I was in the mood to try something different from my local wine shop. Usually, I turn to Italy for bargain reds and whites, but this time I was feeling patriotic, so I asked the owner what he could point me to among California Cabernets. I have not been too keen on Cabernets from my home state for the past few years because the high-quality ones are usually in a fairly stratospheric price realm. And the ones for $20 and under can often be thin, herbal and green tasting. So it was with some skepticism and trepidation that I took home his recommendation—a Sonoma County Cabernet from the cool 2006 vintage from an unknown (to me) winery called Thunder Stone.
Now I know it is tough to find an original winery name these days given the thousands of labels out there. But Thunder Stone? Sounded like something from the Flintstones. But sometimes it’s not wise to judge a wine by its label—for good or ill. When I opened the bottle at home, I was more than pleasantly surprised: This wine delivered the goods. It was filled with blueberry and blackberry flavors that were ripe, with plenty of smoky overtones. Yet the flavors were plenty fresh as well and the finish featured chocolate notes and spice. At just 13.9 percent alcohol, the wine wasn’t too big—which made it fine for sipping on its own. I rated it 88 points, non-blind. At $14 a bottle, it was a heck of a bargain.
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