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Jul 27, 2012 11:52 AM

Best California Zinfandel or Cab $10 and under?


Posting once again about searching for a wedding wine. I'm a pretty big wine drinker and am picky, but for my wedding I'm stuck with a $10 or under per bottle budget. What are your current recommendations for the best California Zinfandel and Cabernets under $10? I'm a big fan of Zin and not a big Cab drinker, but I know "California Cabernets" can be a crowd-pleaser at a wedding. For our pinot, we're using the 2008 Buena Vista, which can be found at TJ's for $10. It's one of the only halfway-decent pinots I've found $10 or under. I'm looking for something analagous in quality level in a Zinfandel, or possibly a Cabernet. California wines only, please.

Thank you!

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  1. Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel is usually $11-12 here in benighted Pennsylvania and I think it's a great value.

    ... you should be able to find it at a better price.

    1. Not California. But Columbia Crest (Washington) has some great values on Cab blends and around that range that may work. KL wines (if you are in the SF Bay Area or Hollywood) has 'em.

      Use to find locations by you that have them.

      1. Forget the idea of finding a drinkable California Cab for $10 or under. They don't exist. It's frankly not that easy to find one for $20-25. Zinfandel might be possible but I'm guessing you'd have more luck finding a decent and cheap Syrah. You also open up a lot more possibilities if you don't limit yourself to California wines. I think you'd have the best luck finding value with a French Cote du Rhone, an Argentine Malbec, an entry level Tempranillo from Spain or a Shiraz from Australia.

        If it's for a wedding, you also have the issue of finding enough bottles of whatever you choose. It looks like you are located in the Los Angeles area. If I were you, I'd go to K&L Wines in Hollywood (corner of Vine & De Longpre) and get their help in picking something. They are one of the best wine stores in the country, offer very good pricing and have a great sales team. If they can't find something suitable that fits your criteria, it probably doesn't exist.

        3 Replies
        1. re: bg90027

          "Forget the idea of finding a drinkable California Cab for $10 or under. They don't exist."

          I feel bad for you. Can't even find a drinkable wine for that money?

          A name mentioned below, Cameron Hughes produces a more than drinkable Meritage for under $10. have you ever had it?

          Another name big in <$10 is Bogle. You find these wines undrinkable?

          Do you try a lot of <$10 Cal Cabs? I imagine you must try a lot since you have an opinion as to all that are made.

          Do you find a lot of <$10CdR wines? I find a lot between $10 and $15, very few under $10.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            I have now done three tastings of the Cameron Hughes portfolio, at the time, and have yet to find a wine, that I really enjoy.

            Now, like the Charles Shaw, the "portfolio" is always in flux, so what one might have in Seattle, under the same label, might differ greatly from what I might have in Phoenix. Unless I were to do a tasting at the winery (or wherever), I am not sure how accurate it would be.

            I have just not been impressed, and really want to, as they have a very heavy presence at my best local Costco. Just does nothing for me.


            1. re: FrankJBN

              Strictly speaking *only* for myself, there are several wines I find more than drinkable for under $10, Frank, but I'm with bg90027 on this one: I can't think of any Cabernets or Zinfandels from California that are under $10 I would find drinkable -- or, perhaps, a better word choice would be "enjoyable."

              Drinkable: without flaws, sound, but not necessarily interesting -- think banquet wines supplied by the hotel on a very limited budget.

              Enjoyable: I actually like it and would buy it again.

              Now, he does suggest moving farther afield, geographically, and I, too, have found far better QPR (aka "bang-for-the-buck") from outside of our state, and country for that matter.

          2. Thanks for all the responses so far! I am unfortunately stuck on choosing something from California. I tend to agree on the no good cabs under $10 opinion, but I don't drink cab much so I don't know if there are any hidden gems out there. I prefer Zinfandel, so if there's something that's halfway decent I would appreciate any recommendations. If I can buy it in bulk at TJs, BevMo, Ralph's, etc, even better.

            6 Replies
            1. re: violet42

              I would go to K&L their quality control for wind they decide to purchase and storage conditions are much better. Ask if they'll do a bulk discount if you buy 4 cases. They really are your best bet and since it seems you'll be offering a choice anyway - it's not like you'll need more than 40 bottles. And at a wedding, no one is going to be like oh! you switched producers on us!

              The nice thing, however, about BevMo is I believe (could be wrong) you can return what you don't use - and I'm not sure if that's true for K &L.

              Some to look at slightly over $10 is Louis Martini, and Joel Gott.

              You may just want to go with Layercake or a Cameron Hughes Cab which you could probably find at Costco or another bulk store.

              No one who is a wine person is probably going to say "ooo i like this!" But you can probably find something people won't spit out/roll their eyes at/leave on the table head for the beer. .

              1. re: goldangl95

                I think Joel Gott is related to Cary Gott who used to run Montevina vineyards a while back - they came out with a white zin almost 40 years ago that was passable - this was before all the white zin producers decided that white zin should taste like soda pop. Anyway, the Gotts should know how to make decent zin.

                1. re: kagemusha49

                  I have favored Joel Gott vintage zin for years--but it runs around $15 at BevMo.

                  A little more in your price range is Rosenblum Vintner's Cuvee--$7.99 at BevMo, $6.99 at TJ's. Never a bad wine, and some years actually pretty good. This year, a little sweeter than I expected, not too complex, but drinkable and affordable.

                2. re: goldangl95

                  Sorry. That first line should read "I would go to K&L. Their quality control for wine they decide to purchase and their wine storage conditions are much better."

                  1. re: goldangl95

                    I know K&L doesn't do discounts by the case. Would they do a negotiated price below the bottle price if the order is large enough? I've never asked and don't know. I have heard them tell people that they will take back bottles provided they are unopened and in good condition (eg haven't been left in a warm car for hours or haven't been on ice causing label damage). They might charge a restocking fee but I think they would take it back. Of course, you should ask yourself though if you are relying on that as part of your decision.

                    K&L's website has a section which lists the wines that have the highest repeat purchase:


                    These wines are mostly going to be well-liked value wines at every day drinking price points. The highest ranked domestic cab close to a $10 price point is Urbanite Cellars Amplio which they sell for $10.99/bottle. I've never had it but has high repeat purchases and strong staff reviews. They also seem to have a strong inventory of it. It might be worth a look. The highest repeat seller is a CA Zin/Syrah blend but it doesn't look like they have a huge stock of it.

                    I can also recall Avalon having cabs that are cheap (probably in the $11-13 range) and considered good value for the money. I think I did buy one bottle of it a couple of years ago. I don't remember much about it positive or negative, but I don't buy a lot of wines at the $10 price point so I wouldn't expect to be all that impressed with it. I think it would meet goldang95's low threshold of "no eye rolling, dumping and running for the beer" which is again saying it's not going to be easy to find a very good $10 bottle of Cab.

                    1. re: bg90027

                      I spoke with K&L and they don't do discounts. Good points above on their better storage and knowledge, though.

                3. Bota Box Old Vines Zinfandel is under $20 for 3 liters(4 bottles). California wine - quite passable I'm drinking a glass as I write this now. Aside from that you need to find a little winery like Gemello's that makes Zinfandel - sadly I think Gemello's closed down a few years ago - although I think a relative opened another winery. I'm assuming you meant red Zin.