California continues to dominate the American market with its remarkable Cabernet Sauvignon, but its varied terroir and ideal climate are conducive to the production of exceptional wines from other grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, and even less well-known varieties such as Valdiguier. These delightful options give you a taste of everything California has to offer.
Lail 2017 Blueprint Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $80, 97 points. Made by Philippe Chalky and his team, it is a muddy, earthy, brilliant wine made from blue fruit, plum and sage. Round, sumptuous and luxurious in the mouth, it glides effortlessly over soft, integrated tannins and oak with 11% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot. The vineyard’s sources of supply range from the Mole Hill grower’s property in Mount Howell to the cooler climates of Coombsville. -Virginie Boone
Williams Selyem 2018 Terra De Promissio Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $65, 97 points. The Petaluma Gap site here shows its innate earthly character in abundance. It opens with a scent of rose petals and then slowly develops into dense and delicate layers of black tea, orange peel and spices. Spicy tones lead to a mid-palate where rich berries burst out and soft, supple tannins frame the whole. -WATER SERVICE
Brady Vineyard 2018 Zinfandel (Paso Robles); $24, 96 points. Dense aromas of blackcurrants, red flowers and charred flesh are wrapped by a stony rim on the nose of this bottle. The palate is very cohesive, with the rich red fruits crushed, flavoured with tasty spices and framed by ample acidity and tannins. -Matt Kettmann
Austin Hope 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (Paso Robles); $56, 95 points. Quite dark in the glass, this robust, well-attended wine begins with flavors of blackcurrant, black plum, lush oak and caramel, underlined by notes of olives and plenty of cloves and nutmeg. Full and savoury taste on the palate, with just enough tannin to balance the creamy cherry, caramel, chocolate and cream flavours leading to a woody aftertaste. -M.K.
Lohr 2016 Cuvée Pau (Paso Robles); $60, 95 points. It is a dense and detailed wine that begins with rich and seductive aromas of blackcurrants, cherries, cocoa, vanilla and mocha on the nose. These luxurious shades linger in the mouth, framed by chiselled tannins. But what is most intriguing is the wild amounts of oregano and dried herbs that decorate the heart of the blackberry and cherry sauce. -M.K.
Vignoble Birichino 2018 Besson Old Grenache Vineyards (Central Coast); $25, 94 points. Made from vines planted in 1910, this wine impresses on several levels. The aromas of dark berries, strawberries, dried thyme and inverted earth are both rustic and refined. The palate is framed by a fresh acidity and a beautiful stony minerality that adds depth to the cranberry, raspberry and herbal flavours. -M.K.
San Simeon 2019 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir (Monterey); $25, 94 points. Fresh from the factory, this bottle sings in the sumptuous aromas of Bing cherry pie, cloves, mace and rose water. The palate is rich in herbs, from nutmeg to star anise, and the silky mouthfeel has flavors of cherries and blackberries. -M.K.
Robles Wine 2018 Forest Estate (Paso Robles); $18, 94 points. It’s a screaming bargain that offers both hedonistic pleasure and complexity, thanks to a mix of 41% Syrah, 35% Little Syrah, 12% Garnet and 12% Tannat. Aromas of roasted cherries, smoked meats and cola herbs lead to flavours of blackcurrants, roasted game and liquorice. It is balanced by a vivid acidity and is a sip that will satisfy more than one person. -M.K.
Wilson Foreigner 2018 Rancho Chimiles Valdiguié (Napa Valley); 34, 93 points. It is a beautifully complex, seductive and spicy red wine with a plum and black cherry flavour, dipped in white pepper and dried herbs. The grapes, fermented in concrete barrels and aged in neutral oak, come from a ranch owned by the Wilson family in the far east of the Napa Valley. -WATER SERVICE
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N’FINITY PRO2 S two-zone wine cellar
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Matchbook 2017 Arsonist (California); $22, 92 points. It is a super-concentrated, complex wine with various red and black fruit flavors, subtle oak spices and a rich texture. The mix of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon is delicious and has a great finish. -Jim Gordon
Michael David 2017 Ink Spot Petit Verdot (Lodi); $35, 92 dots. This large but seductive wine is incredibly tasty and tannic, yet polished on the palate. It is bursting with lush, ripe blackberry and blueberry flavours, skilfully accentuated with vanilla, chocolate and nutmeg. Preferably before 2026. -J.G.G.
Bonterra 2018 Made from organic Merlot grapes (California); $16, 91 points. Black fruit flavors are deep and expansive in this rich, moderately tannic wine that offers the palate rich blackberry and cherry flavors. Cocoa and dark chocolate nuances also add interest and complexity. -J.G.G.
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