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 […]
December 7, 2018
Bedrock Riesling Wirz

BEDROCK Riesling “Wirz” 2017

I like this Riesling’s lemon-apple-honey character and classic Riesling lick-a-river-rock personality. High, pleasing acidity stands straight and tall from first whiff to the end of its 20 second finish. Lemon zest, yellow grapefruit and citrus blossoms smells and flavor pop out. More of an oily texture than most dry Rieslings made in California (partly due, I imagine, from the 50+ year old, own-rooted vines planted in decomposed granite and limestone). A great bottle of wine for $22. Here are all the Bedrock Wine Co. wines I’ve reviewed. 
December 6, 2018
Cochon Pinot Gris

COCHON Pinot Gris “Cuvee Sophie” 2017

Northern California winery Cochon is used to looking beyond the horizon for their grapes, so bringing a few tons of Willamette Pinot Gris down is no big deal for them. In the realm of super-tasty Oregon Pinot Gris, Cochon “Cuvee Sophie” fits right in. Loads of citrus and orchard fruit (pear, apple, apricot) flavors with an apple blossom and white pepper aroma happily hanging around. Vibrant acidity, dry fruity finish. Almost too easy to drink a whole bottle of this over a couple of hours. More Information I highly recommend you get to know the three labels under the Cochon […]
December 6, 2018
Poe Chardonnay Manchester Ridge

POE Chardonnay “Manchester Ridge” 2016

Chardonnay’s rich side comes through alongside cool climate crisp and tangy qualities in the Poe Chardonnay Manchester Ridge. The vineyard is 2000 feet high yet within eye-shot of the Pacific in the Mendocino coastal range. This has it all: poached pears, baked Granny Smith apples, lemon custard, sweet butter, lemon zest, toasted pastry. There is richness and impressive intensity in this wine. This is an absolute steal for $38.
December 5, 2018
Fine Desregard Semillon

FINE DISREGARD Semillon “Millhouse” 2016

A beautifully crafted Semillon. Bright, citrus-flavored acidity, low 12.2% alcohol, even still medium bodied (a characteristic of Semillon), oily texture, pear and lemon zest flavors, white pepper and crushed mint leaf spice kick. I really like how the wine coats the mouth, giving more body and ripeness than you typically get from 12.2% alcohol wine. I tasted this wine last in spring of this year. It has turned a major corner. Great value for $30/bottle. More Information Napa Valley winery Fine Disregard released their first wines in 2016. They (Mike Schieffer-winemaker, Kara Maraden-winegrower) are still quite new, but have already […]
December 4, 2018
Ancien Chardonnay Haynes

Ancien Chardonnay Haynes 2016

Great vineyard for Chardonnay (and Pinot Noir). From 50 year old vines (original 1966 plantings). Massive concentration for Chardonnay, not unlike Grand Cru Burgundy. Get apple butter, citrus extract, toasted brioche, cocoa, crushed white rocks, pear tart. Ripe fruits and savory earth sing together. And the texture is even more impressive than the flavors. Richness, high glycerine, full-bodied, luscious. Outstanding, and as good or better than all the $100+ Chardonnays made around the world. More Information Based in Napa, Pinot Noir-specialist Ancien acquires prime Pinot grapes from near (Carneros) and far (Willamette, Santa Rita Hills) to make distinctive and delicious […]
November 29, 2018
Navarro Dry Gewurztraminer

Navarro Dry Gewurztraminer 2017

First off, the Navarro Vineyards Dry Gewurztraminer smells awesome. Honeydew melon, fresh ginger, peach, grapefruit, orange blossoms and white pepper. The taste moves on to orange zest, more melons and fresh-cut flowers. (Steers away from the honey/lychee/oily style of Gewurz). Medium/high acidity, typical of cool Anderson Valley wines and a ballerina-like strength and lightness. Fuji apples, green tea and a dash of peppery spice on the finish. Could drink this wine all day and night. Navarro only sells their wine retail winery-direct. It is one of the few wineries that I purchase wine from on a consistent basis. Amazing values, […]
November 28, 2018
Brooks Pinot Gris

BROOKS Pinot Gris 2017

The fresh, crisp character of top quality Oregon Pinot Gris is here. Get fresh apples, peaches, oranges, lemon zest and honeydew melon plus the mysterious “minerality” found in such wines. Flowers and citrus dance lightly over the palate, bright acidity invites food pairing ideas. Less oily than many Oregon PGs, which is an observation, not a judgment. Makes the wine more Sauvignon Blanc-like in body. More Information Oregon Pinot Gris is hard to beat when it comes to refreshing white wine to drink either alone or with lighter foods. Fresh, aromatic, dry, oily, fruity and floral. A great drink all year […]
November 27, 2018
Occasio Chardonnay

OCCASIO Chardonnay “Del Arroyo” 2017

High quality, rich and voluptuous style of Chardonnay from Livermore Valley. Cool climate plus rocky and meager soils point to Chardonnay grapes full of flavor and character. Barrel ferment and aged with lees stirring and full malolactic, so strong winemaking to match the intensity of fruit. It works, provided you’re in the mood for a creamy, toasty, luscious Chardonnay. Smell and taste roasted pears, spiced apple butter, nutmeg, fig paste, whipped cream and lemon custard. Very young at time of tasting, which I think explains its short finish. I look forward to trying this again come spring 2019 as it […]
November 27, 2018
Ragbag Albarino

RAGBAG Albarino Terra Alta 2017

Here’s a tasty, dry, no-oak Sauvignon Blanc-alternative white wine to check out. From the hills east of Lodi where Spanish varietals, like Albariño, have established a strong foothold. Smell and taste lemon verbena, grapefruit, fresh sliced peaches and a whisper of chalk dust. Medium acidity. Orange wedges and citrus blossoms on the finish. Have with whitefish ceviche or French Fries & mayo. More Information Ragbag Wines is a new label owned and made by Steven Mirassou, owner/maker of Steven Kent Winery in Livermore Valley. This Albariño is indicative of the Ragbag mission: tasty, pure and pretty weekday wines, well-priced and meant […]