High-end Napa Valley producers like Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate consistently produce some of the finest and most collectible wines in the world. Although, these top producers would not release a wine if there was a bad year. Some producers in this high-end category would more likely use the grapes for other labels or sell the fruit. If they made a vintage of Screaming Eagle, it was meant to be drunk and appreciated by Screaming Eagle fans.
However, some years are truly legendary among collectors. These are the vintages that wine enthusiasts will still be talking about decades from now, and against which all future vintages will inevitably be compared. If you want to collect only the finest wines in history from Napa Valley, this guide to the best vintages for Napa Cabernet will narrow down your search.
What Are the Best Vintages for Napa Cabernet?
Making a definitive list of the best vintages for Napa Cabernet is difficult since every collector’s tastes and opinions differ. For example, people who enjoy fruit-forward wines will naturally gravitate to warmer vintages like 2016 or 2012. Meanwhile, people who prefer a more delicate or aromatic style of Cabernet may be more interested in cooler vintages like 2010 or 2009.
Regardless of which style you personally enjoy, the vintages below are considered by professional critics to be the best vintages for Napa Cabernet overall:
There are older vintages from the 1980s and 1970s that critics also rate highly, however, most collectors are interested in vintages of the past 30 years, as many of them are either at their peak right now or still need some time to reach full maturity. Essentially, these younger vintages offer you greater flexibility. Part of the fun in collecting the best vintages is to lay them down for a decade or more and open them on a special occasion, like an anniversary. Or, you could buy multiple bottles from the same legendary vintage and open one bottle every few years, to see how the vintage is evolving.
To narrow your choices down even further, you can also look at the characteristics of each top-rated vintage to find the one that best matches your own tastes or needs. You’ll also find general recommendations on whether to hold the vintage in storage or serve it now.
Elegant, Nuanced Vintages
|Vintage||Tasting Notes||Drink or Hold|
|2018||A well-balanced year that is richly nuanced in flavor||Hold|
|2010||Multi-layered wines with well-balanced acidity||Hold (some ready to drink)|
|2009||Elegant wines that show a pure “sense of place”||Hold (some ready to drink)|
|2008||Deeply complex wines that are rarer than usual due to low yields||Hold (some ready to drink)|
|2007||A perfect example of Cabernet, with well-integrated tannins and herbaceous notes||Hold (some ready to drink)|
|2006||Aromatic wines that have developed incredible depth over the years||Drink|
|2004||Well-balanced, elegant wines that are rarer than usual due to lower yields||Drink|
|1999||Well-structured wines that have continued to age well over the decades||Drink (some labels have become quite rare and may be held)|
Bold, Concentrated Vintages
|Vintage||Tasting Notes||Drink or Hold|
|2016||Intense and fruit-forward; this vintage is also quite rare due to a smaller than usual yield||Hold|
|2014||Powerful wines that are also intensely aromatic||Hold (some ready to drink)|
|2013||Well-structured wines with bright fruit flavors||Hold (some ready to drink)|
|2012||Age-worthy, tannic wines that grow ever more complex||Hold|
|1997||Very ripe and concentrated wines; this is largely considered to be one of the greatest vintages in Napa history||Drink (some labels have become quite rare and may be held)|
|1996||A fruit-forward vintage that has proven to be unexpectedly age-worthy, with many fine wines still at their peak||Drink|
|1995||Structured and flavorful wines with excellent balance||Drink|
|1994||Ripe fruit flavors that have developed beautiful depth over the years||Drink|
However, these are only basic characteristics of these vintages. If you’re ready to start a collection of the best vintages for Napa Cabernet, it’s helpful to have a more specific list of top-rated wines from every year.
The Best Wines From Every Vintage
Just as there are standout vintages from Napa Valley, there are also standout producers and labels within each vintage. These are the wines that have received some of the highest scores, on average, from professional critics, and are worth seeking out for your own collection.
There are many other producers and labels besides these that are worthy of a space in your cellar. For example, the top blue-chip producers in the area will almost certainly have made exceptional wines in all of the years above, so you should have plenty of options to choose from when the time comes to add a few bottles to your collection.
To find the finest wines, you can always search trusted online marketplaces and filter your results by vintage and average score. Napa Valley is famous for producing some of the highest-praised examples of Cabernet Sauvignon on the market today, so it’s incredibly easy to start a luxury collection of impressive, age-worthy vintages.
How To Lay Down the Best Vintages Long-Term
Starting a collection of the best vintages for Napa Cabernet is only the first step. High-quality vintages like these can (and should be) aged for at least 15 to 20 years, at minimum, which means you should take two steps to protect your collection long-term by:
- Keeping track of the wine’s ideal drinking window
- Storing your wine in perfect environmental conditions
First, it’s essential to know precisely when your wine will approach peak maturity. This is the moment when you can taste all of the nuanced flavors and fully appreciate the notable quality of the vintage. Using a wine tracking app, you can read the latest professional tasting notes for that particular vintage and label, which should help you hone in on the perfect time to open your bottle.
Yet another benefit of investing in the best vintages for Napa Cabernet is the option to resell some or all of your collection later. Top-rated Napa Cabernet, especially vintages from cult wine producers, often gain significantly in value over time, particularly if the vintage is rarer or more sought-after than usual. So, if your wine reaches peak maturity and you’re not quite ready to drink it yourself, you always have the option to sell your wine for a profit.
However, the only way to fully enjoy your wine, whether you plan on drinking it or reselling it, is to store it properly from the time you buy it until it’s finally uncorked. While you could store the best vintages for Napa Cabernet in a home cellar, these spectacular vintages deserve more care than other, less valuable wines.
For your best vintages, professional storage is a great choice because it’s meant to be a long-term solution, ideal for aging a wine over the course of ten or 20 years. The bottles remain at the perfect temperature and humidity level for slow, steady aging.
Another benefit of storing your wine professionally is that it prevents you from opening a bottle too early by mistake. Some storage warehouses offer collection-management apps, which not only let you see your Cabernet collection at a glance, but they also list detailed information about every vintage, including estimated drinking windows. It’s a more organized and thoughtful way of managing a large collection; you’ll only pull your wine out of storage when the time is exactly right.
Keeping a collection of the best vintages for Napa Cabernet is immensely rewarding, especially when you have the resources to lay your wine down for decades. These are true once-in-a-lifetime vintages that every Cabernet Sauvignon enthusiast should get to enjoy.
Whether you are starting your high-end wine collection or adding the best vintages for Napa Cabernet to an established portfolio, Vinfolio is your partner in buying, selling, and professional storage. Contact us today to get access to the world’s finest wine.