Wines of California

California - the place that is synonymous with US wine. California produces the majority of the wine in the United States, both fine wine and cheap box wine. Some of it is actually good, although not necessarily the same as what markets well.

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California Wine Labels

Like much of the United States, California wine labels are barely regulated by the government, and the believability of the information on the label is dependent mostly on the trustworthiness of the producer. In general, regulations stipulate that if a wine claims it's from California, the grapes must come from somewhere in California. If a specific government-recognized American Viticultural Area (AVA) is named, it ought to have most of it's grapes from the named region (75-85%; most is not the same as all). Similarly, if a vintage is claimed, most of the grapes must be of the named vintage, and if a varietal is named, most of the grapes must be of that varietal. If a producer claims he "Produced and Bottled" the wine, then he must have grown most of the grapes, although weaker statements like "Made and Bottled" permit as low as 10% home-grown grape content.

These guidelines, of course, aren't terribly binding, but are generally adhered to by reputable producers. Not that they are very strong either, as you may note from the constant use of the word "most" in the preceeding paragraph. Most is not the same thing as all, and generally means 75%. That means that your "Napa Valley" wine may contain up to 25% of non Napa Valley grapes.

Since Marketing is important in the US, California wines often come with all sorts of amusing names that make it hard to tell what the wine actually is. For instance, Sauvignon Blanc is a boring name, because it's the name of an actual grape. Since Marketing thinks that French-sounding names sell better, many producers call it "Fume Blanc" instead (this name was supposedly coined by Robert Mondavi, who found that the renaming livened lackluster sales immediately). Similarly, simply calling a wine a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend is too boring, so Marketing decides to call it "Meritage" instead (as an aside, Mertiage has been in use long enough to have acquired more meaning; it is understood to designate a mostly Cabernet/Merlot blend in the Bordeaux style).

This goes on to other prestige-like designations, so things like "Reserve" or "Winemaker's Special Select Reserve" or "Vintner's Prestige Cuvee" appear on bottles of very ordinary wine. This is in constrast to Europe, where terms like "Reserva" and "Superiore" and "Classico" (to use Italian examples) have specific legally-defined meanings.

The lack of regulation and the extreme sparsity of reliable label information (in comparison with European systems) makes it challenging to buy Californian wines that you are not familiar with. It is very difficult to know what to expect from the label alone. Even knowing that it is a 2009 Cabernet from Alexander Valley doesn't tell you much about what to expect, quality- and style-wise, from the wine. The usual trade publications and reviews help to some extent if you are willing to keep up with them.

This dependence on good reviewers for high end wine has led to the unusual phenomenon of the Cult Wine. If the producer is sufficiently small, and if Robert Parker (a famous/infamous and widely published wine critic) likes it, it may achieve the status of a "cult" wine, which is a great way to get people to buy wine grown in someone's backyard for several hundred dollars a bottle. "Spot the Fad" is a fun game to play with the California wine market, as unknown winemakers suddenly fetch astronomical prices following a favorable review from the right people.

In recent years, however, California has been superceded by Australia for hip and trendy marketing. The Aussies have kangaroos and other generally edgier labels which supposedly appeals to a younger audience. Australian wines are at least mercifully cheap.

What's Where

Production of fine wines in California is concentrated in the two famous regions of Napa Valley and Sonoma County, both a few hours north of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Napa Valley is California's most famous wine region. Well-known locations within Napa Valley include Rutherford, Stags Leap District, St. Helena, Howell Mountain, and others.

Sonoma contains several well-known subregions, including Russian River, Alexander, and Glen Ellen.

The famous Carneros AVA straddles both Napa and Sonoma.

Wine is also made in Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Cruz, Temecula, the Sierra foothills, San Joaquin, and other regions scattered throughout the state.

Zinfandel and its Bastard Son

One of California's best kept secrets is the Zinfandel grape. Nobody knows exactly where the grape originates from; one theory holds that it originates from Eastern Europe; another claims that it is the same as the Primitivo grape from Italy. In any case, Zinfandel has truly taken root in California, and from it the finest, most original wines in California are made.

If you didn't know already, Zinfandel is a red grape. That's right, it's red. Very red. Not pink. It is very bold, rich, and intense, with a spicy flavor and strong, jammy fruit texture.

However, and unfortunately so, what most Americans know as Zinfandel is White Zinfandel. White Zinfandel is actually a very recent development. It was invented in 1972 by Bob Trinchero at the Sutter Home winery as a by product of an experiment. Trinchero was attempting to create a richer red Zinfandel, so he drew off some of the (white) juice before it had a chance to acquire the red color, in hopes that reducing the free run juice will concentrate the remainder. Not having anything to do with the extra juice, he made it as a rose wine and sold it as a novelty wine. It became very popular very quickly, and within a couple decades White Zinfandel, made intentionally, became Sutter Home's primary production.

As a result, White Zinfandel now outpaces red Zinfandel production by orders of magnitude. In fact, it is the second highest selling varietal wine in the United States, after only Chardonnay. It tends to be light and sweet, the closest thing in the wine world to soda, and is nothing like the rich and lively red Zinfandel.

What this means for you is that since most people would wonder aloud "Huh? Zinfandel is Red?!" Red Zinfandel prices are lower than they should be for a wine of such high caliber. While California can produce Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and other "conventional" varietals, it is in Zinfandel that California truly shines, and you can actually afford these wines. Drink a bottle today!

The Tasting of Paris

In 1976, history was made when the best wines of Medoc (in French Bordeaux) were beaten in a blind tasting conducted in Paris by French judges by two Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa Valley. France's greatest wine experts gathered at the Intercontinental Hotel for a blind tasting of French and Californian wines. The top spot for white wines went to a 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay from California, and California took 3 of the top 4 spots in the tasting. But more importantly, California also won the red wine tasting, pitting it against the best wines of Bordeaux: the 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet took the top spot, besting First-Growths Chateau Haut-Brion and Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The 1971 Ridge Montebello Cabernet came in the top 5 as well.

Needless to say, the French were not happy: French experts at a French wine tasting had pronounced Californian wines as better than the best of Bordeaux. This event, which received tremendous press for its unthinkable result, established that California could produce world-class wines. This led to an explosion in the California fine wine industry, as people started taking California wines seriously.

Oh, and contrary to popular mythology, Robert Mondavi had nothing to do with this. While the Mondavi name is one of the biggest names in fine wine, and Mondavi is a tireless advocate for high-end production in California (since before the Paris tasting), his wines weren't featured in that tasting. It's also worth noting that the real Mondavi family winery is the Charles Krug Winery (which is still run by the Mondavi family); Robert Mondavi left Krug to go his own way.

So, while a lot of Californian wine is still unremarkable cheap stuff, remember than they can produce world-class wines.

A Word on Jug Wine

You will see large quantities of extremely cheap wine for sale under brands like Gallo, Peter Vella, Franzia, and so on, with names like "Mountain Chablis" and "Hearty Burgundy." Naturally, at these prices one does not expect the highest of quality, but how bad can it be?

First, the names are somewhat deceptive. If you've read my other pages, you'll know that, for example, Burgundy comes from Bourgogne in France and is made exclusively of the Pinot Noir grape, and that Chablis comes from the northern edge of Bourgogne and is made exclusively of the Chardonnay grape with no oak. However, in addition to not being from France, "Hearty Burgundy" is not made from Pinot Noir, nor is "Mountain Chablis" made from Chardonnay. They are not even made from the same grapes, and they taste nothing like the finer wines that they're named after. By analogy, this is like taking Velveeta (cheese from a squeeze bottle) and labeling it as "French Brie" - neither French nor Brie cheese.

So just how bad is it? Very bad. On a good day, you might be compelled to cook something with it, but never to drink it. By spending slightly more, you can enjoy excellent real bargain wines that are vastly more enjoyable. For example, AOC French wines have been undervalued in the US market ever since the Iraq War (probably for stupid political reasons). Do yourself a favor and avoid cheap jug wines.

What's Good

Red Zinfandel is a California specialty, and the better producers have made a truly remarkable and original wine that's both exciting and serious. Cline Cellars of Sonoma is a good winery specializing in Zinfandel and Rhone varietals. They control century-old Zinfandel vines and make excellent wine from it. Ravenswood is another well-known Zinfandel specialist; they make a wide variety of vineyard-sourced and county-level Zinfandel.

On a good day, the better California wineries can produce good Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon. Many lower end Chardonnays taste rather fat and bloated due to overuse of oak, but there are good surprises. Thankfully, the worst excesses of the 1990s (when the "liquid oak with a hint of wine" style was at its peak) have long passed and Californian winemakers produce more balanced wines now.

Wine Comments

White Black Box Wines, Chardonnay 2008 (Monterey)
Fall 2010 Bright citrus with bread flavors. Generic-tasting.
$19 / 3L
White Chappellet, Chardonnay 2007 (Napa)
13 July 2010 Bright tropical nose with crisp tropical fruit. Starfruit and mango notes. Very well-structured with little wood.
$32 / bottle
White Woodbridge (Robert Mondavi), Chardonnay 2002 (California)
20 November 2004 Very plump and round, with apple, grape, and heavy oak.
$8 / bottle
White Kendall-Jackson, "Vintner's Reserve" Chardonnay 2001 (California)
2003 Strong, creamy apple, pineapple, and pear fruit with lively oak. Relatively bright.
$10 / bottle
White Turning Leaf, "Coastal Reserve" Chardonnay 2000 (North Coast)
2003 Fat and buttery. Very wet mouthfeel. Undistinguished fruit masked by oak.
$9 / bottle
White Atlas Peak Vineyards, Chardonnay 2000 (Atlas Peak)
Fall 2002 Strong apple and pear flavors. Very crisp. Light to moderate oak.
$15 / bottle
White Fetzer, "Sundial" Chardonnay 2000 (California)
20 February 2002 Grape and apple flavors, extremely strong oak, buttery texture, slight spice hints. Oak is overwhelmingly strong.
$12 / bottle
White Jekel, "Gravelstone" Chardonnay 2000 (Monterey)
2003 Very sharp tropical fruit, light oak and herbal notes. Crisp and lean.
$12 / bottle
White Mount Eden Vineyards, "Edna Valley MacGregor Vineyard" Chardonnay 1999 (Edna Valley)
Fall 2002 Very creamy and buttery, with moderately heavy oak, with citrus and pineapple. Strong.
$20 / bottle
White Lambert Bridge, Chardonnay 1999 (Sonoma County)
24 July 2004 Round with very heavy oak and deep buttery texture. A fat wine.
$18 / bottle
White Dry Creek Vineyard, Fume Blanc 2009 (Sonoma)
16 August 2011 Bright and extremely crisp citrus and grape jelly. Plump finish. Slightly heady for a white.
$9 / bottle
White Fetzer, Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (California)
22 March 2011 Bright, crisp citrus and tropical fruits. Hint of herbs and a plump finish.
$9 / bottle
White Hagafen, Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (Napa)
22 April 2011 Zippy tropical fruit and citrus with a mineral finish. Stylistically somewhere between New Zealand and Bordeaux.
$17 / bottle
White Beringer, "California Collection" Chenin Blanc 2010 (California)
20 July 2011 Citrus, passionfruit, and a hint of honeysuckle. Crisp but not bracing. Mellow finish with a slight hint of sweetness.
$7 / bottle
White Baron Herzog, Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Central Coast)
23 April 2008 Sharp citrus with faint hints of fruit and minimal grass. Fat and bloated mouthfeel.
$10 / bottle
White Baron Herzog, Chardonnay 2006 (Central Coast)
1 July 2011 Fat and plump citrus and apples. Crisper on the finish. Unremarkable.
$16 / bottle
White Beckmen Vineyards, Sauvignon Blanc 2002 (Santa Ynez Valley)
24 July 2004 Very tart and sharp, with a strong mixed greens and grass essence. Heady.
$13 / bottle
White Clos Du Bois, Sauvignon Blanc 2000 (North Coast)
2003 Tangerine and other tropical citrus with pineapple. Heavy oak. Minimal herbal flavors with some floral fragrances.
$9 / bottle
White Chateau St. Jean, Fume Blanc 2000 (Sonoma County)
20 February 2002 Grassy and woody flavors, some citrus, prominent pepper and spice, but still somewhat restrained and muted. Too much oak.
$15 / bottle
White Sutter Home, "Family Vineyards" Chenin Blanc 2008 (California)
10 January 2010 Bright and crisp fruit with a slightly plump finish. Slight sweetness on the tongue. Pleasant if simple.
$5 / bottle
White Dry Creek, "Wilson Ranch" Dry Chenin Blanc 2008 (Clarksburg)
13 July 2010 Crisp honeysuckle and melons with hints of passionfruit. Very firm acidity. Pleasant.
$14 / bottle
White Dry Creek, Chenin Blanc 2006 (Clarksburg)
26 January 2008 Smooth mouthfeel with lots of pineapple, grape, and lychee. A simplistic but fun tropical fruit party with a very pure essential quality.
$13 / bottle
White Baron Herzog, Chenin Blanc 2009 (Clarksburg)
23 September 2011 Crisp melons and lemon citrus with moderate minerals. Very crisp, but with a slightly soft and sweet mouthfeel on the finish.
$10 / bottle
White Baron Herzog, Chenin Blanc 2006 (Clarksburg)
8 August 2008 Light citrus and strong slate character. Plump and bloated on the finish.
$10 / bottle
White Beaulieu Vineyards, "Coastal Estates" Riesling 2006 (California)
26 January 2008 Fruity and floral with lively dried apricots. Crisp and refreshing.
$9 / bottle
White Herzog, Late Harvest White Riesling 2005 (Monterey)
9 March 2009 Intensely sweet honey and nectar with a slight touch of citrus zest in the finish. Almost syrup-like and sickly-sweet.
$22 / bottle
White MonteVina, "Terra d'Oro" Pinot Grigio 2006 (Santa Barbara County)
26 January 2008 Citrus flavors with a touch of green apple skins. Crisp with a slight mineral finish.
$17 / bottle
White ForestVille, Gewurztraminer 2009 (California)
16 May 2011 Plump and sweet melons with honey. Almost sticky finish.
$6 / bottle
White Turning Leaf, Pinot Grigio 2009 (California)
24 September 2011 Crisp grapes with hints of apple and citrus. Unremarkable.
$8 / bottle
White J. Lohr, "Bay Mist" White Riesling 2008 (Monterey County)
29 May 2011 Floral nose with a crisp critus mead and slate flavor. Slightly sour mouthfeel. Neutral finish.
$10 / bottle
White Pine Ridge, Chenin Blanc / Voignier 2001 (California)
20 February 2002 Fruity, melon flavors, rather light, short finish, dry. Palatable with food.
$11 / bottle
White Martin Weyrich, "Allegro" Moscato 2003 (California)
26 June 2004 Very crisp, with well defined melon and peach. Good.
$11 / bottle
Red Baron Herzog, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Central Coast)
11 March 2011 Zippy bell peppers and sawdust over currant. Bold tannins but thin and watery mouthfeel.
$16 / bottle
Red Covenant, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Napa)
29 September 2011 Rich and juicy blackberry and cassis, with restrained vanilla, cedar, chocolate, and potpourri. Smooth yet firm tannins with abundant French oak. Classically-styled.
$85 / bottle
Red Estancia, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (Paso Robles)
18 June 2011 Big and fruity, with licorice, chocolate and leather. Bloody mouthfeel. Hot and heady; competent but somewhat unbalanced.
$15 / bottle
Red Apothic, "Winemaker's Blend" Red 2009 (California)
29 June 2011 Soft and fruity cherries, strawberries, and cherry coke. Light to nonexistent tannins. Plump, easy-drinking feel. A blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Merlot.
$14 / bottle
Red Langtry Estate, Guenoc "Lillie's Victorian Claret" 2008 (North Coast)
1 May 2011 Juicy cherry fruit with bold tannins and a slightly stemmy finish. A touch astringent, but not in a bad way. From Guenoc Valley in the North Coast.
$13 / bottle
Red Black Box Wines, Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (California)
Fall 2010 Bright cherry fruit, medium bodied. Almost more Rhone-like than Cab.
$19 / bottle
Red Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Alexander Valley)
28 April 2011 Rich dark fruit and heavy tobacco and leather tannins, with a hint of peppers and spice on the finish. Very well-balanced.
$26 / bottle
Red Frei Brothers, "Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Alexander Valley)
22 October 2011 Restrained plummy dark fruit. Smooth yet rich mouthfeel with abundant oak and vanilla. Old-World in character.
$20 / bottle
Red Vendange, Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (California)
9 January 2010 Tart and sharp fruit with muddled wood and a slightly sour finish.
$4 / bottle
Red Cliff Lede, Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (Stags Leap)
13 July 2010 Dark blackcurrant, leather, and chocolate. Extremely powerful tannins; heady and unsubtle.
$55 / bottle
Red Estancia, "Keyes Canyon Ranches" Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Paso Robles)
14 April 2006 Strong blackcurrant fruit and young tannins, but simple oak.
$12 / bottle
Red Wild Horse, Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Paso Robles)
1 July 2007 Abundant plummy fruit, full body, light oak, with touches of incense. Smooth, pleasant, and easy-drinking.
$19 / bottle
Red Alexander Valley Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (Alexander Valley)
10 May 2006 Supple berry over delicate woods and incense. Rich and mellow tannins. Powerful but not overwhelming.
$16 / bottle
Red Asti Winery, "Cellar No. 8" Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 (North Coast)
17 May 2004 Dark, vivid fruit over very heavy oak. Somewhat soft. Drink young.
$13 / bottle
Red Beaulieu Vineyard, "Coastal" Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 (California)
2003 Very forward, jammy fruit with heavy plum flavors. Light wood.
$9 / bottle
Red Geyser Peak, Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (Sonoma)
2003 Extremely fruity, with mildly spicy oak and green peppers. Young.
$17 / bottle
Red Clos du Bois, "Alexander Valley Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (Alexander Valley)
20 February 2002 Very spicy and smoky flavor, but only medium intensity. Noticable oak, rather reserved, young tasting, with a nice finish.
$24 / bottle
Red Simi, Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 (Sonoma)
Fall 2002 Restrained, with a floral fragrance and black and bell pepper notes over a slight earthiness. Very long finish. Bordeaux style.
$19 / bottle
Red Vendange, Merlot 2007 (California)
8 January 2010 Straightforward and plump fruit with sawdust-like oak. A little one-dimensional.
$4 / bottle
Red Black Box, Merlot 2007 (California)
7 December 2008 Fruity and slightly stemmy. Thin-bodied.
$15 / 3L
Red Driftwood Vineyards, Merlot 2006 (Paso Robles)
17 March 2009 Exuberantly peppery and tannic, with abundant wood. Rather heady. Made in Texas from Californian grapes.
$12 / bottle
Red Hagafen, Prix "Vichy Vineyards Block 4" Reserve Merlot 2004 (Napa Valley)
15 April 2011 Exuberant cherries and berries with surprisingly mellow tannins. Almost Rhone-style. Lots of fun.
$55 / bottle
Red Matanzas Creek, Merlot 2004 (Bennett Valley, Sonoma)
20 December 2007 Abundant wood and bell peppers with light fruit and soft tannins. A little thin and light-bodied on the attack. Very dry finish.
$25 / bottle
Red Baron Herzog, Merlot 2004 (Central Coast)
9 March 2008 Straightforward fruit with slight hints of cherry. Moderate wood. Slightly watery mouthfeel and somewhat hollow tannins.
$12 / bottle
Red Beringer Founders' Estate Merlot 2004 (California)
26 May 2008 Forward plummy fruit and very light wood over slightly shaky tannins. Thin mouthfeel.
$11 / bottle
Red HRM Rex Goliath, "Free Range" Merlot NV (Central Coast)
9 May 2004 Soft fruit and bright peppery tannins. A little light. Good food wine.
$8 / bottle
Red Mirassou, Merlot 2002 (California)
15 June 2007 Heavy oak and smoky flavors with flat fruit. A weak wine trying to be something bolder.
$10 / bottle
Red Kendall-Jackson, "Vintner's Reserve" Merlot 2000 (California)
2003 Strong bell pepper and black pepper flavors, with heavy wood spice. Very dark fruit.
$14 / bottle
Red Clos Du Bois, Merlot 2000 (Sonoma)
2003 Thin texture, with zippy spice and moderately heavy oak flavors. Short finish. Unremarkable.
$15 / bottle
Red Montevina Winery, Barbera 2008 (Amador County)
21 July 2011 Medium-bodied with lots of smoky barbecue and hints of sour cherries, prunes, honey mustard, and tobacco. Hot finish.
$10 / bottle
Red Beringer, "Founder's Estate" Merlot 1999 (California)
2003 Restrained black pepper taste with juicy fruit and berries. Very wet and slick.
$10 / bottle
Red Bota Box, "Old Vine" Zinfandel 2008 (California)
25 March 2011 Heavy wood and coffee over thick jam and spices. Finish of musty tobacco and chocolate. Heady. A little confected, but surprisingly good for boxed wine.
$22 / 3L
Red Michael David Winery, "7 Deadly Zins" Zinfandel 2008 (Lodi)
20 May 2011 Juicy barbeque wood and hickory smoke over big fruit. Firm tannins. Well-confected.
$17 / bottle
Red Alexander Valley Vineyards, "Sin Zin" Zinfandel 2007 (Alexander Valley)
12 July 2011 Rich earthy blackberries, cherries, and raisins. Firm yet velvety tannins with licorice and barbecue on the finish. Very claret-styled. Tasty and fun.
$19 / bottle
Red Montevina Winery, Zinfandel 2006 (Amador County)
6 July 2011 Dark berries with chocolate and blood. Chewy leather, spice, and stems in the finish. Firm tannins with a hint of dried plums. Hot and heady.
$9 / bottle
Red Weinstock, "Cellar Select" Zinfandel 2004 (Lodi)
29 April 2011 Dark fruit with potpourri and jam. Grapeskins on the finish. Almost more like a claret.
$30 / bottle
Red Cline Cellars, Zinfandel 1999 (California)
20 February 2002 Very strong, very intense and rich, with a long, bold finish. Spicy flavor, solid jammy fruit. Excellent bargain.
$10 / bottle
Red Hanna, Zinfandel 2000 (Alexander Valley)
2003 Earthy and leathery tones, opening to bold, simple fruit. Very dry, slightly astringent. Very jammy fruit.
$19 / bottle
Red Ravenswood, Zinfandel 1999 (Mendocino)
2003 Spicy, lively mouthfeel with some restrained jammy fruit. Enthusiastic nose.
$16 / bottle
Red Ravenswood, Amador County Old Vine Zinfandel 2001 (Amador County)
23 June 2006 Rich intense berry, supple tannin, moderate oak and vanilla and blackberry. Excellent and accessible.
$17 / bottle
Red Edna Valley Vineyard, "Paragon" Pinot Noir 2001 (Edna Valley)
29 June 2004 Thick, bloody juice with mushroom, earth, and wood. Feels like a Spanish wine.
$18 / bottle
Red Castle Rock, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2002 (Russian River Valley)
April 2004 Soft and somewhat round mouthfeel, with hints of roses, incense, and chocolate. A potpourri of sweet spices. Bargain.
$11 / bottle
Red MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir 2007 (Russian River Valley)
21 October 2011 Restrained and subdued sour cherry fruit with firm tannins. Very warming (14.5% alcohol) but well-balanced. Velvety smooth mouthfeel.
$40 / bottle
Red Hagafen, Pinot Noir 2008 (Napa)
18 April 2011 Bold potent tannins with very dark fruit. Heady and hot.
$27 / bottle
Red Robert Mondavi, "Private Selection" Pinot Noir 2010 (California)
10 October 2011 Grape skins and light cherry fruit and jam. Very fruit-driven; minimal wood. Slightly hot finish.
$11 / bottle
Red MacMurray Ranch, Pinot Noir 2002 (Sonoma Coast)
20 July 2004 Big nose, plump fruity impression, heavy wood. Pleasantly medium-bodied.
$15 / bottle
Red Miraflores, Barbera 2007 (El Dorado)
21 February 2011 Zippy perfumed cherries and roses with strong and yoing tannins. Fun.
$18 / bottle
Red Holly's Hill, Mourvedre-Syrah 2008 (El Dorado)
21 February 2011 Soft potpourri with moderate wood. Thin attack but rounds out in the mouth. Slight stemmy touch.
$20 / bottle
Red Chalone Vineyard, Syrah 2005 (Chalone)
5 September 2011 Rich bing cherry and blackberry fruit with potpourri, tobacco, and hickory smoke. Smooth, stately, and well-balanced tannins. Tasty.
$30 / bottle
Red Fox Brook, Shiraz 2009 (California)
5 June 2011 Thin fruit with a hint of raisin and pepper. Watery mouthfeel, flaccid tannins. Unsatisfying. I've had jug wines that were better.
$3 / bottle
Red Anglim, Syrah 2005 (Paso Robles)
2010 Dark and meaty with smooth wood, hints of mole and dark fruit.
$24 / bottle
Red Baron Herzog, Black Muscat 2008 (California) (Mevushal)
6 May 2011 Sweet melons and honey, finishing with berries and tannin. Amusing.
$18 / bottle
Red Seven Daughters, Winemaker's Blend Red NV (California)
24 June 2010 Bright berry fruit with faint spicy wood and pepper. Young and heady. Comes across as between Bordeaux and Rhone in style. A blend of Merlot (51%), Cabernet Franc (17%), Cabernet Sauvignon (11%), Syrah (7%), Zinfandel (6%), Carignane (4%), Alicante Bouschet (4%).
$15 / bottle
Red St. Francis Winery, Red 2006 (Sonoma)
11 June 2010 Overpowering fruit and raw tannins, with slight smoke and peppers. Very heady and brash. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah, and Zinfandel.
$11 / bottle
Rose Baron Herzog, Rose of Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (California)
8 April 2010 Sharp but musty, with strong Jell-O flavors. Busy nose. Confected impression.
$11 / bottle
Rose Weinstock Cellars, "Pink by W" 2008 (California) (Kosher Mev OU-P)
19 August 2011 Bright grapes, peaches, cherries, and jelly. Crisp and refreshing. A hint of cherry and tannins on the finish. Tasty. Blend of Cabernet, Petit Syrah, Zinfandel, and Muscat Canelli.
$11 / bottle
Rose Beringer, "California Collection" White Zinfandel 2008 (California)
8 January 2010 Semi-sweet and slightly plump with light strawberry fruit. Jell-O like finish.
$7 / bottle
Rose Sutter Home, White Zinfandel 2001 (California)
2003 Light and sweet, somewhat flat. Light grape skin and white grape flavor.
$4 / bottle
Red Gallo, "Twin Valley Hearty Burgundy" NV (California)
20 February 2002 Light smoky flavor. Light in general. Very weak, no finish. Neither hearty nor burgundy.
$10 / 1.5L
Sparkling Hagafen, Brut Cuvee 1997 (Napa Valley)
20 May 2008 Juicy apple flavor over a crisp effervescent base. Minimal yeast. Tasty.
$26 / bottle
Sparkling Chandon, Carneros Blanc de Noirs 397 NV (Carneros, Napa Valley)
1 May 2002 Effervescent, intense fruit and toasty yeast flavor. Prominent grape and citrus with berry fruit.
$20 / bottle
Fortified Sheffield Cellars, Cream Sherry NV (California)
4 August 2011 Alcoholic nose with petrol and mushrooms. Sweet but thin-bodied.
$7 / bottle