Cabernet Sauvignon, Not Napa Valley: Alexander Valley, Chile and Other Places, Mostly 2012 & ’13

I launched the “Whither Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon” series in October 2014 as a way of focusing on cabernet-based wines from one the the world’s best places for the grape’s production into fine wine. Or not so fine, depending on one’s point of view about over-strict oak regimen, super-ripe, jammy fruit and alcohol levels that soar to 15 percent and beyond, characteristics that occur too often. But cabernet-based wines are made not only in other regions of California but all around the world. We look today at a baker’s dozen — the superstitious way of saying “13” — of non-Napa Valley examples, mainly from Alexander Valley in Sonoma County and from various spots in Chile. Some of these wines stuck me as being classic in proportion and balance, while a few leaned toward exaggeration; none, however, seemed beyond the pale, and most of the ratings are Excellent. With one exception, ...
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Cliff Creek Cab Sauv 2012
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don melchor 13
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Wine for a Summer Cookout

Many years ago I hosted a cookout party for family and friends to celebrate my sister’s achievement of earning her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education. I made, truly, the best pulled pork this side of the Mississippi and I thought to myself (as I often do): Rhône reds.  Turns out, I had a houseful of white wine drinkers, people that actually asked me specifically for a glass of white wine. I learned two things about cookouts that day: first, at parties go with variety…second, always have an over-sized bottle of white wine. Wine for a Summer Cookout, Grill or BBQ It sounds simple, but I don’t see any reason why a cookout shouldn’t be simple. Too much fuss turns a hostess into a stuffy, boring swirl of no-fun. In American we are in the heart of cookout season – grills are fired up from here to September and beyond and everyone needs a little something to drink. ...

Wine of the Day, No. 266

The Lioco Sativa Carignan 2014, Mendocino County, is the kind of wine that pushes all the right buttons for me. Made from 70-year-old, liocohead-pruned, dry-farmed vines at elevations that range from 2,200 to 2,400 feet atop Pine Mountain, and seeing only neutral oak for nine months, the wine is a unique yet entirely authentic expression of the carignan grape. The color is an intriguing dark ruby-purple that shades to a magenta rim; aromas of tar and violets, sage and heather, spiced and macerated black currants and blueberries are woven with notes of graphite, lavender and mocha and hints of wild red berries. It’s a robust wine, dense and meaty but not opulent or overpowering; rather, it toes a fine line of texture and structure that gives it impressive heft along with an almost elegant fleetness. Oh, yes, it sports dusty, graphite-edged tannins and vivid acidity, but those essential factors are ...