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06.09.2007

California's Best 2005 Cabernet: Tasting Auction Napa Valley 2007

anv07_logo.gifThis weekend is both one of the best weekends to be in the Napa Valley and also one of the worst. Just try driving anywhere on Highway 29 if you don't believe me, but before you test out my claim, please pack 1-2 days worth of food and water -- I don't want to be responsible for your needless death of starvation or dehydration while you're stuck in traffic until Monday.

If you happen to have already made to to the little hamlet of St. Helena, or if you're fortunate enough to live in Napa and are not one of the locals that is barricading themselves indoors this weekend to avoid the throng, then welcome to the weekend of Auction Napa Valley, and the bounty that it has to offer.

Auction Napa Valley is THE event in Napa. It's the Olympics, it's the Indy 500, it's Wimbledon, it's Cannes, it's the MTV Music awards of wine. Napa holds two large auctions every year, the first, Premiere Napa Valley is an insider event that is casual, intimate, and focused on the wine trade and media. The benefits of that auction go to support http://www.vinography.com/archives/images/anv07_barrels-thumb.jpgthe organization behind all these festivities, the Napa Valley Vintners Association (think of them as the Screen Actor's Guild of Napa wine -- you can succeed without being a member, but when pretty much every major star is a part of the organization, it takes a pretty contrarian streak to not join yourself). The second auction, Auction Napa Valley which is taking place as you read this, is just the opposite of Premiere Napa Valley. If Premiere is intimate, low key, and relaxed, Auction Napa Valley is over-the-top, glamorous, gaiety for big spenders and celebrities (of both the viticultural and Hollywood varieties) alike.

If the proceeds of the auction didn't go to charity, the whole thing would be a scandalously outrageous display of largesse, but as it is, the auction donates tens of millions of dollars a year to Northern Californian charities in the health, education, and employment opportunity space among other things. And in the process, they throw one hell of a party.

One of the highlights of the weekend, is an auction of over 100 lots of 10 case batches of wine, which attendees bid on one case at a time during a sunny afternoon festival and picnic in St. Helena. This auction took place yesterday, and while everyone else was bidding on barrels, wandering around sampling gourmet food from all of Napa's top restaurants including The French Laundry (which was handing out Gazpacho Snow Cones with Poached Shrimp, of all things) I was busy tasting every single wine on offer.

What else is new?

The wines that are offered up for auction are usually barrel selections of a given winery's top wine or one of their smaller production wines that don't see much public release. As such, these are unique wines that represent perhaps the best single barrel of several that would be blended together to make a wine that would be released to the general public. Consequently, these wines, especially taken as a group, offer a fair representation of the best that a given vintage has to offer in Napa, which is the primary reason that I'm always interested and enthused to taste through them.

So that's what I was doing most of the day yesterday, while I played hooky from work (sometimes it's nice to be the boss). I didn't stay for the entire auction, so I'm not sure what the top lots were, but when I left, the 10 case lot of Shafer's wine was going for over $10,000 per case. Yes, that's right, nearly $1000 per bottle. I'm betting that it ended up more like $15,000 per case. This is also, as you can see, a fairly interesting spectator sport.

But without further ado, here are my tasting notes from yesterday's barrel auction. The 2005 vintage for Napa Cabernet looks solid -- good structure, good acid, and generally good tannin management, although some wines did end up on the tannic side. Most of these wines will not be released until at least March of 2008, with many being released in September 2008 or later, but nearly all will be commercially available in some form (i.e. not as special selections but as their normal releases).

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5

2005 Blackbird Vineyards Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Cliff Lede Vineyards "Poetry" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Ramian Estate "Ramian Chapter 5" Bordeaux Blend, Mount Veeder
2005 Rudd "Oakville Estate" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley

WINES SCORING BETWEEN 9 and 9.5

2005 Cain Vineyard & Winery "Cain Five" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 D.R. Stephens Estate "Moose Valley Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Ehlers Estate "1886" Bordeaux Blend, St. Helena
2005 Flora Springs Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2006 Frazier Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2006 HDV Chardonnay, Los Carneros
2005 Howell Mountain Vineyards "Beatty Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon "C abernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Ilsley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 J. Davies Vineyards "Jack's Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District
2005 Jones Family Vineyards "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Laird Family Estate "Mast Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Louis M. Martini Winery "Lot 1" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Luna Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Monticello Vineyards "CORLEY" Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley
2005 O'Brien Estate "Seduction" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Peju "Schatzi" Bordeaux Blend, Rutherford
2005 Pride Mountain Vineyards "Vintners Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Sawyer Cellars "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Shafer Vineyards "Hillside Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Silverado Vineyards "SOLO" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Sterling Vineyards "SVR" Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Stewart Cellars "Blend of Beck 4, Stagecoach, State Lane" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Volker Eisele Family Estate Bordeaux Blend, Chiles Valley District
2006 Hall "Sacrashe Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2005 Ahnfeldt Wines Merlot, Napa Valley
2005 Baldacci Family Vineyards "Heirloom" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Bighorn Cellars Meritage, Napa Valley
2005 Bravante Vineyards "Simpatico" Bordeaux Blend, Howell Mountain
2005 Brookdale Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Carver Sutro Wines Petite Sirah, Napa Valley
2005 Clark-Claudon Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Cosentino Winery "Secret Clone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Cuvaison Estate Wines Malbec, Mount Veeder
2005 Emilio's Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Hartwell Vineyards "Essencia" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2006 Honig Vineyard & Winery "Bartolucci Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Judd's Hill "Wonderous 2005" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Kuleto Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Longfellow Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Miner Family Vineyards "The Oracle" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Napa Cellars Syrah, Napa Valley
2006 Oakville Ranch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2005 Paraduxx "Howell Mountain Cuvee" Blend, Howell Mountain
2006 Parallel Wines "Estate Best of Best" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Provenance Vineyards "Tokalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Reynolds Family Winery "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Rocca Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Rombauer Vineyards "Stice Lane Block D Submerged Cap Fermentation" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Round Pond Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Saintsbury "Brown Ranch" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2005 Spelletich Cellars "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Stags' Leap Winery "Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
2005 Terra Valentine "Yverdon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2005 William Hill Estate "Reserve Silverado Bench Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Signorello Vineyards "Padrone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


WINES SCORING BETWEEN 8.5 and 9

2005 Amici Cellars "Jericho Canyon" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Andretti Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Atlas Peak "Claret" Bordeaux Blend, Atlas Peak
2005 Beaulieu Vineyard "BV#2" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
2005 Bennett Lane "Lynch Family Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Beringer Vineyards "Bancroft Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Bouchaine Vineyards "Silver Anniversary Reserve" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2006 Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyards Cabernet Franc, St. Helena
2006 Chateau Montelena Winery "Montelena Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Clos Du Val Wine Co., Ltd. "JC Concerto" Bordeaux Blend, Stags Leap District
2005 Duckhorn Vineyards "Rector Creek Cuvee" Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2006 Folie a Deux Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Freemark Abbey "Josephine" Bordeaux Blend, St. Helena
2005 Hess Collection Winery, The Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2005 John Anthony Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
2005 Mount Veeder Winery "Rosenquist Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
2006 Newton Vineyard "The Puzzle" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Nickel & Nickel "Dragonfly Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2005 Paradigm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2006 Robert Mondavi Winery "40th Anniversary Cuvée, To Kalon Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Robert Pecota Winery "Wedding Oak" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Soñador Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 St. Supery Vineyards & Winery "Elu" Meritage, Napa Valley
2005 Stonehedge Winery "Stagecoach Vineyards" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Swanson Vineyards & Winery "Schmidt Ranch, Block A" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
2005 Truchard Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 ZD Wines "Rosa Lee" Syrah/Shiraz, Napa Valley

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5

2006 Artesa Winery "Coriolis" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2005 Clos Pegase "Hommage Artist Series Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Conn Creek Winery "Founders Block - Collins Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
2006 Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2005 Dutch Henry Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2006 Madonna Estate Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
2006 Merryvale Vineyards "Profile" Bordeaux Blend, Napa Valley
2005 Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 St. Clement Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Sullivan Vineyards "Coeur de Vigne" Bordeaux Blend, Rutherford
2005 Trinchero Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2005 Turnbull Wine Cellars "Black Label" Bordeaux Blend, Oakville
2005 William Cole Vineyards "Cuvee Claire" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8

2006 Dominari "Riserva" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Comments (3)

Ryan Fujiu wrote:
06.11.07 at 7:52 AM

Alder, "Over the top" is an understatement. You know its Auction Napa Valley, when Thomas Keller hands you a shrimp snow cone. Ben and I were blessed with media passes and got the full experience. If any of your readers can only go to one event all year, this should be it. The wines were amazing and the food was just as good. Everything about Auction NV is first class.

Tim McDonald wrote:
06.11.07 at 9:47 AM

Alder, Wow! 100+ tastes at a venue where you have to work at it because of all the distractions. I agree that if a winefan could only go to one event all year, this one is it. Nice to see that you tasted the best Chardonnay there...even if it might have been the only one. As you point out, it is also an amazing fund raiser that gives nearly all of the proceeds to various worthy charities and one heck of a party. See you there next year! Great recap...Cheers till next time. Tim

Alder wrote:
06.11.07 at 9:51 AM

Definitely the ONLY chardonnay.

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