for chilly weather.
It was a perfect match for this beautifully balanced cab. All the rich, savory flavors of this hearty stew bring out the best dark berry flavors in the wine. Each sip made me want more stew, and each spoonful of stew led me back to the wine. It was a terrific pairing.
The cab also would pair well with beef tenderloin, grilled steak or sauteed chicken and rice. It was so easy to drink, it also would do well as a sipping wine, all by itself.
The pinot should pair well with roast pork, pork chops on the grill, roast duck, coq au vin and mild cheeses.

If you have questions about wine you can email Dennis Sodomka at

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