The 2018 Napa Cabs are terrific

December 4, 2021

Happy Hanukkah 5782! I hope you tried some of the wine recommended. Love to read any critiques.

The 2018 Napa Cabs are terrific. The few 2019s that are in the market are looking excellent also. I’m expecting a bit of softening in the high-end Napa Cab prices based on recent news, provided the “transient inflation” abates. Got to be frank instead of John. I heard this very same rhetoric during Carter and to date see no tall Paul in the wings. If you are in those markets and looking for great wine as an inflation hedge or comparatively affordable for consumption and looking for the less-known neighbors, check out the following.

Ratings are aggregate averages from the three most well-known critics. Screaming Eagle is over $4K per bottle, 99 points; Harlan Estate, $1,592, 98; Schrader Beckstoffer To Kalon, $475, 99; Schrader also produces a top-flight label named Double Diamond in Oakville, Napa, 92 McD under $70. The 2017 is 94 McD; pay up to $78 if you find some. Be sure to shop, as the ‘18 prices are ranging from $55-$80. 2018 Chappellet Pritchard Hill, $299, 98; Cliff Lede To Kalon, $299, 98; Beaulieu Geo Latour, the 95-point 2015 is perfect now and can easily be found under $130, definitely worth the money. Here’s a great buy, Mt. Veeder Winery Napa Cab, $45, 93 McD, deep garnet color, ripe black cherry, currants, plum, accented with chocolate and spice aromas. On the palate, ripe black fruits, fine tannins and appropriate acidity well balanced. Unlike Cheers, few know its name and you win. Think about this for perspective: one night savoring and a few weeks bragging or eight cases/96 bottles of excellent dinner wine shared with loved ones for $4K. 

Let’s move down south to Ancient Peaks Winery Santa Margarita Vineyards near Paso Robles. Great Cali Cabs don’t need to originate in Napa/Sonoma/Mendocino. SMV are likely coolest due to high elevation and the Pacific maritime brises del mar, causing longest ripening hang time in Paso’s region. The 2019 was a good year, 90 McD, early heavy rain gave way to a long, lovely summer. The 2018, 93 McD, was excellent. Both will be found under $20. Their Pearl Reserve Cab 2017, 92 McD, is just coming aboard. Saw some in Arnold, Md., for $80. Other names in the price range: Eberle Vineyard Selection Cab $30, 92 McD; Tree Fort, 92, $19; Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cab 2019, Alexander Valley, 93, $33. Dark plum color with currant, plum fresh herbal aromas, dark berry fruit, cassis and barrel notes vanilla and leather. Firm tannins support blueberry and blackberry flavors accented with hazelnut and more barrel spice. 

Emiliana Coyam from the Colchagua Valley, Chile, was a delightful surprise. Coyam is the name for oak forests surrounding Los Robles in the valley. Certified biodynamic/organically grown, whatever that broad definition means. 2017 is blended of 38% Syrah, 21 Cab. Sauv, 21 Carmenere, 17 Merlot, 2 Petit Verdot and Mourvèdre. The 2017 won platinum, gold, bronze and a best of show. It was rated all over the place, from a 96 by Suckling to a 90 by Wine Spectator. At $25, it’s 93 McD plus 1 price point. Red-rimmed, dark violet-colored, it opens to ripe dark fruit with barrel spice, earthen notes and a tad vanilla. On the balanced palate, smooth tannins, more berry flavors with chocolate, mineral and toffee in its long, clean finish. I had the opportunity to sample 2016 through ‘19. All are under $30 and 91 points or better. These improved with age.

Badagoni is a well-regarded producer from Kakheti, Georgian Republic. They produce an extensive list of varietal wine made from grapes I had never been introduced to. The 2010 Saperavi Reserve is $20, 91 McD. Dark ruby-colored, cassis lokum aromas (Picasso favorite aka Turkish Delight candy. Said to be Churchill and Napoleon’s when made with pistachio). On the palate mixed berries, caramel and herbal notes run through a long finish. Easier to find, Dr. Konstantin Frank Seneca Lake Finger Lake Region NYS, 91 McD around $30, dark violet-colored, opens to plum, cherry, earth with smoky cedar nuance. Smooth tannins and balancing acidity to clean up the long finish. Enjoy your moments!

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