Our candidate for the best value Napa Cabernet of the 2015 vintage is this Karo-Kann Private Reserve.
When winemaker Britt Nichols — the protege of Nicolas Morlet and Philippe Melka — dropped off the first bottles of Karo-Kann from the 2015 vintage, she reminded us that only the very best lots of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon are designated “Private Reserve.” It didn’t take long to understand why. The 2015 Karo-Kann Private Reserve is a defining Cabernet Sauvignon that should cost double, or even triple its price — plush and focused, with black cherry, black currants, plums, Madagascar vanilla and baking spices — vividly translating Napa’s exceptional 2015 vintage into the glass. Wine Spectator has rated the last three vintages 96 points and all signs are indicating that 2015 is on par or will surpass them. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate confidently pinned 97 points on the vintage, saying the best wines exhibit “fine-grained, silt-like tannins and great freshness” while Vinous’ Antonio Galloni said of his barrel tastings that quality is “positively stunning.” At $35 per bottle, the 2015 Karo-Kann Private Reserve is already a benchmark for the vintage, and has a clear lead out the gate as our candidate for best value Cabernet of the year.
Thanks to our deep connections throughout Napa, we were able to secure two prized lots of hand-picked Cabernet. The first was a two-barrel selection of rugged, mountain-grown Atlas Peak Cabernet, the second, an eight-barrel lot of plush, benchland Cab, grown by one of the Valley’s elite wineries. These two lots were deftly blended by Britt Nichols, marrying raw mountain power with benchland lusciousness — a “Private Reserve” that easily goes shoulder-to-shoulder with Napa Cabernets two and three times the price.
One look at Britt’s resume and it’s easy to understand why in an outstanding vintage, she can do no wrong — just look at where the young enologist developed her deft touch with Cabernet Sauvignon. After a stint at Jordan Winery, Nichols landed one of the most sought-after positions in the valley, working under Nicolas Morlet at Peter Michael, assisting in the making of the 2010 “Les Pavots.” A year later, Britt was recruited by Philippe Melka, the Bordeaux émigré who Robert Parker named “one of the nine most influential winemaker consultants in the world.”
The Cabernet Sauvignons of Jordan, Peter Michael, and Philippe Melka are very much cut from the same cloth. All are deep in color, rich, and intensely concentrated. Yet unlike all too many Napa Valley Cabernets, these are also wines of great class, sleekness, and polish. In recent releases under her own Nichols label, Britt has proven that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree — just ask the many Wine Access clients who snap up her wines with abandon. Now, under Karo Kann, with two prized lots of Cabernet at her fingertips, in 2015, a year The Wine Advocate rated “Extraordinary,” Britt has crafted yet another deep, finely delineated gem.
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