October 18, 2018
Dosnon Champagne Recolte Noire

Dosnon Champagne Recolte Noire

Subtle red fruit scents of raspberries, strawberries and cherries with violets and apricot sneaking in. The low dosage (about 5 Grams/Liter residual sugar, which is low) and earth-driven base wines make for an athletic Champagne with power and intensity. The Dosnon Champagne Recolte Noire is less fruity and more earthy than most Blanc de Noirs for sure. More Information This up-and-coming Grower-Producer in the Cote des Bar, southern Champagne, makes dynamite wine, and his prices are extremely fair. This is all Pinot Noir, barrel-fermented and aged (in Puligny-Montrachet barrels) then aged in bottle for 2-3 years (average length of time) […]
June 25, 2018
Olivia Brion Taquine

OLIVIA BRION “Taquine” 2017

Blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, Vermentino and Orange Muscat. Orange blossoms, honeysuckle, mango and Meyer lemon aromas move to tastes of the same with a food-friendly bittersweet note of lemon bitters and peach pit. Floral, exotic, fresh and MORE than just exotic and fun. The chalky/lemon herbal finish makes for an interesting wine for food pairings. Raw oysters with Taquine is the winemaker’s first choice. More Information Best known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their Estate “Heron Lake Vineyard” in Napa & Solano’s Wild Horse Valley, Olivia Brion Winery “dabbles” in small lots of interesting wines from Santa Barbara […]
June 2, 2018
Campesino Alina 2015

CAMPESINO “Alina” White Wine 2015

A Northern-Rhone Valley-style white wine, “Alina” falls into the “aromatic white” category with its bright citrus, apple blossom, honeysuckle, peach nectar personality. This is half Marsanne, half Roussanne, co-fermented in tank then aged in neutral barrel. Get white peach, fresh Meyer lemon, fresh pineapple and Key lime, all lightly coated with a springtime flower aroma. Medium/light bodied, refreshing acidity, loaded with flavor while keeping a semblance of restraint. I challenge a wine drinker to NOT like this…impossible! And for $28, golly. More Information Campesino Cellars is owned and made by husband/wife Griselda and Macario Montoya (Macario is the winemaker). They […]
June 2, 2018
Gather Rose

GATHER Rosé of Tempranillo 2017

So darn tasty…wild strawberry, peach, Meyer lemon and white pepper nose transitions to flavors of blood oranges, berries and that peppery spice. I love the acidity…high enough to make it come across as VERY dry, yet it allows the ripe fruit to come forth. All is balanced to a T. While on the higher side for domestic Rosé at $26, it’s worth every darn penny. More Information GATHER is a super-tiny “Mom & Pop” winery. Jessica Tarpy is the Mom and winemaker (she is also the assistant winemaker at Favia). The “main” wine of Gather is “Decimo,” a mostly Tempranillo-based […]
June 2, 2018
Jean Vesselle Champagne

JEAN VESSELLE Champagne, Brut “Reserve”

I know this Champagne well. It’s as good as ever. In the broad-shoulders category of Champagne because of it’s blend (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay) and the region (Bouzy, Montagne de Reims – clay-rich soils). Smell and taste baked red apples, red currants, raspberry, pink roses and tellicherry peppercorns. Mouth-filling, moderately creamy, roasted almond/roasted lemon finish. This is a solid bottle of bubbles from a tiny, family-run Champagne house! 
June 2, 2018
Longtable The Gathering

LONGTABLE “The Gathering” Red 2013

A Southern-Rhone style blend of 50% Grenache, 47% Syrah and 3% Petite Sirah from a single vineyard on Mount Veeder. It’s “Estate” in that the vineyard is winery-owned, but winemaking happens elsewhere, so it’s technically not. Smell and taste deep, dark black and blueberries with allspice, black licorice, cola and smoked red meat back-ups. Strong wine, with firm, fine tannins and a small explosion of flavor as it sits in your mouth. Longtable waits almost five years after harvest to release The Gathering so it’s ready. It’s sort of ready…it’ll start peaking in 2020 is my guess. Grapes are co-fermented with […]
June 2, 2018
Hudson Grenache Rose

HUDSON Grenache Rosé 2017

On the lightest, crispest side of Rosé. Smell and taste wild strawberries, pink rose petals, red plums, peach, fennel and green tea. Tangy, fat-cutting acidity and intense. A much better food companion than a porch-sipper. I compare this more to a cool northern French (Loire, Burgundy) Rosé than a southern French style. One of Hudson Ranch’s many passions is raising heritage pigs for consumption. A Hudson Ranch slow-roasted pork butt from would make a fine companion. From a block of mature Grenache vines on Hudson Ranch. “Purposeful Rosé,” the Grenache grapes are squeezed (“whole cluster pressed”) straight from the vineyard, […]
June 2, 2018
Tres Sabores Rose

TRES SABORES Rosé 2017

Equal parts red berries, citrus and orchard fruit, this very dry style Rosé stands out for its crisp, floral, subtle yet intense style. Smell and taste raspberries, lemon blossoms, white pepper, guava and grapefruit. Meant for food, especially grilled or poached shrimp, smoked trout, charcuterie and oysters on the half shell. More information Made from 75%  Tres Sabores Estate Zinfandel on Rutherford Bench + 25% Petite Sirah from Calistoga: An early harvest was made to make this “Rosé with intent” in the words of owner/winemaker Julie Johnson. Fermented cold in steel tank where the wine lived 6 months before bottling. This […]
June 2, 2018
Hudson White Study

Hudson “White Study” 2017

Light, bright and intense, “White Study” is a unique, tiny-production wine that Hudson Vineyards makes as much for their own pleasure as to sell. Four grape blend: three Italian varietals Ribolla, Arneis and Friulano and Albariño (Spanish origin) finishing it off at 18% of the blend. Steel tank & neutral oak fermented and briefly aged. Smell and taste lemon zest, citrus blossoms, grapefruit, lemongrass, kiwi and Macintosh apples. High acidity – almost tingles on the tongue. No oak flavor. It’s hard to compare to other wines, but I’ll give it a go…Dry Riesling from a cool, coastal wine region. Fried […]
June 2, 2018
Terrien Chardonnay 2012

TERRIEN Chardonnay 2012

It’s not everyday I taste and review 6 year old California Chardonnay. The stand-out Terrien Chardonnay is an exception. Starts with dried lemon peel and Granny Smith apple wedges, lightly roasted hazelnut, citrus blossoms and oyster shells. The taste starts with the same good stuff plus honey-drizzled grapefruit and quince paste. Like White Burgundy, acidity is a key element of the wine start to finish. It’s really cool, and delicious too. More Information This is all Hanzell Vineyard fruit – great hillside vineyards outside the town of Sonoma. Michael’s time spent at Hanzell in the 2000s as winemaker and GM […]
June 2, 2018
Cochon Whole Hog Red Wine

COCHON “Whole Hog” 2015

44% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 15% Carignane, 10% Cinsault, 5% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier. Napa Valley and Lodi are the two main sources for the grapes. The Syrah (from Phoenix Ranch in Southern Napa) takes centerstage with its dark blueberry/blackberry, black olive, peppery, intense smell and flavor. This is rich, ripe and strong. You get a lot of flavor and quality for your money here…that said, I suspect it will greatly improve with another year in bottle. Keep some around until summer 2019 if you can. I highly recommend you get to know the three labels under the Cochon “umbrella.” They are […]
June 2, 2018
Lingua Franca Chardonnay Bunker Hill

LINGUA FRANCA Chardonnay “Bunker Hill” 2016

Bright, rich and substantial. Smell and taste lemon-honey, Macintosh apples, grapefruit, lime, pineapple, fresh pie crust and hazelnut. The crisp citrus and orchard fruits burst out in the mouth along with bits of buttercream, brine and chalk. This is intense and full-bodied while at the same time being impressively “fit.” While giving due respects to owner Larry Stone and winemaker Thomas Savre, you can taste the “touch” of consulting winemaker Dominique Lafon. More Information Lingua Franca is the inspiration of Master Sommelier and great Wine Ambassador Larry Stone. (It’s also of significant note that Dominique Lafon of Burgundy’s Comtes Lafon, […]
June 2, 2018
Campesino Syrah Las Madres

CAMPESINO Syrah “Las Madres” 2015

Pours out dark purple and rich. Smell and taste crushed, ripe blueberries, lavender, fire-roasted leg of lamb, dark coffee, crushed black peppercorns, black currants, soy sauce, cocoa. 30 second finish gets more smoky and spicy (passilla pepper, clove). Sweet, ripe sensations, rich, medium acidity and smooth tannins. This, to my taste, is the best style of Syrah that California can offer: California ripeness with old-world style meaty/spicy/savory deliciousness. More Information Campesino Cellars is owned and made by husband/wife Griselda and Macario Montoya (Macario is the winemaker). They honor their Mexican heritage by naming their winery in honor of the Campesinos, […]
June 2, 2018
Campesino Rose Isa 2017

CAMPESINO “Isa” Rosé 2017

This single-vineyard Grenache from eastern Sonoma Coast AVA (between Sonoma and Petaluma) is picked to make Rosé (“intentional”), fermented and aged 6 months in neutral French oak barrels. Equally citrus and stone fruits as red berries. I get blood orange, ripe peach, and wild strawberry along with white pepper, tarragon and mint tea. Has bright acidity (nice & tangy) counter-balanced by its generous fruitiness. Drinks nicely on its own and further blossoms with mild cheeses and white meats. More Information Campesino Cellars is owned and made by husband/wife Griselda and Macario Montoya (Macario is the winemaker). They honor their Mexican […]
June 1, 2018
FORTUNE 1621 Cabernet Sauvignon

FORTUNE 1621 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Dark berry and cherry compote, cocoa and cinnamon nose moves to more of the same fruits, pomegranate syrup, dark chocolate and blueberry pie flavors. Rich, smooth, and very satisfying. I am so impressed with how good this wine is, year to year, for under $30/bottle. Napa Cabernet fans looking for a reasonably priced “House Wine” should buy this by the case. 13% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot in the blend. 30% new oak, mostly French oak. Fortune 1621 Cabernet Sauvignon eaasily makes my Best of the Best list. I tasted this at Darms Lane, overlooking their vineyards in Napa’s Oak Knoll […]
June 1, 2018
Darms Lane Chardonnay

Darms Lane Chardonnay 2015

I genuinely like this style of California Chardonnay. Oak, cream and butter go hand-in-hand with melon, citrus and bright apple smells and flavors. I like its youthful spirit (comes from healthy acidity and fresh fruit flavors) and at the same time has those luscious Chardonnay sensations (toasty barrel, unsalted butter, caramel) that work so well with the grape. I could hardly believe the wine is only $28 (the function of owning your vineyards for the last 28 years). This easily makes my Best of the Best list. All Oak Knoll District (Southwest Napa benchland) fruit. The relatively moderate temperatures (relative […]
May 31, 2018
Otra Vez Cabernet Sauvignon

OTRA VEZ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Otra Vez Cabernet Sauvignon is the companion label for Calistoga’s Vincent Arroyo. This is a delicious, well-made Cabernet made in a “balanced style,” i.e. grapes picked ripe but not “too ripe,” resulting in 13.8% alcohol. With that, it’s light on the barrel, letting the natural flavors of Cab Sauv come forth. Smell and taste black currants & cassis, violets, ripe red plums, pomegranate, sandalwood and sage. Has bright acidity (for Napa Cab), fine tannins and a 3-layer, 20 second finish. Lots going on here for $33 (found just one merchant selling it on Winesearcher – click the Winesearcher link below). […]
May 30, 2018
Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir

INNOCENT BYSTANDER Pinot Noir 2015

The highly regarded yet rather unknown wine district Central Otago is on the southern half of New Zealand’s South Island (that’s pretty far down there). Being so far south makes for a higher-risk/higher reward dynamic for fine wine, especially Pinot Noir. Innocent Bystander hit the mark and, unusual for the region, sells for the reasonable price of $25 considering the quality. Smell and taste wild red cherries, fresh violets, anise, pomegranate, cocoa and dried mushrooms. Medium-full bodied, medium acidity, ripe and robust in the mouth. This is equally tasty by itself and with food (salmon, light pork, roast vegetables). This […]
May 30, 2018
Innocent Bystander Sauvignon Blanc

INNOCENT BYSTANDER Sauvignon Blanc 2017

If you’re wary of Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, you’re not alone. It falls into the “too ___” complaint box, as in too grassy, too green, too tart. I suggest you give this a try as it possesses the distinctive flavors of NZ SB but not too much of anything. Smell and taste lime blossoms, pink grapefruit, fresh white peaches, Granny Smith apples and a fresh herb trio of fennel, lemongrass and Italian parsley. Bright, tingly acidity and pleasing texture on the back end. Good stuff. This wine is imported and can be purchased from Old Bridge Cellars in Napa. […]
May 30, 2018
Brokenwood Semillon

BROKENWOOD Semillon, Hunter Valley 2016

If you’re a fan of bright-acid white wines that sing even sweeter with food, then quality Semillon from Australia’s Hunter Valley should be in your repertoire. And here’s an excellent one to start, or continue. Smell and taste grapefruit, crisp green apples, lemon oil, lemon/lime, kiwi (frankly, if you can think of a fruit that is green and tangy, you can make a case that its flavor is in here), celery hearts, lemongrass. It’s medium-light bodied, high intensity and, while very lean and fit throughout, has a roundness to it on the finish. All these descriptions are common for world-class […]
May 29, 2018
Chateau de Vie Cabernet

Chateau de Vie Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

This plush, rich, spicy (from the oak) Cabernet would be “over the top” stylistically for some and perfect for others. I know lots of Cab drinkers who would call it perfect. Smell and taste blackberry jam, melting dark chocolate, allspice, black licorice and toasty/smoky oak. It’s mouth-filling, strong and just a tad sweet…definitely a “modern style” of Napa Cabernet. It makes sense as the winemaker is Dave Phinney of Orin Swift fame. He has made this Cabernet “on the side” for Chateau de Vie for many years. This is high quality juice for $54.
May 29, 2018
Abiouness Amrita

ABIOUNESS “Amrita” 2017

Mighty floral and aromatic from start to finish. Get orange blossoms, lemon zest, fresh ginger, pineapple and honeysuckle…and lots of them. It sits lightly yet intently in the mouth with fruit, floral and spice all playing their part. Fermented completely dry. That said, this super-aromatic white wine is the type some will call “sweet” by knee-jerk reaction. That would be incorrect. A little bit of lemon seed bitterness on the finish (so slight that it’s a good thing). I won’t say this is a wine for everyone, but in my fantasy world it would be! More Information Nicole Abiouness, long-time […]
May 24, 2018
Keep Counoise

KEEP Counoise 2017

Usually found in France’s Southern Rhone Valley as a minor player in a Chateauneuf-du-Pape blend, it makes a delicious wine on its own. Keep made this wine using the carbonic method (whole grapes slowly break apart as they ferment). What a fun, wild red wine this is. Spiced strawberries, red earth, wild herbs, pomegranate, white pepper. Wildness in a good way. Very low tannins and medium acidity. While this wine is not a show-off, it will be noticed. I’m thinking grilled salmon is my #1 match. More Information KEEP is an up-and-coming, husband & wife made/operated tiny winery based in […]
May 24, 2018
Keep ciliegiolo

KEEP Ciliegiolo 2017

Good chance this is an addition to your mental grape encyclopedia. It was for me when I tasted this earlier this year. Ciliegiolo is found in Tuscany and Umbria, central Italy. Keep found a plot of it growing in Lodi and think it is the only Ciliegiolo growing in California. The name translated to “little cherry” and I can see why. Lots of wild cherry flavor, and along for the ride get fresh red roses, lavender (it’s very floral!), and a wild Mediterranean spice/red fruit flavor that I can’t put my finger on. Medium acidity and Keep-typical modest alcohol (12.5%). […]