2006 Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Expert Rating
RP 90 points
(Read the full review below)
 
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Barlow Vineyards No Time to Push Envelopes

Both the beginning and end of the 2006 Napa Valley growing season were cool. But no one who was paying attention had forgotten what had happened in between. In late June, and then again in July, the valley had been scorched by torrid heat spikes.

Those who farmed their own vines or who were paying by the acre (not by the ton) acted swiftly, hand plucking blistered berries, dropping potential profits on the ground. Others opted to push the envelope on yields, inevitably fermenting desiccated fruit along with healthy berries.

The first group would put out terrifically concentrated Cabernet Sauvignons that would require several years of bottle age to really show off. Now that tannins have softened and all the blackberry muscle of the harvest has taken center stage, those 2006s would buttress Robert Parker's contention that the finest Napa reds of the vintage would mount a strong challenge to the best of the monumental 2007s.

As to the envelope pushers, well, that's why so many of the 2006 Cabernets purchased blindly during the downturn seem out of balance -- harsh tannins poised to stick around too long, obscuring whatever fruit might be hiding underneath.

In the end, The Wine Advocate would drop a dozen 97-100-point scores on the 2006 Cabernet class. Parker would also identify a handful of great bargains, many not surprisingly made by winemakers who farmed their own fruit, and had given their vines a military style July crew-cut. Within that group, few navigated the summer better than Barr Smith at Barlow.

Our first visit to the simple Barlow tasting room at this magnificent Cabernet Sauvignon oasis -- set at the bend of the Silverado Trail at the St. Helena/Calistoga line -- was back in 2009. Smith treated us to a rare retrospective, one that would begin all the way back in 2003. That afternoon, we uncovered a small treasure trove of brilliantly concentrated Cabernet Sauvignons, not an ounce of which had moved since bottling. If the 2004 was the most forward and ready to drink, the 2003 still locked in suspended animation, it would be this stupendous, dark purple, muscled-up 2006 powerhouse that showed the most promise.

In 2010 and 2011, we returned to Barlow, grabbing small lots of whatever Barr Smith would let us pry loose. But as to the 2006, we remained patient, wanting to be sure that the tannins would soften as RP suggested, that the rich silken black fruit underbelly would finally carry the day. This September, just a few weeks before the 2012 harvest, we took the drive out of Meadowood, just 10 minutes up the trail. We turned off at the bend in the road, right at the Calistoga line, and made a beeline for the Barlow tasting room. A half hour later, the last 960 bottles of one of Parker's greatest bargains of the 2006 vintage were earmarked for WineAccess.

Deep purple to the edge with piercing aromas of ripe cassis, blackberries and dark plum. Firmly cut on the attack, but now not only tremendously concentrated and rich, but cloaked in velour, luscious blackberry preserves laced with juicy crème-de-cassis. Parker suggested 12-15 years of age-worthiness in 2009. He may have been conservative.


Tasting Notes

2006 Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
"The outstanding 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon offers a classic nose of sweet plums, black currants, and damp earth aromas followed by an attractive, medium to full-bodied wine. This stylish, flavorful 2006 exhibits outstanding purity, richness, and depth. Give it 1-2 years of cellaring, and drink it over the following 12-15 years."
90 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

"Deep purple/black to the edge. Explosive aromas of blackberries and ripe currant. Powerful on the attack, packed with blackberry preserves, laced with creme-de-cassis. Dense and chewy in texture, yet silken, the firm tannins having softened after 4 years in bottle. Drink now-2020."
-- WineAccess Travel Log

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