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The Top 2006 Barrels at Napa Auction Are Exceptional

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Jun 9, 2008 2:26pm ET

Oprah created quite a buzz when she arrived at Friday’s Auction Napa Valley barrel tasting. I asked her to do a quick interview and tasting on camera with me, but she politely declined, saying that she wanted to taste a few wines before going on camera (at least with me). Maybe next time.

Meanwhile, Elias Fernandez, of Shafer, and Coral Brown, of Brown Estate Vineyards, talked about the 2006 and 2007 vintages in Napa Valley and the merits of blending Cabernet with Zinfandel, respectively, at the barrel tasting.

Most of the 50 wines I tried Friday were 2006 Cabernets and blends thereof, and I continue to that think this is an excellent vintage, with very distinctive, stylish, elegantly balanced wines. As Fernandez explained, 2006 is unique in its core of pure fruit flavors; no raisins, for example, in the clusters. 2007 is a more traditional Napa harvest, with very ripe grapes.

Brown explained why her family’s winery blends Cabernet with Zinfandel. Most of the time when you blend these two grapes, neither benefits. But the Browns seem to have the right touch with their 2007. The Cabernet gives the wine a solid foundation and tannic baseline. The Zin gives it a bright berry flavor and zesty touch.

Here are my favorites, with brief notes. As I’ve discussed before, at walk-around tastings such as this I usually rate wines in one of four categories, with the top two being exceptional and outstanding. Most of the wines were solid, though, oddly enough, a few had some weird dirty flavors – not a good sign at any time in a wine’s development. Ordinary wines don’t get reviewed.

Cabernets and Cabernet Blends:


Gemstone Yountville: Exquisite.
Honig Bartolucci St. Helena: Deep and complex.
Kuleto: Super rich.
O’Shaughnessy Estate Howell Mountain: Loamy currant. Great structure.
Outpost Howell Mountain True Vineyard: Dense yet elegant.
Pride Spring Mountain (Carolyn Vineyard): Sexy oak, opulent, tough to spit.
Revana: Dense and chewy, yet elegant.
Rocca: Chewy, layered.
Shafer Hillside Select Stags Leap District: Profound, elegant.
D.R. Stephens: Ripe, powerful yet refined.
Vinroc Wine Cellars: Ripe, focused, complex.

Beaulieu Rutherford: Refined, great balance.
Beringer Howell Mountain: Dense and earthy.
Brookdale: Dense and chewy. Balanced.
Clark-Claudon: Elegant, stylish.
Cliff Lede Stags Leap District: Rich and elegant.
Cornerstone: Dense and refined.
Davies: Tight and loamy.
Far Niente: Dense and chewy.
Joseph Phelps: Dense and concentrated.
Paraduxx Howell Mountain Cuvee: Rich, balanced, very concentrated.
Realm Merlot-based blend: Chewy.
Reynolds Family Stags Leap District: Loamy currant, pebbly, tight.
Round Pond Rutherford: Very tight and structured.
Rudd Proprietary Red: Rich and pleasantly earthy.
Seavey: Supple and graceful.
Signorello Padrone: Complex and balanced.
Sonador Cellars The Dreamer (Terra Valentine Vineyard): Deep and complex.
Stewart Cellars, Stagecoach and Beckstoffer IV: Pure and plush.


Robert Mondavi Oakville To Kalon Monastery Block: Opulent, saturated yet fleshy.
Parallel Estate: Bold, ripe and deep.

Hartwell Stags Leap District: Rich, elegant, refined.
Newton Spring Mountain: Tight and structured.

John B Vlahos
Cupertino Ca. —  June 9, 2008 4:25pm ET
Zinfandel, as you may know, was the most prominent red wine in California from the 1860s up to the time of prohibition and for a while thereafter. It was usually blended with petite syrah, cabernet franc and carignon, amoungst others, if I recall correstly. My research indicates that in those years there was very little cabernet sauvignon planted in California and it was not blended with Zinfandel. Lately, the zin-cab combination has turned out wonderful reds, the Prisoner for one, comes to mind. So it is ot surprising that the combination is ow makeing great wines. The question that comes to mind is, what took them so long?

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