Napacab. One word, three syllables. Celebrated all over, often over-priced and occasionally over-hyped, it’s the pour of choice among one-half of Vino Duo and most of our wine-loving friends. Last month, we gathered these friends for a blind tasting of four moderately-priced ($50 – $100) 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines, along with a ringer—a non-Napa Cab—to keep things interesting. The goal? To see if price mattered. If the fabled Napa terroir could be beaten by an upstart region. And to usher in summer with good wine and old friends. [or was it old wine with good friends?]
All five wines were 2017 California Cabs., four from Napa and one from Paso Robles. Only Gary knew which wine was in which bottle until the reveal. We paired the wines with Italian cheeses, crackers, dried apricots and pistachios.
Titus was the overwhelming first choice! Romeo came in second. While the scrappy up-and-comer from Paso Robles didn’t win the day over its Napa cousins, the Halter Ranch placed third overall and was ranked #1 by two tasters. And the highest priced bottle was the lowest ranked wine. We heartily recommend the other three 2017 Napa Cabs, or seek out your own Napacab from that vintage…they’re becoming harder and harder to find.
TITUS – The Winner!
Positive: Thick! Dark! Cocoa powder; coffee grounds; fine tannins; smooth; rich finish; clean, chocolate-y; my kind of Cab;I like this a lot; LOVE it
Negative: A bit thin
ROMEO 2nd place
Positive: Quintessential Napa Cab; delish; clean, simple; smooth chocolate; very good
Negative: Tart or dry aftertaste; don’t like the finish
HALTER RANCH 3rd place
Positive: Very drinkable; smooth; clean; sweetish; sweet cocoas; delicious
CRAFTSMEN + WOLVES 4th place
Positive: Clean; simple; nice flavor; some sweetness, bit of pepper and blackberry
Negative: Nothing not to like about it
THE LEAP Last Place
Positive: Smooth; mineral flavor/aroma; taste improves with cheddar cheese; medium-dark fruit, silky smooth
Negative: Sour (2 mentions); Musty (2 mentions); Sharp/Acidic
A Word About Paso Robles
We visited Paso Robles over a decade ago when it was being hailed “the New Napa.” We loved its somewhat scruffy charm, historic, walkable downtown, and great Mexican restaurants. Today, more than 200 wineries dot the Paso Robles AVA, located about halfway between San Francisco and LA. We haven’t been back to visit but can recommend a few more Paso wines, besides the Halter Ranch 2017 Cab, including:
- Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon
- Peachy Canyon “Incredible Red” Zinfandel
- Justin Cabernet Sauvignon
- Robert Hall Cabernet Sauvignon [we visited this winery]