10 Top Napa Cabernets Under $50

Discover the exciting and versatile side of Napa Valley Cabs

Quite complex on the nose with plenty of savory oak-derived spice but one also finds insinuations of herbs, fudge, espresso, and truffle notes embedded in dark, plummy fruit. This is crisp and seamless on entry, though a paradox of freshness and very ripe fruit flavors. The oak is well integrated, not nearly as prevalent as on the nose forming a backdrop for the dried plummy fruit that does see some red cherry, red currant shadings emerge with air. The tannins are well measured, adding a touch of volume yet remaining mostly discreet right through finish, which does show plenty of oak toast-derived nuances as well as red berry fruit leading to a touch of heat and sweetness on the finale. 91pts
Leafy and light at first, with slow-to-build aromas of earth, light toast, cocoa, and crushed berry fruit emerging with air along with a gamy mutton-like edge.Smooth with juicy acidity on entry, this is full of dark berry fruit wrapped up in Tootsie rolls and damp earth. The tannins are a bit drying and relatively abundant on the palate, adding a little dry nuttiness which also hints at some dried herbal notes along with dark plummy fruit that leads to a spicy, dry finish. There's a lot of wine here, I'm just not sure that the oak and tannins will ever come into balance. 91pts     

This is wide open on the nose with dark fruit topped with plenty of spicy oak notes and accents of vanilla and  eucalyptus. Broad and appealing on the palate, this shows some fairly dry tannins, but they don't detract from the bright red cherry, cranberry fruit of the mid palate. This does turn dark and powerful on the backend and through the moderately long finish, which shows a nice return of fresh red plum fruit. 91pts

Sweet tarragon-inflected aromas of raspberry coulis greet the nose along with allspice, hazelnut and cherry accents.  Very Stag's Leap in style with masses of sweet, red fruit in a smooth slightly low acid style that shows off very ripe, plush tannins. There's lovely cherry, red plum and dried cranberry flavors here that are nicely framed with coffee, cream and caramel notes from well judged oak. The texture is supple and smooth, nothing sticking out and nothing missing right through the moderately long red fruit, coffee, cream and caramel-tinged finish that ends with a touch of red hots.  91pts 

Vanilla, herbs, leather and cassis great the nose along with a light graham cracker framing note. This smells fairly ripe but with some freshness to the fruit. That ripeness shows on the palate as well with its slightly low acid and bold flavors, though that freshness is also at play here offering up lovely ripe tannins to support the herb and earth-tinged black fruit and slightly jammy plummy notes on the mid palate. The finish shows a bittersweet chocolate edge along with jammy blueberry and blackcurrant fruit, all ending with a dash of nutty oak. 91pts

Cocoa, coconut, mocha, and lovely herb notes come together on the nose here which also shows off some peppery spice and attractive blackcurrant and light peach aromas.This is smooth and a touch soft, with lower acidity than the basic Calistoga cuvée. The fruit is also a bit more intense, slightly chewy with blackcurrant flavors wrapped around toasty spice, a touch of mocha and some peppery notes. The finish shows off fairly big black fruit with a lingering nutty oak note. Rather smooth, this lacks some of the definition of the basic bottling, but does offer up both more complexity and richer fruit. 90pts

A little sweet but rather perfumed on the nose with fresh berry fruit, pencil shavings and a bright, fine herbaceous edge. On the palate, this is complex and deep, smooth and large-scaled, somehow big and powerful but in a relatively feminine way, with dusty tannins supporting tons of fruit. There's a subtle savory edge framing the fruit with just a suggestion of dried and candied herbs, a little minty, serving as a top note. The finish is a touch short, leaving this very front-heavy. 90pts
Gentle on the nose with an early meaty note, followed by a nice blend of balanced tarragon, wet clay, Middle Eastern spice, eucalyptus and spiced cherry aromas. Rather precise and focused on the palate with attractively fresh blackcurrant and black cherry fruit early on that are joined by a little wood spice and gentle earth notes on the mid palate. The finish is bright and juicy with stiff if fine grained tannins and a nice rush of wild raspberry fruit accenting red plummy fruit. There's a nice edge of tension to this wine, with fruit that is pleasantly ripe. 89pts

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Top Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
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Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon (2007)
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Turnbull Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville (2009)
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Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District (2009)
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Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (2010)
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White Cottage Estate Risa Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
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Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (2009)
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Groth Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville (2008)
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Peju Province Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (2009)
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Markham the Philanthropist Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)
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  • Snooth User: Richard Foxall
    Hand of Snooth
    262583 2,866

    One observation I want to support is that the vintages are often overplayed. But that represents an opportunity. Most of the top wineries are not going to release a dog in an off-vintage. Instead, they'll cut back on volume if need be. But when the next "successful" vintage hits, they will still have product. That's the time to go out and buy that 2008 Chappellet, or Hall, or... well, name it. You'll get a good price and probably a more age-worthy wine than the overdone, overripe wine that opened to big reviews. I concur that the '07s aren't really playing out to be special, while the less-vaunted '06s have rocked me as they have developed. And what deals there were, between the hype for '07 and the tough economy they were released into and tough times at some of the smaller producers.

    Feb 28, 2013 at 3:21 PM

  • Snooth User: PrpleTeeth
    480990 18

    What? No Caymus Napa? Really?

    Feb 28, 2013 at 4:45 PM

  • Snooth User: dryhopped2
    544495 25

    Purple, maybe you missed the "Under $50" title. Ive tasted several of this list and it is refreshing that GDP has selected many that are not in the Caymus "big, sweet fruit bomb" neighborhood that the Wagners seem to like. Wanna good Syrah? Check out the Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Pinot Noir!

    Feb 28, 2013 at 5:33 PM

  • While its not technically "under $50" Hall's Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is typically a standout in any vintage at $50 a bottle.

    Feb 28, 2013 at 7:11 PM

  • Snooth User: EMark
    Hand of Snooth
    847804 5,303

    Crap. I'm seeing several of my favorite Napa Valley producers on this list. That will do nothing to keep the prices of these wines reasonable. ;-)

    Interesting that several of these wines could have qualified for the "Under $25" list.

    Feb 28, 2013 at 7:58 PM

  • Snooth User: pt1240
    568862 6

    I drank the shit out of Napa and Sonoma cabs in the late 80s and 90s....Schafer Hillside Select, Caymus Special Select, Silver Oak, Frogs Leap, Grgich, Opus One, Silverado Reserve....loved Stag's leap the best. Ex father in law was a huge distributor so I was fortunate....never experienced the cults....i.e., Bryants, Screaming Eagle etc....however truly believe that Calis are worth the money as this article evidences. Bordeaux blows away every wine on this list - I can find a handful of grand crus for 25 bucks that destroy all this over-oaked high alcohol tannin.

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:35 PM

  • Snooth User: pt1240
    568862 6

    ...correction - meaning Stag's Leap district the best, not the vineyard, and that California wines are way overpriced and inferior to French wines. IMHO they have lost their way - Stag's leap has the terroir but I refuse to pay 250 bucks for a Shafer Hillside Select.

    Feb 28, 2013 at 10:41 PM

  • Snooth User: JonDerry
    Hand of Snooth
    680446 2,927

    Nice Greg, I haven't seen a report of yours with scores this high in a long time. With fair to bargain price points, these look like must try's.

    Mar 01, 2013 at 12:12 AM

  • I was hoping Red Mare Wines would make this list. Perfect for this category!!!

    Mar 01, 2013 at 1:20 PM

  • Snooth User: teddz
    880703 28

    pt1240, Am all ears for any recent Bordeaux Grand Cru for $25. Tough to find cru bourgeois for that price these days.

    Mar 01, 2013 at 5:00 PM

  • Snooth User: MarkRogers
    1454508 26

    Um. Chappellet is listed with a Chardonnay? Caymus should be here.

    Jan 17, 2014 at 11:01 AM

  • Snooth User: Gregory Dal Piaz
    Hand of Snooth Voice of Snooth
    89065 198,575

    Thanks for pointing out the error. Seems like the Chardonnay and Cabernet pages were merged since this was originally published. I've corrected the listing. Caymus certainly has its fans!

    Jan 17, 2014 at 12:29 PM

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