Castiel Estate, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Castiel Estate, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Castiel Estate, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

California, United States 2018 (750mL)
Regular price$185.00
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Castiel Estate, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

My recent adventures in the Napa Valley have taken me up into the mountain appellations that flank the broad valley floor, and let me tell you: To literally climb into a growing zone like Howell Mountain is to get a unique perspective on the greatness California Cabernet is capable of. The wines of Castiel Estate may not yet have the name recognition of Dunn, or O’Shaughnessy, or either of the Roberts (Craig/Foley), but that day is fast approaching. As far as I’m concerned, it’s today!

This muscular and luxurious 2018 is Howell Mountain Cabernet at its finest, and when you learn about the dream team behind it, you immediately understand how an estate whose first commercial vintage was 2014 can deliver such an assured, perfectly representative wine. Veteran Napa viticulturist Jim Barbour handles the vineyard side, while in the cellar, it’s star winemaker Celia Welch, who, in addition to crafting Barbour’s namesake wines, has made wine for the likes of Staglin, Scarecrow, Kelly Fleming, and her own label, Corra. A whopping 382 cases were produced of this hand-farmed and hand-crafted wine, so act fast if you’d like up to four bottles today. This is cutting-edge Cabernet with a big, bright future ahead of it—in 15 years, when this bottle will still be singing, you can say you “knew them when.”

And by “them” I mean Dave and Kathleen DiCesaris, owners of Castiel Estate. The couple met during a visit Dave made to Napa’s historic Freemark Abbey Winery, where Kathleen was working at the time. Their shared mission to focus on “place first” informs every decision they make around their wines, which are sourced from vines at roughly 1,600 feet of elevation, in Howell Mountain’s distinctive mix of iron-rich red clay and compacted volcanic tuff. Putting Jim Barbour in charge of vineyard management was a wise choice: He draws on more than 30 years of experience planting and working some of Napa’s most acclaimed vineyards, and teams up with Celia Welch not only on Castiel’s wines but those of his eponymous label, Barbour wines.

The Castiel project has a laser focus: Showcase their high-elevation mountain site in wines from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Welch, whose winemaking resume is long and distinguished, is no stranger to bespoke Cabernets of this type, and, to her credit, this wine isn’t just a collection of cult wine bells and whistles but a genuine wine of place. In 2018, harvest was carried out in mid-October and the two clones of Cabernet planted in the site were vinified individually. The wine aged 20 months in 70% new French oak before bottling.

What strikes me most about the 2018 Castiel Estate is its combination of density and lift. So many luxury-tier Napa Cabernets are hedonistic to the point of being overblown. This one is certainly enjoyable now, but there’s a tightly coiled energy to it that bodes well for aging. In the glass, it’s an opaque ruby/purple and delivers a textbook array of Cabernet Sauvignon aromas and flavors: cassis, blackberry liqueur, black currant, cedar, graphite, bay leaf, and cocoa. It is full-bodied, with a Howell Mountain muscularity to it, but the tannins are fine-grained. There’s just the right combination of brawn and elegance. If opening a bottle soon, decant it about an hour before serving at 60-65 degrees in large Bordeaux stems. It needs a regal meal and should be enjoyed at a slow, thoughtful pace—the same treatment you’d give the best classified-growth Bordeaux. Best-in-class Cabernet deserves nothing less! Cheers!

Castiel Estate, Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

United States


Columbia Valley

Like many Washington wines, the “Columbia Valley” indication only tells part of the story: Columbia Valley covers a huge swath of Central
Washington, within which are a wide array of smaller AVAs (appellations).


Willamette Valley

Oregon’s Willamette Valley has become an elite winegrowing zone in record time. Pioneering vintner David Lett, of The Eyrie Vineyard, planted the first Pinot Noir in the region in 1965, soon to be followed by a cadre of forward-thinking growers who (correctly) saw their wines as America’s answer to French
Burgundies. Today, the Willamette
Valley is indeed compared favorably to Burgundy, Pinot Noir’s spiritual home. And while Pinot Noir accounts for 64% of Oregon’s vineyard plantings, there are cool-climate whites that must not be missed.


Santa Barbara

Among the unique features of Santa Barbara County appellations like Ballard Canyon (a sub-zone of the Santa Ynez Valley AVA), is that it has a cool, Pacific-influenced climate juxtaposed with the intense luminosity of a southerly
latitude (the 34th parallel). Ballard Canyon has a more north-south orientation compared to most Santa Barbara AVAs, with soils of sandy
clay/loam and limestone.


Paso Robles

Situated at an elevation of 1,600 feet, it is rooted in soils of sandy loam and falls within the Highlands District of the Paso Robles AVA.

New York

North Fork

Wine growers and producers on Long Island’s North Fork have traditionally compared their terroir to that of Bordeaux and have focused on French varieties such as Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

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