This is an interesting and quite enjoyable collection of American reds — two from the East Coast — that are big and burly in their youth but with a few of them offering the promise of elegance with a little more bottle age. None of these are over-extracted fruit grenades, yet they have lots of tannins and plentiful alcohol. Even the pinot noirs are more than 14 percent and more Bordeaux- than Burgundy-like in their assertiveness, if not their flavor profiles.
Get a steady grip on your glass and start pouring.
2010 Truchard Carneros cabernet sauvignon ($32). The aromas are a little herbal to go along with dark cherry notes. This is a fairly lean, if rounded, wine with about equal parts of fruit, herbal notes, and pleasant oak and tannins.
2011 Franciscan Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($28). As I’ve noted before, cabernet has a natural "green" flavor — sometimes a weediness, sometimes the taste of cherry stems or green briars — that some of us like, but others want to wash away with overly ripe fruit. This wine has it (so does the Truchard) and it blends well with the rounded cherry flavors.
2010 Phifer Pavitt "Date Night…" Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($80). A big, lean, tight wine that is worth the wait when it opens up. It has cassis on the nose, and the flavors are of extra-ripe blackberries, tight tannins, and some bitter chocolate. If you like to taste a wine evolve in the glass, plan to spend 30 minutes or so with this one.
2011 Robert Mondavi Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($24). Warm, rounded fruit, mainly dark cherries, with lots of well-integrated tannins that give a nutty taste — walnuts — to go along with the fruit.
2012 Stinson Virginia cabernet franc ($23). A Bordeaux-style red, although not an overly complex one, with bright fruit — mainly red raspberry — and an overall good balance.
2010 Macari "Bergen Road" North Fork of Long Island red blend ($43). Merlot (56 percent), cabernet sauvignon (26 percent), and cabernet franc (13 percent) are the main components of this concentrated, but not overly extracted, big red. The wine is gamey and tangy — very satisfying — with tart cherry, balsamic, and chocolate notes. It shows that the East Coast can make wines as big and pleasantly tannic as those of the West Coast.
2011 Frank Family Napa valley zinfandel ($32). This is a very nice, substantial wine with some red raspberry flavors mixed in with the cherry, which makes it a little more "red fruit" flavorful with less jaminess than many zinfandels have.
2012 Robert Mondavi Carneros pinot noir ($19). I certainly can’t argue with the price nor the wine. It has a fairly light body but is nicely assertive, as Mondavi pinots tend to be, with cherry flavors, a little bit of balsamic tanginess, and lean acidity.
2011 Truchard Carneros pinot noir ($24). This is a ballsy pinot, and I like it quite a bit. It has pungent aromas of spicy, marinated cherries, as many pinots do, and the flavors that follow are the same — tangy fruit, rooty notes, and good tannins. I would love this wine with rabbit or a tomato-based stew.