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Prior to the January 31, 2023 Issue

Printable Version

UNITED STATES

Red:

Cooper's Hawk Winery, American (United States) Pinot Noir Lux NV ($38): Cooper's Hawk roams far and wide to source grapes for its wine, using the "American" appellation exclusively because it often blends grapes from multiple states. These master blenders have demonstrated over several vintages that their model is a success and the wines sparkle. This Pinot of beautifully structured, well balanced and affordable. Platinum award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley May 26, 2015

Ficarra Cellars, American (United States) Sangiovese 2019 ($25):  A completely convincing Sangiovese doesn’t often come with “American” in bold print on the front label – I have seen one or two, but this makes a solid three.  Ohio based Ficarra Cellars doesn’t reveal its specific source, but the wine works on all front, with proper cherry, sage and spice flavors, lively acidity and long finish.  If this is actually grown in Ohio, double bravo!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
94 Rich Cook Sep 15, 2020

Sokol Blosser Winery, American (United States) “Evolution Red, 1st Edition” NV ($17):  Blended red wines made from unspecified grape varieties are a hot trend in the California wine market; many of those wines are sweet wines that seem targeted to fairly novice drinkers.  This blended red is dryer, and it hits a level of quality that fairly serious wine drinkers can admire for a casual red.  The wine is medium-bodied, juicy and flavorful, with soft texture despite some ripe tannins. Aromas and flavors suggest ripe, dark berries and plum, as well as some juicy red fruit.  Oregon’s Sokol Blosser Winery has made a delicious blended white called Evolution White for many years now, but this is the first red.  A perfect summertime, grilling red for large groups of friends. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jul 17, 2012

Elmaro Vineyard, American (United States) “3 Cheers” Semi-Sweet Red Blend NV ($13): An interesting blend of Marquette, Chambourcin and Rosa that comes off like a spicy fresh Beaujolais on the palate after teasing you with its fresh berry aromas.  I see this a nice Thanksgiving table wine that will get your non wine drinking friends to say, "Hmmm… maybe I should look into this wine stuff."
87 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Old York Cellars, American (United States) Merlot NV ($18): Yes, it's true -- they make wine in New Jersey.  I must say that I had no expectations for this.   This Merlot is quite ripe, showing a bit of prune character over soft spice and licorice notes.  The finish is short, but not at all unpleasant.  For my first taste from an unexpected locale, it's more than I'd have guessed, and shows some promise.
84 Rich Cook Dec 1, 2015

Camelot, California (California) Shiraz 2002 ($8): When you find a better $8 wine, let me know. I don't know how the Kendall Jackson team does it, but they pack more flavor and refinement into this wine than I ever would have imagined. 88 Michael Apstein Feb 28, 2006

Far Niente, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($125): Bigger and more forward than is typical of Far Niente, the '06 is a reflection of the long, cool growing season, with its long "hang time" and evolved flavors. Cassis and spice on the nose are the hook, followed by layers of blueberry and blackberry notes that are beautifully complemented by hints of mocha and black licorice. Tannins are firm but smooth, and the finish is a lingering time bomb of flavor. Definitely enjoyable now, but an excellent candidate for the cellar as well. 96 Robert Whitley Oct 6, 2009

Robert Mondavi, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 ($135): The Mondavi reserve cabernet has been one of the Napa Valley's most important red wines since the late Robert Mondavi first produced it in the late 1960s. Nothing's changed. This is a blockbuster, loaded with dense aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry, briary tannins and remarkable length. It's a big wine and likely won't show its best for another five to ten years. Powerful, but well balanced, a wine for the ages. If you buy it, be patient! 96 Robert Whitley Oct 6, 2009

Kuleto Estate, Napa Valley (California) Zinfandel 2005 ($37): Kuleto Estate perches on top of the eastern hills high above the Napa Valley. The vines in the rolling Kuleto vineyards are deeply rooted, yielding grapes of great intensity and varietal character. This textured wine is made from three clones of Zinfandel planted in deep red soil.  It is inky red-black with a forward nose of blackberry jam, anise and spicy oak notes. Big sweet-fruit flavors are concentrated and mouth-filling.  Aged in French and Hungarian oak, this concentrated Zin carries its 15.2% alcohol well.  This is a wine of substance  calling for roasts and grilled meats. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 9, 2007

Paraduxx, Napa Valley (California) 2006 ($48): This has always been a most interesting Napa Valley red blend -- primarily zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon, with small amounts of merlot and cabernet franc -- and one that the Duckhorn folks literally built a winery around. The '07 is luscious and ripe, yet well balanced, exhibiting aromas of blackberry, damson plum, raspberry, mocha and spice. I love this wine with roasted pork loin or grilled lamb chops. 92 Robert Whitley Oct 6, 2009

Vina Robles, Paso Robles (California) Petite Sirah 'Jardine' 2007 ($26): One sip and I promise you will be ready to throw a leg of lamb on the barbie! This is a big, ripe, petite sirah fruit bomb that cries out for red meat or savory cheese. Intense aromas of blackberry and spice on the nose are mirrored on the palate. The tannins are sweet and smooth, and the finish lingers. It's yummy stuff, though not everyone's cup of tea at 15.4 stated alcohol. 92 Robert Whitley Oct 6, 2009

Newport Vineyards, Southeastern New England (United States) Merlot 2017 ($23):  I make it a point to visit local wineries whenever I travel and, many times, am surprised by the quality wines they produce.  This Rhode Island Merlot was outstanding.  The balanced tannins and acidity caught my attention first.  Complex dried fruit, leather, and cedar notes indicated that this wine is showing just the right amount of age.  Newport Vineyards has 70 acres under vine in Rhode Island and battles the colder maritime climate.  Their Merlot undergoes almost 24 months in barrel and has two-plus additional years in bottle.  For those that like aged wines, or want to experience what one might taste like, this wine is ready to drink now and it is very good.    
90 Vince Simmon Mar 22, 2022

Spring Mountain Vineyards, Spring Mountain District (Napa Valley) 'Elivette' 2004 ($100): Even as the market for A-list Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons has plunged, there remains a handful that are worth discussing with an eye toward the day when we might be able to afford them again. Though Spring Mountain's Elivette is technically a Bordeaux-style blend, the backbone is Cabernet Sauvignon (80 percent) from one of the Napa Valley's most spectacular mountain vineyards. Winemaker Jac Cole has crafted a complex red that delivers that rare combination of power and elegance. This beautifully structured blend displays aromas of mocha and spice, intense flavors of blackberry and raspberry, and an earthy minerality. There's even a hint of violet, and a long, lingering finish with supple tannins. You'll have to dig deep, but ultimately this is a wine that can be cellared for a decade or more and improve as a result. 95 Robert Whitley May 19, 2009

Llano Estacado, Texas (United States) “Viviano Red” 2012 ($32):  I recently had occasion to visit Lubbock, Texas and discovered some great wine in the region.  Wait -- let me rephrase that -- I got a chance to tag along with a friend who had to deliver his son to Texas Tech for an orientation, volunteering to help him drive because I was already aware that there are some great wines being made there, and I figured I might never get the chance to go that way again so inexpensively.  It was a whirlwind trip, but the wines turned out to be more than worth it.  The first wine I'll share with you is this amazing, Super Tuscan-styled red, conceived in the region by Greg Bruni, who has of late handed the day to day winemaking over to Jason Centani.  It's a 70/30 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, and it's only produced in vintages that are worthy of past production standards.  The 2012 is a beauty, with a complex mix of red fruit, mint, sage, spice box and wildflowers.  It's structured and age worthy -- a real Texas star!  Check back for more from this fine producer, or take a road trip yourself. 94 Rich Cook Oct 11, 2016

Villa Bellezza, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) Marquette Reserve 2013 ($32): An unusual wine from the largest AVA in the USA scores big with a fleshy, smoky red that is dry, peppery and showing red and black fruit, with a nice meaty note that makes you think you're in the Languedoc.  Villa Bellezza is quietly making a case for the style in particular and the region in general.  I say keep it up!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 14, 2017

Northstar Winery, Walla Walla Valley (United States) Red Blend 2016 ($60):  Northstar’s first vintage was in 1994 and the state-of-the-art winery was built in 2002.  In its earliest years, Northstar was guided by California’s well-known winemaker, Jed Steele.  It is part of the Ste. Michelle portfolio which was recently sold.  The 2028 Red Blend is made from 51% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2% Cabernet Franc.  The barrel regime consisted of 100% French oak with 38% new barrels for 18 months.  It is definitely not shy, with wide open aromas of herbs and ripe, dark cherries, and is rich and silky smooth on the palate.  Plush and beautifully textured, it finishes long with sweet, toasty oak notes.  It does throw some sediment, so decanting is recommended.       
95 Norm Roby Jul 27, 2021

Pepper Bridge Winery, Walla Walla Valley (United States) Merlot 2018 ($55):  With 13% Cabernet Franc, this Merlot made from Seven Hills and the estate vineyard is a perfect example of what Walla Walla offers.  It displays ripe cherry, raspberry, and light herbal aromas with a touch of oak spice.  On the palate it is medium-full bodied with ripe fruit, an earthy, mineral streak and good acidity to accompany the tannins.  Concentrated, textured, and balanced, it begs to be cellared 3 to 5 years.  With a controlling interest in both Pepper Bridge Vineyard and Seven Hills Vineyard, the winery produces only 8,000 cases a year.  Dozens of wineries buy grapes from Pepper Bridge, including Leonetti, which bottles a vineyard designated Cabernet.  All Pepper Bridge wines were excellent in my recent tasting.  One reason why the winery is not better known is that it sells almost all of its bottles direct to wine club members.  But if there were one club I would join, this would be it.       
95 Norm Roby Jul 27, 2021

Valdemar Estates, Walla Walla Valley (United States) Syrah 2019 ($65):  A little under 200 cases of this were made, and the fruit was sourced from Stoney Vine Vineyard located south of Walla Walla with its distinctive rocky terroir.  The Syrah here follows the old-style, head-training method for vine management.  Blended with 5% Grenache, the wine was aged 16 months in 25% new and 75% 2-year-old, French oak.  It's dark and vibrant, loaded with dark blackberry fruit, anise, and a slight earthy streak.  The flavors are ripe, spicy, and concentrated but are under control with light tannin leading to a savory, balanced finish.       
94 Norm Roby Jul 27, 2021

Amavi Cellars, Walla Walla Valley (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($36):  A vintage that was warm in July and threatened by smoke, 2018 turned out to be fine thanks to the ultra-long growing season that is a hallmark of the region.  The last Cabernet was picked in mid-October.  Made from 76% Cabernet with the balance filled out by equal portions of the usual suspects, it was aged primarily in neutral French oak.  With cherry, sweet spices and black currant fruit, it is medium bodied and nicely balanced with hints of anise and dusty tannins.  As an estate wine that is sustainably grown, Amavi’s Cabernet has been consistent over recent vintages and is attractively priced.  A little over 5,000 cases were made in 2018.      
92 Norm Roby Jul 27, 2021

Saviah Cellars, Walla Walla Valley (United States) Cabernet Franc 2016 ($35):  Founded in 2000, Saviah Cellars offers an extremely wide range of limited production wines including the only Barbera from Walla Walla, an attractive Nebbiolo, and this extremely well-made Cabernet Franc.  It was sourced from three vineyards: Watermill Vineyard which is located in The Rocks District, Dugger Creek Vineyard and the Summit View Vineyard.  It is a textbook example of the varietal with aromas of ripe berry, spice, tobacco and anise.  Medium bodied, it has similar flavors with highlights of dried herbs and raspberry fruit.  It has a slightly fleshy palate feel and no rough edges as it finishes long with light tannin.       
92 Norm Roby Aug 3, 2021

Rosé:

Elmaro Vineyard, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) “Sweet Cheeks” Rosé NV ($14): Lynita Docken and her daughter Laura have got a great thing going in western Wisconsin at Elmaro, bringing UC Davis training to the land where there's a lot of white stuff in glasses -- the kind that comes from cows, of course.  This group is proving that you don't need to go outside the heartland to find other fine things to fill your glass with.  This thirst quenching rosé is a blend of 85% La Crescent and small amounts of St. Pepin and Marquette for color and to soften La Crescent's searing acidity.  It shows tangerine, strawberry and wildflowers on the nose, and those translate well on the palate, with the focus on citrus and light spice.  A fine summer sipper.
88 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Sparkling:

Gruet, American (United States) “Sauvage” Sparkling Wine NV ($20):  Consumers are invariably surprised when they are told that this “Champagne” is from New Mexico.  To Gruet’s credit, in addition to stunningly good wines, they label them Sparkling Wine, not Champagne.  This one, a Blanc de Blancs, which means they used only Chardonnay, is also labeled “zero dosage,” which means no sugar was added just prior to bottling.  An alternative description is Extra-Brut because the wine is drier than a Brut bottling, which typically has a small amount of sugar added after the yeast have been removed. With no sugar to hide tiny defects, the wine that goes into a bottle labeled zero dosage must be the highest quality.  The firm, almost austere, aspect of Extra Brut bottlings is not for everyone.  But Gruet’s pulls it off beautifully because the inherent boost of fruitiness from New World-grown Chardonnay provides ideal balance to the firm, almost refreshingly bitter, finish.  With unusual power for a Blanc de Blancs, Gruet’s makes an excellent choice for charcuterie, patés, and other robust appetizers or first courses. 93 Michael Apstein Nov 14, 2017

Barefoot Bubbly, American (United States) "Tropical Fusion" NV ($10): Wines like this have a big audience, and while it's not necessarily my cup of tea, this wine is perfectly made, and delivers exactly what the label would lead you to believe -- with style.  It shows sweetness that is balanced in a way that would prevent you from guessing the sugar level as what it is, and aromas and flavors of cola, pineapple, passion fruit and mango.  It finishes pleasantly clean and bright, with the bubbles keeping things fresh and lively.  The industry needs wines like this to bring new people into the soda-swilling U.S. market, and if you've ever been to a festival where this is being poured, you'll see that mission being accomplished.
90 Rich Cook Feb 9, 2016

Gruet, American (United States) Blanc de Noirs NV ($14):  A deep yellow color, this wine delivers rich golden apple with a hint of pumpkin.  Despite the name, it often includes up to 25% Chardonnay.  Fairly simple, but delightful and great value. 89 W. Blake Gray Sep 20, 2011

Gruet, American (United States) Brut Rosé NV ($14):  A pretty dark pink, almost magenta.  This is bone-dry for a rosé, with a hint of strawberry and a little more fizziness than is required.  I tasted this at the source and that might actually have hurt its performance; it could benefit from some time on your grocer's shelves. 87 W. Blake Gray Sep 20, 2011

Gruet, American (United States) Brut NV ($14):  This wine, Gruet's biggest seller, is also its weakest wine.  I wonder how common that is?  The label doesn't say New Mexico because sometimes grapes are sourced from Lodi.  There's a little yeastiness, toast and licorice, but it's not as vibrant as the rest of the lineup.  I recommend literally buying any other Gruet wine instead. 84 W. Blake Gray Sep 20, 2011

Social Enjoyment, United States () Pink Grapefruit/Ginger Sparkling Sake NV ($10): This was my clear favorite of the three different flavors of Sparkling Sake that I tasted.  Very pale pink in color and delicate in aroma, the flavors are likewise perfectly subtle.  Pink grapefruit dominates, while the ginger adds an almost undetectable harmonic bass note of taste.  The bubbles are fine and delicate.  There is nothing sweet here, and in fact at 4% alcohol and with 88 calories, drinking a can of this sugar-free beverage is pretty much a guilt free experience.  $10 for a 4-pack of 10-ounce cans.
90 Marguerite Thomas Dec 13, 2016

Social Enjoyment, United States () Hibiscus/Cucumber Sparkling Sake NV ($10): I’m not sure that I know what hibiscus tastes like, but I do know the taste of cucumber and that’s what dictates the flavor here. Like the grapefruit beverage I also review this sparkling sake is very refreshing and clean tasting. I could imagine it as a pleasant accompaniment to certain foods -- salmon, for example -- and it’s a fun and amiable drink on its own. And I will confess that a splash of gin added to it makes for a very tasty cocktail.  You might even want to garnish it with a slice of cucumber, or perhaps a hibiscus blossom if you happen to have one.
89 Marguerite Thomas Dec 13, 2016

Social Enjoyment, United States () Toasted Coconut/Almond Sparkling Sake NV ($10): Like the other sparkling sakes I sampled, this one is low in calories and alcohol, but with the addition of a subtle edge of sweetness.  For my palate the coconut was a little overwhelming.  Since the drink tasted a bit like an Almond-Joy candy bar, but without the chocolate, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be good with a rich chocolaty dessert.  It so happened that I had no such dessert on hand -- but I did have a bar of delicious and very dark chocolate hidden away.  Bingo!  It was indeed a splendid pairing.  $10 for a 4-pack of 10-ounce cans.
89 Marguerite Thomas Dec 13, 2016

White:

Wollersheim Winery, America () White Riesling 2012 ($9): Another superb white crafted from Washington fruit by Philippe Coquard at Wisconsin’s Wollersheim Winery.  Aromas of white flowers, stonefruit, pear and spice are followed up by a palate of dried apricot, peach, lime, pear, minerality and a delicate sweetness, all balanced by bright acidity and a medium weight mouthfeel.  The finish is long and focuses on the fruit and spice elements.  You’ll enjoy it as an aperitif, or with mild cheeses with dried fruits and nuts after dinner.
91 Rich Cook Oct 1, 2013

Elmaro Vineyard, American (United States) Geisenheim “West Prarie White” NV ($95): This relatively new winery in tiny Trempealeau, Wisconsin made quite a splash at this year’s Long Beach Grand Cru competition, taking Best White Wine honors with this perfectly balanced wine.  It's 100% Geisenheim, which is a cross of Riesling and the American grape Chancellor.  Aromas of lanolin, white flowers, tangerine and stony minerality are very intense, and lead you to a palate of sweet dried apricot and spice, with tangerine accents and mouthwatering acidity carrying the sugar content easily, leaving no cloying notes and a refreshing, "give me more but not just yet" finish that is deep and complex.  We'll no doubt be seeing more plantings of this variety in the Upper Mississippi River Valley appellation in the very near future thanks to this bottle.  Riveting wine!
95 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Cooper's Hawk, American (United States) Vidal Blanc Ice Wine NV ($28): Cooper's Hawk wines are made for a restaurant chain that has 25 locations around the Midwest and eastern USA, and if the food is as good as the wine, you'll want to give them a try if one is within reach.  This ice wine delivers concentrated sweet ripe spiced apricot and enough acid to keep things from getting too sticky.  Bring on the cheese platter!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
94 Rich Cook May 30, 2017

Wollersheim Winery, American (United States) Dry Riesling 2012 ($9): Many of my wine-drinking friends decry the dearth of good domestic Riesling, but there are plenty of great examples out there if you know where to look.  One of my “go to” domestics is this dry version from winemaker Philippe Coquard.  It’s sourced from vineyards in Washington and made in Wisconsin, and it’s quite a spectacular wine.  Floral aromas grab you up front, with apple and delicate herbal notes coming through as you get into the nose.  The palate is crisp and just off dry, delivering the apple with balanced spice and stony mineral notes.  The finish is extremely long, zesty and mouth watering, making for a great aperitif or an accompaniment for Asian cuisine. The winery recommends near term consumption, but I’m curious about aging a few bottles -- I think this has the stuffing for a very interesting future.
94 Rich Cook Sep 17, 2013

Chateau Morrisette, American (United States) "Our Dog Blue" NV ($11): A very tasty mix of Riesling, Traminette and Vidal Blanc.  The nose is brightly floral, with forward lychee that you'd expect from a fine Gewurztraminer.  It's crisp and mineral driven on the palate, with flavors of grilled peach and wet stone lingering long.  If you're looking for proof that vinifera grapes can harmonize well with American hybrids, this is it.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition.
91 Rich Cook Jan 20, 2015

Wollersheim Winery, American (United States) Seyval “Prairie Fumé” 2012 ($9): A delicious wine made from Seyval grapes from New York at a winery in Wisconsin by French-born winemaker Philippe Couquard that delivers bright mixed citrus, papaya and stony minerality over vibrant acidity and a lip smacking finish that keeps you refilling your glass.  This was a perfect pairing for pollo asada and a weekend evening by the pool.  Watch for upcoming reviews of Wollersheim’s great whites. 91 Rich Cook Sep 3, 2013

Bay Bridge Vineyards, American () Moscato NV ($3): There’s nothing particularly complex about this juicy, sweet Moscato, but it shows fine purity and lots of flavor.  Like cotton candy in a glass, it starts off with a floral topnote and finishes with enough acidity to keep you coming back for more.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
88 Michael Franz Apr 29, 2014

Conundrum Wines, California (United States) White Table Wine 2005 ($24): Winemaker Jon Bota, neither a Charles nor a Wagner, has been making this unusual blend for the Wagner family since the first vintage in 1989.  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semilion, Viognier and Muscat are the components of Conundrum.  It's fragrant with a subtle Muscat aroma, backed by hints of ripe apple.  A noticeable touch of fruit sweetness lifts the ample fruit, mixed with melon and apple and finished with a crisp mineral-citrus. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 17, 2007

Antica, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2011 ($32): Piero Antinori, the patriarch of the eponymous Italian firm that was largely responsible for increasing the quality of Tuscan wines and bringing them to the world’s attention, has always had a great interest in the potential of California for wines.  He and business partners purchased land and started making wine in Napa in the 1980s.  Over the next two decades, he bought out his partners, increased vineyard holdings and founded Antica in 2006.  The hallmark of Antinori’s Italian wines is refinement.  That imprint is firmly stamped on his Napa Valley wines as well.  Antica’s 2011 Chardonnay is stylish and refined, weighing in at a modest--by today’s standards--13.8% stated alcohol.   It delivers plenty of creamy lushness without being overt or heavy-handed.  It’s a balanced and bright wine, with a perky lemony finish, perfect for drinking this summer.
91 Michael Apstein Jul 16, 2013

Eberle Winery, Paso Robles (California) Viognier Mill Road 2008 ($20): Winemakers walk a fine line when they work with Viognier, the noble white grape of France's northern Rhone Valley. While they press for the ripeness levels that deliver the opulent peach, apricot and honeysuckle aromas that set viognier apart, they can only push the grapes so far before losing the ability to produce a balanced wine. All too often, particularly in the warmer climates of the California coast, balance is the big loser. Eberle's '08 Mill Road Viognier flirts with that fine line, coming in at 14.9 percent alcohol, but ultimately nails it. This is one of the finest California Viogniers you are likely to ever taste. It exhibits layered aromas of peach, apricot and lychee, rich viscosity and mouth-watering acidity. 91 Robert Whitley May 19, 2009

Sawtooth, Snake River Valley (Idaho) Riesling Estate Grown 2011 ($13): An aromatically enticing Riesling, with peach, apricot, and apple fruit, this wine falls off a bit in its finish on the palate but nonetheless offers plenty of pleasure. It starts dry but finishes slightly sweet, and probably will show best if served quite cold. Drink it in the near term, while it retains structure and satisfying balance.
86 Paul Lukacs Jan 22, 2013

Heintz, Sonoma Coast (California) Chardonnay 2007 ($48): This is a very particular style of Chardonnay that isn't to my taste, but it will no doubt have its fans. With a dark honeyed hew, it has obviously received the full-on oak treatment, perhaps to offset the bigness of the wine at nearly 15 percent alcohol. It is ripe and rich, full-bodied, full-throttle oaky California Chardonnay from a reasonably successful vineyard operation. If that's your thing, you might well love it. Only 125 cases made. 88 Robert Whitley Apr 28, 2009

Truro Vineyards, Southeastern New England (United States) Chardonnay "Unoaked" 2008 ($16):  Chardonnay grown on the East Coast rarely achieves the ripeness of its West Coast counterpart, and hence, the wines are sleeker and more vibrant.  This racy Chardonnay from Truro, on Cape Cod and a site better known for its beaches than its wine, fits that mold.  Clean and bright, the citrus notes are unencumbered by oak flavor.  It’s an excellent choice for the region’s seafood. 87 Michael Apstein Mar 9, 2010

Backpack Wine, United States (United States) "Snappy White" NV ($20):  While we don’t usually review wine packaged in cans I think that it is occasionally a legitimate thing to do, especially in this case in view of the extraordinary growth in this category (a recent Nielsen report shows an increase of more than 122.5% in sales compared to this time last year, bringing the total category to more than $14.5 million this year).  More importantly, perhaps, “Snappy White” is genuinely tasty.  Not surprisingly it isn’t complex or long on the palate, but it has very pleasant fresh fruit flavors and an energetic swish of acidity on the finish.  Think of all those occasions when you brought a bottle of wine to the picnic but forgot the cork pull.  And remember that time when the wine bottle slipped out of your backpack and shattered on the rocks?  None of this will happen with wine in a can!  Obviously this option isn’t for everyone--wine drinkers over the age of 50 might give canned wine a pass--but I’ll bet younger drinkers will approach it with an open mind and appreciate both the convenience and the quality of “Backpack.”  The price of $20 is for a four-pack of for 250 ml cans. 88 Marguerite Thomas Oct 11, 2016

Sokol Blosser, United States (United States) “Evolution 14th Edition” NV ($15):  Always a fun summer white, “Evolution” is a blend of diverse grape varieties (in this case, Pinot Gris, Müller-Thurgau, White Riesling, Semillon, Muscat Canelli, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, and Sylvaner).  Past renditions have been quite floral, the aromatic varieties playing a more prominent role than in this one.  As a result, while earlier editions seemed best suited for aperitif sipping, this one may show best when paired with food, especially summer salads.  Incidentally, most, but not all, of the grapes come from Oregon, so the wine is labeled simply as an American white.

88 Paul Lukacs Jul 26, 2011

Elmaro Vineyard, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) Frontenac Gris Ice Wine NV ($65): I confess -- this isn't the first Frontenac Gris icewine I've tasted -- but it's the best one.  Picked at 39% sugar and fermented down to 17% residual, this wine is the real deal.  The aroma profile is wildly complex, with carmelized honey, baked apple, orange, apricot leaf and spice harmonizing beautifully and directly translating to deep flavors in the mouth, with great acidity keeping the texture bright and inviting a return to the glass.  A fine Stilton or crème brulee will sing next to this beauty.  Extremely well made wine.
95 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Villa Bellezza Winery and Vineyards, Upper Mississippi River Valley (Wisconsin) Dolce White Wine 2013 ($22): This interesting, sweet wine shows touches of earthiness along with floral aromas, followed by rich palate impressions and a pleasant bitter backnote in the finish.  Akin to a German Auslese in sweetness, pair this with simple tarts or cookies at the end of a meal.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
87 Michael Franz Apr 29, 2014

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American:

Red:

Chateau Elan, American (United States) Mameli 2014 ($50): Who knows where in the USA the fruit might be coming from in this blend of Barbera, Nebbiolo and Montepulciano from Georgia's Chateau Elan, and who cares?  What you need to know is that it's delicious, and easily worth its price tag.  Black fruit, spice, judicious oak toast, structured tannins and a long finish with a firm grip will accompany your finest Ameritalian feast.  Wait -- is Ameritalian a word? If not, this wine just made it one!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Chateau Elan Winery, American (United States) “El Tempranillo” 2013 ($50): Yes, there is great wine being made in Georgia, and it's not just at Frogtown Cellars any more.  Here's a spot on Tempranillo that's got beautiful earthy spice over soft blackberry and black cherry fruit and proper American oak tones with age-worthy acidity to boot.  This would easily surprise tasters in a blind flight of Rioja.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Cooper's Hawk, American (United States) Malbec NV ($19):   This combination winery and restaurant in Chicago does a remarkable job with its wines, blending multiple vintages from multiple American wine regions to produce superb wines at reasonable prices.  The Malbec is seductive and inviting, with a floral nose and lush red-fruited aromas in the glass.  It was a platinum award-winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Robert Whitley May 29, 2018

Ficarra Cellars, American (United States) Pinot Noir “Poetessa” 2019 ($29):  The labeling here could prove a bit baffling, as “American” is shown on the front label, whereas the back label indicates Russian River Valley as the fruit source.  Presumably the fact that the wine was “produced and bottled” by Fincarra in Valley View, Ohio explains the “American” designation.  One sip of the wine will reduce these questions of nomenclature to mere nit-picking, as the wine proves complete convincing with its combination of juicy, sweet fruit notes and fresh, energetic acidity.  Yet this is not a two-element, “push-pull” wine, as there are notable savory undertones that flesh this out into a wine of real complexity.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Critics Challenge International Wine and Spirits Competition.         
94 Michael Franz Jun 29, 2021

Grape Creek Vineyards, American (United States) Petite Sirah 2018 ($34):  Like a fine Amarone, a hint of raisin on the nose of this glass of Petite Sirah fools you into expecting some sweetness on the palate.  Instead you get a classic dry varietally correct glass in all its blueberry and diesel fuel glory.  The winery is in Texas, but I suspect the fruit here is coming from Paso Robles.  No matter – what you get is worth the admission price.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.      
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Grape Creek Vineyards, American (United States) "Rendezvous" Red Wine 2015 ($27):  A fine Rhône style blend with a touch of Touriga Nacional in the mix that proves that great wine can be sourced from places other than what we think of as the top areas.  Bright cherry and blueberry mix with soft oak spice and a touch of fennel, all delivered on bright acidity that gives the finish some push and keeps the flavors pumping.  Very nice!  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 13, 2018

Grape Creek Vineyards, American (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah 2015 ($37): Grape Creek deftly handles this blend of Cab and Syrah that is popular throughout Australia. The Texas winery delivered a beautifully balanced red that exhibits complex aromas of red and blue fruits with a spice note that is attractive on the nose and follows through in the palate. A platinum award-winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
94 Robert Whitley Mar 27, 2018

Swiss Heritage Winery, American (United States) Concord "Doggone Good" NV ($10):  If memory serves, this wine has shown well in past wine competitions, and it’s certainly a memorable expression of Concord.  The classic flavors are showing, and if you could say that “bright red” has a flavor, this has to be it.  The acidity makes everything work, extending the finish and keeping things from getting cloying or sticky.  I’d drink this slightly chilled any day of the week for the sheer pleasure of it.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 13, 2018

Cellardoor Winery, American (United States) “Sur La Riviere” 2016 ($24):  A tasty 50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache that shows a mix of black and red fruit, lively oak spice, pepper and tobacco leaf, all of which are well integrated from front to back, and finish on the bright side with a kiss of lemon zest.  I don’t know where in America the fruit comes from, but it’s clearly a good source.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
93 Rich Cook Jun 18, 2019

Cooper's Hawk Winery, American (United States) Meritage 'Lux' NV ($40):  Neither the American appellation on this wine nor its non-vintage status should mislead you to dismiss it, as it shows terrific purity of flavor and excellent integration and structural balance.  Blended mostly from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with 12.5% of Malbec added for good measure, it shows fresh dark berry fruit on both the nose and palate, with penetrating flavors but only moderate weight, making this a great candidate for the table.  The freshness of the flavors and purity of fruit persist through the finish, with just enough tannin showing up as the last sensory signal to provide satisfying grip.  Bloody impressive wine.  Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 93 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2015

Grape Creek Vineyards, American (United States) 'Mosaic' 2015 ($41): Grape Creek is located in Texas but purchases grapes from around the country, hence the "American" appellation designation. This winery chooses its grape sources well and it knows what to do with quality fruit. This Bordeaux-style blend has a savory, animal note, loads of fresh red and black-fruit character and excellent length. The tannins a polished and smooth, making for immediate drinkability. A platinum award-winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
93 Robert Whitley Mar 27, 2018

Luminary, American (United States) Red Blend 2012 ($45):  The unconventional Luminary red blend is a collaboration between four winemakers across three distinct appellations in two states. Hence the "American" appellation. If that seems to be an invitation for confusion, was is very clear is that this is a wine with a future, a beautifully structured, richly layered, complex red that you can enjoy now or cellar for ten years or more. Now for the nuts & bolts. Michael Beaulac of Pine Ridge in the Napa Valley provided Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; Jason Ledbetter of Double Canyon in Horse Heaven Hills in Washington chipped in with some Syrah; Fintan du Fresne of Chamisal Vineyards in California's Edna Valley also delivered a shot of Syrah; and Ted Seghesio of Seghesio Vineyards in California's Alexander Valley gave the project some Zinfandel. Got that? Bottom line, it's delicious. Trust me.
93 Robert Whitley Dec 2, 2014

Cabin Vineyard, American (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Guest" Red Wine 2013 ($75): Cabin Vineyard wines are a new project in Maryland, while the source of the fruit for this wine could be from anywhere in the US. It’s certainly a worthy wine with plenty of what you expect from Cabernet Sauvignon.  Blackberry, cassis and balanced oak spice character offset with mild dried herbs make for satisfying aromas and flavors, and supple tannins keep it all together through a long finish. It's a well made wine.  A  Platinum Award Winner at the 2017 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Rich Cook Sep 26, 2017

Duck Creek Vineyard and Winery, American (United States) Pinot Noir “Mallard Red” NV ($16):  There’s nothing quite like being able to enjoy a local Pinot Noir after the day’s duck hunt yields dinner.  Double the pleasure when you get to do exactly that in the state of Wisconsin.  I don’t know where the fruit is sourced from, but I intend to find out.  This is spot-on Pinot Noir, with solid varietal character, great acidity and a long finish.  I’m guessing you know what to pair it with.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Aridus, American (United States) Malbec 2019 ($36):  This Malbec is sourced from high elevation vineyards near Dening, New Mexico.  It shows good fruit concentration, a savory pepper note and proper grip that extends the finish.  This will benefit from a few years in the cellar.  It’s just another Aridus example of how good things can come from unexpected places.          
90 Rich Cook Sep 14, 2021

Barefoot Cellars, American (United States) Sangria NV ($7):  When you’re pressed for time and can’t make your own Sangria, here’s an all in one alternative that’s very drinkable on the sweet side of the concoction scale.  Slice up some citrus, add a little ice and you’re on your way -- I’d add a sprig of mint as well.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Oct 2, 2018

Barefoot Cellars, American (United States) Rich Red Blend NV ($7):  An off dry red wine that succeeds by offering juicy red fruit, a little spritz for freshness and a sweet fruit driven finish -- think Lambrusco.  There’s a market, and there’s a reason.  Nicely put together.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Mar 20, 2018

Barefoot Fruitscato, American (United States) "Peach" NV ($10):  Gateway products serve an important purpose in the wine industry domestically, where youth are raised on soda.  This producer heads the charge in this arena with solid quality that opens the door to the world of wine for thousands of consumers.  This new product is a pleasantly peachy quaff that, while sweet, introduces the idea that some acidity can be a very nice addition to a juice.  Many journeys into wine have started with something just like this.  Keep up the good work!   A Double Gold Award winner at the 2020 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.  
90 Rich Cook Mar 11, 2020

Barefoot Spritzer, American (United States) “Red Sangria” NV ($12):  A tasty sweet Sangria with a little fizz, a lot of razzleberry and a pleasantly clean finish, all delivered in a portable package suitable for summer sipping or porch pounding.  Fire up the boat, or the pool chair, and while away a fruit enhanced day.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2020 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.  
90 Rich Cook Mar 11, 2020

Les Bourgeois Winery, American (United States) "Jeunette Rouge" NV ($12): Chambourcin is an interesting a promising grape variety that can survive the cold winter temperatures we experience in the central US.  It is unusual in that the juice of its berries is red, resulting in deeply colored wines with a distinctive red cherry and raspberry character.  The Jeunette Rouge from Les Bourgeois combines the juicy red fruit style of the Chambourcin with the black fruit richness of Syrah and Zinfandel.  The result is a lively and bright red wine with its red and black fruits backed by elements of vanilla, cream, smoke and spice -- all at a great price.  It’s a delicious red wine that offers insight into the promising possibilities for Chambourcin.  The precise blend is  Chambourcin (73%), Syrah (14%) and Zinfandel (13%).
90 Wayne Belding Dec 8, 2015

Pepperwood Grove, American (United States) NV ($8): Pepperwood Grove made some noise at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition with a couple of top award winners, including this easy to like Merlot.  Bright cherry fruit, vanilla, mild pepper and fall spice aromas and flavors are well knit together and have some staying power.  A fine budget friendly drinker.
90 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Lemon Creek, Lake Michigan Shore (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($25): This winery is new to me, and I can't wait to find out about the rest of their lineup.  It's quite a proper Cabernet, with blackberry, cassis, dried herbs and brown spice aromas and flavors, a silky feel and a long well integrated finish that show why Michigan is becoming a player on the world wine stage for more than just their white wines.  Lovely!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Rosé:

Grape Creek, American (United States) “Cabernet Blanc” 2017 ($20):  Cabernet can be pretty in pink, though it’s quite rare in my experience.  The sweet character makes the difference here, delivering a tangy sweet cherry fruit vibe that finishes cleanly with mouth-watering acidity.  It works!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
91 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Invintions, American (United States) “Fun Seekers” Strawberry Watermelon NV ($14): The label says strawberry watermelon, and the wine hits the target squarely while delivering wine characteristics like racy acidity, balanced sugar and a blooming finish.  If you didn't know it was a fruit wine it would be hard to tell it from a sweet rosé.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
90 Rich Cook Mar 7, 2017

Villa Bellezza, Upper Mississippi Valley (United States) Musette NV ($18): Villa Bellezza is a star in this far-reaching AVA that stretches over several states in the midwestern United States.  This off-dry rose is a blend of several hybrid grapes and offers exceptional balance, aromas of stone fruit, melon and tropical fruit and a long finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Robert Whitley Sep 25, 2018

Sparkling:

Gruet, American (United States) Brut Sparkling Wine NV ($15):  This New Mexico winery has been around for nearly forty years now, and has always delivered sparkling value.  There is such demand for this bottle that it is no longer made exclusively from New Mexico fruit, but the value remains.  Apple, lemon and stony minerality drive this wine from start to finish, and the fine mousse keeps the flavors coming.  The quality level is much higher than the price tag would lead you to believe, and that’s always a good thing.         
91 Rich Cook Dec 20, 2022

Barefoot Bubbly, American (United States) "Peach" NV ($10):  Flavored wine is tailor made for the current cocktail crowd, and this is one of the better examples.  It’s basically a pre-made Bellini, and its sweetness is balanced by lively acidity, and it finishes clean and fresh.  Don’t be afraid to pour it over ice and garnish with seasonal fruit.  If you’re adventurous, add vodka – carefully!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.      
90 Rich Cook Sep 22, 2020

Battle Creek Cellars, American (United States) Yamhela Vineyard Blanc de Noirs NV ($45):  This bottle is oddly designated American though it is from a single Willamette Valley vineyard.  This is due to the fact that the parent company also counts New Mexico bubbly producer Gruet among its holdings, and that’s the facility that produced this sparkler.  You ignore all that and just enjoy a glass.  A shy nose shows a little honey/maple note, which is joined by faint strawberry and citrus as it warms.  Good acidity keeps wet stone and subtle lemon flavors forward, and a little pithy note in the finish offsets the fruit nicely.  I would use this as an aperitif, or pair with mild cheeses.     
90 Rich Cook Dec 21, 2021

Gruet, American (United States) Blanc de Blancs NV ($19): You can imagine the curled lips and other facial expressions on my guests when I told them I was ordering a sparkling wine from a New Mexico producer, which was on the list at a very French restaurant (Le Coq Rico, run by Antoine Westermann, who formerly was the chef/owner at a Michelin 3-star in Alsace).  Well, one sip of this Blanc de Blancs transformed the curled lips to smiles.  It should come as no surprise because of the history of Gruet, which was founded by Gilbert Gruet, a Champenois who started a cooperative in the Champagne region.  Clearly the family knows something about making sparkling wine, because this Blanc de Blancs had all the elegance and energy you’d expect from a Chardonnay-based bubbly.  A superb aperitif, it also was a beautiful complement to Le Coq Rico’s signature roasted chicken.  Do try the combination at home.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 19, 2016

White:

Amber Falls Winery, American (United States) “Sweet Dreams” Fortified Wine 2014 ($21): Wow.  Get some of this to drink and some to tuck away.  It's got a long life ahead and promises to deepen and gain genuine elegance.  It's bright and sweet, with carefully selected barrels bringing a toasted nut character that counters the peach driven fruit profile perfectly.  I just tasted an Angelice from the early 1970's that was beautiful -- and this wine is poised to follow suit.  Awesome!  Sold in a 375ml bottle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Mar 14, 2017

Tesnatee River Winery and Meadery, American (United States) Dry Mead “Allison Family Reserve” 2020 ($50):  Mead is enjoying a renaissance in the states, and it’s got to be fun to have such a wide open, experimental tack to take.  The honey wine here gets a spice boost from some time in oak, and the mix of vanilla, nutmeg and honey is surprisingly attractive aromatically.  The dry style works beautifully.  Count me in!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.     
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Wollersheim, American (United States) Seyval Blanc "Prairie Fume" 2017 ($10):  I love this wine!   It’s a testament to what can be done with a hybrid grape when you get the sugar level just right.  It’s crisp, refreshing, lively, and bright, with lemon, lime, racy acidity and a blooming finish that’ll make you want to finish the bottle.  Fun!   A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
93 Rich Cook Jun 5, 2018

Cedar Creek, American (United States) Riesling "Waterfall" 2017 ($9):  A delightful off-dry Riesling that shows apricot and tangerine aromas and flavors, with freshening acidity that keeps it all lively through a long finish.  There’s a richness to the texture that’s very attractive -- and the price isn’t so bad either.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
92 Rich Cook Jun 12, 2018

Villa Bellezza, American (United States) "Petit Blanc" 2016 ($15):  Here is a tasty blend of Prairie Star and Edelweiss that delivers pleasant citrus, peach and soft spice in a just off-dry style that makes for an easy drinking porch pounder.  Don't let the bubble gum note in the nose fool you -- this is serious wine.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 92 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Barefoot, American (United States) Pinot Grigio NV ($7):  Here is a perfect wine to spring on your wine shy friends that explains what the process of turning grapes into wine on a large scale can do.  A forward sweet lemon lime nose leads to a dry palate with mixed citrus flavors, refreshing acidity and a touch of residual sugar that brightens the fruit without offending.  The finish is crisp and mouthwatering, and certainly begs another sip.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.  
91 Rich Cook Jan 28, 2020

Barefoot, American (United States) “Peach Fruitscato” NV ($7):  The product name tells the whole story of this fizzy sweet poolside pleasure for those who like a sweet drink.  There are cocktail possibilities here as well – there’s fun in experimentation!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.          
91 Rich Cook Oct 4, 2021

Barefoot, American (United States) Pinot Grigio NV ($7):  I have to give a wine its due when it is available nationwide, sells at a price anyone can afford, and can please just about anyone who raises a glass of it to their nose.  This is a thirst quenching, varietally correct large production triumph.  And yes, I would drink it!       
91 Rich Cook Jun 1, 2021

Cooper's Hawk, American (United States) Gewurztraminer NV ($17):  Cooper's Hawk scores big wins with its non-vintage wines with some regularity, and it struck again with a platinum award at the 2016 Critics Challenge with this slightly sweet but well-balanced gewurztraminer. This gewurz shows notes of honeysuckle, rose petal and fall spice.
91 Robert Whitley Mar 22, 2016

Hocking Hills Winery, American (United States) Sauvignon Blanc 2021 ($25):   If Sauvignon Blanc has an elegant side, this wine is leaning hard in that direction.  The varietal markers are here -- lemon, freshly cut grass, melon, stony minerality -- but they’re dialed back beautifully, each element speaking clearly without shouting.  The finish is cleansing and subtle, with a burst of citrus at the end.  Nicely realized by Hocking Hills Winery's winemaker Ryan Scott -- in Ohio!       
91 Rich Cook Jul 12, 2022

Sweet Tulip, American (United States) Moscato NV ($7):  A highly successful rendition of Moscato at an eminently reasonable price, this is vividly floral and quite sweet, but still fresh and energetic thanks to a citrus streak that extends through the wine’s finish.  Perfect for summer sipping, and quite a deal at this price.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
91 Michael Franz Apr 3, 2018

Cedar Creek Winery, American (United States) Pinot Grigio 2016 ($10): Especially when considered in light of its $10 price tag, this is a wine that should be causing some sleepless nights among vintners in the north-east of Italy.  It is instantly recognizable as Pinot Grigio on account of its light color, faint floral aromas, light weight, slight spritz, and lively acidity.  But with that noted, it is not just a cookie-cutter rendition, as it offers a lot more flavor than its standard-issue Italian counterparts.  More sweetness too, one must acknowledge, but the wine is still well balanced and very tasty.  Platinum Award winner at the 2017 San Diego Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
90 Michael Franz Apr 4, 2017

Flipflop, American (United States) Riesling NV ($7): If you know where to look, you can find small lots of wine from multiple vintages that might not be much on their own, but when blended skillfully can make a great wine at a great price.  This one is like a fresh apricot pie, with baked fruit and spice riding on zippy acidity that keeps you coming back for more.  Available everywhere.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Monterey International Wine Competition.
90 Rich Cook Mar 15, 2016

Wollersheim Winery, American (United States) Seyval Blanc “Prairie Fumé” 2018 ($10):  This juicy, slightly spritzy, faintly sweet wine offers just about as much fun as one could enjoy legally.  The nose is faintly floral, and the fruit notes recall ripe pear and while melon with a refreshing squeeze of citrus around the edges.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge.   
90 Michael Franz Apr 9, 2019

Wollersheim Winery, American (United States) Seyval "Prairie Fumé" 2016 ($10):  One of the world's unique wines, and a winner every vintage.  Sourced from New York vineyards, it's a crisp, clean off-dry refresher that you just can't put down.  Lemon, lime, melon, pineapple and a stony mineral core delight, with a touch for residual sugar brightening the fruit flavors without intruding.  I always love running across a bottle. 88 Rich Cook Nov 7, 2017

Villa Bellezza, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) "Dolce" White Wine 2016 ($24):  Here's to the existence of continuing adventures and undiscovered pleasures in the wine world, as presented in this gorgeous glass of crisp dessert.   It's a blend of Edelweiss and Brianna, and it really works at its eight percent sugar level, with racy acidity carrying flavors of spiced peach, pineapple and sweet lemon off into the distance.   For dessert, just present an elegant glass of this with no accompaniment.  Very satisfying.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Villa Bellezza, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) Dolce White Wine 2015 ($22): This sumptuous dessert wine from the largest AVA in the US is made up of 80% Edelweiss and 20% Brianna. You may not know those grapes, but you should know this wine. It's very subtle on the nose, but explosive in flavor, with bright lemon lime and a bit of tangerine carried on vibrant acidity and finishing clean and long.  This may be hard to find, but that's part of the fun, yes?  Sold in a 375ml bottle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 15, 2016

Villa Bellezza, Upper Mississippi River Valley (United States) La Crescent 2016 ($21):  Native American and hybrid varieties are always a treat to taste -- they are something quite different, but can be as pleasant to drink as anything else when made well.  Villa Bellezza has been making very interesting wines from the largest domestic AVA for some time now, and this moderately sweet white wine features loquat and spice aromas and flavors, with emphasis on the spice in the finish that would pair well with salads or mild appetizers.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 
92 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

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Arizona:

Red:

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Syrah 2017 ($37):  One of the things I look for in wines from a newer region that are labeled as a single variety is that they can easily be identified as such, even though regional character may skew things a little bit.  This wine is clearly Syrah, showing black and blue berries, a savory meaty note and mild dried herb hints. This is very nicely realized, with zippy acidity and nice black and blue push in the finish.  Contains 17% Viognier.        
93 Rich Cook Sep 14, 2021

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Graciano “Limited Production” 2019 ($46): I will confess to not having tasted a great number of Graciano bottlings, but the few in my recollection inventory show this to be a fine example.  It is juicy and full bodied, with notes of wilting rose, plum, mulling spice and medium plus oak toast.  A moderate grip in the finish props up good integration of flavors.  It’s a natural for grilled burgers or seared steaks.  Contains 1% Petit Verdot.         
91 Rich Cook Jun 7, 2022

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Petite Sirah 2014 ($29):  “Subtle” and “Petite Sirah” aren't words often used in the same sentence, but here we go with this wine from Arizona.  All the character you expect is here, with black and blue berries, plum, pepper and soft spice joined by easy vanilla.  All the elements ride bright acidity through a satisfying finish where the spice dances in lingering fashion.  Arizona -- sounds like road trip time. 91 Rich Cook Jan 16, 2018

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Graciano 2018 ($37):  The folks at Aridus are making some strides with their high elevation vineyard management as evidenced by this tasty Graciano.  If you are a fan of Petite Sirah, you’ll love the aggressive tannins, pepper spice and black fruit.  It’s quite ripe, but it’s working just fine.  Serve with your heartiest beef dish and bliss out!         
90 Rich Cook Sep 14, 2021

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Grenache 2016 ($40):  I’ve written about this producer before, and they continue to impress with solid wines that, while outside what we think of as the norm, come across with a delicious flair.  This Grenache delivers ripe strawberry fruit girded by chocolate, fall spice and toasty oak, and it finishes with sweet oak giving the fruit a nice push and making a little white pepper pop brightly.  It’s at peak now.   Put this tasty Arizona wine in your next blind tasting and watch the eyebrows rise.    
90 Rich Cook Mar 9, 2021

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Syrah 2016 ($37):  Well-made Syrah from winemaker Lisa Strid, who has embraced the high desert’s possibilities and not tried to force a wine into being something it isn’t meant to be.  There’s an intriguing crushed asphalt note on the nose that joins black fruit, pepper and brown spice.  All the elements play nicely on the palate, and the finish leaves a dusty mineral impression.  If this is an early example of what’s possible in the region, you can expect to hear more from there soon!  
90 Rich Cook Apr 23, 2019

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Mourvedre 2016 ($37): An elegantly extracted Mourvedre, picked at a nice ripeness level that allows a red fruit and spice expression with hints of tar and menthol adding interest.   Try this where you might normally serve a bolder Pinot Noir, but want a slightly different, more subtle shade of spice. 
90 Rich Cook Apr 23, 2019

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Malbec 2015 ($37):  Those used to the bold, sassy Malbec from the southern hemisphere will find a surprise in this bottle, where a more subtle glass awaits.  It's quite soft, with moderate acidity and soft tannins, but it's long on flavor, with blackberry, brown sugar and spice mingling gently together, and finishing with sweet oak spice coming forward.  I'd try mild cheeses or a simple steak to bring out the best here.
89 Rich Cook Jan 16, 2018

Southwest Wine Center, Clarkdale (Arizona) “Savor” 2019 ($32):  Arizona now boasts more than 120 wineries, and production has significantly increased over the last decade.  So, it is not surprising that the state boasts an enology and viticulture training center to help meet the demands of the rapidly expanding industry.  The Southwest Wine Center, owned and operated by Yavapai College in Clarksdale, serves as an incubator of student talent and provides a tasting room for guests to sample students’ efforts.  Stand-out efforts include the 2019 “Savor," a concentrated blend of Sangiovese (56 percent), Cabernet (35 percent), and Tannat (9 percent).  This savory wine exhibits the smooth, juicy plum fruit of Sangiovese, the structure and earthy, herbal notes of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the depth and firm (yet integrated) tannic structure of Tannat.  It is already drinking beautifully but will offer several more years of sheer pleasure.         
91 Miranda Franco Sep 20, 2022

Merkin Vineyards, Wilcox (Arizona) Buhl Memorial Vineyard “Tarzan Red” 2021 ($38):   While it may be one of the U.S.’s younger wine regions, Arizona is producing serious wine.  Thanks to the recommendation of WineReviewOnline columnist Jessica Dupuy, author of Wines of Southwest U.S.A., I visited a tasting room in Vedre Valley last week with three dear college girlfriends on a reunion trip.  The tasting room, Merkin Osteria, highlights a rotating selection of wines from Maynard James Keenan, one of Arizona's leading industry champions and the frontman for the band Tool.  His Merkin Vineyards Tarzan Red (85% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha) oozes with jammy blackberry, blueberry, plum, anise, and a hint of baking spice.  It is inviting on the palate with a good depth of acidity that provides balance and exhibits a delicate backbone of velvety tannins.  This is killer stuff the likes of which perhaps only a rock star could produce.              
91 Miranda Franco Sep 20, 2022

Rosé:

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Rosé 2016 ($29):  A new player on the scene from an unusual locale, and one worth watching.  Winemaker Lisa Strid blends Mourvedre and Grenache in this rosé that features lively strawberry and stonefruit aromas and flavors, with a medium-bodied texture along pepper and grass accents.  A fine fit when you want something lively yet carrying a little weight.  Try it with a green salad with Gorgonzola crumbles.
89 Rich Cook Jan 2, 2018

White:

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Sauvignon Blanc 2020 ($28):  The 2020 Sauvignon Blanc from Ardus is a completely different wine than the previous vintage, but also quite delicious in its own right.  Melon, soft citrus notes, and a dash of grassy character work together in crisp harmony, and some pink grapefruit comes forward in the finish giving a sweet kiss to the ending.  I could drink this all day.           
92 Rich Cook Sep 14, 2021

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($28): If I poured you this wine blind and asked you to tell me where it was from, I imagine Arizona wouldn’t be the first place to come to mind.  A glass of this will change your mind about trying new things thanks to zesty Meyer lemon fruit, stony minerality and zippy acidity that gives the finish a bright push.  It’s lip-smackingly delicious, with perceptible but balanced sweetness. and since I just received the 2020 vintage, it may already be gone.  Bravo!  Contains 1% Picpoul Blanc.         
90 Rich Cook Sep 14, 2021

Aridus, Arizona (United States) “Field Blend White Wine” 2017 ($28):  A crisp white blend reminiscent of Italian whites like Orvieto, which makes its domestic desert southwest origin all the more remarkable.  It’s very dry and crisp, with pear, peach and apple aromas and flavors wrapped around a wet stone core.  A fine seafood accompaniment or a green salad suitor. 
90 Rich Cook Mar 26, 2019

Aridus, Arizona (United States) Viognier “Limited Production” 2019 ($35):  You might not expect Arizona to deliver textbook Viognier characteristics of honeysuckle and stone fruit with gentle spice tones, but it would be worth your while to round up a bottle of this to have those expectations defied.  A combination of neutral and once-used oak, stainless steel and sandstone jar aging make this a multi faceted affair that you are sure to enjoy.  I’m tasting more and more good things from the state.     
89 Rich Cook Jun 7, 2022

Pillsbury Wine Company, Cochise County (Arizona) Viognier 2012 ($24): It's not every day that I get to enthusiastically recommend a wine from Arizona, but here goes:  This Viognier shows floral, white peach, lime and soft spice aromas.  On the palate, it's viscous, soft, very well balanced, showing a rich yet calm style, delivering on the promise of the nose with nice tropical noted forward in the blooming finish.  This comes from high elevation vineyards in southwestern Arizona -- sounds like road trip time!
90 Rich Cook Jun 14, 2016

Deep Sky Vineyard, Willcox (Arizona) Viognier “Aurora” 2020 ($22):  I continue to be encouraged by what I am tasting out of Arizona of late.  Deep Sky Vineyard's Aurora Viognier hits all the varietal aromatic markers of honeysuckle, stone fruit and spice, and the palate delivers on the promise of the nose with good viscosity and bright acidity.  Citrus zest and a dash of green herb make for a clean finish and add complexity.  Don’t serve this too cold – you will miss some of its nuances.  Nicely done!       
91 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2022

Callaghan Vineyards, Willcox (Arizona) Petit Manseng "Greg's" 2016 ($35):  A friend sent me this bottle to try as I’ve reviewed some Arizona wines positively in the past.  Petit Manseng is a super-acidic variety that can get very ripe without losing its bright edge, as is the case with this wine.  To achieve a balanced wine, this gets to 15.5 percent alcohol, but doesn’t come off hot or out of whack in any way, showing peach, pear and spiced apple flavors that finish bright and dry with a touch of bitters adding interest.  Well done!  
90 Rich Cook May 21, 2019

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California:

Red:

Baileyana, (Edna Valley) Pinot Noir Firepeak 2017 ($30):   A hat trick for this wine, with top awards at both Monterey International and The Toast of The Coast in 2019 preceding this award.  Always a great bottle of Pinot Noir, with a great mix of red and black cherry fruit, damp earth, soft spice and great acidity to carry it all.  This is a go-to wine when you want a medium bodied red wine with spice and depth.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
94 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2019

Dutton Goldfield, (Russian River Valley) Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch / Freestone Hill 2007 ($58):

Just another basic everyday Pinot Noir from the folks at Dutton Goldfield. Ho hum! Would that every Pinot producer could produce at such a high level on an everyday basis, but Dutton Goldfield is in a league of its own now, having ripped off spectacular Pinot after spectacular Pinot for the past five, six years or so. Ho hum, indeed. This spicy blockbuster from Dutton Ranch and the Freestone Hill Vineyard is bold and powerful, with firm tannins on the back end that may need some time to soften. But it’s loaded with layers of red and black fruits, is well balanced and will likely develop beautifully over the next year or two.

93 Robert Whitley Jul 7, 2009

Lost Angel, (California) 'Mischief' 2008 ($10): There’s a lot going on here, most notably the mix of different grapes involved in making this red wine, including Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab Franc, Syrah, and Sangiovese. The result is a medium-bodied wine that is a lot more stylish than one might expect for the price, with its chunky, dark-fruit flavors, and a trace of spice and dustiness on the finish. Unlike so many moderately priced California reds “Mischief” does not overwhelm with sweetness.
88 Marguerite Thomas Sep 25, 2012

Hahn Estates, (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($14): This Cabernet shows impressively deep color and flavor for a wine priced at this level, and the ripe flavors are true to the place but also sufficiently reserved and serious to display a fidelity to this noble grape. Blackberry notes lead the way on both the nose and palate, with just a little smoky oak as a sidelight. Tasty and stylish, this is a winner at a great price. 87 Michael Franz Jan 3, 2006

Kendall-Jackson, (United States) Pinot Noir "Vintner's Reserve" 2004 ($14): This wine is light and admirably delicate, with real Pinot character from fresh, bright cherry fruit with nice little sidelights of spice and smoke. Very well made, and a real contender at this price, with none of the chunky, candied obviousness that separates winning Pinots from the losers in this range. Can you get better Pinot for $14 than this? Probably not, and even then, only with lots of searching and very good luck, whereas this should be reasonably easy to find. 87 Michael Franz Oct 11, 2005

Herzog, Edna Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2005 ($26): Herzog has fashioned a Kosher Pinot Noir with delicacy and class.  Don't let its lightish color deceive you, because it packs plenty of spiced, strawberry-like flavors. 86 Michael Apstein Sep 4, 2007

Pilcrow, Mt. Veeder - Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Hillwalker Vineyard 2019 ($125):  Pilcrow was founded by winemakers Sara and Jonah Beer, and is their nod to those who created some of Napa Valley’s most iconic wines from the 1960s through the 1980s.  Their 2019 Mt. Veeder Hillwalker Cabernet Sauvignon opens with fragrant crushed blueberries, plum skin, and aromas of violet, black olive, and crushed rocks.  This is elegant, fine, and fresh, possessing great poise and finishing on a lingering mineral note.  This has instant appeal, although it will likely evolve nicely over the next decade and could easily outperform many Bordeaux Grand Cru Classés.     
94 Miranda Franco Sep 13, 2022

PasoPort Wine Company, Adelaida District (Paso Robles) Touriga Nacional 'Per Caso' 2013 ($49): Touriga Nacional isn't widely planted in the United States, perhaps because it is closely identified with sweet Port wine. But dry table wines made from Touriga are growing in popularity in Portugal, a trend that would seem to be a natural for California's Mediterranean climate. If this beauty from the PasoPort Wine Company is any indication, more California vintners should be planting this grape. The Per Caso is a stunning red that offers layerd aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and black currant, with a subtle note of cedar and graphite and surprisingly smooth, seductive tannins.  A platinum award-winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
97 Robert Whitley Jan 31, 2017

PasoPort Wine Company, Adelaida District (Paso Robles, California) Per Caso Iberian Blend 2013 ($49): You may not realize that there are some great dry red wines coming from Portugal's Douro region, a place famed for its fortified Porto.  I've gotten to taste several and found them quite satisfying.  Now imagine my surprise in finding one I like even better that comes from an unexpected source - Paso Robles' new Adelaida District sub-appellation.  An amazingly complex blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cao and Souzao, it features vibrant cherry, vanilla, anise, blackberry and sweet tobacco aromas and flavors, followed by a blooming finish that intensifies the flavors and lingers with intrigue.  Great acidity keeps it all singing.  A spectacular start to tasting at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. This wine was awarded a Platinum medal.
97 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Lusso Della Terra, Adelaida District (Paso Robles, California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2013 ($52): Leave it to a blind judging to "expose" a stellar wine from an unexpected region. This wine shows all the depth and complexity that you'd expect from California areas well known for the variety, with aromas of roses, cherry, talc, subtle dry earth and mellow fall spice.  The palate really delivers on the promise of the nose, with lively food friendly acidity and good grip that keeps things integrated through a long complex finish.  No doubt this will get some Adelaida District neighbors to look at planting more Pinot Noir.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2016

Thacher, Adelaida District (Paso Robles, California) 'Original Copy' 2013 ($56):  This is nominally a “Right Bank” Bordeaux-style blend, leaning heavily on the Cabernet Franc grape (40 percent) with the balance Malbec (39 percent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (21 percent).  It shows what Cabernet Franc can be in a warm climate that can promote full ripeness.   Richly layered, this full-bodied red show aromas of blackberry, plum, spice and mocha, with supple tannins that suggest immediate consumption. Warm and generous on the palate, this is a genuine crowd-pleaser.  

93 Robert Whitley Jul 10, 2018

Thacher, Adelaida District (Paso Robles, California) “Original Copy” 2013 ($56):  A ripe, dense blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon that doesn’t cross the line into the raisin zone and keeps its heat in check with vibrant black cherry, fall spice and a zesty fresh finish that blooms with sweet oak.  A big grilling partner for a rack of ribs or other beefy dishes. 
92 Rich Cook Jul 31, 2018

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District (Paso Robles, California) Syrah 2013 ($34): A bit riper than previous vintages, this Syrah shows a bold fruit forward nose, with mixed berry fruit joined by notes of meat, pepper and damp earth.  It's plush and sexy, with nice acidity for this much palate weight, and brings some orange zest and pepper up in finish.  This will find plenty of fans.
91 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Giornata Wines, Adelaida District - Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Nebbiolo 2019 ($50):  Located in the northwestern corner of Paso Robles, Adelaida was “discovered” in the 1970s and singled out for its rolling hills and calcareous, limestone soils.  Early on it seemed suited to Pinot Noir, but today its reputation rests with the success of both Bordeaux and Rhône varieties.  Nowadays Giornata is making a strong case for Italian grapes.  Nebbiolo was the winery’s debut wine in 2005 and the learning curve has been steady.  This 2019 is sleek and impressive.  Fermented with native yeasts, it was aged for two years in neutral oak.  It was also given a lengthy post-fermentation maceration on its skins.  As it opens in the glass, this wine shows dark fruit and licorice aromas with a touch of leather.  Medium bodied, it remains lively on the palate and has cherry fruit, light chalky tannins and definite acidity.  Overall, it is youthfully tight but beautifully balanced.      
94 Norm Roby Nov 15, 2022

Giornata Wines, Adelaida District - Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Sangiovese 2019 ($40):  on the Brunello clone, Giornata’s Sangiovese is aged 22 months in neutral French oak and keeps its focus on the grape’s vitality.  The winemaker remarks that “foot-stomping and extended maceration facilitate the gentle extraction of color and tannin from the small berried Sangiovese clones that comprise this lot.”  Its color is a dark garnet and the aroma is a charming mix of ripe black fruit, tea leaf and dried herbs.  On the plate it comes alive with fresh strawberry and savory fruit flavors and the texture is plush.  With some tannin poking through in the finish, it remains bright with its balancing acidity.  Its lingering finish gets you thinking about food possibilities.     
92 Norm Roby Nov 15, 2022

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) "Ancestor" Estate Reserve 2016 ($60):  A stellar vintage for this bottling -- and that’s saying something about this Bordeaux styled blend that’s always a treat.  This vintage is Cabernet Sauvignon forward, with great acidity that tempers the palate weight and keeps the blackberry, currants and fall spice vibrant from start to finish.  This Ancestor is forming a pedigreed line of its own.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($40):  Bold Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, as you might expect, but one with nuance and structure for aging.  Blackberry, cassis, fall spice, gentle oak toast, supple tannins and a blown-out finish that integrates everything even at this young age.  I’d cellar this a while.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) "Esprit de Tablas" 2016 ($60):  It’s an ongoing mystery that domestic red Rhone-style blends are not more popular, particularly given the remarkable success of Tablas Creek.  The Paso Robles winery has an impressive track record with the Rhone grapes, i.e., Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, etc.  The epitome of each vintage for Tablas is typically its Esprit de Tables blend and the 2016 is a beauty.  This vintage is heavy on the Mourvedre (46 percent) with Syrah, Grenache and Counoise in support roles.  This brilliant wine exhibits exceptional fruit purity with notes of sweet red currant, plum and spice.  A gentle savory note adds complexity.  Ready to drink now but built to last, I wouldn’t hesitate to cellar this wine another five to eight years. 
95 Robert Whitley Jan 29, 2019

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) “CDP” 2016 ($35):   A tightly wound GSM that is showing great promise for aging.  Firm tannins hold up cherry, pepper and spice on the palate, where the future is just starting to give us a glimpse of what’s to come.   I’d go for a case here and open one every six months to enjoy its evolution.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 12, 2019

Halter Ranch, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) Syrah 2017 ($42):  You can always depend on Halter Ranch for structured wines that also satisfy near term.  This Syrah’s black and blue fruit notes get a push from layered spice and gentle oak that support rather than overtake.  I like it now, and I’ll love it in about five years.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Monterey International Wine Competition.     
94 Rich Cook Mar 30, 2021

Brecon Estate, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (California) Petit Verdot 2018 ($62):  Here is a Petite Verdot for fans of dark roast coffee that doesn’t cross over into the burnt zone.  Juicy black fruit gets the coffee treatment thanks to judiciously selected charred oak, and it makes for a style that will cut through bold sauces or spicy dishes.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
93 Rich Cook Mar 30, 2021

Brecon Estate, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Mourvedre 2016 ($42):  A deep nose of cherry and raspberry invites further exploration here, with nuanced dry earth notes joining in the second layer.  The palate is soft on entry, but gets a quick acid pop to prop the fruit and earth up nicely.  Well folded oak toast adds interest, and the finish lingers with good integration.  An excellent dinner companion when dinner includes a first class cut of beef.  
91 Rich Cook Jul 23, 2019

Tablas Creek Vineyard, Adelaida District, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Grenache 2020 ($35):  Most of the Grenache grown in the Tablas Creek’s estate biodynamic vineyard goes into its Rhône-style blends, and with its varietal Grenache, the winery aims to emphasize a bright fruit, moderate alcohol and fresh style.  Aging takes place in large, neutral, 1,200 gallon oak foudres.  The color is a light red, and the aroma is a pretty cranberry with light spice.  Light- to medium-bodied, it delivers plenty of bright berry flavors laced with suggestions of cherry and licorice.  On the plate, the acidity asserts itself in the fresh, lengthy finish.  Though the winery suggests it can be cellared, it has minimal tannin and strikes me as a wine to enjoy over the next year or two for its delicacy and freshness.       
91 Norm Roby Aug 9, 2022

Archimedes, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($90): This is one of the finest Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignons you are likely to find, an impressive effort from a stunning vintage and an up-and-coming producer. Richly layered with aromas of red and black fruits, the 2013 Archimedes delivers heft and power without losing elegance. The palate is plush, with silky tannins, and the warmth and spiciness of the oak is an enhancement rather than a distraction. This magnificent wine was awarded Platinum at the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 98 Robert Whitley May 30, 2017

Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyard 2016 ($100):  Winemaker Steve Ledson has his namesake winery firing on all cylinders these days.  Witness this awe-inspiring Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma’s Alexander Valley.  Richly layered, the Cab from Ledson’s Alexander Valley estate vineyard offers remarkable depth and impressive complexity.  With notes of cassis and blackberry and firm tannins, it has the structure to improve with age over the next decade or more although perfectly enjoyable right now.  What’s most impressive is that it’s just another hit in a long line of hits from Ledson over the past few years.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
98 Robert Whitley Oct 1, 2019

Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Estate Vineyard 2016 ($120): Ledson's estate vineyard in the Alexander Valley has become a force in the California Cabernet world. It's latest scalp taken was the Wine of the Year award at the 2020 Winemaker Challenge in San Diego. Just a few months prior, a Cab produced by the same vineyard was similarly honored at the Sommelier Challenge in San Diego. The 2016 Reserve exhibits impressive richness and depth without losing the essence of elegance that is essential in great wines. Remarkably complex, the Reserve delivers a layered palate of rich, dark fruits with a generous does of wood spice, a touch of graphite and beautifully integrated tannins for a smooth ride into the sunset.  
98 Robert Whitley Jan 28, 2020

Archimedes, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($75): This vintage of Archimedes exhibits the telltale richness and power of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon without losing the suppleness and sensual mouth-feel that is typical for the region. Showing layers of red and black currant and blackberry fruit, it has heft and complexity with freshness, making for an elegant Cabernet to drink now but with the potential to age gracefully over the next 20 years.  Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
97 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Archimedes, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($90):   This is one of the finest expressions of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon you will ever taste.  This massive, powerful is richly layered and borderline decadent without losing that most elusive element of elegance that separates great Cabernet Sauvignon from the merely very good.  Showing aromas of blackberry and cassis with hints of cedar and graphite, it is a towering achievement for Archimedes.   A platinum award-winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
97 Robert Whitley May 29, 2018

Dutcher Crossing, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Syrah Hidden Hill Vineyard 2014 ($43): If more domestic Syrah tasted like this, there would be a run on the grape. Dutcher Crossing has it dialed in with its 2014 Hidden Hill Vineyard Syrah from Alexander Valley. Pretty fruit aromas of blueberry, boysenberry and currant are complemented by the well-measured use of oak that lends just a hint of wood spice and virtually no bitter wood tannin. The balance is exquisite, and the finish is long and sensual. A Platinum award-winner at the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 96 Robert Whitley May 30, 2017

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Tresor" 2002 ($48): Sometimes there is even great value at the high end of your wine purchasing options. Without a doubt, one of the finest California red Meritage wines vintage after vintage is Ferrari-Carano's Tresor. This particular Meritage incorporates all five of the major Bordeaux red grape varieries - Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot - in the blend. The 2002 vintage is a remarkable wine; rich, lush and beautifully layered, a wine that will continue to evolve and improve over the next decade or so. The black fruit aromas and spice notes are as intense and inviting as anything a Napa Valley Meritage can offer, but without the Napa Valley price. But it's not as though the Alexander Valley is Podunk. This is one of the three or four most revered growing areas in the United States for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. So even at 48 smackeroos, this wine is a veritable steal. 96 Robert Whitley Oct 10, 2006

Goldschmidt Vineyard, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Yoeman Vineyard 2014 ($75):  This gorgeous Cabernet is a stellar representation of Alexander Valley, fleshy and full in feel, with a rich mix a black and red berry fruit, soft herb notes and a long finish with great push and integration.  It’s going to be hard to keep your hands off it near term, but it will continue to increase its pleasure factor over the next ten years plus.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
96 Rich Cook Oct 2, 2018

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($58):  I’ve reviewed several vintages of this bottling, always with favorable results. That said, this one might be my favorite to date.  It sings of Alexander Valley, with red fruit and fall spice forward initially, and eventually opens in the glass to show a full spectrum berry profile, with supple structure and amazing length.  That layered presentation is made possible by gentle oak enhancement and lively, age-worthy acidity.  The house elegance is in full bloom here!     
96 Rich Cook Dec 15, 2020

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Franc Estate 2014 ($28): This underrated grape variety suffers from the mistaken notion that it makes green and weedy wines. That might be true in the Loire Valley, but California Cabernet Franc generally benefits from the California sunshine and ripens beautifully. This Alexander Valley Vineyards Cab Franc is lush and inviting, with pretty red fruits and spice and exceptional length on the palate. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Robert Whitley Sep 20, 2016

Archimedes, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($120):  This brilliantly crafted Cabernet Sauvignon has the trademark ripeness of the Alexander Valley without going over to the sweet, flabby side.  Rich and fleshy, with aromas of blackberry and cassis, a note of pencil lead and cedar, and a mere hint of oak vanillin, it is the Alexander Valley at its finest.  Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
95 Robert Whitley Jul 14, 2020

Archimedes, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($120):  This stellar offering comes from the Francis Ford Coppola stable.  Acidity and minerality lead off, and are followed by mature red and black fruits.  Tight tannins support it all, giving a comprehensive presentation of all the elements.  With another great vintage, it’s a wine that’s gathering an impressive track record.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
95 Michael Cervin Jul 7, 2020

Carol Shelton, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Wallstrum Vineyard “Wally Zin” 2019 ($34):  Zinfandel icon Carol Shelton is always on the lookout for interesting new sites, and I’m always thankful when a new one crosses my path.  This finds the perfect middle ground between serious claret style and fanciful forward fruit.  The focus here is raspberry, fall spice and lively acidity that keeps the flavor coming.  Carol gets a good amount of recognition, but I’ll say that still it is not enough.  Brava!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2022 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.         
95 Rich Cook Feb 8, 2022

Carol Shelton Wines, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Carignane Oat Valley Vineyard 2014 ($28): Carol Shelton is one of the few winemakers with a solid commitment to Carignane, and she really treats it with the same love and care she gives all her wines.  This vintage shows her favored style, with bright red plum, raspberry and spice, with notes of leaf and faint dust adding layers of interest.  Supple grip keeps it all together through the lingering, blooming finish.  Class up your grilling with a bottle of this!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Mar 14, 2017

Costa Azul, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($58):  Winemaker Chris Van Alyea reaches north with his Costa Azul label, one of three that he serves at Solterra Winery and Kitchen in Leucadia.  This is real deal Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, with lightly peppered red and black berry fruit, soft oak toast and a hint of char that gives the berries a push.  Freshening acidity gives the finish a zesty pop, making it suitable for pairings from bold tapas to rich beef preps.  It will age well.  Get a case and drink one a year to observe and enjoy its evolution.       
95 Rich Cook May 31, 2022

Delorimier Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 'Kenneth Carl Reserve' 2011 ($150): Marvelously complete and complex, this wine shows layered aromatics, excellent depth of flavor, and a world-class finish that involves innumerable little nuances.  The color is impressively dark (especially for the vintage), and the wine’s density is likewise quite notable, yet there’s no hint of over-extraction and nothing that comes off as overblown at any point in the sensory sequence.  Sweet but also spicy and savory, with medium body but plenty of punch and persistence, this is an object lesson in balance and integration.  Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 95 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2015

En Garde, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Malbec 2013 ($38): In a blind duel of Malbecs from all over the world, En Garde comes out on top with this savory wine.  Black fruit, oak spice, meat and subtle soy sauce are balanced beautifully, staying integrated all the way through the long finish.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Francis Ford Coppola, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Director’s Cut" 2018 ($34):  The Alexander Valley of Sonoma County has long been known for the quality of its red wines.  Its inland setting is further from the coastal fogs and allows more sunshine on the vineyards.  Coppola’s 2018 Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon is a lovely blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon with small amounts of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petite Sirah.  The aromas show black currant, blackberry and black cherry fruit backed by hints of lavender, vanilla and baking spice.  It has a full texture on the palate and offers layers of pure black fruits interwoven with floral, vanilla and spice tones.  It’s a delicious blend at a great price.      
95 Wayne Belding Mar 29, 2022

Jackson Estate, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkeye Mountain 2012 ($55): One of the finest wines in the Kendall-Jackson portfolio, the Hawkeye Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is the complete cabernet, showing layers of red and black fruit, beautifully integrated tannins that lend a dynamic mouthfeel, with notes of woodsmoke and spice in the background and a touch of earthy minerality. A triumph for K-J winemaker Randy Ullom.
95 Robert Whitley May 10, 2016

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($55): My favorite Alexander Valley producer strikes again with this elegant bottling.  It's quite bright, with blackberry and black cherry flooding your senses and joined by fall spice, and the slightest hint of dried herbs.  Is fabulous right now, but don't let that keep you from cellaring some for ten or more years.  Contains 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.
95 Rich Cook May 17, 2016

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($55):  From an exceptional vintage, the 2012 Jordan is an impressive wine that delivers layered aromas of blackberry and cassis, with a wood note of cedar and a hint of oak spice on the finish. Beautifully balanced, it combines power and grace and is likely to improve with age over the next 15 years or more.
95 Robert Whitley May 10, 2016

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($55): My favorite Alexander Valley producer strikes again with this elegant bottling.  It's quite bright, with blackberry and black cherry flooding your senses and joined by fall spice, and the slightest hint of dried herbs.  Is fabulous right now, but don't let that keep you from cellaring some for ten or more years.  Contains 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.  A Platinum Award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Sep 27, 2016

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($55): Jordan consistently makes a beautifully graceful Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2012 is even more so, full-flavored, yet elegant with a suave texture.  Although a mouth-filling wine, it is not heavy.  It impresses with its elegance and complexity, not brute force.  Layers of red and black fruit flavors intermingle with herbal earthy notes.  It displays exceptional complexity and length.  A hallmark of the Jordan’s Cabernets is the enjoyment they provide upon release.  The 2012 fits that mold perfectly.  But don’t be deceived; Jordan’s Cabernets develop beautifully with decades of bottle age, so there’s no rush to drink the 2012.
95 Michael Apstein Aug 16, 2016

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($55): This wine has become a benchmark for Alexander Valley Cabernet, and to be able to get it at this price is a treat that you shouldn't miss.  Blackberry, red currant, mildly chalky tannins, soft spice and very soft dried herb notes are harmonious now and promise to deepen and gain elegance with cellar time.  You'll want some of this around ten years from now when equivalent value will cost a lot more.  Contains 15.5% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 1.5% Malbec and 0.5% Cabernet Franc.
95 Rich Cook Jul 25, 2017

Jordan, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($52):  Jordan has been known for finesse-filled wines since their first release, the 1976 Cabernet Sauvignon, in 1980. Winemaker Rob Davis and owners Tom and Sally Jordan have never veered from that style despite the movement toward riper, more massive Cabernet by most of the California wine industry.  Their lush 2007 fits that mold.  Gorgeous aromas of fruit and earth leap from the glass. Layer after layer of red and black fruit flavors, delicate spice, and cedar notes follow, without assaulting the palate. Silky, polished tannins allow this wine to purr, not growl.  And get this, it’s Jordan’s ripest since 1999, and still weighs in at only 13.8 percent stated alcohol, proving you don’t need super ripe grapes to make great wine. 95 Michael Apstein Aug 9, 2011

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($53): I usually avoid describing something by what it isn’t. But this time, I’ll break my own rule. Jordan’s 2009 Cabernet is not a big, bombastic, overblown and over ripe California Cabernet. Instead it’s restrained yet forcefully flavorful, the style that Jordan has adopted since its inception 40 years ago. With a modest 13.5% stated alcohol, it nonetheless delivers succulent ripe berry notes, offset by spice and savory nuances. It’s long and enticing, inviting you to come back for another sip. It’s a wine you want to drink, not just taste. It was even better the following night after being left open, uncorked, on the counter. In a word, it’s a stylish wine that reminds us that California is a leading producer of great Cabernet.
95 Michael Apstein May 28, 2013

Jordan, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($52): The '06 northern California growing season was on the cooler side, particularly throughout Sonoma County, and that had a profound impact on the red wines of the region. Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, benefited from extremely long "hang time" on the vines, with exceptional flavor development and physiological maturity without straying into the realm of jammy, overripe flavors and aromas. The Jordan Cab is a beautifully structured wine that exhibits firm grip, aromas of blackberry and cassis, with savory backnotes and attractive secondary nuances, such as pencil lead and spice box. The oak is well judged, too. An altogether superb effort from Jordan. Note, too, that the blend is 75 percent Cabernet and 19 percent Merlot, with dollops of Petit Verdot and Malbec — very Bordelais in composition and style. 95 Robert Whitley May 18, 2010

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($58):  Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon has been a California classic for more than four decades yet it surprisingly remains affordably within reach for those wine enthusiasts reluctant or unable to spend $100 or more (sometimes considerably more) for comparable California Cabernet.  The 2016 is an example of prime Jordan, with rich aromas of blackberry and cassis, a strong savory note, subtle oak spice and supple tannins.  And it won’t break the bank.    
95 Robert Whitley Aug 18, 2020

Jordan Vineyard and Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($53): Jordan continues to excel by sticking to the founders’ philosophy of making refined, not blockbuster, Cabernet Sauvignon.  Their 2010 fits that mold beautifully.  The bouquet is explosive, but in the mouth it is restrained and refined, seducing you with polish and persistence, not power.  Lovely black cherry-like notes merge seamlessly with earthy and herbal ones.  The glossy tannins give it even more immediate appeal.  But Jordan’s Cabernets develop beautifully so if you have a cellar, this one, from an outstanding vintage, should be in it.  You’ll be happy in a decade.
95 Michael Apstein Sep 9, 2014

Ledson Winery & Vineyards, Alexander Valley (California) "Tiamo" Red Wine 2016 ($86):  Winemaker Steve Ledson has been on a huge roll the past few vintages and the 2016 Tiamo, a red Bordeaux-style blend, is more of the same.  A cuvee of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Tiamo hits all the right notes within this genre.   Rich and dense, with supple tannins, the 2016 Tiamo shows aromas of cassis, cherry and blackberry, dollop of wood spice and a subtle note of graphite.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.   
95 Robert Whitley Jan 28, 2020

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($35):  A wow Cabernet!  This winery just went through a major remodeling, and I highly recommend a visit when you’re in Napa Valley.  This wine is sourced west of the Mayacamas mountains, and it’s a stunner of a value.  Classic Alexander Valley aromas and flavors shine through a generous structure, and the finish goes on and on.  As the oak continues to integrate this will just get better and better – an extreme pleasure!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($35):  This vintage might well be the finest Martini Alexander Valley cab I've tasted. Martini also produces a Napa Valley cab that outshines this wine, but that would be a tall order in this vintage. The 2013 delivers exceptional ripeness and fruit purity, is beautifully balanced and shows a long, seductive finish with exceptional persistence. The oak is nicely judged, lending a subtle spice note. A platinum award-winner at the San Diego International Wine Challenge.
95 Robert Whitley May 31, 2016

Serene Cellars, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($135):  It’s not just Napa Valley that delivered the goods in 2018.  This beautiful Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon shows the red fruit character that I associate with the appellation, and it’s deeply extracted here, with complementary dried herbs, pepper and dry earth minerality.  Its supple grip keeps the flavors integrated and lingering long.  Here’s to the other side of the mountain!         
95 Rich Cook Apr 5, 2022

Silver Oak, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($75):

 I am a fan of the Silver Oak style, although I'm not entirely sold on the benefit of American oak cooperage for such refined wines. What is brilliant about this wine is the flavor development, despite an alcohol by volume of 13.3 percent, well below the norm in California these days. There are winemakers who will insist the flavors aren't there at the lower levels, and year after year, Silver Oak winemaker Daniel Baron proves them wrong. The 2006 Silver Oak Alexander Valley exhibits aromas of cassis and black cherry, hints of spice and minerality, and is packed with beautifully integrated tannins. It's also a wine for the long haul. Personally, I would cellar it until about 2015.

95 Robert Whitley Nov 30, 2010

Silver Oak, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($75):  I readily admit I am a fan of the Silver Oak style, although I'm not entirely sold on the benefit of American oak cooperage for such refined wines. What is brilliant about this wine, however, is the flavor development despite an alcohol by volume of 13.3 percent, well below the norm in California these days. There are winemakers who will insist the flavors aren't there at the lower levels, and year after year Silver Oak winemaker Daniel Baron proves them wrong. The '06 Silver Oak Alexander Valley exhibits aromas of cassis and black cherry, hints of spice and minerality, and is packed with beautifully integrated tannins. It's also a wine for the long haul. Personally, I would cellar it and not even think about opening a bottle until about 2015. 95 Robert Whitley Nov 2, 2010

V. Sattui, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Franc 2013 ($45): I love winemaking with Cabernet Franc that doesn't try to remove all of the green tones that make it such a useful grape for blending, and lets its Right Bank Bordeaux style shine.  The team at V. Sattui masterfully employs minimal intervention and lets this wine give us bold red fruit, spice, pepper and leaf, moderate grip and a blossoming finish with intensifying flavors.  If you're wanting to show someone what Cabernet Franc is supposed to be, you can't go wrong here.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Monterey International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Mar 8, 2016

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Franc 2015 ($30): Although it's showing its youth with a firm grip, this promises to evolve into a gorgeous expression.  Bright cherry and spice character are prominent up front, but there’s no shying away from the green notes of the grape in how this was grown and crafted, though the fruit, spice and herbal notes are all nicely proportioned.  I'd age this a few years in your cellar or decant long for near term enjoyment.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 6, 2017

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown 2015 ($32):   A wine that really shows its appellation, with signature Alexander Valley red fruit and spice.  Judicious oak use enhances the spice profile, and this bottle could use some additional bottle age to fully integrate the beautiful wood tones.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Rich Cook May 29, 2018

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cyrus 2010 ($65): Cyrus is Alexander Valley Vineyard's top wine, which is apparent from the first sip. With plenty of new oak and a ripe, rich, layered palate, it stands out from the crowd, a Bordeaux blend that offers aromas of ripe cassis and blackberry, mocha and smooth, supple tannins that say drink now.  Platinum award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Jan 20, 2015

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Merlot Wetzel Family Estate 2011 ($20):  A beautiful earth and herb driven Merlot that features aromas of fresh turned field and tobacco leaf in front, with bright cherry and raspberry fruit underneath.  On the palate, the flavors are very well integrated, bring all the promises of the nose to bear, with great structure and weight.  Very impressive, and ready for a nice herb encrusted prime rib.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2014 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Sep 23, 2014

Carol Shelton, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Carignane Oat Valley Vineyard Old Vine 2015 ($28):  I’m always surprised that there aren’t more stand-alone bottlings of this variety when I taste a wine like this that shows what it’s capable of.  Black and blue fruit join fall spice, gentle pepper and a light balsamic note that are well integrated from stem to stern, with a slight pepper push at the end.  Tons of pairings possibilities here -- from cheese to chocolate.  From one of my two favorite producers of the variety -- both women.  Coincidence?   A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 13, 2018

Carol Shelton Wines, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Carignane Oat Valley Vineyard 2013 ($28): I'm a real fan of this grape, and while I wish there was more of it available as a stand-alone variety, I'm certainly glad this one exists. You will be as well -- it's a spot-on correct example, but don't take that to mean boring.  It's lively and fun, showing red and blue fruit with citrus, white pepper and mild spice. Try it where you might normally serve a light-bodied Zinfandel.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2016 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Feb 23, 2016

Carol Shelton Wines, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Old Vine Carignane Oat Valley Vineyard 2016 ($28):  A favorite winemaker of mine, and a favorite wine of mine from here extensive portfolio.  Carol likes the light bright side of this grape, featuring red fruit and spice with pretty accents of blueberry and white pepper.  I like it as a solo glass, or with tapas.  Great stuff!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Cult X, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage 2012 ($56):  Complex and layered but very well integrated, this is a “Bordeaux-style” blend that genuinely lives up to that moniker, with a lot of little nuances that are so proportional that all are able to express themselves.  With intricate aromas and flavors showing both black and red fruit tones, subtle spice and toast notes from oak, and very fine-grained tannins, this shows high quality from the vineyard and strong talent in the cellar.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot, this was a Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 
94 Michael Franz Feb 27, 2018

Ferrari Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Vineyards Reserve 2009 ($46): When Ferrari Carano came into this world (and I am old enough to remember) its Chardonnay was all the rage. Then it was the Fume Blanc. I always believed, however, that Cabernet was its best grape and made its finest wines, and I still do. The '09 Reserve Cab packs a good deal of muscle, with a huge burst of ripe, dark fruit on the middle palate and firm tannins that suggest a long life. Well balanced, rich and dense, this is a Cab you might want to lay down in the cellar for another three to six years to get the most pleasure out of your investment.
94 Robert Whitley Aug 28, 2012

Francis Ford Coppola Director's Cut, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($32):  The Director’s Cut line from the Coppola winery specializes in one thing above all: stunning wines at manageable prices.  This Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the Alexander Valley and shows the signature supple tannins of that top-notch California AVA.  On the palate the wine is rich and dense with a generous, fleshy mid-palate and impressive length.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2020 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.   
94 Robert Whitley Jun 2, 2020

Francis Ford Coppola Director's Cut, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($32):  This Cabernet Sauvignon is richly layered, showing aromas of currant and blackberry with firm tannins and impressive length.  It drinks beautifully now, but another five to eight years in a temperature-controlled wine cellar would do wonders.  Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
94 Robert Whitley Jul 14, 2020

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma Reserve” 2017 ($27):  The Alexander Valley in northern Sonoma County is one of the sweet spots for Cabernet Sauvignon in California.  This vintage of Sonoma Reserve from Frei is classic Alexander Valley, showing supple tannins, complex black and red fruit aromas and exceptional depth and length, with a spicy finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
94 Robert Whitley Sep 22, 2020

Herzog Wine Cellars, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Special Reserve 2012 ($42): Looking for a certified Kosher wine for a special holiday?  This wine gets the job done with style and class, showing the red fruit side of Alexander Valley Cab, with notes of mild herbs, brown spice and integrated oak.  I can hear the "that's kosher?" question coming from celebration tables everywhere.  L'chaim!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($55):  I have always admired the wines from Jordan -- and still do.  They never succumbed to fad of boisterous “big” California Cabernets.  They have held to their original philosophy of making restrained and elegant wines that deliver incredible flavor and finesse.  Weighing in at just 13.8 percent stated alcohol, Jordan’s 2013 Cabernet fits that mold perfectly.  Perfectly balanced between fruity and savory notes, it has plush tannins and a suave texture, which makes it easy to enjoy now.  Fresh and vibrant, it invigorates the palate throughout the meal.  You don’t want just a sip, you want to drink it over an hour or two and enjoy how it expands in the glass.  Having had many older Cabernets from Jordan, I can attest to their wonderful evolution with a decade or two of bottle age.  Though $55 is a lot for most people to spend on a bottle of wine, Jordan’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a bargain compared to many other upper-end California Cabs.
94 Michael Apstein Jan 2, 2018

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($52):  With textbook Cabernet Sauvignon cassis, forest floor and cedar character, refreshing acidity and chewy tannins, this wine combines classic Bordeaux styling with California juicy fruit.  It’s medium-full in body and fleshier than past Jordan Cabernets, with a solid core of cassis and black cherry fruit.  Beautifully oaked and with a tangy, crisp finish, it is elegant and refined, with sturdy tannins that suggest a long life ahead in the cellar --15 years or more.  Alcohol by volume is just 13.7%. T his is not an inexpensive wine, yet is fairly priced and less expensive than most Napa Valley Cabs of similar quality. 94 Linda Murphy Jul 20, 2010

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($59):  Good luck finding a more consistent producer than Jordan when it comes to showcasing Cabernet Sauvignon.  The 2017 continues a long string of elegant success, showing deeply perfumed red and black berry fruit, soft dried herbs, moderate oak toast and a finely tuned balance between the elements that manages complexity, age-worthiness and easy drinking all at once.  As always, well done!          
94 Rich Cook Dec 14, 2021

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($56):  Jordan’s Cabernet has for years been a flagship of the appellation.  This vintage gets a little more new French oak than usual, but that doesn’t pose any problems and might just extend the life of the wine a touch.  The blackberry and currant fruit is enhanced by the oak spice and a touch of mint that brightens everything without grabbing attention.  A long finish rounds things out, and some bottle age will turn this into another cellar trophy.  Bravo! 
94 Rich Cook Aug 21, 2018

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($60):  Jordan deserves high praise for never wavering from their course of making full-flavored yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.  Rob Davis, Jordan’s first and longtime, 1976 to 2019, winemaker, told me he wanted “wines with balance” with low alcohol, not “tannic monsters.”  The 2018 fits their style — elegance and freshness.  Thankfully, not a powerhouse — weighing in at less than 14 percent stated alcohol — it impresses with length and grace.  There’s plenty of flavor here, both fruity and savory, but without a trace of heaviness.  Uplifting acidity amplifies its charms.  As usual, fine tannins allow immediate enjoyment.  But don’t be deceived by its approachability.  At a vertical tasting in 2012, the Jordan 1976 Cabernet had developed splendidly.  So, if your bank account allows, put some in your cellar.       
94 Michael Apstein Jan 24, 2023

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($58):  Jordan made the difficult decision several years ago to abandon their longstanding and original concept of an estate wine, that is, one made entirely from their own grapes.  They made the honest assessment that their grapes were not always the best ones that were available.  It must have been a scary decision.  In retrospect, it was a brilliant move.  They now use their best grapes plus ones from a dozen or more growers to fashion their Cabernet.  The 2016, a classic Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (11%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Malbec, maintains their classic refined style.  Jordan has always focused on an understated elegance and their 2016 fits that mold perfectly.  With a glossy texture, it delivers layers of fruit, spice and savory elements.  As it sits in the glass for a half an hour, it expands.  Thankfully, it is not in the bigger is better style.  An engaging hint of bitterness in the finish reminds us that they have avoided the temptation to pick super-ripe grapes and make an over-the-top jammy Cabernet.    
94 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($60):  This is a classic Alexander Valley expression of Cabernet Sauvignon, showcasing red currants, black cherry, blackberry and mild herbs over gentle oak toast, with a generous but sturdy structure that suggests cellar time will benefit things.  Jordan Cabernet has a pedigree of doing just that, so I would say it’s a safe bet, and at a reasonable price for its quality.  Decant it thoroughly if you dig in near term, or age ten years and beyond.      
94 Rich Cook Jul 19, 2022

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($60):  Jordan deserves high praise for never wavering from their course of making full-flavored yet elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.  Rob Davis, Jordan’s first and longtime winemaker (1976 to 2019), told me he wanted “wines with balance” with low alcohol, not “tannic monsters.”  The 2018 fits their style — elegance and freshness.  Thankfully, not a powerhouse — weighing in at less than 14 percent stated alcohol — it impresses with length and grace.  There’s plenty of flavor here, both fruity and savory, but without a trace of heaviness.  Uplifting acidity amplifies its charms.  As usual, fine tannins allow immediate enjoyment.  But don’t be deceived by its approachability. At a vertical tasting in 2012, the Jordan 1976 Cabernet had developed splendidly.  So, if your bank account allows, put some in your cellar.          
94 Michael Apstein Nov 15, 2022

Jordan Vineyard and Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($53): I am an enthusiastic fan of Jordan’s Cabernets because the team there has, thankfully, resisted the California trend toward super ripe, super rich, bombastic wines.   Although much has changed at Jordan since their founding -- the grapes no longer come solely from their vineyards -- they continue to focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay and continue to produce harmonious wines.  This 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon has plenty of plum-like fruit, but it also has finesse, grace and a modest 13.8% stated alcohol.  It doesn’t assault your palate or shout, “look at me!”  It’s a wine to drink and marvel at how it changes over the course of the meal, delivering more enjoyment with each sip.  It’s easy to enjoy now, but Jordan’s Cabernet Sauvignon develops enormous complexity with a decade or two of bottle age -- another sign of a great wine -- so there’s no rush.  And given the prices of California’s cult Cabernets, it’s a bargain for what it delivers.
94 Michael Apstein Jul 14, 2015

Kenwood Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Six Ridges” 2017 ($35):  Kenwood's "Six Ridges" is a delightful red fruit driven Cabernet Sauvignon that keeps the flavors pumping long after the liquid leaves.  Soft dried herbs and subtle oak spice work beautifully with black cherry and red currant fruit, and it all finishes strong and satisfying.  Bravo!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
94 Rich Cook Jun 23, 2020

Louis M Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($40):  Another home run Cabernet Sauvignon for the iconic Louis Martini winery, so what else is new? This one is the winery’s Alexander Valley Cabernet, a richly layered, complex Cab that shows bright red and black fruit aromas, supple tannins for drinkability now and a long, impressive, spicy finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
94 Robert Whitley Sep 22, 2020

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($40):  I’ve written about this wine before, because it keeps getting sent forward at competitions that I run, which tells me that I’m doing a good job at selecting judges.  What they didn’t know is that this is a dark side expression of Alexander Valley fruit, more blackberry and black cherry than the usual red fruit-driven style.  It works again – no surprise at all.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Monterey International Wine Competition.         
94 Rich Cook Mar 16, 2021

Medlock Ames, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot “Heritage” 2013 ($50): This is a wine where power and delicacy dance gracefully together.  With its dark, inky color and vibrant floral-tinged aroma “Heritage” delights before it even hits the palate.   Flavors are dominated by the zip of wild blackberries mingling with hints of chocolate and espresso, plus an underpinning of earthiness.  This Merlot blend includes light touches of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot. 2013 was yet another glorious growing year in California.
94 Marguerite Thomas Aug 1, 2017

Ramazzotti, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Pigoni Ranch 2013 ($75):   The Ramazzotti Cabernet from Pigoni Ranch in the Alexander Valley is yet another gem from the sensational 2013 vintage.  On the nose it shows violets, cedar and graphite, followed on the palate by gorgeous layers of red currant and black cherry aroma.  This Cabernet is well balanced with beautifully integrated tannins.  A platinum award-winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Robert Whitley Jun 12, 2018

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards 2014 ($28):   For the money, Rodney Strong's estate Cabernet from Alexander Valley is consistently one of the finest Cabernet Sauvignons made in California.  The balance is exquisite.  The wine exhibits rich layers of ripe red and black fruits, beautifully integrated tannins, and a note of wood spice on the finish.  A platinum award-winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Robert Whitley Jun 5, 2018

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards 2013 ($28): Under the direction of winemaker Rick Sayre, Rodney Strong Vineyards has been among California's most consistent performers over the past 25 years, routinely cranking out award-winning wines while keeping prices affordable. This Alexander Valley cabernet is but one of many examples you could point to. It has everything a cab lover looks for: richness and complexity without weight or too much oak, a supple mouth-feel that makes it enjoyable now, although it has tremendous potential to age, and, above all, a seriously high yum factor. Kudo to Sayre and his winemaking team. A platinum award-winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Robert Whitley Mar 22, 2016

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards 2013 ($28): You should expect to see this well-priced wine on restaurant lists everywhere soon.  It's solidly proper Cabernet Sauvignon, showing blackberry, currants, soft fall spice and faint dried herb aromas and flavors, with lively food friendly acidity and a long finish that will pair well with a range of dishes. You can impress your friends by going to the middle of the wine list and selecting a wine that will outperform some of the wines costing two or three times as much.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Sep 15, 2015

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate vineyards 2014 ($28):  One of the most dependable labels in the business shows itself again as a top performer.  Classic varietal aromas and flavors of blackberry, cassis, dried herbs and lively oak spice ride a supple structure and finish long and bright, with the oak spice stepping forward slightly.  Factor in a great price and you’ve got a real bonus bottle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Sep 25, 2018

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($21):  Rodney Strong’s Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon takes several giant steps up in interest and complexity from the Sonoma County bottling, but thankfully, not at the cost of a big jump in price.  Since the winemaking is similar, this bottling shows the importance of the origin of the grapes.  The Alexander Valley Cabernet delivers a layered complexity that is apparent with successive sips.  Though both fruity and savory, nothing sticks out.  It’s a muscular wine without being overdone.  Its stature is magnified by lively acidity and a long finish.  Indeed, it’s quite a refined wine.  Nicely textured, it’s a fine choice for current drinking.  And a terrific bargain, to boot.       
94 Michael Apstein Dec 7, 2021

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($28):  No surprise here – Alexander Valley is celebrated for Cabernet Sauvignon of assured and elegant styling, delivered here in spades, and in a nicely priced package.  Drink up!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
94 Mike Dunne Jun 23, 2020

Serene Cellars, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($100):  A late release from this vintage, and one wisely held back a bit.  This would slide right into a blind tasting of Bordeaux almost undetected.  The forward black fruit might give it away, but the mix of earth oak and spice tips its cap to France nicely.  A darker berry expression makes it stand out from the appellation’s usual red fruit-driven style, and it’s a deeply satisfying choice.  The cocoa powder finish is particularly attractive – a delight!  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2020 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.     
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2020

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Geyserville Ranch "Henry's Blend" 2011 ($54): Ok -- I'll write this one more time… "Here's another great wine from the much maligned 2011 vintage in California," where much wailing and gnashing of teeth occurred, and fantastic, rich, balanced wines were made by those who managed things smartly.  This wine is perfectly delicious right now, with rich forward blackberry, cassis and cherry fruit complimented by faint dried herbs and mildly chalky tannins that help the flavors stick in your mouth for a very long time.  It will age well for another five years -- at least.
94 Rich Cook Sep 29, 2015

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Geyserville Ranch 'Henry's Blend' 2011 ($54): Given that the Alexander Valley is one of the sweet spots in California for the Bordeaux grape varieties, it's hardly a surprise that Trione knocked it out of the park with Henry's Blend, a Bordeaux-style red blend that is built around nearly equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec adding subtle complexities. What is surprising is that this rich, meaty red was produced in the troubled 2011 vintage. No trouble for Trione, however. With layered ripe red and black fruits, notes of herbs and spices and supple tannins, this vintage of Henry's Blend is a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.
94 Robert Whitley Aug 18, 2015

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Block Twenty One 2012 ($67): I'm developing a strong preference for Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon thanks to wines like this.  It's a gorgeous red fruit expression, with deep fall spice and touches of leaf and citrus zest that keep the finish wildly lively.  Age this a while for elegance, or drink now for youthful vitality. Delicious!  Contains 9% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.
94 Rich Cook Sep 13, 2016

V. Sattui, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Franc 2014 ($45): V. Sattui's first appearance at my table at Sommelier Challenge comes from an unexpected variety. That said, there's nothing unexpected about Brooks Painter's team putting a wine in the top tier.  This Cabernet Franc shows cherry, spice, pleasantly chalky tannins and a long finish where the dried herb notes peek out.  Nice!  Contains 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Merlot.  A Platinum award winner at the 2017 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
94 Rich Cook Sep 26, 2017

Bella, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Big River Ranch 2010 ($38): The nose on this wine is a focal point, but by no means they wine's only inviting quality. Aromas of blackberry jam and spice dominate. On the palate it is full-bodied and rich without being weighty or overwrought, with beautifully integrated tannins and a mouthfeel of refined elegance. It finishes with a lingering spicy aftertaste, inviting another sip. And another, and another.
93 Robert Whitley Aug 27, 2013

Carol Shelton Wines, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Carignane Oat Valley Vineyard Old Vine 2016 ($28):  Carignane has suffered from an “image problem” for about five decades, often being over-cropped to fill out blends and rarely being used to make varietally-designated wines (either around the Mediterranean or in the New World).  But the tide has turned in favor of this variety, which is now getting the respect it can deserve when cropped sensibly and crafted carefully, as in this delicious case.  Spice and toasty notes derived from wood grace the bouquet without dominating it, and red berry fruit shows both ripeness and freshness on the palate.  There’s an almost ineffable streak of rusticity to the flavors that I loved -- not quite savory and not quite earthy but definitely present -- and this contributes both complexity and varietal character.  
93 Michael Franz Nov 19, 2019

Chelsea Goldschmidt, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2015 ($21): Dark beet red, with a sweetly floral impression adding more depth to the fruity fragrance, this is an impeccably balanced Merlot.  It has robust, sunny flavors and a lush texture, yet nothing here is overdone.  Another bonus is the persistent, follow-through flavors on the finish.  A lip-smacking wine indeed.
93 Marguerite Thomas Feb 14, 2017

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Marlstone" 2005 ($50):  Sweet and ripe, but with a nice spicy, meaty character as well, this shows very nice depth of flavor and an enduring finish that is enhanced by the subtle oak that leaves the concentrated fruit in the forefront.  In my opinion this was the best of the Bordeaux blends, which comprised a very strong category at the Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.  Dark and dense, with deep flavors and fine freshness and lots of length, this was a clear choice for a platinum medal. 93 Michael Franz Jun 1, 2010

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($30): The red wines of Ferrari-Carano have always taken a back seat to the whites, perhaps because it was the rich, buttery Chardonnays of former winemaker George Bursick that put the winery on the map. Imagine my surprise, then, when I recently opened a 1994 Ferrari-Carano Cabernet Sauvignon and discovered it was just beginning to hit its stride. The Ferrari-Carano Cabernets are approachable when young, but don't let those supple tannins fool you. These wines will age beautifully. The 2003 Ferrari-Carano is another in a lengthy string of impressive Cabernets, delivering a core of sweet red and black fruit aromas, hints of spice and a long, lingering finish. 93 Robert Whitley Oct 3, 2006

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($30):  Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot form an unorthodox blend that was aged in French oak.  Petit Verdot with Cabernet Sauvignon, yes, but Syrah and Cabernet?  However, the wine smells and tastes like Cabernet Sauvignon, while the 16% Syrah gives the fruit lift and dimension without losing the Cabernet varietal identity.  It has a very deep ruby color, smoky-toasted oak, spice and low intensity berry notes in the nose.  The entry is richly textured with the Syrah rounding off the corners of the angular Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s loaded with fruit, nicely balanced, 14.5% alcohol, integrated tannins and good length and structure.  Ferrari-Carano 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon is an inventive and richly textured red wine and may be one of the most usual Cabernet Sauvignons you are likely to drink this year.
93 Gerald D. Boyd Sep 18, 2012

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Reserve 2015 ($27):  Rich and darkly fruited, the Sonoma Reserve from Frei Brothers reflects the warmth of the Alexander Valley through its velvety tannins and a note of dark chocolate.  This vintage is soft on the palate, with impressive length, inviting notes of wood spice and beautiful balance.
93 Robert Whitley Dec 19, 2017

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Sonoma Reserve" 2018 ($27):  This wine is rather tightly wound at present, but it promises to unravel itself with distinction after a little cellar time or a long decanting.  Classic Alexander Valley blackberry and red currants are joined by bright oak spice, and a firm grip carries things through in a way that tells me that soft elegance is in the future.  Bargain pricing included!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($59):  Jordan, a leader in California Cabernet, continues to do what it does best — making graceful and elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.  As usual, their 2017 is fits that mold.  Not a bombastic wine, this mid-weight beauty delivers a wonderful combination of red fruit notes and spice.  Balanced and suave, it’s a delight to drink now.  But, my experience with their Cabernet is that it develops beautifully with decades of bottle age, so there’s no rush if you buy this one by the case.        
93 Michael Apstein Nov 9, 2021

Jordan Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($57):  An early harvest and a short crop describes the 2015 vintage in Sonoma.   The warmth that causes an early harvest and a reduced yield can result in concentrated, powerful wines.  To Jordan’s credit, they maintained their restrained style that focuses on elegance rather than weight in this Cabernet.  Not a trace of over ripeness or heaviness, it delivers bright fruit and savory notes supported by suave tannins and wonderfully lively acidity.  The enchanting freshness keeps you returning for another sip.  Delightful now, I know from experience than Jordan’s Cabernets develop exquisitely with bottle age, so there’s no rush.  
93 Michael Apstein May 14, 2019

Kendall-Jackson, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Jackson Estate “Hawkeye Mountain” 2013 ($55):  Alexander Valley Cabernets trend to taste sumptuous, with supple tannins and round, lush textures.  They invariably carry a hint of sweetness, so provide unabashed pleasure more than intellectual sophistication.  All that is true of this wine, but it surprises with unexpected seriousness and depth, making it a wine for many a different moment.  You don’t need to ponder it, but you can.  And there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy it. 
93 Paul Lukacs May 15, 2018

Kendall-Jackson, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkeye Mountain Jackson Estate 2013 ($55):  With its array of seductive black and red berry fruits and firm, substantial texture this is an irresistible Cabernet Sauvignon indeed.  Invigoratingly dry and muscular, it is also blessed with considerable charm.  A touch of Petit Verdot adds even more complexity, and velvety tannins further enhance the long finish.  
93 Marguerite Thomas May 1, 2018

Kendall-Jackson, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Jackson Estate" 2014 ($40):  Kendall-Jackson’s Jackson Estate bottling is a giant step up from their other Cabernet Sauvignon offerings, presumably because it comes from a more rigorous selection of their grapes.  With more character and complexity, it mingles olive-tinged and herbal savory elements with a dark plum or cassis-like fruitiness.  Kendall-Jackson’s hallmark suave tannins are present and add welcome balancing firmness.  Finishing slightly bitter, there’s excitement with each new sip. 
93 Michael Apstein Jan 15, 2019

LJ Crafted Wines, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Hoot Owl Ranch 2018 ($32):   This is about as big as Zinfandel gets without crossing into the port zone.  The pepper character that makes Zinfandel so attractive usually falls out above 15 percent unless great care is taken to preserve it.  Mission accomplished here, with soft pepper adding interest to the bold blackberry fruit.  If you find yourself in the San Diego area, the tasting room is a great place to spend an afternoon, and to get a growler of Zin to go!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
93 Rich Cook Sep 22, 2020

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($40):  This venerable brand keeps turning out the hits, with three regional mainstay bottlings leading the way.  This vintage of the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon gets the terroir right, with cherry joining the blackberry and lively herb mix.  It’s well structured, approachable and age-worthy – the patriarch would be proud.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.        
93 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2021

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($34): The Martini Cabernet Sauvignon lineup represents one of the great value sets in the wine world, always over-delivering quality.  In 2013 they again break out the Alexander Valley fruit from the Sonoma County sources to great effect, and a blind tasting of the three -- four if you include the Monte Rosso -- is a great way to see the differences in appellation.  This one shows high toned blackberry and black cherry, with notes of pepper, dried herbs and fall spice in both aroma and flavor profiles, finishing long with a supple grip throughout.  You can't go wrong with this label.
93 Rich Cook Dec 27, 2016

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 ($45):  Unlike a Riserva in Italy, Reserve on a label on a California wine has no legal meaning.  A winery can, and sometimes does, label their entire production, all several million bottles, as “reserve.”  Not so with Rodney Strong.  In this case, the winemaker selects the best barrels in the cellar and blends them to create a Reserve bottling.  (Even though all the barrels contain wine made from Cabernet grapes, and even if from the same vineyard, the wine in each one tastes different.)  Their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is a lovely amalgam of herbal and cassis-like flavors wrapped in fine tannins.  No harshness or aggressiveness in this bottling.  Yes, it’s a big wine, but to their credit, it’s not overdone or boisterous.  It would be a choice for current drinking with robust beef dishes. 
93 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2018

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Symmetry” 2008 ($55):  Most wines bearing self-congratulating names don’t manage to live up to them, but this one does exactly that.  Full of generous flavors but not overbearing in any respect, this shows exceptional balance and integration and an endearing textural softness that coats the tannins in the long, smooth finish.  Built from 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Malbec, 7% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc, this is an excellent wine that impresses by charming rather than pounding the palate. Platinum award winner at the San Diego International Wine Competition. 93 Michael Franz Mar 13, 2012

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage “Symmetry” 2011 ($60): Very faintly floral, a tiny bit earthy, with a suggestion of that kind of minerality that seems to come from soil rather than stone, plus copious amounts of firm ripe fruit, all adds up to a stunning wine.  One of the most notable characteristics of this wine is its piercingly, luscious, long finish.  I’ve no doubt the wine will continue to age nicely, but unlike some vintages of Symmetry which benefit from a little cellaring to soften the sharp edges a bit, the 2011 is absolutely ready to enjoy right now.
93 Marguerite Thomas Mar 3, 2015

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards 2015 ($28):  Showing dense layers of blackberry and black currant fruit with a touch of oak vanillin and anise, this is another Cabernet Sauvignon gem from the Alexander Valley.  The palate is richly layered and long, with a lingering finish.   
93 Robert Whitley Jun 25, 2019

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 ($40):  This a commanding and very classy Cabernet is well endowed with red and black fruits including cassis and blackberries, the flavors reinforced by hints of chocolate and a little oak spice.  Lushly textured, with supple tannins and a generous finish, this Cabernet Sauvignon seems born to be enjoyed with a good steak or even a great burger. 
93 Marguerite Thomas Jul 17, 2018

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Symmetry” Meritage Red Wine 2014 ($55):  This Bordeaux styled wine is assertive without being aggressive.  Firm, fresh fruitiness waltzes across the palate partnered by an earthy, mushroomy element.  It is curvy and mouth-filling, with fine tannins and a generous finish.  Eighty percent of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon, with the other constituents being Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc.    
93 Marguerite Thomas Jun 9, 2020

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($28):  Always a value leader, Rodney Strong strikes again with this lovely Cabernet Sauvignon.  It shows a mix of black and red berries, pepper, soft brown spice and nice mid palate weight that helps the flavors integrate fully.  There’s some structure here for aging, and I suspect release may have been held until it reached its current approachable state.  Decant well now, or age up to ten years – maybe more!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
93 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Stonestreet, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($45): For fans of Cabernet that maintains its herbal charms.  I love the focus on sage as a contrast to the Alexander Valley red fruit profile, with touches of dried herb, spice and chocolate that are seamlessly integrated and finish long and bright thanks to supple yet structured tannins.  A short decanting or 5 years or so in the bottle will make this a go to accompaniment for an herb encrusted prime rib of beef.
93 Rich Cook Aug 1, 2017

Stuhlmuller, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2005 ($36): The Stuhlmuller vineyard used to be the backbone of the Chateau Souverain reserve Cabernet program. This is some seriously good Alexander Valley Cabernet, and the 2005 Stuhlmuller is classic for the genre, delivering a rich, full body, subtle earth notes and lush fruit aromas of black currant and blueberry, with hints of violet and anise in the background. On the palate it is intense but supple, with ample soft tannins and exceptional length on the finish. At this price worth a healthy investment of at least a case -- or more. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 1, 2008

Stuhlmuller Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($38):  This gem of a Cabernet vineyard in the heart of the Alexander Valley produces some of the most robust, mouth-filling Cabernet Sauvignon made in California. The 2012 is ripe, lush and full-bodied, showing a floral nose with a hint of spice. On the palate the layered dark-fruit aromas show exceptional intensity, and the mouthfeel is rich and luxurious. As you would expect from an Alexander Valley Cab, the tannins are supple and smooth. Tremendous bang for the buck.
93 Robert Whitley Nov 18, 2014

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Geyserville Ranch Red Wine 2009 ($48): Deeply colored, with very evocative aromas that call to mind sun-drenched wild blackberries.  But while it’s rich and smooth, there is nothing overly sweet here. One of this wine’s finest attributes is the gentle tug of dusty tannins on the finish.
93 Marguerite Thomas Mar 17, 2015

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Block Twenty One 2011 ($67): I've been impressed by Trione lately -- they seem happy to hold onto wines until they feel they are ready for release.  This must be one of the last 2011's to hit the marketplace other than the usual long holding suspects, and it was worth the wait.  Full extraction brings deep blackberry and cassis with recognizable Alexander Valley herb and spice, delivered on supple tannins and good grip through the long finish.  This is a food friend that's delicious now and will cellar well.
93 Rich Cook Apr 26, 2016

Arrowood, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40): The 2014 Arrowood Cabernet delivers a huge burst of ripe blackberry and cassis fruit, shows notes of wood vanillin and smooth, supple tannins that make for easy drinking now, although another two to four years in the cellar would benefit this wine tremendously. 92 Robert Whitley Oct 31, 2017

Bella, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Big River Ranch 2007 ($35):  Though dark in color and deeply-flavored, this is more of a claret-styled Zinfandel than a showy, in-your-face blockbuster.  It is beautifully balanced and very harmonious, with earthy undertones and an impressively long finish.  It also tastes legitimately dry, without any of the irritating sweetness that mars so many contemporary Zins.  Bella Vineyards is a small producer worth keeping an eye on. 92 Paul Lukacs Jul 13, 2010

Bella, Alexander Valley (California) Petite Sirah Big River Ranch 2008 ($38):  A classy example of Petite Sirah, full-bodied and intense, with firm tannins and vibrant fresh fruit flavors, all enhanced by a long, seemingly ever-evolving finish.  Petite is an inherently rustic varietal.  This one doesn’t lose that country charm, but dresses it up nicely.  Think Clint Eastwood in a tuxedo. 92 Paul Lukacs May 24, 2011

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (California) "Marlstone" 2003 ($50): Marlstone is one of the oldest Bordeaux-style blends made in California. The first vintage was 1978 and the wine has been a benchmark for Bordeaux blends from Alexander Valley. This rendition is a blend of all five Bordeaux red varieties, leaning more on Cabernet Sauvignon. The color is a very deep ruby with brilliant facts, while the nose is redolent with ripe black cherry and spice. It has a medium entry, but then fills out, with full tannins, bright berry accents and a long textured finish. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 11, 2006

De Lorimier, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage “Artisan” 2005 ($40):  Fully mature and ready to drink, with pliant tannins and a deliciously long finish, this Bordeaux-styled blend avoids the excesses that mar so many California renditions, being marked by grace rather than muscle.  There is nary a trace of alcoholic heat on the palate, and the wine offers an intriguing hint of green herbs to complement is more forward ripe fruit flavors.  In that, it seems almost a throwback to the style of northern California Cabernet and Bordeaux blends popular fifteen or twenty years ago.  (Tasted blind at the 2011 Sonoma County Harvest Fair wine competition.) 92 Paul Lukacs Oct 11, 2011

Draxton, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($36): Here's a fruit-driven, brightly structured Cab that shouts its Alexander Valley origin, with lively red berry and cherry fruit joined by faint hints of herb and spice.  This will be great with a seared salted sirloin steak.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 92 Rich Cook May 31, 2016

Farrier, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Red Blend “Countenance” 2007 ($33):  This is a delicious blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% each of Cab Franc and Merlot.  It shows characteristically soft Alexander Valley tannins, but is definitely not a gutless wonder, as there’s plenty of punch in the concentrated, deeply flavorful fruit.  Pair this with a steak, but likewise with something as moderate as a pork chop. 92 Michael Franz Jan 3, 2012

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($30): I keep looking for a misfire in this latest round of new releases from Ferrari-Carano, but I'm beginning to believe "misfire" is not a word in the winery's vocabulary. Its new vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon is a case in point. The more expensive Cabernet and Cabernet blend from are very, very good. It would be understandable if the winemaker chose the best barrels of Cab for those wines and left the less expensive Alexander Valley Cab the dregs. Not on your life. This is a tremendous Cab, exquisitely balanced, showing black-fruited aromas of blackberry and cassis, hints of spice and fine, supple tannins. Now, $30 isn't chump change, but I would put this vintage up against California Cabs at double the price and I'd bet it would hold its own. 92 Robert Whitley Sep 4, 2012

Francis Ford Coppola, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Director's Cut 2013 ($29): The Coppola winery has been on fire in recent vintages and there doesn't seem to be any letup in sight. The Director's Cut Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley shows a distinctive minerality, ripe blackberry fruit and supple tannins. Impressive Cabernet for the price.  Platinum award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Robert Whitley May 26, 2015

Francis Ford Coppola Director's Cut, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($29): A delightful wine that shows its origin a red fruit focus joined by notes of leaf, dried herb and brown spice in aroma and flavor.  It's got some structure, with mouthwatering acidity making the finish pop and getting you back to the glass.  I'd go for gourmet grilled burgers as a pairing.  A Platinum Award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Rich Cook Sep 27, 2016

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma Reserve” 2017 ($27):  The dark fruit tone side of Alexander Valley’s spectrum gets its due here, with more blackberry and currant fruit than is typical of the region, but it works just fine here, with rich oak toast, easy spice and supple tannic grip that really sells the flavor mix.  Terrific now, and worthy of additional bottle aging.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma Reserve” 2019 ($27):  Always a solid value, this bottling shows sense of place with a tightrope red and black fruit act that keeps good definition between the two thanks to lively acidity and judicious oak selection.  It finishes with full integration and medium length, and it’s easy findable at a nice discount price.  Well done!     
92 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2022

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($56):  I admire Jordan because they have never veered from their style of making refined and polished Cabernet Sauvignon.  They’ve avoided the “bigger is better” trap, and have remained focused on elegance and refinement.  Take this 2014 Cabernet.  From the moment you smell it, you know you’re in for a treat.  Packed with flavor and long, it’s not heavy or ponderous.  It doesn’t bowl you over with power -- it wows you with endless flavor and subtlety.  It’s an exciting wine to drink because each sip delivers something new.  Fine tannins impart an alluring texture that makes it fine to drink now.  But, as enjoyable as Jordan’s Cabernets are to drink young, they develop even more complexity with a decade or more of bottle age.  Although $56 is not cheap for a bottle of wine, it’s a bargain for what you get. 
92 Michael Apstein May 8, 2018

Jordan, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($50):

America seems to have a love/hate relationship with Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon. Consumers love it (and I admit I have been a fan since the first vintage came off the bottling line in the 1970s), but wine industry insiders often sniff that Jordan's vineyards are hardly the best-situated in the Alexander Valley. That may be, but I sense a tinge of envy in the criticism of Jordan. It's not your typical California Cab, and most likely never will be. The structure, elegance and refinement of a Jordan Cabernet all whisper "Bordeaux" to me. This is a decidely European style, and that's by design. Jordan Cabs never hit you in the face with power, aren't up the scale on alcohol level, and never leave a trace of sweetness on the finish, as so many of today's California Cabernets do. The '03 is a classic, starting with a gorgeous nose of violets, dried herbs and red currant/raspberry fruit. On the palate the '03 shows complex layering of red and black fruits, a savory note, and persistence of flavor from entry to finish, all supported by refined, elegant tannins.

92 Robert Whitley Oct 30, 2007

Kendall-Jackson, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkeye Mountain Jackson Estate 2013 ($55):  A bold, dark side expression of Alexander Valley, with lively blackberry, black cherry, currant and vanilla aromas and flavors that ride a firm structure through a long, rich finish.  I'd give it some time in the cellar to allow a little more integration of the oak and gain maximum enjoyment.
92 Rich Cook Nov 14, 2017

Lancaster Estate, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($70):

This big, rich estate Cab from one of the up-and-coming stars of California wine is everything you would want or expect in an Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It is full-bodied and generous on the palate, showing layers of ripe black fruits, a thick, juicy texture and sweet, supple tannins. Despite its obvious ripeness, the '05 Lancaster exhibits good balance between fruit, acid, wood and alcohol and offers savory notes of dried herbs, black olive and subtle woodsmoke that complete a very attractive package.

92 Robert Whitley Jul 8, 2008

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($34): Though distinctly different from Martini’s Napa Valley bottling, it is equally appealing, perhaps because it is so different.  This Cabernet is more floral and “pretty,” less mineraly and lacking the black olive note of its neighbor from Napa.  It still manages to combine a mouth-watering savory component to mixture of fruit notes.  It, too, has a long and thankfully, slightly bitter finish.  It would be another good choice for autumnal fare.  If one wanted to compare these two Cabernets to Bordeaux, the Napa Valley bottling is more Paulillac-like, while the Alexander Valley one speaks of St. Julien.  Neither, thankfully, carry the price tags of those French appellations.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 18, 2016

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($35):  Calling this the “middle wine” of the Martini signature series doesn’t do it justice.  Though it sits between its stable mates in price and appellation, it’s a beautiful counterpoint to them, which of course is the point in having a series.  Here the focus is on red fruit, dried herbs, eucalyptus and a firm structure that suggests some further aging will enhance everything.  
92 Rich Cook Jul 16, 2019

Matanzas Creek Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2018 ($30):  Most of the Merlot grapes, 86 percent, came from Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley and the remaining 14 percent came from the winery’s estate vineyards in Bennett Valley.  The wine has a beautiful dark ruby color with a touch of magenta highlights.  Aromas of black cherry, plum and blackberry offer an invitation to get the wine into your mouth to enjoy the wine’s rich black cherry, blackberry fruit layered with dark chocolate.  It is silky smooth, finishing with ripe tannins.  Serve it with a grilled steak, or even better make the L’Ultime Dark Chocolate Mousse with Lavender Scented Mixed Berries from the recipe on their site at MatanzasCreek.com/blog/lultime-dark-chocolate-mousse-lavender-scented-mixed-berries.  Bill and Sandra MacIver established the Matanzas Creek Winery in 1977.  Their first winemaker was Merry Edwards and the next winemaker was Dave Ramey.  They sold the estate to Jackson Family Wines in 2000.      
92 Rebecca Murphy Jan 11, 2022

Medlock Ames, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Snakepit” Red Wine 2013 ($60): A superb red wine, lying temptingly dark and glossy in the glass, “Snakepit” seduces first with vivid fruit aromas and flavors.  Chewiness on the palate and a suggestion of salty minerality lead to a fresh and long finish.  This is a good choice to serve with beef or lamb, and a touch of earthiness makes it a natural to partner with anything mushroomy.  How about both beef and mushrooms together, in a stew, perhaps, or a good steak topped with sautéed mushrooms?
92 Marguerite Thomas Jan 3, 2017

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($26): This is the style of Cabernet Sauvignon that made California famous for that variety.  It’s balanced and discreet, with haunting herbal influences that complement the ripe fruit flavors.  Not overdone, over extracted or over oaked, the multifaceted flavors of Cabernet come through.  It dances on your palate.  Murphy-Goode makes a series of more muscular -- and expensive --  single vineyard Cabernets as well for people who are looking for more oomph in their wines.  For my money, I’d go with this one because you can appreciate the subtlety the wine offers.
92 Michael Apstein Nov 24, 2015

Prevail, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) 2004 ($55): A blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah from a vineyard on Lookout Mountain overlooking the bucolic Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, this is a deeply-flavored and extremely satisfying red wine.  Youthfully vivacious, it still exhibits plenty of forceful depth, and shows every sign of having the stuffing necessary to mature gracefully for many years.  Though unabashedly Californian, it exhibits excellent balance and harmony.  The Prevail Winery Estate is an offshoot of Ferrari-Carano, designed to showcase superior fruit from the owner's mountain vineyards.  This wine does exactly that. 92 Paul Lukacs Nov 13, 2007

PreVail Mountain Estate Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "West Face" 2004 ($50): This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah that shows how the importance of terroir can be influenced and enhanced by winemaking. A dense, black-ruby color leads to forward ripe blackberry aromas, with traces of anise. The deep, tactile fruity flavors have hints of toasted oak and road tar. A new winery and a more balanced vintage have yielded a distinct blend of improved quality over the 2003 rendition of this wine. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 10, 2006

PreVail Mountain Estate Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Back Forty" 2004 ($80): With the 2004 vintage, the varietal composition of Back Forty moved closer to 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The addition of 3% Syrah lifts the fruit while adding a subtle flavor dimension. The wine has a classic, dark fruit, mountain-grown Cabernet Sauvignon color and aroma. The richly textured flavors are deep and layered, with good supporting oak tannins. It's big, but with elegance, and isn't ripe or coarse. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 10, 2006

Ravenswood, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Big River 2007 ($35):  This 14-acre vineyard was planted in the 1890s. It's above the fog line, but gets cooling breezes late in the afternoon. This is a spicy Zin, with cherry fruit, a slight beef tartare note, and plenty of cinnamon, and it stays spicy throughout the finish. It's very slightly hot (15% alcohol, the highest of Ravenswood's single-vineyard Zins) but the spiciness makes it great with dinner. 92 W. Blake Gray Oct 20, 2009

Robert Young Estate Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Scion" 2002 ($54): The fact that this delicious wine is a relatively good deal is a double commentary, indicating both how good it is and how expensive top-drawer Cabs from California have become. In any case, the merits of this wine are quite clear: expressive but nuanced aromas and flavors of dark berries and black cherries with lovely, subtle accents of cedar, vanilla, toast and cocoa. Soft and rounded in texture, with very ripe, tender tannins in the classic Alexander Valley mold, this is a lovely wine made with impressive skill and taste. 92 Michael Franz May 2, 2006

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($28): Extremely impressive, especially for its firm structure and taut tannic backbone, this is a classic-tasting Cabernet.  It’s neither fleshy nor forward, but rather holds itself in check and promises excellent drinking for a good five if not ten years ahead.  Few wines priced under $30 can legitimately claim as much.
92 Paul Lukacs Jul 9, 2013

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards 2013 ($28): For value Rodney Strong is hard to beat, a fact brought home by the estate cabernet in the 2013 vintage. This is a beautifully balanced, smooth cabernet that exhibits complex layers of red and black fruits with just a modest kiss of oak. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
92 Robert Whitley Sep 27, 2016

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander’s Crown 2010 ($75): Everything about this Cabernet is colossal.  The print on the hefty bottle’s label (large enough so that you don’t need to fumble for the reading glasses), the price (whew!), the alcohol (a whopping 15.5%).  OK, it might be tempting to complain about some of this, but wait ‘til you taste the profusion of dense, dark utterly ripe fruit flavors and experience the wine’s firm texture and substantial weight.  Then, once you’ve give yourself over to its enveloping complexity and tenacious length you’ll be completely smitten.
92 Marguerite Thomas Nov 19, 2013

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($28):  This offering shows that dark side Cabernet expressions are certainly possible from the west side of the Mayacamas mountains.  Blackberry, currants, and a bold dose of oak spice play well together and finish strong.  This needs food – an Angus or Waygu burger is just the ticket.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.          
92 Rich Cook Oct 5, 2021

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($28):  The thing you’ll notice most about this wine at first pass is the generous texture.  It’s almost silky on entry, pushing flavors of plum and blackberry with fall spice notes.  Then the finish brings the structure to bear, with moderate oak char giving tension to the flavors and extending the finish.  Well done!    
92 Rich Cook Nov 23, 2021

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Symmetry” Meritage 2016 ($55):  Symmetry, according to Rodney Strong’s website, means balance.  And I must admit, this wine is aptly named.  It’s a suave complex Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant (70%) blend of five Bordeaux varieties.  Roughly equal amounts of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot fill out the blend.  Juicy and succulent, it delivers a lovely mixture of savory and dark fruit flavors.  Polished tannins make it not only approachable, but drinkable now.  This bold and balanced wine would go well with a pan-sautéed steak.        
92 Michael Apstein Jan 19, 2021

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Symmetry” Meritage Red Wine 2014 ($55):  This Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant (80%) Bordeaux-style blend (with Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc making up the remainder) is far more complex than their straight Cabernets.  Not overdone, it manages to be both elegant and powerful. Non-intrusive tannins provide support without a hint of aggressiveness.  Subtle savory notes balance and complement its dark fruitiness.  A welcomed nuance of bitterness, instead of sweetness, in the finish, makes it a good choice for a grilled hunk of meat. 
92 Michael Apstein Mar 26, 2019

Silver Oak, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($70): Silver Oak probably has as many critics as it does fans because of its controversial use of American Oak barrels, which is readily apparent in the '05 vintage from Alexander Valley. Though the wood aroma stands out, the Silver Oak has the fruit to stand up to the menthol, eucalyptus nuance that is imparted by the barrel. Aromas of dark cherry, clove and dried herbs are supported by fine tannins. This medium-bodied red is elegant, with a long finish and a sweet floral note on the back end. Fans of this style will love it. 92 Robert Whitley Sep 15, 2009

Simi, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Landslide Vineyard 2005 ($35): Bordeaux class and elegance meet California exuberance in this terrific wine.   A core of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon is rounded out and amplified by the addition of Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and a smidge (1%) of Tannat.  Included in the complex web of flavors one can pick out cherry, blackberry, chocolate, and a variety of spices.  With a nice grip and satisfying length, this wine is thoroughly enjoyable. 92 Marguerite Thomas Jan 27, 2009

Simi, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Landslide Vineyard 2002 ($33): Landslide is Simi's premier vineyard in the Alexander Valley and Reeder utilized all five Bordeaux red varieties in this blend, creating a cabernet with deep blackberry, spice and toasted oak aromas, coupled with richly textured berry flavors and firm refined tannins. To borrow a term from soccer, this Bordeaux blend is one part of a 'set piece,' the other part being the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 18, 2006

Simi Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Landslide Vineyard 2012 ($40): As 2013 California Cabernets reach the market, this baby needs more time in the cellar to round its sturdy tannins.  Ripe cassis, black cherry and dark plum fruit are wrapped in spicy vanillin oak, and crisp acidity keeps the palate fresh at this infant stage.  Cellar for up to 10 years for peak drinkability.
92 Linda Murphy Jan 5, 2016

Souverain, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Winemaker's Reserve 2011 ($45): This is a remarkable wine given the difficulties of the vintage, but winemaker Ed Killian is one of the best in the business and his skill shows in this well-balanced beauty. Killian has always had a deft touch with Cabernet, and here he has crafted a wine that delivered layered dark fruit aromas, with hints of mocha and spice, and fine, well integrated tannins. Do not fear the bad press on this vintage, the 2011 Souverain Winemaker's Reserve is a solid wine, now and for many years to come. 92 Robert Whitley Mar 18, 2014

Souverain, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($20):  Year in and year out, Souverain’s wines, particularly the reds, offer outstanding quality at a reasonable price.  This Cabernet simply extends the winery’s exemplary track record.  It tastes true to the varietal, with black currant or berry fruit flavor, just the right amount of sweet oak, and a warm, soothing quality that reflects its Alexander Valley origin.  Supple and nuanced, it’s a refined, graceful wine.  Many California Cabs costing two or three times as much taste crudely overwrought by comparison. 92 Paul Lukacs Dec 15, 2009

Stonestreet, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Christopher’s” 2006 ($100):  At a premium price such as this, I expect a lot from a wine, and this one delivered the goods.  Admirably balanced, it is poised at a near-optimal point from which it shows both power and softness.  Rich but not over-ripe, it is concentrated and quite deep in flavor, yet the finish is long and soft rather than astringent.  Oak is notably present but not overbearing, and the wine will surely develop for another few years, though it is quite enjoyable already.  All in all, this shows damned impressive winemaking skill. 92 Michael Franz Sep 14, 2010

Stonestreet, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Monument Ridge 2009 ($45): This high-elevation Alexander Valley cabernet, sourced from vineyards at altitudes of 1900 feet, is a gorgeous wine for those who love sun-kissed California cabernet that delivers ripe, sweet aromas and voluptuous textures on the palate. This vintage exhibits intense, layered aromas of cassis and blackberry, with plenty of vanillin and spice. The tannins are supple, long and soft. The wine finishes with tremendous persistence. 92 Robert Whitley Mar 26, 2013

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon Block 21 2009 ($64): Trione's Block 21 Cabernet is a superb example of Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from a good vintage. It exhibits richness and density, with layers of blackberry and cassis fruit, a hint of cedar and subtle earthy notes. The wine is well balanced, with a firm, elegant structure and excellent persistence through the finish. This vintage will benefit from an additional few years of age, but it won't disappoint in the short term, either. 92 Robert Whitley Jan 21, 2014

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Geyserville Ranch Red Wine 2009 ($48): Trione's Geyserville Ranch Red Wine is a red Bordeaux-style blend that's heavy on the Cabernet Sauvignon (69 percent) with a big shot of Merlot (12 percent). This vintage is suave and supple on the palate, with inviting red- and black-fruit aromas, a warm hint of toasty oak, and a spice note on the back of the palate. It's delicious and easy to drink now. 92 Robert Whitley Jan 21, 2014

Trione, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 'Block Twenty One' 2012 ($67):  Trione's Block Twenty One Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander shows off the ripeness of the excellent 2012 vintage. With layers of black fruits on the palate and aromas of cedar and spice on the nose, this is a classic California cab that is supple and ready now, but with enough structure and depth to age gracefully over the next decade.
92 Robert Whitley Sep 6, 2016

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Block Twenty-One 2011 ($67):  Released at five-years of age, Trione's block Twenty-One Cabernet Sauvignon is suave, plump, juicy and ready to drink from the moment the cork is pulled. This vintage exhibits rich notes of cassis and blackberry, with hints of mocha and spice on the nose that carry all the way through a long, seductive finish.
92 Robert Whitley Apr 19, 2016

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Homestead” Red Blend 2014 ($20): The Wetzel family has been producing great wines for many years, and you can count this easy drinking budget friendly wine among them.  It's a cherry and spice bomb of flavor, with lively acidity make it a perfect foil for everyday fare -- I'm thinking burgers and football.  Contains 45% Merlot, 34% Zinfandel, 8% Grenache, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Syrah.  A Platinum Award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
91 Rich Cook Sep 27, 2016

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Merlot Estate 2010 ($20):  Alexander Valley Vineyards 2010 Estate Merlot ably demonstrates the synergy the merlot grape seems to have with the varied appellations of Sonoma County. From the Carneros to Sonoma Valley to the Alexander Valley, merlot thrives. Though often blended with cabernet sauvignon, merlot in Sonoma is a stand-alone grape variety that produces an outstanding varietal wine, too. This one from the Alexander Valley, the warmest of the appellations referenced, is rich and deep, showing juicy black fruits, well-measured oak, and a touch of spice on the finish. It is superbly crafted and satisfying at a modest price, and was a platinum medal-winner at the 2013 Critics Challenge.
91 Robert Whitley Sep 24, 2013

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Old Vine Zinfandel “Alexander School Reserve” 2017 ($45):  This producer is widely known for “SinZin” and other proprietarily named bottlings of Zinfandel.  The Wetzel Family bought the property in 1962 from the Alexander family and has owned it since, and they have an affinity for Zinfandel across the stylistic spectrum.  This reserve bottling comes from a fifty year old head trained plot near the winery from rows selected by winemaker Kevin Hall.  It’s a big boy, coming in at 16.1% alcohol, but it’s managed well, with aromas and flavors of black plum, baker’s chocolate, vanilla, moderate oak spice and orange zest.  Bring on the stinky cheese with this one – a fine winter treat!     
91 Rich Cook Dec 1, 2020

Cameron Hughes, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Lot 686" 2016 ($16):  Lot 686 is a red fruit-driven Cabernet for fans of oak spice, one where the wood tones come right up to the cherry and raspberry fruit without taking over the proceedings.  This cries out for food -- a juicy rib-eye slab will work perfectly.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
91 Rich Cook Sep 24, 2019

Chelsea Goldschmidt, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot Guidestone Rise 2016 ($20):  A pleasant, red fruit-driven Merlot, with complementary oak spice, savory and clove notes, perfect acid balance and a long finish that melds all the elements nicely.  Add in a great price, and you’ve got serious value here. 
91 Rich Cook Nov 13, 2018

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot "Sonoma Reserve" 2005 ($20): With a beautiful garnet color, this yummy Merlot has aromas of dark fruit, mocha and toasty oak.  It has fruit flavors of black cherry and blackberry, with soft vanilla notes and good structure and acidity. 91 Tina Caputo Dec 9, 2008

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot Reserve 2004 ($22): Tasted side-by-side with their regular--North Coast--Merlot, the superiority of the Reserve bottling is readily evident and, in my mind, worth the extra four dollars.  As expected, it has more sweet fruit flavors, more apparent oak aging and more supporting tannins.  But more importantly, it retains nuances of the earthy/leafy character of Merlot and is not overdone.  It's a harmonious and polished wine and outshines plenty of other Merlots costing twice as much. 91 Michael Apstein Feb 5, 2008

Cult X, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage 2011 ($56): A blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec and 10% Merlot, this shows very impressive intensity and drive without coming off as over-extracted or over-bearing.  The fruit notes are all about dark berries, and blackberries come first to mind, with plenty of oak bracing that never gets in the way of the fruit notes.  Acidity is atypically high for an Alexander Valley red, but it is quite nicely integrated with the wine’s other components, lending freshness without seeming at all awkward, and presaging at least five years of future improvement.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
91 Michael Franz Apr 22, 2014

Farrier, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Presshouse” 2007 ($30):  The handsome label itself might make this bottle vault off the shelf and into your hands.  Okay, I’m well aware that you’re not supposed to buy a wine for its label, so go ahead then and pick up a bottle of Ferrier Presshouse for its vinous merits alone and I promise you’ll not be disappointed.  A member of the Jackson Family Wines (think Kendall-Jackson), Ferrier is another example of this company’s dedication to producing ultra appealing wines.  Blended from the classic Bordeaux quintet of grapes (Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec) the wine has the comparable vigor, musculature, sleekness, and finesse of a fine racehorse.   It’s a winning ticket for sure. 91 Marguerite Thomas Jan 25, 2011

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($34):  A very impressive Cabernet with genuine grace and charm from a producer that not long ago seemed to specialize in super rich, ripe, and often quite oaky wines.  By contrast, this wine shows admirable restraint.  Sure, it’s full of flavor, but it’s also very harmonious, with the wood playing only a secondary role, and the fruit never seeming jammy, hot, or heavy.  It may well become even better with a few years of cellaring, but it’s delicious right now, so is a great choice for restaurateurs to put on their lists. 91 Paul Lukacs Mar 16, 2010

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Trésor" 2002 ($48): This is a seriously delicious wine that succeeds by packing a lot of flavor and complexity onto a medium-bodied platform. Comprised of the Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, it is soft and succulent in feel and flavor. Notes of black cherries and ripe, dark berries remain in the forefront thanks to mercifully subtle use of oak, and the fruit is free from the excessively overt sweetness that unmasks many Bordeaux-style wines from California. There's really no question that this is a California wine, since the fruit is so ripe and juicy, but it is a very welcome experience to have 'California' whispered rather than screamed. 91 Michael Franz Sep 19, 2006

Geyser Peak, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage Reserve 2002 ($49): Deep, dark color makes this an impressive looking wine, and that impression holds up in all other respects as well. Aromas and flavors of dark fruit predominate, with nice accents of spices and vanilla that are very well integrated. This very classy wine can be enjoyed now but will develop for at least another five years. 91 Michael Franz May 30, 2006

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($52):  Even when tasting this wine blind, I recognized Jordan’s classic restraint, finesse and elegance.  On the nose, the wine is, simply, Cabernet: cassis, a bit of lead pencil and some oaky notes that are not intrusive.  In the mouth the wine is oh-so-smooth and gentle, even silky, a Cab with depth and length.  This is a distinctive California Cabernet with balance and understatement more than power. 91 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Aug 3, 2010

Kokomo Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Ruth's Vineyard 2008 ($38):  With a hint of herbaceousness, the wine’s aroma has notes of cedar and a cinnamon underdone. It has flavors of cherries and spice, along with a good balance of tannin, acidity and spice. 91 Tina Caputo Oct 25, 2011

Mora Estate, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Valpo” 2009 ($65): Winemaker/Chef Fabiano Ramaci has brought a bit of Valpolicella to Northern California with this Amarone style blend of Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara and Negrara.  After harvesting the fruit on September 30th, the grapes went to the drying racks for 90 days prior to fermentation in the traditional appassimento method, then fermented for 30 days prior to going into barrels.  The results are quite pleasing, with aromas and flavors of plum, candied cherry, tobacco, toasted oak and soft spice notes, and mild herbs and a touch of orange zest.  A pleasant surprise that’s ready for a big rich meal after a long decant.  It’s also a great gift presentation -- each bottle is hand painted by Alena Ramaci.
91 Rich Cook Jul 23, 2013

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Terra a Lago Block 4 Vineyard 2002 ($45): I tend to think of Murphy-Goode reds as pleasantly soft and user-friendly but just a bit too domesticated to really light my fire. However, this wine shows real guts and intensity, with striking blackberry fruit and interesting accents of mocha, woodsmoke and spices. It is ready to drink now with food, but can gain further complexity if laid down for another few years. 91 Michael Franz Dec 6, 2005

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (California) 'All In Claret' 2004 ($36): Voluptuous and seductive, the ’04 All In Claret from Murphy-Goode is a richly textured, mouth-filling Bordeaux blend that is a superb expression of the sun-kissed red wines of the Alexander Valley. Dark fruits, sweet vanillin and a hint of mocha are its most charming attributes, along with sweet, supple tannins. 91 Robert Whitley Aug 18, 2009

Owl Ridge, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($20): Impressively meaty and substantial for a $20 Cabernet, this is quite a mouthful of wine for the money.  Importantly, though, the wine’s size and intensity was not purchased at the price of harshness due to the winemaker trying to wring more from the fruit than it could provide without suffering the harsh results of over-maceration.  With dark berry and black cherry fruit augmented with a bold but balanced lashing of oak, this is very good period…and especially good in view of its price.  Platinum Medal winner at the 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition.
91 Michael Franz Mar 19, 2013

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage "Symmetry" 2010 ($55): As high-spirited and tautly muscular as a promising race horse, Symmetry gallops across the taste buds with energy and power.  It’s loaded with juicy ripe fruit, alcohol (15.5%), and tannins, but all these elements are reined in--in, well, symmetric, fashion, with everything balanced and cohesive.  If you’re impatient to drink the wine, or if you particularly appreciate the energetic vigor of young Meritage, you should drink the wine now and enjoy every sip.  Alternatively, lay it down to mellow for a few months or a couple of years and it will surely (to prolong the equine metaphor) be headed for the winners’ circle.
91 Marguerite Thomas Feb 26, 2013

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (California) "Symmetry" 2004 ($55): This red Bordeaux-style blend has always been a fine wine, yet the 2004, a mix of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 8% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot, is a bit bigger in fruit and structure, yet remains succulent and balanced. Juicy black cherry, plum and black currant fruit, subtle vanilla and toast, crisp acidity and supple texture make it enjoyable now, and likely to remain so for 10 years. 91 Linda Murphy Sep 18, 2007

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Symmetry” 2007 ($55):  With truly wonderful wines there is something physical, almost erotic, about the way the wine grabs the taste buds.  This is certainly what happens with Symmetry, a beautifully conceived and executed Bordeaux-style blend, which has an abundance of dark fruit and just enough California sweetness to provide a rush of pleasure without exhausting the palate. 91 Marguerite Thomas Feb 8, 2011

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($45):  This is a very fine Alexander Valley Cabernet that shows all of the virtues of the breed.  It is rich and flavorful but soft in texture, with supple fruit recalling dark cherries above all.  Accents of toast and vanilla are noteworthy but not overly prominent, and a backnote of dark chocolate is very appealing.  Crack into this now with a grilled steak or lay it down for 5-7 years. 91 Michael Franz Apr 24, 2012

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Brothers Ridge" 2007 ($75):  I’m often wary of wines (like this one) in oversized, extremely heavy bottles – I worry that the fancy packaging might be compensating for something (call it “little wine syndrome”).  This one is every bit as impressive on the inside as it is on the outside.  It has drool-inducing black fruit, cedar and spice aromas, along with blackberry and chocolate flavors.  It has a luscious, silky texture and good balance. 91 Tina Caputo Nov 22, 2011

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Symmetry” 2012 ($55): Similar to Rodney Strong’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, their Meritage wine, Symmetry, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), and other Bordeaux varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot), is big and ripe with a seductively plush texture.   With the blend, however, comes complexity, which becomes even more apparent as the wine sits in the glass.  Herbs and spice, which complement and enhance the dark fruit flavors, appear.  The slightly lower stated alcohol, 14.5%, probably allows the wine to express itself more.  It would be a good choice for roasted leg of spring lamb.
91 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2015

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014 ($45):  Packed with power and intensity this Cabernet is nonetheless well structured, which guarantees that its fresh fruits (notably blackberries) and hints of chocolate don’t get lost in all that brawn.  Graceful tannins and a generous finish are further bonuses here.  If I have one complaint it’s that the bottle is unconscionably heavy.  When asked about this widespread environmental problem in the wine industry many producers (and/or their press agents) put the blame on consumers’ demands, but it seems to me that winery representative should shoulder the responsibility of educating the public about the fallacy that a heavy bottle signifies perfection and prestige.  In fact, what these overweight bottles really represent is the largest share of the wine industry’s considerable contribution to global warming.     
91 Marguerite Thomas Feb 16, 2021

Rodney Strong Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Symmetry" 2001 ($55): A typical Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Rodney Strong's 2001 Symmetry is a classy wine. Not overdone, the winemaker has 'turned down the volume,' allowing the layers of earth and mineral-like flavors to come through nicely. The wine, not the oak, speaks. 91 Michael Apstein Oct 10, 2006

Sebastiani, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($40):  The world needs more renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon like this one --  specifically, well-priced and well proportioned.  It delivers ripe, but not over-ripe fruit flavors, and a wisp of vanilla-kissed oak.  But savory and “not just fruit” accents peek through, creating balance and saving it from being fruit-heavy.  Suave tannins mean you can open tonight to drink with the steak that’s coming off the grill.   
91 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

Stonestreet, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Monument Ridge Vineyard 2010 ($45): Typical of good Cabernet Sauvignon from mountain vineyards, this wine is tight and firm, with flavors that make one think of wild berries, herbal underbrush and stony terrain.  The grapes grow at altitudes ranging from 400 to 2,400 feet, which helps explain Stonestreet Cabernet’s mouthwatering concentration, savory tannins and palate pleasing long finish.
91 Marguerite Thomas Sep 2, 2014

Stonestreet, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Monument Ridge" 2010 ($45): A classic example of Alexander Valley Cabernet, rich but supple, with compelling fruit and vanilla aromas and an overlay of oak on the palate.  This is a lush and very satisfying wine.  It outperforms many more expensive Napa Valley Cabs.
91 Paul Lukacs Oct 7, 2014

Stuhlmuller, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($38): I love the wines even though some vintages of Stuhlmuller’s Cabernet verge on being exhaustingly vigorous. The 2009 is relatively modest by comparison. It’s still a big powerful wine, with intense mocha, licorice and black cherry elements, but there’s nothing overripe or fatiguing about it. And like most Stuhlmuller vintages this Cab is absolutely fabulous with food thanks to the beautifully balanced streak of acid and tannins calibrated to underscore the gustatory virtues of meat (and other proteins), as well as hearty carbohydrates such as pasta.
91 Marguerite Thomas Sep 25, 2012

Stuhlmuller Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($36): I'm a fan of Alexander Valley Cabernets, because they tend to be more reserved and elegant than their Napa Valley cousins.  This one is a little riper and bolder than a typical AV Cab, but it's tasty nonetheless.  It has aromas of chocolate, toasty oak and vanilla, along with ripe, concentrated blackberry fruit flavors. 91 Tina Caputo Dec 9, 2008

Williams & Heim, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($53): Here is a bold expression of Alexander Valley that needs some bottle age to fully integrate.  Blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, cedar spice and mild dried herb aromas lead to a palate that delivers those elements under oak toast that will come into harmony with the other elements with about five more years in the bottle.  If you can't wait, I'd decant overnight and serve with lamb or other rich meats.  Contains 5% Merlot
91 Rich Cook Mar 31, 2015

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Franc "Wetzel Family Estate" 2004 ($22): It's rare to find a California Cabernet Franc that actually tastes true to this appealing grape variety. This one does. It offers rich, dark fruit flavors, with a faintly green, herbaceous undertone, and a bouquet that hints of wet stone -- something like a warm sidewalk after a spring rain. Though young, the wine tastes delicious now, and it should age gracefully for a good more years. Impressive. 90 Paul Lukacs Jun 13, 2006

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Homestead” Red Blend 2017 ($22):  This offers a lot of fun for not a lot of money, based on an interesting balance of firmer, dark fruit notes and softer, juicier red impressions.  Some toasty oak is also in evidence, but by dint of sheer exuberance, the fruit wins out.  Built from 48% Merlot, 20% Zinfandel, 11% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Syrah, this is a crowd pleaser.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.  
90 Michael Franz Feb 26, 2019

Alexander Valley Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Wetzel Family Estate 2008 ($18):  Firmly-structured, with evident but pliable tannins, this is a serious Alexander Valley Cabernet that can hold its own with other wines from the region costing considerably more.  It offers the sort of warm, satisfying appeal and fruit-filled personality that distinguishes the best Alexander Valley Cabs, but is in no sense simple or one-dimensional.  90 Paul Lukacs Feb 1, 2011

Artesa, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Tempranillo 2003 ($25): The best rendition of Tempranillo that I can recall tasting from California, this shows deep, dark fruit that is expressive and minimally oaked (for a change), with lovely black raspberry and black cherry fruit and just a little spice and smoke from wood to lend framing and complexity. 90 Michael Franz May 30, 2006

Bella, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Petite Sirah Big River Ranch 2008 ($38):  The wine has a deep, rich color, along with a nice plummy aroma.  It’s concentrated and ripe, with flavors of black fruit, plum and vanilla.  Well balanced, with good structure 90 Tina Caputo Feb 15, 2011

Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Grenache Big River Ranch 2007 ($48):  This juicy Grenache has aromas of red cherries, berries and baking spices.  It’s ripe but well balanced, with spicy cherry flavors highlighted with soft vanilla.  Rich, but not too heavy. 90 Tina Caputo Sep 28, 2010

Clos de Bois, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2005 ($20): The aromatics accurately predict pleasure.  Supple, without being soft, this ripe and succulent Merlot is a winner.  It has surprising complexity for a $20 wine, showing nuances of wet earth, herbal notes, and a touch of chocolate.  The impeccable balance betrays the 14.5% stated alcohol. 90 Michael Apstein Mar 17, 2009

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot “Sonoma Reserve” 2008 ($22):  Here is a Merlot that does what this variety wants to do but all too rarely is allowed to do--namely, offer full flavor without excessive heat or alcohol, and so feel soft and seductive on the palate.  It’s not a Cabernet wannabe (as so many Merlots are these days), but rather a supple, inviting red wine that seems proud of its varietal identity.  (Tasted blind at the 2011 Sonoma County Harvest Fair wine competition.) 90 Paul Lukacs Oct 11, 2011

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (California) Tempranillo Reserve 2002 ($22): The workhorse red grape of Spain is Tempranillo and is the basis for all of the great reds from Rioja and the Ribera del Duero. It isn't widely planted in the United States, but what's here is actually fairly good. Clos du Bois has been making a Tempranillo for several vintages and is one of the most consistent of the handful of California producers who pay attention to this grape variety. This vintage of the Clos du Bois is excellent. 90 Robert Whitley Sep 1, 2005

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Red Blend “Marlstone” 2006 ($50):  An impressive Bordeaux blend, with richly-layered fruit and dark chocolate flavors, impressive length on the palate, and genuine complexity in the finish.  Perhaps most notably, it is in no sense heavy or hot, but rather balanced and harmonious--unlike many comparably priced Californians.  Now almost five years old, the wine has sufficient stuffing for five or ten more if well-cellared.  90 Paul Lukacs Apr 26, 2011

Dashe, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch Old Vines 2009 ($32):  Beautifully complex and balanced, this elegant Zinfandel reflects the mature, intricate flavors and textures that well tended old vines are capable of producing.  It’s more subtle and restrained than dense and chewy, and therefore exceptionally food-friendly. 90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 28, 2012

Dashe Cellars, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch 2002 ($28): Dashe Cellars specializes in small-volume, limited edition Zinfandels. In my admittedly limited experience, the wines tend to be marked by finesse as well as brawn. This particular bottling, made from grapes grown north of the town of Geyserville in the Alexander Valley, shows plenty of muscle. Coming in at 14.8% alcohol, it offers intense black fruit flavors, enhanced by notes of cocoa and coffee. At the same time, it seems almost gentile on the palate, with no trace of heat and nary a rough edge. This is old-vine Zinfandel at its best, a wine that impresses because of balance more than power. 90 Paul Lukacs Mar 28, 2006

Dutcher Crossing, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Stuhlmiller Vineyard 2008 ($34):  With clean, fresh apple and citrus fruit flavors and excellent length on the palate, this is a beautifully balanced expression of Chardonnay.  Less exuberant than its Costello Vineyard stablemate, it offers refreshing but also sophisticated style and charm.  (Tasted blind at last month’s International Eastern Wine Competition.) 90 Paul Lukacs Jun 8, 2010

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($32): Grapes for this dense and delicious cabernet come from the same two vineyards as the PreVail wines. The color is a deep black-red with brilliant nuances. Forward ripe blackberry aromas lead to sumptuous fruit-forward flavors, with great texture and acidity on a firm tannin framework. Length, full fruit and complexity are distinguishing features of this promising Cabernet. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 10, 2006

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 ($27): I don't see a lot of Cabernet of this quality at this price, particularly in a wine that should be pretty easy to find.  It's a perfect bottle to put next to a classic Napa offering to illustrate the difference that the west side of the mountains makes, showing more red fruit and tea than its neighbors to the east, while still offering classic Cabernet elements.  It's a drinker!  Contains 8% Petite Sirah and 1% Merlot.
90 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2016

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012 ($27): Considering the Alexander Valley is one of California's greatest sources for high quality Cabernet Sauvignon, it's quite stunning to find an outstanding Cab retailing for less than $30 a bottle. The Frei Brothers Reserve is a delicious example of Alexander Valley terroir, showing ripe blackberry fruit with notes of dried herbs and black olive, hints of spice and great persistence on the finish. This one falls into the category of Big Bang for the Buck. 90 Robert Whitley Feb 17, 2015

Geyser Peak, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Tectonic" Red Wine Blend 2012 ($28): If there's a wine that expresses the dark side in a bright way, this is it.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah come together in a way that give the best characteristics of each while avoiding any coarseness that you might anticipate when hearing those three names together in the same line.  Black and blue fruit ride atop a full oak load that may prove too much for some. If you're sensitive to wood flavors, try it with a sharp cheddar.
90 Rich Cook Nov 24, 2015

Geyser Peak Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Devil’s Inkstand 2011 ($50): This wine delights with aromas of blackberry, red plum, leaf, caramel and a touch of pepper, and delivers on the promise of the nose with a plush feel, very bright acidity, good grip and a long finish that emphasizes the berries and leafy notes.  Winemaker Ondine Chattan suggests pairing with tamarind glazed pork chops -- I’ll be giving that a whirl!
90 Rich Cook Mar 18, 2014

Geyser Peak Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Walking Tree Vineyard 2004 ($45): A delicious Cabernet that holds a little dash (5%) of Shiraz, this wine offers deep, persistent flavors of blackberries and dark cherries along with well-balanced, subtle accent notes from oak.  Full-bodied but soft in texture, it is ready to enjoy now but will gain additional complexity if permitted to age for another few years. 90 Michael Franz Jun 19, 2007

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($50): Since its establishment three decades ago, Jordan has always been rightly known for its elegantly proportional Cabernets.  The 2004 vintage is no exception.  The dark fruit flavors have a curious combination of depth and delicacy.  An elusive hint of cigar box-like smokiness adds intrigue, while fine tannins support the entire package. 90 Michael Apstein Jul 15, 2008

Lake Sonoma Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($24):  A serious Cabernet, marked by deep, dark berry flavors, a judicious dash of oak, and a long, cocoa-tinged finish.  Given the prices being charged for many northern California Cabs, it has to qualify as something of a bargain -- and a delicious one at that. 90 Paul Lukacs Jul 6, 2010

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($30): With supple tannins, Martini’s Alexander Valley Cabernet is velvety in texture.  There’s far more going on in the glass compared to the Sonoma County bottling, which arguably could reflect a vintage difference.  Engaging minty nuances complement its ripe dark fruit flavors.  Its succulent ripe fruit and plush texture are apparent in the finish.  Drink this one now while waiting for their Napa Valley bottling to come around.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 13, 2013

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($30): This ultra-smooth Cabernet Sauvignon from Martini shows well even at this early stage of development, exhibiting layered aromas of blackberry and cassis, with a background note of cedar and spice. Well-balanced, it is inviting to drink now, but will definitely improve over the next four to seven years for those who have the patience. 90 Robert Whitley Nov 30, 2013

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($34): Louis Martini was one of the pioneering giants of California wine.  Although the Martini family is no longer involved with the label, the wines bearing the Martini name still express the best in California wine.  This Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, has a harmonious mixture of bright dark fruit flavors offset by subtle herbaceous notes that add complexity.  Tannins lend support without being intrusive.  Thankfully, it’s not overdone and hence, you want to drink another glass.
90 Michael Apstein Jun 30, 2015

Mazzocco, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Stone Ranch 2004 ($25): If you don't like your Zinfandel big, jammy, Port-like and alcoholic, run away from this one as fast as you can.  I confess that I find it delicious.  'Zin Slut,' my husband calls me--affectionately (I think).  I certainly would rather not drink any wine that is 17% alcohol (!!), but in fairness to it, this one is so beautifully balanced that the alcohol is seamlessly woven into the overall rich chocolate/blackberry/vanilla flavors that it doesn't jut out in any way.  As a matter of fact, while I was enjoying my second glass of it (okay, maybe it was the third), the aforementioned husband was slurping up a bowlful of Hägen-Dazs Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip ice cream--similar flavor profile.  Chacun a son goût.... 90 Marguerite Thomas Jun 12, 2007

Murphy Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “All In Claret” 2006 ($24):  This wine has a lovely aroma of blackberries and cherries, accented with leather and spice.  It has black cherry flavors, along with notes of vanilla and spice. 90 Tina Caputo Jun 5, 2012

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 'Terra A Lago' 2004 ($45): This bold Alexander Valley Cab offers up ripe aromas of black currant and blackberry, with a juicy palate that’s supported by firm tannins and balanced acidity. You can feel the wood more than smell it, though there’s a subtle hint of spicy oak vanillin that comes through on the finish. 90 Robert Whitley Aug 18, 2009

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “All In Claret” 2006 ($24): All In’s particular strengths include a modestly tart finish that serves as an excellent counterbalance to the wine’s ripe fruitiness. In the same spirit of balance, soft tannins equalize the overall silky texture of this Bordeaux-inspired “Claret.”
90 Marguerite Thomas May 14, 2013

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($24): The Murphy-Goode reds have been made in a decidedly riper style since the talented Christina Benz departed as winemaker a numer of years ago, and this '03 Cab is a good example of the direction the winery has taken. This vintage is loaded with ultra-ripe black-fruit flavors and aromas that come to the very edge of over-ripeness without crossing the line. It's a lovely wine, with supple berry aromas, soft tannins and a sweet fruit core that delivers a long, lingering finish. 90 Robert Whitley Mar 6, 2007

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Murphy Ranch, Sarah Block 2002 ($35): If you wanted to find a textbook Cabernet Sauvignon, this would be a prime candidate. It has aromas and flavors of black currants and blackberries, very concentrated, very ripe and yet fresh. The wine's firm oak tannin on the rear palate is ably balanced by the wine's concentrated fruit character on the fore palate. Concentrated fruit on the finish indicates a potential for aging. A splendid Cabernet. 90 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jun 20, 2006

Nick Goldschmidt Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Fidelity” Red Wine 2018 ($20):  This transplanted Kiwi knows the Alexander Valley well, having spent a fair amount of time as winemaker at Simi.  On his own Goldschmidt oversees a number of brands, including this one bearing his name.  It’s a stunner for the price, a supple, inviting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that delivers aromas of ripe blackberry and plum, a generous shot of oak vanillin and supple tannins so that you can enjoy this beauty right now.           
90 Robert Whitley Dec 1, 2020

PreVail Mountain Estate Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Back Forty" 2003 ($80): The ripe berry nose of this appealing wine has hints of spice, while the textured flavors are a pleasing blend of berries and dark chocolate. The wine has very good length and excellent structure. Although the grape mix is nearly the same as the West Face 2003 blend, Back Forty has greater depth and intensity. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 10, 2006

Ravenswood, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Big River 2005 ($30): A full-bodied and full-fleshed Zinfandel, with plenty of briary spice to complement and enhance the juicy fruit, this wine succeeds as much because of what it is not--namely too hot or too heavy.  That's not to say that it's particularly stylish, or at all subtle.  Rather, it offers what so many Zin lovers want--rich, ripe, full-throttled flavor. 90 Paul Lukacs Apr 22, 2008

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Rockaway" 2007 ($75):  The thick, heavy bottle that contains this Cab offers a hint at what you’ll find inside: A concentrated, bold Cab with ripe red and black berry fruit flavors and a note of woody spice.  Well made and balanced, this is an impressive wine.  However, I feel like the price is bit on the high side. 90 Tina Caputo Jun 21, 2011

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Meritage "Symmetry" 2007 ($55):  A consistently fine California red blend, Rodney Strong’s 2007 Symmetry offers deep, dark fruit flavors enhanced by a judicious amount of oak seasoning, impressive depth and length.  It seems juicy and fresh now, but promises to mellow and evolve with additional bottle age.  Past renditions have been especially impressive five or so years after the vintage, so I’d advise waiting a couple of years before opening it. 90 Paul Lukacs Oct 12, 2010

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2007 ($45): Evidencing the qualities that can make good California Cabernet so compelling, this is a juicy, fruit-filled wine, with excellent concentration and a mélange of secondary aromas and flavors that gain intensity in the finish.  It surely will benefit from a few years of cellaring, as time in bottle will allow its exuberant youthfulness to settle down.  Nonetheless, it’s mighty tasty now.  90 Paul Lukacs Nov 16, 2010

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($25): An excellent value in top-class northern California Cabernet, a category in which prices only to go up while overall quality stagnates if not declines.  This wine tastes rich and ripe, but unlike many of its more expensive competitors, not excessively so.  It displays underlying hints of non-fruit flavors (cocoa, coffee, spice), and ends with an impressively long finish.   Impressive -- and delicious. 90 Paul Lukacs Apr 17, 2007

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards 2014 ($28):  It’s hard to beat Rodney Strong when it comes to consistency and quality, as evidenced once again in this selection.  It nails the Alexander Valley red fruit profile, with judicious oak spice and soft dried herbs all lingering together and finishing with a bright acidic kiss.  Food friendly and budget friendly -- as always. 
90 Rich Cook Jul 31, 2018

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($28):  Rodney Strong’s Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon has long been one of the winery’s unsung gems. Though the price has inched upward in recent years, it remains an excellent value. The 2014 vintage exhibits exceptional balance, showing complex aromas of red and black fruits, oak spice and moderate tannins that allow for enjoyable near-term consumption. 
90 Robert Whitley Jul 17, 2018

Roth, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($28): Alexander Valley is renowned for its richly layered Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what you get with this vintage of the Roth. Bold, lush and mouth-filling, this is a superb example of the Alexander Valley model for Cabernet, and it comes with a relatively modest price tag. 90 Robert Whitley May 19, 2015

Sebastiani, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2005 ($24): This exemplary wine features real guts and depth of flavor without any of the hard, angular, astringent characteristics that most consumers wish to avoid when ordering a varietal Merlot.  Fruit notes of black cherry and plum meld very nicely with some toasty oak framing, and there's enough tannin to make this a better food wine than a cocktail wine, which is very much to its credit.  Impressive in many ways, this wine offers very strong value. 90 Michael Franz Dec 18, 2007

Sebastiani, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($30): Sebastiani's Alexander Valley Cabernet is a pure, joyous expression of this famous appellation. Rich and fleshy on the palate, with soft tannins, wonderful intensity of aroma across the gamut of blackberry, black currant and black cherry flavors, and savory dried herbs as a back note. Weightier on the palate and slightly higher in alcohol than the Sonoma County Cabernet (14.3 to 13.5) the Alexander Valley is nevertheless a beautifully balanced Cabernet that will pair nicely with red-meat dishes laced with savory spices. 90 Robert Whitley Apr 1, 2008

Seghesio, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Aglianico 2004 ($45): Seghesio is a winery with a long history of making Italian varieties in California.  For me, its Aglianico is its best current Cal-Ital wine.  It is dark in color, tannic, and full-bodied, with excellent balance.  A blend of California and Italy in style, perhaps just a bit too fruity for me, but a fine wine. 90 Ed McCarthy Dec 9, 2008

Silver Oak, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($70): Opinions differ on whether Silver Oak is over-rated or over-hyped, but I suspect that one would be hard-pressed to find many blind tasters who wouldn’t credit this wine on account of its overall appeal.  Although it is certainly ripe and soft, and while there’s plenty of oak on the margins, the wine isn’t obvious in any respect, and with airing, shows lots of nice little spicy, toasty nuances that will likely become even more prominent with time in bottle. 90 Michael Franz Nov 10, 2009

Silver Oak Cellars, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($70):  The Alexander Valley cuvée of Silver Oak is one of the last classic 100% Cabernets aged exclusively in American oak and bottled at a reasonable 13.5% alcohol.  The brilliant deep ruby color yields to a forward nose of ripe berry with subtle herbal back notes.  The flavors are bright and fruity with a pleasant chewy texture, refined tannins and a full balanced finish.  Drink the Alexander Valley cuvée before the more substantial Silver Oak Napa Valley.  90 Gerald D. Boyd May 11, 2010

Simi, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($26): This is a typical Alexander Valley Cabernet with grace notes of Merlot and a Cabernet Franc. Where the blend strays from the standard Bordeaux blend is the addition of one percent each Syrah and Petite Sirah, which Reeder says were needed to help with the color and tannin structure. The deep color is clear and bright and the slightly herbaceous nose has subtle blackberry and boiled tea back notes. It has a lean entry, but the wine fills out in the mid and back palate, with bright berry flavors, supported by firm tannins. Here is a blend that works, giving the wine character and length. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 18, 2006

Stuhlmuller, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($36): This is a big, snarling bear of a wine, but bring on some food and it relaxes into something supple and sensuous.   Tame it with a host of foods, from burgers to tenderloin, chicken thighs to baked ham, and it fairly purrs on the palate, conveying hints of black cherries and licorice, dark coffee and chocolate. 90 Marguerite Thomas Dec 16, 2008

Tom Gore Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "Field Blend" 2013 ($40): If you've tried some of the "dark red blend" wines that have found sudden popularity, but found them too sweet for your liking, give this big boy a go.  It's bone dry, and delivers all the darkness you desire, with complementary notes of leaf, mild fresh roasted coffee and dusty minerality.  Decant for full enjoyment and serve with bold red meats -- a venison slab jumps to mind.
90 Rich Cook Aug 2, 2016

Trione, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Block Twenty One 2007 ($64): The way you feel about this wine may depend on how much you like big, succulent, extracted, fruit-powered Cabernet Sauvignon.  Trione’s Cabernet is all of the above, as well as replete with deliciously plush tannins.  Everything about this Cab is big (including the ultra heavy bottle), so do serve it with a rich, savory dish or gorgeous hunk of meat.
90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 26, 2013

V. Sattui, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Franc 2007 ($30):  For reasons that may not be readily apparent, Cabernet Franc as a stand-alone wine has not been a hot item here in the New World, though it has achieved tremendous success in both the Loire Valley and Bordeaux wine districts of France. My theory is winegrowers, on the West Coast at least, are afraid of the grape because of its tendency toward green, weedy aromas. But that's only when it's not farmed properly or planted in all the wrong places. V. Sattui's Alexander Valley Cab Franc (with a very small bit of fruit from Napa's Mt. Veeder) does possess a barely noticeable herbaceous nuance. The wine's primary narrative, however, is juicy plum and black currant fruit, soft tannins and spice on the finish. In other words, delicious. The wine can be purchased on the internet at VSattui.com. 90 Robert Whitley Oct 26, 2010

Wattle Creek, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Shiraz 2001 ($28): It should come as no surprise that the Aussie owners of this property have great success with Shiraz, which is considered by many to be Australia's national grape. Rich and warm -- as one would expect from California Shiraz -- it is also meaty, exotic and smooth. This is a property to watch. 90 Michael Apstein Oct 3, 2006

Bella, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Big River Ranch 2008 ($38):  An intense blackberry aroma greets the nose, followed by deep, dark flavors of black cherry, blackberry and spice.  Full and ripe, with a firm tannic structure. 89 Tina Caputo Dec 20, 2011

Bella, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel “Two Patch” 2008 ($38):  I’m not a big fan of over-the-top Zins, and this one is deliciously rich without crossing the line.  It’s soft and medium bodied, with aromas of black raspberries and spice, along with raspberry and berry flavors accented with oaky spice. 89 Tina Caputo Feb 15, 2011

Chateau St. Jean, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Belle Terre Vineyard 2006 ($25):

Certainly compared to the Robert Young Chardonnay (reviewed this week and previously), this is a full-blown--yet not 'over the top'--Chardonnay.  A buttery, toasty quality seems to magnify the ripe tropical fruit flavors. Adequate citric-like acidity holds it all together and despite the richness and power, it's not over done.  But make no mistake, this is not a tightly wound Chablis-styled wine--it's overt and decadently rich.

89 Michael Apstein May 26, 2009

Chelsea Goldschmidt, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2013 ($17): Famed winemaker Nick Goldschmidt uses his daughter's name on this bottle -- it's the result of winemaking lessons with Chelsea, and I'd give this one an A- for depth of flavor, varietal character, judicious use of oak, good structure and a long dark finish.  It's priced as a value leader, and it succeeds with style.  I wonder what the next lesson has in store for us!
89 Rich Cook Nov 3, 2015

Dashe, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch “Old Vines” 2005 ($32): This soft and silky Zin is a very appealing sipping wine, though it also shows just enough structure to work with food and not seem formless.  It features soft, ripe red berry fruit with light, polished tannins and appropriately subtle oak. 89 Michael Franz Jan 8, 2008

Dashe Cellars, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($38): Dashe specializes in Zinfandel, and in fact is one of the few contemporary producers to make Zins that can be considered refined or elegant.  But Dashe also makes Cabernet, and this wine is every bit as impressive as the Zins.  It, too, tastes rich and ripe, but is in no sense excessive, with subtlety and nuance proving more compelling than sheer power. 89 Paul Lukacs Jun 19, 2007

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 ($27):  The Frei Brothers reserve from this vintage delivers a blast of ripe blackberry and black currant fruit accompanied by supple tannins and a note of wood spice. This Cab is drinking beautifully now but would benefit from additional cellar time.
89 Robert Whitley Aug 2, 2016

Geyser Peak Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Tectonic” 2011 ($28): An interesting blend of 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot and 16% “other red,” this will be a pleasant accompaniment a peppery pork loin.  It’s showing bright berry and spice, with moderate extraction letting the lively berry and citrus shine, and judicious use of oak adding some coffee and fall spice notes.
89 Rich Cook Mar 18, 2014

Lake Sonoma, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($24): A very rich Cabernet with tannins so pliant that the wine feels silky on the palate.  That should make it an especially good choice for restaurateurs looking for accessible but substantial wines to put on their lists.  At first taste, the oak influence seems a bit strong, but the wood calms down with exposure to air, and the wine becomes very harmonious.  So whether in a restaurant or at home, do decant it. 89 Paul Lukacs Sep 25, 2007

Lake Sonoma Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($24): A fine value in classy northern California Cabernet, this is a supple, sumptuous wine that promises to taste even better with a year or two of cellaring.  At present, its ripe fruit dominates the palate, but the wine shows tantalizing hints of cedar, tobacco and spice.  When it loses a bit of its baby fat, odds are good that those hints will become stronger and the wine will taste even more compelling. 89 Paul Lukacs Jul 1, 2008

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($35):  Aromas of blackberry, leather and woody spice get this wine off to an enticing start.  It’s lush on the palate, with rich flavors of blackberries, black cherries and leather, with a touch of earthiness.  It’s firmly structured and well balanced. 89 Tina Caputo Nov 20, 2012

Louis Martini, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2006 ($35):

A slightly sweet but substantial Cabernet, with firm but not oppressively astringent tannins and genuine depth of flavor.  Like many fine Alexander Valley Cabs, it finishes with a chocolate-like richness that will make you eager for another sip.

89 Paul Lukacs Aug 18, 2009

Louis Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($35):  With a deep, dark garnet color, this wine has aromas of blackberries and cigar box spice.  It has ripe blackberry flavor, along with good tannic structure and a toasty finish. 89 Tina Caputo Mar 13, 2012

Murphy Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “All In” Claret 2006 ($24):  This Bordeaux-style red blend has aromas of leather and spice, along with black fruit aromas and black cherry flavor. It’s nicely structured, with moderate tannins and fine balance. 89 Tina Caputo Aug 7, 2012

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 'Terra a Lago' 2012 ($40): Another superb Cabernet for Murphy-Goode from the 2012 vintage, the Terra a Lago shows blackeberry and cassis aromas, with a juicy, layered palate. Slightly drying wood tannins are the only off note, but that simply means age will not flatter this wine. Drink now and enjoy! 89 Robert Whitley May 19, 2015

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “All In” Claret 2005 ($45):  This Cab-focused Bordeaux-style blend has aromas of ripe blackberry and cassis fruit, with woody/cedar notes. It has rich blackberry favors, with vanilla and spice notes. The wine is smooth, with good tannic structure. 89 Tina Caputo Jul 6, 2010

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($24): I am keenly searching for California wines that offer distinctive character and competitive value in the world marketplace, and this is one of them. It offers fresh, flavorful, fleshy berry fruit that really shows the signature of Alexander Valley, with very soft tannins and a juicy core of fruit that could enable this to work well in all sorts of applications. As an aside, I don't care to drink red wine as a cocktail, but it is quite evidently the case that many people do, and this is a Cabernet that can be enjoyed in this mode while also being up to the challenge of pairing with serious food. 89 Michael Franz Nov 22, 2005

Palmeri, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Syrah Van Ness Vineyard 2004 ($53): Although the label doesn't state it, the grapes for this Syrah come from the Van Ness Vineyard in the Alexander Valley, as well as Stagecoach Vineyard and the Mountain Vineyard in the Napa Valley.  This companion to the Stagecoach Syrah is deeper in color with a brooding black core and the nose is tighter, showing black cherry and anise accents.  The flavors are round and full with ripe tannins and refreshing acidity.  It finishes long and concentrated, with 14.4% alcohol, but needs more time to open up. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Feb 26, 2008

PreVail Mountain Estate Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) "West Face" 2003 ($50): Deep black fruits and smoky notes distinguish the nose of this dense and ripe blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and a hint of Cabernet Franc. Syrah adds the forward, fruity dimension, while the Cabernet Sauvignon gives the wine structure. The richly textured fruit is seasoned with hints of anise and supported by good acidity and refined tannins. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 10, 2006

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005 ($50): Although this concentrated style of Cabernet emphasizes ripe primary fruit, it is not overdone or over-extracted.  Mellow tannins complement the sweet succulent fruit.  At this stage, it lacks complexity, but since it is balanced, additional flavors will likely emerge over time, so there's rush.  That said, its lushness makes it engaging now. 89 Michael Apstein Aug 5, 2008

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2012 ($40): With its ripe dark fruit character, Rodney Strong’s 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon clearly reflects its origins, the Alexander Valley, the second warmest (behind Knights Valley) AVA of Sonoma County.  The dense black fruit character is laced with allspice and other exotic notes.  The 15% stated alcohol imparts roundness, which, along with plush tannins, makes it a good choice for current drinking with a big steak.
89 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2015

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Alexander Valley (California) "Symmetry" 2004 ($55): By definition, a Meritage red wine is a blend of two or more Bordeaux varieties, with the common blend Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In this version of Symmetry, Rodney Strong Winemaker Rick Sayre opted for the uncommon by omitting Cabernet Franc. The result is a wine with a subdued nose of black currants and cedar and toasted oak, leading to black fruits and dark chocolate, supported by ample refined tannins and 14.6% alcohol.  This is a wine of power and firmness, enjoyable now but holding promise for the future. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jan 1, 2008

Roth, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($28):   As eccentric as the Roth Merlot is, the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon shows good varietal character.  Aged for 18 months sur lie in French oak, it has a medium-deep ruby color, low intensity berry and spicy French oak nose, medium blackberry flavors, firm refined tannins, 14.5% alcohol and medium fruit through the finish.
89 Gerald D. Boyd Apr 24, 2012

Sausal, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sangiovese 2006 ($19): Sausal Estate has been making Cal-Ital wines since well before that term came into use.  Its 2006 Sangioivese, medium red in color, is a good compromise between the typical fruity California Sangioveses and the Italian style of wineries such as Martin & Weyrich and Caparone.  It has lots of tannin, good acidity, and is quite polished. 89 Ed McCarthy Dec 9, 2008

Scherrer, Alexander Valley (California) Zinfandel “Shale Terrace” 2012 ($35): This is a nice big Zinfandel that doesn’t lean into overripe flavors, showing blackberry pie, vanilla, root beer and fall spice aromas.  On the palate, it is dry, with black cherry, brambly blackberry, pepper, and a touch of charred oak.  The wine is nicely integrated, long and peppery on the finish. A little bottle aging will open things up a bit, but it’s quite approachable now.
89 Rich Cook Feb 24, 2015

Sebastiani, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($30): This classic rendition of Cabernet from Sonoma's Alexander Valley shows a combination of concentrated, deeply-flavored fruit and soft texture that makes it inviting and impressive at once--a significant feat for a wine in its youth.  Fleshy and rich, it shows enough structure to stand up to a steak, but the dark berry fruit is so soft and appealing that this is actually a Cab you could simply sip as a cocktail. 89 Michael Franz Jan 23, 2007

Silver Oak, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($70):  The 2007 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of wines from several different vineyards that was aged for 25 months in 50% new and 50% once-used American oak barrels, then another 15 months in bottle prior to release.  This extensive aging did not change the bright deep ruby color.  But the aromatics show low-intensity black fruits and an undertone of dill that carries over to the flavors.  Packed with blackberry and plum flavors, there is a lingering herbal-dill accent.  The wine finishes with some astringency and 13.9% alcohol.  Despite the aging this Cabernet still needs more time in bottle. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Aug 9, 2011

Silver Oak, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($70):  Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley Cabernet is the one aged in American oak and it is evident in this 2006 version.  Aged for 25 months in 50% new and 50% once-used barrels, then an additional 15 months in bottle before release, the wine has a brilliant deep ruby color, medium berry nose with a forward American oak pencil shavings accent.  There are spice and mocha accents, noticeable oak and plenty of firm fine tannins and the wine finishes with a very satisfying 13.3% alcohol.  Stylistically different from the Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a wine that will improve with more bottle aging. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Sep 28, 2010

Silver Oak Cellars, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($70):  Silver Oak’s Alexander Valley Cabernet is the one aged in American oak and it is evident in this 2006 version.  Aged for 25 months in 50% new and 50% once-used barrels, then an additional 15 months in bottle before release, the wine has a brilliant deep ruby color, medium berry nose with forward American oak pencil shavings nose.  There are spice and mocha accents, noticeable oak and plenty of firm fine tannins and the wine finishes with a very satisfying 13.3% alcohol.  Stylistically different from the Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a wine that will improve with more bottle aging. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Oct 5, 2010

Simi, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2002 ($60): Less Cabernet Sauvignon and no Cabernet Franc in this Bordeaux-style blend, but aged in a higher percentage of new French oak. The color is very deep ruby and the nose is toasted oak, roasted coffee, dark fruits and a hint of spice. Fruit-forward flavors are firm and fleshy with very good follow through to the finish. While I found this cabernet to be nicely balanced and promising, it lacked the depth and complexity of the Landslide. Reeder says that with the 2003 vintage the Reserve Cabernet goes to 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 18, 2006

Simi, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003 ($60): Rich and ripe and deeply flavored, this wine nevertheless avoids the pitfall of seeming chunky or obvious in its ripeness.  The core of fruit recalls dark cherries and blackberries, with just a little smoky, spicy oak showing in the nose and finish.  Ageing will conjure up additional complexities, but this is already a pleasure to drink with even moderately robust foods. 89 Michael Franz Jun 12, 2007

Souverain, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($22): I continue to be very impressed with virtually all the wines from Souverain, a winery that seems to fly beneath some consumer radars but that consistently offers high quality at attractive prices.  This rich but supple Cabernet is but another in a series of successful releases.  It offers dark cherry, plum and berry fruit flavors, a hint of cedar or tobacco in the bouquet, and a note of dark chocolate in the finish, with just the right amount of oak to provide interest but not interference. 89 Paul Lukacs Sep 9, 2008

Stonestreet, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($42): An almost chewy Cabernet, this wine offers deep, satisfying flavors and a very rich character.  Youthful, it is not at this stage particularly complex, but does exhibit strong potential for future evolution, especially since the winery has a strong track record with the varietal. 89 Paul Lukacs May 13, 2008

Stuhlmuller Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($38): A succulent wine, full of ripe, fleshy fruit with a sexy, lush texture, this Cabernet will reward near-term drinking.  It lacks the structure to cellar for many years, but is definitely tasty right now.  Drink it with a juicy steak or burgers hot off the grill.
89 Paul Lukacs Jul 9, 2013

Wattle Creek, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Shiraz 2001 ($25): This Californian Syrah recalls a spicy, cool-climate Australian Shiraz--and not surprisingly, as the owner and winemaker are both Australian. The wine is dry and full-bodied, with firm, grainy oak tannin but enough dense, concentrated black fruit and black pepper flavor to balance its significant structure. It's young now and needs a rare steak to show at its best, but has the inherent balance to stand the test of time. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jan 31, 2006

Bound, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($35):  One of a dozen labels from the Precision Wine Co., Bound gets the over-the-top packaging treatment from owner Trevor Sheehan.  Oddly enough, the over-weighted bottle fits the style of this Cabernet which is definitely over-sized.  Aged in small oak for 10 months, the wine exudes ripe jammy fruit along with cassis and herbal notes in the aroma.  Big, ripe flavors of jam and blackberry are rounded by soft tannins.  If you like the big, luscious style of Cabernet, then this version is reasonably priced and it is often discounted.        
88 Norm Roby Aug 31, 2021

Chateau Souverain, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($22): This wine shows its stuff less through power than finesse. Its aromas and flavors of black berries, coffee and (ever so slightly) flowers are loosely knit and gentle. Fine-grained tannin runs all through the wine, giving it substance and weight but not a power presence. Black fruit character on the finish confirms the wine's quality. This is an approachable, fairly generous Cabernet for enjoying now. 88 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jun 20, 2006

Folie a Deux, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Merlot 2012 ($20): This supple Merlot from the Alexander Valley exhibits ripe red-fruit aromas with hints of dried herbs and spice. On the palate it is balanced, with mouth-watering acidity and soft tannins, making it a beautiful wine for serving now. Try it with roast chicken or grilled veal or lamb chops.
88 Robert Whitley Oct 13, 2015

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2002 ($24): You'll find deep, concentreated aromas of dark, berry fruit and herbal notes, especially eucalyptus. In the mouth, it's dry and full-bodied with very good concentration of dark berry fruit, within a firm frame of clean new oak. A powerful but lean wine, very solid and well-knit. Enjoyable now but will age well. 88 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Dec 6, 2005

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009 ($27): Sweetly, gently fruity, and glossy on the palate with soft tannins on the finish, this is my idea of comfort wine. There’s nothing angular or excessive in any direction about this Cab, it’s simply a relaxed, undemanding wine that boasts plenty of all-around appeal.
88 Marguerite Thomas Dec 25, 2012

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($24):  This classic California Cabernet is easy to recommend and explains why that category remains so popular.  Herbal elements balance the fresh ripe fruit flavors.  Polished tannins and good acidity lend support without being intrusive.  It’s a lovely choice for grilled or sautéed beef. 88 Michael Apstein Mar 16, 2010

Louis M. Martini, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003 ($35): A very well made wine, this shows a nice combination of open, expressive fruit and substantial structure. Notes of black plums and bing cherries are fresh and pure, and a light touch with oak on the winemaker's part is to be credited for that. The tannins are quite notable but fine in grain and neither bitter nor astringent. So, while this really does need food to show its stuff if consumed in the near term, it need not be paired with steak, but could work nicely with something like a grilled pork chop. 88 Michael Franz Oct 10, 2006

Murphy Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Dealer’s Choice” 2008 ($26):  This wine has aromas of dried herbs and toasted oak.  It has a silky texture, along with blackberry and cherry flavors moderate tannins.  The wine has a nice, long finish.  You could put this one down for a few more years. 88 Tina Caputo Jun 5, 2012

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Ellis Ranch “Snake Eyes” 2005 ($35):

This is a more “serious” version of the winery’s “Liar’s Dice” Zin, incorporating more oak character from 20 months spent in barrels.  It has lots of plum and blackberry fruit, with vanilla-toast accents, along with firm tannins and acidity.  This is one powerful Zin, with nearly 16% alcohol to prove it.

88 Tina Caputo Nov 24, 2009

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel Ellis Ranch “Snake Eyes” 2005 ($35):

This is a more “serious” version of the winery’s “Liar’s Dice” Zin, incorporating more oak character from 20 months spent in barrels.  It has lots of plum and blackberry fruit, with vanilla-toast accents, along with firm tannins and acidity.  This is one powerful Zin, with nearly 16% alcohol to prove it.

88 Tina Caputo Nov 24, 2009

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Terra A Lago” 2004 ($45):  This medium-bodied Cab has black fruit and toasty oak aromas, along with concentrated fruit and dried herb notes.  Nice balance, with a fair bit of acidity. 88 Tina Caputo Nov 24, 2009

Ridgeline, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($40): This new Alexander Valley cabernet, from the newly-established Ridgeline Vineyards, owned by Codorniu of Spain, is a nicely crafted entry into the highly competitive arena of ultra-premium red wines. Not quite as inky as some other "ultras," the color is a medium-deep ruby, while the aroma hints of dried herbs, cedar and spicy French oak. The medium flavors show bright ripe berry, with a subtle herbal core and rich full tannins. While the finish is packed with lingering fruit, the 14.5 percent alcohol gives it a lingering bite. 88 Gerald D. Boyd Sep 5, 2006

River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018 ($25):  Here is a polished Cabernet Sauvignon that displays black fruit enrobed in suave tannins.  Despite plenty of dark fruit flavors, it’s not overweight as evidenced by its modest — by today’s standards — 13.9 percent stated alcohol.  Its creamy texture and kiss of vanilla-like notes allows for immediate enjoyment.    
88 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Brother’s Ridge Single Vineyard 2006 ($75): Quite impressive, with real depth of flavor and harmonious fruit, wood, and spice notes, this Cabernet displays forward vanilla-tinged oak and a notably sweet finish.  My guess is that these elements will fade and become better integrated with more time in bottle; and if/ when that happens, the wine most definitely will merit an outstanding 90+ score.  But any such prediction, by any critic or commentator, is inherently just that--a guess; so I’m being self-consciously conservative when rating this red wine now. 88 Paul Lukacs Nov 10, 2009

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards 2009 ($25):  Rodney Strong was a pioneer in the Alexander Valley, showing how this part of Sonoma can make beautiful Cabernet.  This rendition continues their streak with generous, but not overdone, plum-like flavors accented with attractive herbal notes. Suave tannins lend support without astringency. 88 Michael Apstein Nov 15, 2011

Roth Estate, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Merlot 2010 ($22): This latest Roth Estate Merlot is typical of Merlot from the warm Alexander Valley, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king. That's not necessarily a bad thing, however, for this vintage exhibits richness and heft, with layered aromas of plum and blackberry. Outstanding for the price point. 88 Robert Whitley Sep 17, 2013

Roth Estate, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($28): Roth has done a creditable job with its basic Cabernet from this challenging vintage. It is lighter in body than usual, but still packs plenty of flavor punch and richness, with good length and a medium-long finish. It's a great buy in top-drawer California Cabernet at this price. 88 Robert Whitley Aug 12, 2014

Simi, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($26): Marked by sweet cherry and plum fruit flavors enhanced by spice and vanilla from oak aging, this is a soft, supple Cabernet that provides easy (and early) drinking.  Not necessarily a candidate for extended aging, it nonetheless is very tasty, and so would be a fine choice for restaurateurs. 88 Paul Lukacs Jun 5, 2007

Souverain, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Winemaker’s Reserve” 2004 ($40): Although this wine smells and initially tastes like it is going to be all about softness and smoothness with no substance beneath the surface, it then shows surprising structure and spine.  Fruit notes of black cherries and blackberries show real purity and succulence, and a nice topnote of smoky oak lends nice complexity.  But the real attraction in this wine is the texture, which is enduringly interesting with an interplay between ripe softness and a sneaky tannic grip. 88 Michael Franz Dec 25, 2007

Stonestreet, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 ($42): Block selection picking was employed for this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon to maximize the range of expressions possible from Alexander Valley grapes.  Native and inoculated yeasts were used in the fermentation and the wine was aged for 15 months in French oak barrels, 52% new.  The wine has a very deep inky color and an expressive nose showing bright berry and spice notes.  It's thick in texture with ripe tannins, spice and dark fruits and finished with 14.5% alcohol.  This is a big concentrated wine with plenty of tannins and a little heat in the finish. 88 Gerald D. Boyd Mar 17, 2009

Stuhlmuller Vineyards, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($36): This satisfying Cabernet delivers spicy and herbal elements that balance the lush, almost sweet, black cherry-like flavors.  Ripe, but not over the top, the wine is balanced structurally by mild, finely polished, tannins that keep it in check.  It's a good choice for current consumption. 88 Michael Apstein Mar 3, 2009

Ferrari Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve “Mountain Vineyards” 2009 ($46):  Soft on the palate, with a lush texture and super-ripe fruit flavors, this fairly expensive Cabernet tastes quite sweet.  The sugary overtones mute any distinctive varietal or regional character, so while the wine certainly is tasty, it displays little individuality.  That would be fine were it priced at $15, but $46 seems too much.
87 Paul Lukacs Jun 26, 2012

Ferrari-Carano, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($30):  Tasty but noticeably sweet fruit flavors dominate this wine, which lacks the complexity that previous vintages of Ferrari-Carano Cabernet sometimes displayed.  The sweetness, coupled with the stated 14.5 degrees of alcohol, suggests that the grapes for it were picked when extremely ripe, something that in addition to providing heat and heaviness can make a wine taste somewhat simple.  That’s precisely the case here.
87 Paul Lukacs Jul 24, 2012

Geyser Peak, Alexander Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Walking Tree "Block Collection" 2004 ($45):

A rich, juicy wine that fairly bursts from the glass with ripe fruit flavor.  That flavor undoubtedly proves delicious, but the wine would merit a higher score if fruit didn't so clearly dominate both the bouquet and the impression the wine makes on the palate.  Ripeness surely is a virtue, but too much can sometimes become a distraction.

87 Paul Lukacs Dec 4, 2007

Hanna, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 ($30): Initially sweet to the point of simplicity, this wine gathers force as it settles on the palate, and in fact finishes with impressive depth and length.  First impressions sometimes prove deceptive. 87 Paul Lukacs Nov 20, 2007

Jordan, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($53): I haven't tasted Jordan's Cabernet for several vintages, partly because I've tended to think of it as average in quality and over-priced.  Turns out that I was wrong.  It is only over-priced.  Although I preferred the 2004 Chardonnay to this Cabernet on grounds of superior structure, this is above average on account of being very softly inviting, with tender fruit that shows notes of black plums and cherries and just enough tannin in the finish to provide a little grip.  I prefer my Cabs just a bit more intense and structured, but when tasting this wine, it isn't difficult to understand how this proves so broadly popular in restaurants. 87 Michael Franz Nov 7, 2006

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “All In” Claret 2004 ($36):

With aromas of blackberry, cloves and toasty oak, this Bordeaux-style blend of Cab, Merlot and Petit Verdot has cassis and sweet blackberry flavors.  It’s soft and smooth, with notes of toasty oak.

87 Tina Caputo Nov 24, 2009

Murphy-Goode, Alexander Valley (California) Claret 'All In' 2005 ($45): Ripe, rich and lush on the palate, this is a tasty red wine that offers plenty of pleasure but that also seems fairly one-dimensional.  The fruit flavors are so ripe and sweet that, save for the echoes of oak, they completely dominate the palate.  “All in” seems an appropriate moniker.  One wonders, though, if the wine wouldn’t have been better had a little something been kept in reserve. 87 Paul Lukacs Feb 2, 2010

Souverain, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2006 ($19): I am a big fan of this winery, as I think winemaker Ed Killian offers superlative value year in and year out, especially with his Chardonnays and Cabernets.  This Merlot's bouquet fits that bill, as it provides a degree of aromatic complexity that many red wines costing two or three times as much fail to deliver.  On the palate, however, the wine seems a bit too short and overly soft.  Its flavors are not as exciting as its aromas. 87 Paul Lukacs Nov 11, 2008

Frei Brothers, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($24): Soft and smooth but full of pleasant flavors, this is a great choice in Cabernet for those seeking a crowd-pleaser that won't rub anyone in a group of diners the wrong way. Soft notes of black cherries and light, toasty wood are quite appealing, and the medium-plus body will enable this to stand up to serious food while not overwhelming more modest fare. 86 Michael Franz Oct 10, 2006

Mazzocco Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Zinfandel 2004 ($24): This Zin is a bit scary at first blush, with 16.9% alcohol making me very wary, and yet it carries this effectively on the strength of deep, intensely flavorful fruit that never turns hot or harsh.  Lush and rounded, it certainly will have limited appeal to those who love austere wines, but tasters open to its considerable charms will find themselves charmed. 86 Michael Franz Dec 26, 2006

Rodney Strong, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Symmetry” 2005 ($60): Often times Cabernet-blended wines show more complexity than wines made from any of the single Bordeaux varieties.  The flavor profile of Merlot or Cabernet Franc, in particular, seems to be an especially well-suited foil to Cabernet.  But in this case, Rodney Strong's Symmetry--a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (73%), Merlot (15%), Cabernet Franc (4%) and Malbec (3%)--takes a back seat to their excellent Alexander Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  The Symmetry has ripeness, succulence and black fruit intensity characteristic of Strong's wines, but the alcohol shows and the heat in the finish detracts from the otherwise luscious array of dark fruits and smoky nuances. 86 Michael Apstein Sep 16, 2008

Souverain, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2005 ($19): Your odds of getting a really tasty, well-made Merlot out of California are not all that good, making this a wine deserving notice.  Restrained but yet expressive, it offers aromas of plums and dark cherries, with medium body and just a faint influence from oak.  The tannins are very soft and ripe, but nevertheless still notable in a welcome way, making the wine suitable for pairing with moderately robust foods. 86 Michael Franz Nov 20, 2007

Clos du Bois, Alexander Valley (California) Merlot Reserve 2004 ($22): A very solid rendition of Merlot, this combines tasty fruit with just the right edge of spicy oak.  The medium-bodied fruit shows notes of plums and red berries, and the fine-grained tannins contribute structure but do not prove drying in the finish. 85 Michael Franz Jan 15, 2008

Lake Sonoma Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($24): Packed full with jammy black berry fruit flavor, this wine suffers somewhat from excessive extract and a hot finish.  It may calm down with time in bottle, but I can’t believe that odds are in its favor. 85 Paul Lukacs Jul 7, 2009

Roth, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2009 ($22):  Roth offers this unusual blend of Merlot, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 18 months on the gross lees in French oak, that is at once oaky, with soft very fruity flavors that give the impression of residual sweetness.  The color is a medium ruby and the nose is deep set with berry and oak notes, while the flavors are sweet and slightly jammy, supported by big tannins, 14.6% alcohol and a medium finish.
 
85 Gerald D. Boyd Apr 24, 2012

Windsor, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Simoneau Ranch 2003 ($26): This wine has a brilliant deep ruby color and a forward rich berry aroma with vanilla and spice accents. A hint of Syrah in the blend lifts the fruity flavors with a complimentary choco-berry note. The wine is supported by smooth tannins and brisk acidity. (85-89) Gerald D. Boyd Dec 6, 2005

Windsor, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 ($29): Lovely deep ruby color with a shy nose of bright berry and vanilla. The flavors are pleasant, fruity, with no herbal notes, supported by good acidity and firm tannins. This simple, drinkable cabernet leans to the fruity (though pricey) side. (85-89) Gerald D. Boyd Dec 6, 2005

Adkins Family Vineyards, Alta Mesa (Lodi, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Vineyards Reserve 2018 ($98):  Think there isn’t serious wine in Lodi?  I know for a fact that there is, and this particular wine will show you so with its high-toned cassis and spice aromatics, structured palate, well folded pepper notes and dusty earth tones.  It has quite an extended finish even though it’s just beginning to come together.   I would age this long term or decant a full day before serving with your finest beef dishes.    
95 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2022

Jeff Runquist, Alta Mesa (Lodi, California) Tannat Silvaspoons Vineyard 2017 ($27):  Jeff Runquist is picking up where he left off last year, dazzling with his artistry at a major international wine competition.  This 2017 Runquist Tannat is a beauty, with impressive density without the aggressive tannins that are common to this grape variety.   Rich and full-bodied, showing intense aromas of black cherry and wood spice, with a touch of graphite adding complexity to the nose.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.   
94 Robert Whitley Jan 28, 2020

Forlorn Hope, Alta Mesa (Central Coast, California) Alvarelhao Silvaspoons Vineyard "Suspiro Del Moro" 2009 ($20):  This wine is so fruity -- berries, cherries -- that it's almost bubble-gummy.  It's so fruity that you'd think it was sweet, though it's completely dry.  This will sound damning, though it's not meant to be: it reminds me of fruity wines that big companies like Gallo or The Wine Group try to make through technology, albeit for lower prices.  Nothing wrong with a simple fruit bowl, but $20 feels steep for it.  12.9% alcohol, 127 cases. 87 W. Blake Gray Jan 11, 2011

Jeff Runquist Wines, Alta Mesa, Lodi (California) Touriga Silverspoons Vineyard 2019 ($26): This very impressive wine offers a highly successful combination of Touriga's inherent intensity with the softening effect of California's climate and brilliant sunshine.  Intense and highly expressive but not overwhelming, this hits just the right balance by maintaining the variety’s energy but buffering it with more ripeness and vivacity of fruit than in most Portuguese renditions.  Eye popping quality at a bargain price.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Critics Challenge International Wine and Spirits Competition.         
94 Michael Franz Jul 6, 2021

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Cooper Vineyard 2017 ($27):  This is my kind of Zinfandel – full throttle red fruit, fall spice, racy acidity and well folded oak toast that makes a bright delight in the glass.  A griller’s sidekick for lots of warm weather foods, or a refreshing red soloist.  It’s the kind of Zinfandel that will take to aging as well – you could go long.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
96 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Shenandoah Vineyards, Amador County (California) Carignane 2012 ($18): An argument can be made that there isn't enough Carignane being bottled as a stand-alone varietal wine thanks to wines like this one. The fruit shows its Amador roots, coming from Rocky Top vineyard's 60 year old vines, and it delivers huge cherry cola aromas, peppery cherry and spice flavors and a long finish with a firm grip throughout.  Grilled steak, braised short ribs or a blackened fish dish will work well.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 96 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2015

Andis, Amador County (California) Barbera Cooper Ranch 2012 ($36): Cooper Ranch is a prime spot for California Barbera, with many producers sourcing its fruit.  This bottling from Andis shows big bacon and bramble aromas that become rich flavors without becoming overdriven thanks to Barbera's naturally high acidity. The finish is long and brings the fruit to the fore, with pleasant fall spice notes joining in.  It's a big boy, and a prime example of the style.  Grillin' time.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2016 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Mar 1, 2016

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Tempranillo Shake Ridge Ranch 2016 ($32):  Gorgeous Tempranillo with bright red fruit, gentle oak spice, singing acidity and a long finish with real push of fruit and spice.  I’d go with medium strength cheeses or a simple salted seared sirloin and bliss out.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition. 
95 Rich Cook Feb 19, 2019

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Cooper Vineyard 2017 ($27):  This true gem of a vineyard produces another gorgeous Zinfandel in the style that creates fans of the variety.  Bold brambleberry fruit, bright fall spice, zippy acidity and a long zesty finish that’s just a pleasure to drink.  Grill side or strong cheeses are the way to go with this Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
95 Rich Cook Jun 11, 2019

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera Reserve 2017 ($48):  Dark red raspberry and bramble notes dominate, and the fruit is very ripe but just to the right level. Lovely texture. This really coats the palate with soft tannins and acidity.  It is a beautiful expression of domestic Barbera.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
95 Allison Levine Jun 30, 2020

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera Reserve 2019 ($48):  I so appreciate the Jeff Runquist way of finding balance whatever the source may be.  Of course, he’s rather particular about his sources, which no doubt helps in the grand scheme of things.  This Barbera gets at true varietal character with a bold foothills flash, showcasing deep black cherry, fall spice and bright citrus zest that keeps the flavors pumping.  When you’re firing up the grill for burgers, this will get you from ignition to completion of the meal in style.       
95 Rich Cook May 25, 2021

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera 2020 ($28):  This Barbera from Jeff Runquist is what I call a tightrope walker – it is vibrantly ripe, but it’s got the acidity to carry things.  You don’t see a lot of Piedmont Barbera at 15% alcohol, but you would be hard pressed to pick this wine out of a group of Italian examples as being the rogue bottle.  Could have fooled me.  Delicious!      
95 Rich Cook Jun 7, 2022

Noceto, Amador County (California) Sangiovese “AX-1” 2011 ($79):  WOW!  I’ve been a fan of winemaker Rusty Folena’s work with Sangiovese at Noceto for a long time, and this represents a major step up from previous releases.  It presents like a fine Brunello, with a subtle nose of red fruit, sage and spice that come to life on the palate.  Riveting acidity carries rich cherry fruit, cedar spice and underbrush flavors, with pleasing oak notes adding interest and some grip.  Things really get going in the finish, where all the flavors trumpet their presence and linger in long, lip smacking fashion.  After some time in the glass, a little anise comes into play as well.  An impressive achievement!
95 Rich Cook Jan 9, 2018

2 Plank Vineyards, Amador County (California) Cabernet Franc 2016 ($35):  Cabernet Franc is probably best known for its sometimes green, herbal tinge.  Grown in a warm climate, however, those herbal notes fade away and are replaced with aromas of ripe red and black fruits.  The 2016 vintage from 2 Plank Vineyards is an excellent example.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2020 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.   
94 Robert Whitley Jun 9, 2020

Iron Hub, Amador County (California) Sangiovese 2015 ($24):  I’d be interested to know the age of the vines that produced this wine, as there is some really old Sangiovese in Amador County, and I suspect that this might be sourced from them.  This is quite Tuscan in style, with a nice sage and dry earth component joining spicy cherry fruit and finishing with the spice all in front.  Go big with a pasta dish with this one!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 12, 2019

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera Cooper Vineyard 2017 ($30):  Dick Cooper and Jeff Runquist, fortunately for us, have a long-term relationship based on their love of this variety, and it’s always a fine expression of its region.  Bold black cherry, vanilla and cedar spice aromas translate seamlessly on the palate, and the fleshy fruit lingers long.  Pure Amador with a nod to Piedmont!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
94 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2019

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Sangiovese "The Hill" 2018 ($28):  Jeff Runquist's "The Hill" Sangiovese is a wine of impressive intensity and depth.  It shows notes of black cherry and wood spice, with exceptional palate length and balance.  This producer keeps the hits coming.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
94 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2020

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Sangiovese Pioneer Hill Vineyard 2018 ($27):  An alluring floral and spice note on the nose gets excellent follow through on the palate.  Aromas of black cherry and raspberry also show good persistence, and the wine finishes with a subtle note of wood spice.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
94 Robert Whitley Jun 23, 2020

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Sangiovese Pioneer Hill Vineyard 2018 ($27):  If you buy into the argument that most California Sangiovese pales in comparison to the finest examples from Italy’s Tuscan region, you obviously haven’t tasted Runquist.  The 2018 from Pioneer Hill Vineyard is richly layered, shows luscious notes of black cherry and wood spice, and has the potential to improve in the bottle over the next decade or so.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2020 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
94 Robert Whitley Jun 9, 2020

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera Reserve 2017 ($48):  I’m always surprised that more of this variety isn’t grown in California – it seems to do exceedingly well here in a range of styles.  This beauty sits right in the center of the spectrum, offering richness and weight to the bright blueberry and red cherry fruit.  It’s the kind of wine that will satisfy a wide range of tasters, from novice lovers of all wines red to aficionados who appreciate layered aromas and flavors that linger long.  Jeff Runquist has been on a roll for some time now, and this is a standout in his large portfolio.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2020 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2020

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Cooper Vineyard 2018 ($27):  I love this wine for its mix of black pepper and Saigon cinnamon spice over taut black fruit.  There is no overt heat in evidence, and it finishes with bright zesty acidity the keeps the flavors mingling together for a good while.  Another Runquist gem!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.     
94 Rich Cook Feb 9, 2021

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Tempranillo Shake Ridge Ranch 2018 ($32):  This winery has been on a long roll of high quality, and it continues in this instance.  This Tempranillo is very ripe in style, but it gains complexity from well-chosen levels of oak char and spice, taming the rich black cherry and adding length.  If you are a fan of bold spice, this is for you.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.       
94 Rich Cook Feb 9, 2021

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Carignane Aparicio Vineyard 2019 ($29):  I am always glad to see this variety cross my desk, and this is another bottle that makes me wish there was more attention given to Carignane in California.  It is in lots of red blends, but it can shine as a soloist as it does in this case, thanks to deft handling by Jeff Runquist’s team.  Rich cherry and blackberry fruit, well-tempered oak spice and moderate toasted oak play well together and finish with an acidic pop.  It’s a griller’s delight!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.         
94 Rich Cook Feb 2, 2021

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Peroni Ranch Estate Grown 2019 ($38):  Bold foothills style is on full display in this estate selection Zinfandel, with what I like to call razzleberry character – spicy, peppery and mixed berry forward, it’s a style with legions of fans, and rightly so.  I would go straight to the cheese course with this one.     
94 Rich Cook Apr 5, 2022

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Dolcetto Logan's Rock Wall Vineyard 2020 ($30):  I taste a lot of Dolcetto each year, and taste a lot of it in its traditional home around Alba in Piedmont, which I note only to set a foundation for asserting that this is not only a world class rendition, but also one that is very near the head of the class.  It is richer and more powerful than most of the biggest renderings from Dogliani, a Dolcetto specialty zone immediately south of the Barolo district, yet it shows the same fruit character and quite comparable structural elements that show excellent symmetry.  Red- and black-toned fruit notes are accented with a subtle touch of oak that tones down the wine’s ripeness, resulting in a wine that could pair very successfully with many foods from a span stretching from a roast chicken to a grilled steak.  Seriously impressive.        
94 Michael Franz Jun 28, 2022

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera 2020 ($28):  Foothills Barbera isn’t trying to be Piedmont Barbera, and it doesn’t need to.  The variety’s natural acidity is more than up to a whole different sort of treatment that the western slopes of the Sierra’s weather provides.  This bottling is always true to the vintage, and in 2020 things got fully ripe.  It shows boldly here, with ripe berries riding that signature acidity through a juicy, mouthwatering finish.  It’s no shrinking violet, and it's delicious.      
94 Rich Cook Mar 22, 2022

Jeff Runquist Wines, Amador County (California) Barbera Cooper Vineyard 2019 ($30):   Jeff Runquist has a way with Barbera – particularly when it comes from this famed site in the foothills.  This vintage is but another piece of evidence to back my claim, showing lively fruit, orange zest, and the classic acid profile for which the variety is known.  At this ripeness level, that’s no easy achievement.  Not a trace of alcoholic heat is detectable, and the flavor keeps coming at you.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition and the 2021 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
94 Rich Cook Jul 6, 2021

Jeff Runquist Wines, Amador County (California) Barbera Cooper Vineyard 2019 ($30):  Jeff Runquist has a way with Barbera – particularly when it comes from this famed site in the foothills.  This vintage is but another piece of evidence to back my claim, showing lively fruit, orange zest, and the classic acid profile that that variety is known for.  At this ripeness level, that’s no easy achievement.  Not a trace of heat is detectable, and the flavor keeps coming at you.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
94 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Macchia, Amador County (California) Linsteadt Vineyard "Dangerous" Port 2020 ($28):  The vineyards of Amador County are a long-standing source for Port-styled fortified wines.  The intense ripeness of the grapes allows them to develop the jammy fruit and dried fruit characteristics one seeks in fortified wines.  The Macchia 2020 Linsteadt Vineyard Amador County Port is a treat.  It is full of ripe black fruits – blackberries, black cherries and blackcurrants.  The texture is rich and creamy on the palate with layers of ripe fruit and substantial sweetness nicely balanced by a palate-cleansing acidity at the finish.       
94 Wayne Belding Apr 5, 2022

Macchia, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Linsteadt Vineyard “Adventurous” 2017 ($28):  Perhaps better known as a source for Barbera, this vineyard does everything well, including Zinfandel.  This iteration is all about the pepper, with what a friend of mine would call “peppercorn medley” sassiness.  It’s balanced by juicy red and black berry fruit, and finishes bright and dry.  Yum!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Montevina, Amador County (California) Barbera “Skyland Ridge” 2012 ($12): A great quaffer at a price you'll love.  It's textbook Amador County on the nose, with notes of raisin box, over ripe berry and fall spice notes.  Barbera's signature acidity keeps things lively on the palate, delivering bold berry fruit without crossing into jammy territory, and bring a bright citrus note forward in the finish.  A great solo glass of big red, or a spring grilling partner.  The Best Barbera and a Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 10, 2015

Prospect Cellars, Amador County (California) "Gold Digger" Red Wine 2016 ($25):  Blended wines bring life to lots of wine that maybe don’t make the cut to be labeled as their own variety, but in the hand of a talented winemaker can become a true delight.  So it goes here, with Zinfandel, Barbera, Petite Sirah and Sangiovese brought into proportion to make a zippy red with mixed berry, pepper and herb aromas and flavors that ride bright acidity and finish long and in satisfying fashion.  Here’s to the blenders!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Prospect Cellars, Amador County (California) Petite Sirah “Pick and Shovel” 2016 ($32):  The judges loved the Petite Sirah flights, including this tasty wine from a winery that is new to me.  A generously fleshy expression, with approachable structure, forward berry pie aromas and flavors and a long finish where the pepper comes forward to balance the sweet fruit.  Nicely done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
94 Rich Cook Mar 19, 2019

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Jack Rabbit Flat 2013 ($50): I'm happy to see Renwood designating this vineyard again after a brief hiatus - it's one of the older Amador sites and produces some great fruit.  This bottling exhibits bright bramble jam aromas, but isn't at all sweet on the palate, focusing on a balance of raspberry, fall spice and pepper with good grip and a long finish that brings a touch of sweet oak forward. Classic Amador Zin!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) Barbera 2013 ($16): Fans of an oak driven, stylized glass of red wine that still has the flavor and acidic punch to stand up to a great meal will love this value priced Barbera.  Oodles of new oak here, but the fruit is more than up to the task of taming it.  Huge cherry and leaf aromas and flavors balance the bold oak spice very nicely, and though the oak is forward in the finish, the fruit doesn't vanish, instead playing off the spice and keeping you coming back to the glass.  Barbera's signature acidity is the key, and it will open the door to a fine dining experience when paired with grilled beef or venison.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2016

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) Syrah 2013 ($16): Sobon Estate made some noise early at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge with two Platinum award winners in the first session, both at value prices.  This Syrah shows lots of oak, but it's the sexy spicy oak that when balanced with bright fruit and structured acidity has lots of possibilities.  Blueberry, tar, pepper and leaf sit well with the vibrant spice, riding together through a long, satisfying finish.  Bring on the game bird!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2016

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (Sierra Foothills) Zinfandel Masoni Ranch 2012 ($24): With a bright, red-fruited nose and a strong whiff of oak vanillin, this pretty Zin is inviting from the moment it hits the glass. On the palate it is smooth and supple, with briary berry aromas and a delicious spicy note, no doubt from the splash of Petite Sirah in the final blend. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera 2017 ($25):  This is an impressive and delicious wine in its own right, and also a rendition of Barbera that will be admired by those who know the variety from famous examples crafted in its original region in Piedmont, Italy.  The wine shows a whiff of the leathery, spicy character of its Italian cousins, as well as bright acidity that lifts the intense flavors of red berries and plums.  Oak was wisely given only a supporting role, keeping the fruit at center stage.  This should work very well with an extremely wide range of moderately robust dishes ranging from pasta to poultry to white meats or even beef and lamb.  
93 Michael Franz Nov 19, 2019

Macchia, Amador County (California) Barbera Linsteadt Vineyard “Righteous” 2018 ($26):  A huge, Sierra Foothills-styled Barbera that wears its “Righteous” moniker well.  Big black cherry and spice are taken to the ripe side edge, and Barbera’s natural acidity is up to the task, making for a balanced wine with no evident heat – just pleasure from start to finish.  Well done!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
93 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Turley Wine Cellars, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Judge Bell” 2011 ($32): This wine is sourced from the famed Picnic Hill vineyard near Plymouth.  It’s a 100+ year old, dry farmed, head trained site that is farmed by Bruce and Jan Tichenor, owners of Story Winery.  Turley winemaker Tegan Passalacqua’s take on this site has brought us a fine expression of old vine fruit, showing bright mixed berry, black pepper and bramblebush.  Glittering acidity and medium full body combine in an elegant package that’s not afraid to show its rustic roots. There are lots of pairing possibilities here.  Try it where you might usually choose an Italian red -- it won’t disappoint!
93 Rich Cook Jan 7, 2014

Vino Noceto, Amador County (California) Sangiovese Riserva 2009 ($24): A more full bodied alternative to Noceto’s regular Sangiovese offering that will suit fans of a bolder California style, but still give you loads of Tuscan character.  Black cherry, dried herbs, tobacco leaf and cranberry come across in both aroma and flavor, with solid palate weight and richness balancing the bright acidity.  It finishes very long with a focus on tart cherry and spice tones, and it’s a ridiculously good value at this price.
93 Rich Cook Feb 4, 2014

Driven, Amador County (Sierra Foothills, California) Barbera 2012 ($28): Oodles of oak spice on top of ripe red fruit, with notes of leaf ride Barbera's high natural acidity in this well structured big boy.  The spice carries through a long finish that adds a little lemon zest impression that keeps everything lively.  Grilled sausages with all the fixins will love being washed down with this one.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 92 Rich Cook Jun 7, 2016

Lang Wines, Amador County (California) Barbera 2012 ($18):  In light of the fact that the Barbera grape variety is inherently low in tannin but high in acidity, planting it in the warm, sunny environs of Amador County makes good sense.  In light of this wine’s actual from-the-glass performance, the idea seems downright obvious in its wisdom.  Fully ripe (of course), it shows lots of generous, juicy fruit, with black raspberries being the first analogy coming to mind.  Yet the wine’s juicy sweetness is very nicely counterbalanced by fresh acidity that keep the fruit seeming nicely taut, and that also works effectively as a foil for its textural softness.  An excellent value.  Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 92 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2015

Macchia, Amador County (California) Barbera Cooper Ranch “Infamous” 2020 ($28):  Barbera from Amador County can be a beautiful expression of the grape.  Macchia’s 2020 “Infamous” Cooper Ranch Barbera packs a velvety punch.  Lovely aromas of ripe plum, strawberry, red cherry, violets, smoke and baking spice emanate from the glass.  The flavors are luscious and silky-smooth, with layers of cherry, plum and strawberry fruits underlain by hints of vanilla, smoke and spice.  This is a full-bodied Barbera with a rich texture that will age well for another 3 to 6 years.       
92 Wayne Belding Mar 22, 2022

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Grandpére” 2012 ($40): An elevated expression of Renwood's estate vineyard, this bottle shows what's possible when the fruit is picked at perfect ripeness in the Foothills.  Often the Zinfandels from Amador tip over into the jammy, fruit bomb style, and while the alcohol here is 15%, it's not showing itself as being out of line.  Rich red berry fruit, pie crust, delicate pepper and a touch of citrus, supple tannins and a long finish with an easy grip make for a great bottle of Zinfandel.  Well done!  Contains 10% Petite Sirah, 6% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah and 1% Marsanne.
92 Rich Cook Jul 28, 2015

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Grandpère Special Reserve 2014 ($50):  With its dark garnet color and robust flavors of fig and other dried fruits backed by a distinct wisp of mint, this is a seriously bold and flavorful wine.  Its smooth, succulent tannins are rewarding, as is the pleasing, juicy finish.  The addition of 11% Petite Sirah to the blend contributes to the wine’s overall complexity.  Zin lovers, rejoice! 
92 Marguerite Thomas May 1, 2018

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Old Granpère Vineyard 2004 ($40): If you're a Zin-head (as I am) I think you're going to like this wine.  It's dense and chewy.  It's filled with exotic spices along the lines of coriander, cardamom and mace.  For all its rich concentration of flavors it's not jammy or raisiny.  The vineyard is said to have the oldest Zinfandel clone in California, and the wine is a near-perfect expression of this varietal's particular appeal.  It is a stellar accompaniment to grilled meats and is even congenial with Mexican dishes (the success of this particular match may be surprising, but the wine's beautiful balance gives it lots of flexibility at the dinner table). 92 Marguerite Thomas Mar 3, 2009

Renwood Winery, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Fields Vineyard "Merida" 2010 ($40): Part of Renwood’s “Wren” series, this wine is a solid example of Amador style. It’s bold and full bodied, with deep blackberry and black cherry, dark chocolate and fall spice aromas. The palate delivers on the promise of the nose and combines bright acidity with a soft feel, and a nice peppery finish with no evident heat despite its 15.5% alcohol level. Well done!
92 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2014

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) ReZerve Zin 2013 ($24): Sobon's ReZerve Zin has been consistent over the years, shunning the trend toward the high-alcohol bombs that took over the Zinfandel world. That's not to say, however, that it isn't a bold, ripe, lip-smacking Zin. This vintage shows brambly red berry fruits and spice. It is rich, mouth-filling and extremely satisfying. A Platinum award-winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition. 92 Robert Whitley May 26, 2015

Terra d’Oro, Amador County (California) Zinfandel 2006 ($18): An excellent value in top-notch Zin, this wine displays characteristic Amador County spice (savory as well as sweet) atop bright, briary fruit.  Unlike some wines from the region, it is very well-balanced, and does not offer even a hint of over-ripe, raisined fruit.  Whether from Amador or elsewhere, most Zins offering this sort of harmony as well as substance cost significantly more. 92 Paul Lukacs Feb 10, 2009

Terra d'Oro, Amador County (California) Barbera 2017 ($18):  Today, Terra d’Oro is a member of the Trinchero family which includes Sutter Home and Montevina Vineyards.  Sutter Home led the revival of Amador in the late 1960s, and Montevina was a key player early on for Amador old vine Zin.  Terra d’Oro was created by Montevina to showcase other wines such as Barbera.  Wherever it grows, Barbera doesn’t get the attention it deserves.  As it is in Italy’s Piedmont where Nebbiolo rules, Barbera in Amador is overshadowed by Zinfandel.  Thankfully, several wineries in the Sierra Foothills continue offering a Barbera which is so food friendly.  Terra d’Oro’s 2017 is typically dark in color with cherry, red berry fruit in aroma and flavors.  On the palate, it shows bright fruit, a hint of cranberry and medium tannins.  Remaining lively on the palate with good fruit and acidity, it finishes with what is best described as “grip.”  It is an ideal pizza wine.          
92 Norm Roby Jun 15, 2021

Yorba Wines, Amador County (California) Syrah Shake Ridge Vineyards 2008 ($32): A solid Syrah from the Sierra Foothills.  Aromas of blueberry, blackberry, tar, tobacco leaf and a light note of sweet sage are translated directly to flavors on the palate, with a rich feel, supple tannins and food friendly acidity.  While it presents as well balanced with a nicely integrated finish that adds a touch of anise, its structure seems to beg further bottle aging even though it’s an unusually late release.  A refined, elegant expression of Syrah not often seen in this region of California.
92 Rich Cook Sep 3, 2013

Yorba Wines, Amador County (California) Tempranillo Shake Ridge Vineyards 2008 ($38): Yorba strikes again with a complex presentation of a grape that’s making a play for greatness in the Sierra Foothills.  This wine shows bright floral aromatics with blackberry, vanilla and fall spice, dill and a mild chocolate note.  On the palate you get firm grip, solid acidity, integrated translation of aromas into flavors and full body, with everything carrying through a long blooming finish.  Pair this one with a simply grilled sirloin or tri-tip and both wine and food will be elevated.  On a side note, Yorba has produced a small amount of a fine Greco di Tufo -- the first that I’m aware of in California.  This is a producer to watch!
92 Rich Cook Jan 7, 2014

Bella Grace Vineyards, Amador County (California) Barbera 2015 ($32):  This is a generous Barbera, where the acidity is tamed nicely without going soft, helping cherry and blueberry fruit to show richness and full throttle flavor, yet avoiding jammy or overripe characteristics.  A saucy pasta dish is in order here. 
91 Rich Cook Apr 17, 2018

Bella Grace Vineyards, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Estate 2015 ($32):  Give this refined Foothills Zinfandel a good decant before serving to enjoy the mix of brambly fruit, pepper and spice to its full potential.  Sirloin simply seared with salt will showcase both food and wine. 
91 Rich Cook May 8, 2018

Bella Grace Vineyards, Amador County (California) Bella’s Red Wine 2015 ($22):  This is a delicious glass of hearty red that will pair with grilled steak or sausage beautifully.  It’s got bright berry fruit, food friendly acidity and bold texture without feeling weighty.  The thought of an angus burger smothered in blue cheese butter alongside a glass of this has me salivating. 
91 Rich Cook May 1, 2018

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Massoni Ranch "Z" 2017 ($25):  Prepare yourself for a wild ride if you pony up for this gamy, exotic Zinfandel.  Leathery, earthy notes are very prominent aromatically, and though the flavors are more more fruity than "animal," as the French would put it, there's plenty of that in the mix as well.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2020 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.   
91 Michael Franz Mar 10, 2020

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera 2008 ($40):  Like so many red wines from northern California’s Amador County this one is big and juicy.  Loaded with fruit, it is also characterized by complexity and balance.  This Barbera is just so overwhelmingly luscious that I’ve no doubt it will leave you positively throbbing with satisfaction. 91 Marguerite Thomas Dec 7, 2010

Jeff Runquist, Amador County (California) Barbera 2008 ($40):  Like so many red wines from northern California’s Amador County this one is big and juicy.  Loaded with fruit, it is also characterized by complexity and balance.  This Barbera is just so overwhelmingly luscious that I’ve no doubt it will leave you positively throbbing with satisfaction. 91 Marguerite Thomas Dec 14, 2010

Montevina, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Terra d'Oro 2002 ($22): Ripe and jammy, Montevina's basic Terra d'Oro Zin (there are a number of vineyard-designated Zins in the lineup) is a perfect example of jammy Amador fruit. This one goes right to the edge without crossing the line into overripe, pruney aromas that are more characteristic of Port. 91 Robert Whitley Aug 21, 2005

Renwood, Amador County (California) “Clarion” Red Wine 2012 ($20): Lush and concentrated, with a pleasant hoist of tartness to counterbalance both the ripe fruit and the alcohol, the 2012 “Clarion” (made from equal parts Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Marsanne) proves that even the biggest, richest wine can be harmonious when its many diverse elements are astutely choreographed into a graceful ensemble. 91 Marguerite Thomas Oct 27, 2015

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Old Vine 2012 ($20):  Renwood's Old Vine Zin delivers that ripe core of blackberry, blueberry and black currant fruit that sends Zin lovers into a spin. A good spin. This vintage is rich and supple, with notes of spice and a long, lingering finish.
91 Robert Whitley Nov 11, 2014

Renwood Winery, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Niceforo” 2010 ($40): It’s amazing how Zinfandel’s varietal character shifts as it ripens.  In some cases, when the fruit gets ripe enough to get the alcohol level over 15%, the shift often goes into jammy characteristics that overpower some of the nuance that the grape has to offer.  Not so with this wine from Renwood’s Wren series.  It’s very pepper forward on the nose, with black cherry, juniper and toasted oak adding interest.  On the palate, the pepper and black cherry are delivered with bright acidity, moderate grip and a long well integrated finish that carries its alcohol nicely.
91 Rich Cook Feb 25, 2014

Scott Harvey Wines, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Mountain Selection” 2011 ($22): Scott Harvey produces Zinfandel that is meant for the table, with solid acidity and virtually no residual sugar, but vibrant fruit and varietal herb and spice notes that make your meal more enjoyable.  This bottling shows cherry, plum, vanilla and light menthol aromatics and a palate of dry tart berries with pepper and allspice.  It finishes long with balanced interplay of fruit and pepper.  Use it to compliment a steak with a peppercorn sauce, or contrast it with turkey.
91 Rich Cook Dec 31, 2013

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) Primitivo "ReZerve" 2015 ($24):  The argument continues as to whether Primitivo is a synonym for Zinfandel, or whether there are distinct clonal differences that merit distinguishing between the two.  No matter which side you fall on, this gutsy, spicy, packed with red berry fruit flavor and just the faintest whiff of alcohol, this is a Zin lover’s wine… and one that might well turn others into Zin lovers.  Or Primitivo lovers, as the case may be.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 
91 Michael Franz Feb 27, 2018

Terra d’Oro, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Home Vineyard 2005 ($18): If you're going to make a fuss about the fact that the alcohol content in this wine is 15.5%, then Zinfandel probably isn't the varietal for you.  Admittedly, all too often the alcohol in big Zins is way out of whack, producing a hot and distracting finish.  But when it's in balance with the rest of the wine's components, the alcohol contributes richness in texture and flavor.  This is not true with most varietals, but Zinfandel's uniqueness lies partly in the fact that it is often most delicious when the grapes have been allowed to develop a degree of ripeness that causes the alcohol content to rise upwards.  Imbibers who find this troubling can drink Merlot or Cabernet instead, neither of which requires the sunny spike of alcohol to fulfill their potential.  Alternatively they can seek out Zins with less alcohol--some of which are quite good, but many are as unfulfilling as an overcast day at the beach. 91 Marguerite Thomas Mar 3, 2009

Terra d’Oro, Amador County (California) Petite Sirah 2016 ($18):  This lies in the glass as dark as a moonless midnight, and on the palate, this fine Petite Sirah offers blue and black berries, hints of balsamic, and a mere kiss of oak.  An abundance of spice, including cinnamon, fennel and black pepper, add further interest. 
91 Marguerite Thomas Mar 26, 2019

Vino Noceto, Amador County (California) Sangiovese 2010 ($18): Winemaker Rusty Folena consistently turns out the most Chianti-like Sangiovese in California.  This latest version shows bright tart cherry, tobacco leaf and soft spice in both aroma and flavor profiles, with the structured lip smacking acidity that you expect from an Italian Chianti Classico.  The finish is long and tart with excellent integration.  It will stand up nicely with your sauciest pasta preparations.
91 Rich Cook Jan 7, 2014

Vino Noceto, Amador County (California) Zinfandel The Original Grandpére Vineyard "OGP" 2009 ($29): Vino Noceto winemaker Rusty Folena has a fine track record with wine from this, the oldest documented Zinfandel vineyard in California, with vines dating to 1869.  Folena’s ninth offering from this famous source shows what can be done with intense old vine fruit from a widely hailed year.   The nose presents deep mixed berry fruit, cherry, cinnamon and black pepper.  The palate delivers on the expectations set by the nose, with good acidity, mouthfilling fruit, pepper and spice balanced against oak tones that are still integrating.  I’d give this a few years in the bottle and enjoy the rewards of time well invested.
91 Rich Cook Oct 8, 2013

Yorba Wines, Amador County (California) Blend Shake Ridge Vineyards “Shake Ridge Red” 2008 ($28): This blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah shows aromas and flavors of cherry, blackberry, blueberry, menthol, tar and herbs in a dry style that shows balance and finesse with enough acidity for further aging.  I’d buy a case of this and try a bottle every six months just to enjoy its evolution.
91 Rich Cook Sep 3, 2013

Andis Wines, Amador County (California) Grenache 2011 ($25): Grenache has a wide range of expression in California, with winemakers choosing options all over the spectrum -- high alcohol, Aussie inspired versions abound, with not many success stories to share.  This wine shows a more restrained side of the variety, with aromas and flavors of mint, raspberry, blueberry, fall spice and white pepper.  It’s quite dry, with bright food friendly acidity and a sustained finish that brings the pepper notes forward.  If you can locate some ostrich steaks you’ve got a great pairing.
90 Rich Cook Jan 14, 2014

Bella Grace Vineyards, Amador County (California) "Montagnaro" 2015 ($25):   A down the middle blend of Zinfandel and Barbera that collects the brightness and pop of Barbera with the bramble and pepper character of Zinfandel into a spicy, fruit forward blend with a touch of anise that’s ready for summer grilling.  I’m liking what I taste from this producer.
90 Rich Cook Apr 24, 2018

Fortitude, Amador County (California) Shake Ridge 2006 ($20): The Fortitude brand was created by Etude winery to pay tribute to pioneering grape growers, in this case the Kraemer family of Amador County. This red 'field blend' -- a wine made from different grape varieties grown in the same vineyard -- consists mainly of Zinfandel, along with smaller amounts of Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Barbera and Tempranillo. The wine has berry aromas, with flavors of ripe blackberry fruit and spice. Smooth, with a food-friendly balance of fruit and acidity. Yummy. 90 Tina Caputo Sep 30, 2008

Renwood, Amador County (California) Barbera 2005 ($23): Much has been made of the so-called Cal-Ital wines--Italian varietals grown in California--but all too often they lack the complexities and subtlety of true Italian prototypes.  This Barbera is a revelation, proving that with the proper terroir and handling in the vineyard and winery it is possible to make a California wine with a genuine Italian personality.   With cherry overtones, a medium body and a pleasing swoosh of grainy tannins on the finish, this is a wine worth seeking out. 90 Marguerite Thomas Mar 3, 2009

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Jack Rabbit Flat 2005 ($30): This wine has all the lovely character of old-vine grapes: dense, concentrated, with a good grip at the end and a slightly minty finish.  Flavors are reminiscent of blackberries, plums, dark cherries, with cocoa and dashes of black pepper.  The wine seems to fill the palate from ear to ear--a pleasant sensation indeed. 90 Marguerite Thomas Mar 3, 2009

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel "Premier" Old Vine 2010 ($20):  Big, compact, full of ripe fruit and alcohol (well sure--it’s Zinfandel!) Renwood’s “Premier” is nonetheless so nicely balanced that it would be churlish to focus only on how it lacks subtlety. Come on, is a wild, rolling, welcome thunderstorm subtle? In fact, all the wine’s disparate elements, including the vibrant berry fruits, are woven together into a harmonious whole. Bring on the barbecue!
90 Marguerite Thomas Dec 25, 2012

Scott Harvey, Amador County (California) Old Vine Zinfandel "Vineyard 1869" 2007 ($45): Owned by Scott's ex-wife Terri Harvey, Vineyard 1869 is named for the first year it was documented as existing, making it the oldest verifiable vineyard in California.  The 140-year-old bush vines are scraggly and close to the ground and produce extremely low yields of very complex, concentrated fruit.  This wine has bright cherry and raspberry fruit with earthy notes, solid acidity and a pretty violet note on the finish.  It's the taste of California history. Kudos to Scott for keeping the alcohol at an approachable 14.5%.  Just 190 cases produced. 90 W. Blake Gray Jun 1, 2010

Scott Harvey Wines, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Vineyard 1869” 2010 ($45): Winemaker Scott Harvey has a lot of experience with the fruit from this famous old vineyard in the Sierra Foothills -- in fact, it’s the oldest documented Zinfandel vineyard in California --  and he makes a unique expression of it that might confound your Zin loving friends, but delivers solid old vine character in a beautifully food friendly package.  It’s bright and briary, with notes of cherry, pomegranate, currants, vanilla and sarsaparilla in the nose.  The palate is very dry and lively, with tart red fruit and spice, and bright pepper blooming in the lingering finish.  Don’t let the light color fool you -- this is full-flavored Zinfandel! 90 Rich Cook Dec 24, 2013

Terra d’Oro, Amador County (California) Zinfandel 2016 ($15):  “Terra d’Oro” means “Earth of Gold” of course, and some of the vines here do indeed date back to gold rush days.  As good Zinfandel should, this one offers generous fruitiness with echoes of blackberry, blueberry and dark cherry.  Not dauntingly complex, this is an easygoing big red wine that includes flickers of vanilla and a hint of bacon.  The grapes come from the estate’s 500 acres of Amador County’s iron rich volcanic and granite soils.   It’s hard to go wrong with this everyday Zinfandel whose drinkability and affordability are irresistible.     
90 Marguerite Thomas Dec 29, 2020

Vino Noceto, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Original Grandpere Vineyard 2010 ($29): Noceto has made a wine from this vineyard for several years running, and the weather in 2010 makes this a very unusual bottling in the series.  It’s very ripe and full bodied, with jammy blackberry and cherry fruit, fall spice and brown sugar.  The good news is that it’s got the acidity to handle all of that, so it delivers a long rich finish with some grip on the back end.  If you’re a fan of jammy Zinfandel, don’t pass this one by.
90 Rich Cook Jan 14, 2014

Andis Wines, Amador County (California) Primitivo Indian Creek Vineyard 2011 ($25): Here is a nice wine that makes an argument for Primitivo being more than just the DNA equivalent of Zinfandel.  Thought by some to be an Italian clone of the grape that is thought to be a native of Croatia, this example shows a distinctive earthy quality that sets it apart from other Amador Zinfandel.  That quality compliments the more typical black cherry, blackberry and mixed pepper aromas and flavors, and makes for an interesting food friendly quaff.  Try it where you might normally pair a Syrah, but would like a little more bright fruit flavor.
89 Rich Cook Feb 4, 2014

Folie à Deux, Amador County (California) Zinfandel 2005 ($18): See the little figures dancing on the Folie à Deux label?  They're having fun, which is what this wine is all about-not a wine to ponder over, but one to simply enjoy with a good pot of chili, or mess of ribs, or burgers, or lamb chops.  It's loaded with ripe fruit, hints of black pepper and other spice, and it's a nice, smooth ride all the way to the generous finish 89 Marguerite Thomas Dec 16, 2008

Folie à Deux, Amador County (California) Zinfandel 2005 ($18): See the little figures dancing on the Folie à Deux label?  They're having fun, which is what this wine is all about--not a wine to ponder over, but one to simply enjoy with a good pot of chili, or mess of ribs, or burgers, or lamb chops.  It's loaded with ripe fruit, hints of black pepper and other spice, and it's a nice, smooth ride all the way to the generous finish. 89 Marguerite Thomas Nov 4, 2008

Forlorn Hope, Amador County (California) Dewitt Vineyard "Mil Amores" Red Wine 2006 ($30):  This is the last year winemaker Matthew Rorick made a true field blend from the four Portuguese red varieties at the vineyard: Touriga Nacional (50%) with Tinta Roriz (30%), Tinta Cao (15%) and Tinta Amarela (5%).  From the next vintage he vinified them separately, using more Tinta Cao and less Tinta Roriz.  In any case, this last field blend smells like Ruby Port, with aromas of blackberry, earth and Christmas spices.  It's leaner on the palate than in the aroma, with enough tannins to keep it focused and some graphite on the finish.  At 324 cases, it's by far the largest-production wine in Forlorn Hope's portfolio.  14.1% alcohol. 89 W. Blake Gray Jan 11, 2011

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Premier” Old Vine 2014 ($20):  Bold and aromatic, this Zinfandel offers a boatload of ripe flavors highlighting berries and spice, with a smattering of dark chocolate.  The silky tannins are nicely balanced.  Much of the fruit harvested for this wine comes from vines that are over 100 years old.  A blend of 85% Zinfandel, 6% Petite Sirah, 5% Barbera and 4% Syrah. 89 Marguerite Thomas Nov 7, 2017

Scott Harvey, Amador County (California) Barbera "J & S Reserve" 2007 ($30):  Black cherry fruit and great acidity make this wine a food-friendly choice that's easy to enjoy.  Notes of earth and leather in the aroma add complexity.  14.5% alcohol. 89 W. Blake Gray Jun 1, 2010

Terra d’Oro, Amador County (California) Syrah 2005 ($18): This wine proves the versatility of Syrah.  It offers an intriguing floral note in the bouquet, and it tends more towards clean and lean than big and soft.  While it may not transport you completely back to the Rhône Valley, the wine is loaded with the combination of elements such as tobacco, leather, plum and menthol reminiscent of the wines from that corner of France. 89 Marguerite Thomas Mar 3, 2009

Renwood, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Grandpère” 2004 ($40): Grandpère is the name of the vineyard, which according to Renwood has the oldest clone of Zinfandel in California.  The age of the vines (130 years) certainly explains the uncommon complexity and subtlety--for Zinfandel--found in the wine.   The heat in the finish of this robust--15.5% stated alcohol--Zinfandel sadly detracts from the otherwise lovely layers of ripe fruit, spice and even tobacco-like nuances. 88 Michael Apstein Nov 18, 2008

Renwood Winery, Amador County (California) "Clarion" 2012 ($20): Here's a blend of grapes that you don't see every day, and it's a lesson that there's more than one way to tame a tannic beast.  Winemaker Joe Shebl adds 25% Marsanne to this blend of equal parts Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Syrah and comes up with an elegantly rustic wine that will please fans of Amador style.  Raspberry hard candy and blackberry pie with an attractive touch of Amador heat make this a perfect spicy angus burger accompaniment.
88 Rich Cook Nov 18, 2014

Scott Harvey, Amador County (California) Barbera "Mountain Selection" 2007 ($20):  This is like drinking cherry juice: it's bright and fruit-forward, with solid acidity and 14.5% alcohol.  There isn't a lot of complexity, but the only way you wouldn't enjoy this wine is if you just don't like fruit. 88 W. Blake Gray Jun 1, 2010

Scott Harvey, Amador County (California) Zinfandel Old Vine Reserve 2006 ($30):  Harvey gets much of the fruit for this wine from his grandfather's vineyard, the Demille/Norton Vineyard in Shenandoah Valley.  It has nice red fruit (cherry, raspberry) and some notes of age in the aroma; a bit premature for a current release.  It's also well-balanced and, at 14.5% alcohol, not overly hot.  The one major quibble is that other than some tingly black pepper on the palate, it's not clearly Zinfandel, but a well-made red wine.  At 14.5% alcohol, it's restrained for Amador. 88 W. Blake Gray Jun 1, 2010

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Rocky Top” 2007 ($17):  Briary and brambly, with lots of spice atop its red raspberry fruit flavors, this is a succulent Zinfandel that avoids the excessive heat and sweetness that mars many renditions these days.  A great choice to pair with barbecue, it also merits kudos for its quite reasonable price tag. 88 Paul Lukacs Mar 2, 2010

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Cougar Hill” 2015 ($18):  Fruity to the point of juiciness, with a dash of sweetness and very soft structure (virtually no notable wood and very soft tannins), this is a Zinfandel that can be sipped with all pleasure and no punishment.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 88 Michael Franz Feb 20, 2018

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Old Vines” 2005 ($13): It's been one of those days: too much work, too little time.  I'm home alone, with no time to run out to the grocery store, or to cook anything elaborate let alone settle down to a solo candlelit dinner. While the grilled cheese sandwich is sizzling in the toaster oven I survey the rack of recent wine acquisitions.  Searching for something suitably simple, I reach for the bottle of Sobon Estate Zinfandel.  I unscrew the cap and drizzle a little into my wine glass…Mmmm, smells pretty good, with that heady, mouth-watering wild berry aroma typical of Zinfandel.  Made from organically grown grapes, the wine is mellow and pleasant, more soothing to the palate than many super-sized contemporary Zins.  When I've licked up the last crumbs of my sandwich and drained the last drops from the glass of wine, and I screw the cap back on the bottle.  I've got another hour or so of work, then perhaps I'll come back for another glass of Sobon before turning in. 88 Marguerite Thomas Apr 24, 2007

Fortitude, Amador County (California) Kraemer Family Vineyard "Shake Ridge" 2006 ($24): Light, fresh and fruity, this exotic blend (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Barbera and Tempranillo) is spicy and zesty and perfectly suited for that tailgate party before the football game. I'm thinking grilled brats! 87 Robert Whitley Oct 14, 2008

Montevina, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Terra d’Oro” 2005 ($18): This juicy Zinfandel carries the stated 14.5% alcohol well without notes of over ripeness or excessive extraction.  Briary nuances balance the dense black fruit flavors.  Still, it's a big wine that Zinfandel fans should enjoy. 87 Michael Apstein Nov 18, 2008

Renwood Winery, Amador County (California) Zinfandel “Premier” Old Vine 2010 ($20): Once again, location matters.  Amador County has a great reputation for Zinfandel and it shows in the character of this wine.   Fresh bright fruit flavors, dried fruit notes, and spice all come together in this bold, yet not massive, Zinfandel.  It carries its stated 15.5% alcohol effortlessly.  This is a warming winter wine.
87 Michael Apstein Oct 29, 2013

Sobon Estate, Amador County (California) Primitivo Reserve 2006 ($24): Primitivo, according to many authorities, is the European equivalent of Zinfandel.  With briary deep black fruit flavors, Sobon's version is certainly Zinfandel-like.  Big and almost overblown, it has an attractive rusticity.  Spicy oak and slight heat in the finish--15.1% stated alcohol speaking-definitely means you'll want this wine on a cold winter's night. 86 Michael Apstein Nov 18, 2008

Terra d’Oro, Amador County / Napa Valley (California) Sangiovese / Cabernet 2005 ($30): One might have expected these two powerful grape varietals to self destruct on contact, but instead they form a surprisingly succulent alliance further distinguished by a lovely fragrance.  I'd have thought the Amador Sangiovese (55% of the blend) could easily be wrestled to the ground by the heavyweight Napa Cab, but this dual-appellation merger evolves into a graceful duet rather than a brutal clash of musclemen (the Cabernet steals the scene on the finish, but this is neither surprising nor problematic). 90 Marguerite Thomas Mar 3, 2009

Artezin, Amador-Mendocino-Sonoma (California) Zinfandel 2008 ($18):  Zin fans like to say there are two basic styles of Zinfandel: the so-called claret or Bordeaux style and the lush, fruity, slightly jammy style.  Artezin winemaker Randle Johnson prefers the latter style.  Sourced from three counties and aged in used French oak barrels, this juicy Zin, with a small measure of Petite Sirah, has a deep ruby color, fresh ripe berry and spice aromatics, layers of subtle jammy fruit flavors, substantial tannins and 14.7% alcohol.  Good structure and a lush fruity mouth feel carry this wine. 90 Gerald D. Boyd May 25, 2010

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees” 2014 ($120): Looks like I saved the best for last with this year's stable of Pinot Noirs from Goldeneye.  While it's fun to showcase fruit sources in vineyard designated wines, it's even more fun from a consumer point of view to witness the artistry of a great winemaker in creating a work from the best lots of the fruit sources available to them.  This vintage of Ten Degrees shows Michael Accurso's skill in a glorious mix of red and black fruit notes, with earth, spice and wildflower accents that shine through structured acidity with a weighty lightness (yes, that’s right) that keeps you engaged as the layers unfold.  A truly special wine.
98 Rich Cook Sep 5, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2012 ($82): The 2012 Gowan Creek Pinot Noir from Goldeneye is as interesting as it is stunning. This vintage shows a note of dark chocolate behind a wall of raspberry, dark cherry and blueberry fruit. The tannins are precise and smooth, making for a layered, complex, suave palate that leads into a seductive finish. It's an unusual Pinot, but breathtaking in its nuance and complexity.
98 Robert Whitley Dec 1, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2019 ($130):  This is a WOW Pinot Noir of the first order, carefully shepherded into a deeply layered expression that balances varietal character with winemaking skill and blending expertise.  Sourced from the best of three vineyards – Confluence, The Narrows and Gowan Creek – it shows strawberry, rhubarb, raspberry, vanilla, cardamom, nutmeg, powder and a faint stemmy note are beautifully balanced even at this early stage.  A sturdy backbone with a little grip bodes well for a long, elegant unfolding over the years.  This is perhaps the best Ten Degrees Pinot Noir that I’ve tasted.  If you roll in this price tier, jump in quick.      
98 Rich Cook Jun 14, 2022

Siduri, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Edmeades Vineyard 2017 ($50):  I saw Siduri co-owner, Adam Lee, at a Jackson Family seminar in Seattle a few years ago.  I asked him how he felt about selling the winery that he and his wife, Dianna, started to the Jackson family.  He said, “It’s great, now I can concentrate what I love best, making wine.”  Another advantage of working with the Jackson Family must be access to other vineyards like Edmeades in Anderson Valley, also a Jackson Family estate.  Anderson Valley is in Mendocino County north of San Francisco.  Although it is inland, it is a valley that lies west to east and is cooled by winds from Pacific Ocean.  This wine is textbook Anderson Valley, elegant and delicate with aromas of raspberries, cherries and dried rose petals.  In the mouth it is light bodied and savory, carrying through the berry flavors enlivened by crisp acidity and supported by fine grained tannins.  It is a versatile wine with food that can handle the range of flavors of a Thanksgiving meal from the turkey to the sweet potatoes.   
98 Rebecca Murphy Nov 26, 2019

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 'Angel Hawk' Reserve 2013 ($85):  In the vast universe of Black Kite pinot noir, the Angel Hawk Reserve is the most elegant. It is a pinot structured for the long haul, with firm tannins and bright acidity that lend gravitas, while the palate shows alluring layers of raspberry, strawberry and black cherry, complemented by a touch of wood spice. You won't go wrong if you pop the cork and enjoy now, but another five to seven years in a good cellar will reward the patient. Easily one of winemaker Jeff Gaffner's finest pinots to date.
97 Robert Whitley May 24, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Ten Degrees Estate Grown 2012 ($115): Ten Degrees represents the Goldeneye winemaker's expression of the finest blocks of the vintage from the winery's estate vineyards. Thus the 2012 blend incorporates the best barrels from two blocks of the Confluence vineyard, two blocks from Gowan Creek and one block each from Split Rail and The Narrows. This vintage exhibits exceptional intensity of aroma and flavor and impressive weight and dimension on the palate, with enough acid and tannin to balance out the sweetness of the fruit. It's a stunning pinot with a stunning price.
97 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2014 ($82):

Goldeneye's mastery of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is on full display with this vintage from the Confluence Vineyard. There is a saying in Burgundy that the best wines have "flavor without weight," which is an apt description of the 2014 Confluence. Richness without heft is quite the trick. This vintage of delivers luscious red-fruit aromas, a supple, velvety mouthfeel, and a generous helping of wood spice on the finish. Elegant, refined and utterly delicious. Drink now or hold for another four to six years.
97 Robert Whitley Jun 20, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2013 ($120): In 1997 when Duckhorn, a top Napa Valley producer that focuses on Merlot, embarked on producing Pinot Noir, they wisely sought vineyards in an area more conducive to that variety.  Broadly speaking, Merlot does best in a warm climate, whereas Pinot Noir thrives in cooler climes.  They selected Anderson Valley in Mendocino County, which, being north of Napa and closer to the Pacific Ocean, is cooler.  Judging from their lineup of Pinot Noir, especially this one, they made an excellent decision.  Ten Degrees, Goldeneye’s top Pinot Noir, represents the best blend from their four estate vineyards.  The 2013 is positively gorgeous, with a fascinating harmony of earthiness and fruitiness, wrapped in suave tannins.  Flavors explode and expand on the palate without a trace of heaviness.  Uplifting acidity amplifies the enjoyment.  It grows in the glass so don’t rush to finish it.  Just savor it.
97 Michael Apstein Jul 12, 2016

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Deep End Blend” 2014 ($55): The top end wine at Navarro comes from the "Deep End" -- a particular area of Anderson Valley that the locals refer to as such.  Year after year, this is a go to bottle for me, as it never fails to deliver extremely high quality at a fairly modest price.  Over the years I've enjoyed many a magnum of it while marking important family occasions.  The 2014 doesn't disappoint, delivering bold black cherry fruit, damp earth, cardamom and cinnamon aromas and flavors over mouthwatering acidity, with a silky mid palate and a finish that goes on and on.  Another stellar rendition of this special bottling.
97 Rich Cook Sep 5, 2017

Thomas T Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2017 ($80):  There are so many layers to this wine, it’s hard to know where to start the praise process.  Beautiful aromas of cherry, Asian spice, powder and cardamom are distinctly layered, and they seem to move in and out on a sort of palate carousel.  I could go on, but I’ll save some of the joy of discovery for you.  It’s absolutely riveting Pinot Noir that’s clearly been steered to life with the greatest care.  A truly terrific tipple, and a Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Monterey International Wine Competition.     
97 Rich Cook Mar 16, 2021

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Buster's Hill 2019 ($85):  This 2019 Pinot Noir hails from a vineyard located on a hill the locals call "Buster's Hill” in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, which is one of California’s most promising Pinot sites.  The 2019 from Thomas T. Thomas is elegant, rich, well-structured and refreshing.  It thrums with high-toned aromas and flavors of black cherry, pomegranate, fresh strawberry, and crushed plum that harmonize with dried herbs and violet.  Hints of oak spice add to the complexity.  Textural and alluring, this is a complete and compelling wine.         
97 Miranda Franco Aug 16, 2022

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Angel Hawk” 2012 ($85): You may have figured out by now that I'm a fan of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and this wine is at or near the top of the pack from 2012.  Perfectly ripe fruit delivers black cherry, cinnamon, red plum and soft Asian spice with just a touch of leaf in both aroma and flavor, and the finish blooms, intensifying the flavors and watering your mouth for the next incoming item.  There's no problem at all with the stated 14.9% alcohol -- it's carried seamlessly.  Great right now and worthy of up to ten years in your cellar.
96 Rich Cook Apr 7, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Angel Hawk” 2014 ($85): If you like your Pinot Noir with oodles of spice and bold cherry fruit that's up to balancing it, this is a bottle to seek out.  Jeff Gaffner once again hits it square on the nose, with a vibrancy not often found in a Pinot Noir of this weight.  Featuring black cherry, a touch of rhubarb, bold cinnamon, allspice and a bright zesty finish that lingers and waters the mouth -- go get it!
96 Rich Cook Jul 25, 2017

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Stony Terrace 2013 ($60):  Winemaker Jeff Gaffner's hot streak with Pinot from the 2013 vintage continues with this blockbuster from Black Kite. Stony Terrace exhibits that rare tension between fruit, tannin and acid that delivers exquisite balance. The palate is layered with aromas of black raspberry and fragrant strawberry, notes of spice, cola and earth, with firm grip that indicates the potential for long life.
96 Robert Whitley Nov 24, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Angel Hawk" 2013 ($85): Another big score for a 2013 Pinot by Jeff Gaffner.  This one really gets at what makes the Anderson Valley such a special place for the grape.  Lively cherry fruit, with cinnamon spice, mild damp earth and duff, cool climate acidity rounded off by a rich texture in the mid palate, then popping up in the long finish that leaves you with an elegant mix of cherry and spice.  Plenty of age-worthy structure here as well.  Well done!
96 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Redwoods' Edge 2014 ($60): The Kite’s Rest Vineyard in the Anderson Valley is a remarkable patch of land, yielding stunning Pinots from three separate blocks. The Redwoods’ Edge block in 2014 produced that rare California Pinot with Burgundian boundaries. That means restraint in the use of oak, elegance rather than richness, and subtle complexities that begin to shine after a generous aeration. Notes of dark cherry, raspberry and spice, firm tannins and the capacity to cellar. I recommend cellaring this beauty for another four to five years.
96 Robert Whitley Mar 14, 2017

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 'Angel Hawk' 2012 ($85): This is a statement wine from Black Kite, a big, rich example of the power and depth their estate vineyard in the Anderson Valley can deliver. Though big and voluptuous, it remains balanced and focused, showing bright raspberry and cherry fruit, with a hint of cola. On the palate the wine delivers layered complexity, with persistence into the finish and a bit of grip on the back end. This is an extremely dynamic Pinot Noir from one of California's most dynamic Pinot producers. 96 Robert Whitley Mar 31, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees” 2016 ($125):  It’s hard to believe that Goldeneye has been at it for twenty years in beautiful Anderson Valley.  This bottle is a worthy celebration of the occasion, and will likely be even better when the 30th anniversary comes around.  A selection of the best lots from the estate vineyards, this vintage shows vibrant acidity that weaves all the flavors together with great finish push.  A very complex set, with cherry, strawberry, damp and dry earth and sandalwood leading the nuanced profile.  Stellar Pinot Noir!   
96 Rich Cook Oct 22, 2019

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees” 2017 ($130):  Amazing depth and richness mark this seductive glass of Pinot Noir, a blend of the best lots from Goldeneye’s top vineyards.  While the oak profile is forward at present, the fruit will soak it up and leave cherry, rhubarb, tea and dry earth aromas and flavors in the front.  As always, Anderson Valley acidity keeps things lively and bright.  I would cellar this up to ten years.  This bottling is a serious collectible for California Pinot Noir aficionados.          
96 Rich Cook Aug 31, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2017 ($86):  Goldeneye continues to demonstrate emphatically that Anderson Valley Pinot Noir rivals any produced in the Russian River Valley, Oregon's Willamette Valley or Monterey's Santa Lucia Highlands, just to name a few of the most prominent Pinot Noir regions in the United States. This vintage from The Narrows Vineyard is lush and rich, with impressive palate length and layered aromas of cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Goldeneye doesn't overwhelm its Pinot Noir with massive oak, respecting the fruit instead, and the result is a red wine that possesses just the right touch of oak spice.   
96 Robert Whitley Jul 7, 2020

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees” 2012 ($115): Ten Degrees is a blend of the best lots from each of Goldeneye's estate vineyards, and includes six different clones. It's amazingly elegant, and really benefits from some time in the glass.  High toned cherry fruit, dry earth minerality and a very complex mix of spices are presented on a silky smooth palate that spreads the flavors evenly and holds them in place for an extremely long time.  It's pricey, but it's a serious trophy wine.  Go get 'em, collectors!
96 Rich Cook Sep 29, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees” 2014 ($120): This is arguably the finest Pinot Noir produced at Goldeneye, bringing together the very best of the winery’s four estate vineyards in the Anderson Valley. The 2014 vintage is a superb expression of the Alexander Valley, exhibiting the extraordinary depth and complexity Pinot can achieve there. This one shows layered aromas of bright red and dark fruits, exquisite structure and a subtle leafy, savory note that is extremely inviting.
96 Robert Whitley Aug 8, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2014 ($82): One of Goldeneye's weightier offerings from the vintage, and one that shows bold savory character, with damp earth, mushroom and brown spice enhancing rich black cherry fruit and spice.  The rich texture at mid palate belies the acidity that shows in the finish and keeps things on the lithe side of the bigger style.  There's a lot to showcase in the region, and Goldeneye's portfolio covers a lot of bases.
96 Rich Cook Aug 15, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2014 ($84): Rich damp earth and spice aromas give way to deep black cherry fruit and toasty oak in this vineyard designate bottling.  There's serious flavor following here, yet it's lighter in body and more lively in texture than you might expect from such boldly flavored wine.  I'd lean toward something on the beefy side as a pairing partner.
96 Rich Cook Aug 29, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2015 ($84):  Showing that you can never judge a wine by the numbers, Goldeneye’s Gowan Creek Vineyard bottling weighs in at a hefty 14.9% stated alcohol yet does not finish hot.  Nor is it overdone.  Indeed, it’s a balanced mixture of black fruit flavors and earthy savory ones.  Gorgeous aromatics greet you and what follows on the palate is generous and welcoming.  It’s a dense wine that amazingly is not heavy.  Juicy vivacity in the finish holds it all together.  I know I’m repeating myself, but the suave texture of Goldeneye’s wines is impressive. 
96 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2007 ($75):  The Narrows Vineyard delivers what is easily Goldeneye's most exotic Pinot Noir. The '07 exhibits aromas of mocha and wild berry, and earthy notes of forest floor and cola. The fruit complexity is an astonishing mix of red and dark flavors, unfolding in layers across the palate. This is a wine of great depth and complexity, with a long, lingering finish. 96 Robert Whitley Feb 8, 2011

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Deep End Blend 2014 ($55): This small family run winery in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley continues to amaze. The 2014 Deep End Blend is a brooding wine that probably needs another two to three years in the cellar to reach its potential. Showing layers of red fruit and gentle notes of wood spice, this pinot noir is a keeper and will continue to improve over the next eight to ten years.  Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Robert Whitley Sep 27, 2016

Sojourn Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Demuth Vineyard 2007 ($48): This is the sexiest of the Sojourn Pinots I tasted, with richly layered red fruits and black fruits, a core essence of earthiness and minerality, firm acidity and beautifully integrated tannins. Tightly structured and dense at this stage, of the Sojourn Pinots I tasted this is the one most in need of additional cellaring to reveal all of its considerable charm. 96 Robert Whitley Mar 24, 2009

Baxter Winery, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Langley Vineyard 2014 ($48):  This bottling is primarily clone Roederer 32, a sparkling wine clone that winemaker Phil Baxter allows to ripen longer --  this vintage was picked at 24.5 brix, a point higher than most of his other Pinot Noirs -- which reduces the acidity levels.  Don’t fear, there’s plenty of acidity left to carry bold cherry and strawberry fruit and complementary spice and dry earth notes.  A very lively, age-worthy wine. 
95 Rich Cook Oct 9, 2018

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir River Turn 2010 ($55): Black Kite's 2010 River Turn block yielded an absolutely stunning wine, perhaps one of the finest ever made from this viticultural treasure in Mendocino's cool Anderson Valley. This vintage exhibits an intense red-fruit profile, with a strong floral note and hints of spice. On the palate the wine is seamless, perfectly balanced, and with supple tannins. It is delicate and elegant, and that is a rarity in New World pinot noir. 95 Robert Whitley Apr 23, 2013

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Redwoods' Edge 2010 ($55): I liken the Black Kite vineyard site to the Diamond Creek wine estate in the distant Napa Valley. Technically Black Kite is one vineyard, but winemaker Jeff Gaffner has been able to identify various zones within the vineyard that yield unique personality, so unique the vineyard has been effectively divided into distinct blocks. The 2010 Redwoods' Edge pinot possesses a floral note along with aromas of strawberry and raspberry. It is beautifully structured, exhibiting firm grip with a touch of minerality despite a rich, oily palate. This is the essence of outstanding pinot -- flavor development without losing the tension between ripeness and structure. In this case, or block if you will, Mr. Gaffner nailed it. 95 Robert Whitley Apr 16, 2013

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir KIte's Rest 2009 ($42):  Winemaker Jeff Gaffner has demonstrated a knack of cranking out California's classiest Pinot Noir from this small (12-acre) vineyard in what is called the "Deep End" of the redwood-studded Anderson Valley, in western Mendocino County. There are three distinct vineyard blocks that are in production, plus Kite's Rest, which is a blend of all three blocks. As a group, they may well be California's finest Pinots from a single vineyard site. The '09 Kite's Rest is a layered, rich, high-octane Pinot (14.8 percent ABV) that is nevertheless beautifully balanced. Notes of red plum, Bing cherry and raspberry dominate, the tannins are supple, the acid is bright, and notes of tea leaf and forest floor are complementary complexities. 95 Robert Whitley Apr 26, 2011

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Angel Hawk 2009 ($75):  Black Kite is a truly superb wine estate in Mendocino's Anderson Valley that routinely yields some of the finest Pinot Noir California has to offer. The property is carved up into distinct vineyard blocks with their own unique terroirs, and the Angel Hawk bottling is considered the estate's reserve wine, blending hand-picked barrels from three blocks: Redwoods' Edge, Stony Terrace and River Turn. The '09 is quintessential New World Pinot, with plush, supple red-fruit aromas on the palate, a heady sun-kissed sweetness, and balancing acidity that is strong feature of the cool Anderson Valley. It's a bit pricey, but only 109 cases were made, so the price is somewhat driven by rarity as well as quality.
95 Robert Whitley Jun 19, 2012

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Redwoods' Edge Vineyard 2014 ($60): A brightly stylized Pinot Noir that shows Saigon cinnamon over big red cherry, softer fall spice and sweet oak scents.  The cherry takes the lead on the palate, with notes of cola joining the rest of the elements promised by the nose, all driving with intensity through a long blooming finish.  Fish or fowl as a foil, please!  Contains clones 114, 115 and Dijon.
95 Rich Cook Mar 21, 2017

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Stony Terrace 2013 ($60): Winemaker Jeff Gaffner can do no wrong with the 2013 vintage.  Another gorgeous Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley, the Stony Terrace is pulsing with character, with scents of bright clove hovering over black cherry, leaf and mild dried earth. The palate is juicy on entry and followed quickly with a bright acidic pop that opens your taste buds and extends the finish.  Incredibly long and satisfying, with the stuffing to stand up to a spicier salmon dish.  Beautiful!
95 Rich Cook Dec 1, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir River Turn 2013 ($60): The Pommard clone that drives River Turn leans into a more earthy, mineral styled profile than some of Black Kite's other Pinot Noir bottlings, but there's no shortage of fruit, floral and spice character to keep your interest.  It really has the stuffing for aging and turning into a deeply complex treasure.  Give it a long decant if you get into it near term, and serve with a saucy baked portabello mushroom.  2013 is proving to be a banner year in Anderson Valley!
95 Rich Cook Nov 10, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir River Turn 2014 ($60):

The River Turn block of the Black Kite vineyard is planted entirely to the Pommard clone of Pinot Noir, which holds the promise of firmly structured and ageworthy wines. The 2014 River Turn is all of that and more, a darkly fruited gem that shows flavors of blackberry and blueberry with hints of wood smoke and spice. The tannins are nicely integrated but firm, suggesting that this vintage is still a few years from peak maturity. Score another success for the brilliant but modest winemaker, Jeff Gaffner.
95 Robert Whitley Jun 20, 2017

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir River Turn Vineyard 2016 ($60):  A structured, earthy expression of Pommard clone fruit, showing damp earth minerality, mushroom, brown spice and deep black cherry aromas and flavors, all joined together by racy acidity on the palate and some tannic backbone that promises future improvement.  This is the cellar treasure among the label’s 2016 offerings. 
95 Rich Cook Nov 27, 2018

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($60):  Winemaker Jeff Gaffner isn’t afraid to build a bit of structure in his Pinot Noirs, and this vintage from the Black Kite estate in Anderson Valley is an excellent example.  It shows deep aromas of raspberry and cherry, notes of wood spice and firm grape tannins that will lengthen the shelf life of this beauty. 
95 Robert Whitley Nov 13, 2018

Dutton-Goldfield, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Angel Camp Vineyard 2015 ($58):   This vintage from the Angel Camp Vineyard in the cool Anderson Valley is brimming with fruit, showing notes of wild strawberry and black cherry with an overlay of wood spice.  The wine is floral and showy on the attack, with exceptional depth and complexity through the mid-palate and excellent persistence through the finish. 
95 Robert Whitley Jun 19, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2015 ($125):  This is an Anderson Valley powerhouse Pinot Noir.  Aromas burst from the glass at first pouring, with deep black cherry, blackberry, layered fall spice and nuanced oak toast melded together beautifully.  The palate doesn’t disappoint, delivering the promised flavors over a richly textured mid that shows great balance and concentration.  The finish blossoms and intensifies, with the spice and oak notes slightly forward at present, so decant well or age up to ten years.  Trophy Pinot Noir. 95 Rich Cook Jun 26, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2015 ($84):   A wonderfully complex Pinot Noir right at pop and pour that shows great depth and panache with a little airtime.  Rich cherry fruit, fall spice, dry earth minerality and some lemon zest find harmony in a plush midpalate, and everything finishes brightly thanks to racy acidity and a supple grip that extends the finish.  Another true delight from this producer. 
95 Rich Cook Apr 24, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2016 ($86):  Goldeneye's 2016 Pinot Noir from The Narrows Vineyard is a delicious expression, one where black cherry rides alongside layered oak spice and damp earth minerality on a silky texture, finishing long and lively with depth and pizazz.  There’s an elegance to the assemblage that is worth seeking out if you’re an aficionado of all things Pinot Noir.   
95 Rich Cook Oct 22, 2019

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2017 ($86):  This vintage of Goldeneye's Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir is a little lighter in color and style than previous offerings from the site, but that’s not a problem at all.  Gorgeous strawberry and cherry fruit get support from gentle earth tones and soft oak spice.  The mid-palate is creamy and lush, and bright acidity provides a rush of flavor in the finish, with the earth and spice tones lingering long.  Another beauty from Goldeneye!  
95 Rich Cook Apr 28, 2020

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2017 ($86):  Some of Anderson Valley’s most notable Pinot Noir comes from this “deep end” of the valley just ten miles off the coast, where it’s all about the cool and the fog letting the fruit hang long and develop complexity of flavor with structure for aging.  The Narrows does it again in 2017, with a bold, black cherry cobbler vibe that rides a wave of tannins through a long, spicy finish.  The oak is still integrating here – I’d age it a few years for starters.  Another solid effort from Goldeneye!   
95 Rich Cook May 5, 2020

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2018 ($88):  Wow -- this is a big Pinot Noir, as is often the case from this vineyard, and it works beautifully  every step of the way, showing bright raspberry, cinnamon, cardamom, mild damp earth, focused acidity and amazing length.  A definite winner!  There is some aging potential here as well.        
95 Rich Cook Jan 25, 2022

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2018 ($130):  Cherry, cherry, cherry!  But not at all simplistic.  Layers of red to black cherry are joined by cinnamon, a mix of damp and dry earth notes, and some sweet but mellow oak toast forward in finish.  A fine tuned balance of acidity to fruit load make this a cellar trophy that will reward further aging. Goldeneye's "Ten Degrees" Pinot Noir is generally a can’t miss bottle, and this vintage lives up to the history.      
95 Rich Cook Jan 25, 2022

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2017 ($88):  The Narrows Vineyard lies about 10 miles from the Mendocino Coast, which means the grapes have a chance to ripen under somewhat cooler daytime temperatures than the fruit of vines established further inland.  In 2017 the fruit benefited further from a dry winter and long, idyllic summer.  The resulting wine offers compelling aromas and delicious flavors of dark berries plus a succulent earthiness.  Aging in French oak contributed delicate and well-integrated flavors without hogging the spotlight.  The texture is round without being heavy, and the finish is long and rich.       
95 Marguerite Thomas Oct 19, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2014 ($84): If you really want to see how different Pinot Noir can be depending on where it is grown, you can get a great look by checking out the Goldeneye lineup.  Vineyard designate wines from the same small valley, but each with a unique expression.  The Narrows is a rich, concentrated wine that still feels light on the palate, showing cherry, plum, damp earth and lavender aromas and flavors carried on cool climate acidity that is rounded of nicely by soft oak tones.  The finish is fully integrated and lingers pleasantly.  Drink now, or age a while -- you'll be fine either way.
95 Rich Cook Jul 11, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2014 ($82): This vineyard showcases the riper side of Anderson Valley, and in this vintage it delivers rich black cherry, blackberry, pie spice and a touch of oak char in aroma and flavor profiles, all riding a viscous texture through a long finish.  It will be enjoyable to taste this over the next five to ten years to observe how the oak integrates and deepens the overall package.  As usual, great Pinot Noir from Goldeneye.
95 Rich Cook Jun 27, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek 2014 ($82): Beautifully structured, this layered Pinot Noir is another stunning vintage from the Gowan Creek Vineyard, one of Goldeneye's finest. It shows notes of black cherry and wood spice.  95 Robert Whitley Aug 22, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2011 ($80): 2011's cool weather brought a different profile to this bottling, usually one of Goldeneye's bolder offerings, and I like it.  It's more elegant than in previous years, displaying a big sarsaparilla nose, with plum, cherry, rhubarb, baker's chocolate, leafy notes, cardamom, cinnamon, and a little minty character from the wild pennyroyal that grows in the vineyard.  Palate entry is soft, but it delivers a bracing acid kick on the back.  It needs some air time, but really develops complexity in the glass.  The finish is long and well integrated.  Very pleasing now, and will develop even more complexity with some bottle aging.
95 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2012 ($82): This vintage from Goldeneye's cool The Narrows Vineyard is a stunning example of Anderson Valley Pinot at its finest. Showing earthy minerality and complex red-fruit aromas, with back notes of spice and violets and firm tannins, the balance between the fruit, oak and acid are exquisite. This is a Pinot with tremendous tension now and extraordinary potential for the longer term. 95 Robert Whitley Oct 27, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2013 ($120): Goldeneye's estate vineyard blend is always a great one, and this vintage is no exception.  Bright cherry fruit with touches of raspberry, powder, fall spice, leaf and moderate oak toast are artfully blended, with a kiss of charred oak joining damp earth and fruit in the long finish.  I would cellar this for 5 years to let the char integrate to get the full elegance that's promised.
95 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Estate 'Ten Degrees' 2013 ($120):  Goldeneye's 2013 Ten Degrees shows layered blue fruits with hints of spice and earthy, toasty notes on the palate. The tannins are refined and supple, and the finish long and succulent. This is a Goldeneye that always possesses a strong "yum" factor and the 2013 is from that very successful mold.
95 Robert Whitley May 10, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2005 ($75): One of the most beautifully structured Pinots I've yet experienced from Goldeneye, this single-vineyard bottling is a superb example of the Anderson Valley's remarkable potential, yet it isn't even in full stride. The nose is alive and vibrant with the aroma of wild strawberry and darker fruits, while on the palate the wine is powerful and long, with a firmness on the back end that cries out for patience. The depth and power are achieved without sacrificing balance -- an impressive feat. 95 Robert Whitley Aug 5, 2008

Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir RSM Vineyard 2010 ($52): Anderson Valley over the past decade or so has emerged as one of the world's most promising terroirs for Pinot Noir. The cool coastal valley provides ideal conditions for Pinot, allowing for long hang-time without suffering a loss of the all-important acidity that keeps a wine fresh. Handley's RSM from this vintage is a wonderful expression of Anderson Valley, with intense raspberry and red fruit notes, a rich mid-palate and a persistent finish. This is a complete Pinot Noir in every sense, a true crowd-pleaser.  It was voted Wine of the Year at the 2014 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
95 Robert Whitley Jan 28, 2014

Husch Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2018 ($25):  Husch's Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is a wine that attracts with a bouquet of tiny wildflower aromas and leads you into a focused Pinot Noir palate that carries the subtle complexity that makes the variety so tantalizing from this locale.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.     
95 Mike Dunne Jun 23, 2020

Lula Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "CVR" 2021 ($60):  Tasted pre-release, this is a blend of Chambertain and Vosne-Romanee clones that you will want to snap up when it hits the market.  It is a structured wine that is showing its pedigree coupled with coastal influence. At four years of age in the vineyard, this is a plot and bottling to keep an eye on going forward.  Deep cherry fruit, rich herbs and spice, zesty acidity and subtle earth tones are beautiful already.  This is going places!      
95 Rich Cook Jan 3, 2023

Lula Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Lula Vineyard 2019 ($65):  Lula Vineyard Pinot Noir comes from what locals call the “Deep End” of the Anderson Valley — a zone that gets at both richer fruit and brighter acidity than typical of the rest of the valley.  The acidity sings here, adding a zesty character to the red fruit.  It’s delightful now and will cellar beautifully.  Contains clones Pommard, 777, 667 and 115.    
95 Rich Cook Jan 3, 2023

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Methode a l’Ancienne” 2020 ($35): I’ve been a big fan of this, Navarro’s “mid-line” Pinot Noir, for many years, and this vintage reminds me why. It is a gorgeous wine year in and year out, show its cool climate Anderson Valley roots with elegance and style.  The 2020 is perfectly ripe, with bright cherry and strawberry fruit, soft dry earth tones, freshening acidity and an extended, fully integrated finish.  This is a serious value.      
95 Rich Cook Oct 25, 2022

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2018 ($22):  A lovely Pinot Noir, one integrated and balanced with bright cherry raspberry fruit, crisp acidity and velvet tannins.  There’s real varietal character here, and it lingers beautifully.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
95 Rebecca Murphy Jun 23, 2020

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2018 ($22):  Prices for Anderson Valley Pinot Noir can reach into three figures, but there are some spectacular values to be had for those willing to search.  This wine is lovely – it’s integrated and balanced with bright cherry raspberry fruit, crisp acidity and velvet tannins.  All this in a Pinot Noir priced to slay its more expensive competition.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
95 Rebecca Murphy Jul 7, 2020

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Methode L'Ancienne”, Unfiltered 2014 ($35): Navarro produced a stellar line up of Pinot Noir in the 2014 vintage.  Occasionally they will produce both a filtered and an unfiltered version of this bottling, and it's fun to see what the differences are for the few additional dollars you'll pay for the latter version.  It's a boldly flavored and perhaps slightly more rustic version, meaning that the structure comes across with a bit more chewy texture rather than their usual silky presentation.  That's not at all a negative here, with rich black cherry, sage, cinnamon and a clove note sailing right through the mouth feel and finishing with staying power.  Ageworthy, and a nice alternative to the elegant filtered version.
95 Rich Cook Sep 12, 2017

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2014 ($20): There's so much concentrated spiced plum fruit on the nose of this wine that it leads you to believe that you're about to experience something simple, fleshy and fat, but the palate delivers a taste bud delight of complexity, singing acidity and a long finish.  Black cherry, leaf, dry earth, mild mushroom and soft fall spice go on and on after the liquid is gone.  Bravo!  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2016 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Feb 23, 2016

Thomas T Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Estate Grown 2018 ($65):  Anderson Valley is pushing its neighbors to the south to be recognized as the best terroir in California for Pinot Noir.  This region in western Mendocino County routinely produces exceptional Pinot that offers structure and ageability and this vintage from Thomas T Thomas is a splendid example.  It shows beautiful notes of raspberry and cherry, firm acid structure and a spicy finish.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
95 Robert Whitley Sep 22, 2020

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2019 ($80):  This producer's 2019 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Reserve emits aromatics of cherry, pomegranate, damp rose petal, spiced plum, crushed rock, and orange peel.  A mouth-filling Pinot Noir, it combines an appealing lushness with a lifted and perfumed fruit core on the palate.  Well-integrated tannins and bright acidity keep the wine flavor-packed.  Those flavors linger, giving way to an impressively persistent finish.  This is a new-world Pinot Noir with Old World soul.       
95 Miranda Franco Aug 16, 2022

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Buster’s Hill 2018 ($85):  Thomas T. Thomas is something of a Renaissance man.  He hails from my hometown of Toledo, Ohio, and studied music at the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.  He then went on to get an MBA and worked in the corporate world; however, a trip to Burgundy in 1999 opened his eyes to wine.  Fast forward, he developed his brand in 2017, becoming  one of the few African American winemakers in northern California.  Notably, the art adorning his wine labels is his artistic creation.  His 2018 Thomas T. Thomas  Buster’s Hill Pinot Noir will undoubtedly become one of California's highest praised Pinot Noirs.  This 2018 is loaded with raspberry, black cherry, rhubarb, and perfectly integrated baking spices.  The structured palate offers swells of fresh acidity and polished, fine-grained tannins.  It is the pinnacle of North California's essence.  It's a joy to drink and greatly over-performs more expensive estate bottlings from California.         
95 Miranda Franco Feb 22, 2022

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Buster's Hill 2020 ($90):  Thomas T. Thomas Buster’s Hill Pinot Noir continually impresses vintage after vintage.  The 2020 is aged for 17 months in 100 percent French oak, 40 percent new. It exudes a breathtakingly beautiful perfumed nose brimming with macerated cherries, black raspberry, plums, damp violets, blood orange peel, black tea, and nutmeg.  The wine lingers on the palate, revealing layer after layer of a lush core of dark ripe berry fruit alongside a vibrant minerality and polished yet noticeable tannins.  This will impress anyone at your table and will likely evolve beautifully for another five to ten years, if not longer.         
95 Miranda Franco Dec 27, 2022

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2020 ($85):  Shining ruby-red in the glass, the 2020 Reserve Pinot Noir delivers assertive aromas of dried plum, raspberry, pomegranate, and black cherry.  It stretches for miles on the palate, revealing layers of cherry, clove, licorice, and tea flavors alongside ultra-polished tannins.  This wine has everything you could ask for, with freshness, texture, fruit concentration, and purity in abundance.  It drinks like a serious red Burgundy without the price.       
95 Miranda Franco Jan 10, 2023

V. Sattui, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2015 ($45): Anderson Valley's signature cherry fruit shines through boldly here, with accompanying notes of cola and soft fall spice in both aroma and flavor profiles, with singing cool climate acidity carrying everything through a long, mouth-watering finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
95 Rich Cook Jun 6, 2017

V. Sattui, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($45): Mendocino's Anderson Valley is poised to overtake the Russian River Valley as California's most successful terroir for the Pinot Noir grape.  Examples of stunning Anderson Valley Pinots abound.   V. Sattui, a Napa Valley winery, has dipped its toes into the Anderson Valley and discovered the water is fine.  The 2016 V. Sattui Pinot Noir delivers vibrant red fruits, impressive depth and complexity, and at a price that is extremely reasonable given the hot market for Pinot.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
95 Robert Whitley Sep 25, 2018

Baxter Winery, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Run Dog Vineyard 2015 ($52):  Run Dog Vineyard is tiny – just .7 acre -- that is planted to clones 114 and Pommard.  Small but mighty, I’d say!  This wine is wildly floral on the nose, with pine and forest floor joining high toned cherry and fall spice.  The palate folds the elements together beautifully with a silky entry and a trailing pop of acidity.  A touch of pepper joins the fruit in a bright, mouth-watering finish. 
94 Rich Cook Oct 9, 2018

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Redwood's Edge 2012 ($60): The Black Kite Pinots are some of the finest in Mendocino's Anderson Valley and indeed some of the finest in all of California. The evidence is overwhelming and the 2012 Redwood's Edge, which is a specific block of the estate vineyard, is an excellent place to start. The purity of flavor is stunning, showing layers of red fruits and earthy minerality, a mouth-coating mid-palate and a long, satisfying finish. The wine is beautifully structured and balanced, yet another triumph in this ongoing run of successful vintages. 94 Robert Whitley Feb 17, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Stony Terrace 2012 ($60):  Black Kite's small patch of vineyard in the Anderson Valley has turned out to be a jewell, consistently among the finest in California. This vintage of Stony Terrace, which is one section of the vineyard, is shows exceptional concentration, with a floral nose and scents of earthy forest floor. On the palate the flavors are raspberry and strawberry, with excellent length, and a finish that shows some grip, which bodes well for the longevity of this vintage.
94 Robert Whitley Dec 23, 2014

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Kite's Rest 2017 ($50):  Although the Black Kite estate into three distinct vineyard blocks, every vintage winemaker Jeff Gaffner puts together a blend of the three as Kite’s Rest.  The synergy is exceptional, combining elegance and richness for a beautifully balanced, spicy Pinot Noir that shows aromas of cherry and raspberry, supple tannins and impressive length on the finish.   
94 Robert Whitley May 19, 2020

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Redwood's Edge 2007 ($52): Redwood's Edge is the topmost vineyard block of the 40-acre Kite's Rest Vineyard. Redwoods like cool, misty weather, so that tells you a lot about the site.  This is a fantastic wine for people who like complexity: it's elegant and fascinating, with a perfumey aroma that offers cranberries and lavender initially and keeps changing with air.  The mouthfeel is soft, and the palate offers cranberry and cherry fruit along with floral notes and hints of smoke and cedar.  I love the long finish. 94 W. Blake Gray Sep 22, 2009

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "River Turn" 2011 ($55): This block selection from The Birdsall family’s Kite’s Rest Vineyard showcases red fruit, particularly cherry, raspberry and rhubarb, with notes of dry earth, mushroom and Asian spice on both the nose and the palate, delivered over lively acidity and nicely integrated oak tones.  The long finish adds touches of stems and sandalwood, rounding out a beautifully complex wine.  A roasted portabello mushroom with baked chevre will make an intriguing pairing.
94 Rich Cook Feb 18, 2014

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Kite’s Rest 2016 ($50):  Vibrant raspberry and cherry fruit are the charm of this estate wine from Black Kite.  With bright acidity to match and a note of wood spice, this is a beautifully structured Pinot Noir that will age nicely over the next several years although it is superb even at this young stage. 
94 Robert Whitley Nov 6, 2018

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Stony Terrace 2016 ($60):  Richly layered and showing complex notes of red and black fruits, the estate-grown Stony Terrace from the Black Kite property in the Anderson Valley is an exquisite Pinot Noir that exhibits exceptional aging potential, with firm backbone and luscious, spicy fruit.  
94 Robert Whitley Nov 20, 2018

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Kite’s Rest 2016 ($50):  This Pinot Noir is a fully extracted style that shows deep black cherry and lots of rich oak spice that balances the fruit very nicely with hints of clove enhancing the lively fruit and extending the finish, where everything is already well knit together.  A great solo glass, or a fine foil for medium strength cheeses. 
94 Rich Cook Nov 20, 2018

Castello Di Amorosa, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Morning Dew Ranch 2016 ($75):  A complex, layered expression, featuring black cherry, sage, damp earth and a touch of pepper in the aroma profile.  The palate follows suit, with lively acidity knitting the promised flavors into a long, intriguing glass of Anderson Valley.  This will ride well alongside fish, pork or beef, and I’d lean into the herbs in the food prep.  Another winner from Brooks Painter and his winemaking team. 
94 Rich Cook Jun 19, 2018

Fathers & Daughters Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard “Ella’s Reserve” 2018 ($55):  Winemaker Phil Baxter’s affinity for Pinot Noir is on full display here, showcasing Ferrington vineyard’s hillside-driven intensity.  Rich cherry, damp earth and a touch of dry earth aromas entice and lead to a generous palate that delivers the nose elements with lively acidity and a zesty finish that extends the cherry flavor impression.  It’s the fine balance of all the elements makes this pop.  This is a label worth watching!  Contains Clones 828, Pommard, and 777 and shows minimal oak influence.        
94 Rich Cook Jan 3, 2023

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2015 ($84):  I was fortunate to taste this wine and Goldeneye’s Gowan Creek Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir side-by-side, and it was pretty damned tough to decide on a favorite.  This won by a nose, and that was simply because this showed a bit more delicacy and nuance, though both wines are extremely well made in a rich, flavorful profile while still coming off as stylish (which is an extremely impressive achievement).  You might think the achievement is less impressive when considering the $84 price tag, but I take the opposite view:  The temptation to go for sheer size over style only gets harder to resist as one moves up the price scale. 
94 Michael Franz Jul 3, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard - Hillside 2015 ($84):  What a difference even a little time in the bottle can make when it comes to young California Pinot Noir, as evidenced by a July tasting of a wine that I didn’t care for in April.  While the oak influence is still strong in this wine, it’s on its way to balancing the full throttle black cherry and damp earth minerality that are so attractive here, and the bright acid kick in the finish keeps everything freshening.  Another stellar Pinot Noir from Goldeneye.  
94 Rich Cook Oct 16, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2016 ($86):  The lightest body of the 2016 Goldeneye set, and certainly one of the most delightful.  Strawberry, Bing cherry and fall spice fit perfectly on top of the regional bright acid profile.  The finish gives the oak spice a push without overwhelming the red fruit.  Thanksgiving is a perfect match for this bottling.  
94 Rich Cook Oct 22, 2019

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2016 ($86):  I love having a fleet of Pinot Noir bottlings to choose from where the choice is difficult.  The Goldeneye 2016 Gowan Creek follows its predecessors with a dark cherry and berry expression, with rich fall spice and a long, full throttle finish.  Beautifully realized – of course!  
94 Rich Cook Oct 22, 2019

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard Estate Grown 2017 ($86):  For those who prefer a Pinot Noir with a hint of earthiness, this vintage from Goldeneye’s Confluence Vineyard is right in your wheelhouse.  To be sure, the notes of leather and forest floor are subtle yet unmistakable.  Beautifully structured, this wine shows supple tannins and fresh acidity with complex aromas of cherry, strawberry and raspberry and a touch of wood spice.        
94 Robert Whitley May 5, 2020

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2017 ($86):  A weighty, dark fruit expression of Pinot Noir with a firm grip that carries black cherry, brown spice and damp earth minerality on top of toasty oak that’s just starting to integrate into the fleshy fruit.  I would age this a few years for full enjoyment – as with all things Goldeneye, there’s a solid future ahead here.   
94 Rich Cook Mar 31, 2020

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2017 ($86):  You might think a red wine that a variety of reviewers routinely describe as “opulent,” “plush,” “voluptuous,” “energetic” and “dynamic” would be something you’d serve only with a juicy steak or other big, red meat.  While it is indeed sublime with those choices, this particular Pinot Noir is surprisingly versatile at the table.  Yes, it does have lots of deeply flavored blackberry and dark cherry notes, and yes, it has a distinctive note of oaky spice and hint of damp earth, but it is also graceful and elegant.  What separates this wine from similarly nuanced Pinot Noirs is its flexibility when it comes to paring it with food.  With its savory spice and joyous fruit, it adapts as readily to, say, a carefully grilled or oven-roasted salmon steak, fried chicken, or wine braised lentils as to roast beef or steak.      
94 Marguerite Thomas Dec 8, 2020

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2017 ($86):  Bold and richly textured, this beautiful Pinot Noir rewards the palate with hints of rich cherry flavor along with earthiness, subtle spice, and a delicate dash of spicy oak.  A deft whisper of acidity shows up at just the right place on the palate.  Texturally the wine is dense and yet at the same time graceful and refined, fresh and focused.  Anderson Valley is strategically located along the undulating coast of California’s windswept Mendocino Coast.      
94 Marguerite Thomas Jan 18, 2022

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2015 ($84):  Goldeneye’s single vineyard bottlings actually reflect the difference in sites.  Theirs is not a marketing ploy.  This one, for example, is denser and more concentrated, conveying more black rather than red fruit, compared to one from The Narrows Vineyard.  Yet it still conveys the delicacy that makes Pinot Noir so alluring.  Long and refined, it has the Goldeneye -- and Duckhorn, for that matter -- suave texture and glossy tannins.  A touch of bitterness in the finish reminds you to enjoy this wine at the table with food. 
94 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2014 ($84):  This is a wine of grace and nuance, whose fruit was sourced from a rugged mountain vineyard 10 miles from the Mendocino Coast.  Affected by the site’s strong marine influence (including coastal fog and cooler daytime temperatures), the grapes have yielded a Pinot Noir with a whiff of floral in its aroma, and complex, layered flavors of red berries and a touch of cherry, plus mushroomy earthiness and a dash of spice.  There is plenty of refreshing acidity on the long and lingering finish.  
94 Marguerite Thomas Jan 15, 2019

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2012 ($82): A beautifully layered Pinot Noir from the most recently added vineyard in the Goldeneye program.  Initially very savory on the nose, it opens wide in the glass with some time and swirl to expose deep black cherry, sarsaparilla and exotic spice.  Firm palate grip keeps the elements together, and bright acidity gives a high tone to the sweet cherry finish.  This will stand up to richer meats -- give a roast duck a try.
94 Rich Cook Sep 1, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2012 ($82): Rich and darkly fruited, this is an earthy Pinot from one of California's finest producers. This vintage from the Split Rail Vineyard offers a complex nose with hints of floral, cola and forest floor. Powerful and muscular, yet approachable and inviting, it will be enjoyable in the near term but should evolve nicely with three to five additional years in the bottle.
94 Robert Whitley Aug 11, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($55): I've been eagerly awaiting the 2013 lineup from Goldeneye, and this first look has me salivating for their other bottlings.  This is the vineyard blend, and it's a showcase for all that makes Anderson Valley a premier spot for Pinot Noir.  Bright cherry, floral, dry earth, talc and mild wood spice aromas lead to a silky soft palate that translates the complex nose beautifully.  Everything stays present in the mix through a long, satisfying finish.  No mix of second tier fruit here -- this is a very intentionally blended wine.  Bravo!
94 Rich Cook May 3, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2004 ($70): Fans of the Napa Valley's Duckhorn Vineyards won't be surprised at the spectacular success of Goldeneye, Duckhorn's venture into the realm of Pinot Noir. As with the Duckhorn wines, the focus at Goldeneye is on the terroir. Mendocino's Anderson Valley, with its warm days and cool nights, benefits from the influence of the nearby Pacific Ocean and has become a hotbed of seductive Pinot Noirs. None more seductive than the luscious offerings from Goldeneye. The '04 Narrows Vineyard Pinot is outrageously inviting, beginning with an intensely hedonistic nose that shows off the floral characteristics of this vineyard. Deep raspberry and strawberry notes, loads of spice and a silky mouthfeel give it a generous, complex mid-palate that leads to a stunningly long, lingering finish. 94 Robert Whitley Nov 13, 2007

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Ten Degrees 2009 ($110): Still fairly closed at this stage, Goldeneye's Ten Degrees gives every indication it's going to be a blockbuster once it settles down. Rich and weighty on the palate, with aromas that run the red-fruit gamut from strawberry to raspberry to cherry, it is packed with flavor. The use of oak is well measured. The finish has impressive length and persistence, as well as nuanced complexities of spice and earth.
94 Robert Whitley Jun 26, 2012

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2007 ($75):  What struck me most about Goldeneye's '07 Confluence Vneyard Pinot was its elegance and complexity. This is a seamless wine with beautifully integrated tannins, a gorgeous array of red-fruit aromas, and exceptional length on the finish. 94 Robert Whitley Feb 8, 2011

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2007 ($55):  Whenever I taste Goldeneye Pinot I am reminded that it is possible, although extremely rare, to make a muscular Pinot without sacrificing the elements of suppleness and elegance that draw many aficionados to this particular grape. The '07 Goldeneye is a big, powerful Pinot at 14.5 percent alcohol, yet it walks softly, exhibiting lovely finesse on the palate along with gorgeous aromas of strawberry, currant and black cherry. The ample tannins are smooth and integrated, showing modest grip on the back end, and there is a seductive note of earthy, forest floor complexity. 94 Robert Whitley Jan 11, 2011

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2007 ($75):  Of all the Goldeneye Vineyard designates, Gowan Creek is the most Burgundian to my palate. This wine appeared tight and lacked generosity when first opened, but fleshed out with a bit of aeration. There is an appealing mineral note, but the pure dark fruits and hints of forest floor are the main attraction. Beautifully structured, it is delicious now but will likely benefit from additional cellaring. 94 Robert Whitley Feb 8, 2011

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2013 ($82):  This vintage from Goldeneye's Gowan Creek Vineyard is an earthy beast, rich and powerful, with exceptional depth. Showing a nose of damp earth, forest floor and mushroom, with layered aromas of black raspberry and strawberry, this is a complex pinot that is glorious now but with a bright future as well. The tannins are nicely integrated, and the wine shows hints of fall spice in the very long finish.
94 Robert Whitley Jul 19, 2016

Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Estate Reserve 2004 ($52): This is Handley's benchmark red wine, an earthy, complex Pinot that shows hints of chocolate and spice, layers of wild blackberry, cherry and currant fruit, exceptional weight and balance, and a depth that is one of the trademarks of top-class Anderson Valley Pinot Noir. There is real power here without sacrificing finesse or resorting to the sweet, cloying style of Pinot that is currently in vogue throughout California. 94 Robert Whitley Jun 26, 2007

Husch Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 ($38): Anderson Valley -- another valley heard from in California Pinot Noir, and one worth listening to -- and tasting!  Fresh cherry, strawberry and dusty earth aromas become flavors on the palate, where a nice kiss of oak char adds complexity.  The finish shows the oak a bit more than I like at present, but promises to integrate seamlessly with a little bottle aging.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Lazy Creek Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Estate 2012 ($42): This vintage of Lazy Creek's estate Pinot is rich and layered, with deep aromas of dark fruit and raspberry, spice and fine tannins. While it is drinking well now, it should evolve beautifully with another couple of years in the cellar. This distinctive, iconic Anderson Valley Pinot is a tremendous value at the price. 94 Robert Whitley Jul 8, 2014

MacPhail, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard 2009 ($49): With bright, lifted red fruit aromas, MacPhail's Ferrington Vineyard Pinot Noir will appeal to those who favor fruit-driven Pinot over more earthy expressions of the grape variety. That's not a criticism, for this vintage offers a complex array of fruit and spice aromas on the nose, with a medium-weight palate that delivers plenty of flavor and a persistent finish. It's elegant and balanced and another notch in winemaker James MacPhail's belt.
94 Robert Whitley Jul 24, 2012

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Deep End" 2003 ($44): The color of this lovely Pinot sparkles like a brilliant ruby. The aromatics are full and forward with deep black cherry, leather and the subtle scent of boiled beets. It feels good in the mouth, with supple fruit flavors, good acidity and refined tannins. This is an inviting Pinot with depth, complexity and potential. 94 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 20, 2006

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Methode a l’Ancienne” 2018 ($35):  There are a lot of moving parts to this hearty yet light-footed wine.  It is a streamlined Pinot Noir with a lean structure and animated fruit, and racy acidity keeps the flavors coming.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
94 Mike Dunne Jun 23, 2020

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2019 ($45):  This 2019 draws you in like a magnet with its gushing, high-toned aromas and flavors of plum, strawberry preserves, violet, and cherry.  The palate is lushly textured with beautiful tension.  This is poised to impress and gives you a glimpse of what you would find in Burgundy without the price tag.       
94 Miranda Franco Mar 29, 2022

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Estate Grown 2019 ($65):  This 2019 Estate Grown Pinot Noir is a bit more evolved than the aforementioned 2019 Pinot Noir.  It has fresh cherry and plum flavors, but it then unfolds notes of seductive earth, crushed rose, and baking spice.  With each swirl, you’re guaranteed to uncover another rich layer with perfectly balanced acid and tannins.        
94 Miranda Franco Mar 29, 2022

Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Estate Grown 2020 ($70):  Top producers have migrated to the Anderson Valley to make elegant, nuanced wines, and this Pinot Noir from Thomas T. Thomas is a fine example.  Rich raspberries and cherries meld beautifully with a harmonious and smooth texture.  Hints of forest floor and baking spice add nice complexity while vibrant acidity keeps this 2020 Pinot Noir fresh.  While currently impressive, stow a few away to enjoy in another two to three years, as this will evolve beautifully as the years go by.        
94 Miranda Franco Jan 3, 2023

V. Sattui Winery, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($42): A very attractive bouquet of cherry, raspberry, rhubarb, hibiscus and baking spice preps you for a bright mouthful of red fruit and spice, delivered over singing acidity that extends the finish and waters you mouth for the next sip…or bite.  Beautifully elegant Pinot Noir from my favorite area for the grape.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 10, 2015

V. Sattui Winery, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2018 ($48):   Here’s a richly flavored Pinot Noir from one of its best appellations.  Notes of black cherry, ripe strawberry, fall spice and gentle oak toast entice on the nose and please on the palate, with a supple texture and a long, fully integrated finish keeping you coming back for more.  Wines like this are why Pinot Noir is so popular.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2020 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.    
94 Rich Cook May 26, 2020

WALT Wines, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Corners Vineyard 2015 ($75):  The Hall family has given winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes wide latitude to create something unique in the world of Pinot Noir, and she's taking full advantage of that freedom.  This is a dark side of the variety expression, showing black cherry and blue fruit with accents of damp earth and fall spice.  The back addition of roasted stems seems to add some of the structure you get from whole cluster fermentation without the green notes that often come with the practice, and that dimension helps carry the flavors through a long, juicy finish.  No accompaniment required here! 94 Rich Cook Oct 10, 2017

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir River Turn 2011 ($55): Black Kite is one of the gems of the Anderson Valley's growing Pinot Noir community. The River Turn block is a distinct section of the 12-acre Black Kite vineyard. This vintage of River Turn is remarkably complex on the nose, exhibiting an inviting floral note coupled with a subtle nuance of earthy forest floor and a hint of spice. On the palate it delivers aromas of raspberry and strawberry, is firmly structured and would benefit from an additional two to three years in the cellar. Brilliant. Only 148 cases produced. 93 Robert Whitley Feb 11, 2014

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir River Turn 2013 ($60): River Turn from this vintage impresses with its density and brooding earthiness. The fruit profile runs to the dark side, and there is a strong wood note that gives the wine warmth and a hint of spice. Yet there is every reason to think this wine has much more to give but will only express its buried treasure with considerable time in the cellar. This is a Pinot to lay down for at least another two to five years. That's not advice you often hear in connection with most California Pinot.
93 Robert Whitley Nov 3, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Redwoods' Edge 2013 ($60): Redwoods' Edge is another in a fine string of Pinots from Black Kite in the very good 2013 vintage. This example exhibits an earthy nose, with hints of cola and forest floor and a touch of oak vanillin. On the palate it shows good balance, layers of ripe black raspberry and blackberry, with firm tannins that will lose their edge after another year or two in the bottle.
93 Robert Whitley Dec 22, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Stony Terrace 2010 ($55): This firmly structured pinot from Black Kite's Stony Terrace vineyard block shows an inviting earthiness on the nose, with aromas of cola and forest floor. On the palate the wine seems young and closed, with tightly packed layers of red and black fruit flavor. The tannins are firm without being astringent, and the wine finishes with good persistence. The beauty of winemaker Jeff Gaffner's style is that he allows each section of the Black Kite vineyard to be itself, whatever the vintage may bring. Sometimes it gives him a New World pinot, sometimes a pinot from the Old World. The 2010 Stony Terrace most definitely has one foot firmly planted in the Old World. 93 Robert Whitley Apr 23, 2013

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Kite's Rest 2007 ($42): Kite's Rest, the name of Black Kite's 40-acre vineyard, is meant to mean the place where the kite (bird) rests.  Since Black Kite makes three block-designate wines, one more-expensive blend and this wine, I couldn't help thinking it could mean "Kite's Leftovers."  Fortunately, I love leftovers, because you can blend so many flavors on your plate, and that's exactly what's up here: With the solid body and big red fruit from the Stony Terrace as a backbone, you can smell the floral character of the Redwood's Edge and taste some of the mildly citrusy acidity of the River Turn.  Where the cinnamon spiciness comes from, I don't know, but it's a nice accent. 93 W. Blake Gray Sep 22, 2009

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Redwoods' Edge” 2018 ($64):  For such a bold Pinot Noir, there’s a lively aspect to this that keeps everything feeling fresh and light.  Ripe strawberry and red cherry fruit get a nice pop from oak spice that is balanced to the fruit’s brightness, and the zesty kiss in the finish keeps the flavor pushing into the distance.  It's delicious now, and it will hold 5 to 7 years with no trouble.     
93 Rich Cook Jul 27, 2021

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Stony Terrace" 2011 ($55): Black Kite strikes again with this exceptional bottling.  Cherry, strawberry, menthol, rhubarb, tea and cardamom flood the nose and the palate, with a silky mouthfeel and long finish with a nice stem and earth notes coming forward.  Salmon in a mild truffle sauce would be a suitable pairing.
93 Rich Cook Mar 4, 2014

Brutocao Family Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Slow Lope'n Vineyard 2013 ($32):  Brutocao is one of Anderson Valley's long time players, having farmed the area since 1943.  This Pinot Noir shows that regional familiarity with classic strawberry and cherry fruit, with holiday spice adding complexity.  I like this as a solo glass, but you can give it a go at your fall table as well.
93 Rich Cook Oct 10, 2017

Castello Di Amorosa, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Morning Dew Ranch 2018 ($75):  Anderson Valley Pinot Noir can cover a lot of stylistic ground thanks to its cool climate acidity that keeps the red cherry fruit bright and lively.  This lets a winemaker have a range of choices, particularly when it comes to selecting barrels.  The Castello team has opted here for a layered spice profile, and it works beautifully with the zesty character of the fruit.  It’s a fine balancing act that leaves overt woody flavors out so that the fruit and spice can dance together without interruption from start to finish.  Delicious!     
93 Rich Cook May 11, 2021

Champ de Rêves, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2010 ($40): This is my kind of Pinot Noir. It has intense flavors of cherry and raspberry layered with wood spices like lavender and sandalwood. And, while the flavors are intense, they are not at all flamboyant. The wine is tightly structured with nervy acidity and fine-grained tannins. So, nose in glass, here come the provocative aromas. First sip brings that luscious fruit. Mid-palate the structure takes over keeping rein on the fruit. Then the finish that goes on and on and on.
93 Rebecca Murphy Feb 5, 2013

Copain, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2009 ($50):  This is the wine that master sommelier Geoff Kruth used to demonstrate a definition of "balance:"  Kruth upturned his empty glass and placed it on his head, saying, "balance is when you can wear it as a hat."  It's a fresh, pretty wine, with light raspberry fruit, and it would be easy to miss its charms in a giant tasting. You don't notice any single element: the light tannins are perfectly integrated.  It's refreshing, and the only thing holding its rating below the highest marks is its relative simplicity.  However, you'd have to be a grouch to not like it. 93 W. Blake Gray Apr 5, 2011

Davies Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard 2013 ($55): The Davies Ferrington Pinot from 2013 delivers a burst of gorgeous red-fruit aroma on the front of the palate, a slightly sweet mid-palate and a long, spicy finish. The freshness and balance suggest this wine will age nicely over the next several years despite its immediate appeal.
93 Robert Whitley Aug 18, 2015

Domaine Anderson, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($50): This spicy Pinot Noir is the second annual offering for Domaine Anderson, sister winery to my favorite domestic sparkling wine producer Roederer Estate.  As you'd expect, quality is high, with a complex mix of black cherry, fall spice and dry earth aromas that lead to a bright palate that delivers the promise of the nose over bright acidity, soft texture and medium-plus oak toast.  The toast and spice come forward in the finish without covering the rich fruit, with everything mingling and lingering long.  Winemaker Darrin Low is one to watch.
93 Rich Cook Aug 29, 2017

Domaine Anderson, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($50): Confession:  This bottle has been idling on my tasting runway for a couple of years, after being sent to me as a press sample that then got lost in the shuffle.  Last night it finally got cleared for take-off, and it was fantastic.  There's no doubt in my mind that it was more complex and integrated thanks to the additional aging it received, and more than 20 retailers around the USA are still selling this vintage, so "better late than never" really applies in this case.  The wine shows lovely aromas with interwoven scents of dark cherry fruit and mushroom-y accents, and the flavors are even more complex.  Almost all the wood notes are now integrated, and the tannins super soft but still sufficient to provide framing.  $50 is the list price and also the one most commonly charged at the moment, and though the wine is easily worth that, some retailers are charging less than $40--which is a steal.
93 Michael Franz Jul 18, 2017

Domaine Anderson, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($39):  This is a gorgeous expression of the lighter, spicier side of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.  The brand is the “still wine” arm of domestic sparkling wine titan Roederer Estate, a house that has from the beginning bottled small amounts of fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay for the sparkling wine tasting room to broaden the offerings there, but wisely decided recently to branch out into a wider market with this venture.  This vintage is long on bright black cherry and blackberry fruit, and it shows lively fall spice that blends perfectly with the fruit.  The finish is long and bright, making for a fine solo sipper or an accompaniment to fowl or fish – even a pepperoni pizza would work well.   
93 Rich Cook Aug 4, 2020

Ferrari Carano, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Middleridge Ranch 2012 ($55): Rich and earthy, this Pinot succeeds in demonstrating Ferrari Carano's wisdom in venturing into the sometimes challenging world of Pinot Noir. Best known for Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc, Ferrari Carano hasbeen producing extremely small lots of Pinot Noir since 2004. In 2008 the Carano's took the big plunge and purchased vineyards in Mendocino County's Anderson Valley, which runs east-west and benefits from cooling Pinot-friendly Pacific breezes. Seems to me it was a very smart business decision. 93 Robert Whitley Jun 3, 2014

Foursight, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard “Clone 05” 2016 ($54):  You may be aware of my fandom for all things Anderson Valley -- there’s just so much to like coming from there vintage after vintage.  This clone specific Pinot Noir is one of the Pommard family, and it shows it was worthy of its own bottling with a pretty mix of black cherry, damp earth and moderate oak char aromas and flavors that ride a plush opening through a bright finish.  I’d age this a little while, or decant well if you wish to try this in the near term.  
93 Rich Cook Apr 23, 2019

Foursight Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard “Clone 5” 2011 ($49): Foursight has produced this clone specific bottling since 2007, having found that this Pommard 5 performs well with more new oak influence than their regular Pinot Noir bottlings.  It’s very floral on the nose, with red cherry, sarsaparilla and a light hint of dry earth. Rich and forward on the palate, with a juicy entry and balanced acid carrying flavors through a finish that will get longer with further bottle aging.  I’m not usually a fan of lots of new oak, but this wine handles it with style. Well done! 93 Rich Cook Mar 11, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees” 2011 ($115): Goldeneye's flagship wine is a blend of several clones from three different vineyard sites.  The aroma profile includes cherry, tea, plum, hibiscus, orange blossom, sandalwood and some stony minerality, all of which gain intensity with some time in the glass.  It's rich and soft on the palate, with well-integrated flavors and a long finish that emphasizes cherry and a light touch of fennel. The structure begs for food -- roasted pork or fowl will be elevated nicely by this wine.
93 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2011 ($80): This is serious, full throttle Pinot Noir from Goldeneye's first vineyard in Anderson Valley.  Deep black cherry fruit, damp earth, and clay with rich oak spice, hints of leaf and Asian spice flood the nose and the palate.  It's very plush, but structured well enough that further aging will be of benefit.  Another 2011 Pinot Noir that succeeds on every level.
93 Rich Cook Jul 29, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Ten Degrees Vineyard” 2011 ($115): Confusingly, the Ten Degrees Vineyard bottling does not come from a single vineyard, but rather is a blend of Goldeneye’s best lots from their four Anderson Valley vineyards, making it more like a “Reserve” bottling than an expression of a single discreet place.  Similar to many young Reserve wines, lots of seductive oak flavors are showing at this stage, but there’s certainly plenty of underlying deep ripe fruit notes for balance.  Spicy herbal elements also emerge.  Its complexity becomes apparent as it expands in the glass.  This full-bodied Pinot Noir is very young and un-evolved at this stage and would best be left in the cellar for several years so its components come together.  Its silky tannins allow you to drink it now, but if you opt to do so, pair it with a rich and meaty dish.
93 Michael Apstein Mar 18, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2014 ($120):  “Ten Degrees” Pinot Noir flows across the palate like liquid satin, delivering bold yet elegant flavors both earthy and fruity.  Don’t rush the experience -- this is a wine to be savored.  Let it linger in the glass as you explore its delicious aromas, then, as it glides past your lips and flows onto your tongue the wine will open up and give itself over to you, exposing all manner of radiant gustatory and textural pleasures.  The finish, with its fine, soft tannins, will be long and pleasurable. 
93 Marguerite Thomas May 1, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2015 ($84):  There’s quite a bit of barrel influence in this wine, but the fruit is up to the spice and toast.  Very balanced in the style, with rich cherry, blueberry and dry earth minerality equaling the powerful spice mix.  Go for a meaty pairing here. 
93 Rich Cook May 8, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($55): I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Goldeneye's 2012 lineup or Pinot Noirs, and this first taste has me all excited.  Bright cherry fruit interlaced with elements of dry earth, plum, cardamom, lavender and soft fall spice flood the nose and the mouth, with a plush feel that's not fat, but balanced, and leaves you with a mouth watering finish with supple grip that extends the mixed flavor impression and demands a return to the glass.  Winemaker Michael Fay has a large palette to blend from, with 180 acres and 24 different clones to select from, and this wine shows his mastery of the art.  Wonderful now, and will gain complexity over the next five years.
93 Rich Cook Jul 14, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2012 ($82): A bold, structured Pinot Noir in the fleshy forward style that's built to age a while.  Deep black cherry, cedar, brown spice and cola aromas and flavors with just a touch of oak char adding complexity.  It finishes very long, and is just starting to show itself. Very well made!
93 Rich Cook Oct 20, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2012 ($82): The Gowan Creek Vineyard has turned out several vintages of great fruit, and this one is no exception. It will need some time for the oak to fully integrate, but it's got the fruit and acidity to handle it.  Black cherry, cola, vanilla, Asian spice, a touch of damp earth and a sweet oak finish make for a wine that will please fans of the big California style.
93 Rich Cook Oct 20, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($55): Goldeneye, the Pinot Noir-focused winery in Anderson Valley, was founded in 1997 by the Napa-based Duckhorn winery.  Their 15+ years of experience there with Pinot Noir shows in their wines, even this one, which is a blend from more than one site in the Anderson Valley.  Savory notes balance ripe black fruit flavors lending complexity.  A gorgeous texture -- smooth and supple, without being flabby -- makes it a delight to drink now.  And it finishes on an appealing earthy note.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 5, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2013 ($82): Anderson Valley is filled with unique vineyard sites, all giving their own expression with Pinot Noir in particular.  Goldeneye's estate Gowan Creek Vineyard produces more black fruit character than most Anderson Valley locations, and they shine through in this bottling, which benefits from a bit less new oak than the 2012 bottling.  Black cherry, plum, cinnamon spice and a touch of lavender are delivered on signature cool climate acidity, and finish long, with some tea and Asian spice coming forward.  This will fit well with a spicy pork tenderloin roast.
93 Rich Cook Jun 14, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2005 ($75): Goldeneye's Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir is one of those rare California Pinots that needs another year or so in the cellar to tame the bite on the back end and permit the fruit to lengthen and achieve full expression. All the potential is there in this darkly fruited big boy that is the match for wintry game dishes and stronly flavored meats, not to mention savory Burgundian stews and earthy ceps. 93 Robert Whitley Aug 5, 2008

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2010 ($55): This dark-fruited beauty from Goldeneye is a seductively elegant Pinot that offers a hint of what's to come with an alluring floral note in the glass, and a hint of spice. On the palate it shows ripe raspberry and blackberry flavors, with complex notes of cola and sweet baking spices. The tannins are beautifully integrated and the wine finishes with just a bit of bite on the back end. Well crafted, this wine should improve and hold its form over the next 5 to 7 years. 93 Robert Whitley Aug 6, 2013

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2010 ($55): Here is a fantastic release from Duckhorn Wine Company’s Anderson Valley Pinot Noir project.  The thing that got my attention is the mouthfeel -- soft and silky, with balanced acidity delivering black cherry, strawberry, mild spice, damp earth and just a touch of stemminess.  The long finish brings out a bit of cranberry and dusty minerality.  Excellent, elegant, food-friendly Pinot Noir.
93 Rich Cook Aug 6, 2013

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2015 ($84):  I was fortunate to taste this wine and Goldeneye’s Split Rail Vineyard 2015 Pinot side-by-side, and it was pretty damned tough to decide on a favorite.  This is slightly the richer, softer and more luxurious of the two, though either could fit that description perfectly well.  Although the stated alcohol for this bottling is 14.5%, it doesn’t show the slightest hint of over-ripeness or heat in the finish.  If you buy this, I’d recommend aging it for 3 to 5 years to let some bottle bouquet develop, but that’s exactly the only reason to hold it:  It is already delicious, and has already absorbed all of its oak, and is terrific right now. 
93 Michael Franz Jul 3, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2015 ($84):  This vineyard is at a high point in the appellation, at the northern end, where coastal cooling plays a huge role in the fruit maturity, keeping the acidity in the palate refreshing zone while reaching a flavorful ripeness.  This vintage of the Narrows shows rich cherry and blackberry over damp earth and oak spice with a long finish where the oak is lively at present, but will integrate nicely with a few years in the bottle.  Another beauty from this producer. 
93 Rich Cook May 1, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2018 ($88):  Here is another in a lengthening line of great Pinot Noirs from Goldeneye.  The 2018 The Narrows shows black cherry, blackberry, cinnamon and truffle aromas and flavors that are delivered with good definition from start to finish, riding a supple midpalate and leaving lingering spice and fruit.  It’s already fairly rounded off – you can dig right in.  A blend of clones 777, 115 and Pommard.      
93 Rich Cook Jul 27, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2018 ($88):  Within the wide range of Pinot Noir styles that California produces, the broad, flavorful style of Goldeneye in Anderson Valley is one of my favorites.  Forget delicate or tensile: this wine is big and rich and it commands attention.  It also has fresh, concentrated,  focused aromas and flavors — dark cherry, dark plum, black raspberry, cinnamon spice, smoke, a minty herbal note and even a dollop of flowers — along with richly silky texture, ripe tannins and long length.  It combines ripeness and weight with the freshness and delineation that cooler climate influences contribute.  While I wouldn’t hesitate to drink it now, I expect this wine will develop nicely over the next 5 to 10 years.        
93 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Jul 13, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2017 ($86):  The Gowan Creek vineyard seems often to represent the brooding side of Anderson Valley fruit, and it’s on full display here, with dark cherry, red plum and moderate oak toast knit together in a package that’ll take some additional bottle aging.  It’s hard to beat Goldeneye when it comes to multiple expressions of Pinot Noir that are structured to go long and yet are delightfully approachable near term.
93 Rich Cook Aug 31, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Split Rail Vineyard 2018 ($88):  Deeply layered aromas of wildflowers, cherry and cardamom lead to a mouth filling texture that translates the nose into flavors nicely.  More layers get added here, including a little stem “pepper” and dark mineral notes.  It’s on the bold side of the Pinot Noir spectrum, and it will lend itself well to red meats rather than white.    
93 Rich Cook Nov 9, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2018 ($88):  Here is where the struggling “Hillside” vine fruit and the later ripening “Lower Bench” fruit from Confluence Vineyard are expertly blended, achieving a sum greater than the individual parts with layers of distinct strawberry, cherry and plum fruit complemented by notes of earth, tea and herbal hints.  The vineyard couldn’t be more fittingly named.  Pinot lovers will want to get these three bottles side by side for a deep dive into the soul of the place.         
93 Rich Cook Nov 9, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2019 ($88):  The Gowan Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir takes a decidedly lighter turn this vintage, with black cherry, ripe strawberry and sturdy oak spice that gives the fruit a nice contrast.  Bright acidity carries things onto the palate, keeping the flavors lively and bright.  There is still a vineyard signature here, and I appreciate the lighter side that the vintage offers.        
93 Rich Cook Jun 14, 2022

Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir RSM Vineyard 2014 ($52): This is a lovely Pinot Noir showing modestly dense pigmentation that suggests restraint -- a good thing -- and delivers that while also offering good depth of flavor.  There’s bright acidity to freshen the generous fruit, which calls red cherries, and the wine achieves fine detail thanks to subtle savory accents and a light touch on oak.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 San Diego Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 93 Michael Franz Apr 4, 2017

Lula Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Day Ranch Vineyard 2019 ($45):  This Pinot Noir shows deep black cherry and spice aromas, and straight delivery of those elements as flavors.  The cool climate acidity adds and impression of nectarine that plays well off of the red fruit, and supple grip extends the finish.  The oak is rather forward at present, but will fold in just fine with a couple years in the cellar.
93 Rich Cook Jan 3, 2023

MacPhail, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Wightman House Vineyard 2014 ($55):  The balance and elegance of this vintage shines in the Wightman House pinot, offering notes of cherry and strawberry with an earthy undertone of forest floor and wood spice. Showing bright acidity and firm tannins, this wine will likely be at its best after a few additional years in the cellar.
93 Robert Whitley Oct 11, 2016

MacPhail, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Toulouse 2007 ($50): James MacPhail produces small lots of handcrafted pinot noir from superb vineyards in the Sonoma Coast and Anderson Valley appellations. They won't be easy to find, but are well worth your effort — and hard-earned money — if you happen to prize distinctive pinot. MacPhail's 2007 Toulouse is a case in point. Fewer than 500 cases were made and the price — modest given the quality and scarcity — ensures it won't sit very long on any wine merchant's shelf. Rich and full-bodied, the Toulouse delivers intense aromas of raspberry and currant, with a hint of spice and cedar wrapped in a decadently long finish. 93 Robert Whitley Jul 14, 2009

MacPhail Family Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard 2009 ($45):  James MacPhail runs a small winery that focuses on Pinot Noir.  He owns no vineyards, but that doesn’t prevent him from making top-notch wine.  He doesn’t make Burgundy.  He makes Pinot Noir that is a quintessential expression of California.  In this one from Anderson Valley, a captivating perfume is followed by beautifully intertwined earthy and red fruit flavors.  Not overblown, this expressive wine is enjoyable now, especially for those who love the exuberance of young Pinot Noir, but I suggest laying it down for a few years to let everything come together even more. 93 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2012

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2015 ($22): I'm often asked where the best values in the wine world come from, and there are many answers, but it's pretty hard to beat Navarro when it comes to quality for your dollar.  This recent release is pure Anderson Valley in style, with cherry, fall spice, vanilla and some damp earth notes.  The 2015 vintage gave about half the normal crop for this bottling, but I have yet to see Navarro adjust their pricing just to make up for the challenge that a vintage might present.  That leaves you with a great bottle at a way more than fair price.  The challenge for you is how long to wait before pulling the trigger.
93 Rich Cook Jul 18, 2017

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 'Methode a l'Ancienne' Unfiltered 2014 ($35): Navarro's deft hand with aromatic white wines carries over into its work with Pinot Noir. The 2014 l'Ancienne is a beautifully crafted Pinot that exhibits bright aromas of cherry and raspberry with a dollop of wood spice. On the palate the wine is medium-bodied and elegant, beautifully structured and balanced, suggesting that it will indeed improve with age. 93 Robert Whitley Sep 5, 2017

Pennyroyal Farm, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Eye of the Needle Vineyard 2015 ($59):  This wine sources a particular block of Clone 115 that’s in the southwest corner of the estate, right near the intersection of highways 128 and 253.  The nose and the palate are quite spicy, with allspice riding atop bright red fruit, carried together by classic appellation acidity and soft oak toast notes.  A refined and elegant expression of 115.  Pennyroyal Farm is a winery to watch!  
93 Rich Cook Oct 16, 2018

Siduri, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Edmeades Vineyard 2017 ($50):   Siduri's Edmeades Vineyard Pinot Noir is from a site that’s probably more widely known for robust Zinfandel, and it's a wine that makes me wonder why that’s the case.  This is a restrained beauty, with lively tart cherry, dry earth minerality and great finish push where the acidity rings and gets your palate going.  An excellent foil for fish or fowl.  
93 Rich Cook Jan 14, 2020

Thomas T. Thomas, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Reserve 2017 ($80):  Thomas T. Thomas Vineyards is a boutique producer of estate-grown Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.  Their 2017 small-production Pinot Noir shows vibrant flavors of tart cherries, ripe strawberries, violets, and baking spice.  Well-integrated tannins and bright acidity keep the wine flavor packed.  It walks a beautiful line between the concentration of flavor and a light-footed frame, and it finishes with addicting juiciness.  This undoubtedly has several years of aging potential.        
93 Miranda Franco Feb 2, 2021

Tongue Dancer, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “The Sly One” 2019 ($59):   Tongue Dancer's “The Sly One” is an aptly titled wine that sneaks up on you, seducing with aromas of black cherry, damp earth and a little hint of mint.  A rich texture helps the translation to flavors,  and edgy but balanced acidity gives great finish push with sexy oak spice forward.  Sly indeed!  From Anderson Valley’s “Deep End” -- a location worthy of wider recognition.    
93 Rich Cook Jan 25, 2022

Westwood, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Wendling Vineyard 2016 ($72):  A solid Anderson Valley expression of Pinot Noir with age-worthy structure, though it’s a delight already.  Black cherry, forest floor and brown spice aromas lead to a deep palate that translates the fruit and spice in linear fashion, finishing long with good integration that will continue to gain complexity with some cellaring.    
93 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2020

Westwood, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Wendling Vineyard 2015 ($72):  A dark side expression of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and one that could stand a little time in your cellar for the fruit to integrate with its oak. The fruit profile leans black, with blackberry and black cherry enveloped in damp earth and brown oak spice that's slightly muting the fruit at present.  Not to worry, it's headed for balance with a little time, and will surely show beautifully. 93 Rich Cook Oct 3, 2017

Williams Selyem, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard 2007 ($63): Lean and tight, this baby needs time.  It shows tart red fruits, lots of depth, and great length on the palate.  Dark-colored, this is a gorgeous wine that will improve with the years. 93 Ed McCarthy Nov 10, 2009

Balo, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Suitcase 828” Estate 2015 ($38): A lively, punchy nose invites you into the experience here, leading you to a palate of cherry, raspberry and cinnamon spice carried by bright acidity and following through in a blooming finish.  The low alcohol trend, which I love, continues to make me wonder if TTB is going to start worrying about their revenue stream.
92 Rich Cook Aug 29, 2017

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Kite's Rest 2013 ($48): Black Kite's remarkable Pinot patch in the Anderson Valley is divided into distinctive blocks that each produce a stunning and unique expression of Pinot Noir from vintage to vintage. Then there is Kite's Rest, which is a blend of the blocks crafted by winemaker Jeff Gaffner. The 2013 is a beautiful blend that exhibits bright aromas of raspberry and strawberry, with a cola note in the background and earthy minerality. The tannins are slightly grippy, but this will resolve with time in the cellar.
92 Robert Whitley Nov 3, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Kite's Rest 2013 ($48): Anderson Valley continues to roll out fantastic Pinot Noir, made all the better in the hands of talented winemakers like Jeff Gaffner.  This offering shows rich cherry fruit with layers of brown spice and dry earth minerality, delivered on vibrant acidity and lingering long on the palate.  It'll pair beautifully with your festive fowl preparations during the holidays.
92 Rich Cook Nov 10, 2015

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "River Turn" 2018 ($64):  Uber ripe Pinot Noir can be difficult to manage, but the level of alcohol here, while evident, isn’t a problem at all.  It’s all about balance, and the fruit here carries the acidity necessary to make that balance possible.  Bold cherry fruit, full throttle fall spice and a rich feel make it all work well.  It’s ready to go now – drink up!     
92 Rich Cook Jul 27, 2021

Black Kite Cellars, Anderson Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir "Kite's Rest" 2012 ($48): Bright cherry fruit, Asian spice and cedar notes are the main markers of this ripe Pinot Noir from Black Kite.  Many try to maintain this kind of complexity at this ripeness level, but few succeed.  Sweet oak tones come forward in the finish and a touch of cluster stem character adds interest.  This would be perfect with roasted turkey.
92 Rich Cook Mar 10, 2015

Cakebread Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Two Creeks Vineyards 2012 ($50): Cakebread, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary, is yet another Napa Valley winery to look outside the appellation for Pinot Noir grapes. It found them in Mendocino County’s cool Anderson Valley, developing its own Apple Barn Vineyard and purchasing the Annahala Vineyard. The blend of the two is called Two Creeks, and the 2012 is very young, and almost a shame to drink it now. It’s on the richer end of the Pinot scale, gushing with heady blackberry and black cherry fruit framed by toasty vanillin oak. Subdued earth and spice notes should become more prominent with another year in the bottle.
92 Linda Murphy Dec 10, 2013

Champ de Reves, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2011 ($40): This wine comes from Jackson Family Wines’ Boone Ridge Vineyard, planted in 2006.  It’s full-bodied and rich, yet with crisp acidity and a spicy note that adds depth and complexity.  Black raspberry, pomegranate and cassis flavors fill the mouth, and while there is an alcoholic kick (14.5% on the label), it will certainly please those whole love lusty, full-throttle Pinot Noirs.
92 Linda Murphy Feb 4, 2014

Davies Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($35): This lands on the rich side for Anderson Valley, while still showcasing the cool climate acidity that makes Pinot Noir so successful in the region.  Full throttle black cherry and fall spice aromas are joined by notes of sweet oak spice and a touch of dusty earth, and come through clearly on a fleshy full bodied palate that is well integrated and finishes long.  It's ready to enjoy now with something beefy.
92 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Davies Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard 2013 ($55): While the Davies family is better known for their Schramsberg label, they've been making some noise with their Pinot Noir of late.  This bottling is true to its Anderson Valley roots, showing cherry, bright fall spice, leaf, a touch of rhubarb pie and some dry earth.  Cool climate acidity keeps it all together in a package that will benefit from a few years in the bottle as it presents fairly tightly now, thought the big red cherry fruit shines through clearly in the long finish.
92 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2015

Dutton-Goldfield, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Angel Camp Vineyard 2017 ($58):  Angel Camp Vineyard overlooks the Navarro River, in the northern half of Anderson Valley, where cooling fogs and a large diurnal temperature variation are commonplace during the growing season.  The 2017 Pinot Noir is on the savory side, showing black tea, earth, and floral notes alongside red cherry and red plum fruit.  Some sandalwood and spice show on the palate.  The wine is smooth, with good length and slightly drying tannins.   
92 Jim Clarke Dec 3, 2019

FEL Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard 2020 ($74):  The name FEL Wines was inspired by Florence Elsie Lede, mother of winery owner, Cliff Lede, and a home winemaker.  The winery notes that the Savoy Vineyard grapes in this wine include original, mature blocks of Dijon clones 115 and 114, and younger plantings of California heritage clones, including Martini, Calera, Swan and Mt. Eden.  Those grapes thrive in the cool climate of the Anderson Valley AVA located in Mendocino County, north of Sonoma County.  This is an elegant expression of Pinot Noir with raspberry, red cherry fruit enhanced with aromas of dried flowers and herbal tea.  It is medium bodied and lithe in structure with bright, crisp acidity and silky smooth tannins.  It will be a delicious addition to your holiday table.   
92 Rebecca Murphy Nov 15, 2022

Foursight, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard 2015 ($48):  The winery’s biggest production Pinot Noir at 300 cases, and a blend of the four clones in the vineyard -- 777, 114, 115 and Pommard 05 -- and it shows the team's talent for blending.  There are oodles of judicious oak spice here, and it’s needed to balance the vibrant fruit and racy acidity of the palate.  Give this a good decant and enjoy its evolution over the course of an evening.   
92 Rich Cook Apr 23, 2019

Foursight, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard "Zero" 2015 ($39):  The “Zero” in the name info here refers to zero new oak -- only second use and older barrels were used, making for a lighter, more fruit driven expression that lets the terroir speak clearly.  This is all about bright strawberry and rhubarb aromas and flavors, with zippy acidity tempered by soft spice and a creamy texture that the used barrels impart.  The finish is long and well-integrated, with some stemmy character adding interest.  I’d lean to fish or white meats when pairing.  
92 Rich Cook Apr 23, 2019

Foursight Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard 2010 ($46): Winemaker Joe Webb has crafted an elegant, food friendly Pinot Noir that shows bright acidity and complexity of aroma and flavor.  There is a lot going on here -- cherry, dried raspberry, tea, crushed roses and cardamom, with medium oak toast and leafy notes coming across in a package that needs a bit more time to integrate, but will be beautiful after a couple more years in the bottle.
92 Rich Cook Mar 11, 2014

Fulcrum, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($55): I was smitten by the 2011 vintage of this delightful Pinot Noir and am perhaps even more enamored of the current release.  It still has that fine silkiness and similarly luxurious flavor profile that I liked so much, along with savory earthiness and nicely controlled fruitiness. This is a wine that is both graceful and commanding.
92 Marguerite Thomas Apr 28, 2015

Fulcrum Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($55): Though it doesn't appear on the label, this wine is sourced from the Donnelly Creek Vineyard that was planted in 1991.  It's a warm site for this cool spot in Mendocino County that's known for excellent Pinot Noir, and winemaker David Rossi has coaxed an elegant expression from the vintage.  Aromas of cherry, wildflowers, damp earth and soft brown spices translate well on the palate, adding a touch of coffee.  I'd pair this with something complimentary - a mushroom driven pork or beef preparation strikes me as a potential pairing.
92 Rich Cook Apr 21, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2012 ($82): Don't be put off by the initial aroma profile of this wine.  Almost all wines, red and white, will benefit from some airtime, and this bottling requires a good decant for maximum enjoyment.  What comes off as very smoky and oaky on the initial pour will integrate into a bright raspberry vanilla and exotic spice package with the smoky oak character becoming complimentary rather than overriding.  Like a good book, sometimes you've got to wade in a few chapters before it gets you. This wine got me!
92 Rich Cook Jul 21, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2012 ($55): I sense a shift in the Goldeneye Pinots away from the power and voluptuousness of past vintages to a more refined, elegant Burgundian style. This vintage of Goldeneye's Anderson Valley bottling is a beautiful Pinot that is both complex and structured in a way that will reward patience. Drink it anytime over the next five to seven years, but know that the seventh year on is likely to be closer to peak maturity than the first year on. Aromas of strawberry and raspberry with a hint of pie spice make for easy sipping now, but this wine will benefit from additional bottle age.
92 Robert Whitley Oct 13, 2015

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2014 ($56): The appellation bottling from Goldeneye's extensive Pinot Noir program is all about the dark side of the variety in this vintage, showing blackberry, black cherry, tart ripe cranberry, damp forest floor and Asian spice.  A charred oak note comes forward in the finish at present, and should integrate nicely with some bottle aging.  Give it a good decanting before serving with something on the wild side -- game bird or boar sound good to me.
92 Rich Cook Jun 20, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2011 ($80): Goldeneye is Duckhorn Vineyard’s winery and estate in Anderson Valley that Dan and Margaret Duckhorn established in 1996.  Duckhorn realized that if they wanted to make top notch Pinot Noir they needed to look elsewhere from their northern Napa Valley base, which was far too warm for that grape.  They wisely chose Anderson Valley, where cooler temperatures allow Pinot Noir to thrive.  This one, one of their single vineyard offerings, delivers lots of savory elements and spice to complement the deep ripe fruit flavors.  A concentrated wine with supple tannins, this glossy Pinot Noir would fine for drinking tonight, but I suspect it will be even better in a few years as the elements come together.
92 Michael Apstein Mar 18, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino, California) Pinot Noir The Narrows Vineyard 2015 ($84):  Goldeneye, one of Duckhorn’s many labels, has captured the delicacy and charm of Pinot Noir with this single vineyard bottling.  Delicate, red fruit flavors dance on the palate.  Beautifully balanced, subtle bitter notes in the finish complement the sense of sweetness from its fruitiness.  Not hot nor overdone, it conveys flavor without weight.  A suave texture allows immediate enjoyment.  And all this with a modest 13.5% stated alcohol. 
92 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “The Narrows” Vineyard 2007 ($75):  This wine comes from a mature vineyard that produces more earth- than fruit-driven wines.  It has a rich blackberry aroma, with powerful dark fruit flavors and intense concentration. 92 Tina Caputo Mar 16, 2010

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Ten Degrees" 2007 ($100):  This wine was named for the 10-degree temperature variance that often occurs between Goldeneye’s The Narrows Vineyard in the north to its Confluence Vineyard in the south.  It has deep black-fruit aromas, with woody, spicy notes and ripe, juicy fruit flavors.  This is a weighty and complex Pinot. 92 Tina Caputo Mar 16, 2010

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2007 ($55):  Winemaker Zach Rasmusen says that 2007 will be one of the better vintages for Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, and if this wine is any indication, he’s absolutely right.  Riper and deeper in style than the Migration Pinot, this wine has powerful, concentrated flavors of black fruit, with a slight vanilla accent. 92 Tina Caputo Mar 16, 2010

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2009 ($80): Though it finishes with a bit of heat, the tradeoff is the intensity of aroma and persistence of flavor, which are exceptional with this vintage of Golden Eye's Gowan Creek. The fruit profile runs a bit darker, toward black raspberry and blackberry, than the basic Golden Eye Pinot, and the acid and tannin are a bit firmer despite the ripeness. For those who love the New World style of Pinot, this one is a dream come true.
92 Robert Whitley Jun 26, 2012

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2003 ($52): This tasty Pinot has a brilliant medium-deep ruby color. The initial scents are subtle notes of cherry-berry, earthy-smoky components and a touch of spice, while the flavors are big and chewy, supported by fine tannins and good fruit. This is a supple Goldeneye with lots of potential. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 20, 2006

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2016 ($58):  The 2016 iteration of Goldeneye's multi estate vineyard Pinot Noir blend is perfect for fans of vibrant oak spice blended with signature Anderson Valley cherry fruit.  Pair this with something on the beef side of the menu -- it’s up to the task.  
92 Rich Cook Aug 13, 2019

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2016 ($86):   The Pinot Noir from the Confluence Vineyards is the brooder of the 2016 Goldeneye group, with deep dark berry and generous oak spice that’s still integrating.  I would give this a few years of cellar time to fully appreciate its charms,  but if you like them bold, jump right in.  
92 Rich Cook Oct 22, 2019

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2011 ($80): The beauty of Goldeneye's grape sources in the Anderson Valley is that they deliver fruit that's always ripe without losing the freshness, minerality and earthiness that make these Pinots so appealing. The 2011 was a difficult vintage yet Goldeneye's Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir exhibits impressive palate weight and flavor complexity for the conditions, with dark-fruited aromas dominant and firm grip on the finish. 92 Robert Whitley Aug 12, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2018 ($58):  The winery’s entry level Pinot Noir blends the estate vineyards with house style and regional typicality in mind.  The 2018 shows bright  Anderson Valley specific cherry and dry earth minerality, with great acid balance and a mildly chalky grip that extends the finish.  Once again, well done.     
92 Rich Cook Jan 25, 2022

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard “Lower Bench” 2018 ($88):  This vineyard is one of the most interesting of the Goldeneye parcels – so interesting that 2018 resulted in three different bottlings from the site.  “Lower Bench” shows balanced acidity, medium palate weight and a soft grip.  Ripe strawberry, black cherry and plum aromas and flavors dominate, with a dash of mint and tea adding depth.  Kudos to Goldeneye winemaker Katey Larwood for keeping some of this separate for us to experience.       
92 Rich Cook Nov 9, 2021

Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino Co., California) RSM Vineyard 2009 ($52):  The RSM Vineyard was planted at elevations between 800 and 1,000 feet in 1999 and 2001, giving the wine an intensity not normally found in grapes from valley floor vines.  Fruity flavors are encouraged in the 2009 RSM Pinot with partial “carbonic maceration” of 40% whole berries.  Post fermentation, the wine was aged in French oak, 37% new, for 10 months.  The higher percentage of new oak used in the RSM gives the wine a more forward oaky smell and taste, with a smoky note.  It has a deep ruby color, smoky oak and ripe berry nose, smooth silky texture, 14.2% alcohol and rich berry flavors accented with lavender and dark chocolate.  The RSM Pinot Noir is to be savored with roasted or grilled meats and a hearty vegetarian cassoulet. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 3, 2012

Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2006 ($30): Thanks to its cooler coastal climate, Anderson Valley Pinots tend to be fairly reserved, with nice acidity.  This one has an earthy aroma, with red fruit and notes of spice.  The wine has red fruit flavors (raspberry comes to mind), with a balancing note of acidity.  Elegant, smooth and easy to drink. 92 Tina Caputo Dec 9, 2008

MacPhail, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Wightman House Vineyard 2014 ($55): Another '14 under 14 (14 percent alcohol, that is).  It displays the dark side of Anderson Valley, with damp earth and bold black cherry aromas and flavors.  The acid is just right, with a mild citrus zest and pepper spice coming forward in the finish.  Go for something pleasingly peppery as a pairing.
92 Rich Cook Oct 18, 2016

Maggy Hawk, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Hawkster” 2013 ($66):  Another Anderson Valley Pinot Noir that is light enough in color to read through, but not at all light in aroma or flavor.  This small production wine features clone 2A to great effect, with aromas and flavors of strawberry, cherry, dry earth and fall spice that are plump mid-palate and finish with bright acidity and oak spice coming forward.  A fine accompaniment for fish or fowl. 
92 Rich Cook Apr 10, 2018

Pennyroyal Farm, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2015 ($41):  This Pinot Noir is a food friendly style with a black fruit focus and a touch of pepper character that adds interest.  Moderate extraction lets the acidity shine and keeps the flavors popping through a bright and extended finish.  I like the darker side of Anderson Valley expressed here -- bring on the fowl or pork tenderloin. 
92 Rich Cook Oct 16, 2018

WALT Wines, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir “Blue Jay” 2014 ($75):  This is a big, bold wine, showing dark fruit and spice, with an interesting soft pepper character that likely comes from the use of stems that were roasted and added back after crushing.  As fruit forward as it is, it will still shine with a meal -- I'd lean toward a peppery roast chicken.  Quite unique! 92 Rich Cook Oct 10, 2017

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Stony Terrace 2011 ($55): This is one of the more delicate of the Black Kite Pinots, a result no doubt of the exceptionally cool growing season. Winemaker Jeff Gaffner has crafted a light-bodied wine that is full of flavor, which is no mean feat. On the nose the wine shows fragrant red fruits and hints of earthy forest floor, and it delivers the same on the palate. Good now, this vintage of Stony Terrace has a gentle bite on the finish that should smooth out over the next year or so in bottle. 91 Robert Whitley Feb 25, 2014

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir River Turn 2007 ($52): This wine is taut and a little hot, with primarily cranberry aromas and flavors and notes of blackberry, Concord grape and orange peel.  Vibrant acidity makes it an easy wine to keep downing with a meal.  It's drinking well enough now, but I think a year of bottle age will unlock more complexity. 91 W. Blake Gray Sep 22, 2009

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Kite's Rest 2012 ($48): This is a delicious though somewhat delicate Pinot from Black Kite's estate vineyard. In this vintage the Kite's Rest block has delivered a floral wine with pretty red-fruited aromas and hints of forest floor and spice. Ready to drink now, but likely more ready in another year or two.
91 Robert Whitley Mar 3, 2015

Chronicle, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard 2006 ($48):  Released two years ago, this wine flew under my radar until last week, and I’m very glad that I snagged it when I did.  It shows a very appealing balance of fresh primary fruit notes and more developed savory accents, and the oak is now nicely integrated, showing in the form of just a bit of spiciness around the edges of the finish. 91 Michael Franz Aug 3, 2010

Ferrari-Carano, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($36): I suspect that some of the fruit for this wine comes from the Lazy Creek area in Anderson Valley -- Don and Rhonda Carano purchased Lazy Creek Vineyards back in 2008.  It's very dark and spicy, with black cherry, cardamom and cinnamon complimented by notes of leaf and damp earth.  Food friendly acidity and a long well integrated finish complete the package, and at this price it's a solid value.
91 Rich Cook Oct 20, 2015

Foursight, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard 2014 ($48): Another favorite producer of mine -- yes, I'm a big fan of Anderson Valley -- showcases their home vineyard in this vegan friendly wine that shows the tart side of the variety, with cherry, rhubarb and toasty oak that accentuates the proceedings and comes forward in the finish.  Try this with roast chicken or a milder prep salmon.
91 Rich Cook Aug 29, 2017

Fulcrum, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2011 ($54): Smooth and lushly flavored with a solid core of red fruit bolstered by autumnal earthiness (dried leaves, damp underbrush), this Pinot Noir is focused and cohesive.  It dances lightly across the taste buds, leaving behind a lingering, savory imprint.
91 Marguerite Thomas Nov 25, 2014

Fulcrum Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2011 ($54): This wine is sourced mainly from the Londer Estate in Anderson Valley. Winemaker David Rossi’s take on the vineyard gives us a very tightly wound wine a present, but one that shows excellent promise.  Aromas include dusty mineral, cherry, menthol and maple, and the palate focuses on earth and red fruit.  I’d lay this down for at least three years to let everything come together -- it will be well worth the time.
91 Rich Cook Jan 21, 2014

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2014 ($56): The crowd that enjoys Goldeneye Pinot Noir will no doubt love this appellation-branded Pinot because it's a substantial savings over the pricy vineyard-designated bottlings. With excellent palate weight and depth, and vibrant cherry and raspberry fruit, this is an easy to drink Goldeneye, and what I mean by that is easier on the wallet. 91 Robert Whitley Aug 29, 2017

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2013 ($55):  With inviting aromas of strawberry and raspberry and firm acidity, this Anderson Valley pinot from Goldeneye promises to improve in the cellar over the next several years although it's perfectly crafted for immediate enjoyment. Serve it with roasted game or grilled wild salmon.
91 Robert Whitley Jul 19, 2016

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Gowan Creek Vineyard 2007 ($75):  This wine is concentrated and lush, with deep dark fruit/blueberry flavors.  It also has a nice bit of acidity, which makes the wine a good candidate for aging. 91 Tina Caputo Mar 16, 2010

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2007 ($75):  This single-vineyard has lively flavors of red fruit (the vineyard is known for this character), including plum and raspberry, vanilla and spice.  The theme continues on the palate with raspberry and red-fruit flavors, a silky texture and a long finish. 91 Tina Caputo Mar 16, 2010

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2009 ($55):  Balance is the single most scintillating characteristic of this latest vintage from Golden Eye. Smooth and seamless, the '09 exhibits aromas of raspberry and strawberry, with a leafy note on the nose and a hint of earthy forest floor on the mid-palate. A long, lingering finish invites another sip. This is a beautiful and charming New World Pinot that's ready to drink now, or anytime over the next five years.
91 Robert Whitley Jun 26, 2012

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard “Hillside” 2018 ($88):  The “Hillside” portion of this vineyard shows the brooding side of the fruit profile, with black cherry accented by tea notes and forward earth tones.  It’s quite different from the “Lower Bench” bottling, and it provides a keen insight into the influence of microclimates in finished products.  To have two very distinct lots to blend with has got to be great fun for the winemaking team.         
91 Rich Cook Nov 9, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($58):  Vibrant acidity carries a very spicy Pinot Noir profile, with black cherry fruit and riding just under the spice.  As it ages a bit, the spice character and the oak toast should fold in nicely.  That said, my tasting group found it to be quite approachable right now, loving the spice mix and supple grip.      
91 Rich Cook Aug 31, 2021

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2019 ($60):  The 2019 appellation bottling of Goldeneye Pinot Noir introduces itself with pulsing spice, rhubarb and black cherry aromas, and they translate well into flavors, joined on the palate with rich oak toast that is still integrating.  That oak is forward in the finish now, but promises to fold in nicely.  Age this a couple of years before diving in.        
91 Rich Cook Jun 14, 2022

Jackson Estate, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Outland Ridge 2014 ($35): Jackson Estate's 2014 Outland Ridge is a meaty Pinot Noir from the Anderson Valley. Showing savory notes of wood smoke and somewhat rustic tannins, this wine is also packed with dark cherry and raspberry fruit. Drinking well now, but best in another two to three years. 91 Robert Whitley Oct 31, 2017

Kendall-Jackson, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Jackson Estate Outland Ridge 2015 ($42):  Mendocino County’s cool Anderson Valley, which runs east-west toward the Pacific Ocean, now rivals the Russian River Valley in the California pinot noir arena.  The 2015 Outland Ridge pinot from Jackson Estate is another beauty from Anderson Valley, showing excellent concentration and beautiful aromas of cherry and spice, good balance and structure and a lingering finish.
91 Robert Whitley Aug 14, 2018

La Crema, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2015 ($50):  This is a fine expression of the best elements of Anderson Valley -- cool climate acidity and bright cherry fruit.  Fall spice and a touch of stemmy character add interest and lengthen the finish.  It would be a solid pairing partner for roasted chicken, turkey and the like. 
91 Rich Cook Jan 8, 2019

Migration, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2006 ($31): This Pinot is made with less new oak than the winery's Goldeneye Pinot and picked at lower Brix, resulting in lower alcohol.  It has a ripe raspberry aroma, with a touch of vanilla, and lovely soft flavors of red berry fruit.  It's not lean and mean in style, nor is it over-the-top jammy--it's a nice mixture of both styles. 91 Tina Caputo Dec 9, 2008

Navarro Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Methode a l’Ancienne" 2009 ($29):  This wine has more power than Navarro’s other Pinots, but it maintains the winery’s signature elegance.  It has intense aromas of vanilla and red berries, along with flavors of plum and cinnamon spice.  It’s also nicely structured. 91 Tina Caputo Dec 20, 2011

Benovia, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyards 2007 ($58):  Both of the current release, single vineyard Pinots from Benovia are extremely pretty and polished, with very soft structure and rounded mouthfeel (for better or worse, depending on whether you prefer polish to grip and primary fruit character in your Pinot Noir).  Of the two wines, this one shows a little more complexity on account of a nice note of smoky, toasty oak up top.  It isn’t as subtle as the Cohn Vineyard offering from Sonoma County, but for now it is narrowly the more interesting of the two. 90 Michael Franz Dec 1, 2009

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Stony Terrace 2007 ($52): Aside from the Redwoods’s Edge block, Black Kite's other two vineyard block names are more evocative of a place (higher-elevation Redwood's Edge, near-sea-level River Turn).  This one is the middle child, and it's more of an average Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, which is to say fairly big and straightforward cranberry and cherry fruit flavors with some foresty darker fruit. 90 W. Blake Gray Sep 22, 2009

Cakebread Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Two Creeks Vineyards 2020 ($45):  The bright, translucent ruby color extends an invitation to explore the Intense, straightforward cherry, strawberry, raspberry fruit with a hint of vanilla and smoke.  Grapes from the Apple Barn and Annahala vineyards in Anderson Valley are harvested from a total of 16 different vineyard blocks. Each lot is fermented separately and aged for three months in French oak, 41 percent new, before blending.  The newly blended lots spend an additional ten months in barrel, then bottled.  It’s a delicious baby and it will be interesting to watch its development in the bottle.  You may need to buy more than one.        
90 Rebecca Murphy Feb 22, 2022

Champ de Reves, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2013 ($45):  This beauty from Mendocino's Anderson Valley shows bright red-fruit aromas and a touch of wood spice. It expresses a subtle floral note on the nose, and on the palate the wine is smooth and supple, with beautifully integrated tannins. Ready to drink now.
90 Robert Whitley Jul 12, 2016

Copain, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 'Les Voisins' 2012 ($40): The Anderson Valley stands out among California AVAs for the quality and balance of its Pinot Noir wines.  Copain’s 2012 “Les Voisins” comes from vineyards in the cool “Deep End” or west end of the Valley.  It bursts with ripe black cherry and raspberry fruit scents underscored by lilac, thyme, vanilla, smoke and baking spice nuances.  Even though the ripeness of the vintage shows, the wine has a delicious purity of fruit.  Layers of pure, juicy, black cherry and raspberry fruits are enhanced by a creamy texture and hints of fresh herb, vanilla, lilac and allspice.  It will provide great pleasure for another 2-4 years. 90 Wayne Belding Feb 3, 2015

CrossBarn by Paul Hobbs, Anderson Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($35): This is a well-priced and very drinkable Pinot Noir from a California winemaker whose influence extends wide as both a producer and an importer.  This Pinot offers fairly concentrated aromas and flavors of red berries and ripe black fruit with floral accents in the nose.  The firmness of oak tannin is evident on the wine’s taste, but soft, fleshy fruit fills out the center of the wine and pushes through to a rich finish. The wine’s fleshiness and dark fruit notes speak of the origin of its grapes, in Anderson Valley.  This is a full-bodied Pinot Noir with lots of flavor and lots of presence, and a lovely balance of character to lushness.
90 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Sep 2, 2014

Decoy, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2009 ($22):  This light- to medium-bodied Pinot has aromas of red cherries, raspberries, vanilla and mushroom.  Bright raspberry and strawberry flavors are accented with lively acidity, along with a silky texture and soft tannins. 90 Tina Caputo Jun 5, 2012

Dutton-Goldfield, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Angel Camp Vineyard 2018 ($62):  Ripe, raspberry aromas, very good concentrated flavors, similar to raspberry preserves.  Angel Camp has substantial texture, with richness and a full-blown character, and tannins that complete its definition.  It is spicy and fruity, but to my taste could use more acidity.  It’s a bit soft on the palate.  My tasting partner awarded it a 93.  14.1% Alcohol; 364 cases produced.     
90 Ed McCarthy Oct 20, 2020

Elke Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Boonville Barter 2011 ($26): Thanks goes to Christy Canterbury, MW, who suggested I try this wine at a recent tasting.  It’s an incredible bargain for authentic Pinot Noir.  Mary Elke and her team have captured the nuances of which the grape is capable.  It has what I refer to as the “flavor without weight” character almost unique to Pinot Noir.  Delivering both delicate red fruit flavors and intriguing earthy tones, it’s beautifully balanced and vibrant.
90 Michael Apstein Mar 5, 2013

FEL, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($38): I'm liking what I'm tasting out of Anderson Valley from the 2013 vintage.  FEL is a new label in the Cliff Lede stable focusing on the valley, and this Pinot Noir offers black cherry, cola, sweet oak spice and a faint hint of balsamic in aroma and flavor, with a long finish that has some grip and brings a pleasant coffee note forward.  There's some ageworthy structure here as well.  Sourced from Donnelly Creek, Savoy, Wiley and Ferrington vineyards.
90 Rich Cook Jul 21, 2015

FEL, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($38):  This Mendocino County property is owned by the Cliff Lede family, famous for its splendid Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  As it turns out, Lede also has a deft hand with Pinot Noir.  The 2017 FEL Pinot from Anderson Valley is a seductive example, showing aromas of dark cherry and spice on the nose; a rich, juicy palate; and excellent persistence through the finish.  
90 Robert Whitley Jan 7, 2020

Ferrari Carano, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2012 ($34): Ferrari Carano wines are typically above average, a reflection of the commitment owners Don and Rhonda Carano have to quality. They don't cut corners and it shows in their wines, even something like their modestly priced, basic Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (as opposed to their vineyard-designate Pinots that command higher prices). This wine is made in a bright, supple, inviting New World style. It is immediately approachable, ready to drink now and delivers juicy red-fruited character sure to please the most discriminating Pinot Noir lover. 90 Robert Whitley Jun 10, 2014

Ferrari-Carano, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($34): This skillfully made Pinot Noir beckons with a fragrance that’s elusively floral and fruity.  Relatively dark in color (for Pinot) it nevertheless remains fairly delicate, with a subtle undertow rather than a tsunami of sweet fruit.  It has just the right weight for good roast chicken and will go nicely with duck breast or pork chops.  I’ve also found it to be a good partner for certain cheeses that can be tricky partners for red wine (Brie, Camembert, Epoisses for example).
90 Marguerite Thomas May 6, 2014

Ferrari-Carano, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2013 ($36): Meaty, with plenty of flesh and savory character, this is a fine effort from Ferrari-Carano. With aromas of raspberry, strawberry and black cherry, it shows a complex flavor palate, including a hint of earthiness and woodsmoke lingering in the background. It finishes with a bit of grip that should smooth out after another year or two in bottle.
90 Robert Whitley Oct 6, 2015

Foursight Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard “Zero New Oak” 2010 ($38): This Pinot Noir underwent its aging regimen in one-half second year and one-half third year oak, so barrel influence is in the background, allowing the vintage to speak. Aromas include black cherry, tea, damp earth, cardamom and cinnamon, with a light hint of stems adding complexity.  The palate is dry, with a nice delivery on the promise of the nose, and a long well integrated finish.  It’s a leaner style that will pair well with mushroom risotto and other creamy dishes.
90 Rich Cook Mar 11, 2014

Foursight Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2011 ($46): Anderson Valley is one of California's coolest growing region, and 2011 was incredibly cool around the state. This wine has 40% new oak, but it's well balanced with the fruit and mineral characters that are the stars here.  Vibrant acidity knits it all together and sustains the finish.  This is asking to be served with a roasted portabella mushroom with sage and tarragon.
90 Rich Cook Jul 8, 2014

Golden Eye, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2005 ($55): Goldeneye has made bigger and richer Pinots in previous vintages, but the '05 has its merits in a lighter, leafier style that still delivers plenty of fleshy red fruit. This vintage is on the softer side and ready to drink now, but should age out nicely over the next three to five years. I find the earthy forest floor aromas most appealing and quite appropriate for savory dishes or the range of autumn mushrooms, and truffles. 90 Robert Whitley Aug 5, 2008

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2006 ($55): What’s a critic to do?  Here is an undeniably delicious red wine.  It’s full of dark fruit enhanced by spicy undertones, and with firm tannins and bright acidity has the sort of well-defined structure that suggests good aging potential.  But it also doesn’t much taste or feel like Pinot Noir, or at least Pinot in the varietal’s classic, Burgundy-inspired articulation.  Instead of a soft, silky texture, the wine grips the palate; instead of being light, it’s opaque; and instead of red, berry flavors, the fruit seems dark and intense.  So how should one judge or rate it?  I’ve opted to value the sheer enjoyment of what I tasted in the glass over any expectations I brought to the experience.  But if you buy this wine (and I certainly recommend you do), remember that it’s anything but true to type. 90 Paul Lukacs Sep 8, 2009

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2006 ($55): Goldeneye is known as one of Mendocino County’s finest Pinot Noir producers, and this wine lives up to the winery’s reputation.  With aromas of toast, spice and red fruit/cherries, this medium-bodied wine has flavors of red berries, raspberries and spice.  It has a silky, elegant texture and great balance. 90 Tina Caputo Sep 29, 2009

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino, California) Pinot Noir Confluence Vineyard 2015 ($84):  Though Goldeneye’s Pinot Noir from the Confluence Vineyard conveys more fruity elements than earthy ones, savory nuances appear and add complexity.  Supple tannins lend support without intruding and bright acidity keeps it fresh.  A touch of heat in the finish compared to their other single vineyard bottlings tempers my enthusiasm.  Nonetheless, it’s a joy to drink now. 
90 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2018

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino, California) Pinot Noir 2015 ($58):  The appellation bottling from Duckhorn’s amazing Pinot Noir project in one of my favorite areas leans into the darker side of the red fruit spectrum, with black cherry and damp earth aromas that are subtly attractive, and lead to a palate that expresses the nose clearly, adding fall spice to a plush feel and a long, nicely knit together finish.  Decant well and serve with a roast chicken or something beefy. 
90 Rich Cook Apr 17, 2018

Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2009 ($32): Light and delicate, this excellent Pinot proves impressive by dint of restraint rather than weight or power (which is as it should be, since those wishing for weight and power should be buying Cabernet rather than Pinot Noir in the first place).  It shows lovely red fruit recalling cherries and wild strawberries, accented with subtle oak that provides notes suggestive of toast and spices.  Platinum award winner at the 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition.
90 Michael Franz Mar 26, 2013

Handley Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2009 ($32):  Few red wines get the cellar treatment like Pinot Noir.  For this luscious Pinot crushed clusters were combined with 40% whole berry retention, followed by fermentation using six different yeasts, resting and settling for three days before racking to French oak barrels, 23% new, for aging 10 months.  The result of all this hands-on cellaring is a Pinot with a vibrant medium ruby color, deep aroma of black cherry, spice and citrus peel that follow over to the silky flavors.  There is a hint of spice and mocha, 14.2% alcohol and smooth medium finish with nicely integrated tannins. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 3, 2012

Husch, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2003 ($21): This lovely Pinot shows a brilliant medium deep ruby color and aromas of smoked meat, dark fruits and spice. The subtle smoky flavors are mingled with bright raspberry and smoked bacon, all supported by firm but not intrusive tannins and a full concentrated finish. This stylish Pinot is a clear sign that you don't have to break the bank to get complexity and depth in a Pinot Noir. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 20, 2006

Kendall Jackson, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Jackson Estates” 2013 ($30):  This wine is  all about big cola and cinnamon on the nose and in the mouth, with black cherry, vanilla and faint rhubarb adding interest.  It's very lively on the palate, delivering the cherry and spice in a big way, with a long spiced finish that brings some sweet oak to the front.  Nice!
90 Rich Cook Dec 8, 2015

Kendall-Jackson, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir Jackson Estate 2015 ($32):   Jackson Estate's Anderson Valley Pinot Noir represents excellent value. First of all, it's from a premium Pinot district, and its modest price means you could almost make it your house Pinot. The clincher, though, is the quality in the bottle. Showing notes of ripe crushed berries and cola, it's bright and juicy on the palate and exhibits excellent length and a lingering finish.
90 Robert Whitley Nov 7, 2017

Kendall-Jackson, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Grand Reserve 2017 ($30):  Winemaker Randy Ullom is that rare breed of winemaker that can cross over from mighty Cabernet Sauvignon to elegant Pinot Noir without missing a beat.  The 2017 Grand Reserve is a beauty that offers notes of bright cherry and strawberry, with a touch of spice and smoke and modest tannins that are smooth as silk.  
90 Robert Whitley Oct 8, 2019

La Crema, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2004 ($29): The color of this bad boy is light to medium ruby, while the nose is a blend of ripe fruit, boiled tea and leather. It has dry, medium flavors, and is a bit light on the lush supple fruit you want from Pinot Noir. There is some heat in the finish. It is hard to tell if this wine, made from organically grown grapes, is serious or not, but for the price, it should be. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 20, 2006

Lazy Creek Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($42): Lazy Creek is owned by Don and Rhonda Carano, who are known for the big, generous red wines they produce under their Ferrari-Carano label.  This Pinot Noir wine gives due respect to that grape’s more subtle charms.  An obvious core of ripe red fruit dominates the flavor components, but an undertow of earthier, secondary tastes keeps the wine interesting and lively.  The texture is luxuriously silky, and the finish is nicely drawn out.
90 Marguerite Thomas Apr 8, 2014

Lazy Creek Vineyards, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Estate 2014 ($60): Lush and full bodied, Lazy Creek’s ebullient Estate Pinot Noir is teeming with ripe red and black fruits.  A dash of oak spice further enriches the flavors.  The wine’s intensity and intricate flavors are at least partly due to the fact that the grapes come from one of California’s oldest plantings of Pinot Noir.
90 Marguerite Thomas Nov 8, 2016

Migration, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2007 ($34):  This bright Pinot has beautiful aromas of juicy red fruit/raspberry, with similar flavors and a subtle note of vanilla.  Great balance, and a pleasure to drink. 90 Tina Caputo Mar 16, 2010

On Point, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Christinna's Cuvée” 2013 ($36): Winemaker David Rossi created this label to show a different side of Pinot Noir than his Fulcrum wines.  Whereas the Fulcrum line tends toward more structure and age-worthiness, this bottle shows a fresher, more approachable style.  Another nice Anderson Valley '13, it focuses on Bright cherry and cola flavors, with light notes of earthy minerality and brown spice.  A sweet oak spice note and a touch of stemmy character round out the nicely integrated package.  I'd try the pork tenderloin and chimichurri angle as a pairing.
90 Rich Cook Aug 4, 2015

Siduri, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2017 ($35):  Siduri’s appellation series (as opposed to its vineyard-designate wines) consistently delivers exceptional value.  The 2017 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir is no exception.  The nose is fetching, showing a floral note and bright cherry aroma, and those characteristics follow through on the palate.  The wine is beautifully balanced and ready to drink now.   
90 Robert Whitley Dec 17, 2019

WALT Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Blue Jay" 2012 ($40): A blend of fruit from the Savoy and Anderson Creek vineyards hits your nose with big lavender and spice up front, with bright berry, sassafras and fresh turned field coming forward in subsequent whiffs.  Very forward dark berries and bright oak spice fill the mouth, and the structure of the wine has no trouble handling its 14.9% alcohol.  This is the big side of Anderson Valley Pinot Noir.
90 Rich Cook Dec 16, 2014

Balo, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 'Suitcase 828' 2015 ($38): This small family run winery offers small lots of hand-crafted Pinot Noir that are not only well-made and tasty, but reasonably priced. The "Suitcase 828" shows notes of bright fresh cherry and spice, with a leafy characteristic that many will find attractive. 89 Robert Whitley Aug 22, 2017

Black Kite, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Angel Hawk 2007 ($75): Winemaker Jeff Gaffner says he selected three barrels for this wine that he thought could take an extra 6 months in oak -- nascent wines that had concentrated cranberry and cherry flavors and dry tannins.  He mixed them and gave them the extra aging.  The result is a tightly packed wine that will need some time to unwind.  It has plenty of fruit, good structure, and a meaty, almost savage note, but it's currently not very giving.  Put it aside for a couple of years. 89 W. Blake Gray Sep 22, 2009

Ferrari-Carano, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) “Siena” 2007 ($24): Siena is Ferrari-Carano’s proprietary red blend of Sangiovese blended with a small amount of Malbec.  The lots are tank fermented separately, then moved to barrels and aged for 12 months in new Hungarian oak puncheons and older French oak barrels.  The result is a wine with a deep ruby color, low intensity raspberry and oak aromas and sweet fruit flavors supported by firm tannins.  It shows  good length and finishes at 14.3% alcohol.  Try this fruity red with grilled meats. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Sep 29, 2009

Ferrari-Carano, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "Sky High" 2007 ($46): Pinot Noir is a relatively new red wine for Ferrari-Carano and this one from Mendocino's Anderson Valley shows a lot of class.  Medium ruby in color, the aromatics are slightly closed with ripe berry and earthy-mineral accents.  There is a surprising explosion of fruit on the palate with a pleasant sweetness, firm tannins and nicely balanced oak notes.  Finished at 14.5% alcohol and aged 15 months in French oak, this Pinot is ready to drink now but will develop more complexity with additional aging. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 9, 2009

Foursight Wines, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Zero New Oak” 2011 ($38): The Charles family says that this was their coldest vintage ever, and this wine shows what the foresight of picking the fruit on time and not waiting too long and letting the vintage speak can do.  It's bright and tart in a good way, with red cherry, cranberry, soft oak spice and black tea delivered over reigned in acidity.  It's unfiltered, and so slightly cloudy, but don't let that stop you from enjoying.
89 Rich Cook Jul 15, 2014

Harmonique, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Delicacé" 2002 ($48): This is one of two Pinot Noirs from Harmonique, the other labeled "The Noble One." Despite the fact that "The Noble One" is described on the back label as "commanding" while "Delicacé" is called "feminine," I prefer "Delicacé"--mainly for...well, its delicacy. Its intense nose suggests fresh red berries and the slightest note of green olive; on the palate it's full-bodied but has finesse and vibrancy, and isn't dense or heavy. Flavors of red berries show decent concentration. Deceptively pretty, this wine is very well-balanced and has a good life ahead of it. 89 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Sep 1, 2005

Kendall Jackson, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir Jackson Estate Series 2014 ($32): This Pinot Noir will suit fans of a bold, ripe, drink me now style.  Anderson Valley shows through in the spicy cherry fruit, and the plush texture is sure to please as a cocktail red.
89 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2016

La Crema, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2006 ($35):

The new lineup of La Crema Pinots is nothing less than impressive, particularly this red-fruuited beauty from the Anderson Valley. The fruit truly is gorgeous, ripe and upfront, and nicely spiced by the winemaker's generous hand with the toasty oak. This is a deeply colored and flavorful Pinot that gets all it can from the grape and soil without going over the top, although a somewhat hot finish tamped my enthusiasm and kept me from giving this wine a higher score.

89 Robert Whitley Jul 29, 2008

Migration, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2007 ($34): Sweet and seductive, with a fleshy texture, and an impressively long finish, this new-styled Pinot Noir is fairly dark in color and medium (not light) bodied.  While it does not display the nuanced subtlety or silky texture of fine red Burgundy, it remains undeniably delicious in a brash, no-holds-barred California way. 89 Paul Lukacs Jul 21, 2009

Cakebread Cellars, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2011 ($50): Cakebread, known for their Napa Valley wines, has expanded to the cooler, more Pinot Noir friendly, Anderson Valley for their foray with the varietal.  While clearly a fruit-focused wine, bright acidity prevents it from being jammy or overdone.  Supple tannins enrobe the sweet dense mixture of lively red fruit flavors.  The barest hint of minerality -- non fruit flavors -- emerges with time in the glass.  Lovely now, the appearance of complexity over a half hour suggests it will develop nicely over the next few years.
88 Michael Apstein Sep 17, 2013

FEL, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2013 ($38): The 2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir from FEL shows impressive concentration and weight, more muscular than elegant, but a good value at the price. Serve this darkly fruited, rich Pinot with grilled meats and savory stews.
88 Robert Whitley Jul 7, 2015

Migration, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) 2004 ($30): This is sourced from the Anderson Valley outpost of Duckhorn Vineyards, the famed Napa Valley winery, which looked to the north for a site for their Pinot Noir production.  They make two bottlings, Goldeneye, and this less pricey one.   Made in a ripe, rich style with noticeable sweet oakiness, this won't be mistaken for red Burgundy.  But then again, Anderson Valley is not in Burgundy and the wines shouldn't taste like Burgundy. It's a stylish California Pinot Noir. 88 Michael Apstein Feb 13, 2007

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2005 ($55): Goldeneye is Duckhorn's estate in Anderson Valley.  It focuses on Pinot Noir from single vineyards, as well as this one, which is made from grapes from a variety of sources.  A ripe and concentrated style of Pinot Noir, this one stops short of landing in what I refer to as 'Pinot Syrah' category.  At this stage, the abundance of new oak barrels used for aging the wine is all too readily apparent and detracts from the fruit, spice and earth brought to the table by the grapes.  Given Goldeneye's track record, it will likely settle out and come into balance, so I would put it in the cellar for a few years, rather than on the table tonight. 87 Michael Apstein Dec 2, 2008

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2004 ($52): This solid wine shows lots of flavor and structure, and though it could stand a little more charm, there's good reason to believe that ageing will see to that.  Dark cherry fruit notes are true to the grape, and bracing from spicy oak offers additional structure, so it you've got a bit of patience and decent storage conditions, this is a worthy investment in future pleasure. 87 Michael Franz May 29, 2007

Migration, Anderson Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2006 ($32): This is Goldeneye's second label and offers good value though it's clearly not in the same league as the top dogs at Goldeneye. This vintage was cool along the California coast and produced a number of somewhat grippy Pinots that are slightly green at the edges. This Migration went off in that direction, with a slightly bitter finish. On the plus side there are attractive raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors and a root-cellar earthiness common with many high class Pinots. 87 Robert Whitley Aug 5, 2008

Champ de Rêves, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2010 ($40):  An ambitious wine, smooth and supple on the palate, this wine feels seductive but tastes overly sweet, especially in the mid-palate and finish.  The sugary edge obscures potential complexity, as neither the vineyard nor the grapes can express themselves fully.  If the flavors disappoint somewhat, they are definitely counterbalanced by the textural elements.  The wine simply feels wonderful.  It’s too bad that doesn’t carry through to the taste. 86 Paul Lukacs Jul 31, 2012

Claudia Springs Winery, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir Klindt Vineyard 2003 ($24): The color of this Pinot is a bright medium ruby and the aromatics are dark fruits like ripe black cherry. The vanilla-laced flavors are somewhat simple, but the wine finishes with moderate levels of juicy fruit and refined tannins. 86 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 20, 2006

Goldeneye, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir 2005 ($55): This premium-priced Pinot is free of flaws, with nice sweet fruit that is well ripened without seeming overtly sweet.  The wood notes are well tuned to the weight and intensity of the fruit, and the wine is clearly well made.  The issue here is complexity, and isn't clear that the wine has enough dimension or intricacy to justify its price, though it may gain complexity with time in bottle. 86 Michael Franz Jul 15, 2008

Harmonique, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County, California) Pinot Noir "The Noble One" 2003 ($52): The color is a medium ruby with pale edges, followed by shy aromatics of vanilla and ripe black cherry, with cedar and black tea accents. The medium flavors are dry with restrained fruit, followed by a quick finish. 85 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 20, 2006

Davies Vineyards, Anderson Valley (Mendocino County) Pinot Noir 2013 ($35):  This straight-up Anderson Valley Pinot from Davies (as opposed to one of its more expensive vineyard-designates) shows intense, ripe raspberry with a subtle earthy, forest-floor back note. Rich and layered on the palate, it is robust without sacrificing elegance. While certainly a candidate to improve with another few years in the bottle, it's accessible and delicious for near-term consumption as well.
Robert Whitley Sep 1, 2015

Golden Star Vineyards, Antelope Valley of the California High Desert (California) Syrah Chavez Vineyard 2012 ($25): The latest in our continuing series "another County heard from," this is serious Syrah from a place where not much grows out of the ground other than creosote and cactus.  It shows great varietal character, delivering blackberry, blueberry, tar, orange zest and fall spice aromas, and a palate that's full and plush, with nicely integrated oak and a long finish.  I fully expect to see more vineyards in this appellation as a result of this wine.  Platinum award winner at San Diego International Wine Competition.
95 Rich Cook Apr 15, 2014

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande (California) Pinot Noir 2005 ($60): Those who complain that California Pinot Noir is simply sweet cherry juice need to try this wonderfully complex wine.  Laetitia's 'regular' Pinot Noir is very good and easy to recommend, but if you run across this one, their single vineyard bottling, go for it.  They seamlessly meld the earthy, woodsy element of Pinot Noir with the delicate but bright red fruit component.  The savory sweet flavors complement one another.  It has that almost magical combination of intense flavor without being heavy. 93 Michael Apstein May 27, 2008

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Old Vine Zinfandel "Heritage" 2017 ($55):  From a single block of the forty year old planting on the estate, this wine shows deep fall spice and easy pepper over blackberry and raspberry fruit presented over a solid structure that is built for cellaring.  If you want a real Zinfandel education, your degree won’t be complete without a course of study at Saucelito Canyon.  The grape that shows a sense of place more than any other in California sings perhaps its most beautifully in this unexpected place, one that can rightfully claim a name like Heritage.  Bravo!   
96 Rich Cook Sep 3, 2019

Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley (San Luis Obispo County, California) Zinfandel “1880” 2017 ($75):  Saucelito Canyon Vineyard's founder Bill Greenough had just one Zinfandel bottling made from the combined blocks of his remote vineyard, occasionally adding a reserve bottling when he felt it was merited.  In 2006 he and wife Nancy decided to separate out the fruit from the oldest block and label it with its birth date.  This latest iteration features the fruit from the then 137-year-old vines, and to say that it's a unique expression of California's heritage grape would be an understatement.  It's not often you'll find a Zinfandel with finish numbers like 3.35 pH and 6.7 grams per liter titratable acidity.  Bill's son Tom made this wine, and he was careful to let the vineyard's personality speak clearly, utilizing just 25% new French oak to allow the intense cherry fruit to shine through gentle spice and pepper notes.  It is a must-have bottle for any serious Zinfandel collector, and it will age beautifully for ten to fifteen years.  Spectacular wine!    
96 Rich Cook Oct 27, 2020

Stephen Ross, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Stone Corral Vineyard Estate 2013 ($52): One of the best Pinot Noir offerings I've tasted this year, and a clear standout in a blind flight of several excellent wines.  It just keeps coming on in the glass, with layered aromas of flowers, damp and dried earth, black cherry, ripe strawberry, leaf and a touch of raspberry, all of which translate directly to palate flavors, delivered in a dry, elegant style with fine grained tannins and a supple grip that adds length to the finish where a rhubarb note joins in.  Judicious oak spice deepens complexity without competing -- can you tell that I'm wild about this one?  Spectacular!  Contains 80% clone 2A and 20% clone 777.
96 Rich Cook May 24, 2016

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Zinfandel Estate “Limited Drought Bottling” 2014 ($40): A classic example of what dry farmed Zinfandel can be.  This wine comes from estate vineyard blocks planted as long ago as 1880 and as "recently" as 1981, and it shows its old vine nature with lively red fruit, pepper, stone minerality, racy acidity and a structured backbone.  An extremely dry vintage limited production, so if you are a lover of well aged Zinfandel like I am, you'll want to grab some up in a hurry.  Bravo!
95 Rich Cook Nov 8, 2016

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Zinfandel Estate 2016 ($40):  A much earlier vintage of this wine was a revelation for me back in the day, and looking back it’s easy to see why.  Sourced from a completely unique micro-climate that, though it falls within the Central Coast AVA, should probably have its own appellation.  Dry farmed as always, the 2016 is made up of fruit from each block of the forty year-old planting and a small amount of the original vine fruit planted by Henry Ditmas in 1880. Each successive vintage is an almanac in a bottle, showing the weather conditions for what they were and avoiding overt intervention.  The 2016 shows great concentration and intensity, with rich boysenberry pie aromas leading to a lively palate, where acidity carries the day, translating the nose into palate flavors that have energy and a nice tension against gentle oak spice.  A lot of my Euro-centric wine snob friends have a hard time with California Zinfandel -- this is the kind of wine that I’m sure would change some minds.   
95 Rich Cook Aug 27, 2019

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir “Reserve du Domaine” 2017 ($44):  Winemaker Eric Hickey’s blending skill is on display here, with a tasty mix of red and black cherry and gentle oak influence that fit a plush mid palate very nicely, and a finish with great push and full integration of flavors even in its youth.  These wines have a solid track record for aging, and this is no exception.   
94 Rich Cook Dec 10, 2019

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir "Whole Cluster" 2018 ($44):  Whole Cluster fermentation adds a nice spicy kick to this bottling, and careful handling is in evidence with no overtly stemmy notes that might detract from the rich fruit core.  Black cherry, soft blackberry and easy pepper notes dance on the palate and finish extremely long and lively.  This was just released, but I don’t imagine it will last very long!  
94 Rich Cook Dec 3, 2019

Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley (San Luis Obispo County, California) Zinfandel Estate 2017 ($40):  I've been tasting this bottling since the late 1980's and it's always a favorite.  A multi-block blend that has some fruit from the 1880 block in the mix, it's classic Zinfandel with a profile all its own.  Expected cherry and wild berry notes are joined by pepper, cocoa and soft fall spice in a perfectly balanced package that's delicious right now and will reward five or so more years of bottle aging.  Tom Greenough is doing fine work and continuing the family legacy of great Zin!  
94 Rich Cook Oct 27, 2020

Carlson, Arroyo Grande Valley (San Luis Obispo County, California) Pinot Noir Talley Vineyard 2008 ($40):  Owner-winemaker Chuck Carlson believes in long fermentations and then extended skin contact, giving his Pinots deep color and lots of flavor.  The use of Francois Freres French oak imparts a toasty note to the aromatics and a subtle complexity on the palate.  The color is a medium-deep, plum-red and the nose offers complex notes of boiled black tea and floral notes. There’s plenty of fruit, black cherry accents, 13.5% alcohol, good tannins and acidity and a long finish with layers of ripe fruit.  This is a lovely silky Pinot with good complexity.
93 Gerald D. Boyd Feb 21, 2012

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande Valley (San Luis Obispo County, California) Pinot Noir “Reserve du Domaine” 2019 ($44):  A decided step up from the 2020 “regular” Estate bottling on current offer, Laetitia's 2019 Reserve du Domaine appears a little darker and a feels a little richer, with black cherry and plum getting the cardamom and brown spice treatment thanks to a little more new oak in the mix.  This is a serious Pinot Noir at a more than fair price.       
93 Rich Cook Jun 14, 2022

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande Valley (San Luis Obispo County, California) Pinot Noir Estate 2017 ($30):  Always a winner, the Estate bottling provides impressive value in a category that seems to start really delivering at the $50 price point.  For a little over half of that, here you get a rich ten clone blend that’s long on deep black cherry, earth and stone minerality and dovetailed herb and spice, finishing long with all the elements in play.  New ownership ensures that this catalog will find a wider audience – good news!   
93 Rich Cook Nov 26, 2019

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir Clone 667 2017 ($35):  Another great Pinot from Laetitia.   This clone specific bottling showcases the fruity nature of 667, with bright cherry, strawberry and gentle oak spice helping to lift the fruit as it rises the balanced acidity through a long, rich finish.  If you prefer Pinot Noir as a cocktail glass, this is a perfect choice.  
93 Rich Cook Dec 3, 2019

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “La Coupelle” 2012 ($60): This is usually the big boy of Laetitia's three single vineyard wines.  I have yet to taste the La Colline or the Les Galets from 2012, but based on past experience it's a good bet that this one is the biggest.  This vintage brings a very ripe nose of plum, cherry and smoky oak tones with big fall spice that doesn't overpower the fruit and helps bring out the earthiness.  It's very rich and long, yet shows the balance that Laetitia has become known for.  It's pricey, but costs less than most California Pinots made in this style.  Well done!
93 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Zinfandel “Dos Ranchos” 2017 ($40):  A combination of a 40-year estate block and fruit from a neighboring vineyard that offers an exotic take on what Zinfandel is capable of, showing Asian spice, red plum, cranberry and a dash of pepper.  It exemplifies the house preferred lively acid profile, supple structure and a long finish where the pepper is emphasized slightly.  A great grill-side partner, and a wine that will work across the meat spectrum, from fowl to beef and beyond.   
93 Rich Cook Sep 10, 2019

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Zinfandel “Dos Ranchos” 2014 ($34): A blend of estate fruit and the neighboring Big Baldy Vineyard, this is a dark side Zinfandel, emphasizing blackberry and fall spice with bracing acidity that adds a citric note and allows the fall spice notes to rise to the fruit load.  Just a touch of pepper adds another dimension, and the finish is long and well integrated.  I've aged Saucelito Canyon's Zins for up to ten years with great results, and this is yet another fine candidate.  Well Done!
93 Rich Cook Nov 8, 2016

Saucelito Canyon Vineyard, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Zinfandel “Appellation Series” 2014 ($35): What a pleasure to get reacquainted with one of the great California Zinfandel producers through this delicious wine.  Founders Bill and Nancy Greenough have passed the winemaking duties on to son Tom, and the family's long experience with the eastern reaches of the valley shows in this wine, sourced from the Big Baldy Vineyard.  Lively red cherry, cranberry, raspberry, pepper and spice aromas and flavors fill the senses, with racy acidity extending the well integrated finish.  Tasting this is a grand hello from an old friend.
93 Rich Cook Oct 25, 2016

Talley, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir Rincon 2004 ($50): With a firm backbone, this is a Pinot for the cellar, yet there is plenty of ripe black cherry fruit to make it enjoyable now. It's juicy, spicy and concentrated, with impressive length. 93 Linda Murphy Jul 10, 2007

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande Valley (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Estate Vineyard Whole Cluster 2015 ($42):  A bold nose of spicy warm cherry pie leads to a palate with good grip, carrying the pie vibe all the way through the long finish, where a nice stemmy note comes forward.  The stems will integrate with a little bottle aging and make for a complex full-bodied experience.  Decant long near term and try it with roast duck -- it's got the structure for it. 
92 Rich Cook Dec 12, 2017

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande Valley (San Luis Obispo County, California) Pinot Noir Estate 2020 ($27):  This might be the Pinot Noir bargain of the vintage.  It is bright and structured, with the oak nicely matched to the vibrant strawberry and cherry fruit.  The wood adds spice and a soft toasty note and accents the fruit without screaming for attention.  Bright acidity make for a long, mouth-watering finish that will keep your interest all the way through that tasty fish dish you will pair with it.  It’s from a vineyard very near the Pacific Ocean, and it shows.  Made by Eric Hickey.        
92 Rich Cook Jun 14, 2022

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Pinot Noir Clone 828 2017 ($35):  The 828 clone in this vintage of Laetitia's Pinot Noir delivers lively strawberry and spice, with dry earth minerality, soft toast and a mouth-watering finish that keeps all the elements intact.   I tasted this the day after Thanksgiving, and I’d say that it’s looking good for Christmas dinner.   
92 Rich Cook Dec 10, 2019

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Whole Cluster” 2012 ($40): Winemaker Eric Hickey calls this wine the "black sheep" of the family, explaining that it breaks from their normal practice of de-stemming the grapes prior to fermentation.  This bottling included 45% whole clusters in the fermenter, and it adds another unique wine to Laetitia's impressive lineup of Pinot Noir offerings.  Aromas and flavors of damp earth, stems, tobacco, black cherry and black tea are presented over food friendly acidity and carry through a long complex finish.  Very nicely made.
92 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Reserve Du Domaine” 2012 ($40): It's nice to have a big palette of fruit to select from when creating a wine that showcases the winemaker's blending talent.  Eric Hickey uses a bit of almost everything here, using Dijon 115, 667, 459, 828, Wadensville 2A and Martini clones to make a beautiful wine that features bright cedary spice, black cherry, white pepper and mild earthiness on the nose and in the mouth, with a long, mouth watering finish that brings you back.  Another solid choice from a great lineup.
92 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Estate 2013 ($25): Another beautiful, budget friendly Pinot Noir from a producer that doesn't get nearly as much credit as it deserves.  Winemaker Eric Hickey shows his blending skill on this bottling, a mix of ten different clones grown on Laetitia's estate vineyards, most of which were planted back in the 1980's when the property was held by Maison Deutz, a joint venture spearheaded by Deutz of Champagne, France.  It's classic cool climate wine, with bright acidity propping up deep black cherry, blackberry, moderate fall spice and damp earth aromas and flavors. It's made the way that bold pinot should be made -- big on flavor without depending on overripe fruit to deliver it. Wine of this quality that is produced in a large enough quantity to make it easy to find are difficult to come by.  Excellent work!
92 Rich Cook Feb 10, 2015

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Zinfandel “Young Vines” 2017 ($32):  A new opportunity for deliciousness for second generation winemaker Tom Greenough, one made possible with a new block planting of the original 1880 clone that made the label famous among Zin lovers.  It’s light, fresh vibe is a fun alternative to the old vine classic, with bold cherry and cedar spice aromas enticing, leading to a palate of candied fruit and spice that lingers pleasantly.  In a way, it’s a look back in time to when the original vineyard was in its youth.  That’s even more fun!  
92 Rich Cook Sep 10, 2019

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir "Clone 459" 2012 ($32): An elegant aromatic mix of cherry, rhubarb, mild roasted coffee and dry earth is delivered, along with fresh and lively flavors, plus a long finish that knits the fruit and earth elements together with depth and finesse.  It's got unusual complexity for a single clone bottling.  Delicious!
91 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Zinfandel 2004 ($20): Though this region is influenced by the nearby ocean, a vineyard doesn't have to be too far from the water and have the right exposure in one of the inland valleys to get sufficient sun and heat to ripen Zinfandel into blackberry jam. This vintage from Saucelito Canyon is juicy, with loads of spice. Very satisfying and a great match with grilled meats from the barbie. 91 Robert Whitley Mar 28, 2006

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir “Clone 2A – Wadensville” 2012 ($32): Another single clone bottling from a winery that's not afraid to release something under a name that might put some people off.  If they like it, they call it what it is and let the taster decide if they like it.  I do!  It's a ripe style, showing black cherry, plum, deep fall spice, tobacco and berry pie notes.  Full throttle Pinot Noir in the mouth, with big weight and richness, and a pleasant touch of pepper showing up in the finish.  This will have fans among the "Pinot Noir as cocktail" set.
90 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Tempranillo 2017 ($30):  A rare cool climate Tempranillo, sourced from nearby Laetitia Vineyard just a few miles off the Pacific coast.  It’s going to take a little time to integrate its oak load fully, so be sure to decant well near term to enjoy the blueberry, vanilla and blackberry, or age a few years for the same result.  There is great spice character and a firm grip that begs for something with a little fat content -- a charcuterie board or a paella will suit beautifully.   
90 Rich Cook Sep 3, 2019

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Pinot Noir Estate 2012 ($25): This entry level wine in Laetitia's stable of Pinot Noir bottlings features a ripe nose of plum, black cherry, dry earth, and a touch of rhubarb and Asian spice.  On the palate, it's quite dry, with very bright acidity, good balance and a complex mix of flavors that reflect the aroma profile.  It's showing some oak at present, but it will integrate seamlessly over the next couple of years.  A mild stemmy note add interest to the sustained finish.  A great value at this price.
89 Rich Cook Aug 19, 2014

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Estate 2012 ($25):  Laetitia could be considered a pioneer in Arroyo Grande Valley having planted their vineyards over 30 years ago.  They make a line of distinctive vineyard-specific Pinot Noir.  This one, a blend from their vineyards, delivers a whiff of herbal elements that adds great interest to this otherwise classic fruit-focused California Pinot Noir.  Suave and supple, its ripe black-fruit flavors are a lovely match for roast duck or other savory dishes.  Given the current pricing of California Pinot Noir, this one’s a bargain. 88 Michael Apstein Dec 10, 2013

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Estate 2018 ($27):  It’s rare to see a Pinot Noir of this stature for less than $30 a bottle.  The grapes for this fruit-forward Pinot Noir come entirely from Laetitia’s vineyards, which means they control all of the farming, and, importantly, the timing of the harvest.  It conveys bright and ripe red fruit-like flavors without being over the top or jammy.  A whiff of vanilla from oak aging doesn’t dominate or overwhelm the wine’s fruitiness.   Tannins are fine, making this suavely texture Pinot Noir ideal for current consumption.   
88 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Saucelito Canyon, Arroyo Grande Valley (California) Zinfandel Estate 2005 ($22): Edna Valley isn't known for Zin, but this is a fine one, with crisp cherry and raspberry flavors, a dash of baking spice and a hint of vanilla on a lush palate. 88 Linda Murphy Jul 10, 2007

Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir 2012 ($32): California Pinot Noir is interesting for its incredibly wide range of flavor possibilities.  While Burgundian purists turn up their noses, California   wineries continue to push the envelope and look for what can happen with this grape.  Ventana's 2012 bottling is a dense, full bodied wine that doesn't go into over ripe territory, showing sassy raspberry, sarsaparilla and fall spice aromas and flavors while maintaining solid structure all the way through a long, blooming finish.  A real steal for the price, and a Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
96 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Blair Estate, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Delfina’s Vineyard The Reserve 2015 ($65):  Black tea, and a mix of dry and damp earth minerality get the bouquet off to a great start, and cherry and strawberry fruit join in just underneath.  On the palate, the elements switch positions, the fruit taking the lead but not leaving the more savory elements behind.  Great acidity keeps it all together through a sustained finish.  Delightful Pinot Noir!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
95 Rich Cook Jun 11, 2019

Ventana, Arroyo Seco (California) Estate Rubystone 2014 ($28): Ventana's Rhone-style blend is a success yet again.  Cool climate shines out of this lovely glass, with vibrant red fruit, pepper, soft spice, and vanilla and a hint of tar that brightens the fruit.  Racy acidity, full integration and a long, blossoming finish round things out. Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County) Pinot Noir Estate 2014 ($32):  Ventana is one of the best-kept secrets in California wine, consistently producing high quality wines from its Monterey County estate vineyards with little or no fanfare. The 2014 estate pinot is a beauty, showing a floral and spice nose, with vibrant red fruits on the palate and supple tannins. A platinum award-winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge.
94 Robert Whitley Mar 22, 2016

Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco (California) "Rubystone" 2013 ($28): Rubystone has been a standout in the Rhone style blend category in California for many years, and there's no let down to be had with the 2013 version.  Deep berry fruit, pepper, orange zest, tar, a touch of dill and herb -- it's all here, with moderate tannins keeping things in the mix through the extended finish.  Wild boar would be a perfect foil.  The Best Red Rhône Style Blend and a Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 10, 2015

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Valdiguié “Wildflower” 2021 ($13):  Whenever I taste the new vintage of this wine, I wonder why there aren’t more wines like it coming from California producers.  I am not at all going out on a limb to say that this is superior to more common red varieties in this price category, but that aside, it is simply delicious in a wide set of circumstances.  Chill it a bit to boost its refreshment factor as a solo glass or grilling partner, or serve at room temperature with chicken, fish, mild to medium strength cheese, etc.  I think you should see this on by-the-glass lists of thoughtful, domestic wine-focused establishments.        
93 Rich Cook Jul 26, 2022

Ventana Vineyards, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) "Rubystone" 2014 ($28): Blended from 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, this is just about as delicious and delightful a rendering of a southern Rhône-style wine from California as you’ll ever find.  The California character shows in the form of terrifically juicy, expressive red fruit tones, and there’s a little savory streak to bring southern France to mind as well.  Bright and juicy but not sweet, this is a perfect choice for grilled pork or veal with a spicy rub.  Platinum Award winner at the 2016 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.
93 Michael Franz Jun 7, 2016

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (California) Pinot Noir “Fog's Reach” 2014 ($35): The quality for your money that J. Lohr delivers is quite impressive across the entire portfolio, and this bottling repeats the mantra, showing bold ripe cherry, rhubarb and lively oak spice over notes of damp earth and mushroom.  There's a nice citric pop at the end that balances the oak spice and keeps you coming back.  Well done!
92 Rich Cook Jul 11, 2017

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir "Fog's Reach" 2019 ($35):  Funky!  I appreciate the balance of dry/damp earth and black cherry fruit notes here, and they hold together through the long finish where a sweet oak impression joins the fruit.  As usual, it’s hard to beat J. Lohr when you’re looking for great value.        
92 Rich Cook Jan 11, 2022

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Clark Ranch 2006 ($35): This is an unusually appealing California Pinot, which has atypical finesse and elegance for a Golden State Pinot.  Winemaker Ivan Giotenov attributes this in part to the unique vineyard site, which he describes as 'A paradise for growing grapes'(the grapes for this Pinot came from a rocky 4-acre patch in the heart of the 1100 acre vineyard).  The wine is relatively full-bodied and complex, with distinct red plum and blackberry flavors, and smooth, velvety tannins on the finish. 91 Marguerite Thomas Feb 19, 2009

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir "Fog's Reach" 2013 ($35): Exotic wild blackberry and blackcurrant aromas and flavors are a bit outside the Pinot Noir norm, yet the result is a winner.  This wine has bracing acidity and subtle vanillin oak to plump and massage the ripe berry and cassis fruit.  Not shy in alcohol (14.9% on the label), it remains balanced, though in a bold, potent style.
91 Linda Murphy Sep 22, 2015

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (California) Pinot Noir "Fog's Reach" 2013 ($35): I believe that the Fog's Reach bottling was one of the first of J. Lohr's high end bottlings some years back, and it continues to deliver that high end promise at a reasonable price.  As always, it's ripe and fleshy without sacrificing acidity or complexity of aroma and flavor.  Black Cherry, cola, spice, red berries and sweet oak all come through clearly, and while it'll make a great cocktail, it's worthy of a range of food pairings, from pork chops to braised short ribs.
91 Rich Cook Oct 6, 2015

J. Lohr Winery, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir “Fog’s Reach” 2011 ($35): A nice ripe Pinot Noir from a cool vintage that doesn’t go over the top.  It’s got good complexity of aroma, with black cherry, strawberry, damp earth and sage notes.  Clone 667 dominates the cuvée, pushing the red fruit forward on the palate, with nice balance of oak spice, herbs and earth remaining in the mix through the long finish.  A solid acid backbone keeps the sweet fruit and alcohol in balance and makes this a nice food wine to accompany red meats in mushroom-based sauces.
91 Rich Cook Sep 24, 2013

Morgan, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Tempranillo 2019 ($25):  Dan Lee and his team are on quite a roll at Morgan, and though you might not expect this bottle to be part of the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah dominant lineup, it’s certainly up to the standard set by years of great bottlings.  Some of the same techniques are in play, like moderate use of new oak, gentle punchdowns during fermentation and a fine balance between fruit load and acidity.  All this delivers bold cherry fruit, soft vanilla and moderate toast that keeps the cherry in front.  Don’t overlook this (or the Riesling) if you visit!  Contains 12% Grenache.     
91 Rich Cook Dec 21, 2021

Morgan Winery, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Tempranillo 2020 ($25):  Cool climate Tempranillo is an unusual find in the USA, though the variety’s early ripening is exactly why it is planted in cool portions of Spain with compact growing seasons.  This Tempranillo exhibits the kind of concentration that comes from low yields and in the vineyard, shown here as typical grapey character enhanced by notes of cherry, vanilla and cocoa.  It’s ready to drink, and it’s priced right.          
91 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2022

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard 2014 ($35):  Hints of earthiness and peat support the wine’s bright strawberry and cherry flavors.  Lightly spiked with oak and vanilla, this Pinot Noir has just the right amount of acidity as well as a good glossy texture and generous finish.  
90 Marguerite Thomas Jan 15, 2019

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard 2013 ($35): This single-vineyard pinot from Carmel Road offers a nuance of earthy forest floor followed by notes of cherry and spice. Still showing the bite of youth on the finish, it should be ready to rock after another year or two in the bottle.
90 Robert Whitley Oct 18, 2016

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard 2011 ($35): This meaty Pinot from Monterey's Arroyo Seco zone shows an earthy nose with hints of black cherry and plum. On the palate the fruit aromas are deep and complex, and the tension between ripeness and structure is well balanced. At $35 it represents exceptional value in top-notch Pinot Noir. 90 Robert Whitley Nov 26, 2013

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Fog's Reach 2013 ($35): Few wineries in California deliver as much bang for the buck as consistently as Monterey County's J. Lohr. It's Fog's Reach Pinot Noir is an excellent example. Showing bright, layered red and black fruits, firm tannins and excellent balance, this is a beautifully made California Pinot that is showy enough to please the crowd that craves flashy Pinot, and restrained enough to impress the crowd that prefers its Pinot slightly leaner. Best of all, you could drink it now or cellar it and drink another two, three years out.
90 Robert Whitley Sep 1, 2015

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Fog’s Reach Vineyard 2007 ($35):  With aromas of ripe red cherries and spice, this tasty medium-bodied Pinot shows flavors of red and black berries, along with good balance. 90 Tina Caputo Dec 21, 2010

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County) Pinot Noir Fog's Reach 2012 ($35): Jerry Lohr is arguably the king of Monterey County wine. He's built an empire out of this vast appellation along California's Central Coast. The reason is very simple: J. Lohr wines, regardless of price tier, are always very good and always attractively priced. This 2012 Fog's Reach Pinot is fruit driven and well balanced and comes in at $35, which is modest in the world of top-notch California Pinot. 90 Robert Whitley Aug 12, 2014

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Valdiguié "Wildflower" 2021 ($12):  grape variety with the tongue twister name of Valdiguié (pronounced, val duh gee yay) will be  a great addition to your holiday table.  It sports a light ruby color and offers juicy red fruit flavors of strawberry, raspberry and dark cherry with floral notes.  The juicy fruit will pair well with turkey or ham as well as dressing and veggies.  Its crisp, mouthwatering acidity and ripe tannins will clear your palate and prepare it for the next delicious bite.  Jerry Lohr has been making wine from Valdiguié grapes grown in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco region since 1976.  It won the Best in Show at the California State Fair in 1989.  I was a judge that year and remember the controversy that surrounded this delicious wine.  Some judges argued that a wine made from this grape was not worthy of this prestigious award.  However, those of us who argued that was worthy of the award because it was an excellent and beautiful example of Valdiguié won the day.      
90 Rebecca Murphy Nov 22, 2022

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard "South Crest" 2014 ($55):  A big and gutsy Pinot Noir, this Carmel Road offering displays some earthiness and a generous amount of sweet, ripe fruit.  Not surprisingly for a wine this big it also has a relatively high amount of alcohol (14.5%).  Best to serve it with hefty dishes that likewise are big and bold -- lavishly seasoned and meaty lasagna, for example. 
89 Marguerite Thomas Aug 14, 2018

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard 2014 ($35):   Fans of earthy Pinot Noir will love this vintage from Carmel Road's Panorama Vineyard. With a floral note on the nose, this wine quickly delves into the realm of earthy forest-floor aromas of damp forest and black tea. The earthiness tends to dominate the pretty fruit aromas of raspberry and cherry, though many Pinot enthusiasts would consider this a feature rather than a flaw. The finish shows a touch of wood spice. 89 Robert Whitley Jan 16, 2018

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County) Pinot Noir 'Fog's Reach' 2014 ($35): J. Lohr's Fog's Reach Pinot Noir is the model of consistency. This vintage exhibits good palate weight and depth, impressive length and classic notes of cherry and spice. The tannins are firm but manageable, meaning they soften with aeration and eventually will soften with another year or two in bottle. 89 Robert Whitley Aug 29, 2017

J. Lohr, Arroyo Seco (California) Pinot Noir Fog's Reach 2012 ($35): This is Pinot Noir for fans of the oak driven style.  Bright oak spice and dry earth carry the day, with notes of strawberry, tea and tobacco nicely integrated and maintaining complexity through the long finish.  I would love to taste this in a few years as the oak recedes a bit. I'm thinking of a salad with pungent mushrooms and seared tuna as a suitable pairing.
89 Rich Cook Jul 22, 2014

Smith & Hook, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($25): A crowd pleasing Cabernet Sauvignon that delivers character without pretense.  Forward mixed berry, cassis, faint dried herbs and a touch of Monterey pepper ride on moderate tannins, and food friendly acidity.  The finish emphasizes red fruit, spice and a touch of citrus zest.  It's fine on its own, or serve it with simply grilled meats.
89 Rich Cook Aug 11, 2015

La Crema, Arroyo Seco (Monterey, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard 2014 ($40):  Another fruit-focused Pinot Noir with good weight and a suave texture.  Not overdone in the “Pinot Syrah” mode, it finishes a touch sweet, which I suspect is due in part to its 14.5% stated alcohol.  Ready to drink now.  I’d be sure to served it ever so slightly chilled to minimize the effect of the alcohol. 
88 Michael Apstein Mar 6, 2018

Lee Family Farm, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Tempranillo 2012 ($20): Dan Lee of Morgan Winery in Salinas/Santa Lucia Highlands is a stellar producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah, yet also lives life on the wild side by sourcing Mediterranean-varietal grapes for his Lee Family brand.  This Tempranillo is earthy and smoky, with juicy red cherry and boysenberry flavors, enhanced by notes of black and red licorice, spice and vanillin.  One whiff and taste, and you’ll want to enjoy it with roasted meats, beef jerky and any dish where mushrooms are featured.
88 Linda Murphy Dec 24, 2013

Morgan Winery, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Tempranillo 2018 ($24):  This Tempranillo from Morgan is an easy drinking red that will be perfect for sipping as we head into summer.   It's showing pretty notes of black cherry and raspberry, soft tannins and a hint of floral and earth.     
88 Robert Whitley May 5, 2020

Scott Family Estate, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir 'Dijon Clone' 2007 ($39): There are a plethora of Pinot Noir clones, each of which produces grapes with slightly different characteristics.  Although the Dijon clone originated in Burgundy, this wine emphasizes the ripe, fruit-driven style of Pinot Noir rather than the savory component often found there.  Quite glossy, it is not overdone and conveys pure cherry-like flavors.  The name of the clone notwithstanding, it’s a lovely example of New World Pinot Noir. 88 Michael Apstein Apr 6, 2010

Scott Family Estate, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir 'Dijon Clone' 2007 ($39): It is encouraging to see pinot noir like this from Monterey County, where the emphasis in recent vintages has been on plate weight and ripe, jammy fruit. The Scott Family pinot exhibits lovely red fruit characteristics, a hint of spice and generally good balance. I would have rated it more highly if it had just a bit more bite. Still, for the money it will please the majority of pinot lovers without doing great damage to the wallet. 88 Robert Whitley Sep 15, 2009

Scott Family Estate, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir 2008 ($39):  This lovely California Pinot Noir has plenty of upfront bright fresh fruit--almost candied--flavors.  But in addition, it delivers whiff of complementing leafy delicacy.  Not a Burgundy, nor should it be, it’s a true reflection of Pinot Noir in Monterey County. 88 Michael Apstein Apr 5, 2011

Carmel Road, Arroyo Seco (Monterey County, California) Pinot Noir Panorama Vineyard 2013 ($35): A bigger and riper version of their delightful -- and easy to recommend -- straight Monterey Pinot Noir, Carmel Road’s Panorama Vineyard bottling focuses more on the sweet fruity aspect of the grape. In the process, they lose delicacy and complexity than Pinot Noir offers.  Those who prefer bolder Pinot Noir will embrace it.
87 Michael Apstein Dec 20, 2016

Paraduxx, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Red Wine 2014 ($80):  Fans of so-called “Super Tuscan” red wines will no doubt find this California version from Paraduxx to their liking.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (55 percent) and Sangiovese (45 percent) from the Napa Valley’s Atlas Peak district, this is a bold, rich red that offers the power, layered richness and succulent aromas of cassis and blackberry that Cabernet can deliver along with the acid backbone and seductive black cherry aroma of Sangiovese.  Hit it with a generous does of wood spice and a note of graphite and the result is a spectacular, if unusual, red from the Napa Valley. 
96 Robert Whitley Feb 20, 2018

Duckhorn Vineyards, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Merlot 2010 ($70): Just love the smooth, supple texture of this suave Merlot from the southern reaches of the Napa Valley. On the palate the wine delivers layers of plum and blackberry fruit, with a hint of cassis and cedar. It finishes with outstanding persistence and length and will no doubt improve with additional cellar age, but it's also a crowd-pleaser at this still early stage of its evolution. 95 Robert Whitley Jan 7, 2014

Paraduxx, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Red Wine 2013 ($80):

The Atlas Peak district is one of the Napa Valley's most intriguing zones. It is situated along the southern tip of the valley and benefits from the cooling effect of the San Pablo Bay, but it's also on the Eastern edge of the Valley, so slightly inland with warm days to go along with its cool nights. The climate seems to have worked to perfection with this eclectic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sangiovese. The result is remarkable complexity, an array or red and black fruit aromas, spice and plenty of structure due to the cool nights. A brilliant wines that would most likely stump even an expert playing name-those-grapes. Excellent weight on the palate with great persistence and length, a wine that can be enjoyed tonight or lay down in the cellar for another eight to 12 years.
95 Robert Whitley Apr 18, 2017

Paraduxx, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Red Wine 2012 ($80): The Paraduxx cab-zin blend from Napa's Atlas Peak district is a muscular red shows impressive weight and depth while maintaining a modicum of elegance and balance, seemingly against all odds. Rich and layered on the palate, with ample tannins to support long-term cellaring, this vintage exhibits ripe, rich cassis and blackberry aromas, an overlay of oak spice, and an extremely long finish.
95 Robert Whitley May 10, 2016

Bright Angel, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard 2014 ($100):  This is made in a bold, ripe, cassis-forward style that suits the tannins that the rugged slopes of Atlas Peak dish out.  Notes of star anise and cedar spice join the black fruit, and the well-tamed tannins are supple, not intruding on the overall impression and showing power and refined character all at once.  This will work beautifully from the table through the cheese course, or as a celebratory solo glass.
94 Rich Cook Jan 2, 2018

Duckhorn, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Merlot 2014 ($75):  Classy Napa Valley Merlot with solid varietal character, chalky tannins, firm structure and a long finish that's just starting to crack open. Give this a good decant near term or age it five to ten years. I tasted this the day of the Atlas Peak fire -- I hope this source survives!
94 Rich Cook Oct 17, 2017

Duckhorn, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Merlot 2015 ($75):  Atlas Peak is well known for imparting a vibrant tannic structure to Merlot, and Duckhorn uses it to full advantage in this bottling, where pure Merlot character is expressed and given extended age-ability through that structure.  A long finish, certainly a hallmark of the line, is once again in evidence.  I like the restrained power on display here.
94 Rich Cook Sep 18, 2018

Duckhorn, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Merlot 2015 ($75):  The most approachable of the 2015 Merlot offerings from Duckhorn, the Atlas Peak shows bright, juicy red-fruit characteristics, moderate tannins and an easy finish.
94 Robert Whitley Aug 21, 2018

Duckhorn Vineyards, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Merlot 2010 ($70): Duckhorn strikes again with this big 100% Merlot that shows its mountain terroir.  Concentrated aromas of bright cherry, raspberry pie, cinnamon, clove and a touch of mint draw you in, and the structured acidity of the palate delivers on the promise of the nose, leaving your mouth watering and wanting to explore further.  It’s dry and food friendly, and improvement in the glass over twenty minutes promises a long life ahead.  Duckhorn just can’t seem to miss with Merlot.
94 Rich Cook Dec 31, 2013

Paraduxx, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Red Wine 2012 ($80): Duckhorn's expanded Paraduxx line includes this beauty from Atlas Peak that shows aromas of blackberry, cassis, cedar, cherry tobacco and soft fall spice.  On the palate it's rich and concentrated, and adds touches of damp earth and crushed rock to what the nose promised.  Blended from Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel, it is firm and brooding now, so give it a long decant near term, or cellar it for a few years.  I'm loving the blending talents displayed in the new set of Paraduxx wines.
94 Rich Cook Mar 15, 2016

Paraduxx, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Red Wine 2013 ($80): A super-Tuscan styled wine with a twist from Duckhorn's offbeat blends label succeeds with wild raspberry and ripe strawberry fruit complemented by pepper and dried herb aromas and flavors that's a real pleasure to drink.  With Zinfandel and Sangiovese traditionally performing well on Atlas Peak, I'm surprised we haven't seen more of this sort of blend.  Toss it into a blind tasting of blends and see who can pick out the components.  Contains 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Zinfandel and 18% Sangiovese.
94 Rich Cook Mar 28, 2017

Conn Creek, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard 2007 ($45):  Across the Napa Valley from Spring Mountain is Atlas Peak and the historic Stagecoach Vineyard, at 1,700 feet above the valley floor.  This dense Cabernet was aged for 28 months in French oak.  The color is a deep purple-ruby with a black core and the aromatics are smoky with nuances of tar and blackberry.  It has very good texture, refined tannins, hints of roasted coffee, 15% alcohol and a long concentrated finish with no heat. 92 Gerald D. Boyd Jan 3, 2012

Aril, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Syrah 2009 ($45): In a blind tasting, this wine is intriguing because it can seem rather European in style.  The wine’s complex, concentrated aroma speaks of fresh fruit -- dark berries in particular -- with floral nuances and black-pepper spiciness.  In the mouth, the wine is full-bodied but lean and controlled in structure, a big wine but not powerful or heavy.  Flavors of dark fruit, tobacco, inky minerality and a meaty note are pronounced but not overwhelming, and the fruity notes suggest fresh fruit rather than over-ripeness.  This is a wine that seems to be holding itself back for your next taste rather than presenting itself to you head-on.  It is complex and it has some sophistication -- the kind of Syrah that I could sip all night long.  From a fairly new winery, established in 2006, this current release is already almost four years old, and seems to be at its peak.
91 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Aug 26, 2014

Cairdean Vineyards, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley) Syrah 2011 ($68): Cairdean came through in this challenging vintage with a Syrah that is richly layered yet firmly structured, making it a candidate for the cellar until it begins to approach maturity. Aromas of blackberry and blueberry exhibit exceptional fruit purity, and the abundant use of new oak contributes spice and warmth. Seriously good, but it needs more time in the bottle. 91 Robert Whitley May 12, 2015

Duckhorn Vineyards, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley) Merlot 2011 ($72):  The Atlas Peak appellation hasn't been in the Duckhorn stable for very long, but it is very quickly proving itself as worthy more established bottlings. While not as polished and complex as the exceptional 2010 release from Atlas Peak, the 2011 is nevertheless an impressive wine that shows juicy plum and black cherry notes with hints of tobacco leaf and spice.
91 Robert Whitley Apr 26, 2016

Duckhorn, Atlas Peak (Napa Valley, California) Merlot 2011 ($72): Duckhorn offers such a variety of styles in their Merlot program that there is definitely something to please everyone.  This vintage of Atlas Peak shows grippy mountain tannins and quite a bit of oak at present, with dark cherry and blackberry fruit a bit subdued.  Brown spices and a meaty note round things out.  This needs a lot of air time, so plan ahead.
90 Rich Cook Feb 9, 2016

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak - Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Edcora Vineyard 2019 ($175): I am a huge fan of this wine.  I think tasters occasionally come across a combination of vineyard source and winemaking talent that seem to speak directly to them.  This has been the case with previous vintages I’ve tasted, and continues to be so here.  Though the winemaker has changed since the first vintage that I tasted, the intrigue in the bottle seems just as strong.  There is a unique earthy character that finds footing in this fruit, and it makes itself apparent again in this bottle.  Notes of dried herb and coffee join that earthy vibe in supporting deep blackberry fruit that pushes through the density with brightness, and the finish is supple and long.  100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and impressive yet again!         
98 Rich Cook Aug 16, 2022

Atlas Peak, Atlas Peak District (Napa Valley) Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 ($42): In my experience, it's rare for a wine made from mountain grown fruit to have this kind of weight and elegance. But Atlas Peak's winemaker, Darren Proscal, and its viticulturist, Tony Fernandez, Jr., have pulled it off with their 2003 Cabernet. The supple tannins support -- as opposed to overwhelm -- the impressive black cherry-like flavors, herbs and minerals. The judicious use of oak brings it all together. Unlike many mountain Cabernets that need years to resolve the tannins, you will enjoy this one now. 92 Michael Apstein Sep 5, 2006

Paraduxx, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Red Wine 2016 ($82):  This blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon comes from viticultural royalty.  The Sangiovese is sourced from the acclaimed Antinori vineyard and the Cabernet from the iconic Stagecoach Vineyard.  Both of these exceptional Atlas Peak vineyards possess a long and storied history.  One of the claims to fame both share is extraordinary structure, a result of the cool Atlas Peak microclimate.  This vintage exhibits remarkable fruit purity, showing notes of cherry, blackberry and cassis nicely framed with a touch of wood spice and a subtle hint of graphite.   
98 Robert Whitley Feb 25, 2020

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Attelas Vineyard 2019 ($145):  Just another WOW wine from Acumen's PEAK line.  There has been a consistent richness of style to the portfolio, and this first look at the new Attelas Vineyard Cabernet shows a deep expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that is classic in construction, with rich blackberry and cassis joined by notes of vanilla, dried herbs and cigar box spice tones.  A fleshy texture has plenty of structure to support it, and it is already showing good integration.  If you roll in this price range, you have a stock-worthy wine here that delivers solid value.   9% Malbec.        
97 Rich Cook Aug 2, 2022

de Négoce, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon "OG N. 30" 2018 ($25):  Atlas Peak’s fruit and tannin structure are hard to miss in this wine.  There is an elegant rusticity to the best wines that hail from there, and this can be counted among them.  Fresh blackberry and crushed rock minerality come in wave across the supple texture, and a dusty character puts a little edge on the flavors that linger well into the distance.  Something smothered in a brown mushroom sauce will be a great pairing.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.        
97 Rich Cook Oct 5, 2021

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Edcora Vineyard 2015 ($150):  This muscular Cabernet from the southeastern corner of the Napa Valley offers impressive weight and depth, with layered aromas of cassis, blackberry and black cherry that compete mightily with firm grape tannins, suggesting a fairly long road to full maturity.  It’s big and bold and built for the long haul.  
96 Robert Whitley May 21, 2019

Hesperian, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Kitoko Vineyard 2015 ($150):  I really don’t go out of my way to review small production wines (300 cases) in the $150 range from Napa, but this showed up on my tasting bench and I cracked into it without knowing how much it cost -- and it just kicked down the door.  A very serious wine that is brought up in 80% new French oak (2nd fill barrels for the other 20%), this is already amazingly integrated.  There’s plenty of toasty, spicy oak in the aromas and flavors, but they appear as accent notes, with rich, soft, very pure fruit easily holding center stage.  This will improve for years, but not drinking it earlier will prove extremely difficult if you taste it now, so beware.  The tannins are abundant but entirely appropriate to the weight of the fruit, and there’s no hint of over-ripeness or over-extraction.  In short, this is very, very skillfully made, and much as I would prefer not to write this -- it seems worth every penny.  
96 Michael Franz Sep 10, 2019

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Attelas Vineyard 2014 ($150):  Acumen's Attelas Vineyard is a 32 acre site on Atlas Peak with a northwest exposure that makes for a brighter, more red fruit driven wine.  Here, cherry liqueur aromas are joined by stony minerality, restrained toasty oak spice and dried herbs in both aroma and flavor profiles.  They ride a firm structure through a long finish that will become a real bloomer with another 5 to 10 years in bottle.  A very well made wine.  Contains 4% Malbec. 
95 Rich Cook Oct 30, 2018

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Edcora Vineyard 2014 ($150):  The grapes for this Cabernet are from a southwest facing vineyard on Atlas Peak, bringing lively ripe fruit aromas and flavors of cherry, blueberry and fall spice, complemented by a rich dry earth minerality that adds a lot of depth and interest.  This is a solidly structured wine that’s just beginning to speak.  Age it well -- 15 years isn’t out of the question – or decant long near term.  This is a winery to watch!  Contains 3% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc. 
95 Rich Cook Oct 30, 2018

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown 2014 ($150):  Atlas Peak’s famed rustic tannin structure is on full display here, so give this a good rest in the cellar to bring its powerful mix of fruit and oak spice to the foreground.  Blackberry, allspice, tobacco and mild dried herbs are tightly wound at present, but the promise of a tasty future lays within.  It’s nice to see a return to winemaking that makes for an unfolding of beauty later on down the road.  Contains 1% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec and 1% Petit Verdot. 
95 Rich Cook Oct 30, 2018

Ashes & Diamonds Winery, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Mountain Peak Vineyard No. 2 2017 ($125):  From a high altitude (1,400 feet) vineyard established in 2000, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon was also fermented by native yeasts and aged in French Oak (30% new) for 19 months.  It is dark garnet in color.  With moderate alcohol, it charms from the beginning with a delicate aromatic melange of ripe berry, clove, black tea and subtle toasty oak.  Savory and seamless on the palate, its flavors are refined berry and spice with light gentle tannin rounding it out.  In a word: “beautiful.”  Has the balance and all the parts to reward cellaring.      
95 Norm Roby Jun 8, 2021

Paraduxx, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Proprietary Red Wine 2014 ($80):  Paraduxx made their name on blending Zinfandel with Cabernet, but this wine is going to make a whole different name for the brand.  A fine super-Tuscan styled blend of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon that shows weight, depth and power in a finessed way, where the red fruit of the Sangiovese blends perfectly with the black fruit of the Cabernet.  Both are enhanced by judicious oak selection that brings spice and toasty character.  This is one of my favorite Paraduxx wines to date.  
95 Rich Cook Sep 11, 2018

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($115):  This blend of fruit from the winery’s Attelas and Edcora vineyards on Atlas Peak is rife with rustic structure, making for a cellar worthy wine that has a great future.  A dose of classy toasted oak spice is in the foreground at present, but the fruit underneath shows the beginnings of unwinding itself.  Blackberry, currants, mild pepper and subtle dried herbs all lurk beneath the oak spice, and a firm grip shows the acidity that will bring everything together with time.  There aren’t many wines left like this in Napa Valley – wines that reward patient cellaring – but remember that this is the kind of winemaking that put the region on the map in the first place.         
94 Rich Cook Dec 29, 2020

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) 2016 ($115):  This Bordeaux-style blend from Napa’s Atlas Peak AVA is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon, and it shows.  Muscular and dense, with impressive palate weight and rich layers of blackberry and cassis, this is a candidate for extended cellaring.  If you open it now, do yourself a favor and decant at least an hour prior to serving.       
94 Robert Whitley Dec 15, 2020

de Négoce, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon “OG N. 30” 2018 ($25):   Cameron Hughes has an eye — or should I say a nose and a palate — for quality.  Add to that talent a savvy business sense and a willingness to get wines like this out to a wider audience, and you’ve got a worthy partner in your search for quality and value.  As with the rest of the line, this is high end juice, showing damp earth tones and pencil shavings enhancing the blackberry and cassis.  There’s a fair amount of oak toast here, but it serves to give the fruit a boost while adding depth and dry style.  It’s a winner!       
94 Rich Cook May 4, 2021

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($150):  Acumen’s premium “Peak” line is built for aging, and this vintage shows age-worthy character with a sturdy backbone of mountain tannins and a brooding mix of blackberry, currants, dusty minerality and faint dried herbs that are already playing well together, and will broaden and deepen as the structure softens up a bit. This is a nice example of Atlas Peak possibility.  
93 Rich Cook Jun 4, 2019

Atlas Peak, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($80):  A nice combo of richness and rusticity is on proud display here, with a mix of black and red berries, easy fall spice, moderate oak influence and a lasting finish that keeps the fruit in front.  The edgy tannic structure is just right, setting of the lively fruit and keeping it pushing throughout.  Contains 10% Petit Verdot.      
93 Rich Cook Nov 23, 2021

de Négoce, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon “OG N.46” 2018 ($29):  Uber-ripe and with the heat to show for it, this puts an Atlas Peak edginess on full tilt Napa Style.  Lovers of this style of Cabernet will love the price point even more, as similar examples will easily crack three figures.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.        
93 Rich Cook Oct 12, 2021

Duckhorn Vineyards, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2017 ($78):  Duckhorn’s Atlas Peak Merlot is an amazingly versatile red wine.  In the same way that some people can just fit comfortably into any situation, this wine is astonishingly adaptable to a wide range of different foods.  With its enticing aromas and lovely plum and ripe berry flavors, this easygoing and unpretentious wine will of course be a good partner for a nice steak but will also embrace relatively lighter fare such as roast chicken or lightly spiced dishes (try it with lamb laced with cumin, paprika and garlic).  The 100% Merlot grapes, which were grown in high elevation vineyards, developed mellow flavors that telegraph subtle herbal flavors as well as ample fruitiness.  Perfect for immediate drinking, this is a Merlot that will develop further over the next few years.        
93 Marguerite Thomas Feb 16, 2021

Duckhorn Vineyards, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2017 ($78):  Atlas Peak is a great site for Merlot, where a little rustic edge to the structure gives some unique personality.  In this bottling it makes the black cherry fruit pop on the palate, with chewy tannins giving a complementary earthy character to the overall package.  I would age this wine for five years or so for full enjoyment – it will be worth the wait!       
93 Rich Cook Sep 8, 2020

The Wonderland Project, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon “No. 9” 2019 ($35):  Winemaker and sommelier veteran Matt Ahern set out to make balanced, terroir-driven wines at superb prices, and he knocks it out of the park with the first vintage of “No. 9."  This beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon comes from organic grapes grown on Atlas Peak, and is an outstanding wine at any price, but here we’re talking about exceptional value as well.  The palate shows considerable density and depth with plush layers of boysenberry, currant, chocolate with additional notes of sage and cedar.  This elegant wine is both age-worthy and immediately impressive.        
93 Miranda Franco Jan 25, 2022

Scribe Winery, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas West 2018 ($85):  This wine comes from 8 acres of west-facing slopes in the Atlas Peak AVA.  Atlas Peak's elevation provides cooler temperatures, helping to maintain acidity, and the west face provides longer sun exposures, lending full ripeness and complexity of flavors.  It shows rich black cherry and dark fruit notes balanced against accents of clove, vanilla, and toasted coconut from new oak aging.  The depth and complexity of this wine suggest that it will improve with bottle aging.    
89 Vince Simmon May 24, 2022

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Edcora Vineyard 2016 ($165):  I went crazy for the 2015 edition of this wine (you can search for the review in our archives), and as I start I’m putting aside any undue influence that might have on my impression of this new vintage.  The winery brought on a new winemaker this year (Philip Titus, who’s definitely no slouch himself), but the 2016 was made by Henrik Poulsen, who has returned to Alpha Omega where he was previously the assistant winemaker, taking the lead role there.  It’s easy to see, through the lens of this wine, why he was in demand.  This vintage again shows both Edcora’s prowess as a source, and Poulsen’s ability to shepherd it to fruition, shall we say.  It leans more forward fruit that the 2015, showcasing concentrated mixed berries, plum, soft tobacco, cocoa and mountain stone minerality that comingle beautifully.  Can different things be equal?  In this case, as far as scores go, I say yes emphatically.  A standing ovation!  Contains 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 4% Merlot.      
100 Rich Cook Dec 29, 2020

Acumen PEAK, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Edcora Vineyard 2015 ($150):  A very impressive wine that hearkens back to the early days of the Napa Valley, when age-worthy structure and balance were king.  Intense berry fruit aromas are joined by notes of fig, baker’s chocolate and savory hints of meat and dried herbs.  It’s all there on the palate, with a rich earthy character in front at present that will feather itself into the mix with further aging.  Perfectly balanced, nuanced and thought provoking, and a definite cellar trophy at what’s become a bargain price for such a wine.  This isn’t a score I throw out very often, but there’s so much to offer here -– I’m all in.  Contains 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc.  
100 Rich Cook Jun 25, 2019

Jonata, Ballard Cannon, Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara County, California) Syrah “La Sangre De Jonata” 2017 ($145):  Syrah is taking center stage in Santa Barbara’s Ballard Canyon, and Jonata has set the high bar for all other producers.  The 2017 La Sangre de Jonata (the blood of the live oak) is a blend of 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier with soaring aromatics of crushed violets, cassis, blueberries, and ground pepper.  The wine is generous and expansive with notes of plum, black cherry, lavender, and sage on the palate.  Full-bodied, dense, and lush, framed by elegant tannins and a superb compact finish that lingers effortlessly.  This is hitting on all cylinders now should you, like me, be unable to control yourself and cellar it.   However, I expect this will unfold with layers upon layers in the years to come.    
96 Miranda Franco Oct 13, 2020

Joanta, Ballard Canyon (Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County, California) “Fenix” 2017 ($85):  Jonata is a remarkable, relatively new winery north of Santa Barbara in Santa Ynez Valley under the same ownership as Napa Valley’s Screaming Eagle winery.  Their Fenix is a Bordeaux-style blend of 40% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot.  It offers a vivid and polished nose showing aromas of black fruit, almond, and violets.  The generous, full-bodied but focused palate offers luscious black fruit and spicy layers, with velvety tannins and lovely freshness paving the way to a lingering finish.  Approachable now, this nevertheless has a good ten-plus years of graceful evolution ahead of it.       
93 Miranda Franco Jan 19, 2021

Stolpman, Ballard Canyon (Santa Barbara County, California) Syrah “Originals” 2014 ($45):  A bruiser that’s leaning hard into the meaty side of the variety, with a huge backbone, brown spice, oak char and dark side fruit.  It’s taut and a little shy at present, but promises a future of richness, weight and power balanced by an Hermitage-like elegance.  Try tucking one of these away if you’d like to see what Syrah can do over the long haul.   
92 Rich Cook Jul 23, 2019

Stolpman Vineyards, Ballard Canyon (Santa Barbara County, California) Syrah Estate Grown 2018 ($30):  Positioned as “the flagship” wine from the family estate vineyards, this Syrah immediately commands attention with its dark purple color and tantalizing aroma.  The initial smells of plum, black pepper, and leather are joined by gentle notes of anise and crushed herbs.  Medium-bodied and solid, it remains tame and well-mannered with lovely fruit, tannin and light oak all in proportion.  The family’s efforts to move away from blockbuster, overly extracted Syrah and focus on harmony and a sense of place are well-represented by this wine.         
92 Norm Roby Aug 17, 2021

Grey Stack Cellars, Bennett Valley (Sonoma County, California) Syrah Dry Stack Vineyard Marie’s Block 2006 ($38):  Here is a classic example of cool-climate Syrah: restrained and crisp rather than ripe and luscious.  It’s still a youngster, and with cellaring, the tight tannins will relax a bit, letting the berry/plum fruit flavors to show themselves more clearly.  Yet it’s fine to drink now, particularly with food (as opposed to a cocktail) for those who seek more restrained, elegant, minerally Syrahs with mouthwatering acidity and lower alcohol -- in this case, 13.5 percent.  It’s sophisticated rather than showy. 94 Linda Murphy Mar 2, 2010

Grey Stack Cellars, Bennett Valley (Sonoma County, California) Syrah Dry Stack Vineyard “Narcissist” 2006 ($48):  Aptly named, this heady Syrah is the extreme opposite of Greg Stack’s Marie’s Block bottling.  It’s rich, borderline jammy, and floods the palate with ripe berry and black plum fruit.  New French oak asserts itself on the nose and palate, so it’s for those who enjoy toasty wines.  It’s potent, too -- 15.5 percent alcohol by volume -- yet the sturdy tannins and crisp acidity give it fine balance nonetheless.  A stylistic statement, for sure. 94 Linda Murphy Mar 2, 2010

Sandler, Bennett Valley (California) Syrah Connell Vineyard 2010 ($20): One of the most interesting wines in California; too bad there were only 170 cases made. It's just 11.6% alcohol, a throwback to the 1970s, yet the wine tastes perfectly ripe: This is very savory, but there are no green notes and the tannins aren't tough. Instead, it opens with preserved-meat flavors and strong mineral notes and leaves cherry fruit on the finish. It's light-bodied and seems to change sip-to-sip. Just 170 cases made.
94 W. Blake Gray May 21, 2013

Matanzas Creek, Bennett Valley (California) Merlot Jackson Park 2006 ($49):  With a medium body and supple tannins, this Merlot delivers a heady amalgam of plums, cherries, cassis, vanilla, a touch of licorice, hints of cloves and other spices.  The wine embodies everything that terrific Merlot can offer, including power, grace and complexity. 91 Marguerite Thomas Jan 25, 2011

Matanzas Creek, Bennett Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2007 ($35):  This Merlot’s aromas are a bit earthy, with black fruit and baking spice notes.  It has delicious ripe blackberry flavors, along with well-integrated tannins, a silky texture and notes of woody spice. 90 Tina Caputo Oct 11, 2011

Matanzas Creek, Bennett Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2007 ($25):  Matanzas was among the first wineries in California to hitch its wagon to Merlot, and the early Matanzas Merlots were often used as benchmarks by other producers. As Merlot mania fizzled and tastes turned to other grape varieties, Matanzas continued to believe in the grape and this vintage is a good example of that ongoing commitment. It's a beautifully made, well-balanced Merlot that offers aromas of ripe plum and black cherry, with a hint of vanillin spice, and well integrated tannins. The winemaker eschewed heft for elegance, crafting a gorgeous food-friendly wine at 13.5 percent alcohol, which is almost unheard of in California these days. 90 Robert Whitley Jan 24, 2012

Matanzas Creek Winery, Bennett Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2005 ($35): Since 1977, Matanzas Creek Winery, located in bucolic Bennett Valley on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa, has been making noteworthy Merlots.  This 2005, blended with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, takes its grapes from Bennett Valley and Knights Valley.  Aged for 15 months in French oak, the color is a deep plummy red and the nose shows hints of smoky oak, cloves and ripe berries.  Nicely structured with medium-full flavors, it hints of blackberry and pepper and an undertone of sweet spices.  Keep this Merlot for a year or two then enjoy it with grilled red meats and roasted chicken. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Dec 16, 2008

Matanzas Creek Winery, Bennett Valley (Sonoma County, California) Merlot 2004 ($29): Matanzas Creek has been making Merlot from Bennett Valley grapes for 26 vintages.  The wine has always shown a brightness of fruit and was less plummy than many other California Merlots.  Winemaker Francois Cordesse has blended this Matanzas Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc for a wine with deep color and medium flavor intensity.  There are modest black cherry nuances in the nose, with hints of spice.  The closed-in flavors have earth and peppery notes, with forward aggressive tannins.  This is a wine that needs more time to hopefully show its real potential. 87 Gerald D. Boyd Apr 1, 2008

Houndstooth, Calaveras County (Sierra Foothills, California) Barbera Rorick Heritage Vineyard 2017 ($35):  Houndstooth was started in 2011 by husband and wife team Scott Brenner and Kelli White — the sommeliers who built the award-winning wine program at PRESS Restaurant in Napa.  White is the author of “Napa Valley Then & Now."  They produce a limited amount of wine from select sites across Northern California.  For those who appreciate mouthwatering acidity, this wine is for you.  The Houndstooth Barbera has beautiful aromatics of black and red cherry, black raspberry, rose petals, and dried herbs that are wonderfully delineated on the nose.  This fresh, juicy, fruity Barbera wraps smoothly over the palate, imparting lots of luscious dark fruit flavors along the way.          
93 Miranda Franco Jan 24, 2023

Newsome Harlow, Calaveras County (California) “Derailed” 2018 ($26):  “Derailed” this wine certainly is not – it pulls into the station as a rich, Bordeaux inspired blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the Chatom and Rolleri vineyards near Murphys, California.  The payload delivered is a mix of bright black cherry fruit, brown spice and solid earthy character enveloped in lively acidity and finishing long and lively.   Take the bargain price into account and enjoy the ride!       
92 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2021

Newsome Harlow, Calaveras County (California) "Meritage" 2018 ($32):  This bottling leans more into the “Cali style” profile for a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot, with fresh dark berry character joined by fall spice and violets.  It is ready to drink now as a delicious solo glass or a pairing for grilled red meats.  I’m leaning toward a simply seasoned sirloin.       
92 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2021

Twisted Oak Winery, Calaveras County (California) Mourvedre Dalton Vineyard “River of Skulls” 2010 ($39): This wine takes its name from El Rio De Las Calaveras.  It’s a fine presentation of Mourvedre, delivering blackberry, black cherry, damp earth, pepper, flowers and a touch of sarsaparilla on a bed of structured acidity and firm tannic grip that carries through the long finish that focuses on the earth and spice notes.  Bring on the braised lamb for a dazzling pairing.
92 Rich Cook Jan 7, 2014

Newsome Harlow, Calaveras County (California) Zinfandel “Big John” 2018 ($38):  This wine is sourced from the Holleman Vineyard near San Andreas California, which lies a few miles northwest of Murphys in California.  John and Nancy Holleman planted 2.5 acres of Zinfandel in 1998, and it has been the source of “Big John” since 2001.   Winemaker Scott Klann always makes sure that the wine lives up to its name.  The 2018 shows deep mixed berry fruit, gentle black pepper and lively oak spice that balances the fruit load beautifully.  It’s a striking alternative in style to the winery’s other Zinfandel offerings, and a solid winner.  It is certainly a fitting tribute to Big John Holleman, who passed away recently at age 88.  Here’s to the man Scott calls “one of the good guys."     
91 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2021

Hovey Wine, Calaveras County (California) Tempranillo “Rolleri Cuvée” 2009 ($22):  Hovey’s second vintage of Tempranillo from Rolleri, one of the first plantings of Tempranillo, shows more depth, more fruit and better balance than the 2008 rendition.  The color is a medium ruby while the aromatics are bright cherry-berry with subtle toasted oak notes.  It has good texture, developed fruit, soft tannins, mocha accents, 14.8% alcohol and good length through the finish.
90 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 26, 2011

Hovey Wine, Calaveras County (California) Tempranillo “Rolleri Cuvée” 2009 ($22):  Hovey’s second vintage of Tempranillo from Rolleri, one of the first plantings of Tempranillo, shows more depth, more fruit and better balance than the 2008 rendition.  The color is a medium ruby while the aromatics are bright cherry-berry with subtle toasted oak notes.  It has good texture, developed fruit, soft tannins, mocha accents, 14.8% alcohol and good length through the finish.
90 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 26, 2011

Twisted Oak, Calaveras County (California) Red Wine "*%#Et@!" NV ($32):  Known at the winery as “Potty Mouth” or “L.A. Road Rage” or the epithet of your choice, this oddly-named wine is more than just a cute marketing gimmick.  A Mourverdre-driven, Rhône-style blend, it shows ready to drink structure, with black cherry, tar, potpourri and toasty oak aromas and flavors that please from start to finish.  While no epithets are necessary, you will likely be saying, “this is some pretty *%#Et@! good stuff!”   Contains 57% Mourvedre, 29% Syrah and 14% Grenache.       
90 Rich Cook Aug 23, 2022

Hovey Wine, Calaveras County (California) Tempranillo “Rolleri Cuvée” 2008 ($22):  Hovey Wine was launched in 2008 and this Tempranillo was among the first red wines made.  Aged in a combination of American and French oak, it has a brilliant medium ruby color, low intensity berry nose with subtle plum notes.  The medium flavors show vanilla, anise and toasted oak with red raspberry accents, 14.5% alcohol and bracing acidity.  There’s good varietal character in this Tempranillo, but the acid tang tends to over ride the fruit.

88 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 26, 2011

Twisted Oak, Calaveras County (California) Grenache 2006 ($18):  Light berry red in color, this light- to medium-bodied Grenache has aromas of red cherries, raspberries and spice.  It has red berry flavors -- well balanced and easy to drink.  This would be very nice with grilled salmon or roasted chicken. 88 Tina Caputo Jul 12, 2011

Twisted Oak, Calaveras County (California) Grenache 2006 ($18): This medium-bodied red has appealing aromas of strawberries and raspberries, with a touch of vanilla. It has flavors of strawberry jam, with a little red cherry. A juicy summer red. 88 Tina Caputo Aug 2, 2011

Twisted Oak, Calaveras County (California) “%#&@!” 2006 ($18): Twisted Oak’s website gives a hint about how this wine’s name is pronounced: “Rhymes with cluck, pairs with duck.” Irreverence aside, this red has aromas of cherries and spice, with a touch of earthiness. Light in style, with a hint of dried herbs. 88 Tina Caputo Aug 2, 2011

Tipsy Rose, Calaveras County, Sierra Foothills (California) Grenache Rorick Heritage Vineyard 2018 ($35):  Some wines have a unique ability to trigger our olfactory memories and send us straight back to a place and time in our history.  In this wine, I found dried cranberry and sweet baking spices that brought me back to my childhood home with Christmas potpourri bowls that wafted their sweet scents between our kitchen and living room.  This wine is made by Maria Chiancola, a retired teacher who took on a second career and opened Newport Wine Cellar & Gourmet in Rhode Island.  Selling wine wasn’t enough so she started working with California vineyards to purchase fruit and started making wine which she sells nationally from her store.  I found that I like this wine with a slight chill.  Consider putting it in your fridge 15 minutes before opening.        
89 Vince Simmon Apr 5, 2022

Dark Horse, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2015 ($10):  95 points divided by ten bucks equals nine and a half cents per point.  And it means a six-ounce glass poured at home at full retail, which you'll never pay, will cost you a little over two dollars.  For a 95-point wine.  Need to hear more?  How about bold ripe blackberry and blueberry, with notes of tar, pepper and fall spice, not weighed down by ponderous jammy character, with the acidity to take on medium to strong cheeses.  Available everywhere -- go get it.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 95 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Great Basin Winery, California (United States) Red Blend 2017 ($24):  A “Super Tuscan”-styled blend that shows a fruit selection you wouldn’t expect from a statewide appellation.  Pure cherry fruit gets a nice complexity boost from Syrah and Petite Sirah that tinge the palate with blue fruit and soft tarry notes.  Subtle oak spice, soft vanilla and supple grip keep the finish pumping flavors.  Great stuff!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
95 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Macchia, California (United States) Petite Sirah “Dubious” 2018 ($26):  Perhaps named for unspecified vineyard sources, I can tell you that there’s nothing dubious about the resulting wine.  It’s a medium extraction style that showcases cheery black cherry and pepper, with bold acidity and nice oak spice enhancing the fruit and pepper mix.  A great food friendly Petite Sirah, and a Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
95 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Bee’s Box, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2017 ($21):  Always a value leader, Francis Ford Coppola rolls out this new brand with a bang.  Solid Pinot Noir with layered aromas and flavors of cherry, fall spice, orange blossom and complementary oak toast.  A long finish where all the elements dance together rounds things out.  This is a case buy wine.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jan 22, 2019

Big Smooth, California (United States) Zinfandel Old Vine 2013 ($18): What's not to like about a Zin with a leg lamp on the fuzzy purple label?  It's a blend of three appellations, and it brings the best of each region together.  Plush brambly fruit from Lodi, pepper and cool-climate tannic structure from Sonoma and high-toned cherry, raspberry and dust from Napa all meld together into a package that says you can have a serious wine in a whimsical package.  Pair with summer grilling or medium-strength cheeses.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Decoy, California (United States) Merlot 2019 ($25):  In 1985, nine years after creating Duckhorn Winery in Napa Valley, founders Dan and Margaret Duckhorn decided to create the Decoy label for “attractively priced” wines.  It consists primarily of Merlot with a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon and a dash of Cabernet Franc.  Sixty per cent of the grapes come from Sonoma County, 32 per cent from Central Coast and eight per cent from Mendocino County, places where the price per ton of grape can be less expensive than those from Napa Valley.  It is aged 12 months in 100 per cent French oak, 35 percent new.  It offers a dark ruby color, rich blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, cassis, tobacco aromas and flavors ripe and smooth in the mouth are balanced with vibrant acidity and polished tannins, perfect for a grilled sirloin.      
94 Rebecca Murphy May 10, 2022

Firefall, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2016 ($40):  Don’t let the appellation fool you -- this is serious wine.  A blend of fruit from Bennett Valley, Russian River Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands and Anderson Valley, it shows a skilled blending hand.  Juicy red fruit is tempered with vibrant acidity and lively oak spice, and it finishes long and bright.  Sometimes the front label doesn’t tell the whole story.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 12, 2019

Fox and the Flock, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2019 ($18):  It’s not easy to find Pinot Noir of this quality at such a low price point.  It opens with aromas of ripe strawberry, pie spice and sweet oak toast, and the palate follows through with good translation into flavors.  Food-friendly acidity gives the finish a zesty pop and invites more sipping.  Here’s to delivering value that a spectrum of tasters will appreciate!     
94 Rich Cook Apr 12, 2022

French Bar, California (California) “Gold Dust Red” 2016 ($19):  Here’s a quaffable grill side red that’s just off dry, and that serves to brighten all the fruit and spice.  A blend of Petit Verdot and Teroldego that works!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Sep 25, 2018

Giovinazzo, California (United States) “Festa Bocca” 2017 ($38):  Here is an unusual California blend – equal parts Aglianico and Montepulciano – that is worth your time to discover.  Aromas of blackberry and raisin entice, and lead to a palate where racy acidity carries the blackberry through well-chosen oak spice and finds the balance point in the finish.  This is built for grilled meats with moderately spicy rubs.  Sounds like a summer date to me!              
94 Rich Cook May 25, 2021

Giovinazzo, California (United States) Teroldego 2015 ($36):  Giovinazzo flies under the radar a bit considering their track record with Italian varieties, and this Teroldego is a spot-on example. Despite its domestic provenance, it would fit right in at a tasting of wines from northern Italy, with bright acidity and a firm grip that's built for rich foods.  Blackberry, black cherry, bay leaf and brown spice are well integrated, and a touch of charred oak complements without taking over.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jan 30, 2018

Herzog Wine Cellars, California (United States) Camouflage, 30th Anniversary 2014 ($25): Perhaps best known as a kosher wine producer, Herzog grabs a big score with this blend of twelve different grapes as a 30th anniversary tribute to the family's years of production in California.  It's a blend of (take a breath here) Verdelho, Viognier, Sangiovese, Tinto Cao, Tinta Madiera, Tinta Barroca, Touriga, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Primitivo, Malbec and Trousseau.  It delivers rich berry fruit, toasty oak, fall spice and fresh coffee flavors after enticing you with aromas of plum jam and wildflowers.  I'd let this age a bit to further integrate the oak -- it's got the fruit and structure to handle it.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Jeff Cohn Cellars, California (United States) 'The Impostor' 2013 ($35): A name like The Impostor might suggest to you that this wine isn't what it appears to be, when in fact it delivers exactly what you'd expect from the blend. It presents immediately as a blend of Zinfandel and Syrah, with aromas of black fruit, pepper and tar up front and a floral top note.  It's dry and deep on the palate, with nice aroma to flavor delivery, and a long finish with moderate grip and nice oak spice.  This is ready for a bold red meat dish.  I liked the 2012 bottling, and this is a step up.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition. 94 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2015

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Avant Red Blend 2012 ($20): Merlot is the money grape in this delicious blend of Rhone Valley and Bordeaux inspired wines. And it's lovely, rich, ripe plum that delivers the inviting nose, followed by a layered palate of black and red fruits and supple tannins. The finish is long and inviting. This is a serious crowd-pleaser at a modest price. Besides Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Carignan and Syrah complete the blend. 94 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Line 39, California (United States) Merlot 2013 ($10): It's easy to find quality wine when you're paying 30 dollars and up, but it's another matter entirely to locate the good stuff at what I call daily drinking prices.  This Merlot will be finding its way on to restaurant wine lists as a value leader in the by-the-glass category.  It's unabashedly true to type, with bright black cherry and blackberry fruit, a touch of dried herbs, some fall spice, and rich sweet oak that comes forward in the finish.  No "Cabernization" here -- just a great bottle of Merlot.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Macchia, California (United States) Late Harvest Zinfandel “Flirtatious” 2015 ($21): A bold sweet Zinfandel that makes an interesting dessert -- it manages to maintain some of the pepper character you expect from an early picked version, will delivering a rich sweet berry vibe along with it.  It doesn't veer into port-like qualities at all.  A great pick for the cheese course, and something completely unique.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 7, 2017

Macchia, California (United States) Late Harvest Zinfandel "Flirtatious" 2016 ($22):  This wine is aptly named, and if you’re not careful it’ll seduce you in short order.  The alluring aspect here is that true Zinfandel character is simply magnified by a little sugar and a little alcohol over what you’d find in a dry style bottling, keeping the brambly fruit and pepper that should be there.  Go for the bold cheese here.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 20, 2018

Macchia, California (United States) Teroldego “Tremendous" 2020 ($25):  Teroldego is a grape most noted in the vineyards of northern Italy.  Vintners in the USA have been experimenting with grape in the limited amounts that are grown here.  The Macchia “Tremendous” Teroldego indicates that this variety deserves more attention.  This is a rich and complex red.  Lovely aromas of blackberry, black cherry and black currant are enhanced by elements of violets, vanilla and herbs.    
94 Wayne Belding Mar 29, 2022

Macchia Winery, California (United States) Zinfandel “Ambitious” 2014 ($19): Two Zinfandels received 94 point scores at the 2016 Monterey International Wine Competition, and they couldn't possibly be more different.  This bottle is the full throttle, high octane, super ripe, highly extracted style, and it succeeds by delivering brambly fruit, pepper, spice and some heat without reaching into raisin or prune characteristics.  The great thing about Zin is its wide range of possibilities, and your experience of the varietal isn't complete without trying the wines in the Macchia portfolio -- they are constantly pushing the envelope of what this variety can do.  I'm a fan.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 15, 2016

Montevina, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon “Independence Point” 2013 ($12): Montevina's entire line is packed with value for your dollar.  This Cabernet shows correct varietal character, moderate grip, and a fat mid-palate of blackberry and spice, with some dill coming forward in the finish.  Widely available for under ten bucks, this wine will find a place in your summertime grilling beverage arsenal.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Newman's Own, California (United States) “Common Good” Red Blend 2014 ($12): Trinchero Family Wines continues to put out high quality juice at prices anyone can afford, a feat that's always worthy of praise.  This bottling shows rich blackberry and black cherry fruit joined by leaf and fall spice, and manages some savory flavors to boot.  That's a lot to ask for at this price point, but not for the folks at Trinchero.  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 7, 2017

Pioneer Town, California (United States) Red Blend, Limited Release 2018 ($18):  A wine labeled “Red Blend” should deliver one thing above all else, and that one thing is deliciousness.  It’s here in this "kitchen sink" blend that features a fair amount of Dornfelder – a grape deserving of wider recognition in California. The result here is a peppery, lusty red that will pair with just about any beef preparation perfectly.  I’m leaning toward lightly charred burgers for a pairing.    
94 Rich Cook Apr 5, 2022

Quady Winery, California (United States) "Red Electra" 2014 ($15): Quady created this category in the domestic market years ago, and they are still the leader.  The Electra line is a low alcohol, sweet frizzante styled Muscat that comes in red and white versions. The red is a blend of Orange Muscat and Black Muscat, and it delivers bright berry and peach fruit, delightful effervescence and a long clean finish.  I usually don't recommend dessert wines with edible desserts, but this could work well alongside a sorbet -- I bet it could even become a sorbet.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2016

Sunland Vintage Winery, California (United States) Nero d’Avola 2015 ($36): The black devil shows its face in California, and he's in a good mood, with candied raspberry balanced by bright vanilla and fall spice.  Bright acidity and soft tannins keep things together, and the finish brings a sweet oak note forward.  It's ready for medium to strong cheeses or a seared sirloin.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Mar 7, 2017

Three Thieves, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($8): This wine is aimed directly at new wine drinkers, proudly announced by its "California   Republic" appellation, echoing a current fashion trend in the west.  It's what I like to call a back door wine, as opposed to a gateway wine.  Gateway wines get you in and tasting, but back door wines are the ones that take you out of the introductory room and into a "better quality environment."  It's bright and correct in both aroma and flavor profiles, with good acidity, and a long finish that is fairly oaky, but it's not in the way of the fruit.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
94 Rich Cook Jun 2, 2015

Tranquil Heart Vineyards, California (United States) Aglianico Estate Grown 2015 ($68):  Aglianico is the single greatest variety of the south of Italy, producing wines of exceptional longevity and complexity especially in Campania’s Taurasi DOCG.  This terrific rendition from California shows that this variety’s many virtues include the ability to travel well.  Its balance of ripeness and fresh acidity is, well, perfect (not a word I employ lightly).  Blackberry notes are accompanied by fresh red fruit notes and accented with light accents of toast and spices.  The wine’s depth of flavor could lead one to classify it as full-bodied, yet its freshness and energy make categorizing a bit more difficult.  If I were asked -- as a steadfast lover of Taurasi -- whether this wine can justify its asking price, but answer would be emphatically affirmative.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
94 Michael Franz Mar 27, 2018

Trinity Oaks, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($9): Hooray for inexpensive, high quality, varietally correct wine!  This producer put two such wines in the top tier at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition, with this Cabernet hitting all my markers for the variety in a fresh, ready to drink style that will delight wine fans of all types.  Available everywhere, and at a discount from its already modest retail price.  Well done!
94 Rich Cook Mar 7, 2017

V. Sattui, California (United States) Port, Aged 15 Years NV ($42): Is there nothing V. Sattui can't do? This remarkable Napa Valley winery is famous for its big reds, from Cabernet to Merlot to Zinfandel. Add this exceptional tawny port to the list. Aged in barrel for 15 years, it shows aromas of dried prunes, brown sugar, nutmeg and an array of other baking spices. Well balanced and smooth, it rivals the real thing from Portugal. A Platinum award-winner at the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 94 Robert Whitley May 30, 2017

V. Sattui Winery, California (United States) 15 Year Old Port-Style NV ($44):  A nice tawny style from V. Sattui, aged 15 years in barrel prior to release.  It’s got fine depth and lively fruit for such a long rest, and the wood selection is complementary, adding spice and smoky character that lingers long.  Chocolate or stinky cheese is the order of the day here.  Sold in a 500ml bottle.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
94 Rich Cook Mar 6, 2018

V. Sattui Winery, California (United States) 20 Year-Old Port NV ($52):  This domestic tawny Port from traditional port varieties is a fine look at what the “New World” can bring to the table in this style.  Although the nod to tradition is obvious, it is not trying to copy its more famous Portuguese forerunners  – a little dill character freshens the fruit and puts an American stamp on it.  Here’s to expanding possibilities!  Sold in a 500 ml bottle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2022 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.       
94 Rich Cook Feb 8, 2022

Vespertine, California (United States) Red Wine Blend 2018 ($18):  This kitchen sink style blend will satisfy fans of well folded American oak character.  It is not at all edgy or harsh, instead serving to lift the rich red fruit through a long finish.  Tasty juice!  Contains 25% Petite Sirah, 22% Zinfandel, 20% Tempranillo, 19% Syrah, 6% Malbec, 5% Mourvedre and 3% Merlot.        
94 Rich Cook Jul 5, 2022

Akash Winery, California (United States) Syrah "Dreamville" 2018 ($38):  Richly layered, this Syrah offers up flavors of black currant and blueberry with a spicy kick at the end.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
93 Robert Whitley Sep 22, 2020

Altipiano Vineyards, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve NV ($150):  It’s a shame when wine “aficionados” dismiss a wine on label information alone.  I see it happen all the time, particularly when the label says, “Non Vintage, California Appellation.”  If I could, I would pour every one of these culprits a taste of this Cabernet blind and take them down a notch or two.  In this case, the wine is a blend of two barrels of 2016 Pine Mountain (Sonoma) fruit and one barrel of 2015 fruit Aron Hill Vineyard in Paso Robles.  The result is an artful realization of the variety, showing elements of both terroirs — lively Paso ripeness coupled with the structured backbone of Pine Mountain, finishing long and complex with solid primary varietal character and nuanced winemaking.  A fine expression well shepherded by winemaker Denise Clark.  Price is for a magnum bottle. 
93 Rich Cook Oct 13, 2020

Bear Flag, California (United States) “Eureka! Batch No. 2” NV ($30):  Some producers prefer not to reveal the magic recipes of their blends, and that’s the case here.  That said, the composition isn’t really the point anyway.  The point is that it’s delicious red wine that will pair well with a range of food, from grilled burgers to medium strength cheeses.  I appreciate the inclusion of a batch number on non-vintage bottlings, so well played all around!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.      
93 Rich Cook Feb 9, 2021

Coppola Rosso & Bianco, California (United States) Shiraz 2016 ($12):  The word “Shiraz” was a good choice for this domestic Syrah as it presents quite Aussie in style, with blackberry, blueberry, spice and menthol that are well integrated and a pleasure to drink.   Another solid, widely available bargain wine that gets a Platinum Award at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
93 Rich Cook Jun 12, 2018

El Portal, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2020 ($17):  No need to wait on this approachable Petite Sirah to come around – it’s ready to go right now, and will take a little bottle aging as well.  The nose is all smoky blueberry, and that translates straight to the palate where supple tannins keep things together.  A fine budget buy!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.      
93 Rich Cook Sep 28, 2021

Fair Oaks Ranch, California (United States) Zinfandel 2017 ($15):  Bright-eyed Zinfandel with a fair amount of oak spice (hence the name?) that works thanks to lively blackberry and black cherry, with a zesty kiss of acidity to finish things off.  Grilled meats, medium cheeses, solo -- you make the call.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
93 Rich Cook Jun 12, 2018

Gallo Family Vineyards, California (United States) Merlot NV ($5): The empire strikes back with this pretty Merlot at a price and production level that make it a go to bottle of red anywhere in the country.  I'd go so far as to say that this wine makes argument that, contrary to most critical ranting, it is possible to make an everyday drinking wine of very high quality.  Bright cherry, berry, leaf, and spice aromas and flavors show fine definition, and the finish is long and invites another sip.  If you're expecting sweet and simple, you'll have to look elsewhere.  And don't forget, at WineReviewOnline.com, we round up to the nearest dollar.  We need more of this!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
93 Rich Cook Jan 19, 2016

Giovinazzo, California (United States) Teroldego 2015 ($36):  An utterly convincing rendition of Teroldego (which is most commonly found in the north of Italy, particularly Trentino), this shows deep color that stains the glass and extends to the very edge of the liquid.  And things only get better after that strong start.  The bouquet includes dark-toned fruit notes, a bit of subtly smoky oak, and a whiff of fresh meat that is very appealing.  The flavors show good breadth and also depth, with fruit and oak nicely balanced… and with a balance that shows plenty of both.  Gutsy but not really rustic (a fine line, but an important one), this is very well made and perfectly suited to a wide range of red meat-based dishes.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 
93 Michael Franz Feb 27, 2018

Herzog, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Variations Five" 2018 ($25):  Herzog has crafted a ready-to-drink, juicy Cabernet Sauvignon that is rich and tasty.   It’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser, and at an attractive price.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
93 Robert Whitley Sep 22, 2020

Iron Side, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2019 ($22):  This is a Pinot Noir that runs against the grain, delivering a meaty, gamey goodness that will pair nicely with roasted and grilled meats and winter stews.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.     
93 Robert Whitley Sep 22, 2020

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Noir "Light Horse" 2012 ($14): I don’t really come from the “less is more” school of thought -- except when it comes to California Pinot Noir.  This lovely wine fits that description, showing quite generous aroma and flavor, but showing it from a light, delicate platform with no overt sweetness.  The fruit recalls both red and black cherries as well as wild strawberries, with almost no discernible oak and beautifully balanced acidity and tannins.  This shows a level of purity and elegance that one would expect to ring up for two or three times the priced asked in this case.  Terrific value here.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
93 Michael Franz Apr 29, 2014

Locations, California (United States) “CA 8” NV ($20):  The Locations line was intended to show the winemaking art of blending lots into something that expresses both a region and simple deliciousness.   That goal was achieved here, with Cabernet Sauvignon taking the lead in the flavor and structure of the blend.  For twenty bucks, it’s a fine all-purpose red, particularly for California grilling.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.      
93 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Robert Foley Vineyards, California (United States) "The Griffin" 2017 ($42):  Robert Foley is one of the renowned and iconic winemakers of Northern California.  He cut his teeth at Pride Mountain Vineyards before moving to his own label and consulting for other wineries.  His 2017 "Griffin" is made up of Petite Sirah, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Charbono and Syrah.  It delivers rich and luscious flavors of raspberry, red currant, red plum, and wild herbs.  It is nicely framed by fine-grained tannins and great freshness, making you yearn for another sip.      
93 Miranda Franco May 24, 2022

Vino Urbano, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2015 ($58):  As one might expect from both the variety and the price tag, this is a wine that packs a whopping punch… and yet, it also shows a lot of complexity and very good balance.  The aromas are quite expressive, with oak, fruit and savory notes nicely intertwined, and all of these same sensory signals echoing on the palate in quite comparable proportions.  The oak is bold but the fruit supports it well, and the same is true for the tannin load, which is freshened by a beam of bright acidity.  An attention-grabber, in a good way.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 
93 Michael Franz Feb 20, 2018

Akash Winery, California (United States) Malbec "Dreamville" 2018 ($38):  This Malbec comes with an alluring floral note, which follows onto the palate.  Showing red and black fruit aromas, it’s well balanced and allows the fruit to do the talking.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
92 Robert Whitley Sep 15, 2020

Barefoot, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon NV ($7):   I often use this wine to calibrate a tasting panel prior to diving into a series of flights – it’s always solidly varietal rendition, flawless and full of character, and it shows itself again here, popping out of a group of Cabernets and scoring big.  Let’s call it a miracle of large-scale production and give thanks that it can be found far and wide at a price that’ll make it your daily red.  Brava to winemaker Jennifer Wall and her team!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Sep 24, 2019

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) “Le Cigar Volant” 2006 ($32):  Pardon the rude question, but one really should ask:  Why would I shell out $32 for a Chateauneuf-du-Pape knock-off when I could get the real thing from a great Rhône vintage like 2007 for that price?  In the case of this wine, the answer would be that it is at least as good as 90% of the French wines that could be had for the same price, and that’s a pretty conservative estimation on percentages.  For those keeping score at home, the blend consists of 43.6% Syrah, 43.5% Grenache, 11.7% Cinsault, 1.1% Mourvedre, and--just for good measure--.1% of Carignane.  With very nice balance between soft ripeness at the front and tannic grip in the finish, the wine is inviting but structured, and the aromas are impressively complex, with notes of smoked meat and spices and wild mushrooms interlaced with fruit notes of red and black berries and plums. 92 Michael Franz Sep 21, 2010

Branches Estate, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2018 ($25):  Branches Estate Pinot Noir kicks things off with kirsch aromas joined by notes of crushed rock and dried herbs.  The palate presents drier than the nose might lead you to expect, allowing the secondary characteristics to balance the cherry notes and give the wine a depth not often found in this price range.  I suspect this wine sat around in a closed state, and release was wisely held until now.  Tasty stuff!       
92 Rich Cook Oct 25, 2022

Color Wash, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2017 ($26):  The beauty of this Pinot Noir, other than the price, is the bright acidity that lifts the cherry fruit.   Throw in a touch of wood spice and you’re left with a remarkably drinkable Pinot for this priced range.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
92 Robert Whitley Jun 11, 2019

Cupcake Vineyards, California (United States) "Black Forest Decadent Red" 2014 ($12): The currently expanding market for red wines with a touch of residual sugar has a torch bearer in this wine, which succeeds by keeping the sugar level in a spot where it has a range of applications, from a solo pour to a grilling partner.  Wines like this help the whole wine market.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2017 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
92 Rich Cook Sep 26, 2017

Dark Horse, California (United States) Merlot 2016 ($10):   This Merlot is made in a supple, easy to drink style, with fleshy blackberry fruit, well-tempered oak spice and a blossoming fruit forward finish.  All that for ten bucks?  Go get it!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
92 Rich Cook Apr 9, 2019

Dark Horse, California (United States) "Double Down" Red Blend NV ($10):  Lots of producers are doubling down on red wines with a touch of residual sugar, and they are moving some product.  This wine is well seated as a transition from the sweeter reds toward more dry style, with some good grip and a long finish.  Likely a Petite Sirah and Zinfandel blend with bits of other varieties -- tasty stuff!  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 92 Rich Cook Jun 12, 2018

Fallbrook Winery, California (United States) Merlot Reserve 2012 ($16): Nobody could fail to like this wine, which charms on the strength of fresh berry fruit enveloped in gentle acidity and rounded tannins, along with the faintest possible touch of wood.  It isn’t a powerhouse, but neither is it remotely faint; rather, it shows excellent integration and balance in a classically medium-bodied profile, making it exceptionally versatile with food but also great as a stand-alone sipper.  Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 92 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2015

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($20):  Easy to find just about anywhere in the 50 states, this wine from Francis Coppola Diamond Collection is a solid go-to Cabernet that makes a pleasant sipper or a pair for spring and summer grilling.  You’ll find it well below retail, and you’ll be pretty happy about it.    
92 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2022

Hoyt Family Vineyards, California (United States) “Dylema" Red Wine NV ($25):  Non-vintage “kitchen sink” style blends are created for one purpose as far as consumers are concerned, and that purpose is drinkability.  Some are more intentional than others, like this offering from Hoyt Family.  The dilemma for you is which way to go with it – grill side partner, pasta and meat marinara accompaniment, solo sipper.  No matter.  It’s going to work just fine whatever you choose.           
92 Rich Cook Jun 15, 2021

Imagery Estate, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2016 ($17):   Delicious Pinot Noir for less than $20 a bottle would have been unthinkable a few short years ago.  This beauty from Imagery is another in a growing trend as winemakers have learned to successfully navigate the perils of the sometimes tricky pinot noir vine.  What this vintage brings to the table is an uncommon elegance, beautiful balance and delicate aromas of cherry and strawberry with a subtle note of wood spice.  Easy to drink and easy on the wallet.  A platinum award-winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
92 Robert Whitley May 29, 2018

Joel Gott, California (United States) Grenache Alakai 2012 ($18): Soft, supple and round, this inviting Grenache exhibits fresh red-fruit aromas and a note of spice. Perfect for the summer barbecue with smoked meats and zesty sauces. 92 Robert Whitley Apr 15, 2014

Line 39, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2016 ($11):  You won’t find much drinkable Pinot Noir at this price, which makes this wine a seriously welcome find.  Varietally correct fruit, bright spice, great acidity and a long finish… and all of that for a remarkably affordable price.  Sign me up.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
92 Rich Cook May 29, 2018

Line 39, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2017 ($11):  Ridiculous price on this quality bottling!   I’d say the gauntlet is cast in this price category, and it’s a cherry driven spicy meatball of a wine that’s made for a wedding reception on a budget.   Go ahead -- try to find a better $11 Pinot Noir.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Jun 11, 2019

Lone Cardinal, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 ($18):  A very pleasant Cabernet Sauvignon at a wallet friendly price is always welcome.  This fits the bill, with expected aromas and flavors, a plush texture and a fruit forward finish.  Good stuff.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.     
92 Rich Cook Oct 5, 2021

Love Noir, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2016 ($16):  Pinot Noir fans will love this one.  The 2016 Love Noir exhibits bright aromas of cherry and raspberry with nicely integrated tannins and mouth-watering acidity.  But the price!  Another of those Pinot Noir steals that seem to be cropping up more and more these days.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
92 Robert Whitley Jun 18, 2019

Macchia, California (United States) Petite Sirah “Dubious” 2017 ($26):  Nothing dubious about the quality of this lusty Petite Sirah, where bright vanilla and pie spice joins rich black fruit and clove in a bold presentation.  Bold ripe cheeses, please!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
92 Rich Cook Mar 12, 2019

Main & Geary, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2013 ($18): This is a big, juicy, crowd-pleasing rendition of Petite Sirah that could work nicely as a stand-alone sipper but also serve as a perfect foil for serious meat with spicy rub or sauce.  Ripe berry fruit shows both red and black tones, and any oak influence is so subtle as to be negligible.  Although this isn’t particularly layered or complex, it proves convincing on the sheer purity and deliciousness of its fruit.  Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 92 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2015

Menage a Trois, California (United States) Pinot Noir 'Luscious' 2017 ($14):   The Trinchero family owns vast vineyard acreage in some of California's best wine regions, so it's no surprise it can produce Pinot Noir of exceptional quality at a price everyone can afford.  The 'Luscious' Pinot from the 2017 vintage is fruit forward and friendly, with an inviting note of earthiness that adds complexity and a note of spice, with smooth tannins for easy drinking near term.  A Platinum Award winner at the 37th San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
92 Robert Whitley Apr 9, 2019

Mirassou Sun, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($12):   Need a great red to serve to a large crowd on a small budget?  This wine always seems to rise to the top table in competitions, and for good reason.  Perfectly quaffable Cabernet that you’ll find for under ten dollars, and it’s widely available.  Wedding red needed?  Let the Sun shine in!  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
92 Rich Cook May 29, 2018

Moravia Wines, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate 2014 ($22):  Moravia is in California’s Central Valley, and this wine shows the ability of the region to go beyond average table wine.  There’s real Cabernet character here, with well feathered oak tones adding soft spice that perks up in the finish.  A winery to watch!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Newman’s Own, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Common Good" 2016 ($12):  Trinchero Family Wines knows how to make easy drinking wines for the masses, and their prowess is on full display in this fruit forward bottling.  It’s bright, fun and built for that moment when you just want a good glass of red wine with no pretense.  Add in the fact that proceeds go to charity, and you’ve got a winner.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
92 Rich Cook Mar 20, 2018

Oak Farm, California (United States) "The Corset" 2016 ($27): Coffee loving wine drinkers, it's time to get your Corset on.  The nose of this wine is day-rested fresh roasted beans, with the accompanying berry character prized by home roasters.  Sound strange for a wine review?  Check it out.  A blend of Alicante Bouschet, Zinfandel, Grenache and Petite Verdot, and a Platinum Award Winner at the 2017 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
92 Rich Cook Sep 26, 2017

OneHope, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2016 ($25):  This Pinot Noir presents cherry, cinnamon spice and supple structure in an easy to like mix that finishes with a bold burst of fruit.  It’s a solid solo sipper, or a wide spectrum pairing partner.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
92 Rich Cook Sep 15, 2020

Quady's, California (United States) Starboard Batch 88 NV ($25):   Quady has long held to traditional Portugese grape varieties for its luscious Port-style dessert wines.  In this case the grapes are Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional.  The Batch 88 is a spicy brew that shows mature aromas in a tawny style, with ample oak influence.  Well balanced, it is excellent on its own but try it with cheeses or foie gras and watch it shine.  A platinum award-winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
92 Robert Whitley Apr 3, 2018

Slow Press, California (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($17):  This will more than fit the bill for fans of spicy Cabernet Sauvignon, with aromas and flavors of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg riding alongside blackberry fruit.   A drink me now glass of pleasure!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Jun 11, 2019

Storypoint, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($20):  An expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s on the ripe side of the spectrum, with dried currant and blackberry aromas that translate well on the palate, where a mild coffee note adds interest.   An all-occasion quaffable red!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
92 Rich Cook Oct 1, 2019

Storypoint, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($20):  This wine gets the coveted double Platinum, having also hit at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge – here’s my review from there as it still stands:  An expression of Cabernet Sauvignon that’s on the ripe side of the spectrum, with dried currant and blackberry aromas that translate well on the palate, where a mild coffee note adds interest.   An all-occasion quaffable red!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.   
92 Rich Cook Jan 28, 2020

Swanson Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2018 ($25):  It’s unusual to see a state appellation from this marque, and I can’t remember ever seeing a Pinot Noir from them.  Perhaps they couldn’t resist this fleshy fruit forward wine and scooped it up to add to the portfolio – it’s worthy, with full throttle back cherry and fall spice, and it’s priced to compete.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine  Competition.   
92 Rich Cook Sep 15, 2020

Thackrey & Co, California (United States) “Pleiades XXV111” NV ($25):  Sean Thackrey has been making wines since 1982, and if any California winemaker can rightly be described as “iconic,” he is it.  He began developing a loyal following for his Rhône-style wines which eventually morphed into mystery blends led by “Orion” and “Pleiades.”  Based in the small coastal town of Bolinas, he says: “The object of Pleiades is to be delicious, delight the jaded, irritate the Wine Police and go well with anything red wine goes with.”  And that’s all he will say about this most recent chapter of this old vine Pleiades.  A reasonable guess is that it is made from some Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and whatever else seemed to work for him.  Medium garnet in color, it exudes fragrances of cranberry and raspberry and the flavors are lively, with pleasing touches of spice and bright fruit.  It is soft, velvety smooth and ever so drinkable.  This blend of old vine wines was bottled in November, 2020.     
92 Norm Roby May 10, 2022

The Dreaming Tree, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2015 ($15): Nice to see a budget friendly Pinot Noir in the mix of award winners.  It's long on sweet cherry and raspberry fruit, and the oak spice complements things nicely.  This would be a good solo glass, or a pairing partner for simple meat dishes.  A Platinum award winner at the 2017 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
92 Rich Cook Sep 26, 2017

Whiplash, California (USA) Red Wine 2014 ($15): Every producer needs a kitchen sink red blend on the menu.  Customers don't always want a profound, discussion worthy wine -- sometimes they just want a good glass of juice at a nice price.  Here's a solid example of what I'm talking about.  It's juicy, non pretentious, and delicious -- and yes, you can discuss it if you must.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2016 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 92 Rich Cook Mar 1, 2016

WineSociety, California (United States) "Tempt" Red Wine Blend NV ($10):  For the first time in Challenge Series history canned wines have taken a spot in the top tier.  This Syrah-dominant blend shows black and blueberry fruit, a touch of tar and a touch of smoky oak on the nose, and the promise translates in the mouth with a plush midpalate and a nice supple grip in the finish.  The can holds 500 ml just for the record (price is per can).  Well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
92 Rich Cook Sep 24, 2019

Witch Creek Winery, California () “Rich's Big Red” NV ($27): Here's proof that a wine doesn't have to have a vintage date to be well made.  Ryan Scott changed up the blend for this release, and it's firing on all cylinders.  It needs some time in the glass as it's just recently bottled, but after you let it air out it's an explosive wine, with vibrant aromatics, balanced oak influence and solid structure.  The nose features bright cherry, olives, orange blossom, dill, tobacco leaf and mild fall spice.  The palate delivers the nose elements on a bed of bright acidity and supple tannic grip, keeping everything well integrated through a very long finish.  This is the best wine on release from Witch Creek that I've tasted.  It's not named after me, but I'd put my name on it.
92 Rich Cook Aug 5, 2014

Apothic, California (United States) Red "Winemaker’s Blend" 2019 ($14):  This off dry red has, and will continue, to win people into the world of wine.  Balance is key when you leave a little sugar behind during fermentation, and that balance is found here between the oak, fruit and acidity.  Considering the quantity of this that’s made, this is nothing short of a wine miracle.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.     
91 Rich Cook Sep 21, 2021

Barefoot, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon NV ($7):  This wine never fails to impress, and its pricing and availability are industry miracles.   Spot on aroma and flavor profiles make for a “drink-me-up” package that will elevate any large gathering without depleting your finances.  Kudos again to the team that produces this – America appreciates it, and so do wine judges everywhere.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
91 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Barefoot, California (United States) Malbec NV ($7):   Here’s a ripe and friendly Malbec that presents uber-ripe notes on the nose to the point of seeming raisiny, but manages a balanced palate of brambly black fruit, fall spice, chocolate and a dash of pepper.  For seven bucks, what more can you ask for?  As usual, a large production miracle from winemaker Jennifer Wall’s team.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.        
91 Rich Cook Feb 9, 2021

Barefoot Cellars, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon NV ($7): Your search for super-affordable house red could end here.  Available everywhere, at a discount, with solid varietal character, fleshy texture, moderate grip and a juicy finish that brings you back again and again.  No argument here!  Check the appellation when you buy this -- a few recent iterations came from Argentina that might still be on shelves, and while they were solid wines, they're significantly different.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
91 Rich Cook May 30, 2017

Bee's Box, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2017 ($21):  You’d do well to keep this pleasingly tart, highly refreshing Pinot up on your radar.  It opens with a faint whiff of woodsmoke and then features bright red cherry fruit with backnotes of wild strawberry and baking spices.  The tannins are very fine in grain, which is entirely in keeping with the light weight and restrained ripeness of the wine, and contributes to the fresh overall profile.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.  
91 Michael Franz Feb 26, 2019

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) Mataro Enea & Enz Vineyards “Old Telegram” 2010 ($45): A delicious, meaty Mataro from old dry farmed head trained vineyards.  The aroma is all about earth, meat and dark berry fruit, all of which come through clearly on the palate, with the berries coming forward in the finish with solid tannin structure that delivers enough grip for a slow roasted beef tenderloin -- and go ahead and add that blue cheese butter!
91 Rich Cook Nov 12, 2013

Bota Box, California (United States) “Nighthawk Black" Rich Red Wine Blend 2018 ($23):  A well realized blend that comes in a convenient 3-liter box format.  Juicy black fruit, supple tannins, bright fall spice and a little oak char make for a delightful quaffer that’ll last you a while or fill out the party perfectly.  Remember that’s less than six bucks a bottle, and no glass to deal with.  We’re going to see more and more better wine in alternate formats – give this a go and let your snob defenses melt away.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
91 Rich Cook Mar 24, 2020

Carnivor, California (United States) Zinfandel 2018 ($15): Zinfandel lovers will rejoice at finding a bottle at this price that delivers jammy berry pie aromas and flavors, and they’ll rejoice even more that they’ll actually be able to find it thanks to great distribution.  We need more wines in this price range that deliver the goods as well as this one does.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Monterey International Wine Competition.      
91 Rich Cook Mar 28, 2021

Casa Tiene Vista Vineyard, California (United States) Merlot 'Blackbird' 2010 ($30): This Merlot mouthful is soft and supple but not insubstantial. It packs a gorgeous red-fruited punch, with a note of spice and oak vanillin that flatters rather than detracts. It has enough grip on the back end to ensure it will benefit from additional cellar age, although it is delicious in its current form. A winner of a platinum award at the fifth annual Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
91 Robert Whitley Jan 28, 2014

Castle Rock Winery, California (United States) Pinot Noir “California Cuvée” 2018 ($12):  This is a fine Pinot Noir – particularly at this price point.   It delivers cherry and strawberry alongside notes of dry earth minerality, and oak spice adds interest and length.   It’s designed for near term enjoyment, but it will continue to gain complexity for the next few years.   A solid value!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
91 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Chateau Souverain, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($13):  This is an impressive success in Cabernet at a remarkably low price.  With dark berry aromas and flavors predominating, and a meaty character to both the flavors and texture of the wine, this really satisfies expectations, but without exceeding tax season budgets.  Instantly recognizable as Cabernet, but with fruit in the foreground, this will serve equally well for pre-dinner sipping  or at the table.  A Double Gold Award Winner at the 2020 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.    
91 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2020

Chateau St. Jean, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($13):  This venerable property continues to crank out some very fine wines, and great values too, as in this case.  Open fruit recalling blackberries and black currants is full but still fresh, with just a whiff of oak to lend interest aromatically and a bit of wood tannin to help frame the finish.  At $13, a steal, and good enough that you’d be just as pleased with this on a Saturday night as on a Tuesday.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.  
91 Michael Franz Feb 19, 2019

Dark Horse, California (United States) "Double Down" Red Blend NV ($10):  This is an easy drinking red that shows exceptional red-fruit intensity with a touch of sweetness and soft, smooth tannins.   Pair this wine with baby back ribs off the grill or a sweet/savory pulled pork.   A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
91 Robert Whitley Sep 24, 2019

Dark Horse, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($10):  This Gallo brand demonstrates the remarkable ability of the Gallo family to put a beautiful wine on the dinner table at a price most everyone can handle.  The 2016 Cabernet shows ripe blackberry and plum notes, a touch of spice and smooth tannins.   It was a Platinum Award winner at the 2019 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.  
91 Robert Whitley Jun 18, 2019

Darkhorse, California (United States) Zinfandel 2015 ($10): Here's a fairly new label in the E&J Gallo stable that's out of the gate smartly with this Zinfandel that pleases with sweet red fruit, pepper and fall spice.  It finishes dry and clean, with the fruit and pepper mingling together in style.  Burgers, medium strong cheese -- place your bets!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
91 Rich Cook Mar 14, 2017

El Portal, California (United States) Red Blend 2017 ($12, Wine Insiders):  Based on 80% Zinfandel with the balance comprised of other unspecified varieties, this I a gutsy but tasteful red with lots of flavor but no rough edges.  The core of red berry fruit is fully ripe but still pure and fresh, with nice brambly accents and a touch of spice.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge.  
91 Michael Franz Apr 16, 2019

Exitus, California (United States) 2010 ($25):  Twenty-five bucks is hardly chump change, but all things considered this is a quality wine that tastes more expensive than it is.  The entire package is attractive, with a conservatively handsome label that suggests high-class contents.  Made by the Cecchetti Wine Company, this fruit-forward wine is full-bodied and complex, with fairly soft tannins and a reasonably long finish. 
91 Marguerite Thomas Oct 2, 2012

Farrier, California (United States) “Countenance” 2007 ($35):  A blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% each Cabernet Franc and Merlot, marked by rich but not excessively sweet or sappy flavors, and a soft, supple texture, this is a delicious Bordeaux-inspired but in truth very California-tasting red wine.  Filled with scents and flavors of sun-drenched fruit, with echoes of mocha and vanilla in the background, it offers impressive length on the palate, and proves very easy to drink and enjoy. 91 Paul Lukacs Feb 8, 2011

Francis Ford Coppola Winery, California (United States) “Scarlet Label” Diamond Red Blend 2011 ($18): Here is a plush, round red wine that will make a serious play to be your house red. A Cabernet Sauvignon based blend, it’s big on flavor, soft on tannin and long on the finish. Black cherry, blueberry and plum are in the mix, with balanced oak spice and vanilla. This was beautiful with pan fried tri-tip strips and roasted cauliflower with garlic, onion and parmesan cheese. Discounters will have this at around thirteen bucks, and it really over-delivers at that price point.
91 Rich Cook Feb 25, 2014

French Bar, California (United States) Petite Sirah Rock Creek Family Vineyards 2015 ($20):  For lovers of soul-satisfying big wines, French Bar is a must-try.  With its robust color, intense berry and black cherry flavors along with pleasantly soft tannins, there’s a lot going on here.  The fruit is grown in California’s rocky Sierra Foothills, and it seems as if you can almost taste the rugged landscape and pure sunlight in this wine.  
91 Marguerite Thomas Jul 23, 2019

Joel Gott, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "815" 2014 ($18): Thanks to a fair amount of charred oak, this is a wine for fans of a smoky style.  The fruit is up to the task, and delivers a blackberry and leaf profile under the wood smoke.  Try this with a charcuterie platter.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition. 91 Rich Cook Sep 20, 2016

Line 39, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2018 ($11):  Strawberry rhubarb pie in a glass!  In this case, it’s a good thing, carrying the aromas and flavors from start to finish, with a sweet kiss of oak on the end.  It’s a wallet friendly quaff that satisfies.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.      
91 Rich Cook Sep 15, 2020

Masia de la Vinya Winery, California (United States) Malbec 2016 ($41):  One sip and sniff of this wine will indicate that it isn't from Argentina, as there's much less weight and ripeness here, as opposed to the bright freshness that informs it.  Medium-plus body and a bit of grip from oak gives this some guts, but don't feel obliged to go the grilled beef route, a la Argentina.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2020 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.    
91 Michael Franz Mar 10, 2020

Menage a Trois, California (United States) Red Wine 2017 ($14):  Solid quaffable red wine, with full body, a touch of sweetness and a rich finish that satisfies.  A fine grill-side partner, or worthy of just sitting and sipping when a fun wine is the order of the day.  This is the wine that got the label rolling -- roll on!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
91 Rich Cook Apr 16, 2019

Quipster, California (United States) Merlot 2020 ($16):  Here is an easy to drink, crowd pleasing Merlot that satisfies with bold cherry, cassis and oak spice, and a budget friendly price to boot.  It will have you acting the part in no time.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.     
91 Rich Cook Oct 12, 2021

Reata, California (United States) Pinot Noir "Three County" 2013 ($30): This juicy, flavorful, delightfully fruity Pinot Noir shows very bold character in its aromatics and a crowd-pleasing sweetness that will make this an excellent choice for stand-alone sipping or pairing with lightly spicy foods.  Apparently cobbled together from fruit drawn from multiple vineyard sources across three counties, this comes together very nicely thanks to skillful winemaking and an extra year in bottle by comparison to the 2014 releases that now predominate in the marketplace.  Platinum Award winner at the 2016 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.
91 Michael Franz Jun 7, 2016

Robert Mondavi Private Selection, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon “Bourbon Barrel Aged” 2019 ($16):  This is a growing category in wine, and I think that some of the products are moving beyond the gimmicky stage and into something that will find some fans outside of the initial flurry.  The barrel influence here is tertiary, and that’s right where it works best, adding more textural nuance than overt flavor.  This is a nice bottle of wine – ‘nuff said.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.           
91 Rich Cook Feb 9, 2021

Sean Thackery, California (United States) Old Vines “Pleiades XXI” NV ($25):  Many of Sean Thackery’s highly-allocated, difficult to locate red wines taste powerful and intense, with rugged tannins, and deep, dark, almost brooding color.  This rendition of Pleiades (named for the star cluster of the same name) is an exception.  Light and lithe, it is a blend that includes Rhône and Tuscan grape varieties, and tastes deliciously gentile, with lingering, subtle flavors, and a haunting perfume.  The wine shows exquisite balance, and finishes on a long, graceful note.  Thackery’s wines frequently surprise, and this one does so in an undoubtedly delicious way. 91 Paul Lukacs Nov 8, 2011

The Cleaver, California (United States) Red Blend 2013 ($20): The combination of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah in a red blend is as old as the Sierra Foothills. Petite Sirah is often added to Zinfandel to add color and structure. But this blend comes with a twist, which is a shot of Syrah (20 percent). The result is a juicy red with brambly fruit aromas such as raspberry and blackberry. The tannins are soft and supple and the flavors inviting. This wine was awarded a Platinum medal at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
91 Robert Whitley Jan 19, 2016

The Cleaver, California (United States) Red Blend 2014 ($20): Easy drinking, fruit forward, spicy red wine with moderate tannins and a fun package that will invite the wine-fearful to give it a go?  Nothing wrong with that. Fire up the grill, throw on some meat, sip, flip and serve.  Oh -- and enjoy rich brambly fruit, fall spice and a touch of pepper. Contains 74% Zinfandel, 21% Petitie Sirah and 5% Syrah.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
91 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

The Dreaming Tree, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($15):  A great buy at the price, this 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from The Dreaming Tree is juicy and supple, with good freshness, a generous palate and good persistence in the finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
91 Robert Whitley Sep 15, 2020

Votré Santé, California (United States) Chateau Red 2012 ($14): A very correct Rhône-ish, GSM styled wine at a bargain price.  The nose brings blackberry, black cherry, tar, pepper and notes of leaf and spice.  On the palate, a fair amount of new oak makes for a spice driven wine with the fruit and tar coming forward in the finish.
91 Rich Cook Apr 1, 2014

Apothic, California (United States) "Dark" 2015 ($14):  Off dry red wine is a thing these days, and Apothic is a category leader, delivering silky smooth texture, bold fruit and a touch of sugar that brightens without offending.  I’d set this alongside the cheese course.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
90 Rich Cook Apr 3, 2018

Apothic, California (United States) "Dark" Red Blend 2015 ($14):  Another wine from the indefatigable folks at E&J Gallo, “Dark” is following the growing trend of sweet red wines.  With flavor notes reminiscent of ultra-ripe fruit tempered by cappuccino and dark chocolate, this is a wine to serve with ribs, pulled pork, or just about anything that has been exposed to barbecue sauce.  Blended from Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot. 
90 Marguerite Thomas May 22, 2018

Barefoot, California (United States) Merlot NV ($7):  Yet another miracle of large production pops up to the top at a blind tasting.  Winemaker Jennifer Wall and her team have got this down, and I know they are pleased to bring it to you at a serious bargain price.  It’s proper Merlot, with no traces of “Cabernization” and it’s big on deliciousness.  As always, well done!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Sep 15, 2020

Barefoot, California (United States) Pinot Noir NV ($7):  I dare you!  Find a better Pinot Noir at this price and I’ll drink it – after I finish this one.  This is easily identifiable as Pinot Noir, and the oak spice enhances the fruit in fine fashion.   Another widely available miracle from this producer!   A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.   
90 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Barefoot Cellars, California (United States) Shiraz NV ($7): No winery in America delivers better value than Barefoot Cellars. Winemaker Jennifer Wall and her team are master blenders, crafting excellent wines that most anyone can afford while not sacrificing flavor and body. This inexpensive syrah shows juicy blueberry fruit, excellent weight and length on the palate, and excellent balance. The finish has good persistence. A complete red wine at an outstanding price.  Platinum award winner at the 2015 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
90 Robert Whitley Mar 24, 2015

Barefoot Cellars, California (United States) Shiraz NV ($7): Here's a non-vintage, inexpensive, available everywhere wine that wins big awards year after year, which means you should give it a go.  Leave the snobbery behind, and spend your leftover money on a great piece of cheese to go with the bright blackberry, blueberry, pepper and spice mix.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2016 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 90 Rich Cook Feb 23, 2016

Baron Herzog, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($13):  Score a win for the kosher crowd with this solid Cabernet at a terrific price.  It’s aimed at a particular crowd of course, and I would narrow that crowd a bit by saying that it focuses on oak influence and the spice that comes along with it.  There’s plenty of correct fruit  – it just rides shotgun here.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.    
90 Rich Cook Sep 15, 2020

Block Nine, California (United States) Pinot Noir “Caiden’s Vineyards” 2012 ($16): Block Nine is a Pinot Noir specialist…and Pinot is all that the enterprise makes. Clearly this 2012 wine didn’t spend much time ageing, but according to the company’s website, it spent all of that time in French oak. The wood didn’t leave much of a mark, as there’s nothing smoky or astringent about it. Rather, the wine is characterized by fresh, juicy fruit notes recalling pie cherries and black plums with interesting savory undertones. Very nicely done.
90 Michael Franz May 28, 2013

Bonny Doon, California (United States) "Le Cigare Volant" 2003 ($30): Randall Grahm, founder and winemaker at Bonny Doon, is known for his humorous labels as well as his talented winemaking. His Cigare Volant (flying cigar or flying saucer) refers to an ordinance promulgated by Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a town in the southern Rhone Valley just north of Avignon, that prohibited the landing of flying saucers within the town limits.  (And the French say we are crazy). The wine, Graham's Châteauneuf-du-Pape-like blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault, is a lively and fanciful as the label. In a departure from previous blends, the 2003 is top heavy with Mourvèdre and Syrah (about two-thirds), which explains its density and power. It has a spicy -- almost briary -- edge and a concentration of red fruit flavors without being over the top. A subtle pepperiness and uplifting acidity would carry it through a meal of short ribs. 90 Michael Apstein Jan 16, 2007

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) Cinsault/Counoise 2014 ($30): When Randall Grahm starts tinkering with blends, the likelihood of something worthy coming out of the proceedings is high, and this time a clear experiment makes it to market in this bottle, that's not just a blend of less familiar grapes, but from vineyards in Paso Robles, Mendocino and Lodi.  It's quite interesting and elegant, with rich forest floor and soft red fruit that's more strawberry than cherry -- it's long and complex in a different but very pleasant way.  A blind tasting bonanza wine!
90 Rich Cook Nov 10, 2015

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) Old Telegram 2010 ($45): This is a somewhat rustic wine from Bonny Doon, offering up earthy aromas and ripe black fruits, with somewhat chewy tannins and mature notes on the finish despite its youth. That said, it is that rare wine in the United States that is made from 100 percent Mourvedre (aks Mataro) grapes, which historically have been planted in Spain and southern France but not so much in California. Serve this wine with winter stews and slow roasted meats. 90 Robert Whitley Nov 12, 2013

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) A Proper Claret 2012 ($16): Don't be fooled by the label, this is a Bonny Doon production from the get-go, the latest whacky creation from winemaker/owner Randall Grahm. A Proper Claret is a brilliant if unconventional red blend, utilizing the Bordeaux grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, the Rhone grape Syrah, the much misunderstood Tannat of southwest France, and the Petite Sirah grape of questionable origin. The result is a delicious, darkly-fruited red that delivers profound and complex flavors at a remarkable alcohol-by-volume (ABV) level of 13 percent, well below the norm. 90 Robert Whitley Nov 26, 2013

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) 'Contra' 2012 ($20): In the Bonny Doon Contra, winemaker Randall Grahm has crafted a rustic "old vine" field blend that reflects to a large extent the history of California wine. At the very least it recalls an era when vineyards weren't so precise, a time when multiple grape varieties were planted on the same plot. Contra is mostly old vine Carignan from two different vineyards in California's Contra Costa County. But there's also a fair amount of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and Cinsault. The tannins are still a bit coarse in this young pup of a red wine, so decanting is recommended. Also a savory cut of grilled meat hot off the grill. 90 Robert Whitley Jun 3, 2014

Bonterra, California (United States) Merlot 2019 ($12):  This is a great value Merlot made from organically grown grapes that boasts concentrated blackberry, blueberry flavors spiked with a bit of dried herbs brightened with lively acidity and supported with ripe lightly chewy tannins.  It’s perfect for roast chicken or beef stew.  Bonterra was created by Fetzer in 1990.  They have been growing grapes organically since 1987 and  though they have been sold twice since 1992, the original mission remains.  Today the wine company is in the hands of Concha y Toro of Chile, a family-owned wine company since 1883.  They are a Certified B Corporation, which indicates how a company’s operations and business model impact its workers, community, environment, and customers.  It’s not just about investors and the bottom line.  In 2021, Bonterra became the world’s first organically farmed, Climate Neutral certified wine.  This certification comes from the non-profit organization, Climate Neutral.  It certifies that a company has measured all greenhouse gas emissions from producing and delivering products and services, offset all its emissions by investing in carbon reduction and removal projects like clean energy and reforestation and is implementing plans to reduce future emissions.      
90 Rebecca Murphy Jan 11, 2022

Bread & Butter, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2015 ($16): A new line of daily drinkers available nationally at Whole Foods markets and other big retailers that gives a lot of bang for your buck.  This Pinot Noir has proper varietal character, showcasing black cherry fruit and nicely balanced oak spice notes, soft tannins and a long, well integrated finish.  A great value!
90 Rich Cook Jun 13, 2017

California Roots, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($5):  A tasty drink at a fabulous price.  When it smells, tastes and finishes like a Cabernet should, with bright acidity giving a burst of enjoyment at the end, I’m all in.  Impressive!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Monterey International Wine Competition.  
90 Rich Cook Mar 17, 2020

Candor, California (United States) Zinfandel “Lot 2” NV ($20):  There is much about this wine that is unusual.  For one thing, it’s a blend of vintages (2007 and ‘08) and of different growing regions (Lodi and Paso Robles).  In aroma and flavor it is a Plus Size wine to be sure, but it also has genuine complexity and smoothness.  In addition to intense black and red fruit flavors it also carries some spice and smoky elements.  It’s a wine that gets better and better as it opens up in the glass, and would it probably show to even better advantage by being decanted. 90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 16, 2010

Carnivor, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($15):  This easy drinking California Cabernet Sauvignon is rich and supple with loads of dark fruit goodness.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.   
90 Robert Whitley Sep 22, 2020

Carnivor, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($15):  Here is a tasty Cabernet that will please a crowd and could serve as a “no offense taken” introduction to the variety.  While that might seem like faint praise, make no mistake that wines like this are important to bringing people into a wider appreciation at the beginning of one’s wine journey.  Easy to find, easy to like makes average Joe a happy man, and that’s good for all of us.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2021 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.       
90 Rich Cook Apr 20, 2021

Cherry Pie, California (United States) Pinot Noir Tri-County 2018 ($22):  Cherry Pie Pinot Noir's delicate cherry color may not prepare you for the wine’s assertive aromatics, and its big, mouth-filling fruit flavors may also come as a surprise.  The wealth of Cherry Pie’s robust flavor may be due, at least in part, to the fact that the grapes were sourced from three different vineyards in three different counties (Monterey, Napa and Santa Barbara).  The fruit was harvested in the cool of the night and each lot was fermented separately before being blended together to spend time in French oak.       
90 Marguerite Thomas Jan 17, 2023

Chronic Cellars, California (United States) “Suite Petite” 2014 ($15): A big, dynamic red wine churning with ripe berry fruits and further enriched by oak, this Chronic Cellars offering is attractively priced, and it will enliven any gathering, whether you’re throwing a party or it’s just you and your “Suite Petite” alone together.  It’s a food friendly wine too: pizza, burgers, ribs, meatloaf, eggplant parm -- bring ‘em on!  85% Petite Sirah, 15% Syrah.
90 Marguerite Thomas Feb 28, 2017

Cline Cellars, California (United States) Red Wine "Cashmere" 2006 ($17): This delightful GSM (Grenache-Syrah-Mourvedre) blend comes from grapes grown in Oakley and the Sonoma Coast.  Following fermentation in stainless steel tanks to retain fruitiness, the wine was then racked into mostly seasoned French oak barrels for nine months.  The color is a lovely deep ruby and the nose shows dark fruits, spice and oak.  It is richly textured with plenty of fresh berry flavors, traces of pepper and black raspberry, good length and a solid finish with refined tannins.  This versatile wine is a nice match with hearty meals centered round late-winter favorites like beef stew. 90 Gerald D. Boyd Mar 18, 2008

Cocobon, California (United States) 'Dark' NV ($7):   Within the popular genre of slightly sweet red blends, Cocobon Dark is a standout. It shows a nose of mocha and spice, with ripe black cherry fruit and enough tannin to cleanse the palate on the finish. A platinum award-winner at the 2018 Critics Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition. 
90 Robert Whitley Jun 12, 2018

Dark Horse, California (United States) Merlot 2017 ($9):  Although Merlot has been relegated to a relatively forgotten status among many wine drinkers, they would do well to take note of this remarkable and affordable bottling.  The Dark Horse 2017 California Merlot could convince you that the Merlot grape can and should regain its top-class stature.  This is delicious red wine at a very friendly price.  The nose reveals pure blackberry and raspberry fruit tones backed by hints of lavender, cocoa, vanilla and baking spices.  The flavors are pure, luscious and ripe, with black and red cherry fruits followed by hints of cocoa, toasty oak and baking spices.  The flavors unfold to reveal a long and intriguing finish.  It’s ripe, round and full-flavored style makes it a great choice to pair with grilled or braised meats or other full-flavored dishes.   
90 Wayne Belding Apr 21, 2020

Decoy, California (United States) Zinfandel 2019 ($25):  This is Zinfandel for those who like a touch of briary sweetness, but still desire balance of acidity and tannins.  There’s a fair amount of oak spice that is well folded in with the fruit, and the finish has decent push.  A dash of Earl Grey tea adds an interesting note and keeps me coming back to the glass.  It’s interesting to note that this bottling gets the wider state appellation for the first time, yet the quality remains thanks to carefully sourced fruit.           
90 Rich Cook Aug 17, 2021

Dominant Seven, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($9): This is your backyard barbecue value Cabernet this summer.  Nicely balanced, showing luscious red fruit and spice, it was a platinum award-winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
90 Robert Whitley Mar 27, 2018

Earl Stevens, California (United States) "Function" Red Blend NV ($12):  There is no information about what’s in this wine other than the declaration on the label that it is a “finely crafted and delicious red blend” and it is non-vintage, to boot, but the delicious part came through for the judges at the 2020 Sommelier Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition, where it claimed a Platinum Award.  Bright, juicy and easy to drink now, for 12 bucks it’s an excellent buy.  
90 Robert Whitley Sep 15, 2020

Fetzer, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon “50th Anniversary Reserve” 2016 ($13):  I can’t count the number of times I’ve used Fetzer wines to introduce friends to the wonders of the grape.  They don’t intend to be among the great wines of the world, but they are consistently of good quality and their drinkability quotient is always high.  No pretense, no gouging, just a solid product every time.  This reserve celebrates those facts, with bright blackberry, vanilla and oak spice, supple grip and a fruit forward finish.  Here’s to the next 50 years of clinking glasses filled with Fetzer. 
90 Rich Cook Jul 31, 2018

Foundry , California (United States) “Conspiracy Theory” 2013 ($36):  I’m not big on conspiracy theories… aside from this one.  A blend of Zinfandel and Syrah, this shows very expressive red berry fruit that is highly aromatic and quite exuberantly flavorful.  There’s more fruit and sweetness in this than oak or tannin, so think of this as a sipping wine or a partner for spicy meat dishes, with which it will work wonders.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 
90 Michael Franz Feb 20, 2018

French Bar, California (United States) Petite Sirah Rock Creek Family Vineyards 2016 ($19):  Approach with caution.  This is a big bruiser of a wine, with deeply extracted fruit from a variety that makes big wine even when not aggressively extracted.  Then, just to finish off the faint of heart, it was lashed with some seriously toasty oak.  Admirably, there’s enough acidity to keep the whole thing on an even keel through the surprisingly fresh finish.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition. 
90 Michael Franz Feb 19, 2019

French Bar, California (United States) Petite Sirah Rock Creek Family Vineyards 2016 ($20):  Petite Sirah is a difficult variety to tackle, with producers often overdoing everything.   French Bar manages to contain themselves with this one.  Weighing in at a modest -- at least by Petite Sirah standards -- stated 14.2 percent alcohol, this one is still robust, but with an enhancing spiciness that actually modulates its power.   The inclusion of a touch (5 percent) of Teraldego, an Italian grape not often seen on these shores, may account for part of the wine’s complexity.   It’s a great choice to accompany a lamb shank this winter. 
90 Michael Apstein Dec 25, 2018

Giovinazzo, California (United States) Nero d'Avola 2015 ($36): This wine won’t confuse you into thinking you tasting something from Sicily rather than California, but with that noted, it might also prompt you to place a bet on Nero d'Avola’s future in the Golden State.  The rather heavy overlay of vanillin oak will prove more pleasing to some tasters than others, but the good news is that there’s plenty of juicy, fresh, red-toned fruit underneath.  Moreover, the wood rides up on the aromatics of this wine rather than asserting itself on the mid-palate or in the form of any astringency in the finish.  Built for food, as befits an homage to Italian wine, but not necessarily robust food, this could be perfect for lightly spicy preparations of poultry.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2017 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition.
90 Michael Franz Feb 21, 2017

Girard, California (United States) “Artistry” 2006 ($40): An impressive Bordeaux blend, showing plenty of ripe California fruit, but also a supple texture and a long, evolving finish that includes many flavors (cocoa, spice, chocolate, and more) other than fruit.  Impressively deep and firmly built, the wine offers tannins that provide support without domineering.  That structure suggests that, while delicious now, it also should evolve gracefully with five to ten years of cellaring. 90 Paul Lukacs Aug 4, 2009

Gnarly Head, California (California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($12):  This Cabernet Sauvignon shows a lot of flavor and character for such an affordable wine, with solid, dark-toned fruit and just a little whiff of oak.  Ripe but not overtly sweet or grapey, this is quite successful.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 90 Michael Franz Feb 27, 2018

Happy Camper, California (United States) Merlot 2013 ($9): This terrific little Merlot shows plenty of flavor but no rough edges on a light- to medium-bodied platform.  Fresh and juicy, it delivers supple red berry fruit, finishing with nice acidity and very little notable tannin.  Serve this as you would a Pinot Noir, as this is actually lighter, fresher and more delicate than most California renditions of that grape, notwithstanding the general stereotypes for Merlot and Pinot.  Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 90 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2015

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, California (United States) Arneis 2011 ($16):  The Arneis grape, originally grown in Piedmont and used to “soften” Barolo and now used there as a stand alone white wine, has migrated in tiny quantities to California and Oregon.  Jacuzzi has made a lively and vivacious wine from this normally low acid grape.  Zesty acidity amplifies subtle almond-tinged flavors in this clean, crisp white.   Try it with grilled fish. 90 Michael Apstein Aug 7, 2012

Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Noir “Light Horse” 2012 ($14): Okay, let's get serious.  A 90 point Pinot Noir for under twenty bucks?  What's this guy been smoking, right?  All I can say is, locate this wine and give it a go.  It hits all my markers for a lighter bodied Pinot -- cherry, strawberry, rhubarb, dry earth, silky entry, bright acid, long zesty finish, nicely balanced oak spice, elegant, food friendly -- and all at a price that won't make you feel like you need to charge your guests by the glass.  Buyers take note - possible house Pinot here.
90 Rich Cook Mar 25, 2014

Jeff Cohn Cellars, California (United States) “The Impostor” 2012 ($35): I was at a ZAP symposium a few years ago where I heard Jeff Cohn say "don't worry about whether my wine is age-worthy or not.  Go ahead and drink it -- I'll make more for you."  That said, he's made an age-worthy wine with this blend.  It takes a long time in the glass to show itself, with initial raspberry, leaf and spice underneath sulphury notes, but it comes around smartly, blowing off to a garden of flowers and spice, with rhubarb and raspberry fruit.  It's fairly oaky and shows lots of dill, but comes into balance with a lot of airtime.  If you're taking Jeff's advice, decant this one for a few hours before serving with something saucy and spicy.  If you want my advice, get a few bottles to age 5 to 10 years as well.
90 Rich Cook Nov 18, 2014

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Zinfandel "Vintner's Reserve" 2015 ($17):  With its sturdy blackberry and raspberry flavors backed up by subtle spice and a good, dry finish, this is an altogether engaging Zinfandel.  While its upfront fruit marks this wine as unmistakably Zinfandel, there is nothing overheated or unpleasantly sweet going on here -- on the contrary, its well balanced boldness is what makes this a terrific partner for chili con carne and other similarly bold foods. 
90 Marguerite Thomas Oct 30, 2018

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Pinot Noir Grand Reserve 2013 ($26): You've got to hand it to Kendall-Jackson -- as big as they are, and as crowd pleasing as the wines tend to be across the board, they still do it with complexity and class, at reasonable prices for the quality provided.  This Grand Reserve Pinot Noir delivers rich ripe fruit, but doesn't leave out the earthy characteristics that you expect in an upper level bottling. Here, you get upper level quality at a lower mid level price.  A blend of grapes from Monterey and Santa Barbara counties.
90 Rich Cook Sep 29, 2015

Liberty School, California (United States) Syrah 2003 ($12): I'm not sure why the simple California appellation when information provided by the winery indicates all of the grapes were sourced from Paso Robles, an AVA that is growing in prominence and that is especially kind to the Rhone varietals. The Liberty School Syrah is pure, sweet red fruit, a generous splash of sweet oak and a long, spicy finish. Hard not to love it at the price. 90 Robert Whitley Nov 8, 2005

Line 39, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($10): If you're looking for a cheap thrill, this $10 Cabernet from Line 39 should do the job. It hits all the markers with notes of black cherry and red currant, a touch of spice and a floral nose. At this price you could make it your everyday house wine and buy it by the case. A Platinum award-winner at the 2016 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
90 Robert Whitley Jan 19, 2016

Locations, California (United States) “CA 4” Red Wine NV ($20):  Dave Phinney is a blender at heart, and he's clearly enjoying his Locations project.  This iteration from him is the most "everything but the kitchen sink" blend, with five diverse grapes from spots around the state in the mix.  It works, with ripe red fruit aromas accented with floral and earth notes that translate well on the palate, with a plush-in-the-middle and fresh-on-the-end texture that knits the flavors together in the finish.  A great solo glass, or up to end of season grilling fare.  A blend of Petite Sirah, Barbera, Tempranillo, Syrah and Grenache.
90 Rich Cook Oct 24, 2017

Menage a Trois, California (United States) Zinfandel 2014 ($14): A very soft, subtle Zinfandel with brambly fruit, soft brown spice, pepper and vanilla aromas and flavors.  If you're not a fan of the bolder styled Zins, give this one a go.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Competition.
90 Rich Cook Feb 7, 2017

Menage a Trois, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2016 ($14):  A lightly sweet crowd-pleaser of a Pinot, this features fruit recalling pie cherries with a red berry backnote and just a bit of baking spice and a hint of vanilla to lend additional complexity.  Soft but certainly not formless, this will work for everyone in the room -- almost no matter how many people you’re hosting.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2019 San Diego International Wine and Spirits Challenge.  
90 Michael Franz Apr 16, 2019

Mirassou, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2018 ($12):  It isn't so easy to find Pinot Noir affordable enough to enjoy on an ordinary weeknight that is true to the variety and free from evidence of cellar trickery, which is to say, this wine is a "find."  Soft in texture, with juicy notes of strawberries and red cherries, but without any unbalanced sweetness, this is the ticket for a rotisserie chicken on a Tuesday night.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2020 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.    
90 Michael Franz Mar 3, 2020

Mirassou Winery, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2012 ($12): Juicy and sweet and damned near irresistible, this is an affordable Pinot Noir that will please almost everyone.  Packed with dark cherry fruit but not overly weighty, the sweetness of this will work very well with lightly spicy meat dishes or more robust fish preparations like grilled tuna with a pepper crust.  Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
90 Michael Franz May 6, 2014

Montevina, California (United States) “Independence Point” 2013 ($12): The Independence Point Cabernet is drawn from vineyards in Monterey County and Lodi and is a great value among California Cabernet bottlings.  The nose shows luscious ripe blackberry and black cherry fruits backed by hints of mint, cocoa, and vanilla.  Smooth and velvety on the palate, it offers layers of plush, ripe black fruits plus toasty oak, vanilla, cocoa and mint elements.  It’s a lovely combination of richness and refreshment offered at a price that makes it a deliciously enjoyable everyday red.
90 Wayne Belding Mar 31, 2015

Murphy-Goode Winery, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2016 ($12):  Among the best wines I’ve tasted from Murphy-Goode in the past decade -- even though it is “just” an entry-level release -- this shows exceptional purity of fruit and very fine structural balance.  There’s virtually no discernible oak, just juicy red fruit notes recalling strawberries and raspberries with a little spice around the edges.  Refreshing but quite flavorful, this won’t overwhelm even delicate fish preparations, but can hold its own very nicely with a roast chicken. 
90 Michael Franz Mar 12, 2019

Oak Grove, California (United States) Merlot Family Reserve 2013 ($8): The judges that selected this wine for a top award engaged in a discussion of the current trend that they called "the Cabernization of Merlot," meaning that Merlot at this price point is being made in a manner that ignores Merlot's merits and makes for what is perceived to be a more consumer friendly wine, to the detriment of all sides, especially the nice fruit that is available at low prices.  This bottling rose to the top of the flight by coming in solidly on the side of correct Merlot character -- cherry, tobacco, faint dried herbs, and a touch of oak spice adding complexity without going to the dark side.  We need more winemaking like this in this price range.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 90 Rich Cook Jan 27, 2015

Oak Grove, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve 2013 ($8): The light side of Cabernet Sauvignon, featuring soft red fruit, mild fall spice and some dill for interest, with food friendly acidity and a medium plus finish that will work well as an everyday red.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
90 Rich Cook Mar 29, 2016

Oak Grove, California (USA) Petite Sirah Family Reserve 2014 ($8): Looking for a bright, spicy red for what you've got left in your wallet?  This is ready to join your burger grilling adventures this summer.  On the red fruit side for a Petite Sirah, its got the rustic structure that can handle barbecue sauce and marbled beef.  You should be able to find it for around six bucks.  Can't argue with that!  A Platinum Award winner at the 2016 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 90 Rich Cook Jun 7, 2016

Peachy Canyon, California (United States) Zinfandel “Incredible Red” 2014 ($14): The Incredible Red is always a good value bet -- it's made to be a drink me up wine that works well on its own or with simpler fare, and it delivers as usual, with complexity that belies its price tag.  Bright berry fruit with equally bright oak spice and tangy acidity kept me coming back, with a touch of citrus extending the finish.  Cheese and charcuterie or grilled burgers will be right at home.
90 Rich Cook Dec 6, 2016

Peachy Canyon, California (United States) Zinfandel "Incredible Red" 2015 ($15):  Pour yourself a glass of this attractive and affordable little Zinfandel and savor the fruity aromas backed by delicate floral nuances.  On the palate the wine offers plenty of berry and plum flavors, which are dynamic but not disproportionately sweet or intrusive.  Good acidity and soft, very subtle tannins are part of the pretty package. 
90 Marguerite Thomas Apr 24, 2018

Purple Moon, California (United States) Shiraz 2012 ($5): A dynamite effort in this price range, the Purple Moon Shiraz exhibits concentrated dark-fruit aromas, a core of sweet black-fruited flavor, and sweet, supple tannins that make this bargain wine go down smoothly and easily.   Platinum award winner at the 2014 San Diego International Wine Competition.
90 Robert Whitley Apr 22, 2014

Reata, California (United States) Pinot Noir "Three County" 2013 ($30): Here is a full bodied, fleshy Pinot that's ready to drink, bringing us deep black cherry, cardamom, dry earth, and a touch of orange zest on nose.  The palate emphasizes black fruit with a supple grip and a long finish.  Very attractive as a cocktail, or pair it with simpler red meat preparations.
90 Rich Cook Dec 30, 2014

Robert Mondavi Private Selection, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($11):  Value wine in the Cabernet Sauvignon category is easier to come by than you might think -- a key is to look for very recent vintages in the under $15 category.  Like this wine, they are built for early enjoyment, where fresh fruit and spice rule the day.  Blackberry, and spice aromas and flavors unfold quickly and finish cleanly in this easy to find bottling.  Go get some!   A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Mar 13, 2018

Salt of the Earth, California (United States) Moscato Rubino 2013 ($10): This sweet red Muscat from Quady Winery (probably America’s premier producer of sweet red wines) shows a lot more to like than just sugar.  The soaring aromatics are quite floral; there’s an impression of bright red raspberries in the mid-palate, and plenty of zesty acidity brightens up the finish so that one is soon ready for another sip.  A highly admirable performance in a category that is commercially fashionable but qualitatively dreary.  Platinum Award winner at the 2015 San Diego International Wine Competition. 90 Michael Franz Jan 27, 2015

Silkwood Wines, California (United States) Alicante Bouschet NV ($39): Alicante Bouschet is one of the few grapes that has both red skin and red pulp, and it is usually used in small amounts in blended red wines to deepen the color.  Occasionally I run across a stand-alone bottling, but they tend to be unremarkable.  This wine is quite remarkable for its meaty aromas balanced with notes of plum, leaf and spice, and a palate of full body, supple tannins and good complexity delivering deep berry fruit, dill and spice tones and a long finish that leaves you with a bay leaf freshness.  It’s got evident oak, but I find it complimentary, and a few years of bottle aging should integrate it nicely.  Toss this into your next blind tasting!
90 Rich Cook Oct 29, 2013

South Coast Winery, California (United States) Sangiovese 2013 ($14): This notably burly rendition of Sangiovese won’t induce disorientation by making you think you’ve landed in Tuscany, but then, it might very well make you wonder why we don’t have more of this variety planted in California.  Its color is impressively deep, and the aromas and flavors recall dried cherries in a way that’s true to what we expect of the variety, but everything about the wine is just a bit bigger and bolder and fruitier than what we experience within the triangle set by Florence, Siena and Montalcino.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 San Diego Challenge International Wine & Spirits Competition.
90 Michael Franz Apr 11, 2017

Spellbound, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2002 ($20): Petite Sirah has a well-earned reputation for being intense and even wild, but this rendition delivers lots of delicious berry fruit without turning uncivilized. Vivid and fresh but not simple or grapey, it is packed with fruit flavor that stays in the forefront thanks to the subtlety of the oak accents. 90 Michael Franz Sep 12, 2005

Spellbound, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2018 ($15):  With its alluring berry-centric aromas and pleasing flavors suggesting cherries and raspberries, this red wine is as easygoing on the palate as it is on the wallet.  In hot weather chill this juicy, low tannin wine slightly and enjoy it as an aperitif, and at dinnertime pair it with grilled chicken, pork chops, sausages, or black bean burgers.        
90 Marguerite Thomas Jul 13, 2021

Storypoint, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($12):  If you’re looking for a value red for summer, you would be hard-pressed to do better than this gem with the modest price tag.  Richly layered and beautifully textured, it shows notes of blackberry and blueberry with a bit of a rustic finish that is quite appealing.  Serve this wine with wild game, roasts and stews. 
90 Robert Whitley Jul 31, 2018

Sutter Home, California (United States) Pinot Noir NV ($6):   Those in search of a tasty value Pinot Noir can train their sights on this $6 buck beauty from Sutter Home.  This winery consistently over-delivers and has done it again with this delicious non-vintage offering that shows inviting cherry fruit, exceptional palate weight for a red in this price range, and lovely balance.  A Platinum Award winner at the 37th San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge.  
90 Robert Whitley Apr 16, 2019

Tandem, California (United States) Red Wine "Peloton" 2006 ($25): I love the grab-bag complexity of this wine, which starts with 58% Pinot Noir and 30% old vine Mendocino County Zinfandel and includes small amounts of Carignane, Sangiovese, Syrah, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Meunier.  Though it's a California appellation, all the vineyards are on the North Coast, and many of them deliver higher-priced fruit to other wines.  Close your eyes and see if you can smell every individual element.  For starters, I can pick out the rose petal of the Gewurz, the pepper of the Zin and the bacon fat of the Syrah, along with plenty of black and red fruit.  On the palate it's light-bodied (thank the Pinot) and balanced and delicious and constantly interesting.  This is what happens when a good winemaker makes a $10 California red blend for $25 with higher-quality fruit and no holds barred. 90 W. Blake Gray Aug 25, 2009

Terre Rouge, California (United States) Syrah “Les Côtes de l’Ouest” 2005 ($18):  Winemaker and owner Bill Easton bottles his wines made from Rhône grapes--Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier--under the Terre Rouge label, using the eponymous name for those made from other varietals.  All of the vineyards that produce grapes for this wine face west, hence its name, Les Côtes de l’Ouest.  Certainly ripe, its meaty--bacon fat--notes add complexity.  Although the stated 15.5% alcohol might put some off--as it did me initially--this lovely Syrah carries it well.  Drink now with hearty wintertime fare. 90 Michael Apstein Dec 1, 2009

The Crusher, California (United States) Red Blend 2015 ($15):  Don’t pre-judge this wine based on the name of the brand, as it turns out not to be anywhere near as tough as its moniker.  Comprised of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Petite Sirah, it offers open, red-toned fruit with minimal oak, soft texture, and just a hint of fruity sweetness in the finish.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2018 San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge. 
90 Michael Franz Apr 3, 2018

Trinity Oaks, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($9):  A moderately extracted expression that isn’t short on flavor, delivering tons of spicy red fruit, dried herb and dill that are well integrated through the medium long finish.  At this price, quaff away!  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Mar 20, 2018

Trinity Oaks, California (United States) Merlot 2015 ($9): You won't find too many easy to locate, easy to drink red wines priced under $10 that show some depth and finesse like gem.  There's a fine balance between black cherry fruit and green pepper that proudly say "I'm Merlot" and don't succumb to what has become known as the “Cabernization” of the variety.  You'll be seeing this by the glass on restaurant lists.  A Platinum Award winner at the 2017 Monterey International Wine Competition.
90 Rich Cook Mar 14, 2017

Vie, California (United States) 'Melange Maison I' Old Vines NV ($29): Despite its non-vintage status, this is a serious red Rhone-style blend that exhibits excellent density and weight on the palate without going over the top. The blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre is firmly structured and requires time in the glass (or decanter) to open up and show its complex, layered fruit. Initially dark and brooding, as it gains exposure to air the fruit begins to shine. Use of oak is well measured, adding an element of spice and smoke that enhances the savory character of this wine. 90 Robert Whitley Jan 7, 2014

Vie Winery, California (United States) "Mélange Maison II", Old Vines NV ($29): This blend of Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache is sourced from well-known vineyards across California, including Las Madres in Carneros, Sol Rouge in Lake County, and White Hawk in Santa Barbara County.  It's an easy to drink red that delivers more than just a pleasurable quaff.  Blackberry, blueberry, sweet oak spice and leafy notes ride on a creamy palate that is well integrated and long.  At this price, you might think simple grilling, and you'd be right, but it will also work well with more sophisticated fare -- roasted game bird comes to mind.
90 Rich Cook Aug 26, 2014

Whiplash, California (United States) Malbec 2015 ($15): I tasted this wine a couple of months ago, and a revisit with a little time in the bottle shows an evolution into a nice bargain Malbec.  Juicy flavors of blackberry, black cherry, savory meaty notes and complementary oak delight the palate and finish long with good integration.  Bring on the parrilla platter, please!
90 Rich Cook Jun 13, 2017

Whiplash, California (United States) Red Wine 2015 ($15): Fifteen bucks.  Delicious red wine.  What's in it?  Doesn't matter.  Can you find it?  Yes -- it's widely available.  What does it taste like?  Mixed berry, cherry and spice, with a touch of pepper and a long spicy finish.  You'll find it for less that the suggested retail, and it's a great candidate for your house red in 2017.  Need anything else?
90 Rich Cook Dec 27, 2016

Whiplash, California (United States) Redemption 2009 ($11): A blend of Syrah, Barbera and Zinfandel, this wine is a terrific value at just over 10 bucks. It has red cherry and raspberry aromas, with woody spice notes and flavors of red berries and cherries. It’s elegant, juicy and food-friendly – a perfect match for grilled burgers.
90 Tina Caputo Sep 25, 2012

Wine Cube, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($17):  It’s great to be able to pick up a quality wine to take places where glass packaging isn’t always welcome, in a crowd serving quantity and at a value price.  This wine hits the mark, delivering true to type Cabernet character in a three liter box.  Cellaring problem solved.  A Platinum Award Winner at the 2018 Monterey International Wine Competition. 
90 Rich Cook Mar 20, 2018

Bogle Vineyards, California (United States) "Essential Red" 2013 ($12): I took this wine to family pizza night and the bottle was emptied in no time.  It’s a juicy, fruity blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, offering generosity and richness in its blackberry and dark cherry fruit, and hints of anise, cigar box and spice.  Tremendous value in an easy-drinking red.
89 Linda Murphy Nov 3, 2015

Bonny Doon, California (United States) “Le Cigare Volant” 2004 ($30): I think of this wine as Chateauneuf-du-Graham (as in Randall Graham, the enfant terrible behind Bonny Doon wines) since it does indeed reflect some of the virtues of its French role model.  No, of course it's not an exact replica of a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but the nod in that direction is sincere: the wine comes across as a floral bouquet embedded with ripe fruits, dried aromatic herbs, tobacco, a slab of raw meat and a shower of black pepper.  In the years since 'Cigare' first appeared (sometime in the early 1980's I believe) it has rarely failed to please. 89 Marguerite Thomas Jul 1, 2008

Bonny Doon, California (United States) Syrah "Le Pousseur" 2004 ($16): This Rhone-styled wine from Bonny Doon is a little heavier and more alcoholic than their Cigare Volant, focusing more on black fruit as opposed to red fruit flavors.  Not overdone as many California Syrahs can be, it retains elegance and a distinct peppery character, reminiscent of wines from the Northern Rhone. 89 Michael Apstein Jan 16, 2007

Ca' del Solo, California (United States) "Big House Red" 2003 ($10): Randall Grahm's greatest gift to wine is his appreciation of the vast selection of grape varieties and eclectic blends the world has to offer. He has no fewer than six different grape varieties in the '03 Big House Red, a soft, supple, ready-to-drink-now red that is sure to charm your favorite crowd of guests. Great as a sipper, but interesting enough and gutsy enough to serve alongside food, particularly at a late-summer barbecue or while tailgating at the football game. 89 Robert Whitley Oct 11, 2005

Cameron Hughes, California (United States) Meritage 2009 ($12): This isn’t going to be everyone’s Platonic Idea of a Meritage wine, since it is lighter in color and less weighty and dense, with more seeming influence from Merlot and/or Cabernet Franc than from Cabernet Sauvignon. Nevertheless, it also sports a much lower price tag than is typical for the category, and more important still, it shows striking complexity and balance for a wine costing so little. Cassis and black currant fruit is very appealing, and the wine culminates in a moderately rich, rounded finish with unobtrusive, fine-grained tannins.
89 Michael Franz Feb 19, 2013

Candor, California (United States) Zinfandel “Lot 2” 2008 ($18):  For this slightly jammy Zinfandel, the Hope Family winemaking team selected grapes from Lodi and Paso Robles, two of California’s major Zin growing regions (thus the California appellation).  The lots were fermented separately then aged in American oak barrels for 12 months with a final blending prior to bottling.  The color is a medium-deep ruby and the aromas are moderate with cherry-berry notes, while the flavors show good Zin fruit, firm tannins and just a hint of blackberry jam.  The wine finishes with 14.5% alcohol and a lot of sweetish fruit.  The label on Candor wines is simple and basic, showing only the name, a stylized “C” and the varietal, a subtle urging for buyers to read the back label for more helpful information about the wine. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 20, 2010

Casey Flat Ranch, California (United States) “Open Range” 2009 ($18): If you are starting to feel the fall weather and are breaking out the slow cooker for stews and other comfort foods, this wine is a nice, reasonable priced accompaniment.  Aromas include blackberry, blueberry, mild green peppercorn, dill and cedar.  The palate is bold, with firm tannins propping up flavors of blackberry, tar and mushroom, with pepper and a little complimentary charred oak coming forward in the finish.  Made by Laura Barrett.
89 Rich Cook Oct 15, 2013

Cashmere, California (United States) "Black Magic" 2014 ($25): A new project for Cline Cellars with a label that takes its name from their Rhône blend of past vintages.  Several wineries have taken to marketing "dark red blends" that tend toward the black fruit forward style, and this is one of the best, with black plum, blackberry, fall spice and pepper aromas and flavors.  It's a perfect crowd pleasing grilling accompaniment.
89 Rich Cook Jul 5, 2016

Chateau Souverain, California (United States) Merlot 2016 ($14):  This is a budget friendly Merlot that will please many a red wine drinker as a fine cocktail or beef accompaniment.  Solid varietal character, pleasant peppery notes and a dry, juicy finish with a kiss of sweet oak make for a great buy. 
89 Rich Cook Sep 11, 2018

Decoy, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 ($25):  This label continues to crank out the value, with solid varietal character evident in this Cabernet Sauvignon being a testimony to the brand intent.  It’s meant to enjoy now, and it will work well with fall meat dishes of all types.  Contains 14% Merlot.       
89 Rich Cook Oct 26, 2021

Fat Monk, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2010 ($15):  Adam LaZarre had a huge reputation for making wonderful wines for under $20 when he was the resident winemaker at Hahn Estates in Monterey. He’s since relocated to the Paso Robles winery Villa San-Juliette, and Fat Monk is now his “value” label. I won’t pretend this Pinot will remind you of Burgundy. It won’t. It simply doesn’t have the structure. But it is a delicious example of New World Pinot, with soft, ripe fruit and true Pinot character. 89 Robert Whitley May 29, 2012

Fetzer Vineyards, California (United States) "Crimson" 2010 ($10): Crimson, a blend of Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, is the red companion to Quartz. It has a deep purple-ruby color, forward ripe plum nose with lots of toasty oak notes, medium smoky-berry flavors, and an oak smell that doesn’t come from barrel aging. Crimson has structure and plenty of fruit and oaky notes, 13.5% alcohol and a good finish. According to the winery, Crimson was aged for several months in a combination of oak alternatives “in the presence of micro-ox.” Oak alternatives are items such as oak chips that are less expensive than oak barrels. Micro-oxygenation is an involved process that is intended to mirror the effects of oxygen naturally achieved in barrel maturation. Both processes allow Fetzer to release a wine like Crimson with oaky aromas and flavors, without using expensive oak barrels. It is a common practice in the wine industry, especially for wines priced at $10 or less. 89 Gerald D. Boyd Dec 25, 2012

Ghost Pine, California (United States) Zinfandel “Winemaker's Blend” 2014 ($20): This pleasant Zinfandel is a blend of fruit from three counties -- San Joaquin, Sonoma and Lake. I've seen this in a few Zins over the past year, and it seems to be a good play. Ripe brambly fruit from San Joaquin, where it's crazy hot, pepper and structure from Sonoma, where it's cooler, and some spice and cherry from Lake.  Put them all together and you get a complex yet approachable Zinfandel that will work with summer grilled meats or moderate strength cheeses.  It helps that it's widely distributed as well.
89 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Ghost Pines, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($23):  This dual-appellation wine is a blend of fruit from Napa (two-thirds) and Sonoma counties (one-third).  It has lots of jammy blackberry and black cherry fruit, with notes of black pepper.  It’s smooth and balanced, with a slightly tannic finish.  As a bonus it’s well priced -- perhaps even a little under-priced for the quality.  Try it with grilled flank steak. 89 Tina Caputo Jun 21, 2011

HandCraft, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon “Artisan Collection” 2011 ($13): This is a terrific little end-of-summer red to enjoy with the informal foods of the season. It’s an apt wine for classic backyard burgers, and certainly the price to quality ratio makes it even more appealing.  HandCraft provides all the forthright, beef-friendly flavors one expects from California Cabernet, but the tannins have been very slightly reined in by a small amount of Sangiovese, which adds a measure of suppleness and perhaps also helps brighten and round out the fruit flavors
89 Marguerite Thomas Sep 3, 2013

HandCraft Artisan Collection, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($13): Here is an easygoing Cabernet that’s ready to drink and delivers some bang for your buck.  Blackberry, black cherry, fall spice and a bit of baker’s chocolate are evident in both aroma and flavor, with medium body, soft tannins and a persistent finish that is well integrated.  Burgers, grilled steak, tapas -- this wine will work.
89 Rich Cook Oct 15, 2013

JC Cellars, California (USA) Syrah "California Cuvee" 2004 ($25): Rich and ripe, this Syrah, made with fruit sourced from throughout the Golden State, tastes voluptuous.  Though winemaker Jeff Cohen is a Rhône aficionado, the wine more closely resembles a top-notch South Australian Shiraz, being powerful but fruit-forward, with a creamy vanilla overlay, but nary a hint of black pepper.  It sports a whopping 15.2% alcohol level, but tastes voluptuous rather than hot. 89 Paul Lukacs Mar 6, 2007

Joel Gott, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "815" 2010 ($14): Gott purchased grapes from five different areas -- Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Lodi, Paso Robles and Lake County -- to put together this beautifully balanced Cabernet Sauvignon. He has managed to combine lush black fruit nuances with mouth-watering acidity without going over the top with either. It delivers lots of pizzazz despite its modest,13.9%-stated, alcohol. Neither perfectly polished nor rustic, it has just the right amount of spice and verve. The name, 815, represents August 15th, the birth date of his first daughter. This is a steal. Let me know when you get more enjoyment from a $14 California Cabernet.
89 Michael Apstein May 7, 2013

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Vintner's Reserve" 2002 ($16): This is a very, very good Cabernet that ought not to be dismissed on account of its wide availabillity. Once a ubiquitous bottling at entry-level prices, this is now a high-quality wine for which you may be able to pay a price considerably below its value. Gutsy blackberry fruit shows good concentration and depth of flavor, with oak notes adding complexity but remaining in the background. The fruit is drawn from Napa (36%), Mendocino (34%) and Sonoma (30%) Counties. This is the sort of high-quality, widely-available bottling needed to make wine a regular part of life across the United States. 89 Michael Franz Oct 11, 2005

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Syrah "Vintner's Reserve" 2003 ($12): Anyone who would dismiss the Kendall-Jackson "Vintner's Reserve" tier of wines as mass-market juice is making a serious error. The wines are all admirably seriously styled, well made, vividly true to the grape variety, and surprisingly concentrated and flavorful. This Syrah is able to go toe-to-toe with counterparts at this price point from anywhere, and will leave most of its competitors on the canvas. Impressively dark and deeply colored, with fruit notes that recall black cherries and dark berries, along with very subtle wood-based scents and background notes of fresh meat and cocoa, this is a remarkable performance at this price level. 89 Michael Franz Dec 6, 2005

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Syrah 2008 ($16):  This is a classy Syrah for the price, with plenty of bright red and black fruit flavors enhanced by a touch of earthiness and notes of vanilla.  Because it leans more towards refinement than ostentation, it is a red wine that’s compatible with a range of different foods, from burgers to kabobs, pizzas to pastas, and it’s mighty good with a BLT sandwich too. 89 Marguerite Thomas Mar 6, 2012

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Merlot “Grand Reserve” 2006 ($28):

Made from a combination of Sonoma (75%) and Napa fruit, this Merlot has aromas of wood, cedar and spice.  It has flavors of red berries and cherries, accented with bright acidity.

89 Tina Caputo Nov 24, 2009

Landmark, California (United States) Pinot Noir “Overlook” 2014 ($25): Landmark's Overlook line sits at a price point that is getting harder and harder to find in quality domestic Pinot Noir.  It has good availability, and delivers fine value.  Its profile includes black cherry, forest floor and fall spice, with lively acidity and a long finish where a complementary charred oak note comes forward.  This wine will pair nicely with pork or chicken that's more on the herbaceous side of the prep spectrum.
89 Rich Cook Jan 17, 2017

Little Black Dress, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($11): This shows plenty of Cabernet character for eleven bucks, but it also shows a lot of gutsy, pleasantly earthy accents around the edges, which makes perfect sense when one learns that the blend is actually 78% Cabernet, 9% Petite Sirah, 5% Carignan, 5% Syrah, and 3% Malbec.  I have no problem with labeling this as Cabernet Sauvignon, since that is the predominant varietal profile of the wine, and on the contrary, this is a very clever way to avoid the problem of one-dimensionality in a highly affordable wine.  Kudos to the staff at Fetzer Vineyards, the company behind this brand.
89 Michael Franz Mar 19, 2013

Lyeth Estate, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($15):  Everything here is nicely balanced, beginning with the rush of mixed berry flavors with a spiced oak chaser.  Soft tannins and modest acidity complete the picture.  This very easygoing Cabernet Sauvignon is reliable, affordable and likable.
89 Marguerite Thomas May 7, 2019

Prophecy, California (United States) Pinot Noir “The Traveler” 2014 ($14):  Medium bodied, with a silky-smooth texture and bright, fruity flavors that are buoyed by spicy, toasty oak, this is a wine that belies its very modest price.  Pour it at a party, or an informal dinner, and it will fit right into just about any occasion.  This is a relaxed, comfortably wine to sniff, sip and enjoy. 
89 Marguerite Thomas Jan 2, 2018

Ravenswood, California (United States) Petite Sirah “Vintners Blend” 2006 ($12): In my experience, the quality of the wines in Ravenswood's 'Vintners Blend' series varies considerably, due I suppose to the vagaries of both vineyard sourcing and vintage.  While some examples can be quite good, others taste generic and undistinguished.  This Petite Sirah definitely falls in the first category, as it over-delivers given its modest price tag.  A big, powerful wine, it tastes true to type, with blueberry jam-like fruit flavors, plenty of tannin and muscle, and a very expressive bouquet.  It's a great barbecue wine. 89 Paul Lukacs Feb 17, 2009

Rosenblum, California (United States) Petite Sirah "Heritage Clones" 2007 ($11):  Buckle your seatbelt before imbibing this wine.  Almost as dark and glossy as patent leather, it’s typical of good Petite Sirah in its forceful impact on the palate.  Like a psychedelic trip for your taste buds, the wine rocks with lush flavors that call to mind blackberries awash in dark chocolate further enhanced by jolts of licorice-scented espresso. 89 Marguerite Thomas Feb 16, 2010

Tom Gore Vineyards, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($15): A new winery to me, and they are right out of the chute with a solid, value priced Cabernet that is sure to please.  Mouth-filling bright black cherry and black currant fruit accented by notes of leaf and subtle spice ride supple tannins through a long fruit-forward finish.  What's not to like about an affordable, approachable and affable red for summer into fall grilling?  Well done!  Contains 4% Malbec, 3% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Petite Sirah.
89 Rich Cook Aug 2, 2016

Tortoise Creek, California (United States) Pinot Noir “Mission Grove” 2017 ($13):  A garnet hued, light red wine, this Tortoise Creek Pinot Noir shows a little earthiness and a light floral element mingling with delicate fruity notes.  Simple, relatively affordable and undemanding it is also relatively low in alcohol compared to many California red wines  (13.6%).     
89 Marguerite Thomas Apr 28, 2020

Turning Leaf, California (United States) Merlot 2009 ($8):  You may be as surprised as I was when I tried this very, very inexpensive wine and found that it tastes very, very classy.  I can’t remember being particularly impressed by Turning Leaf in the past, but this Merlot is impressively rich, with good fresh fruit, a delicate oomph of oak, and surprising length. 89 Marguerite Thomas Jun 28, 2011

Wade Cellars, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon “Three by Wade” 2020 ($28):  2020 was a difficult year.  COVID-19 limited workforce availability and Napa, specifically, suffered two significant wildfires that impacted quality and yields for the year.  This ready-to-drink Cabernet Sauvignon blends fruit from Napa, where Wade Cellars is located, with fruit from both Paso Robles and Mendocino AVAs.  The resulting wine shows fresh and dried red and black fruit tones with subtle violet, chocolate, and pipe tobacco notes.  Dwayne Wade retired from the NBA and founded Wade Cellars in 2014.     
89 Vince Simmon Nov 8, 2022

Alexander Valley Vineyards, California (United States) Zinfandel “Temptation” 2014 ($14):  A soft, juicy Zinfandel that is full of fun with no hard edges, this is tempting indeed, and hence aptly named.  Red berry fruit notes are very appealing, making this well suited to stand-alone sipping or pairing at the table with moderately robust foods.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2018 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition. 
88 Michael Franz Feb 27, 2018

Avalon, California (United States) "Blend" Red Wine 2015 ($12):  So -- you go into the grocery and you're looking for a red wine.  This bottle wears that title, and it's an easy to drink Zinfandel based blend that shows jammy varietal character, with lesser amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat and Petite Sirah adding some weight.  Some sweet charred oak spice comes forward in the finish, making it a grilled burger match at a nice price. 
88 Rich Cook Feb 6, 2018

Avery Quinn, California (United States) Merlot 2011 ($11): What the world needs--at least on Tuesday nights--is a good, honest, balanced, $11 bottle of red wine that will work with almost anything at the table. This is that wine. It shows red berry and black plum flavors with soft, supple tannins and virtually no notable oak. This may not cut the mustard for special occasions, but it is a damned good bottle of everyday wine.
88 Michael Franz Feb 19, 2013

Bogle Vineyard, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2006 ($11): Bogle is one of the larger wineries in the Sacramento Delta area of Clarksburg, a region known for Chenin Blanc, when Chenin Blanc was known.  Bogle, however, considers Petite Sirah to be its 'heritage' varietal, sourcing their fruit from Clarksburg and nearby Lodi.  The color is typical Petite Sirah, deep purple-red with a black core.  There are scents of smoke and ripe black fruits like plums.  The simple flavors offer berry accents and leather, and the wine finishes at 13.5% alcohol.  This is a good value, though a bit simple, but should develop more complexity with a few more years in bottle. 88 Gerald D. Boyd Jul 15, 2008

Bogle Vineyards, California (United States) Merlot 2011 ($10): Bogle, located in Clarksburg, California, continues its successful run of value-priced California wines with this Merlot.  It’s textbook in its generous plum and black cherry fruit, with gentle herbaceousness and supple tannins.  Rewarding and just-shy-of-sophisticated, it delivers wonderful value.
88 Linda Murphy Dec 24, 2013

Bogle Vineyards, California (United States) Old Vine Zinfandel 2016 ($12):   Bogle's Old Vine Zinfandel offers plenty of fruit laced with just enough acidity to restore the palate, while hints of oak and vanilla also contribute to the overall flavor profile.  The grapes are sourced from vines ranging from 60 to 80 years old.  This informal wine is a good match for likewise informal foods such as sausages, burgers, pasta and such. 
88 Marguerite Thomas Apr 21, 2020

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) Red Blend "Le Cigare Volant" 2003 ($30): At the risk of exposing myself as an imbecile, I must confess that, even after all these years, the name, and idea behind, and label of this wine all still crack me up.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you owe it to yourself to have a look at a bottle or at least have a look around this vintner's website (which I haven't seen but which must--knowing him a bit--surely amount to time well mis-spent).  So, anyway:  This is an homage to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and is consequently comprised of 35% Mourvedre, 32% Syrah, 26% Grenache and 7% Cinsault.  The sum of these parts seems a little frivolous when first opened, but gets more appealing and interesting every time you come back to it, and, after an hour or so, shows really engaging nuances and lots of substance.  Notes of red and black fruits are unencumbered by overt wood notes, and some nice little floral and spice backnotes are quite appealing. 88 Michael Franz Jan 23, 2007

Bota Box, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 ($20):  This Cabernet is proof that California is starting to produce downright palatable wines in contemporary eco-friendly bag-in-box packaging.  Most of the better ones I’ve tasted so far are to serious wine what picnic food is to gourmet cuisine--and that’s exactly the point, they are good, informal and inexpensive.  Since the wine stays fresh for several weeks after it’s been opened its handy to have around the kitchen for pouring a glass of wine whenever thirst strikes, but one of their main attractions is that they’re a good choice for picnics and other outings (especially since they’re so conveniently transportable).  Coincidentally, as I was writing my notes about this Cab a friend happened to text me from her boat: “Just dropped anchor at sunset & we’re enjoying Bota Box Cabernet--it’s perfect!”  Indeed, the wine is pleasantly fresh, fruity and soft.  It is filled with ripe berry and red plum flavors, has virtually no tannic impact, and at 13% alcohol easy to sip at sunset or sundown.   The container holds the equivalent of four standard 750ml bottles. 88 Marguerite Thomas Sep 28, 2010

Ca' Momi, California (United States) "Rosso" 2014 ($15): Here is a fruit-forward easy drinking red at a nice price, featuring black fruit, fall spice and sweet oak in a ripe, full bodied style, with supple tannins and a medium long finish.  When you want an unpretentious red that tastes great, you can't go wrong with this one.
88 Rich Cook Oct 25, 2016

Capo Cagna, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($20):  Here’s an easy drinking Cabernet for fans of oak spice and juicy black fruit.  There's no pretense here, just a tasty glass that would be great grillside or as a solo quaffer.    
88 Rich Cook Jan 7, 2020

Cellar No. 8, California (United States) Red Wine 2009 ($10):  Cellar No. 8 is part of the old Asti Winery in northern Sonoma County.  The “8” is label language for Petite Sirah, Grenache, Merlot, Mourvedre, Syrah, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese, an odd “everything in the cellar” blend that works. There is a deep ruby color, low intensity berry nose, bright spicy flavors, a hint of spice, supported by big tannins and 13.8% alcohol and medium length through the finish.  This is a burger and barbecue red and the price is right.  Kudos to Cellar 8 for using a lightweight bottle, weighting in at 40 ounces full.

88 Gerald D. Boyd Dec 6, 2011

Chateau St. Jean, California (United States) “Signature Red” Blend 2010 ($14):  A couple of nights ago I tasted a selection of California red wines priced at $15 and less.  Most were Cabernet based, and most of them were, well, not exactly exciting.  With one or two exceptions they were perfectly fine, drinkable, pleasant wines (at least for my palate, it’s rare to find real excitement in California reds priced under $20-25).  One of the best of the bunch was Chateau St. Jean’s eclectic blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Malbec was relatively rich and savory, and attention-worthy for its dark ruby and garnet hues.  With its diverse and seemingly random selection of grapes the wine was relatively well balanced given the bedlam that might have resulted in the hands of a less skilled winemaker.  I might have liked it even more with a tad more restraint on the oak.
88 Marguerite Thomas Sep 18, 2012

Clif Bar Family Winery, California (United States) "Clif The Climber" 2005 ($15): This transition wine (winemaker Sarah Gott was not hired until 2007) is an eclectic blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Syrah and Merlot, sourced from vineyards throughout the North Coast,  that Gott finished and released to bottling.  The (red) Climber has a deep inky color, fresh blackberry and plum aromas, with fresh choco-berry flavors, supported by firm tannins and a short finish at 14.3% alcohol.  The wine was barrel aged in new and used oak for 17 months, providing structure without being overly oaky.  A close look at the whimsical Clif Bar label shows The Climber appearing to be hanging rather than climbing. 88 Gerald D. Boyd Dec 9, 2008

Colby, California (United States) Red 2010 ($13): It’s hard not to enjoy this easygoing wine with its medium-light body and notes of sweet red fruits. The price is relatively low, and the wine expertly made, with Daryl Groom, the celebrated Australia-born California winemaker overseeing the project. If all this isn’t enough of a come-on, consider that profits from every bottle of Colby Red helps support healthy heart-related research and care.
88 Marguerite Thomas May 14, 2013

Colby Red, California (United States) Red Blend 2009 ($13):

 If you don't know of Daryl Groom, you should. He was once senior red  winemaker for Australia's Penfolds, where he made several vintages of the iconic Grange. More recently Daryl made the wines at Geyser Peak and now for his own wine company, Groom. Colby Red is made in partnership with Treasury Wine Estates, whose parent company owns Penfolds, and together they've made this wine a fund-raising machine for the American Heart Association, with a goal of raising $100,000 a year for heart research. The inspiration was Daryl's son, Colby Rex Groom, who was born with a hole in his heart. Colby Groom's life was saved by medical research, and his dad reports he's a teenager now and leads a reasonably healthy life with his family in Sonoma County. This is a fruity, easy drinking red that combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Merlot from various Treasury vineyard located throughout California. It's a good wine for a great cause. And Daryl Groom is a great winemaker, but an even better person.

88 Robert Whitley Mar 29, 2011

Colby Red, California (United States) Red Wine 2010 ($13):  Made by winemaker Daryl Groom of Geyser Peak and Penfolds fame, this fruit-forward red has aromas of black fruit and toasty spice.  It’s smooth and seamless, with plenty of ripe blackberry flavor.  A great value at around $12 or $13, all profits from the sale of this wine are donated to heart-related charities.
88 Tina Caputo Jun 5, 2012

Cycles Gladiator, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($10): Who says you can't get good wine from California for ten bucks?  (Actually, I've said this myself not long ago after being angered by a dispiriting run of obvious, chunky wines, but this is an admirable exception.)  Distinguished by fruit that shows clear varietal character without any ripening flaws such as underripeness that can leave Cabernet showing a green side, or overripening that can leave it looking nondescript and grapey.  The finished wine is simple, as one would expect in this price range, but very tasty and versatile, with medium-plus body and pure flavors of dark berries that will work nicely with moderately robust foods. 88 Michael Franz Feb 3, 2009

Decoy, California (United States) Merlot 2019 ($25):  A solid blackberry/cassis nose with a little dried herb is a little “Cabernized” in character, but the palate delivers rich Merlot quality, with a healthy dose of oak spice.  A touch of wood tannin makes this a near term drinker that’s ready for fall grilling.  I suspect it was tailored for exactly that.      
88 Rich Cook Oct 19, 2021

Fortnight, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 ($13):  2020 certainly proved difficult for all of us, and many northern California producers of Cabernet Sauvignon got hit with the extra twist of fire ruining the vintage.  Fortunately, there are other places to look for budget friendly Cabernet from 2020, like this bottle that you will likely find at a discount from its already low price.  It is a crowd pleasing quaffer with true varietal character.     
88 Rich Cook Dec 27, 2022

Francis Coppola, California (United States) "Diamond Collection Claret" 2003 ($18): I have not been enthralled to date by these Coppola "Diamond Series" wines, but I certainly like this one. It is clearly a New World wine with lots of expressive fruit, but the weight is really medium-bodied and the aromas and flavors show an unusual measure of restraint. Consequently, the tag of "Claret" (a traditional English term for reds from Bordeaux, pronounced with the "t" sounded) is not just an empty gimick. With nice black cherry fruit and light tannns that are well balanced against the weight of the fruit, this is a very nice and very interesting wine. 88 Michael Franz Jan 3, 2006

Gallo Family Vineyards, California (United States) Shiraz "Twin Valley" NV ($5): As you might expect given the price, this wine isn't going to bowl you over with subtlety and complexity.  That said, however, the easygoing Gallo Shiraz is a wine destined to win friends thanks to its approachable character and flavorsome fresh fruit finish.  Wine snobs may not want to bring it out for an intimate gourmet dinner, but it's unarguably a good picnic pour or a respectable libation to serve to a crowd (Fourth of July party perhaps?). 88 Marguerite Thomas Jun 19, 2007

Geyser Peak Winery, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2012 ($16): 2012 has been hailed as the latest “vintage of the century” in California.  I don’t know about that, but decent Pinot Noir for less than twenty bucks is a positive sign.  This offers aromas of cherry, raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb with complimentary cedar spice and sandalwood.  The palate is driven by mixed red fruit, with notes of earth and tea adding interest.  The finish is medium long with a touch of citrus keeping things bright.  Mild cheeses or simple pork dishes will make agreeable flavor mates.
88 Rich Cook Nov 5, 2013

Grayson Cellars, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2007 ($14): An excellent value in Golden State Pinot Noir, this wine tastes legitimately of the varietal--something that is not at all true with many more expensive renditions.  Light in color and body, it has a soft, silky texture, and tastes of bright cherry fruit undergirded by spice.  Very tasty. 88 Paul Lukacs Mar 10, 2009

Grayson Cellars, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2007 ($14): A fine value in California Pinot Noir, this wine avoids the excessive sweetness and candied character that mars so many American renditions of the varietal.  Genuinely light-bodied, with aromas and flavors reminiscent of dark cherries enhanced by spice, it tastes legitimately like Pinot.  That's something that many California renditions costing two, three, even four times as much cannot claim. 88 Paul Lukacs Mar 31, 2009

HandCraft, California (United States) Malbec 2013 ($12): This is a menthol minty fresh Malbec from one of Delicato's labels, and it succeeds in being a lively, easy to drink red that won't tire you out on a warmer day. Serve this at about 60 degrees and you'll see the bottle go empty in a hurry.
88 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

Hess Collection, California (United States) Syrah "Select" 2003 ($13): Syrah/Shiraz plantings have exploded worldwide over the past decade, and anybody who wants to compete with a wine priced in the mid-teens had better put a lot wine in the bottle. There is indeed a lot of wine in this bottle, and it is very dark and concentrated, yet invitingly fruity and soft in texture. The lead flavors are blackberry and red raspberry, and they work very well together and are nicely accented with a little whiff of oak. Very tasty and impressively robust. 88 Michael Franz Nov 22, 2005

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Syrah "Vintner's Reserve" 2003 ($12): It seems as though the "Vinter's Reserve" wines, the lowest rung on the K-J ladder, has found another gear and are once again close to being the industry leading in this price category. The '03 Syrah has plenty of horsepower, with bold dark berry fruit notes and a flattering earthiness that gives this wine a touch of character. 88 Robert Whitley Jan 3, 2006

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Pinot Noir "Vintner's Reserve" 2005 ($14): You'll have a hard time finding Pinot at this price that can outdo this wine in terms of varietal authenticity while also matching it in terms of depth of flavor. The black cherry fruit is moderately rich and really quite generous, yet the wine remains fresh and sufficiently light to work with classic Pinot dishes like duck or pork. 88 Michael Franz Jul 11, 2006

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2007 ($18):  Though light-bodied, this wine is more firmly structured than many California Pinot Noirs, and offers satisfying because neither sappy nor saccharined dark cherry fruit flavors enhanced by echoes of savory spice.  Few Pinots at this price point prove as enticing. 88 Paul Lukacs Feb 8, 2011

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Pinot Noir "Vintner's Reserve" 2009 ($18):  This multi-regional blend from a collection of Northern California vineyards was aged for nine months in mostly French oak barrels.  It has a light cherry-red color, cherry-berry aromas with traces of pepper and dark plums, nicely textured flavors, accented with cedar, 13.5% alcohol and a slight bitterness in the finish. 88 Gerald D. Boyd Jun 7, 2011

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Merlot Vintners Reserve 2004 ($18): KJ -- as it is affectionately called in the trade -- obtains grapes from all over California to fashion this classy Merlot.  Not overwrought, the hint of leafy quality characteristic of that grape complements the bright red- and black-fruit elements.  Fine tannins add needed structure so it holds up throughout a meal. 88 Michael Apstein Nov 27, 2007

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Syrah Vintner's Reserve 2008 ($16):  Winemaker Randy Ullom is well respected, and deservedly so, for the cleverness with which he manages K-J's Vintner's Reserve range. The wines are typically blends from Jess Jackson properties littered all over California, and keeping track of it all must be a bit of a nightmare at harvest. I say the man's a genius. Ullom not only keeps track of those thousands of individual lots, he makes perfect sense with them. The Syrah is one of the best wines in the Vintner's Reserve line and the '08 exhibits layered blueberry and black cherry nuance with a hint of animal and smokey oak. This wine is extremely tight and closed at the moment. I wouldn't bet against it getting better in the bottle over the next few years, and deserving of a slightly higher score. 88 Robert Whitley Jan 4, 2011

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Vintner's Reserve 'Summation' 2007 ($14):  Kendall-Jackson is to be applauded for producing a wine of this quiet character at such an attractive price. It's not one of those muscular, in-your-face California reds, but rather a subtle blend of Merlot, Cabernet, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and "other." It's medium-bodied, flavorful, well rounded and delicious, with an elegance that is uncommon at below $15. The tannins are well integrated and supple, allowing the predominantly red-fruited character of the wine to shine. Is it a wine for the ages? No. Is it a wine for tonight? Most definitely. 88 Robert Whitley Jan 4, 2011

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Vintner’s Reserve "Summation” 2007 ($14):  After three decades of producing wine in northern California the Kendall-Jackson team certainly knows how to do it right. In this Summation blend, just about every red wine grape you’ve ever heard of has been included.  Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Syrah--they’re all in here, along with 1% “other varietals”.   The fruit has been sourced from just about every grape growing region in northern California, from Mendocino down to Santa Barbara.  Can we call this a multi-viticulti wine?  In any event, the result is pleasant, smooth and easy drinking, and because it’s so undemanding this wine will go with a variety of informal foods.  Match it up with pizza, burgers, tomato-sauced pasta, for example.  It will even be a good choice to pour with turkey if you’re already thinking about Thanksgiving. 88 Marguerite Thomas Nov 16, 2010

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Zinfandel “Vintner's Reserve” 2014 ($17): Roadworthy.  That's what I like to call a wine that's available across the fifty states, one that I can pop into a market just about anywhere and find when I'm out on the road and enjoy with a take out sandwich or pizza.  This could be the most reliable line in America.  The Zin features bright spicy berry fruit, mouthwatering acidity and a medium long finish that brings a nice black pepper bite forward.  Restaurant buyer alert -- this is solid BTG material.
88 Rich Cook Oct 4, 2016

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Syrah “Vintner’s Reserve” 2006 ($12): Rich and meaty, this wine shows very good concentration and density for the money.  The fruit is quite ripe but not quite chunky or obvious, and the blackberry and black cherry notes stay fresh through the finish, which has enough tannin to provide guts and definition, but stays fairly soft. 88 Michael Franz Oct 14, 2008

Lander-Jenkins, California (USA) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($15):  This vintage of Lander-Jenkins cabernet delivers big flavors for a small price. On the nose it offers hints of wood spice and black fruits, which carry through on the fleshy, juicy palate. The tannins are supple and soft, making for enjoyable near-term consumption.
88 Robert Whitley Nov 1, 2016

Landmark Vineyards, California (USA) Pinot Noir 'Overlook' 2014 ($25):  Landmark's Overlook may be its bottom tier pinot noir, but it has plenty of oomph to go along with the sweet price. The nose offers up fragrances of spice earth, with a strong note of wild cherry. On the palate the wine exhibits good density, with supple tannins and a long, spicy finish. A steal at this price.
88 Robert Whitley Jan 10, 2017

Landmark Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Noir “Overlook” 2019 ($27): Landmark Vineyards bottles a variety of Pinot Noir wines.  This one, a blend of grapes from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties, is clearly fruit-focused and a bit plummy, though not one-dimensional.  Spice adds balance to this round and nicely textured Pinot Noir that finishes with a subtle sweetness.         
88 Michael Apstein Aug 16, 2022

Light Horse, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2013 ($15): Light Horse wowed us with their 2012 Pinot Noir, and this wine is similar in style.  Cola, raspberry, cherry, cinnamon, and cedar spice notes are present in aroma and flavor, delivered in a soft, approachable palate with a long well integrated finish.  For fifteen bucks, there's a lot being offered here.
88 Rich Cook Dec 30, 2014

McManis, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2010 ($12):  This unusual blend of Pinot Noir and Petit Verdot, aged in French oak for six month, has very good Pinot Noir character.  The color is a medium ruby, the aromatics show slightly candied cherry-berry and black tea notes.  It’s fruity, pleasant, 13.5% alcohol, with smooth texture and good length through the medium finish.  This is a very drinkable Pinot Noir at an attractive price.
88 Gerald D. Boyd Jan 31, 2012

McManis Family Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2008 ($11):

Sometimes you don’t want to spend $15 on wine.  Unfortunately, the $12-and-under category in U.S.  domestic wines is dominated by corporations which do a competent job, but somehow don’t seem Thanksgiving-worthy.  This is a family-run business founded around a giant Chardonnay vineyard in River Junction.  The McManises are still farmers, and they deliver fair value for money.  This isn’t a single vineyard Pinot, but in this price range it’s hard to beat, with generous cherry flavor, medium body and enough acidity to go with a meal.

88 W. Blake Gray Nov 17, 2009

Mirassou, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($12):  Mirassou has been making dependable, easy-on-the-palate wines for many decades.  This Cabernet is typical of the house style in that it’s soft and smooth, with perky but not exceptionally lush fruit flavors.  It is a gentle, unassuming and inexpensive Cab that can fit into almost any family dinner or larger party plans. 88 Marguerite Thomas Sep 18, 2012

Mirassou Sun, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($12): A terrific value, this performs very well based on interplay between fully ripe, slightly sweet fruit, soft tannins, and fresh acidity.  There’s a chance that it will develop additional complexities with time in bottle, but the smart money is on drinking this now with almost any moderately robust dish.  A Double Gold award winner at the 2017 Toast of the Coast Wine Competition.
88 Michael Franz Feb 21, 2017

Our Daily Wine, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Our Daily Cab" 2013 ($11): This is an easy-sipping, fruity Cabernet that will have special appeal for wine drinkers who value a reasonable price tag and USDA organic certification.  With its pure, uncomplicated flavors and velvety texture, this Cab is a good fit for burgers, ribs and other informal summer fare.
88 Marguerite Thomas Aug 18, 2015

Pietra Santa, California (United States) “Sacred Stone” Master’s Red Blend, Cask #05 NV ($10):  Some of the greatest values I’ve ever had from California are not varietal wines but blended reds made from unnamed grape varieties or made from so many varieties that the percentages become meaningless.  This wine carries no grape indication on its label, nor is it vintage dated, and it’s definitely a great value.  It’s a dry, full-bodied red with complex flavors, a rustic personality and yet smooth texture.  The aromas and flavors include dark fruits, spices, tarry/charry notes and even a slight suggestion of tobacco.  The wine handles its 14.6% alcohol very well, and ends in a flavorful, lingering finish.  For $10, this is seriously good wine. 88 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Nov 3, 2009

Rancho Zabaco, California (United States) Zinfandel Dancing Bull 2003 ($9): A perfect party wine, this value-priced Zinfandel shows more character than many Zins costing two or three times as much. Marked by the varietal's characteristically spicy, briary profile, it avoids the excessive heat that mars so many contemporary renditions. There's nothing raisined here, just lots of ripe Zinfandel fruit in a well-structured and well-balanced package. And all for less than $10! 88 Paul Lukacs Jan 24, 2006

Rancho Zabaco, California (United States) Zinfandel "Dancing Bull" 2003 ($12): Even allowing for the fact that the Gallo empire can draw upon vast vineyard resources strewn across California, it still amazes me that they can pull together a Zin this fine for twelve bucks. This wine is actually more interesting and useful than many counterparts now selling for upwards of $20 in the current Zin-crazed era, and though its balanced, integrated profile won't jerk you to attention like many other bottlings, it will win your admiration with its impressive combination of bold flavor and seamless integration. The lead note of fresh berries is augmented by a nice spicy edge and just a little whiff of wood. 88 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2005

Ravenswood, California (United States) Zinfandel Old Vine “Vintner’s Blend” 2012 ($12): Friendly, uncomplicated and comfy, this Zinfandel is the wine equivalent of hanging out with an easygoing old friend.  You don’t have to work hard to appreciate this wine: the fruit is ripe and sweet, the acid balance is right where it should be for relaxed imbibing, and the body is mellow rather than intense and heavy.
88 Marguerite Thomas Nov 25, 2014

Red Rock Winery, California (United States) Merlot Reserve 2006 ($29): California Merlot is often knocked for being plumy and overripe.  Not this one.  About 20% of this unique blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah and Syrah benefited from 'partial whole berry fermentation,' enhancing the fruitiness of the wine without making it grapy.  The final blend was aged for two months, giving the finished wine a soft, smooth taste, with good fruit definition. The nose is a very low intensity cherry-berry and the flavors are tactile, ripe and supported by substantial tannins.  The wine has good acidity, ample tannins and fruit through the finish. 88 Gerald D. Boyd Mar 4, 2008

Red Rock Winery, California (United States) Merlot 2008 ($14):  This smooth-and-simple wine has an earthy aroma with black fruit and cassis notes, and a nice blackberry flavor. A good value. 88 Tina Caputo Sep 27, 2011

Sobon Estate, California (United States) Zinfandel “Hillside” 2010 ($13):  From one of California’s best known Zinfandel producers, this wine’s strong suit is its abundance of chocolaty and blackberry jam notes.  Hillside’s downside is that it seems slightly thin on the palate and a little hot and astringent on the finish, but I doubt that you’ll regret shelling out a comparatively reasonable $13 for a tasty red wine that will shine with burgers or grilled chicken. 88 Marguerite Thomas Sep 18, 2012

The Show, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($15):  Inexpensive California Cabs conjure for me an image of sweet, simple, candied fruitiness, but this solid, gutsy Cabernet turns that image on its head.  From the highly creative “Three Thieves” team, this is a medium-plus bodied red with a smooth texture, ripe and fine-grained tannin, and balanced (13.9%) alcohol.  Its aromas and flavors suggest ripe, dark fruits with a refreshing eucalyptus/ herbal note.  This is by no means a refined or sophisticated Cab: If California made “country wines,” this would be that -- good value and honest pleasure. 88 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Feb 16, 2010

Turley Wine Cellars, California (United States) Zinfandel “Juvenile” 2012 ($22): “Old Vine” has been a catch phrase for Zinfandel for some time now, and rightly so.  Some of the old heritage vineyards in the state produce fruit that can be turned into some of the most unique wines in the world.  But, old vines are like you and me -- they have a life span, and they do reach their end at some point.  This wine is a blend made from young vines that have replaced old vines on several famed heritage vineyards.  The nose shows cherry, raspberry, pepper and toasted oak.  The palate is dry and delivers the nose elements with menthol and dried leaf notes added in, and great acidity keeps everything bright through the medium long finish.  I’d like to revisit this in a couple of years to see how it evolves.
88 Rich Cook Feb 4, 2014

Adler Fels, California (United States) “Totally Random” NV ($10):  Review Copy:    One of the obligations of a wine reviewer, it seems to me, it to try to be mindful of, well, keeping an open mind.  Total objectivity is out of the question, of course--we like what we like, or more honestly, what we’ve learned to like.  Few of us started out loving dry, tannic reds or searingly acidic whites, but with exposure to many different kinds of wine one’s tastes, more often than not, evolve towards a preference for dry rather than sweet wine, at least with meals. (Sauternes, late harvest wines, ice wine and other dessert wines, by the way, are in an entirely different category, as is Port and fortified wine in general).  I haven’t been infatuated with sweet “table” wines myself for a great many years, but I am aware of the current consumer trend in this direction.  Of the few sweet wines I’ve sampled recently, this one seemed like one of the better crafted examples of the genre.   It has aromas of sweet fruit and vanilla, and a fragrance faintly reminiscent of grape or berry pie.  The wine is sweet, to be sure, but less cloying than one might expect. If you’re OK drinking wine named “Totally Random,” this could be for you.

87 Marguerite Thomas Nov 15, 2011

Black Box, California (United States) Merlot 2012 ($25): Sometimes a wine consumer must think outside the box. Or drink outside the box. Or something like that. The price on this wine, it should be noted, is for a 3 liter box. The Black Box folks have a good record when it comes to putting credible wines in the large-box format, and this simple Merlot is a great example. It shows pretty red-fruit aroma, is well balanced and ready to drink now. And it earned the respect of the judges at Winemaker Challenge V, taking a platinum award. 87 Robert Whitley Jan 28, 2014

Blackstone Winery, California (United States) Zinfandel 2004 ($9): I wish California produced more of these inexpensive, yet satisfying, wines.  Thankfully not a palate scorching, 16% alcohol Zinfandel, Blackstone's rendition has the spice associated with the grape without the burn. It lacks the panache of a small appellation since the purchased fruit came from all over California, but it's a delightful 'everyday' wine. 87 Michael Apstein Nov 21, 2006

Bogle, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($11): It’s a nerve-jangling ocean of very sweet, very ripe fruit, but people who gravitate towards big, boozy wines will find it luscious -- and the price is certainly right.  Although this Cab seems a little over-the-top, Bogle has long been a reliable label to turn to for affordable, mass-produced wines characterized by verve and fresh flavors.
87 Marguerite Thomas Mar 12, 2013

Bogle Vineards, California (United States) “Essential Red” 2010 ($11): Old-vine Zinfandel mixes with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah in this juicy, spicy wine.  It offers brambly wild berry, black cherry and plum flavors, vanillin oak as a back note, and a crisp, refreshing finish.
87 Linda Murphy Dec 24, 2013

Ca' del Solo, California (United States) "Big House Red" 2003 ($12): Pronounced aromas of ripe black fruits and delicate spice. Dry, full-bodied and generous with high alcohol, medium tannin and a lovely soft texture; ripe fruit flavors are very satisfying, not candied or over-ripe, and the wine has decent length. Great value. An eclectic blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Carignan, Barbera and Malbec. 87 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Aug 21, 2005

California Rabbit, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2009 ($6):  Produced by Boisset Family Estates, this 500 ml Tetra-packaged Pinot has spicy red fruit aromas and cherry fruit on the palate. It’s well balanced and smooth, with a light-to-medium body. 87 Tina Caputo Oct 4, 2011

Carnivor, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($15): At this price point this California Cabernet from the Gallo family of wines will be a shining star. Dark and rich in color, it has significant weight on the palate for a $15 wines, with notes of blackberry and chocolate, supple tannins and a sweet kiss of oak that is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. 87 Robert Whitley Oct 7, 2014

Chateau Souverain, California (United States) Merlot 2016 ($13):  If you’re looking for a medium-bodied summer red, Chateau Souverain’s 2016 merlot fits the description at an exceedingly modest price.  Showing notes of blueberry and plum with soft tannins, serve it with a slight chill and pair it with savory meats from the grill.  
87 Robert Whitley Aug 28, 2018

Della Casa, California (United States) “Vino Rosso” 2015 ($23):  This juicy, sweet red will really come into its own as temperatures rise during the months ahead, and I can easily imagine a crowd of very happy sippers going at this during an evening pool party.  It isn’t an overly serious wine, but that was clearly not the intention, and “Vino Rosso” was an appropriately unpretentious name for it.  Full of fun.  A Double Gold Award winner at the 2019 Toast of the Coast International Wine Competition.
87 Michael Franz Feb 19, 2019

Folie á Deux, California (United States) “Ménage à Trois” Red Wine 2011 ($10): This somehow manages to tread the fine line between an overtly sweet, consumer-directed wine and a more serious drink, which is an exceptionally hard thing to achieve. There’s also a culinary niche for this wine: American cuisine is now fed by many more tributaries than was the case not long ago…from India, Mexico, North Africa…and from other places that love genuinely spicy meats that call red wines with some sweetness to counterbalance the heat. And this is one of the better foils for those foods that I tasted in a long time. Platinum Award winner at the 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition.
87 Michael Franz Apr 2, 2013

Hess, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($17): A blend of fruit from Mendocino, Lake, and Napa counties--with no one area exceeding the magical 85% number--means the label carries the general California appellation.  But that should not deter you from buying this solid, enjoyable Cabernet.  Blended with Syrah (8%) and Merlot (4%), this Cabernet Sauvignon delivers ripe flavors--without being overdone--supported by fine tannins.  It’s remarkably classy and complex for the price. 87 Michael Apstein Nov 24, 2009

Kendall Jackson, California (United States) Meritage “Vintners Reserve” 2004 ($13): Kendall Jackson has a seemingly never-ending ability to blend wines from throughout California to achieve excellent value offerings.  Comprised of almost equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot--with a touch of Cabernet Franc thrown in--this bottling has sweet fruit balanced by mild tannins and just enough complexity to keep it interesting.  It's an easy wine to recommend. 87 Michael Apstein Oct 30, 2007

Kendall Jackson, California (United States) Syrah Vintner’s Reserve 2005 ($12): Kendall Jackson has clearly found the formula for producing attractive well priced wines year in and year out.  This Syrah--plumy, ripe and nicely balanced--is easy to like.  Smokey elements add complexity rarely seen at this price. 87 Michael Apstein Aug 28, 2007

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Vintner’s Reserve" 2004 ($18): Sometimes large production wines with good availability are overlooked.  But this one should not be.  The grapes come from Kendall-Jackson's sources throughout the state, hence the California appellation.  This is very good, approachable--and stylish--Cabernet Sauvignon. 87 Michael Apstein Feb 13, 2007

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Vintner's Reserve" 2004 ($18): This widely-available wine shows very good quality in the form of moderately rich fruit with notes of dark berries and black cherries braced by moderate tannins and restrained oak.  Solid, satisfying stuff. 87 Michael Franz Dec 5, 2006

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Merlot “Vintner’s Reserve” 2005 ($19): Year in and year out, KJ does it.  Blending wine from grapes grown in Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma Counties, Kendall-Jackson walks the line between a sipping 'aperitif' Merlot and one with sufficient structure and stuffing to accompany food.  Accessible, upfront, cherry-like fruit makes it easy to drink a glass before dinner, but richness and good weight buttressed by supple tannins and good acidity makes it a fine choice with a meal. 87 Michael Apstein Apr 8, 2008

Kendall-Jackson, California (California) Cabernet Sauvignon "Vintner's Reserve" 2002 ($16): In a blind tasting of California Cabs that for the most part displayed baked-fruit dullness and syrupy sweetness, this wine stood out for its freshness and brightness. It's fruity without being sweet or ponderous, and its concentration of fruit on the finish speaks to its quality. 87 Mary Ewing-Mulligan Dec 6, 2005

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Zinfandel "Vintner’s Reserve" 2015 ($17):  Those looking for “killer” Zinfandel should look elsewhere, which probably explains why I like this wine.  It’s a balance of black fruit flavors, spice and a touch of herbal notes wrapped in soft plush tannins.  Not flamboyant, it’s a good choice for burgers, barbeque or a pepperoni pizza. 
87 Michael Apstein Feb 6, 2018

Landmark Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Noir "Overlook" 2017 ($20):  It’s past high time that California vintners paid attention to the entry level Pinot Noir market.  Until recently, drinkable Pinot for less than $20 has been more a dream than a reality.  Landmark, based in the Sonoma Valley, offers up this delicious example of value-priced Pinot Noir that is sure to hook wine lovers who balk at paying $40 or more for a decent Pinot.  Sourced from Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma County vineyards, the 2017 Overlook delivers varietally correct notes of cherry, black tea and damp earth, with a hint of wood spice and modest tannins.  Bravo.  
87 Robert Whitley Sep 17, 2019

Mark West, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2005 ($14): The 2004 rendition of this wine, which carried a Central Coast designation, represented an exciting value-genuine Pinot Noir character at a very reasonable price. The current Pinot craze led to the wine selling out before expected and a new vintage being rushed to the market, this time simply labeled 'California' and selling for a dollar or so more. But it's still a good value, particularly when so many wines costing so much more taste so hot and heavy. Though simple and a bit grapey, the 2005 Mark West Pinot Noir offers a smooth, supple character and soft cherry fruit flavors. An awful lot of Pinots that sell for twice the price can't match it. 87 Paul Lukacs Aug 22, 2006

McManis, California (United States) Zinfandel 2010 ($12):  Stylistically, California Zinfandel is all over the map, although there is  one characteristic constant, a jammy-spicy Zinness .  The 2010 McManis Zinfandel, aged for five months in French and American oak has a medium-deep ruby color, low intensity jammy nose with subtle spicy back notes.  There’s good acidity to support the sweet-fruit flavors, 13.5% alcohol and nice length through the finish.  This Zin is a good match with grilled meats and the price is right.  

87 Gerald D. Boyd Jan 31, 2012

McManis Family Vineyards, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2010 ($12):  With an aroma of bright red fruits, including cherries and raspberries, this simple-but-satisfying Pinot has a light-to-medium body and red berry flavors. A very good value. 87 Tina Caputo Mar 13, 2012

McManis Family Vineyards, California (United States) Merlot 2010 ($11):  Here's an easy-drinking Merlot with aromas of soft vanilla and toasty oak. It has a smooth texture, with berries and spice on the palate, and some nice acidity. 87 Tina Caputo Mar 13, 2012

Mirassou , California (United States) "Sunset Red" 2011 ($12): Soft and utterly undemanding, with a relatively light body, the most notable aspect of “Sunset Red” is the high tide of sweet fruitiness that engulfs the palate. This Pinot Noir-based blend is just the thing for sipping at sunset out on the deck perhaps (or more appropriately this time of year, from inside the ski lodge).
87 Marguerite Thomas Feb 5, 2013

Mirassou Winery, California (United States) Pinot Noir 2013 ($12): A nice budget minded Pinot Noir that’s a mix of fruit from Monterey, Lodi and Sonoma that shows cherry, raspberry, vanilla, strawberry, fall spice and a mild stemmy note in both aroma and flavor, with a well integrated finish.  It’s fruit forward, but brings more to the table than just sweet fruit.  Definitely one of the best Pinots in this price range.
87 Rich Cook Nov 11, 2014

Our Daily Red, California (United States) 2015 ($9): A pleasant drinking red that's organic and has no detectable sulfites -- if that's important to you.  If it's not, it's just an easy quaffer at a nice price, showing raspberry and blueberry fruit and soft oak spice, with low alcohol to boot.  One of the better sulfite-free wines I've tasted.
87 Rich Cook Jun 21, 2016

Ravenswood, California (United States) Zinfandel "Vintners Blend" 2008 ($10):  This great-value Zin has aromas of cigar-box spice, raspberries and red cherries.  It has lots of juicy fruit flavor, with notes of cherry, spice and toasty oak, along with food-friendly acidity. 87 Tina Caputo Nov 30, 2010

Ravenswood, California (United States) Zinfandel "Vintners Blend" 2008 ($10):  This great-value Zin has aromas of cigar-box spice, raspberries and red cherries. It has lots of juicy fruit flavor, with notes of cherry, spice and toasty oak, along with food-friendly acidity. 87 Tina Caputo Nov 9, 2010

Reata, California (United States) Pinot Noir “Three County” 2013 ($30): The grapes come from Monterey, Sonoma and San Benito Counties -- hence the name of this cuvee.  It’s a sweet and lush expression of Pinot Noir ready to drink now.
87 Michael Apstein Oct 20, 2015

Red Rock Winery, California (United States) Merlot 2008 ($14):  With aromas of black fruit and a touch of earth, this smooth Merlot has flavors of sweet raspberries and cassis.  This is a nice, simple red at a good price. 87 Tina Caputo Sep 6, 2011

Redwood Creek, California () Pinot Noir 2011 ($8): Remarkably tasty for the money, this admirably affordable Pinot Noir shows the true delicacy of the variety that makes is so versatile at the table and so pleasant to sip on its own.  Those of us who hope to see wine work its way deeper into American culture can only applaud this sort of effort.  Platinum Medal winner at the 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition.
87 Michael Franz Mar 19, 2013

Robert Mondavi, California (United States) Meritage “Private Selection” 2006 ($11): Those who complain that California cannot produce a lovely inexpensive wine need to try this bargain priced beauty.  A Bordeaux blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon (72%), it has far more complexity--not just a gooey fruit bomb--and class than its price tag predicts.  Mild tannins allow you to enjoy it now.  Black cherry acidity keeps it fresh. 87 Michael Apstein May 5, 2009

Robert Mondavi, California (United States) Pinot Noir Private Selection, Naturally Sweet 2021 ($16):   California red wines have traditionally been judged by their balance between residual sugar, alcohol and acidity, and most still are.   Even early efforts at late-harvest reds, such as those at Ridge, tended to favor higher alcohols than to make a terribly sweet wine.  Then gradually “fruity sweet” crept in with Parkeresque, fruit-forward wines, but sometimes the fruit tended to be end-loaded as well, with a clinging sweetness in the aftertaste which many Sonoma Coast Pinots exhibit today.  Marketers usually move in when they see an opportunity, or think they can create one, and I wonder if the people introducing this Bob Jr. wine (naturally sweet, gpl sugar not listed, 9% alcohol) are aiming at the Eastern market, where more sweet table wines are produced, or dieters who think less alcohol automatically means fewer calories.  All that aside, the wine is well-constructed, light in color and texture, with tart strawberry flavors that echo more of fresh fruit juice than clumsy Port overtones.  The finish is sweet, of course, but there is enough acidity to lessen the effect.  Not my choice for the table, but it should be great for those demanding their sugar fix or who need a holiday turkey wine for folks back home.      
87 Roger Morris Sep 27, 2022

Rosenblum, California (United States) Syrah Vintner's Cuvee 2007 ($9):  It smells like blueberry ice cream, but intense acidity keeps it food-friendlier than expected. "This benefits from a bad upper-end Syrah market," says winemaker John Kane, who says the high-acid fruit came from Sonoma County and includes a little cofermented Viognier. It's 14.6% alcohol. 87 W. Blake Gray Dec 14, 2010

Rosenblum Cellars, California (United States) Zinfandel Vintner's Cuvee XXXII NV ($9):  Red plum with decent acidity and a slight citrusy note. Some tannins and depth. Very drinkable. Ninety percent Lodi fruit with 10% from the North Coast. A surprisingly restrained 13.5% alcohol. 87 W. Blake Gray Dec 14, 2010

Rosenblum Cellars, California (United States) “Chateau La Paws Côte du Bone Blanc” 2006 ($14): A veritable kitchen-sink blend, with roughly equal parts Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier, along with small amounts of Marsanne and Roussanne, this is an attractively rich, ripe wine, filled with peach, apricot, and mango fruit flavors.  There's more than a hint of sugar--something that may well delight some tasters but that I found ever so slightly off-putting. 87 Paul Lukacs Oct 2, 2007

Blackstone Winery, California (United States) Merlot 2006 ($12): This friendly wine has the plush ripe forward fruit character that has made Merlot so popular.  But, in addition, it conveys nuances of an earthy leafiness that add more complexity than you'd expect at the price. 86 Michael Apstein Apr 22, 2008

Boho Vineyards, California (United States) Old Vine Zinfandel 2008 ($24, Underdog Wine Merchants / Octavin Home Wine Bar):  Although it’s a tad too sweet to truly suit my palate, there’s much to be said in favor of this wine and its 3 liter container.  Look at the price: $24 for the box, or the equivalent of $6 each for four 750 ml. bottles.  Granted, bad Zin is worth zip, but this one has all the jammy, spicy, bouncy, plummy notes one might expect from old vine Zinfandel, along with a touch of eucalyptus for added intrigue.  With an alcohol level at a respectable 13.7% this wine should find lots of fans. 86 Marguerite Thomas Aug 17, 2010

Bonny Doon, California (United States) “Le Cigare Volant” 2004 ($30): With a pretty garnet color, this blend of Grenache, Syrah, Carignane and Cinsault has aromas of black fruit, with an underlying tone of vanilla-kissed raspberry.  The wine has yummy bright fruit flavors and a silky texture, and finishes with a bit of peppery spice. 86 Tina Caputo Jun 10, 2008

Bota Box, California (United States) Merlot 2011 ($21): Everybody knows that Merlot was the whipping boy of American wine for almost a decade in the wake of “Sideways,” and almost everybody that really understands the wine trade knew that it would ultimately be better for it, as all the young vines planted during the “French Paradox” Merlot craze matured and started to produce better grapes.  Wines like this make it clear that that eventuality has, well, eventuated.  Priced at $21 for three liters of quality wine, this delivers very tasty fruit recalling black plums and ripe red berries, with just a touch of sweetness and no harsh tannins, but plenty of substance to drink at the table rather than just as a cocktail.  Platinum Medal winner at the 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition.
86 Michael Franz Mar 19, 2013

Cline Cellars, California (United States) Syrah 2004 ($10): Sonoma-based Cline Cellars, a specialist in Rhone-style reds, used grapes grown in their Sonoma Coast vineyard and from Oakley, a site known for its excellent syrah. The wine has an attractive medium-deep ruby color, black cherry aroma with a detracting perceptible medicinal back note, medium fruity flavors, oak notes and bracing acidity in the finish. 86 Gerald D. Boyd Sep 5, 2006

Dancing Bull, California (United States) Zinfandel 2006 ($12): The fact sheet for this wine likens it to a 'berry cobbler'--and the description is right on.  It has aromas and flavors of spiced black cherry, blackberry and strawberry jam, along with some cassis character.  It's medium-bodied, super fruity and a little bit on the sweet side. 86 Tina Caputo Dec 23, 2008

Fetzer, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon Anniversary Reserve 2016 ($13):  Fetzer, once the pride of Mendocino County, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Fetzer wines have been solid down through the decades and they’ve always delivered the goods at a modest price. This Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2016 vintage exhibits freshness, with inviting red-fruit aromas, moderate tannins and a subtle leafy note. 
86 Robert Whitley Jul 17, 2018

Fetzer Vineyards, California (United States) Chardonnay “Valley Oaks” 2008 ($9):  Fetzer, which made its name with well-priced wines, continues to do so with this bargain priced Chardonnay. Not an overdone style, it manages a delicate balance--especially hard to accomplish at this price range--between oak nuances and subtle tropical fruit flavors.  A fine everyday wine. 86 Michael Apstein Jan 12, 2010

Huntington Wine Cellars, California (USA) Zinfandel 2006 ($15):

Made from Lodi and Paso Robles fruit, this Zin was produced by the Hahn family of Smith & Hook Wines and Hahn Estates wine fame. While the Hahns made their name in the Central Coast region of the Santa Lucia Highlands, the Huntington wines hail from Healdsburg, in Sonoma County. The wine has cinnamon spice, vanilla and blackberry aromas, along with sweet/ripe dark fruit flavors accented by toasty oak.

86 Tina Caputo Sep 2, 2008

Joel Gott, California (United States) Red wine 2011 ($14): Joel Gott is what the French call a négociant. He buys grapes from growers all over the state and puts together the blend he likes. This one, simply labeled, Red Wine, comes from a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan, grown in both Monterey and Knights Valley. Nicely textured, it has a little bit of everything -- meaty, spicy, peppery notes -- sit atop ripe, almost sweet, fruit.
86 Michael Apstein May 7, 2013

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Syrah "Vintner's Reserve" 2004 ($12): This very nice Syrah offers medium-bodied, berry flavored fruit that is well balanced between sweet, ripe notes and fresh bright ones, with sensibly subtle oak. 86 Michael Franz Dec 5, 2006

Kendall-Jackson, California (United States) Pinot Noir "Vintner’s Reserve" 2007 ($18):  Grapes for this multi-regional K-J Pinot were sourced from Santa Barbara, Monterey, Mendocino, Solano, San Benito and Sonoma counties.  It’s mostly Pinot Noir, blended with small amounts of Petite Sirah, Syrah and Zinfandel for added complexity.  The color is a medium ruby and the nose shows ripe cherry-berry notes.  There’s good fruit, nice texture and acidity, a finished alcohol of 13.5%; all components for a pleasant red wine without much Pinot Noir character. 86 Gerald D. Boyd Apr 27, 2010

Little Black Dress, California (United States) Merlot 2011 ($10): Lightly but really only faintly sweet, this is a very, very successful commercial wine that offers a big mouthful of pure berry fruit with no harshness around the edges.  Soft from stem to stern, and yet neither formless nor incapable of standing up to fairly serious fruit, this is quite an achievement for $10.  Platinum Medal winner at the 2013 San Diego International Wine Competition.
86 Michael Franz Mar 19, 2013

Malibu Rocky Oaks Estate Vineyards, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($19): Rather on the light side for Cabernet, but very tasty and very versatile thanks to soft but sufficient structure from acidity and rounded tannins.  This shows dark cherry fruit with just a little oak around the edges for framing, and will work nicely for stand-alone sipping or with moderately robust like roast chicken or duck breast. 
86 Michael Franz Mar 19, 2013

McManis, California (United States) Petite Sirah 2010 ($12):  In recent years, a lot has been accomplished in the vineyard and the winery with Petite Sirah, making the wine more accessible and less rustic.  This young “Pet,” aged for four months in French and American oak, has a deep ruby color, forward fruity aroma with smoky-earthy notes, big tannins supporting ripe dark fruit flavors, 14.5% alcohol and a medium dry finish with a little heat. 86 Gerald D. Boyd Jan 31, 2012

Middle Sister, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon "Mischief Maker" NV ($12): If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to transition your friends who are into sweet red wines into something that will give them more pleasure with food.  This wine makes for a good stepping stone - it presents sweet on the nose, with a little raisiny character, but it's dry enough and showing enough Cabernet Sauvignon character that it might flip the switch.  It makes a nice, inexpensive summer grilling partner.
86 Rich Cook Aug 25, 2015

Mirassou Winery, California (United States) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($12): This easy-drinking medium-bodied Cab has a light cranberry color and a spicy red-fruit aroma.  Darker fruits--blackberry and black raspberry--come into play in the mouth, with spicy notes and a soft oak finish. 86 Tina Caputo Feb 24, 2009

Bonny Doon Vineyard, California (United States) “Le Cigare Volant” 2005 ($32): Early vintages of this wine bore a striking resemblance to southern Rhône reds, displaying a spicy earthiness in addition to forward fruit flavors.  Made by Bonny Doon in homage to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, they constituted some of California's finest wines crafted from red Rhône varieties-in this case, primarily Grenache, Mourvèdre, and Syrah.  The 2005, while certainly a solid, well-structured wine, evidences little of the earthy character so typical of Rhône reds.  Instead, it tastes almost exclusively of plum-like fruit, and so seems generic rather than distinctive. 85 Paul Lukacs Jun 16, 2009

Cycles Gladiator, California (United States) Merlot 2006 ($10): $10 wine from California is so often chunky and obvious and uninteresting that this sort of effort really stands out as an exception.  It is delicate and very nicely ripened, with soft plum notes that are pure and yet not overly simple, as the two years that have passed since the wine was fermented have imparted some pleasant secondary notes to augment the primary fruit.  The pleasant sweetness never seems confected, and it is effectively counterbalanced by tannins that give a little grip but no harshness. 85 Michael Franz Feb 3, 2009

Mancan, California (United States) Red Wine NV ($8):  Wines in cans have improved dramatically over the past five years and awareness is surging.  The can is a great option for picnics or beach trips and this blend of Merlot and Zinfandel should be on everyone’s short list of canned wines to try.  It shows bright red fruit notes, a touch of jammy ripeness and mellow tannins.  Also note the price is per 375ML can, sold in 4-pack.  
85 Robert Whitley Apr 14, 2020

Red Rock Winery, California (United States) Pinot Noir Reserve 2012 ($14): This wine exemplifies why we need to regulate the term “Reserve.”  Red Rock Winery produces 40,000 cases of this Pinot Noir annually from grapes that come from anywhere in California.  That’s hardly a Reserve wine.  Slightly sweet and soft, this fruit-focused wine works perfectly as a stand-alone aperitif.  Not particularly tannic or structured, it will take a chill nicely. Though it does not convey a lot of Pinot Noir character, this easy-to-drink red is satisfying and a good choice for a party.
85 Michael Apstein Oct 15, 2013

Renwood Winery, California (United States) Zinfandel 2011 ($15): This unusual blend of Zinfandel (86%) with a touch of white grapes (Roussanne, 2%) and a grape I’d never heard of (Souzao, 1%) had me running to Jancis Robinson’s Wine Grapes.  The remainder of the blend is Primitivo and Mourvèdre.  (Souzao, a.k.a. Viñhao, turns out to be a Portuguese grape.)  It’s a straightforward Zinfandel delivering slightly jammy and spicy notes.  It would be a good choice for ribs or burgers.  Chilling it slightly amplifies its fruitiness.
85 Michael Apstein Oct 29, 2013

Robert Mondavi, California (United States) Private Selection “Vinetta” 2005 ($11): The grapes for this value Bordeaux blend are from the Central Coast and North Coast appellations. Cabernet Sauvignon leads in the blend with smaller amounts of the other four Bordeaux red varieties.  It was aged for 15 months in French oak.  With credentials like that, you'd expect a more complex wine, even at $11.  Wither medium plumy fruit, supported by brisk acidity and moderate tannins, Vinetta is a decent red table wine. 85 Gerald D. Boyd<