Wine of the Week: Stepping up the ladder of Cabernet Sauvignon

Self-quarantining has some interesting side effects.

Like so many of us in lockdown, I have reached out to many friends, past and present — either through social media or via digital shoutout — for a long overdue reconnection.

And it works both ways. I was recently invited by a former college roommate to participate in a Zoom call with a few various and assorted acquaintances from the way-back days.

It was a blast and took a few unexpected detours.

As the call progressed, we got caught up on current situations and relived former glories — the latter appeared to have grown greater in memory than in actual deed. But I digress.

At some point during our virtual reunion, it was revealed that I was moonlighting as a wine critic and columnist.

Somehow my friends, who remember me as a strict teetotaler in college, found it beyond amusing that I have a basic working knowledge of wine.

After the not-so-gentle ribbing abated, several of them actually wanted my opinion on a variety of wine recommendations. Go figure.

However, one request struck me as quite noteworthy, particularly since I thought it might be a topic that could have some appeal to a wider audience.

Jeff asked me whether I could recommend a few affordable California Cabernet Sauvignon wines at three different price points, with a maximum of $60.

While there are a lot of really affordable wines made throughout the state — keeping in mind that “affordable” is in the mind of the bank account holder — finding a Cabernet Sauvignon that costs less than $60 and has broad appeal was definitely a challenge I was happy to accept.

I am sure I am missing a plethora of excellent choices, but here are the wines that met my criteria of being widely available and reliably delicious.

I have sung the praises of the 2015 Worthy Sophia’s Cuvee Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley on more than one occasion.

Drinking similar wines twice the price, this is a serious red wine made by local wine distributor-turned-producer, Gus Kalaris, who crafts this beautiful red from a blend of declassified lots of cult wines from vineyards throughout Napa Valley.

Cabernet Sauvignon takes the lead with bits and pieces of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Verdot, and Malbec thrown in for good measure.

Scents of smoked meats, spicy plums and vanilla tantalizes the nose but belies the truly powerful flavors of black raspberries, black cherries, plums and tobacco on the beautifully structured frame.

Silky notes of chocolate and herbs filter in on the long finish.

Price: $30

During quarantine, I did not have the luxury of tasting many of the wines that are usually sent to me for “analysis,” so I was left to my own devices to rely on the inventory of my local wine shop.

Good thing they were stocked up on the 2015 Heitz Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

This may not be the flagship Martha’s Vineyard (upward of $250), but it is vibrant and charming. Gentle flavors of black raspberry, baked cherries and cocoa glide over the tongue.

There is just the right amount of acidity to keep the wine in balance and focused, providing wonderful integration of the fruit all the way through the velvety finish.

Price: $45

Of course, if you want to splurge on quality without breaking the aforementioned bank account, I think the 2015 Merryvale Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon delivers a lot of value for the money.

This elegant Cabernet delivers beautiful flavors of jammy blackberry fruit, dark cherries and black raspberries on a body of soft tannins that provides firm structure and weight.

Notes of vanilla and baking spices file in on the long, full finish.

Price: $60

Quarantine never tasted so good. Stay safe and drink well.

Listen and subscribe to the “The Vine Guy” podcast on Podcast One

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