Why I’m not the biggest fan of Napa Cab

That’s right, I typed it (and I’ve said it before too).

This topic actually came up about two weeks ago while discussing the style of my Merlot at a tasting. It isn’t what you would normally expect from a Napa-style Merlot and as a result I was asked why I had strayed away from a style that seems to work just fine for other producers. The answer being that the wines from those other producers aren’t really the style that I like to drink regularly. Yes I am a little selfish when I make MTGA because I want it to be a wine that I would drink all the time though it would also be hard to stand out of the crowd as a less-than-200-case producer.

I have an “older world” kind of palate which should be enough to explain why Napa Cab isn’t really my thing. I feel that there are far too many that are over-extracted, overblown and out of balance as far as how I utilize wine. By “utilize” wine I mean food pairings and general consumption without food. If I am looking for something to sip on I am generally not going to lean towards a big red wine, I’d rather pair a big red with food so that some of that structure and fruit gets toned down. Which brings the reason why  I find that with a fair amount of Napa Cabs, at release, are so big that while food helps dial things back the wine still overpowers whatever is on the plate.

I say “at release” above because that is a very VERY important detail. When a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon is fresh off of the bottling line it can be a beast but down the road five, seven or ten-plus years it has softened and has gotten to a point where it is more my style. In general if big red wine from Napa is less than 4 years old I push it aside unless I know that producer makes wine that is a bit more restrained. One exception to this general rule of mine is Petite Sirah because I have not found out yet that has aged past 5ish years that hasn’t started falling apart (I am totally open to older Petite Sirah suggestions since none have panned out thus far).

Of course this now begs the question: why would I live in Napa if Cabernet Sauvignon isn’t the #1 wine on my list? The answer is that there is a lot more than just great Cab that comes from Napa AND some of those older vintage Cab are ridiculously good. The food and the views aren’t bad either. I am also a sucker for that small town feel.

All of that said I do want to try my hand at making a Napa Cab. Some day.

– Manderson

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