Elegant Napa Cabs for a Special Occasion

DSCF1400As a wine professor, my Millennial students often ask me for advice on buying an expensive bottle of wine for a special occasion.  Sometimes it is a guy who wants to impress a girlfriend, or a group of friends who want to buy a very nice bottle of wine for a wine-loving friend or family members.  Generally in this blog, we focus on more affordable wines, but there are times when you want to splurge and buy something really special. 

Fortunately during the second day of the Wine Blogger’s Conference, the Napa Valley Vintner’s sponsored a wine tasting at Quintessa Winery where we were allowed to taste many of the wine stars from this famous valley.  You may not know that Napa Valley now has more than 325 producing wineries….and some of the very famous ones were pouring their high-end cabernets for us.  Though it was impossible to taste through all of the wineries that attended the event, I did find a few stars that I wanted to pass on. 

Before I list the names, I do want to admit that my “last supper wine” – the wine I would drink if it was my last night on earth and I could only have one bottle –would be a big cabernet from Napa, Sonoma, or Bordeaux.  I really do adore big, red cabernets.  With that said, Napa Valley is known for its elegant and velvety cabs with smoother tannins compared to the bigger, more masculine cabs of Sonoma and Bordeaux.  Napa cabs are often more fruit-forward as well, with layers of concentration.  Both styles are wonderful, but sometimes for a special occasion the plush elegance of Napa is a perfect choice and usually always a crowd-pleaser. 

Following are 4 of my favorite wines from Saturday’s tasting.  I’m including the winery websites, because they are not always that easy to find – even in fine wine shops.  You will NOT find these in a regular grocery store.  The nice aspect about these wines is they drink well now, but can also be aged in proper cellar conditions: 

2006 Quintessa Rutherford ($140) – a jewel of a wine with opulent rich fruit that glides across your tongue like velvet.  Deep layers of ripe plum, cassis and spice.  Smooth tannins, well-balanced even though it has a high alcohol, and with a very long finish. www.quintessa.com 

2006 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($135) – lovely fragrant nose of dark berries and carmel.  More tightly woven with firmer tannins, but a velvety plush texture.  Very well balanced with only 14.1% alcohol; nice acid.  Hints of mocha and cedar on the finish.  www.spottswoode.com

2006 Far Niente Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville ($125) –rich black depths; very dark berry with hints of forest floor and tar notes.  A more serious and complex wine with incredible concentration of flavors.  This wine needs food – ideally a succulent filet mignon or grilled Portobello.  Very long finish. www.farniente.com

2006 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena ($45) – this wine is a good value for the price, because it has all of the velvety texture and depths of the other three, yet is not as complex.  It has very pleasing red berry and plum notes with pretty spices, including some cedar and herbs.  What’s cool about this winery is they are non-profit and donate all proceeds to heart research.  www. ehlersestate.com

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