Flambeaux Wine, Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Dry Creek Valley, Flambeaux Vineyard

In French, “flambeaux” means “flaming torch”. During the New Orleans Mardi Gras carnival, dancing torchbearers light up the parade.

New Orleans-born winemaker Art Murray said he chose to name his brand Flambeaux Wines to evoke the shared celebration of Mardi Gras.

“There’s a definite connection people feel during Mardi Gras, the city-wide party that brings people from all walks of life together,” he said. “We want our customers to have the same feeling when they taste with us.”

Murray is behind our Wine of the Week winner – the Flambeaux Wine, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley, Flambeaux Vineyard, 14.4%, $70. Aromas of black raspberry linger on the palate with black cherry and a hint of tart cherry. Lightly toasted, this cabin ends with a kiss of vanilla. It is balanced, supple and impressive.

“We make a Cabernet Sauvignon that’s pretty unique among California cabs,” Murray said. “Our Dry Creek Valley cab has lots of bright red fruit and minerality, which is very French in style. It’s something the typical California cab is not, in my opinion. Again, we don’t we don’t push that profile. We happen to have a special property that expresses itself that way. … Our winemaker Ryan Prichard excels at working with this somewhat difficult variety, never pushing the grapes to be what they are not, but always giving them the tools to be the best they can be.

The Flambeaux Vineyard sits 400 feet from the bottom of the valley, above the fog line, allowing it to cool down nicely at night.

“It’s the extremes that Cabernet Sauvignon really likes,” Murray said. “On top of that, we have a special floor. It is a soil rich in iron that is only found on hillsides and which makes it a very special Cabernet. But making a very good wine requires sacrifice. We typically give up a lot of fruit, trading yield for quality, a quality that really shines in our 2018 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet.”

Murray, 47, works remotely in his day job, as an environmental attorney for his family’s law firm in Louisiana. He’s been making wine in Sonoma County since 2014 in his “other job,” serving as president of Flambeaux and one of its four owners.

The winemaker said he had no idea he would be going into the wine business when he bought the property. His idea was to retire to a vineyard. It wasn’t planned to make wine, but after seeing its fruits transported by a respected local winery, the sparkle of an idea became a business in its own right.

“Sonoma County is truly my favorite wine region,” the winemaker said. “The size of the department and the range of terroirs it offers us as winegrowers is incredible. There are so many options. Although Napa is beautiful, it is smaller and more restricted in its range of varietals. I also love that Sonoma still has a lot of small family wineries. From a growth standpoint, Dry Creek Valley is a truly special place.

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at [email protected] or 707-521-5310.

Elisha A. Tilghman