Just click on the link below to read my latest post from the Wine Enthusiast Blog:
By drinking some Cabernet of course! In my last post I attempted to “classify” some of the bigger Cabernet Sauvignon wines of California, as well as some of the best values. Many internet retailers will offer some great deals on Cabs today in order to promote the day, so keep your eyes open! I will post a few as I see them that stand out as well, but mainly these “wine holidays” are a way to bring attention to a specific grape variety or region in the social media world. Below is a link to an interesting article from the founder of #CabernetDay that goes into it a little deeper.
Recently I have been teaching a wine class along with a colleague of mine (Josh Farrell of Wine Express) and we were going over the 1855 Bordeaux Wine Classification. For those who don’t know what that is, over 150 years ago professionals from the wine industry ranked the wines of Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are the most prominent grapes used) according to a certain Château’s reputation, price and of course on the quality of wine.
However there were some politics involved and many equivalent quality wines did not get the top distinction because they didn’t have the brand recognition nor did they demand the ludicrously outrageous prices. Four wines at that time (now five wines) were awarded the elite distinction of Premier Cru Classification and this system is still in tact today. After discussing this in class my friend Glenn had a great question…”so what are the Premier Cru wines of California?” That got me thinking…
While California has never classified wine this way, there are certainly a small group of wines that are considered elite. If you have ever heard the term “Cult Cab”, many of those wines would fall in that top classification category. Cult Cabs are typically an extremely low production, high quality wine that you cannot even purchase unless you wait years to get on a mailing list or go to auction and pay 2-3X what the winery retails it for. They can cost anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars and while they are some of the best wines you may ever taste in your life, they can also be the most disappointing.
The reason being is the expectations are set so high for a wine of this nature, that it is almost impossible for it to deliver. Think about the first time you were able to afford to go to that fancy five star restaurant that you had heard so much about. By the time you finally were able to dine there, did it live up to everything you had envisioned? Usually the answer is no… how could it?! With expectations that high, unless it is an utterly life changing experience it almost has to be somewhat of a disappointment. That’s not to say these wines are disappointing, as they are arguably some of the best wines produced in the world. But when shelling out that kind of dough, it’s tough to monetize the level of enjoyment of a wine.
With all of that said, I have listed below what I consider the “Premier Cru” Wines of California, the “Grand Cru” Wines (a small step below in terms of quality, price and a bit larger production and availability) and my “Value Cru” Wines ($20-25 wines that over-deliver on a Quality-Price Ratio, or QPR, and are consistent values every vintage). The Value Cru Wines are readily available at most Westchester wine stores as well as online.
Harlan/Bond Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Joseph Phelps Insignia, Napa Valley (Top Pick)
Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Shafer Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District
Grand Cru (2nd Growth)
Ridge Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains
Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa/Sonoma (Top Pick)
Opus One, Oakville
BV Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley
Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley
BV Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rodney Strong Estate Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma (Top Pick)
Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma
Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Buehler Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Sterling SVR(Platinum) Reserve Red, Napa Valley
For those BV Tapestry fans out there, you don’t want to miss the latest red blend from Mr. Stambor. It has a softer feel to it, and the fruit is a little more approachable rating it higher on the drinkability scale than the Tap, which usually needs a bit of aging to develop. Lots of lush dark fruit blend in nicely with the vanilla, smoke and notes of brown sugar and mocha. The tannins have already softened a bit making this just a smooth and lovely wine.
Fun Facts: Here’s the latest from Beaulieu Vineyards; a red blend from all of their vast vineyard lots throughout Napa Valley. Winemaker Jeffrey Stambor put his blending skills to the test with this very unique and delicious cuvee. The blend starts with 32% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 18% Zinfandel. Then he adds 9% Syrah, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Sangiovese plus a dash of Carignan, Grenache, Petite Verdot and even a touch of Touriga Nacional. All of the varietals are carefully vinified and the blend is aged 12 months in 50% American, 35% French and 15% Hungarian oak barrels.
This is truly an intricate and delightful CDP from l’Arnesque. The intense aromas are full of ripe raspberry, black cherry and peppery spice with hints of smoked meat. It is somewhat delicate yet has a dense core of fruit that carries from the palate through the long and lovely finish. It’s drinking well as a young wine now, but this should evolve for several years with age. – WWG
Background info: The Biscarrat family have been wine growers in the area for 6 generations. Marie and Julien Biscarrat (sister and brother) took over the domain in 2005 and changed the name to Domaine de l’Arnesque, after the famed lieu-dit Arnesque in Chateauneuf du Pape. This is where their 12 acre vineyard is located, on the southwestern hill-side of the Mont Redon plateau. The Cuvee Capelane is made from very old vine fruit from that vineyard, up to 100 years of age. 100% Grenache aged in oaks vats for 12 months.