9 Impressive Napa Cabernets
New reviews of California Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2012 vintage
Augustus Weed, Wine Spectator
Posted: January 26, 2015
Tasting Highlights bring the best wines from our editors’ most recent tastings to WineSpectator.com members.
The 2012 vintage of Napa Cabernets is proving exceptional. The long growing season allowed the grape to ripen slowly, but also produced a record-breaking crop. An early assessment of the vintage indicates that the wines are rich and ripe in flavor, with better balance than many of the 2011s.
Many of these wines, made from thick-skinned grapes, feature ample tannins and should age well over the long term.
Edward Wallis’ Cabernet, the top-scoring wine here, is dense and chewy, with fine-grained tannins, but also elegant, showing the balance of the vintage. It comes from 13 acres of Cabernet and other Bordeaux varieties planted in 1997 in the Diamond Mountain District. Thomas Rivers Brown is the winemaker.
Amici’s Napa Valley Bottling exhibits the ripe, juicy side of the grape and vintage. Joel Aiken, who has his own eponymous label, used grapes predominantly from Rutherford and Atlas Peak, and aged 50 percent of the wine in new French oak for 20 months. At $45, it hits the sweet spot for price and quality.
Rounding out the selection are wines from Janzen, Roberts & Rogers, Cliff Lede and Vine Cliff. H Posert is the label of the late Harvey Posert Jr. and his son Harvey Posert III.
WALLIS FAMILY ESTATE Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain District 2012 Score: 92 | $85
Firm and dense, this is well-focused on a tight core of mineral-laced dark berry, vanilla bean, licorice and espresso notes. Chewy and elegant, supported by fine-grain tannins, this wine will best be served by short-term cellaring. Best from 2016 through 2028. 500 cases made.—J.L.
AMICI Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 90 | $45
Delivers a core of ripe blackberry and wild berry flavors, supported by lively acidity and firm tannins. Ends with a persistent fruit- and cedar-driven finish. Drink now through 2026. 3,200 cases made.—J.L.
JANZEN Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 90 | $65
A juicy, zesty style, with a racy streak to the core of wild berry and blackberry fruit. Snappy acidity keeps the flavors lively. Ends with firm tannins. Drink now through 2024. 650 cases made.—J.L.
CLIFF LEDE Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District 2012Score: 90 | $75
Strikes a balance between elegance and finesse, with a mixed core of dark berry, savory herb, cedar, crushed rock and tobacco flavors. Firmly tannic on the finish, ending with a burst of black licorice. Drink now through 2026. 5,776 cases made.—J.L.
ROBERTS & ROGERS Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain 2012 Score: 90 | $90
Packs lots of rich, extracted flavors, with a mix of roasted coffee, cedar, dark berry, loamy earth and licorice flavors. Despite the power and density on display, this shows a measure of finesse that will take some time to fully reveal itself. Best from 2016 through 2028. 850 cases made.—J.L.
TURLEY Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 90 | $40
Pleasant, firm, rich and deftly balanced, this offers a mix of ripe dark berry, cedary oak and black licorice flavors, leading to a long, pure finish that tightens toward the end. Drink now through 2024. NA cases made.—J.L.
H POSERT Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley II & III 2012 Score: 89 | $75
Exhibits a dusty, cedary edge to the dried berry, currant and dried herb flavors, combining complexity with finesse. Ends with firm, drying tannins. Drink now through 2024. 173 cases made.—J.L.
VINE CLIFF Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville 2012 Score: 89 | $85
Features a toasty oak overlay, adding dimension to the taut core of dried dark berry, licorice and tobacco leaf flavors, ending with savory tannins. Drink now through 2026. 1,192 cases made.—J.L.
VINE CLIFF Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2012 Score: 88 | $60
Firm, with a tight core of dried dark berry, savory herb, cedar, tobacco and sage notes, tilting toward progressively drier tannins. Drink now through 2024. 2,230 cases made.—J.L.
Look for Wallis Family Estate on page 77 in the Wine & Spirits December 2014 issue. We received Years Best, Best Buy with 92 points for our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon! This will make a great gift for under the Christmas tree or served with a Holiday meal.
We have been receiving positive press from Festivals and Competitions around the country.
First close to home we have the Winemaker Challenge which is an international wine competition held in San Diego on Jan 19th and 20th. This is the fourth annual competition where judges taste blind to see what wines in the new year have to offer. A gold medal is awarded to wines "that possess an added dimension or profound characteristics" by 2 out of 3 judges at a table. A silver is awarded to a wine "that exhibits above average character for the wine type and place of origin."
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon received a GOLD medal
2010 Little Sister received a SILVER medal
Next a little farther away in South Carolina we have the Hilton Head Food and Wine Festival which has been running for 28 years. This is a festival that benefits educational opportunities for students in the Hospitality program at the University of South Carolina Beaufort and supports a scholarship program through John T and Valerie Curry at the Technical College of the Lowcountry. This competition goes on the last week of January and Wallis Estate received some amazing positive comments from stranger and friends alike.
2010 Little Sister received a Gold medal
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon received a SILVER medal
We hope everyone that went to either of these events enjoyed themselves and if you ever want to share stories with us please feel free!
The Wallis Family
Exciting news! San Francisco Chronicle just put out their results for the 2013 competition.
In more exciting news the Wine Enthusiast magazine also gave the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon a 91 for their upcoming issue.
We are very proud of our wine maker, Thomas Rivers Brown, and his amazing staff and are excited to bring this great wine to your table. Please contact us to start your order today.
As I was stumbling around my emails today I found this very interesting article written by Tim Atkins giving a glimpse into the rich history of the Napa Valley winery world. He gives reference to how wine arrived in the valley and makes references to how it was sustained through the years as well as geological relations to France. Worth a read
I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season!
Just a little update from Wallis Family Estate we are on page 63 of Wine and Spirits magazine as the "BEST BUY" for 2012 top 100 Cabernet! Very happy the 2009 wine is doing so well. For this holiday season you may want to look into the 2010 as it will pair wonderfully with the big holiday dinner you may already be thinking about preparing.
China is now supporting the legitimacy of Napa Valley as a wine culture, which means that Napa Valley is truly a big player in the this new generation. Many wineries who export their wines to China can feel safer now that their wines and their names are being protected by the government of China.
The article I read this from was gathered from Napa Valley Vintners recent news release:
The Wallis Estate fruit is located 600 feet up Diamond Mountain provding a challenging environment for the grapes to grow. This allows the grapes to mature in their own unique way. Here are some pictures to show what kind of terrain the vines have to work with
The grapes are flourising this year as it has been dry and warm allowing the fruit to soak up as much sun as it can before the rains.
Good luck with this coming Harvest!
The 2012 Family Winemakers of California tasting was great fun. On a beautiful cloudless sunny day on the warf of San Fransisco the Fort Mason center hosted over 250 wines.
There was a lot of trade and many consumers who came by the table on Sunday, to say hello, and I know more trade will be coming by to try the ever favored Wallis Cabernet Sauvignon later this afternoon.
Thanks to all the familiar faces that came by to say hello yesterday! It was great to see you again.