If you want to impress the relatives but you’re on a budget, why not start assembling a line-up of cult cabs substitutes? These cabs are surprisingly good for the price; there’s no need to disturb the nest egg when you uncork these tasty bottlings.
Layer Cake, 2014 California Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.8%, $15. This cab has notes of violet, plum, coffee and a kiss of chocolate in the finish. Soft tannins. Approachable. A steal for the quality. One thing is certain: Layer Cake has great lineage. (Vintner/winemaker Jayson Woodbridge of Layer Cake also makes a cult cab called Hundred Acres that sells for roughly $350.)
St. Francis, 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.8%, $22. This cabernet has pretty aromas and flavors of cherry pie, black cherry and cassis. It also has black pepper and cedar in the mix, with a lingering finish. This is a dependable cab and it never fails to be layered which is remarkable for this price point. (By comparison St. Francis’ top cabernet sauvignon sells for $68.)
Louis M. Martini, 2015 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 13.8%, $20. This cab is full-bodied with flavors of plum, cassis and mocha. What sets it apart is its generous fruit coupled with its supple tannins. (By comparison, top tier cabs at Louis M. Martini are roughly $150.)
Katherine Goldschmidt, 2015 Crazy Creek, Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $24. Pitch perfect balance. This cab has generous fruit, bright acid and pitch perfect balance. It has a round, seamless texture and nice length. Well crafted. (By comparison the highest-priced cabernets produced by Nick Goldschmidt are in the $150 range.)
Columbia Crest, 2014 Horse Heaven Hills H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5%, $12. This is an approachable cab with tasty fruit and soft tannins. It’s earthy, with notes of red fruit and a hint of cocoa. (By comparison Chateau Ste. Michele in Washington State, which owns Columbia Crest, sells its top red blend for $125.)