Cult Cab Substitutes

TOP PICK

Stonestreet

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, 2014 Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.5% alcohol, $40. ★★★★

This is an impressive cab with layered flavors of black cherry, tobacco and cocoa. Round texture. Nice length. A steal for the quality.

Tasty ALTERNATIVES

Aperture, 2014 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.6%. $62. ★★★★1/2: This is a cab with depth. It has a great concentration of black fruit and it’s incredibly juicy. Notes of savory herbs and pepper in the mix. Supple texture. Spot on.

Amapola Creek, 2013 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 15.5%, $90. ★★★★1/2: What makes this cab a standout is its complexity. It has layered notes of black fruit, cedar and smoke. Gorgeous.

Jordan, 2013 Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.8%, $55. ★★★★: This is a striking cabernet with generous black fruit — blackberry and cassis. It has firm tannins and a supple texture. Lingering finish. Well crafted.

Smith-Madrone, 2013 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley, 14.2%, $50. ★★★★: This is a cab with great structure and finesse. Notes of black cherry, cassis and herbs. Its bright acid keeps its rich fruit in check. Ripe tannins. Lovely.

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Peg Melnik’s Tasting Room blog

A bottle of Screaming Eagle will set you back $850. With this in mind, you may be in the market for a cult-cab substitute, a knockout that’s a steal for the quality.

We had an impressive line-up of bottlings that over-delivered, and the best deal in the flight is our wine of the week winner — the Stonestreet Estate Vineyards, 2014 Alexander Valley, Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, at $40.

The Stonestreet is an impressive cab with layered flavors of black cherry, tobacco and cocoa. It has a round texture, and a nice length.

Lisa Valtenbergs is the winemaker behind the Stonestreet, and it’s not surprising that she’s good at her craft.

Valtenbergs grew up in the wine culture of Sonoma County and it enticed her to study wine.

“My parents enjoyed wine and often let me smell what they were drinking,” she said. “I remember a family trip to Sea Ranch where everyone brought two wines at different price points to share and put them in brown paper bags to try blind.”

Valtenbergs said she was allowed to participate and she quickly found herself taking notes and describing the differences in the wines.

“The Leeuwin Estate Chardonnay is a wine that definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities of chardonnay and may have been the ‘hook,’” she said.

Valtenbergs, 38, has worked at Stonestreet since 2008. She studied at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and University of Adelaide, as well as UC Davis.

“I feel very fortunate to be in a career that I look forward to doing every day,” she said.

As for crafting the Stonestreet, Valtenbergs said its vineyards’ perch helped make the wine a standout.

“The mountain-grown fruit is on the slopes of the Mayacmas, planted on slopes above Alexander Valley, ranging in elevations from 500 to 2,200 feet,” she said. “The vineyards are low-yielding and grow in an extreme environment, which develops more power and concentration in the wines.”

The vines are managed for balance.

“Maintaining a bright acidity, the wines are made to enjoy with food and will only get better with time in the bottle,” she said.

Valtenbergs said she was destined to be a winemaker.

As a child Valtenbergs had a sensitive nose, and her parents encouraged her to either make perfume or wine. It wasn’t hard for Valtenbergs to choose.

“You can’t drink perfume,” she said.