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West coast Cabs

After a year or so of drinking mostly Rhone blends and Pinots, I am returning to Cabernet. Knowing this is a huge range of wine, I am looking to limit myself this time to $25-50 and ready to drink now bottles. I am heading to K&L this weekend for some help picking a mixed case of maybe 6 new selections. Anyone have west coast favorites?

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  1. i tend to prefer Napa Cabs for the most part. in your price range, and sticking strictly with Cabernet Sauvignon to keep it simple, i'd look at some of these - all of which K&L should have in stock:

    2008 Clos Pegase
    2009 Rombauer
    2009 Turnbull
    2009 Joseph Phelps
    2009 Whitehall Lane
    2009 Trinchero
    2009 Stags Leap Artemis
    2009 Stonestreet Monument Ridge

    1. In that price range I like the Ridge Santa Cruz, definitely different than a Napa.

      12 Replies
      1. re: tim irvine

        You'll find the best California Cabs in that price range are not going to be from Napa for the most part but Sonoma and Santa Curz.

        I second the Ridge cab (for 2008 if you can find it). I like Kathryn Kennedy's cabs in that price range (pretty old school in taste profile).

        I would try Ramey as well.

        Avoid the 2010 vintage at all costs (I'm sure there are exceptions but probably not many)

        1. re: goldangl95

          Yeah the Ridge is a goal but hard to find. I am also looking to Washington and Oregon. Napa can get awful pricey and I am holding the price line. Many of the wineries in my area (Santa Clara) brew really alcoholic Cabs that come across too hot for me. I want to keep it under 14%. I may have to drive up to the Monte Bello Ridge tasting room next weekend.

          1. re: budnball

            FYI, wine isn't "brewed" (beer is) . . .

            Keep in mind that the specific alcohol number is meaningless . . . when you say "com(ing) across too hot," THAT is the key -- it's how the wine is balanced, how it "comes across" on your palate, and there is no specific connection to the percentage of abv on the label. Not only can the label itself be wildly inaccurate, but -- again -- it's all about balance. I've had Cabernets (or other grapes) that were 15+% with no heat whatsoever, and wines at 12.8% that seemed very hot on the palate . . . and just the opposite was true, as well . . . .

            FWIW, last night, I had a 1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia, a 1999 Viader, and a 1996 Chateau Montelena Estate Cab . . . . all Napa; all right around 14% (+/- 0.1% on the label). None were hot on the palate.

            1. re: zin1953

              To second what Jason mentions, it is ALL about balance. Numbers just do not equate to wine. Several Japanese scientists have tried to develop a "fool-proof" equation for wine, but have, so far, failed. Others have attempted similar.

              I have had lower ABV wines, that were "hot," and some fairly high ABV wines, that were not.

              Balance is the key, and not just with Cabs.


              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I understand this in theory but in practice I have not a cab that was under 13.5% that tasted "hot". Granted I have much less experience than you or Jason, but that is what I have observed. But then again I am pretty new to focusing on Cabernet because it is such an imposing grape. Way too many choices and price ranges and styles.

                1. re: budnball

                  Oh there ARE many choices, and even at the listed price-points.

                  As one goes up that scale, I would expect more "balance," regardless of the stated ABV, but, as with so much in life, there are no guarantees.

                  It's like thinking that as one spends more on a wine, it will be "better." It might, but it might not, too - and much depends on the taster's individual likes and dislikes.

                  I like the folk at K&L, and work with Ralph Sands (the Bdx. "expert" at Redwood City), when ordering from them.

                  I would expect that they will have some great options for you, as all, with whom I have ever worked, take their role seriously.

                  Good luck, and enjoy.


              2. re: zin1953

                How was the 1997 Insignia? I have a bit cellared.

                1. re: Scott M

                  I think it's fine with food, but it's lost some fruit and is showing its age when served alone . . . its' 15years old now, and I'd think about drinking is now and over the next couple of years. As we were in fact drinking these wines alone, I'll say that -- surprisingly (as I've loved this wine in the past) -- it was the least favorite of the three.

              3. re: budnball

                FYI- I've seen Ridge Monte Bello for just under $50 (on line, but K&L might be close to that). Great wine!!

                1. re: Midlife

                  Getting hard to find any Ridge cab at that price. Other of their reds can be found but cabs, not so much.

              4. re: goldangl95

                I have had a few 2010 from the Atlas Peak Appellation and from my limited sampling that region didn't appear to suffer in the vintage

                1. re: goldangl95

                  I'm going to say the 2010 Caymus Cab is an exception as DH & I picked it as one of the faves in a recent blind tasting of world cabs at K&L :) BTW, this was one fun tasting!

              5. Ridge Monte Bello (also Santa Cruz Mtns. and Jimsomare)
                Ahlgren Bates Ranch
                Kathryn Kennedy Estate
                Soquel Vineyards

                Quilceda Creek
                L'Ecole No. 41

                3 Replies
                1. re: zin1953

                  Thanx for suggestions. As usual I was just being casual with the brew comment but you knew that. :-).

                  1. re: zin1953

                    If you can get any of those for under $50, tell me where. In the under $50 range I'd look at wines like:

                    Beringer Knights Valley
                    Buehler Napa Estate
                    Chappellet Napa Valley Signature
                    Hess Collection Mt. Veeder
                    Ramey Claret Napa Valley
                    Sebastiani Alexander Valley

                    Of course, I find most decent CA Cabs to be much better with some age, 5 to 7 years, than drunk young. Unfortunately, you often cannot find wines from before 2007 in wine stores for the most part.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      >>> If you can get any of those for under $50, tell me where. <<<

                      I will whole-heartedly admit, I "spaced" on the $50 limit -- and so that eliminates Ridge Monte Bello, Soquel Vineyards (they jacked their price since the last time I bought their wine), and Quilceda Creek, BUT . . .

                      -- Ahlgren "Bates" has never been carried a $50 WSRP in its entire life.
                      -- Ridge 2009 Cabernet Santa Cruz Mountains Estate (*not* Monte Bello) is $40 @ the winery.
                      -- Waterbrook Reserve Cabernet is $25 @ the winery.
                      -- Hedges Family Estate Red Mountain is $25 @ the winery
                      -- L'Ecole No. 41's *Estate* Cab is indeed $60 WSRP, but their Walla Walla Valley AVA Cab is $36 @the winery; their Columbia Valley AVA Cab is $31, and their two "Bordeaux blends" are $49 and $41 @ the winery.

                  2. As mentioned the Ridge Santa Cruz Cab/Merlot is wonderful.

                    Anderson's Conn Valley Napa Reserve for a bit more.
                    2008 Mondavi Napa Cabernet for under $20 was wonderful.

                    1. I would add the Hafner, Alexander Valley Cab to the lists above, but availability is not easy to come by. K&L might be able to help you, but one usually sees those in a few, select West Coast restaurants.

                      Good luck,


                      1. We have found that the Conn Creek winery on Silverado Trail in Napa Valley puts out a number of excellent cabs, most of which are priced at or below $50.00.

                        1. 3 that would meet your criteria of price, ready to drink now and are available at K&L:

                          Sequoia Grove, Napa
                          Buehler Estate
                          Pine Ridge, Napa

                          1. A week ago in the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonne (an excellent wine writer) singled out these Cabs for good flavor. Some of them -- the ones listed below -- are in your budget.

                            2009 Hess Collection Allomi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($28, 14.4%)
                            2010 Round Pond Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($30, 14.5%)
                            2009 Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon ($45, 14.9%)
                            2009 Antica Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55, 14%) -- a few dollars more than your upper limit
                            2009 Coho Headwaters Napa Valley Red ($42, 14.7%)
                            2009 Covey Run Quail Series Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($9, 13.5%)

                            Go to the article for descriptions of each of the wines:

                            Hope this is helpful.

                            1. So what did you end up purchasing over the weekend at K&L, budnball?

                              14 Replies
                              1. re: Fowler

                                After seeing the options, I decided to save a bit of this months wine budge on the Ahlgren wine sale. However I went by K&L today for 3 $20 bottles suggestions and came back with
                                Twenty rows 2010 Napa Cab.
                                NxNW 2009 Listed as 85% Cab, 12%Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot Ore.& Wash.
                                Rudy 2010 Cab Napa Valley.
                                I asked for under $30 domestic Cabs ready to drink now. The person i spoke with, who's name i did not get, also recommended some New Zealand offerings that will have to try in the New Year.

                                1. re: budnball

                                  I have not heard of those 3 so I look forward to your reviews once you taste them. The staff at K&L (SF) have never given me a bum steer.

                                  1. re: budnball

                                    Have you tried the Rudy yet?

                                    My recent tastings & definite buy recs:

                                    2010 Honig Cabernet Napa Valley- $32.99/KL - black cherry with nice chewy tannins

                                    2009 Clos Du Val Cabernet Napa Valley - $20.99/Costco
                                    dark fruit & earthy

                                    1. re: ceekskat

                                      I taste both of those somewhat frequently, so...I'm guessing neither are quite "ready to drink," as the OP would like.

                                      What's your take on how much the tannins have settled down? "Chewy" sounds like they have a way to go, and would require a few more years of again, as the Honig and CdV Cabs usually do.

                                      BTW, the "Rudy" is the "second label" of [Rudy] Von Strasser Winery in the Napa Diamond Mountain District. I like the Von Strasser Cabs for their direct fruit and drinkability -- this one has more minerality than the regular Von Strasser cabs, so it's not a beginner Cab [our OP knows Cabs so that reference isn't for him]. See if you can find the 2009 also.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine

                                        Total digression, but we love Kristin!

                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                          In my haste to report this recent discovery, I didn't think about the "drink now" requirement.

                                          I think they will improve quite a bit in two years but good now. The tannins are not "fierce" which is why I said chewy. Coats the tongue well as opposed to something "tannic" which I just find harsh.** Both of these wines have depth, are not overripe and most importantly, are a great value.

                                          By contrast...

                                          2009 Sequoia Grove Cab Napa Valley- $34.99/KL - not as much depth, tannic. I'm beginning to wonder if "minerality"** could be used to describe this taste. Tasted at winery over the holidays.

                                          2009 Katherine Kennedy "small lot cabernet" Santa Cruz -
                                          My notes from the KL blind cab tasting "light, fruity, elegant, but not much structure. Not earthy."

                                          2008 Domaine Eden Cabernet Santa Cruz Mountains - $32.99 KL - drinkable but not enough fruit, character. Here again, "minerality" may be more appropriate? May be just not my style.

                                          **I don't think I could have given even this basic description a year ago; but thanks to you and other helpful hounds on this board, I am learning.

                                          1. re: ceekskat

                                            Love that you're tasting and posting!

                                            1. re: ceekskat

                                              Seems you like wines with grippier tannins and earthy characteristics. You may really like Keenan's cab if you haven't had them before. Also Smith Madrone's cab.

                                              1. re: goldangl95

                                                Thanks, will do. Tried the Keenan cab when we visited the winery 1 1/2 yrs ago but found the cab franc so delightful, I don't recall the cab.

                                                1. re: ceekskat

                                                  The Spring Mountain Cab Francs are great all-around. I love Pride's and Spring Mountain Vineyards' called Cab Francisco.

                                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                                    Hmm, time to plan a trip to Spring Mountain again...really wish I didn't have motion sickness ;-)

                                          2. re: ceekskat

                                            Found the Rudy to be a bit soft and not memorable. Really loved the NxNW tho, a bit less fruit and a touch more mineral. Still have to open the 20Rows

                                            1. re: budnball

                                              Thanks for the update! I think I may have seen that NxNW recently locally so I will pick up a bottle and try it.

                                        2. Since I'm on the "Other Coast," not sure what your price points are in CA.

                                          We like Honig, Trefethen, Chimney Rock, St. Supery cabs (and Chimney Rock and St. Sup Bordeaux blends) -Napa
                                          also enjoy Silver Oak Alexander Valley.

                                          1. well within your price range:

                                            2009 Eberle estate cabernet