Then You’re Ready to Try Cabernet Pfeffer.
If you like big, bad reds, you undoubtedly like Cabernet Sauvignon. Did you know there is a grape called Cabernet Pfeffer? I just learned about it and wanted to share my findings with you.
Is Cabernet Pfeffer a Cabernet?
- Story 1: The grape is a cross between cabernet sauvignon and a French varietal called Trousseau, which was created by a horticulturist named William Pfeffer.
- Story 2: The grape is Gros Verdot (no relation to Petit Verdot), a variety that was grown in Bordeaux in the 19th century. Some people confuse Gros Verdot with Trousseau, so Story 2 could be linked to Story 1.
- Story 3: The grape is Mourtaou, an obscure French grape.
Which story is right? UC Davis says it’s the third one. So, Cabernet Pfeffer has no relation to Cabernet Sauvignon.
Ready for a Funny Story?
Mary Orlin talked about visiting 3 Steves Winery in Livermore. She said they tasted a red blend named Three Cabs. The wine was mostly Cabernet Pfeffer with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wine had a unique spiciness and zip. Mary said, “When one thinks of “spicy” in a red wine, the names conjured up include Zinfandel (or Primitivo), Syrah and Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre and Grenache. But I hereby declare that all these can step aside, as the new spice champ is Cabernet Pfeffer, which has so much black pepper you can almost grind it onto your pasta or salad. Indeed, the word “pfeffer” means “pepper” in German. Bottom line: Once you taste this medium-bodied, racy red, you won’t forget it.” You just might need to giggle a bit when you see the name Three Cabs and know that a good portion of it, while having the name Cab is not a Cab.
Is This Grape Common?
In Leigh Pomeroy’s article, “The Mystery of the Cabernet Pfeffer,” she tells us that only 12 acres of Cabernet Pfeffer are planted in California and that most of the plantings are confined to the Cienega area, west of Hollister in San Benito County, with some in Sonoma County. Wow, that is incredibly small acreage.
Where Can You Find This Grape?
There’s a pfeffer enclave in the Cienega Valley, near Hollister in San Benito County. So wineries around there are your most likely places to find this grape.
WineEnthsusiast gave Ser 2017 Wirz Vineyard 94 points for its Cabernet Pfeffer. Definitely a wine worth looking for. This is a wine that was made by Bonny Doon’s Walsh under her own label, Ser. The grapes came from Pat Wirz’s Wirz Vineyard, where the vines are more than 90 years old, also in the Cienega Valley.
DeRose is also a good place to find this wine. Four acres of the grape were planted between 1865 and 1905. The winery makes 250 cases of this wine and includes it in one of their blends.
If you’ve tried Cabernet Pfeffer, please share your tasting notes with us here. Thanks.
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