We often hear the complaint that expensive cabernet sauvignons are too tannic to drink. It may explain the popularity of merlot, a grape variety that produces smooth, quaffable wines. However, the trend to make cabernet sauvignon more approachable has morphed into a tradition for many California producers. With only a percent of people who call themselves collectors, winemakers realize that most of their customers want their cabernets ready to drink with tonight’s dinner – not a holiday dinner that is a decade away.
We’ve assembled a short list of a few cabernet sauvignons that are especially drinkable without further aging. These wines have a fruit-forward character that makes them delicious yet they have enough body to make them a good match to beef and even short-term aging. Here they are:
Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($57). This approachable cabernet has delicious and ripe black cherry flavors and a hint of vanilla and cedar. Blended with merlot, malbec and petite verdot.
- DeLille Cellars D2 2016 ($42). The name for this Columbia Valley wine comes from the road that passes through the historic chateau region of Bordeaux. The heavy content of merlot makes this spectacular wine more approachable yet its power should not be underestimated. The blend includes cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot. It is complex with red fruit flavors and hints of spice. Soft tannins make it an easy drink.
- Bellacosa North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($22). Talented winemaker Daniel Cohn continues to make one of the best values in cabernet sauvignon. With a complex, dark fruit nose, the wine oozes with ripe plum and raspberry flavors. Its velvety texture and smooth tannins make it an easy drink to enjoy now.
Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($40). This full-bodied wine never disappoints us year after year. You get a lot of flavor for your buck: loads of ripe plum and black currants with fine tannins and lingering finish.
- Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($60). Blended with malbec, merlot and petit verdot, this full-bodied yet approachable cabernet sauvignon has effusive violet and clove aromas followed by dark fruit flavors and a hint of earth and tobacco.
- Lohr Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35). Forward ripe cherry, cassis and blackberry flavors are offered in a soft but deceiving shell. Very approachable now.
- Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2016 ($50). Interesting eucalyptus and mint in the nose with Blackberry and tea elements in the mouth. A very complete wine with a long length.
- Concannon Vineyards Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($20). Ripe plums and cherries give this wine an immediate appeal. Established in 1883, Concannon was a pioneer in making cabernet sauvignon – 80 percent of California’s cabernet sauvignon crop is a descendent of its clones. Cherry and plum flavors with hints of spice, cocoa and vanilla.
ZD Wines is celebrating 50 years of winemaking in the fabulous Rutherford growing region in Napa Valley. We have followed these wines for decades and they continue to represent the quality of this region.
The 2017 ZD Wines Founders Reserve Pinot Noir ($90) from Carneros is a luxurious wine with dense dark fruit flavors and hints of vanilla and cedar. Not to be outdone in quality is the ZD Reserve Chardonnay ($80) that competes with anything from California.
The ZD Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($80) is a concentrated, full-bodied wine with ripe cassis and dark fruit flavors, long finish, dense tannins and hints of clove. It is blended with 12 percent petit verdot.
- Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico 2014 ($35). Floral and cherry aromas with a hint of clove. Plum and spice flavors join fine tannins and hints of mocha.
($20). This reasonably priced cabernet from Maipo alley, Chile, offers a lot of body for the money. Ripe plum and cherry notes with fine tannins and a velvet mouthfeel.
- Dutcher Crossing Taylor Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($50). The additional bottle age helps to tame this giant win with ripe blackberry and raspberry flavors.
- Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($59). Red fruit combines with oak-inspired vanilla and chocolate notes to make a terrific, firm cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley. Newton makes great and consistent cabernet sauvignon across the board. This is one of the more reasonably priced versions.
- Lassègue Saint-Emilion Grand Cru 2011 ($65). Additional bottle age rounds off this well-balanced and hedonistic Bordeaux blend of merlot (62 percent), cabernet franc (30 percent) and cabernet sauvignon (8 percent). Floral aromas with ripe blackberry flavors with mineral and herbal notes.
- Tenuta RegalealiBianco Sicily 2018 ($15). We loved the refreshing and unique flavors of this blend of inzolia, grecanico, catarratto and chardonnay. Crisp acidity makes it a great foil for warmer temperatures.
- Prophecy Rose Vin de France 2017 ($15). This wine is a great way to start a holiday party. It is a blend that is dominated by grenache and cinsault. Prophecy makes wines from around the world and this cherry-dominated French rose is perfectly balanced.
- Champagne Palmer & Co. Rose Reserve N/V ($75-$85). This is a very light, delicate style of Champagne with a pale salmon hue. Citrus and apple notes dominate with a hint of strawberry, an alluring yeasty nose. The pink color comes red wine from a 35-year-old solera.