As captured in the book “The Judgement of Paris,” in 1976 British wine merchant Steve Spurrier arranged a blind tasting competition pitting top quality French reds and whites versus then-unknown California reds and whites. As fate would have it, Napa Valley’s Stag’s Leap won against stiff competition against Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion, amongst many others. Many years later, it would seem that Stag’s Leap, along with Joseph Phelps Insignia (1974), Caymus (1975), Opus One (1980), and Dominus (1983) have gone from being upstarts to the establishments, with the pricing to reflect their status.
Call him cocky, but Les Belles Collines proprietor David Pan didn’t think that the “Big 5” of Napa was measurably better than his. Les Belles Collines’ flagship wine was made in a similar style as the other wines – big, bold, expressive Napa fruit balanced by a firm structure and long-grained, smooth tannins. The core of Les Sommets was sourced from vineyards in the heart of Napa. The winegrowers were pathologically selective in the vineyards. The harvest crew was even more discriminating on the sorting table. After multiple sorts, only perfect grapes were used. The grapes endured both extended cold soaks and post-fermentation maceration to draw out color and depth of flavor. Only the finest new French oak from Taransaud, Dargaud & Jaegle, and Francois Freres was used.
On paper, David sure did everything the right way. But how about the taste? The only way to tell was to PK, and David’s not one to step down from a challenge. So in late September, after spending a long day in the vineyard harvesting the 2013 crop, David got together some winegrower and winemaker friends to PK these Les Sommets versus the other five Napa classics.
So… who won? Well, David’s humble enough to admit when he’s lost a fight, and in this contest first place went to Dominus with a score of 94.3. Les Sommets came strong with a second-place showing of 93.8, followed up by the other four wines.
So what’s so great about second place? In David’s eyes, nothing. He’s disappointed he didn’t win. But his loss is your win, because at this price point it sure beat some fantastic wines.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot
Deep purple to the rim with a luxurious nose of crushed black fruits, boysenberry, and violets, lightly perfumed with new-wood cedar. Rich, bold, and massive on the attack, this wine is laced with flavors of blackberry preserves and black cherries. The wine is beautifully focused, chewy but with ripe, supple tannins and a plush texture. The wine has a long, persistent finish that is high-toned and vibrant. Drink now for its youthful opulence or lay down for a decade in a cool cellar.
- 2017：Wine Enthusiast 95
- 2016：Wine Enthusiast 94 (Cellar Selection)
- 2015：Wine Enthusiast 95
- 2014：Wine Enthusiast 95
- 2013：Wine Enthusiast 94 / James Suckling 92
- 2012：Wine Enthusiast 93 (Cellar Selection) / James Suckling 91 / Robert Parker 90
- 2011：Wine Enthusiast 92
- 2010：Wine Enthusiast 91 (Cellar Selection) / James Suckling 93 / Vinous 91
- 2009：Wine Enthusiast 94
For the Trade
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Wine Enthusiast 95
Juicy and broad in inviting red fruit, this wine has a backbone of classic structure and focused acidity that give it lift and length. Blended with 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, it spent two years in new French oak, which adds elements of baking spice and toasted brioche.
Wine Enthusiast 94 (Cellar Selection)
This wine is a study in power and structure, with classically entwined elements of red fruit, earth, herb and graceful tannins. Pencil shavings, cedar and currant give it a savory contrast and add to the length. It will do well in the cellar. Best from 2026–2031. Cellar Selection.
Wine Enthusiast 95
This vintage contains 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, and it was given two years in entirely new French oak. Time has treated it well, allowing effusive fruit to layer along a wall of robust, rewarding texture and savory spice.
Wine Enthusiast 95
This is a complex, beautiful red wine, blended with a handful of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Aged two years in all new French oak, it shows a full embrace of dark cherry, currant and cedar flavors. Classic, boldly textured and well integrated, it is structured and ready for the cellar. Best 2024-2031. Cellar Selection.
Wine Enthusiast 94
This small-production wine is dense in currant and licorice tones, both generous and lengthy on the palate. Firm tannins lend solid structure, with ample acidity to balance. A clove flavor adds depth to the fruit and lingers on the enduiring finish.
Wine Enthusiast 93 (Cellar Selection)
This is a gorgeous wine, blended with 8% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot and 1% Malbec, and aged entirely in new French oak. Juicy waves of cassis and red currant are accented by dark chocolate, ultimately showcasing a lush, plush yet structured palate. It’s decadent now, but should age well through 2022.
Wine Enthusiast 92
Black and dense in yeasty baked bread and olive, this is a Cabernet-heavy wine with small amounts of Merlot and Petit Verdot. Black licorice, plum and tobacco play against each other within the thick, concentrated texture, tied up nicely by a long, tobacco-stained finish.
Wine Enthusiast 91 (Cellar Selection)
Enormously ripe blackberry, cherry jam, cassis liqueur and oak flavors mark this Cabernet. The tannins are thick, but complex, giving the impression of a young wine that still needs time in the cellar. Give it until 2017 at the earliest. Cellar Selection.
Wine Enthusiast 94
The grapes come from vineyards in St. Helena and Rutherford It’s an inky black, dry, powerful wine with intense flavors of black cherry red and black currant an dark chocolate plus floral and mineral notes. The tannins are strong but sweet and refined. Showing lots of class, this can be consumed now, and it will also age for 8-10 years.