Rusack 2011 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills Reserve Score: 90
Deep and intense, with firm, gripping tannins cloaking a core of earthy raspberry, anise and black cherry. Firm on the finish, imbuing the flavors with traction. Best from 2014 through 2022. 299 cases made. —J.L.
11 Big California Values
Impressive and affordable reds, whites and rosés, each for $25 or less
Rhône varieties stand out this week, with examples from Rusack, Foxen, Groundwork, Andrew Murray and Barrel 27.
Rusack Syrah Santa Barbara County Ballard Canyon Estate 2010 Score: 92
Deceptively complex and nuanced, this gains depth and maintains persistence, pushing the blackberry, wild berry and boysenberry flavors on the long, engaging finish, ending with smoke and charcoal. Drink now through 2020. 1,010 cases made. —J.L.
Rusack 2010 Reserve Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
90 points Tight and intense, with a firm, vibrant, structured mix of tart pineapple and lemon-grapefruit citrus notes. Excellent acidity keeps the flavors fresh and vibrant. Drink now through 2018. 420 cases made. – J.L.
Rusack 2009 Reserve Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
90 points Succeeds with a mix of subtle flavors and light oak, offering notes of creamy fig, honeysuckle, melon and mineral, with a complex, detailed finish. Drink now through 2016. 326 cases made. –JL
12 California Reds Under $40
New reviews of affordable Pinot Noirs and Rhône-style reds from the Golden State:
RUSACK Syrah Santa Barbara County 2008 Score: 93 Complex and layered, offering a firm core of dried berry, mineral, cedar and sage, with dashes of pepper and spice. Full-bodied, sleek and focused, ending with a touch of creamy oak. Drink now through 2010. 1,148 cases made. —J.L.
Rusack Syrah, Ballard Canyon Estate 2007 90 points Firm, intense, rich and concentrated, this full-bodied red offers spice, beef, berry, pepper, sage and loamy earth flavors, gaining body and length. Ends chewy. Drink now through 2015. —J.L.
RUSACK 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve, Sta. Rita Hills 90 points Firm and spicy, tight and compact, with a trim, focused core of mineral, dried berry, spice and anise that slowly unfolds to reveal a supple texture and good length. 552 cases made. --JL
Tasting Highlights: California Pinot Noir 25 impressive wines - including some solid values - from Santa Barbara and the Central Coast
No sooner do you think it's tough to find a decent Pinot Noir value when a few well-priced, very good Pinots show up in my tastings. This week's Tasting Highlights focuses primarily on 2007 Santa Barbara offerings, along with a few Central Coast wines that are definitely worth consideration. Not only are the Wild Horse and McMurray Ranch Central Coast bottlings both solid buys, but feast your eyes on their nearly 6-digit production figures. Yes, rather amazing, for two supple, complex, and easy to drink Pinots that are benefactors of the recent widespread plantings along that appellation.
There are some familiar names in the top echelon, including a pair from Roar - Rosella's and Pisoni Vineyards in the Santa Lucia Highlands - along with several from Sta. Rita Hills, including Roessler Clos Pepe, Bonaccorsi Cargasacchi Vineyard, Coup de Foudre (made by Danielle Price, wine director for Wynn Las Vegas, and John Schwartz, of Amuse Bouche), and Rusack Reserve. So far the 2007 vintage from Santa Barbara has been mixed, but these Pinots should put a smile on your face. - James Laube
The November 12 issue of the Wine Spectator Insider features new wines from Argentina, California and Washington. From California, James Laube reviews 20 Syrahs made by some of the Golden State’s best producers of the Rhône grape.
Rusack Syrah Santa Barbara County Ballard Canyon Estate 2006 92 points
Blueberry, blackberry and boysenberry form the core fruit flavors in this well-crafted wine. Full-bodied, with mineral and pebble flavors that provide structure and a greater range of flavor. Drink now through 2012. —J.L.