The Dozen

The Dozen – Familiar Faces

Revisiting some California labels we have been buying for years.


Most of us have two sides to our personalities regarding food, wine, restaurants, and vacation spots. One side is constantly searching for something new to grab our interest, while the other wants to gravitate toward the familiar, the tried-and-true.

This week’s Dozen has several familiar labels from California, although some have gone through different owners and style transitions over the years.  Additionally, we have fascinating sparkling wines from Champagne, Napa Valley, and the Willamette Valley.

If weeks were vintages, this one would be pretty good.

NV CK Mondavi California Chardonnay ($6). Spicy, full-bodied with sweet-ish tastes of green fruit and Muscat love.

2018 Talbott Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay ($18). Very toasty, very buttery flavors upstaging the fresh apples and the crisp finish.

2019 Sanford Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay ($34). Honeyed, floral aromas and flavors, but not sweet.

NV Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Brut Rosé ($50).  Distinctively delicious with intense flavors of grape skins, tart orange, and white-pepper spiciness in the finish.

2015 Frank Family Carneros Blanc de Blancs ($55). Satisfyingly rich, crisp flavors of lemons and other citrus with good underlying minerality.

2016 Frank Family Carneros Brut Rosé ($55). Very good, in the Champagne mode with lots of rich dried strawberry flavors and refreshing metallic minerality.

NV Louis Roederer “Collection 242” Champagne Brut ($60). This is the bubbly replacing the house’s non-vintage “Brut Premier” label and which it now prefers to refer to as “multi-vintage.” It has lots of bread/brioche notes to go along with the ripe fruitiness and moderate minerality – very refreshing.

2014 Gran Moraine Yamhill-Carlton Blanc de Blancs ($90).  A silvery minerality dominates, with fresh apple and citrus flavors moderated by light, toasty notes.

2020 Sanford Sta. Rita Hills Rosé of Pinot Noir ($18). Intense, tart fruitiness with an underlying layer of whey.

2019 J Vineyards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($34). A colleague once told me that he might take 10 minutes to get to the first sip when he found a Pinot with beautiful aromas. This is that type of wine, although you definitely want to get around to sipping it – beautiful ripe raspberry smells and tastes with a light body, light color but with robust acidity.

2018 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($39). Nice, juicy, cherry-flavored Cab with good balance and mild tannins.

2019 Sanford Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir ($39). Not a lot of complexity but lots of rooty Pinot Noir flavors and plenty of zip in the finish.

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: Santa Lucia Highlands

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