Many Napa Cabs have obtained cult status. When you hear names like Screaming Eagle, Schrader, Harlan Estate, and Bryant Family you immediately think exclusive, hard-to-find, and very expensive! Bottles from these wineries can easily set you back over a thousand (or thousands!) of dollars. But even when you move away from these God-like offerings, the prices in Napa do not get much better. A bottle of well-rated Napa Cab will still set you back over a hundred dollars, and often more! But why? Why can Napa wineries charge these sky-high prices and folks still come begging for more? The last part of this sentence is key. WE are to blame. The world over has anointed Napa THE place in California (and the world?) to get an amazing Cab experience. This has given Napa vineyards amazing leverage. Indeed, in 2019 Cab grapes averaged $7,941/ton in Napa Valley and less than half that price in neighboring Sonoma County.
As with many luxury goods, perception is king. This not only places rose-colored glasses on consumers, but some critics alike. Is Napa really the best place to get a bottle of Cab? While there is no doubt some bottles can be an ethereal experience, I have found Cabs across California that are equally amazing and underappreciated. California is vast and offers many terriors that are highly suitable for Cabs. For example, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Paso Robles, the easternmost parts of Santa Barbara, Lake County, the emerging Del Luz region of Temecula, and who can forget Alexander Valley in Sonoma County and other areas of Sonoma like Sonoma Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, and Knights Valley. I would encourage you to open your mind and broaden your geography to all that California has to offer for this small but powerful grape.
So, if everything I just said has gone in one ear and out the other, and you’re still grasping for that Napa Valley AVA designation, don’t fret — there are some highly rated Cabs (92+ rating) that you can still find for under $50. Here’s a list of a few that are currently available. A favorite go-to of mine is Mount Veeder Winery. There 2016 and 2017 vintages both made high marks (WS 93 and WS 94, respectively) and are priced in the $40 range. Happy Hunting!
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