$20 Domestic Cabernet

Attractive examples from Washington and California


Well, we did what we could. We recommended all sorts of wines for the holidays, but we know you’re going to buy what you like this holiday season. Why shouldn’t you?

Drinking what you like and being happy with what you’ve bought is the real key to successful holiday wine shopping.

I know you love your Cabernet, so here’s a round up of some attractive examples from Washington and California. I was about to add in several other options, from South America, Australia and South Africa in particular, but I opted to keep this list fairly simple instead, with wines that are easy to compare.

I also tasted a handful of wines from the bigger producers and a really attractive selection from Paso Robles that will be published over the next two days. For today, I present a short list of great domestic Cabernet Sauvignons!

Photo courtesy timbrauhn via Flickr/CC

2007 Seven Hills Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 13.5% $24

Earthy and deep with soft dried lemon peel accents to the lightly spicy, graphite-laced black currant, black olive and rosemary fruit. This starts off with bold fruit but quickly reins itself in, presenting a lovely, rounded mouth feel. This is built  on ample soft tannins and brightly integrated acids that perk up the black currant and plum skin fruit very well. The oak is present here, obvious but playing second fiddle to the fruit, which has lovely purity. My only beef here is that the finish is a bit short, yet succulent. Really a lovely example of Cabernet, and it really is about Cabernet. 91pts

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2008 Nelms Road Washington State WA 14.1% $20

This shows some jerky, tarragon and black pepper notes on the nose, along with pencil lead and black fruit. Ultra smooth in the mouth, one might be tempted to say this lacks structure. The structure is there, just with excellent balance. The fruit is small and spicy. There is a fair amount of oak here, more than I might like, but the wine feels so elegant and composed in the mouth and finishes with such lovely poise and clarity to the black currant fruit, that I might be tempted to ignore all that wood spice. This may not be for me, but it’s an excellent wine. 91pts

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2006 St. Supery Napa Valley CA 4.1% $25

A bit savory on the nose, with a touch of green olive early on that leads to some stony notes, a nice touch of leather and bright red currant fruit, gentle edged with tomato leaf and cedar notes. This is soft and broad and very easy in the mouth, with good acidity and lots of polished, softened tannins pulling at the edges. The flavors show nice complexity with the Cabernet fruit still fairly intense. It’s joined by a touch of earthy mushroom and a hint of parsnip that pushes the red currant fruit up on the back end and through the long, well fruited and complex finish. This really shines on the finish, showing impressive persistence and complexity. 91pts

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2008 Kenwood Jack London Sonoma Valley CA 14.5% $24

This is smoky and dark, with a nice blend of baking spices, ancho chili, licorice and black fruit. Rather rich and very smooth in the mouth, this packs in lovely fresh plum and raspberry fruit layered over well judged tannins. There’s a nice accent note of wood spice, vanilla and cedar that builds on the back end then relaxes across the raspberry finish. Highlighted by juicy acidity. Nice fruit persistence. This shows some nice restraint. 89pts

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2007 Martin Ray Santa Cruz Mtns CA14.4% $24

Dusty and mineral on the nose with a low wood spice note, a bed of tomato leaf, nettle and ivy herbal nuances, and rather crisp if small black currant fruit. Inky on entry and deceptively soft, though this is a low acid wine. The wine spreads out with dark tarry and inky notes across the palate, showing off rather fine, if small toned flavors of black currant, black raspberry, vanilla and candied green anise seed. The combination of a slightly medicinal character, bright fruit and the lovely spice notes on the long finish is very attractive and presents a somewhat unusual flavor profile. The low acid here makes this a bit harder to love. 89pts


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  • Snooth User: mbakich
    Hand of Snooth
    890341 2

    Where was the selection from Paso Robles?

    Dec 20, 2011 at 4:10 PM

  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 4,003

    With a little persistence, you can often find the St. Supery for under $20, even as low as $16. It's a buyer's market for wine right now, and the "value" Napa Cabs and even some of the stars can be had for a great price.

    Dec 20, 2011 at 5:22 PM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 238,749

    The Paso reviews go live tomorrow. A great set of wines that really outperformed.

    Agreed, some of these wines are just not moving, and not due to quality or value.

    Dec 20, 2011 at 5:27 PM

  • Snooth User: speros99
    1010147 1

    Write your comment here.

    Jan 02, 2012 at 10:31 AM

  • Snooth User: speros99
    1010147 1

    Write your comment here.

    Jan 02, 2012 at 10:31 AM

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