Miscellaneous Red

Alba Vineyards, 2010 Heritage, Warren Hills AVA, New Jersey

Heritage is made from 100% Cabernet Franc grown on the Left Bank. That is to say, the vineyard is about two miles from the left bank of the Delaware River in Milford, New Jersey. It features a nose of dark, sweet cherries with vague aromatic suggestions of mint and coffee. This is a smooth, medium to full-bodied red with loads of bold, ultra-ripe black and red fruit flavors. One taster called it explosive while another said it has great extraction. Maraschino and Bing cherry flavors dominate but there are also hints of cassis, boysenberry or blueberry complemented by a healthy dose of black pepper. The finish delivers some vanilla and cigar box nuances. $37

Rating: 4.0 Stars (4.0 / 5)

Ampelos Cellars, 2009 Grenache, Sta. Rita Hills, CA

Ampelos Cellars owner Peter Work told me he produced just 6 barrels (130 cases) of this food-friendly red. It features bright aromas and flavors with explosive concentration. This is a medium-bodied wine with a medley of cherry and berry flavors, including nice notes of ultra-ripe strawberry followed by subtle peppery nuances. Ampelos is certified organic and biodynamic.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

When I asked Peter about the barrel regimen used for some of his wines he told me about hybrid barrels. “Hey, I’m all for a wine that gives me more miles per gallon.” I thought. Then he explained that hybrids are made with American oak staves and French oak heads for a 76%/24% mix. Who says an old dog can’t learn about new sticks? 

Kukkula, 2013 Noir, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, CA

Kukkula’s 2103 Noir is another red Rhone blend constructed from 86% Syrah with a 14% dollop of Counoise on top. Get your mind out of the gutter you pervert. Counoise is a grape variety. Noir is another smooth, full-bodied offering with roasted scents of woodsmoke and chocolate, courtesy of an aging regimen in a combination of new and once used French oak barrels. The rich dark cherry flavors are supported by an underlying core of firm minerality that’s followed by a whisper of black pepper. $45. 127 cases produced.

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Kukkula, 2013 Pas de Deux, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, CA

Fans of big, rich wines will enjoy the impressive wines made by Kevin Jussila of the Kukkula winery. Jussila is big on his Finnish heritage and he informed me that kukkula is Finnish for “high place” which is exactly where I found myself after tasting through his formidable reds. He produces 1,000 to 2,000 cases of wine from a vineyard that, like my crazy, hippie brother-in-law, is organic but hasn’t been certified. The 2013 Kukkula Pas de Deux is a full-bodied blend of 60%Grenache and 40% Syrah with a nutty, vanilla-tinged nose. This broad red offers cherry and blackberry fruit flavors that meld with a smooth mélange of spice, vanilla and subtle smoke. $45. 411 cases produced.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Kukkula, 2013 Sisu, Adelaida District, Paso Robles, CA

Jussila explained that Sisu is a Finnish term referring to the “intestinal fortitude” of the Finnish people as well as the name of his Rhone blend comprised of 55% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 20% Mourvèdre. In Paso Robles, Rhone grape varieties like these are about as common as a sauna full of naked Finns. And speaking of naked Finns, Kukkula’s 2013 Sisu is as big and soft as Scarlett Johansson’s lips. (Wait a second … I’ve just been informed that Johansson is a Dane. Hey, she may not be a Finn but she is a Great Dane.) What I’m talking about here is full-bodied, extremely rich and monumentally voluptuous, and so is the wine. Dark cherry and hints of toasty oak come wrapped in smooth, supple tannins. $45. 244 cases produced.

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Lang & Reed, 2011 Cabernet Franc, North Coast, California

I love green bell peppers in a Greek salad. In my wine – not so much. The pepper aromas combine with subdued scents of earth and carry over into a palate that’s soft and fleshy almost to a fault. The finish firms up, with some silky tannins saving the wine from becoming flabby. Subtle red fruits are overshadowed by the vegetal notes, that could be the result of the difficult ’11 vintage. The finish shows some subtle leather nuances and mineral flavors that one taster called ‘clay’ and another said was ‘steely’. $25

Rating: 2.5 Stars (2.5 / 5)

Mill Creek, Crush, 2007 Proprietary Red Wine Dry Creek Valley, California

This is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend from the outstanding ‘07 vintage. It’s a soft, lush red with aromas of ripe cherry, cedar and mocha. It’s medium-bodied and richly textured. Flavors of ultra-ripe Bing cherry and subtle blueberry combine with French and American oak notes, adding vanilla and chocolate nuances. At this price you can invite the wine locusts and not break the budget.

Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5)

Vina Robles, 2012 Red4, Paso Robles

This is a medium to full-bodied blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, and Mourvèdre. The winery declares it spends 16 months in oak barrels from France, Europe and America, which sounds like they don’t consider France to be a part of Europe. This wine is as dark, round and smooth as Vin Diesel’s head, but at least it has something going on beneath the surface. I picked up lots of smoky, dark cocoa traits in the nose and palate. The lush texture supports plummy cherry and other black fruit flavors followed by oaken vanilla notes in the finish. $16

Rating: 3 Stars (3 / 5)

Vines on the Marycrest, 2013 Heart of Glass, Paso Robles, CA

 The wines from Vines on the Marycrest are as delicate and aromatic as Kukkula’s wines are big and supple. While nosing the 2013 Heart of Glass (a blend of 52% Grenache, 28% Mourvèdre, and 20% Syrah) I picked up a faintly yeasty, vanilla cookie dough aroma and proprietor Jennifer Abascal informed me that fermentation was conducted with native yeasts. Brilliant floral aromas carry over into the medium-bodied palate and merge with a concentrated river of ripe red and blue fruit flavors that fan out in a delta of subtle sweet vanilla. $36. 130 cases produced.

Rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Vines on the Marycrest, 2013 My Generation, Paso Robles, CA

VOTM wines are named after popular songs and the 2013 My Generationhad me windmilling my Riedel like Pete Townshend at Leeds. 48%Zinfandel, 24% Syrah, 19% Mourvèdre, and 9% Petite Sirah were aged in 30% new French oak barrels, yet it was the lilting aromas of lilacs, violets and ripe red fruits that grabbed my attention. This is a complex, medium-bodied red with deep, concentrated flavors that refuse to f-f-fade away. Can you dig what we all s-s-say? $38. 185 cases produced.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Vines on the Marycrest, 2013 Satin Doll, Paso Robles, CA

The VOTM 2013 Satin Doll is a soulful blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 22% Syrah and 12% Mourvèdre that sings like Ella and swings like Duke. It also did time in 30% new French oak barrels but the oak influence is more apparent than in VOTM’s other efforts as the modest floral scents play second fiddle to the dulcet notes of smoke and vanilla. This is a complex, multi-layered, medium-bodied blend with the same bold concentration and pretty floral notes as the rest of VOTM’s enticing blends. $40. 115 cases produced.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)