Over the holiday I took three wines, each of which cost $10 or less, to one of the family gatherings. The wines included:
Arthur Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles California 2006 — $9.99
Nine x Nine Zinfandel Lodi California 2006 — $9.99
Bodega Norton Malbec Barrel Select Mendoza Argentina 2006 — $8.99
I had high hopes for all three, especially the Arthur Hills, as finding a decent California Cab for $10 has become almost impossible. Unfortunately, my search continues. The Arthur Hills was by far the worst of the three wines. It had a bizarre nose — think some combination of rotting organic matter and petrol. On the palate it was watery thin with flavors of strawberries — but of a decidedly artifical nature. At any rate, not what you want from a Cab. In short, this is one of the worst wines I can recall drinking in a long while. After a few sips, it went down the drain. It looks like the Gun Bun Cab gets to retain its title as the best California Cab under $15.
Next up was the Nine x Nine Zin. I was hoping for perhaps an alternative to Renwood or Dancing Bull. Certainly for $10 I had no expectations of Ridge… Alas, for me, this wine was also a disappointment. Mind you, it was not so visibly flawed as the Arthur Hills, but it was still just a bit beyond the borderline of acceptable. Of course, in wine as so many other things opinions vary; one of the other wine enthusiasts at the party thought it wasn’t so bad.
The third of the three turned out to be the best. The Norton Malbec was fragrant on the nose and full and lush in the mouth. It would benefit from a bit more grip on the palate and a little less ripenness, but overall, this was a drinkable wine. I have also recommended this wine to some friends who reported back that they enjoyed it very much. Although the Norton will never be mistaken for Kaiken, it is perfectly adequate for social gatherings and everyday drinking.