Racy lemon and Macintosh apple play kindly with light caramel, toasted brioche and roast hazelnut smells and flavors. Impressively rich and full-flavored and, simultaneously, tangy and sunshine-bright make for a delicious, impressive Chardonnay from Camino Cellars. Tiny production: only 4 barrels made (just one of them new). One of the best under-$50 Chardonnays I’ve had from anywhere. More Information Napa producer Camino Cellars is made, owned and operated by Tadeo Borchardt, also the long-time winemaker at Neyers Vineyard. He makes tiny amounts of three wines: this Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. All of Borchardt’s wines are both full-flavored and full of pleasing […]
Black cherry liqueur, blueberries, dark chocolate, roast French herbs and dark cigar aromas launch the Camino Cabernet Montecillo 2016. Smells so good. In the mouth the wine brings on the deep, rich fruit with background savory sensations of black truffle, cedar and rocky soil. More fruity than previous vintages due to a slight drop of acidity and silkier tannins than before. Drink this now and love the heck out of it. Age it for 5-10 years and it’ll get even better. The terraced hillside, volcanic rock-heavy soil and 50 year old vines of “Montecillo” is the star of this Cabernet […]
Beautiful, bold aromas of fresh violets, deep plum, dark raspberries, blood orange and cinnamon. The smells seamlessly transition to the flavors: wild berries and cherries, orange zest, red roses, violets and those plums & blood oranges. Ripe, inviting, balanced (14.1% alcohol), juicy and alive with acidity, the Camino Pinot Noir continues to deliver through it’s long, 30 second finish. 4 barrels made, all French oak, 1 of the 4 is new, 10 months in barrel. More Information Napa producer Camino Cellars is made, owned and operated by Tadeo Borchardt, also the long-time winemaker at Neyers Vineyard. He makes tiny amounts […]
Mulberries, clove, black pepper, cedar, sweet earth, boysenberries and blueberries march forth in this delicious Petite Sirah from a small, organic, dry-farmed vineyard in Calistoga. All the smells and flavors are seamless and in unison. While Petite Sirah can certainly be rustic, especially from northern Napa Valley, the Tres Sabores Petite 2012 is more velvety and lush. I think this is a function of party the ripe 2012 vintage and its time in bottle. Julie Johnson pulled this from her library collection last week (my request as 2012 is my daughter’s birth year). We tasted it next to the Tres […]
From Tres Sabores‘ Rutherford Bench vineyard. Dry farmed, organic (biodynamic practices) vineyards nestled among the flora and fauna of their bio-diverse property (it’s a fantastic place to visit, by the way). Silky, elegant, balanced, beautiful Zinfandel, showing bright wild red berry and cherry flavors, pomegranate, blood orange, coriander and white pepper smells and flavors. This briar-y, long, complex and elegant Zinfandel is neither light nor big. Frankly, to my taste it is just right. It’s hard to defend a wine’s style without sending, well, defensive. Or worse in the realm of wine, snobby. It’s easy to say, “this is how […]
Tres Sabores winery’s red blend started in 2001 as a “leftover wine.” Now it’s an “intentional wine” in which grapes are brought in (grown/purchased) specifically for this wine. Always delicious in a ripe, spicy, robust style. I just had the latest, the 2015 (note the bottle time the Por Que No? gets – unique for such a red blend. This is a blend of Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. The grapes come from Tres Sabores’ Estate vineyard on Rutherford Bench, another vineyard in Rutherford and Calistoga. The wine pours out dark ruby. The ripe, dark berry fruits pop out […]
The Tres Sabores Rose 2016 is made from Tres Sabores Estate Zinfandel and Calistoga Petite Sirah. Picked in August, well before the red wine harvest, for great acidity. Like any of the best California Rosés, the wine perks up the palate with acidity then satisfies with a wheel-barrel full of fresh summer fruits. As owner/winemaker Julie Johnson states, it is “strawberry and citrus and white peach all wrapped up into one zesty sip.” Kiss of peppercorn spice and chopped herbs de Provence add dimension. Bone-dry, low alcohol in the 12s, no oak. A fine sipper by itself, and even better […]
A delicious California-style Pinot Noir. Lovely, strong aromas of red rose petals, dried ginger and candied orange peel. Lots of ripe, juicy, fresh cherries, dark raspberries and kirsch. Perfume throughout, medium-bodied (fuller bodied for Pinot Noir), on the exotic side. I really like how this bigger-style Pinot Noir stays true to the grape. More Information For premium Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Blends, Peirson Meyer is a great choice. While wines priced $50 and above have a hard time getting my highest marks for value, the Peirson Meyer wines are fantastic values among its peers. Co-owner/winemaker Robbie Meyer is one […]
Black currants, blackberries, dark chocolate and roast coffee beans step forward in this strong yet refined Napa Cabernet from owners Alan Peirson and (winemaker) Robbie Meyer. All from “Kenefick Ranch” near the northern end of Napa Valley, north of Calistoga. Smoky dark berry/cherry flavors spread over the palate and stick around for a good 30 second finish along with toasty oak and vanilla bean from the barrel and rocky soil flavors from the land. Fine tannins, lots of richness and an exceptional balance of sweet fruit and savory non-fruits. I think it’s beginning to drink at its best now (mid […]
Sean Capiaux’s “Chimera” is a combination of his many single vineyard Pinot Noirs. (From Capiaux Cellars: “The name taken from Greek mythology…’a monster comprised of three different animals.'”) Deep red color, loads of berry/cherry fruitiness, nice and rich with pie spices and red rose/violet essence. As intended, this is a medium-strong, straightforward, super-satisfying Pinot Noir. Great buy at around thirty dollars.
Easy to pick this out of wine line-up as Sauvignon Blanc…lemon zest, grapefruit, lime juice, honeydew melon, lemon thyme. Light bodied, strong intensity of flavor. Shiny-bright with healthy acidity and a leesy richness on the finish. If you’re a fan of crisp, taut California Sauvignon Blanc, I guarantee you’ll like the Dancing Crow SB a lot. 100% Sauv Blanc, steel tank fermented and aged. More information Dancing Crow Vineyards is based in Napa Valley while sourcing their grapes from (and energetically promoting) Lake County. The accomplished David DeSante, winemaker. In four vintages (2014-2017) Dancing Crows has successfully positioned themselves as […]
Very satisfying Cabernet Sauvignon that’s ready to enjoy anytime. Dark red, ripe cherries, blueberries and pomegranate flavors are obvious and generous. With the fruit, honest and transparent Cabernet flavors of cassis, sandalwood and cedar compliment nicely. Fine tannins, medium acidity and kiss of toasty oak make for a rich, ripe mouthfeel and sensation. This is an outstanding choice for a “House Cab” or restaurant by-the-glass Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet comes from two AVAs: Red Hills and Big Valley – both over 2000 feet elevation where the growing days are hot and the nights are cool. 11% Merlot from Mendocino blended […]
Sits lightly on the palate with a wild red cherry, red plum and blood orange fruit personality. Little bits of black tea, candied orange peel and dried violets add a couple of layers. Uplifting acidity and easy tannins. This is a fine showing of the Pinot Noir grape in a light, bright, easy-going style, meant to enjoy with food and not deep thought. More Information Planet Oregon Pinot Noir is owned and made by Willamette Valley’s Soter Vineyards. Planet Oregon/Soter’s Give Back mission and policy: “In our work, we labor with the earth to create our products. It is our responsibility […]
Look to Quincy for delicious, mineral-driven, Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc. And in Quincy, buy Domaine Mardon. Quincy is 50 miles west of Sancerre along the Cher River. 50-80 year old vines, growing in river sand and gravel, make high-toned, zippy, pure Sauvignon Blanc. Quick attack of green apple skins, grapefruit, lemon/lime and river rocks. Ripe, crisp citrus and stone fruits quickly emerge on the palate. Mouth-watering acidity, perfect balance of fruit, soil and acid. Killer white here for $20.
For years this has been one of my favorite California Pinot Noirs. Why? Because of its Burgundy-like marriage of brilliant cherry fruits and graceful earthy spice. And texture…richness under control. My tasting notes include deep red wild cherry, red roses, dried ginger, black truffle and vanilla bean. A natural beauty. Get this while you can.
Acid-influenced intensity of flavor sets this Chardonnay apart from its peers. The pronounced bright lemon, orange and tangy apricot flavors make up the wine’s shining core. If you look for them you’ll find buttered biscuit and clotted cream flavors along with oyster shell/salty sea air. Ultimately, this is a Chardonnay for lovers of the crisper style. What makes it special is its sneaky richness. Outstanding buy at $35. More Information Evening Land Vineyards is owned by Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr, two long-time and influential California wine veterans (Moorman as winemaker in Santa Barbara, Parr as Sommelier turned vintner). They are […]
Bright, fruity core of ripe wild cherries and raspberries are my first impression. Soon after comes dried violets and rose petals, dried ginger and allspice. This is very generous in flavor throughout due to a combination of quality farming, winemaking and over 3 years in bottle. The Joseph Swan Cuvee de Trois is made in a delicious-on-release style and sold for less than the other Pinots. In this case, the wine is, in many ways, equal in quality to the other bottlings. It’s a DDWA Hall of Fame Value and on my Best of the Best list of Value Wines.
Knowing this wine from multiple prior vintages, I pay the 2017 the best compliments I can give, which are classic and typical. You don’t want too much in an outstanding Loire Valley Sauv Blanc. Rather, you want brightness, intensity and the flavor of the rocky soils from which it comes. And here it is: citrus zest (especially lemon), spring flowers and rocky pebbles. Smells great, tastes great, finishes long and vibrant. I love wines like this to no end.
From a vineyard outside of Ukiah in central Mendocino County. This wine has a freshness and vitality I associate with cooler regions like Anderson Valley to its west. Primary smells and tasty flavors are Granny Smith apples, clover honey, yellow grapefruit, fresh pineapple and Meyer lemon. Lemongrass and citrus blossoms come through on the finish. Slightly off-dry at a moderate 12 grams/liter residual sugar and acidity to make it seem almost dry. More Information Owners Ben Brenner and Matt Nagy are doing a great job building Benevolent Neglect slowly but surely into one of the next New California Wine go-to […]
60% Mourvedre, 40% Carignane intentional Rosé. Co-harvest, press and ferment. This is very much a Provence/Bandol style of Rosé. White pepper, cherry and plum skins, orange zest and Provence herbs are what you get start to finish. While its reddish hue makes one think strawberry and watermelon, not so. This is a dry, savory style of Rosé, which makes total sense from Rhone-varietal specialist Benevolent Neglect. More Information Owners Ben Brenner and Matt Nagy are doing a great job building Benevolent Neglect slowly but surely into one of the next New California Wine go-to labels. Matt, who’s in charge of […]
Deep, wild red cherry plus dried violets and sun-dried thyme introduce you to the Evening Land Pinot Noir Seven Springs. The taste is more pleasure still. Medium, rich body, fine tannins, perfectly ripe fruit and uplifting acidity all play together nicely. A little bit of savory dry-aged beef (umami) on the long, mostly fruity finish brings on another dimension. Boy is this good…and easy for all Pinot Noir fans to enjoy. More Information Evening Land Vineyards is owned by Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr, two long-time and influential California wine veterans (Moorman as winemaker in Santa Barbara, Parr as Sommelier […]
I had my personal discovery of this first-release Chenin at a wine tasting in San Francisco. Co-owned by two young men who have day jobs in wine marketing and reviews (I tasted it with co-owner Frank Ingriselli. His partner, William Kelley, reviews Burgundy for The Wine Advocate.) Using Sandlands Chenin Blanc as an inspiration, the Beau Rivage Chenin Blanc is rocky, citrus zesty and sea air-salty. I get ripe yellow grapefruit, quince and chalk, especially on the finish. The acidity sings. I really enjoyed this and am certain other lovers of Dry Chenin Blanc made in an old-world style will […]
From a single vineyard in the Carneros, Napa Valley side (although the label states simply Carneros). Like the best 2015 North Coast Pinot Noirs, this is full of dark cherry and wild raspberry fruits plus alluring aromas of dried, potent red rose petals, dried violets and ginger paste. I like how exuberant in flavors this wine is while keeping all its balance and brightness. Mouth-coating texture, soft and present tannins, more bright strong red fruits and flowers on the finish. Super-solid wine. If $30-$35 is in your comfort zone for every night Pinot, get a case of this! Byron (B) […]
From 50-60 year old vine Zin vineyards near Calpella in northern Mendocino County. This straight-forward, ripe red berry and plum fruit and background peppery and minty spice style is easy to like. While being on the lighter side of Zinfandel, it does not let down in flavor and satisfaction. Medium/light tannins, perky acidity, the fruit, herb and spice flavors in unison. This is very impressive and a solid choice for $25. I suggest you contact Hawley Winery to buy this as it is not on its website as of March 10, 2019, nor is it listed on winesearcher on this […]