A Dozen California Reds for Labor Day Drinking

Wines mostly from excellent producers and mostly from the 2013 vintage
Red Wine


These are not screw-cap wines, so pull out your corkscrews.

If America has a wine image, it is that of producing big, flavorful and (generally) well-balanced red wines, mostly from California’s coastal region.

To celebrate Labor Day with a summer’s-end, bloody-steak-on-the-grill feasts, then, what better wines with which to “feastify” than a selection of California reds? These wines are not cheap, yet most are bargains in their own ways, as they represent some of California’s best wine producers and mostly come from the excellent 2013 vintage.

None of these are screw-cap wines, by the way, so pull out your corkscrews.

Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 ($16). A nice, pleasant, tangy wine with good tannins and refreshing bitters around the edges.

Flora Springs Napa Valley Merlot 2014 ($25). Opens a touch sweet and ends with bitter notes in the finish, with rounded flavors of cherry and vanilla bean in the middle.

Treana Paso Robles Red 2014 ($30). Needs decanting to settle the pronounced vanilla oakiness upon opening. Three-quarters cab and a quarter syrah, it has ripe, tannic blackberry flavors, yet is lean and assertive.

Anaba Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013 ($33). Very enjoyable — a big wine with some tanginess and firm texture that drifts away from the fragrant, rooty school of pinots and toward the rounded, merlot side of the grape.

Dierberg “Dierberg” Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2013 ($44). A little tart, almost leaning toward the red-fruit side, with lots of acidity with gamey flavors that linger long on the palate;  definitely a food wine. 

Franciscan Napa Valley Reserve Merlot 2013 ($45). Delightful to sip on with appetizers; ripe cherry flavors, dusty tannins, hints of Baker’s chocolate.

Quivira "Black Boar” Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel 2014 ($45). Very bright cherry flavors with good acidity and relative assertiveness.

Daou Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 ($51). Tart red berry flavors that are very fresh and very lively, with light barrel notes — a textbook California cab that is full-bodied, rounded, and has good texture.                            

Dierberg “Drum Canyon” Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2013 ($52). Very vibrant wine with lots of assorted cherry flavors, good structure, medium weight ,and a crisp, long finish — very nice indeed.

Chappellet Pritchard Hill Napa Valley Cabernet Franc 2012 ($75). Savory red fruits that need a little time to open (decant or swirl) with mild tannins and a touch of heat.

Mount Veeder Napa Valley Reserve Red Wine 2013 ($75). A cabernet-driven Bordeaux blend, this is a very perfumed wine with lots of oak aromas and red and purple fruit flavors (mulberry and cassis). It is still a little bitter and tannic and needs some more bottle time to knit together.

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Daou “Soul of a Lion” Paso Robles Red Blend 2013 ($111). Mainly cabernet sauvignon, this is a big yet unintimidating wine with raspberry and blueberry flavors and structured, chocolate-tinged tannins — excellent.