Bottle Notes, Cabernet Sauvignon

Pick My Next Bottle – 1997 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley '97 Cabernet Sauvignon

The August installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the 1997 vintage. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar.

This installment of Pick My Next Bottle is special as I plan on opening the winning bottle on August 29th International Cabernet Day. I will publish a bottle note some time the following week.

1997 was a much heralded vintage in Napa Valley. A warm and uneventful growing season, 1997 saw early budbreak and an early, abundant harvest—resulting in ripe, opulent, hedonistic wines that were quickly praised by many acclaimed critics. Over the years though many of the top wines have failed to age as well as one would expect from an excellent year.

The Contenders

  • 1997 Dalla Valle – The 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon (2,800 cases from a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc) boasts an opaque purple color as well as a gorgeous nose of mineral-infused black currants, and spicy oak. Full-bodied, structured, muscular, and multi-dimensional, it is approachable, but best cellared for 2-4 years, and drunk over the following 20-25 years. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 1997 Chateau Montelena – There are 10,200 cases of the remarkable 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate. Opaque purple-colored with a dense, chewy, full-bodied personality, it displays abundant cassis, mineral, and earth notes. This brilliantly made, super-concentrated, pure, blockbuster possesses sweet tannin as well as a terrific finish. Having added additional weight since last year, this sumptuous, multilayered, profoundly concentrated Cabernet contains 14% alcohol. It is a candidate for 25-30 years of longevity. Anticipated maturity: 2003-2030. 98 points from the Wine Advocate.
  • 1997 Dunn Napa Valley – The 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa exhibits an opaque purple color as well as a gorgeous nose of pure cassis and blackberries with flinty notions in the background. Full-bodied, powerful, tannic, pure, and backward, it needs another 8-10 years of cellaring. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2035+. ” (12/00) 92 points Wine Spectator: “Sharply focused, with a pretty beam of plum, currant and black cherry flavors, framed by spicy, cedary oak and finishing with dry tannins. Best from 2002 through 2012. 92 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 1997 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon should I open?

  • 1997 Dalla Valle (38%, 18 Votes)
  • 1997 Dunn Napa Valley (36%, 17 Votes)
  • 1997 Chateau Montelena (26%, 12 Votes)

Total Voters: 47

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the September installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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11 thoughts on “Pick My Next Bottle – 1997 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

  1. I’m really torn on this one between Dalla Valle and Dunn. I went with Dalla Valle but when you have the ’97 Dunn let me know as I have the ’96 and am really curious on readiness.

  2. Three beautiful wines from an amazing Napa vintage. My pick is the 1997 Chateau Montelena Estate. I know Dunn is a long runner in a great vintage, so Dunn would be my last choice. Not that familiar with Dalla Valle although I know it’s one of the top wines produced in Napa Valley. Opened a 97 Montelena Estate last year and it was terrific although just slightly past its peak, at least for my palate. So, unless Dalla Valle has peaked, I’d go Montelena.

    1. I’m a little surprised the Montelena might be peaking. It still seems young in other great vintages like 91 and 94. I will check in on a bottle soon.

  3. Tom,

    I agree with Peter, a vintage to remember. I chose the Dunn because if you look hard enough, there are still some bottles to be had here in Calgary. Not so much for the Montelena or the Dalla Valle.

  4. I picked Chateau Montelena for sentimental reasons… we picnicked there on our first trip to Napa together in 1998 ;)

  5. I chose the 97 Dalle Valle. Although I am a huge fan of Ch Montelena, I wonder how well the wine has held up (speculation) after 16 yrs? Purhaps not as well as Dunn or Dalle Valle?
    Besides I am a sucker for just a spash of Cab Franc in the blend!
    Terry Hill
    The Texas Wineaux

  6. I picked the Dalla Valle as it appears to be the most approachable now of the three. No wine before its time …

  7. Because so many ’97s “have failed to age as well as one would expect”, I’d want to know the Dunn…on #cabernetday. :)

  8. So we have a winner…Dalla Valle. Check back in a few days for a Bottle Note. Based on some comments above I will make an effort to check in on the Montelena and Dunn sooner rather than later.

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