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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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.
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Winery-Direct Discount for DDWA Members. Buy Lunar Ridge Syrah 2016 for 20% off, winery-direct. $32 down to $25.60/bottle. 3 bottle minimum purchase required. Not a DDWA Member yet? Join here. Contact Dan to order 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 live on their vineyard, tend to their vines, sell most of their grapes and keep enough to make a few barrels of wine each year (3 barrels – 75 cases – in 2016). The wine is made by Bruce Devlin, a skilled winemaker […]
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 […]
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 […]
On the dark side of California Grenache. Smell and taste strawberry preserves, toasted black peppercorns and cloves, black olives, very ripe blueberries, dried lavender, bay leaf and toasty French oak…40% new according to owner/winemaker Derek Beitler. More oak than he’d prefer, but from many a wine drinker’s view it’s perfect. Strong and structured in the mouth with a grip of tannins that go away on the finish. Excellent concentration, richness, spice and marriage of sweet and savory. More Information Owner/winemaker Derek Beitler launched Bodega Rancho/JDB Wines in 2007, took a break for a while, then re-launched the label with the […]
From Green & Red’s Estate vineyard, 1700 feet elevation, above owner Jay and Pam Heminway’s home and winery. The elevation and meager soils make for a spicy, savory, brooding style of Syrah. The drought conditions made for, I’m hypothesizing, particularly small berries in 2015. You may see where I’m going with this. Northern Rhone-ish style! Smell and taste dark blueberries, bittersweet chocolate, black olive and peppercorns, anise, mint and sweet-smelling tobacco. Medium tannins and acidity that gives the wine verve, not tartness. Long 25 second finish of spice, soil and oil-cured black olive. I really want roast leg of lamb […]
The Neyers Carigane Evangelho comes from 140 year old vines growing in the riverbed sand soils of the Sacramento Delta. Wild blue and red fruits, black pepper, fresh lavender, pomegranate, the faintest whiff of cigar wrapper (tobacco) and hung game. Reminds me of southern France Carignane, and that’s the goal! I would say that the natural California fruitiness steps forward, and no one’s complaining. Neutral oak aged for development, not flavor. Pure, fruity, spicy and perfectly wild! More information Napa winery Neyers Vineyards ventures beyond Napa to keep their wine character up and the prices reasonable. Co-owned by founders Bruce […]
Although it doesn’t say it on the label, this is all Syrah from Monterey County. The Rhone-head that I am, I like its wild red fruits, gamey, black olive, peppery smell and flavor. Pour this for me blind and tell me it’s Crozes-Hermitage and I would have no reason to dispute it. Medium/high acidity, medium tannins, light on the oak, very perfume-y, alcohol under 14%. Yes indeed, this is trés French. Warrior Angel Red, Central Coast is from the Consecration Wines, a negociant focusing on small-production, excellent value California wines. To see all my reviews of Consecration Wines, GO HERE.
Syrah’s spicy/smoky side introduces you to the Lagier Meredith Syrah 2015. Cracked black pepper, cocoa, black olive and bacon, not “too much” mingle with blue/black/raspberry (all good & ripe) from start to finish. A big burst of briary berries, dark red and blue mostly, slaps the mid palate. And the spice keeps on going, all the while nicely integrated into the fruit. As expected from Lagier Meredith, the wine has solid structure and medium/high acidity that points to a long evolution in bottle. Ideal drinking: I’m thinking 2022-2035. Destemmed before fermentation, aged in oft-used “neutral” French oak, unfiltered. 290 cases […]
Cool Carneros Syrah from a warm, dry vintage equals a very tasty, spicy, deep red wine that’s honest to the Syrah grape but not “too much.” Get blueberries, black cherry, cracked black pepper, smoked bacon, licorice and bittersweet chocolate. Medium acidity, creamy texture and notably lush, this Syrah will please both lovers of the grape and those new or unsure of it. More Information Their Syrah is only available winery direct from Cuvaison. Contact them, or better yet, arrange a visit and tasting at the winery. It’s a great visit. I wouldn’t quite call it “undiscovered,” but it is under-used […]
Neyers Sage Canyon is a Rhone-style red blend of 45% Carignane, 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre and 15% Syrah. Napa vintners Bruce and Barbara Neyers and their winemaker Tadeo Borchardt get grapes for “Sage Canyon” from the Sierra Foothills, Contra Costa County, Sonoma Valley and Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey. I totally dig this wine: it captures a Southern French character as it embraces the style that California sunshine offers. Smell and taste dark pie spices, blueberry jam, ripe raspberries, kirsch, black licorice and peppercorns. It sports medium acidity that elevates the flavors and easy-going tannins. Being card-carrying member of the Rhone-Head […]