2011 Bridlewood Cabernet Paso Robles $13
This brand hasn't held the appeal it once did for a while. Back in the late 90's their Syrah was a real treat. Since then it's been hit and miss, so I was ready to discount this Cab as overly extracted, manipulated, and blown. Instead (and perhaps thanks to the challenges of the vintage), there are some very likeable qualities to this, primary among them is its relative balance. With favors that stride subtle maraschino and delicate evergreen, its leaner tendency is a welcome respite from California's persistent gravity towards sucrose-dominated reds in this price range. I like it and bet you will, too.
2010 Ghost Pines Cabernet Napa/Sonoma $17
In the past this wine has been solid, if a bit bombastic. In 2010 it reels its gregariousness in a bit and offers straightforward, uncomplicated Cabernet fruit framed by a moderately oaked structure. Considering the company it keeps in its price category, this is a dependable Cab that doesn't color outside the lines and won't break the bank.