SHANE Pinot Noir La Reine 15

Shane Pinot Noir La Reine

Owner/Winemaker Shane Finley’s eponymous label consistently delivers some of the best “bang for the buck” Pinots in the premium price category. Shane Pinot Noir La Reine (“The Queen”) comes from 45 year old vines. Dark berries and cherries here with bits of pomegranate, black tea, lavender, cocoa and toasty oak (just 15% new French oak […]


Mas Grand Plagniol Costieres de Nimes

Southern French white blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne and Viognier. It’s fresh, aromatic, fruity, fleshy. Get fresh melons, peaches, pears, light floral and tropical. No oak. Medium acidity. Stood up to my squash ravioli in tomato sauce. This is my house white wine, and a Hall of Fame Value! If you’re looking for delicious, great […]

OBSIDIAN RIDGE Cabernet Sauvignon 15

Obsidian Ridge Cabernet

This is an outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon that has consistently over-delivered for the price since its beginning 20 some years ago. Estate vineyard in Lake County’s Red Hills District. High (half mile) elevation, volcanic soils (thus the name Obsidian Ridge). Deep core of blackberry, black currant and black cherry. The 2015 vintage has a more savory […]


wilson foreigner valdiguie

Second vintage for this tiny Napa winery owned/made by two families (see below for details). The grapes are from David & Christine Wilson’s family vineyard, “Rancho Chimiles,” Wooden Valley, southeast Napa’s Valley. A popular grape to grow in Napa in the 20th century, this 2 acre plot of Valdiguie is some of the last standing […]

STONY HILL White Riesling 15

Stony Hill’s Riesling vines date back to the 1940s, and their age shows in the depth of flavor and deliciousness of this wine. Juicy Macintosh apple, summertime peaches, pineapple, then tarragon and white pepper. Not sweet, per se, but seekers of REAL dry whites should look elsewhere.

WATERFALL Albarino 15

Very unique to find Albarino from the Sierra Foothills. These grapes come from Apple Hill, next to Placerville. 2600 feet elevation, volcanic soils. Napa’s Helen Keplinger, winemaker. She’s pushed the envelope on winemaking for the typical hands-off Albarino grape. Barrel ferment than partially aged in barrel, all neutral French. I dig the result: floral/orange oil […]

B. KOSUGE Gamay 16

Delicious Gamay from the very talented and thoughtful Byron Kusuge. From a tiny block of Gamay within the vineyard he sources for his excellent “The Shop” Pinot Noir. The Gamay is medium/light (I’d say hearty for Gamay) with dark red plum, pomegranate, dried violet and pink peppercorn flavors. It reminds me of quality Beaujolais from […]

LEAF & VINE Zinfandel Quartz Block 14

One of the best earth and spice-driven Zinfandels I’ve had. Napa winery Leaf & Vine has bought Zinfandel from this Story Winery block of Zinfandel in Plymouth at the heart of Gold Country. Ripe black and blueberry core is tamed by potent sensations of black olive tapenade, bramble, black pepper, sasparilla and mint. Brooding and complex with […]

CULTIVAR Cabernet Franc 14

Hard to make a cool climate style Cabernet Franc in Napa that’s not near the San Pablo Bay, but Cultivar has done just that and done it well. If you know your Loire style Cabernet Franc, this is “Chinon style.” If this means nothing to you, don’t worry about it. A smushed up fresh strawberry, […]

Bodegas SIERRA SALINAS “Mira” 10

A sun-soaked southern Spain Mediterranean red blend of Monastrell, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. Boasts deep, dark berry fruits with cocoa, toasty vanilla and allspice complementing. This is loaded with flavor, and now over 7 years of age, it’s at ideal drinking stage. Medium tannins, medium/low acidity, spice is strong but nicely in line […]

MAITRE de Chai Chardonnay “Kierkegaard” 15

Maitre de Chai Chardonnay

Grapes come from an organic, mature, gravel-laden vineyard outside of Healdsburg. The two men of Maitre de Chai, Alex Pitts and Marty Winters, are skilled in leading their wines down the right path to make delicious, distinctive wines. In other words, this is “natural winemaking” unless the wine needs a little help along the way. […]

LOCALISM Kerner 16

Localism Kerner

Tiny Napa producer Localism sources Kerner grapes from Mokelumne River, a sub AVA of Lodi, and the only California vineyard that grows Kerner commercially. Kerner: think Riesling with a little less acidity (but still acidic) and a little more floral (like Viognier, but not LIKE Viognier). I recently enjoyed this wine at a local tasting […]

ARBALEST Bordeaux 15

Napa Valley winemaker Benoit Touquette, a protege of winemaking stars Michel Rolland and Andy Erickson, flew over the pond to make this Merlot-based Red Bordeaux that provides immediate satisfaction. Dark berry/cherry fruits are supported by sweet Indian spices, black truffle, cigar wrapper and vanilla. Medium/full body, juicy, soft tannins and an impressive 15 second finish […]

Por Que No? Red Wine 14

Por Que No Red 15

Owned/made by Napa’s Tres Sabores winery. It’s a prototypical “Modern Red Blend” of 50+% Zinfandel, 33% Petite Sirah then Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The grapes come partly from Tres Sabores’ Estate vineyard on the Rutherford Bench, partly from Calistoga and another vineyard in Rutherford. I admit a long-standing love affair with Por que no? Res […]

CONTE ROMANO Malvasia Istriana 16

Malvasia Istriana (one of the many grapes in the Malvasia family) is originally from Croatia, which is less than 100 miles southeast from the vineyards of Conte Romano in the northeast corner of Italy. An ancient grape of style and substance, Malvasia makes a wine I can fairly call a “wine geek’s delight” because it […]

CERRO Petit Verdot 13

Single vineyard, Valley floor Rutherford 100% Petit Verdot. Typically blended into Cabernet Sauvignon to add structure, this “P.V.” is indeed big, but not AS big as one might expect from the grape and the vintage. This is a good thing as a little less power allows more layers of flavor to emerge. Vanilla and toast […]

MOFFETT VINEYARDS Cabernet Reserve 14

Moffett Cabernet Sauvignon

If you’re into Napa Cabernets and on the look-out for the rare and less-discovered, here’s one for you to get. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a vinyeard in St Helena. It is very full-bodied, rich and packed full of deep Napa Cab flavors: black cherry liqueur, dark chocolate, boysenberries, roasted wild herbs and plenty of sweet […]

CHAVY-CHOUET Meursault “Corvees de Citeau” 14

Chavy Chouet Meursalt

I’m a big fan of Chavy-Chouet’s White Burgundies. Expressive fruit, crystal-clear view of the terroir (“minerality”), fine rich textures. This Meursault is one for the cellar. Vineyard is in the heart of the village. A jolt of acidity on entry with smells and flavors of lemon zest, green banana, peach & apricot, lemon bitters, key […]

B. KOSUGE Pinot Noir The Habitat 14

Kosuge Pinot Noir Habitat

From a vineyard northwest of Sebastopol. Its moderate climate (perfect for Pinot) paired with Byron Kosuge’s tender winemaking style results in a complex, intriguing, “Burgundian” style of Sonoma Coast Pinot. Notes of Amaro and dried herbs de Provence complement the griotte (wild red cherry) and ripe red plum flavors. Rose petals and cherry bitters on […]

ELENA WALCH Schiava 16

Far northern Italian region, next to Switzerland and Austria, is better known for their white wines (Pinot Grigio being the workhorse grape here). The red Schiava grape, native to Alto Adige, makes a lovely, light, food-friendly wine that amounts to more than “bistro red.” Get fresh, slightly tart raspberries and wild cherries along with crushed […]

ROCCOLO GRASSI Valpolicella Superiore 12

Think of this as “semi-Amarone” as half the traditional Valpolicella grapes (Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Croatina) are half just-picked, half dried (lightly raisined) for 20 days. The result is a rich, deep, black pepper-y, liqueur-ish, juicy dark red wine that crosses over to the new-world palates. Get kirsch, pomegranate syrup, cracked black peppercorns, warm chocolate […]

SPENCE Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain 13

All Cabernet Sauvignon, all from the winery’s 2 1/2 acre vineyard near the top of Howell Mountain. Starts with mincemeat, fruitcake, mint and cherry compote nose. On the palate it’s loaded with berry fruit with bittersweet chocolate, cola, dusty earth and toasty vanilla notes. While it does boast a “mountain structure,” it is also surprisingly […]

ALOIS LAGEDER Weissburgunder “Haberle” 15

Finding top-notch Pinot Blanc is quite rare. That’s one reason I’m excited about this northern Italian representative. Grown at 1500 feet in rocky soils, so intensity and “nerve” is natural for the wine. Smell and taste lemon/apple, citrus zest, Bosc pear, touch of fresh bread crust. Lightness but with more stuffing than it’s more popular […]


Excellent “entry level” Barolo from a producer who leans toward the modern style. The wine has a ripe core of dark red cherry/plum fruits, firm yet fine tannins whose edges are softened by the rich fruit and a killer 30 second Barolo finish of of dark soil, black olive and black tea. Great for drinking […]