Top 10 100-point Napa Cabernets

7. Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

Release price: $120

Current price: $900+

Production: 1,100

Owner/winemaker: Don Bryant/Helen Turley

Michel Rolland makes his first of many appearances as travelling consultant and that famous Napa native David Abreu (another 100-point winemaker) tends the 13-acres of vineyards on Pritchard Hill above Lake Hennessy.

The current winemaker is Helen Keplinger who worked at Paradigm Winery under another recurring name in this winemaking circle, Heidi Barrett.

Keplinger has previously worked in Australia and Spain and held numerous winemaking and consulting positions across California before joining Bryant in February last year.

One former, very famous and occasionally divisive, winemaker was Helen Turley, who many credit with creating the “in your face” style of the cult Cabernets, which combined high levels of extraction and very often no filtering.

1997 was an excellent but difficult vintage in California. An incredibly hot summer was interrupted by rainstorms in mid-August, which caused rot to set in for thinner-skinned grapes such as Chardonnay and Zinfandel.

Cabernets were left relatively unmolested and once the canopies dried out, ripening continued through September and even into October, leaving fruit that was, in the best cases, the equal of 1994.

Wine Advocate #132 Dec 2000

What did Parker say: “One of the most awesome young reds I have ever tasted, it possesses a black/purple colour, a seamless texture, and freakishly high levels of intensity (cassis, black and blueberries infused with espresso, chocolate, and liquorice) that are flawlessly presented in a full-bodied, massive yet elegant wine. It is not too much to suggest that in the future, Bryant’s Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon might well be one of the wines that redefines greatness in Cabernet Sauvignon.”

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