Located at the widest part of Napa Valley, the Rutherford AVA is home to some of Napa’s most famous and historic wineries, including Inglenook and Beaulieu. Consisting mainly of valley floor vineyards, Rutherford receives long hours of sunlight that contribute to the ripeness and bold fruit flavors of grapes grown here. Elevated vineyards on the west side of the appellation are shielded from the sun in the late afternoon by the Mayacamas Mountains, preserving acidity, while to the east, in the Vaca range, topographic variation creates a series of microclimates that add restraint and finesse.
Legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff is known to have said, “It takes ‘Rutherford Dust’ to make great Cabernet Sauvignon.” Referring to the deep soils at the center of the valley, this brings to mind the earthiness of the distinctive Cabernet and other red varieties that thrive here as well as the cocoa powder character found in some bottles. This American Viticultural Area sits on the former Rancho Caymus land grant that was bestowed on Napa Valley pioneer George Yount in 1836. Yount is said to be the first to have planted grapes in the valley, and the nearby town of Yountville, now home to Michelin-starred French Laundry and several other notable restaurants, was named for him. In 1864 he turned over a large portion of the ranch to his granddaughter Elizabeth and her groom Thomas Rutherford as a wedding present. The young couple followed in Yount’s footsteps and continued planting vines here for 20 more years, and the AVA still bears their surname. The tiny town of Rutherford is home to around 100 residents; the population doubles when all 50 guestrooms are filled at luxury wine country resort Auberge du Soleil.
Besides Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford is known for a host of other red varieties including Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Petit Verdot; it’s also known for its ripe renditions of Sauvignon Blanc. The reds are used in single varietal bottlings as well as blends. Expect juicy berry and dark fruit flavors with touches of earthiness and cocoa, perfect for pairing with well-marbled steaks now that grilling season is upon us.
Beaulieu Vineyard 2019 Rutherford Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley
Founded in 1900, Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the oldest continually operating wineries in Napa Valley. It was named by Georges de Latour’s wine Fernande when she remarked “quelle beau lieu—what a beautiful place.” The 2019 vintage has aromas of forest floor, black raspberry, and black cassis with whiffs of brown baking spices and butterscotch. It is nicely textured on the palate with generous mouthfeel and flavors of dark fruits and accented by famed Rutherford dust—or cocoa powder. There’s a persistent flavor of mocha with a pleasant splash of acidity at the back of the throat. Drink now or hold for up a decade or so.
Frog’s Leap 2019 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley
The grapes used to make this estate grown wine are 100 percent certified organic and dry farmed, and the vines on which they grow have an average age of 18 years. It is a blend of 93 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 percent Cabernet Franc and is garnet-ruby colored with aromas of red and black fruits, dried Mediterranean herbs, and mocha that lead to flavors of dark fruits accented by cocoa powder in the mid-palate. The wine is racked five times during the 20 months French oak ageing period which contributes to its silky tannic structure. Drink now or enjoy anytime over the next 15 years.
Rutherford Ranch 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley
Visitors to Rutherford Ranch are generally very impressed by the 100-year-old olive grove, but true Rutherford Cabernet lovers come here for the wine. The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon is purple in the glass with aromas of ripe cherry, brown baking spices, and vanilla with flavors of black raspberry, cassis, cedar, tobacco leaf, and cocoa powder. The tannins are velvety smooth with a nice backbone of minerality. The finish goes on for a long time with a nice splash of acidity at the very end.
Quintessa 2019 Rutherford Napa Valley
This elegant wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenere, and Petit Verdot and is made from grapes grown in 14 different vineyards. It is ruby garnet colored with aromas of graphite, red raspberry, and dried Mediterranean herbs. It has flavors of red plum, pencil shavings, black licorice, and a pleasant touch of tar in the mid palate. It has slightly grippy tannins that will loosen up over time. Drink from 2024 to 2035.
Peju 2018 H.B. Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley
Named for founder Herta Peju, each bottle of this lovely wine features a watercolor illustration of the Harvest Dance sculpture that can be found in the winery’s visitor gardens. The wine has aromas of dried Mediterranean herbs, cocoa powder, and ripe black fruits. There are fruit flavors highlighted by notes of cigar box, caramel, and black licorice with silky tannins. The finish goes on and on with a bright splash of acidity at the very end.
Inglenook 2019 Rubicon Rutherford Napa Valley
Rubicon, Inglenook’s premier red wine was first produced in 1978 and is responsible for bolstering the public perception of the estate and its ability to make world class wines. The 2019 is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. It is ruby colored with a violet rim and has aromas of ripe cherry, raspberry, mocha, and black currant. There are flavors of dark fruits, anise, and cedar before the long, long finish. Drink now or hold for up to 20 years.
Frank Family 2018 Winston Hill Rutherford Napa Valley
This Bordeaux style blend is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. It is aged in 75 percent new French oak and has aromas of butterscotch, cigar box, mocha, and cassis and flavors of black plum, black raspberry, and cocoa powder. The wine is named for Winston Hill, the family’s original estate vineyard and is proudly made to exemplify the best possible wine from the estate. Only 500 cases were produced in 2018. Drink now or hold for up to 20 years.
Chaix 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley
Only 321 cases of this delicious wine were produced in 2019. The grapes come from the family owned Chaix Family Vineyards in the center of Rutherford AVA. During fermentation the wine spent 15 days on the skins resulting in a deep garnet purple color. It has aromas of black raspberry, ripe cherry, and mocha with corresponding flavors of black currant, red cherry, and espresso bean. Enjoy now or over the next 15 years.
Aratas 2018 Petit Sirah Rutherford Napa Valley
The word aratas translates to “harvest” in Hungarian and the winery is named to honor the Chohany family’s heritage. Grapes for this delightful Petite Sirah wine were planted in 2001 and harvested on October 5, 2018. Winemaker Matt Sunseri and Vintner Stephanie Douglass chose to age the wine for 27 months in 30 percent new Hungarian oak barrels. In the glass it is inky purple with aromas of cardamom, green pepper, and red pepper paste. In the mouth it has fruit flavors of black raspberry and red plum with notes of spicy paprika in the persistent finish.