In the Napa Valley, where cabernet sauvignon is king, Oakville is ground zero, home to many of the industry's rock stars... The appellation, which cuts a swath across the valley from the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains in the west to the lower slopes of the Vaca Range in the east, is seen by many as the area's sweet spot for cabernet.


There's not really one style of Oakville cabernet sauvignon, because the terrain varies so much. Some argue that the appellation should be divided into two or three parts. On Oakville's west side, vineyards are often planted on alluvial fans, and they're shaded in the afternoon. In the east, rocky red soils dominate, and many sites bask in the afternoon sun. The valley floor tends to have heavier, deeper soils. All of the appellation is far enough south to get morning fog off the bay, which helps preserve acidity, so even many of the more lush, opulent wines also display an appealing freshness. I often find savory flavors ranging from anise to black olive to mint in the wines.


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Other recommended Oakville cabernets include the powerful 2011 Tierra Roja ($140), with its anise and graphite notes;