We’ve been beating the drum for good, inexpensive chardonnays recently, not because they are plentiful. Just the opposite; chardonnay is the world’s most popular wine, but finding a good $10 bottle in the ocean of domestic chardonnay in wine shops and on grocery-store shelves is like … well … finding one bottle in an ocean of wine.
Cabernet sauvignon may be the red equivalent of chardonnay. It is among the world’s most popular and renowned red wine grapes, the lifeblood of many great wines of Bordeaux in France and the most expensive reds from California’s Napa Valley. But good, inexpensive California cabernet is almost as much of an oxymoron as value pinot noir. (See Can a $25 pinot noir be a value wine?)
“Inexpensive cabernet sauvignon tends to be obviously flawed in one way or another — too much oak or poorly done oak, too much fruit (or way too much fruit), uneven tannins, or green, unripe fruit,” wrote our favorite wine blogger Jeff Seigel, a.k.a. The Wine Curmudgeon in his Wine of the Week post. “That’s because cabernet is not always easy to make, and it’s almost always more expensive to make than other wines. So, when a winemaker is trying to hit a price below $15, something has to give.”
That’s why we called it a steal last year when the 2008 vintage of Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon was on sale for $10. The wine – that influential wine critic Robert Parker wrote, “tastes like a Cabernet in the $25-$40 range” – has been a consistent winner for years.
So it was no surprise that the 2009 vintage (which we picked up at Potomac Wine & Spirits in Georgetown last week for $11.99) also tasted like a $25 Napa cabernet. Parker agrees, calling the new vintage, “a velvety textured, lush, round, crowd-pleasing Cabernet revealing a dark ruby color as well as lots of black currant and herb notes intermixed with a hint of smoke.”
Gil Kulers, whose reviews appear on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website, gave it a “Two Thumbs Up” rating at a price of $12, noting “Bold aromas of black licorice and something akin to a plum cobbler.” He describes a full-bodied wine with “intense flavors of cola, ripe plum, spicy black licorice and darkly caramelized sugar,” but not overpowered by aggressive tannins (the mouth-puckering effect), common with California cabernet.
And the good news is that it’s on sale again, and widely available in Maryland, Virginia and the District for $9 to $12.
Chevy Chase Wine & Spirits and Ace Beverages has Grayson Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lot 10 2009 priced at $9.99 a bottle. Chevy Chase also has the 2010 Cellars Cabernet, which hasn’t yet been reviewed, but is bound to be good.
(See the slideshow for other local wine shops that carry Grayson Cellars cab.)
With the fall chill returning to the air (at least this morning), a good, hearty California cabernet that doesn’t cost more than $12 a bottle is nice to have on the weekend shopping list.
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