J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet is an affordable luxury

Written by Howard Hewitt. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on December 21, 2010 with No Comments

by Howard Hewitt

It can be hard to find a really good bottle of wine at the supermarket or local liquor store that delivers great quality for less than $15. That is why this column is about a single bottle of wine.

J. Lohr Vineyards is one of the iconic names in California wine, particularly the central coastal region. The chance to share comments from Steve Lohr, Jerryís son and COO of the company, made it easy to focus on J. Lohrís Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine is a rich and well-structured bottle of Cabernet for its mid-teen price. The wine can be found online anywhere from $13-$17. It can be picked up at one of Indianaís biggest grocery chains for $14.99.

Lohrís comments add a little education.

ìWith more than 20 years of experience in growing grapes in Paso Robles, we know what it takes to coax the best flavors from our vineyards,î Lohr said.

ìOur Paso vineyards receive only 12 to 14 inches of rainfall per year, with almost none of that occurring during the growing season. Thus, we are able to limit how much water each vine receives, encouraging the vine to put more energy into fruit maturation than cane and leaf growth. We work diligently to allow just enough sunlight to penetrate the grapevine canopy. If there is too much light, the clusters will suffer from sunburn and turn rosy or raisin ñ just like humans. If there is too little light, they will not develop their full berry flavors.î

A recent trip to Paso Robles, Calif., provided the opportunity to talk with many of the areaís pioneers.

ìWe feel Paso Robles is ideally suited for Cabernet in part because of the large diurnal changes in temperature (the difference between the daytime high and nighttime low) that occur here,î Lohr explained. ìCabernet needs warm days to bake out the (chemicals) that can lead to green vegetable aromas and flavors, and cool nights to preserve the acidity and color in wine grapes. With a daily swing of 40 to 50 degrees during the summer, Paso has the largest diurnal shift of any winegrowing region in the country.î

The great thing about this inexpensive wine is it tastes like a $20 or $30 bottle. The mouth feel is comparable to a more-costly wine.

ìWe donít over-crop our vines since that dilutes flavors; however, we donít under-crop our vines either since that leads to aggressive vegetal growth and a reduction in the length of time the cluster remains on the vine, leading to sugar accumulation before flavor development,î Lohr said.

ìThis attention to detail is carried through the winemaking process. We ferment in small- to medium-size tanks, which allows us to closely monitor color, flavor and tannin extraction from the grape skins and seeds.

ìOur focus on traditional winemaking techniques, such as the exclusive use of 225-liter oak barrels to age our Seven Oaks, is more akin to a boutique winery than a winery with good national distribution.

ìBalance in blending occurs with the addition of other Bordeaux varieties to our Cabernet such as Merlot and Petit Verdot, as well as other red varieties which grow well in Paso such as Petite Sirah and Syrah. The finished Seven Oaks is a wine that expresses rich blackberry, black cherry and vanilla aromas and flavors with a plump, softly textured ëmouthfeelí and finish.î

J.Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet is easy to find. Try it with the next big beef dish you have planned.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, IN., writes about wine for Indiana newspapers. You can read his blog: www.redforme.blogspot.com.

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About Howard Hewitt

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Howard W. Hewitt of Crawfordsville writes every other week about value wine for 18 Midwestern Newspapers. Read his wine blog at www.redforme.blogspot.clom.

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