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I Tried All of Trader Joe's Cab Sauvs Under $10...Here's What I Learned

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Ok first of all, if you're new around here: welcome! I'm sure you've found by now that the Candid Cork space is for being, well, candid! I'm just your average Jane and I focus on delivering you content that's attainable and relatable. Just by being here, reading my blog, you've officially become a Corker. (Side note, "corker" is a real word meaning an excellent or astonishing person or thing...who wouldn't want to be that?!)

Next order of business: Happy International Cabernet Day! In honor of this special day, I've decided to do a little experiment. I tried every Cabernet Sauvignon priced $10.00 or less from my local Trader Joe's store. What would drive a person to spend $150 on 17 potentially sub-par wines? To bring you helpful insights so you can make informed purchasing decisions, of course! I wouldn't want you to be caught in a situation where you are meeting your future in-laws and show up with a stagnant, flabby bottle of about a bad first impression!

I tasted all 17 wines over the course of 9 days. No, I did not finish each botte, but don't worry. No wine bottles were harmed in the making of this blog; each participant found a happy and loving forever home. (I rarely, if ever, support wine dumping, let's just be clear!)

To conduct the tasting, I served each wine at the same temperature, in the same glass, poured through the same aerator. I then analyzed each one for color, aroma, structure (body, finish, complexity, acidity, tannin, alcohol), and overall quality and value. Essentially, I wanted to find out if it the wine would hold up for the average wine drinker. Lastly, I rated each wine on a scale of 1-20, 1 being BLEGH and 20 being BOOM-POW!

So, let's get right to it with my findings. Remember, these results are based on my own taste preferences which may be different from yours. Ultimately, this is what makes wine tasting so fun! Everyone will have a different interpretation of what's in their glass.

17. Parasphere from Napa, CA- 2018

Price: $7.99

ABV: 14.5%

Nose: rubber pool toy, terra cotta pots, dried cherry

Palette: bretty notes, cheddar popcorn finish

My rating: 4/20

Overall: even Vivino rated this wine low...doesn't hold up

16. Caretaker Wines from Paso Robles, CA - 2018

Price: $9.99

ABV: 13.4%

Nose: cranberry, sour cherry, prune

Palette: earthy, bretty notes, rotting leaves, low tannins, a bit sour

My rating: 6/20

Overall: if you like a bold, jammy cab, this one's not for you...doesn't hold up

15. Givon from Galilee, Israel - 2019

Price: $6.99

ABV: 13.5%

Nose: honey, dried cherry, anise, saddle leather

Palette: Vegetal, cured meat, prunes, cola, medium-low tannins

My rating: 6/20

Overall: if you enjoy a dry, non-fruit option, you may dig this one, though it's not very approachable to the average wine drinker.

14. Thomas Allen from Lodi, CA - 2017

Price: $6.99

ABV: 13.5%

Nose: ripe cherry, raspberry, and blackberry

Palette: big burst of mocha and lingering finish of buttery maple syrup

My rating: 9/20

Overall: If you prefer Hungry Jack's syrup, you may enjoy this one

13. Trader Joe's Coastal Cabernet from Central Coast, CA - 2018

Price: $5.49

ABV: 13.5%

Nose: ripe cherry, macerated raspberry, subtle leather notes

Palette: Mocha, medium tannin

My rating: 9/20

Overall: light garnet color and not very complex, but bolder aromas than anticipated for the price.

12. Paso Dragon from Paso Robles, CA - 2018

Price: $7.99


Nose: blueberry muffin, strawberry lipsmackers, saddle leather

Palette: bit of sourness with medium-low tannin

My rating: 10/20

Overall: It tastes like it's trying too hard to feature bold, fruit notes

11. Technique from Sonoma County, CA - 2018

Price: $6.99

ABV: 14.5%

Nose: old cedar chest, musty cellar, black currant

Palette: Sour cherry, tart cranberry, fig newton

My rating: 11/20

Overall: on the acidic side with not a lot of jammy fruit notes

10. Charles Shaw from Napa, CA - 2017

Price: $2.99

ABV: 12.5%

Nose: cherry cola, roses (made me sneeze!)

Palette: Maraschino cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, medium tannin

My rating: 12/20

Overall: Can we just take a moment to respect the two buck chuck? I was not anticipating this much boldness! The color was closer to garnet than ruby, and the ABV is on the low side, but the aromas were so intense they actually made me sneeze! I say for $3, this wine is a win!

9. Corvelia from Paso Robles, CA - 2018

Price: $9.99

ABV: 14.1%

Nose: leather, ripe plum, macerated blackberry

Palette: dried cherry, cedar, smoked meat, medium-low tannin

My rating: 13/20

Overall: Nice bold flavors and great price performance!

8. Moon X from CA - 2017

Price: $6.99

ABV: 13%

Nose: ripe plum, raspberry, and toasted caramel

Palette: mocha, baking spice, and warm vanilla

My rating: 13/20

Overall: Medium tannins and not exceptionally bold, though its close to what I'm looking for in a cab; nice flavor profile.

7. Dark Horse from CA - 2018

Price: $6.49

ABV: 13.5%

Nose: ripe cherry, vanilla extract, tobacco leaves, terra cotta pot

Palette: oak notes, baking spice, caramel mocha, medium tannin

My rating: 13/20

Overall: Smooth, bold, and big bang for the buck!

6. Liberte from Paso Robles, CA - 2017

Price $9.99

ABV: 13.9%

Nose: fruit forward with notes of maple, cherry, and blackberry

Palette: warm vanilla, baking spice, and plum

My rating: 14/20

Overall: Nice bold flavors, medium-high tannin and lingering finish!

5. Carnivore from Modesto, CA - 2017

Price: $9.99

ABV: 13.8%

Nose: melted caramel, candied plum, blackberry

Palette: mocha, burnt toast

My rating: 14/20

Overall: digging this bold beauty for only $9.99; nice silky mouthfeel

4. Rare Earth (organic) from CA - 2019

Price: $7.99

ABV: 13.2%

Nose: cherry, cedar, smoke, cigar box

Palette: warm vanilla, sassafras, melba raisin toast

My rating: 14/20

Overall: a tasty, organic wine for $7.99? Yes, please!

3. Barrel Heist from Lodi, CA - 2018

Price: $6.99

ABV: 14.8%

Nose: juicy plum, cherry coughdrop, heavy alcohol!

Palette: black pepper, saddle leather, peat, old cedar chest

My rating: 14.5/20

Overall: a barrel aged cab with bold tertiary notes for less than $7?! More, please!

2. Bogle from CA - 2017

Price: $9.99

ABV: 14.5%

Nose: leather, chokecherry, cedar, ripe plum

Palette: white pepper, black currant, baking spice - medium tannin

My rating: 15/20

Overall: If you love hearty, earthy cabs - this one is calling your name. For $9.99, you get more complex flavors than you bargained for! Great price performance.

Drum roll please.......

1. Line 39 from Parlier, CA - 2018

Price: $7.49

ABV: 13.5%

Nose: candied plum, ripe cherry, saddle leather

Palette: oakiness - warm vanilla sugar, baking spice, cola

My rating: 15/20

Overall: For $7.49 you get a ton of aromas - free flowing out of the glass; nice velvety mouthfeel and one of the few in this list with a deep ruby color that I look for in a cab.

There you have it! Every Cabernet Sauvignon, <$10 from my local Trader Joe's store ranked in order, with tasting notes. I hope you enjoyed the results of this experiment as much as I loved completing it. Please leave me a comment and let me know which varietal, from which retailer you'd like to see next! I'm always looking for ways to bring you the best bargains.

Don't forget to subscribe to my email list on my homepage so you know when a new blog is posted, and follow me on Instagram @thecandidcork for my Wednesday Wine of the Week (WOTW) feature.

Cheers, Corkers! Thanks for stopping by!

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