It’s always interesting to sit down with a few glasses of cabernet sauvignon produced in the Napa Valley. Amid all the arguments about fruit-forwardness, big wines, and high alcohol, we sometimes lose the fact that, along with their native Bordeaux, the best cabernets are made in Napa Valley.
Here we have five very good wines, similar yet different.
2009 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($135). Big, beautiful, complex red — dark currant and blackberry flavors, well-integrated oak and pecan-shell tannins, long on the palate, dark chocolate and anise in the finish. Takeaway: What you want when you want a classic, traditional Napa cab.
2008 Franciscan "Magnificat" Napa Valley red wine ($50). It’s 69 percent cab and 23 percent merlot with touches of petit verdot and malbec. Rounded, rich, mature in the Bordeaux style — fruity but not fruit-forward, ripe cherry flavors, lean and long. Takeaway: This one will last in the cellar for several years and be a great dinner wine when you finally open it.
2010 Franciscan Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($21). Very nice blend of fruits and wood. Almost creamy, with ripe fruit and intriguing traces of varietal cab’s cherry stems. Takeaway: This wine will appeal to traditionalists who love cabs true to the variety.
2009 Cakebread Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($75). Pleasurable light cherry flavors riding on a framework of lean minerality and dusty tannins. Takeaway: It backs away a bit from Napa bigness and embraces Napa sleekness.
2010 Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($18). Rounded wine with combo of juicy fruitiness and a creamy follow-through. Takeaway: If this were music, it would be smooth jazz.