So many California cabernets offer little more than smooth-talking sunny fruit, with little else profound to say. This 2005 cab from Buehler, however, has some earthy edges that open the conversation to some unexpected flavors and intrigue.

Yes, it greets you with a ripe West Coast burst of dark wild berries, but then gets interesting as it washes across the tongue with shades of savory spice - a woody musk, a dark splash of brewed coffee, roasted beets, the lingering piquance of black olives, and some firm tannins that make it a perfect accomplice to steak off the grill (or, for that matter, a summer borscht).

This family-owned vineyard in the Napa mountains east of St. Helena has gotten a reputation for producing great mid-range quality values (including raves for its zin), but this bargain gets an extra nudge with an almost 50 percent discount on the '05 vintage in Pennsylvania. Surprise, surprise, it's actually one sub-$20 special that still drinks like its former $36 self.

- Craig LaBan
The Buehler cabernet sauvignon estate 2005, $17.99, in selected Premium Collection stores (code 15924).