I wrote not long ago about the difficulty in finding good Cabernet under $20. I might have to re-think that as I've discovered a third wine that I think is worth your money.
Santa Emma 2006 Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a dynamite Cabernet from Chile at an extraordinarily reasonable $10.95. I have seen it a bit cheaper and a bit higher on the internet. I picked this one up at the recommendation of Reggie McConnell, wine steward/host at Baeslers Market in Terre Haute.
This wine is a really dark purple with some spicy characteristics and just the right amount of tannin on the finish to hold up to steak. I fired up the grill and put a nice burn on a filet. The steak had a slight crust that I love on grilled beef and the wine held its own against the steak and the smoke cherry rub.
This wine feels very balanced. You get the fruit and the tannins and they balance each other nicely.
This is a great Cab at the price point. It is widely distributed. I'd suggest you give Santa Emma a try if you see it.
A post script: I'm a few steps beyond a novice but not near the expert of so many others. I've learned the past few months from feedback here and my newspaper column that many people want to take the step to drinking better wines. I encourage you to look at the comment posted to my blog entry about the Brunello I had to pour down the sink. There is a great explanation of what happens when a wine goes bad. I have had it explained to me several times and just haven't put enough effort into understanding the various ways wines will go south on you. Thanks to Tony for a full explanation.
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