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waters on wine

In preparation for this year’s grape harvest at Freemark Abbey Winery in Napa Valley, the winemaking team conducted a retrospective tasting of its cabernet sauvignons. Located in St. Helena, Calif., the family-owned producer has been making cabernet since 1967.

“Wines dating back 40 years were still showing beautifully,” says Kristy Melton, who became Freemark Abbey’s winemaker in 2016.

“We really love cabernet; it’s what we do here,” Melton says. “We know people drink wine within 48 hours of bringing it home, so we want to make sure our wines are really delicious at the restaurant or off of the store shelf. But what’s really important to me is that these wines will age in the cellar really well.”

A key to the success of cabernet sauvignon in the Napa Valley comes from determining the best locations to plant the late-ripening grape variety. For instance, locations on the valley floor that are close to the Napa River can struggle to successfully ripen cabernet sauvignon but might be terrific places to grow merlot or sauvignon blanc.

“We’ve really spent decades homing in where the best vineyards are,” says Melton, who calls the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon she produces a snapshot of what the region can produce. She also makes a selection of appellation-specific wines, including one from Rutherford that is released this week in Ontario.

A selection of wines from the Napa Valley are featured this week, some of which are part of a special virtual offering through the LCBO’s vintagesshoponline.com. Starting Sept. 30, the offer includes some seriously collectible and splurge-worthy selections from a bevy of leading producers.

This week’s recommendations also include wines from other parts of the world that are recommended as bottles to buy and enjoy or stash away in the cellar for a few years to see how they develop over time.

Antica Townsend Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (United States), $125

Rating:95 /100

Antica is the Antinori family’s winery on Atlas Peak in the Napa Valley. The neighbouring Townsend property was purchased in 1998 and is singled out as one of its top cabernet vineyards. A full-bodied and richly layered red wine, this presents a serious mix of herbal and ripe dark fruit notes with savoury and oak-derived notes. Drink 2023 to 2038. Available in Ontario at the above price, direct through vintagesshoponline.com.

Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Red 2020 (South Africa), $14

Rating:90 /100

This stylish red wine is a fresh and flavourful blend of syrah, mourvèdre and viognier, which offers appealing spicy, meaty and floral notes with a core of dark fruit flavours. It’s a nice and complex dry red with a supple texture and lingering finish. Drink now to 2024. Available at the above price in Ontario and Quebec, $14.49 in British Columbia and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $15.49 in Saskatchewan, $15.99 in New Brunswick, $16.48 in Nova Scotia, $17.50 in Newfoundland.

Château Thieuley Entre-Deux-Mers 2019 (France), $18.85

Rating:88 /100

This vibrant and nicely structured white is a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and sauvignon gris from Bordeaux. The fresh and intense flavours suggest a mix of citrus, stone fruit and herbal notes, which make this enjoyable as an aperitif or with a meal. Drink now to 2023. Available in Ontario.

Clos Du Val Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (United States), $89

Rating:93 /100

This family-owned winery has been producing wine from its estate on the Silverado Trail in the Napa Valley since 1972. It’s consistently one to watch for top-quality Napa cabernets at more accessible prices. The house style continues to be fresh and lively, with the abundance of fruit that defines red wine from Napa. Floral and herbal accents add interest to the aromas and flavours, which makes its style enjoyable now or later. Drink now to 2030. Available in Ontario at the above price, direct through vintagesshoponline.com, various prices in Alberta, $71.25 in Quebec.

Escudo Rojo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Chile), $17.95

Rating:89 /100

Made by the Rothschild’s winery in Chile’s Maipo Valley, this rich and fragrant cabernet offers a lot of flavour and complexity for its price. Nicely structured and refreshing in nature, it offers enjoyable plummy, cedar and herbal notes that carry through to a lingering finish. Drink now to 2025. Available in Ontario.

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (United States), $62.99

Rating:92 /100

One of the original wineries operating in the Napa Valley, Freemark Abbey has built its reputation on the quality of its cabernet. Made in a full-bodied and richly structured style, this age-worthy wine offers a core of ripe fruit, firm tannins and a rewarding finish. Drink now to 2036. Available in British Columbia and Saskatchewan at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $89.99 in New Brunswick.

Freemark Abbey Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (United States), $99.95

Rating:94 /100

Freemark Abbey’s Rutherford Cabernet is a rich and complex wine with a core of dark fruit that gains complexity from savoury and oak-derived spice notes. The fruit flavours are bright and the tannins are youthful, which means this is built to last. Drink 2023 to 2037. Available in Ontario at the above price, direct through vintagesshoponline.com.

Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 2019 (United States), $49.95

Rating:91 /100

Inspired by the field blends made in California decades ago, this organic red wine was made by co-fermenting zinfandel and petite sirah grapes grown in Rutherford in the Napa Valley. The result is a ripe red wine with admirable freshness and intensity. There’s a pleasing fragrance and a ripe – but not overly ripe, as is common with some styles of zinfandel – core of berry fruit flavours. Drink now to 2029. Available in Ontario at the above price, direct through vintagesshoponline.com, various prices in Alberta.

Red Rooster Winery Cabernet Merlot 2019 (Canada), $19.99

Rating:88 /100

The latest release of Red Rooster’s cabernet from British Columbia sports a new look, with an informative back label that highlights specifics about how the wine was made. The wine’s style is equally approachable, with a soft and spicy character that’s best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2023. Available in British Columbia at the above price, various prices in Alberta.

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