Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 66

YEAR'S BEST US CABERNETS & BLENDS
of earth tones and spice. Nathaniel Muñoz
of LA's Bar Avalon compared those tannins
to terra cotta. "I really want rustic Mexican
food with this," he said, pointing to the notes
of smoky ancho chiles. And yet, it's polished,
lasting on fragrant complexity, with a tart
cherry focus that rings clean and as clear as
a bell. -J.G. (W&S 6/20; 800 cases) §
520273

93 | Stags' Leap Winery

522026

92 | Smith-Madrone

$58

2016 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ^ A sleek and sapid
cabernet from high up Spring Mountain, this
2016 is rich in its savory red fruit, yet potently
acidic. That tension comes across in scents of
cilantro and spruce; the wine brought one
taster to a match with Jasper Hill's Harbison, a washed-rind cheese wrapped in spruce
bark. - J.G. §

92 | Baldacci

518023

92 | Smith-Madrone

$52

2015 Spring Mountain District Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ^ Richly oaked, this
wine takes several days to show itself. As the
oak recedes, the character of the mountain
soil comes up in the detail of the tannins
while dark plum, currant and sage notes take
the wine toward an austere mountain-grown
structure. Suited to long aging, this is a wellpriced collectible grown by the Smith brothers, Stuart and Charles. (W&S 4/20) -J.G. §

S TA G S L E A P D I S T R I C T
520272

95 | Stags' Leap Winery

$200

2016 Stags Leap District Napa Valley
Audentia Cabernet Sauvignon ^ After joining Stags' Leap Winery in 2009, Christophe
Paubert released Audentia, a new wine from
the historic estate, in 2010. It grew out of his
fascination with the old-vine petite sirah he
was farming there, a variety that had been
planted at the site since 1893. The 36-yearold vines that contribute fruit to this blend
come from block 9, where Paubert finds the
petite sirah is less about spice and more
focused on blue- and blackberry flavors. That
fruit combines with some petit verdot to fill
cabernet's dark-chocolate tannins with layers
66

WINE & SPIRITS

DECEMBER 2020

$110

2016 Stags Leap District Napa Valley The
Leap Cabernet Sauvignon ^ Christophe
Paubert blends this wine from estate parcels
tucked up against the Stags Leap escarpment. He vinifies the blocks separately, then
creates this barrel selection, his top cabernet,
just before bottling. It's fresh and fragrant
in 2016, with the youthful energy the vines
infused into their fruit when a long series
of drought years had come to an end. The
plump black fruit has the espresso richness
of Stags Leap District cabernet, along with an
earthy undertow. Powerful and refined, the
wine seems to draw the site's volcanic rock
into its lasting tannins. -J.G. (W&S 6/20) §
518806

ommended here). The way the oak merges
with superripe SLD cabernet gives it the flavor of chocolate-covered espresso beans. It
feels cool and layered, black on black, needing bottle age for the fruit complexities to
develop. -J.G. (W&S 2/20; 556 cases) §
521650

90 | Baldacci

$150

2017 Stags Leap District Brenda's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ^ Warm and rich,
with the dark scent of espresso-roast coffee,
this is a smoky cabernet layered in flavors of
chocolate and herbs. The chalky feel of the
tannins will meld with roast game. - J.G. §

SONOMA COUNTY

$90

2016 Stags Leap District Napa Valley
Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon ^ The Baldacci family farms 17.5 acres of cabernet in
the Stags Leap District, harvesting the fruit
when prodigiously ripe and aging it in French
oak barrels, 60 percent new. It's polished and
heady, and it would be easy to dismiss it as a
finely made, market-driven cabernet but for
its refinement: The sunny red tone of the
fruit seems to reverberate off the oak, while
tannins keep it dry and austere, delineating
the flavors with briskness and finesse. -J.G.
(W&S 2/20; 275 cases) §
521648

92 | Stags' Leap Winery

$115

91 | Baldacci

$150

2017 Stags Leap District Napa Valley The
Leap Cabernet Sauvignon ^ Crunchy blackberry and blueberry flavors completely infuse
this wine's tannins, lending refinement to the
dark-roast-coffee scents that meld oak with
the dark fruit-skin savor of Stags Leap District cabernet. Christophe Paubert ages the
lots from his estate parcels separately, giving them 20 months in French oak barrels
(60 percent new), then blends this wine from
those he considers the most expressive. His
2017 is potent and built to last. - J.G. §
518805
2016 Stags Leap District Napa Valley
Brenda's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ^
A barrel selection from the Baldacci family's
Stags Leap District estate, this is riper and
denser than the 2016 Black Label (also rec-

519834

92 | Rodney Strong

$22

2017 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy) ^ It's hard to believe this
youthful, structured, savory red is priced
at $22. (At W&S, we assign scores with no
knowledge of prices unless they are $20 or
under.) We opened this wine on a Thursday
and by Saturday, it was still tight and firm,
with juicy black-currant flavors and scents of
herbs. As of Monday, it felt sumptuous and
rich. One taster described the flavors as "a
bowl of super-juicy, dark, yummy fruit before
it goes overripe." This is not a complex wine
with a lot of depth, but it is pretty extraordinary to find such delicious drinking for a
third of what you might be asked to pay for a
cabernet of equal stature. (W&S 4/20) -J.G. §

521635

91 | Ferrari-Carano

$34

2017 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy) ^ This gentle Sonoma cabernet is cool and refreshing. Its clarity of flavor


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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
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - 9
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Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover3
Wine & Spirits - December 2020 - Cover4
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