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From the Wine Cellar: American Cabernets and Cabernet Blends


Almost from the beginning, American wineries in California and much later on the East Coast have measured themselves against Bordeaux wines. And, indeed, cabernet sauvignon has flourished on the West Coast while eastern vintners have fallen in love with cabernet franc — and both coasts do a lot of merlot.

Here are some recent releases:

2009 Clos la Chance Central Coast cabernet sauvignon ($19). This is a simple drinking wine, a little rustic, but with nice, not-complex cab flavors.

2010 Stinson Virginia Meritage ($35). A Bordeaux blend of 40 percent cab franc, 30 percent merlot, 15 percent each of cab sauv and petit verdot, it is indicative of the quality wines being made in Virginia’s Charlottesville area these days. It’s very smooth with flavors of dark currants and mulberries, has good tannins and is very similar in taste to the super Tuscans of Maremma, which use some of the same varieties.

2010 Frank Family Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($45). It’s a big wine, but is nimble on its feet and surprisingly refreshing with its complex flavors of currants, blackberries, huckleberries, and anise. It’s intense without being overly extracted, and it has good minerality in the finish.

2010 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($28). Mondavi has always made very satisfying cabs, complex yet smooth and good to the last drop, and this one has plummy, rich flavors, good texture, and good balance.

2010 Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($19). It’s somewhat dense, but not harsh or tannic, with bing cherries and a layer of creamy chalkiness.

2009 Three Sticks Sonoma Valley cabernet sauvignon ($73). This is another murky, pleasurable wine with dark, big, blackberry flavors but with a refreshing streak of acidity in the finish. Quite nice.

2009 Franciscan "Magnificat" Napa Valley meritage ($50). A good-textured wine, like a liquid raspberry-flavored brownie but without the sweetness, it has spicy fruit, dusty chocolate tannins and a good leanness with just a hint of cream at the finish.


Best American Wines $15 & Under: Cabernet Sauvignon

The Hahn family owns more than 1,400 acres of vineyards throughout California’s Monterey County a portion of that fruit goes into this savory, ripe Cabernet.

2005 Ravenswood Vintner&rsquos Blend California Cabernet Sauvignon ($12)

Although Cabernet can often be formidably tannic, Ravenswood’s most affordable bottling is juicy and round, its sweet, generous black fruit bound together by just the right amount of tannins.

2005 SKN Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($14)

The name may be ridiculous (Screw Kappa Napa), but the wine’s good𠅊 juicy, easy-drinking Cabernet. SKN is one of many brands owned by wine-industry veteran Don Sebastiani.

2005 Hayman & Hill Napa Valley Reserve Selection Cabernet ($15)

Aromatic mint notes and firm black-cherry fruit define this polished Cabernet from a pair of talented entrepreneurial winemakers, David Hayman and Dennis Hill.

2005 Hawk Crest Cabernet Sauvignon ($14)

This second-label Cabernet from Napa Valley icon Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars (whose 1973 Cabernet won the famous 1976 Paris Tasting) shows the winery’s skills with California’s premier red grape.

2005 Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

BV, as it’s known, produces one of Napa’s benchmark Cabernets, the famous Georges de Latour Private Reserve. They also make this affordable, full-bodied, briary counterpart.

2005 Michael Pozzan Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

Pozzan, whose grandfather grew Zinfandel grapes near Healdsburg after WWII, buys grapes from Napa and Sonoma growers for appealing wines like this cassis-driven Cabernet.

2003 4 Bears Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)

For this new value-oriented brand, former King Estate winemaker Will Bucklin helps fashion approachable wines like this ebullient, ripely fruity Napa Valley Cabernet.


13 Restaurant Wine Lists Celebrating California Cabernet

While many international regions produce Cabernet Sauvignon, California is home to some of the world’s best examples. There are plenty of exceptional restaurants serving these renowned wines locally, but you can also find top-notch collections at any array of destinations across the U.S. Discover 13 diverse Restaurant Award–winning spots where California Cabernets shine, from a historic hotel in a small town to relative newcomers in big cities.

To check out more wine-and-food destinations around the world, see Wine Spectator’s nearly 3,800 Restaurant Award–winning picks, including the 100 Grand Award recipients worldwide that hold our highest honor.

Do you have a favorite you’d like to see on this list? Send your recommendations to [email protected] We want to hear from you!

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse

1221 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y.
Telephone (212) 575-5129
Website www.delfriscos.com
Open Lunch, Monday to Friday dinner, daily
Grand Award

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steakhouse has an impressive 16 Restaurant Award–winning outposts throughout the country. At 2,500 labels, its New York Grand Award winner is home to the brand’s largest wine list, offering an encyclopedic California selection among a host of international strengths. Cabernet Sauvignons and Cabernet-based blends are grouped together across 11 oversized pages, with standouts including verticals of Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection and Shafer Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District Hillside Select, both going back to the 1990s. Several picks from the state’s premium producers are available by the glass via Coravin. Wine director Crystl Faye Horton leads the team of sommeliers, who are there to guide guests to the right bottle to pair with the traditional steak-house menu by chef Guillaume Thivet.

The Restaurant at Meadowood

Meadowood Napa Valley, 900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, Calif.
Telephone (707) 967-1205
Website www.therestaurantatmeadowood.com
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
Grand Award

The Restaurant at Meadowood is set in the Napa Valley city of St. Helena, and where better to have a love letter to Napa Valley Cabernet? The wine list takes guests on a virtual tour of the valley: Each AVA and microclimate is examined in detail, and many top producers, like www.blackstonesteakhouse.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

In the heart of Long Island, Blackstone Steakhouse is a refined spot for steaks, and for sushi, both under the careful eye of head chef Colin McKaharay. Wine director Evren Yurdusever balances the needs of both cuisines, but especially complements the steaks with a robust selection of California Cabernet Sauvignon and California blends to pair with red meat.

The Cave Bistro & Wine Bar

2343 Vanderbilt Beach Road, Naples, Fla.
Telephone (239) 513-0095
Website www.thecavenaples.com
Open Dinner, Monday to Saturday
Best of Award of Excellence

Owners Jim and Laura Dixon have been avid wine collectors for three decades, fueling their passion with visits to wineries around the world. The couple opened the Cave Bistro & Wine Bar in 2017 with the goal of bringing the European wine cave experience to their town of Naples, Fla. It’s now a full-service American restaurant with an adjoining retail store, plus an 8,400-square-foot cellar housing the Dixons' personal collection of about 8,200 bottles as well as numerous luxury cars. The bistro’s wine program comprises more than 1,100 labels, with nearly 200 California Cabernets and dozens under $100, covering benchmark names as well as lesser-known producers. Each section is organized by ascending prices, while a page of sommelier selections calls out a few dozen highlights.

The Firehouse

1112 Second St., Sacramento, Calif.
Telephone (916) 442-4772
Website www.firehouseoldsac.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Taking its name from the 19th-century firehouse in which it resides, the Firehouse is a Sacramento institution with 2,000 selections and a 15,000-bottle cellar. Managed by wine director Mario Ortiz (who has been with the restaurant for nearly five decades), the list has received a Best of Award of Excellence for 18 consecutive years. Chef Stephen Ashley's menu ranges from salmon tartare to lobster-stuffed sole to steaks and herb-crusted rack of lamb.

Grasing’s

Sixth and Mission Streets, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.
Telephone (831) 624-6562
Website www.grasings.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Located in the charming town of Carmel-by-the-Sea on California's Central Coast, Grasing's sources bottles from across the state, pulling together an envious Cabernet list. Wine director Christopher Edmonds's 2,100-selection list offers something exciting for even the most seasoned California Cabernet fans. Chef and owner Kurt Grasing's classic yet innovative steak-house menu plays to the strengths of the wine list, and while the steaks are the star of the show, the seafood and locally sourced salads play strong supporting roles.

Maple & Ash

8 W. Maple St., Chicago, Ill.
Telephone (312) 944-8888
Website www.mapleandash.com
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

The wine list at Maple & Ash takes a deep dive into California Cabernet. Wine director Amy Mundwiler's list is sprinkled with informative and entertaining notes on many of the wines. For value-minded diners, Mundwiler keeps a section of the list dedicated to "Dope Wines Under $99." Chef Danny Grant prepares a menu of aged cuts from a wood-fired grill to pair with the 1,300-selection list.

Next Bistro

5003 Colleyville Blvd., Colleyville, Texas
Telephone (682) 325-4046
Website www.nextbistrotx.com
Open Lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday
Best of Award of Excellence

Between Dallas and Fort Worth, in the small city of Colleyville, Texas, Next Bistro features an international wine list that stands out when it comes to California. It’s run by husband-and-wife proprietors Tom and Ying Aikens, with Ying overseeing the kitchen and Tom managing the Best of Award of Excellence–winning wine program. Of the 760 labels, 195 are California Cabs, including verticals from Cardinale, Staglin and more, peppered with collector’s labels from Hundred Acre and Lokoya. A portion of the 4,600-bottle inventory is visible through the restaurant’s glass-enclosed, walk-in wine cellar. Ying’s menu is a collage of cuisines, with starters like beef tenderloin eggrolls, baked French brie and crab cakes with remoulade leading into a selection of pastas and more meat-centric entrées.

Polo Grill

2038 Utica Square, Tulsa, Okla.
Telephone (918) 744-4280
Website www.pologrill.com
Open Lunch and dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

A Best of Award of Excellence winner for two decades, Polo Grill prides itself on a comprehensive California Cabernet experience. Wine director Kelsey Israel's list boasts an impressive collection of verticals from blue-chip Napa and Bordeaux producers, as well as many lesser-known, hard-to-find gems. Chef Omar Galban’s menu features classic steak-house starters like escargots and prawn cocktail along with wine-friendly mains like bone-in pork chop and a full slate of steak cuts and preparations.

Press Restaurant

587 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, Calif.
Telephone (707) 967-0550
Website www.pressnapavalley.com
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Press Restaurant is situated at the center of Napa Valley, surrounded by wineries including Pahlmeyer, Hall and Joseph Phelps, so it’s no surprise that the modern steak house is home to a stunning collection of local labels. Wine director Amanda McCrossin oversees the 1,500-selection list of exclusively Napa Valley wines, with the exception of some fortified wine options. Through close relationships with vintners, McCrossin has secured 32 pages worth of Cabernets and Cabernet-based blends. You’ll find robust verticals from Mayacamas, Chateau Montelena and Heitz, plus solid large-format and half-bottle sections. The wine-list’s focus reflects the roots of the restaurant, which was founded by the late Leslie Rudd of Rudd Estate and is now owned by his daughter, Samantha Rudd. Complementing the Best of Award of Excellence–winning program is chef Phillip Moratin’s modern steak-house cuisine, served in a grand, sleek space.

The Sardine Factory

701 Wave St., Monterey, Calif.
Telephone (831) 373-3775
Website www.sardinefactory.com
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

With a proud focus on the wine regions adjacent to its Monterey, Calif., location, the Sardine Factory has spent 50 years cultivating a list that now includes 2,000 selections. Its California Cabernet selection is a sight to behold, with hundreds of labels spanning more than 40 years. Cellar master Stephen Caldwell oversees the list and highlights a section of particularly rare and prestigious bottles, primarily from California. And while there are high-end choices, a diverse by-the-glass selection and plenty of more-affordable bottles allow for an experience that won't break the bank. Chef Bert Cutino specializes in locally sourced seafood as well as pastas and steaks.

The Smokehouse Restaurant at Antrim 1844

Antrim 1844 Hotel, 30 Trevanion Road, Taneytown, Md.
Telephone (800) 858-1844
Website www.antrim1844.com
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

Just south of the Mason–Dixon line, in the small town of Taneytown, Md., discover a world-class selection of California Cabernets at the Antrim 1844 Hotel’s Smokehouse Restaurant. It opened as a bed-and-breakfast in 1988 and has held a Restaurant Award since 1998. Wine director Jordan Kayser’s whopping 2,700 wine selections shine in France, especially Bordeaux, the Rhône and Burgundy, as well as Italy and Spain, but California Cabernets are the star of the program. There are dozens of verticals from Bond, Ramey, PlumpJack and many more, with particularly lengthy ones from Dominus Estate and Jordan. Even better, many are priced under $100. In the kitchen, chef Ilhan Erkek incorporates American and French cuisines into an elegant menu.

Vertical Detroit

1538 Centre St., Detroit, Mich.
Telephone (313) 732-9463
Website www.verticaldetroit.com
Open Dinner, daily
Best of Award of Excellence

A wine bar, restaurant and retail store, Vertical Detroit offers a serious selection of California Cabernet (as well as strong showings in Old World regions including Bordeaux, Burgundy and Italy). Honoring the restaurant’s name are five regularly changing tasting flights of three vintages each from prominent producers—current offerings include Dominus and Alpha Omega—and there are more than 80 wines available by the glass. Wine director and co-owner Remy Lufty's program includes 2,250 selections across some 6,000 bottles. Chef Matt Barnes sources much of his menu from local purveyors like Motor City Seafood and Wolverine Packing.

Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at @WSRestoAwards and Instagram at @WSRestaurantAwards.


WINE TALK Cabernets for King And Commoner

DID I miss something? Weren't we all supposed to be drinking better wine than we did a decade or so ago? That is what the American wine industry promised us after thousands of acres of vines were replanted in the late 1980's and early 90's, after having been devastated by phylloxera, a microscopic bug that eats vine roots. Winemakers said the new vines would be stronger, the wine better, and wine lovers of all income groups would benefit.

They were right, up to a point. Top-of-the-line wines from recent vintages have been astonishingly good, and are commanding astonishing prices -- $100 a bottle for some California cabernet sauvignons.

But anyone with money to burn can buy a big-ticket wine. It takes knowledge and a good palate to find good wines that are also affordable.

And there is the challenge for wine lovers whose pockets don't run deep. Perhaps I'm being impatient, and the predicted golden age of good wine for everyone is just around the corner. But in my experience American wines in the moderate price range, which I define as under $20, have not only failed to improve since the replanting but have actually declined in quality.

This is particularly true of wines bearing the California appellation, which means that the grapes can come from anywhere in the state. The Central Valley is great for growing lettuce, but not necessarily for grapes. The demand for top-quality grapes is so high that their prices have reached unparalleled levels. Consequently, winemakers appear to be relying on lesser quality fruit for their lower-priced wines.

So, should a cabernet lover who does not want to pay $100 for one bottle give up? No. After all, fad wines come and go but cabernet sauvignon is the benchmark by which quality wine is judged. Here are a few American cabernets at about $20 or less that display the character and finesse that once were commonplace in this price range but are now the exception.

If any producer is committed to offering quality wines at truly reasonable prices, it is the E.& J. Gallo Winery, through its immense holdings in Sonoma County. While I sometimes get the sense that Gallo's wines are designed by a committee, there is no denying the fact that this company makes good wines. Its 1994 Sonoma Cabernet from the Barelli Creek Vineyard is a good example. For an introduction to the Gallo style, try the 1995 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon at around $9.

The Benziger family, which practically invented the 'ɿighting varietal'' category a decade ago with its Glen Ellen line, has in recent years concentrated -- successfully -- on higher quality wines. To experience what it has accomplished, try the 1996 cabernet, a luscious full wine, at about $16.

Beringer Estates is one of the most respected names in California wine. The top Beringer cabernets are in the $70-to-$100-a-bottle category, but the winery has never neglected the lower end of the market. Beringer's Founder's line offers some remarkable buys, one of which is a 1997 cabernet at under $10.

Beringer is also parent to the much-praised Napa Ridge line of wines. Feathers have been ruffled over the use of ''Napa'' for wines that do not hail from there, but set controversy aside for the moment and try the Napa Ridge 1996 cabernet at about $10. It is quite an achievement.

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    Carmenet, a winery in the Chalone Group, has always specialized in cabernet sauvignon. Its 1997 Dynamite cabernet is a medium-bodied Sonoma wine with lots of flavor and a nice finish. It is $15.

    Some wineries have always given great value for money. Two among them are Estancia, a division of Franciscan Vineyards, whose excellent 1996 cabernet is a bargain at $14, and Fetzer Vineyards, from Mendocino, whose Barrel Select cabernet has been consistently good for many years. It sells for about $15.

    Two Napa Valley landmarks famous for their more expensive wines, Niebaum-Coppola and Newton, both offer delicious cabernet blends called clarets. The 1997 from Newton is about $18, the 1996 from Niebaum-Coppola about $15.

    Two of the older Italian family wineries that combine the most modern techniques with a touch of rusticity in their cabernets are Foppiano Vineyards, whose 1995 Russian River Valley cabernet is about $13, and Pedroncelli Three Vineyards, whose 1997 cabernet from the Dry Creek Valley is about $16.

    I still find drinkers of California wines who are reluctant to familiarize themselves with Washington State wines. What a mistake. The best Washington cabernets have a focus, an intensity, a leanness that their more fleshy California cousins rarely display. And there are some terrific Washington cabernets at good prices. Try the 1996 Columbia Crest at about $10, or the Hogue Cellars Barrel Select at about $13. Food brings out their best qualities, and they return the favor by enhancing the meal.

    And let's not forget the East Coast. There is an intriguing cabernet from Lenz Vineyards on the North Fork of Long Island. Lenz's Vineyard Selection, at $16, compares most favorably, and more accurately, with a good wine from St.-Emilion than anything from California.

    An intrepid wine lover could find other good, reasonably priced cabernets. And if the wine industry ever fulfills its promise, perhaps we can look forward to even more.

    Champagne Montaudon Brut, nonvintage, Rheims, France. About $30.

    YOU are going to be seeing some unfamiliar Champagne labels over the next few months. In anticipation of millennium-driven demand, some Champagne makers have widened their distribution in the United States. One of them is Champagne Montaudon, a house that's been around since 1891. If the other newcomers here are as good as this one, we can all relax and go back to worrying about the Y2K bug.

    This is a medium-bodied wine, with plenty of flavor, good acidity and the unmistakable nutlike aroma of a classy Champagne. There is a vintage version (1995) and also a blanc de blanc and a rose.


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    12 Best Wineries for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

    If you’re doing Napa Valley for the first time or the fifteenth, you’ll likely be tasting a lot of cabernet sauvignon during your visit. Cabernet is, after all, acknowledged as the king of red grapes in Napa, dominating 40% of the region’s total production. With a terroir perfectly suited for growing cabernet, Napa has certainly found its sweet spot with this much loved Bordeaux grape, and the results are powerful, deeply layered, and age-worthy wines showcasing notes of black fruit, violets, tobacco, and cedar, to name a few.

    Of course, the sheer number of wineries in Napa featuring cabernet and cabernet blends is enough to overwhelm any wine taster, so where to start? To help guide you, we’ve put together a list of 12 of the most famous names in Napa cabernet welcoming visitors, along with a few lesser known wineries worth noting. Make some room in your cellar, because we have a feeling you’ll be going home with a few new bottles.


    Courtesy of Peju Winery

    Peju Winery
    8466 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA 94573, (707) 963-3600

    Founded by Tony Peju and his wife, Herta, in 1983, Peju (and its iconic 50-foot tower) has remained a fixture along the St. Helena Highway, where guests are welcomed to enjoy tastings while learning about Peju’s history, winemaking style, and wines. Their Rutherford cabernets tend to exhibit notes of cedar box, white pepper, cherry cola, and cocoa, enhanced by the prominent “Rutherford dust” character so typical of this region. Tastings take place in the lovely estate garden or Tower tasting room and include five wines, but for a more enhanced experience, opt for one of Peju’s culinary tasting experiences, such as the wine and food pairing or the private four course lunch enjoyed amidst the vines.

    Courtesy of Louis M. Martini

    Louis M. Martini Winery
    254 St. Helena Highway South, St. Helena, CA 94574, (707) 968-3362

    Louis M. Martini Winery was one of the first wineries in Napa Valley after Prohibition ended, founded in 1933 by Italian immigrant, Louis M. Martini, who went on to establish the winery as one of the foremost producers of cabernet sauvignon in Napa Valley. After completing an extensive renovation in 2019, Louis M. Martini Winery continues to offer world-class wine paired with welcoming hospitality, now in a stunning new visitor center with numerous indoor and outdoor tasting spaces. Since cabernet is the speciality, expect to taste a variety of cabernet-focused wines, each meticulously sourced from different blocks throughout Martini’s several estate vineyards.

    Courtesy of Hewitt Vineyard

    Hewitt Vineyard
    1695 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA, (707) 968-3633

    Single-vineyard cabernets are the name of the game at Hewitt Vineyard, where cabs are handcrafted to showcase the full expression of this Rutherford vineyard. Though it varies from vintage to vintage, the Hewitt Vineyard Cabernet tends to exude notes of black fruit, crème de cassis, black olive, and cocoa, and is regularly well reviewed by critics. In fact, the 2010 vintage was named #4 on the Top 100 Wines of 2013 by Wine Spectator, so you know they’re doing something right. To experience the wines yourself, head to sister winery, Provenance Vineyards, where private tastings include a selection of both library and current release vintages.

    Courtesy of Crosby Roamann

    Crosby Roamann
    45 Enterprise Ct. #5, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 258-8599

    Crosby Roamann is owned by Sean and Juliana McBride, who started their label in 2007 with one barrel of cabernet. Since then, the husband-and-wife duo have taken a minimally invasive approach to winemaking, ensuring every effort is made to craft wines with a true sense of place. Though they produce a few different varietals, such as merlot, chardonnay, and sauvignon blanc, Crosby Roamann is most known for its Reserve Cabernet. Using fruit sourced from Harmony School Vineyard in Coombsville, this limited-production cabernet is pressed entirely by hand (in an old hand-crank press) and spends 24 months in new French oak. The resulting wine shows notes of fresh raspberry, cassis, vanilla, spice, and coffee. Head to their industrial chic winery, located in Napa’s Crusher District just a few minutes from downtown, to enjoy a private tour, a tasting of current releases, and even samples straight from the barrel.

    Courtesy of HALL

    HALL Napa Valley
    401 St. Helena Highway South, St. Helena, CA 94574, (707) 967-262

    Owned by Kathryn and Craig Hall, HALL has built a reputation for its Bordeaux varietals, made from grapes sourced from Hall’s 500 acres of estate vineyards and from other esteemed vineyards throughout Napa Valley. Their selection of cabernet wines are much loved by critics and wine lovers alike, regularly striking the perfect balance of ripe fruit, earth, and savory characters. Tasters have not one but two wineries to choose from, thanks to tasting rooms in both St. Helena and Rutherford. The most known of the two is HALL St. Helena, California’s first LEED® Gold Certified winery, which features a one-of-a-kind Bunny Foo-Foo statue, along with over 35 pieces of contemporary art, an expansive lawn, and modern architectural details.

    Courtesy of Pine Ridge Vineyards

    Pine Ridge Vineyards
    5901 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 252-9777

    Founded in 1978 by Gary Andrus, Pine Ridge Vineyards is located in the heart of the Stags Leap District, recognized for producing distinct and powerful cabernet sauvignon wines. Sourcing grapes from their 160 acres of Napa Green certified estate vineyards, spread throughout five appellations in Napa Valley, Pine Ridge crafts wine to express the special nuances of each individual site. Their flagship wine, FORTIS Cabernet Sauvignon, represents the best blocks of the vineyards and is characterized by its complex fruit flavors, plush mouthfeel, and age-worthy structure. Named one of the 75 Best Wineries to Visit in California by Food & Wine, visitors can choose from the 60-minute Estate Tasting featuring five current release wines, or the FORTIS vertical experience offering a deep dive into this iconic wine over the years.

    Courtesy of Stags’ Leap Winery

    Stags’ Leap Winery
    6150 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 257-5790

    As one of California’s earliest wine estates, Stags’ Leap Winery has long been a fixture in the famed Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. First established in 1893, the storied estate is dripping in history, including the castle-like Manor House, constructed in 1890 from stone quarried in a nearby hillside, and the “old stone cellar” surrounding the cave. Most of the 85 acres of estate vines are planted to cabernet, petit sirah, and merlot, which thrive in this region. Their flagship wine, The Leap, is a classically styled cabernet filled with rich layers of cassis, blackberry, baking spices, and chocolate, with a smooth, lithe texture. If the higher end bottlings are out of your price range, try Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Cabernet, an approachable (and more affordably priced) alternative.

    Courtesy of Round Pond

    Round Pond Estate
    875 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, CA 94573, (707) 302-2575

    Owned by the MacDonnell family, Round Pond Estate is a respected producer of Napa Valley wines, particularly cabernet sauvignon, as well as world-class olive oil and vinegars from their beautiful estate in Napa Valley’s Rutherford AVA. Known for their depth and expressive character, Round Pond’s cabernets range in profile, from the Old World meets New World Rutherford Estate Cabernet to the finessed and age-worthy Louis Bovet Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Guided tastings range in price and focus, depending on interest, but if cabernet is what you’re after, the 90-minute Gravel Series Tasting, featuring current and library releases of this highly allocated cabernet, is not to be missed. Also worth mentioning: a portion of proceeds from all Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon sold during the month of November will be donated in honor of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.

    Courtesy of Larkmead Vineyards

    Larkmead Vineyards
    1100 Larkmead Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515, (707) 942-0167

    The 110-acre Larkmead estate is one of the oldest family-owned properties in the Napa Valley, originally founded in 1895. Since purchasing the property in 1992, Cam and Kate Solari Baker have transformed Larkmead into the reputable winery it is today and, along with winemaker Dan Petroski, they continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible from this estate. A visit to this picturesque winery includes a personalized tasting experience tailored to each guest, taking place on the serene covered patio looking out over the lushly landscaped grounds and surrounding vineyards. While Larkmead’s portfolio of wines is diverse, their cabernets are sure to impress. Revealing black fruit, savory herbs, and crushed rock nuances, these thoughtfully crafted cabs are powerful, yet restrained, and entirely elegant.

    Courtesy of Mira Winery

    Mira Winery
    6170 Washington Street, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 945-0881

    Since their first vintage in 2009, Mira Winery has set out to produce handcrafted single-vineyard, single-varietal wines made from select sites in Napa Valley. With a minimalist approach to winemaking, proprietor Jim Dyke, Jr. and winemaker/co-founder Gustavo A. Gonzalez produce a limited amount of highly allocated wines, such as the seductive Mira Schweizer Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, each crafted with ageability in mind. At their new Winery & Hospitality House, located just south of Yountville, a guided tour and tasting is the best way to see first-hand the meticulous thought and planning that went into making Mira what it is today.

    Courtesy of Facebook: Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

    Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
    5766 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 261-6410

    Not to be confused with neighboring Stags’ Leap Winery, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars is another well-known Napa Valley winery lauded for its stellar cabernet wines. In fact, this notable winery, founded in 1970, helped make a name for California cabernet when it beat out its French counterparts in the famous blind tasting known as the 1976 Judgment of Paris. Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ highly rated cabs, such as the Cask 23, tend to find a nice balance between rich fruit and savory notes, revealing luscious texture and length on the finish. Tours and tastings are offered daily at this beautiful winery, along with a selection of more elevated, culinary-focused experiences to note.

    Courtesy of Nickel & Nickel

    Nickel & Nickel
    8164 St. Helena Highway, Oakville, CA 94562, (707) 967-9600

    Single vineyard, 100% varietal wines are the focus at Nickel & Nickel, from chardonnay to merlot, but cabernet sauvignon remains the winery’s first love and continued inspiration. Hailing from vineyards as far north as Calistoga and Howell Mountain to the Oak Knoll District further south, each of Nickel & Nickel’s cabernet wines showcase the various nuances of each vintage and vineyard, whether subtle or more apparent. Though it’ll cost you a pretty penny — $150 per person to be exact — Nickel & Nickel’s Terroir Tasting is a must for serious cabernet fans, offering the rare chance to explore eight of the winery’s 100% cabernet sauvignons in a north-to-south comparative tasting.


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    • Wednesday, Nov 4th, 2020 at 3:38 pm
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    Cabernet / Syrah

    In the 1960s, the combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, or Shiraz, is what catapulted Penfolds from obscure Australian producer to global icon, both with its Grange bottling, which incorporates just a small percentage of Cabernet, and Bin 389, a near-50-50 blend.

    The combo is increasingly common in California, where winemakers like Scott Shirley of Justin Vineyards & Winery in Paso Robles use Cab to add “a bit of structure, ageability and length on the finish,” to balance Syrah’s “rich texture, soft tannins, and big, bold fruit up front,” he says. When done right, Cab-Syrah blends are plush in mouthfeel yet firm in structure, with savory and ripe flavors that dance in unison. —Matt Kettmann


    California Cabernets for Your Cellar

    The Gold Coast is known for producing elegant Cabernet Sauvignon and the grape’s aging potential makes it ideal for collecting. Whether you’re restocking an impressive wine catalogue or hoping to start a new one, here are ten age-worthy reds from Napa Valley, Sonoma and the Central Coast that’ll be ready to drink later rather than sooner.

    Spottswoode 2014 Family Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena) $190, 98 points. Nuanced, with 10% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot, this is a quietly powerful wine, smooth and structured and immediate in its beauty, yet possessed of legs to cellar for 20-plus years. Crushed flowers and rocks open on the nose, providing a clutch of minerality, as grippy tannins support red currant, plum and a freshness of persistent acidity. Try to wait on this one. Best 2024 through 2034. Cellar Selection.—Virginie Boone

    Alpha Omega 2013 Beckstoffer Missouri Hopper Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville) $225, 98 points. Luxurious in brick, clove and a wealth of black-cherry pie, this is a beautiful succulent wine from the well-farmed site, silky in texture and integrated seamlessly with desirable oak. Saddle leather and black pepper dot the midpalate as a tangle of acidity weaves through, adding freshness and vibrancy. Cellar through 2033. Cellar Selection.—V.B.

    Shafer 2013 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon (Stags Leap District) $285, 98 points. Among the Napa Valley’s most crowning achievements in Cabernet, this vintage of Hillside Select is stunning, bright and beguiling in every way. Intensely layered, its interwoven flavors burst in black licorice, dark chocolate, pipe tobacco, gun smoke and garrigue. Spicy oak adds to the power and weight. Drinkable now, it will show even greater finesse in time enjoy best 2023–2033 and possibly beyond. Cellar Selection.—V.B.

    Hall 2014 Rainin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Diamond Mountain District) $325, 98 points. From the iconic site atop the mighty mountain appellation, Rainin is exotic in forest, soy and sage notes, with a powerful and densely layered tannin structure. Black pepper, plum and leather are made all the more complex by a tease of rocky ash that gives the wine a distinct mineral character and earthiness. This is one for cellaring. Enjoy 2024–2034. Cellar Selection.—V.B.

    Calluna 2014 The Colonel’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Chalk Hill) $70, 96 points. This is from a small block of the proprietor’s vineyard and made entirely from one variety. It’s gorgeous and perfumed, grippy and hugely structured, with a bright exuberantly complex midpalate of intriguing plum and peppery clove. Gentle and balanced, it’s enjoyable now, but will also age. Enjoy best 2024 through 2034. Cellar Selection.—V.B.

    J. Lohr 2014 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles) $100, 96 points. The second vintage release of J. Lohr’s Signature wine, first produced to commemorate founder Jerry Lohr’s 80th birthday. Rich aromas of stewed black plum, blackberry pie, vanilla, clove and prune cake show on the nose. The mouthfeel is rich overall, but with firm tannins in the background that lend structure to the strawberry and blackberry flavors, graced by hints of wood smoke, peppercorn and licorice. Drink now–2029. Cellar Selection.—Matt Kettmann


    Tasting Notes

    2014 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

    This current release is a powerhouse of a wine boasting a deep ruby color, with cherry, sandalwood and hints of vanilla and sagebrush. Layers of red berry and dark cherry fruit give way to crushed purple florals, vanilla bean, cigar box and perfectly integrated oak notes. Tight, super-fine-grained tannins need time in the bottle to soften. The finish is long and generous a crushed stone and chalky mineral component. This is only a baby and will reveal layers of complexity over the next several decades. If you must pop a cork now, try it over two or three days.

    2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

    From one the greatest vintages Napa has experienced in decades, this dark ruby-colored Private Reserve is packed with red berry fruit, cinnamon spice and powerful tannins, layered with nuanced pops of crushed violets, baking chocolate and toasty oak spice.

    2009 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

    Food & Wine Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle wrote about the making of this legendary vintage and after tasting it myself, I am thrilled to report that Isle’s vintage is showing beautifully. Only just beginning to segue from ripe blackberry fruit into classic dark black fruit, rum raisin, molasses and cigar tobacco, with terrific spice and dried herbs emerging from oak aging. Plush tannins, nice focus, rich and supple, with a lingering dried tobacco character on the finish. Exemplary!

    2007 Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

    Hardly showing its age, with loads of primary red and black fruits up front, tinged with subtle hazelnut notes. Rich and round with mouthwatering acid and still plenty of tannic backbone.

    2015 Beaulieu Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

    Grapes from BV No. 1 and B No.2 vineyards along with Beckstoffer George III go into this marvelously mouthwatering Cabernet, bursting with blue fruits and violets. Terrifically mineral-driven with classic Rutherford dusty tannins, which really give off a sweet tobacco note on the nose. A sumptuous core of silky black and blue fruits is bolstered by robust tannins and a generous finish.

    2014 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry Reserve Red Wine Napa Valley

    The first vintage of this wine was produced in 1990 and it has always been a Cabernet-heavy blend. Juicy red berry fruit and powerful woody tannins give way to sweet baking spice notes and fleshy fruit. This is a sleeper and will reward with patience in the cellar.

    2013 Beaulieu Vineyard Clone 4 Cabernet Sauvignon — TASTING ROOM ONLY

    Offered only in the tasting room in Rutherford, this wine was crafted to highlight differences in BV’s Cabernet clones. On its own, it is really floral with savory notes of tobacco and cigar leaf, brimming with deep black cherry and blackberry flavors and aromas.

    2013 Clone 6 CS — TASTING ROOM ONLY

    Also only offered in the tasting room in Rutherford, this Clone 6, otherwise known as the “Jackson Clone” produces really small berries that deliver sturdy tannins and loads of black fruit on a rich, chocolaty finish.


    Watch the video: Josh Cellars Wines - Cabernet Sauvignon (December 2021).