Do you shop with name brands in mind or are you into budget knockoffs? Eric Asimov recently wrote that "Napa cabernets are like the Manhattan apartment market: You are going to pay, even at the lowest end, for the privilege of living there."
To appraise the real estate of lower-end Napa cabernets he tasted 25 bottles, $50 and under, from the 2004 vintage. The wines he liked best had complex spicy and herbal flavors.
Here are his tasting notes:
W. H. Smith Piedra Hill Vineyard Howell Mountain Purple Label-$44
Full-bodied and rich yet balanced; attractive, lingering aromas and flavors of cranberry, mint and eucalyptus.
Rombauer Napa Valley 2004-$30
Nicely textured and well balanced with spicy cranberry and mint aromas and flavors.
Gott 4 Sarah’s Métier Napa Valley 2004-$35
Plush, plummy and almost seamless with deep, dark fruit flavors.
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley 2004-$25
Spicy, brambly fruit flavors; well balanced with pronounced tannins.
John Anthony Napa Valley 2004-$49
Soft and a tad sweet with flavors of ripe, jammy fruit and licorice.
Sequoia Grove Napa Valley 2004-$27
Smooth and lush with blueberry, cassis and eucalyptus flavors.
Larkmead Napa Valley 2004-$50
Lush and plush with smooth tannins and fruit and chocolate flavors.
Hess Mount Veeder 2004-$50
Soft, smooth and well balanced with flavors of ripe berries augmented by anise and herbs.
Turnbull Napa Valley 2004-$40
Jammy, inky fruit bomb with some tannins and earthiness for balance.
Steltzner Stag’s Leap District 2004-$35
Big and ripe with jammy fruit and oak flavors.
Buying a Napa cabernet in these price ranges makes you market savy. Remember the motto: Location, location, location.