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Napa River, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

Napa River, Cabernet Sauvignon 2003

by Tim Elliott on October 20, 2006

In honor of Great Grape Day over at Wine Sediments and somewhat inspired by a slightly snarky post at Good Grape, I picked up a bottle of Napa River Cab to try. For those not in the know, this is a new brand from Bronco Wine Co. sold exclusively at Trader Joe’s in the U.S. like the phenomenally successful Charles Shaw (a.k.a. “Two-buck Chuck”). This Cabernet Sauvignon, along with a Merlot and Chardonnay, retail for $4.99 a bottle. For this price, you really can’t expect a whole lot of varietal character or complexity and I can’t think of any other Napa Valley designated Cabernet being sold at this price (with the possible exception of the occasional fire sale).

I think of Napa River as a sort of vendetta wine since Bronco had to change the name of Napa Ridge after losing a protracted legal battle. Bronco founder Fred Franzia took the setback in stride and worked the bulk market to find enough Napa Valley AVA juice to blend into Napa River. A normal entrepreneur might have taken the same juice and sold it in the $10-12 a bottle range and done well, but Franzia is on the warpath with the Napa vintners who took him to court. Napa River is the result and, from this tasting, is good news for wine lovers on a budget.

Napa River, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 2003 ($5) – Dark ruby-purple in color with aromas of blackberry, currant and a tinge of bell pepper. Full and soft on the palate with blackberry and black pepper flavors finishing with a bit of concentrate sweetness and moderate tannins. Tastes like a $15-20 Napa Cab and a clear step up from Two-buck Chuck. Buy it by the case while it lasts.

12.5% ABV

Natural cork closure

Score: 84

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  • James O’Meara

    Where can I obtain Napa River wine on the east coast

  • Tim


    Napa River is available only at Trader Joe’s markets here in the U.S. Find the one closest to you here: http://www.traderjoes.com


  • gail

    Last summer I enjoyed Napa River Sauv Blanc. Have they discontinued the line or will there be more this season?

  • Tim

    Gail: I was recently at Trader Joe’s and noticed they had some Napa River Cabernet still for sale. I’m sure there will be more available as the bulk market for Napa wine permits.

  • Wayne

    I’m seeking Napa River Cabernet Sauvignon to purchase. If anybody spots it in a Trader Joe’s,
    please advise. It’s my niece’s favorite and I’d like to get some for her as a gift.
    Many Thanks,
    West Hollywood, CA

  • Wayne

    Which Trader Joe’s?! Please advise.

  • David

    Interesting post about the wine. We love this wine and stocked up some cases probably two years ago. We still keep a few bottles intentionally. Being aware that they were only 5 buck bottles I wonder if we should gift a good friend on his Birthday instead of buying a Turnbull or some rather “standard” bottle from a nearby shop.

    • Anonymous

      I’d probably try a bottle before giving one away to make sure it’s still good.

  • Crad5

    Had this tonight with steak – really very good, but not a typical 8yr cab on the palette. Less tannic , more fruit. Very drinkable. I need to find more 2003.

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