Cabernet can turn your low-key holiday into a celebration.
We found these great buys from California and Washington to share—a selection out of 648 wines vetted by our blind tasting panels—all rated by our critics, Patrick J. Comiskey and Joshua Greene.
Here’s a selection from our December 2020 issue.
2017 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
92 | $36
From the volcanic soils of Beringer’s Knights Valley estate, this wine’s tannins show the mineral earthiness of those soils, providing an edge to the fragrant red-cherry and boysenberry flavors. Firm and mouthwatering, this wine is restrained and gentle despite its size. — Joshua Greene
2018 Red Mountain Coda (Best Buy)
92 | $27
Composed of second lots from the vintage, this blend of cabernet franc and merlot is nimble, playful and bright. Its red plum, dark cherry and bramble have more demonstrable acidity than most Red Mountain reds. — Patrick J. Comiskey
2017 Red Mountain Ciel du Cheval Vineyard (Best Buy)
92 | $45
This blend of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot is a big wine, with woodsy cherry and plum flavors and a salty edge. Clean and frank, it’s ideal for a steak. — P.J.C.
Lujon is a small father-and-son operation out of Carlton, Oregon, devoted mostly to Willamette Valley fruit, except for this succulent cabernet. It’s a steal for the price, spicy, briary and lean, with an effortless balance between smoked purple-plum fruit and lean, angular tannins, with just the right amount of flesh for pork shoulder. — P.J.C.
2016 Columbia Valley Claret (Best Buy)
92 | $34
A claret-style blend of Bordeaux varieties, this is well oaked, even as notes of cedar, tobacco leaf and sun-dried tomato come through. It’s generous in flavor, yet the wine’s lively acidity and savory grip of tannins makes it feel light and lean. — P.J.C.
It’s hard to believe this youthful, structured, savory red is priced at $22. (At W&S, we assign scores with no knowledge of prices unless they are $20 or under.) We opened this wine on a Thursday and by Saturday, it was still tight and firm, with juicy black-currant flavors and scents of herbs. As of Monday, it felt sumptuous and rich. One taster described the flavors as “a bowl of super-juicy, dark, yummy fruit before it goes overripe.” This is not a complex wine with a lot of depth, but it is pretty extraordinary to find such delicious drinking for a third of what you might be asked to pay for a cabernet of equal stature. — J.G.
2016 Walla Walla Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
92 | $45
This wine is ripe but that takes nothing away from the wine’s sumptuous elegance, its black plum and mocha scents, its powerful build, its elegant finish. While there’s much to love now (use a decanter), it’s got the stuffing to age, too. — P.J.C.
2017 Alexander Valley Diamond Dust Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
92 | $24
Nick Goldschmidt bases this wine on a benchland vineyard, though its rush of tannins feel more like those of mountain-grown fruit than benchland. With sumptuous fruit, it’s a formidable and graceful cabernet, and if it lacks some detail, it is, after all, $24. — J.G.
Walla Walla Vintners
2017 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
From one of the first wineries to plant in the cool reaches of Mill Creek Valley in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, this wine has posh elements of spice and herb that give it style and lift, the plum lined with pipe tobacco, the red fruit possessing a lean line from cedary oak. — P.J.C.
2017 Red Mountain AVA Series Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
92 | $25
At three years old, this feels youthful, its black-plum flavors delivered with power and poise, rippling with energy. Massive yet self-contained, with a dusting of windblown soil flavor, this is a lot of wine for the price. Cellar. — P.J.C.
This smells of woodsmoke and olive, cassis and blue flowers, with a hint of the funk the Rocks District brings. The flavors are dark and tense, with warm berry fruit that’s concentrated and sleek. This feels poised now, and it should age well. — P.J.C.
2018 Columbia Valley Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
93 | $20
Seductive from start to finish, this is redolent of juicy plums, cedar, ink, violets and consommé. It manages to be sensual without being overtly fleshy, with a fine structure and a texture as sleek as burnished wood. For an herb-crusted pork loin. — P.J.C.
2017 Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
93 | $42
With intriguing tension between its savory elements—tobacco leaf, sun-dried tomato skin, cedar frond, mocha—this is a weighty wine with firm dark-plum fruit and formidable tannins, but it’s delivered wholly on the rails, detailed and on point for steak. — P.J.C.
Ambassador Wines of Washington
2017 Red Mountain Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Best Buy)
94 | $42
A Red Mountain anomaly in its red fruited and lifted black-cherry flavors, this is compact and poised at once, succulent and balanced, for grilled meats. — P.J.C.
Ambassador Wines of Washington
2017 Red Mountain Envoy (Best Buy)
95 | $38
Focused on merlot, this is as bright as a red plum in July, a luminous red that looks as succulent in the glass as it turns out to be in flavor. It feels sleek and fine, the plummy fruit scented with notes of tobacco, tomato leaf and a hint of caramel. The saturating texture is precise and mollifying, pleasingly medium-bodied for a Red Mountain wine. — P.J.C.
The wines on this page were chosen by our editors, from our tastings for the December 2020 edition. After our editors made their selections, we offered wineries the opportunity to promote their Best Buy award with a bottle image and brand links.
This story appears in the print issue of December 2020.
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