Wine Reviews: Cabernet Sauvignon

For this round of our wine panel, we asked members — retailers and operators from across the country — to sip and grade cabernet sauvignon. Any style from anywhere in the world.

As always, these selections include brief tasting notes, a rating and the wine’s retail price (which can vary from store-to-store and market-to-market). Unless noted otherwise, the price reflects a 750-ml. bottle. If you’re a beverage professional with a specialty in wine and you’re interested in participating in the panel, please contact editor Kyle Swartz at or 203-855-8499 x2225.

Recent rounds of our wine reviews have included chardonnay and rosé.

Rating System

Five Stars (100-92): A top-flight wine, superior in taste and character, and providing a superior price/value ratio.

Four Stars (91-86): A very good wine and an excellent value. A wine for which customers will keep coming back.

Five Star Wines:

(98) Switchback Ridge Cabernet 2013 (California). A very powerful, full-bodied wine. Layers upon layers of black cherry, licorice and cassis. With some air the wine starts to show its true potential. Silky smooth on the palate and hides the 15.5% ABV very well. Bravo! ($95.99)


(97) Alexander Valley Vineyards Alexander School Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (California). Winemaker Kevin Hall shines with this selection from the sweet spot in the family’s vineyard: a small 25-year-old hilltop vineyard. 100% cab, aged 24 months in oak. Rich and supple, very balanced, a strong fruit backbone. A perfect, easy drinking wine. ($33.99)

(97) J.Lohr Carol’s Vineyard Cabernet 2013 (California). Known for their excellent offerings in Monterey and Paso Robles, this is their Napa jewel! Named for Mr. Lohr’s wife Carol, this 20-acre vineyard north of St. Helena produces legendary cabernet and petite verdot. Aged 17 months in oak, with touches of dark chocolate, hazelnut and rich fruit. A truly elegant wine for any special occasion. ($74.99)

(96) Cliff Lede Cabernet 2015 (California). Full-bodied, rich and tannic. Layers of blackberry, cassis and baking spice. This is a showstopper from the Stags Leap District. ($79.99)

(96) Goldschmidt Vineyard “Game Ranch” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (California). This wine is straight-up delicious! This vintage shows dark ruby red color, plus ripe berry, cassis and black pepper aromas. On the palate a smooth entry is followed by black cherry, blueberry and spice. Fine, supple tannins carry all the way through the finish. Notes of chocolate, flint and graphite linger. ($75.99)

(96) Gorman ‘Bully’ Cab 2014 (Washington). Big, bold dark fruits backed up with huge tannins. A great cabernet, but needs a long decant. ($50)

(94) J.Lohr Hilltop Cabernet 2015 (California). Winemaker Steve Peck shines again with his best Paso fruit. 95% cab, with just a touch of malbec and petite verdot, aged 18 months in French Oak. ‘Dense but soft’ is the new descriptor for the house style. Very structured, but fruit-forward with rich black fruit notes. Hints of dark chocolate and hazelnuts round out the presentation. Age this for the next 10 years — if you have the patience. Excellent food wine. ($36.99)

(94) Textbook 2016 (California). Big and bold with hints of mushrooms, spice and boysenberry. Grippy tannins make this a perfect match for a grass-fed filet. ($32.95)

(94) Sean Minor Napa Cabernet 2015 (California). Aromas of cherry, currant and blackberries open up to chocolate and dark plum on the palate. The tannins and oak are balanced nicely in this bargain of a Napa Cabernet. ($24.99)

(94) Clos Pegase Cabernet 2015 (California). Sourced from a single vineyard at the north end of the valley. Hand harvested at night, and aged 17 months, 85% cab, with a touch of petite verdot. Deep, rich color, with a hint of spice and dark chocolate. Soft, silky finish from a Napa pioneer. ($44.99)

(94) Miner Emily’s Cuvee 2013 (California). Offered in remembrance of winery co-founder, Emily Miner, this wine is softened by 5% cabernet franc. The grapes coming from a handful of vineyards, including Stagecoach and Emilio’s Terrace. Dried herb, with sagebrush, highlights a tight structure that’s savory, with a light touch of oak. Velvety finish with well-integrated tannins makes this wine a personal favorite that I could drink glass after glass. Seek this out, as it will not be around for long. Drink now or hold for a few years. ($43.99)

(93) Hologram Cabernet Sauvignon Yountville 2016 (California). A power-packed Yountville wine, the aromas are fruity and dark with raspberry and mocha notes. The palate matches, adding in dark cherry notes to the mix. The lengthy finish is impressive. ($32.99)

(93) Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Cabernet 2014 (California). Plump and elegant, full, rich and concentrated with a touch of spice. Long finish. Enjoy now or cellar for a few years. ($60)

(93) Empezar Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Argentina). An attractive, youthful and vibrant cabernet sauvignon from Maipu. Big aromas of red fruits, pomegranate and plums give this medium-bodied red intensity without the alcohol overpowering the fruit. Six months in French oak rounds out the tannins. ($18)

(93) Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (California). Inky black with purple edges. Big, bold aromas carrying scents of blueberry jam, cassis and mushrooms. Silky smooth palate follows, nicely balanced, cocoa beans, black cherries, blueberries, dates and fine woody tannins. ($30.99)

(93) Wente Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (California). This single vineyard cabernet sauvignon offers rich and concentrated dark fruit flavors of cassis, blackberry, dark cherry and currant. Vanilla and black licorice follow the burst of fruit flavors giving way to a long, lingering finish with ample tannins and a hint of spice. ($25.99)

(93) Mollydooker Gigglepot Cabernet 2016 (Australia). Rich and creamy with heaps of dark chocolate and vanilla. Nice toasty and spicy long finish that goes on forever. ($50)

(93) D’Amande Cabernet Paso Robles El Pomar 2016 (California). From the El Pomar District AVA in Paso Robles, this cabernet has plenty of dark-chocolate notes and a lot of finesse with balanced uplifting acidity on the finish. Not a shy wine, there is power here in addition to the elegance and balance. ($32.99)

(93) Truth & Valor Cabernet Paso 2016 (California). Aromas of currant and plum give you insight into how dark this wine gets on the palate. An elegant, full, black-fruit driven wine that is all about being silky smooth and energetic at the same time. ($29.99)

(93) Truth & Valor Cabernet Santa Margarita 2016 (California). From the Santa Margarita Ranch AVA in Paso Robles I could easily mistake this for left bank Bordeaux with its red-fruit dominance, yet nuanced with tobacco, and tealeaf notes. A step up in intensity and has a fantastic integration of acid and tannins. ($39.99)

(93) Daou Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (California). A wonderfully balanced, and yet complex, wine. Rich berry fruit are complimented with a hint of cedar and a slight, yet pretty, herbaceous note. This is a substantial cabernet that over delivers for the price. ($29)

(93) Clayhouse Red Cedar Vineyard 2014 (California). This is a fruity take on the grape, cabernet sauvignon, beginning with a nose of fresh and vibrant boysenberry fruit and minerality. The palate is tasty in a hedonistic way, but very primary, with flavors of fruit punch. Easy to drink and value driven. Drink now. ($14.99)

(92) Achaval Ferrer Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 (Argentina). Fascinating aromas of dried flowers and jammy blackcurrants, very fruit forward happy nose. Full-to-medium body with rich ripe medium tannins and medium-plus acid to a ripe, full-body, flavorful, spicy finish. ($25.99)

(92) Balancing Act 2015 (Washington State). A lush and smooth cabernet sauvignon. Ripe mixed berry, fruit-forward aromas of plum, black currant, herb and spice lead to blue and black fruit flavors in this wine with hints of pepper and vanilla spice. The finish is supported by grainy tannins, notes of coffee and cherries on the long finish, delivering easy-drinking appeal. Wonderful example of what is happening in the Washington wine region. Drink now. ($19.99)

(92) Round Pond Kith & Kin Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (California). The deep rich color is the first indication of the fantastic tasting experience you will have with this cabernet sauvignon. Intense berry fruit, firm tannins and balanced acidity give this wine an amazing structure and flavor. It gets better with every sip. ($35)

(92) Crossfork Creek Cabernet Yakima 2016 (Washington). Dense, deep and ripe, this has those fantastic creamy-cassis notes that permeate all flavors. Lots of black and blue fruit, this wine punches above its weight and is a fine representation of excellent value from the Yakima Valley. ($24.99)

(92) Beringer Bros. Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet 2016 (California). Great value — hard to resist. Smooth and easy drinking with lots of dark chocolate, toffee and a touch of spice. ($15)

(92) Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (California). Toasted coconut, pencil shavings, graphite, red currant and baked blackberry aromas. Deftly balanced with ripe and sweet tannins finishing long and juicy. ($75)

(92) Foxglove Cabernet 2017 (California). Always one of the best values in California. Dark cherry, licorice and plum on the palate. Smooth tannins make this wine very approachable right out of the gate. ($14.99)

(92) Gunsight Rock Cab 2015 (California). The nose of black raspberry, cherry and oak lead into a palate of dark fruits and a hint of white pepper. This full-bodied, structured, Paso Robles wine is welcome at the dinner table any day of the week at this price. ($16.99)

(92) Primal Oaks Cabernet Paso Estrella 2016 (California). From the Estrella District AVA in Paso Robles, there is a lot nice texture and, consequently, a nice mouthfeel here, with a red fruit-heavy palate and nose. Red cherries and raspberry notes fly across your tongue, and then the finish stays for a long while. ($24.99)

(92) Paso Ranches Cabernet Paso Robles 2016 (California). A blueberry-and raspberry-forward wine that reminds me of Bordeaux but with a mocha note to tell you that it is still from Paso Robles. There is a very enticing savory note to this wine that adds depth to this cabernet. ($21.99)

Four Star Wines:

(91) Vineyard Drive Cabernet Sauvignon Paso 2016 (California). A grippy Paso Robles wine that should not be underestimated, with fresh red fruit-driven notes from initial taste to finish, and a full body. The smooth-yet-gripping tannins make an impressionable and impressive finish. ($16.99)

(91) King’s Pass Cabernet Napa 2015 (California). This full-bodied dark wine has prominent notes of plum and black cherry along with smoky notes that linger on the finish. The smoky spice elements to this dark full wine are what make it interesting and balanced. ($19.99)

(91) Rickshaw Cabernet 2016 (California). Ripe red fruits, subtle spice and great balance. This crowd-pleaser is checks all the boxes. ($14.99)

(91) Gehricke Cabernet 2016 (California). Sonoma’s vast size allows for a rich variety of hidden sub-regions, and this one is named for a dusty farm road in Knights Valley. Rich warm fruit notes offer a hint of the complex spice and fruit flavors that dominate. Cab, malbec, and petite verdot is artfully blended, then aged for 18 month in oak. This is definitely one to track down. ($39.99)

(91) Line Shack Cabernet San Antonio Vineyard 2016 (California). With raspberry and licorice aromas and flavors, the wine is ripe and finishes with round tannins. Concentrated and complex, the raspberry and other red fruits dominate here and define the wine. ($21.99)

(91) Oak Ridge Cabernet Lodi 2016 (California). Aromas of black cherry and a hint of coffee combined with plum and a nice chocolate note on the palate showcase how dark and plush this wine is. Smooth dark notes are held together by a fairly tannic backbone and sticks around for a long finish. ($16.99)

(91) Hesperian “Anatomy” Cabernet 2012 (California). Rising from the ashes of the recent wildfires, this wine over-delivers for the money. Sourced from four prime valley sites, of which the winemaker farms three. Softer and more rounded, with subtle notes of black and red fruit. Touches of merlot and syrah bring balance and elegance to the mix. A true crowd-pleaser. ($32.99)

(91) Provenance Rutherford Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (California). A tradition of quality that certainly carries on in this vintage. A tightly woven masterpiece of fruit and structure. This wine starts off tight but with time it starts to beautifully unravel all its beauty. Amazing wine for the perfect dinner occasion. ($46)

(91) Laroche LaChevalier Pay d’Oc 2014 (France). This dark-ruby colored cabernet sauvignon has an intense nose offering black currant and subtle herbal notes. In the mouth you will find an intense fruit concentration of dark berries with a strong tannin structure and good intensity on the finish with a juicy mouthfeel. Don’t wait to open this bottle. ($11.99)

(91) Maison Castel Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (France). Bright in color with a crimson hue. Delicate on the nose with notes of cocoa, spices and black fruit. Powerful and full on the palate, with coated tannins and a long toasty finish. ($13.99)

(91) San Felipe Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Argentina). From one of Argentina’s most prestigious wineries, this oaked cabernet shows plush aromas of cherry and cassis with concentrated berry flavors and well-balanced tannins. A lot to like for the price. ($15)

(91) Hologram Cabernet Sauvignon Napa 2015 (California). A smooth mouth-filling cabernet that is medium-bodied and very plush. At the same time it is loaded up with red fruit aromas and flavors, giving it a rich feel while still harnessing that beautiful texture. ($24.99)

(91) Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet Sauvignon (Washington State). Rich black currant aromas lead to big dark fruit flavors with crushed stone and notes of tobacco that finish with soft and subtle tannins. Certainly a value for the price. ($15)

(90) Midnight Nebula 2014 (California). Black fruit, leather, spice and vanilla merge beautifully to create a surefire hit. Eighteen months in French Oak. Cellar 8-10 years. ($24)

(90) Santa Rita 120 Cabernet 2016 (Chile). Perfect party wine. Medium-bodied with ripe plum-forward fruit. Easy to enjoy and easy on the pocketbook. ($7)

(90) Path Cab 2015 (California). Dark fruits, cedar box and a kiss of vanilla. This medium-bodied wine boast cherry tart, blackberry and raspberry on the palate. This wine represents a great value. ($12.99)

(89) Diego’s Cabernet 2015 (Italy). Late harvesting produces a full, round cab with lovely, lush tannins. Black current, plum and raspberry make this Venetian wine a pleasure to drink. 100% cab. The label is a bonus! ($16.95)

(89) Alexander Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (California). The classics never go out of style. 40+ years of producing great wines shows. A true Bordeaux style (five grape types) with wonderful structure and very balanced fruit and tannins. Aged 14 month in oak, with rich flavors, and a silky finish. Remarkable value for the money. ($29.99)

(88) Leese-Fitch Cabernet 2016 (California). Perfect wine to pull off the rack and share with friends. The unique, but harmonious, blending of both appellations and varietals belies its simple California designations. Minimal oak aging adds wonderful complexity to great fruit notes. Wonderful value. ($14.99)

(88) Penalolen, Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Chile). Aromas of soy, mocha, black plum, black leather, iron and cedar. Medium-bodied with a gentle texture, moderate complexity finishing with a spicy, earthy note. ($14.99)

(87) Swanson Cabernet 2013 (California). Yes — that Swanson family, if you remember their frozen dinners. One of the Napa pioneers from the 1980’s, this is a beautiful blending of cab, merlot, and petite verdot, aged 18 months in oak. Sourced from three of the best valley floor AVA’s, with rich black fruit flavors, subtle minerality and even a hint of licorice. ($59.99)

(86) Broadside Margarita’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (California). Aromas of jalapeno jelly on melba toast with a note of mint. Firm tannins dominate this structured wine from a cooler site on the west side of Paso Robles. ($21)


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