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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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2003 Masies d’Avinyo Abadal Pla de Bages Seleccio

Surprisingly lush, the Cabernet Franc offers cured tobacco leaf, wrapped in some silky blackberry, black cherry and mocha from the Cabernet Sauvignon. Pencil lead shows up on the mid-palate. Tannins are dusty, fine. The Syrah flows under it all, offering a smoked meat/umami background, then coming to the fore with black pepper on the finish. This seems to just be hitting its stride now, breaking free from its tight, tart youth. Drink with flank steak. Highly recommended. DH
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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