You can never taste enough Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons, right? This is especially true when you’re dealing with excellent to outstanding vintages, such as 2018 and 2019. There’s rarely a problem ripening grapes in Napa Valley, but some years are better than others, as they yield wines with more floral aromatics, have better acidity and are more harmonious.
Let’s briefly examine 2018 and 2019. The former year was “exceptional” as one winemaker told me, as summer temperatures were moderate, rarely exceeding 90 degrees. Combine that with foggy evenings with cool temperatures, and you had an ideal recipe for well-balanced wines that offered very good acidity. The best examples of 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon will age gracefully for many years to come, and most local vintners believe 2018 was the finest vintage in Napa Valley for Cabernet Sauvignon since the heralded 2013 season.
So 2018 was a classic in Napa Valley, but Peter Heitz, winemaker at Turnbull winery in Oakville, believes 2019 is the finest vintage in Napa since 2007, with the possible exception of 2013. “It’s too soon to call 2019 better than 2013,” Heitz remarks, “but I love our 2019s.” He notes that while the level of tannins is high, the tannins are of extremely high quality; “they are creamy and round and the perfect partner to the vintage’s generous fruit.”
Here are notes on five Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons from 2019, and one from 2018.
Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon Amoenus Vineyard 2019 (Calistoga) – Deep, intense purple; aromas of black cherry, black currant, violets and a hint of chocolate. Full-bodied, this is quite ripe with deep black fruit flavors, full throttle, but smooth tannins, generous wood notes, good acidity, and noteworthy persistence; there are notes of dark chocolate and black plum in the finish. This is a big and bold Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with sufficient fruit to balance the evident oak notes. This is very young and needs at least 4-5 years to round out and settle down. At that point, more subtleties may emerge, but for now, we are left with a young, plump, lush Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that has excellent cellar potential; peak in 14-18 years. (92)
Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon Leopoldina Vineyard 2019 (Oakville) – Intense purple; abundant aromas of black plum, clove and cassis. Medium-full with notable concentration. Excellent persistence, good acidity, nicely integrated wood notes, rich, silky tannins and impressive varietal purity. This is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with its ripe fruit and round, distinguished tannins. Peak in 12-15 years, perhaps longer. (93)
Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon Fortuna Vineyard 2019 (Oakville) Medium intense purple; classic aromas of blackcurrant, black plum, violets and a hint of black olive. Medium-full with excellent concentration; rich, layered mid-palate with abundant young fruit. There is very good acidity, nicely integrated oak, medium-full, velvety tannins and excellent persistence; there are notes of cassis and dark chocolate in the lengthy finish. This is a very well-made, young Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that beautifully shows off the best qualities of Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, with its lush fruit and notable structure. Peak in 15-20 years. (95)
Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Napa Valley) – Bright, deeply intense ruby red; aromas of blackcurrant, black raspberry and red flowers (amaryllis, red tulips). Full-bodied, this displays very ripe black and red fruit, ample wood notes, medium-full tannins that are nicely styled, and noteworthy persistence. The oak notes are a bit strong now, and the wine needs time to come together, but this should display greater harmony as well more complexity in another 3-5 years, with peak in 12-15 years. Impressive typicity and richness. (92)
Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Napa Valley) – Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with small percentages of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec; this is a traditional Bordeaux blend from days past, and indeed the current proprietors call their estate “French California” (the founders in 1972 were from Bordeaux). Bright, medium-deep purple; aromas of black currant with notes of caramel, violets, black plum and dark chocolate. Medium-full with very good acidity and medium-full, elegantly styled tannins. The oak notes are restrained and the finish is elegant and offers good length. This is classic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Clos du Val and is more approachable upon release than their other versions of Cabernet. Thanks to its overall harmony, this can be enjoyed tonight, with a wide range of foods ranging from roast chicken to red snapper and of course, most red meats. This will offer notable drinking pleasure for 8-10 years (perhaps longer), and priced at $55, this is an Excellent Value for Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. (92)
Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon “The Estates” Oakville 2018 – A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec and 1% Merlot; the fruit is from estate vineyards of Robert Mondavi in the Oakville AVA of Napa Valley, where the winery is located. Bright, medium deep purple; aromas of dark chocolate, black plum, blackberry preserves and a subtle note of medicinal herbs. Medium-full with excellent concentration, this displays abundant, ripe bright fruit and medium-full tannins that are nicely balanced. Oak notes are well presented and there is very good acidity. You would need some rich red meat to pair with this tonight, but given its noteworthy harmony, this is much more approachable now than many more famous examples of this wine type. This is styled for enjoyment down the road, and should be at its best in 10-15 years. For a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon this complex and structured, the $85 price tag is well worth it. Excellent Value. (93)