As cold weather digs in like a nose tackle on a goal-life defense, we are rewarded with a dozen random reds wines from California — mainly cabernets but also a sprinkle of merlot, pinot noir, even a syrah. There’s something here, as the saying goes, for every taste, pocketbook and table need.
The 2009 Truchard Carneros merlot ($26). Some very good savory and meaty notes with dark but not overly ripe cherry flavors. Nice bitters around the edge with firm tannins. More French in style than Californian. Try it with carved roast beef or a roast beef and Cheddar sandwich.
The 2009 Truchard Carneros cabernet sauvignon ($32). This cab tastes like it walked on the wild side in the upper Rhone Valley, which is a good thing — lean, meaty, with garrigue and cigar box notes. A very savory character looking for a hearty plate of cassoulet.
The 2010 Robert Mondavi Carneros pinot noir ($27). Lots of tangy, rooty, juicy pinot flavors with good structure and acidity. Very drinkable and refreshing with some brulée oak flavors. The high-alcohol Taliban might attack it as a tad warm, but the alcohol adds body and complexity. Perhaps best with cheeses and quiches where the food plays a secondary role to the wine.
The 2010 Robert Mondavi Carneros reserve pinot noir ($60). A big pinot and a complex one — ripe cherries, some pencil lead, some earthy, some rooty, some spicy, good bitters. If it quacks like a roasted duck, open this bottle.
The 2009 Qupé "Bien Nacido" Santa Maria Valley syrah ($27). A mellow, two-note syrah that is very good, but not great. Bright, lightly tart blueberry flavors with an earthy, chocolate brownie finish. Satisfyingly homey but with a hint of elegance. Would go with something with a meaty sauce.
The 2009 Laurel Glen "Counterpoint" Sonoma Mountain cabernet sauvignon ($29) Nice chalk and cherry flavors, but the wine seems languid and in need of structure.
The 2009 Laurel Glen Sonoma Mountain cabernet sauvignon ($62). A magnificent wine — delicious flavors, great texture, complex structure, and just very satisfying. Sprightly currants and blueberries in the nose and on the palate, supple body, neither a bright fruity or a spicy savory wine, but somewhere in between. Again, have it with goat cheeses where you can concentrate on the wine.
The 2009 Mossback Chalk Hill cabernet sauvignon ($25) Quite nice. Lots of black raspberry and mulberry flavors with chalky texture and some milk chocolate in the finish. Tannins are soft and puckery. Would go well with rare lamb chops or pigeon in the French manner.
The 2008 Heritance Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon ($30). Bernard Portet, ex of Clos du Val, has made a lighter style cab for Napa, but with good intensity at the finish. Dark cherry flavors with hints of chalk and chocolate. Pair with cow’s milk cheeses or a crusty quiche.
The 2010 Hahn Central Coast meritage ($18). A pleasant, juicy wine with blackberry and cherries flavors. A good hamburger wine.
The 2010 Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands pinot noir ($35). Good flavors, but comes across as a little grapey. Some cola. Not a lot of depth or complexity.
The 2011 Hahn California pinot noir ($14). A fruit-forward quaffing wine with cherry pop fruit up front and a light chocolate finish. Do we have a leftover burger from the meritage?