Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2013

Dark purple-black color; cherry, cassis, dark fruits, chocolate on the nose; loads of almost-jammy black fruit, oak on the initial attack on the palate, but calms down nicely with a little air.

Big, chewy, robust cab with reserved tannins, softened acidity (3.74 pH), fruity sweetness; dense finish; 91% cabernet sauvignon, 8% petite sirah, 1% merlot. Significantly benefits from air.

Frei Brothers traces its history to 1890 in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley when Swiss immigrant Andrew Frei established the property and winery, later turning it over to his sons, Walter and Louis. The brothers adopted the name “Frei Brothers” and successfully operated the winery for more than 70 years. After the repeal of Prohibition, the Frei Vineyard caught the eye of Julio Gallo, winemaker for the rapidly expanding E. & J. Gallo Winery. When Andrew Frei’s descendants retired in the late 1970s, the Gallo family purchased Frei Ranch and further developed the vineyard.

Located in the northern end of Sonoma County, the Alexander Valley has a largely hot climate that is less affected by Pacific fogs and breezes than other Napa-Sonoma locations. The vineyards for this effort are furtherest north, thus accounting for the plush, fruit-forward, relatively low acidity (the wine also undergoes malolactic fermentation to soften it even more) profile of this effort.

Winegrower Scott Johnsen emphasizes sustainable agriculture. “Being ‘green’ is not about a popularity contest; it is about doing the right thing for future generations,” he says. For every acre of vineyards they own, Frei sets aside a second acre for conservation. Frei calls it “quality with a conscience.” $23-27

Frei Brothers website

Second photo: Frei Brothers vineyard

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley 2013

Frei Brothers vineyard