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James Laube
Posted: March 8, 2000

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Napa Valley Cabernet Hall of Fame

Explore our list of Napa wineries.

Thom Elkjer takes us back in time on a trip to historic Calistoga.

James Laube on the secret of Napa's success.

Visit our tasting notes database to review these California Cabernets.

For more on Napa Valley, see the Feb. 29, 2000 issue of Wine Spectator.


Total Acres Planted: *600

Total Bordeaux Varieties: *345 acres

*Wine Spectator estimates

OLD GUARD: Chateau Montelena and Araujo Eisele

OTHER REFERENCE CABERNETS: Duckhorn Three Palms Vineyard and Robert Pecota Kara's Vineyard

REGIONAL CHARACTER: Calistoga is at a very narrow end to the valley, about 300 feet above sea level. Its soils are among the rockiest, and its climate is the hottest. Still, if you talk to the growers and winemakers, a gentle northwest breeze starts to kick up, move the flags and moderate the temperature in early afternoon, and it usually cools down enough late at night to sleep comfortably. Both the Araujo and Montelena Cabernets are dark and dense, with earthy mineral flavors. Three Palms Vineyard, which is often made into a wine by Duckhorn and Sterling Vineyards, is sitting on a rock pile, so the soils are diverse.

Because there are only a few estate-grown or vineyard-designated Cabernets from what might one day be a Calistoga appellation, generalizations are just that--very general. Consider Chateau Montelena or Araujo Eisele. Add in Robert Pecota Kara's Vineyard and perhaps Sterling Vineyards or Duckhorn's Three Palm Vineyard and you have some tremendous vineyard-driven wines. The Montelena and Araujo Eisele Cabernets clearly rank among the finest and sturdiest made in California.

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