Top picks from F&W's Ray Isle.
The only debate about the quality of the 2012 and 2013 vintages in Napa Valley is which one might be better. Both are stellar years. 2012 is a little more open and ebulliently ripe, and 2013 a bit more structured and intense, but for Cabernet Sauvignon lovers they both present an abundance of great wines. We recently blind-tasted through 30 or so recent releases in the Food & Wine tasting room; here were my favorites.
2012 Mount Veeder Winery Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40)
The winery has moved on to the 2013 vintage, but the 2012 is still widely available. Lots of dark blackberry fruit here, lifted by good acidity and with a light minty edge; an impressive mountain Cabernet for a modest price (for Napa Cabernet).
2013 Turnbull WIne Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($50)
Turnbull's top wines have garnered serious critical acclaim lately, but their baseline Napa Valley Cabernet shouldn't be overlooked. It's grippy and firmly tannic right now, so serve it with a rare steak.
2012 Brandlin Vineyard Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
The Brandlin family planted vines on Mt. Veeder back in 1926, and grapes have been grown at the estate ever since. A substantial red marked by chewy black currant fruit and spicy, ripe tannins, this is impressive now and should only improve in the cellar.
2012 Stony Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
Stony Hill is rightly known as one of California's greatest Chardonnay producers, and recently they started making Cabernet as well. Like their Chardonnay, this wine has an old-school sensibility—modest alcohol (13.3 percent), fragrant blue and blackberry notes, and elegance rather than in-your-face power.
2012 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon ($60)
Trefethen's estate vineyards in the Oak Knoll District produce a Cabernet with the dark black currant-to-blackberry fruit typical of Napa Valley's warm climate, but with bright acidity and great balance. Both the 2012, currently available, and the soon-to-be-released 2013 are superb.
2012 Miner Family Winery Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)
Ripe blackberry liqueur and sweet oak notes give this red a lusciousness that could be over-the-top, but the altitude of the vineyards (on Atlas Peak) help moderate that ripeness with equally substantial structure.