When it comes to varietal wines, California could be a French colony, albeit one that in many cases rivals the Mother Country for quality.
Think about it – what other New World country can match this one state when it comes to producing French varietal wines that rival those of their French origins: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, all from Bordeaux; Sauvignon Blanc and even in smaller production numbers of Chenin Blanc from the Loire; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Burgundy, even Syrah from the Rhone. California produces both world-class wines (at world-class prices) and affordable everyday wines from all those grape varieties.
This week’s The Dozen focuses mainly on the reds, although we are holding back some Pinot for another issue.
2020 Sequoia Grove Carneros Chardonnay ($26). Very versatile, with full-bodied yet crisp flavors of apple and a touch of ginger in the finish.
2015 Mira “Hyde Vineyard” Napa Valley Chardonnay ($50). Burnished by oak and oxygen, this is a very complex wine properly aged with cooked spicy apples, some beeswax, toast, and good minerality. Ready to drink now.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield “Dutton Ranch/Walker Hill” Green Valley of Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($58). Lots of tart apples, toasty barrels, good minerality with a crisp and tangy finish.
2018 Sequoia Grove Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($45). Very satisfying with walnut flavors to go along with the fruity and savory blackberries.
2019 Priest Ranch Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($47). Very smooth with raspberry and blackberry fruits, great barrel notes, some creaminess, and lots of dusty tannins.
2019 Dutton-Goldfield “Dutton Ranch/Morelli Vineyard” Russian River Valley Zinfandel ($49). Lively red and black fruits but with good acidity, savory notes, and tannins to keep them anchored.
2019 Ehlers Estate Napa Valley Merlot ($59). Lean and moderately fruity with a long finish of fruit, oak, and tannins.
2019 Ehlers Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($66). Generous flavors – well-structured combo of Cab’s signature and fruity – rich and lean blackberries – and sinewy, savory nature.
2017 Mira Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon ($75). Luscious purple fruits – blackberries, blueberries, black raspberries – with savory chocolate and integrated tannins in the finish.
2015 Mira “Hyde Vineyard” Napa Valley Merlot ($79). Very enjoyable, though not particularly complex – mulled red and black fruits with notes of earthy chocolate.
2016 Mira “Hyde Vineyard” Napa Valley Syrah ($95). Lovely, burly flavors with an elegant structure – concentrated dark raspberry and blackberry notes with earthy notes and floral hints.
2017 Mira Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon ($150). Lush black fruit with great integrated barrel and tannin notes, with savory elements adding to a long finish. Robust, not lean.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. 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 Napa Valley. Photo credit: Roger Morris