California’s Last Hurrah

I’ll be quite honest with you here. I’m a little tired of California and her wines at the moment.  That’s because, at this time of year, they do a big push at the LCBO leading up to the California Wine Fair held across Canada. The California wine fairs in Ottawa and Toronto (April 5 and 8, respectively) are what concern us. I’m ready for another region to take the spotlight for a little while… so before we bid a final adieu to California (at least for a little while), here’s one last look at some California wines at the LCBO right now (and some that should be soon) that I discovered at this year’s California Wine Fair.

Cline 2011 Cashmere (2010 / currently available) – ($19.95 – #161539)… this blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre is a perennial good buy because of all its good fruit; the 2011 has raspberry and spice with strawberry jam notes that make it a real winner around the BBQ. The 2010 is out now and it has a big smokiness to it, so it’s up to you whether you buy now or wait (***½+).

Confusing is the Simi 2009 Landslide Cabernet Sauvignon ($39.95 – #67744) – the LCBO website claims it has the 2007 version in stock, yet you’ll see the picture of the 2009 above the product info, which can mean one of two things – the vintage is wrong or the 2009 will be coming to the LCBO soon. Look for it as it is a lovely version of a Cali-Cab with substance over style: spicy fruit that’s not syrupy or jammy, good mouth-feel… a wine that will nicely accompany your steak dinner (****+). Another wine you should be looking for when it hits shelves (no date given yet) is the Stonestreet 2009 Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon ($49.95); this Cab has that easy, pleasant drinking of a Cali-Cab with the mellowness of red and black fruit – a great winter warmer for in front of a roaring fire (***½+).

I have two Chardonnays on my list of wines that are available, or soon will be. The first is the Esser 2011 Monterey Chardonnay ($19.95 – no number yet) – lemon peel, peach stone, green apple, all with a fresh lively finish… not your typical over-the-top California Chardonnay. I attribute that to the cooler region of Monterey (****+). Another Chardonnay making its way to Vintages shelves (on June 22) is the Sebastiani 2010 Sonoma County Chardonnay ($19.95). This one is more typically California in style, with buttery and vanilla notes (especially on the finish); for the price, it’s a good value and delivers just what you’d expect from the Golden State (****).

My final takeaway from the California Wine Fair was something I recommended last week, but it still manages to impress every time I take a sip: the Michael & David 2010 7 Deadly Zins ($24.95 – #59311 – now permanently reduced to this price). The smoky, meaty quality continues to build in this wine and that’s odd for a Zin which is usually crazy-fruit-forward with plum and black cherry backed by vanilla … this one has those notes but with that smoked meat quality, it’s another dimension to this wine that’s very impressive – I still give it the same mark of (****+), but because the price is lower by three dollars, it’s an even better value and I’d recommend buying at least three or four bottles and enjoying it with BBQ ribs, a juicy steak or even your favorite burger recipe.