I believe that I have found an interesting way to start off the New Year; Wine 101.

While winter is still upon us and we are more or less home-bound, this would be a good time to learn more about wine.

I have often written that one of the great joys of wine is trying wines that you may have never tried, never heard of or have tried one once that was below par and you were turned off by the variety.

To remedy this situation and expand your wine horizons, I would like to introduce you to the wines of Napa Cellars.

Napa Cellars 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ($26). Incredible is the least I can say about this wine. The wine was made from grapes grown in various parts of the Napa Valley, an area that produces the best Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in California. Some of the grapes came from the famed Rutherford Bench area whose grapes impart to the wine dusty, mineral element found nowhere else in the world. The wine displays a berry and black cherry aroma all wrapped in the haunting mineral sensation of the Rutherford Bench. As the aroma opens, one can detect vanilla, oak and spice. The flavor concentrates on black cherry, licorice, cocoa and oak. The tannins are restrained and modestly soft, but not too soft. The finish too is cherry-based with the signature Rutherford minerals still in evidence. This is a grand wine and truly a treat.

Napa Cellars 2017 Merlot ($25). This Merlot is a blend of grapes grown Carneros, Oak Knoll and Atlas Peak districts of the Napa Valley, so there is no specific area signature and a great improvement over the lackluster Merlots that have been in the marketplace for many years. The Aroma is dominated by ripe cherry and black plum with suggestions of herbs, chocolate and espresso. The flavor is mostly cherry with a hint of vanilla and oak. The finish, for a modern Merlot is rather long and very kaleidoscopic. If you have “been turned off” by the variety in the past, this offering from Napa Cellars will change all of that.

Napa Cellars 2017 Chardonnay ($20). An excellent growing season has endowed this Chardonnay with bold and obvious fruit flavors and aromas as well as a traditional creamy texture. The most obvious aroma is that of Fuji apples, intermingling with Bosc pear and vanilla. The mineral element that is imparted to grapes grown in the Napa Valley becomes very obvious with the first sip and helps to amplify and enhance the fruit flavor of the wine. This wine too is well balanced full bodied and very easy to drink.

Napa Cellars 2017 Zinfandel ($22). The classical style of winemaking adopted by Napa Cellars does wonders to the Zinfandel grape. This is a full-bodied, subdued Zinfandel with the usual pronounced strawberry flavor and aroma held tightly in check. The wine presents a totally new view of the Zinfandel. It offers an aroma prominently featuring coffee, chocolate, plums, blackberry, licorice and pepper. The flavor of this wine mirrors the aroma with the addition of a berry jam element. The finish, that is exceptionally long, also reflects the cherry and berry flavors. This is a Zinfandel of a different turn and it definitely deserves your attention.

Napa Cellars 2017 Pinot Noir ($25). This wine is one of the bright stars of California’s Napa Valley and is definitely a wine you will remember. The color is a deep cherry/ruby and the aroma is a complex of fruit flavors featuring cherries, mushroom and blackberries mingled with oak. Below the surface there is a swirling, array of dark summer fruits and berries along with that indefinable incense-like aroma found only in the truly great Pinot Noirs. The flavor is as multifaceted as is the aroma displaying dark summer berries, cocoa, and cinnamon. The finish is long and as interesting and complex featuring spices such as black pepper allspice, thyme and sage that remain on the palate for an exceptionally long time.

Editor’s note: The prices listed in this column reflect the manufacturer’s suggested retail price.

Bennet Bodenstein is a wine enthusiast and book author whose column appears in publications throughout the country.

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