My wife and I spent a few days in Napa earlier this month and got to try some '02 cab barrel samples at Paul Hobbs, David Ramey, and Ladera. Here are some notes;
Paul Hobbs - Jenifer gave us a tour of the new winery which is very nice. Tasting included two current releases (non-cabs) and barrel samples of the '02 cabs which are truly spectacular. '02 Beckstoffer was dark, thick, powerful and well balanced with wonderful dark fruit flavors - it will be outstanding. '02 Stagecoach was also great, but not quite the depth and balance of the Beckstoffer.
David Ramey - David was very generous with his time that day and was a great host. The wines included three current release whites, with my favorite being the Hyde vineyard - great complexity and flavors. The reds were '02 barrel samples of the Jericho Canyon, Diamond Mtn, and claret. The claret was a pleasant surprise - nice fruit and freshness. The Jericho Canyon is outstanding - rich, smooth and nicely balanced. The Diamond Mtn has the tannins and fruit to possibly outlive the Jericho but it is a bit more rustic at this stage. These two single vineyard cabs are definite buys.
Ladera - Pat Stotesbery gave us a tour of their new facility and it is both beautiful and impressive. This is the old Woltner property on Howell Mtn, complete with an old stone winery that has been completely rebuilt and modernized. Tried a couple of current wines under the Woltner label which were nice, then moved on to the '02 Ladera cab barrel samples. I had never tried the Ladera wines but I will be buying from now on. '02 Howell Mtn was plush, nicely balanced with black and blue fruit flavors, and showing great complexity. The '02 Lone Canyon, while tighter and brighter,was also a great wine (and my wife's favorite of these two cabs).
All of the cabs we sampled were great and showed the signatures of their vineyards and winemakers. Start saving for these wines now because I think the '02 Napa cabs will be quite good.