Brian Demay’s Wine Wednesday: CS Substance Cabernet Sauvignon

When I was a boy my father smoked a pipe. If you close your eyes and picture a stereotypical professor, that was my Dad: mustache, tweed coat with elbow patches, cup of coffee, pipe, smoke wafting around his head as he graded papers. I never cared for the smell of the pipe smoke, but I absolutely loved the smell of the sweet tobacco he kept in a tin in a downstairs closet. I remember opening the tin and just smelling the sweet, rich aroma. It’s a memory that has stayed with me long after my father stopped smoking that pipe, and one which occasionally becomes fresh in my mind again as I notice it in the nose of certain quality wines.

Charles Smith is a rock star winemaker who has made millions making “wines people like, in a bottle that’s easy to remember.” The bottle is black, the label definitively says, “This is Cabernet Sauvignon,” but the CS also clearly indicates who made this wine: Charles Smith.You are probably familiar with some of the wines he founded, including those recently sold to Constellation Brands for $120 million: Kung Fu Girl Riesling, Boom Boom Syrah, Velvet Devil Merlot, to name just a few. This week’s featured wine is a step up from those, but still remarkably affordable, considering the quality.

The CS Cabernet Sauvignon is from a Charles Smith label he calls “Wines With Substance.” It’s 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, all from Washington’s Columbia Valley, aged for 12 months in French oak, and is absolutely delicious! Readers of this blog know I am always geeked about finding wines that over-deliver in flavor compared to their price, and this one does that in spades. If I was blind tasting this, I’d guess it would be in the $30-$40 range, and indeed, its ratings from Wine Enthusiast, Robert Parker, James Suckling and Wine Spectator all put it at that level of quality. But you can find this wine for around $17 a bottle. It’s an unbelievable value!

That pipe tobacco I was talking about from my childhood? It’s the first thing I noticed when I opened this bottle. Really wonderful aromas, from sweet tobacco to cassis and blackberry. But the taste is even better, with layers of black cherry, juicy plum and blackberry flavors, with a delicious spicy cocoa finish. This is a wine that even Charles Smith agrees should be priced higher! Before he does, stock up and thank me later.


On my five-cork scale based on taste and value, the 2017 CS Substance Cabernet from Charles Smith gets 4.25 corks! Buy this wine. Drink it. Enjoy it. Tell your friends. Repeat.

If you’d like to try interesting wines like this, please join me at our next private wine party! I host a wine dinner every month, and we feature several interesting wines, each paired with a delicious course. There are always cool prizes to win, too, so listen Wednesday at 4:15 to win your spot on the guest list, or click here for a chance to win!

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