February 4, 2019
Peirson Meyer Maquette

PEIRSON MEYER “Maquette” 2015

Blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. A “Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend” in the words of Peirson Meyer Winery. I absolutely love this wine for its expressive yet under-control fruitiness, underscore of savory flavors like tobacco, anise and dry aged beef and fine, gum-coating tannins. All the smells and flavors are perfectly supported by the acid and tannins. Showing off all its goodies now, and will continue to evolve and drink awesome for 10-20 years. This is an outstanding value in the Napa Cab/Bordeaux blend category for “just” $60. From Peirson Meyer… MAQUETTE: A term familiar […]
February 4, 2019
Altar Chardonnay Platt Vineyard

ALTAR Chardonnay “Platt Vineyard” 2016

Fantastic Chardonnay – full bodied and very intense while still showing grace and complexity. Concentrated lemon, green melon and heirloom apple with bits of cocoa, apple butter, roast hazelnuts, seashells and citrus blossoms. Super-long finish…30 seconds and lengthening as time goes by…of roast nuts, cocoa and preserved lemon. The texture and length of this wine puts it in world-class territory for Chardonnay. In the realm of high end Chardonnays, at $78 this is an excellent value. More Information Altar Winery‘s first releases are two 2016 vintage Sonoma Coast Chardonnays and a 2017 Santa Cruz Pinot Noir. Husband/wife owners have “day jobs” […]
February 4, 2019
Altar Chardonnay Sonoma Coast

ALTAR Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2016

Maiden release from an experienced, talented Napa Valley couple. A combination of two Sonoma Coast vineyards: “Sangiacomo” near Carneros and “Platt” western Sonoma Coast. A classy wine from start to finish, the Altar Chardonnay Sonoma Coast grabbed me with grapefruit ice, crisp green apples and pears, fresh biscuits topped with a dollop of sweet butter. I could go on with descriptors. More important are the marriages of ripe with tangy and subtlety with intensity. There is texture, freshness and depth. I found everything I want in a top-notch Chardonnay, and none of them dominating the others. It’s a solid wine […]
January 31, 2019
Hogwash Rose 2018

HOGWASH Rose 2018

Almost 100% Grenache, most coming from “Bokisch Vineyard” Lodi. I call this a “Provence Style” Rosé because of its dryness and citrus/stone fruit/strawberry smell/flavor trifecta. Very dry and a low 11.8% alcohol, the 2018 Hogwash is set up to drink bottle after bottle. At $18/bottle it’s a DDWA Awesome Value and makes my “Best of the Best” Value list. Hogwash is part of Tuck Beckstoffer Wines/Seventy Five Wine Company.
January 31, 2019
Alma de Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc

ALMA de CATTLEYA Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Really, really tasty  – perfect for what it is, a dry, fruity, food-friendly, drink-me-up, Hall of Fame Value California Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing out of the ordinary in the flavor profile. It’s exceptional-ness stems from it having all the flavors of Sauv Blanc and they are already in harmony (note this is a 2018). Got your green apple, Meyer lemon, honeydew melon, fresh herbs, chalk. Has great acidity for dryness, delicious fruit that you can’t help buy love. I think I just convinced myself to get a case of this. About Alma de Cattleya Cattleya Winery is owned & made by the […]
January 31, 2019
Bluet Wild Blueberry Sparkling Wine

BLUET Wild Blueberry Sparkling Wine

The first time you try the Bluet you will probably be surprised. I, for one, didn’t know what to expect and was still surprised. Very aromatic, but it doesn’t shout out blueberries. I get cranberries, violets, black pepper and dark plum smells as much as blueberry. Ditto on the taste and it’s high acid and very, very dry. (It is fermented dry and 7% alcohol, which translates to tangy wine regardless of the fruit used.) The sparkling softens the acidity just like in “normal” grape sparkling. This is not to drink solo (as in without food) as it’s too dry […]
January 31, 2019
Trinafour Carignane

TRINAFOUR Carignane Niemi 2015

Medium/light, bright, crystal-clear red berry and plum fruits in the Trinafour Carignane 2015. Reminds me of a well crafted Southern French red with it’s black pepper dust and dried herbs de Provence edge. This has French Bistro by the glass pour written all over it. Italian bistro or BBQ joint would be perfect, too. If you have it at home, two words for you: roast chicken. The dry-farmed Carignane vines in “Niemi Vineyard” are now 50+ years old. Check out all the Trinafour wines I’ve reviewed here.
January 30, 2019
Lagier Meredith Syrah 2016

LAGIER MEREDITH Syrah 2016

Blueberry compote, fresh grated ginger, lavender garden and cracked black pepper are your early smells and flavors in the 2016 Lagier Meredith Syrah. Consistently intense, very aromatic and bright from vintage to vintage, this 2016 is another in a long line of Syrahs with these qualities. If anything, it’s a little more expressive of its fresh berry/floral flavors, which points to a particularly long evolution in bottle. This will drink great well into the 2030s. More Information Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith live on their vineyard near the top of Mount Veeder between Napa and Yountville.  Farming, winemaking, sales and […]
January 19, 2019
Cottanera Etna Rosso

COTTANERA Etna Rosso “Diciassettesalme” 2016

Deep, dark red color. Earth-driven aromas of dry aged beef and quality cigar wrapper. Lots of dark red berry and cherry flavor. Wee bit of garden herbs and lavender in the taste. Long 20 second finish has fine tannins and lingering earth to complement the fruit. I really like this wine’s concentration and richness. Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano on the European continent. On the Eastern slope of this still smoldering giant are vineyards growing in dark, rich volcanic soil, making (usually) elegant wines often compared to Red Burgundy. 3 grapes grown: Nerello Mascalese, Nerello Cappuccio and the white […]
January 19, 2019
Behrens Head In The Clouds

BEHRENS FAMILY “Head In The Clouds” 2016

Behrens Head In The Clouds is a big-impact, super-concentrated, party-in-the-mouth Napa Cab from a winery that has perfected this style over the last 30 years. My tasting notes include “black currants, dark chocolate, roast beef fat, crushed river rocks, so spicy, big impact in the mouth” and yes, “hedonistic!”  It is surprising, especially to Behrens Family themselves, that this 2016 is ready to drink, should you choose. While it’s youthful, it is cohesive and very enjoyable. This is a sure thing for all you lovers of big Napa reds. 84% Cab Sauv, 15% Petit Verdot.
January 19, 2019
Behrens Family Front Man

BEHRENS FAMILY “Front Man” 2015

This Merlot-based red (86% Merlot, 14% Cab Sauv) is a broad-shouldered, hearty red wine…hardly what the majority of wine drinkers equate with Merlot. Black fruits, sweet spices like anise, clove and roasted cinnamon. Cocoa, mint and rosemary. It’s not shy on new, toasty oak yet it has an extreme concentration of fruit and glycerine to match the barrel. (The last statement can be made about every Behrens Family wine I can remember.)  
January 19, 2019
Apsara Chardonnay

APSARA Chardonnay, Oakville 2016

In a sea of quality California Chardonnay here’s a little starfish. The Apsara Chardonnay Oakville comes from a vineyard near the Napa River in Oakville. (Doesn’t get much more mid-Valley than that.) I love the combination of fresh, rich fruits and pastry/dairy sensations that come from winemaking. My tasting notes include “light toast, ripe green apple, rich lemon, summer peach, medium butter & oak, warm biscuits.” Refreshing acidity (neither high nor low) and creamy texture. This is unmistakably Chardonnay, that said it sets itself apart by bringing together freshness of fruit and buttered biscuit and cream flavors. Mighty tasty! This […]
January 18, 2019
Apsara Syrah

APSARA Syrah “Las Madres” 2015

Blueberries, pomegranate, five spice and black olive aromas race from the glass. Taste is more of the same along with a little bit of cocoa powder, candied ginger and a brush of acidity that elevates all these flavors. Coming in at 13.6% alcohol, this medium-bodied, perfumed, intense red is classic Northern Rhone-style Syrah. Enjoy this with Memphis-style BBQ Ribs (all about the rub, no sweet sauce). A typical lesson of Wine 101 is that European wines are more earthy than fruity and California wines are more fruity than earthy. It’s a good rule to follow provided you believe that rules […]
January 18, 2019
Apsara Cabernet Amoenus

APSARA Cabernet Sauvignon “Amoenus” 2014

The Apasara Cabernet Amoenus 2014 is one of those Cabs that make me go WOW. No qualifications:  All Napa Cab lovers will love this wine to pieces. “Amoenus” is a hillside vineyard at the northern end of Napa Valley, just before it drops down to Knights Valley. Apsara’s Robin Akhurst buys enough grapes to make two barrels: 50 cases. I tasted this wine about a year ago and it was, understandably, a bit wound up. I tasted it with Robin on January 17. Here are my notes: Smells of spicy cocoa and concentrated black and blueberries. Big impact of dark berry, […]
January 16, 2019
Lagier Meredith Syrah and olives

Success With Syrah – Two Stories

 
January 15, 2019
Apsara Sauvignon Blanc

APSARA Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Such a no-brainer for Sauvignon Blanc fans…owner/maker Robin Akhurst consistently nails it with this wine. 2016: rich ripe lemon, white peach, lemon tea, kiss of the tropical fruits. Lovely texture…more than most SBs (barrel ferment in neutral oak then tank aged for 6 months). “Fancier” wineries would sell this, easily, for twice the price. More Information Scotsman Robin Akhurst learned he loved wine while attending Edinburgh University. His wine journey took him to Provence, Burgundy, Barossa Valley and finally Napa Valley. Working next to and learning from great winemakers all along the way. He makes tiny lots of wine under […]
January 11, 2019
Halcon Petite Sirah

HALCON Petite Sirah “Tierra” 2016

It’s sensible to think Petite Sirah only thrives in a hot growing climate and makes exclusively big bold high-octane red. That’s the only style most who know Petite Sirah have had. Here’s something a little different. Halcon’s Estate Vineyard, planted Syrah mostly, lies at the crest of the Yorkville Highlands AVA. They buy Petite Sirah from “Theopolis” at the bottom (in altitude) of Yorkville Highlands. It’s warmer than up high, and just warm enough to ripen Petite Sirah. The wine grabs me. Dark, rich color. Roast herb and Moroccan spice nose. Very ripe blueberry and blackberry flavor going toe-to-toe with […]
January 9, 2019
Trimbach Riesling Alsace

TRIMBACH Riesling Vin d’Alsace 2015

Very impressive how much character, typicity and deliciousness is in this “entry level” Trimbach Riesling, considering the amount made and the reasonable price. Fermented dry, ample stuffing (or mouth-feel), burst of citrus and orchard fruits on the palate and an unmistakable Riesling personality (rocks, petrol, lemon zest, quince, lemongrass, etc). This is a wine I think the entire spectrum of wine drinkers (wine geeks to “just drink to think”) will wrap their arms around. If you live in Northern California and have a Raley’s Supermarket nearby, see if they carry this wine. It’s in my local Raley’s and I buy […]
January 9, 2019
Benevolent Neglect GSM

Benevolent Neglect GSM 2016

This GSM is 70% G (Grenache), 20% M (Mourvedre) and 10% S (Syrah). A gorgeous wine, full of spice, sweet & uplifting strawberry and plum fruits, sweet earth and cured olive smells and flavors. The smell reminds me of Southern Rhone with its potpourri, fennel, musk and minty qualities. Perfectly ripe red fruits with a harmonic tang of acidity on the mid palate, followed by more savory spice at the end. I must admit I’m a little bit biased here because I love quality GSMs from anywhere, and I so enjoy the Benevolent Neglect wines as a whole. This is […]
January 8, 2019
Blacksmith CLRT Cabernet

BLACKSMITH Cabernet Sauvignon “C.L.R.T.” 2016

This DDWA Great-Value red boasts spot-on Napa Cab smells and flavors of dark red cherry liqueur, vanilla, toasty barrel, cocoa and boysenberry. Its fine tannins and healthy thread of acidity make it an outstanding match with red meats and well-seasoned, protein heavy dishes. In the ever-escalating price of Napa Valley Cabernet, a quality one for $25 (or less!) is harder and harder to find. If you love to have Napa Cabernet around the house for casual drinking, I suggest you buy a case of this. More Information Winemaker Matt Smith is based in Alameda on the San Francisco Bay. His […]
January 8, 2019
Luc Baudet Rive Droite 16

Luc Baudet Cotes du Rhone Blanc Rive Droite 16

Lip-smacking good Southern Rhone Valley blend of 90% Grenache Blanc and 10% Marsanne. No oak, fresh crisp green fleshed melon and heirloom apple fruits, touch of citrus blossom, green tea and white pepper. No oak, light-bodied, bright acidity. Absolutely perfect for what it’s supposed to be. And is. This is my current house white wine. This is a wine imported by Napa-based importer Jack Edwards. It’s not easy to find retail, so be my guest to contact me if you’re interested in buying some. I’ll connect you to the importer to figure it out. (I bought the wine direct from […]
January 8, 2019
Campion Pinot Noir

CAMPION Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2016

As floral, earthy and perfumed as it is fruity, the Campion Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands makes me think of violets, talc, rhubarb, wild red cherries, dark green olives, cedar and light cocoa. I call it lighter & brighter in the spectrum of California Pinot, especially in the Santa Lucia Highlands realm (see below). It’s very good wine because it has a strong, ripe core of red fruits in the mouth and all the non-fruit flavors are classic and ideal for cool-climate Pinot Noir. This is a great choice for one who likes Burgundy on a budget and New Zealand […]
January 7, 2019
Lucien Albrecht Brut Rose

Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose

Highly regarded winery Lucien Albrecht was a pioneer in the production and sale of Cremant d’Alsace (which is methode traditionalle sparkling, or bubbles-made-in-bottle as I like to say), making it in 1976 when the French AOC for Cremant d’Alsace was established. Made from 100% Pinot Noir. Nicely on the very dry side of Brut, showing bits of plum, cranberry and red melon flavors. It’s austere in a good way. On a personal note, in my house the Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose has usurped our long-beloved Allimant Laugner (also a Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose) as the house bubbles. The […]
January 7, 2019
Halcon Syrah Alturas

Halcon Syrah Alturas 2016

If it’s true that the best vineyards grow in extreme circumstances, Halcon Vineyard gets high marks for extreme-ism alone. 2500 feet altitude (very high for California vines), rocky, windy, wild, remote (southern Mendocino, many miles from a highway), vines planted super-tight. Paul and Jackie Gordon, owners of Halcon, sell their grapes as well as make wine from them. For their “Alturas” Syrah, they ferment half whole cluster with no yeast addition, age with a little bit of new French oak, unfined, unfiltered. This is so Northern Rhone-like you might say it’s a Cal wine but you wouldn’t say so with […]