Britt’s Reserve Cabernet Showdown
“Value” is a word becoming an extreme rarity in Napa Valley, where $80 Cabernets are the new normal. Luckily, our relationships run deep. We recently signed an exclusive agreement with Britt Nichols to lock in the entire production of her luxurious 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve for Wine Access clients. Take out all the layers of normal retail distribution and we are able to offer a wine that compares to $100 bottles at just $24.99 — an astonishing price for excellent Napa Cabernet from this highly pedigreed young winemaker.
A few weeks ago we met Britt at her house in Carneros to taste several of her 2015s. With young baby Dash crawling around at our knees we looked on eagerly as Britt doled out healthy pours from unmarked shiners, lining them up in a row. Britt was going to taste us blind.
“Which one of these is a $100 a dollar bottle grown right off the Silverado Trail, and which are mine?” she quizzed. The first wine was clearly mountain grown, broad and powerful, with extra grip and mineral complexity. The second was luxurious and polished, ripe and opulent but balanced by enticing acidity. The third was similarly ripe, attractive, and superbly concentrated.
What gave us the answer was Britt’s judicious use of oak. In both the first and the second wines, the oak profiles were similar — well-integrated, with hints of chocolate and spice. The third wine was the outlier, with more prominent oak notes and tannins. Britt was impressed, and so were we. Other than a stylistic difference, Britt’s Cabernets stood shoulder-to-shoulder with one of Napa’s best known Cabs.
We released the first wine we tasted that day, Britt’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain District, two weeks ago. The second wine in the lineup was Britt’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Napa Valley. After learning there were only 350 cases available, we made an offer to Britt on the spot to take the lot. She agreed, making this an exclusive Wine Access offer on one of the best value Cabernets we’ve tasted in years.
Britt’s 2015 Reserve benefitted from a California drought year that yielded immense concentration in Cabernet Sauvignon. She employed the deft touch learned under masters Nicolas Morlet and Philippe Melka to extract deep flavor and color from the fruit, blending several small lots to balance ripeness with freshness; power with plush luxuriousness. The result is a true Napa Reserve that speaks to vintage and place. The one thing it’s missing is a triple digit price tag, and we’re okay with that.