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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2003 Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon***
grgichCS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Napa Valley, CA $55 @ the Winery 1/7/11
A medium-deep, ruby-colored wine with an aromatic nose of black raspberry, blackberry, blackcurrant leaf, plum and cedar with hints of sweet spice and licorice. The palate is full-bodied with medium acidity and fine, integrated tannins. Popped and poured the flavors reflected the nose with additional notes of vanilla, tobacco and mocha on the lengthy finish. This is the first year all of their cab grapes were estate grown, mostly from their Yountville property. The wine was aged for 21 months in French Oak, 60% new. A powerful wine that delivers great flavor from the first sip to the last with finesse and depth. While certainly not in its decline, I wouldn't wait much longer if you have a bottle as it's fully integrated and still delivering good fruit flavors. A wine that's worth the money, especially if you're a fan of Napa Cabernet. (14.7% abv)

2003 Halter Ranch Estate Cabernet Sauvignon***
Halter04_Cab.gif Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ the Winery 3/14/09
A medium-deep, ruby-colored wine with a bright nose of black fruit and sweet spice with hints of oak and earth. The time in the bottle made this wine ready to go right out of the bottle delivering balance and integration of flavor and tannins. The palate was medium-full-bodied with nice round flavors of blackberry, blackcurrant leaf, plum, earth and notes of cherry and mocha on the chalky, yet lingering finish. While this wine still has some life to it, it's definitely ready to go now and I don't think it will be getting much better. Still has enough fruit to please without being over-the-top ripe.

2003 Halter Ranch Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon**
Halter04_Cab.gif Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $35 @ the Winery 2/3/11
A deep, ruby-colored wine with a moderately intense nose of black fruit and blackcurrant leaf with hints of mocha, cedar, tobacco and licorice. The palate is medium to full-bodied with with round fruit flavors, medium acidity and well-integratred tannins. The flavors are ripe blackberry, plum, chalk, tobacco leaf and a hint of raisin, with mocha and cedar on the medium-length finish. While drinking well, I expected to be more impressed with this wine. Has a smidge of Syrah (3%) and was aged for 18 months in French oak, 60% new. Perhaps would have been better with food or if we had decanted it for an hour or so. Think it still has some time to go. Winery claims best 7-10 years and at 14.9% it has the structure and still plenty of fruit to continue to age well. May have jumped the gun on this one.

2003 Jacob's Creek "St. Hugo"***
jacobscreekStHugo.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Coonawarra, Australia $25 The Wine House 9/24/07
An intense ruby-colored wine with a nose that leaps out of the glass. Aromatics of black fruits, eucalyptus and spice (nutmeg) follow through on the full-bodied palate. Notes of meat and earth play a part in the long finish. A complex wine that keeps you coming back for more.

2003 Chateau Kirwan Margaux**
chkirwan.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Bordeaux, France $55 Wine.com 9/24/07
Medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine with aromas of spice, smoke and dried fruits (fig, raisin). Though the acidity is fairly low, the tannins are still a bit strong. The red fruit flavors are a touch overripe/cooked mingling with smoke from the oak on the finish. Time (at least 2 years) will definitely help integrate the flavors, soften the tannins and perhaps show what this wine is really capable of.

OTHER RATINGS: Robert Parker: 93 | Wine Spectator: 92

2003 Lail Vineyards Blueprint***
lailblueprint.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Napa Valley, CA $45 Gift 10/16/09
A medium-deep, ruby colored wine with a well-developed nose of blackcurrant, plum, smoke and earth. This vintage is a blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon with 18% Merlot from with grapes coming from several Napa Valley appellations including Howell Mountain, St. Helena, Oakville, and Yountville. Since I took the time to age the wine, we just opened it and poured. The palate was round and full-bodied with integrated tannins and a lengthy finish. It was well-balanced with persistent flavors of currant leaf, blackberry, plum, earth and notes of sweet spice and cedar. Went great with and without our pepper steak dinner. There's nothing like the flavor of a well-aged Cabernet. Worth it's price point. Could age a few more years, but ready to drink now.

2002 Beckmen Vineyards PMV Cabernet Sauvignon***
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Santa Barbara, CA $42 @ the Winery 2/19/10
This is a deep, ruby-colored wine that is not showing any age. The nose is well-integrated showing aromas of blackberry, plum, cassis, earth and hints of spice. The palate is full-bodied and intense with medium tannins and good structure, carrying over the same fruits from the nose along with notes of black cherry, menthal and cedar on the medium-length finish. The fruit is still apparent upfront on the palate, but the wine is more earthy and savory now, which made it more interesting and kept me going back to the glass. Popped and poured, this wine is in its sweet spot, the unity of flavors as good as I think they're going to get. Make yourself a nice steak and enjoy. (14.5% abv/200 cases)

2002 Eberle Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon***
02eberleCS.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $65 Gift 1/19/10
A deep, ruby-colored wine with ripe aromas of black currant, blackberry and raspberry with notes of sweet spice, earth and cedar. The palate is full-bodied and round with fully integrated tannins and perfect balance. The flavors reflect the nose with notes of vanilla and cassis on the lingering finish. We popped and poured this wine since it was already aged for 5 years by the winery – 24 months in American Oak before the final blending of the reserve barrels and then an additional 3 years in the bottle before release. It was ready to go, but has enough backbone and balance to age for at least another 2-3 years. The flavors are so ripe I would have sworn the alcohol level would be higher than 14.5%, though no heat was detected. Gary Eberle has been making wine in Paso for over 30 years and his skills are very evident in this wine.

2002 Mitchella Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon**
mitchella.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Paso Robles, CA $18 @ the Winery 5/3/08
A deep ruby/purple colored wine with powerful black cherry, herb and cassis aromas. The palate is full of blackberry, sweet red cherry, plum, and raspberry flavors that linger and a finish that is filled with notes of cedar and minerals. This is a well-constructed wine with big flavors, but not a great deal of complexity. It's true to the varietal and not as overripe as some cabs from this region. A nice value wine.

2002 Rio Seco Winery Cabernet Sauvignon**
rioseco.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $25 @ the Winery 10/18/08
A medium-deep, ruby colored wine with a nose of black fruit, earth and tar, which starts closed and rounds out with time. The palate has acidity and ripe tannins with blackberry, cherry liqour, earth and hints of licorice and cedar on the moderate finish. More integrated than the 2001, though it could still use a bit more time in the bottle to round it out some more. More ripe and rustic than your typical CA cab.

2002 Rodney Strong Alexander's Crown Cabernet Sauvignon**
rodneyCS.jpg Region Price Tasted Drank
Alexander Valley, CA $26 The Wine House 4/21/08
A medium-bodied, ruby-colored wine with a nose of blackberry, fresh earth, oak, sweet spice and hints of mint that follow through on the palate. Still fairly intense acidity and tannins with good structure and a moderate finish of oak and herbs. A cool climate Cab with some depth and elegance. A good value for the quality, though not a wine I'd rush out and buy.

2002 Steven Kent Cabernet Sauvignon***
stevenkent.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Livermore Valley, CA $45 @ the Winery 9/15/08
A very deep ruby/purple colored wine with typical CS aromas of black fruit, earth, herbs and cedar which follow through on the full-bodied and unified palate. A little closed to start, then the black currant and plum flavors along with some vanilla came out and softened the wine even more. The long finish was filled with hints of chocolate, tobacco and earth. This wine was well worth the 6-year wait and could still hold on for a few more though I don't think it's going to get much better. Great balance between the fruit and tannins. Wish I had another bottle.

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