California Variety

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We’ve never had such a dynamic (and delicious!) selection of Californian wines. Between classics and new producers, if you haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on on the West Coast then you are missing out on a heap of excitement. Winemakers are interested in grape varieties outside of the Cabernet Sauvignon – Pinot Noir – Chardonnay – Sauvignon Blanc paradigm. California wine sage Jon Bonné writes in his fantastic book, The New California Wine: “the current diversity in California vineyards is perhaps unparalleled since before Prohibition.” Back then, a diverse mix of grapes were planted to try to gauge which ones the New World’s soils would support. Some varieties such as Petite Sirah and Carignane have survived from before the 1900s, whereas others such as Piedmont’s Nebbiolo or Jura’s Trousseau don’t have as documented a history. The American risk-taking spirit is rewarding those willing to experiment with fascinating expressions of Californian wine. Here are some fresh examples of what’s coming from the West. John Rankin

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Calder 2011 Napa Valley Charbono Meyer Vineyard

We’ll forgive you if you’re not familiar with the grape variety Charbono—some of us weren’t until we tasted Calder’s fantastic example from Napa Valley. It’s thought that the grape hails from France’s Savoie, but it more recently has found homes in Piedmont, Argentina and California. Although there are currently only 70 acres grown in California, the grape was once held in high esteem for its accessible fruit in youth and its ability to age gracefully for a surprisingly long time—we’ve heard that some of the Inglenooks from the 1950s are showing nicely right now! No need to wait to enjoy this bottle, when we recently tried it found it full of fresh plum fruit, gentle earthiness and hard to get enough of—luckily it’s only 12.1% alcohol! John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $28.99

Vinca Minor 2013 Sonoma Rosewood Vineyards Carignan

Carignane, in France Carignan, is a workhorse grape with a checkered past. Once a mainstay in California (and even more so in the Mediterranean) the grape was targeted for removal by the E.U. in 1988 to combat its prolific production. Its history is no less illustrious in the States, where it is almost never seen as a varietal, but rather blended into jugs with names like “Hearty Burgundy” or “Piasano.” When the vines are allowed to reach maturity they yield fruit with spicy complexity, especially the 85 year old specimens in Sonoma’s Redwood vineyards found in this wine. Vinca Minor is Jason Charles’s project to present these vines and others with as little manipulation as possible. That is, native fermentations, no filtration, and only a touch of sulfur added before bottling. I found the result to be a delicious combination of cool blue and red berry fruit with a touch of pepper and earth. As the bottle was enjoyed, air brought forth elegant layers of complex berry fruit. This is anything but bulk wine! John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $41.99

La Clarine Farm 2012 Sierra Foothills Piedi Grandi

La Clarine Farm’s wines are a fantastic example of how California’s wines can be both fresh and complex at the same time. Winemaker Hank Beckmeyer spotted a plot of Nebbiolo grown on volcanic soil beside a vineyard that he sources Syrah from. Some grapes were purchased, but the resulting wine did not impress. Hank drew inspiration from a biography of John Cage and his methodology of using chance and chaos to compose music, and he decided to use a similar strategy through flipping coins to construct a blend of the Nebbiolo with Mourvedre and Syrah. The resulting wine holds some of Nebbiolo’s floral aromatics and tannic grip with a bit bright, raspberry fruit and touch of earthy tar. Enjoy with all of your American/Italian favorites. John Rankin

Only La Clarine Farm could pull off a fresh and interesting blend of Nebbiolo and Mourvèdre (with a splash of Syrah and Sémillon) like Piedi Grandi! Sun-kissed strawberry plants, red currant, and orange spice on the nose, with a light and pleasing palate of wild cherry blossoms, intense acidity, and hints of damp, herbal earth. Ariana Rolich

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

Bebame 2013 Sierra Foothills Red

Bebame is a delicious blend of mostly Cabernet Franc and a touch of Gamay grown in El Dorado at 2,800-3,400 feet of elevation, an altitude that rivals many of Etna’s highest vineyards. Don Heistuman works with vineyard expert Ron Mansfield and winemaking super star Steve Edmunds to help realize his goal of showing that high altitude fruit in California can be transformed into gluggable, cool-climate wine with flavors of stone, pepper, and vivid, bracing fruit. John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $21.99

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