According to many experts the 2010 Napa valley cabs are outstanding! A cool and challenging year that luckily ended quite well, producing concentrated long lived cabs that display bold flavours, great structure and amazing balance. This outstanding vintage could be the best of the 21st century. Adding to the fact that many great California producers have toned down their cabs to produce wines with more finesse, this cooler growing season helps them achieve their goal.
At Les Conseillers du Vin, we decided to taste a selection of wines from reputed producers to verify the aging potential, richness and balance of this excellent Napa Cab vintage. How long should we leave these fine Cabs in our cellar? How much should we pay for high quality Napa Cabs? A group of 15 experienced tasters analysed 7 California Cabs plus a mystery wine in the usual blind tasting format.
Results: Overall the wines faired extremely well! To establish the order of preference of the tasting panel, 3 points were awarded to a first place vote, 2 pts for a 2nd place vote and 1pt for a 3rd place vote.
Most of the participants agreed that wine # 1 La Jota (0 pts) was much weaker and did not fit in this high quality group. There was no clear cut winner, as five wines scored between 14 to 17 pts. Regardless, the three favourites were 1-Kathryn Hall (17 pts), 2-Janzen Beckstoffer To Kalon (16pts) 3-Quintessa (16pts). The mystery wine (Château La Tour Carnet) was well hidden in the 8th spot. Proof of this, only one taster out of 15 picked it out! It seemed obvious that 2010 is a great vintage for Napa Cabs; the wines served in this tasting displayed good depth and concentration, with perfect balance and great aging potential. Unfortunately prices are high, but it is possible to find some very good wines that display similar characteristics in the $50 to $75 range. My top three wines were: 1-Cliff Lede, 2-Kathryn Hall 3-tied Corison and Janzen . See my tasting notes below.
The wines : Order of blind tasting:
1- La Jota, Howell Mountain $89$ (Group score: 0 pt)
Quite disappointing! Very pale colour. Vegetal and smoky scents dominate. Lacks character, extract and structure. Rather simple, especially for mountain fruit! My rating: 86?
2- Trinchero, Cloud’s Nest Vineyard, Mount Veeder $85 (Group score: 15 pts)
Typical mountain fruit with firm tannins. Deeply coloured. Intense blackberry and currant with some graphite and smoked bacon scents. A bit on the rustic style: solid structure and very good aging potential (5 to 10 years). My rating: 91+
3- Cliff Lede, Stag’s Leap $80 (Group Score: 14 pts)
Lots of ripe blueberry and dark cherry with some new oak. My favourite wine of the tasting. Great balance, richness and aging potential (4 to 8 years). Full bodied and elegant with very good length. Superb! My rating: 93
4- Kathryn Hall, Napa Valley $163 (Group score: 17 pts)
Deeply coloured with great structure and extract. Lots of very ripe fruit with a hint of volatile acidity. Tannins on the firm side but remains well balanced. Very good length and aging potential (5 to 10 years) My rating: 93
5- Quintessa, Rutherford $149 (Group score: 16 pts)
In a more elegant medium bodied style. Soft tannins, good balance with a hint of lingering bitterness. Some dark cherry with oak and mineral overtones. Can be enjoyed now and over the next 4 to 6 years. My rating: 91
6- Corison, Napa Valley $109 (Group score : 11 pts)
Probably the most elegant charming wine of the tasting. Graphite with some new oak, dark berry and vegetal scents. A rather refined perfectly balanced Cab with some aging potential (4 to 7 years). Very easy drinking for such a young wine. My rating: 92
7- Janzen, Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley $149 (Group score: 16 pts)
Made with fruit from the highly reputed To Kalon vineyard managed by the best grower in Napa : Beckstoffer. Full bodied with firm tannins, a bit on the rustic side. This deeply coloured Cab offers excellent aging potential: 5 to 10 years. My rating: 92
8-Château La Tour Carnet 2010 Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux $54 (Group score: 3 pts)
Only one participant identified it as the mystery wine. Under the radar, only 2 tasters chose this Cru Classé in their three favourites. A typical 2010 Haut-Médoc wine that displays firm tannins with good acidity. Regardless of its low score this modern Bordeaux faired well. Some ripe fruit with smoky oak. Very good aging potential (4 to 8 years) at an affordable price ($54 @ SAQ). My rating: 90+