As stated by the Vancouver International Wine Festival, “Cabernet Sauvignon is king in Napa Valley. Explore the quality and ageability of the region’s signature grape variety while savouring a 10-year retrospective from Napa’s finest. Taste for yourself why these wines are considered to be among the most coveted wines in the world.”
Our Moderator was Anthony Gismondi. We had a winery principal for each of the wines we tasted. Our panelists were Gillian Balance MS, Jean-Charles Boisset, Michael Eddy, Vivien Gay, Kirk Grace, Dave Guffy, Ralf Holdenreid, Thomas Price, Ray Signorello, and Emma Swain.
Our Featured Wines
- St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery Napa Valley, Dollarhide Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
- Louis M Martini Winery Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
- Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
- Silver Oak Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
- Signorello Estate Padrone 2009
- The Hess Collection Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
- Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars FAY Vineyard Stag’s Leap Wine District Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
- Black Stallion Estate Winery Transcendent 2012
- Jackson Family Wines Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
- Raymond Vineyards Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet (Velvet Label) 2014
The wines were tasted in order from 2005 up to 2014. Each winery principal talked about their wine and what the vintage conditions were for that wine, e.g. was it a hot summer or did it have a cool, rainy fall?
Some Background on Napa Valley
Did you know that BC was the first export market for Napa Valley? And that the Vancouver International Wine Festival started with 1 California winery; Robert Mondavi? When Robert Mondavi started producing wine he felt that wine labelling from Europe was confusing for many people. Do you know what a Barolo or Tuscan wine is? Many people don’t. He felt that putting the grape variety or varieties on the label would help the consumer understand the wine and which types of wine they enjoy. This proved to be very successful and you can see that grape variety is being put on many wine labels.
The Cabernet Sauvignon grape produces 47% of the entire Napa Valley wine grape harvest. It is the king of grapes in Napa, which does offer some risks. Monoculture agriculture can be more susceptible to various pests. In the 1990s phylloxera hit and vines needed to be pulled and replanted with more resistant rootstock. In the replanting process, viticulturists used more modern techniques to map out the soil types using resistivity measurements (sorry for being geeky here), which guided them into the best rootstocks to use.
Going green is also important to Napa, and everywhere else in the world now. They have a “Napa Green” goal for 2020 where they would like all eligible wineries in Napa to be certified “sustainable”. This is not a one-time certification but will require the vineyards to be recertified every 5 years. They realize that this takes effort and cost, but is worth it in the long-term.
Let’s talk about the wines for this seminar.
My Tasting Notes
The weather each year through the growing season affects a vintage. Cool summer and fall weather, for example, could prevent grapes from reaching full maturity. Associated with each wine, I’ve outlined the weather conditions and colour coded the vintage as being cool/challenging, average/classic, or hot/challenging by colour, hoping to help you see how that affected the wine I tasted, but also to see if there is any trend in the weather between 2005 and 2014.
St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery Napa Valley, Dollarhide Estate Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Vintage: This year was an ideal vintage with a cool summer and few heat spikes. Later than average harvest with extended hang time leading to balanced sugars and acidity in the grapes, and a larger than normal crop.
Tasting Notes: This wine was produced by grapes on the Dollarhide Ranch vineyard located in the Howell Mountain area which is higher elevation which helps keep the grapes cool. This wine is deep garnet in colour with some translucency at the edes. Leather, ripe black fruit and capsicum on the nose. A nice complex nose. Medium plus body, dry, semi-round with medium plus tannins. Deep flavours of black fruits primarily with lesser amounts of red fruits, vanilla, floral and oak. I think this wine is good to drink now, but others in the seminar thought the tannins need 10 years more aging.
Louis M Martini Winery Lot 1 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Vintage: This year there was a wet winter with late bud break. In mid-July it was hot to speed up ripening, but then the fall was wet and cool, and was a challenge for red grapes.
Tasting Notes: The grapes come from 6 AVAs across Napa and one from Sonoma to provide you with different expressions of the Cabernet grape and layers of flavour. This wine was opaque garnet in colour. Medium minus intensity nose of ripe dark fruits. Full body, silky with medium acidity and medium plus fine tannins. Ripe black fruit, prunes, vanilla flavours with hints of floral, dark chocolate and some minerality. A muscular wine with density weight and structure. Slight sweetness on the finish. Longer length. –
Beringer Vineyards Private Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Vintage: A classic vintage with dry winter and early bud break. A mild summer with few heat spikes. There was heat around Labour Day to speed up ripening and soften the acids in the grapes, then a little rain which lead to a warm fall.
Tasting Notes: Mostly mountain grown grapes for this wine from a late harvest. Opaque garnet in the glass. An interesting nose with aromas of pencil leads, floral, vanilla, and sweet ripe black fruit. Fuller body with firmer tannins. Semi-round mouthfeel. Black fruit and cedar flavours. Dry grippy finish. Good structure. Age 10 years.
Silver Oak Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Vintage: A drier than normal winter and spring, with early bud break then damaging spring frosts leading to uneven fruit set and lower than average yield. A warm spring followed by mild summer. The fall allowed for extended hang time for red grapes.
Tasting Notes: This wine also has 7% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petite Verdot blended with the Cabernet Sauvignon. It is deep garnet, almost opaque in colour. Coconut, dusty, light intensity dark fruit nose. Full body, silky with medium acidity and fine tannins. Ripe cassis, sweet ripe black fruit and vanilla flavours. Medium length with a grippy finish. –
Signorello Estate Padrone 2009
Vintage: This harvest was lower than average in volume, but the winter and spring rains were well-timed, and there were ideal summer conditions with few heat spikes, leading to a normal harvest with lush grapes.
Tasting Notes: This wine is produced by picking the best blocks from their Cabernet grapes. This wine is opaque garnet in colour from core to rim. Saddle leather, cherries and a touch of vanilla oak on the nose. A nice, complex nose. Full body, round with firm fine tannins. Rich black fruit primarily but also some red cherries, oak and sweet vanilla. This wine has structure! Very tannic finish. Needs to be aged. –
The Hess Collection Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Vintage: The past 3 years were very dry, but this year had abundant rainfall. Late budbreak lead to a delayed growing season. The growing season was overall cool, but had some late heat spikes in the summer, leading to a late harvest with lower than average yields.
Tasting Notes: The grapes come from Mount Veeder, with the vineyard at 1000 ft asl. All grapes are from the estate. There is also 3% each of Malbec and Petite Verdot added to this wine. Opaque dull garnet in colour. Floral, capsicum light black fruits, with touches of cinnamon and dark chocolate on the nose. Grainy texture then feels smooth in the mouth. Dry and soft with fine tannins. Floral and sweet black fruit and some cedar and mineral notes. Finishes soft. An elegant wine. –
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars FAY Vineyard Stag’s Leap Wine District Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Vintage: A wet winter and spring with rains into mid-June delayed bloom and fruit set. A long, cooler than average growing season. There were rains in October as well, and many grapes were affected by mold or rot, so never harvested. Overall lower yields with leaner styled wines.
Tasting Notes: Deep garnet in colour. Coffee, capsicum and cassis on the nose. Coffee, capsicum and a mix of red and black fruit flavours. Dry with medium body and acidity, and fine tannins. Lighter mouthfeel. Easy to drink.
Black Stallion Estate Winery Transcendent 2012
Vintage: A classic vintage with traditional bud break and fruit set. Ideal growing season with warm days and cool nights. No significant rain until after harvest. An abundant harvest with balanced sugars and ripeness.
Tasting Notes: The best 20 barrels of their Cabernet Sauvignon make this wine every year. It is opaque garnet almost to the rim. Medium intensity aromas of ripe cassis and black fruit. Full body, higher acidity yet still round. Peppery! Sweet black fruit, vanilla, nut and cinnamon flavours. Fine tannins. The acidity is stronger than the tannins in this wine, and gives this wine structure. Very cool.
Jackson Family Wines Cardinale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Vintage: Warm spring with early bud break and ideal summer growing conditions. Early harvest with high yields and high quality. Dry conditions made smaller berries that were highly concentrated. An epic harvest.
Tasting Notes: 14% Merlot is added to this wine. It is opaque garnet in the glass. Closed nose with light intensity black fruit aromas. Full body, dry, round, with a thick mouthfeel. Dark ripe fruit flavours. Medium acidity and tannins. Medium plus tannic finish.
Raymond Vineyards Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet (Velvet Label) 2014
Vintage: Good weather overall through the growing season, leading to an early harvest with a large volume of well-developed grapes.
Tasting Notes: While most wineries use the standard 225 l barrels, owner Jean-Charles Boisset uses a larger 450 l barrel to minimize oak contact in the wine. He wants the fruit character of the wine to stand out. The label for this wine is red coloured with a velvet texture to indicate to the buyer that they are going to get a velvety smooth wine. The wine is 80% opaque garnet in colour. Light intensity sweet black fruit nose. Medium plus body with ripe bright cassis, sweet ripe black fruit, sweet spices, vanilla, oak and some pepperiness on the palate. Finesse. Lighter mouthfeel, with medium acidity and fine medium tannins. I also picked up hints of nutmeg, cedar and floral. You could say that this is a feminine wine. And very tasty.
If you look through the vintages, I have them either marked cool/challenging or average. No hot/challenging between 2005 and 2014, but the last 3 years were in the average category. I do not have any statistics for 2015 – 2019, but the last 2 years there were extensive forest fires in California, so I’m going to guess those years will be hot/challenging.