Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 60

YEAR'S BEST US CABERNETS & BLENDS
juicy, with lasting black fruit. It's a simple
pleasure that will lean into lamb roasted with
mint. - J.G. §
521568

88 | Beringer

$22

2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
(Best Buy) ^ Dark notes of fig and date combine with a tumble of oak tannins in this cabernet. The structure and flavors are woven
together like a loose Scotch plaid, brightened
by pink-peppercorn spice. Give it a year to
integrate. - J.G. §
521569

88 | Jax

$20

2017 Napa Valley Y3 Taureau (Best Buy) ^
Bright and lively up front, this blend of merlot, cabernet and syrah has some stamina in
its tense floral notes over the sweetness of its
oak. A little volatile, maybe a little Bretty, it's
ready to take on a meaty braise. - J.G. §
521711

87 | Maxville

$67

2016 Napa Valley Chiles Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy) ^ From the eastern hills of Napa Valley, this wine is as ripe
and soft as a bloomy-rind cheese. Red-fruit
esters and minty scents hover over the wine,
ready to take on the silky gaminess of calf 's
liver. - J.G. §

CALISTOGA
521587

91 | Jax

$45

2017 Calistoga Napa Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy) ^ Kirk Venge
makes this wine from David Jackson's home
vineyard in Calistoga. It starts off saturated
with blueberry and raspberry flavors, the
fruit a firm backstop to the substantial tannins. A day later, it's spicy and floral, the tannins mellowed to a gentler briskness, softening up to drink with grilled lamb. - J.G. §
518800

90 | Baldacci

$90

2016 Calistoga Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ^ This cabernet grows at the Stella
Knight Vineyard, where the Baldaccis farm
8.5 acres of cabernet at the base of Diamond
Mountain. The vineyard is named for the
infant daughter of Thomas Knight, the local
for whom Knights Valley is named; Stella
died in 1857 and, though she was moved to
the family crypt, her grave marker was still
on the site in 2013, when the Baldacci family purchased this property. It's a hot sector
of the Napa Valley, and while the heat comes
through in some prune notes, the fruit isn't
dimpled; it's just rich. A note of black raspberry adds freshness, along with a complex
floral-vegetal scent, like squash blossoms.
Supple in the middle and youthfully tannic
60

WINE & SPIRITS

DECEMBER 2020

in the end, this will benefit from a few years
of bottle age. -J.G. (W&S 2/20; 636 cases) §

COOMBSVILLE
521739

91 | First Avenue

$85

2015 Coombsville Napa Valley Cabernet
Sauvignon ^ Supple with the flavor of crushed
cherries, this is ripe and bold, structured
more by umami tannins than freshness. A
voluptuous cabernet for prime rib. - J.G. §

DIAMOND MOUNTAIN DISTRICT
522024

95 | Diamond Creek

$250

2017 Diamond Mountain District Napa
Valley Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ^
Phil Steinschriber started the 2017 harvest at
Diamond Creek on October 17, finishing on
November 2. At the moment, his wines show
no scent or flavor influenced by the smoke
of the fire that ripped through the Calistoga hills to the north, then west to Santa
Rosa on October 8. Instead, they show the
beauty that could be attained from the season if smoke hadn't threatened Napa Valley's late-ripening cabernet. For a collector
of Diamond Creek wines, there's really no
way to know whether this vintage will live as
long and well as other great cabernets from
the estate. Ask Nicole Carter, the leader of
the new team. She was appointed by the
Rouzaud family of Maison Louis Roederer, which purchased the estate in spring of
2020, after the death of Boots Brounstein,
who had founded the estate in 1968 with
her late husband, Al. Carter will tell you the
2017s are "very accessible upon release." I'd
go out on a limb and say this 2017 Volcanic
Hill is one of the sexiest cabernets I've tasted
from California. It may be a little stinky and
reductive, or it may be a little Bretty (Steinschriber ages the wine in new French oak barrels, and racks certain barrels into new barrels for the second year, a practice referred
to as 200 percent new oak that, given the
ripeness of the wine and the sugars in the
wood, can create a nourishing environment
for Brettanomyces). Whatever that wildness
may be, it's outside of Steinschriber's typical
clean style and primary focus on the differences in terroir from each site. This vintage of
Volcanic Hill seems a little out of his control,
but that wildness only adds to the irresistible
beauty of the wine. (Honestly, I don't think
this wine is tainted, or I wouldn't be scoring
it as I have.) That beauty may be tied to the
tannins, which can be youthfully fierce in
Volcanic Hill wines, tamed in this vintage to
the kind of rocky wild-blueberry-skin richness that takes a Diamond Mountain wine

into the pleasure sphere, both sensual and
intellectual, of first-growth Bordeaux. - J.G. §
517952

95 | Diamond Creek

$250

94 | Diamond Creek

$250

94 | Diamond Creek

$250

94 | Diamond Creek

$300

2016 Diamond Mountain District Napa
Valley Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ^
As the 2016 Diamond Creek cabernets
emerge from several years of rest in barrels
and bottles, it's Volcanic Hill that shows the
best and brightest. "There's a volcanic-soil
character adding texture to the palate, with
less grape and oak tannins and more minerality," said Ryan Bailey of NoMad LA, comparing it to the other top cabernets of the
tasting. It's an elegant vintage of Volcanic
Hill, a cabernet of high-intensity fruit that
calms to cool red- and black-currant generosity. Crushed-mineral tannins seem to clarify
the fruit, bringing out the light and air in the
wine, so that it ends on an impression of blue
skies. -J.G. (W&S 2/20) §
522022
2017 Diamond Mountain District Napa
Valley Red Rock Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon ^ Deep, dark cherry describes the color
of this cabernet as well as the plump, textural
sensation of its tannins. The blend includes
19 percent merlot and two percent cabernet
franc, creating a lush and supple red-fruited
pleasure that turns dynamic as the tannins
add forest-green notes and iron-rich power,
lasting in a cool-warm harmony. The flavors
deepen to black plum as the wine develops
with air, but it's the textural grandeur that's
off the charts. - J.G. §
522023
2017 Diamond Mountain District Napa
Valley Gravelly Meadow Cabernet Sauvignon ^ Of the three 2017 Diamond Creek
cabernets we tasted for this issue, Gravelly
Meadow has the staunchest tannins, both
delicate and seriously strong. They carry
the density of fruit, holding it in check as
it edges toward the hyperripe notes of rhubarb, baked peach and kumquat. Those
notes remain highlights to the currant and
cherry flavors, extending the range and the
layering of tannins and fruit. This may be the
best vintage of Gravelly Meadow since 2013,
and it is the last vintage prior to Phil Steinschriber replanting portions of the original
vines. - J.G. §
522029
2013 Diamond Mountain District Napa
Valley Three Vineyard Blend Cabernet
Sauvignon ^ Since his first vintage, Al Brounstein insisted on bottling his three estate
vineyards separately. And when Phil Stein-



Wine & Spirits - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Wine & Spirits - December 2020

Contents
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover1
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover2
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 1
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 2
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Contents
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 4
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 5
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 6
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 7
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 8
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Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover3
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