Best wine critic for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Hello! I am new to
The forum and just updated my collection on Cellar Tracker. I am passionate about good Napa Cabs. Who is the best critic that is affiliated with Cellar Tracker for this region? I wanted good opinions without buying multiple subscriptions. Thanks!

In general it’s a good idea to find the critic whose taste most resonates with yours. Some gravitate towards bigger cabs and thus score that style higher, some prefer more old-world style ones and score accordingly. If you have a few bottles you’ve reliably enjoyed, I’d enter them into Wine Searcher, and click on some of the retailer’s sites who are selling that bottle. A few will have critic’s scores/reviews in the listing page. You can triangulate the critics you agree with most in this way.


I agree on the above. Also some general guidance as none of them may grade according to your standards. I tend to use a very hard combined with a closer to the middle grader as goal posts as too often many give out high scores only to be disappointed. Then I use Cellar Tracker, again users with similar style presences as the last check. Keep in mind in CRT and even more so here, many opinions are from their framework which in WB tend to be (generalization) more ‘classic’ which if you prefer more fruit or modern may not match yours.

There are a couple of ‘main’ critics that give out top scores too often (IMO)- good for the wineries but disappointing for the consumers. Have fun!

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Welcome to the boards! Compare your impressions with professional reviews and those of fellow CTers. Don’t worry about the scores, read the reviews and you will come to find a number of “reviewers” whose taste and impressions align with yours. It takes some time but it will come together and you’ll have a good source of ready info to help w buying decisions.

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Thank you very much! I greatly appreciate these replies. It is great advice!

The above nuanced advice is quite good. To answer your question directly - Wine Spectator for California cabernet. Or

Vinous minus one
Suckling minus two
Parker minus two
Dunnuck minus four


Do you mind sharing your thoughts for that response? Is WS a whole team of reviewers? I thought Dunnuck was fairly well respected in Napa?? I admit that I am new to the Boards and perhaps don’t fully understand the reviewer number games that occur with ratings and marketing. Thanks!

Some critics IMO seem to be much easier graders than others which allows them to potentially receive first or perhaps the only review on specific wines (if I owed a winery would I provide samples to the hardest graders or easiest when general population only sees scores?). Since many wine buyers buy based on scores vs who did the scoring… I am not suggesting this is a wineries MO but they are not stupid either.

An example to perhaps validate these opinions, take a look at how many 100s one critic may have given over a year or years and compare that to the group to see what the mean is… there are extremes. Having said that if your palate usually agrees with the easier grader then stick with them if you are sometimes disappointed when the 100 tastes like a low 90, maybe they grade too easily or simply have a different palate. Wine spectator as an example hasn’t given 100 in years while others have given 50++ for last year alone (hence my goal post comment above). People complain WS doesn’t grade fair if you don’t buy ads in their publication, etc. There is always an angle or opinion but the best thing to do is taste wines and see where your palate falls.

There can be one critic per region or varietal but multiple critics in the company as one may do CA Cabs and another for Pinot (example only) and another Bordeaux while others may have one person for everything.

I hope I was politically correct and general enough not to offend anyone as I left my personal opinion off this response.

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I really appreciate that input! Thanks again!

My taste align well with Stephen Tanzer. He isn’t just Cali, so he doesn’t have a ton of breadth there, but it is a critic I watch out for all over.

Antonio Galloni, but I drink mostly left bank red Bordeaux (I do drink some Napa). As I expect most people do, I go my own taste buds. RTPL

I can only repeat what others said. Buy and drink some wines and then compare your notes with what these critics say to see if their taste align with your taste.

A few comments to the other suggestions made above:

  1. Tanzer doesn’t review much wine anymore. So he will hardly be of any help these days.

  2. Most of the people on this board will always tell you, that you sould look beyond the points and into the reviews to find advice. Yet, most often these same people judge all critics just by the scores/points only. Good = generally low points and not many perfect scores, Bad = generally high points and many perfect scores. Don’t listen to these people! Or listen to just half of their advice: focus on more than just points. I don’t care if a critic generally scores 2 points higher than I would as long as it is consistent and as long as our tastes do match. So look at all the critics and compare their notes and scores with your notes and scores (the more diligent you take notes and score the wines, the faster you will learn about wine and your palate, so I strongly advice to take notes (Cellartracker) and score the wines). By doing this systematically you’ll easily find the palate that matches most with your palate. If you’re on this wine board my guess is that you will spend a lot of time and money on your wine hobby over the next few years. So an investment into more than just one subscription is advised (until you found your match).

  3. A few word on the critics:

3.1) James Molesworth, Wine Spectator: Usually rather short descriptions with a less details than others. I personally have found less common ground with them than with others. In my opinion, James completely missed the mark on the 2013 vintage which is very, very structured and hence promises graceful ageing and handed out very low points and bad reviews, even for such future legends like the Ridge Monte Bello (91 pts). In addition his drinking windows are a joke, he wants you to drink all these wines young whereas in reality they bring much more joy with more age.

3.2) Jeb Dunnuck: His writing on the vintage, region and also the tasting notes itself are very detailed. He puts a lot of effort in it. I personally do read his reports and comments but purely his scores are not overly helpful for me as he likes the most elegant and restraint wines (like I do too) but at the same time also very much likes the most big and busty wines and doesn’t have a problem with high alcohol levels (a category I don’t like that much). So you very much have to read the notes (or know the styles of the wineries) to read Jeb.

3.3) Antonio Galloni, Vinous: This is my go to critic in Napa Valley. Like Jeb and Lisa, his work is very diligent but he finds more pleasure in elegant wines than big monsters. That matches quite well with me.

3.4) Lisa Perotti Brown, Wine Advocate: Similar to Jeb and Antonio, Lisa puts a lot of work into the reports and notes, probably the most work with long comments, not only on the wines but also to most wineries. Just because of all that information, a subscription is adivsed - you will learn a lot. She also prefers more elegant wines but in the end she’s a bit more in between Galloni and Dunnuck and hence from a pure points standpoint probably less reliable than Galloni but more than Dunnuck.

3.5) James Suckling: I don’t find him particularily helpful. Like Jeb his preferences are too broad for my taste but he mostly write very short description which don’t help you much either. Like WineSpectator, he’s in the lowest category in terms of usefullness for me.


I’ve never seen Jeb score a low 90s wine with a 100pts.
James Laube is your #1 choice for Napa reviews?

Antony Galloni / Vinous would be the best if you want to subscribe to a publication that reviews all regions.

Not mentioned is Doug Wilder, who is a Board member here. He is as connected and knowledgable about Napa as any one.

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Here’s a dirty little secret I will whisper into your ear: the main critics don’t differ all that much. People around here make mountains out of molehills, because that’s what we do, but if you pay attention, the hierarchy of wines from critic to critic is very similar. Like many others, I triangulate because (dirty secret #2) wines and wine critics both have bad days from time to time. If 4 out of 5 critics highly praise a wine, it’s more likely than the wine simply didn’t show well for the 5th critic than the 5th critic has a consistently different perception than the other four.

In order to integrate with Cellartracker, you will need a subscription to the relevant publication. I don’t consider it a hardship to copy in the reviews by hand, but if you absolutely feel the need to integrate, that rules out Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate.

Thanks very much for the replies. I greatly appreciate all of the input!