This wine reminds me a bit of the affordable California Cabernets that were available in the early 1980s--wines from Pedroncelli, Inglenook, Fetzer, Sebastiani and Almaden. Inexpensive wines today don't taste much like Cabernet, and the expensive ones are outside my budget.
The 2005 Salmon Creek Cabernet is a good dark ruby color, and it smells like Cabernet--currants and berries, just the right blend of black fruits with a pleasant hint of green. Both the color and the nose are noticeably free of the showy, overly oaky attributes that most inexpensive wines get through oak chips and manipulative winemaking. The palate gives what the nose promises--good varietal character, slightly sweet but with some tart acidity to give it balance. The finish is enjoyable and several notches above what you'd expect from a $5 wine.
I paid $5 for a glass of Salmon Creek Cabernet with lunch at Win Schuler's in Marshall, MI and was surprised to find it at my D&W market for only $5.25 a bottle. I've learned since that Bronco Wine Co. (makers of inexpensive wines including Charles Shaw or Two Buck Chuck) markets Salmon Creek almost solely through restaurants. I was pleased to find a $5 glass of Cabernet on a restaurant wine list and even more pleased by the quality that was in the glass. Some consumers, however, would be upset to discover that they could buy a whole bottle of the wine retail for the same price. So the Salmon Creek label is not marketed very aggressively retail, and I had to snoop around in back corners to find it at D&W. I was told that it was brought in on the recommendation of customers, so if your grocery store does not sell Salmon Creek, you might want to tell the staff about it.
The $5 to $8 Cabernets I bought in the early 1980s were usually from Napa, Sonoma or Mendocino County fruit, and most of them aged quite well. Salmon Creek carries only the "California" appellation, meaning the fruit probably comes mostly from high-production vineyards on the Central Coast. This Cab doesn't taste "juggy," although it's not a wine I'd want to cellar. It tastes "classy" in part because it avoids the high-oak, high-alcohol excesses of most of its low-end competitors.