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Avalon California Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Even though this red wine from California is labeled Cabernet Sauvignon, upon further research I found that it is in fact a blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Syrah, 4% Merlot and 1% Tempranillo. Aged for 8 months in French and American oak barrels, it has smoke and cedar aromas with blueberry, plum, cherries and a hint of chocolate. On the finish there is a spice and vanilla on the palate. This is a decent every day Cab and can be found in the $8 range. 13.5% alcohol.

Black Coyote 2004 Stag's Leap Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon California
Today after work a few of us got together and sampled a really powerful bottle of wine from California. Powerful because it is 15.1% alcohol, but also because it's intensity is almost visible. Called Black Coyote Bates Creek Vineyard 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon... it's 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Merlot and barreled for 19 months in new and used French oak. The color is a unique deep purple with the opacity of ink. On the nose is an intense wave of fruits, dark berries, cherries, even a little hint of apple, and wet hay. On the palate there was a full fruit bomb, high alcohol flavor, chocolate and wood... and a nice long velvety finish. I believe they're already sold out of the 2004, so if you spot a bottle anywhere (it's in the $30-40 range and well worth it), grab it and hold it for a few years. Damn good bottle of wine, Thanks Jordan!

Calistoga Cellars 2005 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Made from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon aging in French oak barrels for 18 months, then 15% Merlot added to the final bottled blend. This rich deep rose colored Cabernet from Napa, California is full-bodied, clean and smooth. On the nose wafts chocolate, oak and herb. Great flavors are revealed as plum, tobacco, and intense cherry do a tap dance on the tongue. Extremely concentrated and complex with an alcohol content of 14.9% and a price tag of $25-35. Would pair really well with a steak au poivre.

Castle Rock 2006 Sonoma County Pinot Noir
This California light ruby red is a Pinot Noir with fruity aromas and spices, and on the palate is cherry jam, plum a tinge of white pepper and oak. Good finish, and well balanced. Around $13 at The Wine Room.

Cosentino Napa County Merlot 2005
This is one of my favorites from a tasting I attended this past weekend at The Restaurant at Sun & Surf Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, N.Y. There were exclusively California wines that ran the gamut, but I'll be concentrating on the reds I enjoyed. First up is the Merlot from Napa County, California... it's one with cojones, partly due to the 14.8% alcohol content. Complex and rustic, the earthy aromas carry the spices, leather and juicy cherries. All is balanced by a rich palate of slate and white pepper followed by a super long finish. Range about $22.

Halleck Vineyards Clone 828 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006
Today, at a tasting at the Waldorf Astoria given by Martin Scott Wines, I had the opportunity to sample over 50 Pinot Noirs. I couldn’t try them all but one that really stood out was the Halleck Vineyards Clone 828 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006. 828 is an individual clone and individual vineyard near Annapolis, about two hours north. It’s a dark deep color with a concentrated nose of Italian pastries, cherry tar, spice, and earth. On the palate is oak, raspberry and more spice with medium tannins, and an excellent long finish.

Justin Isosceles 2005 Paso Robles
From the Paso Robles region of California comes this classic blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 7% Merlot. Deep purple colors with a nose hinting of minerality, intense black fruits and, well, raw fresh steak. On the mouth there is vanilla and wood from the 18 months in French oak barrels. Good tannins meld with a smooth ripe blackberry finish. 14.6% alcohol and $62 SRP.

Mitchell Katz Sangiovese 2006 Crackerbox Vineyards
Sangiovese (the primary grape used in making Chianti) grown in this part of California (Livermore Valley) makes for an interesting variation on a theme. Mitchell Katz ages this 100% Sangiovese in French oak with an alcohol content of 15.4%. That sounds fairly high but hardly noticeable while tasting it. On the nose I get cherries, chocolate and a faint hint of rubber bands, but upon tasting there is an exotic spiciness with a black cherry finish. Overall the tannins are soft and luscious with a crisp acidity. SRP is $25.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 California
This California Pinot Noir aged in French oak for 7 months opens with aromas of ripe black cherry, little hints of chocolate & vanilla, wood and spicy clove. On the palate is cherry again, and plum. Balanced acidity and firm tannins give this a nice finish. High alcohol content, 14.6% and price of $19. Sampled this wine at a tasting at Rosetta Wines.

La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2006 California
This California Pinot Noir aged in French oak for 7 months opens with aromas of ripe black cherry, little hints of chocolate & vanilla, wood and spicy clove. On the palate is cherry again, and plum. Balanced acidity and firm tannins give this a nice finish. High alcohol content, 14.6% and price of $19. Sampled this wine at a tasting at Rosetta Wines.

L'Aventure Cote a Cote 2006
From the Paso Robles region of California where owner and Winemaker Stephan Asseo makes this Rhone blend of 40% Mourvedre, 30% Granache and 30% Syrah comes this ruby red from 100% estate grown fruit aged in French oak for 14 months. With a subtle nose comes forth spice, red fruits and a slight slate or chalk aroma. Smooth tannins, The mouth displays nice tannins and the finish is black cherry and vanilla. Unfined and infiltered.

Their website reveals an interest in sustainability: "In the spirit of sustainable agriculture, L'Aventure winery runs on solar power. "My favorite thing about the solar panels is that we are decreasing our impact on the environment, and this is a big part of sustainable agriculture," says Dave DeBusk, vineyard manager. Sustainable agriculture relies on the principle that we must meet the needs of the present, without compromising the future. Solar power is the most reliable and environmentally friendly form of energy available. Our panels are producing clean, renewable energy, and any extra power produced will go directly back into the grid. In addition to providing for the winery, we produce enough energy to power 5-7 homes here in Paso Robles."

I like that.

J. Lohr Estates Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
This Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles, California is made from 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petite Sirah, 5% Syrah, 4% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot and 1% Malbec-- quite an intense mix, but it works. Stainless steel fermentation, then 14-16 months in oak casks. Bright reddish purple in color with strong fruity fragrance of cherries cedar and blackberries, and cherry soda, chocolate and vanilla on the mouth. Enjoyed this with a cheeseburger at a new restaurant in Forest Hills called Bonfire Grill, at $9.50 a glass. 13.8% alcohol.

Pine Ridge Carneros Merlot 2005
This Pine Ridge 2005 Carneros Merlot from the Napa Valley/Carneros region of California is 98% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec and aged 15 months in French oak barrels. It shows dark aromas of blackberries, cherry and blueberry with notes of coffee, tobacco and cedar. The flavors are bright, but balanced, with flecks of oak and a finish of chocolate. Lush flavors combined with a silky texture allow for a nice finish. This is ready to drink now, or you can lay it down for 10 years. SRP is $45. I tasted this wine at the California Wine Month expo at Espace on west 42nd street in NYC.

Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Dark deep plum in color with a nose of cherry pie and dark ripe berries and tree bark spice. Flavors of dark berries again fill the palate with a rich fruitiness and tingling acidity while ending with a smokey and concentrated finish that lingers nicely. 13.5% alcohol and $10 range.

Trinitas Cellars Old Vine Cuvee 2005 Contra Costa County
This is another one of my picks from the tasting I attended this past weekend at The Restaurant at Sun & Surf Beach Club in Atlantic Beach, New York. Trinitas Cellars has multiple sources around Contra Costa County, California, with some of the best vines as much as 120 years old. The 2005 Old Vine Cuvee is made from 37% Mataro, 24% Zinfandel, 18% Carignan, 13% Petite Syrah and 8% Alicante Bouschet. Because of the sandy soil there are very low yields and very high concentration, giving the wine a deep richness. Intense aromas of blackberries, blueberries, and a luscious palate of prunes and vanilla make this a delicious food wine. Long on the finish this worked very well with a steak and lamb but I could see it paired really well with pork. This is an amazing deal for $18!

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