The Wine Curmudgeon has fond memories of the Avalon cabernet sauvignon, which carried a Napa appellation and cost just $10 or $12 in the bad old days before the recession, when great cheap wine was becoming increasingly difficult to find. The Avalon is closer to $15 or $17 these days, replaced by a $10 or $12 California appellation version which isn’t quite the same thing.
Fortunately, the Stephen Vincent ($11, purchased, 13.8%) does a fine job of doing what the old Napa Avalon did. It’s a solid entry-level cabernet, with lots of black fruit and a flavor somewhere toward the back that can be described as chocolate for people who look for that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, there are enough tannins and acid to be varietally correct, so that it’s more than just another tarted up wine designed to please a grocery store focus group. The Vincent’s great strength is that is well made enough so that those of us who want cabernet quality in their cabernet will probably enjoy just it just as much as people who want their red wines to be “smooth.”
Drink this with any red meat dish, and especially summer beef grilled on a backyard barbecue. And don’t be afraid to chill it a touch, so that the wine isn’t the same temperature as the back yard. Otherwise, you’ll miss some of the qualities that make the Vincent so enjoyable.