Aquinas Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon '11
An award winner at the San Francisco Chronical Wine Competition and a great buy, Aquinas Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon '11 is our favorite Cabernet that retails for less than $20. A full-bodied wine, this one is nonetheless on the smooth side, with soft tannins that provide structure without making the wine too harsh to enjoy, even if you drink it young. On the fruit forward side, Aquinas has aromas of black cherry, boysenberry, and just a hint of dill. The flavor has lots of blackberry and black current, and is balanced out by notes of spice and chocolate. This isn't an intensely earthy wine, focusing more on the fruity flavors of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, making this a great Cabernet for wine drinkers who usually gravitate towards big, fruity wines such as Syrah.
Tommasi Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana Poggio al Tufo '11
France may be the historic home of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, but Italy has been cultivating these grapes for hundreds of years. The Tuscany region, with its warm climate and hot, dry summers, is ideal for Cabernet, leading to wines with lots of flavor and big tannic structure. One of our favorite Italian Cabs is Tommasi Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana Poggio al Tufo '11. This wine has currant, black cherry, spice, and licorice on the nose, and a slightly acidic taste that dries out the big fruit flavors. The finish is long and dry with lots of tannins. The '11 will definitely benefit from at least a few more years in the wine cellar, though decanting fifteen minutes before you're ready to serve will help to open it up, allowing the fruitier flavors to shine through.
Lamadrid Cabernet Sauvignon '10
Lamadrid Cabernet Sauvignon '10 hails from Argentina, a winemaking region known for producing excellent New World Cabernet. This wine is well-structured and tannic, without being overly harsh. It has notes of currant, tobacco, graphite, and sweet tomato and is a little on the sweeter side when compared with other Cabernet Sauvignons. Ready to drink right away, this wine doesn't have the harsh tannins that makes many Cabs unapproachable for decades. Instead, it offers a fruit-forward palate with plenty of the earthy tones that people love Cabernet for. It's also received high marks from wine critics, scoring a 90 with Wine Advocate.
Benzinger Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon '09
Northern California Cabernet Sauvignons can get incredibly expensive but Benzinger has made a commitment to crafting high quality wines that remain some of the most affordable around. Their Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon '09 is an incredible wine that shows off all the complexity of a good Cab without burning a hole in your wallet. This wine has flavors of black current, plum, and cherry that remain until the long finish, where they are met by subtle notes of tea and chocolate. The nose has lots of dark fruit and more than a hint of savory black olive. The tannins aren't too peppery or leathery, instead adding a touch of chalk to the finish. All in all, this is an incredible wine that's ready to drink right away, though it will continue to mellow out over the next couple of years.
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon '08
Made from a combination of old and young vine grapes, Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon '08 is one of the best wines to come out of Australia in recent years. This wine's complex aromas include currants, plums, cherries, and a little bit of earthy graphite. The flavor is big and juicy, with notes of blackberry, eucalyptus, and spicy. The tannins are quite chewy and will help this wine hold up to a number of years in the wine cellar, but if you like your Cabernet full-bodied and powerful, this is a great one to drink right away, though you may want to decant it first.
Honig Cabernet Sauvignon '11
One of the 2013 winners at the San Francisco Chronical Wine Competition, Honig Cabernet Sauvignon '11 is our top choice for high end Cabernet. 2011 was a tough year in Napa, but the reduced yields and sudden temperature swings fortunately didn't lead to a total loss of the harvest. Winemakers who took great care with their harvests, such as Honig, were able to produce some of the best wine in recent years. The '11 is medium-bodied and well-balanced by tannins that provide a lot of support without overwhelming the wine. The nose shows off aromas of plum and cherry that are complemented by earthier notes of dried herbs, pepper, tea, and licorice. There's lots of fruit on the palate, though also plenty of spice so this wine doesn't read as sweet at all. Though it's already been aged for 18 months, it would benefit from at least a few more years in the bottle and some time spent in the decanter before serving.
Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon '10
One of California's biggest names in red wines, Robert Mondavi knows how to make an excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. The Reserve '10 has scored in the mid to high 90's with professional wine critics, including a near perfect score of 99 points by The Tasting Panel. It's a beautiful wine now, but it really won't be at its peak for another 25 to 30 years, so this is one you'll want to buy and then put away. An incredibly complex wine, there are notes of violet and blackberry on the nose, and berry, sage, mocha, and clean granite on the palate. The tannins are big and bold, and the finish incredibly long. For extra structure, Robert Mondavi has blended the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with 4 percent Petit Verdot and 2 percent Cabernet Franc.
Robert Craig Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain '10
Terroir is one of the biggest influencers of the flavor of a wine, and the volcanic soil that Robert Craig Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain '10 is grown in has given this wine an incredible richness and complexity. This is a big, tannic wine that won't be nearly ready to drink until at least 2018, though it will continue to mature for the next couple of decades. The time it spent aging in barrels has lent the wine lots of oaky notes, but these are well-balanced against berry, pepper, and wildflower aromas. The flavor of this wine is equally complex, with notes of black cherry, red stone, and more peppery tannins.
Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon '08
Not as big and bold as most Australian and Californian Cabernet Sauvignons, Corliss Estates Cabernet Sauvignon '08 is nonetheless one of our favorite wines. This wine has lots of fig, plum, and currant on the nose, with spicy undertones of cocao, coffee, and creme brulee. The mouthfeel is soft compared to most Cabernets, though the tannins provide more than enough structure to help this wine hold up to 15 to 20 years in the wine cellar. In terms of flavor, the '08 has lots of dark berry, wet earth, and licorice root. Though the grapes were grown all the way back in 2008, this is a current release wine that was bottled in 2011 and held by the winery for an additional two years. If you're hoping to add this one to your collection, you'll want to act fast since it's already in short supply.
Vasse Felix Heytesbury Cabernet Sauvignon '09
With over 40 years of practice perfecting the art of making an incredible Cabernet Sauvignon, it's no surprise that Vasse Felix makes one of our favorites wines. The Heytesbury Cabernet Sauvignon '09 is a bold wine that's been blended with 16 percent Petit Verdot and 15 percent Malbec for added structure and complexity. It's got big flavors of red berries and blueberries upfront. The finish brings along notes of dark chocolate, eucalyptus, and the spice of the tannins. The nose is just as complex as the flavor, with leather, currant, pepper, iron, and a little bit of perfumy potpourri. In order to let the flavors and tannins mellow out, it's a good idea to let this wine rest in the bottle until at least 2020.