Sunday, March 19, 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon – the Classic Red Wine

by Frank Mangio
In Napa Valley , the reviews are in for the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon harvest.  The judgment  is this is the 5th consecutive year of  exceptional wine grapes for this iconic varietal. The only regret is they didn’t get enough fruit due to 5 years of drought conditions. Well, as a Calilfornian, I can assure all that in 2017, all of our wineries will be producing more than enough wine grapes this year. The drought is over!

 For the last 12 years of writing on wine, I have marveled at how Cabernet  Sauvignon has dominated the world of wine.  With the exception of the terrible years of the” Great Recession,” Cab producers have cranked up prices and its adoring public has bought more and more.  California and Washington are America ’s Cab capitals, emulating the French Bordeaux style cabs that are the reverential  kings of the castle.  If I asked my readers for a show of hands as to whether

The 2012 vintage Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
has been just released to rave reviews.

Cabernet is their favorite red wine, it would be Cabernet overwhelmingly.  Cabernet buyers base their purchases on the optimistic notion  that there is a greater Cabernet just over the horizon, and that perfection is just ahead with the next brand discovery, unlike most other wine varietals.  What other varietal would be so coddled and prized in a cooler for several years, maybe a decade, before being carefully opened at a birthday, anniversary or other special event.

Cabernet is one of the most tannic of red wines. The skins need aging for a certain power and elegance in the “royal” wineries that  know how to get the most out of these complex wines.  The   Napa  “country club” lineup would include:  Silver Oak, Lewis, Far Niente, Opus One, Caymus, Harlan, Hall, Joseph Carr, Chappellet, Joseph Phelps, Screaming Eagle, Shrader and Grgich in Napa Valley .  In Washington, turn to Leonetti, Pepper Bridge and Columbia Crest premiums.

The greatest vineyard producing California Cab would be To Kalon vineyard in Napa ’s Oakville , where grapes go for upwards of $60,000. a ton.  It is where Opus One is harvested, along with other very high- end Cabs.

New Cabernet releases are celebrated in Napa Valley about this time of year.  One of my contributing writers just returned from events at Far Niente and Silver Oak.  Both are estate bottled Cabernets. The 2014 Far Niente ($160.) and the 2012 Silver Oak ($125.) were both critically acclaimed.

Far Niente of Napa Valley celebrated its new release 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon at the luxurious Meritage Resort in Napa .  From left:  Executive Chef Dana Hicks, guest chef Miller McRae,
and Far Niente winemaker Nicole Marchesi.

The 2015 Far Niente was offered directly from the barrel and showed complexity and elegance. Winemaker Nicole Marchesi has crafted her talents at Far Niente since 2005 and has been chief winemaker since 2009, working with the vineyard sites and blocks to capture place and vintage excellence.

The Silver Oak release party was, as always, an original event at their Oakville winery.  It was a celebratory day of new release Cabernet, food pairings and bottle signings with the proprietors, the Duncan family. Oakville is considered central to Napa Valley world-class Cabs. Over 80 wineries dot the district with over 5 thousand acres under vine including Silver Oak and Far Niente.  Others include Heitz Cellars, Paradigm, Plumpjack, Girard, Nickel and Nickel, Turnbull, Ramey, Screaming Eagle, Cakebread, Bay, Opus One and Robert Mondavi.

You can almost always get a Cabernet  Sauvignon in a blend as most Napa Valley blends are Bordeaux style, which mandates a Cab as lead varietal.  If an authentic single vineyard 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is your style, be prepared to pay up for the real deal. Visit and

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