This is our winter of content —— at least so far. After drinking sparkling wines for the last several days, we can now focus on reds that can cut the chill.
Here is a selection from California, mostly from the 2011 and 2012 vintages, mostly cabernet sauvignon, and mostly from Napa Valley, although there are some interesting outliers.
B.R. Cohn “Olive Hill” Sonoma Valley cabernet sauvignon 2010 ($53)
Rich purple fruit — blackberry and black raspberry — with a savory, mildly tannin finish. Will probably not grow more complex with age but will become richer.
Robert Mondavi “To Kalon” Oakville Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon reserve 2011 ($145)
Very refined, almost lean with varietally correct green-herbal notes to kiss the ripe cherries. Good astringency and integrated tannins in finish. Very good now, but will age well for decades.
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($27)
Very nice with ripe cherries and herbal cab notes and a dusty, chocolate finish. It will also age well.
Flora Springs Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($36)
Chewy and savory with ripe berry flavors — dried Bing cherries plus mulberries — and mild, smoky undertones. Quite enjoyable.
Sequoia Grove Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2011 ($36)
Warm and generous. Just a lovely wine with beautiful, dark, blackberry fruit, some cream. Long on the palate with walnut-flavored, soft tannins.
Scarecrow “M. Étain” Rutherford Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($200)
Wonderful rich, complex fruit with excellent integrated tannins. The wine is Cahors dark with lots of purple fruits — blueberry, dark raspberry, blackberry — all creamy and not at all savory. A touch of heat in the finish.
Waterstone Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($25)
Very pleasant cherry and savory flavors, although it appears a bit sweet on the palate.
Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer “Las Piedras” St. Helena Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon 2011 ($183)
Bright red fruits — cherries, vibrant cassis — straightforward and fairly tannin. It’s quite delicious now, but needs to age somewhat before it releases its complexity.
Smith & Hook Central Coast cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($19)
Caramel notes with dense texture, muddled purple fruits. A tad sweet. Good, but not impressive.
Franciscan Napa Valley merlot 2011 ($19)
Very, very nice. Lots of dark cherry fruit, but what marks the wine is its dark, savory, Bordeaux-like flavors and chocolate tannins in the finish.
Franciscan “Magnificat” Napa Valley meritage 2011 ($45)
Very enjoyable — lots of stuffing without being too big, too hot or too fruit-forward. Fruits are toward the purple side — mulberries, raspberries — with dusty chocolate and savory vegetal notes in the finish.
Biltmore Reserve Sonoma County red blend 2012 ($25)
Consisting of 75 percent cabernet sauvignon and franc with the rest merlot, the wine is warm, rounded with mild tannins in the finish. Lots of cherries with a touch of tang at the end.
Vanderbilt Reserve Dry Creek cabernet franc 2012 ($27)
Bright red fruit, light body, drying tannins. Not a lot of charm.
Vanderbilt Reserve Dry Creek cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($27)
Rich cherry flavors, good texture, chocolate tannins; straightforward, not very complex.
Geyser Peak “Walking Tree” Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon 2012 ($22)
Sweet fruitiness, almost pastel-like. Pleasant, but little depth of flavors.
Saved California red blend 2011 ($22)
Fresh blackberry and cassis fruit, but also some balsamic notes (15.2 percent alcohol).