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April 2017

Our Monthly Newsletter
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For many years, Cabernet Sauvignon has been responsible for California's most heralded red wines, and outstanding new releases head up this edition of Connoisseurs' Guide. Its close relations, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot make a fine showing this month as well. In a decided shift of gears, we also check in on a bevy of new wines made from the classic white varieties of the Rhône, and there are tasty reasons aplenty why they have a growing contingent of fans.

It is hard not to be excited about the achievements of local Cabernet of late, and, if there seems to be no end of enjoyable bottlings to be had, the very best of the bunch, such as those from Flora Springs, Lail and Patrimony reviewed in this issue, are breathtaking wines that stand with the finest in the world.

Merlot has not gone away, and, as those makers who have not been deterred by the winds of fashion continually prove, serious and ageworthy Merlot is alive and well.

Cabernet Franc is not new to California, but this important grape of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux is getting some serious local attention lately and is breaking from its traditional role as a blending partner to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Varietally labeled versions were a rarity in California only a few years ago, yet inspired by the grape's successes in Argentina, local vintners are making great strides with Malbec.

Although Petit Verdot on its own can admittedly be a tough customer, fans of dark and sturdy red wines will find things to like in the handful of local offerings.

Since its arrival in California some thirty-five years back, Viognier has filled a unique niche. Its wonderfully outgoing fruit and its intense aromatics have understandably made it the most popular of all the white Rhône grapes here in California.

Grenache is developing a small, but loyal following of late, and its pale mutation is getting a few looks as well. Like most of its white mates from the Rhône, Grenache Blanc most often appears in blends, but it has shown the ability to please on its own.

There is only a tiny amount of Roussanne being grown locally, and its circumstance is not likely to change soon, but its propensity for honeyed richness has earned it a devoted, if fairly small following.

There is even less Marsanne being grown in California that Roussanne, and with a few notable exceptions, it makes relatively understated wines that contribute structure and a minerally twist to Rhônish white blends.

Syrah, Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc have consistently been varieties that can be counted on for delivering more than a few good values, and April's picks of the bunch are as long on character as they are comparatively low in price.

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