Category Archives: Between $50 and $74.99 | Reviewed

Fall for Cabernet! | My Best Cabernet Under $100 Selections

Fall for Cabernet! | My Best Cabernet Under $100 Selections

Best Cabernet Under $100

As the vestiges of summer become nothing more than warm fading memories, what do you look forward to most? For me, the cooler weather brings with it a few of my favorite things. From watching the spectacular fall foliage transform the landscape, to sipping warm chai lattes in the brisk sunny weather or scouring the pumpkin patch with my girls for the finest specimens possible. But there’s yet another pastime of paramount importance to me… hunting for the Best Cabernet Under $100!

As the holiday season kicks off in earnest (can you believe it’s almost December?!) and we transition from crisp, refreshing whites to robust, warming reds, I thought readers might be wondering which Cabernet’s were worthy of their consideration. I hope you’ll find this compilation of the best Cabernet under $100 resourceful as you celebrate with friends and family this season – there’s something for every budget!

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The Best Franciacorta Wines | Italy Gets Serious About Sparkling

The Best Franciacorta Wines | Italy Gets Serious About Sparkling Wine

Franciacorta Wine

When you’re deciding which sparkling wine to purchase, it’s not uncommon to consider the gold standards of Champagne or the similarly reliable, yet significantly more affable Prosecco options from Italy’s Veneto region. Many savor the former, while the latter is often relegated to mimosa duty. But look a little harder and you’ll not only discover Italy’s best kept secret, but one of the best-kept secrets in the world of wine: Franciacorta.

What this relatively young yet fiercely dynamic wine region lacks in sheer size and history it more than makes up for in quality, consistently producing distinctive sparkling wines that rival the quality of those in Champagne, yet are produced in their own unique style. Consider the fact that they’re often less expensive than their expertly-branded French counterparts an added bonus.

Franciacorta is the only region in Italy where all of the wines are made in the costly and significantly more time consuming Méthode Traditionelle, whereby the wines undergo their secondary fermentation and aging in bottle, resulting in more complex, finessed sparklers.

If you’re wondering why you might not be familiar with Franciacorta’s wines, the numbers offer an explanation. Champagne boasts a towering production of roughly 300 million bottles per year from 75,000 vineyard acres, while Franciacorta spans merely 10% of that size, measuring just 7,800 acres.

Champagne has also been in the business since as early as the 17th century, while Franciacorta has only been producing wine since 1961. But such a stark contrast highlights what might just be most impressive about this little region in Northern Italy: how far and how quickly it has come in barely 50 years.

Franciacorta Wine

Understanding Franciacorta | An Area, Production Method and a Wine

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Caballo Loco | The Still Valdivieso Wine You’ll Go Crazy For

Caballo Loco | The Still Valdivieso Wine You’ll Go Crazy For

Caballo Loco

To say that Valdivieso Winery is an iconic Chilean wine producer would be an understatement. It was all the way back in 1879 when Alberto Valdivieso founded Champagne Valdivieso, Chile’s first sparkling wine house; predating the laws in Champagne that would now prohibit such controversial nomenclature today.

I recently had the pleasure of meeting winemaker Brett Jackson, who had made wine all over the world (including France, California and South Africa) before arriving at Valdivieso, where he has been for an impressive 16 years now.

Caballo Loco

Winemaker Brett Jackson Eveluating A Wine | Photo Credit: Valdivieso Winery

Brett explained that  it wasn’t until the 1980’s that Valdivieso began to focus their efforts on producing still wines in addition to the sparkling wines that had been a runaway success for the winery.

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Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent | The Serious Side of Beaujolais

Chateau du Moulin-a-Vent | The Serious Side of Beaujolais

Chateau Moulin a Vent

When you think of Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau is likely first to come to mind. This simple, light-bodied, uncomplicated quaffer arrives to market with substantial fanfare, produced from grapes that were literally hanging on the vine just three months earlier.

The King of Beaujolais, Goerges Dubouef, would be proud of such instant recognition, which he is largely credited with creating. It is after all arguably one of the greatest marketing feats known to man, itself a case study in effective marketing that has captivated an often mercurial audience, the wine consumer.

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Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet

If you’re not familiar with Lake County, that’s okay. Most aren’t yet aware of the potential of this sleepy section of Northern California wine country. But that’s about to change, as one of Napa’s power players just made a Warren Buffet style investment in these sun-drenched hills.

What’s interesting is that up until 1861, Lake County and Napa County were actually the same county – yet this quiet community with deep farming roots has mostly missed out on the fantastic wine industry successes of neighboring Napa and Sonoma counties to the south – and with it all of the tourism and hospitality fueling those economies today.

Though still quite small in comparison to Napa, vineyard acreage is on the rise, with around 9,000 acres now planted to vine, up from just around 100 in 1965. Compare that to over 45,000 in Napa and 60,000 in Sonoma, and you’ll see that Lake County has room for growth – and none other than Napa grape-grower extraordinaire Andy Beckstoffer has taken notice, in a big way.

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The Unusual Suspects | Beyond California Cabernet

The Unusual Suspects | Looking Beyond California Cabernet

Kobler Estate

I’m definitely guilty of writing a lot about California Cabernet. I freely admit that I have a real penchant for the sturdy varietal, particularly when it’s built to last. In California, Cabernet is king and sadly many of the best examples fetch a princely sum.

But if the myriad of interesting, lesser-known and even esoteric varietals I encountered on my recent trip to Napa and Sonoma are any indication, Cabernet isn’t all that’s thriving here in Northern California. Not only was I surprised to find Spanish and French stalwarts like Albariño, Tempranillo, Grenache and Malbec being produced at wineries I visited, but I was surprised by just how good they were. Oh, and did I mention I encountered an Aglianico?

The best part? These wines don’t command the regal prices of Cabernet. They lack the cachet, and are often the ‘pet’ projects of winemakers – who produce them because they are passionate about the varietal and love drinking them, while their bread and butter Cabernet and Pinot Noir offerings keep the lights on.

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Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the historic Robert Mondavi Winery in January and tour the acclaimed To Kalon Vineyard adjacent to their Oakville estate. Widely regarded for its first-growth level quality, To Kalon has gained a near mythical status throughout the wine community in recent years.

Considering that it is arguably Napa’s most famous vineyard, with undeniably the most expensive fruit, it carries some serious cachet to have “To Kalon” on the label. Bottles regularly fetch $150 to $300+, with names like Schrader, Paul Hobbs and Carter Cellars paying record-level prices to Andy Beckstoffer for the rights to purchase fruit from his section of the To Kalon Vineyard.

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

My view from Mondavi overlooking the To Kalon Vineyard in January. Click to check out more from my Instagram!

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Galerie Wines | Winemaking Meets Artistic Expression

Galerie Wines | Winemaking Meets Artistic Expression

Galerie

As an artist, your first exhibition is your debut to the world. As exciting as it must be unnerving to gauge your reception, it is the invaluable opportunity to express your artistic talents in an uninhibited, open environment. But in this case, you needn’t visit a gallery to soak in this artists hard work, you need only to uncork a bottle of Galerie Wine.

Galerie Wines is an exciting and unique new project by Winemaker Laura Diaz Munoz which seeks to showcase the contrast in terroir between Knights Valley and Napa Valley. The road leading up to her inaugural Galerie Wines release has been a long and windy one.

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Frisson Wines | Checking in on New Releases!

Frisson Wines | Checking in on New Releases!

Frisson Chardonnay

Last spring I reviewed the 2011 Frisson Wines Cabernet Sauvignon and was really impressed. Despite the well publicized challenges of the 2011 vintage throughout Napa Valley, this boutique producer managed to produce a really distinctive, frisson-worthy Cabernet.

Just a few months after my post, Frisson Wines got some much deserved recognition when that same wine was awarded Double Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition! Not too shabby…

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Rombauer Vineyards | More Than Just Chardonnay!

Rombauer Vineyards & Winery | More Than Just Chardonnay!

Rombauer Vineyards

Sometimes the best surprises happen where you least expect them, right? That was certainly the case on my most recent visit to Napa Valley. After visiting over 10 wineries (it was a long trip), Rombauer Vineyards managed to make a lasting impression. You might be as surprised as I was to discover why.

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