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Friday Fishwrap
Good Cab Is Easy To Find; Priceworthy Cab Is A Rarer Bird

By Stephen Eliot and Charles Olken

Good, very good, Cabernet Sauvignon is not hard to find these days even in less-than-ideal vintages. We have tasted our ways through hundreds new Cabernets over the last several months, and that simple reality is impossible to miss. The problem, of course, is that the better bottlings come at considerable cost and are increasingly wines that are for occasional drinking at best.

There is no question but that finding good ones for twenty-dollars or less is a difficult task to say the least, but it is not an impossible one. We were several times pleasantly surprised upon unveiling the wines tasted at the quality to be had by some of the more modestly priced efforts. Not as a matter of routine, mind you, but often enough to give hope to those who love Cabernet but find the price of admission too steep.

There is no reason to expect a discernible drop in Cabernet prices in today’s marketplace, and, in fact, rising demand and an improving economy predict just the opposite. The many monotonous claims that high-ticket Cabernet is dead and adrift in the market are not borne out by the rising prices fetched by grapes from premium vineyards, and the market suggests that the thirst for great Cabernet is real.

That said, there are and have always been noteworthy examples that hit the mark for real value, and we take great delight in their discovery. They are the wines we drink on a daily basis while leaving those with three-digit prices for the rare special occasion. The following half-dozen plus one are recommended wines that belong on the shopping lists of thrifty Cabernet fans. They will not make us forget the likes of Corison Kronos, Ridge Montebello, Insignia and Trefethen HaLo, but they outperform a good many bottlings costing three and four times as much, and they are wines you can find.


87 BURIED CANE Roughout Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $15.00
Everything about this medium-full-bodied bottling invites a second glance from its red cherry, black cherry, tea leaf mix to its fully supportive creamy oak sitting in the background that adds its own bit of smoky richness. It is supple on the palate and fairly open, and while it is not tough in the usual Cabernet manner, its moderate tannins offer a useful bit of grip. Its price makes it one of the bargains of the Issue.

87 B. R. COHN Silver Label Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast 2009 $20.00
Young, energetic, nicely oaked and sporting focused black cherry fruit that tilts to quiet but evident whiffs of tart berries, this one comes up medium-bodied and somewhat narrow but still fruity in palate impression. It adopts a less pushy style than most Cabs of the day yet has just enough heart to make itself at home next to simple grilled steaks and chops. Its price makes it doubly attractive.

88 COLUMBIA CREST Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2009 $12.00
It has been some time since we have seen a twelve-dollar Cabernet that was as deep and defined as this noteworthy offering from Columbia Crest, and, if not as dense and dramatic as its some, it shames more than a few of its prestigious cousins costing a great deal more. It is a delicious wine now but will age with ease, and it should not be missed by any who are looking for a lovely everyday Cab.

87 CONN CREEK Herrick Red Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2009 $18.00
Distinctly varietal themes of ripe black cherries and currants are joined by a lesser note of dried herbs and a light, sweetening touch of caramel in the mid-density aromas and flavors of this wine, and, if not one for high extract or flashiness, it is a clean and eminently likeable effort that shows far better balance and crafting than its modest price might suggest.

87 EDUCATED GUESS Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010 $20.00
This brilliantly conceived negociant bottling proves that, even in difficult times, there are opportunities to produce priceworthy wines when one takes the time and effort to do it. It is fairly full in body and finds balancing grip from evident tannins that play off against both its obvious cherry-like ripeness and its supple and rounded tactile impressions, but while easy to approach even now, it promises to hold for a few years yet for those who would lay some away.

87 FIRESTONE Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez Valley 2009 $20.00
It may not be the deepest or most complex Cabernet to be had, but this nicely filled, oak-enriched effort is long on well-ripened cherries and never veers from its fruity course. It is full and fleshy in feel before tightening just a bit as its nominal tannins take hold, but a few years in the cellar will bring it to its best, and it is a fine value in every regard.

88 GEYSER PEAK Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Block Collection 2009 $20.00
Insistent black cherry fruit sits at the heart of this rounded, comparatively polished effort with a smattering of herbs, lightly laid-on oak and a mild trim of milk chocolate all lending a bit of quiet complexity. Clean as can be and scrubbed but still showing a fine fruity center, the wine is both rich and well-structured with the manners of one that will drink well now and can age on the strength of its balance.

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