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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2007 Trader Joe's Reserve Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon**
07TJReserveCS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sonoma, CA $10 Trader Joe's 12/8/09
A deep, ruby-colored wine with a moderate nose of black fruit, chalk, currant leaf and black cherry with hints of sweet spice. Once we aerated the wine, it delivered a well-balanced, fruit-foward, medium-body on the palate with the same flavors found on the nose and notes of mocha and vanilla on the finish. This is a very young wine that was much more integrated after we left a half bottle of it in the fridge for a few days. Wouldn't normally buy TJ's brand, but this one is made by Mazzocco from Sonoma grapes so couldn't resist it for the price. We recently had their CS and really liked it, so I figured this would probably be pretty good for half the cost. While this isn't going to knock anyone's socks off, it's definitely more restrained and less obviously fruity than many wines in this range. Like all Cabs this one needs a few more years in the bottle, but at this price I don't think many people are going to wait. Great QPR for Cab lovers who need an everyday bottle while their high-end versions age. Would decant for a few hours or at the very least aerate before drinking.

2006 Abeja Winery Cabernet Sauvignon***
06AbejaCS.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Columbia Valley, WA $45 Private Tasting 1/23/10
A deep, ruby-colored wine with big aromas of berries, cherry, herbs and spice. The palate was round and ripe, medium-to-full bodied with well-balanced tannins and acidity and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, plum, black pepper and a hint of vanilla and coffee on the lingering finish. If I didn't know for sure this was a cab sauv, I would have sworn it was Petite Sirah. It was lush and lovely and I wanted a full glass. This was my first Cab from WA, so I really have nothing to compare it to. Definitely ready to drink, though it could age a bit. Wish it had a bit more structure for the price, but it's still a complex and lovely wine for those who like their cabs on the fruity side.

2006 Cameron Hughes Lot 75 Oak Knoll Cabernet Sauvignon**
camhughes75.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Napa Valley, CA $13 Gift 11/25/08
A deep, ruby/purple-colored wine with aromas of black fruit, minerals and hints of oak. Even after aerating this wine, it was still very tannic and tight with the fruit (blackberry, blackcurrent) and minerality just starting to peak through after an hour or so. It's hard to recommend cellaring a $13 bottle of wine for a few years, but this one really needs the time. It's well-structured and has great potential, but it was hard to enjoy fully. Cam Hughes wines can't be beat for the price and this one will probably be a real beauty, but it's way too young. Look forward to seeing how it evolves over the next few years.

2006 Chateau Margene Cabernet Sauvignon***
06chMargeneCS.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Paso Robles, California $48 Private Tasting 1/23/10
A medium, ruby-colored wine with aromas of black cherry, blackberry and blackcurrent leaf with hints of chalk and cedar. The palate was medium-bodied and round with low, ripe tannins and medium acidity. The wine was opened but not aerated and though it was a bit tight at first, opened up quite quickly, smoothly delivering the same flavors as found on the nose, with additional notes of menthol and minerals on the lingering finish. A classy, well-structured wine that while fruit forward, still delivered true Cabernet flavors without being too overblown. My favorite wine of the tasting. It needs at least another year or two in the bottle to show it's true nature, but can be drunk now if decanted for an hour. Wish I owned a bottle.

2006 Mazzocco Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon**
mazzoccoCS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Sonoma Valley, CA $24 @ the Winery 5/13/09
A medium-deep, bright ruby-colored wine with aromas of blackberry & raspberry, minerals, cedar and sweet spice. The palate is medium to full-bodied, ripe and chewy with well-integrated tannins. The flavors are of blackberry, earth, licorice and chalk along with notes of cherry and cocoa on the dusty finish. Mazzocco is more famous for their Zinfandels, but this is a well-crafted wine that really delivers lovely varietal flavors for the money. Especially since we only paid $12 a bottle. Would have still bought a few for $24. Still a bit young, though not really ageworthy. Will be drinking the rest of my bottles in the next 2-3 years.

2006 Provenance Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon***
Provenance_Cab_Sauv_06.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Napa Valley, CA $45 Private Tasting 1/23/10
A deep, ruby-colored wine with aromas of black cherry and blackcurrant with hints of cedar, minerals and sweet spice. The palate was full-bodied and round with well-integrated, moderate tannins and medium acidity. The wine was opened for an hour but not aerated. The flavors mirror the nose with additional notes of plum, toast, tobacco and brown sugar on the lengthy, lush finish. Though still quite young, this wine was already showing great depth and unity of flavor. Tied for my favorite wine of the night, it was more restrained than the other Cabs, but still had enough fruit to not be a big tannin bomb. Aged for 18 months in both French and American oak, 40% new barrels. A powerful, yet elegant wine that is worth it's price tag.

2005 Avalon Winery Cabernet Sauvignon*
avalon.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Napa Valley, CA $12 Gift 11/12/08
A medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine with aromas of black fruit, spice and oak. The palate was extremely tight and bitter before we aerated the wine, which softened the tannins and brought out the fruit (blackberry, cherry), minerals and sweet spice. While there's nothing wrong with this wine, there's nothing great about it either. I wanted to like it more, but it was just too all over the place with a barely there finish. Since it's almost impossible to get a Cab at this price, I give them kudos for trying. It might have fared better with food. If you have to drink Cabs everyday, then this wine isn't a bad choice. Personally, I'll stick to my Spanish bargains in this price range.

2005 Beckmen Vineyards Purisma Mountain Vineyards***
03_pmv_cab_sauv.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $50 @ the Winery 11/24/07
This is why we joined their wine club. Super tight and uninteresting the first night, especially for the price. Everything we loved and remembered from their futures tasting after being opened for 2 additional evenings. Normally wouldn't open a cab for 5 years, but we have a number of bottles and just had to see. Big and jammy with lots of ripe dark fruits, lovely smokey oak flavors and a long finish. Still elegant despite the ripeness. Needs at least another 3 years to be fully integrated. Could even be a 4-star wine. We'll have to wait and see.

2005 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon***
beringercab.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Napa Valley, CA $27 Gift 12/24/07
The wine has bright black cherry fruit, toasty oak, vanilla, cedar and smoky aromas accented by hints of cocoa and mint. Small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petite Sirah were added for additional complexity. A full mouth of sweet, zesty and rich black fruit is supported by nice bright acidity and ripe tannins.

2005 Cameron Hughes Lot 40 Cabernet Sauvignon**
chughescab.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
McLaren Vale, Australia $12 Online 1/20/08
Nose of ripe fruits, violet and classic McLaren Vale eucalyptus and mint. Fleshy and ripe on the mid-palate showing ripe plum, chocolate and hints of cassis. Finish is long, deep, and succulent. Still really young, but drinkable right out of the bottle. Amazingly complex wine for the price. I wanted to give it 3 stars, but the others drinking it weren't thrilled with the minty aspect of it. I think it was present, but well-integrated and showed the terroir well, but it's definitely a quality you will either love or hate.

2005 Casa Lapostolle Cabernet Sauvignon**
casalapostolle.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Rapel Valley, Chile $15 Wine.com 9/24/07
A dark ruby with an aromatic aroma of spice, red and black fruits and a touch of tar. Crisp acids and smooth tannins along with a medium body full of dark ripe fruit and cedar from the oak-aging that lingers on the palate. Not overly complex, but a fine example of CS for the price.

2005 Cass Winery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon***
Cass05CS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $45 @ the Winery 11/13/10
A medium-deep, ruby-colored wine with a nose of red & black fruit, herbs, cedar and earth along with notes of meat and sweet spice. The palate is full-bodied, round and lush with well-integrated tannins and flavors of blackberry, black cherry, plum, earth, mocha and menthol along with smoke and caramel on the lengthy finish. We decanted this wine for an hour and it still wasn't quite ready when we started drinking. At 15.25% abv, it showed a bit of heat on the finish, which blew off as the night went on. An intense, robust Cab, that still needs at least another year or two in the bottle, but is definitely more integrated than it was last year. Has more complexity and structure than most Paso cabernets and am looking forward to seeing if those qualities hold the alcohol at bay over the next few years. Pretty good QPR considering what you'd have to pay to get a similar quality wine from Napa. Blended with 10% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

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**** Outstanding | *** Delicious | ** Enjoyable | * Drinkable
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