Find Cali Cabs at reasonable cost here

July 16, 2018

Thank you to all who read my columns, especially those who take the time to write letters to the editor. Your input helps me to keep my job. Keep in mind, I love to receive emails. I try to answer all the questions. Recently, there have been several requests for well-rated Cali cabs that don't break the bank ready to drink now.

Let's start with Long Meadow Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013, produced of fruit from Mayacamas and Rutherford vineyards. These also have 7 percent each of Petit Verdot and Petit Sirah. As you would expect, the color is dark, almost opaque. Blackberry, dried plum, lavender, and earthy Cab aromas with oak-driven cedar, vanilla and chocolate back notes make a complex bouquet. Full body, proper tannin and acidity support the fruit with green peppercorn and balsamic hints. The phenolic profile provides a nice astringency through the pleasing, long, fresh finish These attributes make Long Meadow Cab a terrific accompaniment for roast or grilled lamb, grass-fed beef and roast game, 93 points under $55, ready now but will improve over the next few years. The 2014 is huge but the opening prices are well over $70. Still a good buy for patient winos. 2014 was a very warm year in Napa. The mountain Cabs attained full ripening and were picked early. Good harbingers. You can find a terrific selection of game here: There are three bison producers in Delaware. Those I'm aware of: Colvine Farms in Greenwood, Johnson in Georgetown, and Collins in Frankford. Please call ahead to assure availability. These are pricey treats, but I think they are worth the candle.

Many overlook Chappellet, a close neighbor to Ovid, Continuum, Colgin and Bryant Family along the Sage Canyon Road area, aka Napa's Rodeo Drive. A sorry comparison indeed. I'll take volcanic Pritchard Hill any day. After all, "terroir" is the primary driver with wine.

Winemakers, like chefs, are varied in their talent; none can make a silk purse from a sow's ear. Chappellet's Signature 2013, 92 points ($70) and 2014, 91 points ($60) will be ready next year. The '13 is the best choice. Avoid the 2016. The Chappellet Mountain Cuvee is under $30 and consistently rates 88-89 points. These are winemaker's art. If you enjoy one vintage, you will likely enjoy most. I have bought each vintage from 2008 to 2015, have not looked at the 2016. Normal blend: 37 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 percent Merlot, 12 percent Malbec, 11 percent Petit Verdot, 5 percent Cabernet Franc. Opens to blueberry, blackberry, pie spice and toasted oak aromas. On the palate, cherry and currant with barrel spice and vanilla. Fruit, tannins and acidity are complementary. Medium, clean finish.

Going upscale? Check out the Chappellet Pritchard Hill label. RP loves these guys, and high 90s drive the price. Since 2007, Pritchard Hill has rated mid- to high 90s for most other critics, with the exception of the 90-point 2011.

The best buy today is 2009, just ready to drink. 2013 is $225. Anthony Galloni says 2013 will be ready in 2023. RP 99, Tony 96. 2009 is ready, and I've seen some around for $150. That's a great price. By comparison, Colgin Herb Lamb Vineyard 2009 costs over $700. My Pritchard notes read: "I thought I was Cabbed out, but 2009 Pritchard Hill from Chappellet woke up my buds. Needs time. 75 percent Cab, 15 percent Petit Verdot and 10 percent Malbec. Will cellar through 2022 at least. Very dark, saturated color; lovely Napa, black currant, earthy, meaty aromas; plenty of tannin to substantiate dark color; fruit, oak-driven cedar notes, mild mineral nuance and pleasing licorice note in the finish." Of those sampling now, many will be put off by the sharp components and possibly slightly alcoholic tone. They will definitely come together by 2017. It has exceeded my expectations!

Newton Skyside Red Label Claret 2016, $22 is back in my game. Formerly named Newton Red Label Claret and rating 87-88, they changed name and label to read Skyside Red Label. Rather than pan, I'm happy to report that the 2016 is back on track.

A blend of Merlot, Cab and Petit Verdot, look for juniper, plum and barrel notes plus vanilla. On the palate, more plum and cocoa, which persist through the finish. A lot of wine for $22, 89 McD.

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