There’s a few old-school flat-land Napa labels–basically *supermarket wine* now–I drink fairly regularly and keep a healthy stash in the cellar. Call it nostalgia, call it keeping up with the classics, call it low-brow and un-educated, call it whatever you want. Louis Martini, Clos Du Val, Franciscan, BV Ruth all in the list–and of course Freemark Abbey. Years ago, they were THE requisite cabs at the top of ‘Continental’ and steak-house resty lists everywhere–before Caymus boosted their sweaty syrup on everyone and now almost ubiquitously enjoys that spot. Even though these are corporate brands–bought and sold many times–and crank out probably 50k+ cases of this stuff every year, they remain–for me–a solid litmus, a place-mark, a control-sample, of Napa Valley cab. Some of them have changed a bit in profile over the years–I think ripeness and oak is impossible to ignore in modern marketing–but I like to close my eyes and rationalize the changes alongside long-admired *house* style. Hipster-somm, wine-bro, and the cool-kids of California wine wouldn’t be caught DEAD with one of these brands, but that’s their loss.

Dark inky purple in the glass, with a bit of sediment. Restrained nose showing classic valley-floor cab mineral and spice fundamentals slowly evolves into lush perfume: gritty black cherry at the core, blackberry bramble blending cassis and eucalyptus-mint over a clean, earthy base.

At 7, this thing is *just* beginning to shine. Rich and fiercely-structured, the fruit a blockbuster wallop on the tongue, shoe-horned into place with gloriously bitter briar, a sparkle of acid and peppery spice desperately–and professionally–trying to lighten the chewy solidity. This is a BEAUTIFUL Cabernet–and no one pays me to say that. Near-perfection in concentration and balance, no serious polish offering short-term goals, hi-note blood-orange tannins bracing the timeless finish. I’m gonna pull one of these out in 2040 and you won’t be laughing then.

2014 FREEMARK ABBEY Cab Napa Valley 14.2

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