cabernet sauvignon

Good Wine Under $20: Cab Sav

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Light the grills—and stock up on Cabernet Sauvignon

In Los Angeles, it was 90 degrees. Although it is snowing in Buffalo, it is spring here (or maybe summer). So I fired up the grill for the first time last night, marinated a skirt steak, roasted some sweet potatoes (note to self: baking sweet potatoes in the oven for an hour warms up the house), and tossed some cherry tomatoes with mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Then I moved on to the Cabernets.

I enjoy grilled steak with Cabernet Sauvignon, and I have three suggestions for you: one for under $10, one for under $15, and one for just over $20. Even if there is snow on the ground, these wines mix well with stews, braised short ribs, or a pot of chili.

2009: Under $10 The Big House Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, The Usual Suspect (suggested retail $9.99; available for $6-$10). Perhaps not the most complex Cabernet, but a good representative of the grape, with cherry and currant aromas. Plum aromas dominated the palate, complemented by a bitter taste evocative of coffee grounds. The aftertaste was also wonderfully bitter, which prevented this fruity wine from becoming too jammy. The Cabernet is infused with a hint of Grenache.

Excellent QPR.

2009: Under $15 Cabernet Sauvignon Robert Oatley TIC TOK by James Oatley (retail $14; available for $12-$16) With cherry and blackberry aromas and florals, this is another fruit-forward Cabernet. Pleasant tannins accompany a spicy aftertaste with just the right grip. Excellent QPR.

Just Over $20: Huerhuero Vineyard 2008 Via Robles Cabernet Sauvignon (recommended retail $22; this new release is currently available at the vineyard; prior releases are available elsewhere for $15-$25). This fantastic wine tasted much more costly than the price tag. Currant, pencil lead, and eucalyptus aromas and tastes created an exquisite and complex wine. The current notes get plumper with air. The tannins are peppery and well-integrated, leaving a pleasant finish. For $22, this is a lot of wine and a great value.