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Ernest Valtri On Wine: Sometimes everything comes together


Once in a while everything comes together, resulting in near perfection. In the wine making world, “everything” is really complex. There are so many factors involved in creating a good wine, let alone a great one, it is astounding.
California is rightly known for abundantly great produce. In Napa County, that produce is most famously wine grapes, in particular, Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which are recognized worldwide as being potentially fabulous every year. In the 2018 vintage, now being released and appearing on retail shelves, that potential has been realized. In fact, the general consensus is that 2018 is the best vintage in Napa, ever.
While they have names with definitions most of us don’t encounter, a few of those complexities that must synergize precisely to yield such a highly rated vintage include hang time, yield, vigor, micro-picking, structure, balance, berry size, concentration, shatter, canopy, grain, and extraction, to mention just a few. All and more are critical to the winemaking process.
Weather is the number one, most important variable. In 2018 in Napa, it was perfect for growing grapes. For example, harvest time typically lasts about two weeks, which pressures vineyard managers to pick the right rows of grapes at just the right moment. In 2018, Napa’s harvest window was an extremely unusual four weeks, allowing growers the time to pick every row, and even every cluster, at its peak moment.
The result of all these stars aligning is classic, nuanced, perfection. The powerful fruit forward aromas and flavors California Cabernet Sauvignon is known for are all there. Plus, there’s that sense of place we wine nuts call terroir. Terroir is an ethereal thing that expresses where and under what conditions a grape is grown. Every place is different and, when done well, terroir expresses that place’s uniqueness.

There’s one problem though with Napa’s 2018s, as with every Napa vintage. The price. Napa wineries have been getting top dollar for their Cabs since the 1990s and have led the way on heavy pricing ever since. What to do?
If you’ve got some cash burning a hole in your pocket, go for it. Otherwise, a little research and shopping around should reveal reasonably affordable 2018 Napa Cabs. “Reasonable” being in the $15 to $50 range. (Hey, it’s Napa.) If you like big, powerful red wines, consider Napa’s 2018 Cabs. Even the $15 ones are impressive values.

Ernest Valtri of Buckingham is a sculptor, graphic designer, and a former member of the PLCB’s Wine Advisory Council. Please contact Erno at