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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2005 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon*
libertyCS.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Paso Robles, California $16 Private Tasting 3/14/08
A deep ruby color belies the medium body of this wine. The subtle aromas of red fruits is marked by vegetal and spice aromas that weren't wholly pleasant. The palate was filled with the usual cab flavors with good intensity but not alot of complexity. Just one of those wines that lie there with nothing to distinguish it. It's softer than most cabs at this age, but there's better versions at his price point.

2005 Minassian-Young Cabernet Sauvignon**
Minassian-Young.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, California $18 @ the Winery 10/27/07
Aromas of black cherry and earth as well as hints of smoke and clove are prevalent on the nose. A soft, fruit forward entry fills the mouth with black fruits and hints of meat, herbs and tar. More restrained and elegant than many other versions from this region. A more complex and lingering finish would have bumped it up another level. Classic cab flavors for an affordable price. Drinking well now. Though some more bottle age won't hurt, it probably won't really add much either.

2005 Chateau Prieuré-Lichine Margaux***
lichinemargaux.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Bordeaux, France $50 @ The Wine House 3/10/08
A deep ruby/purple colored wine with a medium bouquet filled with aromas of dark fruits, spice and earth with hints of tar and vanilla. The palate is medium-bodied with big tannins and is filled flavors of black cherry, cedar and coffee on the lingering finish. The mouthfeel is ripe and elegant for such a young Bordeaux. Definitely needs time to finish integrating the tannins (another 2-3 years), but still has great structure and appeal. My favorite of the tasting. Wish I could afford a bottle.


2004 Beckstoffer 1975 Cabernet Sauvignon, Amber Knolls Vineyard**
beck1975.JPG Region Price Purchased Drank
Lake County, California $25 Gift 3/5/08
A dark ruby-purple color is accompanied by a classic nose of sweet black cherries and blackberry, hints of spice, smoke and vanilla. The palate is medium to full body, with initial high acidity that smoothed out as it opened. Flavors of blackberry and black cherry dominate with notes of smoke and cedar on the soft medium length finish. Could definitely use another year or two to round off the rough edges. Paired with Cabernet-Braised Short Ribs which was an excellent match, bringing a purity and elegance to the wine it's not quite showing yet alone in the glass.

OTHER RATINGS: Robert Parker: 90

2004 Blue Rock Cabernet Sauvignon***
bluerock.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Alexander Valley, CA $45 Private Dinner 4/23/08
An opaque, ruby-purple colored wine with blackcurrant, graphite, cocoa and vanilla aromas that give way to black fruit flavors and well-integrated oak. Nicely balanced with silky tannins and additional notes of mint, black cherry and blackberry on the palate with a smooth finish. This wine is big and powerful and could use a few more years to develop even more complexity and elegance.

2004 Dark Star Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon**
darkstar03CS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 2/11/09
A deep, ruby-colored wine with a strong nose of blackberry, blackcurrant leaf and black cherry with notes of oak and sweet spice. It started out quite tannic but some air rounded the palate out showing its' nicely integrated black fruit, earth, oak, sweet spice and hints of licorice on the moderate finish. Not as fruity as the nose suggests, showing more earthy minerality. Still needs about a year in the bottle to settle the tannins and fully balance the wine. A nice cab for the price, but nothing special.

2004 Justin Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon***
justinCS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, California $28 Wine.com 10/27/07
Aromas of black cherry, plum and an assortment of spice, vanilla and toasty oak are prevalent on the nose. A soft, fruit forward entry evolves into a lush, opulent mouth feel filled with black fruit, earth and spicy characters.

2004 Knappstein Enterprise Cabernet Sauvignon**
knappsteincab.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Clare Valley, Australia $35 The Wine House 4/14/08
A deep ruby wine with a moderate nose filled with black fruit, smoke, vanilla and a big whiff of mint. The palate is full-bodied and a bit all over the place with the acidity and alcohol poking out. The flavors are intense consisting mostly of blackberry, sweet spice, liqourice, notes of oaky vanilla and again an overabundance of mint. I don't usually mind the mint/eucalyptus that usually accompany Clare Valley wines, but it overshadowed the rest of the wine in this particular bottle. It could certainly use another year or two of ageing so the mint may become more subdued if you can wait to drink.

2004 Lincourt Vineyards, La Cuesta Vineyard**
L03CS.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Santa Barbara, California $35 @ the Winery 11/24/07
A very concentrated dark purple colored wine with black fruit and chocolate on the nose. The aromatics follow through with restraint, showing medium tannin and acidity that should smooth out with another year in the bottle. Elegant and balanced, but nothing extraordinary.

2004 Twenty Bench Cabernet Sauvignon*
20bench.gif Region Price Tasted Drank
Napa Valley, California $18 Gift 1/14/08
The deep color and bright nose of black fruits and oak follow through on the palate, but the wine was still just too unbalanced and tannic to be truly enjoyed. The finish is good, however after the initial burst of fruit there's nothing going on in the middle. Perhaps a few more years in the bottle will help integrate the fruit and tannin. I usually wait at least 5 years before I'll crack a cab, but at this price point I figured it should already be fairly drinkable. I was wrong.

2003 Beckmen Vineyards PMV Cabernet Sauvignon***
03_pmv_cab_sauv.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $42 @ the Winery 3/23/11
This is a deep, ruby-colored wine with a lot of sediment, as it was unfined and unfiltered. The nose is well-integrated showing aromas of black cherry, blackcurrant, plum, herbs, wet leaves and hints of cinnamon spice. The palate is full-bodied and intense with medium tannins and acidity, along with good structure and flavors that carry over the same fruits from the nose. Additional notes of licorice and mocha on the medium-length finish. While this wine is still showing plenty of ripe fruit (probably thanks to additions of 10% Merlot & 5% Syrah), it's perfectly united with the more herbal, earthy aspects delivering a lush, complex and elegant wine for one so full-bodied. The wine spent 20 months in 50% new and 50% 1-year-old French oak. Popped and poured, this wine is definitely at its peak. Drink it soon before the fruit disappears. Delivers very good QPR from vintage to vintage. (14.5% abv/200 cases)

2003 Clautiere Cabernet Sauvignon***
ClautiereCS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 2/10/09
A medium/deep, ruby/garnet-colored wine with a deep nose of dark fruit, earth, sweet spice and cedar. The palate is round and lush with the tannins fully integrated. The flavors reveal blueberry, cherry, blackcurrant leaf, plum and some prune and hints of meat on the lingering finish. This is a well-balanced wine that is drinking very well right now. Won't be getting any better, but still has quite a bit of life left. Glad I waited. Quite good QPR and a wine that shows how good Paso Cabs can be.

2003 Cobblestone Cabernet Sauvignon**
cobblestone.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Napa Valley, CA $53 The Wine House 4/21/08
This 100% cab from Atlas Peak is a deep, ruby-colored wine with a big nose filled with black fruit, sweet spice and oaky vanilla notes. Still with great depth and power, this wine is ready to drink, but could certainly use a few more years to tame its' overt intensity. All blackberry, cherry, prune and liqourice on the full-bodied palate with notes of spice, vanilla and oak on the medium finish. A solid effort, but not exactly worth the price. Perhaps a few more years in the bottle will change that opinion.

2003 Dark Star Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon**
darkstar03CS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 9/1/08
A deep, ruby-colored wine with a subtle nose of blackfruit, cedar, smoke, earth and a bit of heat. The palate was full-bodied with medium tannins and ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, along with herbs and sweet spice on the slightly rustic and dusty finish. This wine is not overly complex, but it delivers a flavorful, well-constructed cab for the price. It's definitely got some life left in it and almost got three stars, but the finish was just not lengthy or deep enough.

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