While cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, and merlot varietals are still the bread-and-butter of West Coast wines, increasingly there is interest in producing wines from lesser-known varietals such as grenache. Additionally, winemakers are making more blends of various red grapes, especially for the lower-price categories.
Here is an interesting selection of recent releases of red wines from Walla Walla to Paso Robles:
The Other Guys “Leese-Fitch” California Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($12). Very floral and perfumed, with little complexity.
The Other Guys “Leese-Fitch” California Merlot 2014 ($12). Lean, straightforward merlot with some savory and smoky accents.
The Other Guys “Leese-Fitch” California Pinot Noir 2014 ($12). A solid but not complex wine with good structure and dark cherry and caramel barrel flavors.
Charles Smith “Substance” Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($16). Good intensity of ripe, red fruits with balancing acidity and a touch of creaminess in the finish.
SLO Down “Stand Out” California Red Wine 2012 ($18). A cab-merlot blend with perfumed, tart-berry flavors – OK, though not impressive.
True Myth Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($18). Warm and generous, yet sturdy – though more like a merlot in taste, with its cherry and raspberry fruit.
Purple Heart Napa Valley Red Wine 2013 ($20). Not complex, but with rounded blackberry and raspberry flavors with a touch of creaminess.
SLO Down Wines “Sexual Chocolate” California Red Wine 2013 ($26). A big, lusty wine with caramel and cherry flavors, firm tannins, and tangy finish.
Quivira “Elusive” Dry Creek Valley Red Wine 2013 ($36). A syrah-based Rhône blend that is fruity yet lean, still a little tight, with tart red-berry flavors and good acidity.
Quivira “Wine Creek” Dry Creek Valley Grenache 2013 ($36). Juicy yet lean, with great black raspberry flavors.
La Follette “Sangiacomo” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($38). This one comes from the big and burly school of pinot, with lots of red fruits.
Artesa Napa Valley Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2013 ($40). Fragrant and floral, with some root and cola notes and a touch of tanginess, but a little short on the finish.
Charles Smith “K Vintners” Walla Walla Syrah 2013 ($40). The best syrahs – such as this one – have complex savory and earthy components, including dried fruits, smokiness, and integrated tannins. A rich but not lush wine.
Clos Pegase “Hommage Tenma Vineyard” Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($50). Well-structured with a nice integration of fruit and oak and dark cherry flavors.
Jordan Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($55). The Jordan is always an elegant, even mellow, cab, with rounded purple fruit flavors and some toasted, creamy barrel notes.
Chappellet Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($63). A lean wine with dark berry flavors and a hint of caramel oak and a few savory notes. Still tight, so decant first.