Sometimes popular opinion and conventional wisdom are wrong in a flash, they judge too quickly, they have too short a perspective. Looking back can be transformative.

Wine glasses do, and maybe not as much as the 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. After a cold and miserable growing season, whose wines were widely maligned upon release, many are looking back to 2011 with a new sense of respect. Many find them beautifully balanced, structured and elegant, thanks to the cooler weather and careful winemaking.

Inglenook’s owner, Francis Ford Coppola, is one of the champions of the vintage. In January, he hosted a Zoom tasting featuring not only his 2011 wines, but also those from Corison Winery and Ridge Vineyards.

The vintage was important to Coppola. That year he reintroduced the Inglenook name and brand to the historic Rutherford estate he had purchased in 1975, now called Niebaum-Coppola. It was also the first vintage for Chateau Margaux winemaker Philippe Bascole, who was appointed general manager and winemaker of Inglenook in 2011.

From the start, harvest conditions in 2011 were unusually cool, according to winemaker Cathy Corison / Photo courtesy of Corison Winery

I felt like Napa Valley was in a state of ripe, cooked, aggressive wines, Coppola says. They all did. Coppola says he prefers wines that are easier to eat and have less alcohol. The Bascauls gave me exactly what I was hoping for in 2011, the wines were barely 14% [alcohol by volume], more elegant and fresh. Bascauls continues to emphasize the elegance and freshness of Inglenook wines, including starting the pruning cycle earlier in hopes of harvesting earlier.

Kathy Corison, founding partner and winemaker of Corison Wines, also emphasizes the elegance and freshness of her wines. The 2011 vintage has thrown a spanner in the works.


From the start, it was unusually cool, she said during the tasting. During the flowering period, we had 5 inches of rain in May and June, which resulted in a small crop and delayed harvest by at least three weeks.

A lot of time was spent managing the canopy to provide air for the grapes to ripen more easily and rot as little as possible. Then there were heat spikes in late September and cold weather in early October that brought two inches of rain and exacerbated the rotting problems.

A late summer in mid-October saved the day, she says. We have a ripeness at a lower sugar level than we are used to, but still a ripeness.

Corison Winery and Tents – Kronos Vineyard is one of the oldest Cabernet vineyards in Napa Valley. It is located on the shores of the Mayacamas Mountains near St. Jean Baptiste. St. John’s Helena, on gravelly and well-drained soil.

The 2011 vintage was an opportunity to make wines with finesse, beauty and flavor that will sing for a long time, she said. I love a floral scent that develops over the long, cool season.

Some have predicted a terrible year before the first fruits are harvested. If you plan to hate a product before you try it, it will be hard to get attached to it. Linda Neal, Fiery Rocha.

At Tierra Roja in Oakville, owner and winemaker Linda Neal remembers two different harvests this season, before and after the rain.Winemaker Linda Neal remembers two different harvests this season, before and after the rain.Winemaker Linda Neal remembers two different harvests this season, before and after the rain.

We did it on the 3rd. October, the day before the rains begin, she says. We just needed it a day earlier than expected. Many felt that the wines produced after the rains were not of the same quality.

She says the cool, wet years in the eastern hills where Tierra Roja is located are a good thing.

It’s almost impossible to have too much water there, she says. Since we usually harvest in early to mid-September, an additional suspension period can be agreed upon. If you leave some vines for a month longer, you lose all the heat and sunshine hours needed for the fruit to ripen, and the sugar can only come from dehydration. So some websites really struggle with a year like 2011.

Tastes have changed since the wines were released. I hope the prejudices have changed too.

There are several reasons to look at the 2011 vintage with fresh eyes. First, 10 years is a good time to consider a vintage Cabernet. For many wines, this is the time when they begin to reach their peak. Second, the flavors have changed since the wines were introduced to the market. I hope the prejudices have changed too.

People have an idea of what to expect, Neil says. Some have predicted a terrible year before the first fruits are harvested. If you plan to hate a product before you try it, it will be hard to get attached to it.

But the wines shine at different times. And personal preference dictates whether someone will enjoy the wine, regardless of the general state of the vintage or the notes.

This could be a year that just needs a little more time to be at its best, Neal said. People like different things. I’ve found that the 2011 is a favorite with people who like complex wines, but it will never become a chocolate-covered cherry.

What the 2011 can finally give us is an appreciation of the many styles of Cabernet that are also possible in Napa Valley.

Thanks to cooler weather and careful winemaking, the 2011 Napa cabernets are now considered elegant and structured / Photo via Getty

The 2011s we liked when they came out

Dariusz 2011 Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $95, 96 points. Whimsical and dark, with dense layers of juicy black fruit, leather and tobacco, this is a classic Napa Valley Cabernet of great elegance that is also seamless, complex and age-worthy. From relatively cool locations at Oak Knoll and Mount Veeder and a cooler year, this vintage sings for this producer, showing balance and power in equal measure. Editor’s Choice.

Best Man 2011 Hillside Select Cabernet Sauvignon (Deer Jumping District); 250, 95 points. This powerful Napa Valley icon shows it can handle a cool vintage with as much power and velvety texture as any other year. It offers an abundance of dirty tobacco, leather and cedar on a tannic backbone and tongue-tingling palate. This is a 100% varietal wine from steel-resistant vines that retains its minerality and delivers measured waves of blackcurrant, clove and tobacco aromas. To be drunk until 2021. Selection of the cellar.

Revenge 2011 Bone Ash Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $85, 95 points. It is made from 100% Cabernet, grown in the St. John’s vineyard. St. John’s Manor. St. Helena. This is an exceptionally clean and delicious wine, rich in cassis, chocolate, black cherry, and plenty of toasty new French oak. The essential tannins are beautifully ripe and velvety. This wine is far from finished, it needs a good eight more years in the cellar and will continue to develop until at least the mid 2020s. Selection of the cellar.

B Cellars 2011 Bextoffer to Kalonu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $185, 94 points. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a renowned vineyard. This wine has bright, juicy red currant and pomegranate fruit supported by complex layers of dried grass, coconut and pencil shavings. Ready to be enjoyed now and through 2021, it finishes with a bittersweet chocolate flavor. Selection of the cellar.

Diamond Creek 2011 Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); 200, 94 points. The Volcanic Hill section of Diamond Creek Vineyard on Diamond Mountain is, as advertised, dominated by volcanic soils. The wine has a somewhat chalky texture, with notes of black and ripe plums and mocha, and a long, intense finish. Age at 2025. Selection of the cellar.

Paul Hobbs 2011 Bextoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena); $175, 94 points. Decadent with coconut flakes and vanilla, this is a fruity vintage from one of Hobbs’ best Cabernets. Soft and structured, with silky tannins expertly controlled, it captures the essence of the finest Napa Valley grapes in the hands of a skilled winemaker, an exemplary marriage of beauty and power.

Tierra Roja 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville); 140, 94 points. Grown 100% on the estate of a Cabernet Sauvignon grower, this wine now shows complexity rather than aging potential. Smoky oak, bay leaf, ripe raspberry, cherry and cedar remain elusive and subtle on the palate. It is an elegant wine, lively with red fruits and light spices. Burial to 2022. Selection of the cellar.

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