Cali Wine Double Feature
This week we want to talk about two American wine styles: California Chard and Cab (aka Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon).
Bacchus California Chardonnay 2017 David Gordon has been the wine director for New York City's famed Tribeca Grill since 1990. Frustrated with the lack of value to be found in simply made California wine, he has been utilizing his extensive contacts in California to source excellent fruit for his Bacchus label. The wineries that provide fruit for Bacchus wish to remain anonymous, but the quality in the glass is obvious; carefully tended vines provided the grapes for these cuvees. The 2017 Bacchus Chardonnay is a blend of 90% Central Coast and 10% Sonoma, with 10% of the blend aged for 6 months in old neutral oak. Clearly the wine of a warm sunny place like California, it is very juicy and ever so slightly creamy, with rich apple and pear flavors taking center stage and a crisp finish leaving the palate clean and ready for another sip. Varner Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 'El Camino Vineyard' 2015 If the Chardonnay above represents a good value in a huge category, this gorgeous diva represents an incredible value in the world of distinctive small-production single-vineyard wines. Twin brothers, Jim and Bob Varner source grapes from a particular block of the El Camino Vineyard, where it is consistently as cool as, but not so windy as, the nearby celebrated Santa Rita Hills AVA. Whether or not some extra wind is beneficial is an interesting topic of discussion, but for now we're very pleased that the Varner brothers take special care in their selection of site, because this wine has been consistently fabulous since its first vintage. The 2015 is wonderfully aromatic, combining notes of tropical, citrus and stone fruits with great flair and intensity, while hints of flowers, herbs, citrus oils and oak spice waft gently. The attack is so fruity and rich, and the mid-palate follows this theme with ample texture and weight, but the finish turns marvelously stony and saline. This kind of balance and interplay of elements in a California Chardonnay usually starts at around $50. It's hard to believe that the Varner brothers still fly under the radar when they make wine like this. Thanks dudes. Happy holidays to you! Bacchus California Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Fruit for the 2016 Bacchus Cab came from Paso Robles (75%), Central Coast (15%) and Sonoma (10%). A Merlot component (10%) probably helps to bring a little extra dark fruit, but we really love how the varietal profile of Cabernet Sauvignon comes through in notes of graphite, mint, cedar and herbs. The 2016 Bacchus Cabernet Sauvignon is aged half in stainless steel tanks and half in old neutral oak, and the resulting style implicates no apparent intention for a thick and decadent style. It is medium-bodied, ripe and fruity but not jammy, fresh and lively through the finish. A food-friendly kinda Cab, it really makes sense that a restaurant guy put this together. Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon 'Estate' 2014 You probably know Ridge. Did you know that they are now one of the only wineries in the world to include ingredients on all their labels? Why don't more wineries follow suit? Are you quite familiar with Ridge's Santa Cruz Mountains wines? If so, we know that you will regret missing tomorrow's tasting. If not, you owe it to yourself to make it over here to taste a wine from one of the world's most iconic and celebrated terroirs: the legendary Monte Bello Vineyard. Gonna exercise some restraint here, because we could really go on about why Ridge and Monte Bello are so great; let's just restate the imperative - you need to taste wine from this vineyard, ideally a wine with some age, but a free tasting of a 2014 will do the trick. We're going to decant this puppy first thing in the morning, so it should be singing when you pop by in the afternoon.