May 29, 2020
Peter Paul Chardonnay Bacigalupi

Peter Paul Chardonnay Bacigalupi 2018

A beauty of a Chardonnay from start to finish, the Peter Paul Bacigalupi Chardonnay starts with smells of caramel green apples, clover honey, fresh baked bread, roasted peaches and pears. In the mouth the wine is unapologetically rich and full-bodied while keeping a heartbeat of citrus-flavored acidity. Taste lemon custard, toasted coconuts, roast almonds, caramel, nutmeg and baked pears. Make no bones: This is a Chardonnay for fans of the bigger, bolder style…the style that we in the wine business hear the most vocal consumers inexplicably eschew. That’s OK – more for the rest of us. Peter Paul Wines is […]
May 22, 2020
Post & Vine Red Wine

Post & Vine “Old Vine Field Blend” 2016

60ish year old vine field blend of Petite Sirah (30%), Carignane (29%), Zinfandel (25%), and Grenache (16%) from Redwood Valley’s “Testa Vineyard.” The fresh, snappy red and blue fruits, peppercorn spice, potpourri and crushed Provence herbs make for an intense yet restrained red wine that is very versatile at the dinner table. At 14.2% alcohol, the wine shows purity and generous flavors without a port-like or jammy character. I think this will drink at its best from around 2023 to 2030. Post & Vine Owners/Winemakers Rebekah Wineburg and Erica Kinkaid both have “day jobs” making super-high end (and pricey) Napa […]
May 21, 2020
Post & Vine Rose

Post & Vine Rosé of Carignane 2019

The tiny-production Post & Vine Rosé of Carignane has a bright, brilliant red color, a pronounced tang of acidity, focused flavors of tangy raspberry, watermelon and strawberry plus peppery spice, tarragon and white roses. As it breathes the fruitiness comes out, softening the wine’s cutting acidity. Reminds me of Italian Sangiovese Rosato in this way. I preferred it on Day 2…common for Rosé wines not even a year old and recently bottled. Post & Vine Owners/Winemakers Rebekah Wineburg and Erica Kinkaid both have “day jobs” making super-high end (and pricey) Napa Valley Cabernets and such. Post & Vine is their […]
May 19, 2020
Cave Dog Red Wine

Cave Dog Napa Valley Red 2016

This blend of 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Franc from “Beau Terroir,” a vineyard in southwest Napa Valley, could easily be confused for a high end Right Bank Bordeaux from an exceptional vintage. It’s that good. All the expected Bordeaux descriptions rattle off my typing fingers: tobacco, black currant, blackberry, pencil shavings, cedar and sandalwood. The fruit is a smidge more pronounced than its old world counterparts because, hey, it’s Napa. Ultimately the vineyard speaks the loudest with its savory, soily, spicy character showing in the wine. Medium bodied, acidity skates about, fine tannins, complementary French oak. As good as […]
May 19, 2020
Cave Dog Godello

Cave Dog Godello 2019

Starts off with an engaging, controlled nose of dried flowers, candle wax and citrus zest. Tangy and rounded texture in the mouth as flavors of baked green apples, mangoes, Meyer lemons and river rocks take their turn. I really like the beeswax texture of the wine – I’d guess it is Semillon if tasted blind because who would guess Godello? Impressive how delicious this wine is at such a young age. This is 100% Godello (a grape native to the Iberian Peninsula) from Sonoma Valley. Grafted over from another variety in 2009, this was the first and maybe still the […]
May 13, 2020
Halcyon Cabernet Franc

Halcyon Cabernet Franc “Alder Springs” 2018

Begins with smells of plum preserves, lavender, fresh ginger and blueberries. The taste continues with the same goodies plus blood orange, bay leaf, pomegranate and licorice. Everything complementary…not one sensation overwhelms the others. Medium bodied, healthy acidity, smooth tannins. Super-good alone, better with food. Grilled salmon with a soy/ginger/sesame drizzle would be a glorious match. Halcyon Winery is a champion of Cabernet Franc. They make around 6 Cab Francs a year, including 2 sparkling. These are the type of wines that define the next phase of California artisan winemaking as they bring intrigue, personality, passion and risk. Oh, and great […]
May 13, 2020
Cave Dog Albarino

Cave Dog Albarino 2019

Introduces itself with springtime flowers and blossoms, grapefruit and peach. Stone fruits, crisp melon, Meyer lemon and the mysterious “minerality” take turns in the taste. Typical high acidity is countered by a textured roundness (from 4 months lees-ageing is both steel and nuetral oak). It’s young, and I suspect my tasting notes will be more even more enthusiastic when I enjoy in fall 2020 and beyond. Speaking from experience, this 2019 Cave Dog Albariño is more than an aperitif wine. It went toe-to-toe with my home-made pesto pasta studded with spicy sausage and earthy broccoli greens, making a tasty pairing. I […]
May 12, 2020
Onward Malvasia Bianca

Onward Malvasia Bianca 2016

An “aromatic white” through and through, the Onward Malvasia Bianca 2016 smells of lemon verbena, wildflowers, coriander seeds and white pepper. The taste is intense, smooth and filled with fresh lemon zest, crisp pear and citrus bitters flavors. Medium/light bodied, pure and penetrating, it’s an ideal wine to pair with similarly light and strong flavored dishes. Thai and Vietnamese food both come to mind. Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation and passion of winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. I very much like her vineyard-driven winemaking and affinity for the esoteric while not being too much “out there.” Oh yeah, and the […]
May 12, 2020
Onward Petillant Naturel

Onward Pétillant Naturel Rosé of Pinot Noir 2018

Rusty orange color like Provence Rosé. Spicy, savory aroma of cherry skins, ruby grapefruit zest, arugula and pomegranate. Tasty, non-fruity flavors of dry herbs de Provence, red apples, spiced cherry, crushed almonds and cherry pit. Delicious non-fruity flavors, textured and multi-dimensional. Not your fruity, easy going bottle of bubbles…this is a sparkling wine for grown-ups. Here’s a primer on Pétillant Naturel if you need it. Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation and passion of winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. I very much like her vineyard-driven winemaking and affinity for the esoteric while not being too much “out there.” Oh yeah, […]
May 12, 2020
Olivia Brion Pinot Noir

Miss Olivia Brion Pinot Noir 2016

More savory and spicy than fruity, the 2016 Olivia Brion Pinot immediately impresses with dried red roses, oil-cured olives, dry-aged beef filet and concentrated dark cherries. In the mouth black truffle, black cherry, blackberry, warm spices and roast coffee, all nicely married, make for a lot of pleasure. Rich, textured and bold with classic Pinot Noir restraint and a long 15 second finish that I can see stretching out to 25 in a couple of years. This is the 40th and final vintage of “Heron Lake Vineyard” Pinot Noir for winemaker David Mahaffey. With this 2016 he is leaving on […]
May 8, 2020
Onward Syrah

Onward Syrah “Ledgewood” 2017

Exotic Syrah nose of jasmine, black pepper, lavender, black olive and dark, ripe cherry, raspberry and blueberry. In the mouth the wine is juicy and friendly – something everyone will like. While the Syrah flavor is turned down on the taste, it does welcome more drinkers for that reason. Cola and subtle barrel flavors marry the ample fruit on the finish that’s medium acidity and gentle on the tannins. Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation and passion of winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. I very much like her vineyard-driven winemaking and affinity for the esoteric while not being too much […]
May 6, 2020
Onward Carignane

Onward Carignane “Hawkeye Ranch” 2015

Made from 80+ year old, dry-farmed, certified organic vines in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. Deep, very ripe blackberry and raspberry fruit flavors along with classic old vine Carignane sensations of cracked black peppercorns, herbs de Provence, lavender and cocoa powder. While the flavors are many, it comes at you in a straightforward, uncomplicated way. It’s a mouthful of rich, vinous fun. What more can you ask? Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation and passion of winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. I very much like her vineyard-driven winemaking and affinity for the esoteric while not being too much “out there.” Oh yeah, […]
May 6, 2020
Mi Terruno Malbec

Mi Terruño Malbec “Reserve” 2016

Strong red berry compote and toasty oak at first whiff quickly transforms to a layered, deep red fruit, strong yet balanced red wine. Get kirsch, fresh blueberries, licorice, mineral, crushed thyme and black pepper. Medium/full bodied with soft tannins and acidity that give the wine structure. I had this wine with grilled flap steak tacos. It was the bomb! Crazy good wine for $19. This wine is available for purchase from its importer, Copa Fina, who brings in the wines of 28 small family wineries from Spain, Italy, New Zealand and South America. Everything I’ve tasted from the portfolio is pretty, […]
May 5, 2020
Farmstrong Field White

Farmstrong “Field White” 2016

Three grape blend of Grenache Blanc, Albariño, Verdelho, all from Suisun Valley vineyards. Orchard fruits and honeysuckle on the nose. Taste ripe pears and peaches, Meyer lemon and honeycomb (sans the sweetness). Creamy texture like Chardonnay yet with distinctly different flavor profile. Long, 20+ second finish of floral, fruit and pleasant lemon bitters. Really classy and flat-out delicious wine. A real bargain for $20-22/bottle. Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation and passion of winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. I very much like her vineyard-driven winemaking and affinity for the esoteric while not being too much “out there.” Oh yeah, and […]
May 5, 2020
Onward Pinot Noir Cerise

Onward Pinot Noir “Cerise” 2013

Multi-layered, intense and light on its feet, the 2013 Onward Cerise Pinot Noir has a bright, lighter red color, smells of griottes (fancy for wild red cherries), rose-scented candle wax, nutmeg and pretty French oak. The flavors go in the same direction with raspberry, floral incense, dried orange peel and black tea sneaking in there. The style and the 12.9% alcohol places the wine firmly in the “ethereal” camp of Pinot Noir. Make no mistake – if this is your preferred style of Pinot Noir, it delivers as well as any from California. Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation […]
May 4, 2020
Coup de Foudre Les Bouquinistes 17

Coup de Foudre “Les Bouquinistes” 2017

This blend of 42% Petit Verdot, 32% Petit Sirah, 13% Merlot and 13% Zinfandel, all from vineyards in Calistoga, takes the “modern red blend” category to a higher level of quality. It is loaded with rich berry and cherry compote fruitiness plus black licorice, peppermint, vanilla bean and cocoa smells and flavors. The smooth tannins, full body and medium-low acidity make for a whole lot of pleasure without needing a lot of analysis. Coup de Foudre is one of the wine brands owned by Napa Vintner and entrepreneur John Schwartz. Kent Jarman is the winemaker. The wines (9 each vintage […]
May 1, 2020
Pago Ayles Y

Pago Ayles “Y” 2014

This blend of 34% Garnacha, 27% Tempranillo, 23% Merlot and 16% Cabernet Sauvignon is a mouthful of spicy dark berry flavors with underpinnings of rocky earth. Smell and taste cinnamon, black cherry liqueur, ripe blackberries, licorice, crushed rocks and vanilla. Medium to full body, soft tannins and a happy core of acidity make this a great drinking red wine now and through at least 2025…although it’s so good now why wait that long? Pago Ayles is one of only 19 Vino de Pago in Spain. (A Vino de Pago is a classification for Spanish wine applied to individual vineyards or […]
April 30, 2020
White Rock Chardonnay

White Rock Chardonnay 2016

There are those Napa wineries that say they make a crisper, more refreshing style of Chardonnay, and then there is White Rock Vineyards who actually does it. They’ve been doing it a long time, too, and it seemingly keeps getting the better. The 2016 White Rock Chardonnay case in point. Granny Smith apple, ripe lemon, lemon cucumber, white peach and zesty pineapple. Medium bodied, zippy acidity, grand balance between ripe and tang. For what White Rock is trying to achieve with this wine, it’s absolutely perfect, and I love it.
April 24, 2020
Hudson Phoenix

Hudson “Phoenix” 2017

Blend of 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Franc from the relatively cool-climate (for Napa) Hudson Estate in The Carneros. Bright, deep red berry and cherry aromas with a pretty frame of French oak (90% new French used, seems to be light to medium toast). Flavors move to more fruit, including dark red plums, new leather, cigar tobacco, roast red pepper and anise. While the tannins are substantial, they are fine and in balance with the multiple layers. Strong wine like an Olympic gymnast rather than an NFL lineman. Intriguing story, the 2017 Hudson Phoenix. 2017 was the last vintage Hudson […]
April 23, 2020
Hudson White Study

Hudson “White Study” 2019

Taking a page from Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy, Hudson White Study 2019 is a blend of 45% Ribolla Gialla, 45% Tocai Friulano and 10% Chardonnay. Sea shells on the ocean beach, crushed almonds and pear skins on the nose. In the mouth I get lemon zest, honeydew melon and slightly green banana. Then something cool happens as the texture, flavors and finish go to the darker side: roast almonds and brown mushrooms perhaps. The reasonably long finish will get much longer as the wine gets more time in bottle. Fermentation took place in a combination of steel, concrete and oak, […]
April 23, 2020
Hudson Aleatico

Hudson Aleatico 2019

This rare, ancient grape of Corsica, central Italy or Greek origin is a cool oddity in Napa Valley. Not only is the grape seldom seen, it is almost never made into a white/Rosé wine. I can’t write never because that’s what this is! Grapes are pressed off their skin ASAP to make a honey-white colored wine. It’s a minerally, tangy wine with notes of celery hearts, quince, and lemon blossom. Its rounded texture on the mid-palate set it apart from crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. Aleatico is in the Black Muscat family of grapes, but at my […]
April 23, 2020
Hudson Chardonnay

Hudson Chardonnay Estate 2018

Lightly toasted marshmallow, lemon custard and nutmeg introduce the Hudson Chardonnay 2018. These smells continue on in the mouth along with dark honey, roasted green apples and pears and ripe citrus. No doubt this is a rich, voluptuous style, but that’s not half the story. The great vineyard site and meticulous farming produce world-class quality grapes that partner with the layers of winemaking. Vintage to vintage the Hudson Chardonnay is in the conversation as the best California Chardonnay in the $50-$75 range.   Lee & Cristina Hudson and the entire Hudson Ranch team close the circle of environment, land, farming and taste. […]
April 23, 2020
Hudson Grenache Rose

Hudson Grenache Rosé 2019

Hudson Ranch harvests one block of Grenache for this “intentional Rosé.” Pressed off its skins the morning it is harvested, making for a VERY light Rosé hue. Smell and taste fresh pink rose petals, lilacs, lemon-strawberry, papaya and white pepper. In the middle of this more austere wine is a fruity core of citrus, tropical and wild strawberry. This is drinking particularly well for a Rosé so recently bottled. Lee & Cristina Hudson and the entire Hudson Ranch team close the circle of environment, land, farming and taste. The goodness that comes off of Hudson Ranch goes way beyond wine. […]
April 22, 2020
Hudson Grenache

Hudson Grenache Pick Up Sticks 2018

I was taken with the 2018 Hudson Grenache “Pick Up Sticks” at first smell. Grenache’s dark strawberry compote, licorice, cinnamon and lavender are sweet and sexy. In the mouth it’s medium bodied, both fruity & savory and spicy with firm tannins at first – resuscitation in the glass or a decanter soften those tannins in about 15 minutes. This tasty little number reminds me of a cooler-microclimate Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or high end Côtes du Rhône (Château Fonsalette, anyone?). 10% Syrah in the blend. Aged in really big (500 Liter) practically neutral French oak barrels. Lee & Cristina Hudson and the entire […]