Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
The rich, ripe Napa Cabernet has fallen out of fashion with many wine geeks and top sommeliers. Exemplified by the publication of books such as SF Chronicle wine critic Jon Bonné’s “The New California Wine”, and the increase in critical voices discussing ‘natural’ terroir focused wines, much critical and industry interest has shifted to a different style of wine in California, focusing on less richness, more balance and unusual varieties. The market has not yet shifted with the critical and sommelier palates as the ripe, modern style of California Cabernet still dominates, though the market for the new style is growing, especially amongst the younger generation. The dominance of big, ripe Cabernet was evidenced at the recent Premier Napa Valley event, which saw its highest gross ever along with some stunning prices in the hundred of thousands for auction lots of Scarecrow, arguably Napa’s hottest cult cab at the moment.
So, as one who loves to explore the new and strange and who has a preference for dialed in, more food friendly wines, I felt the need to keep my perspectives open and dip in to a leading example from the ‘ripe Napa cab camp’. My experience reaffirmed that the growing critical dichotomy between acid driven, restrained, low alcohol wines and rich, extracted high alcohol wines is in many cases false. What matters is balance, which is a complex matter to achieve, and not least of which relies on impeccable quality fruit. Without top fruit quality, vinification doesn’t matter, and certain low impact techniques such as no sulphur, or concrete fermentation with ambient yeasts, etc. will only serve to expose the inadequacy of the fruit even more.
Beast or Beauty?
Thus I approached this ‘06 Staglin, which sits at around 15% ABV, with the hope that it would be balanced and developed rather than harsh and over-extracted. The former turned out to be the case.
This is a big wine, but that’s not the first thing you notice when sipping. Instead, I remarked on the wine’s beautifully pure and expressive fruit, particularly its intense aroma of dark, perfectly ripe plum. The nose is extremely harmonious and sexy, and prepares you for the supple texture and absolutely massive, fruity mid palate. By massive I do not mean alcoholic or harsh. I mean loads of flavour and structure. The finish is extremely long.
Staglin is the antithesis of the boutique farmer winery. The Staglin family comes from considerable wealth acquired in their first career and purchased their way into the valley in 1985: a classic Napa story. The family was also shown in quite a negative light in Nossiter’s Mondovino, though as it involved only a few clips I am not sure it was a fair perspective. It certainly was not balanced or in depth and did not mention the family’s extensive philanthropy and fundraising for mental health research and support.
Regardless of the politics, the Staglin family run their estate vineyard impeccably well and have hired a top team, including winemaker Fredrik Johansson, vineyard manager David Abreu and consultant Michel Rolland. The vineyard has a long, distinguished history that the Staglins acquired when they purchased it from Beaulieu Vineyards in the 1980’s. Anyone familiar with the Beaulieu wines from the 1970’s and 1980’s knows that in those years they had some outstanding vineyards and outstanding wines from those vineyards.
When you taste a wine of this quality you can understand why such wines cost so much and just what distinguishes the very best wines from the merely good. You will not find this level of flavour, complexity and harmony in Cabernet for under $100.
In conclusion, undoubtedly this is a modern Cabernet, but it is amongst the best examples of that style and a beautiful wine that, indeed, does go with (and without) food.
$205 (on sale for $140) at BCLDB