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Some Good But Not Cheap California Wines

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On my recent trip west, I tasted quite a few good Napa Valley wines, some of them discoveries (or discoveries for me, at least). I'd point people towards Jamie Kutch's silky, flavorful 2006 Kutch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, for instance, if it weren't darn near impossible to find—still, get on the mailing list and who knows what will happen. Jamie makes his wines at the Deerfield Ranch Winery, and while I was there I also got to taste a pretty terrific Chardonnay from another fellow making wine there, Matt Wilson. The 2006 Sky Saddle Chardonnay ($30) comes from a small biodynamic vineyard in the Oak Knoll District; fourteen months of extended lees contact gives it a silky texture and depth that recalls Mark Aubert's Chardonnays, for instance, albeit at a lot less $$. Not very much of this around, but no one seems to know about it yet, either. Give the man a call.

You wouldn't cause yourself grave damage drinking the 2006 Rockledge Saralee's Vineyard Roussanne ($40), either, unless you liked it so much you inhaled the entire bottle and went zooming off in search of more—a risk, in fact. Pear and wildflower aromas, creamy texture bolstered by a firm mineral backbone, rich but not sweet. Fine example of California Roussanne. 96 whole cases made, so, again, act now. Or yesterday (again, best place to find this is by contacting the winery directly).

And I was happily surprised by the 2005 Wolf Family Estate Cabernet Franc 97% Cabernet Sauvignon 3% ($60), a cumbersome name for a graceful red that actually smells and tastes like Cabernet Franc, something a lot of California Cab Francs seem disinclined to do. From vines planted in the late 1970s—a whopping three-quarters of an acre of them—it's got pretty floral/violet aromas mingling with mocha and black cherry, and similar flavors ending on dusty, firm tannins. Where to get it? Yep, once again: call the winery. (Though if you're in CA, some retailers turn up on wine-searcher.com: check it here.)

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