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March 12, 2009


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Lenn, I think "experiments" like this are always a lot of fun.

In terms of California, however, I have little doubt you'll find some good cabernet sauvignons. No matter how styles have become exaggerated and inflated throughout the last 10 years of cab craziness, the original intent of the Napa region was based on some amazing trailblazing wines. Like you said, with all of that production someone has to be really paying attention to balance.

What I wonder, based on my limited experience, is how California really fares on those other varietals that are grown en masse. I've never had a reasonably priced California chardonnay that I liked, or for that matter many other popular whites, nor a pinot noir (and definitely not a riesling!).

Of course, I've never been able or willing to buy California wines that range much above $25-35 in price. Are there some great chardonnays to be had for more than that, or pinot noirs, etc.?

Anyway, food for thought (or wine). Looking forward to your ongoing tasting!

Jason and Lenn,

If you go the Pinot route, Asimov provides a nice roadmap here:


Some of the most enjoyable comparisons I've done are with California Syrah and Rhone Syrah. I'm curious to hear how your experiment turns out.

Lenn, taking inspiration from my comments posted under the "house of mondavi" thread, I'm going to recommed you try a Mondavi Stags Leap District Cab.
I had one just a week ago from the 2001 vintage and it was very well balanced and very food friendly. I was surprised by the restraint it exhibited.
Not sure what vintage is currenlty out there, but I picked up mine for $40 so I'd hope the latest vintage on the shelf is still under $50.

First off, Congrats on the Wine Bloggers Award. Especially it being a New York based blog (I am a New Yorker of thirty years, but recently moved to Napa Valley via Sicily, long story). I'd like for you to put our wine in the blind tasting mix, Larkmead Vineyards 2006 Cabernet ($55, a little over budget). Looking forward to the results....

Dan Petroski
Assistant Winemaker


Here is a link to a similar idea done in 2005, and if I sent it to you before forgive the redunduncy: http://dat.erobertparker.com/bboard/showthread.php?t=45025

All in all California is not monolithic. They have quite a diversity, even though many of the wines that some of the wine publications seem to prefer end up being highly extracted and highly alcoholic to the point where they appear to lack balance.

Going back to the wines of the 80s and the 90s it was rare to see anything above 13 to 14% alcohol by volume.

If you are looking for better quality CS under $50 I know of no better scout than Ray Ormand who frequently posts on great finds at lower prices. Include him in your tasting and secure his wine hunting talents.


Cliff Lede Cab. Sauv. 2005 is very good. Around 50 bucks.


My sister's boyfriend works for Michael Skurnik Wines, and he loves Detert Cab Sauv. For years they supplied their grapes for Mondavi Reserve and Opus One.


I found it a bit over $50, but pretty close:


I would suggest Truchard, Sinskey, Larkmead or John Anthony.

To Art's list I would add: Corison, MacLean, and von Strasser, with the caveat that you'll need to use wine-searcher.com to hit your price ceiling.

Lenn - you should have come to the Napa Valley Vintners tasting last week - lots of nice Cali cabs you could have sunk your teeth into.

The NY Times did a tasting of Napa Cabernets under 50 last year.


Seems you are getting a lot of wine recomendations that are pushing the $50 limit (including from me in my prior post) so I thought it might make sense to mix in a few bargain wines that can still deliver.
I've been a fan for a while of Louis M. Martini for the food friendliness of their cabs.... when I'm having a burger or meatballs and want a cab, I usually reach for their's.
I really like their Sonoma bottling for value (can be found for $10 if you shop around) and they also make a Napa bottling which can be had for around $20.
Even if you don't pick this one, make sure to mix in some from the $15 - $30 range. I always love to see where the low priced offering show up in blind tastings.

Lenn and Dave,

Couldn't agree more with Dave. Nice mix of lower-priced wines would be instructive. Find the value!

Dave - Do you have a single favorite CA Cab, regardless of price range?

Provenance is another nice option.

Uhmmm... I seem to recall watching you sample some CA wines in the past... and I believe there are pictures to prove this... ;-)

My favorite Napa Cabs come from the Medoc

Lenn, see if you can get some Charles Krug or Chappellet "Mountain Cuvee"; both under $30.

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