This Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon review is part of our value wine series. A series of reviews aimed at exposing great quality wines that won’t break the bank. The Dark Horse cab is also easily accessible – available at your local Trader Joe’s.  Check out our quick tasting notes, review and food pairings.

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Review 2013

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon from Lodi, Sacramento & San Joaquin Valley California

Vintage: 2013

Buy the Dark Horse Cabernet Online (750mL, Amazon).

Possibly my favorite New World, smoky Cabernet Sauvignon – the Dark Horse is a complexly flavored great value red wine. I buy it all the time at Trader Joe’s for $ 7.99 and every time I drink it, it kind of feels like the first time.

 From Dark Horse Wines “Our Winemaker, Beth Liston, believes winemaking is a treasure hunt. She is constantly experimenting with different grape varietals and new winemaking techniques. From bold Red Blend to smooth Chardonnay, her passion for creating exceptional wines that outperform their price is unsurpassed.”

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Review 2013 Trader Joe's Wine ReviewsBeth Liston knows what she’s doing. She’s going for a particular style, and it’s achieved regardless of Dark Horse vintage. You can typically expect black fruit backed by red fruit, smoky flavors and toasted aromas.

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The grapes used to craft the Cabernet Sauvignon from Dark Horse are harvested from various vineyards in Lodi, Sacramento and San Joaquin California. It’s is a youthful and flavorful wine, a pleasant contrast to old world Cabs.  It kind of reminds me of the Hooter’s slogan… “delightfully tacky yet unrefined.” This is the sort of young and fruity Cab that will leave your teeth purple.

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting Notes

In the glass, you can see the youth in this wine – but that’s not a bad thing. Inviting, deep purple hues over black cherry ink stick to the sides of your glass. It’s beautiful.

The nose of this wine mimics its color palette. Big cherry aromas, yumberry brûlée over dense violet flower permeate the nostrils.

The opening palate begins with black cherry, blackberry cobbler, grippy tannins and rich smoky spice.  As you approach the mid-palate, this Cabernet begins to emit flavors of black coffee, cassis and cacao. There’s a dusty graphite mineral nuance ever-present. Towards the close, the smoke gets bolder and the coffee gets richer, while the sweetness of black cherry and plum ooze on top. The finish is lengthy, balanced and imposing.

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Review 2013

Smoked beef ribs are ideal to pair with the Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon. Image and recipe courtesy the Independent publication at Antioch College.

Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon Food Pairings

For such a boldly flavored smoky Cab, we like this with anything on the grill, or even smoked salmon.  BBQ St. Louis pork ribs, barbecue brisket pizza, or Memphis style hickory smoked beef ribs are all ideal places to start.

Overall, a great value.  Fruity enough to drink on its own, and complex enough to pair nicely with food.  The Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon is a win.

RELATED: Explore new, worldly wines similar to the Dark Horse Cabernet. Small lot boutique wines tailored to your taste that you can’t find in the store. Take a 30 second palate profile and get 50% off right now.

Our Score



  • DixieGirl

    I first found Dark Horse Cabernet at a local wine bar. It was on the menu as their house red. At $5 per glass, I thought why not give it a try. I fell in love with it! Now I always have a bottle (or 3) in my wine cabinet. It is a great all occasion red that is smooth enough to enjoy on it’s own. It’s also bold enough to stand up to a dark red sauce on pasta or your favorite steak.

    • Always a pleasure to hear someone else so stoked about this wine! They need Dark Horse on tap at bars, $5 a glass is the best I’ve heard out and about thus far. Completely agree — keep it on hand, a very versatile vin!! We’re actually about to place it on our 2017 recommendation list.

  • Chuckles

    I regularly buy Berlinger Founders Estate Cab by the case from Total Wine. A friend brought me a house gift of Dark Horse for New Year’s Eve party. I love it and when I checked the price, I loved it even more. Highly recommend with prime rib.

  • James Dillon

    I discovered Dark Horse here in Dornoch Scotland its a great wine recommended by a visiting golfer from California. I was his caddy and we discussed wine he said try the cab sav got to say I am now a fan JD

    • Hi James,

      It’s really great to hear you. I spent a fair amount of time in Dornoch just this past April and had one of the best experiences of my life. You live in a beautiful place! We played the Royal Dornoch course and did some skeet shooting as well. Yes, the Dark Horse Cab is one of our favorite, most reliable and affordable Cabernet’s. Happy to hear you agree!


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