Winery & Tasting Room
Alameda Winery & Tasting Room

1951 Monarch Street, Hangar 25
Alameda, CA 94501

Tel (510) 452-1800

SF City View Patio open by reservation only

Indoor Tasting Room temporary closed

Wine Spectator

California Dreamin’

 

From the Apr 30, 2021, issue

California has become a values powerhouse. Long-known for its high quality and diversity, but not necessarily for top-rated wines that were also well-priced, the state now excels on all fronts. Multiple trends have converged to usher in this new era, including the push into emerging regions, experimentation with less-familiar grapes and greater precision in both vineyard and cellar. The selections that follow include everything from zesty reds to sleek whites to creamy sparklers, all rated 88 points or higher and priced at $25 or less. It’s time to explore all that this diverse and bountiful state has to offer.

Briary Zins & Snappy Syrahs

Aerial image of Loach Vineyards
De Loach Vineyards in the Russian River Valley (Alex Rubin)

Spicy reds have long been a mainstay of California wine in the form of Zinfandel, a distinctive variety unique to the Golden State. Producers have greatly expanded the range of bottlings in recent years, while also increasing quality. At the same time, interest in Rhône-style reds has intensified, offering another take on spicy profiles and juicy dark fruit flavors. Led by Syrah, these reds have greatly expanded the map when it comes to value in California, featuring fine examples from Paso Robles, Sta. Rita Hills, Lodi and beyond. Senior editor Tim Fish, our lead taster for both Zinfandels and Rhône-style reds, offers his personal choices for the top values on the market right now, focusing on bottlings that deliver big flavors for everyday enjoyment.

91 | $23 | DE LOACH | Zinfandel Russian River Valley 2018
This version is plump and zesty, with black cherry, licorice and spice flavors that take on richness toward polished tannins. (T.F.)

91 | $24 | LAFOND | Syrah Sta. Rita Hills SRH 2016
This sleek red is compelling, featuring fresh black raspberry flavors that show a whiff of smoky meat and cracked pepper. (T.F.)

90 | $16 | THREE WINE COMPANY | Zinfandel Contra Costa County 2018
Zesty and easygoing, with just enough refinement to stay snappy, offering briary wild berry and cracked pepper flavors, with a lively pop of tannins on the finish. (T.F.)

90 | $22 | ALEXANDER VALLEY VINEYARDS | Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Redemption 2016
Briary and plump with fruit, offering appealing cherry, spiced cinnamon and licorice flavors that linger. (T.F.)

90 | $25 | TABLAS CREEK | Patelin de Tablas Paso Robles 2018
Lively and approachable yet elegantly structured, with floral raspberry, smoky bay leaf and black pepper flavors that finish with zesty tannins. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Counoise and Terret. (T.F.)

89 | $20 | COSENTINO | Zinfandel Lodi Cigar Old Vine 2018
This Zin is appealingly briary, offering vibrant wild cherry, grilled sage and cracked pepper flavors that finish with zesty tannins. (T.F.)

88 | $16 | ARTEZIN | Zinfandel Mendocino County Old Vine 2018
A snappy and fruit-forward version, showing appealing flavors of cherry, dried sage and licorice. (T.F.)

88 | $16 | PEIRANO ESTATE | Syrah Lodi The Heritage Collection 2016
A snappy red that won’t overwhelm you with varietal character, but has just enough fruit-forward blackberry and spice flavors to stay interesting. (T.F.)

88 | $20 | KENDALL-JACKSON | Vintner’s Reserve Red California 2017
A gutsy red, with medium-bodied blackberry, licorice, bitter mocha and cracked pepper flavors. Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. (T.F.)

Tim Fish’s Top Picks

“Culled from the winery’s vineyard sources in Dry Creek Valley, Contra Costa and Clarksburg, this delicious red is ideal for casual meals.”

91 | $24 | DASHE | Zinfandel California Vineyard Select 2018
This opens with a burst of jammy blackberry fruit, then takes on tension and structure, offering notes of toasty sage and pepper, with refined tannins. (T.F.)

“Wild Thing is the perfect name for this flavorful value, sourced from barely tamed, gnarly old vineyards and fermented with wild yeast.”

89 | $19 | CAROL SHELTON | Zinfandel Mendocino County Wild Thing Old Vine 2017
A racy and jammy Zin, featuring floral raspberry, rhubarb, toast and spice flavors that finish with a burst of fruit. (T.F.)

“Qupé was a pioneer in California with Rhône-style reds and this is its most user-friendly bottling, harvested from vineyards throughout the region.”

89 | $20 | QUPÉ | Syrah Central Coast 2018
Delivers zesty, easygoing raspberry and toasty spice flavors that finish with snappy tannins. (T.F.)

Burgundy On The Pacific

The two famed grapes of France’s Burgundy region—Pinot Noir and Chardonnay—have both found a new home in California, where they thrive in multiple winegrowing regions, especially those near the Pacific Ocean. Lucky for us, the state’s long coastline affords an array of diverse spots for winemakers to explore, from the Sonoma Coast north of San Francisco south to the Central Coast counties of Monterey and Sta. Rita Hills. Senior editor Kim Marcus, who covers both of these tasting beats, makes his personal selections based on the wines he thinks are good examples of their respective appellations. All of the picks below exemplify how far California has come as a values leader, since quality Pinots and Chardonnays can be some of the most expensive wines in the world.

90 | $22 | SEAN MINOR | Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2018
Cedar and hot stone notes accent the dried cherry, plum and pomegranate flavors that glide across the palate in this red, which ahows focused minerality on the finish, with citrusy hints. (K.M.)

90 | $25 | SAN SIMEON | Chardonnay Monterey Estate Reserve 2017
Rich and hedonistic, this is filled with plush white fruit flavors, offering a pillowy texture. Luscious butteriness extends into the finish, with roasted pineapple notes. (K.M.)

90 | $25 | THE VICE | Pinot Noir Napa Valley Carneros The House 2019
This firm red features red berry and dried cherry flavors that show notes of forest floor, with accents of dried savory herbs. Ends with hints of baker’s chocolate on the finish. (K.M.)

89 | $15 | HAHN | Chardonnay Monterey County 2018
Apple and peach pastry flavors show an open-textured richness, with a creamy and well-spiced finish that has plenty of toasty notes. (K.M.)

89 | $20 | BENNETT VALLEY | Pinot Noir Sonoma County Bin 6410 2018
Broad and open-textured, with luscious spice details to the red fruit and dark berry flavors. Dollops of chocolate show on the creamy finish, accented by hints of forest floor. (K.M.)

89 | $25 | LAFOND | Chardonnay Sta. Rita Hills SRH 2018
Baked apple and dried pear flavors feature marmalade accents, followed by honeyed notes on the spicy finish. (K.M.)

88 | $18 | FOLIE À DEUX | Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2018
Concentrated apple and pear flavors are crisp and refreshing, with minerally and savory nuances on the spicy finish. (K.M.)

88 | $20 | REATA | Pinot Noir San Benito-Monterey-Sonoma Counties Three County 2018
Dried berry and cherry flavors feature svelte minerality in this version, along with cedary accents, followed by notes of forest floor on the finish. (K.M.)

88 | $23 | FERRARI-CARANO | Chardonnay Sonoma County 2018
Light floral accents grace the white peach and Honeycrisp apple flavors in this white, which shows honeyed and spicy details, ending with a juicy finish. (K.M.)

Kim Marcus’ Top Picks

“The Sonoma Coast is a magic kingdom for Pinot and this pure style evokes the cool ocean breezes and shady forest groves that help make the region special.”

91 | $23 | ROUTESTOCK | Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 116 2018
Svelte, with a crisp, minerally composure to the well-structured dried raspberry and berry flavors, ending with forest floor and floral accents on the finish. (K.M.)

“The Chalk Hill district is a hidden gem that succeeds by offering the fruit intensity and luscious texture that are the hallmarks of great California Chardonnay.”

90 | $22 | RODNEY STRONG | Chardonnay Chalk Hill 2017
Well-spiced, with concentrated lemon curd, apple tart and glazed pear flavors. Custardy midpalate, with a finish that lingers with minerally and buttery overtones. (K.M.)

“A food-friendly style that reminds me of Pouilly-Fuissé with its lively structure and savory accents. A fine way to discover what the Central Coast is all about.”

89 | $25 | LAETITIA | Chardonnay Arroyo Grande Valley 2019
Crisp white fruit flavors show accents of celery root, with notes of tarragon midpalate. Ends with a ripe, spicy finish that lingers with buttery hints. (K.M.)

Lively Pinks & Vibrant Bubblies

Sparkling wine and rosé are other popular wines tasted by Tim Fish that are upping the ante when it comes to value. California has become a global leader for bubbly by embracing some of the same grapes and winemaking methods used in the traditional sparkling wine regions of the Old World—not a big surprise considering a number of the state’s largest sparkling houses were founded by historic producers from Champagne and Cava. What’s especially impressive is how well they’ve kept down costs, meaning that there are excellent choices available at reasonable prices. With rosé, the issue tends to be the reverse: While many versions are affordable, the focus is on raising quality. On that front, California producers have succeeded as well, sourcing a range of grapes, including Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, to make supple, fruity versions.

90 | $22 | PAULA KORNELL | Brut California NV
Creamy and vibrant, featuring apple and snappy strawberry flavors that offer a dash of brioche on the finish. (T.F.)

90 | $25 | DECOY | Brut California Cuvée NV | Snappy and fresh, showing layered and steely lemon and orange zest flavors that are accented by floral vanilla notes. (T.F.)

89 | $15 | MARTIN RAY | Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Rosé 2019
A vibrant and supple rosé, showing floral strawberry and orange zest accents. (T.F.)

89 | $16 | KORBEL | Brut California Organic Grapes 2017
Bold and festive, with apple, spiced nut and lime flavors. For those who love big, toasty California whites, this is your bubbly. (T.F.)

89 | $17 | PEDRONCELLI | Rosé Dry Signature Selection Dry Creek Valley 2019
A zesty quaff, with lively raspberry and spice flavors. (T.F.)

89 | $17 | CAROL SHELTON | Rosé Wild Thing Rendezvous Mendocino County 2019
Festive, with ample fruit, offering lively raspberry, cherry and spice flavors. Carignane and Zinfandel. (T.F.)

89 | $19 | PISONI | Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Rosé Lucy 2019
Succulent and supple, with vibrant raspberry and cherry blossom accents. (T.F.)

89 | $24 | MUMM NAPA | Brut Napa County Prestige NV
This is soft and delicately zesty, with fresh strawberry and apple flavors that finish on a crisp, spicy accent. (T.F.)

88 | $17 | SMOKE TREE | Rosé California 2019
Lively, with cherry and peach flavors that are accented by smoky spice notes. Grenache, Merlot, Zinfandel, Malbec, Pinot Noir and Syrah. (T.F.)

Tim Fish’s Top Picks

“Champagne house Pommery recently brought its eminent sparkling wine skills to California and the non-vintage brut is impressive for the price.”

90 | $21 | LOUIS POMMERY | California NV
Steely and vibrant, this bubbly combines the best of Old and New World styles, offering fresh lime, kiwifruit and blanched almond flavors. (T.F.)

“Few domestic sparklers consistently deliver more bang for the buck than this. It may have a French heritage, but it’s a pure and luscious California style.”

89 | $19 | DOMAINE CHANDON | California NV
This easygoing sparkler is a delight to sip, offering appealing tones of honeysuckle, apple and roasted nut, with a brisk finish. (T.F.)

“There’s not a lot of Sangiovese planted in Sonoma County, but this winery puts it to fine use, particularly with this blush, which livens any backyard barbecue.”

89 | $15 | FERRARI-CARANO | Sangiovese Sonoma County Rosé Dry 2019
Zesty and bold, featuring plump, crisp raspberry, strawberry and spicy cinnamon flavors. (T.F.)

Now For Something Different

Some of the most intriguing values coming out of the Golden State are a group of alternative reds and whites made from less-familiar grapes. Senior editor MaryAnn Worobiec has been tracking down the best of these bottlings, many of them sourced from small vineyard sites in emerging regions. Their inspiration comes from France (think of white grapes such as Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Viognier), Italy (the red grapes Barbera and Sangiovese) and Spain (Albariño for whites, Tempranillo for reds). These wines offer a range of styles new to the California scene, with flavors and textures certain to draw attention. More than anything, they showcase the restless energy driving California wine today.

92 | $25 | MINER | Viognier Paso Robles 2019
There’s great purity to the pineapple, lemon curd and apricot flavors, ending with touches of peach blossom and candied orange peel. A fresh thread of acidity and a supple texture leave an elegant impression. (M.W.)

90 | $20 | HORSE & PLOW | Draft Horse Red North Coast 2018
Blueberry, huckleberry and cherry cobbler flavors are focused, balancing fleshy ripeness with juicy acidity, ending with a long, expressive finish. Carignane, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Syrah. (M.W.)

90 | $22 | BOKISCH | Garnacha Blanca Borden Ranch Vista Luna Vineyard 2019
Sleek and citrusy, with lemon blossom, lime zest, grapefruit and apple flavors that are both elegant and powerful, with a refreshing finish. (M.W.)

90 | $25 | GIORNATA | Barbera Paso Robles 2018
Stunning and vibrant, with fresh and generous raspberry, blackberry and wild strawberry flavors at the core, accented by hints of green tea and licorice. The pure fruit and juicy, creamy texture make this memorable. (M.W.)

89 | $17 | TANGENT | Albariño Edna Valley Paragon Vineyard 2018
Vibrant and mouthwatering, showing flavors of ruby grapefruit, passion fruit and lemon curd that are intense, reverberating on the long, fresh finish. (M.W.)

89 | $18 | LEO STEEN | Chenin Blanc Dry Creek Valley Saini Farms 2019
Intense flavors of yellow apple, ripe melon and stone fruit show spice and chamomile notes on a succulent frame, ending with a thread of minerality on the finish. (M.W.)

89 | $22 | FERRARI-CARANO | Siena Sonoma County 2017
Juicy, with fresh, tangy acidity weaving in and out of flavors of maraschino cherry, red licorice and spiced plum. Sangiovese, Malbec, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Grenache and Tannat. (M.W.)

89 | $24 | DASHE | Delta Reds California 2017
Plump black cherry, blueberry and sarsaparilla flavors are generous and juicy, with appealing spice, cola and black tea notes and a complex, harmonious finish. Carignane, Barbera, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre, Teroldego, Tannat and Zinfandel. (M.W.)

89 | $25 | CRUSE WINE CO. | Monkey Jacket North Coast 2018
Fragrant, with dried lavender, spearmint, loam and black licorice details to the vibrant, juicy cranberry and tangy cherry fruit. Appealing for its elegance, freshness and transparency. Valdiguié, Carignane, Syrah and Pinot Noir. (M.W.)

MaryAnn Worobiec’s Top Picks

“Paso’s Tablas Creek is a Rhône-specialist and perennial leader for value. Blending five different grapes together, this white is wonderfully food-friendly.”

93 | $25 | TABLAS CREEK | Patelin de Tablas Blanc Paso Robles 2019
Aromatic and complex, with orange blossom, almond cake and Fuji apple notes. Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne and Clairette Blanche. (M.W.)

“Aromatic whites made from alternative grapes are an exciting place to look for bargains, like this version from Evan Frazier of Ferdinand Wines.”

91 | $20 | FERDINAND | Albariño California Vista Luna Vineyard 2019
This opens up sleek and elegant, bursting with distinctive, precise and intense notes of fresh pear, lime and blood orange. A thread of saline weaves in and out. (M.W.)

“The Sierra Foothills are a source of charming wines, including Italian-inspired reds such as this approachable Barbera from vineyards planted in the 1980s.”

89 | $25 | LAVA CAP | Barbera El Dorado County 2017
The fresh, juicy cherry and berry flavors at the core of this red show a sense of elegance, with polished tannins and details of cumin, cocoa powder and black tea. (M.W.)

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