December 18, 2020
Prima Materia Aglianico

Prima Materia Aglianico

Dark color, spicy ripe berry nose, strong flavor with low acid and soft tannins. The dark cocoa, wild mushroom and black licorice complement the oodles of concentrated blackberry, black currant and dried black fig flavors. While not so many wine drinkers know Aglianico, many do know strong red wine and like it. Such drinkers will very much like the Prima Materia Aglianico. Notes from Prima Materia owner/winemaker Pietro Buttitta: “Grown at 1450’ elevation on red, obsidian-strewn soil resulting from Mt. Konocti’s volcanic upheaval, Aglianico is Prima Materia’s most important bottling. Our biggest, boldest red. Black fruits with black cherry, licorice, baking […]
December 15, 2020
Jolie Laide GSM

Jolie Laide Grenache Syrah Mourvedre 2018

Ripe and sweet-smelling blueberries, black licorice, dry-aged beef, violets and lavender and earthy spices come to mind on the Jolie Laide GSM’s deep, complex nose. In the mouth, the wine is layered, intense and youthful. Red berry and plum fruits peek through along with mandarin orange, new leather and cracked black pepper. Built to last and evolve with its healthy acidity and fine tannins, the wine will reach its optimal drinking plateau around 2025 and stay there for 10+ years. Co-owner/winemaker Scott Schultz: “Shake Ridge is an undulating and diverse 46-acre vineyard nestled about 1750ft. up in the Sierra foothills, […]
December 15, 2020
Jolie Laide Gamay

Jolie Laide Gamay 2019

Stealing from co-owner/winemaker Scott Schultz, the Jolie Laide Gamay “Barsotti” 2019 is “Wild strawberry and summer herbs with cranberry tartness.” Running alongside the strawberry nose is watermelon Jolly Rancher, dried orange peels, violets and black tea. Tartness indeed, although I prefer tangy…same thing but sounds better. Because I know the vines grow in granite, I taste the rock (just like I do in Cru Beaujolais – nothing wrong with riding the power of suggestion) plus peach pit, white pepper and lots of baby strawberries and raspberry. Its healthy tannic structure unwinds with plenty of air – I find the wine […]
December 8, 2020
Obsidian Ridge The Chief

Obsidian Ridge The Chief 2017

Ideally ripe, structured and complex, the Obsidian Ridge The Chief is an outstanding, limited production Cab-based blend. The estate vineyard in Lake County’s Red Hills AVA is over 2500 feet high planted in obsidian/volcanic rock. Decant at least two hours (important) then taste roast herbs de Provence, wild blueberries, dried black cherries, dried cedar and sweet pomegranate seeds. Structured and bright from its natural acidity, the wines attributes are cohesive and harmonious. Again, you must decant well prior to imbibement for the full effect. Better yet, cellar until 2030 and enjoy through 2040 and beyond. % of Malbec and Petit […]
December 8, 2020
Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon

Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

The 2017 Obsidian Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon has a Cabernet Franc-esque aroma of fresh bay leaves, sage and thyme. Black currants, dried blueberries and dark pomegranate make a pointed entrance on the mid-palate. Structure and vibrancy persist start to finish, attributable to the 2600 feet high, sloping vineyard on deep volcanic soil. Bittersweet chocolate and black cherry liqueur are at the core of the wine, showing themselves on the back palate and early finish before mountain tannins take over. A meat-eater’s wine, it would make a great foil with a grilled ribeye or New York strip. 2% each Malbec and Petit […]
December 1, 2020
Olivia Brion Pinot Noir Willamette

Olivia Brion Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2016

Bright, ethereal and snappy, the Olivia Brion Pinot Noir “Sunny Mountain” captures the classic light and intense Pinot Noir style that made Willamette Valley famous. Get bay leaf, raspberries, tarragon, cranberry pastry, ruby grapefruit and a savory, salty finish. This is a Pinot Noir I drink happily on its own – and with a mouthful of fatty fish (salmon typically) I drink it with great joy. A la Burgundy, this is a “food wine” first and foremost. More Information Best known for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from their Estate “Heron Lake Vineyard” in Napa & Solano’s Wild Horse Valley, Olivia […]
November 29, 2020
Prima Materia Arcanum III

PRIMA MATERIA “Arcanum No III” Red

“Arcanum” is a Dolcetto-based, non-vintage red blend. This dark berry fruit, brooding, earthy/spicy quality is not what you expect from Dolcetto (I wonder what % is Dolcetto? Guessing around 50%.) Smell and taste black figs, blackberries, dry aged beef, pipe tobacco, tea leaves. Ripe core of fruit in the middle with savory flavors all around it. Reminds me of a Southern Italian red: nice and rustic. $21 is a great deal for this wine. More Information Prima Materia’s vineyard is in western Lake County. Volcanic soils, 1500 feet elevation, continental climate (very hot days and cool nights). Not your typical […]
November 24, 2020
Becheur Mourvedre

Becheur Mourvedre 2018

100% 100+ year old vine Mourvedre from the Sacramento Delta (vineyard is near the town of Pittsburg). Generous amounts of dark plum, blueberry and blackberry fruit, nicely complemented by Mourvedre’s black licorice, earthy truffle, crusty cigar wrapper and black pepper flavors. Good, brightening acidity and fine, firm tannins. Ready to enjoy now…fantastic choice for a “house wine” because of its versatility with food as well as its tastiness on its own. The value speaks for itself. One of my highest ever Value Ratings of 5.6 – Hall of Fame Value. If you know Mourvedre a little bit or a lot, […]
November 2, 2020
Priest Ranch Coach Gun

PRIEST RANCH “Coach Gun” Red 2015

The Priest Ranch “Coach Gun” is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petit Verdot and 20% Malbec from the Priest Ranch, and now “Somerston Estate” vineyard and winery, on the eastern edge of the Napa Valley AVA. The 2015 Coach Gun is pretty awesome. Dark berry flavors everywhere with loads of dark chocolate, black licorice, oil-cured black olive and black mole flavors adding impressive complexity. It’s rich, lush and surprisingly velvety for such an extracted “mountain wine.” This wine is drinking like a champ now and will stay on top for the next 15 years easy. Somerston Estate (formerly […]
October 29, 2020
Coho Petit Verdot

Coho Petit Verdot Chinn Vineyard

Mostly 2016 Petit Verdot. 2017 Merlot/Cab Sauv and about 10% 2018 vintage PV in the blend. Typical of Petit Verdot, pours out blackish-ruby-purple. The berry fruit flavors are super-strong and intense. Ripe, lip-staining blackberries, pipe tobacco, mocha, roast Mediterranean herbs and black truffle flavors galore from first sip through the long, 25 second finish. (And well worth noting the flavor grows on the palate…Petit Verdot often loses its luster in the mouth. Deft blending and longer barrel aging contributes to this.) All the flavor is matched by brilliant acidity. Everything is turned up here, except the alcohol which comes in […]
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 […]