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A 20-Year-Old Napa Cabernet Still Going Strong

Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Lake 1990
James Laube
Posted: March 3, 2010

When I came across a bottle of 1990 Diamond Creek Lake Cabernet in my cellar, I pulled it out, stood it up and, a few days later, called Diamond Creek owner Boots Brounstein to meet for lunch. We met in St. Helena at A.K.A. on Main Street and shared a few dishes—including crispy portobello fries, salmon rillette and a flat iron steak—along with the wine.

The Lake bottling, made from a three-quarter-acre site at Diamond Creek, is only made in years when the wine from that parcel is distinctive. Otherwise, the wine goes into the bottling of Gravelly Meadow, nearest to it. Since it debuted with the stunning 1978 vintage, some 10 bottlings of Lake have been made.

The 1990 represents the classic Diamond Creek style—sleek, refined, complex and elegant, with fine-grained tannins and complex cedar, cigar box and dried currant and herb flavors. It’s very much Bordeaux-inspired (winery founder Al Brounstein brought cuttings from Bordeaux for his vineyard), anchored by Cabernet, but also Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. One of this California winery’s strengths is that its wines do age well, and this one remains in tip-top shape. Still holding nicely at 92 points, non-blind. members: Read the original blind-tasting review and vertical tasting notes for Diamond Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Lake 1990 (90 points on release).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated California Cabernets.

Member comments   9 comment(s)

Jonathan Rezabek — Chandler, AZ —  March 3, 2010 6:15pm ET

James, I had the 1991 Dominus on Sunday. This was another CA cab definitely in the Bordeaux style. It was amazing! In your expert opinion, what producers today will make a wine that will evolve into something like that?

Johnny Ng — Hong Kong —  March 3, 2010 11:55pm ET

I came across an update tasting of 1970 Chappellet Cab in 2001 when it scored 93. I manage dto get a bottle by luck at only $55, only worry is a corke bottle. A friend helped to bring it from US to Vancouver and teh bottle was shared with a few others. I can still remember how good and young the bottle is. Really a valuable experience for tasting such an old and good US Cab : ) : )

Kathy Dipietro — Dallas —  March 4, 2010 8:55am ET

I am happy to hear that your cab held up against time - I purchased several wines to commemorate the birth of my daughter in 1989 and am looking forward to opening them this July! I knew nothing about wine 20 years ago, and with hindsight, would have made much different choices had I known more. I'll let you know how they turn out! kathyd

James Laube — Napa, CA —  March 4, 2010 11:16am ET

Kathy, 1989 was tough in California, but great in Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley. 1990 was great for Bordeaux and Cabernet, and a lot of other wines. More on the subject today.

Ronec Enterprises Ltd — Springfield, IL —  March 4, 2010 1:10pm ET


In light of this and other recent posts regarding your consumption of wines from your cellar....I wonder if you are ever going to change your drinking window recommendations on California Cabernet? In the original tasting note the suggestion is to "try now." Yet here we are 20 years later and the wine "remains in tip top shape." The 99 Point 2006 Schrader T6BTKV you say will be "best from 2010-2018." You don't think this will make it past year 12?

James Laube — Napa, CA —  March 4, 2010 1:17pm ET

Yes, I do think the wines can age longer provided they are properly stores. Drink windows are estimates of peak times and of greater benefit for those with less experience with aging wines.

If you have a great cellar, know what you like and have experience with older wines, then you already know most of what you need to know. I would hate to have readers wait on wines and then be disappointed if the wine doesn't have the fruit vitality described in the note.

I have also started to stretch the windows a little wider, both for reds and whites. The key is storage.

James Laube — Napa, CA —  March 4, 2010 1:20pm ET

One more thing...with our What We're Drinking feature, we don't write about the old wines that were duds...just the happy moments.

Wayne Grout — Derry, NH —  March 4, 2010 1:33pm ET


Your article on Diamond Creek brings back such fond memories. Al and Boots were the consummate hosts. They were generous with everything except their wine. :-)

Al must be driving around heaven in his electric Caddie cart. Such an icon lost.

I can still remember the 84 Lake.

Elyse Freedman — Toronto, ON, Canada —  March 13, 2010 10:32pm ET

I just read your article and funny you should mention Diamond Creek. My late father was a wine collector and when he passed away I inherited his cellar. I recently had a bottle of the 1990 Diamond Creek and still have 5 more bottles. It was wonderful and a great way to celebrate my father's great taste.

Thanks for bringing back a good memory


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