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With her work at Ladera, Wolf Family and Renteria, Karen Culler has crafted a 30-year resume of bold, muscle-bound Cabernet. For her own Casaeda label, she blends these Schwarzeneggerian lots of Cab with some mellower Oak Knoll fruit to yield a full-bodied but soft-tannin-trimmed style of Cabernet that almost tastes like a “mini” Beringer Private Reserve. That’s a plush and decadent profile that’s ready to drink right away! Casaeda’s going to make many folks crazy happy for this phenomenal price.
About the wine
From top to bottom, we may never see a vintage like 2013 ever again. The concentration and quality in every appellation gave winemakers an extraordinary range of fruit and structure to work with. With Napa Cabernet, great vineyards will get you a rich, robust wine – but the secret to great wine is how you balance it. That happens to be Karen Culler’s forte, as she can tweak the vines, the barrels and the fermentations to get just the exact kind of Cabernet she wants. With Casaeda, she pushes forward with a boldly plum-packed and cherry-loaded Cabernet with a viscous, velvety mouthfeel complemented by smoky oak. The tannins are round and give an impression of cocoa powder and their seamless feel marks this as one of the first 2013s to enter “The Drinking Window.” That’s a welcome addition to the rest of her portfolio, which is stacked with high-octane and powerfully structured Cabs that take their sweet time. Casaeda is a smooth and suave style that works equally well on its own or with a variety of meats – and its well-managed tannin even make it a good pairing with pasta dishes.
Winemaker: Karen Culler
Appellation: Napa Valley
- 95 pts: Julie Tesar, Certified Sommelier
- 95 pts: Davis Smith, Certified Sommelier
- 4.2/5.0: Vivino Users (45 ratings)
Grapes: 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot
Vineyards: Select Napa Valley vineyards
Cooperage: 12 months in a combination of new and seasoned barrels
About the winery
The best part about Casaeda is that it’s all about the wine. There’s no mythmaking, no fabricated history. Casaeda is Karen Culler’s Cabernet – that’s it! It was simply a project where Culler could have fun – by making wine how she wanted to, without notes coming down from management. So, in naming the wine, she searched for something that sounded fun – and remembered the word “Casaeda” - not an ancient Latin word, or a native name for the land. It wasn’t a combination of two family names, or even a fantastic name meant to inspire awe. Casaeda was how Culler’s young daughter tried to say the world “Cicada.” Culler remembered that moment and spontaneously laughed. That would be the Winery name, then. Her irreverence in marketing is so refreshing – especially since Culler is all business on the winemaking side. Serious juice with a whimsical back-story. What’s not to like?
About the vineyards
The grapes for the 2013 Casaeda Cabernet are blended together from a variety of Napa appellations but the Oak Knoll contribution deserves special recognition. In the 2013 vintage, Oak Knoll really came of age, when this rising growing region (made official in 2004) provided some of the most sweetly perfumed Cabernet in America. Jaw dropping quality. This area played an integral part in Napa’s story as it hosted the first European grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon. Prior to that, it was all Mission grapes. Tasty, but not exactly what we think of when we go for a bottle of Napa red! This area is a hotbed for cult-styled Cabernet, with stars like Darioush, Blackbird, Emerson Brown and Selene all pulling fruit to bolster their highly-decorated wines.
About the winemaker, Karen Culler
Karen Culler is a living legend. She made her first wines as a child, helping her father and grandfather make wine at home. After learning the ropes in the cellar at Robert Mondavi winery, she departed in order to realize her unique vision for Napa wine. She started her namesake winery, Culler wines, and added winemaking duties at Renteria Wines, Casaeda Wines, Wolf Family, and most notably, the mountain majesty of Ladera. Her unwavering commitment to bold, concentrated and authoritative Cabernet has led to her wines being called “Cowboy Cabernet” and her demonstration of talent at Ladera led Bill Harlan himself to eventually negotiate the purchase of some of their vines for his new $500+ label, Promontory. Unfortunately for Bill, Karen’s winemaking doesn’t come as part of the deal!
95 points, Julie Tesar, Certified Sommelier
"A Cabernet Sauvignon of exquisite tension and compelling aromatics, a wine like this is exactly why this vintage has received such praise and adoration. Luscious aromatics of baked plum, red current, black cherry, cassis, pomegranate, and black raspberry are met with well integrated notes of vanilla bean, clove, cinnamon and fresh tobacco. Mouth-coating and rich, the lush texture is balanced by round, velvety tannins and poised balance. A wine with exceptional charm now, as well as longevity for many years to come."
95 points, Davis Smith, Certified Sommelier
"Casaeda’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is remarkably approachable now. Pomegranate, black cherry, black tea and blackberry jam all jump out of the glass. The fruit for this wine is sourced from all over the Napa Valley providing the winemakers with a wide palette of flavors and aromas to choose from when putting together the blend. In 2013 they added 8% Merlot to great effect, softening the wine and adding a touch of Merlot’s telltale plush plum fruit to the mix. This wine is equally well-suited to special occasions or Tuesday night grill sessions as it is wonderful with a number of different proteins from chicken to lamb to steak and other grill fare."
"Karen Culler makes some of the most delicious and fairly priced Cabernets in Napa Valley. There is so much to love about these classy, harmonious wines, it’s hard to know where to start."