by Fred McMillin
for November 3, 1997

Souverain's in the Fast Lane

Prologue:

The initial reputation of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was for thin, vegetal wines...the warm climate [producing] uncontrolled vigor, and hence shading of the grapes.

Radical improvement in viticultural techniques now produce a Cab with sweetness, softness and charm, delicious even when young. Chateau Souverain is in the first rank.

..."Wine Atlas of California" by James Halliday

Cabernet Sauvignon is the Alexander Valley's most prestigious and successful grape variety, producing rich, ripe, intensely flavored wines.

..."The Wine Regions of America" by J. Baxevanis

The Rest of the Story: Souverain's Vice President Tom Peterson and Winemaker Ed Killian have seen the rise of the Cab in the valley named for it's first, 1842 settler, Pennsylvanian Cyrus Alexander. Both have over 20 years of winemaking experience in the region. Ed is particularly happy with his '94 Cab. The season was so cool, they were still harvesting in November. He told me it produced "one of the best vintages in over 20 years." My 17 tasters checked, and found it smooth and delicious, in spite of its youthful, intense berry flavors. Like James Halliday, they now put Chateau Souverain Cab in the first rank, too.

The Wine:
'94 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
Chateau Souverain
Geyserville, CA
$15
Highly Recommended

Postscript: "Souverain" means "supreme" in French. It's a popular name; there have been THREE Souverain wineries established in California since 1970. The first was built in the Napa Valley east of St. Helena. Later it was sold to Tom Burgess and became Burgess Cellars. (See June 9, 1997 WineDay.) About that time, a group of Napa Valley vineyardists built two new wineries, "Souverain of Rutherford" and "Souverain of Alexander Valley." Freemark Abbey Winery bought the Rutherford (Napa Valley) facility and renamed it the Rutherford Hill Winery. Beringer Wine Estates now owns the Sonoma property which is above Chateau Souverain. Class dismissed!


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.


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