Most days, it’s top priority to seek out budget-friendly wines that are both interesting and delicious. But sometimes, particularly around the holidays, it’s time to splurge. Whether you’re looking for a memorable gift, a special bottle to share at holiday parties, or a treat for surviving the season, this can be a great opportunity to explore bottles that might otherwise be out of your price range.
Napa and Sonoma’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignons often command high prices, but not all bottles are created equal. Elevated price tags place an even greater importance on value, which is why we determined which splurge-worthy Cabs offer the best possible quality in the glass. These eight Napa and Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignons are well worth the price and are sure to impress — whether you’re drinking alone on your couch or at a holiday fete in your finest.
While not as dense and long-lived as Ehlers Estate’s top “1886” cuvée, its varietal Cabernet Sauvignon has impact from the get-go. The thick black fruit, rich vanilla, and baking spice are entirely characteristic of the warm St. Helena area and exactly what Napa Cab lovers expect. Average price: $50
From a vineyard just outside the main Trinchero Napa Valley winery, the “Mario’s Vineyard” is broad and enveloping, with concentrated but never jammy fruit and oak notes. It’s powerful enough to pair with a dry-aged steak, yet smooth enough to sip on its own. Average price: $50
Already this Alexander Valley Cabernet is showing its potential, with the expected ripe, cherry cordial aromas on the nose complemented by notes of licorice, freshly charred wood, and caramel. It has definite lift on the palate, with a final squeeze of savory saltiness on the finish. Average price: $55
This special library release shows just how well this iconic Sonoma producer’s wines age, but it is a baby yet. The nose is an enticing melange of black cherry, cherry blossom, tobacco, vanilla paste, wet clay, and freshly sliced bell pepper, finely interwoven like threads of lace. Average price: $67
Fresh and red-fruited on the nose, the “Alexis” shows a lifted, pretty side of Napa Cab. Like a sunny picnic, a mix of strawberries, cherries, and fresh blackberries waft from the glass alongside green grass, soft petals, and snappy mint. The palate isn’t all soft and light, however; it abounds with structure and integrates more cigar and sweet spice on the palate. Average price: $68
A New World Cabernet Sauvignon for Old World wine lovers, the Stony Hill Cabernet Sauvignon comes from way up in the mountains above the Napa Valley. It’s actually one of the more recent wines launched by Stony Hill, a winery that is classically known for its whites. Medium-bodied and acid-driven, this wine has beautiful restraint, tart fruit, and layers of earth. Average price: $60
From a stunning estate atop the Vaca Mountains comes a stunning wine. It’s honestly remarkable how good the Somerston Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is, with incredible depth of flavors that unfold, one after another, on the palate. Soft yet powerful now, it will evolve into an even more complex wine, adding nuanced, smoky accents over time. Average price: $120
Lovely and layered, this is serious steakhouse wine with years ahead of it. It’s quite elegant, with well-integrated flavors of black cherry, vanilla bean, cinnamon, cedar, and brown sugar, with a long, silky finish that has the tiniest hint of aniseed. Average price: $125