Wine Talk

Snooth User: lingprof

A decent Cab for $10?

Posted by lingprof, Dec 20, 2010.

Hi all.  As the holidays approach I feel a need for recommendations in the el cheapo style.  My neighbor is hosting xmas dinner, and I agreed to bring the alcohol.  But there will be about 40 people there, most of whom know nothing about wine, so they want me to bring something cheap but not spit-out-worthy.

My neighbor really likes Cabs, and all the wines I like under $10 are obscure grapes or blends.  I think a Cab or two would be "safer."

I live in CA where we have about 2.37 billion wines for sale at $10, most of which I've never had.  Any recommendations?  I figured I'd just go with domestic.  Here are some I'm considering:

Sterling, vintner's collection


Courtney Benham, napa


Any ideas you have of cheap, easy to find, crowd pleasing but not awful cabs would be much appreciatied....


Reply by lingprof, Dec 20, 2010.

p.s. I thought I had bought the perfect wine at trader joe's.  it's called "tribunal".  a kick ass red blend for 10.  Two days later every tj's in the area was sold out of it.... grrrrr

Reply by JonDerry, Dec 20, 2010.

Hi Lingprof,

For $12.99 I'd feel good about stocking up with Chateau St. Michelle 2008 - Indian Wells Cabernet.  Their standard Cab might even be a little cheaper, which would also be a good look.


Reply by JonDerry, Dec 20, 2010.

I forgot one rec...

McManis 2008 Petite Syrah - $10 retail price, + or - a buck.  Haven't tried this vintage, but it's getting good ratings on cellartracker.  Remember this being a big QPR hero in the past as well.

Reply by vin0vin0, Dec 20, 2010.

We held a small tasting (7 different bottles) last summer for cabs less that $15.  J. Lohr estate cab came out on top.  About $11 at Total Wine.

Reply by potvin, Dec 20, 2010.

I was very surprised with

Cabernet-Sauvignon L.A. Cetto Valle de Guadalupe 2008

for about 11,7$ 

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 20, 2010.

I really don't love the J. Lohr at the low end, but that's me, and it's probably because I have only had it at hotel restaurants/grills that had unimpressive wine BTG lists.  I have two recos from your Trader Joe's shelves: Liberte, which has a cool label, from Paso Robles. Also Liberty School, also from PR, which usually runs about $14 or so; you can often get the latter at CostPlus WorldMarket for about $10. BTW, I saw the Tribunal and wondered... plenty in stock at the Rockridge Trader Joe's in Oakland.  You could also have your local store call a few nearby.  In my part of the world, there are 3 TJ's within convenient distance. The McManis PetSir is usually in stock at TJ's and right at $10.  Many Snoothers like it--I haven't had it in recent memory, but these are trustworthy palates.  But it's pet sir, not cab.

If you are near a GroceryOutlet, Ramsay CabSauv North Coast has been a good bet and it's less than $10 there.  I am told by someone I trust that the Squarenail Napa is also good; it's often available there. (I bought one bottle but gave it as a present before I got to try it--the giftee liked it.) Finally, there's a decent Murphy Goode single vineyard designate, vintage '03 or '04 that I have had that's under $10. It needs to be drunk now, but that's what you are looking for. They cold be out.  A fun red blend at GroceryOutlet is Big Dog, by Bell Vineyards, $10, winery sold it for $20. Last I looked, they had quite a bit.

And at CostPlus or BevMo, Fess Parker's Frontier Red (hey, we lost him this year!) is usually right around $10.  It's a blend that tastes surprising like a big cab--probably because it's got a decent but not overwhelming amount of oak. Not necessarily the most elegant looking, however.

None of these are going to put Bordeaux or any of the top Napa producers out of business, but they are true to varietal (in the case of the cabs) and tasty at $10 or so. 

Reply by dmcker, Dec 20, 2010.

Quite frankly, I haven't had a California cab I like in the $8-15 range for years, since before Martini was bought out, changed their blend and hiked north with their pricing.

If you want a decent bottle of cab, not something that's sweetish, easy sodapopish drinking with about the spine and character of an amoeba, up your budget to maybe $20 and go for the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee. Better wines even further north, but that's a good starting point....

Reply by GregT, Dec 20, 2010.

Agree completely. 

Tried a whole bunch of sub-$20 Cabs recently, mostly old tried-and-true friends, but they're all sweet,  hot, and don't resemble Cab.  That Chappellet is one of the bargains on the market these days IMHO.

However, the idea of going w Chat St. Michelle isn't bad.  You can get their Merlot too - I always like it a little more anyhow and both are worthy efforts.

Or, as Foxall suggests, don't limit yourself to Cab. In fact, if it's for non wine types, you're probably better off with something else anyhow. Gallo's Rancho Zabaco wasn't bad - it's a Zin blend, or at least it was, and things like that and the Frontier red are decent wines w/out pretension and they won't set you back too much.  Cab can command higher prices for the same quality level so if you buy comparably priced Cab, you're lower on the quality scale.

I'm drinking a strange little Aleatico right now - not sure if it's a crowd-pleaser, but it's different enough that I'd consider doing different wines just so people could taste something like it.  Maybe some decent Shiraz, some Malbec, some Garnacha, and something from CA?

Reply by Lucha Vino, Dec 21, 2010.

The Penfold's Koonunga Hills Cab/Shiraz blend is a good choice at the sub 10 dollar level.

I agree with D and GregT on the Chappellet Mountain Cuvee.  We tasted that as part of the virtual Cab tasting and it was a winner.  But, twice the amount you are looking to spend.  I would recommend it when you are buying a bottle for yourself!

Reply by lingprof, Dec 21, 2010.

@Foxall:  thanks!  that was super useful.  I will try the McManis.  I would get the Tribunal and try it, if you can. I did call several local tj's, and one of them told me that *they* had tried to find it at other stores and couldn't.  Cost Plus is my favorite place for lower end wines at a good price

@Dmcker, @Greg and others:  Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of lovely cabs at home over $20 including the Chappellet Mtn Cuvee, which is one of the first wines of this type I ever tried (an earlier vintage).  But I don't feel like buying enough wine at that level for 45 people who mostly don't drink wine often.  ;-)  I think people who don't know tend to like cab more than other varietals.  But a pet sirah or malbec could be a good option.  Maybe some blends, two.  There's some cheap Rhone style blends that I like.

It's fun to hear everyone's thoughts.  Maybe we should have an el-cheapo under 10 thread to post in separately.....?

Reply by JonDerry, Dec 21, 2010.

@lingprof - Hey for the record I mentioned the McManis Petite Syrah 1st, but who's counting : ) - Hope you stock up on that item and it goes over well, as i'm sure it will. In reality jm & greg are on point, you're not going to find a decent cab at that price point. 

@jmdecker - The Chappellet Mountain Cuvee is a favorite of mine as well.  I bought the 08' @ Gott's roadside on a whim the last time I was up there in October, didn't really have much of an opinion on opening, but the next day I had saved most of the bottle and tried to down some of it at the last second on my way inside the Oakland airport.  Immediately got a ton of oak and fruit blast in my mouth - it was so harsh even the next day that I almost spit all the wine out, but I was able to choke it down and just threw the rest away.  Funny thing was I couldn't get that taste out of my head for weeks.  I read the 07' was a better vintage and ordered a few bottles for my cellar.  Cracked open another 08' the other night to refresh my memory and wasn't disappointed.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Dec 21, 2010.

Yeah, I totally give props to @JonDerry for the McManis PS--I said it's been a while since I drank it.  Either outthere or HondaJohn (I think) have mentioned it in many posts on value wines. There are threads on under $13 dollar wines, too.

@dmcker, et al: Decent Cal Cabs under or around $10 are nearly impossible to find outside the state, imo.  That's because the only way to get the good juice at that price is when someone good had too much on their hands and sold it to a private label bottler (not a cab, but an example is "Douglas Oaks Syrah" TJ's carried for a little while) or turned it loose through a discounter who does not advertise.  @dmcker, If you get a chance, try the Ramsay.  I haven't had it in a year or two, but we drank a lot of it a few years ago.  I can routinely get it for under $10 but only at GroceryOutlet.  (Where a certain Californian and I have been buying lots of cab for 10-15 USD that cost 65-85 in the old economy.)

I wholly endorse Chappellet Mountain Cuvee, although it's pretty tight when young, imo.  There's also a good bit of vintage variation, with a lot of Chap Signature fruit in, I think, the 2007 vintage.  Since the Signature was #6 in WS100 a couple years ago, that tells you something about the market right now.  You can get the Mountain Cuvee for under $20 at WineMine if you are passing through Oakland, or I did, anyway.

Reply by RexSeven, Dec 21, 2010.

Penfolds Koonunga hill Cab Shriz Blend.  Usually around $10.

Dona Paula Los Cardos Cab.  Usually about $12.

Reply by lingprof, Dec 21, 2010.

@jonD: official credit to you for McManis: will report back when I've tried it.  :-)

Has anyone out there had Susana Balbo's Crios Cab from Argentina?   (about $10 or $11)

Reply by Flamefighter, Dec 22, 2010.

The Estancia isn't bad but I would go for the St. Michele or add a couple of bucks and buy the Maritini, which you can get for around $12.  BTW what do you cook for 40 people or is it Pot Luck?

Reply by psworn, Dec 22, 2010.

Did a tasting of Running With Scissors tonight.

It was pretty damn good for $10~

Reply by Lucha Vino, Dec 22, 2010.

Lingprof - I have a few bottles of the Crios Cab that I purchased through Garagiste.  Here are my tasting notes.  It seems a bit young right now.

As another suggestion.  I am drinking a 2007 Owen Roe Sharecropper's Cab right now.  It is a big cab with lots of black cherry, spice and some cola and slight hints of chocolate and spice. 

Reply by Lucha Vino, Dec 22, 2010.

Oh, and here is a thread for under $10 red wines

Reply by wineguider, Dec 23, 2010.

Easy.  Five Rivers cabernet.  Total Wine, $9.  $11 elsewhere.

Jade Mountain cab, $12.

The Koonoonga Hills cab/shiraz suggestion above is also very good.

-Wineguider (

Reply by lingprof, Dec 23, 2010.

@vellovino:  Thanks for the links!  and I have the Owen Roe here for myself (haven't tried it yet) but at 15 it's a bit above this occasion.

@flamefighter:  The beauty of this is that I don't have to cook anything.  Providing the wine is my "potluck" part.  My neighbor is hosting and doing two turkeys (one in her oven, one in mine) and a roast.  The family/friends are bringing sides and desserts.  Personally, I would rather have a root canal than host something on this scale.  :-)

@wineguider: someone else mentioned 5-Rivers to me and I have a TW nearby, so will go for it....

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