Napa Valley’s St. Helena Star newspapers brought a small group of winemakers, wine writers and wine enthusiasts together at Monica and David Steven’s 750 Wines shop in St. Helena to discuss collectible Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley. The urban-chic shop specialises in near-impossible-to-get Napa Valley wines.
A number of iconic labels, and several generally sought out by collectors, were presented to taste. The selections were not meant to be an all-inclusive list, but examples to stir discussion. At the heart of the gathering was the question: do Napa Valley wines belong in a collector’s cellar?
Guests went straight to the question of age-ability. Grand Cru Bordeaux wines would top their list of age worthy choices, along with Burgundy and premium Barolo. While Napa Valley has created an incredibly strong brand with wines among the best in the world, there was concern for the way many of the top wines would mature.
There is no question that Napa Valley has produced balanced wines that can mature well. From Inglenook to Heitz to Louis Martini, there are many decades-old Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines that, when opened, reveal gracefully aged wines.
With the use of different vineyard practices and production methods as well as the different wine styles being crafted today, we can only guess at how Napa Valley’s wines will mature in the bottle.
Certain wines, such as those of Corison and Dunn, hold the promise of age-ability, having good structure today, but for the most-part, time is needed to see how Napa Valley’s Cabernet Sauvignons unfold.
Next the group discussed whether age-ability is the only determinant for a well-stocked wine cellar?
If the sole purpose of cellar selections is to build upon a financial portfolio—purchasing collectible wines to sell later for a profit – then maturation of the wines may mean everything. Yet many wine drinkers collect wines in their cellar because at some point, they want to drink them.
There is a thrill to having bottles on hand, ready to pluck for just the right occasion. Sometimes, it is the success of opening a bottle at just the right point in its maturation, where tertiary aromas and flavours have added another layer of complexity and intrigue to the wine. Several bottles are often collected to taste at various stages of development for this possibility.
Sometimes however, good friends are at the house, juicy steaks are on the grill, and the occasion calls for a rich wine bursting with intense fresh black or red fruits with a nice dose of vanilla spice.
Cabernet Sauvignon wines from Napa Valley famously provide this gratification. The generous tannins of many of its younger wines are tamed by salted, meaty beef.
Will they age well? Maybe, for some. Surely, for others. Quite possibly no, for yet others. But if the purpose is to have fine wines on hand to pair with any number of occasions, the group could not imagine Napa Valley not being a part of that wine cellar. The general style of rich, fruity, ripe, sun-blessed wines appeals to so many.
Whether you open these wines now or let them develop over time, click through the following plages to see the favourite wines tasted by the panel.