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Napa Valley Cabernet: 2018 vintage report

The best wines show control, poise and transparency between vineyard and appellation, with most of the 2018s well integrated and tastefully seasoned with oak, says Matthew Luczy, who rates 250 wines from the 2018 vintage

The 2018 Napa Valley Cabernet vintage belongs in an echelon with the finest of the past two decades. It was absent of challenges that plagued many of the previous years, ranging from drought, low yields and heatwaves.

It was spared in the second most destructive wildfire season in California’s history, behind only 2020. The best wines show control, poise and transparency between vineyard and appellation.


Scroll down to see Matthew Luczy’s top-scoring 2018 Napa Cabernets


When compared to recent vintages, it is most synonymous with the highly acclaimed 2016. ‘There were a lot of synergies in both the growing season and the wines. They have a lot of the same energy, expression and life’ explains Chris Carpenter, winemaker for Lokoya, Cardinale, La Jota and Mt Brave, all part of the large Jackson Family Wines portfolio.

In terms of weather, ‘slow’ and ‘easy’ were consistent descriptors. After the heatwaves and wildfires of 2017, this calm was met with open arms. Pilcrow’s Jonah Beer says: ‘Mother Nature allowed us to walk through the vintage rather than sprint. Everything came in like a parade instead of a stampede.’


Quick links

Individual AVA analysis and top-scoring wines:

Calistoga, Coombsville, Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder, Oakville, Rutherford, St Helena, Stags Leap District


Luczy’s wines of the vintage:

Corison, Kronos Vineyard 97 pts | Kapcsándy, Grand Vin, State Lane Vineyard 97 pts


Full verdict


See Matthew Luczy’s top-scoring 2018 Napa Cabernets


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California Cabernet 2016: panel tasting results
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