Carolina Wine & Spirits hosted a terrific “Best Napa Cab” tasting event at Osteria Posto in Waltham MA a few weeks back. The selection of 100+ sampled wines came from the best-known, upper-tier vineyards from Napa, Alexander, and Knights Valleys. Gary is the big Cab lover of the duo so we’re posting reviews of his favorite wines. He waived our “no more than $30/bottle” preference and includes some big reds with big prices [for us] to match. Lisa notes that every one of these wines is pushing 15% alcohol, a trend she’s not thrilled about. Gary says, “these are the best Napa Cabs for the money.”
NICKEL & NICKEL, Oakville, CA
2017 Sullenger Cabernet Sauvignon; $100-$110/bottle
When we last tasted the Sullenger (2015) I was unimpressed, writing “Tannins were so overpowering I would need to cellar for 10 years before opening. Maybe I’m too old or impatient, but I want wine to be available on my schedule.” Nickel & Nickel nailed the 2017 offering of its flagship wine, made from 100% Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s got all the right ingredients of initial bright cherry notes followed by subtle fruit with soft tannins, and long finish. Some reviewers noted a sweetness in the finish, which we didn’t find. This wine’s ready to drink or lay down for a few years. Buy? Absolutely!
ROMBAUER St. Helena, CA
2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon; $60/bottle
On the palate, the 2016 Rombauer starts with sharp black cherry/raspberry compote notes accompanied by subtle tannins. This is a very enjoyable, viscous wine that surprised this reviewer. For $60/bottle it’s a value wine for any Napa Cabernet lover. The wine is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc. Buy? Yes, a great semi-special occasion wine.
2015 Rombauer Diamond Selection Cabernet Sauvignon; $90-$120/bottle
This is a fantastic wine with black fruit notes and slightly edgy tannins. Carefully made with hand-selected grapes and small-lot barrel fermentation the wine is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot. We really enjoyed this wine and would seek it out for a special occasion or as a gift for friends. It’s like a cult wine without the cult wine price. Buy? You bet!
SPOTTSWOODE ESTATE, St. Helena, CA
2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; $200/bottle
This is an elegant wine with black fruit over plush velvety tannins. At $200+ a bottle, Lisa called this a “let’s celebrate your retirement” wine” but don’t wait until you retire to buy it! A more apt description for the 2016 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon is “the epitome of a balanced wine.” It’s a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot. Professional reviewers (the guys who get paid for writing this stuff) give it scores like 95 – 100 points. Buy? It’s time to pony up for a couple of bottles of this very special wine.
TRINCHERO NAPA VALLEY, St. Helena, CA
2016 Mario’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; $45/bottle
We call this our “benchmark Napa Cab” and always have some in our cellar. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and it impresses year after year with its deep ruby color and dusty black currant velvety notes on the palate. At $45 a bottle and professional reviews of 92+, it’s a relative bargain for a higher-end Cabernet Sauvignon.
Buy? Always on our Must-Buy list
MERRYVALE VINEYARDS, St. Helena, CA
2015 Profile Cabernet Sauvignon; $200/bottle
The palate is a mix of dark chocolate, cedar, and silky-smooth black fruit notes leading to a long, satisfying finish. Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (90% Cabernet Sauv, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc) this is yet another terrific example of cult-level wine at half the price. Buy? We’ll be adding a couple of bottles of this to our cellar even at the steep price of … it’s truly worth it!
CLIFF LEDE VINEYARDS, Yountville, CA
2016 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon; @$78/bottle
This superbly crafted wine is velvet blackberry compote in a glass. A blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc, the wine gets 93+ points from respected wine reviewers and is a terrific bargain. Buy? We hold Cliff Lede in high esteem and say buy this Bordeaux-in-Napa blend if budget allows.
BEAULIEU VINEYARDS Rutherford, CA
2015 George de Latour Rutherford Private Reserve; @$120/bottle
This is another great example of a cult-level wine available at a [comparatively] accessible price. The beautiful palate features dense black fruit/dark cocoa notes with plush tannins leading to a long, well-balanced finish. Composition is 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 3% Malbec. This wine is universally well-reviewed, netting 95-98 points and we couldn’t agree more. Buy? We loved this wine and plan on buying some soon.
JOSEPH PHELPS VINEYARD, St. Helena, CA
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon; @$75/bottle
A newer-world take on Napa Cabernet with a concentrated fruit-forward approach accompanied by an almost creamy palate with accents of anise, French roast coffee and cedar. The wine is a Bordeaux blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc.
Buy? At $75 per bottle, this is an excellent wine to add to your cellar or enjoy now.