September 25, 2018
Shane Pinot Noir La Reine

SHANE Pinot Noir La Reine 15

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 used). It’s full-bodied, nicely ripe and has pleasing texture and mouth feel. Thanks Shane for pricing this so reasonably for what you get. More Information Owner/Winemaker Shane Finley is one of my top 5 California winemakers. His wines are consistently delicious in a richer style, […]
June 24, 2018
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 value wines with a little “taste of sunshine,” look to Costieres de Nimes.  Located on the Rhone River, south of Southern Rhone Valley. Speaking sort-of subjectively, this is my favorite sub $15 white wine I’ve ever had.  More Information Notes from the importer: “Tired of always […]
December 9, 2017
Obsidian Ridge Cabernet

OBSIDIAN RIDGE Cabernet Sauvignon 15

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 and earthy edge to it, which I like. Notes of bittersweet chocolate, cigar box and a musk/mineral/truffle quality that makes it an ideal dinner companion. It’s difficult for 10,000 case production wines to have soul. This has it.
December 9, 2017
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 in Napa. 45 year old vines. Comparable to Pinot Noir in body and texture but with a more wild berry/cherry, coriander and herbal tea flavor. This has a jump-from-the-glass nose of cranberry sauce, plum jam and tea. Taste raspberries, more plums, pomegranate and Asian spice. […]
December 8, 2017

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.
December 8, 2017

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 exotics and acidity remain with a little “dressing up” from the barrel and lees contact. Definitely orange-y (zest, blossoms, juice) with subtle honeyed and spicy notes. Lingering, mouth-coating texture at the end. I’d probably guess this is Viognier if tasted blind on it.
December 8, 2017

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 a warm vintage.
December 8, 2017

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 healthy tannins and very little oak influence. These are descriptors that point to wines signifcantly higher than $25.
December 4, 2017

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, cigar wrapper, green tea, beef stock nose is followed by plums, red berries, and dried pink peppercorn flavor. Medium/light body, mouth watering acidity, and (again) that beef stock on the long, fresh finish. Its lighter tells me this is not for every palate, but it’s […]
December 4, 2017

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 with the fruit. This is a no-brainer to drink with grilled, stewed and/or smoky meat dishes.
December 4, 2017
Maitre de Chai Chardonnay

MAITRE de Chai Chardonnay “Kierkegaard” 15

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. This Chardonnay is made with the care, from vineyard to bottle, normally reserved for wines 2, 3 or 4 times its price. Ample yet understated fruit flavors of Bosc pears, preserved lemon and baked green apples is framed by earth-like sensations of rocky soil and […]
December 4, 2017
Localism Kerner

LOCALISM Kerner 16

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 so much I bought some for my house. Smell and taste Meyer lemon, kiwi, lime-ade, lemongrass. It sits lightly on the palate but doesn’t fade away. Refreshing and intense, this is a wine I’m sure will stand out for its uniqueness and tastiness. 10% Riesling […]
December 4, 2017

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 make this a very satisfying house red wine. As a wine merchant, I placed this wine in both the New World and Old World sections of the store because of it’s modern winemaking style and packaging. It sold well in both areas, as it should. […]
December 4, 2017
Por Que No Red 15

Por Que No? Red Wine 14

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 as it made me look good as a wine merchant many, many times during my retail career. Every vintage, the wine is delicious, easy for everyone to like, unique and, to most customers, an introduction to something new. And finally, it’s an excellent value in […]
October 26, 2017

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 does take many forms. This young pup from Conte Romano sports a rich, round mouthfeel, gently floral and mineral-y aromas, a bit of crushed rock earthiness and a core of pear and stone fruit earthiness. For body and texture it compares favorably to a more earthy-style […]
October 26, 2017

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 from the barrel jump out at first, then the dark red cherries and plums take over. Cocoa, rare red meat and allspice peak in on the 20 second finish. In my wine merchant days, this was my favorite Napa Valley “alternative” big red to recommend. […]
October 26, 2017
Moffett Cabernet Sauvignon

MOFFETT VINEYARDS Cabernet Reserve 14

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 toasted oak (3 barrels made, all new). While many of the nicest 2013 vintage Napa Cabs are quite tight these days, the Moffett Reserve is supple and generous. If this is in your budget, definitely get some.
October 26, 2017
Chavy Chouet Meursalt

CHAVY-CHOUET Meursault “Corvees de Citeau” 14

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 lime. Gets darker in flavor on the youthful finish. Dark honey/caramel, roast hazelnuts, toasty pastry. A bargain for $65…we benefit from Premier Cru-quality White Burg is “just” village level.
October 25, 2017
Kosuge Pinot Noir Habitat

B. KOSUGE Pinot Noir The Habitat 14

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 the 30 second finish is appealing to most Pinot palates, especially those who drink a lot of Red Burgundy.
October 24, 2017

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 mint, almond skins and chamomile tea notes. Light tannins, medium-high acidity, no oak flavor (aged in huge, neutral oak casks) and a long but subtle point it firmly to the “food wine” category. It’s not for everybody, but those who appreciate interesting, intriguing light red […]
October 23, 2017

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 bars and chopped rosemary & thyme. It has big flavor, a lush mouthfeel, very light oak and medium/low acidity. Like a high quality Zin and Petite Sirah, this is a great match with braised, stewed and grilled meats.
October 19, 2017

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 supple and elegant. While it will definitely age for 15-20 years, this is also one of the best high-end Napa Valley “Mountain Cabs” from 2013 to drink now. The Spence family grows all Cabernet Sauvignon on their Howell Mountain “home vineyard,” located part way up […]
October 5, 2017

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 cousin Pinot Grigio. Excellent starter wine.
October 5, 2017


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 now (with a decant) or cellaring for 5-7 years.