Top-rated California Cabernet wines on display.

Ranking the Top-Rated California Cabernet

While you can show that certain vintages, labels, or producers are better than others using metrics like tasting scores, price performance, and bottle value, ranking the top-rated California Cabernet is still a subjective process. In this guide, we’ve identified some of the highest quality producers, vintages, and wine labels on the market today. While these rankings are by no means definitive, they are designed to help you gain a better understanding of which wines most collectors find worthwhile so you can add top-quality Cabernet to your collection.

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The best vintage year of Opus One is subjective.

What Is the Best Vintage Year for Opus One?

Designating one year as the best vintage year for Opus One is a difficult and subjective task; wines from two different years may both be fantastic in completely different ways. Some vintages are fruit-driven and intense in flavor, while others are delicate and bright. To pick the best vintages for your own collection, you’ll want to consider which of these two styles you prefer as well as whether you plan on reselling your bottles on the secondary market in the future. Our guide to the best Opus One vintages will help you narrow down your choices and build a rewarding collection of these iconic wines.

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Top producers made great wine in the best years of Napa Cabernet

Ranking the Best Years for Napa Cabernet

A few years ago, I attended a retrospective tasting event of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon at a local wine bar. We sampled wines from some of the best years for Napa Cabernet, and it was easy to see which vintages everyone enjoyed the most. The 2007 wines in particular were a huge hit among the crowd. The man sitting next to me gushed over a glass of intense, incredibly complex 2007 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, saying it was one of the best wines he’s ever had. Most of the 2007 wines received similar praise; it was clearly the winning vintage of the night.

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The 2018 Napa harvest was bountiful.

The 2018 Napa Harvest: A Winemaker’s Dream Vintage

The 2018 Napa harvest ended on a high note this fall. Most winemakers across the region are reporting superb grape quality, high yields, and low sugar concentration in the fruit. Hudson Vineyards director Kelly MacLeod says, “This year, it really was a winemaker’s dream. They got to consciously choose exactly what they wanted.” While it’s still too early to tell how these wines will develop over time, all of these factors could result in a collectible, age-worthy vintage. If you’re looking for flavorful New-World wines that are well-balanced with comparatively restrained alcohol, the 2018 vintage may be your dream year, too.

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Wines from the best California wine regions

A Guide to the Best California Wine Regions

When I was in my early twenties, my grandmother lived just 30 miles away from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Over the summer, I’d regularly drive down to visit her and we’d spend the weekend exploring some of Santa Cruz’s finest wineries together, from Ridge to Rhys. Through those experiences, I discovered that I preferred Chardonnay from the Santa Cruz Mountains to Chardonnay from Napa Valley; in fact, I currently have close to a dozen bottles of Rhys Chardonnay Alpine Vineyard in my cellar at the moment.

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best Ridge wine

Your Guide to the Best Ridge Wine

When I travel, I love to check out wine shops in different countries and always notice that the California selection at any shop outside of the U.S. is minuscule–usually only a handful of wines. But I’ve noticed that in Australia and Europe, if a shop is going to carry a California Cabernet, it’s always from Ridge Vineyards. The estate’s flagship Monte Bello label is highly sought-after among collectors, so much so that every year hundreds of wine enthusiasts from around the world journey to the Santa Cruz Mountains just to taste Ridge’s iconic Cabernet.

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Dominus wine scores are consistently high.

Analyzing Dominus Wine Scores: How to Invest in This Legendary Producer

In the late 1990s, you could buy Dominus’ flagship wine directly from the estate for just $65 per bottle; today, many of these wines are worth anywhere from $250 to $500 apiece on the secondary market, sometimes more if the vintage is especially high in quality. However, it’s not just the ever-increasing market value that draws wine enthusiasts to this producer. Dominus wine scores are also among the highest in Napa year after year, and the estate’s offerings very frequently outrank other superb California wineries–even the famed Opus One. Critics and collectors alike adore Dominus’ small-scale, Bordeaux-style wines, and analyses like the one Liv-ex publishes project that these wines may continue to grow in value significantly over the next few years. Now is perhaps the best time to invest in wines from this high-quality estate, and by following this guide, you can learn how to make the most out of every bottle you purchase.

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Colgin and Scarecrow made some of the best 2014 Napa Cabernet

The Best 2014 Napa Cabernet: From Colgin to Scarecrow

Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is so much more than a bold, jammy fruit bomb; in years when the weather is perfect and the harvest conditions are just right, even the boldest of producers can craft wines that are balanced, refined, and elegantly supple in personality. This is precisely what happened during the 2014 growing season. The best 2014 Napa Cabernet has that rare, legendary combination of elegance, youthful charm, and robust tannins that will allow these wines to age spectacularly over the next 25 years or more. In other words, these are wines that will impress you whether you choose to uncork them now or wait until they’ve reached their full potential in 30 years. The 2014 vintage is the perfect balance of soft fruit and a firm backbone, making it one of the greatest Napa vintages of the past two decades, and well worth a space in your cellar.

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1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon

Unicorn Wine: 1941 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon Is a Legendary Cask That Could Be Too Rare to Drink

MENTIONED IN THIS POST: -Inglenook 2013 -Shafer  When I first started drinking and collecting wine, I was convinced that no bottle was too rare to drink. After all, wine was meant to be drunk. Sure, I might feel sheepish after opening a rare bottle, but I always believed that the pleasure of tasting that ultra…

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2012 Colgin Cariad

Hidden Gem of the Month: 2012 Colgin Cariad Is a California Blend with Great Aging Potential

MENTIONED IN THIS POST: –Colgin Cellars –Abreu Vineyards  I’ve long been familiar with Colgin’s classic Cabernet Sauvignon, but recently, I’ve found a new love: Cariad. This is perhaps fitting since the name “Cariad” means “love” in Welsh. Full of intense tannin and layers of fruit, the proprietary Bordeaux-style blend from the Colgin estate is more…

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margrit mondavi napa valley wine

Remembering Margrit Mondavi: How One Woman Helped Change the Perception of Napa Valley Wine

We lost a wine icon this year. Margrit Mondavi passed away from cancer on September 2, 2016, and although she is no longer with us, she leaves behind a long legacy that will ripple through California’s wine industry for decades. My father-in-law remembers the first time he met Margrit Mondavi. “She was magnanimous and sharp…

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