Find great deals on rich Cabernet wines for fall

October 21, 2023

Cool weather turned my thoughts to reds and the occasional great deals to be found on Napa Cabs. Groth Oakville Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon presents an opportunity to look across three vintages, 2017-19, which are all 91 McD and can be found around $60/bottle. Available from Total in Wilmington, which tells me our local shops can bring them in. Comparing the three shows us how weather and terroir can impact wine. These are winemakers' art, crafted using juice from Groth and a diverse group of AVA neighbors. Each vintage is distinct. That said, my notes show the lowest rating in 10 years has been 89 in 2015. The 2019 opens with blackberry and currant undergirded by cocoa, coffee and white pepper up front; the interesting finish flips to raspberry, sour cherry and a hint of chocolate. If you must choose only one, 2018 would be my choice; careful shoppers can find some well under $60. Ruby with garnet highlights, it opens to a complex bouquet of boysenberry and blackberry nuanced with pie spice, tobacco, cedar, roses and tea. On the palate, blackberry repeats accented by barrel notes of vanilla and toast. The 2017 shows plum, cherry, cedar and clove. The Groth reserve cabs are better, as you may have guessed. They run about $155, and rate 93s and 94s. The 2016, McD 90, is a weak link. For the 2018, 94 McD, I’ve seen ads at under $140. If you are in that market and can wait three years, it’s a good QPR at that price. WS gave it 96 points. Be careful on early buys of new releases. Analytics show these come in high with writer hoopla, then fall and take about three to four years to regain original release prices. In many cases, the low occurs about six months after release. High riders should place Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 on their watch list. Most of the likely suspects are laying on hyperbole. The last three releases scored mid-90s; the 2019 got 98. To date there is little price appreciation on recent vintages, but these are made by Randy Dunn for long-term cellar improvement. The 2007 came in at $78 and was on the market in August at $258.

Daou Vineyards produces a line of highly rated single-vineyard Cabs that range from $183 to $295. Following the owner brothers, Georges and Daniel, has been a winning proposition because they also produce a 92-point Reserve, $55, and their generic Paso Robles Cab for $23. The 2021 Paso Robles Cab, 92 McD, WA 93, can be found under $25 and will be ready by Christmas 2024, a fine gift. An 80% Cab blend with 11% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot and 1% Cab Franc, it spent 10 months in 50% new French oak. Those who enjoy herbal Cab and oaken back notes will love this. Sage, fennel, tobacco and thyme accent the cassis and cherry fruit nose. On the palate, raspberry, cranberry and aromatic redux with sandalwood and new oak spice. The complexity makes this a wine to savor in front of a fireplace. Impatient consumers can enjoy the 91-point McD 2018 for $38, or the ‘19, $29, ready now. Another Daou winner is Pessimist Red. This $21 lovely has rated 89-91 McD since 2015. The 2020 is a blend of 62% Petite Sirah, 18% Zinfandel, 17% Syrah and 3% Lagrein. Its bouquet is loaded with a mix of dark fruit, plus lavender, subtle saddle leather, tobacco and pepper aromas. On the full, rich palate, soft tannins and bright acidity support more black fruit, boysenberry, cassis and plum with some black olive and mushroom in the background. The finish is clean and long with dark chocolate, espresso and berries lingering. While we’re here, Daou grows and produces a wide range of varietal wines, most of which are well received. Its top-rated, high-90s Cab Franc from Adelaide District is rated ninth best worldwide. No. 1 in USA and second on list, Realm Cellars Beckstoffer To Kalon Napa Cab, has the same rating and costs $806. No. 1 worldwide, Chateau Angelus Homage Elisabeth Bouchet, is $1,546. I have not had the pleasure of the Daou Cab Franc due to its $280 price tag. However, considering where it resides on the top 10 list, it appears to be a decent QPR.


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