Decanter

Luczy’s 30: top Napa Cabernet 2018s

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Wines are listed by points scored, then alphabetic­ally by producer, and are a cross-section of Matthew Luczy’s top-scoring, best value and most interestin­g wines of the vintage. All wines were tasted in the US, from bottle – some are just being released at the time of going to press, and few 2018s have yet been shipped to the UK. Please consult specialist merchants for further details.

1 WINE OF THE VINTAGE

TOP PRODUCER Corison, Kronos Vineyard, St Helena 2018 97

Corison’s Kronos Vineyard, planted in

1971, is one of the world’s great Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, and an anomaly in the modern Napa Valley landscape. The yields are extremely low, and just 6,000 bottles were made. Radiant aromas of blue and purple fruits, graphite and dates. The texture is pure velvet, seamlessly laced with subtle tobacco and fennel. A long, powdery finish wraps up this definitive, understate­d and ageworthy valley-floor Cabernet. Corison’s Sunbasket Vineyard Cabernet scored 95pts and the Estate St Helena Cabernet 94pts. Drink 2026-2054 Alcohol 13.6%

2 WINE OF THE VINTAGE TOP PRODUCER Kapcsándy, Grand Vin State Lane Vineyard, Yountville 2018 97 Exceptiona­l, with enthalling aromas of fresh flowers, bath soap, orchard blossoms and raspberry sorbet. Its texture has a silky, weightless quality before delivering sumptuous, refined tannins and a stunning

finish. Seductive in style; brings to mind no other Napa Valley Cabernet. Definitive, unique, fantastic. The Estate Cuvée scored 94pts. Drink 2026-2052 Alc 13.9%

TOP PRODUCER Larkmead, Solari 2018 97 Dan Petroski’s Larkmead flagship is remarkable in 2018. From two parcels at the southern border of Calistoga, bordering St Helena, soils a combinatio­n of Cortina gravel and Pleasanton clay. A major level up in every dimension from the already fantastic Napa Valley Cabernet (which scored 95pts), the nose is enthrallin­g: savoury and floral, ripe but restrained, smoulderin­g and spry. The texture is seamless and multi-dimensiona­l, but has a rustic authentici­ty to it. A truly fantastic wine, and one to be looked to as a benchmark for balance, complexity, ageworthin­ess and transparen­cy. Drink 2026-2059 Alc 14%

3 TOP PRODUCER Lokoya, Mt Veeder 2018 97

All four of Lokoya’s 2018 Cabernets are regal, but this attains an additional level of purity and class. A definitive Mount

Veeder Cabernet. There’s a softness to the nose that takes nothing away from the muscular, firm core of fruit on the palate. The finish is granular, burly and seemingly endless. Reacts instantly to air; very much an evolving entity. The Howell Mountain Cabernet scored 96pts, Diamond Mountain 95pts and Spring Mountain 94pts. Drink 2026-2054 Alc 14.5% ➢

TOP PRODUCER Dalla Valle, Maya, Oakville 2018 96

This 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc blend is a great example of a ‘cult’ Napa wine that refrains from blowing the doors off. Instantly seductive and supple on the nose, with a chocolatey, plummy richness that pulls you into the glass. A soft, silky and giving palate slingshots into brighter, more red-fruited notes than the nose would suggest. The finish is classy and refined, striking a mid-point between velvety opulence and rigid structure. The Oakville Cabernet scored 95pts. Drink 2024-2037 Alc 14.8%

4 TOP PRODUCER Meteor, Special Family Reserve, Coombsvill­e 2018 96 Taking Meteor Vineyard to another level entirely, this is one of the definitive wines of the Coombsvill­e appellatio­n in 2018. Exotic, enthrallin­g and flashy on the nose, giving off a sense it is currently simmering, planning out its boiling point over the next three decades. As floral as it is fruit-driven and savoury, with an immovable, tenacious structure. Decadence combined with longevity and class. The Perseid scored 94pts. Drink 2026-2054 Alc 14.8%

Cardinale 2018 95

Composed around mountain fruit with supporting roles from valley-floor vineyards across Napa. Hedonistic and commanding nose, with dense aromas of ripe blackcurra­nts, black cherries, coffee beans and fresh herbs. Svelte, balanced, expansive palate. Grainy but fine finish, with a core of bright, refreshing acidity. A modern cult Napa Cabernet that manages restraint. Drink 2024-2042 Alc 14.5%

Chappellet, Pritchard Hill 2018 95 Sourced from the top 15%-20% of Chappellet’s holdings on Pritchard Hill. Aromas of fresh violets, damp herbs and black fruits. Powerful and muscular on the palate, but a lean, toned muscle. Often, the flagship wine of a Napa estate pulls out all the stops with ripeness, but this bottling is impressive­ly restrained and elegant. Several other releases from Chappellet also scored in the 90s, so this is a reliable estate in 2018. Drink 2024-2040 Alc 14.5%

5 TOP PRODUCER Chimney Rock, Tomahawk Vineyard, Stags Leap District 2018 95

Planted in 2002, this site produces a wine more dark-fruited and lush than the Ganymede (which scored 93pts). Aged in

75% new French oak. Blackcurra­nts, wet cedar and fennel on the nose. Stunning texture: plush, coating, lifted and graceful. Explosive finish with purple fruits; clean, chalky, subtly abrasive. Fantastic all round. One to enjoy for the next two decades. The Clone 4 scored 94pts and Clone 7 93pts. Drink 2022-2040 Alc 14.5%

Marston, Spring Mountain District 2018 95 An earth-forward showing of Spring Mountain, with aromas of tilled earth, moss and dried leather. Perfectly ripe raspberrie­s, pomegranat­e skin and oolong tea on the palate; dynamic, vibrant acidity. The finish is multilayer­ed and harmonious. Impressive­ly well-knit now, but if you can leave it alone, cellaring will reward your patience. Drink 2026-2039 Alc 14.7%

TOP PRODUCER Pilcrow, Granite Lake, Howell Mountain 2018 95

£79 James Hocking Wine

Dark and intense on the nose, stating its rustic Howell Mountain origins. Aromas of cigar box, charcoal and blackcurra­nts. The texture is a step up in richness and concentrat­ion from Pilcrow’s Hillwalker and Ghost Block Cabernets (which both scored 94pts) but loses no grace, restraint and purity. A very long, powdery and persistent finish. Delicious, heady and complex. Drink 2024-2042 Alc 14.2%

TOP PRODUCER Sodaro, Estate Cabernet, Coombsvill­e 2018 95 Quintessen­tially Coombsvill­e on the nose, combining freshness with opulent black fruits, tied with with a sturdy, graphitela­den core. Utterly seamless on the palate, with a voluptuous texture tethered to a weightless, ethereal quality. The finish is long, multifacet­ed, and never stays in one place very long. The Felicity Cabernet scored 94pts. Drink 2026-2044 Alc 14.7%

PRODUCER TO WATCH Brandlin, Estate, Mt Veeder 2018 94

A perfumed, fresh nose filled with violets, lavender and blackcurra­nts. The palate is plush, dense and precise, finishing with a purity and deftness that is increasing­ly hard to find in Napa. Impressive­ly ready to drink even at this young stage. Henry’s Keep scored 92pts. Drink 2022-2035 Alc 14.5%

TOP VALUE Farella, Coombsvill­e 2018 94 Contains fruit from vines dating back to 1979. Farella has long been a grape source for top names in Napa, seeking the freshness typical of the Coombsvill­e

appellatio­n. The nose here relays this, with elegant and graceful blackberry aromas. The texture is svelte and full of energy, with a lovely, subtle bite to the finish. Great value, especially considerin­g one can pay many times more for wines that contain this very fruit. Drink 2022-2040 Alc 14.8%

6 PRODUCER TO WATCH Gallica, Oakville Ranch Vineyard, Oakville 2018 94 A composed, balanced nose shows off just enough ripeness and judicious use of new oak. The palate is alluring and ghostly, combining silky precision with mouthcoati­ng richness. Charred and very earth-driven on the finish. A beautiful, understate­d expression of eastern Oakville. Drink 2024-2037 Alc 14.1%

TOP PRODUCER Hourglass, Blueline Estate 36, Calistoga 2018 94

Toasty tobacco and sappy black-fruit aromas. Considerab­ly more black-fruited and filled out than the standard Blueline Estate bottling, which scored 93pts, and the Hourglass Estate, which scored 94pts. Muscular, firm tannins on the finish where blue and black fruits persist. Hourglass does a great job in 2018, producing a modern style that is restrained and in balance for its 15% alcohol. Drink 2025-2038 Alc 15%

PRODUCER TO WATCH Jericho Canyon, Reserve 2018 94

From the northeaste­rn corner of Napa Valley. Sweet, sappy aromas mix with those of dried herbs and chaparral. The palate is rich, focused and delicious, boasting impressive length and dimension. The finish ties in the herbal qualities of the nose with fresh flowers and fine tannins. The 15.1% alcohol is remarkably in balance.

Drink 2024-2037 Alc 15.1%

7 PRODUCER TO WATCH Mathew

Bruno, Rutherford 2018 94

From a site in eastern Rutherford that supplied Beaulieu Vineyard in the 1960s and ‘ 70s. Fragrant nose of black liquorice, cherry blossoms, crème de cassis and dried oregano. Juicy, luscious and giving palate with concentrat­ed red-fruit flavours. There’s a poise and grace here that refreshing­ly doesn’t give the taster everything at once. A gorgeous, floral showing. The Stagecoach Vineyard scored 92pts. Drink 2024-2037 Alc 14.2%

TOP VALUE Merryvale 2018 94

Has an attractive, savoury, earthy nose of underbrush, rain and cut grass. Beautiful and seamless on the mid-palate, with a sturdy, dry, complete finish. Impressive at this price point. The blend includes 17% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. The St Helena cuvée scored 95pts. Drink 2024-2035 Alc 14.5%

PRODUCER TO WATCH Metzker,

Howell Mountain 2018 94

Wild, savage nose, combining mountainba­sed ruggedness with lively floral notes. The palate is strikingly juicy and succulent before a burly, muscular finish. Only about 850 bottles were produced of this impressive, multifacet­ed Howell Mountain Cabernet. The Spring Mountain release scored 93pts. Drink 2024-2037 Alc 15%

PRODUCER TO WATCH Acumen,

Peak Attelas, Atlas Peak 2018 93

The most floral and understate­d of Acumen’s Cabernets (the Peak and Peak Edcora each scored 92pts). Fresh violets, moss and black plums on the nose. The palate balances a plush texture with polished tannins, clearly showing its

mountain origins but doing so with restraint and poise. Drink 2024-2037 Alc 14.5%

TOP VALUE Frog’s Leap, Estate Grown, Rutherford 2018 93

£22.67-£29.99 Justerini & Brooks, The Oxford Wine Co

Beaming and pure, with aromas of fragrant red fruits, fresh flowers and a hint of ash. Elegant, bright palate with a finely drawn, precise acidity. Frog’s Leap has always placed itself among producers that champion precision and elegance, and the 2018 is a particular­ly crystallin­e example of this. Drink 2022-2040 Alc 13.9%

PRODUCER TO WATCH Jones Family Vineyards, Calistoga 2018 93

From winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown. Subtle new French oak aromas mix with saffron, black plums and pine needles. Black cherries, blueberrie­s and paraffin wax flavours on the glossy, refined palate. A ‘new-school’ Napa Valley Cabernet, but not made with a pedal-to-the-floor ethos.

Drink 2022-2033 Alc 14.8%

PRODUCER TO WATCH Nemerever, Estate, Oakville 2018 93

Sourced from three adjacent estate blocks in the heart of Oakville. Dusty, perfumed, Old World-influenced aromas of turned earth, fresh thyme and dried flowers. The mid-weight palate is sleek and subtly rustic on the finish. A lovely, earth-forward showing. Drink 2023-2036 Alc 14.8%

8 TOP VALUE Bougetz, Amaryllis, Spring Mountain 2018 92

Fresh purple flowers, soft black fruits and a minty freshness on the nose. Classic mountain Cabernet structure of tobacco and concentrat­ed currants. Wraps up with a fine, grainy, persistent tannic structure. As with much of the Bougetz range, great value. Drink 2024-2032 Alc 14.8%

9 TOP VALUE Inglenook, 1882, Rutherford 2018 92

Inglenook’s entry-level Cabernet is graceful and balanced on the nose, with ripe red fruits, burning charcoal embers and potpourri aromas. The palate has a beautifull­y polished texture, finishing with a classicall­y Rutherford profile: soft with persistent tannins. Impressive, accessible, good value. For deeper pockets, Rubicon scored 96pts. Drink 2022-2035 Alc 14.5%

TOP VALUE Mount Veeder Winery, Mt Veeder 2018 92

Mount Veeder AVA offers a higher level of consistenc­y and value across price points than Napa’s other mountain appellatio­ns. At the lower end of the spectrum, this is a multifacet­ed, complete example of a unique sub-region. Blue-fruited, herbal, rustic nose with a direct, firm texture. Finishes with a typical Mount Veeder brambly edge. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Malbec.

Drink 2023-2031 Alc 14.7%

PRODUCER TO WATCH TOP VALUE Truchard, Los Carneros 2018 92

POA Walker & Wodehouse

Charming, medium-bodied Cabernet from Napa’s southernmo­st section, a region with greater exposure to the San Pablo Bay. Aromas of charred wood, incense and lavender. Purple-fruited, uniform, finessed palate. Outstandin­g value for a fresh, breezy style of Cabernet. The Reserve scored 93pts. Drink 2022-2030 Alc 14.2%

TOP VALUE Turnbull 2018 92

Softer and pleasantly vegetal on the nose, Turnbull’s entry Cabernet is perenniall­y one of the great-value propositio­ns in Napa Valley. Its nose is floral and displays a bevy of dark-fruit character, with no overt new oak usage. Finishes crisp, satisfying and refreshing, it’s hard to ask for more at this price. The Black Label scored 95pts and Amoenus and Fortuna each 94pts. Drink 2024-2035 Alc 14.3%

PRODUCER TO WATCH TOP VALUE Volker Eisele, Chiles Valley 2018 92

This entry Cabernet sacrifices none of the lovely rusticity of the rest of the roster (Las Flores and Alexander Cabernets both scored 93pts). Aromas of bramble, dried herbs and dried leather. The palate is filled with nervy red fruits; it finishes with angular but pleasant tannins. Great value for a bright yet rough-around-the-edges Napa Cab. Drink 2024-2032 Alc 14.1% D

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