With the 2010 Napa Cabernet vintage rated 98 points by WineSpectator I approached my review with high expectations. As James Laube writes “For the second year running, California vintners harvested their Cabernet crop after a trying, drawn-out and notably cool growing season. But much like the striking 2009s, the top 2010s are a remarkable collection of dense, deftly balanced wines, both rich in flavor and firm in structure. They are the kind of wines that should reward cellaring for 15 to 20 years, and they demonstrate why Cabernet holds such powerful allure for many wine lovers….While vintners acknowledged the challenges of 2010, it turned out far better than anyone imagined, making it the best vintage yet of the 21st century, if ever so slightly. I rate the Napa’s 2010 vintage at 98 points on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale”. Yup, a close to perfect score for a vintage plagued by weather issues.
The 2010 growing season was cold and some claim it the coldest in living memory. The Wine Institute issued a headline “2010 California Vintage: Challenging Growing Season Promises Elegant Wines”. Some claimed the wines would be less alcoholic, more French in style. It may depend on where the cabernet is grown. If it is in the valley floor it might be warmer than up in the mountains. The wines from the mountains such as Hidden Ridge on Spring Mountain announced that they are declassifying the entire 2010 vintage “because of this year’s inconsistent growing season.” The problem? “Green, vegetal flavors and green tannins,” says Casidy Ward, the winery’s co-owner.” Per the Wine Enthusiast.
So we have two views and those that understand the geographic location of vineyards that are in the valley or have south facing locations are in luck but for the rest of us we need to be careful.
Some growers controlled there vineyards better than others. From my review the “cult” growers with small controllable acreage performed very well but cost a small fortune. Per WineSpectator those that did “preemptive strikes by growers included adjusting to a late veraison (when grapes begin to color) by removing foliage and leaving the grapes more exposed to the sun. They also did more thinning to remove clusters that were less ripe and less likely to ripen along with the core of the vineyard’s grapes.”
When I think of a 98 rated vintage my mind drifts back to the wines we purchased from the 1997 vintage. Yes 1997 not 2007. The other night Joan and I shared a bottle of 1997 BV Tapestry – absolutely beautiful. We also purchased and finished off a collection 1997 Simi, Sebastiani, and Sovereign. All three wines cost in the low teens and had nice ratings. These are not cult wines and should be confused or compared to those. What I like to see from great vintages is high volume producers who hit the high marks providing value to the masses. The 2010 vintage appears to miss this mark with a few exceptions.
A data search on WineSpectator reveals the following
Rating price range number of cases comment
90+ under $30 275
93+ under $50 15,000+ Many small producers but Honig made 15000
90 to 92 under $50 20,000 one 90 rated at $50 in quantity
89 under $25 none
88 under $25 50,000 one rated 88 – Conundrum
87 under $25 100,000 two producers – whoopee
This is not what I think of when a vintage rates 98 points.
The following is a summary of the best I could find.
Note on pricing – this is “suggested” retail and it should be less expensive in reality.
Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010 rated 93 $45
Graceful and elegant, featuring lively red and dark berry flavors, with touches of black licorice and mocha-laced espresso, showing focus on the long, tapered finish. Drink now through 2023. 15,000 cases made.
Terra Valentine Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District 2010 92 $45
Tightly focused on dark berry, cedar, fresh earth, black licorice and savory dried herb notes, all well-proportioned, long and persistent. Drink now through 2024. 3,152 cases made
Orin Swift Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Palermo 2010 91 $32
Dense and chewy, with complex dark berry, mocha, cedar and plum flavors. Tight and focused, this red is impressive on the finish, where the flavors flow freely. Drink now through 2025. 5,400 cases made
Conundrum Red California 2010 88 $22
A big style, featuring fresh, pure, complex aromatics that echo the dark berry, mineral and floral notes, accented by cranberry and spice. Firms and fans out on the finish. Drink now through 2019. 50,000 cases made.
Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley 2010 88 $29
Pure and clean, offering excellent fruit complexity, with wild berry, blueberry, spice and cedar flavors, firm tannins and good length. Drink now through 2018. 85,000 cases made
Roots Run Deep Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Educated Guess 2010 87 $20
Tightly wound, with an appealing mix of mineral, spice, dried berry and sage. Tannins are gutsy and chewy. Drink now through 2018. 38,000 cases made. –JL
Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 2010 87 $18
Smoky, toasty notes weave in and out of the plum, cassis and currant flavors, accented by licorice, sage and loamy earth. Firms on the finish. Drink now through 2022. 61,000 cases made. –MW
Amici Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County Olema 2010 86 $23
Offers notes of chewy black cherry, plum, spice and tobacco, showing touches of tar and roasted herb. Concentrated and firm, with a long finish. Drink now through 2020. 6,000 cases made. –MW