But there’s at least one California cab that’s consistently good from year to year and widely available around town, often for less than $10 a bottle. Its consistency, affordability and wide distribution throughout the area will undoubtedly land Avalon Cabernet Sauvignon California on the forthcoming Wine for the Rest of Us Top 5 Value Cabernet Sauvignon list. (Here are some other likely contenders.) Unlike many big, muscular California cabs, Avalon isn’t overly alcoholic, sporting a reasonable 13.8 percent alcohol by volume (compared to some that boast 14, 15 percent or more). It also includes 9 percent merlot, 3 percent zinfandel and a 1-percent splash of sangiovese to give it some roundness and spice. (Under California labeling laws, wine only has to contain 75 percent of the type of wine listed on the label, and at 87 percent cabernet, this one’s well above the minimum.)
Wine Enthusiast magazine named the 2010 vintage a Best Buy at $12 a bottle, scoring it 88 points.
“This has to be one of the best value Cabernets on the market,” wrote California bureau chief Steve Heimoff in the August 1 issue. “It’s rich and ripe in blackberry and currant flavors, with smooth tannins and a fine edge of acidity to brighten the fruit.”
“Aromas of dried bacon and honeyed cherries with a supple, dry-yet-fruity medium body and a chewy cedar, apple, chocolate, pomegranate and peppery spice finish,” according to the Beverage Tasting Institute, which scored the wine 91 points in March. “Very tasty and will be great at the table.”
This delicious cabernet is nothing if not consistent, so don’t hesitate if you find the 2009 vintage on your local wine shops shelf at a reasonable price ($10 to $12 a bottle is more typical). Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker called the previous vintage “A heck-of-a bargain,” adding that the wine“offers notes of roasted herbs, black currants, cherries, cedarwood and underbrush.
“It is a spicy, medium-bodied, surprisingly flavorful, long Cabernet to enjoy over the next 3-4 years.”
But at half the price, we think the pedestrian California bottling holds its own against its big brother from Napa and is a wine to buy by the case.
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