Retailer Wine Reviews: American Cabs

We asked members of our panel to review their favorite Cabernet Sauvignons from the U.S. (California as well as other states). As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which can vary from store to store and market to market). If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact associate editor Kyle Swartz at kswartz@specialtyim.com or 203-855-8499 x225.

FIVE STARS

(96) Gallo Estate Northern Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Sonoma, CA). A dense ruby purple, the nose is dominated by lovely black berry and plum fruit, with just a hint of toasted oak. Solid on the palate, balanced by its acidity. A brilliant example of restraint and power in the bottle. Wonderful now, but capable of aging. ($95)

(96) Shypoke 2012 Calistoga (Napa Valley, CA). An aromatic, powerful, yet elegant cabernet aged in French oak. You’ll swoon over the ménage of blackberries and cassis. This impeccable cab is simply delicious and worth every penny. ($55)

(96) Stewart Cellars Napa (California). Enjoy the work of Paul Hobbs at less money. Cellar-worthy choice. Rich and plush with even tannins. Deep, dark and brooding with a long finish. ($65)

(95) Brandlin Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder 2011 (Napa Valley, CA). A blend of 85% cabernet sauvignon, 9% petit verdot, 6% cabernet franc, aged 22 months in French barriques, 50% new. A wine of amazing depth. Aromas of currant, plum and blackberry mingle with floral nuances and a subtle earthiness. Rich, round black fruit flavors coat the palate with lovely sweet/tart acidity. Hints of smoke, spice and terroir follow. Tannins are supple and in perfect balance, with all components on the lengthy finish. ($65)

(95) J. McClelland Cabernet Sauvignon Oak Knoll District 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). A blend of 86% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 4% petit verdot, barrel-aged for 20 to 24 months. This is an elegant wine, reminiscent of a good Saint-Julien. Distinctive cabernet sauvignon aromas and flavors predominate. The merlot adds a velvety texture, the petit verdot adds a pleasant herbal nuance. Tannins are firm. While nice now, five to six more years will allow some lovely development. ($50)

(95) Rocca Family Vineyards, Collinetta Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (Napa Valley, CA). From a vineyard located in the Coombsville AVA, just east of the city of Napa, this lovely example of a Napa Valley cabernet is sure to please the most discerning of palates. Intensely dark in the glass, the nose is filled with black fruit, and hints of toast. Exceptionally well balanced, with a long finish. ($95)

(95) Saint Helena Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Napa Valley, CA). Blend of 98% cabernet sauvignon, 2% petit verdot, estate grown. Native yeast fermentation and 22 months in three types of French oak, 70% new, add to the complexities of this fabulous wine. The bouquet is lush with hints of lilac, blueberry and black cherry. The mouthfeel is rich with ripe, black fruit flavors mingling with nuances of mocha, coffee and sweet spices and a hint of “cigar box” on the end. Tannins are firm, in balance, and assure several years of development. ($75)

(94) Emblem Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). From the Michael Mondavi family, this Napa Valley cabernet has it all going on. Dark in the glass, with an outstanding nose, with lots of black fruit, spice and toast. Lots of weight on the palate; the long finish maintains its balance throughout. ($60)

(93) Amavi Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Washington). 100% estate grown, the nose is bursting with blueberry and baking spices. The palate is layered with cassis, currants and black licorice. Everything is brought together by racy minerality and soft dusty tannins on the finish. A delicious glass of wine—perfect for summer grilling. ($46)

(93) B.R. Cohn Gold Label 2012 (California).  A blend of 67% Napa County, 33% Sonoma County. Rich, lush, generous cabernet showing nuances of both Napa and Sonoma. Classic currant notes, dark fruits, mocha, plum and well-integrated acidity and tannins for a full-bodied, smooth finish. ($42)

(93) Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). Complex and satisfying, with plush fruits of black cherry and nuances of espresso and bittersweet chocolate. A great match with short ribs, veal dishes and hard cheeses. ($45)

(93) Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). From the central Napa Valley region, this cabernet demonstrates balance and elegance. A dense ruby in the glass, the notes of dark fruit and toast are echoed on the powerful yet balanced palate. Lots of delicious fruit, from start to long finish. ($50)

(93) Northstar Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Washington). From one of the Columbia Valley’s most acclaimed wineries, this cabernet exemplifies the potential of Washington wines. A dense purple in the glass, notes of dark fruit, spice and toast rise from the glass. On the palate, the fruit is bright and clean, and the well-balanced finish lingers on for quite some time. ($41)

(93) Red Mare Cabernet Napa 2012 (California). This concentrated, attractive cabernet offers saturated flavors of cassis, baking spices, leather and dark chocolate that integrate nicely with the wine’s broad, expansive finish. ($50)

(93) The Counselor Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). This cabernet is wonderfully complex with many different flavors that sneak up on you, such as cocoa, tobacco and currant. There is intensity to this wine, which with time turns into velvety goodness. ($32)

(92) Seven Rings Cabernet Oak Knoll 2013 (California). Red fruits intermixed with blackberries, spring flowers and spicy cedar skillfully contribute to the complex palate; a richly textured mouthfeel and firm acidity provide great pleasure as well as excellent balance. ($29)

(92) Beniziger Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Sonoma County, CA). The Benziger family has been one of Sonoma’s sustainability pioneers, with their well-thought-out vineyard and winery practices. This care and attention to detail are demonstrated by the quality of this wine. Showing lots of dark fruit, berry, plum and cherry on the nose, the palate confirms the freshness and energy. The finish is long and balanced, with plenty of finesse and class. ($22)

(92) Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (Alexander Valley, CA). A winner from a difficult vintage, dry and rich with complex black raspberry and black cherry notes, fine tannins and a long finish.

(92) Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet (Washington). Big and bold wine that opens to lots of inviting black cherry and a touch of vanilla. A touch of minerality and cocoa. Serious cabernet for a reasonable price. ($15)

(92) Eaglewood Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Rutherford (California). The bouquet is a bit subdued, but hints at a lovely array of ripe red berry, black cherry and currant aromas lightly framed with mild oak. It is smooth and supple on the palate, displaying excellent balance, and builds in depth across the palate, with black currant, cherry, blackberry and plum flavors, and subtle spice notes in the background. A steely edge indicates firm tannins, but they are very well integrated. ($35)

(92) Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). A well-balanced example of talented grape growing and winemaking. A dark ruby in the glass, the blackberry, sweet cherry, and spice notes rise from the glass. The wine has weight, but is not heavy on the palate. Enjoy this with a wide range of foods. ($28)

(92) Groth Oakville Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (California). Dense and rich with a concentrated core of black cherry, blackberry, dark plum and blueberry flavors that are supported by hints of herbs and cedary oak. The long finish is supported by a touch of vanilla and polished tannins. ($49)

(92) Katherine Goldschmidt Crazy Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). A small-production cabernet from famed wine maker Nick Goldschmidt. The elegance of this wine is perfectly balanced with the controlled berry fruit that wants to jump out of the bottle but doesn’t. This wine is satisfying from start to finish, and is one of the best cabernet values out there. ($18)

(92) Mathew Joseph Cabernet 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). Notes of cherry and chocolate are abundant on the nose. Full flavors of ripe cherries lead to a well-balanced lingering finish. ($25)

(92) Monticello Cabernet Jefferson Napa 2012 (California). Rich to its core, this cabernet offers supple aromas of blueberry and dark chocolate, followed by luscious flavors of black currant, baking spices and savory earth that echo throughout the long finish. ($40)

(92) Paul Dolan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Mendocino County, CA). From one of the leaders of the organic movement, this Mendocino cabernet shows restraint rather than excess; elegance rather than power. The bright fruit on the nose and palate make this a very food-friendly and accessible wine. ($25)

(92) Peju Province Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Napa Valley, CA). A great example of Napa Valley cabernet. Powerful, yet balanced. Intense, but with elegance. The palate, with its rich, dark fruit, goes on for a long time; the finish balancing fruit and acidity. A great wine, across the board. ($50)

(92) Philippe Lorraine Cabernet Reserve Napa 2012 (California). A full-bodied wine defined by its beautiful purity, it possesses captivating flavors of blackberries, cedar, cocoa and earth that weave together to make a wine of outstanding complexity. ($40)

(92) Ranch House Cabernet Napa 2012 (California). Beautiful blueberry, black cherry, baking spice and cigar box flavors cascade over the palate and weave together in a fabulously complex medley. Sweet tannins and spicy oak add further nuance. ($30)

(92) Rubus Cabernet Sauvignon 2012  (Napa Valley, CA). A 2012 Napa Valley cabernet for under $40, Rubus is an absolute steal. Ripe blackberry, currants and nuances of tobacco and vanilla on the palate. The finish is long and impressive with notes of chocolate and black cherries. Finishes with just a touch of fine silky tannins. ($25)

(92) Santo Stefano Cabernet Rutherford 2012 (California). Boasting flavors of black cherry, dark chocolate and spice, this cab stands out for its rich, smooth profile; dusty tannins and an opulent mouthfeel make for a wonderfully pleasurable finish. ($30)

FOUR STARS

(91) Airfield Estates Runway Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Washington). Ruby and garnet in the glass, the nose has plenty of dark berry and cherry, with a hint of vanilla and toast. The palate is a reflection of the nose, with a long elegant finish. An excellent Washington state cabernet, and an outstanding value. ($19)

(91) Courtney Benham Cabernet Napa 2013 (California). Lovely flavors of dark fruit, cassis, cedar and spice meet with hints of oak and robust cigar box; full-bodied and bold while maintaining an elegant profile. ($24)

(91) Cross Springs Lake County Cabernet 2012 (California). This rich, polished cabernet exhibits layers of cassis, black cherry, currant and wild berry flavors that are intense and focused. The finish is long, framed by a hint of spice and mouth-coating tannins. ($18)

(91) Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Napa Valley (California). Possesses a medium-full bouquet of ripe red fruits, with currant and cherry leading the way and blackberry lingering in the wings. Medium-full on the palate too, which shows off some firm tannins but it stays well balanced as the ripe red fruits still show through quite nicely. A touch of cocoa pops up in the finish. ($75)

(91) Gordon Brothers Cabernet 2011 (Washington). Silky-textured with nicely integrated oak that serves as an excellent backdrop to the flavors of crème de cassis, white pepper and lavender; it finishes with a seamless acidity that provides great structure and balance. ($30)

(91) Iter Cabernet Napa 2013 (California). Concentrated and inky with robust blackberry, smoke, and cedar weaving together beautifully on the mid-palate. It finishes smooth and savory with an abundantly rich mouthfeel. ($21)

(91) Joleté “Olson Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Dry Creek Valley, CA). The aromatics are bursting with chocolate, coffee, boysenberry and fig. The palate is full and rich with blackberry, cassis, mocha and a hint of vanilla and cinnamon. An absolute no-brainer for anyone who wants ripe, rich and full cabernet sauvignon. ($30)

(91) Line Shack Cabernet San Antonio Valley 2013 (California). A full-bodied and elegant cabernet with a lovely core of sweet tannins that provide a structural backbone to the rich flavors of blackberries, plums and mocha. ($17)

(91) Olema Cabernet 2012 (California). A pleasantly nuanced cabernet with plenty of currants, cedar, and black fruit flavors; it finishes with tart cherry and light minerals. ($26)

(91) Rock View Cabernet Alexander Valley 2013 (California). A concentrated cabernet that is brimming with rich flavors of black raspberry, figs, cassis liqueur and spicy oak. It finishes with silky smooth tannins and an exuberantly supple mouth feel. ($30)

(91) Rock Wall Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap 2012 (California). Complex nose with hints of chocolate. Flavors of cassis, blackberry and pepper. Long, pleasing finish. ($70)

(91) Sextant Cabernet Paso Robles 2013 (California). A graceful cabernet with generous flavors of cranberries, blackberries and light baking spices; full in body with a velvety smooth finish that coats the palate in soft tannins and lovely fruit. ($22)

(91) Shannon Ridge High Elevation Cabernet 2012 (Lake County, CA). Aromas of dark berries and hints of oak spill from the glass. Full bodied and well balanced with flavors of dark chocolate, vanilla and ripe cherries. A tremendous value. ($15)

(91) Slingshot Cabernet Napa 2013 (California). Inviting and approachable, this cabernet has gorgeous flavors of dark berries, red plums and black berries. It finishes round and vibrant with grainy tannins. ($25)

(91) Truth & Valor Cabernet Paso Robles 2013 (California). Broad, rich flavors of crème de cassis, plum and dark chocolate surround the palate of this full-bodied cabernet; fine-grained tannins add additional character to the already nuanced, lengthy finish. ($25)

(91) Wildhaven Cabernet Horse Heaven Hills Reserve 2013 (Washington). Stylish aromas of black currants, blueberries and spicy oak lead to a palate laced with blackberries and chocolate; light tannins and a crisp finish provide nice structure. ($20)

(90) 337 Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). Excellent structure, this cabernet offers youthful flavors of ripe plum, black cherry and blackberry followed by a hint of licorice and mocha. The finish is smooth and textured with tannins that are ripe and firm. A fantastic value! ($15)

(90) Avenel Cellars Napa Red 2012 (California). A plush, serious red blend with aromas and flavors of red currants, plum, vanilla and cinnamon; a richly textured mouthfeel and a velvety smoothness. ($24)

(90) Banshee Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (California). A beautifully concentrated cab displaying blue fruits, tobacco and well-integrated oak. The fuzzy ripe tannins and moderate acidity make this a pleasure to drink now. ($36)

(90) Bloom Cabernet (California). A solid cabernet that provides plenty of value; a core of red fruit also carries subtle notes of spice and oak that gradually fade into the soft, gentle finish. ($14)

(90) Bridgman Cabernet 2013 (Washington). Exciting aromas of red currants and spice give hints to the flavors of blackberry, cinnamon, and oak on the palate; pleasant, crisp and smooth. ($16)

(90) Carson Ridge Cabernet Paso Robles 2013 (California). Medium in body and possessing dense aromas and flavors of red berries, oak, and vanilla; it is an enticing cabernet that is pure, clean and approachable. ($13)

(90) Castle Rock Paso Robles 2012 (California). Pleasant and reasonably priced cabernet with medium body, smooth finish. Lots of black fruits. Good everyday cab—aerate first for maximum enjoyment. ($10)

(90) Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (Washington). Appealing because of its fruity accessible style and price. Dark fruits with a little leather and spice and soft finish. ($15)

(90) Cosentino The Franc 2013 Lodi (California). Proof why cabernet sauvignon’s cousin should not get overlooked. Fresh blueberry and violet open things up, then soft notes of wood spice and cream unfold. It is a bit astringent up front, with ample tannins still prevalent, but with time this eases up to let ripe blueberry and cassis flavors emerge. ($20)

(90) First & Local Cabernet 2013 (California). Aromas and flavors of dark cherry, plum, smoke, and red currant make for an approachable and enjoyable wine; it finishes crisp and balanced. ($14)

(90) Harvester Cabernet Paso Robles Non-vintage (California). Full-bodied with inviting flavors of red berries, spice and velvety tannins; a densely-packed cabernet that is defined by its soft, luscious finish. ($18)

(90) Josh Cellars cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). A crowd pleaser. Dark fruits, medium in body with a soft finish. ($15)

(90) Maggio Cabernet 2013 (Lodi CA). Rich berry fruit with hints of oak and vanilla on the nose. Ripe, bright fruit and softness dominate the palate. A superb value. ($13)

(90) Muirwood Cabernet 2013 (California). A medium-bodied Cabernet with supple flavors of red berries, vanilla, and toasty oak; it finishes soft and silky with no hard edges. ($14)

(90) Radius Cabernet 2014 (Washington). Bright and supple with vibrant flavors of red cherry, vanilla, and baking spices; from the mid-palate to the finish the wine possesses a richly textured mouthfeel that coats the palate. ($11)

(90) Red Theory Cabernet 2013 (Washington). Full-bodied and bold with flavors of red currants, sweet cherry, and plums that stain the palate with a plush intensity; vanilla-laden oak and a supple profile offer considerable pleasure. ($14)

(90) Seven Falls 2012 (Washington). A full expression of the lean, bold profile of Washington State cabernets. Big, bold berries, chocolate and ripe black cherry. The perfect Saturday night steak wine. ($14)

(89) Chateau Smith Columbia Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 (Washington). This wine is full of harmonious aromas and flavors featuring creme de cassis, dark chocolate and cedar. The velvet textured framework supports the ripe fruit beautifully. ($22)

(89) Lander Jenkins cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). Rich, dry and flavorful, delivers lots of bang for the buck. ($13)

(89) Martin Ray Sonoma cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). A wonderfully balanced Cabernet with subtle notes blackberries, currant and a slight finish of black cherry. The structure and fruit work in tandem to deliver a nicely balanced and rounded wine. ($20)

(89) McPhereson Cellars 2012 (Texas). Nice nose of red fruits, cassis, hints of vanilla, tobacco and herbal notes. Hints of vanilla and balanced acids and tannins. Great wine from Texas. ($16)

(89) Milliken Creek Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2013 (California). Classically structured, linear and vibrant, this cab is old school in its dark brambled fruit, graphite, and loam characteristics. Its gripping tannins allude to a long life ahead. ($26)

(89) Mud Pie cabernet sauvignon 2012 (Mendocino CA). Aromas of blackberries and chocolate-covered cherries lead way to the flavors of cassis, ripe plums and dark cherries. A treat with rack of lamb, braised ribs and porterhouse steaks. ($13)

(89) Shelby Grant Oakville CA Napa Cabernet 2012 (California). Nose has leather and tobacco notes with a hint of cherries to dry red fruits, cassis and mocha notes with a hint of vanilla. Nice acidity compliments the firm tannins. ($18)

(89) Slow Press cabernet sauvignon 2012 Paso Robles (California). Tart cherry and raspberry open things up in the nose and the palate is medium bodied with good balance and depth. There are plenty of fresh red cherry and raspberry flavors and some savory spice notes lending depth. Well done. ($15)

(89) Thomas Henry Sonoma 2012 (California). Very Bordeaux in style—lots of spice and plum. Medium bodied with aromatic violets. ($15)

(88) Ca’Momi Napa Valley Cabernet 2011 (California). Nice nose of red berries and cherries, cassis and hints of spice tobacco, in the mid-palate. Balanced acidities on the finish. ($20)

(88) Castle Rock cabernet sauvignon 2011 (Paso Robles CA). Rich center of blackberry and earthy flavors. Wonderful notes of spice and vanilla layered throughout your glass. A nice match with various cheeses and beef dishes with light sauces. ($10)

(88) Decoy cabernet sauvignon 2012 Sonoma County (California). The medium-weight bouquet displays slightly tart aromas and a touch of new wood before ripe blackberry notes emerge. It is medium-full and the tannins pop at first, but quickly integrate, allowing for a smooth mouthfeel and a tasty array of black cherry, currant and plum flavors. ($26)

(88) Sawbuck cabernet sauvignon 2012 (California). Smooth, medium-bodied and an excellent value with classic black fruit aromas and flavors. ($11)

(87) Woodwork 2013 (Central Coast, CA). Smooth, fruit-forward, lighter style. A bit of oak with chocolate, hazelnut and blackberries. Try with a spicy grilled chicken. A great value. ($12)

1 Comment

  1. osborn1946 Reply

    “A full-bodied wine defined by its beautiful purity, it possesses captivating flavors of blackberries, cedar, cocoa and earth that weave together to make a wine of outstanding complexity”
    I do not agree, look at:
    https://smokingjacketmagazine.com/2015/01/12/sugar-spice-everything-too-nice-cao-flavours-sampler-review/

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