Ackerman Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Napa Valley – After the relative elegance of 2002, I found many 2003 North Coast reds to be a bit brutish, and I have a strong affinity for wines that whisper more than shout. I would also have to admit to a prejudice regarding such wines, at a minimum, believing the elegant wines to be more likely to age gracefully. But the damning admission would be that I am as often wrong as right about the ageability of some of these wines with big tannins and warm fruit. The 2003 Ackerman strikes me as such a wine: the label says 13.5%; I find that rather unlikely. The tannins have some grit to them; there is an earthy element that is more humus than stone. But the fruit is ample (if a bit warm and stewy), the oak deft and compelling. If I am suggesting that this wine is not particularly elegant, I can also state (perhaps confusingly) that it is aging very elegantly. But this drives to the crux of the biscuit as I admit to a frequent misapprehension of Napa Cabs such as this: instead of hanging on to its hard edge, it has perceptively softened and widened its layers of flavors. A touch of spearmint, black plums and black cherry compote, elegant spice and barrel elements in the moderately long finish. Short version? I would gladly serve this to my European friends who doubt California’s ability to be true to their traditions and to make lovely ageable wines nonetheless.