Unlike in classical European regions, California winemakers can choose from a world of grapes from which to make wines. Yet the most popular tend to be chardonnay and sauvignon blancs for whites and cabernet sauvignons, Pinot noirs, and zinfandel for reds.
2012 Pfendler Sonoma Coast chardonnay ($37) — A bit tangy with some toasty flavors, more lean than fat with crisp apple notes and good acidity. Nice, though neither typically Left Coast nor typically Burgundian.
2012 Matchbook “Old Head” Dunnigan Hills chardonnay ($15) — A touch flabby, but it has nice orange and apple juice flavors that toasty wines can sometimes give; a nice breakfast wine.
2012 Flora Springs Napa Valley barrel-fermented chardonnay ($27) — My Pick of the Litter: Rounded, creamy citrus and pear flavors with a nice, slightly tangy finish and great skin tannins. Quite elegant.
2012 Charles Krug Napa Valley limited release sauvignon blanc ($35) — It could pass for being Marlborough with its big dollop of lime flavors and cream in the middle with a good crisp finish. Think key lime pie.
2012 J “Misterra” Russian River Pinot noir ($50) — A “big-flavor” wine with full, sweet cherry tastes and some cola and root notes. It’s complex, sappy, and unusual for California in having six percent pinotage to go with the 90 percent Pinot noir and four percent pinot meunier; a wine to chew on.
2012 Pfendler Sonoma Coast Pinot noir ($42) — Very Burgundian, very elegant. Great flavors of cherries, some bitters and some sweet, rooty vermouth notes, yet light-bodied with good minerality and a crisp finish.
2011 The Dreaming Tree North Coast cabernet sauvignon ($13) — This is musician Dave Matthews’ wine, but it might have come from Simply Red. Quite fruity and somewhat sweet cherry mix flavors with green, stemmy notes, mild tannins, and acidity. It hangs a bit on the palate.
2010 Simi “Landslide” Alexander Valley cabernet sauvignon ($32) — It’s almost like you can taste the individual grapes in this cab, a very berry wine. It’s complex and pleasurable with rich and smooth cherry flavors, good minerality, dark-chocolate tannins, and hints of cabernet’s signature savory, stem flavors.
2011 Flora Springs “Trilogy” Napa Valley red wine ($75) — A warm, soft-woody wine with cherry creaminess and some black raspberries mixed in. Full and fruit forward.
NV “The Federalist” Dry Creek Zinfandel ($22) — Intense flavors and aromas of red currants, with very bright fruits yet not complex. Modest tannins.