The holidays came early this year for wine lovers, as Premiere Napa Valley Wine Week began earlier this week on November 8th, offering collectors and professionals the opportunity to delve deep into the country’s most famous wine region. Throughout the week, virtual discussions and interviews with wine makers and other industry luminaries, as well as in-person tastings and events—spread throughout six states across the country, in a total of two dozen different locations—will showcase just what makes this region and its wines so special.
There is also the rare opportunity to acquire some of the most coveted, small-production wines in the world. Each year, the Premiere Napa Valley wine auction—the most recent edition took place this past February—showcases the best of Napa, with often paradigm-shifting wines produced in lots from just 60 bottles to a maximum of 240 bottles. Bidding takes place each year at an invitation-only event that’s limited to members of the trade, media, and retailers.
But yesterday, an incredible selection of these highly sought-after wines became available through the Premiere Napa Valley “Build Your Collection” marketplace online, and vintages stretching back 26 years are available for purchase. I recently had the opportunity to taste through a broad selection of the 2019s, and came away from the experience beyond impressed: These are wines that both express the character of the land they’re grown in and the vision of the producer behind them. They also, because of the minuscule-production nature of them, shimmer with a real sense of creativity, idiosyncrasy, and joy. Below are 15 of my favorites, listed alphabetically, though any one of the examples I was fortunate enough to taste could have made this list. (I’ll be writing about many of the others in a future piece.)
Accendo Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 1, 60 bottles produced
Toasted oak, cocoa powder, and assertive, tea-like tannins frame blueberries, tar, lavender, candied violets, scorched earth, cherry pits, and black plums. Notes of licorice root, cinnamon stick, toasted cumin, and sun-singed garrigue ride in on the finish. This keeps on building on the palate, with hints of toasted cumin and tar. Hold until 2025 and then drink for the following three decades or more.
Alpha Omega DTT Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 2, 60 bottles produced
Gobs of purple fruit roll over the palate in concentrated, mouthwatering, sappy waves carrying plums, kirsch-filled chocolate ganache, cassis, blood oranges, and Chinese five-spice powder. Big, balanced, and long. Drink 2024 – 2049+.
Bell Wine Cellars Clone 7 Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 12, 60 bottles produced
Lots of cedar and spice from high-quality oak here, but it works really well, forming not an overlay but rather a beautifully lifted and aromatic core. These translate to a dense yet balanced palate of purple and black plums, pink peppercorns, butterscotch, orange oils, and a touch of licorice and warm tar. Crushed blueberries ring through the finish as well. Drink now and for the next 25 years. This is generous and structured at the same time.
Faust The Pact Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Coombsville
Lot 38, 60 bottles produced
A wave of vanilla, caramel, toasted coconut, and plums follow through to an energetic palate, which flashes with plums and plum pits, currants, lavender, and savory minerality. This is excellent right now, and promises to evolve in particularly fascinating ways for the next 20+ years.
Freemark Abbey The Tribute Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 45, 60 bottles produced
This is so well-structured, with a deep spine of slate- and granite-like minerality providing a framework for flavors of cherry pits, cacao nibs, coffee grounds, woodsy spices, sappy currants, and star anise. Really appealing now, and with another two decades to go if desired. Excellent definition, with an almost briny character on the finish.
Grgich Hills Estate Paradise Block Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Yountville
Lot 50, 120 bottles produced
There is such well-defined detail to this wine, a mineral scaffolding to the red cherries, raspberries, mixed mountain berries, and blood orange notes that are gorgeously flecked with cedar and a touch of balsamic herbs through the long, mouthwatering finish. Excellent concentration and length. Drink now – 2041+.
Hall Sacrashe Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 52, 60 bottles produced
There is an almost rock-like minerality to the nose here, a flame-charred-meat aroma juxtaposed against blackberries, cedar, and tobacco. These tee up a palate of sweet fruit dripping with dark cherries and purple plums dipped into chocolate ganache, sweet charred vanilla, dried thyme, and a distinct hint of cafe cortado. Best from 2024 – 2044+.
Matthiasson Phoenix Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
Lot 72, 60 bottles produced
Rich aromas reminiscent of cafe mocha and oak spice, this is creamy and generous on the palate, with plum-chocolate pot de crème, black raspberries, a touch of star anise, and a long, sappy finish framed by well-integrated tannins, even at this stage, that promise a long life in the cellar. Still, this is hard to resist right now with its relatively open-knit character, generous fruit, and sweet spice. Enjoy through 2036 and well beyond.
Memento Mori Tribus Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 73, 60 bottles produced
This absolutely sparkles as soon as you stick your nose in the glass—kirsch, cassis, melted black licorice, espresso grounds—before an explosively deliciously palate of balance and power. Plums, fig jam, rhubarb compote, and ganache-enrobed brandied cherries are lifted by flowers and a touch of cracked black pepper before a joyous finish reminiscent of the perfectly charred top of a vanilla crème brûlée. Drink now or hold it through the early-2040s.
Plumpjack Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Oakville
Lot 93, 60 bottles produced
Rich and dense yet sneakily lifted, with aromas of flower-kissed blackberries, black raspberries, scorched earth, singed rosemary, and balsamic tones hovering above it all. These set the stage for a palate of drama and ripeness, the decidedly silky texture carrying beautifully polished flavors of dried wild strawberries, rhubarb compote, chamomile, oolong tea, and mixed currants and cherries. Elegant and energetic. Drink over the next 15-plus years.
Round Pond Estate SVS Gravel Series Blend Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Rutherford
Lot 103, 60 bottles produced
Alluring aromas of hoisin sauce and Chinese five-spice powder are complicated by black licorice and German chocolate cake before a palate of sweet, sappy fruit, Amarena cherries, purple plums, cracked black peppercorns, carob, toasty oak, whole cloves, and rocky minerality. This is powerful and dense, yet with excellent detail, too. Drink 2022 – 2042.
St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery Andrew Jackson Dollarhyde Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 115, 120 bottles produced
Blackberry pastry creme aromas are decadent, plush, and so intensely appealing, before a palate of sachertorte with a raspberry-jam seam beneath the dark chocolate outer layer. With air, flavors reminiscent of walnut skin roll in, lending a seriously savory character to the cafe viennoise and blood orange notes that are beautifully anchored by a deep core of minerality. Decant to enjoy this now, but it will really show its cherry pipe tobacco, sandalwood, and incense profundity with another 8 to 10 years of repose in the cellar.
Tate Nolan’s Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Napa Valley
Lot 120, 60 bottles produced
Pure, powerful, and layered, this unfurls in petals of candied violets, wild strawberries, Rolo candies, sachertorte, red currants, and mixed mountain berries, with hints of cigar tobacco and cedar running throughout. Sappy tannins are ripe, balanced, and propulsive, and carry through this remarkable wine, which manages to showcase density and energy at the same time. It’s great already, and promises to evolve for another two decades easily.
The Hess Collection Winery Ridge 4 Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Mount Veeder
Lot 126, 60 bottles produced
Textbook mountain tannins course through this with energy and a deep sense of potential longevity, and carry flavors of smoked tea, forest floor, blueberries, venison, and cracked peppercorns, as well as a sense of brininess and salted caramel on the finish. Crunchy tannins are flashed through with pencil shavings and green olive pits through the long finish. Decant now or lay it down through the early-2050s.
Trefethen Family Vineyards Sleeper Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley
Lot 132, 60 bottles produced
Dark and deep, with a clear aroma of cured black Sicilian olives informing black currants and plum pits, before a palate of brown-sugar caramel, cinnamon stick, allspice, mulberries, cafe mocha, and dehydrated blood oranges. At the very edges is a candied violet note, lending this a notable sense of elegance and lift. It looks fantastic right now, with another 15 – 20 years of evolution to come.