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California Wines

California Wines

California Wines

California Wines

With a history of wine production that dates back to the 18th century, California currently sits as one of the world’s most prolific and reputable wine regions. With an area as vast as California, you can expect a colorful collage of terroir profiles, a series of microclimates, and micro-environments that give the wine a unique, memorable appeal. The region’s produce is far from homogenized in that sense, and it would take you countless hours to sample all of it.

While the region boasts scars from the Prohibition era, it went through what can only be described as a viticultural Renaissance sometime after the 1960s. At that point, California went from a port-style, sweet wine region to a versatile and compelling competitor on the world market. Today, no matter which way your taste in wine leans, you can find a new favorite producer among California’s most talented.

Notable sub-regions include legendary names like Napa Valley and Sonoma County, places that any wine lover worth their salt would die to visit. California’s quintessential warm climate allows for incredibly ripe fruit expressions, a style that provides a stark contrast to Old World-inspired, earthy classics. Even where inspiration was clearly taken from staple French appellations, Californian winemakers put their own unique spin on the wine, making it feel like a unique, standalone piece, rather than a derivative.

A New World region rises to join its viticultural forebears. Its meteoric rise to fame has been nothing short of stunning, and today California can compete with the world’s most prominent wine regions.

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2018 dana estates cabernet sauvignon vaso California Red

Gorgeous aromas of blackberries, currants and plums with some spices. Walnuts and chocolate, too. Full-to medium-bodied with very fine tannins and delicious, succulent fruit, as well as hints of herbs. Some stemmy character. So balanced and delicious. 90% cabernet sauvignon, 5% merlot, 4% malbec and 1% petite verdot. Drink or hold.James Suckling | 95 JSThe 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Vaso is cut from the same cloth, offering beautiful purity and richness. It’s slightly more pure and darker than the spicier 2017 and has notes of cassis, redcurrants, dark chocolate, tobacco, and violets. Full-bodied on the palate, it has silky tannins, terrific overall balance, and just loads of character and charm. It’s in the running for the greatest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon under $100.Jeb Dunnuck | 94 JDThe 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Vaso is a potent, somewhat burly wine. It will need a few years to help the tannins soften. There is plenty of weight and power. Time in the glass helps the aromatics open, but the 2018 is not an easygoing wine from Dana. It needs a bit of time.-Antonio Galloni | 90 AG

95
JS
As low as $89.95
2018 favia cabernet sauvignon California Red

Readers looking for a killer Cabernet that won’t break the bank should check out the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Carbone from Favia. This dense purple-hued beauty boasts classic cassis and blueberry-like fruit intermixed with lots of tobacco, lead pencil shavings, violets, and spring flower nuances. These carry to a medium to full-bodied, beautifully balanced, elegant Cabernet with a great mid-palate and the class to evolve for 10-15 years. It’s well worth seeking out.Jeb Dunnuck | 94 JDThe 2018 Carbone Cabernet Sauvignon is a bright, effusive wine. Sweet red berry fruit, mocha and a whole range of floral/savory aromatics burst from the glass. Medium in body and inviting, the 2018 drinks well now, but it also has the vibrancy to develop nicely in bottle. Carbone is the second wine of Favia.Vinous Media | 92 VM

98
JD
As low as $199.00
2018 gandona cabernet sauvignon estate California Red

The 2018 Gandona is superb. Inky dark fruit, gravel, spice, chocolate, menthol and licorice infuse the 2018 with striking layers of complexity, all with firm mountain tannins that give the wine shape, energy and drive. The 2018 is a real powerhouse. I can’t remember tasting a wine from this property with so much structure and tannin. Readers should plan on giving the 2018 plenty of air. I found the 2018 really only blossomed a number of hours after opening.Vinous Media | 97 VMBased on 100% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 21 months in 60% new French oak, the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Gandona is a sexy, powerful red offering lots of chocolatey dark fruits, notes of scorched earth, tobacco, and graphite, full-bodied richness, and a layered, impressively textured mouthfeel. There are only 400 cases produced, but it’s well worth seeking out.Jeb Dunnuck | 96 JDThe 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 21 months in French oak, 60% new. Deep garnet-purple colored, it gives up gregarious notes of crushed blackberries, ripe black cherries and blackcurrant cordial with hints of mocha, bay leaves and black licorice plus a waft of cedar. Big, concentrated, full-bodied and jam-packed with black fruit flavors, it has a solid backbone of firm, grainy tannins and just enough freshness, finishing long and layered. 400 cases were made.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 95 RP

97
VM
As low as $279.00
2019 dalla valle cabernet sauvignon California Red

Gorgeous blackberry and currant aromas with hints of herbs. Wonderfully varietal character. Full-bodied with tannins that frame the wine so nicely and create a long, lightly chewy finish. Fantastic wine. Available in October. Drinkable now, but give it three to four years.James Suckling | 98 JSDeep, dark and alluring nose of black fruit, rich cedar and cigar box. Well-built, beautiful and balanced, with deeply concentrated, yet fresh and ripe flavours of blackberry, cassis and fleshy plum, unspooling with lifted acidity, tobacco, wet slate, river stones, dark chocolate and an endless finish. A delicious wine that is framed by very fine and elegant tannins, almost powdery. Finishes with energy and freshness. A joy to drink. Biodynamic. Drinking Window: 2022 - 2040Decanter | 98 DECDeep garnet-purple in color, the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate needs a lot of swirling and coaxing to unlock notions of blackcurrant pastilles, warm black plums and mulberries, plus hints of black olives, tilled soil, mossy tree bark and violets with emerging baker’s chocolate and star anise hints. Full-bodied, rich, concentrated and with impeccable poise, it has beautifully ripe, grainy tannins and just enough freshness, finishing epically long and earthy.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 98+ RPIncluding 20% Cabernet Franc, the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is a hidden gem. While the Maya gets all the attention, the classic Cabernet Sauvignon from this team is insanely good, year-in, year-out. The 2019 sports a dense purple color as well as quintessential Cabernet notes of cassis, black raspberries, flowers, toasted spices, and tobacco leaf. The purity of fruit is incredible, it’s full-bodied, has silky tannins, and flawless balance. It has 30 years of prime drinking ahead of it.Jeb Dunnuck | 97 JDThe 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is dazzling. What a wine! Ample and creamy, the 2019 possesses striking resonance to match its elegant, refined personality. A healthy dollop of Franc adds freshness to a core of dark red cherry, red plum, mocha, spice and new leather flavors. There is a level purity here that is just remarkable. This is the first vintage that includes a small portion of wine aged in amphora. I especially admire the aromatic presence and vibrancy in the 2019.Antonio Galloni | 97 AGThis is very tightly packed, with cassis, bitter plum and loganberry notes compressed along with anise, apple wood, warm humus and sweet tobacco. The earth note echoes nicely through the finish, too. More like an ’18 in profile, with a youthfully backward persona. Cellaring this will yield rewards. Best from 2024 through 2040. 1,200 cases made.Wine Spectator | 96 WS

98+
RP
As low as $299.00
2019 dominus napanook California Red

An open and beautiful wine with green-olive and currant aromas and flavors. Some bark and earth, too, together with mushrooms, herbs, crushed stones and pomegranate. Medium to full body with round, creamy tannins and refined finish. Blood orange at the end. Crunchy. So drinkable now, but will age beautifully.James Suckling | 96 JSExuberantly fruity on the nose, the 2019 Napanook is a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Despite seeing 40% new French oak, what shines on the nose are the ripe cherries, delicately brushed with wisps of tobacco, sage and bay leaf. It’s medium to full-bodied, supple and silky in feel on the palate, while the finish lingers easily, adding notes of pencil shavings and mocha. To get this sort of pedigree for less than $100 is a rarity in Napa these days, making it a notable value.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 93 RPSolidly built and very direct, with a juicy, muscular core of cassis, plum and blackberry flavors lined with singed alder, menthol and sweet bay leaf. Maintains juicy energy through the toasty finish, with a late loamy echo keeping things grounded. A very well-proportioned wine. Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Drink now through 2034. 2,450 cases made.Wine Spectator | 93 WS

96
JS
As low as $89.99
2019 DVO Cabernet Sauvignon

I was blown away by the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon DVO, a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc made as a collaboration between the team at Dalla Valle and Ornellaia. Remarkable notes of red and black currants, spring flowers, lead pencil, loamy earth, and classy oak all emerge from this young yet amazingly balanced, seamless Cabernet. Full-bodied on the palate and perfectly balanced, with silky tannins, it will probably be as good as it gets with 7-8 years of bottle age and is a magical Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that will evolve for 30 years or more.Jeb Dunnuck | 99 JDThis has a tightly layered core of cassis, mulberry and damson plum, while notes of warm earth and a bright iron spine drive underneath. Features a floral flash in the background, as the fruit and iron notes coalesce seamlessly on the finish. Steady as a rock. Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2023 through 2036. 550 cases made.Wine Spectator | 95 WS

99
JD
As low as $315.00
2019 favia cerro sur California Red

A new addition to the Place de Bordeaux this year - the eponymous project of husband and wife duo; viticulturist Annie Favia and winemaker Andy Erickson. A beautifully scented nose full of rose and violet touches, the Cabernet Franc nuances leap from the glass - fresh and minty, full of herbal sun-kissed ripe fruit but pristinely delivered. Smooth and driving on the palate, crunchy, crisp flavours give a real bite to the palate - red berries, blackcurrants and raisins, all nicely integrated and balanced. This doesn’t feel super worked and polished, instead it gives crystalline iron-minerality, lifted acidity and fragrance throughout - real signatures of the terroir and the minimal interventionist winemaking style - the grapes speak more than the winemaking. I just love the sense of wildness, a smoked touch with blue fruits, Asian spices and slightly angular tannins but with ripe fruit giving the body and cool acidity giving the freshness. A stunning wine and welcome addition to the Place. Ageing in French oak barrels (50% new).Decanter | 100 DECFrom a north-facing site at elevation, the 2019 Cerro Sur is a bold, savory wine loaded with energy. This Cabernet Franc-based wine is bursting with tension. Floral, spice and mocha accents lend striking aromatic top notes. I am so impressed with the wine’s elegance and total sense of finesse. This is an especially savory wine with strong cool-climate aromas and flavors that are so captivating.Vinous Media | 98 VMThis mostly cabernet franc shows intriguing character of tar, graphite, ink and black berries, following through to a medium to full body with layered and slightly dusty tannins and a succulent finish. So drinkable now, but will improve with age.James Suckling | 97 JSComing from a higher elevation site in Coombsville and mostly Cabernet Franc, the 2019 Cerro Sur has a complex, gorgeous nose of pure cassis, currant buds, flowers, and chocolate. This red, blue, and black fruited beauty is medium to full-bodied, with silky tannins and flawless balance. Brought up in 50% new French oak, it’s an incredible 2019 readers will absolutely love. It will evolve for upwards of two decades.Jeb Dunnuck | 97 JDSuperjuicy and vivid, with lots of up-front violet, cassis and plum pâte de fruit notes backed by tasty licorice and sweet spice. Toasted finish, but the fruit wins out easily, with a flash of sweet bay leaf adding nice range. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink now through 2036. 250 cases made.Wine Spectator | 95 WSComing in at more than 70% Cabernet Franc—and aged in 50% new French oak—the 2019 Cerro Sur Red Wine is vaguely herbal, with black tea-like notes and hints of sage accenting black cherries and plums. Medium to full-bodied, silky and fine, this displays the hallmark Favia Erickson traits of balance and elegance—there’s absolutely nothing out of place here.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 94 RP

100
DEC
As low as $269.00
2019 la pelle cabernet sauvignon ceniza vineyard California Red

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Ceniza Vineyard comes from the cooler Coombsville region and offers a deep purple color as well as thrilling notes of ripe blueberries, black cherries, dark tobacco, and earth. It has wonderful purity on the palate and is medium to full-bodied, has ripe tannins, awesome overall balance, and one great finish. This seriously good juice will benefit from 4-5 years of bottle age and should have two decades of overall longevity, if not more.Jeb Dunnuck | 96+ JD

96+
JD
As low as $125.00
2019 la pelle cabernet sauvignon red hen vineyard California Red

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Hen Vineyard from the Oak Knoll District in the southern part of the valley is similarly inky purple/ruby-hued to go with more elegant, medium to full-bodied aromas and flavors of crème de cassis, black raspberry, spring flowers, and cedar pencil. It’s fresh, lively, focused, and beautifully balanced, and can be drunk any time over the coming 20-25 years.Jeb Dunnuck | 96 JDThis is another stunning vintage of this small-production wine, the result of a partnership between Winemaker Maayan Koschitzky and wine growers Miguel Luna and Pete Richmond. Ageable and structured, it opens in dark, brooding tannin, oak and sage, with a thickness to the palate. Notes of crushed rock and iron complement layers of cassis and black cherry.Wine Enthusiast | 95 WE

96
JD
As low as $119.00
2019 nickel and nickel cabernet sauvignon state ranch California Red

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon State Ranch comes from a parcel in the center of the valley, but it’s one that is relatively rocky and well drained, according to winemaker Joe Harden. Apparently, the vineyard is now owned by Thomas Keller. Delicate hints of sage and mint accent black cherries and blueberries on the nose, while the medium to full-bodied palate is defined by softly dusty tannins and ample, mouthwatering length.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 94 RPI loved the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon State Ranch. This Yountville beauty has a great nose of pure cassis and blackcurrant fruits as well textbook Cabernet notes of lead pencil shavings, chalky mineral, and tobacco. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated, and perfectly balanced, it has fine tannins and the class to evolve for 15 years or more.Jeb Dunnuck | 94 JDStewed blackcurrants, cassis, smoked meat, toffee and walnuts on the nose. Full-bodied with fine, sleek tannins and fresh acidity. Succulent and polished with a juicy, flavorful finish. Drink from 2023.James Suckling | 94 JSThe 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon State Ranch offers good upfront intensity, but it is ultimately just a bit lean. There is good energy though. Dark cherry, tobacco, licorice, leather and dried herbs build with a bit of time, and yet the 2019 remains a touch nervous and compact. Perhaps it will flesh out more with some time.Antonio Galloni | 93 AGA sleek, refined style, with ample density to the core of cassis, plum and dark cherry compote notes but without overt muscle or heft, picking up light cedar, alder and savory accents along the way. Shows a subtle iron twinge at the very end. Best from 2023 through 2035. 5,300 cases made.Wine Spectator | 93 WSThis is a soft, herbal and pillowy wine, 100% varietal and made from one of the cooler climates found in the valley. Ethereal and earthy, it shows secondary characteristics of sage, rock and cedar, never losing its full-bodied plushness along the way.Wine Enthusiast | 91 WE

94
JD
As low as $89.99
2019 pas de cheval cabernet sauvignon 3-pack (prelude, intermezzo, finale) California Red
As low as $747.00
2019 pas de cheval cabernet sauvignon finale California Red

From a higher elevation site on this great Mountain terroir in the northeastern part of the valley, the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is classic Howell Mountain with a closed, reductive, tight, and unyielding style that blossoms with time in the glass. Black and blue fruits, scorched earth, chalky minerality, violets, and brambly herbs define the bouquet, and it hits the palate with full-bodied richness, a deep, layered mouthfeel, and serious amounts of tannin that will require 4-5 years to chill out. Nevertheless, it’s another beautiful, balanced, incredibly impressive wine from this lineup that readers will love. Hide bottles for at least 4-5 years and enjoy over the following two decades.Jeb Dunnuck | 96+ JD

96+
JD
As low as $249.00
2019 pas de cheval cabernet sauvignon intermezzo California Red

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena comes from alluvial soils, and its dense purple hue is followed by a rich, powerful, concentrated wine loaded with ripe black (and some red) fruits, smoked tobacco, scorched earth, chocolate, and hints of spring flowers. Incredible on the palate as well, it’s full-bodied, has an unctuous, layered, straight-up seamless mouthfeel, supple tannins, and a great, great finish. The texture, as well as the tannins, are truly special. It needed lots of air to show at its best, but it’s unquestionably drinking brilliantly today. It will shine for over two decades.Jeb Dunnuck | 98 JD

98
JD
As low as $249.00
2019 pas de cheval cabernet sauvignon prelude California Red

Pas de Cheval is a collaboration between Maayan Koschitzky (of Atelier Melka) and Master of Wine Vanessa Conlin. They focus on appellation Cabernets and have some top-notch sourcing. Starting with the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville, it offers a gorgeous nose of pure cassis, blueberries, wildflowers, incense, and spicy oak. Pure Napa Valley Cabernet magic on the palate, it’s full-bodied, has a layered, multi-dimensional texture, ripe, building and substantial tannins, and one heck of a great finish. It certainly delivers the goods today yet will integrate its oak and tannins with 2-4 years of bottle age and drink spectacularly well over the following 15-20 years or so.Jeb Dunnuck | 97 JD

97
JD
As low as $249.00
2019 realm cabernet sauvignon farella vineyard California Red

Realm took over the management of Farella vineyard in 2018. Since then, winemaker Benoit Touquette explained their focus has been to open out the canopy, creating better exposure for the fruit, aiming to achieve riper tannins.A blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot, the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Farella Vineyard has a deep garnet-purple color and a powerful, expressive nose of baked plums, juicy blackberries and blackcurrant pastilles, plus touches of black olives, lavender and cinnamon stick, with a waft of fragrant earth. The full-bodied palate is seriously dense and muscular, featuring a rock-solid foundation of super ripe, grainy tannins and bold freshness, finishing with epic length and energy. A spectacular showing for Farella!Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 98+ RPThe 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Farella Vineyard is tremendous. Winemaker Benoit Touquette has captured all of the savory and mineral nuances that are such a signature of this Coombsville site balanced with ripe, radiant expression of fruit. Red plum, rose petal, cinnamon and blood orange are all laced together in a Cabernet of real distinction. This is the first vintage that incorporates a touch (8%) of Merlot, which helps soften some of the youthful angularity Farella Cabernets often showAntonio Galloni | 97 AGThe first time this cuvée includes Merlot, the 2019 Farella is 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot and comes from a cooler site in the Coombsville appellation. Textbook Cabernet, with lots of dark fruits, lead pencil, violets, and cedary tobacco notes, it has firmer tannins, full-bodied richness, and a concentrated, age-worthy style. In short, it’s a classic, brilliant Coombsville Cabernet to hide for 4-6 years and enjoy over the following two decades.Jeb Dunnuck | 96+ JDLots of lead-pencil and blackcurrant aromas. Apricots, too. Medium-bodied with cashmere tannins that are so fine and fresh. Layered. 92% cabernet sauvignon and 8% merlot. Drink after 2025.James Suckling | 95 JS

98+
RP
As low as $265.00
2019 silverado vineyards merlot mt. george vineyard California Red

Aromas of pine, plum and redcurrant. Medium-bodied with fresh, mineral character and silky tannins. Bright and cool on the palate. Balanced and juicy. So approachable and delicious that its hard to put down. Drink now.James Suckling | 93 JSHere’s a temperate merlot that’s not mimicking cabernet. It’s a tight wine from the cool reaches of Coombsville, with just enough greenness to push back on the lush, blue-fruited ripeness. A sapid, clean red for beef Wellington. —J.G. (3,000 cases)Wine & Spirits Magazine | 93 W&S

93
W&S
As low as $39.99
2019 white rock vineyards cabernet sauvignon estate California Red

The 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is fabulous. A deep, potent wine, the 2019 possesses tremendous density, not to mention tons of pedigree. Deep red fruit, white pepper, chalk, blood orange and mint lend notable depth to this powerhouse Cabernet. The tannins are pretty imposing, but there is plenty of fruit to keep things in balance. What a gorgeous, gorgeous wine this is.Vinous Media | 94 VMAromas of mulberries, dark plums, dried herbs, lavender and cedar. Medium-to full-bodied with chewy tannins. Structured, with a fresh, firm finish. Try after 2023.James Suckling | 91 JS

94
VM
As low as $64.99
2020 aubert chardonnay sugar shack vineyard California White

From the Auberts’ home property on the western side of the Rutherford AVA, the 2020 Chardonnay Sugar Shack features intense scents of lime zest, honey and yellow peaches. Full-bodied, rich and ripe, it tightens up on the finish, adding more bright, refreshing citrus notes.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 95 RPA solid and full-bodied wine with dried apple, pineapple, lemon rind, Full-bodied, layered and beautiful. Delicious finish. Drink now.James Suckling | 95 JSPrecise and pure, with a juicy, lip-smacking note to the dried pineapple, lemon sherbet, apricot preserves and tangerine at the core, expanding into clipped herbs and litsea oil details on the long finish, where the flavors expand and gain momentum. Drink now. 598 cases made.Wine Spectator | 93 WSThe 2020 Chardonnay Sugar Shack has good depth and plenty of up-front appeal, but the aromatics are a bit muted. There are no hard edges, though. Hints of apricot, tangerine oil, spice and lightly honeyed accent linger. This is another fine showing for the year.Vinous Media | 90 VM

95
JS
As low as $185.00
2020 favia carbone chardonnay California White

A beautiful chardonnay with cooked apple, dried mango and mineral character with a pumice undertone. It’s full-bodied with solid tension and a curated finish. Extremely polished and focused. Tensioned. No malo. Made from organic grapes. Drink now.James Suckling | 94 JSThe aromas are restrained but compelling, influenced perhaps by the herb gardens that grow alongside the vineyard. There is chamomile and verbena together with just a hint of the apricot and mango of ripe California Chardonnay. The palate is equally restrained, refreshingly steely, with a sinewy backbone of acidity supporting ripe yellow tree fruit. Malolactic fermentation was blocked but a plushness exists to the texture from battonage and there is a definite sensation of spongy compression on the mid palate, generous and delicious. The finish is pure-fruited and long. This is a lovely, refreshing wine to drink right now, light on its feet but sinewy as a dancer.Decanter | 94 DECFresh and expressive, featuring Honeycrisp apple, yuzu and lemon blossom flavors that show hints of marzipan and nutmeg, this white offers wonderful restraint and focus. The long, juicy finish reveals a hint of fresh-grated ginger. Drink now through 2030. 1,609 cases made.Wine Spectator | 93 WSThe 2020 Chardonnay Carbone is terrific. Coming from older vines (planted in 1988), it has a pretty, perfumed nose of lemon curd, ripe melon, and white flowers, as well as a subtle tropical edge. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, with a solid spine of acidity and a great finish. It shines for its purity and elegance while still bringing good depth of fruit and concentration.Jeb Dunnuck | 93 JDThe 2020 Chardonnay Carbone is sourced from old vines in the Berry Lane vineyard in Coombsville, right next to the Carbone winery. The blocked malo style yields a Chardonnay built on brightness and energy, with lovely citrus, floral and savory accents. This is such a gorgeous wine.Vinous Media | 92 VM

94
DEC
As low as $38.99

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