Behind the Wine

How Jim Olsen made Napa Cab with a twist

This is a guest post by a winemaker named Jim Olsen who is releasing his new Napa Cab called Shoot the Moon this month. It’s a really interesting wine because he set out with a daring goal of making Napa Cab with a twist.

I’ll let Jim explain!

Jim explains how he made Shoot The Moon:

jim olsen at kenwood[Olsen Photo Winemaker Tasting Winery WinemakerGenerated USA Red]
Winemaker, Jim Olsen

I set out on a kind of quest to make a rich, luxurious, nicely textured, intense, and complex Cabernet Sauvignon with one twist…I wanted it slightly sweet.

Sounds like a stretch, but…it is a little known fact that many, perhaps most highly touted and expensive Napa Valley Cabernets have at least some RS (residual sugar); and some have a LOT.

So, armed with that knowledge, I was going to approach making ‘Shoot the Moon’ knowing that it was intended to be somewhat sweet. But I didn’t want it to taste obviously sweet!

It is a little known fact that many, perhaps most highly touted and expensive Napa Valley Cabernets have at least some RS (residual sugar); and some have a LOT.

The answer to my challenge was found in the concept of ‘balance’. I’m fortunate to have had a lot of experience exploring this concept. For years I conducted tasting classes for UC Extension, and one of them was called ‘Component Tasting’.

I would describe for my students the various components of wine, and where they are tasted (sensed) on the tongue. Then I’d give them samples doctored to emphasize one characteristic.

For example, I’d add tartaric acid to a base wine so that the acid taste was very obvious. But here’s where the fun began. By varying acid, alcohol, tannin and sweetness I could take the very same base wine and make it taste dry, despite having much added sugar. And, I could make a dry wine taste sweet! How? By balancing and contrasting those basic taste elements.

Knowing the power of balance, I reasoned that I needed to find an intense, tannic, high acid young Cabernet with abundant alcohol. After I found such a wine, I blended a special sweet wine to achieve my desired sugar content.

The sugar softened the tannin; the acid balanced the sugar; the alcohol (about 14.5%) provided the luxurious mouthfeel; and the youthful flavor resulted in bold intensity.

‘Shoot the Moon’ – a Cabernet like you’ve never tasted before. Now you know how I did it!they were telling us if and why they liked it and whether they’d buy it again.

Jim Olsen

Getting thirsty yet?!

This is what happens when you take a skilled, long-time winemaker like Jim, and you give him primo Napa fruit (all Yountville Cabernet), and then you set him loose to experiment and do something a little crazy.

Like Jim said, it’s one of Napa’s dirty secrets that a lot of the big bold reds carry a pretty hefty punch of residual sugar. Most winemakers sweep that under the rug. But we’re about transparency and honesty so here’s Jim explaining exactly how he created this beautiful wine.

If you’re intrigued to try Shoot The Moon you can order it from the website (if you’re an Angel that is!)

We’re all eager to hear your feedback.

The reviews are already pouring in and they’re quite fantastic:

Ruth Breinig Angel – 18 hours ago

This is the first bottle we opened from the new shipment. The description was intriguing and sounded like something my husband, an occasional wine enthusiast, would enjoy and It did not disappoint. We are enjoying it now. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to enjoy!!

Anna Salinas Archangel – 4 days ago

Complicated and delicious! That’s what MicroBrew Husband said and I agree! Wow!!! This is good stuff! Excellent with Chinese, that “Breath of the Dragon” you get with a wok is a great accent to the sweetness. We are planning to grill for the next bottle, or BBQ, something about that smoke and char just makes this wine sing!

Leave your own comment once you’ve tried the wine.

 jim olsen shoot the moon

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[…] in more about how a wine’s balance can affect sweetness? Check out Jim’s post about the interplay of acidity, sugar and alcohol in his sweet Napa Cabernet, Shoot the […]

8 years ago

Ryan, check that last paragraph. Computer kept last sentence of Smalls’ review of their SB.

Naked Ryan
8 years ago
Reply to  clcoronios

thanks! good catch. I messed up when I was pasting Jim’s email in.

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