Napa Valley is home to some of the world's most sought-after, expensive Cabernet Sauvignons, many of them able to develop in a cellar for two decades or more (these wines are typically so powerfully tannic when young that cellaring them until they mellow is essential). But a number of the valley's best wineries, in addition to these premier bottlings, also produce more affordable Cabernets and Cabernet blends that are ready to drink as soon as they're released. They're ideal for uncorking while the top wines slowly age to perfection.
Wine to Drink Now: The 2004 Beringer Napa Valley Cabernet ($40) is plummy and silky.
Wine to Cellar: The 2003 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet ($115), the latest vintage of this bench-mark wine, has abundant black currant, espresso and oak-spice flavors, and should age well for 15 years or more.
Wine to Drink Now: The juicy, peppery 2006 Decoy Napa Valley Red ($30), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, is among Duckhorn's most affordable bottlings.
Wine to Cellar: The 2004 Duckhorn Vineyards Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Rector Creek Vineyard ($95) is aromatic and cedary.
Wine to Drink Now: The 2005 Hess Allomi Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) is vanilla-scented and full of easy-to-love, ripe cherry fruit.
Wine to Cellar: The 2004 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon ($50) comes from the winery's estate vineyard, higher up on Mt. Veeder than the Allomi vineyard. The increased altitude makes for slightly cooler weather, producing intense Cabernet Sauvignons with firm structure and aging potential, a well as lots of juicy cherry fruit.
Wine to Drink Now: The 2004 Bridesmaid Red ($40) is a lively, blackberry-inflected red blend that winemaker Drew Neiman produces with friend Pam Starr.
Wine to Cellar: The 2004 Neiman Cellars Red Wine ($80) is a powerful, dark-fruited blend of nearly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot from two famous vineyardsCaldwell and Thorevilos.
Wine to Drink Now: The graceful, berry-inflected 2006 Newton Red Label Claret ($25) is a classic Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Syrah.
Wine to Cellar: The earthy, powerful 2005 Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon ($60) has the tannic structure to age for up to 20 years.