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12 Standout California Reds

New reviews of Rhône-style offerings from Santa Barbara and Paso Robles

James Laube
Posted: December 16, 2013

Tasting Highlights bring the best wines from our editors’ most recent tastings to WineSpectator.com members.

Russell From’s Herman Story bottlings, named in honor of his grandfather, often turn up near the top of our highlight lists. The On the Road release is 100 percent Grenache, farmed from six vineyards spread throughout Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, while Nuts & Bolts is a blend of Syrah that includes grapes from some of the same vineyards. From only produced a single vintage of One Hit Wonder, a blend of Syrah and Grenache from Jespersen Vineyard in Edna Valley; the vineyard changed hands in 2011 and he lost his allocation of grapes.

Kaena and Beckmen round out this selection of Rhône-style successes from the challenging 2011 vintage in California.

HERMAN STORY Grenache California On the Road 2011 Score: 93 | $42
A robust style, brimming with rich, juicy blackberry, wild berry and boysenberry flavors. This is intense and vibrant, featuring a dense core of fruit complemented by black licorice, cedar and spice notes. Drink now through 2022. 682 cases made.—J.L.

KAENA Grenache Santa Ynez Valley Tierra Alta Vineyard 2011 Score: 92 | $38
A rich, explosive style, with dense, vivid raspberry, blackberry and boysenberry flavors, maintaining a snappy vibrancy on the long finish. Drink now through 2022. 175 cases made.—J.L.

KAENA Syrah Ballard Canyon Tenth Anniversary Tierra Alta Vineyard 2011 Score: 92 | $60
The zesty, vibrant blueberry and huckleberry notes are pure, fresh and snappy, unfolding slowly but gracefully. This ends with a long, persistent finish that keeps the flavors lingering. Drink now through 2023. 50 cases made.—J.L.

KAENA Grenache Santa Ynez Valley Larner Vineyard 2010 Score: 91 | $38
An immense wine, gutsy, rich and tannic, presenting a powerful mix of dark berry, chocolate, spice, black licorice, cedar and crushed rock flavors. Maintains focus, ending chewy and persistent. Drink now through 2022. 125 cases made.—J.L.

SANS LIEGE The Offering Santa Barbara County 2010 Score: 91 | $28
Fresh and snappy, with rich, vibrant blackberry, pepper, cedar and crushed rock. Features impressive depth, complexity and persistence. Grenache, Syrah, MourvËdre and Viognier. Drink now through 2022. 1,700 cases made.—J.L.

HERMAN STORY One Hit Wonder Edna Valley 2011 Score: 91 | $42
Tightfisted yet tasty, with vibrant notes of dark berry, cherry, mocha and crushed rock, this gains depth and length on the vibrant finish. Syrah and Grenache. Drink now through 2021. 291 cases made.—J.L.

BECKMEN Grenache Santa Ynez Valley Purisima Mountain Vineyard 2011 Score: 90 | $48
Complete, intense and focused on a mix of wild berry, raspberry, black cherry and boysenberry flavors, showing impressive range, depth and persistence. Drink now through 2024. 460 cases made.—J.L.

BECKMEN Grenache Santa Ynez Valley Purisima Mountain Vineyard Whole Cluster 2011 Score: 90 | $48
Presents Grenache in a fresh, snappy style, focused on blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry flavors, remaining focused and ending with a long finish where the tannins grab and hold on. Drink now through 2020. 175 cases made.—J.L.

HERMAN STORY Syrah California Nuts & Bolts 2011 Score: 90 | $42
Presents a tight, dense core of dark berry, roasted coffee, dried herb and cedary notes, ending with grainy, gravelly tannins. Shows good length and persistence. Drink now through 2021. 983 cases made.—J.L.

WESTERLY Syrah Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara CÙte Blonde 2011 Score: 90 | $45
Rich and gutsy, with dense, extracted dark berry, game, campfire smoke, tobacco and cedar notes. This is deep, persistent and tannic, yet the flavors push through on the complex, lingering finish. Drink now through 2024. 246 cases made.—J.L.

BECKMEN Syrah Santa Ynez Valley Purisima Mountain Vineyard 2011 Score: 89 | $48
Framed by firm, chewy tannins, this offers a tightly wound mix of extracted dark berry, tobacco leaf, dried herb and sage flavors. Needs some cellar time to round out the edges. Drink now through 2024. 350 cases made.—J.L.

BECKMEN Syrah Santa Ynez Valley 2011 Score: 88 | $25
Tense and firm, with an edge of spicy tobacco, cedar and cigar box to the dried dark berry flavors. Scores points for structure and length. Drink now through 2023. 1,750 cases made.—J.L.


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