August 2009

Napa Gold: Anthony Dias Blue Rates Cabernets

By: Anthony Dias Blue
Forty years ago, when vineyards were being planted all over Napa Valley, growers tried nearly every available grape variety. Among others, there were plantings of French Colombard, Gamay and Gewürztraminer. But slowly, as vintners learned more and more about their terroir, most of these experiments were terminated in favor of the grape that was to make Napa Valley famous throughout the world: Cabernet Sauvignon.

There are so many world-class Cabernets made in Napa now that it is virtually impossible to keep up. Nevertheless, I thought it might be useful to take a look at some current releases to assess the state of Napa Cabernet. This list is by no means comprehensive; it is just a snapshot of some of the best wines currently available. In the interest of including as many wines as possible, my notes have been abbreviated and the Napa Valley appellation omitted from the listings.

Atlas Peak 2004 Howell Mountain ($86)
Spice and black cherry; dense texture. 90 points

Beaulieu Vineyard 2005 Georges de Latour Private Reserve ($115)
Supple, toasty and silky with plum, herbs and spice. 89

Beringer Vineyards 2005 Private Reserve ($119)
Velvety plum, chocolate and spice; complex and generous. 93

Black Sears 2004 Howell Mountain ($80)
Edgy and structured with plum and spice. 88

Brandlin Vineyards 2005 Mount Veeder ($85)
Chocolate, spice and ripe herbs plus mature plum. 89

Bravante 2005 Howell Mountain ($52)
Racy and lean; plum, spice and earth. 90

Buehler Vineyards 2006 Estate, Papa's Knoll Vineyard ($45)
Cassis and soft herbs; lovely velvety texture. 89

Cakebread Cellars 2005 Dancing Bear Ranch, Howell Mountain ($106)
Plummy with green herbs and spice. 89

Chappellet 2006 ($52)
Edgy, long and silky with lovely balance and finesse. 90

Charles Krug 2006 Yountville ($27)
Clean, intense and totally charming; shows its Napa origins. 90

Cimarossa 2005 Howell Mountain ($75)
Bright plum, racy acidity, density and depth. 90

Clif Family 2006 Kit’s Killer Cab ($38)
Berries and spice; deep, rich and intense. 89

Clos du Val 2004 Reserve ($95)
Tight and edgy with tannins, herbs and lean fruit. 87

Clos Pegase 2005 Hommage Artist Series Reserve, Palisades Vineyard ($80)
Dark, ripe plum and cassis and notes of mocha. 90

Cornerstone 2005 Howell Mountain ($95)
Lush and tannic with chocolate, plum and blackberry. 91

David Arthur Vineyards 2006 Elevation 1147 ($135)
Velvety and generous with spice and licorice. 93

Delgadillo 2003, Release 3, Mill Creek Vineyard ($85)
Big flavors of plum, blackberry and chocolate. 93

Diamond Terrace 2006 Howell Mountain ($55)
Lovely vanilla, spice and ripe cassis. 92

Dovetail Vineyards 2005 Ashley’s Vineyard ($55)
Deep black cherry and rich texture; intense. 90

Dunn 2005 Howell Mountain ($70)
Spicy, smoky and structured with velvety texture; classic. 92

Flora Springs 2006 ($36)
Clean, balanced and long with charming flavors. 88

Franciscan 2005 ($28)
Fresh, long and sensual with spice and lovely balance. 89

Frostwatch 2005 ($46)
Plummy with lush texture and balance. 89

Gamble Family Vineyards 2005 Family Home, Oakville ($60)
Rich, mellow and balanced with aging potential. 89

Girard Winery 2006 Pritchard Hill ($79)
Silky texture, lively acidity and fresh, soft tannins. 90

Grgich Hills 2005 Estate ($60)
Dense, rich and balanced with style and complexity. 89

Hess Collection 2006 Estate ($25)
Ripe plum and blueberry fruit; notes of chocolate and spice. 88

Joseph Phelps 2005 Insignia, Estate ($200)
Fragrant with plum, cassis and black raspberry; supple, charming and exquisite. 95

Kathryn Hall Vineyards 2006 ($75)
Velvety texture; cassis and blackberry fruit with earth and spice. 91

Kelly Fleming 2005 ($85)
Smoky and herbal with dark, lush texture; balanced and intense. 90

Ladera Vineyards 2005 Lone Canyon Vineyard ($65)
Ripe black plum fruit; clean, pure fruit acid on the finish. 92

Levendi Estates 2005 Stagecoach Vineyard ($70)
Velvety and rich with black raspberry and cassis. 92

Merryvale Vineyards 2006 Starmont ($27)
Bright and fresh; juicy, supple and nicely balanced. 90

Miner Family Vineyards 2006 Stagecoach Vineyard ($65)
Bright plum, spice and herbs; good structure and style. 90

Napa Angel by Montes 2006 Aurelio's Selection ($90)
Supple and long with richness, elegance and gravitas. 94

Palmaz Vineyards 2005 ($100)
Silky smooth with generous plum, blueberry and vanilla; lovely acid structure. 94

Parry Cellars 2005 St. Helena ($60)
Fruit-forward with pure acidity, finesse and restrained style. 93

Paul Hobbs 2006 ($75)
Luscious blackberry and cocoa with notes of spice box. 92

Piña 2006 Buckeye Vineyard, Howell Mountain ($85)
Dense and complex; lush plum, blackberry, cassis and spice. 93

Ramey Wine Cellars 2006 Pedregal Vineyard, Oakville ($150)
Plum, raspberry, butter and vanilla; generous and opulent. 94

Raymond 2006 ($35)
Racy acidity, snappy plum and berry fruit; tangy structure. 90

Red Cap 2006 Howell Mountain ($75)
Tannic and dense with plum and spice; long, rich finish. 90

Robert Craig 2006 Affinity ($48)
Smooth, lush and velvety; good structure and superb style. 93

Roberts and Rogers 2005 Howell Mountain ($75)
Tannic and big with plum and cassis; long finish. 91

Rutherford Ranch 2005 Reserve ($48)
Lush, deep with toasty oak and long, balanced flavors. 90

Spence Vineyards 2005 Reserve, Howell Mountain ($68)
Balanced, with lovely, dense plum; rich and stylish. 92

St. Clement Vineyards 2006 ($36)
Fragrant, with lovely hints of spice and vanilla oak; generous and long. 90

Sterling Vineyards 2005 Red Carpet Reserve ($100)
Rich, silky and generous with cinnamon, allspice and juicy acidity. 93

Titus Vineyards 2006 Reserve ($63)
Dense plum, cassis and blackberry; complex and serious. 91

Trefethen 2005 Reserve, Estate, Oak Knoll ($100)
Bright plum; lovely, toasty and balanced. 91

Vergari Wines 2005 ($48)
Clean and very juicy; lively, bright and pure. 91

Villa Hermosa 2005 Howell Mountain ($75)
Smooth, lush and herbal; dense, ripe plum and spice. 90

White Cottage Ranch 2005 Howell Mountain ($65)
Rich plum, blackberry, spice and earth. 93

White Rock Vineyards 2003, Laureate, Cave Hill Reserve ($85)
Concentrated plum, cassis and blackberry; tannic, structured flavors. 91

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