Gregory Dal Piaz

Location: New York, NY

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Top Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Rank Wine Rating Price
1 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
Comments: Very fresh on the nose with an early touch of light mocha cream, some smoke, fines herbs with a nice minty top note over bright black fruits. On entry this shows bright acids and feels remarkably transparent, bathing the tongue with bright, tart, blackberry fruit that has just a little medicinal edge. The finish is nice, rich and soft with excellent length and lovely cherry fruit on the finale. This just feels lovely in the mouth—what a great texture. 93pts
Average price: $48.99 from 7 stores
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2 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon (2007)
Comments: Fruity and quite intense on the nose, with big black fruit that is deep and ripe topped with herb and carob aromas. This feels a bit like Bordeaux in the mouth, ripe yet perfectly clear, with great cut and layers of wild cherry, plum, and blackberry fruits. There are firm tannins, but this is so well balanced they are certainly unobtrusive. There’s a lovely lifted hint of mint on the back end that contrasts with the very fine edge of dry extract ,adding richness to the vibrant finish. A pretty powerful wine that has great energy in the mouth. 93pts
Average price: $48.99 from 10 stores
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3 Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Weitz Vineyard (2009)
Comments: Very fine on the nose, with an early sweet baking spice note followed by crisp blackcurrant fruit, lovely dried herb and almost floral nuances. On the palate, this is a bit reserved with a slightly cool and compressed feel, but lovely balance that shows real richness of ripe fruit. There’s no baby fat here, it’s all sleek, cool and pretty Cabernet fruit in the black cherry/blackcurrant end of the register, bringing a suggestion of herbaceousness to the moderately long finish. 91 points
Average price: $44.99 from 9 stores
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4 Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District (2009)
Comments: Really profound blackberry jam on the nose is topped with a slightly herbal note, along with hints of smoke, tar, blueberry and violets. In the mouth, this is soft up front with a nice medium-bodied feel that flows across the palate delivering nice cut cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Nicely done, really showing nice detail, with fine acids and slightly fuzzy tannins that linger on the palate with hard blackberry candy notes. This is still a bit wrapped up in itself and feels a touch chunky on the mid palate but unfolds nicely on the moderately long finish. Give it some time. 92pts
Average price: $52.99 from 4 stores
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5 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (2010)
Comments: Black fruit that's a little inky, violet dominates the slightly herbal nose which shows a little licorice with hints of red fruit but big grilled meat and black pepper top notes. This is lightly tight on entry with early milky chocolate notes followed by bright, fine grained tannins, mineral notes, smoking wood notes and jammy blackberry fruit. There's nice tension on the palate, some pleasant fruit layered over a rather tightly knit structure,. This is still a touch short on the finish but the lean, rugged feel here, showing fat, power and finesse bodes well for positive development in the bottle. 92pts
Previously available for $43.19
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6 White Cottage Estate Risa Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
Comments: Lightly aromatic with herbal and broken basalt aromas over a bed of licorice-tinged blackcurrant and baked plum notes. This shows nice detail and freshness on the nose. A bit tight on entry, showing slightly coiled in the mouth with integrated acids and abundant if soft and polished tannins. The feel is light but not lightweight, with good tension, allowing the wine to deliver some well defined flavors of blackberry, red plum, and earth all topped with a well managed dose of baking spices. The finish is very fresh with a hint of heat perhaps, but excellent inner mouth perfume, persistence and detailed berry fruits with a touch of root beer and maraschino cherry. In context this might be a little lean and a touch austere, but it fit right in my sweet spot. 91pts
Previously available for $47.99
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7 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (2009)
Comments: Fairly intense black fruit greets the nose supported by notes of lead pencil, vanilla, and dried herbs, all topped with a nice dusty earth note. Rich and yet slightly tight in the mouth, this delivers good depth of flavor, wrapping black currant and black plum fruit in assertive but not overpowering wood spice and topping it all off with aromatic herbal notes in the mouth. The tannins here are firm and slightly assertive, but well buffered by rich fruit with plenty of acidity to keep things juicy. Late arriving notes of mushroom and truffle along with a hint of black pepper add complexity that lingers on the finish, which shows off black currant fruit with a hint of herbs, and a slight touch of heat as well. 91pts
Previously available for $55.00
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8 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville (2008)
Comments: Quite complex on the nose with plenty of savory oak-derived spice but one also finds insinuations of herbs, fudge, espresso, and truffle notes embedded in dark, plummy fruit. This is crisp and seamless on entry, though a paradox of freshness and very ripe fruit flavors. The oak is well integrated, not nearly as prevalent as on the nose forming a backdrop for the dried plummy fruit that does see some red cherry, red currant shadings emerge with air. The tannins are well measured, adding a touch of volume yet remaining mostly discreet right through finish, which does show plenty of oak toast-derived nuances as well as red berry fruit leading to a touch of heat and sweetness on the finale. 91pts
Average price: $52.99 from 6 stores
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9 Peju Province Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (2009)
Comments: Leafy and light at first, with slow-to-build aromas of earth, light toast, cocoa, and crushed berry fruit emerging with air along with a gamy mutton-like edge.Smooth with juicy acidity on entry, this is full of dark berry fruit wrapped up in Tootsie rolls and damp earth. The tannins are a bit drying and relatively abundant on the palate, adding a little dry nuttiness which also hints at some dried herbal notes along with dark plummy fruit that leads to a spicy, dry finish. There's a lot of wine here, I'm just not sure that the oak and tannins will ever come into balance. 91pts
Previously available for $32.99
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10 Markham the Philanthropist Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
Comments: This is wide open on the nose with dark fruit topped with plenty of spicy oak notes and accents of vanilla and eucalyptus. Broad and appealing on the palate, this shows some fairly dry tannins, but they don't detract from the bright red cherry, cranberry fruit of the mid palate. This does turn dark and powerful on the backend and through the moderately long finish, which shows a nice return of fresh red plum fruit. 91pts
Average price: $53.95 from 1 store
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  • 1041141Tiakittie Love this list!!! I'm a HUGE fan of the Duckhorn. I would also add to this list the Ghost Pines 2009 & 2010 Cabernet. This is a bit of a cheat as it is a blend of grapes from Louis Martini's Sonoma and Napa vineyards, but both vintages are light and fresh, with super fine, well integrated tannins, well-balanced acid and alcohol and yummy notes of black cherry, green pepper, toasty oak, vanilla and the lightest touch of cocoa and cassis. Interesting, fun and with just enough fruitiness to keep the fruit-bomb Cab lovers interested! A wine for everyone and highly approachable both in style and price...it sells for $20.99 here in my store in Alberta, Canada and is VERY popular (wish I could say the same for their Zinfandel)! Thanks again for yet another great article! And happy tasting! Jean


  • 1249558Jovine Robert Mondavi, Starmont and Raymond are all good.



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