Have I told you lately how much I love Cabernet Sauvignon? Well I’m going to assume that its been at least a little while, so allow me to refresh your memory: as someone coming from the West Coast, it is my preferred varietal of wine—bar none. It helps that California has access to some of the finest Cabs in the known universe. But more importantly, for my money, this style of vino simply comes correct with the biggest flavor. Boisterous bursts of black fruit, oak, and lip-puckering tannins; this is the wine that makes me feel the most alive!
Rising in prominence during the 17th century in southwestern France, the relative ease with which the grape can grow has made it popular throughout most major growing regions of the world. Hundreds of years later, however, after the famed 1976 Judgment of Paris, California Cabs lept onto the international stage with unmitigated fury. That was great news for American connoisseurs, particularly those living on the West Coast, because this varietal is produced in abundance along the moist valleys bordering the mighty Pacific and there are countless wineries that are happy to provide magnificent specimens for a pittance compared to their European counterparts.
The dry, oak-infused tones of Winking Owl Cabernet proves that two buck chuck ain’t what it used to be. For just $2.69—pocket change—you can enjoy a surprisingly good attempt at the full bodied flavors of this surprisingly supple juice.
If you’re wary of spending less than double digits for a bottle of wine, you might be more interested in the Private Selection Cab produced by Robert Mondavi. Fruit-forward with a bouquet of currants and ripened cherries, this relatively lighter-bodied Dionysian delight is commonly sold for around $10.
McManis Family Vineyards puts out a marvelously smooth, medium-bodied Cab that somehow combines the fruitiness of fresh berries with the deep flavors of green bell peppers. It has won numerous awards throughout the past few years and is an absolute steal at just under $10, far less than the gas you’d spend driving up to Napa from the heart of the Bay Area. Good wine just tastes better when it’s also a great value.