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02.26.2012

Napa's Best Cabernet: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2012

auction.jpgIt looks like the California wine industry is officially out of the recession. Yesterday, at the annual Premiere Napa Valley wine auction, the Napa Valley Vintners Association cleaned up, earning a total of $3.1 million, a gain of 31% from 2011's total. As usual, the auction featured 200 unique wines, most from the 2010 vintage, which were sold to raise funds for the organization. These wines are made solely for the auction in quantities of 5, 10, or 20 cases, and often represent the highest quality wine that each producer can make.

For anyone (such as myself) with no aspirations of buying fairly expensive, very unique wines, the primary point of interest lies in the tasting held before the auction, where these two hundred barrel lots are made available for members of the trade and the media to sample.

So what's the good in me tasting wines that most won't be able to buy, let alone drink for some time? As I swoon over some of these wines, I often ask myself the same question.

Some of these wines can actually be purchased by the public, though they require persistence to track down, plus a cavalier attitude towards the price of wine (the top grossing auction lot yesterday was 5 cases of wine from DANA estates, sold at $70,000, or $1167 per bottle).

In recent years, the Napa Valley Vintners Association has been making a concerted effort to give the public access to these wines, and as a result, interested parties can look up the winning bidders on the auction site, and see which lots may be sold by the winning bidders.

If you're like me, however, you probably can't afford a single bottle of even the lowest priced wines from this event, so really, apart from offering a ringside view on the uppermost echelon of California wine buying, the Premiere Napa Valley auction provides three main pnv.jpginsights:

1. The measure of demand strength for the luxury end of the Napa wine industry
2. A gauge of the quality of wine that a large number of Napa producers can make when they really try
3. A broad sense of the qualities of a particular vintage -- in this case, 2010

I attend every year for these insights, along with the fantastic food and laid-back camaraderie that accompanies the event.

The bidding action was strong from the earliest auction lots and continued through a strong finish. The demand for what Napa has to offer is clearly strong, and to the extent that the winning bidders represent folks that will be re-selling these wines, the size of the bids and the overall proceeds from the auction represent a clear assessment of where the market is going for Napa wine. If I were a winemaker in Napa, I'd feel pretty good about the results.

But let's talk about something more interesting, which is what these ultra-special wines might tell us about the quality of many regular bottlings that are due to hit the market in 12 to 24 months. What does the 2010 vintage taste like? For those who know what they were doing, in a word: beautiful. While the somewhat challenging vintage offered a wild ride -- a desperately cold and wet spring followed by a cool summer, punctuated by August heat spikes and then capped off by rain during the harvest -- the fruit that didn't succumb to shatter, botrytis, mildew, rot, or sunburn seemed to fare very well. The best wines have a wonderful bright acidity, juicy floral fruit, and vibrant deep colors. Managing tannins seemed to be somewhat of a challenge for some, with some wines suffering from thick, rigid tannins that dried the mouth and were clearly out of balance. Those that farmed and vinified well, however, were rewarded with smooth, supple tannins that, combined with the excellent acidity, promise wonderful aging potential for many 2010 wines.

In summary, I'm quite excited about the 2010 vintage, though clearly the year provided the opportunity for some potentially challenged wines if vintners didn't keep careful tabs on their fruit.

The Premiere barrel tasting is quite a marathon, especially for a guy like me who sets out to taste literally every single one of the 200 wines on offer each year. This year I took the time to taste several of the auction lots on the day prior to the auction, which didn't do much to change the event from being a several-hour-long slog through a lot of big wines, but it did allow me to actually make brief tasting notes for each of the wines, instead of my normal recording of scores for most wines and a few random notes for my favorites.

So below I offer my notes on all 200 of the barrel lots. These notes are rapid, initial impressions, not carefully considered tasting notes, so please appreciate them for what they are.

Tasting Notes

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
1996 Schramsberg Vineyards" J. Schram Late Disgorged" Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley
Nutty, yeasty, juicy, explosive, lemon, gorgeous


2010 Lail Vineyards "Henry III" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright, explosively juicy, cherry, gorgeous, lush, really well balanced, faint tannins

2010 Barbour Vineyards "Man Cave Blend III" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Gorgeous, dark fruit, mysterious

2010 Kapcsandy Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
Beautiful, balanced lush, bright, juicy, lean, taut,long

2010 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Bright, juicy, explosive fruit, gorgeous acidity

2010 Levy & McClellan Red Wine, Napa Valley
Rich, gorgeous, smooth tannins, cherry, plum, dark, woody finish

2010 Ovid Napa Valley "Hexameter" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Gorgeous plush,hint of sweetness, really powerful, lovely

2010 PlumpJack Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Pure cherry, bright, explosive, gorgeous, totally awesome. Long cedar notes. Best wine ever from PJ?

2010 Schrader "Double Diamond Never Ever Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Gorgeously rich, rich dark fruit, lovely cherry, plum, stunning

2010 Arietta "Against the Grain" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Beautiful, mix of cherry with a hint of bell pepper, gorgeous

2010 Lewis Cellars "Best of the Best Premiere Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Sweet, but not too sweet, rich, ripe lush, gorgeous powdery tannins


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2010 Clos Du Val "JG's Joie de Vin" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Nutty, dark berry cherry fruit, smooth stony, restrained, lovely graphite dirt, cherry

2010 Robert Mondavi Winery "To Kalon Vineyard, Monastery Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Bright pure clean, lovely, perfectly balanced, long, juicy. Yum

2010 PATEL Napa Valley Malbec, Yountville
Sweet luscious fruit, gorgeous fine tannins, very beautiful

2010 Realm Cellars "PNV Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rich, smooth tannins, core of black cherry, supple, big, powerful

2010 Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyard "Oakville Farmhouse Historic Blend" Red Wine, Oakville
Wonderful earthy, cherry, blackberry, juicy, nutty, very nice, very unique

2010 The Hess Collection Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
Gorgeous acidity, yummy dark fruit, supple tannin, stunner

2010 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Chiles Valley District
Juicy dark, bright, cherry, plum, cedar, lovely acidity

2010 Tournesol Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright juicy bold, gorgeous fruit, great acidity, lovely

2010 Farella-Park Vineyards "Terrace Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright gorgeous fruit, cherry, plum, great acid. More new oak than I would like, but well integrated

2010 Parallel Napa Valley "Fortune Teller" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Gorgeously bright, juicy, lean, lovely tannins, great acidity, power and restraint. Delicious

2010 Continuum Estate Red Wine, Napa Valley
Beautiful, balanced, bright

2010 Coup De Foudre "The Lightning Bolt Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Gorgeous, bright juicy, lovely cherry and plum, long fine tannins

2010 Chappellet Vineyard and Winery "Heaven on the Hill" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright juicy pure cherry, taut tannins

2010 Newton Vineyard "The Puzzle" Red Wine, Spring Mountain District
Lush plummy scents, dark cherry and chocolate fruit. Sweet oak and a long finish. Luscious

2010 Peter Paul Wines "Magic Mountain" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Juicy, bright, cedar, cool, wet stone, lovely

2010 TOR Kenward Family Wines "2010 TOR Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer To Kalon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Gorgeous bright cherry, juicy supple tannins, lovely long, cedar, tobacco on finish

2010 Corison Winery "Premiere Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright juicy, cherry, balanced, lovely, lean, wet stone quality

2010 Rocca Family Vineyards "Grigsby Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
Eucalyptus/mint chocolate, pretty, delicious

2010 Buoncristiani Family Winery "The Quattro" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Juicy, bright lush cherry cassis, great acidity

2010 Shafer Vineyards "Sunspot Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Incredibly bright, juicy fruit, lovely, lush, supple tannins

2010 Anomaly Vineyards "Ode to Ollie" Red Wine, St. Helena
Bright chocolaty plum and cherry, soft suede tannins, juicy, yum

2010 Ladera Vineyards "Two Mountains" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Floral, juicy, bright cherry, great acid

2010 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Bright juicy, great purity, length lovely, suede tannins

2010 VHR Vine Hill Ranch "Assessment" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Cassis, juicy, bright, very fine tannins, cherry, cola. Lovely

2010 Blankiet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
Juicy bright lean, wet stone and earth with, supple tannins, yum

2011 Barnett Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
Grapey nose, bright juicy fruit. Fantastic acidity, cassis and black cherry. Faint oak signature and leathery tannins

2010 Stony Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Lean, even stony (duh), bright, cool, fine tannins, old school/old world

2010 Dana Estates Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rich black cherry, lush, very ripe, good acid, long, cedar, tobacco, smooth

2010 Inglenook "Niebaum Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Gorgeous dark fruit, lovely stony acidity, wet slate, yum

2010 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright, good acidity, juicy, long finish, tobacco, cedar, lovely, long. Supple tannins

2010 Hourglass "Five Element Theory" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright minty fruit, touch heavy on the oak but lovely and juicy

2010 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Juicy, bright, lean and lovely, cherry, plum, supple tannins

2010 Derenoncourt California "A Tale of Two Terroirs" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rich dark cherry, cassis, nice tannins, lovely


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2010 Erba Mountainside Vineyards "Clonal Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Cool, earthy fruit, bright, lean very pretty

2010 Antica Napa Valley - Antinori Family Wine Estate "Antinori 1" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Lean cool fruit, nice earthy balance, old-world feel, lovely

2010 Hunnicutt Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
Hint of green bell paper, juicy bright cherry, plum, lovely tannins

2010 Coquerel Family Wine Estates Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Slightly sulfurous nose, bright, crisp, lean, lemon and apple. Tasty

2009 Spelletich Cellars "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright, rich juicy, cherry

2010 Martin Estate "Puerta Dorada Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Bell pepper, cherry, earth, old-school, fine tannins, lovely

2010 Louis M. Martini Winery "254 Series" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Drying tannins, pretty fruit, Lean, cool, long, nice

2010 Thirteen Appellations Red Wine, Napa Valley
Very pretty fruit cherry and plum, supple, muscular tannins

2010 Round Pond Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Super thick tannins around gorgeous dark fruit. A monster, but a good one

2010 Larkmead Vineyards "Best out of the Blocks" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Very pretty, bright, juicy fruit, lovely acids, muscular tannins

2010 Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Rich dark, supple tannins, cherry, dark

2010 PEJU "Wine Thief Cepage" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Dark chocolate and mint, sweet aromas. Yummy

2010 Terra Valentine "The Crown Jewel" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
Smooth, cherry, oak is heavy but well integrated, polished

2010 La Jota Vineyard Company Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Bright juicy fruit, cherry, plum, lovely tannins

2010 Renteria Wines "River Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Sweet nose, bright juicy, lovely, great acid

2010 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
Gorgeous dark fruit, powdery tannins, long great acidity

2010 Textbook "OMG it's good (but don't tell anyone it's Merlot)" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Lush, juicy, plummy, spiciness, suede tannins, yummy

2010 Coho "Michael Black Vineyard " Merlot, Napa Valley
Bright juicy lovely

2010 The Vineyardist Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Bright dark fruit, clean, nice velvet tannin, smooth

2009 Spring Mountain Vineyard "Elivette's Sister" Red Wine, Spring Mountain District
Heavy graphite and new oak on nose, lush seamless cherry fruit, long, aromatic sweetness

2010 Pride Mountain Vineyards "Cuvée des Quatre Cépages" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Cedar and cherry give way to wet dirt and dust. Core of cherry, dusty tannins

2010 Detert Family Vineyards "East Block 30-Year-Old Vines" Cabernet Franc, Oakville
Beautiful nose, bright juicy fruit, lovely plummy, cola, cherry. Great. Slight heat on finish

2010 Paradigm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Black cherry, lush, bright, balanced, lovely hint of dirt

2010 Vineyard 29 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rich black cherry, aggressive tannins, chocolate, rich, needs lots of time

2010 Laird Family Estate Red Wine, Napa Valley
Bright cherry, dark thick tannins, cedar

2010 VinRoc Wine Caves "Koko's Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak
Juicy, bright, cherry and plum

2010 Vineyard 7 & 8 "Collaboration" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Nice vegetal note amidst cherry and cocoa powder

2010 Porter Family Vineyards "Duet" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Juicy bright, lovely fruit, tight tannins

2010 Hill Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Dark cherry, bright fruit, stiff tannins

2010 Fontanella Family Winery "Lokoya Road" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
Rich dark cherry, smooth tannins, great acidity

2010 Signorello Estate "Cuvee Athena" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright juicy, thick tannins, cherry

2010 Clos Pegase "Antipodes" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Sweet fruit, cherry, bright, juicy

2010 Boeschen Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Bright cherry, lush but not overripe, juicy

2010 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Creamy cherry chocolate, supple tannins

2010 Mi Sueño Winery "Seleccion Herrera" Red Wine, Napa Valley
A bit sweet, bright, juicy, rich and ripe

2010 Patland Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Juicy cherry, cedar, thick tannins

2011 Ancien Wines "Selection Massale" Pinot Noir, Napa Valley
Juicy, balanced, raspberry, bright, fine tannins

2010 O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Bright, juicy, cherry and cedar, nice long, lean

2010 Somerston "Gauntlet" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark juicy, cassis, velvet tannins that have strong attack on finish, good acidity

2010 Chimney Rock Winery "Tomahawk Vineyard Tete de Cuvée Unfiltered" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Bright juicy fruit, new oak presence, smooth, bright, yummy, long, polished

2010 Cornerstone Cellars "The Premiere Cornerstone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright juicy, cherry and cedar, elegant

2010 Chateau Boswell Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Cassis and dark chocolate cherry, good acidity, light spiciness

2010 Bressler Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Juicy, dark cherry, great acids, bright, well integrated oak

2010 Buehler Vineyards "Kindly Well" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Sour cherry, cedar, bright acids

2009 Promise Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Bright cherry cola, muscular tannins

2010 Darioush Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Cherry core, cool, taut

2010 David Arthur Vineyards "XXXI" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Very ripe, bright and juicy

2010 Nickel & Nickel "State Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
Bright juicy, drying tannins

2009 Tuck Beckstoffer Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark fruit, rich, nice acidity

2010 HALL "Schweizer" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Bright, juicy, cocoa, cherry, smooth tannins

2011 Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier, Los Carneros
Juicy, raspberry, taut, fine tannins


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2010 Pine Ridge Vineyards "5x5" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Oaky, bright fruit, hint of sweetness, pure

2010 Ghost Block & Markham Vineyards Red Wine, Yountville
Cassis, dark ripe fruit, rich, light tannin, sweetness

2010 Kitchak Cellars "Silverado Bench Symphony" Merlot, Napa Valley
Plummy, darker fruit, nice supple tannins

2010 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "XL" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Juicy, cool, bright, lean

2010 St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery "Rutherford Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark fruit, cocoa, nice tannins, cool fruit

2010 Beringer Vineyards "Home Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Dark fruit, grippy tannins, tobacco, long

2010 Honig Vineyard & Winery "Westside Trio" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Juicy dark fruit, pretty aggressive tannins

2010 Conn Creek Winery "Howellin' For You" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Sweet fruit, thick tannins

2010 Twomey Cellars "SoCaRaNa" Merlot, Napa Valley
Smooth, thick tannins around core of dark fruit, pretty, brooding

2010 Long Meadow Ranch Winery "LW Block" Merlot, Napa Valley
Bell pepper, cherry, plum, elegant, pretty

2010 St. Clement Vineyards "Paras Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
Darker fruit, back cherry, drying tannins, pretty

2010 Moone-Tsai "To Kalon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Very ripe, somewhat sweet, lush, powdery tannins, chalky

2010 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rich cherry plum, thick- peanut butter thick - tannins

2010 Oberon Wines "Three Elevations" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Ripe, drying tannins, dark cherry and plum

2011 Saintsbury "Brown Ranch" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
Bright raspberry and leaf-stem, juicy, earthy, fine tannis

2010 Casa Piena and Jones Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Sweet, lush, bright fruit, a bit too sweet, but super juicy

2010 Oakville East Exposure "The Sun and The Moon" Cabernet Franc, Oakville
Heavy oak on nose gives way to bright juicy cherry and raspberry, good acid, drying tannins

2010 PureCru Napa Valley "Return of the Secret Clone" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright, fruity

2010 John Anthony Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
Crazy blueberry explosion. Never tasted more blueberry in a wine. To the point of being a little bizarre, but the fruit is tasty

2010 Blackbird Vineyards Proprietary Red Wine, Napa Valley
Bright juicy, cedar, thick tannins

2010 Arkenstone Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Howell Mountain
Sweet, bright fruit

2009 XTANT "Dirt Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Lovely fruit, bright juicy acidity, heavy new oak. Too bad, would rate much higher with less oak

2010 Clark-Claudon Vineyards "Wisdom Maker" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark, brooding, thick tannins, cassis

2010 Ahnfeldt Wines "Quid Pro Quo V" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rich cherry, heavy oak, but nice

2010 Cliff Lede Vineyards "Dream Hill" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Lush cherry, chocolate, powdery tannins

2010 Monticello Vineyards "The Tributary" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Nice herbal, hint of farmyard, cherry, plush tannins, cedar

2010 Groth Vineyards & Winery "Sweet Spot" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Ripe cassis, plush, tart and sweet (think of the candy), bitter finish

2010 Checkerboard Vineyards "Bear Hollow" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Overtly sweet, but gorgeous fruit, cherry

2010 Krupp Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark cherry, cedar, thick tannin

2010 Provenance Vineyards and Hewitt Vineyard Red Wine, Napa Valley
Slightly reduced? cherry fruit, cedar, thick tannin, goods acid

2010 Beaulieu Vineyard "Georges de Latour Private Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Bright, creamy cherry, thick tannins

2010 Tamber Bey "DCV Sandbox Blend I" Cabernet Franc, Yountville
Nutty, bright, floral, cherry-cedar, cocoa powder

2009 Howell at the Moon "Knoll Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Creaminess, cherry, cedar

2010 J. Davies Vineyards "Nopales Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District
Leaner, brown sugar and cherry, woodiness

2010 JAX Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Thick tannins, cassis

2010 Spotted Owl Vineyards "Kiss of Verdot" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
Dark fruit, cassis, juicy, stiff tannins

2010 Paoletti Estates Winery Malbec, Calistoga
Cassis, blueberry, bright

2010 von Strasser Winery "Rudy's Choice" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District
Bright, tart cherry, good acid

2009 Heitz Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Lean, sour cherry, anise, cedar, taut, cool

2010 William Hill Estate Winery "Bench Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Juicy cherry fruit, drying tannins

2010 Peacock Family Vineyard "The Shire" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
Juicy, bright cherry, cocoa powder

2010 Maroon Wines "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Sweet, very ripe, heavy new oak, but pretty

2010 BURLY "Kiss" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark cherry, thick tannins, smoky oak

2010 Montagna Napa Valley "The Freshman" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Drying tannins, good acid, lean, hint of bitterness

2010 Snowden Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley
Heavy oak, bright fruit, definitely too much oak, but lovely and bright

2010 Mount Veeder Winery "Slope 30" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder
Minty, cherry, herbal, thick tannin, good acids


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2010 Duckhorn Vineyards "Three Palms Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Tart cherry, cedar dark

2011 Grgich Hills Estate "Paris Tasting Commemorative" Chardonnay, Los Carneros
Nutty, vegetal, bright juicy,wet rock, chamomile, herbs

2009 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Slight funky smell, dark very oaky fruit. Aggressive tannins, drying

2010 Whitehall Lane "The Deep Six" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark cassis plum, oak, drying tannins

2010 Miner Family Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Bright plummy fruit, heavy drying oak tannins and wood flavor

2010 Reynolds Family Winery "Prize Fighter" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Darker cherry fruit, drying tannins, smooth, hint of bitterness

2010 Paraduxx "Rector Creek Vineyard" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Slight funk, core of plummy cherry, very drying tannins

2010 Oakville Ranch Vineyards "PURE Brilliance" Cabernet Franc, Oakville
Smells sweet, nutmeg, very ripe, muscular tannins

2010 Trinchero Napa Valley "Mountain to Mountain Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark cherry, drying tannins

2010 Silverado Vineyards "SOLO" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Plummy even blackberry fruit, leathery tannins

2011 Elyse Winery "Mixed Black" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Sweet nose, dark, unusual fruit character, sour note, chunky tannins

2010 Sawyer Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Oak-infused cherry, lots of new wood, drying tannins

2010 Gemstone Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville
Sweet, ultra ripe, gorgeous tannins, great black cherry fruit, but too sweet, hot finish

2010 Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
Cool, stony

2010 Titus Vineyards "Then and Now" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark and spicy, thick tannins

2010 Merryvale Vineyards "Schlatter Family Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Thick tannins, quite ripe

NV The Grade Cellars "A PhenomeNon-Vintage" Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Tart cherry, drying tannins

2010 Cakebread Cellars "Vaca Range Blend" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Smoky, graphite, heavy oak toast, cherry, a bit much wood

2010 Bennett Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Black cherry ,creamy, odd carob note

2011 Madonna Estate "Due Ragazze" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
Sweet raspberry, strong tannins, sweet

2010 Kenefick Ranch Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Tight tannins, cherry, bright, tart

2010 Frank Family Vineyards "Winston Hill Block 5 (Heart Block)" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Ripe, ripe, ripe. Drying tannins, cherry

2009 Kuleto Estate "Gatto Nero" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Unusual blend, dark juicy, not fully resolved

2010 Freemark Abbey "Wood Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Oaky cherry, cassis, blueberry, drying tannins

2011 Artesa Winery "Estate" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
Light, bright juicy raspberry, simpler

2009 Jarvis "Lake William" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Dark cherry, drying tannins, good acidity

2010 Sodaro Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Oaky fruit, drying tannins

2010 Charnu Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Bright cherry, drying tannins, heavy oak signature, tiny bit-o-heat on finish

2010 Terlato Family Vineyards "Rutherford Reflection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Dried fruit, cherry, figgy, bit-o-heat, cedar, leather

2010 Cimarossa "Poppy Flats" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Cherry, plum, drying tannins, tart

2010 Canard Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga
Uber-ripe, think tannins

2010 Faust "Le Démon de Midi" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Dark, ripe, oaky, but otherwise well made


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2010 Ballentine Vineyards Petit Verdot, St. Helena
Tart, dark cassis, thick tannins. Stunning color, but plain

2010 Amuse Bouche Winery Merlot, Napa Valley
Sweet oak, and more oak, too much!! overly dark fruit, drying mouthfeel

2010 Sequoia Grove Vineyards "Tonella Vineyard" Cabernet Franc, Rutherford
Bright juicy cherry fruit, long, tacky tannins, too heavy on oak

2010 Alpha Omega "Proprietary" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Oaky, with thick tannins. Overdone

2009 Dutch Henry Winery "Lost Dog" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Tart fruit, drying tannins

2010 Revana Family Vineyard "Premiere Cuvee" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena
Nutty, dusty, oaky nose, too much oak, cherry

2011 Truchard Vineyards Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
Reduced (?) nose, bright, raspberry, cedar

2010 Turnbull Wine Cellars "Number Nine" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Super-ripe, prune, cherry, thick

2010 Far Niente "Martin Stelling Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville
Heavy new oak, drying tannins, cherry and cedar. Too much wood

2011 Acacia Vineyard "Lone Tree Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros
Raspberry, cedar, wood

2010 Amici Cellars "Morisoli Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford
Super-ripe, drying tannins, oak

2010 ROY Estate "Voix Basse (a whisper)" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Ultra-ripe, black cherry, cassis, with hint of sweetness, but far prunier than I'd like

2010 Stags' Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District
Heavy tannin, cherry cedar, hot finish

2010 Raymond Vineyards "Evolution" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Cherry, oak (bit too much) cinnamon, leathery tannin, spicy

2010 Keenan Winery "Hard to Get." Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
Pungent, piney, sharp. Cherry, herbs

2010 Black Stallion Winery "Evolution" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Tart cherry, drying tannins

2010 Frias Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
Plummy, faint tannins. Good acid, somewhat plain


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2010 Flying Horse Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Raisiny, dried fruit. Drying tannins, bitter

2010 Tetra "Right Bank Blend" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Ultra ripe, ultra heavy extract, raisined

2010 Robert Craig Winery "Block Two" Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain
Drying tannins, not great.

2010 Rubissow "Hawkwind" Red Wine, Mount Veeder
Raisiny, all dried out

Non-Vintage ZD Wine "Petit Abacus" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Heavy, sweet oak and vanilla, caramel, too much

2009 Schweiger Vineyards Malbec, Spring Mountain District
Slightly sulfurous, cassis and burnt match heads, chocolate, but unfortunately probably in an awkward stage now. Might improve.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8
2010 Silver Oak Cellars "NaSoCaRa" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Oak totally excessive, obscures fruit

2010 Cain Vineyard & Winery "Francois'Pick: AxR Cain Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District
Funky nose (maybe brett!?) cherry, leather, barnyard tasting as well

2009 Hestan Vineyards "Stephanie" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Super-ripe, flabby, thick tannins

2010 Rutherford Hill Winery "Harmony" Red Wine, Napa Valley
Drying tannins, super-heavy oak, fruit overwhelmed

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.