By Rick Riozza

Don’t look now, but the holiday season is fast upon us. I know—we still feel the melancholy of facing the days of fall. Well—I’m not the first one to say it, but our time in the desert marches on! Geez!—how about that glass red right now.

Last week we wrote on the joys of jug wine. So let’s do an about-face and talk about some of the best wines in the world that are quite pricey and would probably cause the jug wine purchasers to go apoplectic when they see the cost of one bottle!

Well—let’s narrow this down a bit and talk about the great world-class California Cabernet Sauvignon and blends just coming on the market right in time for holiday gifting. And let’s face it: those who have a taste for the finer stuff really do enjoy a great bottle of wine and may well appreciate the gift more than ties and socks.


Just two weeks ago, we wrote on the Napa mountains Cabs and their specific flavors they show from the strenuous mountainous terrain. Let’s hope that whetted your interest and your appetite to consider a range of Cabs and Cab blends for the season. Clearly, the bottles are pricey, but haven’t we been saving up all year for this moment?—yeah? And whether you share the bottle with a loved one or are generous to gift it, we are certainly blessed for the opportunity to share in God’s nectar for his flock.

A quick note on California Napa Cabs: Sometimes it is difficult to find either a new 2019 vintage or an older 2014. We have been so blessed with great vintages from 2013 to 2019, that any vintage from these years from that same winery will provide a remarkable quaff. Don’t be scared to look around the market shelves.

And now, some remarkable quaffs available on your market shelves (as I’m still awaiting some samples for tasting, I’ll be quoting from the critics over at Wine Spectator who already received theirs!):

2018 Harlan Estate Napa Valley ($1,650). A classic example of 2018 Napa Cabernet, this has a deep well of fruit in the form of black currant, blackberry and boysenberry reduction laced liberally with notes of smoldering tobacco, warm earth and tar, which compete for attention on the muscular yet driven finish. Subtle bay leaf and cast-iron echoes at the very end add intrigue. This should be among the longest lived wines of the vintage. Best from 2024 through 2045. 99 points.

2018 Abreu Vineyards Cappella St. Helena ($650). Packed, but this also ripples with tension and energy, as bitter plum, black currant, fig, and blackberry fruit flavors collide with sweet bay leaf, savory, tobacco, loam, and licorice root notes. When the dust settles, this is an expansive display of power and refinement, with everything in proportion. And then a long, smoldering cast iron note echoes, adding more cut and drive. Wow. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petite Verdot. 99 points.

2018 Abreu Madrona Ranch St. Helena ($650). Gorgeous in every facet, this drips with dark cassis, steeped plum and blackberry reduction flavors while maintaining form and focus, thanks to seamlessly inlaid graphite and alder girders for support. The long finish cruises through slowly and authoritatively, with hint of loam, espresso crema and ganache, all without being brooding or heavy-handed. The alder hint extends prominently through the rich finish. A flat-out stunner. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Best from 2025 through 2045. 98 points.

2019 Colgin IX Estate Red Blend Napa Valley ($625). This offers a pretty large-scaled core of cassis, blackberry, and mulberry fruit flavors sitting atop a band of graphite, while singed mesquite and apple wood and sweet tobacco notes fill in along the edges. Dense but juicy and well-defined through the finish. To be released in November 2022. Best from 2024through 2040. 96 points.

As mentioned above, we did the Napa Mountain High article, and the wine of the week was indeed a Cab from one of our favorite wineries: 2018 Mayacamas Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder ($150) This wine opens with florals of fresh lilac and violet with a palate containing notes of just ripe raspberry, blackberry, and cherry. Framed by secondary tones of dried sage, anise, and cardamom, this wine includes tones of pine resin, graphite and tobacco and features a long finish. 97 points

Another of one of our favorite wineries is the Dominus Estate. Five years ago we wrote an entire column on one of their great vintages:

The recent release reads as follows: 2019 Dominus Estate Napa Valley ($329). A loaded wine, though reserved in style, with waves of dense cassis, plum reduction and blackberry preserves moving through authoritatively, while sweet bay leaf, warm loam and tobacco accents fill in the background. The long cast iron spine is deeply buried in the fruit, and this has superior cut and drive. Built for serious cellaring too. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot. Best from 2024 through 2040. 96 points.

And have wine reviews come a long, long way, or what! Cheers!