2018 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • USA
  • California
  • Napa Valley
  • Oakville

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Community Tasting Note

  • Cristal2000 Likes this wine: 99 points

    April 24, 2021 - Alex and Graeme knock it out of the park once again. As I always say, the easiest wine purchase I make all year. They refuse to cave into pressure to jack up their prices alongside most everyone in Napa, and therefore have one of the most loyal and appreciative client bases anywhere. The wine will compete with any cab in the country, and they have a real waiting list, which hardly anyone has these days. Bravo!

    Thanks to Alex for always being so generous with their wine. My initial impression is this will be right up there with 13 and 16 as the best vintages I have tasted. Decanted around 12 hours, this sprung from the glass with notes of creme de cassis, tobacco, violets, crushed rock and savory character. The front end gives you a hint of gorgeous pure black fruit before giving way to a massive core of minerality and earthy elements. That incredible flavor and density is done without any weight, making it both huge and elegant at the same time. The tannins are super fine and well integrated, while also robust and create the structure to keep this wine aging for a very long time. Acidity is bright and keeps everything fresh and lively. The finish is off the charts long.

    As with all MacDonald wines, give them a ton of air if you plan to open them within 10-15 years. These are built to last.

    3 people found this helpful 2,628 views


  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    4/26/21, 7:21 AM - Couldn’t agree more- except this might even best ‘13! Great people and wine, great combo and hard to beat.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:47 AM - I had 13-16 in a vertical about 2 years ago now. That was epic. Next time 13-18, trying to vet out your theory. :)

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    4/26/21, 7:56 AM - Sounds horrible but I can see why you would have to do it for science! I just had the ‘13 last week and it was excellent but at this time due to the better fruit integration and substance, ‘18 may beat it out by a nose... or not, I feel like a weather forecaster. It’s because of this I need to be at your vertical tasting- only fair for me to taste through to conform my impression since I am the contrarian.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 8:06 AM - When you open that many MacDonald's, the more participants (and contributors) the better! :) That would be a great one to schedule.

  • NickRut commented:

    4/26/21, 6:14 PM - Any overall thoughts on 16 vs.18. vs. 19? Not necessarily for Macdonald specifically but for Napa in general?

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 6:42 PM - I think the biggest takeaway is the 19 vintage is better than I thought it was going to be. The vintage comparison I had in mind was 14 before this trip, but I think it'll be a lot better (maybe 12 mixed with 16 is a good comparison). There's a little more fruit in the 19's vs the 18's, but it still has great acidity and plenty of structure. I feel like 18 will be one of the better vintages to age in recent times, but it really does need years in the bottle to show well. Think 19 will show better straight away.

    16 is still the benchmark as far I am concerned (since 2005 - really can't opine on older vintages). Can't beat the freshness, depth of flavor, balanced acidity and overall personality of the vintage. Definitely possible that 18 or 19 could eclipse it however.

  • NickRut commented:

    4/26/21, 6:46 PM - Appreciate the feedback. sounds like both are worth loading up on. 18s seem to be struggling a bit early so hoping they come around in some time. I've been trying to backfill 16s I might've missed. Not many good ones around at retail.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    4/26/21, 7:18 PM - Agree with everything Cristal said and adding in my two cents.

    One thing about vintages and good wine, all great vintages must drink well early as an ok wine should never become great rather a great wine may need time to develop and grow but is great now.

    Ok why I stated the obvious above- everyone (professionals) is stating how great ‘18 is and how uniform across Napa it should be but- it’s not. While I can be a contrarian at times, I don’t feel I am doing it this time for any other reason than I have found more average to good vs great to excellent ‘18s. This doesn’t mean I have not had killer of exceptional ‘18s which I have had just that I have been under impressed with more than I would have thought. and maybe because those winemakers tried to work the wines too much... picked too early vs letting the fruit hang- not sure but it’s significant enough to be noticeable.

    We had 18 2019 barrel samples and they were without question very good to excellent, and as Cristal said might not be as long lived as ‘18 but they will be throughly enjoyed upon release and can age. They seem to be more slutty than ‘18 perhaps ‘15 with more silky tannins and fruit yet still have good structure. Unfortunately we loved these wines but I was hoping, like Bordeaux it would give me a purchasing break... nope the opposite (Bordeaux dropped prices and Napa kicked some a-s in ‘19). Back the truck up for the wineries you love, a stellar vintage.

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/26/21, 7:34 PM - Now if you want to really stir the pot a little, just discuss 2020 with the folks in Napa. Holy hell is that a divisive topic. Growers hate winemakers for saying it is a total loss, because they don't have skin in the game and it's easier to just discard and vintage than try to make a decent wine from it.

    Most wineries are passing on 2020, but many more than I thought put wine in barrel and are following it to see if it's worthy of release. Arkenstone, MacDonald, Harlan etc are all doing this...but you talk to a Chris Tynan, and he says the vintage was a total loss as early as August. There were some very animated conversations on the topic, that is for sure.

    One thing about being a consumer, for the vast majority of wines there's no reason to risk it and buy a $250 cab in 2020. Hardly any have a true waiting list and treat clients to a better price than retail. The few that do, like MacDonald, deserve to be supported since they have earned trust and loyalty. So IMO, I'd be passing on almost everything, but there will certainly be exceptions if necessary.

  • LiteItOnFire commented:

    4/27/21, 10:04 AM - Cristal- I had the same reaction and... fun serving that softball up to everyone. What a hot topic and everyone has a clearly defined argument of their Fact. I suggested those that did bottle and if it’s not an obvious off putting wine, drastically reduce the price and offer to the members as many of us, me included would be interested to taste and follow the wine- why not price dependent of course.

    I will also not buy one wine I don’t try besides Macdonald and alike.

  • MJP Hou TX commented:

    4/28/21, 2:40 PM - Great conversation. I think and have heard 2020 was a total loss in August per most wine makers. Oct was just the death knell. As for those growers/makers decide to make wine it will be a tough sell to purchase just to stay on a list outside of MacDonald. Their loyalty to keeping pricing the same year in and out is worth the $525 spend. IMO. Cristal, I know your a fan of Graeme so what are your thoughts on Blankiet?

  • Cristal2000 commented:

    4/28/21, 5:41 PM - MJP: I haven't had Blankiet since Graeme became the winemaker. I wasn't real impressed previously, but it'd be a good one to try.

  • MJP Hou TX commented:

    4/29/21, 4:33 AM - I believe Graemes first full vintage was 2016. I personally think it’s fantastic. The Estate Cabernet Mythicus and Paradise Hills has solid reviews amongst our peers. Rive Droite in my opinion is one of the better right bank merlot driven wines in the valley.

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