My brother started buying and cellaring wine a decade after I did and has since amassed about 800 bottles of mostly California wine. He recently lamented that his collection was deep in Pinot Noir but lacking in Cabernet Sauvignon. He was wondering which Napa Cabs I suggest he look into.
This got me to thinking: Many of the wines you hear so much about have long waiting lists, including Schrader, Maybach and Scarecrow. It never hurts to put your name on the list, but what should you do in the meantime to stock your cellar with varietals you’re passionate about?
I gave my brother the name of several California wineries that made classic Cabernet Sauvignon and did not have a wait for their mailing lists. Here are those and a few more to check out if you’re new to the hobby or want to build up a particular varietal:
- Spottswoode – Spottswoode was founded in 1972 by Jack and Mary Novak in St. Helena. Year over year, Spottswoode competes with the very best from both Napa and Bordeaux. The wine is not cheap at $145 a bottle, but this is one to splurge on.
- Pahlmeyer – Pahlmeyer was founded in 1986 by Jason Pahlmeyer. While the Proprietary Red is a Bordeaux blend, not a Cabernet, it is another wine that delivers without fail. The wine runs $115 from the winery.
- Black Sears – For years Black Sears sold fruit to some of the finest wineries in Napa. They also produce an Estate Cabernet made by Thomas Rivers-Brown. You are looking at $80 for the most recent vintage.
- Navarro – Located in the Anderson Vally, Navarro, has been producing exceptional, fairly-priced wines since 1974. The Deep End Blend Pinot Noir is their very best and will only set you back $38.
- Black Kite – Black Kite is a family-run winery in Anderson Valley, specializing in block designated Pinot Noir from the Kite’s Rest Vineyard. A great lineup starting at $42 per bottle.
- Peay – The winery is in the Northwest corner of Sonoma County, just a few miles from the coast. A lineup of classic Sonoma Coast Pinot’s starting at $45 per bottle.
- Ridge – I think Ridge is often overlooked in a Zinfandel world where Carlisle and Turley get all the press, but their history goes back almost 50 years. Exceptional single vineyard Zins starting at $35.
- Brown – The Brown family acquired land in the hills east of Rutherford in 1980 and started their own label in 1995. The flagship Napa Zinfandel runs $40 per bottle.
- Black Sears – As mentioned above, Black Sears does a stellar Cabernet but they are better known for their Zinfandel (the vineyard was at one time a fruit source for Turley). The current vintage will be released this fall and should price around $45 per bottle.
I’ve been a fan of these wineries for years, and am pleased to have them in my cellar. You should be able to buy directly from all of them without a wait to get on the mailing list.
What California wineries would you recommend for us patiently awaiting mailing list spots?