© Miner Family Winery

Top picks from F&W's Ray Isle. 

Ray Isle
Updated May 24, 2017

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.