As the director of adult beverages for Nugget Markets, Michael Taylor tastes a lot of wine from around the region. Here, he gives us the lowdown on some of his favorite local bottles.
St. Amant Winery Tempranillo ($18)
This winery is a pioneer when it comes to planting and making wine out of traditional Portuguese and Spanish grape varieties. The Tempranillo is a big, dense, chewy red with dark cherry and tobacco notes. This lushly textured wine finishes with just a kiss of oak.
Oak Farm Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc ($17)
Named after the beautiful old oak trees located on the ranch, Oak Farm Vineyards is a great place to visit. The Sauvignon Blanc is made from certified sustainable Lodi Rules-grown grapes. Citrus, mango, guava and passion fruit commingle in this complex, well-balanced effort.
Oak Ridge Winery Moss Roxx Zinfandel ($20)
This is the oldest operating winery in Lodi, built in 1934. The Maggio and Reynolds families purchased it in 2002 and have continued to build on its long, storied history. Moss Roxx is one of several labels the winery makes. This big, flavorful, classic California Zinfandel is made from 50- to 100-year-old vines.
Jeremy Wine Company Republic of Jeremy Cabernet Sauvignon ($15)
Although the brand is a relative newcomer, founded in 2010, Jeremy is a longtime wine-industry veteran. The Republic of Jeremy label, the newest addition to the portfolio, produces terrific everyday wines. Pure fruit forward and easy drinking, these unpretentious yet complex wines can and should be enjoyed for any occasion.
Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay ($9)
The Bogle family has been farming land in Clarksburg for over a half century. With just 8 acres originally planted, the winery now farms more than 1,200 acres in Clarksburg. The effort and care that go into making Chardonnay is unheard of for wine in this price range. Bogle wines are arguably some of the best-value wines made in America today.
Muddy Boot Red Blend ($12)
The Clarksburg region has long been known for its quality Petite Sirah grapes and wines. This robust red uses Petite Sirah for the backbone of the blend. Very approachable and drinkable now, with blackberry, currant and dusty cocoa powder undertones. Just enough smooth tannins to keep the fruitiness from coming across as too sweet.
Dancing Coyote Grüner Veltliner ($11)
Although the tasting room is located in Lodi, this family-owned and -run winery’s vineyards are in Clarksburg. Made from the popular Austrian grape, the wine is medium bodied with citrus, floral, peach blossom and white pepper notes.
Scribner Bend Vineyards Black Hat Tempranillo ($15)
This estate-grown wine has deep plum, blackberry and herbal notes with hints of vanilla and cedar. Located on a bend of the Sacramento River, just south of downtown Sacramento, the winery and tasting room is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon enjoying the wines and taking in the scenery.
Matchbook Wines Rosé of Tempranillo ($10)
This Rosé is made in the saignée style from estate-grown Tempranillo grapes. The beautiful salmon pink-hued, medium-bodied wine has watermelon, peach and cherry notes with a very long, fruit-filled finish.
Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel ($15)
From dry-farmed, sustainably grown vines, the fruit from this vineyard consistently produces top-notch wine. Aromatics of fresh crushed red berry fruit is followed up on the palate by dark blackberry fruits, licorice and a touch of allspice. A real crowd pleaser.
Borjon Winery Sangiovese Reposado ($20)
Not many American wineries have had success with this traditional Italian Tuscan grape used to make Chianti wine, but the folks at Borjon seem to have a good handle on it. Cherry, dried cranberry and notes of cola dominate this wine.
Terre Rouge & Easton Wines Terre Rouge Vin Gris d’Amador ($20)
Long before the current Rosé craze hit the United States, Bill Easton was making this delightful sipper. Predominately Grenache and Mourvèdre, with hints of watermelon and persimmon, this has a lush texture due to fermentation in neutral French oak barrels. Pairs well with just about anything.
Jeff Runquist Wines 1448 Red Blend ($17)
Named for the elevation at which the winery sits in the Sierra foothills, the blend is slightly different each year, but the quality is always high. It has mainly been comprised of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot and is a terrific representation of the style of all Jeff’s wines. It is aromatic, big, bold and intense on the palate. Certainly enjoyable now, but your patience will be rewarded if you can manage to stash some away for a year or two.
Boeger Winery Barbera ($20)
This was the first post-Prohibition winery opened in the El Dorado AVA in 1972. Although more than 15 different grape varieties grow on the property, we think the Barbera is the star attraction. This wine regularly wins our blind Barbera tastings, and we usually mistake it for an expensive Italian version. Lucky for us, it is made right here in our backyard. Bright red fruits and Barbera’s telltale acidity make this an extremely food-friendly wine.
Terra d’Oro Winery Rosé ($10)
The Terra d’Oro rosé is another nugget from this longtime Amador producer, which specializes in Zinfandel and Italian grape varietals. This year’s version of rosé is made from the classic Piedmontese grape Nebbiolo. This off-dry wine has delicate strawberry and pink grapefruit flavors. A quintessential picnic wine.
Andis Wines Painted Fields Red Blend ($21)
It’s a treat to visit this state-of-the-art winery, where you can taste great wines over a game of bocce and a picnic. The winemaking team here has really upped the quality in the past couple of years, and we expect the wines to continue to get better with each new vintage. This Bordeaux-style blend is big in structure, with chewy tannins for those who like a full-bodied, meaty wine.