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from morning fogs and nightly ocean breezes. In 1981 Niven established his winery, Edna Valley Vineyard (now owned by E & J Gallo). Pinot Noir has emerged as an acclaimed specialty of the Santa Maria Valley, where the legendary late Jess Jackson and his wife Barbara Banke also helped kick-start the industry. Not all of the success stories come from the coast, however. Traditionally known for vegetable farming on a very large scale, even humble Lodi (in the heart of the massive San Joaquin Valley), claims its own legends, as well as some seriously old vines. First planted during the Gold Rush, grapes have always played a role in the valley, eventually growing into a 75,000-acre industry that supports major, household name brands. But here too, times are changing. With a family grape-growing history that dates from the 1850s, brothers Michael and David Phillips focus on quality Rhône varieties and old vines Zinfandel, all grown as Certified Sustainable. Next time you’re prospecting for good value in California wine take a good look at the label. From Santa Maria Pinot to Livermore Chardonnay or Paso Cabernet, there’s no end of great places to stake your claim!
WENTE SOUTHERN HILLS CABERNET SAUVIGNON USA $21.99 301507 This California Cab shows upfront cedar and floral aromas before a plush and plummy palate wrapped in approachable tannins. It’s perfect served with roasted or braised red meats.
J. LOHR RIVERSTONE ARROYO SECO MONTEREY CHARDONNAY USA $24.99 258699 Tropical, floral and citrus aromas lead to a floral, melon and peach palate supported by good acidity. Pair this wine with grilled chicken or fresh pumpkin soup.
LIBERTY SCHOOL PASO ROBLES CABERNET SAUVIGNON USA $24.99 527184 Vibrant, black berries, leather and vanilla precede mouth-filling black cherry and pepper notes through to a lingering smooth and supple finish.
EDNA VALLEY CENTRAL COAST CHARDONNAY USA $21.99 81430 Orchard fruits with tropical hints lead to a pineapple and vanilla palate wrapped in good acidity. Enjoy this wine with pasta and cream sauces or mushroom risotto.
CAMBRIA JULIA’S VINEYARD SANTA MARIA PINOT NOIR USA $41.99 232215 This is a California Pinot with a nod to Burgundy. Blue and black fruit, dark cherry, cranberry and baking spices are supported by elegant tannins through to a lengthy finish.
MICHAEL DAVID FREAKSHOW LODI CABERNET SAUVIGNON USA $29.99 455345 Lifted dark berries and strawberry notes are showcased before a full-bodied, plush blackberry, vanilla and chocolate- toned palate. Pair it with slow roasted meat dishes or braised vegetables.
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