Shafer Vineyards / Facebook
Many of the best winemaking regions strive to make great cabernet that gets stellar ratings. The styles range from big and bold to more subtle and refined. The best ones have terrific fruit and tannins along with killer acidity, which aids their long term aging potential.
Whether it be Rodney Strong Vineyards, Freemark Abbey Winery, Trione Vineyards and Winery , or Palmaz Vineyards, there are many that have done just that. We’d like to think that these vineyards, among others, have produced some of the best cabernets in America.
Here are 10 of the very best cabernet sauvignons in America. Decide which one sounds best to you and get your cabernet on!
Trione Vineyards and Winery / Facebook
This single-block cabernet was made from fruit sourced at the Trione Cloverdale ranch on the western flank of the Mayacamas Mountains. Each variety was fermented and barrel-aged separately prior to blending then returned to barrel. Plum and earth aromas abound on the nose here. The palate is stuffed with cherry and continued plum characteristics as well as oodles of raspberry and blackberry. Black tea, chicory, and a lovely dustiness are all present on the long and remarkably persistent finish. This is a great example of Alexander Valley cabernet. It shines year after year. At this price point it gloriously over-delivers on quality.
The site, first planted in 1971, was the first in Alexander Valley to produce a single-vineyard cabernet. Rodney Strong has three different single-vineyard cabs in their multi-tiered, consumer-friendly portfolio. This one possesses a combination of power, finesse, and intensity that just wows the senses. Violet, plum, sage, and vanilla bean leap from the nose. A potpourri of cherry characteristics dominate the palate, bits of blueberry appear as well. White pepper, sweet chocolate, and wisps of earth are apparent on the long, lush finish. This will age well in the medium term, but no reason to wait. Enjoy its exuberant youth.
Jayson is officially the second label of Pahlmeyer. But there is nothing about this cabernet that’s anything but first class. It’s composed entirely of cabernet sauvignon from the estate property and the same two other vineyards used in Pahlmeyer. This wine is dark and inky in the glass. The aromas are deep and brooding with blackberry and black raspberry representing in spades. The palate is equally stuffed with a copious array of dark fruit flavors such as plum, blackberry, and black cherry. Roasted espresso, sweet dark chocolate, and mineral notes are all present on the long, expressive finish. This awesomely intense cabernet offers significantly more than one would expect for $75 in a Napa cabernet.
Freemark Abbey Winery / Facebook
All of the fruit (100 percent cabernet sauvignon) came from the namesake vineyard in Rutherford. The winery has a number of excellent cabernet sauvignons in their portfolio, all the way down to their widely available Napa Valley Cuvée effort. The single vineyard offerings are exceptional and this particular one is the cream of the crop. The deep, dark hue is alluring the moment you pour it. Dark berries, cocoa, and violet aromas are all in evidence. The fully loaded palate is strewn with dark berry fruits of every stripe. The prodigiously long finish is velvety and earthy with chicory, toast, black cherry, and a host of spices.
Freemark Abbey Winery / Facebook
Beringer is best known for their cabernets, particularly their Private Reserve, which is an excellent wine in its own right. But this single vineyard expression more than gives it a run for its money. Dark and brooding fruit aromas lead the ostentatious nose. Blackberry, black tea, and spices galore fill the thick, chewy palate. The long, unrelenting finish is stuffed with black raspberry, spices, chicory, and a dusting of cocoa. A mere 210 cases of this stunning wine were produced; grab it before it’s gone.
This wine is composed entirely of cabernet sauvignon from their estate. It spent 20 months in 82 percent new French oak. 920 cases were produced. Wisps of toast and vanilla are present on the nose along with a cornucopia of berry aromas. There is an almost stunning amount of depth to the palate here with an avalanche of sweet red and black cherry flavors. These are underpinned by copious spice characteristics. Cinnamon, bits of dusty clay, minerals, and chicory are all apparent throughout the prodigiously long finish. Firm, yielding tannins, and solid acid provide an excellent backbone for aging. This estate wine is delicious now but will improve steadily over the next decade and drink well for a minimum of five years after that, perhaps longer. Click here to read all about my recent visit to their property.
One of the most visually stunning wineries in Napa Valley also makes one of the very best cabernets. The nose is a bit reticent right now but shows off rich, dark berry fruit aromas laced with spices. The palate is firm and nuanced with a ton of black cherry flavor, hints of anise, and a wave of graphite. Black tea, coffee, and chicory are all present on the long, exuberant finish. This cabernet is just a baby right now, so decant it if you don’t have the patience to age it. But if you do have time, you will be rewarded. This cabernet with improve for the next 15 years and drink well for a decade beyond that. It’s a stunning expression of cabernet sauvignon that will leave a lasting impression. Read about my visit to Palmaz Vineyards over at Gabe’s View.
If not for this wine and the man behind the winery, lists such as this and American wine as we know it simply wouldn’t exist. It was Robert Mondavi’s unflappable belief in the U.S. wine industry — Napa specifically — that ultimately propelled the industry to where it stands today. The latest vintage of the flagship wine is one he’d no doubt be proud of if he were here to taste it. Plums and black raspberry aromas light up the nose. The palate is velvety with red and black cherry as well as other dark fruits. An avalanche of earth, dusty chocolate and continued dark fruits are present on the long, persistent finish. Firm tannins and acid provide a great backbone. This wine is delicious today but it’ll age effortlessly for the next several decades. I just tasted the 1976 vintage and it was a glorious revelation. Patience will indeed be rewarded.
Quite simply one of the very best wineries in the world. Everything they do is top shelf. A few years ago they released the first vintage of this reserve wine, the first in their history. No surprise, brothers Stu and Charlie Smith hit it out of the park, but that’s what they’ve been doing for over 40 years. While it’s labeled as a proprietary blend, it’s composed of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon and the rest is cabernet franc, so legally it’s a cabernet sauvignon. Bits of toast and dark fruit dot the expressive nose. Blackberry, cherry, and more fill the palate, which shows off a bit more fruit-forward than their other red. The flavors here are layered and complex. Dark dusty cocoa, continued cherry, and a hint of espresso are all present on the finish. Cooks Flat Reserve is going to age well for at least 20 years, but if you’re impatient, pair with a standing rib roast this Christmas for a glorious experience.
Shafer Vineyards / Facebook
About 2,000 cases a year are produced of Shafer’s signature wine. All of the fruit comes from the vineyard area right around the winery. Dusty cocoa and raspberry aromas dominate the welcoming nose. Black cherry and a mélange of black and red fruits fill the substantial palate, which comes at your senses with wave after wave of flavor. The prodigiously long finish is loaded with crushed cherries, earth, and dark, dusty chocolate notes. This impressive wine is delicious now, but it’s still a baby. For best results, lay it down for a decade or so and drink it in the 10 years after that.