The Dozen Vol. 25 No. 08 Wine

The Dozen – Back Stories

Time in a barrel, wine with a natural beef, and an update on a marriage of royals.


Every bottle has a back story, some of them especially interesting, and some collectively so.  This Dozen features wines from three producers, and both the wines and the producers are of special interest.

Moroccan-born Malek Amrani, founder and winemaker of The Vice Wine in Rutherford in Napa Valley likes to experiment. One of those experiments from Amrani’s cellar lab comes in a three-pack – all single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons from the 2018 vintage, but each having spent a different amount of time in oak barrels. Amrani invites you to taste the differences.

When you have a historic 14,000-acre cattle ranch, you can afford to set aside a few acres to plant vines. That’s what the Filipponis, Rossis, and Wittstroms families who own historic Santa Margarita Ranch did in creating Ancient Peaks Winery, located in south Paso Robles just before Highway 101 plunges down into San Luis Obispo.  Located on ancient sea beds, the red wines from Ancient Peaks go especially well with cuts of the ranch’s naturally raised beef.

Finally, we get a bottle-by-bottle update on royal winemaking from Caro, the winery created in 1999 when the folks from France’s Château Lafite-Rothschild joined forces in Argentina with the local nobility, Catena Zapata. Two decades later, the marriage continues to produce wines that show their lineage well.

2018 The Vice Rutherford Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – V. 1 ($146 for all 3).  Aged 12 months in barrels – Enjoyable black fruits, some creaminess, nice savory notes, lots of tannins, not yet quite knit together.

2018 The Vice Rutherford Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – V.2 ($146 for all 3).  Aged 18 months – Fruity black and red flavors with good acidity and lots of savory tannins.

2018 The Vice Rutherford Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – V. 3 ($146 for all 3).  Generous fruit, but now lean with tart blackberry flavors and enjoyable tannins – an excellent rare beef wine.

2020 Ancient Peaks “Santa Margarita Ranch” Paso Robles Chardonnay ($16). Quite mellow – ripe pears and mild apple flavors that float across the palate to be gathered in by mild acidity at the finish.

2019 Ancient Peaks “Santa Margarita Ranch” Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($19). What a bargain – just a delicious wine with a wonderful noseful of ripe black raspberries and blackberries with a boatload of savory tannins that may remind you of a husky St.-Estephe.

2018 Ancient Peaks “Renegade” Paso Robles Red Blend ($21). It should be decanted first – an interesting mix of red and black fruits with some smokiness and savory tannins.

2017 Ancient Peaks “Oyster Ridge” Paso Robles Red Blend ($52). A structurally big wine, very lean, and assertive in a positive way that makes you appreciate why it stayed on oak a little longer. Although full-fruited, the tannins and acidity are what grab your attention.

2019 Caro “Aruma” Mendoza Malbec ($15). Nice, creamy cassis and blackberry flavors with pleasant tannins.

2018 Caro “Amancaya” Mendoza Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon ($19). Nice depth of flavors – warm, dark fruits, especially blackberry, married to toasty wood with notes of leather and bacon.

2017 Caro “Caro” Mendoza Red Wine ($59). Very good. Tightly knit dark flavors of blackberries, savory dried herbs, and dark chocolate that slowly draw you into this wine that will continue to age well.

NV Josh Veneto Prosecco Rosé  ($14). Quite nice, with strawberries upfront and a bang-up, gamey, crisp finish.

2018 Gehricke Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($29). Good combo of fruity and savory flavors with classic Pinot dark cherry and cola notes.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.

Feature photo of Argentina vineyard.

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Roger Morris writes about wine, food and travel for The World of Fine Wine, Drinks Business, Meininger's Wine Business International, Wine Enthusiast and other publications in the U.S. and Europe.

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