This 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Janzen family, sourced from the Napa Valley equivalent of the greatest wool mill in Italy, is for when you want to trade up. It is a full-body wine experience, and considering the extravagant sums many cult-y Napa Cabernets fetch these days, it’s a relatively affordable luxury. Napa Cabernet doesn’t get any bigger than this! If you like mouth-coating, hedonistic Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine is not to be missed.
Claus and Diane Janzen, owners of Bacio Divino Cellars in the Napa Valley, launched their Janzen line of vineyard-designate Cabernets in 2004, to coincide with their first harvest from their own estate vineyards—a trio of sites in Dutch Henry Canyon, on the eastern side of Napa Valley. For many years prior, Claus, a Napa veteran who spent 12 years in marketing at Caymus, had been a client of legendary Napa vinegrower Andy Beckstoffer, who in the last few decades has acquired and farmed many of the most historic Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in California. Among the Beckstoffer holdings is an 89-acre piece of the landmark To Kalon vineyard in Oakville, the source of today’s 2013 bottling from Janzen.
Stretching from Napa’s iconic Highway 29 west to the foothills of the Mayacamas range, To Kalon is commonly referred to as the “First Growth” of the Napa Valley. It was first purchased and planted in the 1870s by Hamilton Walker Crabb, and over the years it ballooned to more than 300 acres in size, with a multitude of owners farming and occasionally fighting over its boundaries and name usage. Mondavi is perhaps the most famous of these owners (having also broken off a chunk to create Opus One), but Beckstoffer is right up there—he purchased his parcel in 1993 from Beaulieu Vineyards and promptly re-planted it, mostly to various clones of Cabernet Sauvignon and a very small amount of Cabernet Franc. Under Beckstoffer’s stewardship, his eponymous piece of To Kalon produces perhaps the most coveted Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Napa, to the point where it has also become some of the most expensive. Some 20 different producers (of which Claus Janzen was one of the first) source fruit from To Kalon, and the inclusion of the vineyard name on a bottle of wine is effectively a guarantee of a Cabernet of almost limitless power, concentration, and ageability.
Janzen’s 2013 Beckstoffer To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon is downright decadent: On a scale of one to 10, this wine goes to 11, and I’ve got to say it’s a pretty fun ride. In the glass it is an opaque purple moving to magenta at the rim, its aromatics providing a master class in top-rank Napa Cabernet: cassis, blueberry, black and red currant, graphite, tobacco, leather and a kiss of vanilla/chocolate from more than 2 years’ aging in new French oak (yes, in addition to the best material, you get the best tailoring here, too). The palate is full-bodied, palate-coating, hedonistic…and yet, lurking underneath are the kind of iron-shaving tannins that helps balance the fruit. As this wine sheds its considerable baby fat it will reveal even more of its savory side, moving to notes of freshly-turned soil, cigar box, leather, and warm spice. In my opinion this wine is peaking now and will be at its best over the next 3-4 years. I would not advise ageing it for more than 7-8 years after its birth. Serve it in large Bordeaux stems no warmer than 65 degrees and sip it ever so slowly—this is what you might call an “event” wine, and while it’s almost a meal unto itself I’m inclined to pair it with something similarly luxurious. This might, in fact, be best with a platter of assorted cheeses, hard and soft alike. Talk about a grand finale to a meal—that’s as grand as it gets! For a main course pairing, look for rich slow cooked meats like this Beef Cheek recipe
. Either way, you are in for a ride.