Far Niente of Napa Valley celebrates its new release, a 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. Photo courtesy Margarite Triemstra
Community Taste of Wine

Taste of Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon — the classic red wine

In Napa Valley, the reviews are in for the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon harvest.

The judgment is this is the fifth consecutive year of exceptional wine grapes for this iconic varietal. The only regret is they didn’t get enough fruit due to five 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 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.

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


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.

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 5,000-acres under vine including Silver Oak and Far Niente. Others include Heitz Cellars, Paradigm, Plumpjack, Girard, Nickel and Nickel, Turnbull, Ramey, Screaming Eagle, Cakebread, Tamber 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 percent Cabernet Sauvignon is your style, be prepared to pay up for the real deal. Visit farniente.com and silveroak.com.


Wine Bytes

Cheese 101 accompanied by six wines from 2Plank Vineyards in Vista will be March 19 from 3 to 5 p.m. in the 2Plank Tasting Room. Learn the tips and tricks about cheeses and taste the flavors of goat, sheep, cow or combined milk cheeses; $28 per person. To register, contact Tamara Golden at (760) 472-3127 or Tamara@goldenjourneystravel.com.

The 6th annual Taste of Bressi happens with the Boys & Girls Club of Carlsbad at Bressi Ranch Clubhouse, March 11 from 2 to 6 p.m. Craft beers and premium wines, food from local restaurants and live music are planned. Call (760) 444-4893 for tickets.

The WineSellar & Brasserie presents a Journey Through Tuscany March 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. with tastings of some 20 Italian wines; $26 each for this event. Add a Tuscan dinner at 6 p.m. with five courses for $89.  Both cost $105.  Phone (858) 450-9557.

Charcuterie and Cheese is the event March 15 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Angel’s Salumni and Truffles in Carlsbad. These expert meat professionals invite you to sample favorite meats and cheeses, many containing truffles.  Learn more at (760) 931-1324.  Cost is $50 each.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.  Follow him on Facebook.