Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2018

Deep ruby color; plum, raspberry, cherry, blackberry, vanilla, oak, cocoa, baking spice on the nose and palate, with blackcurrant tang on the mid-palate.

Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2018

Dry; significant, grippy tannins—full-bore decant if you are drinking now, or allow it to age another five-plus years. Polished, sophisticated, almost creamy after the decanting. Moderate acidity. Bold, full, rich, and generous with red fruits in the mouth. Bella Union is a label of Far Niente, part of the firmament of high end Napa stars.

Blend of 88% cabernet sauvignon, 8% merlot, 2% cabernet franc, 1% malbec, 1% petit verdot. Primary fruit came from Far Niente’s 25-acre vineyard in Rutherford, along Bella Oaks Lane, a country road historically called Bella Union. Vines primarily are 20-30-year-old cabernet sauvignon. Malbec, cabernet franc, petite verdot sourced from select Napa vineyards. Fermented in 90% stainless steel, 20% open-topped, 80% closed-topped; 5% open-top neutral wood; 5% concrete. Aged 18 months in French oak, 50% new and 50% neutral. Andrew Accurso was the winemaker. 14.5% ABV

John Benson founded Far Niente (Italian for “without a care”) in 1885. Benson was the uncle of famed impressionist painter Winslow Homer. Noted architect Hamden McIntyre designed the original winery building. Constructed against a hillside, Far Niente is a gravity-flow operation, no need for pumping of juice.

Far Niente vineyard, winery

Far Niente operated as a winery until Prohibition in 1919. Abandoned, it fell into disrepair until Gil Nickel purchased the winery and vineyards in 1979, beginning a three-year effort at restoration and rehabilitation. Wine production resumed in 1982. The winery focuses only on cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. In 1998, a bottle of Far Niente Sweet Muscat 1886 was discovered in a private cellar. The bottle retains its original label and capsule and is believed to be the oldest intact bottle of California wine in existence.

Far Niente in disrepair after Prohibition
Far Niente winery today

The winery notes: “Bella Union specializes in the art of blending Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It was founded in 2012 by the partners of Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel, who, for more than 30 years, have been growing, making and enjoying Napa Valley Cabernet. Bella Union is the natural next step in our evolution as Cabernet winemakers.”

In 2023, Far Niente Wine Estates received approval from the Napa County Planning Commission to build a new home exclusively for Bella Union. A press release noted: “Founded in 2012, Bella Union exemplifies the creative vision of the winemaker, elevating the art of blending by meticulous sourcing of grapes from Napa Valley’s top appellations. Guided by the vinous expertise of Far Niente Winery, Bella Union has been working with the pedigreed DeCarle Vineyard in Rutherford for over a decade, producing the wines nearby on Bella Oaks Lane.”

The new facility will be a renovation and restoration of the former Provenance winery. This continues a Far Niente legacy of restoring historic properties in Napa. The facility will offer indoor and outdoor tasting experiences in addition to producing wine.

Far Niente interior
Far Niente wine caves
Far Niente vineyard
Far Niente vineyard

Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2018 delivers concentration, complexity, and robust red fruits. This is serious Napa cab. Decanting highly recommended; those grippy tannins also augur for significant aging opportunity. Bella Union is a label of Far Niente. This is their “entry level” effort. It is in the $60 range, but their more site-specific offerings go for twice as much or more. Pair with beef, especially well-marbled cuts, ribeye, short rib, strip, flatiron, kobe, wagyu; lamb; wild game—venison, boar; pork—baby back ribs. Cheese—cheddar, aged gouda, gorgonzola; aged cow’s milk cheese with some age; semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese with some age; slightly firm, soft-ripened cheese with earthy notes like triple-crème brie. $58-66

Bella Union website

Far Niente vines
Far Niente gardens
Far Niente floating solar panels