Yes, dear readers, affordable Cali Cabernet Sauvignon is out there

July 15, 2023

Happy Bastille Day and off with their heads, says the Red Queen. Thank you for the email this past week. I was surprised to learn how many were searching for affordable California Cabernet Sauvignon. Let’s jump off with McPrice Myers Bull by the Horns Paso Robles Cab around $22, 89-90 McD since 2015, except an 87 in 2019. The 2021 has been heavily touted at 93 points. I’m looking for some now. Here is a truncated review, “Black currant, cherry, birch beer, espresso and savory herb aromas lead to dark fruits, juicy acidity, touch of chocolate and mint flavors. Fine tannins and flavors linger through long finish.” I did sample the 2020, and found cherry, vanilla and pie spice aromas; ripe strawberry, cherry and anise on palate, with well-balanced, medium body. Fair value. Liberty School is an Austin Hope label. The 2020 Reserve Cab, 89 McD, should sell under $25, but look for the 2018 at a comparable price with a 91-point rating. Blackberry, cherry, black olive, grilled mushroom and nutmeg aromas segue to blackberry, nutmeg flavors supported by refined tannins. Go a bit upscale with Austin Hope Paso Robles Cab 2019, $60, 92 McD. It is dark-colored with blackberry, cassis and cherry aromas and barrel notes of nutmeg, coffee and vanilla. The fruit repeats on the balanced acid/tannin, full-bodied frame. It has a lovely, long, clean finish with after-notes of the fruit and spice. 

Napa Cabs are tough to navigate, but careful shoppers or those reading here can find some wonderful buys. Kathryn Hall does an excellent job with Cabs. Most of them are in the $200 range. The Rainin Vineyard Diamond Mountain 2018, rated 96, sells at $393, has rated mid-90s since 2012. The labels reading Hall Wines Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, 92 McD, $45, and 2019, 91, $49, can easily be found. For Napa Cab, these are relatively inexpensive. My plebeian thinking also tells me that a small tastevin of Rainin, although an exceptionally fine experience, does not provide the pleasure of eight bottles of the latter. I would choose the 2019 with its cocoa, red fruit and herbal aromas, and fruit-forward palate enhanced with oaken spice and leather. Aged in 50% new oak, it is nicely balanced with sufficient tannin/acidity providing structure and depth. This is an example of winemaker’s art rather than terroir, single-vineyard, lesser availability.

When we see Ridge, Zinfandel springs to mind, especially the $250 Monte Bello label. Today, I am touting the 2018 Ridge Vineyards Estate Santa Cruz Cab, 93 McD under $70, and just entered its window in 2022. Dark garnet-colored, it opens to blackberry, cassis, smoked meat and toasted oak-driven barrel spice. On the big, round palate, detect dark fruit, oak and pie spice. Notes say 2016-19 are all excellent. These will keep at least eight more years. I like to pour and let stand for 15 minutes before evaluation. Recent vintages need time. Those looking for Napa, cult, cheap, can try to find Duhig Cab 2018, produced by Harvest (real name) Duhig, a vineyard manager and winemaker at Caymus. This 125-case production of her eponymous label is selling at $125, 94 McD. The 2019 recent release is also $125 and 94 McD. 


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