Many popular wine brands are made to a house style. It helps wineries stand apart from competitors and gives consumers confidence they’ll know what to expect when they pick up a bottle of Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Veuve Clicquot Champagne, or Penfolds Bin 389. These wines aren’t made to a recipe, because each grape harvest is likely to result in variances – the amount of grapes, the levels of sugar or acidity, the size of the berries – that inevitably result in a slightly different character in the finished wine.
Another prime example of a house style can be tasted in Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon, which was first produced in 2001 by the Hill Smith family, which operates Yalumba and Pewsey Vale Vineyard in Australia’s Eden Valley. Ringbolt saw the family expanded its focus to cabernet sauvignon made in the Margaret River. The ripe and savoury red from Western Australia helped to develop processes that continue today.
The grapes are harvested and pressed in Margaret River and the juice is shipped to the winery in Angaston, South Australia for processing and aging. One of the biggest tools at the winemaking team’s disposal is the type of oak used and the amount of time that the wine spends inside the barrels. In cooler growing seasons, like Ringbolt’s newly released vintage, winemaker Heather Fraser increases the amount of American oak but reduces the duration. The 2021 vintage spend nine months in oak. Dry and warm growing conditions help promote riper flavours, which are given long time to mature in barrel. The 2013 and 2014 vintages were left for 15 months and 17 months in the cellar prior to bottling.
As a result, the 2021 vintage of Ringbolt moves from strength to strength, carrying forward the established ripe and concentrated house style while preserving the fresh and elegant structure typically found in cabernet sauvignons from the Margaret River region. That character has resonated with Canadian wine lovers since its first release in 2004. Since 2011, Ringbolt has been one of the year-round listings at LCBO Vintages outlets known as an essentials product and has increased distribution in many parts of the country. It is one of this week’s recommended wines alongside seven other crowd-pleasing cabernet sauvignons that stood out in recent tastings.
Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (United States), $39.95
Made in a polished and plush style, Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Duckhorn family’s interest in making Californian wines outside of its native Napa Valley. A blend of cabernet sauvignon with ten per cent merlot, with grapes coming from vineyards located through the north and central coast regions. The result is a nicely layered and supple red wine, with generous cherry and plum fruit flavours enhanced by vanilla and spice notes that are nicely integrated. Drink now-2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $39.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $38 in Quebec, $40.80 in New Brunswick.
La Mascota Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (Argentina), $18.95
This Mendoza cabernet sauvignon continues to be one of the best red wines available to Canadian wine lovers in the $20 range. It’s made in bright and balanced style, with crowd-pleasing ripe fruit character that’s countered by some herbal notes, refreshing acidity and a gentle tug of tannins on the finish. Available in Ontario at the above price, $18.99 in British Columbia and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $16.55 in Quebec, $21.79 in New Brunswick, $21.31 in Nova Scotia, $21.99 in Prince Edward Island, $20.95 in Newfoundland.
Plume Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (United States), $39.95
Plume is a Californian wine brand operated by the Stewart family, which owns Quails’ Gate Winery in the Okanagan Valley and Lake Sonoma and Valley of the Moon wineries in Sonoma County. Made with grapes grown in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley, this richly concentrated and complex red wine is a blend of mostly cabernet sauvignon with a small addition of malbec. There’s a satisfying core of mixed berry flavours with earthy and herbal accents and a smooth and rounded texture. Drink now-2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $40 in Quebec.
Raymond Family Classic Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (United States), $19.95
Here’s a full-bodied and flavourful cabernet from vineyards in California’s North Coast, which includes the wine regions of Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino. It’s a cabernet made for mass appeal, with densely concentrated dark fruit flavours adding to the wine’s juicy character. Drink now-2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $19.35 in Quebec, $24.29 in New Brunswick, $21.99 in Nova Scotia.
Rowen Cooley Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (United States), $100
The Cooley Ranch in Sonoma County is home to 200 acres of vines, most of which are cabernet sauvignon. The site’s higher elevation is above the fog line and helps lead to consistent ripening of the grapes. This single vineyard cabernet is made in a juicy yet elegant style. There’s nicely detailed aromas and flavours suggesting cherry and blackcurrant fruit with complex earthy, spicy and chocolate notes. Fine grained tannins and plenty of balancing acidity suggest this stylish cabernet should mature gracefully. Drink now-2035. Available in Ontario, direct vintagesshoponline.com, part of the LCBO July Cellar Feature release.
Ringbolt Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (Australia), $24.95
Ringbolt is made in a popular, easy to appreciate style, with smooth texture and serious character. The core of sweet cassis and berry fruit is rounded out by tobacco and cedar notes, which carry through to a lingering, fresh finish. Drink now-2030. Available in Ontario at the above price ($22.95 until Aug. 13), various prices in Alberta, $30.99 in Saskatchewan, $25.99 in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, $28.94 in Newfoundland.
Santa Rita 120 Reserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon 2021 (Chile), $12.55
This blend of cabernet sauvignon grown in vineyards located in Chile’s Central Valley is made in a simple and juicy style. The pleasing style offers bright cherry and berry flavours with subtle vanilla and tobacco notes. The silky texture adds to the appeal. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $12.99 in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, various prices in Alberta, $12.10 in Quebec, $14.99 in New Brunswick, $12.69 in Nova Scotia.
Scattered Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (United States), $54.95
Scattered Peaks’ old school heavyweight bottle may be a red flag to some consumers, but the wine inside is more in step with modern fashion. There’s a mix of concentrated dark fruit and oak-derived (vanilla and cocoa) flavours balanced by fragrant and savoury elements. Those spice, black olive and black licorice notes and the wine’s juicy acidity add interest to the rich, flavourful character. Drink now-2032. Available in Ontario.