Wines worth splurging on for a family meal or for that someone special.
Aiken 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon: The famous former Beaulieu winemaker's own wine under his own name, from blocks of fruit grown at 1,600-feet elevation. With a small percentage of petite verdot blended in, the wine has years to open and develop further but for now is deep in blueberry fruit and walls of structure. $75.
Amici 2009 Morisoli Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon: Winemaker Joel Aiken's first single-vineyard vintage of this wine from grape to glass, the Morisoli hails from hallowed Rutherford ground (near Inglenook, Scarecrow and Joseph Phelps) and is satisfyingly intense, powerfully embedded in Rutherford dust. $125.
Corison 2009 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: Let us list the ways we love Corison cabernet: its structure, its elegance, and its ability to impress 10 to 15 years after bottling. Buy an older vintage if you can. Otherwise, stock up on the 2009, a cooler, intriguing vintage for the Napa Valley that should develop in great ways over the next many years; or, at minimum, decant this wine a few hours before enjoying. $70.
Heritance 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: French winemaker Bernard Portet, who spent his career at Clos du Val, which he also co-founded, has launched his own Napa Valley brand with Heritance, a nod to his family and its nine generations of winemaking history across four continents. This cabernet is classic, old-school Napa Valley, fresh and fruity with a lingering elegance that makes it ideal with food. $36.
Hypothesis 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: An interesting new wine by the winemakers at Roots Run Deep Winery made using flash detente fruit — a process used to increase the color and flavor of the wine before fermentation — from vineyards throughout the Napa Valley. Barrel fermented, it's plenty rich and ready for big foods. $40.
Mad Hatter 2009 Napa Valley Red Wine: A blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc made by acclaimed Napa winemaker Andy Erickson (previously of Screaming Eagle and many other cult Napa cab projects), vineyard manager David Abreu and consultant Michel Rolland, Mad Hatter is the sister label of Dancing Hares. It sources grapes both from the Dancing Hares Estate on Howell Mountain and other nearby vineyards. Gorgeously savory, this wine's backbone of blackberry fruit is accented by layers of black tea and forest floor. $62.
The Vineyard House 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: The fruit for this gift-worthy wine comes from Jeremy Nickel's vineyard (his dad founded Far Niente) in St. Helena and it's incredibly luxurious, hugely ripe and full, with dry herbs and cassis fruit in force. $200.