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New wine reviews: En Garde


En Garde is a Cabernet specialist so it’s not surprising their Pinot Noirs are made in a fuller-bodied, heavier style. Fruit-forward is the emphasis.


2019 Pinot Noir (Los Carneros); $65. California-ripe raspberries and cherries are the predominant flavors, alongside sweet, smoky oak and a teriyaki exoticness. This is a big, rich, heady Pinot Noir; despite its size, it retains a certain delicacy and silkiness. There’s a spicy core, and the finish is long and satisfying. You might want to age it for a few years. Score: 91.

2019 Passion de la Reine Reserve Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $80. This shows the classic earthiness of Russian River Valley Pinots, with pomegranate, dried tomato, beetroot, cola, red raspberry  and sweet licorice flavors ending in a peppery bite. It’s very complex, and for all the richness, properly dry. The tannins are refined, and the acidity is nice and tart. A lovely wine that improves as it breathes in the glass, and perfect to drink now. Score: 92.

2019 Pleasant Hill Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $65. Intensity of flavor marks this wine. It’s a concentrated laser-beam of raspberries and cherries, the quintessence of these fruits. Earthy complexity is added by the teriyaki, mushroom, cola and beetroot nuances. Intense acidity boosts and brightens the flavors; this Pinot needs rich, fatty foods, like lamb. For all the size, you’ll find Pinot’s silkiness and delicacy. A really impressive Pinot that straddles the line between power and finesse. Score: 93.

2019 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $65. So rich, so front-loaded in raspberry and cherry fruit, that it lacks the subtlety and complexity Pinot Noir should offer. It’s a dry wine, but the jammy fruitiness makes it seem sweet, and while there’s good balancing acidity, the flavors are just overwhelming. Sometimes, less is more. Score: 87.


En Garde’s muscular style suits Cabernet well. I’ve always found the wines super-ripe in fruit, full-bodied and delicious, with aging potential. These two 2018s illustrate the style well.

2018 Grand Vin (Diamond Mountain District); $115. This Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc typifies En Garde’s style of powerful ripeness, massive fruit, lots of oak and youthful precocity. The flavors are huge: black and red currants, intense and penetrating, with suggestions of violets, teriyaki beef and licorice. Those infamously hard Diamond Mountain tannins have been managed into submission, but they’re there, providing a structural framework accentuated by fine acidity. The result is altogether impressive. It’s not dissimilar from the winery’s Fountaingrove Cab, but considerably more concentrated and complex. Fine to drink now, with rich, fatty meats, and should develop in the bottle for at least a decade. Score: 96.

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon (Fountaingrove District); $90. A big, posh, plush wine. Almost all Cabernet Sauvignon, with a splash of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot, it explodes in red and black currants, showing how ripe the grapes get in California’s warm, dry summers. Oak is apparent, but not excessive, lending spicy vanilla and wood smoke to the flavors. There’s some warmth from alcohol. It’s a delicious, complex Cab, drinkable now and over the next decade. Score: 94.

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