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16 Jan 2024 | Jessica Martinez


Either there was something in the air on Friday January 19th, or I hit the jackpot as far as wines showing well at a tasting goes, because these Cabernets had such a powerful presence, they did most of the talking themselves.

The crowd was also amazing, warm, and they really appreciated and respected the wines that were featured.

I will say these wines had been opened at 2:30pm and almost all had been decanted around 5:30pm (with the exception of the Ghost Block and the Long Meadow Ranch) for optimal drinking before the tasting. For some of the wines, that was all they needed to be at peak drinking; others still showed they needed more time in the bottle to soften and come into their drinking windows. I will mention which wines were still a bit shut down and might need a few more years in the bottle before you start guzzling them down.

All in all, this lineup was for the true Cabernet Sauvignon lover and our tasting was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience. Showing wines of this caliber is never an easy feat and can go very wrong, so I thank the wine gods for smiling on us this night and giving us some real treats. 

The absolute standout for this line up was the 2019 Hourglass Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Yes, it was the most expensive wine poured that night but trust me, 9 times out of 10 it is not the most expensive wine at a tasting that will show the best. This wine, however, with proper storage (lives in our cellar-temp locked case) and decanting before tasting, it has hit a sweet spot. 

The other hit of the night was the Ghost Block 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon which is about half the price, if that says anything. The Ghost Block was at the opposite end of the spectrum with big dark brooding fruit and big grippy tannins.

Here are all of the wines that I featured at the tasting. I hope you find something that intrigues you! 

Long Meadow Ranch 2018  Rutherford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley $79.99

Owned by Ted, Laddie, and Christopher Hall, LMR employs an integrated, organic farming system, using simple, sustainable methods. Each part of the Ranch contributes to the health of the whole. Vineyards and wine making, olive orchards and olive oil making, cattle and horse breeding all work together in complementary fashion, as do the egg-laying poultry flock and the organic vegetable gardens. All crops are certified organic by California. Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and are grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. This wine beamed with dark fruit, blueberries, currants, and a supple minty spice on the entrance. The palate opened up with Dark dusty cocoa and graphite woven together with well integrated oak and tannin. My only note for this wine is that I regretted not decanting it before the tasting. The tannins were still very tightly wound up and could have been a bit more expressive. 

*Ghost Block 2020 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $80.99- ONE OF THE TOP PERFORMERS OF THE NIGHT 

A night of some of the best Cabernets you can get your hands on, this was one of my top performers and always is on my shelves. It was fun to get to see so many people finally get to try what I have been raving about with this wine for years. This Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of fruit sourced from their family-owned and organically farmed Rock Cairn vineyard. This property is characterized by deep, gravelly loam soil with a western exposure. The vines produce highly concentrated fruit late in the season and are typically the last picks of our harvest. Five blocks of Cabernet Sauvignon separated by age reside on this site, ranging from 5- to 35-year-old plantings. This provides an opportunity for capturing characteristics that are specific to vine age, creating a perfect blend to express this valuable site. In this particular vintage, they have incorporated fruit from two of their other estate vineyards in Yountville and Oakville to complement this complex wine.

Mayacamas 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley  $187.99 

This wine was here for the nerds. This wine is for the people who like mountain fruit, cool climate (low alcohol, high acidity, bright flavors) One of the oldest estates still producing wine the same way as when they first started making it. This wine I know was Kevin Lepisto’s (Spanish and Italian Specialists) favorite of the night. Opens with lilac, dried sage, and graphite. Wild mountain blueberry, maraschino cherry, and blackberry round out the fruit profile. A very elegant wine with wonderful detail and nuance.High on the slopes of Mount Veeder, Mayacamas Vineyards has been a source of legendary California wine since 1889. Since the 1950’s the vinification and élevage of Mayacamas remains remarkably consistent and our continued commitment to employ classical techniques and tools is integral to the character of these wines. The mountain terroir at Mayacamas ranges from 1,800 to 2,400 feet in elevation and the estate spans 475 acres, only 50 of which are dedicated to vine. The region’s richly intense, age-worthy wines reflect the independent spirit of its mountain growers and vintners, borne of rugged conditions that demand craftsmanship at the highest level. Another wine that I think could use another 1-3 years in the bottle. Tight tannins from the mountain fruit with bright and exciting acidity give this wine a long long life in the bottle and will only get better with time. 

Altamura 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley  $129.99

A Cabernet from a small quiet corner of Napa valley, Altamura brings a soft juicy side of Cabernet Sauvignon with well integrated tannins and dark rich fruit. A little bit of that classic Napa Eucalyptus still flows through this juicy Cabernet. The hillside and valley floor estate vineyards in Wooden Valley are at elevations of 700 to 1000 feet. Soil types on the ranch which are similar to the Rutherford Bench and the mountainous regions of Howell Mountain, Pritchard Hill and Mount Veeder called for several different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon on a number of different rootstocks upon planting in 1986.  The vines are dry-farmed and vertically trellised.

Hourglass 2019 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley- WINNER OF THE NIGHT 

I poured this same wine at my 2022 Stars of Cabernet tasting, and it did not sing the way it did on this night. The day I first tasted this wine I had tasted easily 20 other Cabernets that day and not one of them I thought were worthy for our shelves. Cabernet can be so many things from so many places, but this wine really affirmed for me why Napa Valley chose to make it their signature grape. The unique terroir and climate of Hourglass property is what make this bottle so special. This bottle is 100% estate grown cabernet coming from 27 year old vines and spends 20 months in 100% New French oak. The balance in this wine shocked me. I never thought with so much new oak it would have as much terroir characteristic as it does. Aromas of Eucalyptus and high tone florals jump from the glass. Intertwining layers of dark berry fruit combined with red fruit are laced with baking spice, earth and tea leaf. This wine’s deep earthy notes stem from the iron-rich hamright soils. I don’t have a hard time justifying the price tag behind this wine. Read more about the rich history of the hourglass property in a blog post I previously have done about the winery. 


Larkmead 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $119.99

Larkmead Vineyards is one of the oldest family-owned establishments in Napa Valley. Originally founded in 1895, the 115-acre Larkmead estate is now under the stewardship of the Solari-Baker family.The broad patch of Calistoga that Larkmead Vineyards calls home has been under vine since the mid-1800s and has witnessed the turning of two centuries. In that time, Napa Valley has transformed from a vinous vestige of the Wild West to one of the most preeminent wine regions of the world. Larkmead played an active role in that swell, as their grapes have contributed to countless, celebrated Napa Valley wines across the decades. Critical to Larkmead’s success, the estate has been in the hands of the Solari family since 1948. This steadiness has allowed for the type of careful study that is necessary to truly unlock a vineyard’s potential. Since the beginning of their modern winemaking history in 1997, the family has relentlessly fine-tuned their viticultural and cellar techniques to express the vineyard’s voice most accurately. The Larkmead 2019 Cabernet showed us aromas of pomegranate, blackberries, leather, cassis, macerated cherries, & spice. There is a tension and plush richness at the midpalate that provides layers of complexity and incredible length. This is a truly exceptional vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has so much life in the bottle, in my opinion it will be in a sweet spot in 5-7 years. 

Nickel and Nickel 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon Quicksilver Vineyard, Rutherford Napa Valley  $122.99 

Nickel & Nickel winery, located in Oakville, Napa Valley, is dedicated exclusively to producing 100 percent varietal, single-vineyard wines that best express the distinct personality of each vineyard. Established by the partners of Far Niente in 1997, Nickel & Nickel is focused on producing single-vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the appellation's most significant growing regions. A collection of single-vineyard Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah wine complement the portfolio. Graceful aromas of mixed red berry, violet, and green tea envelop the senses before opening onto the most round, inviting palate. Lush raspberry flavors are lifted by vibrant acidity and restrained, refined oak. Tannins are supple, allowing ripe berry flavors along with soft floral and dust accents to shine all the way through to the lingering finish.

Far Niente 2021 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley $176.99

Far Niente comes from an Italian phrase that romantically translated means “without a care.” The name has been carved in stone on the front of their building since 1885. Far Niente’s decades-long history as a premiere Napa Valley winery allows you to transport yourself to those days you can truly relax and savor every sip.Far Niente was founded in Oakville, California in 1885 by John Benson, a forty-niner of the California gold rush and uncle of the famous American impressionist painter, Winslow Homer. Far Niente prospered until the onset of Prohibition in 1919. The gates closed, but the magic never truly disappeared from the property. Sixty years later, Gil Nickel bought and restored the winery and neighboring vineyard. This three-year-long labor of love put the label back on the map — and on the National Register of Historic Places. To this day, Far Niente is consistently recognized as a benchmark producer of Napa Valley Chardonnay and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa Valley Cabernet is their heritage wine and speaks to our 40-year legacy as growers and producers of unparalleled Cabernet. The wine combines select vineyards in Calistoga, Oak Knoll, St. Helena, Stags Leap, Diamond Mountain, and Yountville that complement our estate vineyards in Oakville. These wines are the very embodiment of our long-established house style and are representative of all that is right with Napa Valley Cabernets. Indeed, the marriage of these diverse vineyards has enabled us to craft Napa Valley Cabernet at a nearly inconceivable level.Aromas of dark plum, cherry, licorice & warm baking spices and a silky palate layered with plum, spiced cherry and cassis. A fine-grained tannins and lively acidity support the wine throughout, while the finish is refined and polish

Shafer 2021 “One. Point. Five.” Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley $132.99- ANOTHER TOP PERFORMER OF THE NIGHT 

Shafer vineyards has been crafting wines in the Stag’s Leap district of Napa Valley for nearly 50 years. The estate encompasses 240 acres of world-class vineyards, sources for Shafer’s wines. One Point Five is the signature Cabernet for Shafer and they want it to reflect the timeless elegance of the top Napa Valley vineyards. The name “One Point Five” honors the relationship of John and Doug Shafer. In their words they worked together for so long there wasn’t a second generation story but a generation and a half. They utilize their Hillside vineyards, their Borderline vineyard in stags leap and other select Napa Valley sites. The wine is made up of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot, 1% Malbec and spends 20 months in 100% new French oak barrels. Aromas and flavors of dark cherry, cassis, and dark ripe plums, accompanied by savory herbs. A very classic Napa Valley Cabernet displays richness and balance while the wines seamless integration of tannin and offer structure that is built for age. 

Silver Oak 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley   $175.99

Ray Duncan is the original founder of Silver Oak and purchased his first property in Alexander valley in 1970. In 1972 Ray and partner Jeremy Meyer purchased 258 acres of land in Napa Valley and the original name for the winery was Duncan and Meyer. Jeremy’s wife Bonny suggested the name Silver Oak, because of the dairy barn’s location halfway between Oakville and the Silverado trail. David and Tim, Ray’s sons, have taken over the winery operations since 2001. In 2006 Oakville fire devastated the winery but in 2008 they rebuilt. Current and only 3rd winemaker in 50 years is Nate Weis son of an acclaimed Oakville Winemaker. In 2015 Silveroak became the first winery to own their own American Oak cooperage. The 2018 Silver oak Napa valley is composed of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15.2% Merlot, 5.1% Cabernet Franc, 3.2% Petit Verdot, .5% Malbec. Aromas of fresh strawberry and raspberries, black pepper and vanilla. The palate brings a big body with heavy fruit on the mid-palate  with blackberry with fresh bright cherry on the finish. Integrated tannins, expressive yet luxurious with an even balanced finish. 

 Summary of the tasting: Cabernet is Still the King! 

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