Become a real CA insider.
“Sometimes it’s necessary to go a long distance out of the way in order to come back a short distance correctly,” says Jerry, the main character in Edward Albee’s play The Zoo Story. It’s one of my favorite quotes of all time, and when it comes to red wine from California, truer words have never been spoken.
Be honest: on your last trip to California wine country, how far off the main arteries of Napa did you veer? Could you still see the Silverado Trail or Highway 29 from the tasting room? If you went to Sonoma, could you see the ocean from where you parked the car? If your trip was to the Central Coast, did you stick to downtown Santa Barbara’s buzzing tasting rooms, or did you venture out into the stunning landscapes of Ballard Canyon, Sta. Rita Hills, and Santa Ynez?
I can’t tell you how many times I stumble upon another new project in Napa alone, or get tipped off to some hush-hush label that’s been produced for over a decade—often being made just out of site up in the Vaca or Mayacamas foothills. As such, the following list of reds showcases a smattering of lesser-known labels from some prominent producers, as well as a handful of wines I hope you’ve never heard about.
It’s time to go out of your way.
19. 2016 Folk Machine “Parts & Labor” Red Wine ($18)
Folk Machine is one of the ever-expanding labels of the Hobo Wine Company. This blend, comprised of Mendocino Carignane and Syrah with some Grenache from the Central Coast and a dollop of Barbera, boasts a terrific fruit-to-acid balance, with gobs of red cherry and black raspberry fruit tinged with brown spices, cracked pepper and warm earth overtones.