The Full ‘Cult Cabernet’ Experience Without the Stratospheric Price

I’ll give the wine critics credit: They get around. When we offered the inaugural vintage of Ralph Hertelendy’s richly layered Cabernet Sauvignon a few years ago—a wine produced in tiny quantities—it arrived at our door already festooned with some big press. Now in its third vintage, this wine can rightly be called a critical darling (2015’s “numbers” are especially gaudy), yet despite having all the hallmarks of an elite Napa Valley “cult” wine, its price is relatively modest compared to many of the splashy debuts we encounter around here. In the first two years of its existence, this flagship wine was a Whitman’s Sampler of mountain-grown fruit, not only from Hertelendy’s own estate vineyard but from other select mountain-appellation sites with volcanic soils. In 2015, Hertelendy and consultant Phillip Corallo-Titus (of Chappellet fame) added a dollop of “valley floor” fruit from Oakville to lend yet another layer of sumptuous richness to the equation. The results are impressive, and it’s easy to see why the wine has received so many accolades: It has immense concentration but also freshness and real mineral character; it is ripe but not overly so; and its texture is impossibly velvety and layered. Put this bottle on the table next to most reds and it’s like sending Shaquille O’Neal into a middle-school basketball game—save it for later in the meal, revel in its palate-enveloping richness, and celebrate not having to spend three times as much for the experience. Supplies are limited, so act fast!..

“Opulent, pedigreed, critically acclaimed Napa Valley wine like this regularly fetches $300+ per bottle. So far anyway, Ralph Hertelendy has kept the quality elite and the price within reach.”