Columnist, Food

★★★ Exceptional  ★★Excellent ★Very Good

Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be available at additional stores. Check to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.

Classic Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon should feature flavors of blackberries and currants and — increasingly rare — a minty quality that tastes cool, for lack of a better word. Too many today taste only of wood, tannin and alcohol; in other words, hot flavors. Unfortunately, Napa Valley cabernet of any quality will not be cheap. The cost of vineyard land averages $180,000 per acre and climbs as high as $300,000, according to the Napa Valley Vintners trade association. No wines made on such land can be priced inexpensively.

These Napa Valley cabernets represent the old style. Most can trace a history back to Napa in the 1960s, while one represents a European interpretation of California terroir.
 — D.M.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis 2010


Napa Valley, Calif., $60

This is the entry-level cabernet from the winery founded by Warren Winiarski in 1970. Blended from grapes grown throughout Napa Valley, it shows classic flavors of black fruit, mint and earth. Lovely.

Republic National: Available in the District at 1 W Dupont Circle Wine & Liquors, Ace Beverage, Calvert Woodley, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Circle Wine & Liquor, Magruder’s, Rodman’s, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits, various Whole Foods Market locations; on the list at Bobby Van’s, Capital Grille, Morton’s the Steakhouse, Occidental Grill, Oceanaire, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Smith & Wollensky.

Antica Cabernet Sauvignon 2009/2010


Napa Valley, Calif., $55

Piero Antinori, the famed Tuscan wine producer, makes this cabernet from grapes grown in the higher-altitude vineyards of the Atlas Peak area of Napa Valley. It shows great structure, dark fruit and a mineral finish that doesn’t want to quit. You might still be able to find the 2009, which benefits from more bottle age and shows how well a restrained style of winemaking works in a riper vintage.

Republic National: Available in the District at AB Liquors, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Circle Wine & Liquor, MacArthur Beverages, Washington Wine & Liquor; on the list at Acqua al 2, Graffiato, Morton’s the Steakhouse.

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


Napa Valley, Calif.,$55

From a pioneering winery that has never surrendered to trends toward greater ripeness and alcohol levels, this wine shows delicious fruit and elegance, balanced throughout with acidity and earthiness on the long finish. 

M Touton Selection: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Burka’s Wine & Liquor, Calvert Woodley, Morris Miller Wine & Liquor, Paul’s of Chevy Chase, Rodman’s, S&R Liquors, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits; on the list at Del Campo, Del Frisco’s Grille, CityZen, Rasika West End, the Source. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s, Bradley Food & Beverage and Vino Volo in Bethesda; Belby Discount Beer & Wine in Rockville; in Gaithersburg; Frederick Wine House; the Old Vine and Wells Discount Liquors in Baltimore; Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington. Available in Virginia at Chain Bridge Cellars in McLean, Planet Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria, various Wegmans and Whole Foods Market locations.

Frog’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


Napa Valley, Calif., $45

Frog’s Leap wines always impress me with their focus, their fruit and a quality I can best describe as grounded. With this wine, you taste not only California’s fruit and sun, but also its earth. 

Republic National in the District; Bacchus in Maryland; Country Vintner in Virginia: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits, Magruder’s, Press Liquors, Rodman’s, Sherry’s Fine Wine & Spirits. Available in Maryland at Balducci’s (Bethesda), Cranbrook Liquors in Cockeysville, Montgomery County Liquor Stores (Darnestown, Kensington), Pine Orchard Wine in Ellicott City, in Gaithersburg, Silesia Liquors in Fort Washington, Total Wine in Laurel, Wine Source in Baltimore.

Heritance Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

★★1 / 2

Napa Valley, Calif., $38

Bernard Portet’s new venture produces this stylish cabernet that echoes the early wines of Clos du Val.

Country Vintner: Available in the District at Cordial Fine Wine & Spirits, Dean & DeLuca, Cairo Wine & Liquor; on the list at Bistro Bis, Elisir, Ripple. Available in Virginia at Grape + Bean in Alexandria, Oakton Wine Shop.

Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Napa Valley, Calif., $25

From Michael Mondavi Family Wines, this cabernet shows the classic fruit and balance of Napa Valley in an accessible style. And it plays well with food.

Bacchus: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, D’Vines, Safeway (Southeast); on the list at Capital Grille. Available in Maryland at Cellar Wine & Spirits in Hagerstown, Mills Fine Wine and Spirits in Annapolis; Wine World Beer & Spirits in Abingdon; on the list at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Baltimore.