This Thing Now: Tom Gore Vineyards

A California grape grower steps out from behind the scenes

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Tom Gore has been working in wine all his life. It's just that the second-generation grape farmer has been quietly staying behind the scenes, managing 1,400 acres of vineyards in California's Alexander Valley for big-name wineries like Simi and Clos du Bois.

That's why we were excited to hear about his new project, Tom Gore Vineyards, which hits shelves today. It's the first California wine label named for a grape grower, as well as a collaboration between Gore and his longtime friend, winemaker Gary Sitton. Tom Gore Vineyards is debuting with three new value-driven bottlings from the 2013 vintage: a Chardonnay, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a red blend.

We like Gore's Alexander Valley Chardonnay ($15) for its buttery texture and well-balanced fruit (it's a great match for a weeknight braised chicken with garlic and lemon), whereas his easy-drinking Cabernet Sauvignon ($15) is packed with textbook plum and currant flavors. Our personal favorite, though, is the full-bodied and highly concentrated Field Blend ($34). A mix of Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet and Tempranillo, this ripe, toasty red is the stuff that sings alongside dishes like seared rack of lamb and perfectly cooked steak.