Like That? Try This: Cabernet Options for Every Budget
Go to Top

Sometimes you deserve a diamond-level Cabernet Sauvignon that sparkles as brightly as you do. Sometimes your bank account thinks your delusions of grandeur are getting a little out of control. When things are good, drink big; when your Champagne tastes are at war with your Schlitz budget, drink the three alternatives we’ve hand-picked and detailed below.

Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Long before Gustav and Naoko Dalla Valle launched their Napa-based vineyard in 1982, the Dalla Valle family was making their mark on the wine scene in their native Italy. Today, tradition has melded with decades of hard work at the hands of noted winemakers like the estimable Heidi Barret and Screaming Eagle’s Andy Erickson to create a portfolio of wines that demands respect.

The Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon is a legend in its own right. While the winery’s cult blend, Maya, brings in a whirl of Cabernet Franc for nuanced and a subtly textured finish, the signature Cab Sav is a tantalizing burst of acidity wrapped in silky, supple tannins. Each sip is an archaeological expedition as you uncover layer after layer of red and black fruit, chocolate, smoke, and a hint of herbaceousness gets you salivating. Drink it now and nibble your way through the first glass while the rest of the bottle aerates, or stick it in your cellar til it mellows into an even more polished and refined treat.

Local: CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014

Paul Hobbs grew up surrounded by agriculture and it was his childhood spent tasting apples that led him to appreciate how much of a difference terroir truly makes. These days, Hobbs is a winemaking icon with a reputation for honoring the history of a region while also pushing for new ideas that propel the industry forward. You may know him from his work with Opus One, Mondavi, Simi, Bodegas Catena, and many others, but his own wines are worthy of just as much acclaim.

Scrumptious, juicy, and the kind of wine you intend to share but “forget” to break out until all your guests have left.

Enter CrossBarn Cab, a wine that stays true to the Hobbs ideals while taking advantage of sourced grapes that help keep this winner well under the $100 mark. Though CrossBarn is 92% Cab Sav, there are also dollops of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, hence the intoxicating red-black color and pirouettes of beautifully ripe blueberry, cassis, cedar, graphite, lavender, and sage that dance across the palate. Scrumptious, juicy, and the kind of wine you intend to share but “forget” to break out until all your guests have left.

A Little Far-Flung: DAOU Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016

Paso Robles may not have the authority or name recognition that Napa instantly generates, but what it lacks in prestige it more than makes up for in value. Think you’re in for a dip in quality? Not so fast. There’s a movement afoot and it’s thrusting Paso Cabs into the international spotlight. The Paso Robles CAB Collective is doing good work educating the world on the quality of local wines and the initiative is spearheaded by vintner Daniel Daou.

The 2016 DAOU Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon is Paso Cab at its best. You get a fruity punch of black and red fruit (the sour cherry is a standout) that echoes the Dalla Valle above and there’s an intriguing almost ashy undertone as well, but in place of the thyme, there’s a fresh gust mint and a thread of salty, rich olive. The wine is round, full, and vigorous without losing its elegance or finesse. Prepare to be charmed, and although may not be at its peak in 15 years like the Dalla Valle, it’s ready to drink now, and, depending on your POV, that may be an even bigger score.

Out There: Bodegas El Nido ‘Clio’, 2015

Clio isn’t from Napa or even from California and it’s not even predominately Cabernet, but bear with us here because it’ll all make sense in a moment.

The Bodegas El Nido “Clio” is a blend of 70% Monastrell/30% Cabernet Sauvignon that comes from Jumilla, Spain. It’s oak-aged (in a blend of French and American barrels, to be precise), like so many award-winning Napa Cabs, and Monastrell – aka Mourvedre – reinforces much of the blueberry, blackberry, plum, pepper, gravel, and smoke notes you’d expect from a Cabernet Sauvignon. In many ways, it’s a Spanish wine in Napa clothing, and Cab lovers tend to develop an immediate infatuation with the in-your-face pop of jammy fruit, baking spice, and minerality, all wrapped up in an opulent finish that lasts and lasts.