California wine dreaming

A stellar white: the 2011 Chateau Montelena Napa A stellar white: the 2011 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay. Photo Credit: Handout

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After the last two cold snaps, you may find yourself thinking about California. There are plenty of ways to enjoy a virtual trip to the Golden State.

Two first-class ones arrive from Duckhorn Vineyards in Napa Valley.

The 2009 Duckhorn Howell Mountain Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($80) is a big, complex, layered, balanced beauty, driven by black fruit. It's a concentrated, powerful cabernet, with suggestions of cassis and ripe plum. The wine is finished with 16 percent merlot. You can expect it to age gracefully for a decade or longer.

From an outstanding vintage comes the 2010 Duckhorn Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($70), a stirring, aromatic and vibrant varietal. It has plenty of blackberry and blueberry. The structure suggests a wine that should age for many years before you uncork it to accompany roasted rack of lamb, grilled steaks, prime rib, game and blue cheeses.

A stellar white: the 2011 Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Chardonnay ($50), a crisp winner that offers generous notes of peach, citrus and apple, and a hint of pear. It's ideal company for lobster and crab dishes, especially if cream or butter is involved.

The 2011 Arrowood Alary Vineyard Chardonnay ($35) is a lively Russian River Valley contribution, with apple and citrus. The single-vineyard wine is food-friendly, especially with finfish such as halibut and trout, as well as shellfish. And the 2011 Arrowood Sonoma County Chardonnay ($20) is a bright, appealing choice, with some citrus and apple. Enjoy it as a sipper, or with lighter chicken or seafood dishes.

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