I knew the moment I saw them that I had to change course, and quickly. Our neighbors were coming for dinner that evening, but had graciously suggested that they provide the steaks for me to grill. I agreed to this with gratitude, whipped up some mashed potatoes, and pulled a bottle of weeknight Cabernet out of my cellar to pair with the steaks. Our neighbors walked over, arms laden with food, side dishes, a baby, and a massive marinating container. I popped the lid to take a quick gander at what I was working with, and saw four massive, thick-cut T-bone steaks. These were not weeknight steaks, but rather, glorious celebrations of the Nebraska beef industry; I needed a bottle of wine that was worthy of their grandeur.
Fortunately, I had just the thing waiting patiently in my cellar for just such an occasion. Without hesitation, I grabbed the bottle of Yount Ridge Cabernet, removed the cork, and poured it straight into the decanter to open up while I grilled. In the few minutes it took to cook a grass-fed steak the way we Nebraska boys like ’em (read: bloody), the wine had opened up into something that was truly steak-worthy.
Yount Ridge is a relatively new producer, and very new to the Omaha market, but when I met Eric Sklar and tried his wines at the Omaha Wine Company show this spring, it was love at first sip. Among the best Cabs I’ve tried this entire year and destined to be featured in my annual review of Cabernet for Food & Spirits Magazine, the 2014 we shared last night boasts an indefatigable structure, supported like a marionette by beautiful, fine-grain tannins that hide seamlessly within, doing all of the work without drawing attention to themselves. A nose of subtleties, including blackberry and hints of cinnamon, leads into a beautiful, full-bodied wine with a profile of leather and pipe tobacco, baking spices, dark cherry, plum, and blackberry. At the end, a faint touch of vanilla leads into a long, lingering finish that never seemed to be entirely gone from my mouth before the next bite of steak made it in. As age-worthy as any wine I’ve tried recently, it’s drinking beautifully right now, but will surely reward your patience if you let it sit for a few more years.
One thing I’ve learned in several years of studying and writing about wine is this: pairings matter. I love mango-habanero wings almost as much as I love Cabernet, but if you make them share space in your mouth, they’ll murder your tongue before you can spit them back out. Chocolate goes with port. The chicken Pad Thai I’m making tonight will do well with a delicate white wine. Steaks love Cabernet, and beautiful steaks love equally beautiful Cab Sauv. I’m glad I had one that was equal to the thick-cut task at hand last night. It made a wonderful conversation and a terrific meal all that much better to be paired with the perfect wine.