Big Cab Trio - Jordan, Stag's Leap, Kenwood

An unlikely hero.

Verdict: For now, we'll reach for the most accessible - and least expensive - of these three.
2006 Kenwood Jack London Cabernet

The rest of the story:

In a side-by-side lineup, we tasted three current release California Cabs.  Hailing from Napa Valley and the celebrated Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, the 2005 Artemis weighs in at $56.  Representing Alexander Valley and the also famous Jordan Winery, the 2005 Cabernet tips the register at $45.  Finally, in the black trunks and sporting a wolf tattoo, Kenwood's 2006 Jack London Cabernet rings up at a bantam weight of $25. 

So, how'd they fair?

Tastings are an interesting phenomena.  They bring various wines together with varied palates in an environment that facilitates comparison.  Judging the quality and value of wines on their own can sometimes be a challenge.  But the flip side is that it's easy to pick a winner from the choices being offered.

Critics have many approaches to the discipline required by tastings, but one metric we favor paying close attention to is which bottle empties first.  After all the wines have been tasted, attendees - knowingly or otherwise - will bypass the allure of the label and reach for what pleases.

And in this trio, the one that got drained first was (probably not coincidentally) the one we favored the most: The Kenwood Jack London Cabernet.  It was also the least expensive by almost 50%.

If you're shopping for a gift for a wine-lover who values a blue-chip nameplate, you can't go wrong with either of the first two.  But if you're spending your own money on yourself or someone who's going to drink the wine for what's in the bottle rather than the label, then the Kenwood is an easy choice.

Accessible right now and very friendly, the 30th Anniversary release of Kenwood's Jack London Cabernet is smooth, round, and balanced.  Whereas the others are a bit taut and masked in oak.

Now, in fairness to all three of the wineries represented here, none of these wines should be drunk on release.  These are all wines built for aging - a minimum of 5-10 years in our judgment - particularly the Stag's Leap and the Jordan.  Given that, this same comparison done again in 2015 would likely yield different results.

But for now, we'll reach for the most accessible - and least expensive - of these three.

BONUS: Kenwood is running a $10/bottle rebate on all Jack London wines.  That brings the net cost of this fantastic Cabernet down to $15! Look for the rebate tags at your local retailer.