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 […]
Bright-as-the-sky smells and flavors of tangerines, Granny Smith apple paste and lemon ice are your first impressions of the Cornerstone Sauvignon Blanc 2017. Backing up this fruit-first wine is baked pie crust and a slight creamy texture (comes from partial concrete egg ferment, lees-stirring and gaining in a small amount of new oak and acacia barrels.) Medium-high acidity, medium body for Cal SB and a marriage of citrus and orchard fruit basket with that brown pie crust and fresh cream on the 20 second finish. Clean, crisp and inviting you back for more. More Information The Cornerstone winemaking team of […]
Rich nose of kirsch, ripe juicy blackberries, cocoa and vanilla beans. Big hit of fresh, ripe black cherries and berries in the mouth with cocoa, mint, espresso and pomegranate syrup dancing behind. It’s a mouthful. Fine tannins and acidity to support and elevate the flavors. Really impressive. Chiron Cabernet Sauvignon The Paint of Moonlight from Knights Valley walks the fine line of being both drinkable now and great for the cellar. If you drink now, I bet you it drinks best the next day! 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a knoll-side vineyard in Knights Valley north of Calistoga & Napa Valley. […]
“Stuller Vineyard,” located a couple miles northwest of Occidental, is a very cool site. The Boheme Pinot Noir Stuller, standing to reason, is perfumed, ethereal and intense. Yeah, it’s the real-deal in California Pinot Noir. I love the nose: bouquet of red roses, cranberry sauce, squished up fresh raspberries. Then it tastes like really good, cool-climate Pinot Noir, as in wild red cherries, five spice, red rose-laced black tea, pomegranate. The acidity elevates the flavors, round mouth feel, fine tannins for support. It’s all there. This is like a middleweight boxer that wins the fight with finesse, agility and sneaky […]
“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, […]
Almost a Bordeaux style blend, Brandlin Prince & Pedro Red Blend is 60% Merlot, 15% Syrah (the outlier), 10% Cab Sauv, 10% Cab Franc, 5% Malbec. Lots of fruit, medium/full body, ripe and dark berries and cherries, and SPICE! The Syrah and Malbec, at 20%, make an impact. Black licorice, white pepper, mint and spicy cocoa weave through the wine, start to finish. Gentle tannins and medium/low acidity point to an easy to enjoy, yet intriguing, red wine. This is all from the “Brandlin Vineyard,” owned and farmed by the esteemed Cuvaison Winery. More Information The Brandlin Prince & Pedro Red Blend […]
Although it doesn’t say it on the label, this is all Syrah from Monterey County. The Rhone-head that I am, I like its wild red fruits, gamey, black olive, peppery smell and flavor. Pour this for me blind and tell me it’s Crozes-Hermitage and I would have no reason to dispute it. Medium/high acidity, medium tannins, light on the oak, very perfume-y, alcohol under 14%. Yes indeed, this is trés French. Warrior Angel Red, Central Coast is from the Consecration Wines, a negociant focusing on small-production, excellent value California wines. To see all my reviews of Consecration Wines, GO HERE.
Syrah’s spicy/smoky side introduces you to the Lagier Meredith Syrah 2015. Cracked black pepper, cocoa, black olive and bacon, not “too much” mingle with blue/black/raspberry (all good & ripe) from start to finish. A big burst of briary berries, dark red and blue mostly, slaps the mid palate. And the spice keeps on going, all the while nicely integrated into the fruit. As expected from Lagier Meredith, the wine has solid structure and medium/high acidity that points to a long evolution in bottle. Ideal drinking: I’m thinking 2022-2035. Destemmed before fermentation, aged in oft-used “neutral” French oak, unfiltered. 290 cases […]
Powerful, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from William Hill Winery’s Estate Vineyards along the Silverado Trail in Southeast Napa Valley. Smell and taste dark chocolate, blackberries, dark red cherries, toasted rye bread and an unlit $50 cigar. Tannic just-opened, it quickly opens up and softens as it breathes. Protein (red and dark white meats, beans), nicely salted, does the trick too. William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon “Benchland Series” is a great Napa Cab to enjoy with beefsteak, for sure.
All from Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands, where the wines are not shy. Camino Chardonnay Soberanes is rich, spicy and complex. Smell and taste lemon custard, apple butter, peach purée, nutmeg and roast coffee. With this richness comes an undercurrent of acidity that levitates the wine. I really like how the nutmeg-y spice and roasted flavors from the barrel are integrated into the wine. It is barrel fermented, full malolactic, aged in 30% new French oak. More Information Napa producer Camino is made, owned and operated by Tadeo Borchardt, also the long-time winemaker at Neyers Vineyard. He makes tiny amounts of […]
Műller-Thurgau, the 2nd most planted grape in Germany, is also grown in neighbor countries, and in spots around the world, like Oregon! I love what Anne Amie does with Műller-Thurgau. Smell and taste fresh green apples, honeysuckle, lemon zest, peach skins, maybe a little tangerine, white pepper and a rocky/earthy character on the finish, giving it an old-world, food-wine edge. Low alcohol (12.9?), bright acidity, no oak, killer price. Great brunch wine as it sings with salads, eggs, fresh and cured fish dishes. More Information I’ve become well acquainted with Anne Amie wines from tasting them frequently with their California […]
“Red Blend of Cabernet Franc” states the front label. The blend, exactly is is 60% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot, 11% Petit Verdot and 6% Malbec. Fruit-forward with classic Napa Valley richness, the Crocker & Starr AVA Napa Valley also boasts a savory mixture of tarragon, cocoa, clove, pipe tobacco and black olive. Structured and layered, this is a blend for those looking for something more than just sweet fruit and toasty oak. More Information Winemaker/winery owner Pam Starr utilizes her “AVA Napa Valley” brand to purchase barrels/tanks of wine, making a unique blend, and selling it for a very fair […]
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). A very intriguing and tasty wine that straddles the line of “Bordeaux Style” (darker, richer) and “Loire Style” (brighter, more red fruits) to me. Smell and taste ripe red plums, blueberries, sun-dried thyme and tarragon, black olives and cedar-lined cigar box. Equal parts intensity and heft, thus the Bordeaux-Loire straddle. Acidity elevates the flavors like a champ. 50% new French oak frames the vineyard & fruit-first wine. 15% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. More Information The […]
From a tiny plot of Albariño in “Hudson Vineyard” planted specifically for Kongsgaard. Orange zest, mineral and citrus blossom nose. Then take a sip: tangy! Almost, but not quite, tart. First sip grabs you with acidity, then the palate adjusts and it’s a joy. Lemonheads, yellow grapefruit, Macintosh apple, lemongrass flavors come to mind. Lees-stirring supplies body and texture. This rare white is only available at certain restaurants (no retail purchase, not even from the winery).
100% Cabernet Sauvigon from “Bear Flag Vineyard” north of Calistoga at the base of the Mayacamas mountains. Bordeaux-ish nose of dry aged beef and dried shiitake mushrooms sprinkled over ripe blueberries and Bing cherries. Taste is fresh dark red berries and cherries, slightly liqueur-ish, and a mineral/crushed rock earthy edge. Very firm tannins that cut off the flavors on the finish right now. A decant would certainly help, but this is really built for the cellar and built to last! Enjoy it 2025-2035 for best experience. While $85 is a lot for a bottle of wine, especially one you may […]
Ripe, juicy red cherries, raspberries and sweet cranberries on the nose along with violets and candied ginger introduce you to the Chiron Pinot Noir. Great start. Taste continues on the same path with oolong tea and black truffle flavors sneaking in. Perfect ripeness in my opinion, healthy acidity and structure to make it last for years. Best drinking 2021-2026 (at least). 30% whole cluster ferment, 13.4% alcohol, aged in once-used French oak (almost “neutral”). More Information 2015 is the maiden vintage for Chiron, a miniscule producer based in Napa Valley. It’s a father & son project: the father heads the business […]
A delicious red for drinking anytime, the Poliziano Rosso di Montepulciano is around 80% Sangiovese and 20% Merlot. Flavors of briary, dark red raspberries and strawberries plus red currants, black tea and tarragon. Nice and intense in the mouth with soft tannins, bright acidity, no oak, and a big rush of white pepper-dusted berry fruits on the finish. Enjoy this with everything from sausage pizza to meatloaf to bean soup with root vegetables. I had it tonight with chicken tamales tonight and it was perfect! This is an excellent red to just have around when something good and very reasonably […]
The Domaine des Coteaux des Travers Côtes du Rhône Char à Vin is 50% Grenache, 30% Carignan, 10% Mourvèdre, 10% Syrah. Certified biodynamic winery. Opaque ruby color, nose of cooked fresh raspberries and cracked black peppercorns. It’s wild berry fruits first in the mouth with tasty, peppery spice and dried herbs de Provence swirling about. Soft tannins, medium acidity, juicy, quite bold and fresh. This is a very tasty Southern Rhone Valley red that, for $15 or less, is an easy choice for friendly dinners or when you’re all by your lonesome. More Information From the importer: “A char is a military […]
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 […]
Called “RG” because this is a blend of two of Revello’s Cru vineyards: Rocche dell’Annunziata and Giachini. Shows a depth of fruit, richness, underlying soil, earthy spice and firm, fine tannins that puts it in the conversation with all the best from the region. Boasting power, great structure and complexity, the Revello Barolo RG will be a treat to pull from your cellar and pop open somewhere around 2025. It’s a killer buy for $55 (more or less). More Information The Revello family is going through changes as the next generation takes control of the vineyards and winery (read about […]
Red cherry liqueur, black tea and musk on the nose moves to ripe plums, black truffle and dried violets in the mouth. Relatively soft and quite approachable (the vintage made a more accessible style in Barolo, which is nice), The Revello Barolo 2013 is one to enjoy now through at least 2023. I would call this a classic Barolo because of its clean, honest expression of the place…with a modern side because of its softer texture. Hard to beat the price for high quality Barolo! More Information The Revello family is going through changes as the next generation takes control of the […]
Single vineyard Stag’s Leap District Merlot (location within SLD undisclosed). Red cherries, plum jelly, rare roast beef, coriander, thyme and tarragon smells and flavors is what I get in the Blacksmith Merlot 2014. Medium body, low tannins, medium acidity – classic Napa Merlot “softness.” All lightly framed by toasty, sweet oak. This is a Merlot for Merlot drinkers, not Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers. More Information Winemaker Matt Smith is based in Alameda on the San Francisco Bay. His wines are always well-made, delicious and distinctive for the price. If you had $500 to spend on a variety of good, artisan California […]
Loads of fresh fruit flavors with a background of caramel and toast are in this “classic” Carneros Chardonnay. Partial malolactic and neutral French oak aged accounts for the low butter flavor. The fruit is the star here, and it’s a blend of tropical, pear/apple and citrus. The Blacksmith Chardonnay from Carneros hits the mark! More Information Winemaker Matt Smith is based in Alameda on the San Francisco Bay. His wines are always well-made, delicious and distinctive for the price. If you had $500 to spend on a variety of good, artisan California wine and could only buy from one winery, […]
Delicious, fruity, crisp and clean mèthode traditionelle sparkling from the Languedoc, southern France. The J Laurens Cremant de Limoux Rosé cuvée is Chardonnay, Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir. Get red plums, raspberries, fresh violets, blood oranges. A little creaminess, medium acidity, crystal-clear flavors and a little floral/spicy flavor on the back end & finish. Throw this one back. It’s almost too easy to down!