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California Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 and 2018: panel tasting results

This major tasting included the wildfire-hit 2017. No ill-effects were evident, but the 2018s won the day among the many high-scoring wines.

Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW, James Doidge MW and Stefan Neumann MS tasted 164 wines, with six Outstanding and 69 Highly Recommended.

California Cabernet Sauvignon panel tasting scores

164 wines tasted

Exceptional 0

Outstanding 6

Highly recommended 69

Recommended 85

Commended 2

Fair 0

Poor 0

Faulty 2

Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit wines from both or either vintages 2017 and 2018 made with at least 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, from any region of California

Cabernet Sauvignon is a grape made for California. It excels in the long, sunny, warm and dry summers, enabling it to gain good physiological ripeness, and its thick skin means it can stand up to California’s sunshine.

It is the most widely grown, with more than 38,000ha planted in 2020 (NASS/ USDA, April 2021). Given its wide range of altitudes and terroirs, California can grow and make Cabernet Sauvignon to suit all styles and palates. And, as the 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting showed, California Cabernets can stand alongside the world’s best.

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for the top-scoring Californian Cabernets 

Given the eclecticism of the wines that Decanter requested for this tasting (see ‘Entry criteria’, above), we tasted according to vintage, starting with the youngest, then with unoaked before oaked.

What was it that we enjoyed so much?

The top-scoring Californian Cabernet Sauvignons: 

The following wines all scored 91 points or above

The judges

Michelle Cherutti-Kowal MW is a wine consultant, lecturer, writer, judge and a WSET educator. A Regional Chair at DWWA 2021, she consults to restaurants and wineries, as well as acting as an ambassador for wine trade bodies.

James Doidge MW is buyer and managing director at The Wine Treasury, a specialist importer in London. He has a particular interest in the wines of the Americas and southern Europe, where he travels and tastes regularly. He became a Master of Wine in 2021.

Stefan Neumann MS is an independent master sommelier running his own wine consultancy. A DWWA judge since 2017, from 2022 he is also the DWWA Regional Chair for Switzerland.

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