May 24, 2018
Keep Picpoul/Grenache Blanc

KEEP Picpoul / Grenache Blanc 2016

Picpoul and Grenache Blanc, grapes commonly found in Southern France, are the ingredients in this tangy, low-alcohol (10.5%), mouth-watering white wine. I get “Lemon Three Ways,” as in lemon zest, lemongrass and lemon pulp. Green apples and honeysuckle too. If a wine can be called fun, this would qualify. Serve well chilled with shellfish, vegetable platters and fresh cheeses. Or all by its lonesome. All the grapes for this wine come from a “Windmill Vineyard” near Woodland and about 25 miles Northwest of Sacramento. More Information KEEP is an up-and-coming, husband & wife made/operated tiny winery based in Napa. They […]
May 22, 2018
Villa Varda Friulano

VILLA VARDA Friulano 2017

A native grape to Friuli, Friulano flourishes next to the better known, better-selling Pinot Grigio grape (Villa Varda also makes a delicious Pinot Grigio for about the same price, by the way). Zippy and earthy (in a crushed white rock kind of way), the Villa Varda Friulano brings together a bright, citrus-driven fruitiness and a chalky, mineral-y earthy character. Wound up to the point of being austere, it is almost too much so. Almost, that is, as the orchard fruit, Eureka lemon and grapefruit flavors “pop” on the mid-palate. This is a really nice match with fresh goat and sheep milks […]
May 22, 2018
Terrien Pinot Noir

TERRIEN Pinot Noir 2015

If you like a little “meat” to your Pinot Noir, get this. Reason being, along with the wild cherry, red currant and blood orange associated with cool climate Pinot Noir (and this is indeed cool – see note below), get raw dry-aged beef, or rare lamb loin, or sausage aging room, or all of them. It’s pleasing, and for Burgundy fans it will remind you of a very good Volnay. Dried rose petals and five spice come to mind too in this medium-bodied, bright acidity, savory 30 second finish Pinot. Owner/winemaker Michael Terrien buys his Pinot Noir grapes from very […]
May 22, 2018
Cochon Chardonnay Collines d'Or

COCHON Chardonnay “Les Collines d’Or” 2016

Cochon Wineries’ first foray into Chardonnay. This is a “little bit of everything not too much of anything” style. Subtle yet unmistakable “Chardonnay flavors” of honeydew melon, fresh pear, lemon custard, hazelnut, sweet butter and wheat toast here, with a jasmine/rocky component too. Nice, rounded texture, medium acidity and low oak. I find this an exceptional “food wine” because no one component particularly jumps out, but it’s all there. I highly recommend you get to know the three labels under the Cochon “umbrella.” They are Cochon, Odisea and Élevé. They are all made by, and co-owned by, Adam Webb. The […]
May 22, 2018
Villa Varda Refosco

VILLA VARDA Friuli Grave – Refosco 2016

Starts out with aromas of brambly berries (black and raspberries), anise, black pepper and rosemary. Taste is more of the same with no one flavor dominating the others. Summertime berries, rosemary/thyme, peppercorns and black truffle. All lightly polished by gentle winemaking and brief time in barrel. Reminds me of high quality Côtes du Rhône (which admittedly is a personal favorite). I was really taken by this wine regardless of price. Then to see it sells in the mid-teens – crazy.   Villa Varda is an Estate vineyard at the base of The Alps in the upper right corner of Italy. […]
May 22, 2018
Petit Batard Red Wine

PETIT BATARD Napa Valley 2013

1/3rd each Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec from Lewelling Ranch, St. Helena and Oakville Station, Oakville. A sturdy, spicy frame of toasty oak (38 months in 1/3rd new French) introduces the wine. Then ripe blackberries, kirsch, black licorice, clove and dark chocolate step forward. Big flavor throughout, firm structure yet supple with sweet sensations. This is a wine most definitely for big Napa Cab and Napa red blends fans. More information Petit Batard is the second label for XTANT, which is also a tiny-production, under the radar label. The wines are very good in a big, bold style.
May 22, 2018
Sojourn Pinot Gap's Crown

SOJOURN Pinot Noir “Gaps Crown” 2016

Powerhouse, hearty, deep and dark nose of black cherry, cola, toasted French oak and cinnamon stick. It’s a bell-ringer in the mouth with potent fruit (very ripe & dark red berries/cherries), pie spice and black licorice flavors. Full-bodied for Pinot Noir with smooth tannins and medium-low acidity. This is Sojourn’s “bigger is better” Pinot Noir offering. From the eastern Sonoma Coast AVA, at the base of Sonoma Mountain, Gap’s Crown is one of Sojourn’s mainstay vineyard sources. For good reason: this vineyard makes their strongest Pinot from year to year, and they’ve developed a strong following for it. More Information […]
May 22, 2018
Poseidon Chardonnay

POSEIDON Chardonnay 2016

Begins with aromas of ripe pears, lemon curd and fresh, toasty biscuits. Taste honeydew melon, quince paste, ripe lemon, honey-grahams and pear tart. Pie spice, fresh butter and toasty brown pie crust on the finish. This has all the flavors that make rich Chardonnay drinkers cry, “YES!”  It’s a full-flavored Chardonnay with grace. What the heck does Chardonnay with grace mean? California sunshine soaks the Estate vineyard after cool Carneros fog lifts just before lunchtime. Malolactic, lees aging and some new oak aging. There’s your full-flavor. As for grace, that comes from growing killer grapes, the acidity from the foggy […]
May 21, 2018
Veronica Ortega Mencia ROC

VERONICA ORTEGA Mencia “ROC” 2013

Dark plums, black raspberries, white pepper, lavender and cocoa on the nose set the stage for this particularly strong, well structured Bierzo. Deep dark berry fruits + a little pomegranate syrup combine with white pepper, dried violets and lavender and dry Provence herbs in the mouth. Intense, full-flavored and age-worthy. Compared to excellent Red Burgundy with these descriptions. Flavors are different though – Bierzo is more wild and care-free to me. Enjoy this wine with roast pork shoulder, spiced/grilled salmon and roast root vegetables. More Information Bierzo is the region. We are in Northwest Spain, where cool-climate Galicia meets inland […]
May 19, 2018
Le Cupole Trinoro

Trinoro “Le Cupole” Rosso 2015

Since the late 1990s Tenuta di Trinoro’s Bordeaux-style red blends have been some of the world’s buys. The 2015 Trinor0 Le Cupole Rosso is 58% Cabernet Franc, 32% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot. All “Estate” fruit located in the southeast corner of Tuscany. Powerful, dark, spiced and very structured (tannic) today, this is built to age (a function of the ripe 2015 vintage…Le Cupole is usually not so tannic. But they’re “good tannins” that will soften over time.)  Smell and taste black currants, blackberries, tar, dark chocolate, kirsch, black truffle, cola and black olive. If you need to buy […]
May 19, 2018
J Rickards Cabernet AV Select

J. RICKARDS Cabernet Sauvignon “A.V. Select” 2016

An extrovert of a Cabernet, the J Rickards “AV Select” Cabernet is full of black cherry liqueur, ripe blackberries, toasty oak, espresso and mint smells and flavors. Rich, mouth-filling, juicy and strong but not at all tannic, this sexy, simple, full-flavored Cabernet hits the bold style it’s going for bulls-eye. If I owned a steak-house restaurant, I would buy as much as I could of this Cab and pour it by the glass. More Information A northern Alexander Valley vineyard and winery near Cloverdale, J Rickards has consistently impressed me for their high quality and fair prices. Their business model […]
May 19, 2018
Prima Materia Arcanum III

PRIMA MATERIA “Arcanum No III” Red

“Arcanum” is a Dolcetto-based, non-vintage red blend. This dark berry fruit, brooding, earthy/spicy quality is not what you expect from Dolcetto (I wonder what % is Dolcetto? Guessing around 50%.) Smell and taste black figs, blackberries, dry aged beef, pipe tobacco, tea leaves. Ripe core of fruit in the middle with savory flavors all around it. Reminds me of a Southern Italian red: nice and rustic. $21 is a great deal for this wine. More Information Prima Materia’s vineyard is in western Lake County. Volcanic soils, 1500 feet elevation, continental climate (very hot days and cool nights). Not your typical […]
May 17, 2018
La Bruja de Rozas

COMANDO G La Bruja de Rozas 2016

All Garnacha (Grenache), 50-80 year old vines, in the high altitude, rocky & rugged Sierra de Gredos mountains outside of Madrid. La Bruja de Rozas, the “entry level” multi-vineyard sourced Grenache from Comando G Winery, is just fantastic. Fermented in concrete tank then aged in super-big, mostly neutral oak barrel. Very pretty and intense, showing wild strawberry and plums, lavender, rosemary, thyme and Turkish spice smells and flavors. Medium body and acidity, intensity of flavor, lip-smacking fruit and, overall, a strong, pure, perfectly ripe style. This is buy-a-case worthy. Comando G La Bruja de Rozas 2016 is on my Best […]
May 17, 2018
Philip Staley Sangiovese Rose

PHILIP STALEY Sangiovese Rosé 2017

On the denser, fuller-flavored side of Rosé, Sangiovese’s character comes out (from picking a touch later…this is 14.1% alcohol). Smell and taste wild cherry (cherry skins keep coming to mind – a texture thing), red plums, dry Italian herbs, peach pit, pomegranate and a  touch of cracked black pepper. While it’s graceful and has the natural acidity of Sangiovese, it has the pleasing ripe qualities and texture that California wine can offer. Be sure to check out all my Rose wines reviewed in 2018 here, and read my Rose Report here.
May 16, 2018
Herencia Altes Garnatxa Rose

HERENCIA ALTES Garnatxa Negra Rose 2017

Very friendly, dry Rosé from Terra Alta in Spanish Catalonia. Picked for Rosé and direct press (Intentional Rosé), this wine has all the delicious qualities of Grenache/Garnacha/Garnatxa. Strawberries, watermelon, fresh pink roses, a dusting of black pepper. Big chill it and drink with gusto. Visit my complete list of Rosé wines here.
May 16, 2018
Leaf & Vine Carignane

Leaf & Vine Carignane Evanghelo 2015

Smells of deep raspberry and blueberry, lavender, black peppercorns and coriander. The taste continues on with the same along, adding black licorice, mint, dark strawberry and pomegranate. This has soft tannins, lift of acidity and a pleasing juiciness and warmth to it. Food wise, you can go lots of directions here. My first thought is roast beef tri-tip, then herb-garlic roasted chicken. More Information Napa winery Leaf & Vine makes tiny amounts of wines from Napa Valley and beyond. Everything I’ve tasted from Leaf & Vine in the last 3 years has been very tasty, decidedly unique and very well […]
May 14, 2018
Calipaso Zinfandel

CALIPASO Zinfandel 2014

In an era where restraint is a wine buzz-word, it’s oddly refreshing to taste and thoroughly enjoy a classic Paso Robles JAMMY Zinfandel. Smell and taste blueberry and blackberry jam, whiffs of cinnamon & black pepper, moderate amounts of spicy/toasty/Bourbon-y oak and hard black cherry/blackberry candies. What’s key here is that wine is well-made…no or very low volatile acidity (the precursor to vinegar). Go with full-flavored, smoky/fire-roasted red and white meats with this.
May 10, 2018
Maison L'Envoye Bourgogne Blanc

Maison L’Envoye Bourgogne Blanc 2014

There’s an ocean of Chardonnay out there. What to choose of the, oh I don’t know, 50 different Chardonnay labels standing in front of you? Afraid there’s no secret sauce to share with you. I can give tips, however, which leads me to this specific recommendation. Check out a few Bourgogne Blancs when you’re in your local wine shop or grocer with a strong wine selection. There should be a few available as there is a lot of it imported into the U.S. Bourgogne Blanc (labeled simply as “Bourgogne,” and you can see it’s a white wine) is pretty much […]
May 10, 2018
Poggiotondo Chianti

POGGIOTONDO Chianti “Biologico” 2016

This is a darker, riper expression of a straight-up, under $20 Chianti. That said, the savory, food-friendly acidity we like from Chianti is there. Smell and taste dark red cherries, black olives, dried Italian herbs and cocoa. This makes an excellent “house wine” to drink up with white and light red meats, sausages and tomato sauce dishes. This wine is imported and can be purchased from Old Bridge Cellars in Napa. Contact them to buy and, if you live in or around Napa, arrange a pick up.
May 7, 2018
Frogs Leap Rose

Frog’s Leap Rosé 2017

Stalwart Napa winery gets Carignane (92%) and Valdiguie (8%) to make their purposeful Rosé. “Provencal style,” in the words of Frog’s Leap founder, owner and co-winemaker John Williams. This has a light orange/brick red color then gentle aromas of lavender, strawberry, thyme, orange tea and crushed white peppercorns. Taste is more of the same, falling as much into the citrus as the red berry fruits. It has subtle flavors yet a mighty intensity. I put this in my “the drier the better” style of Rosé. “Le Grenouille Rouganté” = “the blushing frog. Rosé is a blush…. More Information I am […]
May 7, 2018
Gobelsburg Rose

GOBELSBURG Rosé “Cistercian” 2017

Zweigelt and St Laurent, two red grapes most associated with Austria, make this delicious Rosé wine. Smell and taste red plums, raspberries, blood orange, cracked pepper and basil. Dry as can be, a sizzle of acidity, both refreshing and substantial. This winner is a bargain amongst bargains. Schloss Gobelsburg continues to be one of Austria’s best and best-knows top tier wineries. You are assured to have a good wine in your hands if it’s from Gobelsburg. Good news is that their wines are quite available in California.
May 2, 2018
Fontareche Corbieres Rose

FONTARECHE Corbieres Rose 2017

Ancient wine appellation Corbieres in South Central France continues to make solid, great value wines. Here’s a great example. Grapes are 50% Picpoul Noir, 25% Grenache, 25% Syrah. A darker color and textured mouthfeel makes me think it’s saignee but I don’t know this for sure. Smell and taste fresh strawberries and plums plus tobacco, cola and raw prime beef. I like the texture – not too light nor too heavy. And has a healthy acidity to it. Sign me up for a case, please.
May 2, 2018
Rouge Bleu Rose

ROUGE-BLEU Rosé “Dentelles” 2017

A Southern Rhone Valley combo of 50% Grenache, 50% Carignane. This sports an attractive nose of ripe strawberry, raspberry, peach and lime. The taste is bright as a sunny summer day: a smack of acidity with the red fruits holding up to the tang. Classic bits of peppercorn, thyme and fennel ring in. Overall, a tasty Rosé that starts with fruit then surprises with the acidity. Drink up and be happy.
May 1, 2018
Fortunati Rose

FORTUNATI Rosé “Pranzo” 2017

Made from 100% Syrah from Fortunati’s “Estate” vineyard in owner/winemaker Ellen and Gary Luchtel’s backyard. (Gary makes the wine.) A “purposeful Rosé.” Smell and taste black pepper, ripe red plums, fresh blue and raspberry, touch of lavender and coriander. I really like the slightly chewy texture while staying super-fresh and tangy. Fortunati nailed it for flavor, acidity, texture and dryness. This is my garlic/herb marinated, grilled chicken wine for the summer. “I let more grapes grow on the Syrah vines I used to make the Rosé,” Gary explains. “I get ideal hang-time so the grapes develop really good flavors. But […]