Even though last month's Vancouver, B.C., International Wine Festival had a decidedly European flavor, I found myself spending plenty of time around the California section.
One thing that's always appealed to me about California is the broad range of varietals and styles the top-producing U.S. wine area has to offer. From its cooler coastal regions known for leaner, brighter wines, to its warmer central valleys famous for big, expressive reds, California has you covered at virtually every point on the wine spectrum.
Personal favorites at the festival included the Hope Family's 2011 Treana White Wine (about $23), a nutty, butterscotch-like 50/50 blend of marsanne and viognier; and the overachieving Truett-Hurst 2011 Colby Red (about $14), a delicious combination of cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, syrah, merlot and petit syrah.
Everything from Michael David Winery (producer of Seven Deadly Zins) was an over-the-top guilty pleasure I couldn't ignore. The 2011 Petit Petit (about $18) was a standout, with mouthwatering blackberry and currant flavors and a vibrant, slightly edgy finish to balance out the fruit.
Back at home, I've also enjoyed a number of new releases from California. Here are my tasting notes:
William Hill Estate Winery North Coast Chardonnay and North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon (about $17 each) - The chardonnay is a lovely choice, with luscious Bartlett pear flavors to lead off and brighter citrus notes near the finish with accents of vanilla and toffee. In between, there's a pleasant layer of meaty chestnut that lends a bit of texture to the mid-palate.
The cabernet could use a bit more cellaring time, but aeration opens up the wine's dark fruits of berry and plum for current enjoyment. There's also a dusting of cocoa powder and a whisper of mocha on the finish.
Simi Winery 2012 Chardonnay (about $18) - This is a lighter-style chardonnay with touches of apple, pear and white peach. Oaky undertones linger on the finish as a complement to the fruit without overpowering it. The wine should pair beautifully with roasted chicken and root vegetables.
Seghesio Family Vineyards 2012 Sonoma Zinfandel (about $24) and 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel (about $38) - One can't talk about California zinfandel without mentioning this pioneering winery. Both wines offer understated, food-friendly interpretations of the grape that are a nice break from heavier-handed alternatives.
The Sonoma Zinfandel offers bright red fruits of raspberry and boysenberry, with a dash of dried herbs, pepper and sage; while the Old Vine displays aromas and flavors of slightly darker berries, layers of red currant and caramel, and a lengthy finish with hints of anise and spice. Try either with a pork roast or veal entrée.
Next week: Pinot noir recommendations from California and Oregon.
Dan Radil is a wine enthusiast who lives in Bellingham. Reach him at www.danthewineguy.com.
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