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13 ‘Perfect’ 100-Point Cabernets You Can Buy Right Now

How to get the best of the "King of Reds."

Lail Vineyards 2018 J. Daniel Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, Continuum 2018 Sage Mountain Vineyard Napa Valley, Maybach Family Vineyards 2018 Materium Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, Napa Valley, Bevan Cellars 2018 Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Photo: Courtesy of Lail Vineyards; Courtesy of Continuum; ourtesy of Maybach Family Vineyards; Courtesy of Bevan Cellars

Say what you will about the soundness of wine critics’ 100-point scale (and I have: Is a 94-point wine objectively better than a 93?), but when a respected taster goes all the way to 100, it’s absolutely worth taking notice. A 100 is an unequivocal statement that, in that reviewer’s mind, the wine—from that place and time—couldn’t possibly be any better.

The descriptions backing critics’ recent “perfect” scores for West Coast Cabernet Sauvignons make it clear that the wines manage seemingly incompatible disparities. They’re immensely powerful but elegant. They’re fresh and focused but rich and complex. They’re built to age for decades yet tempting to drink right now. And they invariably have an indefinable quality beyond known descriptors that renders the reviewers a little breathless—unbelievable, possibly, considering that these critics taste thousands of wines every year, but also believable, ironically, because they do.

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The most recent releases here are from 2018, a year James Suckling, of jamessuckling.com, calls “the new benchmark for [Napa Valley], producing so many harmonious and balanced reds that are reminiscent of some of the great wines from the 1970s and 1980s. The 2018 vintage shows the world that Napa’s best wines can emphasize depth and richness without being overpowering.” Jeb Dunnuck, of jebdunnuck.com, echoes the sentiment about Napa’s 2018 Cabernets—“elegant wines,” he says, “that shine for their purity and freshness while still bringing solid depth of fruit and concentration.… [wines that] at times can have an almost Bordeaux-like character in their tannins, acids and textures.”

If this year has depleted the first-string bottles in your cellar a little faster than usual, these 100-pointers are poised to fill those vacancies, with supporting arguments in the critics’ own words. Amazingly, they’re available (the wines, not the critics).

Continuum 2018 Sage Mountain Vineyard Napa Valley

Continuum 2018 Sage Mountain Vineyard Napa Valley

Photo: Courtesy of Continuum

This has incredible nuances and delicacy with power. It’s full-bodied with lots of gentle tannins that spread across the palate. The character is full of blackberry, black currant and lead pencil. Some conifer and pine needles. Sage at the end, too. Savory. So long-lasting and layered. Such purity. It’s so complex and changes all the time in the glass. Goes on for minutes. 54 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 31 percent Cabernet Franc, 9 percent Petit Verdot and 6 percent Merlot. Organically grown grapes. So drinkable now, but will age beautifully. —James Suckling

Buy Now: $300

Lail Vineyards 2018 J. Daniel Cuvée Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

J Daniel Cuvee Lail Vineyards

Photo: Courtesy of Lail Vineyards

The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon J. Daniel Cuvée comes from a mix of terroirs (Howell Mountain, Stags Leap, Oakville, Calistoga) and is brought up in 75 percent new French oak. Heavenly notes of red and black currants, dried tobacco, sandalwood, flowers and spice give way to a full-bodied, concentrated, yet weightless texture that carries awesome tannins, no hard edges and just flawless balance. This majestic, regal wine is going to drink brilliantly for 25 years or more. —Jeb Dunnuck

Buy Now: $265

Harlan Estate 2015 Red Napa Valley

Harlan Estate 2015 Red Napa Valley

Photo: courtesy Wine.com

Bottled in early 2018, the deep garnet-purple colored 2015 Proprietary Red Wine is a little closed, slowly unfurling to reveal black cherries, crème de cassis and plum pudding with nuances of potpourri, baking spices and tilled soil, plus wafts of garrigue and wild sage. The palate is full-bodied and concentrated with exquisite ripe, fine-grained tannins and fantastic poise and depth with a long, decadently fruited finish. —Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Wine Advocate

Buy Now: $1,500

Maybach Family Vineyards 2018 Materium Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, Napa Valley

Mayback Family Vineyards 2018 Materium Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, Napa Valley

Photo: Courtesy of Maybach Family Vineyards

The 2018 Materium comes from the Weitz Vineyard in Oakville and is all Cabernet Sauvignon brought up in mostly new barrels. It has elegant, seamless aromas and flavors of crème de cassis, black raspberries, tobacco leaf, flowery incense and sandalwood. Château Margaux–like in its elegance and complexity, this brilliant wine has loads of sweet fruit, flawless integration of its tannins and acidity, flawless balance and just a heavenly overall profile that I wish every reader could taste. This extraordinary effort can be drunk today or cellared for 30 years or more. —Jeb Dunnuck

Buy Now: $350

Heitz Cellars 2014 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Heitz Cellars 2014 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Photo: Courtesy of Heitz Cellars

From the famous Oakville site, this aged wine spends three years in 100% new French oak, one in neutral oak and an additional year in bottle. Though it has had time to evolve, it has years to go to unfurl its core of eucalyptus, mint and cedar. It shows an unmistakable crispness of red fruit, orange peel and stone, all honed by a grippy, generous palate. Enjoy 2024–2034. —Virginie Boone, Wine Enthusiast

Buy Now: $225

Bevan Cellars 2018 Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Bevan Cellars 2018 Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

Photo: Courtesy of Bevan Cellars

I always seem to compare great wines from this site with Haut-Brion, and I think the comparison holds here, although it’s a Haut-Brion on steroids! The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Dr. Crane Vineyard reveals a dense purple color as well as a powerful nose of ripe black fruits, tobacco leaf, earth, coffee beans and gravelly earth. All of these carry over to the palate, where the wine is full-bodied and has a deep, layered mid-palate, sweet tannins and a blockbuster of a finish. Hats off to the talented Russell Bevans for another brilliant, singular wine that’s going to keep for 20 to 25 years. —Jeb Dunnuck

Buy Now: $700

Dominus Estate 2018 Napa Valley

Dominus Estate 2018 Napa Valley

Photo: Courtesy of wine.com

This is incredible on the nose, offering hot stones, black currants, iodine and wet earth. Full-bodied with a tight center palate, then it opens with a tannin structure that is weightless and spreads across the palate. Totally integrated on the palate. This is a magic-carpet wine. Really incredible. One of the reference points for the vintage. Drinkable now and please try a bottle, but it’s one for the cellar. —James Suckling

Buy Now: $315

Lokoya 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder

2016 Lokoya Mount Veeder

Photo: Courtesy of Lokoya

This literally off-the-charts effort is as good as Cabernet Sauvignon gets, offering complex blueberry and blackberry fruits, violets, bay leaf and forest floor aromas and flavors. It’s a big, structured mountain Cabernet, yet it has a seamless texture. Incredible elegance paired with full-bodied power, building tannins and a great, great finish. Hide bottles for 4–5 years and it will keep for 3+ decades. Good luck keeping your hands off it though. Anticipated maturity: 2023–2051. —Jeb Dunnuck

Buy Now: $426

Realm Cellars 2018 Moonracer Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

Realm Cellars 2018 Moonracer Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

Photo: courtesy Realm Cellars

A full-bodied, structured red with black currant, violet, dark chocolate and burnt-orange aromas. Walnut husk, too. Such precision and elegance. Firm, smooth tannins and a long finish. Really complex at the end. A stunning wine from Stags Leap District. Drink from 2023. —James Suckling

Buy Now: $314

PlumpJack Winery 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, Napa Valley

PlumpJack Winery 2016 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, Napa Valley

Photo: Courtesy of PlumpJack

Bottled under screw cap, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is certainly a worthy follow-up to the monumental 2015. As pure, seamless and classy as it gets, with heavenly notes of crème de cassis, white flowers, lead pencil shavings, graphite and damp, rock-like minerality, this beauty hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a layered, multi-dimensional texture, no hard edges and spectacular length. This is another monumental wine from this team that needs to be tasted to be believed. —Jeb Dunnuck

Buy Now: $699

Shafer Vineyards 2016 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

Shafer Vineyards 2016 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

This 2016 strides confidently out of the glass with expressive notions of blueberry preserves, Black Forest cake, cassis and cedar chest with touches of pencil lead, licorice, violets and sandalwood plus an exotic waft of Indian spices. The rich, densely packed, full-bodied palate is at once thrillingly hedonistic and perfectly poised, featuring a rock-solid frame of firm, exquisitely ripe tannins and tons of freshness, finishing epically long and with stunning opulence. Bravo! —Lisa Perrotti-Brown, Robert Parker Wine Advocate

Buy Now: $325

Vérité 2017 La Joie Red Sonoma County

Vérité 2017 “La Joie” Red Sonoma County

Photo: Courtesy of Vérité

Tasting like a great bottle of Château Lafite, the 2017 La Joie is based largely on Cabernet Sauvignon and brought up, I suspect, in mostly new French oak. Deep ruby-purple, with a heavenly bouquet of crème de cassis, lead pencil, cedarwood, graphite and tobacco, it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, an incredible sense of elegance and purity, building tannins and a great, great finish. This majestic, regal Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon is going to require a decade of cellaring to hit maturity (although it’s far from unapproachable today) and will see its 50th birthday in fine form. I followed this bottle for three days and it never showed a hint of oxidation. This is easily my wine of the vintage in 2017. —Jeb Dunnuck

Buy Now: $430

Force Majeure 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley Estate

Force Majeure 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley Estate

Photo: Courtesy of Force Majeure

Lots of blue fruits, cassis, violets, lead pencil and tobacco notes emerge from the glass of the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley Estate, a magical, incredible Cabernet Sauvignon from The Rocks region of Walla Walla, as well as a perfect wine. It’s deep purple/ruby-colored, full-bodied, deep and opulent on the palate, with terrific elegance as well as a rich, complex earthiness that develops with time in the glass. However, it’s not a classic Rocks wine, and the exotic funkiness is largely concealed behind classic Cabernet typicity. It reminds me of the 2009 Château Haut-Bailly with its rare mix of richness and power, and while it was brought up in almost all new French oak, you wouldn’t know it by tasting it. Everything is perfectly balanced; it has silky tannins, a great mid-palate and one heck of an impressive finish. It’s a candidate for the wine of the vintage and should be snatched up by readers. Don’t miss it. —Jeb Dunnuck

Buy Now: $173

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