February 4, 2019
Peirson Meyer Maquette

PEIRSON MEYER “Maquette” 2015

Blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. A “Right Bank Bordeaux-style blend” in the words of Peirson Meyer Winery. I absolutely love this wine for its expressive yet under-control fruitiness, underscore of savory flavors like tobacco, anise and dry aged beef and fine, gum-coating tannins. All the smells and flavors are perfectly supported by the acid and tannins. Showing off all its goodies now, and will continue to evolve and drink awesome for 10-20 years. This is an outstanding value in the Napa Cab/Bordeaux blend category for “just” $60. From Peirson Meyer… MAQUETTE: A term familiar […]
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


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 19, 2019
Behrens Family Front Man

BEHRENS FAMILY “Front Man” 2015

This Merlot-based red (86% Merlot, 14% Cab Sauv) is a broad-shouldered, hearty red wine…hardly what the majority of wine drinkers equate with Merlot. Black fruits, sweet spices like anise, clove and roasted cinnamon. Cocoa, mint and rosemary. It’s not shy on new, toasty oak yet it has an extreme concentration of fruit and glycerine to match the barrel. (The last statement can be made about every Behrens Family wine I can remember.)  
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 18, 2019
Apsara Cabernet Amoenus

APSARA Cabernet Sauvignon “Amoenus” 2014

The Apasara Cabernet Amoenus 2014 is one of those Cabs that make me go WOW. No qualifications:  All Napa Cab lovers will love this wine to pieces. “Amoenus” is a hillside vineyard at the northern end of Napa Valley, just before it drops down to Knights Valley. Apsara’s Robin Akhurst buys enough grapes to make two barrels: 50 cases. I tasted this wine about a year ago and it was, understandably, a bit wound up. I tasted it with Robin on January 17. Here are my notes: Smells of spicy cocoa and concentrated black and blueberries. Big impact of dark berry, […]
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 […]
January 9, 2019
Benevolent Neglect GSM

Benevolent Neglect GSM 2016

This GSM is 70% G (Grenache), 20% M (Mourvedre) and 10% S (Syrah). A gorgeous wine, full of spice, sweet & uplifting strawberry and plum fruits, sweet earth and cured olive smells and flavors. The smell reminds me of Southern Rhone with its potpourri, fennel, musk and minty qualities. Perfectly ripe red fruits with a harmonic tang of acidity on the mid palate, followed by more savory spice at the end. I must admit I’m a little bit biased here because I love quality GSMs from anywhere, and I so enjoy the Benevolent Neglect wines as a whole. This is […]
January 8, 2019
Blacksmith CLRT Cabernet

BLACKSMITH Cabernet Sauvignon “C.L.R.T.” 2016

This DDWA Great-Value red boasts spot-on Napa Cab smells and flavors of dark red cherry liqueur, vanilla, toasty barrel, cocoa and boysenberry. Its fine tannins and healthy thread of acidity make it an outstanding match with red meats and well-seasoned, protein heavy dishes. In the ever-escalating price of Napa Valley Cabernet, a quality one for $25 (or less!) is harder and harder to find. If you love to have Napa Cabernet around the house for casual drinking, I suggest you buy a case of this. More Information Winemaker Matt Smith is based in Alameda on the San Francisco Bay. His […]
January 8, 2019
Campion Pinot Noir

CAMPION Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2016

As floral, earthy and perfumed as it is fruity, the Campion Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands makes me think of violets, talc, rhubarb, wild red cherries, dark green olives, cedar and light cocoa. I call it lighter & brighter in the spectrum of California Pinot, especially in the Santa Lucia Highlands realm (see below). It’s very good wine because it has a strong, ripe core of red fruits in the mouth and all the non-fruit flavors are classic and ideal for cool-climate Pinot Noir. This is a great choice for one who likes Burgundy on a budget and New Zealand […]
January 7, 2019
Halcon Syrah Alturas

Halcon Syrah Alturas 2016

If it’s true that the best vineyards grow in extreme circumstances, Halcon Vineyard gets high marks for extreme-ism alone. 2500 feet altitude (very high for California vines), rocky, windy, wild, remote (southern Mendocino, many miles from a highway), vines planted super-tight. Paul and Jackie Gordon, owners of Halcon, sell their grapes as well as make wine from them. For their “Alturas” Syrah, they ferment half whole cluster with no yeast addition, age with a little bit of new French oak, unfined, unfiltered. This is so Northern Rhone-like you might say it’s a Cal wine but you wouldn’t say so with […]
January 7, 2019
Halcon Pinot Noir Oppenlander

Halcon Pinot Noir Oppenlander 2016

It’s doubtful you will happen upon Oppenlander Vineyard. It’s in, or part of, the census-designated place (step below town) of Comptche, 12 miles from the Pacific and 25 mile drive from the nearest town, Mendocino. Yes, it’s a cool vineyard, ideal for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that grows there, so brightness in wines from here is a given. Other factors make Oppenlander Pinots, the ones I’ve had anyway, denser and more earth-driven than most from cool coastal vineyards. The clay-loam soils and exceptional sun exposure has something to do with that. Sum-up: I dig Oppenlander Vineyard Pinot Noirs. Yet […]
January 7, 2019
Halcon Pinot Noir Bearwallow

HALCON Pinot Noir “Bearwallow” 2016

It’s tricky to make a delicious, truly delicious, Pinot Noir from an “extreme” vineyard like Bearwallow. Paul Gordon of Halcon knows how and achieved it in his first release of Pinot Noir from “Bearwallow.” By extreme I mean very cool micro-climate at the northwest end of Mendocino’s Anderson Valley where vines and valley turn to coastal woodlands. Add on the fact that it’s a rocky, north-facing hillside vineyard (most cool sites will face south to gobble up late-day summertime sun) and you have a challenging environment for full ripening to say the least. Mr. Gordon is comfortable with high risk […]
December 15, 2018
Communication Block Cabernet

COMMUNICATION BLOCK Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Intense, ripe, dark red cherries and berries joined by black olive, bay leaf, vanilla bean, dry-aged beef and cedar. A healthy acidity, expected of Mt Veeder, brightens the wine like an 80 watt lightbulb. Slightly surprising is how supple and delicious the Communication Block Cabernet is today. Full-flavored, distinctive and perfectly proportioned. Truly special. More Information Near the top of Mt Veeder and on the Napa/Sonoma border is “Lampyridae,” as remote a vineyard that you’ll find (or not find) in Napa Valley. It’s owned and farmed by the owners of Communication Block, John and Ashley Derr. Aaron Pott makes the […]
December 15, 2018
Boheme Pinot Noir English Hill

BOHEME Pinot Noir English Hill 2015

Cool, wind-swept “English Hill Vineyard” is the source for this fantastic, tiny-production Pinot Noir. Deep wild red cherries, framboise, both black & green tea, red rose petals, crystallized ginger, dry-aged beef and pomegranate populate my tasting notes now. Just wait 3-4 years as the wine develops and you’ll get more. 2015, a drought vintage, could be tricky to make delicate wines. Owner/winemaker Kurt Beitler nailed it here. This is complex, strong, fruity and savory all in one. In the $50/bottle category of Pinot Noir from anywhere, this is as good as it gets. More Information From Kurt Beitler, owner/winemaker of […]
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 […]
December 13, 2018
stellareese cabernet 2014

STELLAREESE Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Single vineyard, organic & dry farmed, Calistoga (Stellareese buys all the fruit…a monopole!) Generous fruitiness: dark red cherries, red currants and pomegranate syrup. Sturdy frame of French oak (“more new than we’ve ever used before” owner Rachel Stellareese Davies reports) gives the wine more sweetness and structure. The Stellareese Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious, “showy” Cabernet. And as good as it is today, will get significantly better over time. Best drinking, I estimate, to be 2021-2026.  More Information Rachel Stellareese Davies started Stellareese in 2007 while at T-Vine Cellars, working for Greg Brown. The winemaking has since moved to Outpost, […]
December 13, 2018
Lampyridae Grenache

LAMPYRIDAE Grenache Mt Veeder 2017

A decadent wine, the Lampyridae Grenache 2017 tastes of dark ripe blueberries, strawberry liqueur, melted chocolate, licorice and cracked black peppercorns. It’s mouth-coating and smooth from start to finish. Enjoy this with stronger far like braised beef short ribs and rich tomato sauce-heavy dishes. Drink it, and food match it, as you would a Napa Cabernet, which at $50 makes it a particularly good value! More Information Near the top of Mt Veeder and on the Napa/Sonoma border is “Lampyridae,” as remote a vineyard that you’ll find (or not find) in Napa Valley. It’s owned and farmed by the owners of  Lampyridae […]
December 11, 2018
Analemma Tinto 2016

ANALEMMA Tinto 2016

The Analemma Tinto, a blend of Tempranillo and Syrah, reminds me of a chewy Napa Valley Cabernet in its concentration of dark berry/cherry fruits, firm tannins, licorice and earthy spices and tobacco accents. It’s a mouthful of wine for sure as it brings together sweet and savory, a full body and layers of flavor. Youthful and chewy, a one hour decant does the wine a lot of good. If you cellar it, best drinking I estimate to be 2022-2030. More Information Analemma Winery launched in 2010 when two guys leased “Atavus Vineyard” in the Columbia Gorge (75 miles east of […]
December 10, 2018
Bedrock Heritage Vineyard

BEDROCK “Bedrock Heritage” 2017

A fantastic field blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, Mataro then an amalgam of “mixed blacks” (like Alicante, Terret, Tannat, Grenache…). On the dark red and blue fruit spectrum with an earth-driven frame of red earth, licorice and cocoa powder. Smells wonderful – so aromatic and alluring. Rich and well structured with fine tannins and healthy acidity. The Bedrock Bedrock Heritage Vineyard has a depth of flavor, complexity and coming evolution over time that comes with wines twice its price. This is such a treat and is a wine to drink now and through the next decade. Here are all the Bedrock Wine […]
December 10, 2018
Bedrock Evangelho Heritage

BEDROCK Evangelho Heritage 2017

A beautiful wine from 130+ year old, own-rooted vines in Antioch and the Sacramento Delta. Comprised of roughly 3/5th Zinfandel, 1/3rd Mataro and the rest a field blend of “mixed blacks.” (The wine is a field blend/co-ferment, matter of fact.) Perfectly ripe raspberries, strawberries and plums all marry cracked black pepper, allspice and lavender. It has a strength of flavor and graceful elegance to it. Absolutely delicious barely a year after harvest, this will improve a lot over the short term and be awesome for many years. Drink 2020-2030. 2017 marks the first vintage Bedrock has made “Evangelho” wine as […]
December 10, 2018
Navarro Pinot Noir

NAVARRO Pinot Noir Methode L’Ancienne 14

From first whiff you know this is a wine you, and everyone with you, is going to love and drink up. Just make sure to pour yourself a full glass. The nose is warm holiday spices, mocha and cherry preserves. More of the same in the mouth: ripe, soft, gently spicy and comforting. This has a natural richness to it, and being Pinot Noir it doesn’t go too far. Pinot Noir’s gentle grace persists. Way to go, Navarro. A rare Hall of Fame Value by Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor. For all my Navarro wine reviews, GO HERE. Here is my […]
December 6, 2018

INIZI “Hi Jump Red” 2016

Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Montepulciano and Cabernet Sauvignon are the “Fab 4” in this Cal-Italian red blend. Very impressive how the four grapes play together. The fruit, aromas and perky acidity of the three Italian grapes each add their unique qualities. The Cabernet adds structure and darkens the wine a bit. Get fresh raspberries, wild strawberries and plums, then peppery spice and dried Mediterranean herbs. Fine, mouth-coating tannins make the Inizi Hi Jump Red match nicely with all cuts of red meat (white meat and fatty fish too). Such a value!
December 6, 2018
poe pinot noir van der kamp

POE Pinot Noir “Van der Kamp” 2016

I really like how the Poe Pinot Noir Van der Kamp grabs the palate with ripe, smoky, slightly musky fruitiness and richness. The vineyard is a the top of Sonoma Mountain, about 1400 feet high, looking down at Sonoma and Bennett Valleys. The deep, dark cherry fruits, Indian spices and smoked beef jerky flavors are delicious and true to “Van der Kamp.” Fuller-bodied for Pinot Noir, velvety tannins, medium acidity. Very good now, even better 2020-2028. Read all my POE wine reviews HERE.