Global Tasting Initiative - Cabernet

A round-up of 12 Cabs for under $15


One of the top questions I get at Snooth is, "Where are the values?" It’s not surprising that folks are looking for deals, and they usually are interested in their favorite wines, so it’s not surprising that Cabernet Sauvignon values are the most frequent request.

With our Global Tasting initiative (GTI) program geared up once again I thought the time was right for a value Cabernet Round-up.  We assembled a baker’s dozen, 12 wines under $15.00 and a long-time favorite (priced very fairly at $20, I might add) to use as a benchmark.

How did our budget wines fare?  Well, I found a remarkably solid $7.00 wine that duked it out with wines costing twice as much and a particularly fine Cabernet that is readily available at $13.00 or less.

What's a GTI?

Our GTI, or Global Tasting Initiative, is a great opportunity to share your tasting experiences with the Snooth community. We choose a region or grape and create a thread in the Snooth Talk Forum to discuss what we taste, and ask questions about the wines of the month. Our focus this month is on Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab-based blends. So, come on down to the Snooth Forum and let us know what you’ve been tasting.
It was not surprising that the Louis Martini, this is the Napa bottling, came in first in our tasting. It is, after all, the most expensive wine by a significant margin. What was surprising to me was how well the Main Street showed. It’s a really well made wine that captures the richness of California without become clumsy in any way.  It’s a crowd pleaser that I would be happy serve to friends and family.

Close on its heels was the LangeTwins Cabernet. This is my first experience with LangeTwins and I have to say I am duly impressed. The wine may not be what I look for in a Cab, but I bet plenty of people will be very happy with the rich, sweet fruit and lush feel of this wine.

There was a crowd of wine that followed garnering 86 or 87 points, but for me there were two standouts that set themselves apart stylistically. Of course, since neither was from California, that is no surprise. I loved the freshness and purity of the Fox Run from New York.  I would love this wine paired with a seared veal chop over arugula and with some heirloom tomatoes sliced over it!

The Pepperwood Grove was another wine that I enjoyed drinking. This inexpensive (we used to call them fighting varietals! Remember that?) wine reminded me of less expensive Bordeaux more than Napa cab, yet with ripe, fresh fruit. It may not be made in a popular style but it showed a touch more elegance and balance than many of the bigger, more powerful wines.  It’s a great wine at the price.

Read all of the reviews after the jump.

1 2 next

Mentioned in this article


  • Snooth User: zinfandel1
    Hand of Snooth
    154660 1,085

    I agree with the Louis Martini cab. They consistantly put out good wine at a fairly bargain price.
    I am a little bit leary on trying wine from the finger lakes. I have bad momories of their wines going back 25 or 30 years ago. They really were not very good then. I know that from what I read about them, they have come a long way. Maybe I'll give them a shot.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 2:34 PM

  • Snooth User: Seabrooker
    167088 56

    Why look further than Root 1? Costco (which also have fabulous Amador Zin at $12.49 or so) sells it at around $8.50. It's better, IMHO, than Pepperwood, the only one of your picks that I've tried.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 2:39 PM

  • Snooth User: iamadonut
    289261 6

    This is a "value" cab tasting but you don't mention the price of each bottle on this page? Isn't that a big factor that we should be able to compare against without having to clickthrough to an individual bottle page?

    Apr 22, 2010 at 2:48 PM

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

    I don't mention the price of each since the prices may vary. When I have mentioned prices I've gotten tons of emails telling me I'm either getting ripped off or getting a special deal because the writer is finding the wine for much more. You can't please everyone all the time, and while price is an important consideration, the notes on the notes are the point here.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 3:27 PM

  • Snooth User: iamadonut
    289261 6

    How about retail prices? I always see 'em in WE articles/comparos. Or even specifically call out how much and where you got it, just to allay any fears of special treatment for wine writers (which you'd have to disclose anyway by law now, right). I just feel there's a bit of a disconnect when in your third paragraph you mention a "$7 wine" and a wine available for "$13 or less" but then after the jump there's no mention of price again. My 2 cents.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 3:44 PM

  • Snooth User: MSG3003
    71735 15

    Gregory, what a disappointing list - the CA-centric focus on value Cabernet is misplaced. You can find much better quality value Cabernets from WA state, from particularly widely distributed wines - the Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Cabernet or the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet (both below the $15 mark and well reviewed). Time to give WA state its props!

    Apr 22, 2010 at 4:06 PM

  • I had discovered Pepperwood Grove a few years back. Seems to be consistently good and at times Safeway even sells it for as low as $5.00 a bottle. It's also a great deal at Trader Joe's. Well worth it if trying to save $$ and go for taste.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 4:07 PM

  • Snooth User: jodiml
    421428 6

    Has anyone else tried the Avalon Napa Valley Cabernet? Cabs are usually my favorite, and I thought that one was great (though I'm certainly no expert). I think I paid like $14 for it. Certainly not the cheapest but I thought it was a great wine for that price.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 4:20 PM

  • Louis Martini!

    Apr 22, 2010 at 4:23 PM

  • Martini cab. gets my vote...on sale for $12.99 right now.
    Also liked the Avalon cab....must try Pepperwood Grove next time....

    Apr 22, 2010 at 4:43 PM

  • Apart from the Louis Martini, I have yet to try any on the list. This may be because I am in London and slightly disconnected from many of the Napa's apart from a few large names and these other less-popular regions in the US that may not fair so well in Europe. That said, I tried an excellent Cab from Margaret River Valley, Western Australia called Ringbolt. It honest to goodness is a great steal for the taste. Had I not purchased it myself, I would have expected a higher pricetag. I'm not certain price on the stateside, but it is only 8 pounds here. Presuming the bargain sticks, I estimate around 12 or 13 USD a bottle? If you can get your hands on it, definitely give it a taste. It's sure not to disappoint.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 5:20 PM

  • OK, a little google-searching and I may have jumped the gun on the "bargain" of this 2007 Ringbolt I discussed in my previous post. It is more in the lines of a $20 bottle, so perhaps on the highest end of 'bargain' but for what's in this bottle, I assure you, it's still a great bargain!

    Apr 22, 2010 at 5:27 PM

  • Snooth User: Hope WA
    438554 1

    MSG 3003 hit the nail on the head. Washington State cabs are as good as or better than anyplace else in the world. Last year Wine Spectator named the Columbia Crest Reseve Cab Sauv #1 in the world. Counting only the cabs on the list there were 5 from WA state, 3 from CA and none from NY.

    Why the anti-Washington bias here?

    Apr 22, 2010 at 5:33 PM

  • Once again I love Paso Robles - J Lohr "Seven Oaks" Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon right in the price range but tastes like a lot more money.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 5:45 PM

  • Got to agree that Washington State cabs are as good as anyplace. Red Diamond is great for a pretty low price. Total Wine sells a blend of cab, merlot, zin and petit sirah called "Kitchen Sink". It's my favorite and it's a mere $9.00 a bottle.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 7:26 PM

  • I love McManis Cabernet - for $10 or so, it's one of my favorites!

    Apr 22, 2010 at 7:30 PM

  • Snooth User: lindoda
    420411 7

    Nartini is usually a good choice. Just recently picked up a Thomas Fogarty cab (2005) from Costco that was really nicely balanced and reasonably priced.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 8:02 PM

  • Snooth User: BBQ Phil
    330232 13

    Most (not all) of the wines listed allow you to click on the name to get a sense of price, so I'm not sure what is missing here regarding the comments that prices are not shown. You just need a ballpark as many factors will affect what you actually pay for local retail.

    I am making the assumption that all of these are "drink now" choices, but I would also be interested in some value cabs that may be a bit too young now, but affordable to put away for a period of time; call it "Value Collecting"!

    Apr 22, 2010 at 9:37 PM

  • c'mon folks, enough harassing Greg about retail pricing. Do some traveling and you'll see that due to strange tax differences from city to city and state to state it wouldn't even apply. First, I am frequently expounding here about Washington State cab, so I agree with that. I like the Martini, and drink lots (!) of Avalon. I've looked at Pepperwood Grove many times and passed on it because I didn't like the label for some reason. I also love the GSM wines from Paso Robles, and belong to Tablas Creek. Their wines, along with sister Perrin Fils, are so good. But, we are talking Cabernet here; sorry, I just get pumped up with this forum. Greg is a wine god. Thanks again buddy.

    Apr 22, 2010 at 10:18 PM

  • In the business since '75 in WA. Cheap WA cabs are undervalued. Expensive ones overpriced, especially Walla Walla. Greg is "right on" most of these. PPWd has always been hit or miss but the "hits" can really be good. $4.99 at Rite-Aid. ColCrest 2V '07 Cab very good again at RA for $5.99. Good article.

    Apr 23, 2010 at 4:42 PM

  • Snooth User: hhotdog
    Hand of Snooth
    78705 481

    Louis Martini has been a winner with me...good price good cab! pepperwood...have had it ...don't remember getting another bottle? LangeTwins Cabernet will try and hope i agree!! my recent suggestion: grayson cellars 2008 cabernet sauvignon california lot 10. around $10 a bottlle and easily worth $15 talk about a great everydayer and then some!!

    Apr 23, 2010 at 11:01 PM

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

    Thanks Swillfellow!

    I think the Pepperwood is probably a more variable than average wine. I'm guessing they make more than one lot of a given vintage. This bottle did pretty damn well!

    Apr 26, 2010 at 4:31 PM

  • Snooth User: hhotdog
    Hand of Snooth
    78705 481

    is that particular bottle of Pepperwood still available greg?

    Apr 26, 2010 at 11:12 PM

  • Snooth User: ksimback
    226880 33

    I agree with Jodiml - the Avalon Napa cab is a great value and can often be found in the $9-11 range.

    I must also say that WA has some great values, especially with the big producers. Look for Columbia Crest H3 (Horse Heaven Hills) at Safeway in the $11-12 range. Also Ch. St. Michelle is consistently good.

    Apr 27, 2010 at 4:45 PM

  • hi Snoothies
    Toasted Head Cab Sav I found to deliver some pretty good value for a $12 to $15.00 bottle.

    Apr 27, 2010 at 11:56 PM

  • Snooth User: cjinca16
    417486 2

    agree with the few of these i have tried, but Findleton Estate Winery offers a fabulous Dancers Cabernet Sauvignon that will wow your cab senses! Seriously, it really is that good! Rich, deep, full and the only wine I have with Beef!

    Apr 28, 2010 at 8:23 PM

  • I have to agree with most evaluations on here and appreciate the tips on those I haven't tried. I will definitely try the Root 1. I have seen it at Costco but not knowing anything about the label I have passed on it. I too just don’t feel compelled to purchase the Pepperwood Grove wines when I look at their , although they have received some good press.

    I especially like Louis Martini, J Lohr , Robert Hall from Paso Robles and Firestone's cab, although it is not what it once was when the family owned the label.

    I still have a few bottles of '03 Louis Martini that I got on a case sale back in 2005 and it still drinks great which is a lot for a wine at that price point. I suppose I should make a concerted effort to finish it off and try something more recent.

    May 03, 2010 at 7:34 PM

  • Snooth User: jleavitt
    444876 24

    Ok, so I guess the message here for the washington state wine drinkers is go out and get yourself some california wines if you really want a value? My personal feeling is that you could easily replace any of the top three wines on this list with a Col-Crest or a ste michelle cab, if you want a good wine that is ready to drink from the first couple of swirls try the 14 Hands Cabernet $8.99 and it is very smooth and has a nice peppery note with a fruity finish. By the way, what was Wine Spectators 2009 wine of the year........wasn't it wine that would qualify for your list from washington state? Shame on !!!!

    May 05, 2010 at 12:46 AM

  • Snooth User: z235e49
    199151 5

    i agree with the last 2 posters

    columbia crest makes a delicious cab for about $9
    j lohr makes a delicious cab for about $13

    May 06, 2010 at 1:22 PM

  • Snooth
    You folks have a tendency to show wines I can not
    find anywhere. I call them Phantom wines!.
    The wine shops in my area of N.J. (NO GOT)
    I try to get in touch with the vineyards ,they seem to busy to reply. How about suggesting wines that I can eventually get into one of my wine glasses
    Lou Sisbarro

    May 07, 2010 at 7:46 PM

  • Snooth User: admiral44
    250911 117

    MSG3003, and Moreorless are right on. I have been tasting Washington and California wines for many years now, roughly 600 a year and most fall in this price category, seeing as I put togther a wine list for a restaurant that cannot have very high priced wines. Louis M. Martini from Napa and Sonoma are fantastic for the price and so is the JLohr "7 oaks", they are in my opionion some of the best for the buck and they always sell well. WA cabs are as good and maybe a little more structured then CA cabs at the same price point, Cht St Michelle and Columbia crest do many good things, 14 hands is a terribily made wine and I despise even though it is one of the top selling WA wines in WA state. When it comes down do it , it comes down to preference, and for the price I prefer CA cabs to WA cabs even though there are MANY WA cabs that should be considered more. Greg does a good job and I like his taste, Esser and Toad Hollow are two great CA cabs for the price and I love the taste. Keep up the good work but maybe look to WA and Australia a little more for these categories. Good article. P.S. If you want to buy 14hands please look for another wine, such as an Esser, Red Diamond, Columbia Crest, and Louis Martini, you wont be disappointed and probably only spending 2 more dollars. For a left field wine that I suggest to replace 14hands is Don Miguel gascon Malbec.

    May 07, 2010 at 7:47 PM

  • Snooth User: playde
    300067 2

    I love Louis Martini and can consistently find it for under $10. Two other wines not mentioned that I love in this catagory are 2006 Avalon Napa Valley (not california, and haven't tried the 2007 which I just purchased) and Clos Robert North Coast Cab. I have found both at sales just under $10 stocked up, but they regularly list at$12 - $13

    May 08, 2010 at 11:32 PM

  • Snooth User: playde
    300067 2

    Also in response to Admiral44, his wine selections are very good. Although I love the Cht St Michelle wines in the $20 - $30 price range. I also will say that while I find the Gascon Malbec very drinkable and a bargain with the recent rebate(now expired- $6 after rebate) the wine does not compete with many of the quality cabs in the $10 - $15 price range, but if you can find it under $8 it is a very drinkable wine to go with dinner.

    As a price reference point - my every day wines are in the $8 - $13 price range. I own about 200 bottles of wine, but only 10-12 are above $40.

    May 08, 2010 at 11:43 PM

  • Snooth User: phoebe1
    468149 7

    Root:1 - fabulous!!!!!

    May 11, 2010 at 1:59 PM

  • Snooth User: maxrioual
    574708 1

    canyon road cabernet try it. $8 a bottle. fabulous.

    Sep 09, 2010 at 9:04 PM

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    2181817 28

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    2269301 1,514

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