Two current Napa Valley releases impress.
2018 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon
With its mocha/dark chocolate overtones and barrel-room aromas, Chappellet winery’s flagship (85% Cab Sauv, 10% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec) telegraphs concentration and power upon first whiff. Especially fine for the price ($70 retail), this wine from the Napa Valley‘s eastern slopes recalls the boldness of late-1970s/early 1980s Cabs but with the benefit of three decades of winemaking and viticultural advances. It’s got the intensity of old-school favorites but with every element (fruit ripeness, tannins, oak use) dialed in more subtly. While checking the price, I came across a major critic’s review whose array of descriptors bordered on the parodic, but that’s kinda the deal with this one. Beautifully balanced, it stimulates both palate and vocabulary with its complex flavors.
2020 Signature Chenin Blanc
Chenin Blanc is rare these days in the Napa Valley, rarer still from hillside fruit like this offering. One picks up notes of lemon zest, tart apples, honey dew melon, and tropical fruit, but most of all Chenin Blanc (fancy that) – it’s a delight how true to its grape (the California version, anyway) this wine ($40 retail), is. The ever-so-slight rounding presumably derives from neutral French oak barrels during fermentation (stainless tanks were also used), but the overall impression is clean and crisp with a flinty wisp.