Some might think we're only really into French and Italian wine, but we love wine from anywhere, it just has to be good and worth the asking. Check out these four beauties from The Golden State; let's set aside Cabs and oaky Chards for a moment, and give our attention to some fresh Semillon, Viognier, Grenache and Charbono (aka Bonarda).
Kings Carey Semillon 'Vogelzang Vineyard' 2017 You may remember us touting a certain delectable bone-dry low-alcohol Semillon from Australia's Hunter Valley, declaring that no other region does it like Hunter.... well apparently there were some fabulous Semillon grapes grown in California's Happy Canyon in 2017 and they were turned into something that would compete with the luminaries of Hunter Valley. Clocking in at 12.0% abv, it's not quite as low as the typical Hunter Valley Semillon (usually 10-12%) but it is a bit of a freak for Santa Barbara. Stylistically it is very much in line with the elegant cutting style of Hunter, with intense lemon, lime and grapefruit at the fore, and subtle notes of tropical fruits, beeswax, nuts and herbs rounding things out. Intense acidity grips and carries flavors long, and though it is not full-bodied, it is quite textured and lingers on gorgeous citrus notes. This will be easy to serve on its own, but it's also the perfect foil for pretty much any simply prepared seafood. Purity Viognier 'Joshua's Starry Night Vineyard' 2017 Did we call the wine above a freak? So what does that make this wine? A super fresh, 11% abv, unsulfured Viognier from a vineyard perched at 1600' elevation in sunny Calaveras County... irregular, odd... unparalleled, exceptional? All those things, plus just plain delish. Savory and reduced at first, we may just decant this darling before you get here, as intense fruitiness emerges with lots of air. Notes of citrus and stone fruits are fresh and vibrant, while significant umami and earthy flavors back them up. The typical oily texture and overt floral tones of Viognier are essentially absent, making this a unique take on this fabled grape; kinda weird, totally tasty, we loved it. Bonny Doon Grenache 'Clos de Gilroy' 2017 There's too much to write about Randall Graham and his fancifully eponymous winery, Bonny Doon. Randall has been making some of California's most drinkable wines for decades, and his Clos de Gilroy is an unexpected alternative to fine Pinot Noir. Again, we're looking at a wine that is surprisingly low in alcohol; some may have you believe that a proper Grenache must be at least 14% abv, we beg to differ and are always thrilled to introduce elegant low-alcohol renditions of this prolific cultivar. Bonny Doon's 2017 Grenache includes 12% Mourvedre and it is very civilized 13.6% abv. With Grenache's typically juicy side showing up in full force, it is mainly focused on red fruits (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, cranberry), though hints of dark plum and black cherry come through. It is also filled with delicate non-fruit notes like rose hips, rhubarb and dried herbs. Simply gorgeous, there are so very few $17 wines from California that even approach this level of complexity; it is truly one of the USA's best values.
Folk Machine Charbono - $23 As is typical of wines made from the Charbono cultivar, a rare and intriguing grapevine, this little wonder is very dark in color and features many black fruit notes on the nose. Though rich and dark upfront, it is incredibly fresh through the finish. Look for notes of tart black cherry, fresh black plum, blackberry, blueberry, diverse spices and peppery flowers... it's got a lot going on, but it's never heavy, rather surprisingly light on its feet for having so many deep and dark flavors.