Monster Halloween Wine: ZD Abacus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley XVIII

This Halloween, if you really want to blow minds and scare money out of your wallet or purse, consider a wine unlike any other. It is made by  ZD winery, which has grown for three generations under the deLeuze family. They make great Napa Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but their organic Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in Rutherford is top notch.

How about we ease into things:

$75 will buy you ZD’s 2013 Cab: a fresh-faced, bright red cherry driven wine with light vanilla, mint, and coconut (thanks to old school American oak). It feels medium bodied, soft yet brassy, ringing like a small bell with acidity, and mild tannins perfect for grilled chicken with a balsamic glaze, charcuterie. It is very good (4 of 5) with years to go.

If you feel a bit more serious, $210 will buy ZD’s 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. It rings with concentrated red cherry liquor, fresh blackberry, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder. The palate feels drier, wooded, grippy, toasty, serious, yet smooth enough. It loves triple creme brie, lean meats, even dark chocolate. It is outstanding (5 of 5) and could peak in five more years.

But enough dancing around the tombstone. If you really want a shocking Cabernet, unleash ZD’s Abacus XVIII Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from its black alligator-skinned, red velvet-lined coffin:

Abacus Box


This one bottle holds twenty four vintages of ZD Reserve Cabernet. Yes, in 1992 ZD decided it would be fun to start a solera program, holding barrels of Cab, bottling some 15%, then topping them off with the next vintage. Like Count Dracula, that old Cabernet will live forever on the blood of the young.

Today’s XVII’s retains a small portion that original Cabernet grown when Clinton became president, films like Wayne’s World, Aladdin, and Batman Returns graced the cinema, and Euro Disney was built. Good times.

So does Abacus time travel or taste like the undead?

Abacus Wine

The APPEARANCE looks a clear, medium intense garnet with a seamless bricked edge and doughy legs.

Intense AROMAS swarm the entire glass bowl and carry skyward.  Violets, fresh and dried glow, like the fanciest potpourri imaginable. Ripe blueberry and black cherry liquor get layered into mocha, dried black vanilla bean, and soft caramel.

The dry PALATE, pings about with brambly acidity, rich, whole-grained tannins, a nearly full body. But be wary of sediment.

Intense FLAVORS kick about the palate with twangy orange peel, tart red and yet ripe supple black cherry, lightly toasted cedar, and dried tobacco that last endlessly.

Twenty four years form a synced cacophony of murmurs and shouts.  Each vintage, some tired, some hot, some bright, some dark, all call for attention.  We overuse words like complex or unique with wine.  But ZD’s Abacus stands alone. It is outstanding stuff (5 of 5). Honestly, do not worry about pairing anything with it.

One would expect oxidation or sherry-like notes, but ZD has avoided that. Also, this wine does not really evolve open.  It also has no reflection in mirrors.  Days on, it remains just as fresh yet shadowy: trapped in time.

The real scary part though, a three bottle pack will burn $1,950 of your hard-earned cash (or get a three liter bottle for $5,250). Then again, they only produce twelve barrels and it will age forever.  Dracula’s castle might need to rent rooms on AirBNB.  But its hard to put a price on imortality.


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