During a visit to help my mother celebrate her 85th birthday in the SF Bay Area, Jean and I managed to escape up to Calistoga on Dec 31 to "take the waters," then set about finding a winery or two that was open for tasting on New Year's Eve. Corison, alas, had closed at 1 pm, and neither Chateau Montelena nor Storybook Mountain was open, so we took a chance on our return and swung by Clos du Val on the Silverado trail. It had been many years since I last visited, but I retain the fond memory of some of Bernard Portet's early vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon, so -- spurred by Brian Miller's support for their style -- we gave them a shot. Fortunately for us, they were open and doing quite a brisk business in their tasting room (a former barrel room). Again, fortunately for us, an older employee named Fred immediately guided us to an upended barrel and gave us the lowdown on their tastings. For $20, we were entitled to three wines from either of two lists they had. I informed Fred of my desire to try their Cabernets and he arranged a sample of 4 drawn from the two lists. I started with the 2008 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Stag's Leap District which had a classic nose of red berry fruit with some green tobacco leaf notes. On the palate, it had a freshness from the vibrant acidity and a deep core of fruit. I was struck by the classic lines of the wine, which for me stirs nostalgic memories of Napa Cabernets from bygone eras. Fortunately, Fred was a sympathetic audience and soon was reminiscing along with me. Next up was the 2009 State Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, which was an 85/15 blend with Cab Franc. The Cab Franc character was clearly evident in the nose of roasted coffee and leafy herbacecousness. On the palate, it had a savory appeal with firm acidity. The next wine was the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Three Graces Blend, a blend of CS, Merlot, CF and Petit Verdot. The nose was red fruited the leafy herbaceous notes and a touch of VA. On the palate, it was tightly structured with firm tannins and acids but beneath that was a deep core of fruit. It seemed to me to be a hybrid of the first two wines, with the fruit of the SLD Cab and hebaceous qualities of the State Lane. It also seemed clear that it could age for a decade or two effortlessly and was our favorite wine of the lineup. My fourth wine was the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. It's nose showed darker fruit, more in the vein of cassis, along with a briery sense of tannins and some slight heat. On the palate, it was painfully young and very tight, but with a solid core of fruit and great structure to again see it for a few decades of development. As we discussed vintage characteristics of 2008 and 2009, Fred mentioned that he'd recently had the '98 Reserve Cabernet and was struck by its youthfulness, whereupon I countered with my recent experiences (posted here) of the '98 Chateau Montelena Estate. He also mentioned the '78 Clos du Val Cab Reserve, a wine that I recalled fondly from my early days of wine drinking. Shortly thereafter, Fred returned with a bottle of the 1998 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, which as promised was still very youthful with chalky tannins still in evidence and a savory complexity atop just enough fruit. We thanked Fred for the hospitality and left with a bottle of the Three Graces (which had the $20 tasting fee deducted from its price). Overall, I was struck by how they have remained true to the old school style of Napa winemaking and still produce wines that are decent values for Napa today. My only regret was in not trying their 2009 Cabernet Franc, which they were sold out of.