Wine Talk

Snooth User: Really Big Al

High End Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted by Really Big Al, Oct 26, 2015.

It's interesting that a few new topics have popped up recently (Experiencing Cabernet Franc for one) and that my wife Sandra just today handed me an article by Dave McIntyre she cut out of a Washington Post newspaper dated 25 March 2015.  I'm starting this new topic based on this article "The wine cost four digits.  And the taste?" regarding the Screaming Eagle wine and several other high-end Cabernet Sauvignon wines like Silver Oak.   Even more interesting to me is what happens when they compare these high-end wines to a Virginia wine - the RdV Lost Mountain.  Give the article a read and tell me what you think.



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Reply by dmcker, Oct 26, 2015.

"It was sweet as blackberry jam"

Not necessarily what I'm looking for in a cab. But then my standards lean more towards Latour and La Mission. I've had SE, and neither of the bottles I had from last-decade vintages made me think even half the price would've been warranted, no matter how heated the market. Whereas if and when money is less of an issue, I could still conceive of paying current Bordeaux prices for certain bottles like the two I mentioned--though generally I find myself angry at how the French brandmeisters (or should I say something like 'maître de l'image de marque'?) have opportunistically raised prices through skyscraper roofs after the dotcom and subprime and Chinese and other punters entered the market all agog.

Methinks the writer was trying too hard with the cult Virginian. Seemed very compensatory.

Most CA cult wines leave me cold, and I haven't bought any in years, though I drink them when served. Just to keep up my research database, of course.  ;-)

Shall we list all the cult cabs here and dissect them?

Reply by outthere, Oct 26, 2015.

That Post article popped up in a WB thread about the thirty-seven-fifty Screagle incident. It's great wine but IMHO no wine is worth that kind of loot. Not even close. That's a topic for a whole nother discussion though.

Plenty of great under $150 Napa Cabs made in varying styles. After a certain point they become look at me items more than a bottle of wine. 

Reply by EMark, Oct 26, 2015.

Who knew that there is a $95 Virginia wine? (Thanks to OT for the snarkiness lessons.)

I have never tried Screagle.  It's way out of my tax bracket (heck, I drive a Honda and wear a Timex watch), and I don't have any friends that rich who might also want to share with me.  It seems to me that some years ago there was conversation here on the Forum about Thorstein Veblen personalities, but I'm too lazy to search fo it.  (Putting "Thorstein Veblen" in the Search Box did not work.)

Would I like to try it?  Hell, yes.  If I had my druthers I would love to be offered three glasses of Cabernet Sauvignon with instruction to describe the three as best I can and, just for fun, try to prioritize my appreciation of the three.  I would prefer that the other two glasses be other Napa Valley Cabs, but, maybe having a Sonoma County example or a Washington state example would be instructive.  The more I think of it, though, the more the permutations become silly.

It just ain't gonna happen.

The article is an interesting anecdote, but, continuing with the OT-inspired snarkiness, the author's friend, and, possibly, they author himself, clearly has esteem issues.  If he wants to share his other two bottles with me, though, I would be a willing enabler.

Reply by dmcker, Oct 26, 2015.

Look-at-me's are rife, whatever the era and whatever the region. First time I remember encountering the phenomenon was in Chez Panisse in the early-mid '80s up on the cafe floor (and that was before it got relatively gussified), a couple of tables over, at an alcove with him backing the front window, where the guy had BYOB'd a Petrus 1970. Every time the waitperson poured he insisted on turning the label around to face out towards the room. Earlier he'd given his date a speech on the bottle. He was wearing a navy cashmere Zegna double-breasted blazer with a white silk shirt. At least its neck was open...

I tend to see the phenomenon more in the States than anywhere else, particularly Europe.

So let's start two lists for discussion:

  1. Great Napa cabs under $150
  2. Cult Napa cabs
Reply by dvogler, Oct 27, 2015.

and how did the "date" look?  Worthy of Petrus?  Or was he drinking it himself?  :)

People with class have no need for pretense. 

Reply by dmcker, Oct 27, 2015.

The date was younger and pretty but seemed a bit under his spell. Apparently a new relationship. For that stage, he appeared to have the patter down. Though he was seriously over-dressed for that venue.

Reply by vin0vin0, Oct 27, 2015.

DM, let me start with your #2  Cult Napa Cabs.

This thread got my curiosity going as to the most expensive Cali cabs - who they are and how much they cost. This is a wine-searcher article last updated this month showing the names and average bottle price over several vintages. Have to say that I have not had a taste of a single one of these wines but would really like to know what the fuss (aka, expense) is all about. Can anyone tell me what I'm missing?

Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $2,901 
Schrader Cellars Old Sparky Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $834 
Harlan Estate, Napa Valley $817 
Dana Estates Lotus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $622 
Sine Qua Non Cumulus Vineyard 'Next of Kyn', Central Coast $606 
Bryant Family Vineyard 'Bettina' Proprietary Red, Napa Valley $576 
Scarecrow Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford $571 
Schrader Cellars CCS Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $537 
Bryant Family Vineyard Pritchard Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $517 
Abreu Vineyard 'Thorevilos' Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $511 
Dana Estates Hershey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain $507 
Levy & McClellan Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $497 
Hundred Acre Precious Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $493 
Dana Estates Helms Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford $490 
Dalla Valle Vineyards Maya, Napa Valley $471 
Sloan Proprietary Red, Napa Valley $464 
Colgin Cellars IX Estate Red, Napa Valley $462 
Colgin Cellars Herb Lamb Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $441 
Schrader Cellars Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $433 
Colgin Cellars Cariad Red, Napa Valley $427
Reply by outthere, Oct 27, 2015.

I'll play.

Some Cults

  • Harlan
  • Bond
  • Schrader
  • Screagle
  • Opus 1
  • Lewelling
  • Sloan
  • Colgin
  • Bryant Family
  • Scarecrow
  • Shafer
  • Ghost Horse
  • Araujo
  • Hundred Acre
  • Grace Family
  • Lokoya

Some Great napa Cabs $150 and under

  • Rivers Marie
  • Dunn
  • Carter
  • Corison
  • Becklyn
  • MacDonald
  • Maybach
  • Hourglass
  • Roy Piper
  • Hobel
  • Myriad
  • Quivet
  • McG Scarlett
  • Switchback Ridge
  • Hall
  • Bevan
  • Pott
  • Seven Stones
  • Realm
  • Chappellet



Reply by dmcker, Oct 27, 2015.

OT, how do you place Insignia or Dominus or Mayacamas or Heitz Martha's or others from Napa's storied past? I was a bit surprised to see Montelena in the list below. Do we want to track specific winemakers and consultants?




So here're excerpts from the Wikipedia page on cult wines. Are these the definitions we want?


Cult wines are those for which dedicated groups of committed enthusiasts will pay large sums of money. Such wines include, for example, Screaming Eagle from California and Penfolds Grange from Australia, among many others.

Cult wines are often seen as trophy wines to be collected or as investment wine to be held rather than consumed. Because price is often seen as an indicator of quality, high prices often increase the desirability of such wines. This is true even for less expensive wines. For example, one vintner explained that "on several occasions we have had difficulty selling wines at $75, but as soon as we raise the price to $125 they sell out and get put on allocation".[1]


California cult wines

California cult wines refers to any of the California wines "typically but not exclusively Napa Valley Cabernets" for which collectors, investors and highly enthusiastic consumers will pay very high prices. The emergence of the cult movement coincided with trends in the 1990s towards riper fruit and wines with bigger and more concentrated flavors. The producers of such wines include Araujo Estates, Bryant Family Vineyard, Chateau Montelena, Colgin Cellars, Dalla Valle Vineyards, Grace Family Vineyards, Harlan Estate, Schrader Cellars, Screaming Eagle and Sine Qua Non. All of which have scored 100 point scores from wine critics.[3][4][5]

These wines are generally very expensive and are limited production (often fewer than 600 cases per year) and can command several times their "release price" in the secondary market.

Bordeaux cult wines

The cult wines of Bordeaux tend to be left-bank cabernet-based wines that ranked highly in the Classification of 1855. Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Latour, Château Margaux, Château Haut-Brion, and Château Mouton Rothschild all qualify. Right-bank wines from Pétrus, Château Le Pin, Château Angélus, and Château Cheval Blanc are also highly sought-after. With the exception of Le Pin (which was first produced in 1979[6]), all of these estates have a long history of fine wine production, going back in some cases before the 1700s. The production levels of these wines is generally higher than California cult wines—Haut-Brion, for example, produces 10-12,000 cases annually, Lafite produces just under 30,000, and Petrus produces 6,000. Le Pin would be one of the smallest-producing of the Bordeaux cult wines, at 600-700 cases a year.

Reply by outthere, Oct 27, 2015.

VV, I would top your list with Ghost Horse Spectre which releases @ $2,750. Screagle gets flipped higher but sells to mailing list for around $1,000.

Can I start another category? Some of my lists belong here

Up and comers/new kids on the block no more than three vintages released

  • Roy Piper 
  • Memento Mori
  • Becklyn
  • Mending Wall


Then there is the ultra exclusive club, don't bother trying to get on the list.

  • Vine Hill Ranch
  • Tusk
  • Vineyardist
  • Checkerboard
  • Dana Estate


D, I don't consider Montelena a cult though they do belong on my under $150 list. Obviously my list was not all-inclusive. I almost started an over $150 list and that's where Dominus, Heitz Marthas, Phelps, Continuum and the like would end up. Mayacamas is good but not great. Time has certainly changed things for sone wineries.

Reply by outthere, Oct 27, 2015.

Do we want to track specific winemakers and consultants?

Consultants don't get paid to make wine. They get paid to inflate the label owners egos.

Should we break the winemakers list up between good people, egocentrics, a-holes? I imagine that could get a bit dicey!

Reply by MJET, Oct 27, 2015.

Excellent list OT. I would add the following to the $150 and under:


Chimney Rock



Reply by EMark, Oct 27, 2015.

Interesting.  I bit on the Mending Wall mailing a few weeks ago.  I'm not sure I've ever had a TRB wine, before.

I was questioning whether wines that I can buy in a local retail store--e.g., Insignia and Opus which are produced in quite high volumes--qualify as cults.  I guess though if you look them as wines that hoarders will buy every year for, mostly, display purposes, then I guess they do.

I agree that this conversation is beoming fun.

I just thought of something.  I hope none of these collectors that I just described as hoarders is dating Judy.

Reply by Really Big Al, Oct 27, 2015.

What about Barnett Vineyards?   We just received our shipment of 2013 cabs and they are sure to be tasty.  I think the Barnetts we have in our cellar are our premium wines, only to be opened with permission from my spousal unit (Sandra).  Are we only talking about the very high end Cabernet Sauvignon here?  I do love the Heitz wines too.  

Reply by MJET, Oct 27, 2015.

EM-Interesting as I went the other way with Mending Wall. I did not purchase because while I have TRB wines in my cellar I have not tried them. I also thought the price was a little on the high side for a new offerring. 

Reply by outthere, Oct 27, 2015.

Excellent list OT. I would add the following to the $150 and under: EMH


Thanks MJET. Merrill would kill me of she heard I left her off this list!

Reply by dmcker, Oct 27, 2015.

An initial list (just priming the pump) of winemakers and consultants for commentary. Trying to keep the list to those with past or current involvement in the creation of the current Napa CS beasts:

  1. Heidi Peterson Barrett
  2. Helen Turley
  3. Bob Levy
  4. Philippe Melka
  5. Robert Foley
  6. Tony Soter (like his move to Oregon)
  7. Mia Klein
  8. Merry Edwards
  9. Thomas Rivers Brown
  10. Cathy Corison
  11. Steve Matthiasson
  12. Aaron Pott
  13. Paul Hobbs
  14. Michel Rolland






Reply by EMark, Oct 27, 2015.

I also thought the price was a little on the high side for a new offerring. 

Yes, Mjet, that sure seemed to be the prevailing opinion over on WB.  However, I figured that for less than $200 I would try one of each of the three wines they offered.

On the other hand I passed on the Ceritas initial CS.  Maybe I missed the boat on that one, but their description:

The palate is lighter than your typical California Cabernet.  Juicy fruit – watermelon, unripe figs and strawberry – are backed by vibrant acidity and fine grained tannins.  Feminine.

makes it sound more like a Pinot Noir than a Cabernet Sauvignon.  Not in my wheelhouse.


Al, I think you are aware that I am also a fan of Barnett.  I would put it on OT's <$150 list but, it just doesn't have the cachet that sends the hoarders into a tizzy.

Reply by Lucha Vino, Oct 27, 2015.

BP Wine is a great source for hard to find (and ultra expensive) wine.  Check out their inventory of Cabernet Sauvignon from the US. 


I find their offers more entertaining then practical, for me.  I have bought a few things from them in the past.  Two bottles of 96 Mondavi Cab and a 1993 Quilceda Creek and all were in excellent condition.

Reply by outthere, Oct 28, 2015.

Mark, the Ceritas Cab is under-ripe greenish and tannic. Not bad if that's your thing but it's not in my wheelhouse.

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