Finding the right bottle of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is tough for anyone who wants to stay within a modest budget. The prices can seem out of reach to anybody who isn’t a vested entrepreneur. Part of the reason for that reality is the cost of the region’s grapes is notoriously high: $7,421/ton on average just last year, as opposed to $2,209/ton in Mendocino County.
Labor and other production costs have to be factored in as well. And, ultimately, there’s the undeniable fact of scarcity. At 30 miles long and only a few miles across, the Napa Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) isn’t all that big and only accounts for a wee 4% of all California wine.
But it is possible to defy the odds and find great, quality bottles for a more modest price. Here are 10 wines, $100 and below, perfect for gifting and enjoying over the holidays. They reflect an enviable span of tremendously good vintages, starting in 2012.
Recommended Napa Cabs to Splurge On
Spottswoode 2016 Lyndenhurst Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $85, 95 points. This wine continues to overdeliver on its price point, offering elegant yet powerful aromas of fig, forest floor and earth. Firm tannins offer grip around flavors of black currant, sage, cedar and flint, with spicy clove lingering on the finish. Editors’ Choice.
Axr 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $84, 94 points. Tart in red and black currant, this wine offers explosive acidity and fleshy polished tannins, the core densely structured and full-bodied. Given nearly two years in French oak, 75% of it new, it is accented in woody, herbal layers of dust and earth. Enjoy 2024–2030. Cellar Selection.
Evidence 2016 Of The Matter Bruadair Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder); $90, 94 points. From a high-elevation site, this impressively structured wine is cofermented with 8% Malbec and explodes in tones of black pepper, nutmeg and sweet tobacco. It is smooth and tingling in acidity, yet also shows length and breadth. Enjoy 2021–2026. Cellar Selection.
Joseph Phelps 2016 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $75, 93 points. This lovely wine shows exceptional quality and complexity within a bold, expansive package of thick, grippy tannin and layered flavors of blackberry, tobacco and smoked meat. It is blended with 7% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% each of Malbec and Petit Verdot. Editors’ Choice.
Turnbull 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $50, 93 points. This wine offers remarkable value for the quality—a stellar commingling of cranberry, cassis and black cherry. With a robust mouthfeel of plump juicy fruit, gun smoke and firm tannin, it shows integrated oak flavors and plenty of underlying acidity to remain fresh in the glass. Editors’ Choice.
Heitz 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $63, 92 points. Representing one of the finest values in Napa Cabernet, this 100% varietal wine is bright and plush, layered in anise and cassis liqueur. A fresh high-toned midpalate evolves to show a softly round ending as a classic style of structure and elegance play out. Editors’ Choice.
Merryvale 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $65, 92 points. This wine is blended with 5% Malbec and aged in 50% new French oak for 22 months. It offers juicy black fruit and pillowy, expansive tannins that provide firm structure and weight. The acidity provides tension against the wine’s fruit-forward nature, with an accent of clove in the background.
Inglenook 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford); $78, 91 points. This impressive wine opens in a bouquet of violet and dried herb, with an intensity of tannin power at its back. Red and black currant, cranberry and clove combine in a seam of textured complexity and nuanced flavor. Enjoy 2026–2036. Cellar Selection.
Tyros 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $33, 91 points. This wine offers a bright nose of sweet oak, which leads to succulent waves of cherry, plum and currant on the palate. Flourishes of cedar and dried herb meld with a wealth of soft, silky tannins. Editors’ Choice.
Trefethen 2016 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon (Oak Knoll District); $60, 90 points. From the producer’s estate and combined with small amounts of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, this is an Old World-style, graceful expression of relatively cool-climate Cab, leathery and tight in tannin structure. Plum, cherry and fresh acidity give it a lift of fruitiness around dots of dried herb.