Cab-A-Palooza & Friends 2018 (Part 2)

Part 2 of our massive 2018 big red tasting.


Lot 50 | 2018 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon – HOLD – rock, oak and black fruit are monolithic, tightly wound and brooding with a concave nose. Like the Lot 40 Diamond Mountain Cabernet, Lot 50 will be one of the last wines to crack open, but it will also age the longest and gain complexity for many years to come. I have been purchasing this Walla Walla Cab for many years now and I can honestly say 2018 is the best wine I have ever purchased from this family but also the least penetrable. And that is saying a lot as every one of them has taken at least 18 months to even begin to open up.

Lot 51 | 2018 Chalk Hill Cabernet Franc – HOLD – No touchy! The high acidity here will preserve this wine beautifully and elegantly but give this another couple of years in the cellar as its just a baby. Who knew Chalk Hill could produce a wine of such elegant refinement?

Lot 52 | 2018 Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Franc – DRINK OR HOLD – Drink yourself sober! Bright and vibrant high tones of dried rose petals and Bing cherry buoyed with savory depths of dried tobacco leaf, French oak spice, fennel and lingering notes of spruce and toasted oak. Fleshy and focused yet ethereal and vibrant with focused minerality on the finish – gorgeous nuance and elegance and fantastic integration all at just 12.5% alc.! It’s no wonder it won the Best Cabernet Franc Award at the Sommelier Challenge. Still Available

Lot 53 | 2018 Sonoma Mountain Merlot – HOLD – as crunchy and delicious as this is, I would still wait another year or so before cracking one of these. If you are desperate for some elegance or simply need a ridiculously food-friendly and versatile red, then, OK, you are forgiven; otherwise, leave it alone, lots more to come. Still Available

Lot 54 | 2018 Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – HOLD – needs another year or two at a minimum and I lean towards two. Crushed rock, focused black cassis, and floral notes of lilac and violets are balanced with lightly toasted French oak, and a hint of dark earth. Ethereal structure, elegance, and balance are there in spades but this wine is, ultimately, still tightly wound. Still Available

Lot 57 | 2018 St. Helena Cabernet Sauvignon – the ultimate DRINK OR HOLD – wide open and ready to rock, this big, rich, ripe and chewy Cabernet is the 2018 to drink now. Sure, it’ll improve, but, if you need a great steak wine, this’ll do fantastically well in the near-term…for the next decade, you can’t lose with N.57! Still Available

Lot 58 | 2018 McDowell Valley Petite Sirah – HOLD – awkward right now so hold to build silky depth. Blackberry syrup, walnut husk, thyme, and Italian spice are bright and light but extracted and unbalanced right now. Needs time to flesh out and build depth and lower register. Still Available

Lot 59 | 2018 Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon – HOLD – like N.40 Diamond Mountain, these Mayacamas range, high-elevation Cabernet’s are quite awkward right now and tightly wound. N.59 is starting to loosen up but still oak dominated and unyielding. Don’t touch. Small Availability

Lot 60 | 2018 Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon – HOLD – nervy, vervy and quite compelling despite its youth but best to wait a couple of years to flesh out the mid-palate.

Lot 64 | 2018 Calistoga “Hillside” Cabernet Sauvignon – DRINK OR HOLD - Red Vines, rock and leather start the party with molten brown sugar, freshly hewn cedar, and dark juicy blackberry syrup joining with air. As rich and chewy as it is, it’s also surprisingly restrained for Calistoga thanks to its hillside arrangement. Nevertheless, and despite it starting to crack open, this is a badass monster of wine that deserves a spot in your cellar. What a hidden gem!

Lot 66 | 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – HOLD OR DRINK– just starting to knit-together and needs 2-hour decant in the near term. The bouquet does indeed open up in the glass, but the hillside structure keeps the wine tight on the palate - fragrant and aromatic with cedar, toasted french oak, dark chocolate and candied cherry. Focused and supple up front with gobs of structure fleshing out with time in a decanter. 24-hour decant in the near-term. Still Available

Lot 67 | 2018 Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon - DRINK OR HOLD – if you like N.51, 52, 53 or 54, you’ll love the supple elegance of this wine. The bouquet sings with red fruits, high-toned and ethereal. She’s pretty on the palate as well with crunchy red fruits that make this a supremely food-friendly Cabernet. However, this wine is still unwinding and finding its depth so be sure to hang onto some to see how it improves, for it certainly will. Still Available

Lot 68 | 2018 Sonoma County “Mountain” Cabernet Sauvignon – DRINK OR HOLD – this wine will continue to improve but its so damn lovely now, why wait? The price is insane too, so one could be forgiven for going hog-wild on these in the near-term. Focused blackberry syrup with violets complexed with seasoned spruce hardwoods and baking spice…juicy, open, and electric on the palate with a zesty, mouthwatering structure that just sings mineral mountain restraint. Still Available

Lot 69 | 2018 Napa Valley Merlot – DRINK OR HOLD - Soft, silky and gorgeous all over with good mid-palate depth, smoky, ripe red fruits, vanilla and earth. It gets more chocolatey with air, complexing with toasted French oak focus, grilled poblano peppers and leather. Rich on the front palate with chewy tannins on the finish. Lifted acidity brings it all together beautifully. Boom. Small Availability

Lot 71 | 2018 Calistoga “Hillside” Cabernet Sauvignon – DRINK OR HOLD - fantastic, inky, and brooding with black fruit, rock and mineral-laden tannins that crackle with energy and verve. Super-sexy on the palate with excellent balance and emerging complexity with sarsaparilla, walnut husk, thyme spice, and bourbon notes from the American oak aging merging with leather and dried cherry notes that carry through the long finish. Small Availability

Lot 72 | 2018 Russian River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – DRINK OR HOLD – I would err on the side of HOLD but this wine is still pretty irresistible now…dark chocolate, black cherry and tobacco leaf are savory and spicy on the palate with a core of juicy black fruit and toasted French oak. Supremely compelling and elegant while still rich and rewarding, this wine perfectly threads the needle. Nice to see it finally coming around but best to wait. Small Availability

Lot 76 | 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – DRINK OR HOLD – this wine has ebbed and flowed quite a bit in the bottle but seems to have settled in nicely now. It requires a good decant but opens up nicely now with an hour or two of air. Still Available

Lot 78 | 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – HOLD – as sexy as this wine is now (and it is SEXY AF), just trust me and hold onto it. You won’t regret it.

Lot 81 | 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – DRINK OR HOLD – finally coming into its own and fleshing out quite nicely. If you like the rich, ripe plushness of higher pH wines like Lot 42 and 57 then you will enjoy this tremendously. Small Availability

Lot 82 | 2018 Walla Walla Meritage – DRINK OR HOLD – this is delicious now, but it will continue to age beautifully. Chewy and rich but exquisite balance and emerging nuance make it quite enjoyable. 24-hour decant in the near-term…of course, the best is still ahead for this wine. If you don’t have this in your cellar, you should. Still Available

Lot 86 | 2018 Walla Walla Merlot – DRINK OR HOLD – oh yeah, this puppy is really cracking open now…open-knit and accessible bouquet of confectionary hard candy smarties, gobs of stuffing with a hint roasted poblano chile, complexed with toffee and toasted French oak…luscious on the palate but beautifully elegant and seamless. Yes, its still a baby but far more approachable than it was last Fall. Still Available

Lot 90 | 2018 Walla Walla Merlot  - DRINK OR HOLD - along with its Cabernet sibling, Lot 90 Merlot has always been a highly structured and dense wine with a fairly unyielding bouquet. That is beginning to change and a nice decant gets this wine into a good state of drinkability…freshly toasted French oak, beautiful hardwoods of cedar and spruce, adorned with candied cherry and brown sugar. Focused and extracted on the front palate, with an ethereal finish of cherry and toasted oak. Rich, chewy and delicious but with all the stuffing to go another 10-15 years in the cellar. Still Available

Lot 91 | 2018 Walla Walla Cabernet Sauvignon – DRINK OR HOLD – like Lot 90 Merlot, this wine is cracking open nicely with a good dose of air. Cherry hard candy cuts through the rich background of toasted French oak, brown sugar, and fragrant cedar. Focused and palate staining on the front, with chewy tannins leading to a lingering cafe latte finish…good to go now but well suited for another 10-20 years in the cellar. Still Available

Lot 92 | 2018 Red Mountain Red Blend/Meritage – DRINK OR HOLD – silky, sexy and beautifully integrated not to mention potent. Meaty plum and rock in the bouquet with plush, mineral-laced tannins and black fruit building on the finish. Excellent complexity and delineation throughout. Still Available

Lot 94 | 2018 Dry Creek Merlot – DRINK OR HOLD – this Merlot is as well-built as many Napa Cabernets. Rich and powerful with a gorgeous bouquet of clove, poblano chili, thyme, and Bing cherry. Untoasted oak tannins provide incredible structure and lift to the fruit while never overpowering. Just coming out to play now, this wine requires a good 24-hour decant and the best is yet to come for sure. Still Available

Lot 95 | 2018 Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon – HOLD – I think you could very much enjoy drinking this wine now with its complex bouquet of brown sugar, baking spice, black cherry and poblano chili as well as its mouthwatering acidity. However, its incredibly well-built and muscular and I think its best left in the cellar for at least another year. Still Available

Lot 100 | 2019 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon  - DRINK OR HOLD – absolutely classic Rutherford Cabernet bouquet with dusty yet pretty fruit, silky and lovely on the palate with beautifully polished mineral-laced tannins full and fleshy on the palate, chewy and generous, finishing with cedar/cigarbox and toffee. Remarkable how approachable (not to mention sexy and energetic) the 2019’s are…drink this over the next decade. Still Available