2011 Pierce Ranch San Antonio Valley Graciano (Previously $22)
While California's Central Coast is home to many a "Rhone Ranger," the growers at Pierce Ranch Vineyards are intent on becoming the area's..."Rioja Rangers"? In any case, they've got an intriguing lineup of varietals closely identified with Spain and Portugal, like this Graciano, so rare in California that it's hard for the exploratory wine drinker to pass up. The winery explains the vintage: "Perched in a highland valley at the southern tip of Monterey County, our vineyards, with their wide variation in diurnal temperature and rocky soils, provide an excellent setting for the classic grape varieties of Spain and Portugal. A standout among these is certainly Graciano, a native of Spain's famed Rioja region. Estate grown in the calcareous rock and shale-rich loam of our Home Ranch Vineyard, the 2011 vintage is a medium-bodied wine with dark, rounded fruit and a solid tannic structure. A limited-run bottling, it was fermented in small lots and aged in French oak for 18 months. Blackberry and black cherry combine with hints of shale and thyme."