June 13, 2020
601 Cellars Grenache

601 Cellars Grenache 2017

Peppery spice (helped by 6% Syrah in the blend) and dark wild strawberry nose proudly announces this Grenache. Taste is those dang strawberries, bit of pomegranate, lavender, candied ginger and cocoa. Medium body, medium/low acidity, fine tannins and spice galore in this tasty little number. 601 Cellars is owned and made by husband/wife Brian Doody and Laura Larson. Their focus is on Napa Valley Sangiovese but they “dabble” in other regions (like their Sierra Foothills Sangio) and other grapes. I’m impressed with the quality of the wines particularly because they (particularly Brian who heads the winemaking) is self-taught. For all my 601 […]
May 1, 2020
Hudson Grenache promotion

Hudson Grenache & Grenache Rosé Offer

Buy the set and join the party!  Hudson Ranch, Simply Corked and Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor welcome you to an afternoon of hospitality at Hudson’s Carneros Estate on Saturday, July 25 at 2 PM. The one-and-only Lee Hudson will welcome us and lead us through the gardens and winery as we taste through the current Hudson Ranch line-up. Wine-friendly “nibbles” will be served. This $75/person value is included* with the purchase of the Hudson Grenache 4-pack: Hudson Grenache “Pick Up Sticks” 2018  My Review 2 @ $42/bottle Hudson Grenache Rosé 2019  My Review 2 @ $32/bottle 4-pack price: $148 Buy […]
April 22, 2020
Hudson Grenache

Hudson Grenache Pick Up Sticks 2018

I was taken with the 2018 Hudson Grenache “Pick Up Sticks” at first smell. Grenache’s dark strawberry compote, licorice, cinnamon and lavender are sweet and sexy. In the mouth it’s medium bodied, both fruity & savory and spicy with firm tannins at first – resuscitation in the glass or a decanter soften those tannins in about 15 minutes. This tasty little number reminds me of a cooler-microclimate Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or high end Côtes du Rhône (Château Fonsalette, anyone?). 10% Syrah in the blend. Aged in really big (500 Liter) practically neutral French oak barrels. Lee & Cristina Hudson and the entire […]
April 4, 2020
Lunar Ridge Syrah

Lunar Ridge Syrah, Coombsville 2017

Begins with dark, brooding smells of blueberry and blackberry compote, bittersweet chocolate, cumin and grilled sweet red chili peppers. At first taste the wine is soft and a little too smooth, and with 15 minutes of air the wine expands and gains texture. Tannins linger in the background like a distant chorus. After an hour the extra-ripe berry fruits, dark cocoa, anise and black pepper flavors elevate and come together. It’s hard to do I know, but you can’t judge this wine until it’s had at least half an hour of breathing (decanter or big wine glass, lots of swirling). […]
March 5, 2020
Dirty Rowdy Mourvedre Enz

Dirty & Rowdy Mourvedre “Enz” 2018

Brooding nose of dark chocolate, roasted tarragon & thyme, black olives and roast coffee beans. Big yet light-footed, to the credit of the limestone/granite based “Enz Vineyard” and obsessive vineyard monitoring by Dirty & Rowdy co-owner/winemaker Hardy Wallace, the wine is a joy to drink now and will get much better with time. How much time? Depends how you like killer California old-vine Mourvedre wines. I suggest short term, like 2023. If you drink it now, decant it 2 hours before drinking or enjoy it over 3 or 4 days and notice it blossoming. It’s rare to find a wine […]
March 5, 2020
Quigley Family Syrah

Quigley Family Syrah “Las Madres” 2018

A beautiful, albeit very youthful, Syrah from the spectacular “Las Madres Vineyard” southeast of Sonoma. Like myriad Las Madres Syrahs, it is expressive and true to the grape. Dark deep cherry, dried blueberries, olive tapenade, lavender, fine black pepper and tamarind smells and flavors are strong yet cooped up in its infancy. I love the texture: full, fit and suave with healthy acidity. Excellent example of Norther Rhone-Style Syrah from California. Buy 3-6 bottles, drink your first one at the end of 2020 then make a plan for the rest. You can wait to imbibe 10-15 years easy if you […]
September 25, 2019
Andrew Murray Esperance

ANDREW MURRAY Esperance 2016

This GSM (60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre) from Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley is big-time winner for $25. A rich and spicy red through and through, get dark strawberry preserves, cocoa, cinnamon, black pepper, licorice, lavender and smoked beef jerky. It’s round and luscious in the mouth with a long finish that combines ripe, dark fruitiness and spice. Not to be confused with a Rhone Valley, France GSM as the California sunshine shows in the Andrew Murray Esperance 2016.
September 18, 2019
Dirty & Rowdy Familiar

DIRTY & ROWDY Familiar Mourvedre 2018

A bottle of Dirty & Rowdy Mourvèdre is a look into the future of California winemaking. A champion of the grape, co-owner and winemaker Hardy Wallace has put the grape on his shoulders and introduced it to the next generation of wine lovers through his engaging use of social media. “Familiar” Mourvèdre tastes like ripe smoky raspberries and dry French herbs. Lightness a la Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Hardy says it’s “like yacht rock for space pirates.” Funny, I was thinking the exact same thing! I haven’t nailed down my perfect food pairing but it includes roasted eggplant and cremini […]
August 6, 2019
Keep Carignane

KEEP Carignane “Evangelho” 2016

From the sand-swept wine district of Contra Costa on the Sacramento Delta. The 130+ year old own-rooted Carignane vines of “Evangelho Vineyard” make for a complex, aromatic, hauntingly delicious red wine. Wound up when just opened, let the wine stretch for 20 minutes and blossom. True to the Carignane grape, you get black raspberries, black pepper, pomegranate, dried violets, chopped rosemary, new leather and game. The tannins start firm then soften as it opens up and linger throughout the 25 second finish. Acidity lifts the wine like a hydrolic lift.  A joy to drink, especially with grilled white meats and […]
June 27, 2019
Aerena Rose 2018

AERENA Rosé 2018

Provence-style Rosé by recipe: 1/2 Mourvèdre, 1/2 Carignane. Grapes pressed off. Stylistically, it straddles France and California. Reddish hue, raspberry/strawberry smells and flavors along with some black pepper, mandarine orange and pink roses. Fermented dry to a modest 12.9% alcohol, making for a pretty, berry-laden Rosé with ample acidity and spice. This is a Rosé to enjoy when you want more fruitiness in your pink. Like me! AERENA Wines, one of the wines from Bespoke Collection, are made by the super-skilled and accomplished Aaron Pott. The Mourvèdre and Carignane comes from 135 year old vines in Oakley, Sacramento Delta. This […]
June 25, 2019
Zuidema Grenache

ZUIDEMA Grenache 2015

Triple play of berries, flowers and spice on the nose moving on to the taste. From smell to flavor to finish, get wild strawberries, raspberries, wild red cherries, cracked white peppercorns, rosemary, lavender and blood orange. Love the bright acidity that makes the wine fresh, fine tannins for structure, delicacy and intensity. This has roast chicken food & wine match written all over it. More Information Rudy Zuidema has been a winery owner and winemaker for myriad wineries since 1990-something. This is the only wine, currently, he makes under the Zuidema label. It’s from a 3 acre block of “McGah […]
June 20, 2019
Merisi Grenache

MERISI Grenache 2016

From start to finish the Merisi Grenache is all about perfectly ripe strawberry and raspberry fruits, mouth-watering acidity and loads of fresh violets and white pepper. Unapologetically medium-light bodied, the wine’s intensity makes it special. Enjoy this as you would a fuller-flavored Carneros Pinot Noir. Merisi co-owner and winemaker Mandy Heldt Donovan is making tiny amounts of delicious, balanced, honest expressions of Pinot Gris, Grenache and Petite Sirah (sometimes called a Red Blend). These are very much worth seeking out, buying and enjoying. Read all my Merisi wine reviews here.
June 18, 2019
Frogs Leap Pink

FROG’S LEAP Pink Wine 2018

Made from 70+ year old vine Carignane and 12% Valdiguie, Frog’s Leap “La Grenouille Rougante” (The Flying Frog) is an intentional rosé, i.e. made like a white wine: grapes pressed off with juice barely affected by the red skins. The result is a style of rosé that Frog’s Leap makes as well as anyone in California. Get mandarin orange, subtle plum and strawberry fruits, citrus blossoms, white pepper and orange zest. Very dry and very healthy acidity…this is a white wine drinker’s preferred style of Rosé for sure. Think Provence/Southern France style.
June 14, 2019
Lunar Ridge Syrah

LUNAR RIDGE Syrah 2016

Black ruby color, Rhone Valley-like aromas of berry liqueur, bittersweet chocolate, black pepper and lamb sausage. Taste begins with very ripe blueberries and blackberries, then crushed black peppercorns, smoked paprika, lavender and rosemary emerge. From mid-taste through the 20 second finish, the ripe fruit and savory spice/herb/floral flavor merge seamlessly. This Rhone-style Syrah, with the help of California sunshine, is a winner – on par with California Syrahs selling for much more. A DDWA “Great Value.” Lunar Ridge is a postage stamp-sized, northwest (setting sun) facing vineyard in Napa’s Coombsville District in Southeast Napa Valley. Owners Ray and Theresa Joske […]
March 14, 2019
Benevolent Neglect Rose

Benevolent Neglect Rosé 2018

60% Mourvedre, 40% Carignane intentional Rosé. Co-harvest, press and ferment. This is very much a Provence/Bandol style of Rosé. White pepper, cherry and plum skins, orange zest and Provence herbs are what you get start to finish. While its reddish hue makes one think strawberry and watermelon, not so. This is a dry, savory style of Rosé, which makes total sense from Rhone-varietal specialist Benevolent Neglect. More Information Owners Ben Brenner and Matt Nagy are doing a great job building Benevolent Neglect slowly but surely into one of the next New California Wine go-to labels. Matt, who’s in charge of […]
January 31, 2019
Trinafour Carignane

TRINAFOUR Carignane Niemi 2015

Medium/light, bright, crystal-clear red berry and plum fruits in the Trinafour Carignane 2015. Reminds me of a well crafted Southern French red with it’s black pepper dust and dried herbs de Provence edge. This has French Bistro by the glass pour written all over it. Italian bistro or BBQ joint would be perfect, too. If you have it at home, two words for you: roast chicken. The dry-farmed Carignane vines in “Niemi Vineyard” are now 50+ years old. Check out all the Trinafour wines I’ve reviewed here.
January 30, 2019
Lagier Meredith Syrah 2016

LAGIER MEREDITH Syrah 2016

Blueberry compote, fresh grated ginger, lavender garden and cracked black pepper are your early smells and flavors in the 2016 Lagier Meredith Syrah. Consistently intense, very aromatic and bright from vintage to vintage, this 2016 is another in a long line of Syrahs with these qualities. If anything, it’s a little more expressive of its fresh berry/floral flavors, which points to a particularly long evolution in bottle. This will drink great well into the 2030s. More Information Steve Lagier and Carole Meredith live on their vineyard near the top of Mount Veeder between Napa and Yountville.  Farming, winemaking, sales and […]
January 18, 2019
Apsara Syrah

APSARA Syrah “Las Madres” 2015

Blueberries, pomegranate, five spice and black olive aromas race from the glass. Taste is more of the same along with a little bit of cocoa powder, candied ginger and a brush of acidity that elevates all these flavors. Coming in at 13.6% alcohol, this medium-bodied, perfumed, intense red is classic Northern Rhone-style Syrah. Enjoy this with Memphis-style BBQ Ribs (all about the rub, no sweet sauce). A typical lesson of Wine 101 is that European wines are more earthy than fruity and California wines are more fruity than earthy. It’s a good rule to follow provided you believe that rules […]
January 16, 2019
Lagier Meredith Syrah and olives

Success With Syrah – Two Stories

 
January 11, 2019
Halcon Petite Sirah

HALCON Petite Sirah “Tierra” 2016

It’s sensible to think Petite Sirah only thrives in a hot growing climate and makes exclusively big bold high-octane red. That’s the only style most who know Petite Sirah have had. Here’s something a little different. Halcon’s Estate Vineyard, planted Syrah mostly, lies at the crest of the Yorkville Highlands AVA. They buy Petite Sirah from “Theopolis” at the bottom (in altitude) of Yorkville Highlands. It’s warmer than up high, and just warm enough to ripen Petite Sirah. The wine grabs me. Dark, rich color. Roast herb and Moroccan spice nose. Very ripe blueberry and blackberry flavor going toe-to-toe with […]
December 16, 2018
Campesino Alina 2016

CAMPESINO Alina White 2016

Equal parts Marsanne and Rousanne, making it a “Northern Rhone Valley-style white wine.” Really pretty smells and flavors of citrus blossoms, melons, apricots, pineapple, lemongrass and honeysuckle. It’s bright and lively with moderate alcohol and a fresh, crisp finish. For this category of wine (Rhone-style white) this is particularly versatile with food. Campesino Alina is an awesome buy for $28. 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, the field workers (most of whom are Mexican) who […]
December 14, 2018
Campesino Syrah Las Madres

Campesino Syrah Las Madres 2016

Notice the exceptionally deep, rich, dark color. The smell and taste is quintessential Syrah with its black and blueberries, smoked lamb loin, black pepper, soy sauce, tarragon, rosemary and chocolate. Medium acid, fine tannins, fantastic concentration and mouth-coating extraction while, still, keeping everything about the wine in control. Drink the 2016 Campesino Syrah Las Madres now through 2026 and enjoy it with roast garlic, onion and pepper dishes, roast mushrooms, strong marinades, braises and stews. 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 […]
September 25, 2018
Wilson Foreigner Valdiguie

WILSON FOREIGNER Valdiguie 2017

Gamay body and Syrah smells & flavors best describes the Wilson Foreigner Valdiguie 2017. Get dark cranberries, red plums, wild cherries, ruby grapefruit, cloves, cracked black pepper, tarragon. High acid (showing more acid at time of tasting-it’s young!), modest tannins, very perky. Just released, so buy some 2016 Valdiguie to drink now and some 2017 to drink next year. Third 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 […]
September 20, 2018
Skyhook Red Wine

SKYHOOK Red Wine, Sonoma County 2013

This “Rhone-y” red is 58% Syrah, 42% Grenache. Owner/winemaker Derek Beitler drew from three cool-climate Sonoma vineyards to make 500 cases of Skyhook Red Wine. I think the name Skyhook and the label take most down a path of expectation that requires a u-turn. Let me explain…an army of jammy, sweet-spice, soft red blends, a la The Prisoner, have taken the copy-cat highway to wine production and sales success. While Skyhook may look like one of these copy cats, it doesn’t taste like it. It has more in common with a spicy Paso Robles Cal-Rhone than an uber-ripe “modern red […]