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charles krugNapa Cabs have a reputation for being over-the-top, high alcohol fruit bombs. But as with most stereotypes this is a half-truth that misfires badly in describing Charles Krug’s higher-end offerings, which emphasize balance and elegance over power.

The 2010 vintage was especially difficult. With cold, wet weather persisting into the harvest season, many Napa producers aimed for elegance because a lack of development in the vineyard ruled out big and powerful. But the soft, suppleness of Krug’s best wines is not an aberration.

Blackberry with a blast of Napa Valley dustiness opens the nose, contextualized by soft, round mocha notes and subtle, restrained cedar despite 21 months in new French oak. Intense dark fruit leave an initial juicy impression on the palate but it evolves into licorice and a medium length herbal finish. This is a dry wine with ample acidity that never even hints at being big and cloying. Concentrated yet of medium weight and svelte, it is all about poise and polish, a wine so well-behaved even your mother would be impressed. The tannins are already soft and pleasant. Although the wine will age 6-8 years it is ready to drink now. If you’re looking for a versatile food wine in the money-is-no-obstacle category that doesn’t need a steak to weaken the sensory assault, this is the one.

Score: 93

Price: $81