The 2011 HandCraft California Cabernet Sauvignon (about $10 at big-box stores) is round and soft and mellow in every way. But just because it isn't muscular doesn't mean it's flabby. Its abundant dark fruit comes in a blast at first sip and persists through a moderately long finish.
This velvety, frisky red (which definitely benefits from a lively splash of sangiovese) telegraphs its punch with a nose of full, ripe plum and raspberry. It doubles down on the tongue, with freshets of dark plum, ripe fig and raspberry dominating. Black cherry and dark chocolate add lovely bass notes at mid palate and stick around for the finale, where the merest whiff of wood smoke pops up. This is not the stern sort of cab that begs to be cellared but rather a fresh, fruit-forward wine to be drunk young.
You could certainly pair this cab with grilled steak, but even better would be serving it with rich meats like lamb chops in a balsamic pomegranate glaze or roast duck in a sour cherry sauce.
By Colette and John Bancroft. She is the Times' book editor, and he is a freelance writer specializing in food, wine and travel.