GDP on Wine

Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz

Another new Idea - The best California cabernets

Posted by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 10, 2012.

Based on Jon Derry's wishlist I took a moment to think of the, relatively, few California Cabernets I look forward to tasting each year and potentially adding to my cellar. I was almost totally turned off of California Cabernet in the late 1990s and early 200s, but there continue to be some pretty fine wines made, and most are affordably priced, affordability being a very relative thing of course. So take a look at this list and my ranking, based on affordability.

Did i miss any old school producers, this is basically what this list boils down to, and are there wines here someone hates?


Prices based on current going rate for the 2006 and 2007 vintages. I've bolded wines I've actually prucahsed.


Topel $36

Ridge SCM $40

Mount Eden $45

Rafanelli $45

Smith Madrone $45

Keenan Spring Mtn $45

La Jota Howell $47

Ritchie Creek $50

Jordan $55

Chappellet Signature $55

Clos Du Val SLD $65

Mayacamas $70

La Jota Anniversay $70

Corison $70

Togni  $85

Montelena  $80 Ok, let's say $95

Dunn Napa $80

Keenan Reserve $90

Dunn Howell $90

BV GdlT $90

Corison Kronos $100

Ridge Monte Bello $125



Reply by EMark, Aug 10, 2012.

This is a terrific list, Greg.  I say that, mostly, because you are talking about dollar amounts that seem reasonable, i.e., I can afford them.  I also like it because I have familiarity with many of these wineries, if not these specific wines.

The one that I may look at sideways is the Clos du Val.  I was a big fan of Clos du Val in the late '80s and the '90s.  I would buy bottles of every vintage.  Then, for reasons I really do not completely recall, I lost interest.  It's not clear to me whether I felt that Clos du Val slipped in price/quality or my tastes expanded in other Cabernet Sauvignon directions.  I also felt that there was no added value in the higher priced SLD bottling.  The net was that CdV was not favored with my dollars.  Maybe I should re-evaluate.  (Son-of-a-gun, I just checked my inventory, and I see that I have CdV Napa Cabs from '96 and '03 in storage.  Maybe I should start there.)

Reply by zinfandel1, Aug 10, 2012.


Can't argue with this list. I have tasted the majority of them and have several of them in my cellar. However the problem with lists, when viewed by others, is that there are so many great ones that are in those price ranges and should be on the list. Examples are Anderson's Conn Valley Cabernet and also his "Eloge." Let's not forget Ladera on Howell Mountain and also Andrew Geoffrey on Diamond Mountain.

The bottom line is that Californa just has so many great Cabernets. The list could go on beyond manageability.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 10, 2012.

Shame the Chappellet seems to creep up in price every year.  As for the Montelena, the estate has been higher, the Napa Valley a bit lower, so I'm a little mystified by the $80 number.  It's a wine I like, although there have been some Brett issues.

A couple I like that aren't here are Hall and Bell.

Absolutely no argument that anything doesn't belong there, though, and nice to see Keenan get the nod--they are doing a pretty good job of offering a reasonably priced wine at very high quality.

Reply by EMark, Aug 10, 2012.

Fox, I consider Keenan to be my little treasure.   I even like their Chardonnay and Merlot.  I'd love to keep them a secret, but with guys like you and GDP praising them, my secret is exposed.

For what it's worth, I also love the view of the Valley floor from the Keenan location on Spring Mountain.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 10, 2012.

The $80 for the Montelena Estate might have been some nostalgia, should be $90 or $95, then again I wasn't paying a lot of attention when I typed this up.

Zinfandel, Maybe we break it up into other lists, perhaps by price?


Reply by zinfandel1, Aug 10, 2012.

Good idea. Maybe we should break out by price, but in addition to that perhaps one major break up could be to separate the mountain cabs from the non mountain cabs.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 10, 2012.

This list is making me feel better about those Corison purchases...

That Ridge SCM is really great value.

Obviously, I'd add Larkmead and O'Shaughnessy Howell Mountain (Mt Veeder isn't worth additional price)

Think I bought the 06' O'Shaughnessy HM for $65.00 and it's one of the best Napa Cabs I've had, albeit on the bigger fruit side, but good acidity too.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 10, 2012.

I haven't had it, but I hear the merlot is Keenan's real winner.  Even as someone generally averse to the grape, I'm tempted--people I trust sing its praises.  I need to get up there and taste and appreciate the view, but Napa Traffic is such a downer... maybe mid-week in the fall or early winter or something.

Reply by EMark, Aug 10, 2012.

The other good Merlot that I've tried is Pride--right up the street from Keenan.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 10, 2012.

Pride makes a good Merlot, though for my money Shafer is typically a little better and a little cheaper. Both usually blend in 10% + Cabernet Sauvignon and sometimes a drop of another varietal or two.

Reply by outthere, Aug 10, 2012.

Hobel Wine Works Engelhart Cab is tremendous @ $75 and rivals most $100 bottles.


Reply by GregT, Aug 11, 2012.

Need to add Palmaz - made by Randy Dunn and just as good. Can't argue with Togni, Corison, Chappellet, Jordan - all solid and not done over the top.  A few that I kind of like that don't get a lot of play would be Monticello and Steltzner.  And Laurel Glen makes an age-worthy wine that is under the radar.

Reply by JonDerry, Aug 11, 2012.

Adding to the list, I know at least D's an advocate of Neyers, weighing in at a cool $60 or just below, depending on the retailer.

Reply by Erica Landin, Aug 14, 2012.

Nice list - remember that Ridge Montebello (my personal fave) is available "en primeur" to club members for somewhere around 85 USD. Very much worth it.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Aug 14, 2012.

One of the best deals around.

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