You’ve heard it before, from everyone: “Cabernet is the king of varietals in the Napa Valley!” Yes, we know.
And it’s true – some of the best Cabernets in the world have been grown and produced right here in this miraculous 30-mile sliver of land between the Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges. Where exactly the right soils and climates came together to create one of the most impressive wine-growing regions on Earth.
Don’t get us wrong, there isn’t anything we love more than a beautiful, well-crafted Cabernet – it’s art in a glass, after all. However, there’s a pervasive idea that quality Cabernets must be experienced in some garishly ostentatious tasting room or cave. Where the furnishings cost more than a modern college education (which many of us are still paying off, btw), and a semi-retired Boomer named Milton or Karen waxes poetic about the terroir and the blend and the aging that makes the wine so exquisite, using contradictory terms to highlight the unfathomable virtuosity of the winemaker (“It’s masculine, yet feminine! Brash, yet soft-spoken!”) – it all gets a little… pretentious.
There, we said it.
Look, at V. Sattui Winery, we know and love our wine, yet even with something as commanding and delicious as Napa Valley Cabernet, we prefer to keep it a little more down to Earth. A little more BLAM and a little less je ne sais quoi. We know the elements that come together in an incredible wine work in harmony to create a story – a snapshot of a time, a place, and a history. Regardless of whether you’re “supposed” to smell toasted leather baked in brie on the nose, or taste olallieberry liquor upon the long, lingering finish, at the end of the day – it’s wine. It tastes good. It can get you buzzed. It’s meant to be enjoyed with company.
So sit back and relax, because we want to tell you about four of our favorite Cabernets that set the standard for perfectly made wines (we’re not just saying that either. These wines get rated just as highly by professional wine critics as the “ephemeral yet robust” ones.). Plus, they don’t require a dress code or a $3,000 decanter to enjoy.
They’re Big. They’re Bold. And They’re BITCHIN’.
PRESTON VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON
94 Points and Gold – American Fine Wine Competition
Gold Medal – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
91 Points – Monterey Wine Competition
90 Points – Critics Challenge Int’l Wine Competition
90 Points – San Francisco Int’l Wine Competition
92 Points – Sommelier Challenge
90 Points – Wine Enthusiast
(See? Told you the critics love our stuff.)
Our very first single-vineyard designate wine came from this illustrious 28-acre vineyard in Rutherford in 1976. That’s right…the same year as the famous Judgement of Paris that put Napa Valley wines on the map (if you’re not familiar with the story, check out the NPR article here for the best, most accurate telling…or check out the movie Bottleshock for the Hollywood-ized not-completely-accurate-but-very-entertaining version with Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, and Chris Pine).
The current release of this noteworthy Cabernet was harvested in 2015, which was the last year of the drought in California (2012-2015). Because of that, yields in the vineyard were low but the quality of the fruit was incredibly good, giving this wine an impressive amount of potency and complexity in addition to the beautiful layers and flavors imparted by the terroir of this exquisite location. Wedged between Highway 29 and the Napa River, this Rutherford vineyard contains alluvial soils washed down over millennia from Mount St. John creating a unique layering of weathered rock and gravel mixed with clay. The vines are over 40 years old, contributing to the deep, ruby-black color and delectable richness in this flagship Cabernet, with earthy tobacco, refined blackberry notes, and sculpted tannins that cling to your tongue.
For us, this is the perfect “impress your in-laws” wine – you can use all the big, flowery words if you want to, but the most important thing is that it will pair beautifully with any grilled red meat or grilled Portobello mushrooms if you’re not the meat-eating type.
MT. VEEDER Estate CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Best of Class & 93 Points & Gold – Los Angeles International Wine Competition
93 Points – James Suckling
92 Points and 2 puffs – Connoisseurs’ Guide
92 Points – CA Grapevine
91 Points & Gold – Monterey Wine Competition
90 Points – Wine Enthusiast
Double Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
Gold – SF Int’l Wine Competition
The struggle is REAL when it comes to making mountain-grown wines.
It’s tough on the growers: the vines are difficult to plant and difficult to farm; the yields are much lower than a typical vineyard; the growing season is often considerably longer due to warmer nights and cooler days, which means more time tending to the plants. It’s tough on the vines, too! As elevation increases, sunlight becomes more concentrated and the grapes develop a deeper pigment; they mature and ripen slowly because they are above the fog line and get earlier sun; and the rocky soils provide just enough nutrients to survive, and little more. Because of all the added stress, fruit from this appellation produces a wine with greater intensity of flavors and aromas – more depth, more notes, more balance, more structure and complexity…with mountain grapes, you just get MORE.
On top of the enhanced flavors and textures, mountain wine is heathier – there is growing evidence that red wines grown at higher elevations possess more antioxidants like resveratrol, a naturally-occurring polyphenol antioxidant that the plant produces in response to natural UV-sunlight (that’s right, we just hit you with some science!).
We think our Mt. Veeder Cabernet is one of the best Cabs in Napa – it’s delicious, it’s healthy, and it’s a testament to the expertise and dedication of our vineyard workers! And once again – the critics agree.
VITTORIO’S VINEYARD Estate CABERNET SAUVIGNON
90 Points & Gold – Winemaker Challenge
91 Points – CA Grapevine
90 Points & Gold – Monterey Wine Competition
91 Points & 2 Puffs – Connoisseurs’ Guide
There’s no place like home! And you can’t get much closer to home than Vittorio’s Vineyard, which is directly adjacent to our winery in St. Helena. Named in honor of Dario Sattui’s great-grandfather, who founded the original V. Sattui Winery in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood in 1885, it is our original vineyard property.
This is often the first Cabernet vineyard that we harvest each year, as the soil is gravelly and well-drained which promotes early ripening. It’s one of our “greenest” estate vineyards as well! We’ve been farming this vineyard organically since 2009, and it was officially certified as “Organically Farmed” by the CCOF in 2012. We’re pretty darn proud of this vineyard and particularly enjoy the luxury of touring it every day, observing its life cycle and sharing the experience with our members and tour guests.
Cabernet from this vineyard, in addition to being sentimental, is downright scrumptious and a wonderful addition to any event or evening! It is more feminine and elegant in its character than our bigger Cabs because the climate in St. Helena is a bit more forgiving on the vines. Plus, it tastes like cherries and dark chocolate with hints of spicy clove. What’s not to love?!
MORISOLI VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON
Wine of the Year, Best Cabernet, & 97 Points – Monterey Wine Competition
94 Points & Double Gold – American Fine Wine Competition
94 Points – James Suckling
92 Points – California Grapevine
92 Points – Wine Spectator
91 Points & Gold Medal – Winemaker Challenge
90 Points – Wine Enthusiast
The Morisoli Vineyard Cab holds a spot near and dear to our heart. Since 1994, V. Sattui has been sourcing exceptional fruit from this tiny vineyard, located in the heart of the Rutherford Bench on the western Napa Valley floor. Owned by Gary and Melody Morisoli, it is on-par with other famous nearby vineyards like Inglenook and Scarecrow, and it’s been farmed the same way for five generations; by hand and with old reliable tractors. The oldest section of the Morisoli Vineyard was originally planted in the 1880s, and that section of the vineyard survived prohibition by having its grapes sold for sacramental wine to the Christian Brothers Winery. Suffice to say, this vineyard has history – and lots of it!
Not only is it historically fascinating, it has consistently produced stellar Cabernets that embody the quintessential flavors and textures of “Rutherford Dust”, a unique characteristic in the wine that is caused by the deeper soils and microclimates in Rutherford which encourage longer growing seasons. This extra time on the vine smooths out the tannins and gives the finished product a powdery “fine dusty tannin” effect with hints of plump cocoa powder. SO MUCH YUM! And there’s more good news: the vineyard is almost entirely organic. No herbicides are ever applied. It’s no wonder that this Fab Cab is often claimed as our employees’ favorite!
As you can see, we adore these big, bold, beauties that tantalize the taste buds and inspire the imagination. They’re enjoyed by well-honed critics and occasional indulgers alike, as well as everyone in between. Most importantly, these wines convey an experience that can only be found in a finely made wine, and especially in Napa Valley Cabernets.
What’s YOUR favorite Bitchin’ V. Sattui Cab?