By Alison Bailin Batz
California produces more than 80% of all wines made in the country and is the fourth largest producer of wine in the world behind the nations of France, Spain and Italy. As such, it’s truly the unofficial wine capital of the United States, and harvest season is honored annually during California Wine Month in September. To celebrate, here are some standout varietals from the region.
The Prisoner Wine Company
A chenin blanc with a touch of viognier, expect this wine to showcase floral notes, cantaloupe and golden delicious apples on the nose. Velvety and smooth, it also tastes of lush pineapple, honey and ripe peaches with bright acidity for balance. $37. www.theprisonerwinecompany.com.
2018 Carneros Chardonnay
Known for its combination of peach, mango, citrus and vanilla spice on the nose and palate, seamlessly combined with a creamy and slightly buttery texture, this is California chardonnay at its best. It is rich and round, marrying the different components in harmony. $38. www.rombauer.com.
2017 Pauli Ranch Barbera
A red Italian grape varietal, this Barbera, which began distribution in Arizona in August, has formidable acidity with black plum and licorice notes. The touch of smoke and white pepper at the finish rounds out the flavors and makes it a perfect food-pairing wine. $42. www.portalupiwine.com.
2017 Blue Rock Viognier
Blue Rock Vineyard
An expressive wine with aromas of violets and peaches, this viognier starts with tastes of honey, poached pears and lemon before hints of clove and vanilla seep in at the finish. It stands up well to creamy and spicy foods. $45. www.bluerockvineyard.com.
2015 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay
This vibrant chardonnay has a bouquet of citrus blossom, brioche and marzipan on the nose and flavors of lime zest, jasmine and honeydew in each sip. Its wonderful intensity is comprised of equal parts smoky oak and juicy acidity. $55. www.newtonvineyard.com.
2015 Rodgers Creek Syrah
This rich, robust varietal is both earthy and savory without as many of the jammy elements one might find in a syrah grown in hotter areas. Instead, look for dark cherry and white pepper notes. $56. www.longboardvineyards.com.
2016 John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Nickel & Nickel Winery
Approachable yet structured and elegant, this wine delights with notes of cherry as well as delicate herbs and even a touch of earthiness. The softness is tempered well with a naturally acidic finish thanks to the bold tannins. $125. www.nickelandnickel.com.
2014 Hommage Cabernet Sauvignon
A luxurious estate blend, this cabernet is deep in color and intensity with hints of rich cocoa and espresso on the nose. It then explodes with juicy red fruit before giving way to an essence of cedar and dark chocolate in each sip. $125. www.clospegase.com.
1919 Mary Doyle
A 2014 Bordeaux vintage made from Sonoma and Napa fruit, expect sharp minerality followed by the distinct aromas and flavors of blueberry and blackberry as it decants. Nuanced to perfection, it finishes with an unlikely yet quite heavenly combination of violet, rose petals and mocha. $265. www.williamsonwines.com.