It can be hard to find a really good bottle of wine at the supermarket or local liquor store that delivers great quality for under $15. That’s why this column is about a single bottle of wine.

J. Lohr Vineyards is one of the iconic names in California wine, particularly the central coastal region. The chance to share comments from Steve Lohr, Jerry’s son and COO of the company, made it easy to focus one column on J. Lohr’s Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon.

The wine is a rich and well-structured bottle of Cabernet for its mid-teen price. The wine can be found online anywhere from $13-$17. It can be picked up at one of Indiana’s biggest grocery chains for $14.99.

The chance to share Lohr’s comments on the Cab adds a little education rather than a simple review.

“With over 20 years of experience in growing grapes in Paso Robles, we know what it takes to coax the best flavors from our vineyards,” Lohr said. “Our Paso vineyards receive only 12 to 14 inches of rainfall per year, with almost none of that occurring during the growing season. Thus, we are able to limit how much water each vine receives, encouraging the vine to put more energy into fruit maturation than cane and leaf growth. We work diligently to allow just enough sunlight to penetrate the grapevine canopy. If there is too much light, the clusters will suffer from sunburn and turn rosy or raisin – just like humans! If there is too little light, they will not develop their full berry flavors.”

A recent trip to Paso Robles, CA., provided the opportunity to talk with many of the area’s pioneers.

“We feel Paso Robles is ideally suited for Cabernet in part because of the large diurnal changes in temperature (the difference between the daytime high and nighttime low) that occur here,” Lohr explained. “Cabernet needs warm days to bake out the (chemicals) that can lead to green vegetable aromas and flavors, and cool nights to preserve the acidity and color in wine grapes. With a daily swing of 40 to 50 degrees during the summer, Paso has the largest diurnal shift of any winegrowing region in the country.”

The great thing about this inexpensive wine is it tastes like a $20 or $30 bottle. The mouth feel is comparable to a more costly wine.

“We don’t over crop our vines since that dilutes flavors; however, we don’t under crop our vines either since that leads to aggressive vegetal growth and a reduction in the length of time the cluster remains on the vine, leading to sugar accumulation before flavor development,” Lohr said.

“This attention to detail is carried through the winemaking process. We ferment in small to medium size tanks which allows us to closely monitor color, flavor and tannin extraction from the grape skins and seeds. Our focus on traditional winemaking techniques, such as the exclusive use of 225 liter oak barrels to age our Seven Oaks, is more akin to a boutique winery than a winery with good national distribution. Balance in blending occurs with the addition of other Bordeaux varieties to our Cabernet such as Merlot and Petit Verdot, as well as other red varieties which grow well in Paso such as Petite Sirah and Syrah. The finished Seven Oaks is a wine that expresses rich blackberry, black cherry and vanilla aromas and flavors with a plump, softly textured mouth feel and finish.”

J.Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet is easy to find. Try it with the next big beef dish you have planned.

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