“J” La Jota. Howell Mountain. 13th Anniversary Release.

Thirteen is lucky. For Bill & Joan Smith who sold the La Jota brand to the owners of Markham just about two years ago, this 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon speaks to me about why I fell in love with cabernet in the first place.

The dark, inky, almost purple color shouts “mountain fruit”, while the nose reeks of dark, dark cherry, cassis, anise and even a tad of dark chocolate truffles. On the palate it’s seductive. This wine is eight years old but has the playfulness of a monster barrel sample, yet with refined and sweet tannins. Dancing on the palate I relish the flavors of blackberry, toffee, caramel and a finish of black cherry, slight spice, graphite and perhaps a hint of chocolate or mocha flavors. It goes on and on. . Find this perhaps for a good price on auction (retail price currently about $150 at internet wine shops such as Wade[base ‘]s Wines or Marin Wine Cellar) I love this wine. Actually pulled a cup and threw into a hearty pot roast dish I cooked for what is turning out to be another cold October night in Southern California. Hence, the hearty meal and bold wine. 96 points. This wine contrasts dramatically with a another Napa cab from the same vintage — 1994 Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon — that I sampled last night. Also mountain fruit from the other side of Napa Valley high atop Mt. Veeder, the Hess exhibited less structure and complexity with interestingly brighter fruit. The wine was beginning to show its age yet was pleasant in a simple way. Finishing a tad short with more berry flavors, spice and earth. Drink this wine if you own it. It’s not going to get any better. 87 points.