Cabernets for Today

The Western hemisphere's most popular grape has a great price-to-quality ratio

Cabernet Sauvignon remains the Western hemisphere’s greatest grape. It excels in Washington, California, Chile and Argentina. While the 1980s were marked with Cabernets with high tannin and the 1990s saw the emergence of the ultra-ripe jammy style, we’ve witnessed a change in the style of Cabernet in the last twenty years.  Winemakers and growers don’t seem as cautious about a bit of green flavor in their wines and are avoiding the overly fruity and/or oaky styles. Alcohol levels are still high, although many producers are producing styles below fourteen percent these days. Prices have remained constant since the recession, making the price-to-quality ratio very good. 


Ledgewood Creek, Napa Valley 2010, $24
Bold aromas of red currants and a hint of pepper. A low-acid style, it’s very friendly with a generous viscosity and is delicious with lamb.     

Mercer, Columbia Valley, Washington 2008, $21
Aromas of cedar and mellow fruit lead to elegant fruit on the palate and fine persistence on the finish. A great all-purpose Cab.       

Shannon Ridge “Home Ranch Reserve,” Lake County, California 2010, $20
Cassis and toffee on the nose with juicy tannins. A wine with personality, it really stood out in our blind tasting.    

Ladera, Napa Valley 2009, $33
A very perfumed, refined style; liquorious fruit without being overly jammy. Finishes with sweet oak. It’s sexy stuff that’s delicious with grilled New York strip. 

Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested.

Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.

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