2017 Gearhead Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Alamo < California
Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon
Vineyard/Cellar Stats: Organic farming on this plot of old 500 vines in an Alamo, CA backyard; foot tread, whole-cluster fermentation with daily punch downs, aged in 60-gallon neutral oak barrels; bottled unfined/unfiltered with no added So2; 46 cases; 12.9% ABV
Winemaker: Craig West
WHY IS THIS A UNICORN WINE? Organic, zero-zero California Cab under $25 bucks that doesn’t suck! In fact, it’s a throwback to the 70’s and 80’s when Cali Cab wasn’t manhandled to death and its beautiful fruit was allowed to shine.
Our buddy Noel of Purity turned us on to his buddy, Craig West, who makes wine at Noel’s Richmond facility for his upstart natural wine label, Gearhead. Craig was a fisherman and a baker for Acme Bread, but when he met Noel and started helping him with production, he decided that this was his calling and pivoted to wine. Now he makes tiny lots of wine from organic farming, all foot tread, many with carbonic maceration, and all sans sulfur.
So, we were stoked to try Craig’s Cab (not the usual reaction to new world Cab, which generally sends us running in fear of vanilla-ridden, high ABV, new-oak bombs), which was light-ish and glowing with all the good Cab feels: bright black fruit, eucalyptus, menthol and earth. There is some grip to the tannins, making this a fabulous food wine. But at 12.9% ABV, it won’t overshadow your meal, and could easily work with a veg or white-meat dish. Craig’s philosophy is simple: “Natural wine is grapes and love. It’s not that hard. There’s natural & there’s unnatural, and I don’t do any unnatural things to my wine.” We love that, almost as much as we love this kooky label art, drawn by Craig’s 10-year old daughter.
NOTE: Open this when you can finish the whole bottle over the course of an evening – it doesn’t hold up well overnight. Also, serve at cellar temp or pop in the fridge for 20 before serving.