2007 Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Expert Rating
RP 91 points
(Read the full review below)
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Barlow Vineyards 2007 Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon … and Caught With Our Pants Down

When Van Potts, the National Sales guru at Anderson's Conn Valley, set up that first appointment in the living/tasting room at Barlow, we were prepared for all that Potts had promised. This was the spring of 2009, a tough time for many of the small wineries in Calistoga. But Barr Smith seemed to be sitting pretty. Far more a grape grower than brand owner, Smith continued to sell most of his small berry hillside Cabernet throughout the rough years, holding just a few tons back each October -- just enough to let winemaker Corey Beck work his cellar magic.

As it turned out, Barr was something of a squirrel when it came to holding back inventory. The tasting began with a wonderfully youthful 2003, followed by the hot vintage 2004, and the classical 2005 and 2006. Then, Smith poured a barrel sample of the vintage of the decade. Beck's 2007 Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon wasn't just the most voluminous and concentrated bottle on the table; it was far and away the most elegant. Beck, true to his star struck resume, had pulled out all the stops.

Darkest purple to the edge, the aromas were signature '07 -- black fruit and raspberry preserves, a hint of sweet herbs, a faint coating of new cedar. The attack wasn't simply classic 2007, but benchmark Calistoga. In this warm end of the valley where neighboring Chateau Montelena rules the roost, there's never a problem with ripeness, and in this fabulous Indian summer harvest, Smith pushed his prized rows to the limit. Cory took it from there. Beautifully concentrated, full of dark red fruits and ripest cassis, the Cabernet danced on the palate, displaying equal parts of power and sumptuous refinement. The finish was firm and the tannins sturdy -- also a benchmark of 2007.

We cut a deal with Barr on the spot for the 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007, agreeing to run the stories chronologically. There would be just shy of 100 cases of each vintage earmarked for WineAccess members, exclusively at $29.99/bottle, one of the greatest bargain bonanzas of the times -- all sealed with a living room handshake.

Each salvo brought raves from buyers, lighting up the WineAccess scoreboard with seventy-six 5-star ratings. The aggregate score across all Cabernet offers was 3.94 out of 5. Many emailed in wanting more. All were told to practice patience -- and wait for today.

This spring, three years after that initial visit, the time seemed right for the 2007. First, there are precious few 2007s remaining on the market. Second, the sturdy tannins had softened as expected, the deep red fruit core taking center stage. We called Barr to say we ready to roll, only to get the return call we've now received one time too many.

We're not quite sure how we were caught with our pants down. We read The Wine Advocate religiously, but with the sheer volume of tasting notes, it's not terribly surprising that we missed this one. In November 2009, six months after the handshake, Robert Parker came calling on Barr Smith. He too tasted the lineup, but included only one Barlow Cabernet in his December publication. That issue featured Napa's 2007s -- and Barr Smith's Barlow not only garnered 91 points, but a rave Parker review that suggested this Calistoga powerhouse, while drinking beautifully now, will be going strong in 2025!

We have to be fair to Barr. We waited too long. No RP 91pt 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from anywhere near Calistoga is being offered today for $30/bottle. The RP score awakened wholesalers, fast asleep for years. Why sell to WineAccess when others are willing to pay so much more?

Tasting Notes

2007 Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
"The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon may be the finest wine of this group. It needs some time to resolve its noticeable tannins, but I love the pure black currant fruit interwoven with tobacco leaf, ink, smoke, and forest floor. Medium to full-bodied, pure, rich, and convincing, give it 2-3 years of cellaring and enjoy it over the following 15+."
91 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

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