From The Wine Cellar: American Cabernets And Cabernet Blends

Almost from the beginning, American wineries in California and much later on the East Coast have measured themselves against Bordeaux wines. And, indeed, cabernet sauvignon has flourished on the West Coast while eastern vintners have fallen in love with cabernet franc — and both coasts do a lot of merlot.

Here are some recent releases:

2009 Clos la Chance Central Coast cabernet sauvignon ($19). This is a simple drinking wine, a little rustic, but with nice, not-complex cab flavors.

2010 Stinson Virginia Meritage ($35). A Bordeaux blend of 40 percent cab franc, 30 percent merlot, 15 percent each of cab sauv and petit verdot, it is indicative of the quality wines being made in Virginia's Charlottesville area these days. It's very smooth with flavors of dark currants and mulberries, has good tannins and is very similar in taste to the super Tuscans of Maremma, which use some of the same varieties.

2010 Frank Family Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($45). It's a big wine, but is nimble on its feet and surprisingly refreshing with its complex flavors of currants, blackberries, huckleberries, and anise. It's intense without being overly extracted, and it has good minerality in the finish.

2010 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($28). Mondavi has always made very satisfying cabs, complex yet smooth and good to the last drop, and this one has plummy, rich flavors, good texture, and good balance.

2010 Beaulieu Vineyards Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($19). It's somewhat dense, but not harsh or tannic, with bing cherries and a layer of creamy chalkiness.

2009 Three Sticks Sonoma Valley cabernet sauvignon ($73). This is another murky, pleasurable wine with dark, big, blackberry flavors but with a refreshing streak of acidity in the finish. Quite nice.

2009 Franciscan "Magnificat" Napa Valley meritage ($50). A good-textured wine, like a liquid raspberry-flavored brownie but without the sweetness, it has spicy fruit, dusty chocolate tannins and a good leanness with just a hint of cream at the finish.