High-End California Cabernet

High-End California Cabernet

by James Laube
August 17, 2009, 09/11/09

Fourteen of the most highly sought-after Napa Cabernets from the 2006 vintage


This is a group of heavy-hitting Cabernet producers that includes cult wines (Screaming Eagle), classic single-vineyard, estate-grown wines (Araujo, Dalla Valle, Gemstone and Rubicon), a slew of Bill Harlan bottlings, a still-rising star (Merus) and a rejuvenating star (Viader).

Bond is the lesser known of Harlan's Napa Cabernet domain, with seven of his wines present in this dream selection. While Harlan Estate and The Maiden draw upon Harlan's Oakville estate vineyard, Bond focuses on select sites from Napa Valley.

Oddly, the Bond labels don't tell you where these five different vineyards are (and the sixth, the Matriarch, is a blend of the various vineyards), but we will, and add that they're all excellent wines, if expensive. The Matriarch is the best buy, if you will, at $85, and often one of my favorites from the Bond lineup.

Briefly, Melbury is near Lake Hennessy, east of the valley floor; Quella, new with 2006, is also east of Napa Valley proper, a 9-acre vineyard near Spring Valley and Conn Valley; St. Eden is an 11-acre site in east Oakville, north of the Oakville Crossroad; Vecina (Spanish for neighbor), also 11 acres, is near Harlan, hence the name; Pluribus is at the 900-foot elevation on Spring Mountain. Matriarch blends lots left out of the final blends of the other wines.

While there have been many flashy, supple, opulent 2006s, this group shows the vintage in its tighter, more compact, tannic and backward persona. These wines need cellar time, more so than many other 2006s. Open them now and expect to be greeted by chewy, earthy tannins.

VIADER Napa Valley 2006 Score: 90 | $100
Bordeaux-like in its mix of flavors and structure, offering loamy earth, dried currant and berry, with touches of anise, sage and mineral. Ends with firm, dry tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2010 through 2016. 1,799 cases made. —J.L.


BOND Quella Napa Valley 2006 Score: 93 | $275
THE MAIDEN Napa Valley 2006 Score: 93 | $150
BOND Melbury Napa Valley 2006 Score: 92 | $275
MATRIARCH Napa Valley 2006 Score: 92 | $85
ARAUJO Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Eisele Vineyard 2006 Score: 91 | $275
DALLA VALLE Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 Score: 91 | $150
GEMSTONE Ten Yountville 2006 Score: 91 | $150
MERUS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2006 Score: 91 | $135
SCREAMING EAGLE Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2006 Score: 91 | $750
BOND Pluribus Napa Valley 2006 Score: 90 | $275
BOND St. Eden Napa Valley 2006 Score: 90 | $275
RUBICON ESTATE Rutherford 2006 Score: 90 | $145
VIADER Napa Valley 2006 Score: 90 | $100
BOND Vecina Napa Valley 2006 Score: 88 | $275


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