Napa Valley Cabernet Under Attack


Written by:

Joe Becerra

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Three factors to ponder for the makers of fine Napa Valley Cabernet: First, the criticism by many wine critics on the high alcoholic content of Cabernet Sauvignon. This ball has been rolling along for a couple of years but it seems to have been gaining steam in recent weeks. The latest comes from wine writer Dan Berger’s “The Collapse of Cabernet,” his article appearing in the St. Helena Star last week. James Laube also addresses the issue in the latest Wine Spectator. Next, is the economy, still? All signs once again are pointing to a dismal year for wines priced above $20 and most Napa Valley Cabernets are well above that price point. The third factor and one I don’t think has been mentioned much is how the American diet is beginning to change. The American diet, especially among the fine-wine drinking crowd is shifting. What is in are soups, salads, fish, more grains, more vegetables and fruits. What’s out are eating lots of red meat, creamy sauces, etc. Not altogether out, but the creed is to cut down. Healthy meals are more easily paired with white wines, rosés, and lighter reds such as Pinot Noir. If this trend is true, will that translate into less Cabernet sales?

The Small Family-Owned Winery has some advantages
barlowWe visited Barlow Vineyards owned by father and son team Warren and Barr Smith. They make around 1500 cases of wine each year and have been doing so since 1996. They don’t have a winemaking facility or tasting room but they do own 36 acres of vineyards in the new Calistoga AVA. Although their wines are priced in the $25 and above category, the recession has had little effect on wine sales. Wine club members and loyal customers purchase the majority of their wines. When we visited we tasted five red wines, all delicious and well made. We especially enjoyed the very fine Zinfandel priced at $27 and a wonderful 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon at $50. It is soft and elegant and oh, so tasty.

Mustard Activities Begin
mustardThe 19th annual Mustard Festival gets underway on January 30 but nature’s Mustard show is in full swing and the best part, it is free. The early rains of October are giving the Valley a spectacular showcase of mustard and it is only going to get better in the coming weeks. Grab your camera gear and head off in the early morning or at sunset to take some spectacular photos of mustard among the vineyards. This shot was taken on January 13th. This vineyard sits next to Whitehall Lane Winery just south of St. Helena. Take a photo here and then hit the Whitehall tasting room.

Another Building Project for Napa?
This one is sure to be controversial. The Napa Planning Commission has given the initial okay for the St. Regis Project, a huge development of a hotel and winery in the Carneros area of the city of Napa. Some people feel it will hurt the redevelopment of the downtown area and keep people out of the city. Bottom line to crash-strapped cities and counties, the development translates to lots of revenue in their coffers. The development still has many hoops to jump through before being voted upon by the City Council. Stay tuned!

  • Joe Becerra

    Joe Becerra has been traveling to wine country and enjoying wine since 1965. He is a retired educator, and now have the time the opportunity to share his wine travel experiences through this Website.

5 thoughts on “Napa Valley Cabernet Under Attack”

  1. A big resort will help bring more people to the valley. Downtown still needs to do a better job making that riverfront area a destination with landscaping and other nice aspects especially on the east side of the river. Oxbow is fantastic, Angele is nice, the Avia hotel has been a great addition as well. Any type of incentive to lure upscale business and traffic downtown would be great.

  2. I love the Barlow winery. It is one of my favorite because the owners always seem to be around and actually talk to people and take time to listen. I love this blog, I hope you keep it up… Great to stay in connection with our wine friends to the north!

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