When I hear “Bonanza”, I think instantly of the wildly popular 1960s action-packed western TV series starring actor Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright and his three disparate sons – “Hoss” (Dan Blocker), Adam (Pernell Roberts) and Little Joe (Michael Landon) – patrolling the Ponderosa ranch and defending it from unscrupulous bad guys.
If only the Cartwrights had planted vineyards on their sprawling Nevada spread, the show – which ran from 1959-1973 – might still be on the air albeit with a new twist: The Cartwright boys chasing down viticultural villains. OK, I’m dreaming – and also showing my age.
Well, there’s a new “Bonanza” in town – and it’s one of my top wine recommendations for Fourth of July holiday cookouts.
Bonanza ($25) is a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon created by Caymus Vineyards founder Chuck Wagner, who says he wanted to make a quality, affordable wine for simple family meals. His other mission was to showcase California’s abundant fruit outside prestigious Napa Valley. In crafting the non-vintage Bonanza, Wagner selected grapes from eight statewide appellations which go unlisted and are referred to on the bottle as “California Lot 1. Still, Bonanza, while bearing little resemblance to Wagner’s highly acclaimed Caymus Selection Napa Valley ($180), hits the jackpot by delivering a rich, silky Cab taste without the hefty cost.
The best deal on Bonanza is at Sam Messina’s Wine ConneXtion in North Andover where it’s selling for $18.99. Wegman’s and Total Wines also carry it but it’s unavailable in New Hampshire.
My second pick is the 2016 Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99) from the cool climate Santa Margarita Ranch AVA in Paso Robles. It’s on sale in N.H. for $16.99 – a stampede bargain for California juice of this kind.
Aged 16 months in French and American oak, Ancient Peaks gets a touch of Petit Verdot and Petit Sirah in its final blend to enhance its color (dark purple) and black fruit flavors. My tasting notes follow: “Fragrant nose. Sweet black cherry and plum fruit tastes hit the palate first. Spicy and savory buildup to a mouthwatering finish. A silky texture. A classy Cabernet.”
Still, no Independence Day cookout captures the rebellious spirit of our forebears than an all-American Zinfandel, a red grape and wine that has thrived in California since the 19th century. There are many good Zinfandels – Ravenswood, Seghesio, and Cline Ancient Vines Zin come to mind – but my party play of the day is The Federalist 1776 Lodi Zinfandel ($21.99) that bears a striking ink drawing of George Washington’s respected visage on the label. A 7 percent splash of Syrah adds spicy fight to this velvety, blackberry fruit bomb which takes no prisoners when matched with grilled steaks, chops and burgers.
To bring any cookout to a patriotic fever pitch, you might consider adding the entire line of The Federalist wines to the menu. Each bottle label pays homage to an iconic American hero or theme. There’s the Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.99) honoring Benjamin Franklin; The Honest Red ($19.99), a Merlot-Zinfandel-Cabernet blend honoring President Abraham Lincoln; Bourbon Barrel-Aged Zinfandel ($21.99), a dense, bold red in tribute to Alexander Hamilton; and the Statue of Liberty Chardonnay ($19.99). For some reason, not all these wines are available in Massachusetts stores although they’re offered across the border at a discounted price through July.