2018 PlumpJack Estate Merlot Napa Valley


Savory spices like sage, clove, and nutmeg swirl around blackberry, blueberry, and dark cherry. Jeb Dunnuck calls this “a big, rich, pedal-to-the-metal beauty,” and we couldn’t agree more. Perfect balance and sweet tannins complete the picture in this remarkable example of both region and vintage. It’s no surprise that this big wine has snagged this big score. What a perfect pairing for a nice, plump burger by the grill.

If we were to pick just one Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to blast into interstellar space for aliens to try when they stumble upon it someday, that wine would be Plumpjack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon from Oakville. In our view it is the most flavor-packed, complex, complete bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon that you can buy, in pretty much every vintage. Plumpjack is in one posh neighborhood, with Screaming Eagle, Rudd, Bond St. Eden, and Dalla Valle all nearby. This is Oakville’s (and the Valley’s) absolute sweet spot, near the crossroads of Oakville Cross and Silverado Trail. Their Cabernets are absolutely spectacular, stuffed to the gills with ripe cherry fruit and red rose perfume—and very fairly priced compared to the neighbors.

Aaron Miller
18 months
Oak Treatment:
90% French Oak Bordeaux barrels, 10% American Oak barrels
Napa Valley
Total Varietal Composition %:
94% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2$ Malbec
Alcohol %:
Score Wine Advocate:
Score Wine Spectator:
SKU #:
750 ml Bottle

Jeb Dunnuck

Incorporating 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec, the 2018 Merlot sports a dense purple hue as well as a killer nose of cassis, black cherries, spring flowers, tobacco, spice, and even a hint of menthol. Rich and medium to full-bodied, it has a seamless, elegant texture, flawless balance, and a great finish. This is pure class and one heck of a great Merlot as well as a value. Enjoy bottles any time over the coming 7-8 years, if not upwards of a decade or more.


Wine Spectator

Well-structured, with a minerally core of vibrant red cherry and currant flavors that feature hints of green olive. The well-knit finish is spicy, with lots of chocolaty overtones. (KM)


Wine Advocate

The 2018 Merlot is a blend of 94% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Malbec. Deep garnet-purple colored, it sails out of the glass with expressive notes of blackberry pie, stewed plums and sautéed herbs plus hints of tar, black pepper and fertile loam. The palate is full-bodied and laden with juicy black fruit flavors, supported by soft, rounded tannins and bold freshness, finishing with a lively herbal lift. (LPB)