3 Cabernet Sauvignons for Christmas 7

Prime Rib Roast, Filet Mignon, Rib Eye Steaks, Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Beef, you name it….does holiday feasting get any better for Cabernet pairing? Hearty holiday meals with higher fat proteins call for wines with higher tannins. Master Sommelier, Craig Collins did a guest post about matching tannin to fat content earlier this year.

Cabernet Sauvignon

Each year I organize an online wine tasting known as #CabernetDay where wine lovers use social media to share and discover their favorite bottles. The great thing about the event is we get an opportunity to taste a wide range of quality Cabernet Sauvignons from around the world. We set up tastings in Napa and in San Francisco with winemakers, sommeliers and wine geeks and usually taste 50-100 different wines. Over the past 3 years a few Cabernets have stood out above the rest.

Generally speaking, I like my Cabs to have at least 8-12 years of age on them before opening. The wine needs time to mellow and let the oak integrate. Dollar for dollar, these three Cabs stand out for how well they’re drinking now and how well their priced:

CorisonCab2001 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

Cathy Corison might just produce Napa’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon, period (Chappellet is another contender). That’s a bold statement considering all the legendary names and cult wines that come from the valley. While other producers might equate the level of oak to the level of quality and to the price, Cathy Corison bucked the trends in Napa and stuck to reliable formula—quality sustainably grown fruit with minimal intervention.

The downside is her wines need time to show their brilliance (but so do many top Bordeaux). Right now the 2001 Corison has emerged from the cocoon and is drinking beautifully. Layer after layer of baked bramble berry, black cherry, stewed plum with satin tannins and well integrated cassis and cedar box.


Cornerstone092010 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa

Like bringing a blurry photo into focus, Craig Camp has sharpened the edges around Cornerstone Cellars’ offering in recent years. What used to be a one-dimensional high priced Cab house has evolved into a dynamic producer with a wide range of bottles at more accessible prices, including Oregon Pinot Noir, Rosé of Syrah and everyday priced Stepping Stone blends.

Craig and his team have obsessively sought out the best fruit sources for their core Cabernet while working to lower the alcohol and oak treatment to let the fruit show through. The result in 2010 is a benchmark Napa Cab that’s ready to go now but will age nicely until 2018-2025. Read Craig’s blog here.


Walla Walla Cabernet2001 L’Ecole No. 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla

L’Ecole’s Cabernets kind of came out of nowhere in the last 3 #CabernetDay celebrations. In 2011 the ’01 vintage was voted “best Cabernet” out of about 120 Cabs. And in 2012 the ’03 vintage came in third out of all the wines tasted. It dawned on me that Walla Walla is such a young region, we don’t really know how well their wines age.

Now having had the ’01 Walla Walla Cab a half dozen times, it continues to remind me what we love wine in the first place. A medium weight cashmere texture layered with elegant cooked dark fruits, dried Castor Cherries, stewed black plums that unfolds on your palate with a loooong finish.


What’s good wine without good food? You’ll find a cornucopia of recipes to go with your Cabernet’s here. If there’s a Cab you think is drinking well now please suggest it in the comments below. Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

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