Bitter Sweet

What's not to love about Cabernet, the bitterest of wines?

The real language of the love of wine—point-of-sale data from retail, that is—tells us that Cabernet Sauvignon, which is bitter in youth and weedy with age, is the best-loved wine in the world.

Raymond Vineyards 2014 Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) This bottle has winning looks and offers tactile pleasure before it is even opened: Raymond’s staid label design was gingered up with red velvet for the 40th anniversary edition, evoking the winery’s plushly furnished Red Room (currently closed for renovation), and perhaps enhancing its utility as an accompaniment to a romantic dinner. Anyway, it’s hard to resist just petting the bottle. Once in the glass, it’s conventional and well-behaved, showing discreet aromas of dusty spice rack and the Cabernet suite of oak, graphite and cassis. Supple and velvety, with red Cabernet fruit and a slightly tangy finish, it’s sure to add to a memorable meal. ★★★★

Frank Family Vineyards 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55) Accents of oiled oak, lava pumice and sandalwood provide a classy cover for this Cab’s generous rations of blackberry liqueur and dark chocolate aromas and flavors. Singularly focused, this dark-fruited wine doesn’t punish the palate for its revels with too-gritty tannin. ★★★★

Silverado Vineyards 2013 Solo Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon ($125) Set the table to impress with this pricey (but not really, for the neighborhood) number, which whispers, rather than shouts, of black olives and fresh, delicately scented raspberries. More sweetly fruited than its mate, the Geo below, it’s a convincing harmony of red-fruited Cab flavor and drying, yet like dried velvet, tannins. ★★★★

Benziger Winery 2014 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) This initially weedy, kale-and-blackcurrant-jelly-scented wine won me over by degrees, so a decanting is recommended if possible. The winery’s sustainability ethos, noted on the label, may win over others. Flavors of mixed berry fruit and chocolate mint cool the palate, and chewy tannins let up on the finish before tedium sets in. ★★★½

Educated Guess 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($22) Some like it hot, some like it smokin’—the oak here is reminiscent of the hickory liquid smoke I’ve been using to jazz up stir fry, but if that sounds tempting, this delivers the tannic Cabernet goods for a good price, and a conversation-starting label, for chemistry geeks. ★★★

Silverado Vineyards 2013 Geo Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) Plainly intense, leaving an impression of iron and bitter ornamental berry, this quality yet closed up Cab says, let’s stay together long enough to enjoy the wine after a few years in the cellar. ★★★