TN: 2018 Harrington Cabernet Sauvignon Wheeler Vineyard

Really enjoyed this unique Cabernet:

2018 Harrington Cabernet Sauvignon Wheeler Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, San Benito County (2/9/2020)
13.3% abv.
I was a little hesitant to open this young Cabernet, but it was cheap, so, what the hell. I’m glad I did.
Very interesting Cabernet. Quite hard-edged and steely on the pop 'n pour, with tart acidity and some coarse tannin. It didn’t really take much time for this to soften and evolve into a very enjoyable red - it kept improving throughout the evening and the last glass was best. The Cab fruit did not seem very ripe, but did not have much herbal character that one often finds with less ripe renditions. Certainly did not have the flavor profile of typical Napa Cabs, partially due to lower oak levels as well. Did not remind me of Bordeaux either. I found it to be very enjoyable, though, and was sad when the bottle was empty. Not sure at all how this will age, but I’m confident it will improve for the next couple of years at least.

Doing this wine was inspired by a sort of experiment. With zero interest in doing a Cab, we got a half ton each of CS, Merlot and Sangiovese from what looked like the best section of a Santa Clara Valley vineyard in order to get a sense of it, with the idea of grafting in some uncommon Italian grapes. They were so good tasting the press wines that we pretty much scratched the grafting idea right then. Bryan blended the Cab and Merlot, and it was showing so well, so deep and complex, open, with soft tannins, he was selling some in kegs for btg programs in the city. A couple months later we got the word the vineyard was being sold, to be ripped out for housing. That blend became “Fin”, with a death mask on the label. It showed well on release in mid-'16 and quickly sold out. That’s a wine I wish I had multiple cases of, but I think it’s just a single bottle left.

I’d had some experience making Santa Clara Valley CS for myself and with another winery, and gave Bryan some guidance in his quest for a replacement. The idea was a Cab that was complex enough and enjoyable as an early drinker. Something for restaurants - a current release, ready to drink, food-friendly Cab - and retailers wanting a nice $25 Cab that people would come back for. Bryan ended up taking a flier on some Cab from the San Benito grower he’d started dealing with (Ron Siletto). No need to look further. This was an easy sell for our distributors, quickly becoming a top seller (along with the Mission).

Wes - years ago there was a winery called Wheeler. This would be back in the 1970s. Would you know if this is the same vineyard or family?

I don’t think there’s any connection. Bryan’s the only one of us who’s interacted with Ron Siletto. He’s got quite a bit of land, with different soils, aspects, elevations. Siletto, Wheeler, Calleri and John Smith are all his. Some are down in the Cienega Valley AVA, and some higher up plots can only claim the County.

I’ve only had 2 Wines By Wheeler Cabs over the years. Both early '80s. Never see them. I see Dan Wheeler started making wine up above Soquel in 1952. The (mislisted) Cab I still have a bottle of was from Nicasio Vyd., which was one of Novitiate’s Los Gatos vineyards.

Great Back Story Wes! I really enjoy this wine. The Wheeler to me is a great lighter/fresh rendition of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is ready to drink and one of harringtons early drinking crew. That said, Cedar Crest Vineyard CS & CF to me have this structure and tension that I think 10+ years from now will produce a far more interesting wine. I have no doubt the wheeler CS will continue to improve as well.

Library tastings at the winery were always fun. Evidence has shown to me that these wines age very nicely.