Dear readers, I have some unfortunate news, we, as a wine consuming society, have been duped, hornswaggled, scammed! You see, we have been led to believe that Cabernet, in any form, but particularly from Bordeaux or Napa, is the best wine in the world. Attorneys everywhere beat their chests after numbing their palates with Ketel-One Martinis and proclaim Silver Oak to be “the best”. For a sense of irony, please refer to American Psycho,
Americans, true to the stereotype, continue to consume without knowledge, and then make bold proclamations of what is the best that money can buy. Meanwhile, $100+ bottles of Napa Cabs perch precariously atop this teetering house of cards. Banking on a 30 year old assumption that Napa Cab is the best, it will always be worth the money. The truth is out there, but the reality is not the perception.
Great Wine is Great Wine, just like “a pint is a pound the world around” or something like that. All things being equal, the best Napa Cabs are amazing. They really know how to get the best out of this grape up there. Unfortunately, they aren’t worth my hard-earned money. I love to drink OPC (other people’s Cabs), but I can’t bring myself to plop down a fat C-note to pay for, not only the wine, but the inequities of man. If you’ve been to Napa, it will astound you the size of the tasting rooms. Every time I go to Vegas, I invariably utter the phrase “these casinos weren’t built by the money of all of the winners”. The same principle applies to the tasting rooms. There is a direct parallel between mid-life crises sports cars, boats and producing $100 Cabs, just different levels, same neuroses.
How did the situation escalate itself? Well, California began to gain credibility in the 1970’s thank, in large part, to pioneers like Robert Mondavi, Joe Heitz, and a few other notables. Just like their predecessors Inglenook, they made Cabernet Sauvignon, along with just about everything else. But the Cabernet was great, and it continues to be great. And there is probably no better place in the US to grow Cab than in Napa. So the prices began to escalate, so did the value of property in Napa. Suddenly, probably thanks to Opus One, everyone wanted to produce a $100 bottle of Cab.
At one time, the hands down best wines from this country were Napa Cabs. That has all changed, now, there are many regions in this country that are producing equally amazing wines, and most aren’t even Cabernets. That is not even to mention the amazing wines from all around the globe that are made in an “International Style”, which means low acidity, and robust fruit for the American Palate.
The greatest Irony of all is the fact that most people that plonk down the money never appreciate the wine. They are not wine devotees; they are just as likely to enjoy a bottle of Yellow-Tail if their minions thought that it made them cool. In the restaurant biz, we call it “table-dressing’ wine bottles that sit at the edge of a table so all of the other diners can see how cool they are, just as they probably parked their car taking up 2 spaces in the back of the lot.
So, does that mean that you can’t buy Cabs from Napa? Absolutely not! Please choose producers who are charging what is reasonable for these wines, I draw the line around $60 retail, but I might go as high as $75 for a really special wine. There are hundreds of producers in Napa making cabs that are every bit as good as Opus One or Silver Oak for half the price. Furthermore, you will find top quality wines from everywhere in California and The Pacific Northwest, from grapes other than, gasp!, Cabernet. Just remember, the wine road less traveled bears the most fruit!