Napa Cabernet Quickstep

There are lots of wines with Napa on the label. That doesn’t make the wine good, but it’s a sign that it might be.

The best of the bunch are made from cabernet sauvignon grapes grown in a fairly narrow swath of hallowed ground that runs from the edge of San Francisco Bay north to Calistoga.

From small family-run wineries to mid-size producers to corporate giants, this region is home to some of the top-quality red wines in the country, if not the world.

For every big name like Robert Mondavi, there are hundreds of smaller producers who make wines (some great, some not so great) in relatively small amounts. Keeping up with all the players would be a full-time job.

21 Into 2

I rediscovered an old bottle and met a few new ones at a recent wine tasting put on by the Napa Valley Vintners Association.

The tasting, at Flemings Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Walnut Creek, featured pours from 21 wineries, big and small at a two-hour mini-marathon.

My sentimental favorite was the 2007 Georges de Latour from Beaulieu Vineyard (BV). I ran across this wine on my very first visit to Napa Valley more than 30 years ago.

I loved it then and I love it now.

This top-of-the-line bottle ($115) offers a lush mouth feel. There’s a minty edge, plus a classic touch of “Rutherford dust” alongside mixed red fruits and sweet cedar in the mouth.

BV Reserve Room

It’s a concentrated wine that drinks great today and, no doubt, will develop even deeper complexities over time.

You can sample a wide selection of reds and whites at the historic BV winery in Rutherford. A basic tasting runs $15. Special offerings, including reserve wines, are available for $30, $35 and $40.

Jarvis Reserve Shines

A big wine from Jarvis Winery is a new Napa Valley favorite.

It’s an opulent and well-aged cabernet (Reserve 2001, Napa Valley, $160). There are gobs of smooth flavors alongside moderate tannins and nice oak finish.

This wine is ready for immediate consumption, but it will probably hold its luster for many years to come.

Jarvis Underground Barrel Storage

Jarvis operates in the ultra-premium marketplace. It’s winery operations are all located underground in a man-made cave dug into a mountainside about four miles outside the town of Napa. The place oozes deluxe.

A visit to the winery requires an appointment and a $40 fee, but you’ll be treated like royalty with a tour and tasting that includes 5-6 wines, that will usually include at least one reserve wine.

For a preview, check out our video tour of Jarvis’s underground facilities.

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