It’s not easy finding cheap cabernet sauvignon that tastes like cabernet sauvignon. Too many of them are fruity and sticky, without the heft and tannins that cabernet is supposed to have — call them cabernet lite. Or, if they taste like cabernet, they cost at least $20, and that’s not the point of what we do here.
How rare are these wines? I have only written about a half dozen or so cabernets in this space in the past year — hardly a proportion that compares to cabernet’s popularity. It’s the most sold red wine, and second overall in popularity to chardonnay.
The other irony? That many cabernets that do are well made and inexpensive are produced by the huge mutinationals that get so much criticism from the wine world, like the Columbia-Crest that appeared here in February. The Edna Valley ($15, sample, widely available), part of the E&J Gallo empire, fits into the same mold. In this, it’s another reminder that tasting the wine is always a good thing to do before deciding if you like it — something, sadly, that even I ometimes forget.
The Edna Valley is top notch inexpensive California cabernet. It’s less fruity than similar wines, even though it’s from Paso Robles, where fruity is part of the winemaking style. Still, there is a nice a dose of what may be boysenberry, as well as almost silky tannins and a chalky, grippy finish. Given those adjectives, you can probably tell that I really liked the finish. Serve this with red meat, especially as the weather warms up and it’s backyard barbecue time.