News Flash!Napa Valley produces some of the world’s finest wines. Okay, old news, but forty years ago, the idea that any American wines, even those from Napa, could compete in quality with the best France could offer seemed impossible. Yet Cabernet from Napa’s own Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars proved the winner in the famous France versus US wine battle called the Judgment of Paris.
The first wineries in Napa have names that still ring out. Charles Krug, which the Mondavi family bought in the 1940s,began in 1861. Beringer and Schramsberg soon followed. Of course most wineries stopped production during Prohibition unless they could get by making sacramental wine. The great Depression probably inspired few to start a business that requires considerable startup capital.
The 1960s saw the early flourishing of what we now know as Napa’s wine industry, and the 70 brought Napa’s wines comfortably into the realm of world-class wines. And while Napa offers a world of wonderful chardonnays and other wines, Cabernet reigns. Here are a few the choicest.
Beaulieu Vineyard George de la Tour ($120). Beaulieu began in 1900 but really hit its stride after Prohibition when fabled winemaker Andre Tchelistchev took over. Tchelistchev established many practices now common. Distinctive American oak tones and perfectly balances.
Altamura ($99.99). Consistently garners 90+ points from The Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator.
Kathryn Hall ($89.99). The Wine Spectator awarded this wine 96 Points, and placed it second in the top 100 wines. Spectacular concentration and depth.
Cakebread ($79.99). Forty years worth of socks have been knocked off because of Cabernets from this distinguished winery. Tremendously ripe fruit that defines the region and a sturdy but appealing structure.
Caymus ($74.99). Another winery that began in the halcyon days of the early 70s. Densely packed and built to last, one of Napa’s legends.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar Artemis ($45.99). And speaking of legends, imagine: Stag’s Leap’s first vintage won out against Grand Cru Bordeaux. Amazing!
Mt Veeder Winery ($34.99). Yet another winery begun in the 70s, and with the same ownership. The first Napa winery to grow all five Bordeaux varieties, the wine is complex with distinctive eucalyptus notes.