June 17, 2019
Peter Paul Chardonnay

PETER PAUL Chardonnay 2017

I really like how this Peter Paul Chardonnay showcases the grape’s body and richness and simultaneously provides the mouth a bunch of lemony tangy pleasure. Get lemon zest, cinnamon-y green apple, honeydew melon, yellow pears and some cocoa (25% new French oak explains the toast, cocoa and spice). Medium weight, good intensity and an impressive 20 second finish. Way over-delivers in the Chardonnay realm for $25. Peter Paul Wines is owned by entrepreneur/philanthropist Peter Paul and, managed by Martin Reyes, MW and in 2017 welcomed Jamey Whetstone as consulting vineyard manager and winemaker. The winery has made solid wines since […]
June 13, 2019
Dan Dawson's Wine Advisor

Navarro Gewurztraminer “Deep End” 2017

Not your average Gewurztraminer, the tightly-spaced, hillside, low-yielding Gewurz vines used for “Deep End Blend” makes for an outstanding wine. Smell and taste grapefruit marmalade, orange zest, white pepper, mango, dried apple slices and tarragon. This is fermented dry to 13.9 alcohol, which is low by most measures for excellent California wine, but high for cool-climate Gewurztraminer. You have to go to Alsace to find a worthy comparison for the Deep End Gewurztraminer. Super-impressive. Buy some from Navarro Winery before it’s all gone.
June 10, 2019
Cliff lede sauvignon Blanc

Cliff Lede Sauvignon Blanc 2017

On the tropical side with fresh mango, papaya and pineapple flavors standing out. Meyer lemon, fresh peaches and apricots and apple butter flavors sneak in there. This is more lush and rich than most Sauvignon Blancs, which comes from partial barrel fermentation and the 15% Semillon and Sauvignon Vert included. Really nice acidity…makes my mouth water and want grilled fish, fried foods and potato chips. It also has the richness to satisfy most Chardonnay drinkers. Cliff Lede Vineyards is incredibly consistent in making outstanding Sauvignon Blanc and selling it for a very reasonable price.
June 10, 2019
Bridesmaid Sauvignon Blanc 18

Crocker & Starr – Bridesmaid Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Lots of lip-smacking Sauvignon Blanc goodness to enjoy here. Classic fruit flavors like Granny Smith apples, fresh lemon (zest and pulp), tangerine and honeydew melon. Kiss of honey on the finish and a pleasing mouth-filling texture (6% Semillon and some lees-stirring accounts for this). No oak flavor-this wine is all about the bright, tangy citrus and orchard fruits. More Information Winemaker/winery owner Pam Starr utilizes her “AVA Napa Valley” brand to purchase barrels/tanks of wine, making a unique blend, and selling it for a very fair price. This is the evolution of the Bridesmaid Wine label owned and made by […]
June 5, 2019
Farm Chardonnay

Farm Chardonnay Napa Valley 2018

On the stronger, fuller-bodied side of Chardonnay. I get roasted pears, lemon custard, lemon zest, roast almonds and hazelnuts and apple butter. Made in a not-buttery, limited oak style. The strong fruit and lees contact account primarily for the richness. Super-satisfying – fans of California Chardonnay are sure to enjoy this. FARM Napa Valley is owned and made by John Anthony Truchard, who has also flourished with his labels JAM, BUTTER and John Anthony, amongst others. All the grapes for Farm Chardonnay are farmed and managed, and often owned as well, by John Anthony.
May 23, 2019
Lumen Grenache Blanc

LUMEN Grenache Blanc 2016

The workhorse grape of the Southern Rhone Valley, Grenache Blanc is an intriguing player, albeit a minor one, in California. This tiny-production, cool-climate Santa Barbara bottling shows off the grape. I think of fresh fruit cocktail: pears, peaches, pineapple and Mandarin orange. On the non-fruit side, jasmine, coriander and lemon balm peek through. Refreshing acidity, slightly creamy texture, a little nutty on the finish. Delicious on its own, even more tasty with ceviche of a fish fry. A DDWA Great Value and a great buy for seekers of alternative whites. 100% Grenache Blanc.
May 22, 2019

TRINAFOUR French Colombard 2018

This grape of Gascony, France origin is sporadically planted in Northern California. These vines are REALLY spread out (see note below) in Mendocino’s Redwood Valley. The Trinafour French Colombard 2018 is loaded with fresh lemon/lime, nectarine, crunchy pears and lemon balm. It’s perfectly tangy and pure. Great choice for those who reflexively choose Sauvignon Blanc. More Information I have to say this is one of my favorite California wines because of its originality points (and it’s so darn good too). 230 old vine French Colombard vines are interplanted in a field planting of mostly red grape vines in Redwood Valley, […]
May 22, 2019
Dan Dawson's Wine Advisor

FOXEN Chenin Blanc “Ernesto Wickenden” 2016

For decades Foxen Winery has produced consistently delicious Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and more. In the more department is their single-vineyard Chenin Blanc, a dry version with all the bells and whistles of the grape. Get jasmine, honeysuckle, citrus blossoms, fresh peaches & pears and orange zest. The slightly waxy texture and elevated acidity is a tasty combination. Slam-dunk tasty and an absolute bargain.
May 21, 2019
Dan Dawson's Wine Advisor

TEXTBOOK Chardonnay Napa Valley 2017

A solid California Chardonnay by any measure, the Textbook Chardonnay serves forth ripe green apple, buttered toast, fresh pineapple, lime, pears and grated ginger. It has the creamy texture so enjoyed by new world Chardonnay fans and a freshness coming from its bright acidity. Look for this by the glass at smart restaurants and case-stacked at wine shops and high end grocers. And winery-direct. A big chunk of these grapes come from the Carneros. 30% ML, 30% barrel-fermented (new French oak). A cool 13.3% alcohol. Textbook was created, is still owned and made by Scenic Root Winegrowers which includes the […]
April 9, 2019
Camino Chardonnay

CAMINO Chardonnay “Soberanes” 2016

Racy lemon and Macintosh apple play kindly with light caramel, toasted brioche and roast hazelnut smells and flavors. Impressively rich and full-flavored and, simultaneously, tangy and sunshine-bright make for a delicious, impressive Chardonnay from Camino Cellars. Tiny production: only 4 barrels made (just one of them new). One of the best under-$50 Chardonnays I’ve had from anywhere. More Information Napa producer Camino Cellars is made, owned and operated by Tadeo Borchardt, also the long-time winemaker at Neyers Vineyard. He makes tiny amounts of three wines: this Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. All of Borchardt’s wines are both full-flavored and full of pleasing […]
March 25, 2019
Dancing Crow Sauvignon Blanc

DANCING CROW Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Easy to pick this out of wine line-up as Sauvignon Blanc…lemon zest, grapefruit, lime juice, honeydew melon, lemon thyme. Light bodied, strong intensity of flavor. Shiny-bright with healthy acidity and a leesy richness on the finish. If you’re a fan of crisp, taut California Sauvignon Blanc, I guarantee you’ll like the Dancing Crow SB a lot. 100% Sauv Blanc, steel tank fermented and aged. More information Dancing Crow Vineyards is based in Napa Valley while sourcing their grapes from (and energetically promoting) Lake County. The accomplished David DeSante, winemaker. In four vintages (2014-2017) Dancing Crows has successfully positioned themselves as […]
March 20, 2019
Evening Land Chardonnay Seven Springs

EVENING LAND Chardonnay “Seven Springs” 2016

Acid-influenced intensity of flavor sets this Chardonnay apart from its peers. The pronounced bright lemon, orange and tangy apricot flavors make up the wine’s shining core. If you look for them you’ll find buttered biscuit and clotted cream flavors along with oyster shell/salty sea air. Ultimately, this is a Chardonnay for lovers of the crisper style. What makes it special is its sneaky richness. Outstanding buy at $35. More Information Evening Land Vineyards is owned by Sashi Moorman and Raj Parr, two long-time and influential California wine veterans (Moorman as winemaker in Santa Barbara, Parr as Sommelier turned vintner). They are […]
March 14, 2019
Benevolent Neglect Riesling

BENEVOLENT NEGLECT Riesling 2017

From a vineyard outside of Ukiah in central Mendocino County. This wine has a freshness and vitality I associate with cooler regions like Anderson Valley to its west. Primary smells and tasty flavors are Granny Smith apples, clover honey, yellow grapefruit, fresh pineapple and Meyer lemon. Lemongrass and citrus blossoms come through on the finish. Slightly off-dry at a moderate 12 grams/liter residual sugar and acidity to make it seem almost dry. 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 […]
March 12, 2019
Beau Rivage Chenin Blanc

BEAU RIVAGE Chenin Blanc 2017

I had my personal discovery of this first-release Chenin at a wine tasting in San Francisco. Co-owned by two young men who have day jobs in wine marketing and reviews (I tasted it with co-owner Frank Ingriselli. His partner, William Kelley, reviews Burgundy for The Wine Advocate.) Using Sandlands Chenin Blanc as an inspiration, the Beau Rivage Chenin Blanc is rocky, citrus zesty and sea air-salty. I get ripe yellow grapefruit, quince and chalk, especially on the finish. The acidity sings. I really enjoyed this and am certain other lovers of Dry Chenin Blanc made in an old-world style will […]
March 8, 2019
Hawley Viognier

HAWLEY Viognier 2017

The exotic smells and flavors of Viognier are toned down in a good way. Honeysuckle, fresh peaches, Meyer lemon and mango sensations are there but not “in your face.” Acidity is bright and lively. Easy to drink and enjoy. The fruit comes from two vineyard, one each in Russian River and Dry Creek Valleys. The wine went through partial malolactic, and part barrel-fermented, part stainless steel.
February 28, 2019
Belharra Chardonnay The Search

BELHARRA Chardonnay 2017

More toasty fresh biscuit and cream than sweet butter, the Belharra Chardonnay “The Search” delivers the texture and body of Chardonnay while keeping a fresh, bright quality. I get fresh peaches, ripe red apples, cantaloupe, tropical fruits (pineapple & papaya), fresh bread crust and a honeysuckle/citrus blossom edge. Can’t help but like this Chardonnay. That said, it’s first & foremost for fans of no-butter Chards. More Information Belharra is a new, micro-winery owned, made and operated by two ladies with notable day jobs. Anne Fogerty (Rivers Marie) and Camille Gaio (Covert Estate). I really like their passion, skill and imagination […]
February 28, 2019
Belharra Sauvignon Blanc

BELHARRA Sauvignon Blanc 2018

All the enviable flavors of Sauvignon Blanc make an appearance in this all steel tank ferment and aged Sauvignon Blanc. Lemon, grapefruit, green apple, peach, green fleshed melon, mango. None of them overwhelm. Same for the garden lemongrass and basil: present and subtle. Light bodied, medium/high acidity, fresh as can be. I like how the Belharra Sauvignon Blanc is made to compliment whatever you’re eating with it. 100% Sauvignon Blanc from Napa’s Pope Valley. More Information Belharra is a new, micro-winery owned, made and operated by two ladies with notable day jobs. Anne Fogerty (Rivers Marie) and Camille Gaio (Covert […]
February 26, 2019
Navarro Dry Muscat

NAVARRO Dry Muscat 2017

All lemon zest, grated ginger, white pepper and lemongrass a la dry Southern French Muscats you can find if you look very hard. Dances lightly on the tongue with acidity, spice, jasmine and fresh, cutting citrus. Glistening acidity, no oak, racy as all get out. A natural match with grilled and/or spicy shrimp dishes. Read all of my Navarro Winery reviews HERE.
February 4, 2019
Altar Chardonnay Platt Vineyard

ALTAR Chardonnay “Platt Vineyard” 2016

Fantastic Chardonnay – full bodied and very intense while still showing grace and complexity. Concentrated lemon, green melon and heirloom apple with bits of cocoa, apple butter, roast hazelnuts, seashells and citrus blossoms. Super-long finish…30 seconds and lengthening as time goes by…of roast nuts, cocoa and preserved lemon. The texture and length of this wine puts it in world-class territory for Chardonnay. In the realm of high end Chardonnays, at $78 this is an excellent value. More Information Altar Winery‘s first releases are two 2016 vintage Sonoma Coast Chardonnays and a 2017 Santa Cruz Pinot Noir. Husband/wife owners have “day jobs” […]
February 4, 2019
Altar Chardonnay Sonoma Coast

ALTAR Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2016

Maiden release from an experienced, talented Napa Valley couple. A combination of two Sonoma Coast vineyards: “Sangiacomo” near Carneros and “Platt” western Sonoma Coast. A classy wine from start to finish, the Altar Chardonnay Sonoma Coast grabbed me with grapefruit ice, crisp green apples and pears, fresh biscuits topped with a dollop of sweet butter. I could go on with descriptors. More important are the marriages of ripe with tangy and subtlety with intensity. There is texture, freshness and depth. I found everything I want in a top-notch Chardonnay, and none of them dominating the others. It’s a solid wine […]
January 31, 2019
Alma de Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc

ALMA de CATTLEYA Sauvignon Blanc 2018

Really, really tasty  – perfect for what it is, a dry, fruity, food-friendly, drink-me-up, Hall of Fame Value California Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing out of the ordinary in the flavor profile. It’s exceptional-ness stems from it having all the flavors of Sauv Blanc and they are already in harmony (note this is a 2018). Got your green apple, Meyer lemon, honeydew melon, fresh herbs, chalk. Has great acidity for dryness, delicious fruit that you can’t help buy love. I think I just convinced myself to get a case of this. About Alma de Cattleya Cattleya Winery is owned & made by the […]
January 19, 2019
Apsara Chardonnay

APSARA Chardonnay, Oakville 2016

In a sea of quality California Chardonnay here’s a little starfish. The Apsara Chardonnay Oakville comes from a vineyard near the Napa River in Oakville. (Doesn’t get much more mid-Valley than that.) I love the combination of fresh, rich fruits and pastry/dairy sensations that come from winemaking. My tasting notes include “light toast, ripe green apple, rich lemon, summer peach, medium butter & oak, warm biscuits.” Refreshing acidity (neither high nor low) and creamy texture. This is unmistakably Chardonnay, that said it sets itself apart by bringing together freshness of fruit and buttered biscuit and cream flavors. Mighty tasty! This […]
January 15, 2019
Apsara Sauvignon Blanc

APSARA Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Such a no-brainer for Sauvignon Blanc fans…owner/maker Robin Akhurst consistently nails it with this wine. 2016: rich ripe lemon, white peach, lemon tea, kiss of the tropical fruits. Lovely texture…more than most SBs (barrel ferment in neutral oak then tank aged for 6 months). “Fancier” wineries would sell this, easily, for twice the price. More Information Scotsman Robin Akhurst learned he loved wine while attending Edinburgh University. His wine journey took him to Provence, Burgundy, Barossa Valley and finally Napa Valley. Working next to and learning from great winemakers all along the way. He makes tiny lots of wine under […]
December 16, 2018
Campesino Alina 2016

CAMPESINO Alina White 2016

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 […]