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Winning Cabernet from "the other" Mondavi

Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Chris Coronel, Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth

California’s finest red wines, most would say, are produced from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and the best of them generally hail from the vineyards of Napa Valley north of San Francisco. Once upon a time, fine Napa Cabernet was considered a value-priced alternative to costly red Bordeaux. Those days are gone. The median price of Napa Cabernets from the fine 2007 vintage reviewed by Robert Parker on is $85 per bottle. It could be said that Napa has achieved parity with Bordeaux in terms of both quality and price.

So, where does one look to for good value California Cabernet? The staff at Northside Wine and Spirits recently blind tasted 21 Cabernet Sauvignons priced $15 - $25 per bottle. The wines tasted were primarily from California, with three from Washington State to make things interesting.

As a group, the wines were disappointing. The tasters were surprised by the number of wines with obvious flaws. Several exhibited unappealing, green, vegetal flavors, and a few seemed unbalanced due to excessive alcohol. The best wines however were quite good, and the top wine of the tasting was clearly outstanding in this price category.

To everyone’s pleasant surprise, the first place wine was the Charles Krug 2007 Yountville (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon. Charles Krug, founded in 1861, was Napa Valley’s first winery. In 1943, the winery was purchased by Cesare Mondavi, father of Peter and, yes, Robert Mondavi. When Cesare died in 1959, Robert was named General Manager. After a well documented dispute with his brother, Robert left Charles Krug and started his own Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966. To this day, Krug remains under the ownership of Peter Mondavi.

The winning wine? It’s a gorgeous Cabernet, well worth its $23 price tag. Beautifully balanced, the wine is full of ripe, black currant fruit with hints of cocoa, nutmeg, and black pepper creeping into the lingering finish. This lovely Cabernet indicates that there still may be Napa values to be found! Enjoy it with a grilled steak, meaty casseroles, or hearty vegetarian dishes containing mushrooms.

If you would like the full tasting list along with the rankings, please email us your name, phone number, city, and zip code to

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