August 4, 2020
Coho Cabernet Sauvignon

COHO Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Earthy and savory aromas play with black currants and blackberries on the Bordeaux-ish nose. Dark berry/cherry fruits, baker’s chocolate, expensive cigars and cedar flavors play nicely on the palate with gently toasted oak (all French oak, 50% new) framing it all. Ripe, structured and layered with healthy acidity, the 2016 Coho Cabernet Sauvignon will age and improve for the next 10 years and stay at its drinking plateau for another 10. Makes me think of quality Left Bank Bordeaux in a very good vintage. Includes small percentages of  14% Petit Verdot and 10% Merlot in the blend. More information Since […]
July 1, 2020
Three Furies Pinot Noir The Angry One

Three Furies Pinot Noir The Angry One 2018

Ripe dark red cherry, bordering on kirsch, on the nose along with black licorice, plum tart and a kiss of toasty barrel. (“Very Santa Lucia,” says the wine geek.) Generous and easy to like, even in its youth. With all that simple goodness, there is also a steady light of acidity to bolster the Pinot Noir. Delicious now – so much so you could make a case to drink it all up now. But restrain yourself for greatest enjoyment from 2022-2028 in my estimation. Three Furies is a new(er) winery co-owned and made by Martin Mackenzie of Napa. Martin’s resume includes […]
June 30, 2020
Three Furies Pinot Noir Constant Vengeance

Three Furies Pinot Noir Constant Vengeance 2017

The Three Furies “Constant Vengeance” 2017 starts with earth-driven aromas of crimini mushroom, oiled leather and rare beefsteak. A few minutes in the glass opens the door for wild red cherries, raspberries and mandarin orange to join the party. The same fruits (along with some red plums), soil and spices team up on the currently wound up, structured palate. Impressive how it quickly evolves in the glass with the different flavors marrying up. Firm, youthful tannins that, while natural to the Santa Rita Hills vineyard from which it comes, can be attributed to the low yields of 2017. I expect […]
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 […]
June 1, 2020
Peter Paul Masters Blend

Peter Paul “Master’s Blend” 2016

Martin Reyes, Master of Wine, crafted this wine by sourcing barrels of wine from a handful of great Napa wineries and making a blend. It is Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc-heavy with Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot adding nuance. An old-world nose of smoky berry/cherry, musk, cedar and pencil shavings, along with its heartbeat of acidity, definitely remind me of Bordeaux. In the mouth the density and expansiveness of Napa Cabernet comes through as flavors of creme de cassis, blackberries, leather handbag, cumin and toasty barrel with a drop of vanilla glide by. You can tell this wine comes from […]
June 1, 2020
Peter Paul Pinot Noir Milles Freres

Peter Paul Pinot Noir “Milles Freres” 2017

Bright wild cherry, fresh violets, pomegranate and black truffle shavings come to mind at first sip in this elegant, persistent Pinot Noir. As the wine breathes it relaxes, gaining richness and a velvety texture. I like its deep core of fruit-focused flavor and stimulating acidity throughout that makes it an ideal match with fatty fish like salmon and grilled duck breast. The heart of this wine is “Terra de Promissio Vineyard” in the Petaluma Gap. All French oak, 50% new, used during its 14 month elevage.   Peter Paul Wines is owned by entrepreneur/philanthropist Peter Paul and managed by Martin Reyes, […]
May 22, 2020
Post & Vine Red Wine

Post & Vine “Old Vine Field Blend” 2016

60ish year old vine field blend of Petite Sirah (30%), Carignane (29%), Zinfandel (25%), and Grenache (16%) from Redwood Valley’s “Testa Vineyard.” The fresh, snappy red and blue fruits, peppercorn spice, potpourri and crushed Provence herbs make for an intense yet restrained red wine that is very versatile at the dinner table. At 14.2% alcohol, the wine shows purity and generous flavors without a port-like or jammy character. I think this will drink at its best from around 2023 to 2030. Post & Vine Owners/Winemakers Rebekah Wineburg and Erica Kinkaid both have “day jobs” making super-high end (and pricey) Napa […]
May 19, 2020
Cave Dog Red Wine

Cave Dog Napa Valley Red 2016

This blend of 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Franc from “Beau Terroir,” a vineyard in southwest Napa Valley, could easily be confused for a high end Right Bank Bordeaux from an exceptional vintage. It’s that good. All the expected Bordeaux descriptions rattle off my typing fingers: tobacco, black currant, blackberry, pencil shavings, cedar and sandalwood. The fruit is a smidge more pronounced than its old world counterparts because, hey, it’s Napa. Ultimately the vineyard speaks the loudest with its savory, soily, spicy character showing in the wine. Medium bodied, acidity skates about, fine tannins, complementary French oak. As good as […]
May 13, 2020
Halcyon Cabernet Franc

Halcyon Cabernet Franc “Alder Springs” 2018

Begins with smells of plum preserves, lavender, fresh ginger and blueberries. The taste continues with the same goodies plus blood orange, bay leaf, pomegranate and licorice. Everything complementary…not one sensation overwhelms the others. Medium bodied, healthy acidity, smooth tannins. Super-good alone, better with food. Grilled salmon with a soy/ginger/sesame drizzle would be a glorious match. Halcyon Winery is a champion of Cabernet Franc. They make around 6 Cab Francs a year, including 2 sparkling. These are the type of wines that define the next phase of California artisan winemaking as they bring intrigue, personality, passion and risk. Oh, and great […]
May 12, 2020
Olivia Brion Pinot Noir

Miss Olivia Brion Pinot Noir 2016

More savory and spicy than fruity, the 2016 Olivia Brion Pinot immediately impresses with dried red roses, oil-cured olives, dry-aged beef filet and concentrated dark cherries. In the mouth black truffle, black cherry, blackberry, warm spices and roast coffee, all nicely married, make for a lot of pleasure. Rich, textured and bold with classic Pinot Noir restraint and a long 15 second finish that I can see stretching out to 25 in a couple of years. This is the 40th and final vintage of “Heron Lake Vineyard” Pinot Noir for winemaker David Mahaffey. With this 2016 he is leaving on […]
May 8, 2020
Onward Syrah

Onward Syrah “Ledgewood” 2017

Exotic Syrah nose of jasmine, black pepper, lavender, black olive and dark, ripe cherry, raspberry and blueberry. In the mouth the wine is juicy and friendly – something everyone will like. While the Syrah flavor is turned down on the taste, it does welcome more drinkers for that reason. Cola and subtle barrel flavors marry the ample fruit on the finish that’s medium acidity and gentle on the tannins. Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation and passion of winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. I very much like her vineyard-driven winemaking and affinity for the esoteric while not being too much […]
May 6, 2020
Onward Carignane

Onward Carignane “Hawkeye Ranch” 2015

Made from 80+ year old, dry-farmed, certified organic vines in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. Deep, very ripe blackberry and raspberry fruit flavors along with classic old vine Carignane sensations of cracked black peppercorns, herbs de Provence, lavender and cocoa powder. While the flavors are many, it comes at you in a straightforward, uncomplicated way. It’s a mouthful of rich, vinous fun. What more can you ask? Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation and passion of winemaker Faith Armstrong Foster. I very much like her vineyard-driven winemaking and affinity for the esoteric while not being too much “out there.” Oh yeah, […]
May 5, 2020
Onward Pinot Noir Cerise

Onward Pinot Noir “Cerise” 2013

Multi-layered, intense and light on its feet, the 2013 Onward Cerise Pinot Noir has a bright, lighter red color, smells of griottes (fancy for wild red cherries), rose-scented candle wax, nutmeg and pretty French oak. The flavors go in the same direction with raspberry, floral incense, dried orange peel and black tea sneaking in there. The style and the 12.9% alcohol places the wine firmly in the “ethereal” camp of Pinot Noir. Make no mistake – if this is your preferred style of Pinot Noir, it delivers as well as any from California. Onward and Farmstrong Wines is the creation […]
May 4, 2020
Coup de Foudre Les Bouquinistes 17

Coup de Foudre “Les Bouquinistes” 2017

This blend of 42% Petit Verdot, 32% Petit Sirah, 13% Merlot and 13% Zinfandel, all from vineyards in Calistoga, takes the “modern red blend” category to a higher level of quality. It is loaded with rich berry and cherry compote fruitiness plus black licorice, peppermint, vanilla bean and cocoa smells and flavors. The smooth tannins, full body and medium-low acidity make for a whole lot of pleasure without needing a lot of analysis. Coup de Foudre is one of the wine brands owned by Napa Vintner and entrepreneur John Schwartz. Kent Jarman is the winemaker. The wines (9 each vintage […]
April 24, 2020
Hudson Phoenix

Hudson “Phoenix” 2017

Blend of 58% Merlot and 42% Cabernet Franc from the relatively cool-climate (for Napa) Hudson Estate in The Carneros. Bright, deep red berry and cherry aromas with a pretty frame of French oak (90% new French used, seems to be light to medium toast). Flavors move to more fruit, including dark red plums, new leather, cigar tobacco, roast red pepper and anise. While the tannins are substantial, they are fine and in balance with the multiple layers. Strong wine like an Olympic gymnast rather than an NFL lineman. Intriguing story, the 2017 Hudson Phoenix. 2017 was the last vintage Hudson […]
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 21, 2020
Navarro Navarrouge

Navarro “Navarrouge” 2018

This blend of 46% Pinot Noir, 18% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petite Sirah is out of the ordinary when it comes to red blends. Pinot Noir is rarely a blending wine, let alone the base wine. But if anyone is going to make such a blend, it’s Navarro because A) they grow and make excellent Pinot Noir, and lots of it and B) they proudly dance to the beat of their own drummer. “Navarrouge” 2018 shows off ripe red and blue fruits, medium body and acidity, fine tannins, brown spices and savory, meaty flavors. While it […]
April 21, 2020
Navarro Pinot Noir

Navarro Pinot Noir Anderson Valley 2018

Pretty, cool-climate Pinot Noir, light and refreshing with an element of intensity. Wild red cherries, crisp raspberries, black tea, garden thyme. Lightly framed by French oak – I don’t know but it tastes like a very low amount of new oak used, which is good. This would make a perfect by the glass pour at any California bistro or at a picnic. Review made the day after opening, giving this young wine time to open up.  Navarro only sells their wine retail winery-direct in California and miniscule distribution outside the state. It is one of the few wineries that I purchase […]
April 14, 2020
Fortunati Syrah

Fortunati Syrah “Vinto” 2017

Get concentrated ripe berry fruit flavor that reminds me of hard blackberry candies. Suggestions of blueberry sauce and roast coffee beans. Ample, classic Syrah spices like cracked black pepper, anise and sassafras. Healthy acidity elevates all the flavors going on. Juicy start to finish, fine and firm tannins. Lots going on this strong wine. Syrah is famous in Napa for being a hard wine to sell. “All it takes is for guests to taste it here, then they buy it almost every time,” says Gary Luchtel.  From Fortunati’s “Home Vineyard” in North Napa. 5% Viognier co-ferment. Aged in 30% new […]
April 14, 2020
Fortunati Pinot Noir 2018

Fortunati Pinot Noir 2018

Grabs you with its sweet, ripe dark red cherry nose, quickly moving to framboise, blood orange and red roses. More of the same in the taste along with coriander, black licorice and a careful touch of French oak (2/3rd new). My top takeaways from this wine were 1. how tasty it already is for a high-quality young Pinot Noir, 2. how much better it will get over the next 1-2 years and 3. the unmistakable taste of blood orange on the back palate. Wine scribes like me often toss around the descriptor of blood orange frivolously, but the blood orange […]
April 13, 2020
Fortunati Cabernet Sauvignon

FORTUNATI Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

This husky Napa Cab shows the concentration and structure possible in 2016. Wound up when first poured with black currant, deep dark red cherry, tobacco, black olive and vanilla peaking through. The taste, while 5 years away from starting optimal drinking (I’m guessing), still brings great pleasure. Blackberries, kirsch, bittersweet chocolate, cracked black pepper and the tobacco & olive flavors come forth with impressive synchronicity in the wine’s youth. Broad mouthfeel and strong tannins that, gratefully, don’t hurt. I counted a 20 second finish that moved from ripe berry fruits to savory earth and spice. I only tasted this wine […]
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). […]
April 1, 2020
Prima Materia Sangiovese

PRIMA MATERIA Sangiovese 2016

A beefier style of Sangiovese. Smell and taste dark red berry and cherry fruits, dry-aged beefsteak, sun-soaked thyme and tarragon. Smooth tannins and medium acidity contributes to its immediate pleasure at first taste, and still the wine opens up and improves as it breathes. A rocky earthiness, spice and beefy sensations come emerge with air. From an organic vineyard planted and owned by Prima Materia. Neutral oak aged, miniscule sulphur addition, unfined and unfiltered. A fantastic and “honest” Sangiovese. In the words of Prima Materia the wine “reflects our region while respecting its Italian heritage.” A real bargain at $25. […]
March 9, 2020
Decoy Red Blend

Decoy Red Blend 2017

I really like this wine. Smells and tastes of fresh red berries, French toast (just the smell), black licorice and pomegranate. This is ripe buy stays away from the popular over-ripe red blend style. I prefer the non-jammy character of the Decoy Red Blend. This can be found for under $20/bottle in some retail outlets in and around Napa. If you find it for $17-18/bottle, buy a bunch and share it for most any occasion, casual or kind of fance. The blend is 49% Cabernet Sauvignon followed by Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Syrah. Decoy Wines are part of the […]