Unscrew It

There's never been a better time to twist open a bottle of North Coast wine

Some of my favorite wines are bottled with a screw cap.

Yes, I do consume them more or less within sight of the railroad tracks, but the point is this: While California wineries have mainly stuck with sticking tree bark in their bottles, whole nations have turned to sealing their wines with a screw cap, also known as a Stelvin closure. But now, despite cork-industry assurances that cork taint is a thing of the past, aluminum-capped wine samples are increasingly trickling into the Bohemian.

What I like about the screw cap is that it’s both convenient and honest. Synthetic corks can be more difficult to wrench out of the bottle than natural corks, and for what? The romantic pop of a plastic cork? If any of these wines becomes your summertime favorite, the metallic crack of the cap may yet bring just as much joy to your ears.

Charles Krug 2014 St. Helena Sauvignon Blanc ($18) You know it’s a thing when the great grandpappy of Napa wineries passes on cork for an estate-bottled wine. The non-oxidative style of this wine is perfect for it—this is no barrel-fermented fumé, as owner Peter Mondavi’s brother pioneered downvalley. Like in many New Zealand versions, here the grass is green, the Rancher is Jolly, and Key lime and pear cider give it over to melon as the wine opens. There’s enough fruit to balance the tongue-tingling acidity.

Matanzas Creek 2013 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($22) Sharp and exotic, the initial aroma also highlights a screw-cap hazard: they can lock in sulfury smells just as well as fresh fruit. Don’t crack-and-gulp in one motion—wait a minute to enjoy this elegantly defined wine, all zip with no heat.

Crossbarn 2014 Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($22) Don’t expect that every tin-top Savvy is on the gooseberry express. Dainty pear candy here, with tangy lemon-marinated apple and white grapefruit flavor.

Angeline 2013 Signature Reserve Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($18) The spices are baking, the jam is boysenberry, and a touch of sweetness on the palate is not cloying. Straightforward Pinot for having with pork dishes or shiitake stir fry.

Martin Ray 2012 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon ($25) For several vintages, this winery has screw-capped its wines that aren’t expected to be cellared more than two years. And here’s a soft, red-fruited Cabernet you might want to open before brunch is over. Raspberry cookie and Mexican chocolate spice up a lush, plush palate of raspberry, boysenberry jam. What, it’s jammy and simple? Cork it.

Sonoma County Library