the Joel Gott 815, California Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Joel Gott aims to make impressive wines that won’t shock wine lovers.

“Our goal is to always make wines that over-deliver at their price,” the winemaker said. “We may not always be recognized for the quality of the grapes we bottle, but these are the wines we want to make and drink.”

Gott is behind our Wine of the Week winner, the $18 Joel Gott 815, 2018 California Cabernet Sauvignon. This medium-bodied, approachable Cabernet has aromas and flavors of black cherry and black raspberry, with a hint of caramel on the finish. Balanced, it has lively acidity and good length. This strong, budget-friendly Cabernet edged out other competitors due to the caliber of this cab for the price.

Other tasty taxis include: Corner 103, 2018 Sonoma Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, 15%, $60; Flora Springs, 2018 Napa Valley Estate, Oakville/Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.2%, $50; J. Lohr, 2017 Carol’s Vineyard, St. Helena, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9%, $60; and Rodney Strong Vineyards, 2016 Reserve, Alexander Valley Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon, 15.2%, $55.

As for Gott’s Cabernet, the winemaker said he’s benefiting from his range of fruit; it comes from growing regions in the state of California.

“It allows us to create a more complex blend working with fruit as far north as Mendocino and Lake County, Napa and Sonoma and as far south as Santa Ynez Valley,” Gott said. “I find diversity adds to a wine that consistently delivers in terms of fruit profile, approachable tannins and complexity.”

Gott launched his label with the 1996 release of his Amador County Zinfandel, a joint effort with his wife, Sarah Gott. They expanded the brand with other varietals, and then Joel Gott Wines partnered with Trinchero Family Estates in 2009.

“My name is on the bottle,” the winemaker said, “but it’s a talented, hard-working group of people who bring these wines to life.”

Gott, 50, was born in Napa Valley and raised in the Sierra foothills where his parents founded Montevina Winery. He then moved to Carmel and after graduating from high school he went to work for Kenwood Winery in Sonoma County.

“I didn’t go to college,” Gott said. “Working in the winery was my crash course in winemaking and viticulture. I learned so much from (the late winemaker) Mike Lee, and that experience was a great foundation for everything that followed.

Today, Gott has something of an empire. Besides his Joel Gott Wine label, he is the entrepreneur behind the Gott’s Roadside restaurant chain, which has seven locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Additionally, he and his team launched Gott for Good in 2019, a philanthropic program in partnership with Feeding America.

“This donation initiative is a natural extension of the work we do for our wine brand as well as Gott’s Restaurants, two businesses that bring friends and families together around the table,” Gott said.

This year, Gott for Good is helping provide 2.5 million meals, building on 1.5 million in 2020 and 600,000 in 2019.

“We are proud to be able to do something that helps people, especially at a time when we see so many people around the country facing food insecurity,” Gott said. “It is an honor to partner with an organization that does so much to fight hunger, both nationally and regionally.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at [email protected] or 707-521-5310.

Elisha A. Tilghman