Napa’s Alternative Reds to Try Now

Besides Cabernet Sauvignon, this warm and dry valley produces outstanding varieties that also have richness, complexity and durable tannins.

Most recognize Napa Valley for its hearty Cabernet Sauvignons and Bordeaux-style blends, but other notable red varieties, like Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, thrive in the valley’s terroir—an array of hillsides and vertiginous mountains that’s warm and dry during the growing season. Here are five ripe, complex and tannic reds to purchase now.

94 Storybook Mountain 2008 Estate Reserve Zinfandel (Napa Valley). This is the most elegant of the winery’s new Zinfandels, although elegant has to be taken in context when it comes to mountain fruit with this intensity and power. It’s a big wine, with potent raspberry, cherry and blackberry fruit. Yet there’s a delicacy to it, even considering the tannins, that’s almost like a Pinot Noir, strange as that sounds. Earns its high score by virtue of this magic. Should age effortlessly throughout the decade.
abv: 14.7%         Price: $55

94 Shafer 2008 Relentless Syrah-Petite Sirah (Napa Valley). Go ahead, knock this wine for high alcohol, if you want. It’s still one of the best blends of its kind in California. It oozes blackberry and blueberry jam, melted dark chocolate, bacon, anise and pepper flavors that are extraordinarily rich. Drink it soon for maximum freshness. 3,300 cases.
abv: 15.6%        Price: $60

93 Rutherford Grove 2008 Spring Creek Vineyard Petite Sirah (Napa Valley). Here’s a big, thick, tannic, ripe wine, impressive for its sheer power and sweet fruit. In other words, it’s classic Petite Sirah. The flavors are just wild, suggesting blackberries, plums, bacon, orange tea and exotic spices. Absolutely delicious, with classic Napa balance. Shows why Petite Sirah has such momentum. Will age easily for at least a decade. 300 cases.
abv: 14.5%        Price: $37

92 Eponymous 2009 Syrah (Napa Valley). A lush, smooth and frankly delicious Syrah that exhibits the only-in-California style. Fruit doesn’t get much riper than this bottle of blueberries and chocolate. But with finely ground tannins and good acidity, it has proper structure. Drink over the next two years for freshness. 322 cases.
abv: 14.4%        Price: $36

90 Tudal 2008 Napa Valley Cuvée (Napa Valley). This is a blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Malbec, and is one of the best of its type out there. A muscular, potent wine as befits the varieties it’s made from, it’s richly tannic and layered, with blackberry, plum, bacon, dark chocolate and pepper flavors. 960 cases.
abv: 14.5%        Price: $20

Published on March 27, 2012
Topics: California Wine

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