During the last few months we reviewed several Cabs in the $10 to $49 range. Several performed very nicely and most were recommended. Our tastings spoke well of the quality of Cabernets at this level. Even though several of the top wines were near the higher end of the price range, there were winners at all levels.
The winner of our big blind tasting is no stranger to the KensWineGuide.com Tasting Panel. The 2006 Michael and David Phillips “Earthquake” Cabernet from Lodi took top honors with a score of 92 points. At $28 this full bodied Cab is a lot of wine for the money. The panel described it as very nicely balanced, smooth, and elegant. It displayed very tasty mild black currant flavors with notes of coffee, bacon, and milk chocolate. The panel felt this Cab would be perfect with a grilled Kobe Steak and a cigar. For those of us who don’t like cigars, we’ll take 2 glasses please!
Our second place finisher from our big blind Cab tasting was from Stuhlmuller. Their 2006 “Alexander Valley” Cabernet for $36 was quite impressive and we scored it Very Good+ and awarded it with 91 points. This Cab is medium bodied, smooth, and shows very nice finesse. The flavor profile is a delicious black currant with notes of black cherry. It finishes rather dry, but its building fine tannins show nice length. We decided this would be a pleasant offering with filet mignon.
The next two Cabs also scored 91 points and were covered by me in two separate tastings. The first Cab is from a new producer for me. The 2007 Koyle “Royale” Cabernet from Colchagua, Chile is a steal for $24. I reviewed most of the lineup from this producer and this was my favorite wine. It is full bodied, very nicely balanced, and silky. It displays very tasty black cherry flavors with notes of spice and a touch of black pepper. It is an elegant Cab that delivers a lot of enjoyment for the money. You should seek out this producer and this wine for your holiday parties. The next wine is one of the last wines I tried on my trip to California this summer. I liked it so much, I bought a bottle to give to my cousin as a housewarming gift. Hope you enjoyed it Kevin. So what was this great gift giving wine? It was the 2006 Caravan “Estate” Cabernet for $40. Caravan is the second label for Napa based Darioush. The 2006 vintage turned out to be my favorite Caravan Cab to date. It was medium bodied, very well balanced, smooth, and elegant. I found it to be very approachable and a tasty blend of mild raspberry and black cherry. Kevin I hope you served it with a big thick cut of prime rib!
Our next 3 wines all scored 90 points and came in under $30. The first wine is a big winner for you, our readers. Why? Because it is a 90 point wine that costs $15 and they made 121,000 cases of it. So it will be real easy to find. So what was this little gem? It was the 2006 Sebastiani “Sonoma County” Cabernet. It is showing very well right now and it is clearly one of the best Cabs in this price range. It won its mini-blind flight in a tasting of its peers. It is well balanced and very silky with tasty mild black cherry flavors. It is very food friendly and would be a perfect party option for you upcoming holiday parties.
The next two wines finished in 3rd and 4th place in our big blind Cab tasting. They were virtually tied. The 2006 Chateau Ste. Michelle “Canoe Ridge” Cab ($28) from the Horse Heaven AVA in Washington was very well received. This balanced and savory Cab displayed spicy blackberry flavors with interesting hints of dark chocolate and licorice. The panel felt Cab would nicely complement a pork roast with porcini au jus or roasted duck. In fourth place by a few % points was the 2006 Charles Krug Cabernet from Yountville, CA. For $23 this wine is quite a deal. Post 390 in Boston even has it on this glass pour list. I complement them on this fine choice. Especially from those of us who really appreciate a quality wine when ordering by the glass. The panel found this wine to be nicely balanced and rather smooth with ripe blackberry flavors. Notes of black currant, nutmeg, and black pepper all added to this wine’s charm and intrigue.
The next 2 wines conclude our 90 point winners. Both these Cabs come in at a higher price point, but are certainly worthy of your consideration. The first is the 2006 Reininger “Walla Walla” Cab for $38. Reininger’s Walla Walla offerings always seem to finish strong every year. This Cab was in one of our mini tastings and it took first place. It is full bodied, balanced, and quite polished. I really enjoyed its oak infused boysenberry flavor profile. Notes of bacon and black currant added to the intrigue. I felt that this was a Cab that Old World fans would really appreciate. Try it fireside this winter with a nice big plate of beef bourguignon. The next wine was the winner of a different mini blind flight of Cabs that ranged in price for $20 to $50. It was the 2006 Volker Eisele “Estate” Cab for $42. Better yet for you Green fans, this wine is made from 100% organic grapes. It was full bodied, well balanced, rather smooth, and elegant. It’s mild black cherry flavors with notes of blueberry and a dash of wintergreen were very well received. We feel this very tasty organic Cab would pair well with many foods. But we settled on a NY strip steak in the near term as the best match.
The next group of wines were all very solid offerings and they all received 89 points. There are a lot of familiar names in this group, as well as a few new ones. The first one is the always Very Good. The 2007 Concha y Toro “Marques de Casa Concha” Cab for $20 from Puento Alto, Chile was deemed to be best deal when the results of our mid-tier blind tasting were revealed. It is well balanced and very smooth with oak infused sour black cherry and red currant flavors. The panel suggested that this Cab would particularly appeal to Old World Cab fans especially at this price point. Next up was another very good deal from Chile. The 2007 Koyle Cab from Colchagua, Chile is a steal at $16. Better yet, they made 4,000 cases so you should be able to find it. But since it is a new label, you might have to educate your wine buyer and have them order it. This Cab is medium bodied, well balanced, and fruit forward. The flavor profile is a tasty blackberry with notes of black pepper and anise. It would be perfect with an Angus bacon burger.
We next move to some offerings from the Napa Valley. The first up is the 2006 Viader “Dare” Cabernet for $45. This solid Cab is full bodied, balanced, and fruit forward. It displays juicy boysenberry flavors with notes of mild black currant and a dash of black pepper. Its noticeable dusty tannins make it perfect for beef stew in the near term.
Next we covered the 2005 Freemark Abbey Cab for $35. This food friendly Cab would be perfect with comfort foods like Theresa’s meatloaf or shepherd’s pie. It is a contrast to the Dare in that it is medium bodied, balanced, soft, and elegant. It projects juicy and fruit forward black cherry flavors while maintaining its very approachable status. The finish is well managed with mild tannins making it a winner with food. It should be easy to find with 11,168 cases made.
Silverado is a familiar name from the Napa Valley and their 2005 Cabernet for $46 was Very Good. Like the Freemark, it was medium bodied, very nicely balanced, and elegant. However, it has a completely different flavor profile, featuring tasty black currant with notes of black licorice and black pepper. The panel would pair it with a leg of lamb or filet mignon in the near term.
Next we will focus on two Very Good Cabs from the Alexander Valley. The 2006 Sebastiani “Alexander Valley” Cab for $30 was slightly outshined by its little brother as noted above. But over the years, we have found this wine to be a late bloomer. Out of the gate, one panelist described this young Cab as hedonistic. Another called it luscious. So as you can see it is a big wine. Its flavors were an extracted ripe blackberry with notes of black currant. So try a bottle now with duck and save one for next year. We are sure it will reward you for many years to come. Staying in the Alexander Valley, we recommend the 2006 Ferrari Carano Cabernet Sauvignon “Alexander Valley” for $36. While this Cab is not overly complex, we think it was a solid offering. We found it to be medium bodied, balanced, smooth, and really coats your mouth. Its finish is dry and its building tannins are rather pronounced and linger. Like the Sebastiani, this Cab needs a little time to completely come together. However, if you can’t resist you could enjoy it with a pot roast in the near term.
If you like fruit forward, ripe, and juicy Cabernet, we found a Very Good one for you. The 2006 Beringer “Knight’s Valley” Cab for $20 is just what you are looking for. It is medium bodied and smooth, with fruit forward ripe and concentrated juicy blackberry flavors with a hint of anise mixed in. A perfect option for duck with a raspberry glaze topping.
The last 89 pointer is the 2007 Reininger “Helix” Cabernet from Columbia Valley, WA. It is just a step behind its big brother listed above. This offering is medium bodied, nicely balanced, and smooth with a pleasant blend of black cherry and vanilla oak. This big Cab would pair well with beef bourguignon.
Other Very Good offerings to consider:
1) Kendall Jackson 2006 Cab “Grand Reserve” (Sonoma County) $30 (88)
2) Robert Mondavi 2006 Cab “Napa Valley” $28 (88)
3) Alexander Valley Vineyards 2007 Cab (Alex Valley) $20 (88)
4) Stark Conde 2006 Cab “Three Pines” (Jonkershoek Valley, SA) $42 (88)
5) Raymond 2006 Cab “Reserve” (Napa Valley) $35 (88)
6) Seven Hills 2006 Cab “Seven Hills Vineyard” (Walla Walla) $32 (88)
7) Two Angels 2007 Cab “Mayacamus Mtn” (Sonoma Valley) $28 (87.5)
Bargain Cabs: Less than $16:
In the Bargain Bin space we found 3 Cabs that qualified as Very Good and 4 that are Good+ and worthy of you consideration. All would be good Practical Party Case options for your holiday parties.
The best deal is the 2006 Windmill Cab from “Lodi” for $12. This wine scored 88 points and was a solid second place finisher in a mini blind tasting flight of affordable Cabs. It is full bodied, balanced, and soft. The wine has 11% Petite Sirah mixed in which adds to its structure. It displays oak infused black currant flavors with notes of dark chocolate and black cherry. It’s a pleasant and easy going Cab that has some character that would pair well with a big thick mushroom and Swiss Angus burger.
The next 2 Cabs both come from Argentina and are Very Good. They were given scores of 87 points. The first is the 2007 Vina Dona Paula “Estate” Cab for $16. This offering was medium bodied and balanced with slightly sour black cherry flavors that are quite jammy. It would be a perfect wine with a big thick burger. The other Argentinean offering was the 2008 Elsa Bianchi Cab for $9. This offering was full bodied, balanced, smooth, and easy to drink. Its mild black cherry and black currant flavors are gently infused with some old oak. This wine would pair well with Theresa’s meatloaf.
The last 4 Cabs are all Good + wines that are very affordable and Good values. They are a safe choice for your next party or as a pub glass pour option.
1) Cono Sur 2008 Cab “Bicycle” (Central Valley, Chile) $10 (86)
2) Man Vintners 2007 Cab (Coastal Region, S. Africa) $11 (86)
3) Columbia Crest 2006 Cab “Grand Estates” (Columbia Valley, WA) $11 (86)
4) Gallo Family 2007 Cab “Sonoma County” $15 (86)
We hope you have as much fun going through all these Cabs as we did. As you can see, there are plenty of quality options from the low end to the mid-price range. Stay tuned for our High-End Cab post in the next week or so. They make great Gifts for Christmas!!
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