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November 21, 2014

Since there's always a need for a well-made version of Americas's favorite varietal (Cabernet Sauvignon) that doesn't cost "an arm and a leg," the search for really good Cabs at fair prices continues. We think we may have found the Cabernet holy grail with the 2010 Gibbs Obsidian Block Cabernet Sauvignon from Saint Helena, which is particularly significant during this upcoming holiday season.

In addition to being an extraordinary find in a marketplace filled with commercialized value Cabernets, it also has an unusual story. The Handlys, Susan and Craig, ended up here from a completely different direction than most. After moving to Saint Helena in 1977, owner and winemaker Craig Handly began working as a label designer with Colonna-Farrell, a notorious design studio with a history that is closely tied to the success of Napa Valley’s wine industry. It was at Colonna-Farrell where he worked with another young designer, Susan Carpenter, who in time would become his wife.

Before finding himself involved in the production of wine, Craig began a design and photography firm, Handly/Hansen, which produced materials for wineries including Beringer, Kendall-Jackson, Robert Craig, Karl-Lawrence, and Elyse. Later, Susan and Craig began their own stationary company, which started to lose ground at the turn of the century to the convenience provided by e-mail communication. It was then Craig made his foray into wine production by starting yet another company, Terroir Napa Valley.

With a focus on the staple crop of Napa Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon, Terroir Napa Valley focused largely on producing single-vineyard wines that exhibit the qualities of the vineyard site. As fate had it, Dr. Lewis Carpenter (Susan's father), who farmed vineyards in St. Helena for more than a half century, passed away. Craig Handly, his son-in-law, is now farming those choice St. Helena vineyards, which would also become the source for the Gibbs Cabernet.

It’s 93% Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. Obsidian Block is on the Silverado Trail north of St. Helena (near some other pretty famous properties on Lodi Lane), and the wine shows its breeding from the first whiff. Spice, black cherry, plum, toast, and mocha - this is one of the riper tasting Cabernets from the 2010 vintage, yet perfectly harmonious and together. This is the kind of fruit you could pump up with scads of expensive new oak and charge a lot of money, but instead they chose to give it 30% new oak for 26 months (and made something really tasty that people could afford to drink more than once or twice a year). This is also an honest wine that shows great purity and varietal character.

If you're looking for the hook, there aren't any scores or reviews on this one. This also isn’t a closeout, special purchase, or anything of the sort. It’s just an old-fashioned great deal, and a refreshing divergence from current stylistic trends in winemaking. It's also a very good single-vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet from a good vintage for under $20 at the perfect time of year! Just over 1,300 cases of this little value gem were produced. Good hunting.

add to cart $19.99   add a case $239.88

The search for really good Cabernet at fair prices is an ongoing one and in this case we have run across a new source that looks promising.  The Handleys, Susan and Craig, ended up here from a completely different direction than most.  They started as label designers and, as time passed, they ended up moving into the negociant/production side of the business.  As fate had it, Dr. Lewis Carpenter, who farmed St. Helena for more than a half century, passed awa... read more

add to cart $19.99   add a case $239.88

This is the perfect introduction to the talented winemaking skills of Paul Hobbs. As you may already know, his expertise is creating textural appeal, and the creamy mouthfeel of this Cab says it all. This is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 6.6% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1.4% Malbec (we endeavor to be precise). It exhibits black fruits mixed with hints of cassis, mocha, and vanilla, supported by supple, well-integrated tannins. It’s no wonder Hobbs is regarde... read more

add to cart $19.99   add a case $239.88

From Wine Spectator: The direct, juicy core of blackberry and wild berry is accented by shades of cedar and herb. Ends with a solid framework of tannins. read more
add to cart $19.99   add a case $239.88

If you have been following our straight shooting, sometimes 'brutally honest' emails for any length of time , you heard the explanations for some of the curious but amazing deals we come up with.  What we try not to do is create any false impressions about the juice by suggesting it is necessarily from a specific source.  First off, we don't necessarily want someone to buy a wine because they think it's declassified Screaming Eagle or ... read more


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