September has been a month to celebrate many things – Labor Day Weekend, the official start of the fall season, and the sun finally deciding to grace San Francisco with its bright and shining presence.
But for those of us oenophiles here in the Golden State, September has also been a celebration of California Wine Month. Throughout the month, I’ve certainly been drinking accordingly. Sipping everything from cult classics to new age productions of obscure varietals, there is currently no shortage of diversity among the California wine scene.
Here are just five examples of some delightful wines I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying lately. Cheers to California Wine Month and to drinking California wine for other 11 months of the year.
Hanzell Vineyards – ‘Sebella’ Chardonnay 2014
Produced from the estate’s younger vines, ‘Sebella’ is quite a juxtaposition from the spice and nuttiness of Hanzell’s widely beloved flagship Chardonnay. This youthful rendition exudes a brisk nose and palate of grapefruit, white peach, and distinct minerality from the mixture of chalk and basalt soils in the area. The bright acidity and saline quality on the finish makes this a refreshing sipper that you’ll finish a glass or two of before you even realize it.
Hatton Daniels – Malvasia Bianca 2015
A small production, natural approach wine label from Donum Estate winemaker Dan Fishman and a couple of his buddies, Hatton Daniels is at it again with this otherworldly Malvasia from the Ceccini Vineyard in Contra Costa. Its color hue and opacity are like that of gold dust as succulent aromas of apricot, tangerine, lime blossom and white pepper radiate from the glass. Then with its alluvial minerality, crisp acidity and razor sharp focus, the added bonus of it being a whopping 10.4% alcohol makes for a guilt-free “yes, I’m drinking an entire bottle to myself” kind of night.
Balletto Vineyards – Sexton Hill Pinot Noir 2014
Russian River Valley
The overall profile of this wine is definitely against the norm of most Pinot Noir you might taste from the appellation. Instead of the ripe (almost jammy) fruit, medicinal characters and heat on the mouthfeel that are notorious in Russian River Valley, this Pinot has a pleasant leanness to it with herbaceous notes of mint leaf and bay laurel. Still in a fresh youthful state, the powdery tannins and vibrant acidity showcase the wine’s precision that will continue to synergize with juicy flavors of plum, black raspberry, savory spice and dark chocolate finish.
Frog’s Leap Winery – Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Of all the Napa Valley alumni that predate the 1990s, Frog’s Leap is undoubtedly one that I consider an oldie but goodie. Their Estate Grown Cab comes packed with both intensity and classic purity of the Rutherford appellation. Ripe notes of black cherry and cassis evolve into tobacco leaf, mocha and earthiness from the rocky soils as the grainy tannic structure and zesty acidity maintain the wine’s sheer focus. And best of all, these folks offer top quality examples of Rutherford wine for a fraction of what some of their famous neighbors do.
Matthiasson Wines – Sweet Vermouth
With quite an impressive following that the Matthiassons have acquired for their innovative whites and reds, it almost seems necessary to mention the fact that they also make a deliciously luscious vermouth. The flavor profile is everlasting with notes of candied blood orange, baked apricot, ginger root, quinine and a bitter tea leaf finish. It is sweet to the touch, but sure handles it well with zippy acidity that keeps the palate going. Add to your next cocktail or sip this on its own.