One of the best earth and spice-driven Zinfandels I’ve had. Napa winery Leaf & Vine has bought Zinfandel from this Story Winery block of Zinfandel in Plymouth at the heart of Gold Country. Ripe black and blueberry core is tamed by potent sensations of black olive tapenade, bramble, black pepper, sasparilla and mint. Brooding and complex with healthy tannins and very little oak influence. These are descriptors that point to wines signifcantly higher than $25.
Smells of deep raspberry and blueberry, lavender, black peppercorns and coriander. The taste continues on with the same along, adding black licorice, mint, dark strawberry and pomegranate. This has soft tannins, lift of acidity and a pleasing juiciness and warmth to it. Food wise, you can go lots of directions here. My first thought is roast beef tri-tip, then herb-garlic roasted chicken. More Information Napa winery Leaf & Vine makes tiny amounts of wines from Napa Valley and beyond. Everything I’ve tasted from Leaf & Vine in the last 3 years has been very tasty, decidedly unique and very well […]
All Calistoga fruit, which as the hottest AVA of Napa Valley belies the old-world style of this wine. All red fruits here (raspberry sauce, cranberry, wild red cherry) with intriguing savory qualities like beef broth, cremini mushroom, pink grapefruit and pink peppercorns. At 13.3% alcohol, shining acidity and low oak influence, this is easily confused for Tuscany (Italy) Sangiovese. Optimal drinking: 2019-2029. From February 2019 tasting: It’s a lovely wine. Raspberries, wild red cherries, red roses, black tea, bay leaf, new leather and energetic acidity shine bright. Built on a foundation of 13.3% alcohol and not-new French oak aging. I tasted […]
Climber Red in 2015 is 96% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec. Strong flavors, layer upon layer of smells and flavor and true-to-the-grape winemaking make this one of my Awesome Values and inclusion on the Best of the Best list. Get dried black currants and blueberries along with bits of cedar, tobacco leaf, bittersweet chocolate and mint. Boasts a solid structure and energizing acidity. I wish the wine was labeled as Merlot to better help wine consumers embrace the grape. Clif Family is one of Napa Valley’s best winery visits, and my favorite winery that is open for walk-in guests. […]
“Terra Gratia” (“Land of Gratitude” in Latin) is a blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 9% Petit Verdot. Owned, grown, made and offered as their “entry level” wine by Marciano Estate Winery in western St Helena. Warm aromas of pie spices, deeply toasted wheat crust, dark red cherry and plums. Generous and delicious, showing lots of plums, pomegranates and wild cherry/deep raspberry with acidity to heighten the fruits. Faint, pleasing “taste of the land” peeks through at the end. For a skillfully made, cut-no-corners winegrowing attitude, delicious Napa Valley red, this is highly recommended for […]
“Massiglia” (the ancient name of Marseilles, the French Mediterranean home-town of owner Maurice Marciano) is a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon and 29% Cabernet Franc. It is owned, grown and made and by Marciano Estate Winery in western St Helena. This is a generous, very rich, provocative red that, at first whiff, you know it’s one of Napa’s top-tier wines. Deep, strong dark red and black cherry liqueur, cocoa, baking spice and cola aromas move gracefully to a rich, lush, deep and frankly “yummy” flavor and texture. Mocha, cedar and warm chocolate croissant also come to mind, then a finish of […]
100% Montepulciano grape from Rosso Conero, a DOC in Italy’s Marche region on the Adriatic coast. Warm, sunny-climate deep fruitiness gives the wine a little California style. Plenty of earth-driven flavors like tobacco leaf, beef stock and black olive add interest and deliciousness. More fruit and soft tannins on the 15 second finish. You get your money’s worth and then some…and perhaps an introduction to a new wine region.
A seductive, spicy, classic cool-climate Syrah nose of concentrated blueberries, black olive, black licorice and menthol moves to flavors of more wild blueberry, cherry cough drop, black pepper, bay leaf and lavender. Northern-Rhone style with California ripeness (label says 14.5%…I’m guessing it’s closer to 14.0). Balanced, layered, fruity, bright and just a little “wild,” this is a big-time pick for lovers of cool-climate California Syrah. More Information Belharra is a new, micro-winery owned, made and operated by two ladies with notable day jobs. Anne Fogerty (Rivers Marie) and Camille Gaio (Covert Estate). I really like their passion, skill and imagination […]
The Menade Verdejo “Nosso” 2016 tarts with a nose of macerated peach slices and candy apple, then tastes of dried pears, more peach, bay leaf & dried thyme and grapefruit. Reminds me of Semillon in its orchard fruit flavors and slightly oily texture. I like how it balances the fresh and the rich. An excellent, flexible dinner table wine. About Menade Verdejo, a workhorse white wine in Spain, comes in all shapes and sizes. This is the most special Verdejo I can remember having. While it is in the Rueda, Menade eschews that region to dissociate itself from the […]
Venerable Bandol winery consistently produces a fleshy, serious Rosé from 2/3rd Mourvedre, 1/3rd Cinsault from terraced, 50 year old vines. The Provence Rosé peach skin/orange color is deeper than most, which leads you down the path of typically savory/spicy smells & flavors, but just more of them. Get dried cherry, peach, melon, tea, tobacco leaf and meat stock (just a hint). Cashmere texture…very pleasing. With all the quality $15-20 Rosé available, it takes a lot to call out a $40 bottling as a good buy. That said, this is from the Rosé capital of the world, and it’s a step […]
Blend of 73% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre, 5% Syrah. Very pretty, high-toned aromas of strawberries, raspberries, lavender, black pepper and crushed garden herbs. Fruit, spice and herb play nice together on the palate…all have a voice. Touch of ruby red grapefruit and pomegranate sneak into the taste too. Finish is more about the peppercorn, lavender, bay leaf and thyme. It all works together like a charm. More Information “Cool climate wines from the Sonoma Coast and Sierra Foothills” states The Withers on their website. The talent and passion is there, including David Low as winemaker (he is co-owner & co-winemaker for […]
These are the heights Napa Valley Cabernet can reach. “Estate” Cabernet between St Helena and Calistoga. (Worth paying a visit, by the way). Get fruit flavors of black currants, boysenberries and blueberries. The Larkmead sets itself apart, as it usually does, with vineyard-driven sensations of roast fennel and rosemary, musk, black olive, oiled leather and mint leaf. Acid is just right – supports the wine as it stands behind the curtain. Super-fine tannins make the framework. If you’re going to buck up $120 for a bottle of Napa Cab, this is a very good choice. Insider knowledge (not so insider […]
In classic Frog’s Leap style, the 2015 Merlot is about bright, fresh berry/plum and pomegranate flavors backed up by dry bay leaf, tarragon, cocoa, and vanilla bean/toasted bread from the barrel. Medium/high acidity (for Napa Merlot), fine tannins and a long fresh summer berry finish. This will age like a champ. Surprising for some, it will be at its very best, I’m guessing, in 2025-30. I like Frog’s Leap’s food match recommendation: a well-seasoned pork roast with fall root vegetables. Let’s make a date! Has 19% of “our best Cabernet Sauvignon.” More Information I am so glad to have tasted […]
Intense, ripe, dark red cherries and berries joined by black olive, bay leaf, vanilla bean, dry-aged beef and cedar. A healthy acidity, expected of Mt Veeder, brightens the wine like an 80 watt lightbulb. Slightly surprising is how supple and delicious the Communication Block Cabernet is today. Full-flavored, distinctive and perfectly proportioned. Truly special. More Information Near the top of Mt Veeder and on the Napa/Sonoma border is “Lampyridae,” as remote a vineyard that you’ll find (or not find) in Napa Valley. It’s owned and farmed by the owners of Communication Block, John and Ashley Derr. Aaron Pott makes the […]
Deep, juicy red berries, cherries and pomegranate at the core. Surrounding the fruit are cedar, bay leaf, black olive and allspice in the Communication Block Cabernet 2011. Toasty barrel lightly frames the wine. The fruit, the vineyard and the place (top of Mt Veeder) are co-stars. Barrel lends support. Dynamite Cabernet, at 7 years of age showing nuance as well as bright, bold fruit. Medium acidity, smooth tannins, generous flavors and a rich, round texture. 2011: a sleeping dog vintage that is ready to wake up and do groovy dog tricks. Seriously, the producers who made quality Napa Cab in […]
“White Blend of Sauvignon Blanc” states the front label. The blend is 90% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Semillon. Smell and taste fresh white peaches, lemon/lime, honeydew melon, salty sea air and kaffir lime leaf. Medium/high acidity, no barrel flavor, texturally pleasing (from the Semillon and, I imagine, some lees-stirring. A DDWA Awesome Value (and member of my “Best of the Best” list) if there ever was one. Expect to see this by the glass in many quality restaurants in the Bay Area and beyond. More Information Winemaker/winery owner Pam Starr utilizes her “AVA Napa Valley” brand to purchase barrels/tanks of wine, […]
Valley floor, west of Highway 29 vineyard owned by the University of California system (UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology controls and runs it). Starts with a nose of fresh ripe raspberries, red apple, plums, bay leaf, cracked coriander seeds and lavender. Fruit flavors pop out in the mouth trailed by chocolate shavings, black olive and tea leaves. Medium acidity and fine tannins…in a good place to drink now and through 2023. In the fashion of world-class Merlot, the Cornerstone 2015 delivers pleasure like a jazz quartet rather than a rock band. More Information The Cornerstone winemaking team of […]
Earthy spices and a sliver of umami inject themselves into the briary, ripe, potent fruit that comes natural to these 50 year old vines in western Dry Creek Valley. As for the fruit in the David Clinton Zinfandel Mounts, smell and taste pomegranate syrup, dark raspberries, blueberries and cherry liqueur. More complex and “serious” than the average Zin: dry aged beef, nori, black licorice, roast walnuts and black olive and roast black peppercorns make this a wine better suited with food than without. I recommend drinking the David Clinton “Teldeschi” 2015 with or without food and this “Mounts” definitely WITH […]
On the dark side of California Grenache. Smell and taste strawberry preserves, toasted black peppercorns and cloves, black olives, very ripe blueberries, dried lavender, bay leaf and toasty French oak…40% new according to owner/winemaker Derek Beitler. More oak than he’d prefer, but from many a wine drinker’s view it’s perfect. Strong and structured in the mouth with a grip of tannins that go away on the finish. Excellent concentration, richness, spice and marriage of sweet and savory. More Information Owner/winemaker Derek Beitler launched Bodega Rancho/JDB Wines in 2007, took a break for a while, then re-launched the label with the […]
A bright, red-fruited, snappy expression of Cabernet Sauvignon. Smell and taste ripe red plums, raspberries and red currants plus tarragon, bay leaf and white pepper. Walking a fine line between elegant and too-green, this wine artfully maintains balance and tasty focus. That said, the Steven Kent Cabernet Ghielmetti 2015 is recommended for a certain palate: one that enjoys a pure expression of the Cab Sauv grape. More Information Steven Mirassou launched Steven Kent Winery in 1996. Then and now, he is a worthy leader and ambassador for the quality and uniqueness of Livermore Valley wine. The Steven Kent wines are […]
A beautifully crafted Semillon. Bright, citrus-flavored acidity, low 12.2% alcohol, even still medium bodied (a characteristic of Semillon), oily texture, pear and lemon zest flavors, white pepper and crushed mint leaf spice kick. I really like how the wine coats the mouth, giving more body and ripeness than you typically get from 12.2% alcohol wine. I tasted this wine last in spring of this year. It has turned a major corner. Great value for $30/bottle. More Information Napa Valley winery Fine Disregard released their first wines in 2016. They (Mike Schieffer-winemaker, Kara Maraden-winegrower) are still quite new, but have already […]
Bright, energetic Red Burgundy from a vineyard directly above Nuits-Saint-Georges, on the plateau that designates Hautes-Cotes de Nuits. Feminine style: wild red cherries, cranberry, plums, talc, bay leaf, fresh red roses. Light bodied, intensity (a requirement of good Burgundy), perky acidity, fine tannins. I wish it was a little bit longer on the finish (clocked in at 10 seconds, not bad). There is no doubt you are drinking Burgundy, and a good one at that, with the Gavignet Hautes Cotes de Nuits Huguettes. More Information This is one of the hundreds of quality, well-priced wines (French & Italian) imported by […]
Mostly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot adding muscle, this falls into the Right Bank Bordeaux-style realm. The Andrew Lane Barrel Select red is impressively structured. A choir of healthy tannins wash over the gums while intensely flavored raspberries and wild cherries plus tobacco leaf, black tea, anise and cocoa flavors cross the palate. This is more structured and youthful than you’d expect a 2012 Merlot-based blend to be. I think it’s going to unwind and blossom over the next 4-5 years. I also find a piece of grilled (rare) beef or lamb, nicely salted, lowers the tannins and […]
Strong red cherry and dark pomegranate fruit flavors (in the red fruit spectrum for sure) with pleasing side smells and flavors of bay leaf, tarragon and blood orange. Light on the oak and ripe but not overly so, medium & fine tannins, acidity that elevates the flavors…I really like the unobstructed view (taste, in other words) of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon here. The Foley Johnson Cabernet Sauvignon is super-flexible with food.