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06.04.2006

The Best 2004 Napa Cabernet: Tasting Notes From Auction Napa Valley 2006

http://www.vinography.com/archives/images/garden-thumb.jpgI've just returned from a yearly fete that a fanciful movie director might call Napa's Big Weekend. Auction Napa Valley is THE event of the year as far as the valley is concerned -- four days of celebration and indulgence for those who have a passion (and corresponding pocketbook) for wine and like to support charity through revelry.

One of the main events of the weekend was an all day festival and barrel auction on Friday on the grounds of Trinchero family estate in St. Helena. Outside on the lawn an armada of tents are set up populated with wineries pouring wines, vendors making food, and various packaged food vendors offering samples. This was no ordinary food fair, however. No hot-dog-on-a-stick tables allowed. Instead folks like Thomas Keller (yes, the man himself) were handing out his famous salmon tartar cones, Cindy Pawlcyn (of Mustards, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, and http://www.vinography.com/archives/images/tasties-thumb.jpgsoon-to-open Go Fish) were making spicy hamachi hand rolls, and the folks at Fume Bistro offered butterscotch panna cotta with candied walnuts, just to name a tiny few of the many treats on offer. Every other table was staffed by a winery pouring several of their wines -- by my estimate, probably fifty or sixty in total.

Visitors could wander until they'd stuffed themselves silly, and then sit under umbrellas listening to live music from three different stages set up at the outskirts of the expansive lawn (right next to the folks who were grilling whole lamb and firing the portable brick pizza ovens.

Of course, should anyone get bored with the offerings outside, or just get overheated, there was plenty to do inside the perfectly chilled wine warehouse next door. Auctions lots which would be a part of the main Live http://www.vinography.com/archives/images/umbrellas-thumb.jpgAuction on Saturday night were on display, along with a whole set of lots which were part of the E-auction which began online several weeks ago.

And then there was the wine. 100 different barrel lots were available for tasting, and these were auctioned off over the course of the day, 1 case at a time, in a not-so-silent auction staffed with a host of blue-aproned volunteers that must have just returned from cheerleading camp with their noisemakers, peppy music, and coordinated dance moves.

Apart from the food, of which Ruth and I ate far too much, these barrel lots were the main attraction of the day, as http://www.vinography.com/archives/images/barrels-thumb.jpg they represented an incredible cross sectional view of 2004 (with a little 2005 thrown in) Napa Cabernet. Of course, these wines were not ordinary wines -- each was a special, often unique, barrel selected (or sometimes even created) just for this auction. Unfortunately for you, dear reader, there's no chance of getting your hands on these specific wines unless you were there to bid (though in some cases, the wines are nearly identical to the wineries' normal release wines).

Even for those wines which do not resemble what will eventually be bottled and sold to us mere mortals, these wines provide an excellent indication of two things -- the quality of the vintage from the standpoint of Cabernet http://www.vinography.com/archives/images/volunteers-thumb.jpg(which I rate as very high) as well as a sense of what the winemaker or winemaking team at any particular producer is capable of when they really try. I often use my notes from these tastings to guide my store purchases, or my decisions of who to visit and taste with the next time I'm in the valley. Whether they are as useful to you, or simply brain candy, I hope you enjoy the fruits of an afternoon's worth of tasting.

As an FYI -- tickets to this event are sold separately every year (the price this year was $200 per person) but sell out quickly after release. Keep an eye out next May for the event schedule and an opportunity to partake in this portion or the full package of events around the auction weekend.

TASTING NOTES (all wines from Napa -- sub appellations are noted where appropriate):

2004 Lang and Reed Wine Company "Right Bank" Blend CF/CS/PV/ME" Napa Valley. Score:9.5/10
2004 Pride Mountain Vineyards "Vintner Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9.5/10

2004 Cain Vineyard & Winery "Cain Five" Cabernet Blend, Napa Valley. Score:9.5
2004 Carver Sutro Wines "Palisades Vineyard" Petite Sirah, Calistoga. Score:9.5
2004 Chimney Rock Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Score:9.5
2004 Cliff Lede Vineyards "Poetry" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Score:9.5
2004 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. Score:9.5
2003 D.R. Stephens Estate "Moose Valley Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Score:9.5
2004 Dominari "Gaudeamus Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9.5
2004 Luna Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9.5
2004 O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. Score:9.5
2004 Peacock Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Score:9.5
2004 Rudd Oakville Estate Bordeaux Blend, Oakville. Score:9.5
2004 Shafer Vineyards "Hillside Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Score:9.5
2004 Stonegate "P.C. Auction Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot, Napa Valley. Score:9.5

2004 Baldacci Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Bennett Lane Winery "Atchley Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Score:9/9.5
2005 Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyards "Tinto Classico, Old Vines Field Blend" Red Wine, Oakville. Score:9/9.5
2005 CE2V "Secret Clone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Clos Pegase "Artist Series Reserve Hommage" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Cosentino Winery "Hoopes Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:9/9.5
2004 CrauforD Wines "Tattoo" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Cuvaison Estate Wines Malbec, Mount Veeder. Score:9/9.5
2004 Downing Family Vineyards "Two Barrel Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Chiles Valley District. Score:9/9.5
2004 Ehlers Estate "1886" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Score:9/9.5
2004 Frank Family Vineyards "Winston Hill, Block 5" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Score:9/9.5
2004 Frazier Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Hill Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Joseph Phelps Vineyards "Insignia, Auction Reserve" Proprietary Red Blend, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Keenan Winery Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Score:9/9.5
2004 Kuleto Estate Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Laird Family Estate "Dyer Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blend, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Louis M. Martini Winery "Lot #1" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Markham Vineyards "Reserve/Markham Yountville Ranch" Merlot, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Mount Veeder Winery "Rosenquist Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Score:9/9.5
2004 Provenance Vineyards "Beckstoffer's Tokalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:9/9.5
2004 Rocca Family Vineyards "Yountville Reserve" Syrah, Yountville. Score:9/9.5
2004 Rombauer Vineyards "Proprietors Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, St Helena & Atlas Peak. Score:9/9.5
2004 Salvestrin Vineyards & Winery "Salvestrin Estate Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Score:9/9.5
2004 Sawyer Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Score:9/9.5
2004 Signorello Vineyards "Padrone Finest Barrel" Cabernet Blend, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Spelletich Cellars "Bodog Red" Red Blend, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 Sullivan Vineyards "Coeur de Vigne" Meritage Blend, Rutherford. Score:9/9.5
2004 Terra Valentine "Estate/Yverdon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Score:9/9.5
2004 Turnbull Wine Cellars "Black Label Red Wine" Meritage, Oakville. Score:9/9.5
2005 Viader Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5
2004 William Hill Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9/9.5

2004 Andretti Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Bighorn Cellars "Coombsville Vineyard Old Vines" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Cafaro Cellars "Joe Cafaro" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Clark-Claudon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Conn Creek Winery "Collins" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena - Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Duckhorn Vineyards "Estate Grown Auction Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Dutch Henry Winery "Reserve/Chafen Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Emilio's Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:9
2004 Flora Springs Wine Company "Holy Smoke" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:9
2004 Folie a Deux Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Hall "Estate - Ancient Riverbed" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2005 Hartwell Vineyards "Estate/Sweet Spot 100%" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Score:9
2005 HDV "Hyde Vineyard" Chardonnay, Carneros. Score:9
2004 The Hess Collection Winery "Mount Veeder Cuveé - C.S.M." Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah/ Malbec, Mount Veeder. Score:9
2004 Judd's Hill "Wonderous 2004" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley. Score:9
2005 Longfellow Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Merryvale Vineyards "Profile" Red Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Monticello Vineyards "Corley" Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley. Score:9
2005 Oakville Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:9
2004 Paradigm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:9
2004 Paraduxx "Rector Creek Vineyard" Zinfandel/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, Yountville. Score:9
2005 Round Pond Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Score:9
2004 Silverado Vineyards "SOLO" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Score:9
2004 St. Clement Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2005 Stags' Leap Winery "Estate Grown - Best Barrel" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Score:9
2004 Sterling Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9
2004 Stonehedge Winery "Stagecoach Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:9

2004 Amici Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford & Saint Helena. Score:8.5/9
2004 Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards "Estate Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2005 Artesa Winery "Coriolis - Estate" Pinot Noir, Carneros. Score:8.5/9
2004 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2004 Beaulieu Vineyard "Clone 6 from BV Vineyard #2" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Score:8.5/9
2004 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2004 Far Niente "Stelling Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:8.5/9
2004 GustavoThrace Winery "Galleron Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Score:8.5/9
2004 Honig Vineyard & Winery "Bartolucci Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2004 J. Davies Vineyards "The Double J" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain Distict. Score:8.5/9
2004 Jones Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2004 Long Meadow Ranch "Church Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2005 Nickel & Nickel "Sullenger Vineyard, River Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:8.5/9
2004 Robert Pecota Winery "Wedding Oak Block" Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga. Score:8.5/9
2004 Soñador Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2004 St. Supery Vineyards & Winery "Elu Red" Meritage, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2004 Summers Winery Villa "Andriana Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5/9
2004 Swanson Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Score:8.5/9
2004 Trinchero Winery "Main Street Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Score:8.5/9

2004 Beringer Vineyards "St. Helena Home Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Score:8.5
2005 Bouchaine Vineyards "Auction Reserve" Pinot Noir, Carneros. Score:8.5
2005 Domaine Chandon "Duet" Pinot Noir / Pinot Meunier, Carneros. Score:8.5
2004 Ilsley Vineyards Red Wine Blend, Stags Leap District. Score:8.5
2004 Miner Family Vineyards "The Oracle" Bordeaux-Style Red Blend, Napa Valley. Score:8.5
2004 Reynolds Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Score:8.5
2004 Truchard Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Carneros. Score:8.5
2003 ZD Wines Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Score:8.5

2005 Freemark Abbey "Bosché Block 4 Triple Sorted" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Score:8/8.5
2004 Zahtila Vineyards "Beckstoffer Vineyards, Georges III" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Score:8/8.5

Comments (5)

Tyler wrote:
06.05.06 at 11:38 AM

It's nice to see Luna Vineyards high up on your list. They've just recently added Cabernet to their repertoire, and from what I've heard (and tasted) this is a good thing. Not sure if they plan on releasing Cabernet as a single varietal or not, but signs point to yes.

Matt wrote:
06.06.06 at 3:18 PM

It'd be interesting to find out what the retail pricing will be on these bottlings and calculate a QPR...

Alder wrote:
06.06.06 at 3:20 PM

Matt, I'd say 75% of these will never see retail. If you're curious about one of them I'd suggest googling the winery and checking their suggested retail price for the normal bottling.

Courtney wrote:
06.08.06 at 11:32 AM

Alder,

Thanks for taking all these notes on the barrel samples. There were too many for me to tackle! Very nice, and I didn't realize Thomas Keller himself was there! Doh!

Courtney

Anonymous wrote:
09.17.06 at 5:20 PM

I think it 's spelled Sonador cabernet sauvignon.

The '02, and '3 are easily 9 material

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