August 22, 2019
Oakville Ranch Field Blend

OAKVILLE RANCH Field Blend 2016

83% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Sirah from Oakville Ranch Vineyard which looks down on The Valley on the east side…best view of the Napa Valley you’ll ever get. This wine is huge. Pours out black-ruby with some purple in there. Black licorice, nutmeg and cinnamon hit the nose along with the blackberry pie and black cherry preserves. The taste is more of the same with a dark chocolate thing moving in and lasting through its 30 second finish. I like its structure, in other words how the firm tannins and the concentration of fruit blend together. Too bad there are only […]
August 22, 2019
Prima Materia Tocai Friulano

Prima Materia Tocai Friulano 2017

California needs more wines like this! Tocai Friulano, aka Friulano in its homeland of Friuli, Italy and Sauvignon Vert in California (unless it’s Muscadelle…yeah, it’s confusing) has about 50 acres planted in California. That number recently went down when THIS vineyard, “Graziano” in Mendocino’s Potter Valley, was converted to Vermentino. Quoting Prima Materia’s Pietro Buttitta, it’s “probably a good idea, but a wistful one as this bottling has great tension and complexity.” This is true. Good Tocia Friulano needs to breathe and stretch. And enjoyed chilled not cold: 60 degrees is good. My Prima Materia Tocai Friulano 2017 tasting notes […]
August 16, 2019
Olivia Brion Tempranillo

Olivia Brion Tempranillo “Shake Ridge” 2016

Napa winery Olivia Brion stretches out by acquiring Tempranillo from the outstanding “Shake Ridge Ranch” near Sutter Creek in Gold Country, Sierra Foothills. Smells great, like red cherry compote, dried pink rose petals and black peppercorns. It’s medium bodied, fruity (berries/cherries mostly) and nicely perfumed. Its fine tannins make the wine stand tall. Really lovely…full flavored, perfect restraint. Fantastic food wine. Pair as you would a stronger Pinot Noir and elegant, complex Merlot. More Information With a history focused on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from “Heron Lake Vineyard” in Wild Horse Valley, Olivia Brion Winery has expanded in recent years to small […]
August 15, 2019
Wilson Foreigner Albarino

WILSON FOREIGNER Albarino “Rorick Vineyard” Sierra Foothills 2017

The Albariño grape, native to the cool Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal, interestingly makes good wine at “Rorick Heritage” outside the town of Murphys in the Sierra Foothills. Interesting because it’s HOT here. David Wilson, the Wilson of Wilson Foreigner, explains to me “the Albarino we get from Rorick grows in schist rock (schist is a high-mineral metamorphic rock) and there’s limestone next to our vines. And the vines are east-facing for morning sun, afternoon & evening shade.” These factors, the cool Sierra nights and natural acidity in Albarino, explain the tang in the Wilson Foreigner. It’s loaded with […]
August 7, 2019
Keep Delta White

KEEP “Delta White” 2018

Cortese and Falanghina: two grapes of Italian origin (Cortese in Piedmont-northern Italy, Falanghina in Campania-southern Italy). They are two of the many lesser-known (you could say esoteric) grapes grown at “Lost Slough Vineyard” outside the town of Rio Vista (on Highway 12 west of Lodi). Made to drink young and bright like a lot of California wines…Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc two leaders in this category. The “Delta White” takes a turn from the norm, aiming for an old world, traditional Italian style of less fresh fruit and more rocky/salty smells and flavors. My tasting notes include green apple skins, watermelon […]
August 6, 2019
Clif Family Sauvignon Blanc

CLIF FAMILY Sauvignon Blanc “Rte Blanc” 2018

Top-notch expression of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, showing tangy green apple, white peach, melon and lemongrass smells and flavors start to long finish. The 1/4th barrel fermentation (in neutral French oak) and aging on lees gives the wine a little roundness and pastry aroma. Deft winemaking touch. This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from multiple vineyards, fermented dry to 13.4% alcohol.   Clif Family continues to make consistently tasty red and white wines from their Estate vineyards on Howell Mountain as well as from purchased fruit from Napa Valley and beyond (they also have a new vineyard in Napa’s Oak […]
August 6, 2019
Keep Pinot Meunier

KEEP Carignane “Evangelho” 2016

From the sand-swept wine district of Contra Costa on the Sacramento Delta. The 130+ year old own-rooted Carignane vines of “Evangelho Vineyard” make for a complex, aromatic, hauntingly delicious red wine. Wound up when just opened, let the wine stretch for 20 minutes and blossom. True to the Carignane grape, you get black raspberries, black pepper, pomegranate, dried violets, chopped rosemary, new leather and game. The tannins start firm then soften as it opens up and linger throughout the 25 second finish. Acidity lifts the wine like a hydrolic lift.  A joy to drink, especially with grilled white meats and […]
August 5, 2019
Clif Family Petite Sirah

CLIF FAMILY Petite Sirah 2016

From “Nichelini Vineyard” in the eastern hills of Napa Valley. Textbook, so satisfying Petite showing blueberry sauce, smoked meat, black licorice and cocoa smells and flavors. Bursting with fruit and fine tannins. Very rich and strong, just like we want out Petite Sirahs to be. 100% Petite Sirah, aged in 30% new French oak barrels for 20 months, 14.8% alcohol. Clif Family continues to make consistently tasty red and white wines from their Estate vineyards on Howell Mountain as well as from purchased fruit from Napa Valley and beyond (they also have a new vineyard in Napa’s Oak Knoll District […]
August 5, 2019
Clif Family Viognier

CLIF FAMILY Viognier 2017

It’s tricky to make a luscious style of Viognier without going overboard on alcohol and oak. I think Clif Family walked the fine line by achieving full flavor development and simultaneously keeping the nuance of the Viognier grape. Get honeysuckle, dried lemon peel, sliced fresh peaches, ripe apricots and melons and white pepper. Fuller flavored, as expected from a Viognier that hits 14.5% alcohol, but not “hot.” All Oak Knoll District fruit is southern Napa Valley. Mostly fermented in neutral French oak barrels. Clif Family continues to make consistently tasty red and white wines from their Estate vineyards on Howell […]
July 22, 2019
Complant Chardonnay

COMPLANT Chardonnay “Linda Vista” 2017

While many California Chardonnay makers profess to make a crisper style of Chardonnay, few really do it. Complant Chardonnay, a new winery owned, run and made by the Baron family, hits the mark. Son Sam Baron takes charge of the Chardonnay. From “Linda Vista Vineyard,” a north Napa vineyard owned and farmed by Steve Matthiasson. The wine walks a tightrope of achieving ripeness at 12.13% alcohol. It’s ripe enough for me as it shows ripe lemon, tangy green apples, quince and green-stemmed banana fruit flavors along with honeycomb, biscuit and plain Greek yogurt flavors. This is tangy and bright (neither […]
July 16, 2019
Gros Nore Bandol Rose

GROS NORE Bandol Rose 2018

Orange and peach skin color. Smells and tastes “Trés Provence Rosé,” i.e. as much dried citrus and stone fruit flavors as berries + rocky, peppery, dry herbal, floral flavors. (Sooo Provence) Fuller, almost creamy texture may make you think this is too much for rose, but it’s just right. The fuller body drifts off, leaving the basket of fruits and savory flavors in the 15-20 second finish. While $30 is a lot for any Rose, the Gros Noré justifies the price. Made from 50% Mourvedre and Grenache & Cinsault making up the the other 50%.
July 15, 2019
Verret Irancy 2017

Domaine VERRET Irancy 2017

The Red Burgundy appellation Irancy is closer to Chablis than the Cote d’Or. One of high repute, then out of favor, and in the last 30-40 years on the comeback. The style, as you’d expect from Northern France Pinot Noir, is delicate and “bright.” The Verret is brilliant and bordering on transparent, smells of wild cherries and plums along with white pepper, violets and truffle shavings. A core of ripe wild red fruits harmonizes with the elevated acidity. Super food wine that can go so many directions. Salmon and such fattier fishes, pork and chicken gently seasoned, roast root vegetables […]
July 15, 2019
Gros Nore Bandol

GROS NORE Bandol 2016

The “capital of Mourvedre,” Bandol lies on the French Mediterranean. The consistently very warm sun and hillside vineyards make Mourvedre ripe and the wines dark and rich. The 2016 Gros Nore is an outlier…it is dark, strong and rich as expected of Bandol. Its relative softness and accessibility (i.e. delicious now) is out of the ordinary for this producer. I get chocolate covered cherries, pipe tobacco, tarragon, black olives and smoky beef jerky. Fine tannins aplenty and medium acidity tells me it will improve through 2025 at least. But hard to keep the lips off of it now! This is […]
July 15, 2019
Dan Dawson's Wine Advisor

TEXTBOOK Merlot 2017

Smells and flavors of dark red cherries, blueberries and raspberries along with savory sensations of tarragon, tobacco, white pepper, wheat toast and caramel (the last two coming from the French oak, 1/3rd new medium toast). Medium/full body, silky mouthfeel, nicely rich and juicy. This wine has the gentleness of Merlot plus the richness of Napa Valley. If you or your friends say “I don’t like Merlot,” I’d like to pour you this wine blind and see what you think. 90% Oak Knoll District fruit, 10% Oakville. 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m a big fan of Textook Wines for quality and value. […]
July 12, 2019
Sinor Lavallee Pet Nat Ancestrale

SINOR LAVALLEE Ancestrale 2018

Extremely crisp, high acid sparkling wine from this very small San Luis Obispo producer focusing on earth-driven wines. Pinot Noir’s rose petal and raspberry aromas tip-toe in. Tangy citrus, yellow cherry and plum flavors shine in the mouth along with smidge of jasmine or honeysuckle. There’s a suggestion of rocky earthiness on the finish if you’re looking for it. Very dry, very crisp…dryness not designated but stylistically I’d call it an Extra Brut. A unique, cool wine.
July 9, 2019
Mas Doix priorat les crestes

MAS DOIX Priorat Les Crestes 2016

80% Grenache, 10% Carignan and 10% Syrah. Showcases the Grenache grapes sappy, dark strawberry and raspberry fruitiness (relatively young 20 year old vines, so the fruit is highlighted over the earth). Peppery/minty spice smells and flavors, medium bodied, fine tannins that nibble on the gums. This delicious Spanish red pairs well with combo pizza, cheeseburgers, BBQ pork ribs and strong rice dishes. “Les Crestes” comes from the hillside vineyards of Priorat in northeast Spain near Barcelona. Relatively young vines at 20 years. Aged eight months in once-used French oak barrels, so not particularly oaky.    
July 9, 2019
Boudinaud la Boissiere

BOUDINAUD Cotes du Rhone La Boissiere 2016

The estate vineyard and winery Boudinaud consistently brings big value to their wines. The red Cotes du Rhone “La Boissiere” is 55% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre then Cinsault and Counoise. Dark blackberry and strawberry fruit smells and flavors plus dry French herbs, cracked black peppercorns, dried lavender and musk. Ripeness, firm tannins and an animal-y earthiness line up to make a satisfying grilled red meat and strong sausage wine. This has French Bistro by the glass wine written all over it.
July 8, 2019
Fontsainte Gris de Gris

Fontsainte Gris de Gris 2018

Made from 90% Grenache Gris, 5% Mourvedre, 5% Carignan. Grapes destemmed, combined and later either drained off or lightly pressed. The wine sports a Bandol/Provence-like orange color and tastes less berry and more blood orange, orange zest, white pepper and dry herb in style. Bright citrus-heavy fruit, snap of acidity and satisfying finish of crushed rocks, light strawberry and orange tea. Epic wine importer Kermit Lynch has imported Domaine de Fontsainte wines for 30 years. The rosé is the workhorse wine of the bunch: larger production, consistently good and a fantastic value. This is a sure thing winner for fans […]
July 6, 2019

YVES CUILLERON Viognier Les Vignes d’a Cote 2018

A delightful Viognier from Northern Rhone Valley stalwart Yves Cuilleron. Citrus blossom and honeysuckle aromas complement white peach, ripe lemon and tangerine. In the mouth the wine is fruity, dry, modestly perfumed and medium/light bodied with a smidge of oily texture on the finish. Fermented and aged in 2/3rd neutral-ish barrels…aged on its lees 7 months for texture. This is one of the best Northern Rhone Viogniers you’re gonna find for $25-$30/bottle. Yves Cuilleron’s “Les Vignes d’à Côté” wines (Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Gamay and Syrah) are excellent, typical Northern Rhone Valley wines that offer exceptional value. Translating to “The Vines […]
June 28, 2019
Boudinaud Blanc Rousseline 18

BOUDINAUD Blanc La Rousseline 18

40% Viognier, 40% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne from Boudinaud’s Estate vineyard. All steel tank fermented and aged. Big on the fresh citrus: lime juice & zest, orange slices, grapefruit, honeysuckle, Key lime, fresh pineapple. Medium-light bodied and a refreshing thread of acidity. At under $15/bottle this is definitely case purchase worthy. Imported and sold by Wine House San Francisco in the Dogpatch neighborhood of The City. Pay them a visit!
June 28, 2019
Kent Price Venant du Coeur

KENT PRICE “Venant du Coeur” 2012

Blend of roughly 60% Petite Sirah, 30% Syrah and 10% Zinfandel (co-ferment) sourced from the mountains in the far eastern reaches of Napa County. It’s warm, ripe, dark and soulful. You have to like a big ripe berry style of red – most who enjoy California wine do. Get blackberries, blueberries, warm cocoa, fresh ground black and cigar box. Very new-world style in its up-front fruitiness, richness and natural power. Smooth tannins, medium acidity, drink now through 2022. Kent Price wines are made by long-time Napa Valley winemaker Rudy Zuidema. Mr. Price, with Zuidema’s assistance, buys top-notch grapes from Napa […]
June 27, 2019
J Pinot Gris

J Pinot Gris 2018

As good as it gets for a fresh, fruit-driven, easy to drink white wine. Top four (out of 8+) fruit flavors I get are green apple, peach, pineapple and Meyer lemon. Acid’s fresh and lively, no oak. A little “sneaky sweetness” elevates the fruitiness, meaning you don’t taste sweet but you like the wine more because it’s there. Get a case…can be found for under $15/bottle (check out Total Wine). This is a DDWA “Awesome” Value. See all my Hall of Fame and Awesome Value wines on my Best of the Best Value list.
June 27, 2019
Aerena Rose 2018

AERENA Rosé 2018

Provence-style Rosé by recipe: 1/2 Mourvèdre, 1/2 Carignane. Grapes pressed off. Stylistically, it straddles France and California. Reddish hue, raspberry/strawberry smells and flavors along with some black pepper, mandarine orange and pink roses. Fermented dry to a modest 12.9% alcohol, making for a pretty, berry-laden Rosé with ample acidity and spice. This is a Rosé to enjoy when you want more fruitiness in your pink. Like me! AERENA Wines, one of the wines from Bespoke Collection, are made by the super-skilled and accomplished Aaron Pott. The Mourvèdre and Carignane comes from 135 year old vines in Oakley, Sacramento Delta. This […]
June 26, 2019
J Pinot Noir

J Pinot Noir 2016

Very ripe, spicy and thick for Pinot Noir. That’s the style J’s going for on this wine, and they nailed it. Get cherry preserves, cocoa, cloves and caramel. Creamy, almost oily, in the mouth. Too much for many. Absolutely fabulous for many more. Whatever you think of the wine, you can’t deny that J Winery succeeded in aiming for a certain style. At $20/bottle, it’s a DDWA Great Value.