Wines to Bridge the Generational Gap

Wines to Bridge the Generational Gap

Impressive American offerings to satisfy humans of all (legal drinking) ages.

Laura Brennan Bissell of Inconnu shows that it's possible to make California Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon without compromising natural wine values or the big flavors that made them so popular.   Illustration by Jonathan Kemp

Wine, like coffee, or how you like your eggs, is very personal. Preference can be very different from generation to generation. If you starting acquiring your taste for wine in 1987 while smoking a pack of Camels a day and drinking more Diet Coke than water, a chilled glass of zero-sulfur Gamay from the Loire would have tasted pretty weak. An inky Cabernet Sauvignon with 'gobs' of fruit and oak would have been a little more appealing. Despite changes in style, an oaky, buttery Chardonnay or an inky, lush Cabernet Sauvignon is nothing to be self-conscious about. It's hard to deny the appeal if you've had the right ones. 

The problem I often run into is that the wave of winemakers and growers I prefer — who are first and foremost excellent stewards of the land — are not typically making wines in the style that was more popular 20-30 years ago. That is partly because that style was by-and-large made with very heavy-handed winemaking techniques made possible by advances in food science technology and additives. All of the sudden it was possible to mimic the power, ripeness, and oak influence that in the past had only been found in far more expensive wines or great vintages. Though the pendulum has swung and these shortcuts have been rightly shunned by a new wave of winemakers, that doesn't mean that the style should be abandoned. Luckily we've found some California winemakers who are able to make big wines that appeal to 60 year-olds and 30 year-olds alike, without compromising the high level of farming and winemaking that we hold dear. Laura Brennan Bissell, Steve Matthiasson, Craig Haarmeyer are among the few and the brave who have taken on this mantle.

Below you will find Chardonnay with oak that is both intellectual AND indulgent, Zinfandel that is smooth and refreshing, Merlot that is thought-provoking and satiating. Plus a Cabernet Sauvignon — the spark for this email idea — that is dark, rich, and impressively energetic. A true showstopper.

But is a thankless task, making wines in this style. If you are a winemaker in the 'natural' camp, you are going to be far more successful with orange wine and carbonic reds. If you like to drink recognizable labels with 92 point scores, you are not likely to take a chance on some tatooed socialist's Merlot. It's my job to bring these worlds together and cut through preconceived notions. Below you will find some wines that are guaranteed to challenge both sides of any wine debate and highly likely to change some minds.



Image of Haarmeyer Cellars
Haarmeyer Cellars "St. Rey" Zinfandel 2019


The 2019 'St. Rey' Zin is fresh, a little fruity and is a pure joy to drink. Some whole-cluster infusion helps the wine to be graceful and lively, with tart cranberry and blackberry fruit, smooth tannins and enough structure to hold up to white and dark meat on the holiday table. Not your run of the mill Zin, and undeniably delicious.

Buy Now
Image of Matthiasson
Matthiasson "Linda Vista" Napa Valley Chardonnay 2020


The Linda Vista vineyard was planted in 1989 in the West Oak Knoll area of Napa Valley, where Chardonnay has been made since the 60's as the zone was deemed too cold for growing Cabernet. Steve and Jill farm the vineyard organically, and make one of best examples of Napa Valley Chardonnay on the market. They employ multiple picks throughout the harvest season to create the perfect balance of ripeness and brightness. The wine ferments and ages in used French barrels, giving it nice texture without making the wine too oaky. Crisp yellow apple and juice peach, coupled with the fantastically balanced acidity and body makes this the perfect Chardonnay to share with your mom, no butter bombs.

Buy Now
Image of Inconnu Merlot Carneros 2017
Inconnu Merlot Carneros 2017


Laura Brennan’s Carneros Merlot is a real knockout. Fantastic earth-to-fruit balance, with refreshing acidity that lifts the dense, dark fruit profile to profound heights. This is exactly what Merlot should be: equal parts intense and ethereal, black and blue fruited, a touch of earth and polished tannins. A welcome addition to any table, and a compelling reason to throw out your copy of 'Sideways'.

Buy Now
Image of Inconnu
Inconnu "Alaric" Cabernet Sauvignon Russian River Valley 2018


This wine single-handedly reignited my love for California Cabernet. 95% Sauvignon, 5% Franc, fermented slow and cool and aged 18 months in barrel. Pure, energetic and sublime, the wine rides the perfect line between concentration and elegance with enough density and texture for fans of "bold" Cabernet, and enough rusticity and earthy intrigue for the rest of us. A surefire way to make dad happy without having to drink poison.

Buy Now

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.