One of my wine pals, an avid collector of Napa Valley wines, contacted me to taste through a few aged Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines last week. Being a relative newcomer to the wonderful world of wine, I missed a period of time when Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon was said to be more European in style in comparison to the wines produced today. In 1976, at what is known as the Judgment of Paris tasting, French wine experts could not differentiate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay from renowned French examples, resulting in the 1973 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag‘s Leap Wine Cellars and the 1973 vintage of Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena both winning first place among top French wines. Based on what I read, those who reviewed Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines from the mid 1970’s through the early 1990’s cite distinct stylistic differences from today's style of Napa Valley Cabernet. Clearly today’s style is riper and has higher alcohol levels, but today’s style appeals to a large number of consumers too.
Napa Valley Wine Flight Night
What I find interesting is that well-made Virginia red wines have a similar style to some of the early Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Typically made using Bordeaux varieties, the Virginia wines I speak of are dry, supple, balanced, and oak aged for maturity, with moderate alcohol and good acidity levels. This style of wine is versatile and extremely food-friendly too. Whether supple and elegant or rich and concentrated, some of the best examples of Cabernet Sauvignon in the wine world are grown in the Napa Valley. Take a look at the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wine flight we enjoyed below from old to young.
- 1986 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Sycamore Vineyards – Soft aromas of olive, herbs, leather, and toasty notes. Lean in body with moderate acidity and muted red fruit flavors, touches of cedar and a medium length tart finish. This wine lacked structure, but for twenty-four years old it’s still kicking and tastes as good as some younger examples I have tasted. If I had any of these cellared I would think about consuming them soon. (13.5% ALC/VOL)
- 1989 Steltzner Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District – Pleasant aromas of dark cherry fruit, spice, currant, mint, stewed vegetables, and floral scents. Medium bodied with moderate acidity, offering subtle dark fruit flavors and a slight green integrated edge with spice components. This was an enjoyable wine with soft tannins and a slightly astringent finish. (13% ALC/VOL)
- 1992 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Mount Veeder - Medium-intense aromas of mixed dark berry fruit and toasty overtones. Medium bodied wine that’s still showing good fruit on the palate framed in soft sweet oak with a smooth mouth feel. (13% ALC/VOL)
- 2005 Cavus Stags Leap District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Powerful aromas of ripe currant, sweet plum, blueberry cobbler, and baking spice with cocoa and sweet oak notes. On the palate this wine is rich, concentrated, and full bodied with succulent fruit flavors and soft tannins. This wine is high-octane, but balanced and drinking nicely now. (15.5% ALC/VOL)
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