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The vintners of California have embraced the grape varieties of Bordeaux planting acres and acres of vineyards. Given their popularity amongst the wine drinking population, it’s no surprise. For many, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is the center piece of any discussion on California Bordeaux (and we’ll certainly give the region its due). However, those in the know realize the discussion must extend far beyond solely Cabernet and the Napa Valley. Fact is, great wines are being produced throughout the state. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the quality of varietals being produced from Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot to go along with the consistently high quality of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and traditional Bordeaux-style blends coming out of California’s wine country.

Thus, we decided to survey different growing regions and showcase both the diversity and excellence of the wines being produced.

This week, our focus is on the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Santa Clara Valley. A bit southeast of San Francisco Bay, these growing regions aren’t widely known for the Bordeuax varieties they produce, but that’s mainly because people simply haven’t tried the wines. We rounded-up samples from a handful of top producers and were rather impressed by the quality. In short, the area is well worth a visit whether in person or through a bottle of wine as there is plenty of top-notch California Bordeaux to be had.

 

Burrel School 2009 “Extra Credit” Cabernet Franc

Grape(s): Cabernet Franc 100%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 40-45

Review:

Sourced from the slops of Mount Umunhum, the wines opens up with fragrances of cherry and blackberry accented by highlights of chocolate, earth, and tea. A sip delivers rich flavors of raspberry jam and cherries that unfold into suggestions of vanilla, smokey oak, and cola. A smooth wine that offers supple fruit and layered flavors, fans of elegant reds will enjoy this bottle very much. Only 190 cases produced.

Rating: 91

Burrel School 2009 “Honor Roll” Merlot

Grape(s): Merlot 100%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 25-30

Review:

Aromas of dried cherries and cassis meld with notes of herbs, cedar, and walnuts on the nose. Flavors of cherry and currant blend with suggestions of oak, sweet spice, and earth on the palate. A rich wine, with supple tannins, that offers more body than many a Merlot. If you enjoy full-bodied reds, give this bottle a try. 312 cases produced.

Rating: 89

Burrel School 2007 “Dean’s List” Cabernet Sauvignon

Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignnon 85%, Merlot 10%, Cabernet Franc 5%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 40-45

Review:

A bouquet of cherries, boysenberry, leather, and smoky oak greets the senses. The palate delivers flavors of cherry and tart blackberry with accents of licorice, caramel, and herbaceous notes. A Cab with modest tannins, enjoy it now with food or lay it down for a few years to age.

Rating: 90

Burrel School 2007 “Valedictorian” Blend

Grape(s): Merlot 53%, Cabernet Sauvignnon 36%, Cabernet Franc 9%, Petit Verdot 2%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 60-65

Review:

Aromatics of cherries and blackberries combine with suggestions of leather, spice, and floral notes. A sip revels flavors of bramble fruit and cherries along with hints of white pepper, anise, and oak. A rich, layered red with a nice balance, enjoy a bottle now with  lamb or prime rib or give it some time in the cellar; the wine is sure to develop nicely.

Rating: 90

Cooper-Garrod 2009 “Test Pilot” Blend

Grape(s): Merlot 50%, Cabernet Franc 50%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 35-40

Review:

A bouquet of cherries, blackberries, herbaceous and floral notes rise up from a glass. A sip brings forth flavors of cherry, blackberry, and plum with accents of earth and white pepper. A fairly light, smooth red blend that’s nice suited to pair with roast chicken or enjoyed on its own. Only 146 cases produced.

Rating: 88

Cooper-Garrod 2006 “Test Pilot” Blend

Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Merlot 25%, Cabernet Franc 25%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 30-35

Review:

Swirl a glass and discover aromas of cherries, cassis, dusty earth, and sweet spice. Cherry and bramble fruit notes combine with musty earth, dark chocolate, and spice on the palate. A softer red with smooth tannins, enjoy a bottle with a variety of mushroom dishes or even as an aperitif.

Rating: 88

Cooper-Garrod 2008 Cabernet Franc

Grape(s): Cabernet Franc 100%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Special Designation: Francville Vineyard

Price: 25-30

Review:

Aromas of cherries and strawberries mingle with hints of earth, nutmeg, and vanilla on the nose. Flavors of cherry and raspberry are accented by herbaceous notes, sweet spice, and anise on the palate. A light, bright wine that offers plenty of red fruit and a slight earthy highlight, fans of easy going reds will enjoy this bottle.

Rating: 89

Cooper-Garrod 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon

Grape(s): Cabernet Sauvignon 100%

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 25-30

Review:

Aromatics of bramble fruit come together with suggestions of sweet spice and rosemary on the nose. Flavors of boysenberry and blueberry meld with notes of all-spice, herbs, and earth on the palate. An easy going Cab, with rich dark fruit flavors, if you enjoy soft, approachable reds, this is a bottle to try. 504 cases produced.

Rating: 88

 

Guglielmo 2006 Private Reserve Merlot

Grape(s): 95% Merlot, 5% Petite Sirah

Region: Santa Clara Valley

Price: 25-30

Review:

A bouquet of bramble fruit, currants, spice, and oak greets the senses. The wine unfolds on the palate delivering flavors of blackberry and currant accented by suggestions of vanilla, spicy oak, and pepper. A supple wine, with food-friendly tannins and nice depth, fans of rich, dry reds will enjoy this bottle. 302 cases produced.

Rating: 88

Guglielmo 2009 Private Reserve Merlot

Grape(s): 90% Merlot, 10% Syrah

Region: Santa Clara Valley

Price: 15-20

Review:

Aromatics of plums and blackberries blend with notes of earth and caramel on the nose. Flavors of cherry and plum mingle with suggestions of vanilla bean, oak, and herbaceous notes. A fairly smooth red that’s quite approachable, if you enjoy Merlots with a subtle earthy character, this is a bottle to try.

Rating: 90

Guglielmo 2009 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Grape(s): 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Syrah

Region: Santa Clara Valley

Price: 20-25

Review:

Aromas of plums and cherries meld with suggestions of earth, sweet spice, and oak on the nose. A sip delivers flavors of cherry and blackberry with accents of oak, spice, and toffee. A nicely structured red, that’s ideal for enjoying with your favorite cut of red meat now or allowing to mellow in the cellar for a few years. 572 cases produced.

Rating: 90

House Family Winery 2009 Merlot

Grape(s): 75% Merlot,  25% Cabernet Sauvignon

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 40-45

Review:

A bouquet of rich dark fruit, earth, and sweet spice greets the senses. Blackberry and bright cherry flavors are accented by suggestions of cedar and earth on the palate. A supple Merlot with rich tannins, fans of nicely structured reds will enjoy this bottle. Just 87 cases produced.

Rating: 88

 

House Family Winery 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon

Grape(s): 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 40-45

Review:

Blackberry and cherry aromas meld with hints of sweet spice and oak on the nose. A sip delivers flavors of plums, blackberries, and cherries that are rounded out by notes of cinnamon and cedar. A lush Cab with balanced tannins, fans of rich dark fruit and barrel spice should give this wine a try.

Rating: 90

Perrucci Family 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Grape(s): 91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 2% Malbec

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 30-35

Review:

Aromatics of blackberries and cherries along with accents of pepper and herbaceous notes can be discovered on the nose. Flavors of blackberry and currant flow into suggestions of bell pepper and sweet spice on the palate. A smooth wine with plush tannins, fans of Cabs with softer character will enjoy this bottle. Just 200 cases produced.

Rating: 89

Perrucci Family 2008 Mescolanza

Grape(s): 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 15-20

Review:

Aromas of blackberries, stewed cherries, and currants meld with notes of dark chocolate and oak on the nose. Bramble fruit and cherry flavors emerge on the palate with accents of sweet spice and oak. A fairly light wine that shows some signs of age but is still quite approachable. Fans of easy-going red blends will enjoy this wine. 220 cases produced.

Rating: 87

Perrucci Family 2008 Merlot

Grape(s): 100% Merlot

Region: Santa Cruz Mountains

Price: 20-25

Review:

A bouquet of blackberries, plums, earth, and oak rises up from a glass. The palate delivers flavors of currant and blackberry along with highlights of spice, cedar, and a slight herbaceous note. A rich, layered Merlot that offers more flavor than many examples out there, it’s a fine example of mountain Merlot . Fans of the variety will enjoy this bottle very much. Just 100 cases were produced.

Rating: 90