Fall is right around the corner, and the evenings are finally starting to cool down. There’s a new tradition in my family: grab the snuggly blankets, open a bottle of cabernet sauvignon and settle in for some serious binge watching. Here are five great bang-for-the-buck cabs that I’ve recently enjoyed, each paired with a binge-worthy series that I think it matches perfectly.
Canvasback 2013 Red Mountain: Washington State makes robust reds, especially this hot, dry little area, and Canvasback’s cab is a good representative of that state’s style. They use 100 percent French oak in this blend of 85 percent cabernet sauvignon and 15 percent merlot. You’ll get blueberry, cherry, licorice and a little plum on the nose, then savory herbs and spices that give way to tannins that are pronounced but not overpowering. $36.
Pair it with a northwestern show, The Killing, based on the Danish television series Forbrydelsen (The Crime). Set in Seattle, the series follows the various murder investigations by homicide detectives Sarah Linden (Mireille Enos) and Stephen Holder (Joel Kinnaman).
J. Lohr 2013 Hilltop Paso Robles: 2013 and 2014 are both shaping up to be classic years for Paso Robles Bordeaux blends. This elegant wine from one of the biggest producers in California shows the usual finesse of red winemaker Steve Peck. It’s a typical Paso cab, with a touch of merlot and petit verdot. It’s got more fruit than a Napa cab, and softer, more elegant tannins. Peck sums it up nicely: “Aromas of black plum, violet and tobacco are complemented by a touch of hazelnut and cocoa powder from the French oak barrel signature. A dense but approachable mid-palate is followed by intense and vibrant red fruit on the finish.” $26.
There’s only one pairing for wine this classy: Downton Abbey.
Kunde 2013 Estate Sonoma Valley: From a widely respected winemaker, this gorgeous cabernet is dark, rich, and multi-layered, and 2013 was almost as great a year for Sonoma as it was for Paso. It was aged for 19 months in small French oak barrels, which translates into a complicated and ever-shifting taste profile. You’ll get a big hit of black currant, cinnamon and raspberry, and underneath it all the unmistakable backbeat of strawberry. The finish is complex with chewy tannins. A steal at $17.
Intriguing and mysterious, this one’s perfect for Sherlock, the clever re-imagining of Arthur Conan Doyle’s eccentric detective in 21st century London, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.
Newton 2013 Unfiltered Napa Valley: Robert Parker gave this old-style beauty 91 points. It’s unfiltered, so those who prefer loamy, big-boned cabs with a strong note of black currant will love it. It’s a touch higher in alcohol than normal for a cab at 14.5 percent, which brings out the fruit. This one’s for the manly men. $44.
Earthy and masculine, it’s a perfect pairing with Bosch, starring Titus Welliver as the eponymous LAPD detective. The first season takes its inspiration from three Michael Connolly novels.
Peirano 2012 “Heritage Collection” Lodi: A four-star gold winner at the Orange County Fair, this is an old-vine cabernet (30 years) from an underrated Northern California region, and it isn’t blended with any other Bordeaux variety. It looks terrific: rich, inky and dark. The nose reveals raspberry and blackberry, and you get those toasty notes that many people love, too, along with white pepper and oak. Dry, but not offensively so. A bargain at $11.
Lodi is in former Bandido country, so it needs a Wild West pairing. Why not HBO’s Deadwood, considered by many to be one of the finest TV series ever produced? It’s a decade old now, but that raw-boned, obscene paean to outlaws in post- Civil War Dakota Territory still holds up just fine. Al Swearengen for President!