by Fred McMillin
for August 11, 1997

How Much Is That Cabernet in the Window?


Price of Grapes—$ Per Ton

Year 1887 1995
Mission Grape 8 179
Zinfandel 15 520
Cabernet Sauvignon 28 867

The Rest of the Story: In 1887, the Mission, California's first wine grape, made 80% of the state's wine. However, prices indicate what all vintners knew, two more recent arrivals made better wine. The Zinfandel had moved in by 1860, and its superiority was recognized immediately. However, Zinfandel's lead was short-lived. Within 20 years Cabernet Sauvignon also arrived, took over quality and price leadership, and never looked back.

Today there are California Cabs at $60 a bottle. So how do I answer my student's request for the name of a pleasing FIVE dollar Cabernet Sauvignon? The response: Try the 1994 Blossom Hill. Heublein is putting new life into this label, and I think this light Cab is a good example. If you drink red wines in the $5 range, be sure to try this one.

1994 Cabernet Sauvignon, Appellation—California
Blossom Hill Winery
Sonoma, California
Alcohol Content—12%
Contact—Jennifer Gould, (800)357-9463

Postscript : Granted. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are expensive at an average 1995 price of $867 per ton. Since they make the best red wine, then they must also be the MOST EXPENSIVE. Right? Wrong. That year the highest price red wine grape ran $1,231 per ton and it was none other than an escapee from Tuscany, Sangiovese!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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