Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

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Dan Kravitz
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Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#1 Post by Dan Kravitz » September 23rd, 2019, 6:01 pm

OK, it's tired and I'm late. This question may draw brickbats, which is OK. This question is spurred by a recent post on Frog's Leap.

I am making a very short list of Napa Valley Cabernet brands who meet my following criteria:
1) Fine quality.
2) Double-digit prices (OK to include brands that have more expensive bottles, as long as their entry-level is excellent and under $100).
3) 20+ year track record.
4) 20+ year longevity.

This is a ridiculously short list; I'm probably forgetting a dozen or more and hopefully there are dozens if not hundreds that I've never had.

Spring Mountain
Frog's Leap
Charles Krug
Louis Martini
Robert Mondavi
Mount Veeder
Stag's Leap
Chappellet
Clark-Claudon

Now name your poison.

Thank you.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#2 Post by KyleC » September 23rd, 2019, 6:13 pm

Off the top of my head, Clos du Val and Corison.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#3 Post by John Gilman » September 23rd, 2019, 6:15 pm

Hi Dan,

Cathy Corison would need to be on the list, as well as Heitz (though I do not know if things will change, based on new ownership here the last year or two). If the Tanbark Hill bottling counts as entry level, then Philip Togni can go on the list as well. For my palate, I would have to take Mondavi off the list based on the most recent examples I have tasted (admittedly a couple of years ago now), as they are much more spoofulated in style since the family sold out (though maybe this is swinging back again in the most recent releases?). If we can expand the old school beyond Napa, Mount Eden and Ridge certainly qualify, and Mount Eden's Domaine Eden cabernet has been a ridiculously great value for several vintages now. Fun question!

All the Best,

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#4 Post by Jason T » September 23rd, 2019, 6:22 pm

Is Togni under a $100? Deliciously old-school, but I think about the price Dan is looking for.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#5 Post by Denny Marin » September 23rd, 2019, 6:26 pm

Some of these producers are really not "old school" these days.

I would say from your list Frog's Leap is really the only one I would still consider "old school" . I would also add Corson, Dunn, White Rock, Togni, Mayacamas, Smith Marrone and still, to a certain degree, Heitz and Montelena. If you remove the 20+ year track record, I would add Ashes and Diamonds and Matthiasson, both making old-school cabs and blends under 14% abv.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#6 Post by Josh Grossman » September 23rd, 2019, 6:32 pm

Conn Creek Winery, Cimerossa, Raymond, Spelletich, Duckhorn? Not sure of prices now.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#7 Post by Peter Valiquette » September 23rd, 2019, 6:40 pm

I believe O'Shaughnessy meets all of your criteria.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#8 Post by B. Buzzini » September 23rd, 2019, 6:41 pm

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#9 Post by Howard Cooper » September 23rd, 2019, 6:46 pm

Other than the 20 year track record, I would add Stony Hill.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#10 Post by Nathan Smyth » September 23rd, 2019, 6:49 pm

Cathy Corison is NOT what I would call "Old School".

I'm not saying her wines aren't tasty - they are indeed very, very tasty - but they have nowhere near the kinda structure I would want to see in an "Old School" wine.

In fact, I don't perceive much in the way of any structure whatsoever in a Corison wine.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#11 Post by Roy Piper » September 23rd, 2019, 6:51 pm

Not sure the 20-year thing matters. Over 20-years you have different winemakers and there is no guarantee the one there now is as good as whoever was there in 1999. Also, not sure that many of the listed are "old school." Most have alcs in the 14.1-14.9% range and that's just the label! Plus, not all are estate fruit and if they are changing sources over time, the 20-years does not really apply.

As an alternative, how about 25-years of winemaking experience, 15+ with their own brand and estate fruit for a least some of the bottlings. And also, not usually over 15% alcohol.

Forman Cabernet Napa, $115
Corison Napa Valley $95
Drinkward Peschon Cabernet $95
Philip Togni Tanbark Hill Cabernet $70
Shafer 1.5 Cabernet (formerly Napa Valley) $90
Ridge Cabernet Estate $70.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#12 Post by John Morris » September 23rd, 2019, 6:52 pm

By coincidence, I opened a '14 Mt. Veeder cab tonight. Damn, if it didn't taste like cab! I bought some after tasting it blindly two years or so ago. It was standout then, and a great value at ~$40. Recently I found some for ~$37.

This is straight-across-the-plate Napa cab, though I didn't feel the '14 had a long life ahead. It seems to lack a little concentration, but who can complain when you can drink it with pleasure five years after the vintage. And it tastes like cab!
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#13 Post by John Morris » September 23rd, 2019, 6:53 pm

Nathan Smyth wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:49 pm
Cathy Corison is NOT what I would call "Old School".

I'm not saying her wines aren't tasty - they are indeed very, very tasty - but they have nowhere near the kinda structure I would want to see in an "Old School" wine.

In fact, I don't perceive much in the way of any structure whatsoever in a Corison wine.
I know what you mean that her wines aren't "classic." They don't have the lushness or flesh that classic Napa had, even the more restrained ones of the 70s and 80s. But I wouldn't accuse her wines of lacking structure. They have a lot of acid, in particular.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#14 Post by mmarcellus » September 23rd, 2019, 6:55 pm

A strong +1 on White Rock and especially Corison from the above.

I would also add Tulocay, but only if "sane" isn't a firm requirement. [wink.gif]
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#15 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » September 23rd, 2019, 6:57 pm

Great thread, and excellent recommendations.

Is the basic Montelena Cab no longer classic?

Reminds me of a dinner that I had several years ago at Capital Grille. The first two wine selections I made were out of stock, and the Somm recommended Frogs Leap as something that might appeal, and he offered it to me gratis. I said what the heck. And boy did I like it. And yet, I did not buy more for home. Need to circle back with this reco. Enjoyed reading that other thread.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#16 Post by Victor Hong » September 23rd, 2019, 6:57 pm

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#17 Post by Ian S » September 23rd, 2019, 8:06 pm

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:57 pm

Is the basic Montelena Cab no longer classic?
While it's not quite as powerful as their Estate, I'd say it's still a classic.

How about Heitz Cellars regular Napa Valley? Can't believe it hasn't been mentioned yet.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#18 Post by Karl K » September 23rd, 2019, 8:19 pm

As mentioned, Smith Madrone, definitely
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#19 Post by Nick F. » September 23rd, 2019, 8:52 pm

Victor Hong wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:57 pm
Dan Kravitz wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:01 pm
OK, it's tired and I'm late. This question may draw brickbats, which is OK. This question is spurred by a recent post on Frog's Leap.

I am making a very short list of Napa Valley Cabernet brands who meet my following criteria:
1) Fine quality.
2) Double-digit prices (OK to include brands that have more expensive bottles, as long as their entry-level is excellent and under $100).
3) 20+ year track record.
4) 20+ year longevity.

This is a ridiculously short list; I'm probably forgetting a dozen or more and hopefully there are dozens if not hundreds that I've never had.

Spring Mountain
Frog's Leap
Charles Krug
Louis Martini
Robert Mondavi
Mount Veeder
Stag's Leap
Chappellet
Clark-Claudon

Now name your poison.

Thank you.

Dan Kravitz
Spring Mountain no longer exists as an independent winery.
Since when? Did they sell? The safra family?
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#20 Post by R. Frankel » September 23rd, 2019, 9:06 pm

Blankiet goes back 20 years, and with Graham MacDonald making the wine now their entry level is worth a look. Old school? Not sure.

Ridge is awesome QPR btw.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#21 Post by Nathan Smyth » September 23rd, 2019, 9:09 pm

John Morris wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:53 pm
Nathan Smyth wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:49 pm
Cathy Corison is NOT what I would call "Old School".

I'm not saying her wines aren't tasty - they are indeed very, very tasty - but they have nowhere near the kinda structure I would want to see in an "Old School" wine.

In fact, I don't perceive much in the way of any structure whatsoever in a Corison wine.
I know what you mean that her wines aren't "classic." They don't have the lushness or flesh that classic Napa had, even the more restrained ones of the 70s and 80s. But I wouldn't accuse her wines of lacking structure. They have a lot of acid, in particular.
Maybe I misunderstood what "Classic" was supposed to mean, but for me, "Classic" implies a strong thick grip from the tannin structure, accompanied by something green-vegetal or tobacco-ish or sous-bois-ish or earthy-dirty or similar.

Cathy Corison's wines have almost no structure, and are exceptionally clean & smooth to the point of lacking any sort of distinguishing features whatsoever.

And I should add that Cathy Corison's wines are just about TOO lush, to the point of being almost "cutesy-pie".

For "Classic", I want a backwards wine which has a solid 30 to 50 years ahead of it.

But, again, maybe I don't understand what "Classic" is supposed to mean.

PS: I'm not trying to diss on Cathy Corison - her wines are very, very tasty - but I would classify them as highly MODERN, not "Classic".

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#22 Post by david paly » September 23rd, 2019, 9:15 pm

Titus, Keenan, Turnbull, Pride, Lewelling, Delhinger (Sonoma)

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#23 Post by Matt Mauldin » September 23rd, 2019, 9:33 pm

+1 on Smith-Madrone, White Rock and Corison in particular and plenty of other good ones mentioned.

To Nathan's point above, I do think Corison fits the criteria in the OP. It mentions the below points without getting into flavor profile or tannic structure. Corison Cab definitely has the longevity mentioned:

"1) Fine quality.
2) Double-digit prices (OK to include brands that have more expensive bottles, as long as their entry-level is excellent and under $100).
3) 20+ year track record.
4) 20+ year longevity."
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#24 Post by Tom DeBiase » September 23rd, 2019, 10:37 pm

Another winery that meets the criteria but Cab is not their signature variety (petite Sirah is) would be Vincent Arroyo. They make Cabernet and several other varieties in a more traditional style, been doing it for 35 years and their prices are WAY UNDER $100.

Bonus if you visit, a full blown tasting of their wines is free.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#25 Post by Jürgen Steinke » September 23rd, 2019, 11:10 pm

Why not buying classic Bordeaux? I guess it is cheaper compared to Napa? You are discussing classic entry level Napa wines for more or less 100 bucks while you can have Grand Puy Lacoste and many others for the same amount of money?

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#26 Post by rgallagher » September 23rd, 2019, 11:35 pm

+1 Smith-Madrone
+1 Pride
and I would add Neal Family Winery
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#27 Post by Victor Hong » September 24th, 2019, 3:28 am

Nick F. wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 8:52 pm
Victor Hong wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:57 pm
Dan Kravitz wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:01 pm
OK, it's tired and I'm late. This question may draw brickbats, which is OK. This question is spurred by a recent post on Frog's Leap.

I am making a very short list of Napa Valley Cabernet brands who meet my following criteria:
1) Fine quality.
2) Double-digit prices (OK to include brands that have more expensive bottles, as long as their entry-level is excellent and under $100).
3) 20+ year track record.
4) 20+ year longevity.

This is a ridiculously short list; I'm probably forgetting a dozen or more and hopefully there are dozens if not hundreds that I've never had.

Spring Mountain
Frog's Leap
Charles Krug
Louis Martini
Robert Mondavi
Mount Veeder
Stag's Leap
Chappellet
Clark-Claudon

Now name your poison.

Thank you.

Dan Kravitz
Spring Mountain no longer exists as an independent winery.
Since when? Did they sell? The safra family?
My mistake. Sorry. I must have been thinking of another. Thank you.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#28 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » September 24th, 2019, 3:38 am

Ian S wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 8:06 pm
Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:57 pm

Is the basic Montelena Cab no longer classic?
While it's not quite as powerful as their Estate, I'd say it's still a classic.

How about Heitz Cellars regular Napa Valley? Can't believe it hasn't been mentioned yet.
Heitz was mentioned upstream. Used to love this stuff but it’s been a few years since I tried a new release.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#29 Post by Joshua Kates » September 24th, 2019, 4:16 am

I don't think O'Shaughnessy or Smith-Madrone really qualify. Perhaps not all the way to modern, the few times that I have had them, they were heavy on the palate, and the latter also somewhat rough, with coarse tannins. Stag's Leap, in OP's list. also would be no go; under new management and not at all the same. It's much more spoofulated than when Warren owned it. Though no twenty-year track record, i would put DiCostanza in there--lovely, light-footed cab, beautifully made. Used to be $85, I hear the price for the most recent release is going up.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#30 Post by B Thorne » September 24th, 2019, 4:19 am

+1 Heitz, Dunn, Duckhorn maybe..Opus..lots of good suggestions above

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#31 Post by Howard Cooper » September 24th, 2019, 4:27 am

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:57 pm

Is the basic Montelena Cab no longer classic?

I have drunk older Montelena Estate Cabs for many, many years with great joy. Fabulous wines. But, I have only had their basic Cab young. How does it age?
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#32 Post by Howard Cooper » September 24th, 2019, 4:30 am

Jürgen Steinke wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 11:10 pm
Why not buying classic Bordeaux?
Bordeaux and California Cabernet (even classic Cabernet) are a bit apples and oranges to me. They do not age the same way, although both clearly age. So, I do not believe that one is a perfect substitute for the other and it makes sense to have both in a cellar.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#33 Post by David Glasser » September 24th, 2019, 5:38 am

If you'll allow Sonoma, Laurel Glen.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#34 Post by Jeremy D. » September 24th, 2019, 7:00 am

I would add Keenan to this. Another Spring Mountain gem.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#35 Post by Jeff_M. » September 24th, 2019, 7:16 am

Pride Mountain should be on this list.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#36 Post by Steve L Gellman » September 24th, 2019, 7:26 am

Lail. Not much talk on the board about this producer

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#37 Post by ybarselah » September 24th, 2019, 7:54 am

dunn napa should be on the list and towards the top if we're ranking.

mayacamas??? or is it too expensive.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#38 Post by Kevin Porter » September 24th, 2019, 8:01 am

What happened to Seavey? I see that they still seem to exist (active web site selling new wines) but I never hear them mentioned anymore.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#39 Post by K John Joseph » September 24th, 2019, 8:05 am

Peter Valiquette wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:40 pm
I believe O'Shaughnessy meets all of your criteria.
In my experience, O'Shaughnessy is about as modern styled as you get. They are all extracted, rich, chocolate laced, high abv, and heavily black fruited. Don't get me wrong, they can be really damn good, but they are not "sane, old-school" wines.These are 15.2% bombers.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#40 Post by K John Joseph » September 24th, 2019, 8:10 am

Jeff_M. wrote:
September 24th, 2019, 7:16 am
Pride Mountain should be on this list.
Good call. Pride is back to sanity after a roller coaster of stylistic shifts over the last fifteen years. They rose to fame with Robert Foley and massive, delicious "hedonistic" reserves, then bottomed out, reverted to a more restrained style, and are putting out sub 14.5 reserve cabs that can age (though it was still closer to 15 in 2013). Good stuff, beautiful winery.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#41 Post by Adam Noble » September 24th, 2019, 8:47 am

I'm far from knowledgeable about Cali Cabs, but I've enjoyed a few older bottles of well priced Whitehall Lane Reserve back Several years ago. Also Chapellet (Cab Franc in particular).

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#42 Post by MitchTallan » September 24th, 2019, 8:54 am

I only buy Ridge and Forman cab and recently stopped buying Forman due to price, so what I say is suspect;


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Mayacamas
Hess Family
ZD
Grgich
Forman
Keenan
Long Meadow Ranch
Outpost
Nichelini
Peter Franus
Whitehall Lane
(not including Ridge since not in Napa).
(not including Smith Madrone or Chappellet because of being a bit prone to newer oomph tastes).

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#43 Post by K John Joseph » September 24th, 2019, 9:22 am

I think that Forman used to be a really lovely classically styled wine, but it's been pretty modern in frame and weight since the late 2000s. It regularly clocks in at all black fruit and right around 15% alcohol. Long gone are the days of bright red cherries and cigar box and 13.5% abv. If I recall, a couple of the Forman cabs of the late 2000s broke the 15.1-15.2 mark. Not saying that makes for poor wine, and it certainly seems to have improved Forman's publicity and scores, just not sure this one is really classically styled anymore.
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#44 Post by Brian Gilp » September 24th, 2019, 9:32 am

MitchTallan wrote:
September 24th, 2019, 8:54 am
Long Meadow Ranch
After Corison? I loved the one's that she made but haven't tried any since her departure.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#45 Post by Neal.Mollen » September 24th, 2019, 10:25 am

Nathan Smyth wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 9:09 pm
John Morris wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:53 pm
Nathan Smyth wrote:
September 23rd, 2019, 6:49 pm
Cathy Corison is NOT what I would call "Old School".

I'm not saying her wines aren't tasty - they are indeed very, very tasty - but they have nowhere near the kinda structure I would want to see in an "Old School" wine.

In fact, I don't perceive much in the way of any structure whatsoever in a Corison wine.
I know what you mean that her wines aren't "classic." They don't have the lushness or flesh that classic Napa had, even the more restrained ones of the 70s and 80s. But I wouldn't accuse her wines of lacking structure. They have a lot of acid, in particular.
Maybe I misunderstood what "Classic" was supposed to mean, but for me, "Classic" implies a strong thick grip from the tannin structure, accompanied by something green-vegetal or tobacco-ish or sous-bois-ish or earthy-dirty or similar.

Cathy Corison's wines have almost no structure, and are exceptionally clean & smooth to the point of lacking any sort of distinguishing features whatsoever.

And I should add that Cathy Corison's wines are just about TOO lush, to the point of being almost "cutesy-pie".

For "Classic", I want a backwards wine which has a solid 30 to 50 years ahead of it.

But, again, maybe I don't understand what "Classic" is supposed to mean.

PS: I'm not trying to diss on Cathy Corison - her wines are very, very tasty - but I would classify them as highly MODERN, not "Classic".
If it is "green-vegetal," rather than "classic" I'd use the term "bad."
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PeterH
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#46 Post by PeterH » September 24th, 2019, 10:28 am

I haven't had one recently, but tasting notes indicate that La Jota is keeping up the good work.
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K John Joseph
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#47 Post by K John Joseph » September 24th, 2019, 11:38 am

The idea that Corison could be thought of as "highly modern" blows my mind. The idea that it doesn't have a strong tannic structure blows my mind. The wine spends 20 months in about 50% new french oak, and is picked at lower sugars than most to ensure higher natural acidity and lower alcohol. If there is one complaint most folks have of Corison's wines, it is that the wine carries savory notes like sous bois and dill and olive tapenade or tobacco, as opposed to the typical black currant, black plum, vanilla of most big cabs. I really couldn't disagree more Nathan's analysis of Corison. Cathy Corison cut her teeth early at Chappellet back when they were truly classically styled, and her own wines carry much of that style. Solid tannins, higher natural acidity, brighter fruit profile, savory characteristic.
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Mike Grammer
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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#48 Post by Mike Grammer » September 24th, 2019, 11:55 am

I always start by thinking Dunn on a list like this. Off-the-radar that Marshall and Diana Gelb introduced me to and which I love---Arns. Could go with Spring Mountain----I had a 1987 a couple weeks ago that was singing such a pretty song---fully integrated and very smooth with very lovely slightly earthed fruit character. Terrific wine. I do think Cathy's wines for me at least tend to the classic side. Mark Neal makes great wine, but in the definition, I'd put him on the border to modern style. I have found that older bottles of Juslyn have surprised me with how they change and become more structured.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#49 Post by James Sanders » September 24th, 2019, 12:16 pm

How is Burgess these days? It's always had a classic profile and for a while there WTSO was periodically offering back vintages for under $25 that were wonderful and incredible values.

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Re: Sane, old-school Napa Valley Cab producers

#50 Post by Marcu$ Stanley » September 24th, 2019, 12:47 pm

K John Joseph wrote:
September 24th, 2019, 11:38 am
The idea that Corison could be thought of as "highly modern" blows my mind. The idea that it doesn't have a strong tannic structure blows my mind. The wine spends 20 months in about 50% new french oak, and is picked at lower sugars than most to ensure higher natural acidity and lower alcohol. If there is one complaint most folks have of Corison's wines, it is that the wine carries savory notes like sous bois and dill and olive tapenade or tobacco, as opposed to the typical black currant, black plum, vanilla of most big cabs. I really couldn't disagree more Nathan's analysis of Corison. Cathy Corison cut her teeth early at Chappellet back when they were truly classically styled, and her own wines carry much of that style. Solid tannins, higher natural acidity, brighter fruit profile, savory characteristic.
Nathan specializes in blowing peoples' minds, it's why he hangs out here! [cheers.gif]

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