If you are looking for a wine splurge for the holidays, California cabernet sauvignon is a great place to start. The following recommendations are the best California cabs I tasted this year.
• 2018 Cardinale ($325). Cardinale’s mission is to produce cabernet sauvignon that expresses the essence of Napa Valley. Grapes are sourced from esteemed vineyards throughout the valley. The 2018 melds seven appellations, with Spring Mountain and Howell Mountain forming the core. Intensity, age-worthy tannins, rich character and layered complexity are the hallmarks of this masterpiece.
• 2018 Larkmead Solari ($200). The historic Larkmead estate in Calistoga is one of the oldest wineries in Napa Valley. This wine captures the nuance and complexity of the site that is more typical of a hillside than the valley floor by vinifying small lots according to clonal selection and soil type. It is intensely flavored, broad and full, with a solid backbone.
• 2018 Cliff Lede Magic Nights ($110). Cliff Lede’s love of music permeates this winery in the Stags Leap District, an area prized for its proximity to the Vaca Mountains and Napa River. From the Rock Block Series, fruit for this wine of grace, power, structure and luxury comes from the Magic Bus and Nights in White Satin blocks.
• 2018 Nickel & Nickel State Ranch ($125). From the partners of Far Niente, Nickel & Nickel is based on a philosophy of producing 100% varietal, single-vineyard wines that best express the personality of each vineyard. The rocky, clay loam soil of State Ranch (located near Yountville) has yielded a powerful, plush, teeming wine with a firm yet velvety, frame.
• 2018 Priest Ranch Snake Oil ($110). This historic estate covers diverse territory on the Vaca Mountains near Lake Hennessey. The wine is skillfully blended from multiple blocks of old vines to shape a full-bodied, unctuous wine of dark fruits, accentuated with touches of earth and tobacco.
• 2018 Spottswoode Lyndenhurst ($85). Spottswoode is widely regarded as among Napa Valley’s elite. While the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is among the valley’s best each vintage, Lyndenhurst, the estate’s second wine, is nearly as good — bold fruit, herbal complexities and lush texture — and at less than half the price. It is a fine value.
• 2018 Faust The Pact ($125). This wine is from Faust’s estate vineyard in Coombsville, Napa Valley’s farthest south appellation. Benefiting from cool climate, volcanic soils and a careful selection from premier blocks, it is defined by minerality, purity and satiny tannins.
• 2017 Sullivan Coeur de Vigne ($90). Sullivan Rutherford Estate was established in the 1970s and became one of the most respected wineries in the storied Rutherford appellation. Since 2018, new owners have elevated the winery to new heights. This wine delivers concentrated cherry, plum and cassis, with earth and tobacco notes and a pleasantly dense texture.