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2009 Bonny Doon Contra

Combining the pleasantly mineral and grippy character of Carignane with rounder notes from five other grape varieties, this inexpensive offering from Bonny Doon is rather easy-going, despite the contrarian attitude implied in the name (which also refers to Contra Costa County, where most of the grapes come from). That contradictory character may be found in the fact that it is, in fact, so lovely and elegant and pleasant to drink, despite having fairly moderate alcohol (13.5%) and none of the overbearing fruit that so many Californian wines (certainly in that price range) would have you believe is balanced. At $14, there’s a lot of great stuff in there. A great deal—and just a really pleasant wine to drink. Recommended. RC
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NV Sean Thackrey Pleiades XIX Old Vines

This particular Pleiades (XX has also been released) is a symphonic, multilayered blend that keeps changing at every sip, with spices jumping over red fruit, richness competing with acid, eucalyptus rolling in over earthy, gamey notes. It’s unlike anything else, for sure, an unidentifiable drinking object that defies definition and expands the possibilities of what wine can be. Highly recommended. RC
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Doing the Medal Rounds at the California State Fair

With roughly 2,800 wineries in the state of California—nearly half of the 6,000 total in the U.S.—that, by any measure, is some pretty steep competition. Though not all of the big, prestigious and luscious Cab, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay producers from Napa and Sonoma compete in the State Fair competition, enough do to make it interesting.
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2009 Shannon Ridge Ranch Collection Lake County Petite Sirah

The wine poured out with promise, the characteristic deep purple of Petite Sirah. It had the scent of very young wine, reminding me of being in a winery and tasting barrel samples early in the winemaking process. Unfortunately, this was a prediction of the wine's flavors, too. It was light in taste, very mild, with tannins so soft and structure so insubstantial, it disappeared when tasted with salty foods. I saved it, chilled, to sample again the next day, and by then it sort of deconstructed and became a non-wine. Not recommended.