October 27, 2020
Coho Headwaters

Coho Headwaters 2016

The Coho Headwaters, always a Bordeaux-style blend, is different in 2016 with its large portion of Petit Verdot. The blend, 39% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon and 24% Petit Verdot, all from the cooler Napa region of Coombsville, makes for a Napa red that could be confused for Bordeaux. Savory sensations such as bittersweet chocolate, roast coffee beans and garden thyme, bay leaf & rosemary join black currants, blackberries, black cherries and pomegranates. Structured, multi-layered, great mouth-feel. Marriage of fruit, earth, spice and complimentary oak on the long, satisfying finish. Coho owner Gary Lipp stays true to his mantra of full […]
October 27, 2020
Read Holland Pinot Noir

Read Holland Pinot Noir Deep End 2017

Gorgeous, wild cherry dominant nose with red apple, ripe raspberry, vanilla and garden thyme sneaking in as well. In the mouth the bright, bold cherry/berry/plum flavors are supported by a little toasty French oak, black licorice, bay leaf and black tea, with the licorice jumping out more than the others in the 20 second finish. Flavors, textures and balancing acidity are all turned up high which is testament to the quality of fruit and the winemaking. Very good now, best 2023-2030. Anderson Valley’s “Deep End” is the western-most and most coastal influenced section of the AVA. Vineyards are planted on […]
October 23, 2020
Argus Pinot Noir

Argus Pinot Noir 2018

Fruit-focused Pinot Noir with concentrated, dark red cherry and raspberry flavors and a gentle touch of sweet, toasty oak. Black licorice, cherry bitters and garden thyme flavors kick in as the wine gets more savory in the second half (i.e. back palate and finish). I found the grip of tannins when first opened quickly softened and integrated with a few minutes of good breathing. For me the Argus Pinot Noir 2018 is equally good drinking on its own and with a meal. It rightfully deserves its “Hall of Fame Value” status. The fruit comes mostly from Argus owner/winemaker Chris Dearden’s […]
September 17, 2020
Peter Paul Pinot Noir Gravenstein Highway

Peter Paul Pinot Noir Gravenstein Hwy 2019

The Peter Paul Pinot Noir Gravenstein Highway has a brilliant, translucent scarlet color. Smell tree-ripened red cherries, lavender, roses and blood oranges, then taste the cherries, some raspberries and black tea. With air the wine gets more fruity and layered (note it’s a 2019…not even a year has past since harvest). It’s light, but it’s not simple, and will get markedly better with each passing month. Value rating of 5.6 is one of my highest ever…a Hall of Fame Value and then some! Peter Paul Wines is owned by entrepreneur/philanthropist Peter Paul. Martin Reyes, MW, oversees winemaking and manages sales and […]
September 17, 2020
Peter Paul Cabernet Sauvignon

Peter Paul Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

The Peter Paul Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 sports deep smells and flavors of blackberries, black currants, rosemary, black tea and dark chocolate. It’s rich, smooth and mouth-coating with a firm core of ripe Napa Cab goodness, elevated by a pulse of life-giving acidity. Napa richness with a Bordeaux-ish edge of savory tobacco and bittersweet chocolate. Enjoy this now through 2035, preferably with some gamy roast red or white meat, or earthy vegetables. Sourced from two super-high end Napa estates, one on the Valley floor, one in the eastern mountains. 8% Cabernet Franc, 4% Merlot and 2% Petit Verdot. 40% new French […]
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 […]