Some of the Best Cabernet in the Valley
In a vintage that produces truly great fruit but a smaller harvest than usual, the hunt for top-quality juice is intense. Everyone, it seems, is clamoring for the good stuff—mining their contacts, scouring the valley for some secret tank or two that no one else knows about. For most producers, the result of all that effort is a dawning realization that they’ll have to do their best with something slightly below their usual standards. But our Wine Access sourcing team and winemaker Brittany Nichols didn’t even have to ponder that option.
For years, we have been building the kind of relationships that paid off a thousandfold in 2015. And because of them, the Karo Kann Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is showing brilliantly already—perfect right now alongside a ribeye seared in the cast-iron skillet—but is equally fit for years of evolution in the cellar.
This ripe, lifted red is proof that as big and complex as the high-end California wine business can be, it’s still relationships that often matter most when the going gets tough, as things did in the scarce 2015 vintage.
Nichols and our team went on the hunt, calling in favors and doing everything they could…ultimately finding the utterly remarkable Cabernet components that would, over the next several months, be crafted into one of the freshest and most expressive bottlings of Reserve that we tasted from 2015. And while we can’t tell you exactly which benchmark vineyards the wine was sourced from, we can say that one of them, in particular, is a torchbearer in the Stag’s Leap District, has been setting the standard for nearly half a century, receiving countless scores well into the 90s and selling for $100-$175 per bottle. In other words, this is that rarest of Napa Cabs: Crafted from one of the most hallowed vineyards in the region, but bottled without the standard markup.
2015 was a drought year, with several swings in temperature and heat spikes that required an early harvest. By the end of August that year, many vineyards were already being picked. The crop was small, with diminutive berries that, though they packed a ton of flavor and color, simply couldn’t produce their normal volume of world-class wine.
But, what was coaxed from those berries was magnificent. The first thing we noticed when tasting this Wine Access exclusive was the remarkably lifted nose, the sage and thyme aromas complicating a melange of currants, mountain berries, and fennel seeds. The warmth of the vintage shows on the palate, in powerful, ripe, sweet berry and cherry fruit, as well as a decadent seam of chocolate ganache running through the crème de cassis and fig paste notes that lead to its graceful finish.
The team had to work for this beautiful wine. But the results speak for themselves. And like so many difficult undertakings in life, all of that effort comes through with a perhaps unexpected sense of effortlessness, a character deeply tied to the vintage, and a wine of haunting power and grace.
The effort, we all agreed, was well worth it.