This isn’t about cheap wines you can have with dinner, or the best wines under $10, or some other nonsense like that. Nor is it for those French wine snobs who believe there are no world class cabernet sauvignons from the United States.
If you know me, you know that I like wine, so I will intersperse an occasional article like this about wine. But, unlike some of my friends, I don’t drink wine every night…not even once per week, although that differs by the week. So, some of the wines I’ll be recommending here are hard to get and costly. In every case, either I bought it when it was cheaper or one of my friends opened it.
In any event, here are the US-produced cabernet sauvignons that I have liked best:
• 1997 Fisher Wedding Vineyard: We opened this a few years ago at a California Cab night, and it blew away me and everyone else. This Sonoma wine features a rich, velvety taste that attacks your senses while remaining balanced. It is an absolutely wonderful wine that is almost impossible to find. As of this writing, the only bottle I could locate was through WineCommune.com, selling for $284.
• 1995 Araujo Estate, Eisele Vineyard: If a wine can be simultaneously subtle and powerful, this is it. I drank it slightly young and wish I hadn’t, but the power, elegance, superb minerality, and lengthy finish stick with me to this day. Unfortunately, the few online sites that still sell this Napa beauty are asking about $400 per bottle.
• 1996 Shafer Vineyards Hillside Select: The first thing that hits you about a Shafer Hillside Select cab is the nose. From Napa’s Stag’s Leap District, there are few wines in the world with a better aroma. And the drinking is almost as amazing, with incredible balance and finish. Online, this bottle currently lists for anywhere from $250 to $385.
• 1994 Dominus Estate: This is one of the most consistent wines from year to year, but 1994 may have been its best year yet. More than most other Napa wines, Dominus is made in the French style, comprised of 70% cabernet sauvignon, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It is smooth and surprisingly fruity for an older wine, currently ranging in price online from $235 to $295.
• 2004 Quilceda Creek: Although technically early in its maturity, this Washington state wine was opened at a recent tasting and blew me away. Overpowering in its richness and not yet completely balanced, this will be a remarkable wine for years to come, and is available online starting at $195 per bottle.
If you’re looking at this list and saying, “What is he crazy? I can’t afford those wines,” let me tell you, neither can I. But if you buy wines from the likes of Fisher, Araujo, Shafer, Dominus, Quilceda Creek, Ridge, Chateau Montelena, Dunn, Beringer Private Reserve, Arrowwood, Etude, Robert Foley, or other vendors when they are first released and store them properly for a few years, you too can have some amazing wines.