Lush, supple and sexy, the 2017 Farm Cabernet Sauvignon pours out dark purple. Its smells and flavors are straightforward blackberry liqueur, kirsch, dark chocolate, toasty cinnamon rolls and black licorice. With loads of big rich flavors, full body and smooth tannins, this is a perfect bottle for Napa Cabernet fans looking for satisfaction at under $50/bottle. FARM Napa Valley is owned and made by John Anthony Truchard, who has also flourished with his labels JAM, BUTTER and John Anthony. All the grapes for Farm Chardonnay are farmed and managed, and often owned, by John Anthony.
100% Syrah from a single vineyard somewhere in Northern Rhone Valley. (It’s IGP Collines Rhodaniennes, a broad designation covering a lot of the Northern Rhone.) Quality fruit and precise winemaking makes for a fruit and spice-driven, medium bodied, ready to drink Syrah. Start to finish you get ripe blueberries, black raspberries, cracked pepper, anise and black olive. Medium acidity, fine tannins. Combo of steel tank and neutral barrel ageing for around six months: not oaky. I poured this wine at a Cuilleron wine class and the room went nuts over it. I suggest finding some of this before it’s all […]
The inimitable, prolific Yves Cuilleron makes a few thousand cases of this saignée Rosé, all Syrah from his hometown of Chavanay (which is the southern end of Condrieu in the Northern Rhone Valley.) The wine’s prettiness and relative delicacy doesn’t make me think saignée. Get the raspberries, strawberries and cherries along with a lime-y citrus and, naturally, cracked black pepper. It’s very dry and easy to like, especially on the finish when an earnest berry flavor kicks in. I poured this wine at the Yves Cuilleron tasting I led. It won the room over – all 20 of us. The […]
A Provence-like orange and peach skin hue followed by a crisp, blood orange, faint cherry/rasperry and white pepper flavor makes me think more Southern France than Zinfandel Rose, quite frankly. No complaining. It’s tasty, and I think it’s a style and quality that will make the majority of Rose drinkers happy. It’s tangy not tart, with fruit but not fruity. Gets a smiley face for texture. Drink with or without food. It’s a perfect lemon/garlic grilled chicken wine, I imagine. My family and I cruised down to the recently opened Prima Materia tasting room in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. Very cool […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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%.
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 […]
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 […]
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. […]
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]