Cabernet Sauvignon is the most popular red varietal wine produced in California, sold at all price points and earning much love from wine drinkers for its full body, appetizing tannins and deep flavors of dark berries and oak spice. Cabernet Sauvignon pairs seamlessly with steaks, roasts and especially lamb chops because its grippy texture neatly counterbalances the juicy, fatty effect of animal proteins.
These pairings are not what most people want for their summer parties and picnics, however. So, California Cabernet fans look forward to the arrival of fall, when Cabernet-friendly foods and occasions take over and last through the winter months.
August and September are perfect months to shop for California Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s smart to stock up early so you will have great choices on hand when the time comes to pop the corks. To help with your Cabernet buying decisions, we skimmed the cream off the top of the 849 California Cabernet Sauvignons our team reviewed in blind tastings over the last 12 months.
The recommendations below show how easy it is to find good Cabernets priced as low as $10 a bottle to as high as $250.
$10-$19 California Cabernet Sauvignon
Ryer Estate 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon (California); $10, 88 Points. This big but agreeable wine offers good balance and satisfying flavors of black cherries and black currants accompanied by light baking-spice notes and moderate tannins. Best Buy. –Jim Gordon
Lapis Luna 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon (Lodi); $13, 87 Points. Initial earthy aromas blow off, and lead to a rich, broad palate packed with milk chocolate, dried figs and wood char. It is full-bodied, quite oaky and showy. –J.G.
Cannonball 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (California); $15, 90 Points. A flinty aroma and focused black-fruit flavors give this well-balanced and medium- to full-bodied wine a nice depth. Moderate tannins and a touch of crisp acidity add to its appeal. Best Buy. –J.G.
Sebastiani 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (North Coast); $18, 92 Points. Dark fruits and a silky texture combine elegantly in this full-bodied but sleek wine. Ripe black cherries and plump blueberries are lightly accented by mint and cocoa as mild tannins keep it smooth through the finish. –J.G.
$20-$39 California Cabernet Sauvignon
Shannon Ridge 2019 High Elevation Collection Cabernet Sauvignon (Lake County); $23, 92 Points. Bold and nicely spicy, this full-bodied wine wraps delicious black-cherry and blackberry flavors in moderate tannins, while hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla weave in and out of the fruit. –J.G.
Vina Robles 2019 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $26, 94 Points. This is a rich and thoroughly satisfying Cab, starting with aromas of roasted boysenberry, cocoa, violet and toasty oak on the nose. The palate is cohesive and neatly woven, with rich black fruit, mocha and espresso flavors that are wrapped in firm but balanced tannins. –Matt Kettmann
Lohr 2019 Hilltop Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $35, 93 Points. This is one of the more widely available Cabs in American restaurants, and yet manages to be thoroughly enjoyable despite the large production amounts. Blackberry, violet, warm fudge and loamy soil aromas kick off the nose, and then the palate is enveloped in polished yet expansive tannins. Flavors of black currant, vanilla and anise float through the sip. Editor’s Choice. –M.K.
Obsidian Ridge 2019 Obsidian Ridge Vineyard Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (Red Hills); $38, 93 Points. Significantly tannic but also flavorful enough to pull it off, this full-bodied wine is a good candidate for further aging. It brims with black currant, graphite and black cherry flavors that are vivid but not overblown, achieving good balance and complexity. Aged for 18 months in 40% new Hungarian oak barrels, it should drink best from 2026. –J.G.
$40-$99 California Cabernet Sauvignon
Artesa 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $40, 92 Points. This wine delightfully over-delivers on its price point, offering dark chocolate and cherry richness around a lush texture of approachable elegance. Hints of clove, nutmeg and oak provide a balanced nuance of savory contrast. Editors’ Choice. –Virginie Boone
McGrail 2018 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Livermore Valley); $48, 93 Points. This beautifully concentrated and compact wine restrains ample black-currant and black-cherry flavors in moderate, fine-grained tannins for an elegant expression of the grape variety. It was aged in one-third each Hungarian, French and American barrels and is destined for continued improvement. Best from 2025–2035. –J.G.
Smith-Madrone 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain District); $62, 95 Points. This wine is energetic and distinctive in style, with earthy elements of pencil shavings and clay most pronounced. Balanced and fresh in approach, it provides flavors of currant and black cherry around its earthier, more herbal components, which lend balance and elegance to it all. –V.B.
Turnbull 2019 Estate Grown Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville); $95, 95 Points. From a pair of vineyards in the appellation, this wine is earthy in tobacco, sage and black currant. With admirable length and breadth, it features rich berry fruit adorned in a touch of molasses, dried herb and oak, deliciously built for the long haul. Enjoy best from 2029 to 2039. –V.B.
$100-plus California Cabernet Sauvignon
Inglenook 2018 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford); $100, 94 Points. Showing balance within a full-bodied frame, this wine is juicy in blueberry, black cherry and a hint of wild game. Oak adds spice and length, giving the plush, polished tannins room to expand and grip as a finishing touch of coffee bean builds. –V.B.
Mayacamas 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder); $135, 98 Points. From the great estate at high elevation, this wine is substantially structured and built to age, with dusty graphite notes and grippy tannin. Sage, currant and bay leaf ride a lengthy palate of savory intensity, a mix of tobacco, lavender and plum that are immensely pleasing and complex. Enjoy best from 2027–2035. Cellar Selection. –V.B.
Stonestreet 2017 Rockfall Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley); $150, 96 Points. The Rockfall Vineyard is between 2,000 and 2,200-feet in elevation, and the wine that originates there is powerful and concentrated in style, with robust red-fruit and mineral tones. Herbal and classic, it shows elegance and integrated oak and tannin within its context of intensity and structure. Enjoy best from 2027–2037. Cellar Selection. –V.B.
Alpha Omega 2019 Drew Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder); $250, 98 Points. From an intriguing appellation, this wine offers yeasty baguette, blueberry and fresh acidity around an ample length of texture and grit. Crushed rock, clove and vanilla complement an enduring freshness of pine and forest floor. This wine is incredibly complex and structured; enjoy best from 2029–2039. Cellar Selection. –V.B.
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Last Updated: July 12, 2023