Vin Du Jour: Untouchable Red from Simon Creek Winery

by Jim Schnaedter

I felt a little guilty as I drove into the parking lot of Simon Creek Winery, given that this was my first visit.  It really is a beautiful setting.  

I was coming to sample their Untouchable Red which Laura Smith, who pours wine in Simon Creek’s tasting room, had recommended. I had done some preliminary research and discovered that it was made from a 

It’s made from a mostly unknown grape – ruby cabernet, which is a hybrid of the most planted red grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a popular blending grape Carignan. I am always anxious to try a new varietal, especially one with a backstory as intriguing as this one.

Legend has it that during the days of Prohibition, Al Capone attempted to coerce farmer Simon into selling his family farm, now the site of Simon Creek Winery. This isolated location was deemed perfect for the gangster’s bootlegging endeavors. However, much like the resilient “G-Men” of the 1930s, Simon remained steadfast and refused to succumb to intimidation. Inspired by Simon’s unwavering resolve, Simon Creek Vineyard and Winery crafted the Untouchable Red, an American Ruby Cabernet wine, to commemorate this legendary tale.

Backstories are always nice but it’s the quality of the wine that determines its success. Untouchable Red was nicely balanced in both body, and acidity, making it a great candidate for both experienced drinkers and novices wanting to begin their journey into dry red wines.  The complexity and earthiness of the ruby cabernet’s one parent, Cabernet Sauvignon, was tempered by the smoothness of its other, Carignan. I was both impressed and surprised. Impressed by the overall balance and versatility of the wine and surprised that it wasn’t more widely known and available.

But I guess that’s the best part of uncovering and tasting wines, discovering new flavor profiles created by artisan wine makers using grapes carefully nurtured in the vineyard.  Under the guidance of consultant winemaker Tom Payette, named “Winemaker of the Year” in 1999, and onsite winemaker Lance Nelson, Simon Creek produces an impressive array of wines that include dry to semi-sweet whites, dry reds, along with a semi-dry to semi-sweet version made from the Ruby Cabernet called Speakeasy Red, and a large portfolio of dessert and fortified wines. With the exception of their cherry wine made from local juice, the grapes used at Simon Creek come from California.

The tasting room, the beautiful setting, and the quality of the wines I tasted made me feel fortunate that farmer Simon’s resolve was unwavering.

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