It’s the dog days of summer in the mid-Atlantic, and it’s been hot and humid for as long as I can remember. When I’m done pounding H20 all day long, I generally uncork bubbles or whites or pink wine.
That said, if you’re firing up a grill, red wines should probably be involved, no matter the weather conditions. I recently tasted through a wide array of California red wines that should pair nicely with summertime meals, parties and grill-outs. From Petite Sirah to Zin blends to Rhone reds, there are some goodies in this report, many of which are reasonably priced.
These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.
2014 Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Medium ruby color. Jammy aromas of currants, plums and blackberries along with cola and coffee. Full and juicy with fleshy tannins and low acidity. A bold presence with saucy blueberry and jammy blackberries, backed up by cola, vanilla (lots of it) and caramel. High deliciousness factor for those with a Paso Robles sweet tooth predilection. 77% Zinfandel, 14% Syrah, 8% Petite Sirah, 1% Grenache. (85 points)
2014 Chronic Cellars Petite Sirah Suite Petite - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Deep purple color. Smells of rick blackberries, plum skins, blueberry concentrate, some roasted red pepper and vanilla as well. Full and chewy on the palate with some structure in the tannic grip, low acid makes this feel a bit heavy, but the flavors are delish: blackberry, blueberry, boysenberry jam. I also get some toasted coconut, mocha and crème brulee. Tasty stuff. Includes 15% Petite Sirah. (85 points)
2014 Chronic Cellars Sofa King Bueno - California, Central Coast, Paso RoblesSRP: $22
Vibrant purple color. Smells of roasted plums, blueberry and raspberry jam, along with sweet coffee and vanilla. Full-bodied and saucy with moderate tannic structure and low acidity. Dense plums, blackberries and blueberries, the fruit is jammy and rich and laced with smoke, black pepper glaze, milk chocolate, coffee. A bit candied and chewy in style but good amount of deliciousness. A blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre and Tannat. (85 points)
2012 Oso Libre Zinfandel Osezno - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Medium ruby color. Smells like a spicy mix of pepper, clove and all spice on top of juicy plums and red cherry fruit with notes of maple and brown sugar. Full-bodied on the palate but not heavy, this has a waxy feel to it with fleshy tannins and medium acidity. A cool mix of black and red cherries with roasted figs and dates. Interesting blend of maple and roasted chestnut elements with spicy clove and nutmeg, and this makes for a fun spice rack of flavors. Stays clean, not too hot, with impressive balance and complexity. From the La Vista Vineyard in Adelaida, this Zin is aged 20 months in new Hungarian and old French oak. (90 points)
2012 Oso Libre Nativo - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
Light ruby color. More floral on the nose than the Osezno Zinfandel, with roses and violets on top of juicy raspberries, red apples, wild strawberry, topped in some sage and pepper. Full but so velvety and silky on the palate, smooth tannin frams the medium acidity. Red apple and juicy cherries mix with darker plum notes, while the fruit is juicy and vibrant it’s not jam jar in the slightest. I get complex waves of roasted chestnut, allspice, tar, rhubarb, rose hips. Full of flavor but so bright, refined, even, although this could develop with time in the cellar. 100% Primitivo (Italian clone of Zinfandel), this wine is aged 20 months in new Hungarian and old French oak. (91 points)
2013 Edmeades Winery Edmeades' Folly - California, Mendocino County
Bright purple color. Aromas of black cherries, gushing blackberry, cassis — a dark, loamy, iron-rich note, like charcoal and tar mixed with dark coffee, toasted coconut and cedar shavings. A concentrated wine on the palate, with dusty tannic structure and medium-low acidity. Juicy black cherries and blueberries, covered in dark chocolate and some espresso. Sweet vanilla and charcoal, coffee and caramel sauce make this a bold a lush wine. Rich, saucy, bold, sure this is delicious but it’s also pretty complex and structured. A blend of Zinfandel with 23% Syrah, 15% Merlot and 15% Petite Sirah aged in 15% new American and French oak. (88 points)
2013 Edmeades Winery Petite Sirah - California, Mendocino County
Purple pitch colored. Deep and saucy aromatics with dense blueberry and boysenberry jam, also some vanilla, milk chocolate, charcoal pit and espresso. Full-bodied and chewy on the palate, some grit to the tannins, medium-low acidity. Blackberry, blueberry jam, mixes with espresso, dark chocolate, graphite, vanilla and charred wood. A bold and extracted wine but it’s structured well and could stand up to a big-ass steak or a few years in the cellar, or both. Includes 7% Zinfandel, this spends 15% new French oak, and 85% used French and American oak. (88 points)
2013 Murrieta's Well The Spur - California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley
Smells sweet and juicy, dark but floral, with black and red berry fruit laced with smoke, herbs, dark chocolate and red licorice. Dusty-light tannins on the palate, some moderate acidity, this is a medium-full-bodied wine with a chewy, fruit-driven structure. Black cherries and currants mix with blueberry jam, and the fruit is touched with chocolate shavings, sweet barbecue sauce and some leafy, spicy elements. Fun stuff for the price. A blend of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. (86 points)
2013 Murphy-Goode Zinfandel Liar's Dice - California, Sonoma County
Light purple color. Smells of sweet cherries, candied raspberries, strawberry jam – along with some cocoa powder, pepper and sweet cola. Full-bodied, some moderate acid, light tannins but a chewy mouthfeel. Flavors of sweet cherries, raspberries and red currant jam, the fruit is juicy and ripe but also shows a bit of tartness. Roasted chestnuts, sweet cola, cedar and coffee notes add some complexity. Fun stuff for early consumption; bring on the grilled food. Includes 4% Petite Sirah, this is aged 10 months in mostly American oak. (86 points)