What to Buy from Napa Valley's 'Open the Cellar' Sale, According to Our Wine Editor
The response to the non-profit Napa Valley Vintners organization’s ongoing-through-tonight-only “Open the Cellar” sale has been tremendous, but there are still plenty of amazing wines left to pick up before the sale ends. With wineries closed in the Valley but still trying to keep tasting room workers employed and on staff, this is a good way to help out folks in the wine world and at the same time end up with a few bottles you’d never be able to find otherwise. And since we’re all drinking a lot of wine right now, that seems like an excellent thing. Being executive wine editor for Food & Wine, I figured it might help people out if I scoped through the offerings—there are several hundred—and pulled out a few that I personally think are truly unusual and interesting (or just great), at a range of price levels. (Find the entire sale at OpenTheCellar.com.)
2012 Signorello Las Amigas Vineyard Pinot Noir ($80)
Signorello already had to deal with its winery burning to the ground during the 2017 fires, so the COVID shutdown comes as a truly unfair double-whammy. But they’re pressing on, and the quality of the wines remains impressive. 2012 was an excellent vintage, and a few years of age will have only made this wine more appealing.
2016 Corison Helios Cabernet Franc ($100)
Over the years Cathy Corison has achieved enormous respect for her adherence to making elegant, exquisitely balanced Cabernets that stay away from overextraction and jammy flavors. Getting a chance to check out her work with the less-frequently bottled Cabernet Franc variety makes me want to hit the buy button immediately.
1991 Frog’s Leap Zinfandel ($115)
A rare opportunity to try a Zinfandel with a lot of cellar-age, and from one of the best (if not the best) vintages of the 1990s. Just contemplating the fact that the winery has aged this wine in perfect conditions 29 years for you makes it clear that it’s a true bargain.
2008 Chappellet Las Piedras Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($110)
Chappellet, lodged atop Pritchard Hill, makes powerful but nuanced Cabernets that almost always deserve some cellar time before drinking. Guess what? Here’s one with cellar time, and for about the same price it is on release.
2012 Favia Cerro Sur Red ($220)
One of my favorite Napa Valley reds, this sublime Cabernet Franc-driven blend is made by Annie Favia, one of the state’s best viticulturists, and her husband Andy Erickson, a superstar in the winemaking world. A few years of age will have only improved it. (Annie Favia also grows and makes superb organic herbal teas, if you need another way to lower your stress during this time: erdatea.com.)
2005 Honig Vineyard & Winery Mitchell Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($173)
Napa Valley’s 2005 Cabernets are drinking extremely well right now, and this wine represents a chance to pick up a top single-vineyard bottling that’s been aged under perfectly controlled cellar conditions. (Honig is very well known for its Sauvignon Blancs, but its excellent Cabernets are an under-the-radar find.)
2003 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($250)
The current vintage of this classic Napa producer’s estate Cabernet runs $175, so picking up a bottle with 17 years of age on it for $75 bucks more is well worth the additional money.
2011 Knights Bridge Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($175)
I had this wine at a dinner in Napa Valley before the—wait, let’s see what happened—oh yeah, the entire world shut down. But it was an impressive surprise from a winery that hasn’t received a lot of attention, with fruit from one of the valley’s top vineyards.
2007 Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($175)
Silver Oak fans know who they are (easy test: are you obsessed with Silver Oak? Bingo.) so the opportunity to pick up a bottle of the winery’s much loved Napa Valley bottling should be a no-brainer, especially if you’re a fan who doesn’t have the space or inclination to cellar wines yourself.
2005 Lang & Reed Right Bank Red Wine ($200/magnum)
I’ll let winemaker/owner John Skupny weigh in here, though will note that if you haven’t had his Lang & Reed wines, what are you waiting for? “This was an homage to my wife, Tracey, and a trip to St. Emilion, just before we got married in 1977. We were in a cool little wine bar and had a glass of some incredible older vintage of Cheval Blanc when she said to me ‘If ever you learn to make wine, I would love for you to make a wine like this.’” Et voila! Skupny made two vintages of this Cabernet Franc-driven red, 2004 and 2005, and about the ‘05 he says, “In magnum format it’s drinking very harmoniously—all the pieces have knitted together to make something greater than their original parts.”
2017 Cade 13th Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (2-pack, $600)
Expensive, yes, but only 12 barrels were made of this intense mountain Cabernet by winemaker Danielle Cyrot. Normally it’s only sold to guests of the Cade Estate, which is also notable for its devotion to green and organic principles—it was the first LEED gold-certified winery in the valley, its vineyards are all farmed organically, and it relies on solar power, among other initiatives. Nor does it hurt that the wines are superb.
2014 Meteor Vineyard Clone Project Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville Napa & Blending Session with Coravin System ($600)
Stuck at home and feel like learning to make wine? This package from the acclaimed Meteor Vineyard includes three Cabernets, each from different clones of the variety, plus a Coravin, so you can extract samples without ever opening the bottles and blend them together in your glass. Since a Coravin runs $299 anyway, this is actually a relative bargain, given the usual price of Meteor’s wines. Plus, if you express-ship the package, you may be in time to participate in Coravin's “World’s Largest Virtual Tasting,” this Friday (the 17th) at 4 p.m. For every Facebook participant that joins, Coravin will donate $20 to the James Beard Foundation Food & Beverage Industry Relief Fund. Find the details on Facebook.