5 Value Sonoma Cabernets

California reds at a bargain


Having just returned from Sonoma, I had the opportunity to taste many fine wines from the area. Being our GTiCabernet month of September, many of those were Cabernet-based.

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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  • Why do you recommend wines that are not available?

    Sep 28, 2011 at 4:03 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,748

    Sometimes I taste wines before they are released, other times we may not have a wine avaialble from a participating retailer on Snooth but that does not mean the wine is not avaialble. Other time the wines are not available in your region. I get this question all the time from readers in Europe for example. Which wine do you find to be unavailable? The AVV? It's available directly from the winery for example, and K&L currently shows it in stock.

    Sep 28, 2011 at 4:18 PM

  • Snooth User: addieline
    841558 11

    Maybe there is one out there somewhere. I found one on a Raley's or Safeway shelf unusually, and bought it. It wasn't long ago that I could still buy this 2007 at Bevmo or Total Wine.

    Sep 28, 2011 at 4:22 PM

  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 156

    Pedroncelli available all over bay area, not sure about these two vineyard specific wines. The other three are at Costco. I agree that these are good buys. Costco has the Martini for 10.49.... I have bought it for years, but try to lay it up an additional 2-3 years to let it mellow out -- I prefer it to their Napa version which is $3-4 more, more approachable early on, but less body. Alexander Valley is good, just started drinking it, could use a few more years. Rodney Strong is about $12 at Costco, very drinkable. I also like Sebastiani, Simi Valley, etc from this price range in napa/sonoma. Also under $20 at Costco is BV Rutherford, and Starmont.

    Sep 28, 2011 at 4:59 PM

  • Snooth User: addieline
    841558 11

    The 2009 Alexander Valley Vineyard is listed but the 2007 vintage label is featured? I prefer the 2007; not available now.

    Sep 28, 2011 at 5:19 PM

  • Snooth User: steve666
    392767 156

    @addieline Most of these wines need a few years aging.... last night opened a petite sirah from 2006, hadn't had any for 18 months, much better now. In general, all medium to full bodied reds get better with age.....it just takes patience. Buy three bottles, drink one now, if not to your liking, put the other two away and forget about them. I started this way and now have 600 bottles in my stash; actually, been buying too much wine in the last few years.... wine instead of clothes.

    Sep 28, 2011 at 5:24 PM

  • I did have an opportunity to intern at Alexander Valley Vineyards under the watchful eye of Kevin Hall. I consider his Cabernet Sauv. to have a wonderfully floral nose!

    Sep 29, 2011 at 8:49 PM

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