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A Pleasant Surprise

Hess Cabernet capsule 011 One of the most consistently disappointing categories of wine is moderately priced California Cabernet. That range from say $15 to $25. Most just have no reason for existence as they have more to do with $10 grocery store cabernet rather than $50 bottles. Not that you can find top quality California Cabernet in the $50 range anymore.  Bordeaux has always had a many Petit Chateau and Cru Bourgeois that delivered excellent value, but nobody in California seems to want to get into the mid-price business. Everybody wants to be Screaming Eagle if they have the grapes or not.

So I tasted the 2006 Hess Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino, Lake, Napa with little optimism, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. Certainly not a great cabernet, but it is a very nice one and at $15 is a very good value. While definitely forward and ready to drink, there is just enough tannin to remind you that it is truly cabernet and to let you keep it around for a year or two. The blend is 88% cabernet, 8% syrah and 4% merlot harvested from vineyards in Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties. At 13.5% it’s medium-bodied by American standards. Hess Chef Chad Hendrickson offers this recipe suggestion to pair with this wine:

Herb Marinated Skirt Steak with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Sweet Onion Relish, Balsamic Reduction

Skirt Steak

1 lb. Skirt steak, cleaned, defatted

½ Tbsp. Thyme, chopped

½ Tbsp. Oregano, chopped

½ Tbsp. Sage, chopped

½ Tbsp. Garlic, chopped

2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil

To taste Salt and Pepper


Point Reyes Blue Cheese and Onion Relish

1 oz. Extra virgin olive oil

1 cup Sweet onions, small dice

½ cup Pt Reyes Blue cheese, crumbled

1 Tbsp. Chives, sliced ¼” bias

1 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

To taste Salt and Pepper


Method for the skirt steak

Season the skirt steak with salt and pepper. Set aside. Combine the herbs, garlic, and olive oil in a bowl. Add the steak and toss to coat with the herbs. Set aside for 4 hours.


Method for the Sweet Onion Relish

Heat a sauté pan over high; add the oil and onions, season with salt and pepper. Let cook stirring periodically until caramelized. Adjust seasonings and keep warm.

Grill the skirt steak to desired doneness. Let rest for 5 minutes, and then slice ¼ “thick on a bias (against the grain). Fan the steak on a plate.

Heat the onions over medium until warm, toss in the crumbled blue cheese and chives.

Place on top of the skirt steak. Drizzle the balsamic reduction around the plate.