September 17, 2018
David Clinton Zinfandel Teldeschi

DAVID CLINTON Zinfandel “Teldeschi” 2015

Deep dark cherries, a little jammy, black licorice and a whiff of Ruby Port introduce this bold, full-flavored David Clinton Zinfandel Teldeschi. In the mouth the liqueur-y fruit tasted darker and darker with air, moving to black cherry and blackberry after 30 minutes of “opening up.” More licorice, cracked black pepper, rocky earth and dark caramel/dark chocolate emerge. It’s a mouthful! Medium/light oak (American), firm tannins on the finish which lasts 20-25 seconds. I suspect this wine will evolve and improve a lot over the next year. More information Two Napans, first names David and Clinton, transformed their winemaking hobby […]
February 21, 2018
Aspras Provence Trois Freres

ASPRAS Côtes de Provence Trois Frères 2015

The warm Provence, Southern France region and a particularly warm 2015 vintage make for a lush, deep, spicy red wine that combines crowd-friendly deliciousness and a definitive taste of the French Mediterranean. It’s mostly Grenache with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon supporting. Get deep, dark raspberry and blueberry fruits along with black pepper, black olive, smoked meats and berry liqueur yumminess. This wine is perfect for open fire pit cooking (braises and stews work like a charm, too).  
February 21, 2018
Casaeda Cabernet Sauvignon

CASAEDA Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

A big whiff of dark raspberry and blueberry plus cassis, anise and vanilla leads off. Taste a a big basket of mixed summer berries with a supporting cast of cedar, roast red peppers and toasty oak. 20 second finish of berries, pomegranate and sweet earth. Medium acidity, medium/low oak and smooth tannins make this a more refreshing style of Cabernet that’s ready to drink anytime. For home consumption, you can buy a case of this for well under $30/bottle I’m sure. Also look for it in nicer restaurants by the glass and well-priced by the bottle.   About Casaeda Winery […]
February 21, 2018
Fortunati Syrah 2015

FORTUNATI Syrah, Napa Valley 2015

A powerhouse, the 2015 Fortunati Syrah shows off dark black berry fruits, cocoa powder, black licorice, lavender, roast red peppers and allspice. A beast of a wine, its concentrated flavors are supported by youthful tannins that will soften quickly (1-2 years). I look forward to trying this wine again in 2019. As for now, I suggest either decanting it for 2 hours before drinking, or drink it over the course of 2-3 days. It will drink like a champ on Day 3! 5% Viognier, co-ferment with the Syrah. Winemakers tell me adding white grapes not only ups the aromatics, it also […]
February 20, 2018
Frith Frijas Rule

FRITH “Frija’s Rule” Napa Valley 2013

A blend of 44% Syrah, 33% Barbera and 22% Grenache qualifies it as a “Modern Red Blend” by recipe, but it’s not as “over the top” in style as most versions. This has a great nose of smushed up fresh raspberries and dark red plums plus cracked black peppercorns and coriander. Taste more of the same…the berries really stand out and they are delicious. Medium body, ideal acidity (bright but not quite tangy) and carefully oaked (30% new French). This is delight to drink.   FRITH is owned by Restaurant veteran Cory Lane (I met Cory when he worked in […]
February 20, 2018
Birichino Mourvedre

BIRICHINO Mourvedre “Old Vines” 2015

Santa Cruz Winery Birichino buys these grapes from 100+ year old vineyard in the deep sandy soils of Contra Costa County. Dark plum, smoky blueberry, cigar wrapper and red curry paste smells and flavors generously flow from the glass in this medium bodied, nicely balanced wine that to me is half fruity, half savory in style. Known to often make “funky” wine, this Mourvedre is not that. Musk melon, dried violets and tobacco sensations make it unique and true to the grape, but these flavors go hand in hand with the fruit. Delicious now-drink anytime. Excellent with slow-cooked pork shoulder, […]
February 20, 2018
Frith Flanked by Ravens

FRITH “Flanked by Ravens” Napa Valley 2013

Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend of 60% Cabernet Franc & 40% Merlot, all from a single vineyard in the Carneros “Banana Belt.” This is rich, very strong wine showing a lot of old-world personality. Black currants, dried blueberries sun-dried Provence herbs, cigar box and bittersweet chocolate smells and flavors, all framed by 80% new French oak that melts into the wine seamlessly. Medium/full bodied, fine and firm tannins, medium acidity, 25 second finish of soil, spice and fruit (in that order of strength). It’s savory, Bordeaux-ish quality means it is not a wine for the masses. It IS a wine for […]
February 20, 2018
Fritz Haag Riseling Trocken

FRITZ HAAG Trocken Riesling 15

Apple blossoms, lemon verbena, green tea and light honey nose quickly moves to flavors of cool, crisp Granny Smith apple, ripe grapefruit and sea shells. Rich, substantial texture (due to the ripe, wonderful 2015 vintage in Mosel, and the residual sugar left behind) and a long finish of citrus, flowers and crushed rocks makes this a Great Value flirting with “Best of the Best” status. Delicious with every food you can think of besides red meats and confection.
February 20, 2018
cigliuti barbera serraboella

CIGLIUTI Barbera d’Alba “Serraboella” 2014

A mix of raspberry, red currant and cranberry along with dry Italian herbs and dusty soil introduce you to this wine. Counter-acting the bright fruit are firm tannins, a pleasant tartness and a faint bitterness on the finish – classic for Barbera d’Alba and an ideal display of the hillside, very chalky “Serraboella” vineyard, Cigliuti’s home. This fifth-generation family run winery in Barbaresco is a go-to for honest, quality wines of the grape and place. I like that the 2014 is the current vintage of the Barbera on the market. It’s had a little bit of time to come around. […]
February 20, 2018
silverpoint chardonnay

Silverpoint Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2015

For classic richer-style Chardonnay with great fruit to balance it out, I highly recommend Silverpoint. All from the very cool Petaluma Gap region (soon to be an AVA). Barrel fermented & aged on its lees, 50% new French oak, full malolactic. I know many lower ML Chardonnays that are heavier. Smell and taste roast hazelnut, lemon custard, caramel, grated lemon peel, sweet grapefruit and Granny Smith apple. With air more caramel/brown butter comes out plus a creamy texture and full body. A “kiss” of from-the-earth minerality on the 25 second finish.   I met Silverpoint Owners Barry Murphy and Rosemary […]
February 20, 2018
Hourglass HG3 15

HOURGLASS “HG3” 2015

Merlot based Bordeaux-style (“Right Bank”) blend with a twist: 10% Petite Sirah included. Once again, in the realm of Napa Valley Bordeaux-style reds, HG3 gives you A LOT of happiness for the price. Seductive sweet spicy oak and jammy berry/cherry nose continues on the palate along some kirsch (cherry liqueur), black truffle, cocoa and new leather handbag. Rich, medium/low acidity, soft tannins and perfectly ripe, the HG3 is drinking surprisingly well right now. Hourglass is a super-high quality Napa winery that is a dependable pick when you’re looking for high-end Cabernets and Merlot. Their “HG3,” a relatively new wine in […]
February 20, 2018
terra gratia red wine

Terra Gratia Red 2014

“Terra Gratia” (“Land of Gratitude” in Latin) is a blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 9% Petit Verdot. Owned, grown, made and offered as their “entry level” wine by Marciano Estate Winery in western St Helena. Warm aromas of pie spices, deeply toasted wheat crust, dark red cherry and plums. Generous and delicious, showing lots of plums, pomegranates and wild cherry/deep raspberry with acidity to heighten the fruits. Faint, pleasing “taste of the land” peeks through at the end. For a skillfully made, cut-no-corners winegrowing attitude, delicious Napa Valley red, this is highly recommended for […]
February 20, 2018
Red Thread Red Wine

RED THREAD Red Wine Blend, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley 2015

This big, rich “Mountain Red” is 40% Zinfandel, 35% Petite Syrah, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. A sweet nose of black cherry compote, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla bean hits the tongue with firm tannins and lots of sweet, fruity extract. White pepper, lime zest, caramel and buttered wheat toast complement the rich, ripe fruit, which is definitely the star of the show. Young and a bit awkward at the moment…its best drinking is maybe two years out. Red Thread is owned by Gretchen and Brian Brakesman. It’s all “Summit Lake Vineyard” Howell Mountain fruit, which Brian owns with his family. Red […]
February 20, 2018

Chateau Montmirail Vacqueyras Deux Freres 15

Vacqueyras: Southern Rhone Valley appellation. 65% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. Older vines at around 50 years old. Montmirail is a “traditional producer” in the best sense. Their wines are pin-point expressions of their land, see no oak, and are made with great care. Destemmed grapes, long fermentation, bottled for America unfined/uniltered. This Rhone red takes an abnormally long time for a $22 wine to open up. It starts with smells and flavors of sasafrass, raw meat, black pepper, black licorice and muted flavors of dark strawberry and blueberry. Over time (2-3 hour of good breathing) the fruit blossoms and […]
February 20, 2018
Prima Materia Sangiovese

PRIMA MATERIA Sangiovese 2015

Ripe dark cherry fruits with notes of chocolate, dried green herbs, musk, and smoked tea leaves make this a friendly and crowd-pleasing Sangiovese that is still true to the grape. Fuller-bodied (for Sangiovese) with fine tannins and a rich texture make this a real winner. 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 winery operation, I culled the paragraph below from its website (check out the site when you have a moment). As you can tell, owner/winemaker (and talented chef) Pietro Buttitta is an […]
February 20, 2018
clif family climber red

Clif Family “The Climber” 2015

Climber Red in 2015 is 96% Merlot, 3% Petite Verdot, 1% Malbec. Strong flavors, layer upon layer of smells and flavor and true-to-the-grape winemaking make this one of my Awesome Values and inclusion on the Best of the Best list. Get dried black currants and blueberries along with bits of cedar, tobacco leaf, bittersweet chocolate and mint. Boasts a solid structure and energizing acidity. I wish the wine was labeled as Merlot to better help wine consumers embrace the grape. Clif Family is one of Napa Valley’s best winery visits, and my favorite winery that is open for walk-in guests. […]
February 20, 2018
Saint Remy Ehrhart Riesling

SAINT REMY-EHRHART Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2015

This dry Riesling captures the honey-textured essence of Alsace. Smell and taste caramel-coved crisp green apples, lemonheads, spring blossoms and tangy pineapple. This is beautiful Riesling that speaks clearly to the quality and value of Alsace.
February 20, 2018
Sylvain Langoureau Hautes Cotes

SYLVAIN LANGOUREAU Hautes Côtes de Beaune 2015

Tiny, family run winery outside of Puligny-Montrachet owns and farms over 20 acres in the Cote de Beaune. Their Haute-Cotes is a pure, concise, honest expression of quality Red Burgundy that’s ready to enjoy anytime. Get sweet juicy plums, wild red cherries, pink rose petals, freshly-turned soil. Ideal wine for a Burgundy “experience” on the cheap.
February 20, 2018
Ferren Chardonnay

FERREN Chardonnay 2015

This is a rich, powerful, complex Chardonnay along the lines of Marcassin, Kistler and Ramey. Lancel Creek lies 5 miles from the Pacific and produces intense, incredible grapes that lend themselves to this intense style of Chardonnay. Smell and taste caramel green apple, lemon oil, fresh white peach, bananas foster, cinnamon, toasted brioche topped with browned butter. It’s long, strong…and rare (just 100 cases made). If interested, find it and buy it soon. While it only merits an OK Value from me because of its price, this is a great example of how one’s disposable income for wine ultimately determines […]
February 20, 2018
Chevassu Fassenet Jura

CHEVAUSSU FASSENET Cotes de Jura Chardonnay 12

The distinctive style of Cotes de Jura Chardonnay comes through in spades in this tiny, family-run, winery. A honeyed, preserved citrus, apple butter nose moves to slightly dried pears, lemon blossoms, Meyer lemons and ROCKS. Typical of very good Cotes de Jura, it has a 30 second finish of salty citrus, honey and rocky soil. The lesser known French appellation Cotes de Jura (base of French Alps, heading toward Switzerland) is generally “reserved,” if you will, for the wine geek section of our industry. It deserves greater attention, but I do like its overall value because of the lack of […]
February 20, 2018
Relic Grenache Paras

RELIC Grenache “Paras” 2014

The perfumed, sweet spice and strawberry preserves nose flies from the glass in this translucent, brilliant-colored red from the top of Mount Veeder. Taste ripe summer red berries and cherries with candied ginger, cinnamon and Earl Grey tea. Reminds me of strong Pinot Noir in its medium-bodied, satin texture. Great, smooth, long finish of cherry compote, pie spice, lavender and vanilla. A Pinot Noir-drinker’s wine for sure. About RELIC Relic Wine Cellars is co-owned by husband/wife Mike Hirby (the winemaker) and Schatzi Throckmorton. They launched Relic with the 2001 vintage (I think I carried their first release at Back Room […]
February 20, 2018
Planetes de Vin 2013

PLANETES de VIN Priorat 2013

50-50 Garnatxes and Carinyenes (Catalan for Grenache and Carignane) aged “en amfora.” (Amphora-clay vessels. Use of Amphoras to hold wine date back to Roman times). The mountainous Priorat region in Catalonia is one of the world’s special places to make strong red wines. This fruit-driven wine smells and tastes of strawberry preserves, raspberry sauce, dried violets and whole pink peppercorns. Medium/full bodied, gentle tannins and fresh acidity. Has the balance of an acrobat.
February 20, 2018
Walter Hansel Chardonnay

WALTER HANSEL Chardonnay Cahill Lane 2014

For over 20 years Stephen Hansel (Walter Hansel is Stephen’s father) has made quintessential Russian River Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs in the model of Rochioli and Marcassin. That is, rich, complex wines made with full-flavored grapes so everything is in harmony. I’ve had many Walter Hansel Chardonnays over the years, and this is my all-time favorite. Smell and taste dark roast filbert nuts, dark honey, roasted peaches and green apples, buttered wheat toast, blonde caramel, licorice and dried lemon slices. A quick burst of acidity on the finish and a blend of fruit and (dry) confection throughout. This is a […]
February 20, 2018
mourre de tendre plan dieu

Mourre du Tendre Plan de Dieu 2015

Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cinsaut blend. Plan de Dieu (“God’s Plain”) received Cotes du Rhone Villages status in 2005. Located a few miles northeast of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and next to Vacqueyras, Plan de Dieu wines often have a similar concentration and fruity core as their better known neighbors. This red from Mourre de Tendre is a winner. Get dark strawberry jam, cracked black peppercorns, licorice and marasca cherries. It’s a mouthful while maintaining balance and dimension. Compares favorably to Chateauneufs that cost twice the price.