A few months ago, someone told me he loved Silver Oak’s cabernet sauvignon, Alexander Valley in particular, but at $55 a pop it was a little steep for everyday drinking. Since then, I’ve been on a quest to find cabs that are similar in style for $20 or less.
With all the expensive cabernets on the market, it might seem like anything less than $25 is not worth it. Au contraire. In numerous blind tastings, I’ve found several cabs retailing for under $20 that I would actually pay more to drink. While they may not have the exact qualities of Silver Oak, I found these wines to be balanced and complex, which met the definition of a good deal when coupled with the price.
These are my top three:
Cantora Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 (Colchagua Valley, Chile): Cantora is a fair-trade line of wines made by San Nicolas Wines, a South American negociant. The Colchagua Valley in central Chile is a major wine region that is especially known for cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. So far, this is the best alternative I’ve found to Silver Oak Alexander Valley in that it shares a similar sweet cherry, cassis and herbal quality. Like many Chilean cabs, it has mint and eucalyptus notes that seamlessly join the fruit.
Suggested retail: $10
Renwood Red Label Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 (California): Since the 1990s, Renwood has been making some of the best zinfandels from Amador County. Renwood has launched Red Label wines that are made from other grapes and priced below its single-vineyard zins. This is a jammy cab, but it retains bright acidity. Packed with black and red currants and a dash of bittersweet chocolate, it is very accessible and pleasant. Suggested retail: $14
Urbanite Cellars Amplio Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 (California): Wine importer Luis Moya, an Iberian specialist, created Urbanite Cellars in 2010. I’ve had several folks taste it blind, and nearly all were willing to pay $25 to $30. How’s that for an endorsement? Medium-bodied with pipe tobacco, root beer and black cherry aromas as well as ripe tannins and berries, this is a fantastic value.
Suggested retail: $15
Pamela S. Busch was the founding partner of Hayes and Vine and CAV Wine Bars, and is a wine educator and writer.