Renowned wine critic Matthew Jukes recommends a 'Baker's Dozen of Californian Beauties' following the 'Essential California At Home' tasting which took place in March 2021.

Matthew Jukes

A Baker’s Dozen of Californian Beauties

I blind-tasted a huge number of top-end Californian wines the other day across a vast range of styles and prices and these wines came out on top. Happy hunting!


2018 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas Blanc, Paso Robles (£26.99,,,

Rather creamy and tropical and pretty long, too, this is a quirky style of white but the white Rhône theme is well executed and the acidity is refreshing and toothsome. This is great value for money, too. 18/20

2018 Kutch Wines, Trout Gulch Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains (£58.00, reduced to £42.95,

This is an odd one out! With abrasive acidity and a super-refreshing feel, this is a shockingly lip-smacking wine and one which really leaves an impression on the palate. 18+/20

2017 Patz & Hall, Dutton Ranch Chardonnay, Russian River Valley (£52.50, reduced to £47.25 each by the case,

For a fairly powerful style, there is rather nice balance here and while the oak is certainly present I am very happy with the way in which is works with the fruit. 18/20

2018 Mayacamas, Chardonnay, Napa Valley (£58.00,

Lifted, tangy and rather enticing, there is lovely fruit here and more acid crunch than I find on most Californian Chardonnays. With lovely texture and length, too, this is a very smart wine. 18+/20

2017 Racines, Sanford & Benedict Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara £490 per 6 bottles, (£81.67 per bottle,

This was one of the finest Chardonnays of the line-up with superb purity and ripeness. The oak is perfectly integrated, too. 18.5/20


2018 Pessimist by DAOU, DAOU Family Estates, Paso Robles (£25.99,,,,,,,

Made from 62% Petite Sirah, 20% Zinfandel, 16% Syrah and 2% Lagrein, this is a crazy cocktail and there is far too much coffee, chocolate and char, but it is downright fascinating at the same time. Hugely dark and spicy, completely over the top but a lot of fun, too. 18/20

2018 Jolie-Laide, Syrah, North Coast (£42.00,

Rather meaty, iodine-y and Northern Rhône-y, too, this is a fascinating Syrah with a great future ahead of it and it is terrific value for this flavour! 18.5+/20

2018 Ridge Vineyards, Geyserville, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County (£56.25, reduced to £50.50 each by the case

Lovely and really complex, with multi-layers and stunning juiciness, this is still young but it is a great Geyserville. 18+/20

2017 Duckhorn Vineyards, Merlot, Napa Valley (£57.00,

Really lovely and very mellow on the nose, this is a polished and extremely classy wine and while the palate is elaborate and sophisticated the finish is fit and feisty, pointing to a decent future. Superb! 18.5+/20

2018 Barnett Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley (£74.68,

Very nice nose, great mulberry fruit and stunning purity, this is an extremely polished wine and one made from the highest quality ingredient. 18.5+/20

2016 Chimney Rock, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley (£88.99,

Rich and full, in a Super-Tuscan manner, with good power and density and a lovely Cabernet core, this is a fabulous wine and the tannins and acidity are spot on, too. 18.5+/20

2018 Barnett Vineyards, Rattlesnake Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley (£173.68,

With even more focus and length than the estate Cabernet, this was the wine of the line-up. It is magnificent in every way and it has an epic future ahead of it. 19+/20


2017 Cline Family Cellars, Late Harvest Mourvèdre, Contra Costa County (£17.99 – £19.00, half bottle,,,

Ridiculously sweet and absolutely fascinating, this is a bonkers Cali-Port-style with a red-fruited core and a delicious, super-long flavour. 18/20

Scores – I have attached my scores out of 20 for each wine. If a score has no ‘+’, this indicates a wine that is in balance and can be drunk relatively young thanks to its precocity and charm. One ‘+’ indicates a wine that will benefit from medium-term ageing (in accordance with the style of the wine), while two ‘++’ indicates a wine that should manage to make the long haul, softening and evolving as it goes. A ‘?’ means that I am unsure about an element within the wine – this will be explained in my note.

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