Weekend Wines

Weekend wines: Try this bargain boxed cabernet

June 15, 2012 at 3:57 PM ET

CalNaturale /
Boxed wine can actually be pretty tasty, What are your favorites?

One of the better inexpensive wines I’ve tasted from California in the last year comes not in a bottle but a box. By now, it seems to me, anyone looking for good value should be open to the eco-friendlier wine-in-a-box option, and CalNaturale’s 2008 French Camp Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles demonstrates why.

The wine comes in two sizes, 500 ml and one-liter Tetra Pak cartons. The other night when I opened the smaller box (about two-thirds the size of a standard wine bottle), I hadn’t yet checked the price but was quickly impressed by the quality of the wine. First, it actually tasted like cabernet, with blackberry and blueberry tastes, a touch of cocoa and a slight green note. Many inexpensive California wines have a generic quality that makes it hard to tell what variety is in the bottle. Second, the wine had decent tannic structure, which is also unusual in this category. And third, the grapes are grown organically, which for me is another plus.

Both sizes are bargains. The smaller container is $7 and the liter size is $13. Unlike countless California bottles in this price range, most of them bearing the broad “California” appellation, this one is not only from a specific region (Paso Robles on the Central Coast) but is from a single vineyard. The well-known French Camp Vineyard is owned by the same family that owns the famed Bien Nacido Vineyards in Santa Barbara County to the south.

I enjoyed the wine with a simple mid-week dinner of sautéed pork chops, couscous and asparagus. Try it as well with burgers and steaks, lamb and grilled chicken. Many wine drinkers, by the way, will find the 500 ml size perfect for a dinner for two, providing a couple of glasses each. As for the name, I find CalNaturale a bit clinical, but then again, it’s really about what’s inside the box. In a bargain California cab, it’s nice to see the quality come through. There is also a CalNaturale chardonnay, which I haven’t yet tasted.

Is there a boxed wine that you like? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Edward Deitch is a James Beard Award-winning wine critic. Find many more of his wine reviews and commentary on his blog, Vint-ed.com, and follow him on Twitter.

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