Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon: The Ultimate Bottle Guide

Cabernet sauvignon is the perfect beginner red wine because of its accessibility and approachability — it's not intimidating in taste, and many brands have a cabernet option. Josh Cellars took "beginner" to a new level when it chose cabernet as the first wine ever produced at the company. Started in 2007 by Joseph Carr, Josh Cellars is a tribute from Carr to his father, Josh, who was a veteran, a volunteer firefighter, and a lumberjack. Cabernet was their first wine variety because they wanted a bottle perfect for sharing, and that bottle has since become a staple of their wine offerings.

Josh Cellars's Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied red wine, meaning it's heavy in the mouth — typical of wine with a 13.5% abv — and is riddled with complex flavors and richness. The company carries multiple varieties of Cabernet, from the North Coast bottle that balances hints of cherries, mocha, and hazelnut to the Bourbon Barrel Aged option, robust with notes of cedar, caramel, and bourbon. But the first bottle was a classic cabernet, and the West Coast wine is fruity, juicy, and has notes of more smoky flavors like cinnamon and hazelnut, with a subtle oak that lingers on the back of your tongue. The bottle, which sits in the $10 to $15 price range, was given a 91-point score by Wine Enthusiast in 2019, a score in the excellent range, for being well-balanced and full of pure fruit flavors — qualities that still hold up in 2024.

History of Josh Cellars's Cabernet Sauvignon

Joseph Carr started Josh Cellars in 2007, selling wine out of his truck and mortgaging his house to get the business going. Josh is made primarily in the northern California region because cabernet sauvignon grapes are best suited for warm climates where the grapes can ripen slowly but not overheat. California wine has been produced since the Spanish Franciscan Missionaries' Mission San Diego de Alcalá in 1769 when the missionaries used wine for community bonding. Wine production traveled to northern California during the Gold Rush in 1848, and later slowed during Prohibition. In the 1960s or '70s, Cabernet Sauvignon flourished as a complex wine with high-quality flavors — and California became a leader in the winemaking industry.

Early this year, Josh Cellars was trending on social media, after a Twitter user shared a picture of Josh's Merlot with a caption telling people to move on from other brands of wine and drink Josh. The photo sparked a slew of memes from users across the platform, some backing the promotion of Josh wine, and some noting that they were unfamiliar with the brand. When one user of the latter variety asked what Josh wine was, Josh Cellars stepped in on Twitter and commented, "Me" with a hand-waving emoji. Other memes followed, and the memes became popular on the internet, leading the brand to capitalize on the popularity and post an Instagram photo suggesting they were hiring a new intern to help with social media.

What does it taste like?

Josh Cellars's cabernet has a rich flavor that feels unintimidating to first-time drinkers of red wine, given that the oak aromas in the wine are subtle, leaving space for the fruit flavors to dominate. The wine tastes juicy, and smells sweet, with heavy grape scents ensconced in a light, smoky finish; the smell mimics the taste, which starts very fruity, is followed by an oak aftertaste, and finishes on the tongue with potent grape flavors. There is a slight dryness in the mouth after a sip, a palpable lingering of the oak. While drinking, the scent of oak carries up to your nose while the fruit lands on your tongue, making for a well-rounded sip of wine.

Prominent in the cabernet are flavors of dark fruits, like plums and blackberries, and their sweetness comes from the mix of vanilla bean that is accented in the body of the wine. Also accented are the smoky flavors, which are born of the wine's production process, and the inclusion of hazelnut flavors, which work hard not to overtake the overall juiciness of the wine. Josh Cellars's cabernet is a layered, complex, but not complicated red wine, and you can taste it in the flavors as you feel each one hit your tongue; this complexity is what makes it enjoyable, along with its firm tannins — these come from grape seeds, skin, stems, and the oak barrels that wine is held in — which make the flavors even bolder.

How is Josh's cabernet made?

Josh Cellars's Cabernet Sauvignon is made in three United States locations: Mendocino and Paso Robles in California, and the state of Oregon. The Paso Robles wine region is famous for being a home to amazing weather for grape ripening, with cabernet being the most famous wine of the region. The Josh Cellars cabernet is part of this legacy, and the cabernet sauvignon grapes are hand-selected with special care. Josh's wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks primarily before the wine is transferred to oak barrels to age for at least one year — this allows for the curation of the light maple, oaky flavors Josh's cabernet sauvignon is known for. Through this process, Josh's cabernet becomes balanced in fruit and acidity, contributing to the boldness of the wine.

Red wines of the North Coast of California are made with much finesse and skillful use of oak that comes through in the subtly of the smoky flavors in Josh's cabernet. The warm (but not hot) north coast also contributes to the full-bodied nature of the wine, meaning the wine can be heavy in your mouth partially because of the higher tannin levels developed in its molecules. In cooler climates, wines become lighter and more subtle in their taste and scents, but warm climates like North California curate rich aromas in wine that make it the perfect location for a bold cabernet to be born.

How to drink Josh Cellars's Cabernet Sauvignon

The first step to serving cabernet is to allow the bottle to aerate before you drink it. To do this, open the bottle prior to when you want to pour it — anywhere between one to three hours before is the typical recommendation – so the wine can interact with the oxygen for a while, which brings out the boldness of the flavors and aromas. A wine decanter will also do this job, as will pouring a glass and leaving it out on the counter for an hour. The cabernet also works well when it is slightly cold but still close to room temperature; a nice chill in the wine helps to preserve and enhance the fruity flavors.

Josh's cabernet pairs well with heavier foods like spaghetti or risotto, hearty soups like chili, thick meats like lamb or pork, and indulgent desserts containing chocolate. Take red wine hot chocolate, for example. You can simmer together semisweet chocolate chips, Josh Cellars's Cabernet Sauvignon and milk to create an elegant, boozy hot chocolate. For a little more of a sophisticated cocktail, try a Lazy Sunday Sour. The drink combines Josh's cabernet with apple-flavored brandy, cinnamon, bitters, and an egg white for a frothy, fruity, and acidic take on cabernet. If you'd like to keep the simplicity of the wine with just a small extra addition, try adding cherries to your cabernet to enhance the flavors that are built into the body of the wine.

The price point explained

Josh Cabernet Sauvignon is a budget-friendly, mid-range wine option that is easily accessible in stores like Costco, Target, Walmart. The bottle retails on Josh Cellars's website at $17.99, with prices varying from other sellers depending on your location (about $13.99 at Target and $13.48 at Walmart). Since cabernet is a beginner red wine both in general and specifically at Josh — being the first bottle they ever created — trying Josh's cabernet is a good entry point to the Josh brand at a good price point. You know you can get quality, tasty wine, and you know exactly what to expect from it, which is nice if you've never tried drinking red wine or the Josh brand at all.

Oftentimes wine drinkers equate lower prices to lower quality, but for the Josh brand that just isn't the case. The wine has a 4.6-star review on ABC Fine Wine and Spirits website, with shoppers reporting that the price is reasonable considering the good quality wine they get in return. The wine was an editors' choice pick at Wine Enthusiast with a 91-point rating, donning it a quality drink, yet it remains accessible both in flavors — as it is not too intrusive of red wine, but rather holds its fruity flavors most prominent — and in price point.

Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon vs. Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon

There are many types of red wine, and Robert Mondavi is a medium-body cabernet sauvignon known to be a good beginner bottle. Priced between $10 and $20, depending on where you shop, Mondavi cabernet is also out of California, but from the cool central coast area in Monterey rather than the north. Mondavi cabernet mixes together petite sirah grapes and cabernet sauvignon grapes to create a wine that is similar to and different from Josh. Mondavi's flavors mirror Josh's in a few ways, with dark fruits — black cherries, blackberries — vanilla, and the oak flavors, but Mondavi also includes other flavors and aromas — roast coffee and black pepper being the most prominent ones. The difference in flavor means Mondavi can be paired with other foods, like roasted or grilled meat and strong cheeses.

Mondavi wine undergoes a different aging process than Josh. A portion of the cabernet blend is taken aside and mixed into both new and used bourbon barrels to develop complexity. New barrels curate deep oak undertones, which you can taste in the prominent smoky aftertaste in a sip of Mondavi, whereas the used barrels allow vanilla and herbal flavors to develop. Mondavi is less sweet than Josh, and more dry in the mouth, due to the heaviness of the oak flavors. In fact, Mondavi cabernet is often considered a campfire wine, because its flavor profile is one of brown sugar, graham crackers, and coffee.

The brand makes an effort to give back to the community

Taking inspiration from his father, who was a veteran and a volunteer firefighter, Joseph Carr uses his father's namesake company to give back to the community when he can. Currently, the company has a few initiatives ongoing, including Pups4Patriots, a program that trains dogs who need homes to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The company also created "Joshgiving," a Thanksgiving campaign that is said to make space for people in the United States to give back, donate, and support veterans, food banks, and the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2019, Josh Cellars created a special cabernet just for firefighters, a group he has a special connection to through his father's volunteer work. For the third year in a row, the company released a cabernet whose proceeds would be partially donated to firefighter organizations across the country. The bottle was called the Reserve Lodi Cabernet Sauvignon, and $1 on every bottle was to be donated to the National Volunteer Fire Council, the CalFire Benevolent Foundation, the Boston Firefighter Relief Fund, and others. The total pledge in 2019 was over a quarter of a million dollars. The cabernet is a good red wine for summer months, with tastes of plum, blueberries, and chocolate, and aromas of pepper to pair well with summer barbecues.

Josh Cellars's creator launched a celebrity wine before Josh

Carr launched Greg Norman Estates in 1996. Norman is a retired professional golfer who at one point in his career spent 331 weeks as the number one golfer in the world. Carr was president of the wine company Mildara Blass at the time, a subset of the Australian company Foster Brewing Group. Carr had already proved himself to be an asset in the wine industry, after having joined Foster Brewing Group in 1995 and proving that he could sell the United States wine drinkers accessible wine at decent price points — much as he does now with his Josh brand. Knowing that Norman was a household name in 1996, he decided to have a hand in launching Norman's wine brand, which later had an explosive success track that helped Carr move higher in the industry.

Today, Greg Norman Estates has ten varieties from different parts of the world, including California, New Zealand, and Australia, and, like the Josh brand, Greg Norman Estates wine has many 90+ point ratings on their bottles from Wine Enthusiast. The brand is also deeply rooted in family ties, with Norman's daughter, Morgan-Leigh, serving as proprietor and brand ambassador. Morgan has a culinary degree and worked as a chef in different wineries in Napa Valley before shifting to working with her father's brand.

The creator of Josh Cellars has another wine brand under his own name

Joseph Carr started Josh Cellars in his father's honor, but three years before he did that, he started Joseph Carr Wines in 2002, his own namesake company where he hopes to bring the sophistication and old-school style to Bordeaux and Burgundy wines while keeping the approachability and uniqueness that the California region instills in wine. Joseph Carr Wines' lineup includes six different varieties of cabernet sauvignon, with price ranges between $24 and $88 for a bottle. Made in Paso Robles, California, the 2020 cabernet is made with grapes that grew smaller in size but riper in flavor due to an abnormally dry winter that year.

With a long, sweet finish, the 2020 bottle is a wine experience worth savoring. The 2016 Revelist Cabernet Sauvignon, Carr Wines' most expensive bottle, highlights the best crops of Napa Valley that year. The brand also highlights chardonnay if you're more of a white wine lover.

The Dallas Cowboys have their own Josh Cellars Cabernet

Josh Cellars collaborated with the Cowboys in 2019 to create a special edition cabernet and chardonnay. Led by the team's chief brand officer, Charlotte Jones Anderson, Josh Cellars curated a wine and wine bottle unique to the 1996 Super Bowl champions. The 750-milliliter bottle of cabernet — which has a blue Josh label with a star emblem on the front — retails for around $21, depending on where you buy. When it was first released, the wine was $14.99 at stores like Kroger, Total Wine, Albertsons, and Target, and is now a part of the suite menu at the Cowboys' home field, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

With the gust and gumption of a football team, the California-made wine packs a punch of cherry, coffee, and spice flavors. The chardonnay bottle has the same design but will bring a balance of bright flavors to your pregame; fruity citrus flavors hit the palate first, followed by sweet, warming honey and hints of peach — perfect for a wine meant to honor the Texas team.

It has been featured on-screen

The wine company hasn't only been featured in social media trends but was also used on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" as a game-winning prize for a trivia challenge. The interview in 2021, still during the COVID-19 pandemic, featured celebrity guest Emily Blunt, who was challenged to remember random facts about topics related to her two children, whom she spent quarantine in close quarters with. The question that won her the Josh red variety was a fill-in-the-lyric from the movie "Frozen," of which her daughter Violet was a huge fan.

Josh Cellars has also been spotted in films like "Don't Look Up" and shows like "Hell's Kitchen" and "Saturday Night Live". The skit that cracked a joke about Josh featured two couples, a daughter, her boyfriend, and her parents, having dinner at home. While having a post-dinner drink of Josh Cabernet Sauvignon, the mother goes into annoyed distress because her family doesn't want to play Rummikub. After obnoxiously (and randomly) cleaning the kitchen, to the rest of the family's dismay, the family asks if she wants to play Rummikub, hoping to appease her so she would stop her incessantly loud cleaning. She stutters, saying no and then yes, followed by, "I'm drunk. I think I had too much Josh." The skit ends by calling Josh wine the "official wine of Rummikub." Carr was happy with the exposure the brand got on the popular nighttime show, according to Times Union.