Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet is king as the world's most renowned grape variety for making red wine. Its power base is Bordeaux, but Cabernet has established itself throughout the world. No matter where it travels, the result is always recognizable as Cabernet. Marked by rich phenolics that have a special affinity for lengthy aging in oak, Cabernet Sauvignon produces a well-structured wine, deep in color, rich in tannin with an opulent flavor profile that evolves with age. Not surprisingly, the top names in Cabernet command prices that put them beyond mere mortals. But we found a number of impressive wines all priced under 20 bucks. Here are the panel's top picks:

2000 Kirkland Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, $14.99

Absolutely beautiful aromas of dark fruit, sweet berries, mulberry, mint, rosehips, cedar and vanilla. The soft fruit flavors are dominated by raspberry and plum that linger in the mouth. Good tannic grip on a finish that's marked by subtle anise and spice. This Napa wine typically retails for $30 in other markets, making the price in Boise an undeniable bargain.

2002 L de Lyeth Cabernet Sauvignon, $10.99

Offers ripe plum aromas along with cherry, berry and a touch of truffle. Juicy plum fruit carries through on the palate, backed by currant, toasty vanilla and hints of coffee and herb. This nicely balanced wine finishes with polished tannins and dark chocolate. A hot property here in the valley, it moves through shops so fast we couldn't grab a snapshot, but it's definitely worth the hunt.

2002 Rutherford Ranch Cabernet, $9.99

Juicy berry, plum and black cherry on the nose with soft oak, vanilla, spice and a delicate bit of blueberry. A nice mouthful of wine, rich but not overt, with well-integrated flavors that unfold over time. Supple black cherry fruit and creamy cassis come through in this nicely balanced wine with a long smooth finish. While we included Cabs from outside California in our tasting, this Napa property completes a sweep of the top three spots for that state.

This week's panel: Fawn Caveney, Tastevin, Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats, David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op, Cindy Limber, Bardenay, Karen McMillin, Idaho Wine Merchant, Kevin Settles, Bardenay

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