Cabernet Sauvignon is a survivor. It’s relatively easy to grow and can thrive in an impressively wide array of climates. It’s a grape that produces rich, dark, and fairly tannic wine that is easily manipulated to exaggerate certain flavors while muting others.
Napa Valley is one of the world’s leading producers of Cabernet Sauvignon. Unlike in Bordeaux where the grape is grown for blended wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Napa is very often made into single-varietal wines. This makes Napa Valley an exceptional place to turn to in order to get a grasp on the essence of Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s also a great place to explore Cabernet Sauvignon because of the many distinct micro-climates in which the grape is grown along the valley, each bringing out certain aspects of the wine and highlighting a winemaker’s style.
Each of the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignons that were tried on Vine Talk exhibit certain characteristics of the grape that can entice different types of wine drinkers. Below we’ll discuss the Oakville wines we tasted, along with some other wines in this style you might enjoy.
Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – $28.00
• This is actually a blended wine made up predominantly of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%) and bits of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and a splash of Syrah thrown in for good measure. This Cabernet Sauvignon is not as full-bodied as some of the other Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon and would be a good introductory wine before diving into bigger, fuller, and more challenging examples of the wine.
Try: A Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia’s Coonawara Region. These are generally on the lighter and more food-friendly side of Cabernet Sauvignon and easier on the palates of inexperienced wine drinkers.
Paradigm Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – $70.00
• This is a great example of a Cabernet Sauvignon that shows off the wonderful relationship that the grape can have with Oak. This is a silky Cabernet Sauvignon that showcases the wine’s softer side with flavors of vanilla and black cherries.
Try: Spring Mountain AVA Cabernet Sauvignon. Located within Napa Valley, Spring Mountain produces CS’s that have all the spice and flavor of oak without ever being overrun by it.
Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 – $40.00
• This Cabernet Sauvignon is, perhaps, the most tannic of the bunch tried on Vine Talk. Nora Ephron described it as “sharp,” and it is definitely a challenging wine. However, it’s also one of the purest expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon left to its own devices with flavors that are harder to get into like dried herbs and eucalyptus.
Try: A Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Though there are variations, these are usually big full-bodied, and tannic examples of Cabernet Sauvingon.
Atalon Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 – $26.00
• Another CS on the fuller side, but still relatively approachable for newbie Cabernet drinkers. This is a big wine that is softened by rich black fruit flavors and a touch of licorice. Although it’s big, it finishes like a bite of dark chocolate and with some of the same flavors.
Try: Walla Walla, Washington Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are big but lush, with more of the dark chocolate and cherry flavors that are pronounced in the Atalon Cabernet.
Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 – $75.00
• A famous example of Cabernet Sauvignon that helped to spur some of the grape’s popularity in Napa. This is a classic, with all the flavors and attributes that have come to define a Napa Cabernet for better or worse.
Try: Another famous bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon – like Stag’s Leap or Opus One — Silver Oak is really so quintessentially Californian there aren’t many other global wines that compare!
Groth Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 – $40.00
• Perhaps the most balanced of the bunch, this wine has firm tannins and the slightly herbal quality that CS is known for along with rich currant and cherry flavors, and a full body.
Try: Something from South Africa. Wine makers here are still finding their way when it comes to CS and the wines from South Africa have more of the pronounced green flavors that showed the most in the Groth Cabernet Sauvignon.