The Best Wines of 2015

American Cabernet Sauvignon

(96) Gallo Estate Northern Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Sonoma, CA). A dense ruby purple, the nose is dominated by lovely black berry and plum fruit, with just a hint of toasted oak. Solid on the palate, balanced by its acidity. A brilliant example of restraint and power in the bottle. Wonderful now, but capable of aging. ($95)

(96) Shypoke 2012 Calistoga (Napa Valley, CA). An aromatic, powerful, yet elegant cabernet aged in French oak. You’ll swoon over the ménage of blackberries and cassis. This impeccable cab is simply delicious and worth every penny. ($55)

(96) Stewart Cellars Napa (California). Enjoy the work of Paul Hobbs at less money. Cellar-worthy choice. Rich and plush with even tannins. Deep, dark and brooding with a long finish. ($65)

(95) Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder 2011 (Napa Valley, CA). A blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petit verdot, 6% cabernet franc, aged 22 months in French barriques, 50% new. A wine of amazing depth. Aromas of currant, plum and blackberry mingle with floral nuances and a subtle earthiness. Rich, round black fruit flavors coat the palate with lovely sweet/tart acidity. Hints of smoke, spice and terroir follow. Tannins are supple and in perfect balance, with all components on the lengthy finish. ($65)

(95) J. McClelland Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Knoll District 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). A blend of 86% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 4% petit verdot, barrel-aged for 20 to 24 months. This is an elegant wine, reminiscent of a good Saint-Julien. Distinctive cabernet sauvignon aromas and flavors predominate. The merlot adds a velvety texture, the petit verdot adds a pleasant herbal nuance. Tannins are firm. While nice now, five to six more years will allow some lovely development. ($50)

(95) Rocca Family Vineyards, Collinetta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa Valley, CA). From a vineyard located in the Coombsville AVA, just east of the city of Napa, this lovely example of a Napa Valley cabernet is sure to please the most discerning of palates. Intensely dark in the glass, the nose is filled with black fruit, and hints of toast. Exceptionally well balanced, with a long finish. ($95)

(95) Saint Helena Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Napa Valley, CA). Blend of 98% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petit verdot, estate grown. Native yeast fermentation and 22 months in three types of French oak, 70% new, add to the complexities of this fabulous wine. The bouquet is lush with hints of lilac, blueberry and black cherry. The mouthfeel is rich with ripe, black fruit flavors mingling with nuances of mocha, coffee and sweet spices and a hint of “cigar box” on the end. Tannins are firm, in balance, and assure several years of development. ($75)

(94) Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). From the Michael Mondavi family, this Napa Valley cabernet has it all going on. Dark in the glass, with an outstanding nose, with lots of black fruit, spice and toast. Lots of weight on the palate; the long finish maintains its balance throughout. ($60)

(93) Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Washington). 100% estate grown, the nose is bursting with blueberry and baking spices. The palate is layered with cassis, currants and black licorice. Everything is brought together by racy minerality and soft dusty tannins on the finish. A delicious glass of wine—perfect for summer grilling. ($46)

(93) B.R. Cohn Gold Label 2012 (California).  A blend of 67% Napa County, 33% Sonoma County. Rich, lush, generous cabernet showing nuances of both Napa and Sonoma. Classic currant notes, dark fruits, mocha, plum and well-integrated acidity and tannins for a full-bodied, smooth finish. ($42)

(93) Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). Complex and satisfying, with plush fruits of black cherry and nuances of espresso and bittersweet chocolate. A great match with short ribs, veal dishes and hard cheeses. ($45)

(93) Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). From the central Napa Valley region, this cabernet demonstrates balance and elegance. A dense ruby in the glass, the notes of dark fruit and toast are echoed on the powerful yet balanced palate. Lots of delicious fruit, from start to long finish. ($50)

(93) Northstar Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Washington). From one of the Columbia Valley’s most acclaimed wineries, this cabernet exemplifies the potential of Washington wines. A dense purple in the glass, notes of dark fruit, spice and toast rise from the glass. On the palate, the fruit is bright and clean, and the well-balanced finish lingers on for quite some time. ($41)

(93) Red Mare Cabernet Napa 2012 (California). This concentrated, attractive cabernet offers saturated flavors of cassis, baking spices, leather and dark chocolate that integrate nicely with the wine’s broad, expansive finish. ($50)

(93) The Counselor Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). This cabernet is wonderfully complex with many different flavors that sneak up on you, such as cocoa, tobacco and currant. There is intensity to this wine, which with time turns into velvety goodness. ($32)

(92) Seven Rings Cabernet Oak Knoll 2013 (California). Red fruits intermixed with blackberries, spring flowers and spicy cedar skillfully contribute to the complex palate; a richly textured mouthfeel and firm acidity provide great pleasure as well as excellent balance. ($29)

(92) Beniziger Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Sonoma County, CA). The Benziger family has been one of Sonoma’s sustainability pioneers, with their well-thought-out vineyard and winery practices. This care and attention to detail are demonstrated by the quality of this wine. Showing lots of dark fruit, berry, plum and cherry on the nose, the palate confirms the freshness and energy. The finish is long and balanced, with plenty of finesse and class. ($22)

(92) Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Alexander Valley, CA). A winner from a difficult vintage, dry and rich with complex black raspberry and black cherry notes, fine tannins and a long finish.

(92) Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet (Washington). Big and bold wine that opens to lots of inviting black cherry and a touch of vanilla. A touch of minerality and cocoa. Serious cabernet for a reasonable price. ($15)

(92) Eaglewood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Rutherford (California). The bouquet is a bit subdued, but hints at a lovely array of ripe red berry, black cherry and currant aromas lightly framed with mild oak. It is smooth and supple on the palate, displaying excellent balance, and builds in depth across the palate, with black currant, cherry, blackberry and plum flavors, and subtle spice notes in the background. A steely edge indicates firm tannins, but they are very well integrated. ($35)

(92) Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). A well-balanced example of talented grape growing and winemaking. A dark ruby in the glass, the blackberry, sweet cherry, and spice notes rise from the glass. The wine has weight, but is not heavy on the palate. Enjoy this with a wide range of foods. ($28)

(92) Groth Oakville Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (California). Dense and rich with a concentrated core of black cherry, blackberry, dark plum and blueberry flavors that are supported by hints of herbs and cedary oak. The long finish is supported by a touch of vanilla and polished tannins. ($49)

(92) Katherine Goldschmidt Crazy Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). A small-production cabernet from famed wine maker Nick Goldschmidt. The elegance of this wine is perfectly balanced with the controlled berry fruit that wants to jump out of the bottle but doesn’t. This wine is satisfying from start to finish, and is one of the best cabernet values out there. ($18)

(92) Mathew Joseph Cabernet 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). Notes of cherry and chocolate are abundant on the nose. Full flavors of ripe cherries lead to a well-balanced lingering finish. ($25)

(92) Monticello Cabernet Jefferson Napa 2012 (California). Rich to its core, this cabernet offers supple aromas of blueberry and dark chocolate, followed by luscious flavors of black currant, baking spices and savory earth that echo throughout the long finish. ($40)

(92) Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Mendocino County, CA). From one of the leaders of the organic movement, this Mendocino cabernet shows restraint rather than excess; elegance rather than power. The bright fruit on the nose and palate make this a very food-friendly and accessible wine. ($25)

(92) Peju Province Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). A great example of Napa Valley cabernet. Powerful, yet balanced. Intense, but with elegance. The palate, with its rich, dark fruit, goes on for a long time; the finish balancing fruit and acidity. A great wine, across the board. ($50)

(92) Philippe Lorraine Cabernet Reserve Napa 2012 (California). A full-bodied wine defined by its beautiful purity, it possesses captivating flavors of blackberries, cedar, cocoa and earth that weave together to make a wine of outstanding complexity. ($40)

(92) Ranch House Cabernet Napa 2012 (California). Beautiful blueberry, black cherry, baking spice and cigar box flavors cascade over the palate and weave together in a fabulously complex medley. Sweet tannins and spicy oak add further nuance. ($30)

(92) Rubus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012  (Napa Valley, CA). A 2012 Napa Valley cabernet for under $40, Rubus is an absolute steal. Ripe blackberry, currants and nuances of tobacco and vanilla on the palate. The finish is long and impressive with notes of chocolate and black cherries. Finishes with just a touch of fine silky tannins. ($25)

(92) Santo Stefano Cabernet Rutherford 2012 (California). Boasting flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate and spice, this cab stands out for its rich, smooth profile; dusty tannins and an opulent mouthfeel make for a wonderfully pleasurable finish. ($30)

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