In the wine world it’s the season of new, fresh bottles of current vintage wines pouring into the palates of reviewers, the press and tasting rooms. Winemakers are hoping to get a jump-start on sales from the ever-growing population of wine aficionados whose devotion to wine knows no bounds.
A couple of developments I’ve noted are the number of colorful labels with bold letters and symbols splashed across the front of new bottles. And there never seems to be enough red blends coming from California wineries. The trend began in the early 2000s with The Prisoner, which is still on most shelves. The current 2018 vintage will see most major wineries carrying some half-dozen catchy blend names with several varietals, mostly red wine. Here are a few “classy” examples.
Cakebread Cellars Napa Cabernet Franc 2018. ($60)
This is the inaugural bottling of cabernet franc from Cakebread, which takes pride in seeking out grapes from front-running vineyards around Napa Valley. Grapes for this wine were harvested from the cooler southeastern region with perfect conditions for developing cab franc with bright aromatics, vibrant flavors
and firm structure. The grapes were hand harvested at night for best balance between sugar and acidity. French-oak barrel aging integrated the intensity of the fruit to get subtlety and balance, without overpowering the structure, minerality and peppery characteristics of this wine. Cakebread.com.
Les Tourelle de la Cree Cuvee Knights Templar Cote de Beane Rouge 2016. ($50)
This pinot noir from Old Vine Burgundy France, is made by the famous Domaine Serene winery of Oregon. The grapes come from hundred-year-old vines grown in the French heartland. Dave Wiegel, the hard driving dealmaker at Meritage Wine Market in Encinitas, is now using online email promoting to further the value of one wine at a time, reduced pricing to boost sales. The above wine was his latest value search that scored big. After an hour of releasing his background info and price on the internet, he sold out the 16 cases allocated. Don’t miss his next door-buster. Meritagewinemarket.com or call 760-479-2500.
Coen Classic Malbec Mendoza Argentina 2019. ($25)
Sourced from two adjacent vineyards at 3,000 feet in elevation, this classic malbec is an authentic expression of the Mendoza district, best known for superb malbec. At this writing on April 17, Malbec World Day is being celebrated in a global initiative created by the vineyards of Argentina. Coen’s head winemaker is one of Italy’s finest, Attilio Pagli, on occasion earning his wines 100-point awards. Coenwines.com.
DAOU Reserve Eye of the Falcon Paso Robles 2018. ($75)
The current vintage Eye of the Falcon showcases the mutual power and synergy of cabernet sauvignon and petite verdot. The deep, concentrated color is just the beginning of this massive blend. A sophisticated nose offers aromas of black currant, cassis, sweet cherry and blackberry. Bright fruit flavors cascade across the palate with the opulent fruit transitioning to a robust mid-palate, showing black olive, licorice and eastern spices. The finish is long and elegant with black cherry, cocoa and plum. Daouvineyards.com.
Flora Springs Trilogy Napa Valley 2018. ($85)
Trilogy, an upscale blend, has become the flagship wine for Flora Springs. The grapes are from the highest-quality lots, culled from its estate vineyards in Napa. For this vintage, Trilogy offers cab sauv, malbec and petite verdot. Cab dominates at 83% of the blend. This is a classy cab with richly endowed helpmates to pair with a juicy ribeye steak, lamb chops, eggplant and pepper-crusted ahi tuna. Florasprings.com.
Hess Select Chardonnay Monterey 2018. ($13)
Monterey’s cooling fog and Pacific coastal breezes, drawn across the mountains and into the Salinas Valley, create an ideal climate for growing chardonnay, yielding wines with tropical notes and crisp acidity, perfect companions for a flavorful Central Coast white wine. Nicely balanced, Hess features sliced peaches, and Golden Delicious apples, finishing crisp and clean with well-balanced acidity. Hesscollection.com.
La Storia Zinfandel Alexander Valley Sonoma Estate 2018. ($26)
La Storia, made by parent winery Trentadue, turned out to be the darling of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for 2021. The La Storia Zinfandel came out swinging and took home gold for its latest 2018 vintage. Winemaker Miro Tcholakov asserted that the wine is “bright and lively with intense zin aromas of dark cherry, blueberry and plum, and some of the typical raisin aromas.” Alcohol was in balance at 14.9%. Companion varietals of 13% petite sirah, and a smattering of sangiovese and malbec gave it more identity. Trentadue.com.
- A L’Aventure Wine Dinner is being planned at The WineSellar & Brasserie in Sorrento Valley, featuring winemaker and owner Stephan Asseo, Friday, April 23, at 6 p.m. Asseo went from making wine in Bordeaux France to Paso Robles with his own winery. Call for price and reserve the three-course dinner at 858-450-9557.
- Stags’ Leap winery of Napa Valley will join Vittorio’s in Carmel Valley for its five-course wine dinner on Wednesday, April 28, at 6 p.m. Cost is $75 plus tax and tip. Call 858-538-5884 for your seats.
- Sal Ercolano’s FLORA Bar & Kitchen in Carmel Valley has three specials from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. On Tuesdays, buy one pizza and get one free with the same value; choose your pizza with two beverages, inside or outside. Wednesdays are free corkage nights. Bring your favorite bottle of wine for dinner and FLORA will take care of the rest. Thursdays are $7 martinis. Details at 858-461-0622.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. Reach him at [email protected]