The Dozen This Month Vol. 27 No. 11

The Dozen – Not Napa

Featuring California wines not made in a certain famous valley.


There are times when it seems like Napa Valley is synonymous with California when it comes to wines. The region, admittedly one of the greatest in the world, seems to attract more than its share of publicity for wine growing in the state.

So, we are avoiding Napa with this edition of The Dozen by featuring nine wines from Sonoma and the Central Coast of California. But at the end, we have a little Cognac already poured and waiting for you.

2021 Geyser Peak California Sauvignon Blanc ($11). A mellower, creamier Sauvignon with fewer green-fruit flavors than are standard, but with a crisp finish.

2022 Ancient Peaks “Santa Margarita Ranch” Paso Robles Chardonnay ($17). I love this winery (see red review below), but the flavors in this wine just haven’t knit together – a jumbled, almost medicinal fruitiness with hints of bitters at the edges.

2021 Trenel Macon Villages ($18). Tart with metallic minerality to go with fresh-apple Chardonnay flavors – crisp and very refreshing.

2018 Raphaël Midoir “La Plaine des Cailloux” Touraine Oisly ($20). Very enjoyable – nicely floral with good fruitiness and a little pepperiness in the finish.

2022 Sonoma-Cutrer “The Cutrer” Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($32). Nicely balanced, with vibrant apple and peach flavors and a toasty, but not buttery, finish with good structure and acidity.

2022 The Language of Yes “Le Cerisier” Central Coast Pink Wine ($35). Early fruit of the Gallo-Randall Grahm collaboration, the wine is a blend of Tibouren, Cinsault anxd Grenache (probably the only such blend in the world) and is very complex with light cherry and red raspberry fruitiness and a hint of orange peel.

2020 Ancient Peaks “Renegade” “Santa Margarita Ranch” Paso Robles Red Wine ($22). About 2/3 Syrah and 1/3 Petit Verdot, this is a lovely Northern Rhone style red with tart and savory blackberry flavors and root-cellar notes in the under-taste – a terroir wine in all senses. Try with duck.

2021 Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($32). Enjoyable, slightly tart dark cherry flavors with hints of roots and cola – more thick than thin in texture – with good finishing tannins.

2021 The Language of Yes “Rancho Réal Vineyard” Santa Maria Valley Grenache ($45). Extremely smooth cherry flavors with lots of dusty tannins – not complex, but a crowd-pleaser.

2021 The Language of Yes “Rancho Réal Vineyard” Santa Maria Valley Syrah ($45). Bright fruitiness meets a savory grounding – classic Rhone – with raspberry flavors and a hint of chocolate.

2019 Caelesta “Apogee” Paso Robles Red Wine ($75). A finesse wine with good flavors of cherries and blackberries and hints of walnuts – very rich, very smooth.

NV “H” by Hine VSOP Cognac ($46). It’s hard to stop with one sip – very smooth and lightly viscous with lively flavors of dried apricot and orange essence with a hint of sugar cane 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.

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.

0 comments on “The Dozen – Not Napa

What did you think of this article? We'd love to hear from you!