A Pair of 20+ year old Napa Cabs

My dad turned 71 in late May, but had a light case of Covid which precluded a get together. Then our father’s day schedule was unpredictable with a baseball tournament and then otherwise so busy we again could not get together. So we shot for last night. I pulled 3 Napa Cabs, a 1996 Spottswoode, a 2001 Joseph Phelps Insignia, and a 2002 Pride Reserve Cabernet. I told my dad to pick two to open, and the third was going home with him with his other gifts as a birthday/father’s day treat. He chose the 1996 Spottswoode and 2002 Pride Reserve to open. Paired that with three types of steak, prepared medium rare using reverse sear method: Morgan Ranch Wagyu Ribeye, Morgan Ranch Wagyu Strip, Flannery 60 Day Dry Aged Strip (my dad generally prefers strip to ribeye). My kids were split between the Morgan Strip and Ribeye and it was a close thing. The Flannery was also excellent, with a slightly sweet corn note from the dry aging. My son said it had a faint after taste of a morsel of Capn Crunch and I got what he was referring to.

2002 Pride Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - Perfect cork and bottle condition. Stood up for a month to ensure clarity. Wine is dark in color and showing little bricking. The nose is slightly fig newton at first, suggesting that Bob Foley was playing at the edge of over-ripe with this wine and, to me, may have crossed the line a hair. Below the initial waft of fig newton is lovely sweet black fruit, a hint of vanilla and caramel, with development of some savory earthy undertones. But the black fruit, sweet aromas, and maybe a hint of sweet licorice are driving the bus. Given the fig newton notes and my experience with some of these wines at the edge of too ripe, I would not expect this to improve. I will also note that I had the 2001 of this a few months ago, and found that wine to be considerably more enjoyable. This was just a bit too far to ripe for me. I’m sure I would have absolutely loved it young, when these wines were my sweet spot.

1996 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon - Perfect cork and bottle condition. Stood up for a month to ensure clarity. This wine is also dark in color, and more so than I expected. The nose here shows no signs of overripe, though it is kicking of earth, cherry, blackberry, tobacco, leather, and a tarry note. There is enough acid to give it some lift, and this opened up nicely. This may not be a revelatory Spottswoode, or even a top tier 1996 like a Ridge Monte Bello, but it is a serious wine. While it has some old world cedar and tobacco, it is still unequivocally Napa with a sweet cherry presence on the nose, and I like wines like this. The fruit is still enjoyable, but I would drink it if you have it. I do not expect that this will bring greater pleasure with additional age. It is, however, very lovely now.


Great producers and wine, and also great notes! Sounds like it was a fantastic dinner between the steaks and the wines

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I have not had '01 or '02 Pride, but I really enjoy '01 Insignia and I feel '02 Insignia is overdone in the same way you describe the '02 Pride. Your dad is in for a real treat when he opens that Insignia.

We had a bottle probably 10+ years ago that was really beautiful. Napa fruit with old world sensibility? I suspect time is not on the side of this and other 1996 Napa cabs, but your bottle sounds very tasty.
Thanks for the notes!

Nice notes, thanks.

Happy Birthday to your dad.

Interesting take on the 1996 Spottswoode. I have a few 1996 Napa Cabernet in the cellar as birth year wines (not mine - although I could wish it to be).
May have to find a time to share it with the one for whom I bought the wine.