There are some really great wines out in Sonoma, some even world-class, but sadly, many come with a world-class price tag. Of course, not all wines are beyond the reach of the everyday drinker. And, you know what? Some of the less expensive Cabernet give their more expensive brothers a run for their money.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of many of the Cabernets I tried, but none impressed me more than these top five values. It just goes to show you that you don't always get what you pay for. With just a little searching, you can find amazing values that deliver the real deal, and all under $20 a bottle. Rock on Sonoma! Rock on.
2009 Alexander Valley Vineyard Wetzel Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon $18
Lots of black spice on the nose with nice herbal elements over a pure cassis base. Bright and crystal clear in the mouth with ripe tannins and fine acids supporting a core of beautiful black cherry fruit. There’s some nicely integrated oak here, though it’s adding a bit of sweetness on entry, but this is classic California Cabernet full of fresh black fruit and accented with hints of herb and bell pepper. The weight is medium to medium full and while there’s plenty of richness here the wine is far from heavy. Perhaps it is a bit simple but what it does deliver it delivers exceptionally well. 90pts
2008 Pedroncelli Morris Fay Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley $19
A bit of herb greets the nose along with a hint of chili accenting the big deep core of black currant fruit. This is fresh with nice complexity featuring a dose of wood spice. Soft and rich in the mouth with youthful tannins that remain a bit angular though they are well covered by the red cherry fruit. This is rather big and round in the mouth, very smooth on the back end a fairly long with black raspberry and spice tones on the finish. The tannins really are lovely here, with their palate cleansing astringency and while no blockbuster this is pretty classic. 90pts
2008 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Coast 13.5% $14
Quite chocolaty and black cherried on the nose with a bit of heat showing with deep smoke and a nice chalky eucalyptus top note adding some complexity. Smooth and a bit sharp on entry with bright acids adding lift to the black cherry fruit. This is rather clear if a bit coarse with nice backing spice tones offering contrast to the fruit. The tannins are a bit rough, a bit obvious as is the oak, but it’s not out of balance with the fruit which rally powers through on the rather long finish. This has a raw quality to it, and is a bit clunky, but at the same time a bit endearing and there’s no denying the fruit persistence here. 88pts
2009 Pedroncelli Three Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Caberent Sauvignon $17
Smoky on the nose with a nice perfumed nose that features loamy soil tones. Tight and focused in the mouth with a very clear and transparent core of red berry fruit with gently earthy tone and a nice mineral edge leading to the moderately long finish. Perhaps a bit simple but nonetheless a pleasure to drink with fine richness and good inner mouth tension. 88pts
2009 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 13.8% $14
Slightly musky dark cherry fruit is framed with hints of bittersweet chocolate, toasted oak, and a hint of coconut. Rather lean and low on entry then turning richer with a nice core of red berry/cherry fruit that offers up nuanced notes of coffee cream and slightly medicinal red licorice. The tannins are ample but sweet with plenty of balancing acidity keeping this fresh in the mouth. The finish shows of some sour cherry, a hint of vanilla and some nice cedary spice with a touch of pomegranate on the finale. Solid, ready to drink Cabernet with a few years upside. 87pts