2018 Caleb Leisure 'Other Hand' Cabernet Sauvignon
Region: Chalk Hill < Napa < California
Vineyard/Cellar stats: Organic/biodynamic farming; 30-year old vines on chalk and volcanic soils; aged in qvevri that have been lined in beeswax, no additions or subtractions of any kind during the winemaking process; whole cluster; pressed after 10 days; bottled unfined/unfiltered with no additions; zero-zero; 11.5% AB
Winemaker: Caleb Leisure
Caleb Leisure is a one man show determined to turn back the clock in the California winemaking scene. Way Back! Caleb's winemaking is guided by ancient Georgian traditions. Caleb utilizes qveri, huge handmade, clay based wine making vessels that, unlike their cousin amphora, must be buried in the earth. Only organic and biodynamic fruit is used in Caleb's wines and nothing is added or subtracted in the winemaking process. Caleb's winemaking is many ways a reaction to the California wine industry that is obsessed with modern techniques and control, an industry that is willing to blast wines with chemicals and arcane machines. Caleb is instead moving towards a "pure and wild kind of winemaking, going back to the source".
Caleb started his journey in 2014 in France, with a focus in academia and cheese production. He ended up snagging a few formative internships in Jura and Lanquedoc, and eventually returned to his native California. Leading up to the 2017 harvest, he buried ten authentic Georgian qvervi in the earthen cellar at Coturri Winey. He is the only winemaker in California that is working exclusively with the clay vessels -- for reals, you will not find one wood barrel in his cellar! Caleb is attempting to create complete transparency with his wines that are honest expressions of un-manipulated California fruit and terroir.
Like his 'Otherhand', a way different take on Napa Cabernet. Caleb got the tip about these Cab vines from his friend Darek Trowbridge (Old World Winery), who had worked with these same grapes in the 2018 vintage. They come from Darek's friend Margot, who has a ranch in the high rent Chalk Hill area (where the fancy grapes live) that she inherited and now manages it with her daughters. Darek noticed part of the ranch that was ‘decrepit’ as he puts it, and asked if he could have a look. Turns out it was a vineyard full of un-farmed Cabernet Sauvignon — not exactly a winemaker’s dream. Because it hadn’t been pruned, the vines had around 350 – 400 clusters of fruit vs. the usual 80 – 120. However, the berries were super tiny so even though the yield was slightly higher than it would have been, the higher skin to juice ratio means the wine quality did not suffer and some might say it improved.
Caleb rose to the challenge of making something delicious from "wild" fruit – this is Cabernet stripped down to its essence, with plenty of those black fruit, herbal, Eucalyptus notes that characterize Cab in a fresh 11.5% ABV package, built for chilling and drinking with Taco Tuesday. Napa Cab of this pedigree that is light, pretty and complex — and under $35 — is unheard of, so we suggest stocking up for the long SIP ahead...
DRINKING NOTE: Best with a 20-minute chill, and consumed the day it is opened. As with many zero-zero wines, it veers slightly toward the funk zone on day 2.