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Wine Pick of the Week

  2012 Pinot Noir   Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery Anderson Valley Alcohol: 14.3% Suggested Retail: $38   “Prominent aromas of raspberry and cola, followed by subtler aspects of cinnamon and nutmeg, currently referred to as 'brown spices' in many reviews. Dark cherry and cranberry fruit show on the palate in this powerful Pinot from one of California's best growing regions for the variety. As with most examples of high-quality Pinot Noir, be they from California or Burgundy, there are layered subtleties. We found an elusive herbal quality (sage?), that came and went, as did a bit of dark chocolate. Moderately-long…
2011 Cabernet Sauvignon   Souverain Winery North Coast (California) Alcohol: 13.6% Suggested Retail: $15   “Composition is 81% Cabernet Sauvignon (law requires a minimum of 75%), augmented by traditional Bordeaux blending grapes of Petit Verdot (7%) and Cabernet Franc (5%), and two other varieties native to France's Rhone Valley, Petite Sirah (5%) and Syrah (2%). Such a mélange wouldn't be allowed in France, but their laws are often a codification of centuries-old tradition, rather than restrictions that actually guarantee a better wine. If Souverain winemaker Ed Killian decides such a combination is what he wants, we're inclined to think it's…
  2011 Cabernet Sauvignon   Hogue Cellars Columbia Valley (Washington) Alc.: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $10   “Though we're familiar with this Washington winery and have sampled earlier vintages of their Cabernet Sauvignon, today's 'Pick,' the 2011 bottling, was a pleasant surprise when we encountered it last night. Meeting an old friend at Cafe Bernardo in Davis, California, I took his suggestion to try the house wine at happy hour. A glass of wine for three bucks is a rare find these days. You couldn't go wrong on price and Tom said it was a pretty decent pour, too. It was.…
  2011 Chardonnay   Souverain Winery Appellation: North Coast Alcohol: 13.8% Suggested Retail: $13   “Souverain is one of the storied California winery names, dating back to the 1940's when Lee Stewart had his vineyards and winery up on Howell Mountain, just east of the city of St. Helena. The winery has gone through several ownerships since Stewart's time, but through it all has produced good wine at fair prices. We've always thought of it as one of those (too-few) brands that 'over-delivers.' After moving from its original digs in Napa, Souverain operated for years in Sonoma County, occupying the…
  2012 Gewürztraminer   Producer: Lazy Creek Vineyards Appellation: Alexander Valley Alcohol: 14.5% Suggested Retail: $22   “It has been a while since we tasted a Gewürztraminer and longer still since we tasted a really good one. This Lazy Creek example reminds us how delightful top-quality Caliornia Gewürz can be. This white grape variety can produce wine in styles varying from dry to quite sweet. Grown in many parts of the world, its primary homes are Germany and the Alsace region of France. When applied to Gewürztraminers from other places such as California, the phrase Alsatian style is usually code…
2012 Chardonnay   Producer: Estancia Appellation: Monterey County Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $12   “There are many serviceable examples of Chardonnay for $2-3 dollars less than the 2012 Estancia, which we purchased in a supermarket for $10. Most of them are recognizable as the variety, but are otherwise undistinguished. Though still relatively modestly-priced, this bottle, sourced from Pinnacles Ranches fruit, is an example of getting a much better product by paying just a bit more. “Color is a golden straw hue, a little deeper than most wines from such a recent vintage. Aromas of Bosc pear and pineapple on first…
2011 Pinot Noir   Producer: Robert Mondavi Private Selection Appellation: California Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested retail: $10.99     “A quick internet search indicates that at least five different examples of this variety use the name Robert Mondavi on the label. Most of them are better than this bottle, which is produced by Robert Mondavi Private Selection, a separate winery from the original Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley, according for a spokeswoman for both entities. But it's not surprising these wines should taste different. Our example was purchased on sale at Safeway at $6.99. The basic Napa Valley Pinot…
  2003 Saperavi    Producer: Vinoterra Appellation: Kakheti (Republic of Georgia) Alcohol: 12.5% Suggested Retail: $14-16?   “Wines reviewed for the Pick of the Week feature usually come from one of two sources. For the most part, they're either purchased by Taste California Travel or they're sent to the magazine for review by their producers. On occasion, our Pick will be something one of our staff has encountered by the glass in a wine bar or at a tasting. This week's choice was discovered in the editor's cellar when he was invited to a friend's house to enjoy a Beef…
  2012 Pinot Gris   Producer: King Estate Appellation: Oregon Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $17   “Pinot Gris is the name France and Oregon give to the same grape known as Pinot Grigio that comes from Italy and many producers in California. It can produce wonderful wine by either definition and from different locations. Unfortunately, its reputation suffers from too much low-end, supermarket stuff (mostly marketed as Pinot Grigio) that clogs the market in the U.S. “The King Estate Pinot Gris is a worthier product. It shows aromas of lemon, pineapple and orange blossom, which precede taste of Bartlett and…
  Destinos Blanco   Producer: Bodegas Destinos Cruzados Appellation: La Mancha (Spain) Alcohol: 12% Suggested Retail: $8   “Light golden/green color and some aromas of melon, guava, pineapple and maybe even toasted almonds. which yield to clean tastes of melon, apple, grapefruit and miscellaneous tropical fruits. It's made entirely from Macabeo grape, which is a major component of Cava, the Spanish sparkling wine from the northeast of that country. Light and dry, this wine will be a good accompaniment to lighter foods. It's a simple wine, but an interesting departure from more unctuous examples of California white wines near this…
  2011 Primitivo   Producer: Twisted Rivers Appellation: Clarksburg (California) Alcohol: 14% Suggested Retail:   “Bright cherry and raspberry aspects from this wine made from the Primitivo grape, a 'close cousin' to the more familiar Zinfandel. The fruit comes from the Clarksburg AVA, an area just south of Sacramento, and has been vinified by Gary Branham, a veteran California winemaker, who has made great Sonoma Zinfandels under his own Branham Estate label. In the background of that cherry/berry flavor is a subtle brambly and slightly spicy undertone reminiscent of white pepper. This is a medium-bodied wine and much more food-friendly…
  Cristalino Brut (N/V)   Producer: Jaume Serra Appellation: Penedés (Spain) Alcohol: 11.5% Suggested Retail: $7.99   “This wine has been a favorite for a long time. Cristalino Brut comes from Catalonia in northeast Spain, where the sparkling wine category is known as cava. Though made from different grape varieties than those grown in Champagne (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and, sometimes, Pinot Meunier), cava, like good quality sparkling wine from California, is made in the traditional method of Champagne. Most bubbly wine priced under $10 is swill. Not so, this Cristalino. It actually tastes like Champagne, still the standard of the…
2010 Vinha do Monte   Producer: Herdade do Peso – Sogrape Vinhos Appellation: Alentejo (Portugal) Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $13   “This red wine comes from the Alentejo, an area an hour or two east of the Portuguese city of Lisbon. Its countryside is home to vineyards and cork oak forests and resembles the lower elevations of Amador County in Northern California. The Vinha do Monte is a blend of five grapes, most of which will be unfamiliar to American drinkers (Aragonez, Alfrochero, Trincaderia, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet). No oak aging is employed in the vinification, as the wine goes…
  2011 Riesling   Producer: Koehler Winery Appellation: Santa Ynez Valley Alcohol: 12.5% Suggested Retail: $14   “Aromas of melon, peach and a bit of honeysuckle in this Riesling from a cooler region of Santa Barbara County. At 1% residual sugar (RS), it's well within dryness profile to qualify as a food wine. There's a reasonable presence of acidity to offset the sweetness. More papaya and tropical fruit characteristics than apple. Surprisingly light considering the alcohol level, yet balanced and a wine we found delicate and attractive.” Food Affinity: “Could be used as a pre-dinner aperitif with nuts or crackers…
  2010 Cabernet Sauvignon   Producer: Dry Creek Vineyard Appellation: Dry Creek Valley Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $25   “Over the years this Sonoma County winery has been better known for its Zin and Fumé Blanc, but it also makes an agreeable Cabernet. Their 2010 bottling is 86% Cabernet Sauvignon with lesser amounts of grapes frequently included in blends from France's Bordeaux region; Merlot (9%), Malbec (4%), Cabernet Franc 2%) and Petit Verdot (2%) "This Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet has more going for it than the casual taster might recognize. At the time of tasting (early December, 2013) it's still…
  2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir   Producer: River Road Vineyards and Winery Appellation: Russian River Valley Alcohol: 13.2% Suggested Retail: $14.99   “We really like rosé wines and we were intrigued by the thought of a rosé done in a style like the French Beaujolais nouveau, a red wine made from Gamay grapes and traditionally released just a couple of months after harvest. That wine, supposedly a harbinger of the quality of the vintage, is meant to be drunk within the first year of its life. It's usually bright and fresh and is a good option for accompanying roast…
  J Cuvée 20 Brut (N/V)   Producer: J Vineyards & Winery Appellation: Sonoma County Alcohol: 12.5% Suggested Retail: $28   “Mostly Chardonnay (54%), the balance from the red varieties Pinot Noir (44%) and Pinot Meunier (2%) in this cuvée sourced from Russian River Valley fruit. Freshness and elegance here as citrus and green apple characteristics appear in a bright, sparkly package. There's a nice creamy background to complement the zingy acidity. A high quality exemplar of the California style of sparkling wine.” Food Affinity: “Would work with any of the traditional pairings at this time of year—caviar, smoked salmon,…
  2012 Chardonnay Producer: Bonterra Appellation: Mendocino County Alcohol: 13.8% Suggested Retail: $13.99   “Chardonnay can come in many styles. At opposite ends of the taste spectrum would be the lean, perhaps subtler, wines like French Chablis and the big oaky and creamy versions more common in California. This Bonterra wine strikes a nice balance between the two. Made of organically-grown grapes, it exhibits tasty green apple and Bartlett pear flavors which give it a richness. This is offset—perhaps complemented would be a better way of saying it—by a bit of minerality and some bracing citrus qualities. Seventy percent was…
   2011 Syrah   Producer: Sobon Estate Appellation: Amador County Alcohol: 13.8% Sugested Retail: $16   “It wasn't that many years ago that Syrah, the predominant grape of France's northern Rhône Valley, was the up-and-coming variety in California. New plantings went in, notably on the Central Coast and in the Sierra Foothills. For reasons nobody seems to have figured out, America's wine-drinking public hasn't embraced the variety to the degree expected. That's a puzzler, because California produces some very high quality Syrahs. “This week's Pick, the 2011 Amador County Syrah from Sobon Estate, is a wonderful wine regardless of price.…
    2011 Zinfandel   Producer: Bonterra Vineyards Appellation: Mendocino County Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $15.99   “Today's Pick of the Week is produced from certified organically-grown grapes. Bonterra has been a pioneer in producing wines from organically-grown fruit and believes it produces better quality wine. “We've tasted some excellent wines made from organic grapes. We've also tasted some lousy ones. The 2011 Bonterra Zinfandel belongs in the former category. However, we chose it for its taste rather than its green pedigree. There's a whiff of raspberry and finely ground pepper in the nose, which is followed by flavors evoking…
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