Perhaps the most iconic wine in the U.S., for years California Cabernet has held court in steakhouses and garnered rows in wine lovers’ cellars. Napa remains supreme with its structured and complex offerings, however look to outlying regions in the North Coast and Central Coast to explore how the “king of grapes” fares in different terroirs. Consider these 10 bold beauties for your next foray into Cabernet.
Larkmead 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $135, 97 points. With a tiny 3% addition of Cabernet Franc, this wine is defined by aromas of violet and crushed rock. Oak, clove and graphite dot a landscape of bold structure on the palate, with bright acidity balancing the concentration and grip. Enjoy 2025–2030. Cellar Selection. —Virginie Boone
Plumpjack 2015 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville); $120, 96 points. This is a complex, concentrated and crowd-pleasing wine, blended with 7% Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. Pencil shavings, crayon wax and a juicy core of blackberry pie give it a savory richness, succulence and length, with enough underlying acidity to keep it fresh and behaved despite its density and structure. —V.B.
Gainey 2014 Patrick’s Vineyard Selection Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Ynez Valley); $75, 95 points. A focused nose of plump red fruit and baking spice start off this special selection Cabernet, which includes 10% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot. The palate is zesty in notes of thyme, oregano, blackberry, tobacco and cedar. Over time, it expands broadly and deliciously on the palate. Drink 2020–2034. Cellar Selection. —Matt Kettmann
Spring Mountain Vineyard 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $75, 94 points. From the producer’s high-elevation, 225-acre site on Spring Mountain, this is mineral in crushed rock and sanguine characteristics, with a hit of graphite and black licorice. The fruit is subtle, a mix of black currant and plum wrapped in contrasting notes of cedar and mocha. Medium-bodied, it shows structure and elegance. Editors’ Choice. —V.B.
Westerly 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara); $40, 92 points. Black plum, violet, lilac and a hint of chocolate are well integrated on the tangy yet rich nose of this balanced effort by a winery that recently changed hands. The wine hits the palate with hefty black-cherry, blackberry and elderberry-jam flavors, proving thick and impressive atop chalky tannins. —M.K.
Domaine Eden 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Santa Cruz Mountains); $45, 92 points. Intense aromas of pine, cedar and incense meet with roasted black plum, deep violet and a hint of lavender on the layered nose of this bottling, which includes 16% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Malbec. The woody flavors show on the palate alongside red plums and white pepper, all encased in a chalky texture. —M.K.
Rodney Strong 2014 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley); $75, 91 points. This vineyard outside of Geyserville is known for contributing great concentration to its wines and this vintage is no exception. Chalky tannins, mocha and cedar wrap around a broad, full-bodied structure that boasts an impressive backbone of succulent cassis and black cherry. —V.B.
Matchbook 2016 Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon (Dunnigan Hills); $15, 90 points. This wine blends subtle spices with rich fruit for a seductive flavor profile. It maintains a velvety texture on the palate and through the lingering finish. Flavors of blueberry and baking spice give it plenty of personality. Best Buy. —Jim Gordon
Freakshow 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Lodi); $20, 90 points. Big and spicy, this full-bodied wine is plump, mouthfilling and packed with ripe fruit flavors. It has a rounded, soothing feel on the palate despite firm tannins, no doubt due to the extra-ripe plum, cherry and milk chocolate flavors that follow aromas of maple syrup, vanilla and cedar. Editors’ Choice. —J.G.
Parducci 2016 True Grit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendocino); $25, 89 points. This full-bodied wine is a bit subdued in character. It offers moderately ripe black-fruit flavors and a lightly tannic texture that makes it extra appetizing. —J.G.