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 […]
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 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.
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 […]
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 17, 2018
David Clinton Zinfandel Teldeschi

DAVID CLINTON Zinfandel “Teldeschi” 2015

Deep dark cherries, a little jammy, black licorice and a whiff of Ruby Port introduce this bold, full-flavored David Clinton Zinfandel Teldeschi. In the mouth the liqueur-y fruit tasted darker and darker with air, moving to black cherry and blackberry after 30 minutes of “opening up.” More licorice, cracked black pepper, rocky earth and dark caramel/dark chocolate emerge. It’s a mouthful! Medium/light oak (American), firm tannins on the finish which lasts 20-25 seconds. I suspect this wine will evolve and improve a lot over the next year. More information Two Napans, first names David and Clinton, transformed their winemaking hobby […]
September 1, 2018
Chiron Cabernet Paint of Moonlight

CHIRON Cabernet Sauvignon “The Paint of Moonlight” 2015

Rich nose of kirsch, ripe juicy blackberries, cocoa and vanilla beans. Big hit of fresh, ripe black cherries and berries in the mouth with cocoa, mint, espresso and pomegranate syrup dancing behind. It’s a mouthful. Fine tannins and acidity to support and elevate the flavors. Really impressive. Chiron Cabernet Sauvignon The Paint of Moonlight from Knights Valley walks the fine line of being both drinkable now and great for the cellar. If you drink now, I bet you it drinks best the next day!  100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a knoll-side vineyard in Knights Valley north of Calistoga & Napa Valley. […]
June 26, 2018
CONSTANT DISRUPTIONS Sauvignon Blanc

CONSTANT DISRUPTIONS Sauvignon Blanc 2017

The grapres come from an organic vineyard in the moderate climate of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley. 7 day ferment on the skins gives the wine a distinctive flavor and texture that’s akin to key lime, kiwi, green pineapple and crushed almonds. In the mouth you get aggressive acidity and a sharpness that many will like and some that won’t…I find this a love it or hate it wine. I for one love it. And I really like the price. $15 for tasty, unique, 140 case production Russian River Sauv Blanc? Sign me up! More Information Constant Disruptions is a subsidiary […]
June 7, 2018
Croix Zinfandel 2016

CROIX Zinfandel “Wood Estate” 2016

Testers testers
May 22, 2018
Sojourn Pinot Gap's Crown

SOJOURN Pinot Noir “Gaps Crown” 2016

Powerhouse, hearty, deep and dark nose of black cherry, cola, toasted French oak and cinnamon stick. It’s a bell-ringer in the mouth with potent fruit (very ripe & dark red berries/cherries), pie spice and black licorice flavors. Full-bodied for Pinot Noir with smooth tannins and medium-low acidity. This is Sojourn’s “bigger is better” Pinot Noir offering. From the eastern Sonoma Coast AVA, at the base of Sonoma Mountain, Gap’s Crown is one of Sojourn’s mainstay vineyard sources. For good reason: this vineyard makes their strongest Pinot from year to year, and they’ve developed a strong following for it. More Information […]
May 19, 2018
J Rickards Cabernet AV Select

J. RICKARDS Cabernet Sauvignon “A.V. Select” 2016

An extrovert of a Cabernet, the J Rickards “AV Select” Cabernet is full of black cherry liqueur, ripe blackberries, toasty oak, espresso and mint smells and flavors. Rich, mouth-filling, juicy and strong but not at all tannic, this sexy, simple, full-flavored Cabernet hits the bold style it’s going for bulls-eye. If I owned a steak-house restaurant, I would buy as much as I could of this Cab and pour it by the glass. More Information A northern Alexander Valley vineyard and winery near Cloverdale, J Rickards has consistently impressed me for their high quality and fair prices. Their business model […]
May 17, 2018
Philip Staley Sangiovese Rose

PHILIP STALEY Sangiovese Rosé 2017

On the denser, fuller-flavored side of Rosé, Sangiovese’s character comes out (from picking a touch later…this is 14.1% alcohol). Smell and taste wild cherry (cherry skins keep coming to mind – a texture thing), red plums, dry Italian herbs, peach pit, pomegranate and a  touch of cracked black pepper. While it’s graceful and has the natural acidity of Sangiovese, it has the pleasing ripe qualities and texture that California wine can offer. Be sure to check out all my Rose wines reviewed in 2018 here, and read my Rose Report here.
April 23, 2018
Sojourn Pinot Noir Walala Vineyard

SOJOURN Pinot Noir “Walala” 2016

Western Sonoma Coast single vineyard, near Annapolis. Deep yet bright cherry liqueur-like aroma with five-spice, cocoa, violets and lavender. Warm, toasty oak (50% new French oak), already integrated into the wine, adds a layer of flavor and structure while in no way overwhelming the fruit. A textural delight. This is my favorite wine in Sojourn’s current line-up. More Information Sojourn Cellars began in 2001 with 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. They now make around 12,000 cases a year, spread over 20 wines (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon). Their style in a nutshell: California-rich style with appropriate restraint. Check out the […]
April 23, 2018
Sojourn Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

SOJOURN Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2016

Medium/rich, perfumed, floral and layered, Sojourn’s “entry level” Pinot Noir offers as much many wineries’ best bottling. Smell cherry compote, plum sauce, red roses and bread fresh out of the oven. The fruit takes the lead in the mouth with more red rose plus Earl Grey tea and violets sneaking in. Medium acidity, gentle tannins and an overall brightness make this an easy Pinot to enjoy a lot. More Information Sojourn Cellars began in 2001 with 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. They now make around 12,000 cases a year, spread over 20 wines (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon). Their style […]
April 23, 2018
Sojourn Chardonnay Sangiacomo Vineyard

SOJOURN Chardonnay “Sangiacomo” 2016

Strong smells of lemon zest, light caramel and sweet butter move to flavors that are both rich and bright: fresh green apple, pears, lemon custard, roast hazelnuts and butter pastry. Bright acidity and an almost salty note on the finish transport this richer-style Chardonnay into more mineral-driven Chardonnay style. You really get it all here – body, texture, brightness and earth. Really nice. I’ve had many vintages of this wine from Sojourn, and this vintage is my favorite. More Information Sojourn Cellars began in 2001 with 100 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon. They now make around 12,000 cases a year, spread […]
April 22, 2018

ARNYCA Rosé 2017

100% Pinot Noir from the heart of Russian River Valley used for this microscopic 46 case production Rosé. Deep watermelon and wild red cherry nose with a little talc and fresh red rose sneaking in there too. In the mouth, a jolt of acidity hits the palate with more melon/red berry fruit, white pepper and pink roses. I really like the creamy texture and how it interacts with the tanginess. It’s not easy to have acidity and texture both make you happy in a Rosé, but this one does it. With all the good $20 and under Rosé out there, […]
March 24, 2018
Edaphos BARB 15

EDAPHOS Barbera “Madhavan” Sonoma 2015

Noticeably dark, rich color for Barbera. Smells like Barbera: sun-soaked wild thyme, white pepper, raspberry/wild red cherry, plums. Lots of berry flavors with bits of orange zest, that peppery spice and black olive. Where “real” Barbera can get bitter on the finish, not the case here. It’s more cherry and plum skins and dry Provence and Italian herbs. Acid and fine tannins are healthy, giving the wine a firm “punch.” This is one of the best California Barberas I’ve ever had! Edaphos is one of the wines made by Ernest Vineyards. They are quite new – 2014 is their first […]
March 14, 2018
Benevolent Neglect Syrah

BENEVOLENT NEGLECT Syrah “Las Madres” 2015

Deep, rich color and a gorgeous Syrah nose of deep blueberry, oil-cured black olives, rosemary and baconfat make a great start. Taste all sorts of berries along with those olives and bacon plus lavender, red curry and baker’s chocolate. I love the solid core of fruit, tang of cool-climate acidity and provocative spicy and “wild” personality of world-class Syrah. There is a synergy of great Syrah vineyard and skilled artisan winemaking that makes this wine shine. More Information Owners Ben Brenner and Matt Nagy are doing a great job building Benevolent Neglect slowly but surely into one of the next […]
February 14, 2018
Bella Zinfandel 2012

BELLA Zinfandel “Hills & Benches” 2012

Deep, ripe, soft texture and a brooding character describes the Bella Zinfandel “Hills and Benches” 2012. Smell and taste dark cocoa, Ruby Port, cracked black pepper, rosemary and fennel along with cooked blackberries and candied ginger. Low tannins, satin texture and a strong, potent finish. This is a Zinfandel for stews, smoky foods and caramelized root vegetables. It’s refreshing to see a high-quality Zinfandel producer offering its 2012s as current releases. Check out all our recommended Zinfandels here.
September 28, 2017

SHARED NOTES lecons des maitres 15

Blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc, 20% Semillon. Whole grape cluster pressed (brings out fruit flavor and texture), small French oak barrel aged. to emulate the best White Bordeaux wines. The name translates to “the lessons of the masters,” the great winemakers of Bordeaux.This is loaded with lemon custard, sweet cream, grapefruit concentrate, lemongrass and whole grain wheat toast smells and flavors. Creamy texture and 40 second finish of toast, citrus and stone fruit and tea with milk. It’s tricky to make such a wine “work.” Takes an excellent fruit source, talented farming and talented winemaking. Check, check and check. Shared […]