August 22, 2019
Prima Materia Tocai Friulano

Prima Materia Tocai Friulano 2017

California needs more wines like this! Tocai Friulano, aka Friulano in its homeland of Friuli, Italy and Sauvignon Vert in California (unless it’s Muscadelle…yeah, it’s confusing) has about 50 acres planted in California. That number recently went down when THIS vineyard, “Graziano” in Mendocino’s Potter Valley, was converted to Vermentino. Quoting Prima Materia’s Pietro Buttitta, it’s “probably a good idea, but a wistful one as this bottling has great tension and complexity.” This is true. Good Tocia Friulano needs to breathe and stretch. And enjoyed chilled not cold: 60 degrees is good. My Prima Materia Tocai Friulano 2017 tasting notes […]
August 15, 2019
Wilson Foreigner Albarino

WILSON FOREIGNER Albarino “Rorick Vineyard” Sierra Foothills 2017

The Albariño grape, native to the cool Atlantic coast of Spain and Portugal, interestingly makes good wine at “Rorick Heritage” outside the town of Murphys in the Sierra Foothills. Interesting because it’s HOT here. David Wilson, the Wilson of Wilson Foreigner, explains to me “the Albarino we get from Rorick grows in schist rock (schist is a high-mineral metamorphic rock) and there’s limestone next to our vines. And the vines are east-facing for morning sun, afternoon & evening shade.” These factors, the cool Sierra nights and natural acidity in Albarino, explain the tang in the Wilson Foreigner. It’s loaded with […]
August 7, 2019
Keep Delta White

KEEP “Delta White” 2018

Cortese and Falanghina: two grapes of Italian origin (Cortese in Piedmont-northern Italy, Falanghina in Campania-southern Italy). They are two of the many lesser-known (you could say esoteric) grapes grown at “Lost Slough Vineyard” outside the town of Rio Vista (on Highway 12 west of Lodi). Made to drink young and bright like a lot of California wines…Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc two leaders in this category. The “Delta White” takes a turn from the norm, aiming for an old world, traditional Italian style of less fresh fruit and more rocky/salty smells and flavors. My tasting notes include green apple skins, watermelon […]
August 6, 2019
Clif Family Sauvignon Blanc

CLIF FAMILY Sauvignon Blanc “Rte Blanc” 2018

Top-notch expression of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, showing tangy green apple, white peach, melon and lemongrass smells and flavors start to long finish. The 1/4th barrel fermentation (in neutral French oak) and aging on lees gives the wine a little roundness and pastry aroma. Deft winemaking touch. This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc sourced from multiple vineyards, fermented dry to 13.4% alcohol.   Clif Family continues to make consistently tasty red and white wines from their Estate vineyards on Howell Mountain as well as from purchased fruit from Napa Valley and beyond (they also have a new vineyard in Napa’s Oak […]
August 5, 2019
Clif Family Viognier

CLIF FAMILY Viognier 2017

It’s tricky to make a luscious style of Viognier without going overboard on alcohol and oak. I think Clif Family walked the fine line by achieving full flavor development and simultaneously keeping the nuance of the Viognier grape. Get honeysuckle, dried lemon peel, sliced fresh peaches, ripe apricots and melons and white pepper. Fuller flavored, as expected from a Viognier that hits 14.5% alcohol, but not “hot.” All Oak Knoll District fruit is southern Napa Valley. Mostly fermented in neutral French oak barrels. Clif Family continues to make consistently tasty red and white wines from their Estate vineyards on Howell […]
July 22, 2019
Complant Chardonnay

COMPLANT Chardonnay “Linda Vista” 2017

While many California Chardonnay makers profess to make a crisper style of Chardonnay, few really do it. Complant Chardonnay, a new winery owned, run and made by the Baron family, hits the mark. Son Sam Baron takes charge of the Chardonnay. From “Linda Vista Vineyard,” a north Napa vineyard owned and farmed by Steve Matthiasson. The wine walks a tightrope of achieving ripeness at 12.13% alcohol. It’s ripe enough for me as it shows ripe lemon, tangy green apples, quince and green-stemmed banana fruit flavors along with honeycomb, biscuit and plain Greek yogurt flavors. This is tangy and bright (neither […]
June 27, 2019
J Pinot Gris

J Pinot Gris 2018

As good as it gets for a fresh, fruit-driven, easy to drink white wine. Top four (out of 8+) fruit flavors I get are green apple, peach, pineapple and Meyer lemon. Acid’s fresh and lively, no oak. A little “sneaky sweetness” elevates the fruitiness, meaning you don’t taste sweet but you like the wine more because it’s there. Get a case…can be found for under $15/bottle (check out Total Wine). This is a DDWA “Awesome” Value. See all my Hall of Fame and Awesome Value wines on my Best of the Best Value list.
June 25, 2019
Barnett Chardonnay Sangiacomo

BARNETT Chardonnay Sangiacomo 2017

Spring Mountain, Napa winery Barnett Vineyards acquires top-notch Chardonnay from “Sangiacomo” in the Carneros to make this rich, strong-flavored Chardonnay that boasts both bright, tangy fruit AND toasty, spicy oak. Get Meyer lemons, peaches, pears and apricots as well as cinnamon stick, caramel and buttered toast. More oaky than buttery, it has both. And lots of fruit too. It has it all going on, high volume.
June 25, 2019
William Hill Chardonnay

WILLIAM HILL Chardonnay 2017

Butter, baked apples, caramel, pineapple, pie spices and toast is what you get from the William Hill Napa Valley Chardonnay. Oily texture, lush and creamy, this is definitely a Chardonnay for those who like their wines big and buttery. Is it “too much?” No – it’s just right for those who like this style. And, the grapes are good enough, strong enough, to hold up to the buttery richness.
June 24, 2019
Merisi Pinot Gris

MERISI Pinot Gris 2018

Fruity, textured, dry and aromatic, the very tasty “Alsatian style” Merisi Pinot Gris is an absolute pleasure to drink. I get lemon curd, apple sauce, fresh peaches and apricots, white pepper, fresh French herbs and lemon zest. A slight oily and creamy texture, classic for Alsace style Pinot Gris, coats the mouth. First and lasting impression is the ripe citrus and orchard fruits. Tiny production, super delicious and a DDWA “Great Value.” Sixth vintage of Merisi Pinot Gris. Merisi co-owner and winemaker Mandy Heldt Donovan is making tiny amounts of delicious, balanced, honest expressions of Pinot Gris, Grenache and Petite […]
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
Navarro Gewurztraminer Deep End

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
Crocker and Starr Sauvignon Blanc 18

Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc AVA Napa Valley 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
Foxen Chenin Blanc

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
Textbook Chardonnay

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 […]