The Dozen Vol. 25 No. 12

The Dozen – Subtler Does It

California reds with dialed-down intensity, rich complexity and savory balance.


Not long ago, it was a bit of a chore writing about super-premium California red wines, especially Napa Valley Cabernets. The chore was not that the wines were difficult to taste and appreciate – the task was finding different ways to say, “Big and rich, with very ripe purple fruits, good balancing acidity, but a touch hot with 15+ alcohol.”  Thankfully, those big wines haven’t disappeared – at times, I like Port-like table reds – but we are seeing a lot more variety these days.

And we have that variety here in a half-dozen of this week’s The Dozen.  Three of them feature Cabernet Sauvignon at what I think is its best when it retains some savory green herbal notes to balance its rich fruitiness. And if there are subtle barrel flavors to develop with age, so much the better.

So get out those huge red wine glasses and perhaps a decanter or two.  Let’s pour!

2020 La Prendina Garda Pinot Grigio ($12). Bright and lively with good apple fruit and brisk acidity.

2020 Colli Morenici Garda Chardonnay ($21). A somewhat grapey Chard with some savory notes.

2019 Sonoma-Cutrer “The Cutrer” Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($35).  Delicious, rich apple and fresh fig flavors with just enough oak to kiss the wine goodbye in the finish.

2019 Mathew Bruno Carneros Chardonnay ($38). Elegant and smooth – lightly toasty flavors of apple and quince, a touch of tannins, moderate body, good structure.

2019 Landmark Vineyards “Overlook” California Pinot Noir ($23). A blend of regional Pinot grapes with a lot of nice cherry fruit up front and a lot of tart acidity in the finish that mellows in decanting or when finishing the bottle the following day.

2019 Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($32). A little “thick” in texture, but with classic floral, rooty, and light cola Pinot flavors.

219 Justin “Right Angle” Paso Robles Red Wine ($35). A Cab- and Malbec-led blend with a nice combo of ripe red and mellow dark fruits and compliant oak with soft tannins – very nice, very friendly.

2019 The Vice Napa Valley Saint Laurent ($38).  One parent of St. Laurent is presumably Pinot Noir, while the other is AWOL. The wine has enjoyable black raspberry tastes with dusty tannins and a full and rich lingering fruitiness.

2017 Gamble Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($57).  Lovely, rich flavors of blackberries and plums with good brambly notes.

2018 Sullivan “Coeur de Vigne” Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($91). As with the Gamble and the Mathew Bruno, a lovely re-statement of the Napa heritage of Cabernet – ripe, rich berries, but also savory herbal tastes, smooth tannins, and elegant oak accents that echo its breeding.

2019 Mathew Bruno Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($120). Delicious, capturing both Cab’s ripe blackberries and its savory notes and a lovely coda of barrel oak.

NV Graham’s “Six Grapes” Reserve Porto ($27). A very enjoyable and affordable Port with a great combination of bright and rich fruitiness, fresh but with gravitas.

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: Landmark 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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