California Cabernet Sauvignon is America’s most loved and sought after red wine. In fact, it is considered the king of Californian wine. The variety is used for both the most expensive and rarest bottles, yet it’s also used for wines from the state under $15. This diversity of quality and styles has meant that Cabernet Sauvignon is more than just a grape in California, but is widely considered a recognizable brand for consumers, associated with high-quality wines.
The best Cabernet Sauvignons from California are dry powerhouses with long aging potentials upwards of 10-30 years. The flavors and aromas express bold concentrated and rich black fruits, cassis, leather, tobacco, black pepper spice, and forest floor as they age and evolve with earthy, tertiary aromas.
The history of California Cabernet can be traced back to its native home, Bordeaux, where the grape is used in blends for the most expensive and famous wines in the world. In fact, in the 1800s, California growers used Bordeaux vine cuttings in an attempt to emulate the French style. While the climate in the two regions is very different, Napa Valley does have the ideal soil types and growing conditions for the grape to thrive. Bordeaux’s cool, foggy, maritime-influenced climate produces sturdy, firm reds that need decades to soften in the bottle before reaching maturity. These wines are praised for their elegance and pristine sophistication. California’s warmer climate creates lush, fruit-forward, riper styles that are more approachable in their youth, as grapes fully ripen in the vineyard. These are more voluptuous and generous styles.
Several regions less famous than Napa Valley are synonymous with value. Consider regions like Sonoma, Lodi, Lake County, and the Santa Ynez Valley for wonderful wines that won’t break the bank.
Whether you’re considering a splurge on trophy bottles or bargain buys, check out my recommendations for the nine best California Cabernet Sauvignon wines to drink now:
2014 Hames Creek Cabernet Sauvignon, Hames Valley AVA, Mariposa County $9.99
Spicy and bold with notes of black pepper, blackberry, cassis, and tobacco. A wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon from the southernmost tip of Monterey County, just north of the San Luis Obispo county line. The Hames Valley AVA does get a cooling effect from the ocean, but its location protects the vines from the strong afternoon winds rolling down the Salinas Valley corridor.
2014 Telios Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi AVA $15.99
Blackberry and blueberry aromas with a touch of vanilla and baking spice. A long and rich finish. Excellent value!
2015 Eagle Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley $24.99
Ripe, juicy blackberries and plum along with aromas of cedar that burst from the glass. Firm, structured tannins with flavors of vanilla. The finish is long and persistent, especially for a Cabernet at this affordable price.
2016 Barrique Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Rockpile AVA, Sonoma County $29.99
Aromas of ripe black cherry, black currant, vanilla, and spice box. The palate offers fresh, juicy red and black fruit with savory black pepper, clove, cinnamon, cedar, licorice, and violet. A long and luxurious finish.
2012 Hindsight 20 20 Proprietary Red, Napa Valley $29.99
Made from a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with some Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, it is a lush and full-bodied red. Aromas of dried cherries, coffee, cocoa, and oak.
2017 Barrique Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Coombsville AVA, Napa Valley $39.99
Coombsville AVA is an overlooked area east of Napa known for stellar Cabs. This exceptional wine entices with black cherries and blackberries with superb opulence, a layered mouth-feel, and a seamless finish.
2014 Broman Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain AVA, Napa Valley $49.99
2014 created ideal growing conditions for Cabernet Sauvignon to fully ripen. This stunning wine offers pretty black fruit aromas with flavors of creamy caramel, coco, and leather. Balanced acidity and fine tannins develop to a long, smooth finish.
2016 Venge Cabernet Sauvignon Silencieux, Napa Valley $65.99
Rich aromas of plum and blackberry are complemented by a remarkably silken texture and profound tannic structure. Kirk Venge is one of the top winemakers in Napa Valley, and this wine is a tremendous example of that acclaim.
Elyse Genderson is the Vice President of Schneider’s. Visit her at the shop to discover wines you’ll love.