Few wines are as quintessentially American as Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Much of this oenological patriotism, I think, has to do with its instantly identifiable character: Its typically well-defined fruit, its muscle, its lusciousness.
And within Napa, few appellations are as instantly giving, yet also possessed of the potential for aging, as Stags Leap District. It’s an unusual combination, of course, but one that the best producers here pull off year after year.
One of my favorites is Pine Ridge Vineyards, whose wines, produced in a range of appellations throughout Napa, are reliably excellent and reasonably priced -- a combination that’s still all too rare. This time of year, as grills are getting fired up for the first time and we all feel like celebrating the return of spring, I can’t think of a better bottle to open than the one below.
Pine Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Stags Leap District
This bottling, produced from sustainably farmed fruit like all of the estate’s wines, is delicious and classically styled, nearly black in color and aromatically as evocative of the District as it gets. Chocolate-mint, eucalyptus, cherry compote and humidor notes swirl from the glass and demand a sip. They lead to flavors of sweet plum cake, Chinese five spice, and rich cherry--all remarkably bright given their deep concentration--and are framed by tannins that provide ample opportunity for food-pairing presently, and evolution in the cellar for a decade or more. You can decant it now and pair it with a grilled steak, or hold onto it and drink through 2025.