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 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 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, […]
October 23, 2018
Soter Brut Rose

SOTER Brut Rose “Mineral Springs” 2014

Unquestionably one of the best American sparkling wines made. This is 91% Pinot Noir, 9% Chardonnay from their Estate vineyard in Willamette’s Eola-Amity Hills sub-AVA. Barrel fermented and aged 8 months before 2nd fermentation in bottle. 2 years on its lees before disgorgement in spring 2017. The Soter Brut Rose comes out of the gate like a lightning bolt with fruit-forwardness (blood orange, wild cherry, raspberries) plus fresh pie crust, roast almonds and chamomile tea. You’ll really notice this wine – shy it is not. And with all its flavor, the acidity is running right alongside. Pour this next to […]
October 23, 2018
Ferdinand Albarino 2016

FERDINAND Albarino 2016

The Spanish grape Albariño has found if not a home then a vacation getaway in California. Napa producer Ferdinand acquires Albariño from Lodi’s “Vista Luna Vineyard” to make this crisp, aromatic, texturally pleasing white. I love its fresh floral, citrus basket and Granny Smith apple smells and flavors plus the crunchy-ness and mouth-watering acidity. Still, the tang is pulled back just enough with barrel fermentation (neutral barrel) and full malo. Think of it as sanding the sharp edges of a table. I’ve had my fair share of California Albariños, and the Ferdinand is one of the best. And for $20, […]
October 17, 2018
The Withers In Hand

The Withers In Hand Red Wine 2016

69% Mourvedre, 31% Syrah, from El Dorado County vineyards in the Sierra Foothills (1800-2800 feet elevation, granite & volcanic-heavy soils.) This has a fruity, ripe, juicy berry character, complemented by the two grapes’ natural spicy/earthy character. The spice: black pepper, anise, cinnamon stick. Earth comes across as black olive and forest floor. Medium bodied, soft tannins, medium acidity. This is ready to enjoy anytime and goes particularly well with pork and stronger fish dishes as well as dishes with mushrooms, olives and lots of herbs. Winegrowing notes from The Withers: The Withers In Hand was fermented with 30% whole clusters and […]
October 17, 2018
The Withers Pinot English Hill

The Withers Pinot Noir English Hill 2016

“English Hill Vineyard” is under ten miles from the Pacific, outside Occidental. Cool-climate and windy. The Withers Pinot Noir English Hill reminds me of a Santa Lucia Highlands style with its exceptional concentration and richness for a cool climate Pinot. Could be the thick skins from the wind. I get ripe, slightly liqueur-ish red cherry and raspberry flavors with bits of black tea, allspice, vanilla, rosewater, violets and pomegranate. Surprising for a 13% alcohol Pinot. Medium-bodied, creamy texture, soft tannins. Delicious to drink anytime. Winegrowing Notes from The Withers: The Withers Pinot Noir English Hill was aged in 15% new […]
October 1, 2018
Rancho Chimiles Vineyard

Winery Profile: WILSON FOREIGNER

“The smack of Californian earth shall linger on the palate of your grandson.” Robert Louis Stevenson, Silverado Squatters. As you learn about Wilson Foreigner Winery and taste their wines, which I hope you do, keep this quote in your mind. To me it summarizes why they make wine. Let your mind go as you drink a bottle of Wilson Foreigner and you might believe it’s how they make wine, too. As much as I’d like to say I pulled this quote from my internal library, I got it from the Wilson Foreigner website.  (You can also find the Stevenson paragraph […]
September 25, 2018
Wilson Foreigner Zinfandel

WILSON FOREIGNER Zinfandel 2017

Tiny Napa producer Wilson Foreigner acquires old-vine Zinfandel from the town of Oakley and the sandy soils of the Sacramento Delta. Dark strawberry and blueberry compote, fried cinnamon, black pepper and anise smells and flavors are generous. It’s rich, balanced and goes down smooth and silky. Medium acidity, gentle tannins. This young Zin is ready to enjoy either with food or on its own. You get a lot for your $30 here. More Information Wilson Foreigner is a two-family-owned winery. David & Christine Wilson live on their family vineyard in Napa’s Wooden Valley. Chris and Suzaan Alheit live and work […]
September 25, 2018
Wilson Foreigner Valdiguie

WILSON FOREIGNER Valdiguie 2017

Gamay body and Syrah smells & flavors best describes the Wilson Foreigner Valdiguie 2017. Get dark cranberries, red plums, wild cherries, ruby grapefruit, cloves, cracked black pepper, tarragon. High acid (showing more acid at time of tasting-it’s young!), modest tannins, very perky. Just released, so buy some 2016 Valdiguie to drink now and some 2017 to drink next year. Third vintage for this tiny Napa winery owned/made by two families (see below for details). The grapes are from David & Christine Wilson’s family vineyard, “Rancho Chimiles,” Wooden Valley, southeast Napa’s Valley. A popular grape to grow in Napa in the […]
September 25, 2018
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 thrives in the very warm Murphys, Sierra Foothills summer weather. The wine is loaded with crisp yellow grapefruit, melon, tangerine, Eureka lemon and pear smells and flavors along with grapefruit blossoms, citrus zest and plain yogurt. A slight creamy texture on the back end counterbalances the high natural acidity. The flavors and textures all work exceedingly well together. Try this instead of a crisp Sauvignon Blanc sometime. More Information Wilson Foreigner is a two-family-owned winery. David & Christine Wilson live on their family vineyard in Napa’s […]
September 25, 2018
Shane Pinot Noir The Charm

SHANE Pinot Noir “The Charm” 2016

A bright, grab-you-by-the-nose-hairs nose of wild red cherries, violets, blueberries and orange liqueur starts you off on the Shane Pinot Noir The Charm. That cool-climate nose moves to darker, deeper flavors and a rich, balanced, silky texture in the mouth. Taste plum sauce, cinnamon, blueberries, black licorice and kirsch. It’s all nicely framed by French oak…guessing around 1/3rd new. Great bottle of Pinot Noir for $42. More Information Owner/Winemaker Shane Finley is one of my top 5 California winemakers. His wines are consistently delicious in a richer style, but not by excessive ripening or oak. He just knows how. Oh […]
September 25, 2018
Shane Pinot Noir La Reine

SHANE Pinot Noir La Reine 15

Owner/Winemaker Shane Finley’s eponymous label consistently delivers some of the best “bang for the buck” Pinots in the premium price category. Shane Pinot Noir La Reine (“The Queen”) comes from 45 year old vines. Dark berries and cherries here with bits of pomegranate, black tea, lavender, cocoa and toasty oak (just 15% new French oak used). It’s full-bodied, nicely ripe and has pleasing texture and mouth feel. Thanks Shane for pricing this so reasonably for what you get. More Information Owner/Winemaker Shane Finley is one of my top 5 California winemakers. His wines are consistently delicious in a richer style, […]
September 25, 2018
Shane Pinot Noir Soixante Onze

SHANE Pinot Noir “Soixante et Onze” 2016

Dark red cherries, pomegranate syrup, dried red rose petals and coriander are your introduction to the Shane Pinot Noir Soixante et Onze. The coolness of Sonoma Coast brings out a core of acidity and an illumination of flavors. In other words, the smells and flavors are darker and the body is brighter and more structured. Borrowing from Shane’s tasting notes as I had this wine too quickly: “cranberry, rose petals, black tea, pomegranate, fennel, strawberry, Bing cherry, graphite, blackberry.” Indeed, this is one of the more complex California Pinot Noirs I’ve ever had. An incredible value for what you get […]
September 20, 2018
Skyhook Red Wine

SKYHOOK Red Wine, Sonoma County 2013

This “Rhone-y” red is 58% Syrah, 42% Grenache. Owner/winemaker Derek Beitler drew from three cool-climate Sonoma vineyards to make 500 cases of Skyhook Red Wine. I think the name Skyhook and the label take most down a path of expectation that requires a u-turn. Let me explain…an army of jammy, sweet-spice, soft red blends, a la The Prisoner, have taken the copy-cat highway to wine production and sales success. While Skyhook may look like one of these copy cats, it doesn’t taste like it. It has more in common with a spicy Paso Robles Cal-Rhone than an uber-ripe “modern red […]
September 20, 2018
Skyhook Late Harvest Sauv Blanc

SKYHOOK Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2013 375 ML

Derek Beitler of Skyhook “happened upon” Sauvignon Blanc raisins in late 2013 and, with them, made this fantastic Late Harvest wine. No botrytis, or “noble rot,” a la Sauternes. Rather, the dried grapes hung on the vine clean and intense as they held their natural acidity. 25% Late Harvest Semillon co-fermented for added roundness, texture and exotic flavors (blending the two is very Sauternes-like). So delicious! It’s honeyed, rich and luscious, all the while its natural acidity keeps the wine afloat on the palate. Smell and taste caramel, roasted peaches and pineapple, golden raisins, clover honey and a little bit […]
September 20, 2018
Bodega Rancho Grenache

BODEGA RANCHO Grenache “Jemrose” 2014

On the dark side of California Grenache. Smell and taste strawberry preserves, toasted black peppercorns and cloves, black olives, very ripe blueberries, dried lavender, bay leaf and toasty French oak…40% new according to owner/winemaker Derek Beitler. More oak than he’d prefer, but from many a wine drinker’s view it’s perfect. Strong and structured in the mouth with a grip of tannins that go away on the finish. Excellent concentration, richness, spice and marriage of sweet and savory. More Information Owner/winemaker Derek Beitler launched Bodega Rancho/JDB Wines in 2007, took a break for a while, then re-launched the label with the […]
September 19, 2018
Green & Red Zinfandel

GREEN & RED Zinfandel “Tip Top” 2014

At the “Tip Top” of Green & Red’s property is “Tip Top Vineyard.” Hillside, northeast facing, gravelly/rocky, 1700 feet elevation. All this points to wines of character & complexity. Full flavored for sure, but “Tip Top” wines set themselves apart by structure, complexity and savory complexity. 2014 Tip Top Zin, for example…smell and taste briar patch (red berries), red currants, wild cherry, herbs de Provence, lavender and wood fire-grilled marbled beef. Medium-full bodied, quite spicy (peppercorns and red curry), fine tannins, multi-layered for Napa Valley Zin. An excellent buy for a somewhat “serious” Napa Valley hillside red. More Information Jay […]
September 19, 2018
Green & Red Sauvignon Blanc

GREEN & RED Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Fresh lime zest and juice, riper Eureka lemon, grapefruit, green apple and lemon blossoms define the style of the 2016 Green & Red Sauvignon Blanc. Medium high acidity and fresh citrus basket fruits point to very light bodied wine, but not totally the case here. 2% Viognier, a recent addition to Green & Red Vineyard, adds aromatics and a texture. It’s nuanced…I noticed it only when I was told of the Viognier. This is a classic, mouth-watering aperitivo Sauv Blanc best enjoyed at the beginning of the meal. “Fish wine” for sure! More Information Jay Heminway purchased the property that […]
September 19, 2018
Green & Red Syrah Tip Top

GREEN & RED Syrah “Tip Top” 2015

From Green & Red’s Estate vineyard, 1700 feet elevation, above owner Jay and Pam Heminway’s home and winery. The elevation and meager soils make for a spicy, savory, brooding style of Syrah. The drought conditions made for, I’m hypothesizing, particularly small berries in 2015. You may see where I’m going with this. Northern Rhone-ish style! Smell and taste dark blueberries, bittersweet chocolate, black olive and peppercorns, anise, mint and sweet-smelling tobacco. Medium tannins and acidity that gives the wine verve, not tartness. Long 25 second finish of spice, soil and oil-cured black olive. I really want roast leg of lamb […]
September 18, 2018
Neyers Cabernet Sauvignon

NEYERS Cabernet Sauvignon “Neyers Ranch” 2015

“Estate” Cabernet for all intents and purposes (the winery is a 15 minute drive away, so not technically Estate) from the base of Howell Mountain, east side of Napa Valley. Bright, concise aromas of cassis, wild dark red cherry, bay leaves, cedar and dark plums. Bright, energetic fruitiness, layer upon layer of pure flavors that come from the fruit and the land. This wine expresses the character of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape, and the cooler micro-climate of Conn Valley, like a champ. This exceptional value (for Napa Cab) will age gloriously. I’d say drink this 2023-2035. More information Napa winery Neyers […]
September 18, 2018
Neyers Carigane Evangelho

NEYERS Carignane “Evangelho” 2016

The Neyers Carigane Evangelho comes from 140 year old vines growing in the riverbed sand soils of the Sacramento Delta. Wild blue and red fruits, black pepper, fresh lavender, pomegranate, the faintest whiff of cigar wrapper (tobacco) and hung game. Reminds me of southern France Carignane, and that’s the goal! I would say that the natural California fruitiness steps forward, and no one’s complaining.  Neutral oak aged for development, not flavor. Pure, fruity, spicy and perfectly wild! More information Napa winery Neyers Vineyards ventures beyond Napa to keep their wine character up and the prices reasonable. Co-owned by founders Bruce […]