Cabernet Franc | Malbec | Red Blend | Reds | Wine column | Wine Culture

New wines: CalNaturale, Gascon Red Blend and more

New on wine shelves:

(Image courtesy of CalNaturale)

(Image courtesy of CalNaturale)

CalNaturale Wines in Tetra Pak cartons: California Natural Products has been making flexible (paper) packinging for wines since 2004. Now the company is marketing its own label of vino, CalNaturale — and it’s not the Tetra Pak that sets these wines apart but the level of commitment:

* They are made from certified organic grapes.

* There are two varietals — Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon — from specific appellations, and in the case of the Cabernet, a specific vineyard.

The Cabernet is distinctive with its dry, Old World rustic flavors and body, and dusty tannins. It’s made off the French Camp Vineyard in Paso Robles. The Chardonnay is from Mendocino County and has cool-climate character — citrus, tart apple and pear, with lightly toasted oak.

There are two sizes: the 500 ml package, about $7, which is two-thirds of a regular-size wine bottle and good for three glasses, and the 1 liter size, $13, that is the equivalent of six glasses.



Don Miguel Gascon Colosal Red Blend 2011 Mendoza Argentina, $15: One of Argentina’s top producers, Gascon, has picked up on the popular “red blend” trend with it’s own power-packed mix of mostly Malbec with layers of Bonarda, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s teeming with dark berries, cherries, plums and brown cooking spices. Flavors are dense and intense in this full-bodied, fruit-forward red nectar. Pair it with roasted meats, grilled steaks or premium burgers.


Braganini Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010, $20, from St. Julian: Winemaker Nancie Corum Oxley gives this varietal more of a Burgundian edge letting the wine impart the virtues of the grape without the hammer. It’s got that expected herbacous, cranberry, dark cherry nose. Even some saddle leather. In the mouth, it has good balance of fruit and acidity. There is no green, stemmy character as some cool-climate Cab Francs can impart. It’s quite elegant. Perfect to pour with robust stews, roasts and pastas, and more delicate veal and pork.


Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2011, $9: If Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is too pricy for you, opt for another Marlborough wine in a similar style — tart, dry, herbaceous, grapefruity Monkey Bay, which somewhere along the line got dressed up in a new label. Nine dollars is the sale price I saw at Meijer recently.


Cecchetti Austerity Proprietary Red Wine California 2010, $18: Roy Cecchetti is hitting his wines out of the ballpark with his popular, affordably priced Line 39 and Redtree brands. Backhouse is his, too, along with the exciting Exitis super-premium red blend for $25. Now he’s hopping on to the blend bandwagon with Austerity Red and White, due in markets soon and selling for $16-$17. The name Austerity plays off the current economic direction of the country/world and ups the quality-for-price ratio. This hearty, robust red wine is a spicy, fruity, smooth concoction of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It offers velvet tannins and layers of flavor — spice, strawberry, dried herbs, red berry and dark plum. It has a subtle sweetness to make it approachable. Keep your eyes peeled for it at Kroger, Meijer, Whole Foods and other big supermarket chains across the country.


Ruffino Ducale Chianti Classico 2008, $25: This is an iconic Chianti from one of the classic producers with estates in the heart of Tuscany. This Sangiovese is a big, earthy, oaked beauty that is still young and restrained. Behind all that smoky, spicy oak are cherries, blackberries, tobacco and rose blossom. On the palate, it’s earthy and rustic and robust — the perfect wine for hearty red pasta dishes, beef and lamb. A classic Italian Sangiovese like this one is a reminder there is great red wine beyond Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.