The Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is a $5.99 Trader Joe’s exclusive sourced from grapes grown in more than one California grape growing AVA. The Velvet Moon Cabernet is part of a line of wines with “Moon” in the title made for TJ’s by a leading Lodi, Ca. winery. They feature well-known grape varietals and sell in the $6 to $7 range. Inexpensive Cabernet Sauvignon can be problematic since the flavor profile most wine drinkers have for California Cabernet involves a good length of oak barrel aging. Oak barrels can cost $1,000 each and that can add several dollars to the price of a bottle of wine, not a big issue with a $50 or $60 Cabernet Sauvignon, but a major issue with sub-$10 Cabs. While there are other ways to get oak seasoning and flavors into wine, oak staves, oak chips, and oak powder, getting the alternative, cheaper methods to taste authentic is a trick not every winery has mastered (though a surprising number of value priced wine producers are getting pretty good, sometimes it is hard to tell). Luckily, the “Moon” series wines seem to have the basics figured out and I have found them to offer a solid drinking experience for not a lot of money. The alcohol content is 13%.
The color is dark, but still see-thru raspberry red with black highlights. The nose is dark berries, a little toasty oak vanilla, spice, a hint of black pepper, and black cherry. This is a medium-bodied Cab, fruit-forward, but with a solid amount of structure not always found in inexpensive Red wine. It starts with sour cherry, chocolate powder, pepper spice, and blackberry. The mid-palate adds strawberry, a touch of green bell pepper, and blueberry. The tannins are in the flavor mix, but they are sweet and slightly dusty and the acidity is well-balanced. The finish is full and long.
The Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is a solid and interesting (you don’t expect a $5.99 wine to be interesting) California Cabernet. Is this the greatest Cabernet Sauvignon in the world? No, but it’s pretty damn good for 6 bucks. It is a little rough around the edges and not super complex, but the Velvet Moon gets all the basics right. In France, folks drink wine with the meal twice a day, every day and for the most part they are not drinking Grand Cru First Growth Bordeaux wines. They drink the local “village” wines, solid, inexpensive wine that tastes great, that is good enough to pair with each days prepared meal. The Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 is the California version of those well-priced French everyday “village” wines.