Review: Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

This is the first review in my Judgment of Paris wines series. I came up with the ridiculous idea of sampling recent vintages of each of the 10 reds and 10 whites represented in the famed blind tasting of 1976. This will probably take a couple of years to complete, but they say it’s good to have goals, right?

Freemark Abbey was one of 11 wineries representing Californian wine at the 1976 blind tasting event. In addition, Freemark Abbey has the distinction of being the only producer to have wines represented in both the reds (Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux) and whites (Chardonnay/White Burgundy) competitions. The wines entered were hand-selected by the organizer, Steven Spurrier. Each of the wines chosen were considered the best of the best, and was selected over hundreds of others. So even though the Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon placed 10th out of 10 entries, it’s still a very impressive showing.


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Freemark Abbey has no connection to nuns or monks, or any religious institutions for that matter. Nevertheless, the winery has an intriguing past, with many notable mileposts. Freemark Abbey Winery’s history dates back to 1886, when Josephine Tychson, a Victorian widow, built a redwood cellar on the site, becoming the first female winemaker in the Napa Valley. 12 years later, in 1898, a friend of Ms. Tychson named Antonio Forni bought the winery. He renamed it Lombarda Cellars in honor of the Italian town of his birth. Forni constructed the winery building which still stands today. The current name came about in 1939, when three southern California businessmen bought the winery. Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster, and Albert “Abbey” Ahern combined their names to form Freemark Abbey. Of course the role Freemark Abbey had in the 1976 Judgment of Paris, and the impact that event had on the Napa Valley, remains one of the winery’s crowning moments.

Freemark Abbey Cabernet 2012

Here’s my review of this historic Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon:

I decanted the wine for a little over an hour. Deep, inky purple color. Aromas of ripe blackberry, Marionberry, and cassis, with soft oak. As the wine opened up, the luscious aromas filled the room, and some light violet scent emerges. On to the tasting! This is a rich, full-bodied wine. There are flavors of blackberry, cassis, black plum, mild oak, and pepper. The tannins are soft and smooth. The berry and oak flavors continue into the medium-long finish, with the addition of some baking spice and dark chocolate. There is also a little lingering alcohol on the finish. Paired well with grilled ribeye and roasted rosemary potatoes.

4.0 Stars (88-91 points)

Total Wine & More: $32.99

So, one down, 19 to go! Now it’s on to the next one. Wish me luck!



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6 thoughts on “Review: Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

  1. thewineraconteur June 2, 2016 at 7:34 am Reply

    I look forward to this endeavor of yours, and it sounds fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Appetite for Wine June 2, 2016 at 8:26 am Reply

      Thanks, John! It should be fun. I’m glad to be able to share it with you!


  2. topochinesvino August 8, 2016 at 10:05 am Reply

    I really loved this article. My wife and I and some out-of-town friends will be making the trip to Freemark Abbey in two weeks. We live in Napa but haven’t been. Check out and follow our wine country blog: Our Father’s Day article describes our chance meeting with one of the legends of the Judgement of Paris – check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Appetite for Wine August 8, 2016 at 10:45 am Reply

      Thank you so much! And thank you for the follow; I’m now following you, too. What an amazing experience you had on Father’s Day! I’m envious!

      I like what you are doing with your blog. Like you, I enjoy seeking out those “off the beaten path” gems, and exploring lesser known regions. While major producers have a lot to offer, there is so much to explore beyond the big names!


      • topochinesvino August 8, 2016 at 10:49 am

        Okay, I have to tell you what else happened with Grgich. We joined the wine club and called to see if we could sneak into Grgich’s 4th of July/40th anniversary/Croatian independence day party the following week. Nope. Sold out, they told us. But an hour later they called and said that Mr. Grgich had read my blog and was so moved that we would be coming to the party as his guests. My wife and I sat with his daughter (runs the wine ops), her husband and kids, and her mother. As my daughter would say, “Shut up!”

        Liked by 1 person

      • Appetite for Wine August 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

        That’s amazing! What a great story. I know a lot of winemakers, from my involvement with, but none so legendary as Mr. Grgich. I agree with your daughter: “shut up!”

        Liked by 1 person

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