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One of Spain's Most Exciting Wines

Today’s Story: Envínate

I previously wrote about Envínate in Vitality from Spain when I reviewed the 2018 Albahra, so today’s post will be short and sweet for your Saturday afternoon reading. If you haven’t read my prior post linked above, I recommend you do to discover the background of this incredible winery who is producing arguably some of the most important wine coming from Spain. Envínate produces terroir-driven wines from coastal, island, and mainland appellations all in traditional styles to showcase place and the vibrant minerality present in these lands. Known as a sommelier’s darling for these reasons and more, Envínate creates small production wines that are shockingly rather easy on your wallet.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Migan

100% Listán Negro; 12% ABV

The 2017 Migan is very transparent pale ruby (almost red cherry) in color with rose petal variation near the rim. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of cherry, pomegranate, raspberry, pronounced barnyard, leather, forest floor, volcanic ash, crushed rock, pepper, and saline minerality. On the palate, I get notes of juicy black raspberry, strawberry rhubarb, tart wild blueberry, damp rocky earth, barnyard, ash, underbrush, ground herbs, black pepper, and mineral. This wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $50. Like all of the wines I’ve tried from Envínate, this is a fantastic value. They are producing some of the most profound, terroir-driven, high-quality wines coming from Spain and this bottling comes from the unique Canary Islands. Pair this with antipasti or simply charcuterie and cheese.

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Utterly Complex Santa Ynez Valley Cabernet Franc

Today’s Story: Jonata

I previously wrote about Jonata twice, first in Why Wait for Screaming Eagle? when I reviewed the 2005 El Corazón de Jonata and then in Santa Ynez Sangiovese when I reviewed the 2010 Tierra.

Long story short, if you haven’t read these prior posts, Jonata is owned by Stan Kroenke who also owns the LA Rams and Screaming Eagle. Kroenke bought 586 acres of property, though only 84 acres are planted under vine, and like many wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley Jonata found success planting Rhône varietals such as Syrah but also grows Sangiovese and Bordeaux varietals. For more I’d steer you to my prior posts, particularly “Why Wait for Screaming Eagle?”.

Today’s Wine: 2006 El Alma de Jonata

95% Cabernet Franc, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Merlot; 14.9% ABV

The 2006 El Alma de Jonata is opaque deep ruby in color. This needs some time in the decanter to fully blossom, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, black raspberry, black cherry, cassis, black licorice, cedar, tobacco, graphite, chocolate, mild herbs, and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, this gorgeous wine offers notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, violet and rose, cigar box, pencil shavings, wet rock, scorched earth, blood, and exotic spice. This wine is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. Utterly complex and constantly evolving in the glass, this Cabernet Franc is drinking beautifully now but has the structure to go another 7-10 years at least. 426 cases produced.

Price: $155 library release direct from winery. Jonata is producing arguably the best wines from the Santa Ynez Valley and for their complexity and rarity the price demonstrates that. Pair this with grilled steak, peppered chicken, or lamb.

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Delicious Mourvèdre from Bandol

Today’s Story: Domaine de la Tour du Bon

Domaine de la Tour du Bon traces its history back to 1925 when a couple purchased a working farm that consisted of vast countryside and olive trees. During the 1930s, the property hosted pigs, sheep, bees, fig and olive trees, and vines that would ultimately take over more and more land from the olive trees. Though wine production began, it wasn’t until 1955 that the name Domaine de la Tour du Bon was registered and the first bottle label was established. As the domaine expanded wine production, they built a large farmhouse between 1960 and 1962 that houses a cellar and helped increase capacity for vineyards. In 1968, the Hocquard family took ownership of the domaine after working a crush and the birth of three children during the 1970s helped lay the foundation of the estate becoming a family operation. In 1990, Agnès Henry (Mr. and Mrs. Hocquard’s daughter) made the domaine her home and workplace and functioned as winemaker where she remains to this day.

Domaine de la Tour du Bon is located at an elevation of 150m above sea level in Le Brûlat du Castellet which lies in the northwestern corner of Bandol. The land here requires great determination to farm and planting the vineyards was no easy feat thanks to the soil mix of limestone, clay, gravel, and red subsoil (some of the rock pulled to plant the vines even went into building the farmhouse). Agnès practices organic farming methods (she began exploring biodynamic methods a few years ago) on her 14 hectares of land and all fruit is hand-harvested to produce six different bottlings. Agnès produces Bandol Blanc, Bandol Rouge, Bandol Rouge Saint Ferréol, and Bandol Rosé from 11 hectares of vines averaging 38 years old, as well as a Vin de France “D’Ici” from 0.5 hectares of vines planted in 1970 (Grenache) and the En Sol from 0.2 hectares of vines 45 years old (Mourvèdre).

Today’s Wine: 2017 En Sol

100% Mourvèdre; 14.5% ABV

The 2017 En Sol is an opaque deep purple color with some deep ruby variation near the rim. I let this decant for about an hour and the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, plum, cherry, smoked meat, tobacco, eucalyptus, nail polish remover, mint, and a hint of chocolate. Once in the mouth, this wine shows notes of juicy plum, blackberry compote, smoke, violet, anise, loamy earth, game, gravel, and green herbs. This is a full-bodied Mourvèdre with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. I was surprised how elegant and soft this is for a Mourvèdre, especially one this young.

Price: $80. This is an outstanding Mourvèdre that for its elegance and finesse makes me very excited to see where it will go with more bottle age. Pair this with game, beef, lamb, or pork.

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Fun Carmenère for a Great Price

Today’s Story: Viña Tarapacá

Viña Tarapacá was founded in the Maipo Valley at the foothills of the Andes Mountains in 1874 by Don Francisco de Rojas y Salamanca, under the name Viñas de Rojas. A renowned winemaker, Don Francisco received his first wine accolade at Viñas de Rojas in 1875 (Silver Medal at the International Exhibition of Santiago) and followed it in 1876 with the Silver Medal at the Exhibition of Philadelphia. In 1892, the winery was acquired by Don Antonio Zavala and was renamed to Viña Zavala. By divorce, Don Antonio Zavala’s ex-wife Doña Mercedes Ulloa took control of the winery as part of alimony and renamed it to Viña Tarapacá Ex Zavala to express gratitude to her lawyer who was nicknamed “The Lion of Tarapacá.” 1992 marked another transition for the winery when it was acquired by La Compañía Chilena de Fósforos, a conglomerate hoping to market the wines to broader global markets. Today, Viña Tarapacá continues to produce quality Chilean wines under this umbrella.

The Viña Tarapacá estate consists of 2,600 hectares of land, though only 611 hectares are planted to vine. The land is surrounded by mountains and the Maipo River so, interestingly, the El Rosario Estate is nicknamed “Maipo Valley’s Natural Clos” after the French viticultural term “clos” used to describe terroir surrounded by stone walls to preserve the vineyards. In caring for the land, Viña Tarapacá practices sustainable farming methods to conserve the biodiversity of their vineyards and produce quality wines. In regards to their environmental efforts, the winery runs their own mini hydroelectric plant with water from the Maipo River to produce 60% of their required energy. Furthermore, the winery fixed solar panels to their roof to augment electricity savings more.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Carmenère Gran Reserva

100% Carmenère; 13.5% ABV

The 2015 Carmenère Gran Reserva is opaque medium to deep ruby red in color with not a lot of variation near the rim. The nose is dominated by aromas of green bell pepper, peppercorn spice, dried herbs, asphalt, and red and blue florals with some blackberry, plum, and oak in the background. The palate basically mirrors the nose, showcasing notes of raspberry, tart cherry, plum, dried underbrush, green peppercorn, bell pepper, olive, coffee bean, and vanilla. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium length finish.

Price: $20. This is a great value Carmenère that showcases the variety’s unique tasting notes and expressions. However, this is not for the faint of heart in wine drinkers who prefer the fruit bombs and people pleasers without being used to overly spicy and bell-pepper-filled wines. Pair this with a broad range of foods, particularly smoked, grilled, or roasted meats like beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or veal.

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Burgundian Elegance in Oregon

Today’s Story: Beaux Frères

The groundwork for Beaux Frères occurred in the late 1980s when Michael Etzel discovered an 88 acre pig farm for sale on Ribbon Ridge in the Northern Willamette Valley, Oregon. Though he and his family lived in Colorado at the time, Michael decided to purchase the farm with brother-in-law Robert Parker (yes the wine critic) and set about transitioning some of the farm to vineyards. In 1988, Michael planted his first five acres of vineyards with Pinot Noir and harvested his first fruit in 1990. While Michael waited for his vines to bear fruit, he worked four harvests at Ponzi Winery and with his first harvest in 1990 sold fruit to Ken Wright and Dick Ponzi while only saving enough for one barrel of wine for himself. In 1991, Michael renovated one of the barns on the property to create his own winery and his efforts jump-started the transition to estate bottled wines.

Today, the Beaux Frères property consists of 50 acres of forest (Douglas fir trees), 8 acres of buildings including a home, barns, and winery, and 24 of the remaining 30 acres are planted to vine. The Beaux Frères Vineyard sits at an elevation of 400 feet and is planted with both own-rooted Pommard and Wädenswil clones, as well as younger Dijon clones on phylloxera-resistant rootstocks. Beaux Frères also farms the Upper Terrace Vineyard which sits slightly north of the Beaux Frères Vineyard and was first planted in 2000 with Dijon clones of Pinot Noir on 9 of the 40 total acres. Michael and his team practice many biodynamic farming methods in caring for their vineyards, a practice they picked up several years ago. The team avoids commercial sprays, composts on-site, grafts their own cuttings, and monitors the vines regularly.

Throughout the winemaking process, Michael and his son Mike (head winemaker) believe in minimal intervention and handling. To this end, they allow their wines to ferment spontaneously using only indigenous yeasts and utilize traditional punch downs and pump overs by hand. After pressing, they move the contents into French oak barrels ranging in 30-50% new (depending on vintage) and secondary fermentation occurs naturally at a slower rate in the barrel cellar. The only racking these wines see occurs after 10-12 months of barrel aging (to limit exposure to oxygen) which also helps limit the SO2 required to preserve the wine (if any is added at all) thanks to a natural buildup of CO2 during and after malolactic fermentation. The resulting wines are rather traditional in both production and expression, similar to classical red Burgundies.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.1% ABV

The 2016 Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color with rose variation near the edge of the glass and almost entirely opaque. The nose showcases aromas of ripe cherry, black raspberry, red licorice, purple florals, black tea, mineral, baking spice, and a hint of milk chocolate. Once in the mouth, this wine offers notes of blueberry, raspberry, black cherry, rose, a hint of damp earth, rocky minerality, clove, and oak. This is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $60. This is a high-quality, elegant, and luxuriously-textured Pinot Noir that I believe to be appropriately priced. It makes me think of an Oregon version of Kosta Browne or Williams Selyem. Pair this with salmon, chicken, pork, or duck.

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Value Cotes du Rhône

Today’s Story: Domaine de Coste Chaude

Though the estate stretches further in history, Domaine de Coste Chaude as it exists today was remodeled during the 1960s and André Guichon, a wine merchant from Chambéry, bought it in 1969. The estate again changed hands in 1994 when it was purchased by the Fues family and they further developed the property by planting new varieties, altering storage methods, and processing grapes differently. In my opinion, however, the greatest contribution of the Fues family is their transition to organic farming in 2014 (Ecocert certified). Vincent Tramier took over the estate in 2018, with his major goals being improved wine quality and the introduction of new cuvées to widen the offering portfolio.

Domaine de Coste Chaude consists of 37 hectares of which there is 14 hectares of forest and 23 hectares planted to vine. The domaine is located on a hill at an elevation of 360m behind the Eastside of the village of Visan, creating hillside vineyards with Southern exposure. Thanks to the domaine’s location, the vineyards face a nearly constant breeze that helps fight against fungal diseases and spring frosts, while also experiencing slightly colder temperatures than the lowlands which creates fresh wines. Soil in the vineyards consists of limestone gravels and pebbles mixed into ocher, yellow, and brown clays deposited during the Miocene period. For some pictures of their property, check out the Domaine de Coste Chaude website here.

As part of the domaine’s organic farming practices, Coste Chaude uses green or organic fertilizers depending on soil variety and maintains natural ground cover when possible to protect against erosion while fostering biodiversity in the vineyards. Further, they use less stressful pruning methods on their vines (especially on their old vines 40+ years old) to oversee fruit quantity in an effort to foster concentrated and healthy grapes. When it comes to winemaking at the domaine, Vincent mixes traditional methods with modern technology to produce wines that reflect the terroir. The winery is located in the middle of the vineyards so harvested fruit can arrive as quickly as possible for sorting and minimal intervention is the name of the game from harvest to bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Cotes du Rhône Visan Cuvée L’Argentière

80% Syrah, 20% Grenache; 13.5% ABV

The 2014 L’Argentière is medium ruby/garnet throughout and slightly transparent. The nose showcases aromas of blackcurrant, plum, cherry, smoke, forest floor, barnyard, green herbs, green peppery spice, and black olive. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, black raspberry, wet rock, smokey cedar, tobacco, leather, stone minerality, and green vegetation. This is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $18. This is a great value Cotes du Rhône I picked up after an in-store tasting at one of my local shops. If you like terroir-driven wine at a great price, this is for you. Pair this with steak au poivre, roasted lamb, or a charcuterie with some hard goat’s cheese.

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Gotta Get That Money (Road)

Today’s Story: Gargiulo Vineyards

Gargiulo is a small, family-owned winery in Oakville, Napa Valley that produces about 3,400 cases of wine each year from two vineyards. Owners Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo bought their first vineyard, Money Road Ranch, in 1992 to fulfill their winemaking dream, adding to the property in 1997 by purchasing the 575 OVX property. Founded as a Cabernet Sauvignon estate, Gargiulo produces three different Cabs and a Sangiovese, though they also have Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Merlot planted for blending in their G Major 7 Cab. Gargiulo produces small amounts of Chardonnay from Frank Wood Ranch and a rosé of Sangiovese as well.

The Gargiulo family and their winemaker, Kristof Anderson, follow a more hands-off approach to winemaking, who in their words say is “gentle and patient.” When it comes time to harvest the grapes, they do so by hand at dawn, hand sort the grapes three times, and use gravity flow methods for winemaking. This arguably preserves the natural fragrances and flavors of the wines by removing pumps and machinery, and is a reason I believe Gargiulo wines are consistently elegant yet structured to go the distance.

I previously wrote about Gargiulo in Italy’s Favorite Grape…from California? back on October 20, 2019 and have recreated the background above from my previous post. If you’d like to see pictures from my visit to Gargiulo last September, some can be found at the link above.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.8% ABV

The 2009 Money Road Ranch Cab is medium to deep ruby in color and slightly transparent. I let this open up in the glass, and after about 30 minutes the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, baked red berries, licorice, volcanic earth, cedar, mushroom, baking spice, and oak. There is still a bit of heat as well. On the palate, I get notes of blackberry compote, black cherry, redcurrant, jammy wild strawberry, cigar box, sweet tobacco, damp loamy soil, green herbs, syrupy cola, and a hint of vanilla. This is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, fully integrated medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. Though this is not my favorite vintage of this wine I’ve had (it’s a bit jammy/syrupy compared to others), this is not showing any signs of slowing down and easily has another 5 years left. 883 cases produced.

Price: $80 direct from winery upon release. In regards to price, this is fairly priced but I would argue to spend a bit more to try their G Major 7 or 575 OVX bottlings, otherwise explore the incredible options around the $80 from other producers. Pair this with steak, roasted lamb, a good burger, or beef short ribs.

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Utterly Elegant, Aged Bordeaux

Today’s Story: Château Léoville Las Cases

Château Léoville Las Cases is a historical Bordeaux estate rated as a Second Growth (Deuxième Cru) in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Though the estate used to be much larger and is one of the oldest in the Médoc, it was split up between 1826 and 1840 as a result of the French Revolution and came into the Las Cases family as 3/5 the size of the original estate. Luckily for the family, however, their land made up the heart of the domain and therefore consists of the original terroir back to the 17th century.

Las Cases was managed by the same family through the 19th century, moving by inheritance through Pierre Jean, Adolphe, and Gabriel de Las Cases until Théophile Skawinski bought a stake in 1900 to become the manager. Today, Jean-Hubert Delon is the sole owner with the family coming in during the mid-20th century. I encourage you to take a look at the cool video on their website here, which shows the estate’s geographic location as well as a breakdown of the terroir at the domain.

Today’s Wine: 1990 Château Léoville Las Cases

43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot; 13.5% ABV

The 1990 LLC is opaque deep garnet/ruby in color, showing no sign of its age besides some sediment in the bottle. Though this sang right out of the bottle, the nose truly showcased its beauty after 30+ minutes in the glass with aromas of redcurrant, cassis, pencil shavings, graphite, cured meat, sous bois, tobacco, black pepper, and dried underbrush. Once in the mouth, this elegant wine shows notes of dusty blackberry, plum, redcurrant, charred earth, cigar box, leather, green herbs, and spice. This is medium-bodied with moderate acidity, fully integrated light tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $400. A special occasion bottle opened to celebrate my recent birthday. Pair this with steak, roasted lamb, veal, or pheasant. Mushroom sauce or truffle with the steak would be a well-rewarded plus.

For another interesting review…

I reviewed the 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases alongside a 1986 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande back on October 28, 2019 in Bordeaux Battle. For some insight into another aged LLC, check it out! At the very least, you may be introduced to Pichon Lalande as well.

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Historical Châteauneuf-du-Pape – for a Great Value!

Today’s Story: Château La Nerthe

Château La Nerthe was established in 1560 by the Tulle de Villefranche family, though they had lived in Avignon since the 14th century. Located in the Provence region in southeast France, Château La Nerthe sits about 80km north of Marseille and occupies 92 hectares of vines in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. The estate’s vines are organized into 57 different plots representing all of the appellation’s terroir variation, as well as the 13 grape varieties planted there. Château La Nerthe practices organic farming (ECOCERT certification in 1998); hand-picks, table-sorts, and destems their fruit before fermentation; uses only indigenous yeasts during fermentation; vinifies by individual plots to showcase terroir variation; and blends only after the wines have aged for 12 months.

While the proprietorship of the Tulle de Villefranche family lasted several centuries, the estate grew drastically under Marquis Jean-Dominique Tulle de Villefranche (1711-1760) when he developed the vineyards to become one of the preeminent estates throughout the Rhône Valley. Between 1736 and 1784, the castle at the estate took shape as it exists today and allowed the family to not only live on the property but host guests in elegant style. Coincidentally during this time (and the 18th century as a whole more or less), members of the Tulle de Villefranche family in high military positions embarked on marketing endeavors throughout Europe and the wines of Château La Nerthe were sold in Russia, America, England, Germany, Italy, and Spain. In 1776, Château La Nerthe became the first estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape to ship their wines in bottles while gradually fading out barrels.

Château La Nerthe was destined for arguably its greatest change, however, in 1870 when the Tulle de Villefranche family sold it to Commander Joseph Ducos. At this time, many of Joseph Ducos’ neighbors were tearing up vineyards and replanting the land with fruit trees, however he replanted his new estate with phylloxera resistant rootstocks. These visionary efforts accomplished by Joseph Ducos helped shape his neighbors’ changes in winemaking and certainly find their place in overall history of the appellation. In 1985, the estate changed hands yet again when the Richard family purchased it and promised to ensure revival of the original values of excellence and innovation at Château La Nerthe.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Châteauneuf-du-Pape

50% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre, 5% Cinsault; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 La Nerthe CdP is moderately transparent and medium garnet in color with ruby variation near the rim. Once this breathes for about 45 minutes, the nose showcases aromas of cherry, baked strawberry, tomato sauce, cedar, cola, worn saddle leather, clay, mineral, freshly baked bread, and oak-driven spice. In the mouth, I get notes of sour cherry, tart raspberry, strawberry leaf, purple and blue florals, dried tobacco, parched dusty earth, a hint of bitter chocolate, and sandalwood. This CdP is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish. This was drinking very nicely after an hour and a half decant.

Price: $50. This is a good value CdP, though there are a number of other options in the same price range that seem to be drinking better now. I’m curious to see how this develops with some bottle age. Pair this with game, steak, or lightly spiced lamb.

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Remarkably Profound Oregon Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Antica Terra

Antica Terra was established in 2005 by Scott Adelson, John Mavredakis, and Michael Kramer, three friends and partners who had collaborated before and dreamed of owning a vineyard together. This being said, vines were first planted in 1989 on the property, an 11 acre vineyard on pre-historic seabed in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Having taken ownership of their new vineyard, Scott, John, and Michael started seeking a winemaker and their crosshairs quickly fell upon Maggie Harrison. Maggie began her winemaking career at Sine Qua Non (known for $200-$1,000+ bottles of cult Rhone varietal wines) working for Manfred Krankl and her expertise was quickly realized. In 2004, Manfred encouraged her to begin her own Syrah project on the side, and Lillian was born (I reviewed two of these Syrahs previously). Maggie worked tirelessly on her passion project wines while still tending to barrels at Sine Qua Non, demonstrating her pure passion for the craft. When Scott, John, and Michael asked Maggie to become their winemaker, she refused profusely though the three friends ultimately convinced her to simply visit the property to offer her opinions of the vineyard. 26 seconds after Maggie stepped foot into the vineyards and observed the fossils, oaks, and vines, “she found herself hunched beneath one of the trees, phone in hand, explaining to her husband that they would be moving to Oregon.” Source

The vineyard of Antica Terra is rather intense, both in appearance above the earth and underground for the vines. The vines find home amongst fossilized oyster shells and sandstone with no topsoil, leaving them to struggle for nutrients and in turn producing incredibly unique fruit. Aboveground, the vineyard is strewn with boulders, steep grades, and vines that (due to the soil) appear spindly and frail. Fruit for Antica Terra wines forms in tiny clusters with thick-skinned grapes that are half the size that is typical for their varieties and the canopy of these plants is incredibly sensitive. Maggie provides immense care and attention to these delicate vines, which culminates into unique and immeasurably profound wines. Antica Terra produces four Pinot Noir bottlings, two Chardonnays, and one Rosé.

To explore the wines of Antica Terra, join the mailing list, or plan a visit, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Botanica Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14% ABV

The 2017 Botanica is pale ruby in color with slight variation toward deep garnet. This was surprisingly approachable right out of the bottle, though changed over time revealing aromas of cherry, cranberry, smoked game, earth, wet gravel, sweet tobacco, ground green cooking herbs, black licorice, rocky minerality, and a touch of oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of crunchy raspberry, strawberry, cranberry sauce, smoke, rose, white pepper, loamy earth, a hint of nutmeg, and graphite. This Pinot is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. There was some slight heat on the nose, but all around this is approachable and that heat should integrate with a couple more years of cellaring.

Price: $110 direct from winery. I am a huge fan of Antica Terra when it comes to American Pinot Noir, and Maggie Harrison’s winemaking skill for both this wine and her Lillian Syrahs make them worthy of trying. Pair this with duck, pork tenderloin, or grilled salmon.

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Baby BOND

Today’s Story: Mascot Wine

Mascot Wine was “founded” in 2008 with their first commercial release, however this wine was produced by Will Harlan years beforehand to be shared with family and friends. The Mascot started as Will’s personal experiment, born from the youngest vines of Harlan Estate, Promontory, and BOND when he convinced the winemaking team (and his family including father Bill Harlan) to spare a few barrels of wine. Though Will grew up in his family’s vineyards and winery, eating some of Napa’s most precious fruit off the vines in his backyard, The Mascot marked his foray into experiencing the dramatic complexity of fermenting, blending, and producing wine first-hand, a craft he continues to master.

Fun fact: “The engraving of ‘Prince’ was commissioned over one-hundred years ago, by the president of the Farmers Deposit National Bank of Pittsburgh, for the bank’s stock certificates. The dog, an english bull-terrier, lived at the bank (greeting customers and employees alike), and became a beloved symbol of their down-to-earth, loyal, and personal customer service values.” Source: The Mascot

Today’s Wine: 2014 The Mascot

100% Cabernet Sauvignon (this is the only variety listed on the Mascot website, though I have seen sources that claim these wines are 90-94% Cabernet Sauvignon and the balance Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot); 14.8% ABV

The 2014 Mascot is an opaque deep purple/ruby color almost black at its core. This needs an hour decant and only gets better after that, with the nose emitting aromas of blackcurrant, wild blueberry, jammy plum, redcurrant, cedar, violet, anise, graphite, tobacco leaf, pine, and slight oak. Once in the mouth, this showcases notes of blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, redcurrant, tobacco, silt, a hint of smoke, chocolate, black pepper spice, and oak. Full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, refined and tightly knit medium (+) tannins, and a long finish dominated by black fruit. This wine shows a lot of promise and drinks like a baby BOND, and since the last vintage I tasted (2011) I can tell improvements and finesse are being added.

Price: $100 direct from the winery ($140 average retail price in the US). If Harlan Estate, Promontory, and BOND are your style, this is an absolute steal on value. Though this is very big, opulent, and somewhat jammy in style (I typically steer clear of these), I cannot argue this is a great wine for those who love fruit-forward, high-quality Napa juice. It is at its core an excellent look through the developmental lens of “the Big Boys” mentioned above that start at $600 per bottle and sail past $1,000. Pair this with filet mignon.

Bonus Picture:

The Mascot and my family’s mascot.
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Nobility in Piedmont

Today’s Story: Cordero di Montezemolo

The Cordero di Montezemolo winery traces its roots to 1340, however the Cordero di Montezemolo family is of Spanish origin and did not settle in Piedmont until the mid-1400s. Though the family has deep roots in Piedmont, they did not find foundation in wine but rather in printing/typesetting businesses as well as military and diplomatic roles for the Royal House of Savoy. As a well-established and aristocratic family in Piedmont, the Cordero di Montezemolo family tree intertwined with the Falletti family who were one of the most noteworthy noble families in the Alba area and also proprietors of the Monfalletto Estate. In 1918, Maria Lydia (the daughter of Marchese Luigia Falletti) married Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo and the Cordero di Montezemolo family cemented their future in wine.

Maria Lydia and Paolo unfortunately passed away at young ages, however their son Paolo who was orphaned at the age of 15 grew up under the care of his grandmother Marchioness Luigia Falletti. When she passed away in 1941, Paolo inherited her entire property holdings which included the Monfalletto Estate in La Morra. Though Paolo through his ownership of the estate marks the Cordero di Montezemolo family’s foray into wine production, the estate throughout its history has been family owned and operated. Today, the estate is under control of its 19th-generation with Giovanni Cordero di Montezemolo and his children Elena and Alberto at the helm.

Though the historical single-body vineyard of the estate consists of 28 hectares (69 acres), Paolo Cordero di Montezemolo expanded the property in 1965 by purchasing a two hectare plot of old vines in the Villero area in Catiglione Falletto. The estate expanded further over the years through purchases and leasing agreements, and today total vineyard land sits at 51 hectares (126 acres). For all of their land, Cordero di Montezemolo started the organic farming certification process in 2013 and achieved certification a couple years ago. They use natural mineral products and repellents from organic material to fight parasites, organic products and green manure for fertilization, and natural grass planted beneath the rows to foster biodynamic balance. Not only do these efforts protect the land, but they help culminate into wonderful wines full of complexity and demonstrations of place.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo Monfalletto

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The 2015 Barolo Monfalletto is deep garnet in color though moderately transparent. I decanted this for an hour and drank it over the following three hours due to its youth. Once this opens up, the rather intense nose showcases aromas of cherry, dried strawberry, rose, sweet tobacco, black licorice, black tea leaf, mint, Asian spice, cocoa powder, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of dried cherry, raspberry, cranberry, licorice, tobacco, dried rocky soil, chocolate, iron, and toasted oak. This Barolo is full-bodied with high acidity, dusty medium (+) tannins, and a long finish with notes of green herbs. Though elegant and somewhat approachable in its youth, this wine has the structure for the long haul and I would give it another three years of bottle aging and drink it over the following decade.

Price: $48. This is a great value Barolo for me, especially given the intensity and complexity it shows at a young age. Pair this with duck, quail, or game meats. Add some white truffle to these dishes and now you’re talking.

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A Fierce and Violent Storm

Today’s Story: Realm Cellars

Realm Cellars was founded in 2002 with a focus on producing high-quality, limited production Bordeaux blend and single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines. I previously wrote about them back on October 23, 2019 in “This Blessed Plot, This Earth…” when reviewing the 2016 The Bard. For further details on their wines, inspiration from Shakespeare, and backstory on their first estate vineyard I suggest reading this prior post if you haven’t already.

Today’s Wine: 2013 The Tempest

86% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.6% ABV

Realm’s 2013 The Tempest is an opaque deep ruby color and there is a slight amount of sediment developing in the bottle. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, cassis, plum, cedar, damp loamy soil, worn leather, chocolate, coffee grounds, and a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, I get notes of jammy blackberry, blueberry, wet forest floor, wet slate, tobacco, dark chocolate, black licorice, espresso, slight oak, and a hint of baking spice. Overall this is a very bold and powerful Bordeaux blend that is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) grippy tannins, and a long dark finish dominated by black fruit and mocha.

Price: $140. Like the last bottle of Realm I drank, this is worth its price and reminded me how great often-overlooked Merlot can be. Pair this with roasted duck, beef bourguignon, or roasted vegetables.

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Young and Exciting NorCal Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Trail Marker Wine Co.

Trail Marker Wine Co. was founded in 2012 by Drew Huffine and Emily Virgil, a husband and wife duo. Drew originally studied English during his undergraduate and Masters programs, however after working for the Colorado Wine Company and being encouraged by Kent Humphrey of Eric Kent Wines to work a harvest his career shifted. Drew moved from English to wine and held positions with Copain, DuMol, Kosta Brown, and Wither Hills before becoming the winemaker for Tuck Beckstoffer Wines. After Drew met Emily, whose background is in costume design for the film industry in Los Angeles and who also shares a passion for wine, the two decided to create their own venture and moved to the Bay Area to start Trail Marker Wine Co.

Drew and Emily originally started Trail Marker with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as their focus, and as a matter of fact their first wine came from the purchase of 1 ton of Chardonnay grapes from the remote Manchester Ridge vineyard located at 2,000 feet elevation above the Anderson Valley. This being said, Trail Marker has since branched out to Carignan, Zweigelt, and Blaufränkisch which are all sourced from small, remote, and responsibly-farmed vineyards from Mendocino to Santa Ynez. Through this approach, the goal of Trail Marker is to produce wines from cooler coastal sites that produce fruit that develops with lower sugar content and in turn produces wines with higher acidity and lower alcohol. As you might guess at this point, this philosophy finds home in the cellar as well with all of Trail Marker’s wines produced in hands-off fashion: fermentation is accomplished only with indigenous yeasts, little or no new oak is used, and handling is minimal. Thanks to their classic, Old World way of producing wines from some of the most unique vineyards in California, Trail Marker is unsurprisingly one of the most exciting new wineries I’ve come across in some time.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 12.4% ABV

The 2017 Manchester Ridge Vineyard Pinot Noir is very pale ruby in color (almost rose petal) and nearly fully transparent. I let this wine open up in the glass for about 30 minutes, though it probably could’ve gone longer due to its youth. The nose showcases aromas of cranberry, redcurrant, red cherry, dried herbs, red and blue florals, earth, white spice, mineral, and wet stone. Once in the mouth, I get notes of tart cranberry, strawberry rhubarb, pomegranate, sweet tobacco, underbrush, white pepper, and slate. This is a medium-bodied Pinot with high acidity, low tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $44. This is a new producer for me and a wine I grabbed on an explorative impulse at the store. Nonetheless, I think this is a delicious PN at a solid price-point and I would buy this again. Pair this with roasted chicken, duck breast, or grilled salmon.

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The Steve Jobs of Wine

Today’s Story: Paul Hobbs Winery

Paul Hobbs Winery was founded in 1991 by Paul Hobbs with his initial release of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon from purchased fruit. Paul grew up in upstate New York on a working family farm and orchard, so one could say agriculture was in his blood from an early age. Though Paul helped plant, harvest, and sell crops at nearby farmer’s markets before school each morning, his first foray into wine (if you will) was helping his father achieve his dream of replanting some of the apples, peaches, and nuts in their orchards to wine grapes.

When it came time for Paul to go to college, his father encouraged him to study viticulture and enology but instead Paul followed in his great-grandfather’s footsteps by studying medicine and graduated with a BS in Chemistry from Notre Dame. His father’s persistence paid off, however, and Paul moved to California after graduation and studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis where he received his Master of Science degrees three years later. Fresh off his new degree, Paul was hired by Robert Mondavi for his advanced knowledge of oak aging and he was quickly promoted to the inaugural Opus One winemaking team. Following his experiences at Robert Mondavi and Opus One, Paul joined Simi Winery as their winemaker before beginning consulting roles for Peter Michael, Lewis Cellars, Bodegas Catena, and soon other wineries around the world.

Throughout these experiences with wine, Paul Hobbs crafted a dream of his own to produce vineyard designated wines under his own name. In 1991, Paul spoke with Larry Hyde in Napa and Richard Dinner in Sonoma about purchasing some of their fruit, and the resulting 5 tons of fruit from each vineyard culminated in the first Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc of Paul Hobbs Winery. Paul’s dreams entered their next phase in 1998, however, when he purchased his family’s first estate vineyard and established the Katherine Lindsay Estate (named after his great-grandmother) in Sebastopol, CA. The first vintage of this wine came with the 2003 harvest, and today Paul Hobbs consists of seven estate vineyards in some of the preeminent Californian regions for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Paul Hobbs practices sustainable farming in caring for his vineyards and a minimalist approach in producing his wines. To sustain the integrity of his fruit and each vineyard block, Paul demands a constant flow of communication and knowledge from the vineyards to the cellar. When it comes time for harvest, all Paul Hobbs fruit is hand-harvested using hand sheers to keep the fruit in pristine condition. During the winemaking process, all wine is fermented using only native yeasts that originate in the vineyards and the cellar and the wine is aged in finely grained French oak barrels. With his finished product, Paul bottles the wine unfined and unfiltered in an effort to display the purity of the fruit and the place of each wine with elegance and transparency.

Fun fact: Paul Hobbs is widely known as “the Steve Jobs of wine” thanks to his “ardent exactitude” and immensely high demands for quality.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Katherine Lindsay Estate Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.3% ABV

The 2015 Katherine Lindsay Estate Pinot is pale to medium ruby in color and is moderately transparent. This requires about 30-45 minutes to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of cranberry, cherry, dried strawberry, cola, violet, clay, leather, baking spice, and a hint of oak. Once in the mouth, this Pinot offers notes of black cherry, pomegranate, juicy ripe strawberry, black truffle, forest floor, and black pepper. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, light tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $100. This is certainly an upper-echelon RRV Pinot but it needs some extra time in the cellar to fully come together. If you buy some, open some more reasonable Pinot in the $35 sweet spot I’ve mentioned before while this sits a few more years. Pair this with duck, pork loin, roast chicken, or charcuterie.

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The Beginning of Modern Winemaking in Napa Valley

Today’s Story: Heitz Wine Cellars

Heitz Cellars was founded in 1961 by Joe and Alice Heitz with the purchase of a small 8.5 acre vineyard planted to Grignolino in the Napa Valley. Joe was previously enlisted in the US Air Force during World War II, though afterwards he started taking classes at UC Davis in viticulture and enology and graduated in the inaugural class of 1951 with half a dozen others. Though Joe first worked for Gallo, he transitioned to Beaulieu Vineyard in 1951 and worked under legendary winemaker André Tchelistcheff as assistant winemaker for 10 years. When Joe and Alice went into business for themselves by starting Heitz, this was a time when Napa Valley wineries were reduced to their lowest decline since Prohibition and even preceded Robert Mondavi’s namesake winery founded in 1966.

In 1964, Joe and Alice Heitz purchased a 160 acre ranch property to expand their production and this land included a stone cellar built in 1898, a farmhouse, and vineyards first planted to vine in 1880. Though Heitz wines became well-known in the Valley, his breakthrough came in 1965 and 1966 with the Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1965, Joe purchased his first fruit from friends Tom and Martha May who owned a 34 acre vineyard in the Oakville AVA. Though he bottled this wine in 1965, it was in 1966 Joe decided the Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet deserved its own standalone bottling and this iconic wine became the first ever in Napa Valley to be labelled with a vineyard designation. With a handshake, Joe and the Mays entered an exclusive agreement where Heitz would be the sole purchaser of Martha’s Vineyard fruit and production of this historic wine continues today.

In 1974, Joe and Alice’s son David joined the family business having graduated from UC Davis with an enology degree. Little did David know, his first vintage working with his father would produce arguably the most legendary Cabernet Sauvignon produced in the Napa Valley: the 1974 Martha’s Vineyard. This wine is the first Martha’s Vineyard bottling with a commemorative label, a series that would see a new label for one vintage each decade, but is certainly not the reason for this bottle’s fame. The 1974 Martha’s Vineyard is one of the highest quality and spectacularly age-worthy wines in the world, to this day coveted by collectors and listed as one of the Top 100 Wines of the World. This is even included in Assouline’s The Impossible Collection of Wine: The 100 Most Exceptional Vintages of the Twentieth Century of which I have a copy. Though for all the fame the vintage of this wine holds in the California wine world, it holds a special place for me since I was able to drink a bottle and it is my single favorite wine I’ve ever had. There are a couple bonus pictures of the bottle I consumed at the end of this post.

In 1976, Heitz Cellars entered another exclusive agreement with Barney and Belle Rhodes who owned an 18 acre vineyard in the Rutherford AVA. Fruit from this plot of land goes into the Heitz Bella Oaks Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. As Heitz remained a family operation, they expanded yet again by purchasing the Trailside Vineyard in Rutherford in 1984 (though they had been purchasing fruit from the property since the early 1980s) and this marked their first exploration into organic farming. The Trailside Vineyard Cabernet was bottled separately in 1989. Though Joe Heitz suffered a stroke in 1996, he remained frail but lucid to his death in 2000 and Heitz Cellars came fully under second generation management. In April, 2018, Heitz Cellars was sold to the Lawrence family but thanks to their deep roots in agriculture and a dedication to the same core values of the Heitz family I am confident this legacy will live on with success.

Note: Heitz Cellars practices organic farming in 100% of their vineyards (CCOF certified) and they are transitioning to biodynamic farming in the near future.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% ABV

The 2012 Napa Valley Cab is an almost cherry-like medium ruby color and is moderately transparent. Give this about an hour to open up and expect aromas of blackberry, plum, cassis, black cherry, violet, cedar, mint, lightly scorched earth, slight pepper, and vanilla. Once in the mouth, this Cab showcases notes of blackcurrant, redcurrant, blueberry, licorice, tobacco, loamy soil, green herbs, eucalyptus, leather, and a touch of oak. The wine is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $55. I’ve consumed countless bottles of Heitz over the years from their Grignolino to the Martha’s Vineyard Cab and am a proponent of the great value these wines offer. Alongside the Ridge Estate Cab and Jordan Cab, this is one of my favorites in the price range. Pair this with steak, a good burger, or lamb.

Bonus Pictures:

The 1974 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard, tasted alongside a 1978 Château Lafite Rothschild in January, 2017.
That same bottle of 1974 Martha’s Vineyard, laid inside my copy of The Impossible Collection of Wine: The 100 Most Exceptional Vintages of the Twentieth Century.
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The World's Most Famous Champagne

Today’s Story: Louis Roederer

Louis Roederer is based in Reims, France and was founded in 1776, though the estate did not achieve its namesake until 1833 when Louis Roederer inherited the Champagne house from his uncle. During the mid-1800s, Louis took a visionary approach by overseeing and mastering every stage of his wine’s creation while simultaneously acquiring some of Champagne’s grand cru vineyards while many other houses simply purchased their fruit. Thanks to this ownership of some of the best land in Champagne, Louis furthered his oversight on the entire winemaking process and this fit well with his guiding principle that all great wine depends on soil quality and passion for tradition. When Louis Roederer II took over from his father, he followed similar ideologies and helped further the history of what today is one of the world’s greatest Champagne houses and coincidentally one of the last few remaining houses that are fully independent and family-owned.

As audacious as his father, Louis II began exporting his wines to further reaches including the United States and Russia. A big fan of the house’s Champagne, Tsar Alexander II of Russia requested that Roederer bottle an exclusive offering for him from the greatest fruit and resulting wine of each vintage. In 1876, Cristal was born as the first-ever Cuvée de Prestige and received its name from the bottle being made of crystal so the Tsar could witness the beauty and effervescence of the wine before popping the cork. In addition to being made of crystal, the bottle commands its unique flat bottom supposedly thanks to the Tsar’s worry that would-be assassins could plant explosives in the punt of standard Champagne bottles. Though the Russian monarchy fell during the early 1900s, Roederer started marketing Cristal commercially and still sells it in their patented bottles today.

As this great Champagne house passed through the family, Léon Olry-Roederer took over the estate during the 1920s and worked to create a consistent wine through the blending of several vintages. Léon’s efforts culminated into what would later become the Brut Premier, a wine that immeasurably contributed to the renaissance of the family’s estate. When Léon passed away in 1933, the estate came under control of his widow Camille who demonstrated adept marketing skills to propel the estate forward. For instance, Camille embraced the more social aspects of Champagne by hosting numerous gatherings at the family’s Hôtel Particulier in Reims which helped introduce the estate’s wines to an ever-growing populace of Champagne lovers.

Following Camille’s management of Louis Roederer, her grandson Jean-Claude Rouzaud took over and began consolidating their vineyard holdings. An oenologist and agronomist by study, Jean-Claude demonstrated his passionate love of winegrowing before passing the estate to his son Frédéric Rouzaud who manages the estate today. Frédéric represents the seventh generation running the Louis Roederer Champagne house, a truly magnificent feat given all of the other great Champagne houses no longer in family control.

Today, Louis Roederer consists of 240 hectares and includes over 400 parcels of vineyard land. These vast holdings that originated from Louis Roederer’s visionary approach during the 1800s allow the estate to produce every vintage from their own vines rather than purchasing fruit. With great respect for their terroir, Louis Roederer increasingly utilizes biodynamic farming methods in caring for their fruit. When it comes time to harvest their fruit, Roederer meticulously picks by hand into buckets and the fruit is pressed delicately on the harvest site. By precisely picking their fruit plot-by-plot, Roederer vinifies each plot separately to create a perfect record of harvest before blending the wines into a final product. Each wine in the fermentation tanks is tasted every day by the winemaking team so they can organize them into families of aromas, flavors, and overall characteristics.

Today’s Wine: 2000 Cristal Champagne

60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay; 12% ABV

The 2000 Cristal is vibrant gold in color and quite transparent. On the nose, this exquisite Champagne offers aromas of ripe green apple, lemon citrus, honey, brioche toast, toasted almond, marmalade, white florals, white pepper, lees, and saline minerality. In the mouth, the wine showcases notes of apricot, white peach, golden apple, citrus zest, honey, white lily, toast, caramel, chalk, and white spice. Though 19 years old, this Champagne is still big and full-bodied with vibrantly high acidity into a long, rounded finish.

Price: $260. Cristal is always an incredible tasting experience and its price-point is justified. This is an excellent choice for special occasions and a bottle we chose for celebrating New Years. Pair this with shrimp, caviar, oysters, creamy cheeses, or fruit-based desserts.

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Diamond Mountain Perfection

Today’s Story: Lokoya

Lokoya was founded in 1995 by wine industry visionary Jess Jackson. Though Jackson had a well-established portfolio of wineries beginning with Kendall-Jackson in 1974, he established Lokoya to produce four distinct bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon from some of the Napa Valley’s most famous mountain appellations. 24 years later, Lokoya produces some of the highest quality limited-release wines from Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, and Diamond Mountain that are all 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Though all four wines from Lokoya are produced in the same manner, each bottling eloquently displays the unique terroir of these diverse mountain appellations. The Mount Veeder bottling, for instance, comes from a vineyard on the western ridges of the Mayacamas Mountains at an elevation of 1,800 feet. The Mount Veeder vineyard is planted in volcanic soil that forces the vines to struggle in seeking nutrients which in turn creates intense, concentrated, and age-worthy wines. The Howell Mountain bottling comes from the W.S. Keyes Vineyard planted in 1888 at an elevation of 1,825 feet (high above the fog line) and with quick-draining soil forces the vines to struggle and produces wines that are incredibly concentrated and earthy. The Spring Mountain bottling came along during the 2005 vintage and fruit is sourced from three vineyards on the eastern slopes of the Mayacamas Mountains. Though Lokoya has an estate vineyard on Spring Mountain (Yverdon Vineyard at 2,100 feet), they also source fruit from Wurtele Vineyard at 1,000 feet and Spring Mountain Vineyard at 1,800 feet. Last but not least, the Diamond Mountain bottling comes from the northern end of Napa Valley overlooking Calistoga and is sourced from select blocks of three vineyards. Though this includes the estate vineyard of Rhyolite Ridge at 1,200 feet, the Diamond Mountain includes fruit from Wallis Vineyards at 1,500 feet and the Andrew Geoffrey Vineyard at 1,800 feet as well.

In producing the Lokoya wines, winemaker Christopher Carpenter intervenes as little as possible in both the vineyards and the cellar. Though the vines do demand constant monitoring and attention due to their high elevations and tough growing conditions, Christopher believes he must not lay a heavy hand so the fruit can express itself as naturally and transparently as possible. To this end, all wines are fermented with natural yeasts and are bottling without fining or filtration to showcase the diverse terroir of each vineyard.

Today’s Wine: 2009 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.4% ABV

The 2009 Diamond Mountain Cab is an opaque deep ruby color with purple/black variation at its core. Once this opens up in the decanter, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, black cherry, redcurrant, licorice, cedar, pine, wet rocky soil, chocolate, tobacco, and graphite. On the palate, I get notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, black plum, black cherry, anise, earth, volcanic ash, cigar box, ground herbs, cardamom, vanilla, and a hint of oak. This Cab is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, elegant and refined medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $400 direct from winery. It is always a treat drinking a bottle of Lokoya and this was magnificent for our New Years Eve dinner. Pair this with steak, lamb, or a cheese plate.

View from the tasting room’s terrace where we enjoyed a glass of Ruinart Champagne.
A tasting of each of the Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon bottlings.
The center of the tasting room.
The library in the tasting room.
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Striking [Red] Oil in the Russian River Valley

Today’s Story: Twomey Cellars

Twomey Cellars was founded in 1999 by Ray Duncan and his son David following Ray’s successful founding of Silver Oak Cellars in 1972. Though Ray’s background is in oil entrepreneurship (he founded Duncan Oil in Colorado), he started buying land in the Napa and Alexander Valleys during the 1970s with the goal of planting vineyards and selling fruit to wineries. With Justin Meyer as his co-founder of Silver Oak, however, Ray started producing his own wines and Silver Oak became famous for their Cabernet Sauvignon. After a few decades of running Silver Oak, Ray wanted to explore varieties besides Cabernet Sauvignon and founded Twomey with David in pursuit of producing Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Sauvignon Blanc.

With a goal of producing vineyard-focused wines, Twomey has wineries in Calistoga in the Napa Valley, Healdsburg in the Russian River Valley, Philo in the Anderson Valley, and a soon-to-open winery in Dundee, Oregon in the Willamette Valley. From this vast geography, Twomey produces six single-vineyard and three regional Pinot Noirs, one single-vineyard Merlot, and one single-vineyard and one estate Sauvignon Blanc. In producing these wines, Twomey practices sustainable farming in all of their vineyards with major emphasis on water and energy conservation. This not only helps protect the land for generations of winemakers to come, but improves fruit quality while allowing the wines to showcase their unique place.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.9% ABV

The 2012 Russian River Pinot is pale ruby/cherry in color and moderately transparent. This Pinot needs about 30-45 minutes to open up, but once it does the expressive nose emits aromas of cherry, raspberry, saddle leather, smoke, forest floor, a hint of barnyard, white pepper, dried green herbs, rose, and a pinch of cinnamon. On the palate, the wine showcases notes of dark cherry, dried cranberry, strawberry, tobacco, damp earth, peppery spice, rosemary, slight coffee bean, and a hint of vanilla. This gorgeous and easy-drinking Pinot is medium-bodied with medium acidity, light (almost nonexistent) tannins, and a medium (-) length finish. The finish could be a bit longer to truly impress me, but nonetheless this is a delicious bottle of wine.

Price: $50. This is a solid price-point especially when compared to some of the other RRV Pinots I’ve enjoyed that are twice as expensive but only marginally better. Nonetheless, $35 is always a sweet spot for me for quality Pinot Noir and you can find bottlings in that range up to par with this Twomey. Pair this with salmon, roasted chicken, duck, lamb, or charcuterie.

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The Maestro

Today’s Story: Beaulieu Vineyard

Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande. I previously wrote about their history in A Winery Synonymous with Napa Valley Itself back on December 8, and if you are unfamiliar with the winery or their history I highly suggest reading this prior post.

Though I won’t rewrite the entire backstory here today, I do want to give more color on the Maestro Collection which my wine today is part of. As I discussed in my prior post, world-renowned viticulturist and enologist André Tchelistcheff joined BV and brought European methods of cultivation and pruning with him. His contributions from the start seem endless, from his tasting of the 1936 vintage of the BV Private Reserve and encouraging Georges de Latour to bottle it separately to his experimentations with micro-plots of different grape varieties and small-lot fermentation. As one of the most influential and iconic winemakers in the Napa Valley, André worked with BV for 40 years as winemaker and gained the nickname the “Maestro.” Though André retired in 1973, he joined BV again in 1991 to help the winemaking team study the effects of vintage and bottle age on 50 vintages of Private Reserve Georges de Latour and he also helped experiment with small-lot wines. It is these small-lot wines produced using unique varietals, vineyard lots, and blends that make up the Maestro Collection, justifiably named in André’s honor.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Maestro Collection Ranch No. 1 Red Blend

I unfortunately could not find a percentage breakdown of varieties in this wine, though I do know this to be Cabernet Sauvignon dominant (I assume ~70-75%) blended with Merlot and a splash of Petit Verdot. 14.8% ABV

The 2010 Maestro Collection Ranch No. 1 is medium ruby in color and almost entirely opaque. This needs about an hour to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, cassis, plum, dried earth, cigar box, chocolate, nutmeg, and oak. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, sweet tobacco, slate, leather, vanilla, and a hint of licorice. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty medium (+) tannins, and a long finish with herbaceous overtones.

Price: $95. While this is a delicious wine and the Maestro Collection is fairly limited, I find it hard to justify paying twice the price of a BV Tapestry Reserve which I consistently find to be good value. Pair this with steak, a good burger, or lamb.

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Napa Fruit Bomb

Today’s Story: Nickel & Nickel Winery

Nickel & Nickel was established in Oakville, Napa Valley in 1997 by Gil and Beth Nickel. Though Gil was born in Oklahoma and has a background in the nursery business (his family owned Greenleaf Nursery which is one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the country), Gil and Beth moved to Napa Valley in 1976 where they founded Far Niente Winery in 1979. I reviewed a Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon in Historic Napa Cab back on November 11. Not too far from the Far Niente property, the Nickel & Nickel winery is located on an 1880s-era farm established by John C. Sullenger following his purchase of the land in 1865. The grounds are beautiful, with a restored farmhouse and barns (built during the 1880s) set amongst flowers and horse stables. With the intent of producing only single-vineyard 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines, Nickel & Nickel today offers roughly 20 different bottlings from vineyards in Oakville, Yountville, Calistoga, Rutherford, Oak Knoll District, Diamond Mountain District, Stags Leap District, St. Helena, and Howell Mountain. They augmented this portfolio with Chardonnay, Merlot, and Syrah with the Merlot and Syrah bottlings a bit tougher to come by.

Like many premium wineries in Napa, Nickel & Nickel institutes sustainable practices throughout their farming and winemaking processes. Before their considerations in the vineyards themselves, Nickel & Nickel is proud to be a net-zero user of electricity thanks to solar panels, they collect process water from winery operations to irrigate the vineyards, recycle extensively, and replaced company vehicles with hybrid alternatives. In the vineyards, Nickel & Nickel practices organic farming in an effort to preserve the natural tendencies of the soil while getting the best fruit possible from their vines.

Naturally, when a winery offers a wide portfolio of wines from different terroir but of the same variety it can be fun to taste several of these side-by-side. I had the opportunity to taste a couple this way in the past and found it incredibly cool to read about the different soils which you can get a glimpse of here. If you have the opportunity to taste several of these wines together, it is also fun looking at the map of the vast Nickel & Nickel vineyards here.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Branding Iron Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% ABV

The 2016 Branding Iron is an opaque deep purple/ruby in color. This certainly needs some time to open up, so I recommend decanting the wine. On the nose, I get aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, redcurrant, purple florals, wet stone, saturated earth, baking spice, sweet tobacco, chocolate, vanilla, and oak. Once in the mouth, this wine continues the fruit-dominated theme with notes of jammy blackberry, blackcurrant, cherry, pomegranate, green herbs, forest floor, baking spice, and oak. This wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, velvety medium tannins, and a long inky finish dominated by dark fruit and baking spice.

Price: $100. Though you can tell the quality is there, I think this is priced too high given that the wine comes off as an inky people-pleaser. Though I would place a hefty bet that the majority of today’s Napa Cab lovers would enjoy this wine, I think the price-point is a deterrent for many. Pair this with steak or a good burger.

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Corsican Beauty

Today’s Story: Domaine Comte Abbatucci

Domaine Comte Abbatucci was founded in 1950 (though wine history of the family estate dates back more than a century) by Antoine Abbatucci. The Abbatucci name, however, has even deeper roots in Corsica that stretch at least as far back as the French Revolution. Jean-Charles Abbatucci and Jacques-Pierre Abbatucci, for instance, were both Generals during the French Revolution with Jean-Charles considered a hero who fought with Napoléon Bonaparte. Unsurprisingly, there are streets, monuments, and entire plazas in Corsica named after various Abbatucci family members, particularly in the capital city of Ajaccio.

Circling back to the winery as it exists today, the domaine is located in the heart of the Taravo Valley in southern Corsica. During the 1960s, Antoine grew concerned with what seemed to be the impending extinction of native grape varieties thanks to life disappearing in mountain villages that were home to some of the island’s oldest vineyards. As President of the Chamber of Agriculture of Corsica, Antoine removed cuttings from each threatened vineyard he discovered and planted them in one single plot of granite soil on his estate. Through these efforts, this one plot of vineyard land is planted to 18 varieties and pays homage to the winemaking history of Corsica. The fruit from this plot goes into the wines of the highly limited Domaine Comte Abbatucci Cuvée Collection.

While Antoine created arguably one of the most important vineyard plots in Corsican winemaking, his son Jean-Charles made his own vital strides when taking over the domaine. A biodynamist at heart, Jean-Charles converted the estate to biodynamic farming in 2000 to further preserve the original terroir and grape varieties of Corsica. With care for the natural habitat of the vineyards, Jean-Charles conducts work periods based on lunar cycles and the time of day, plowing is accomplished on horseback, and a flock of sheep grazes on the natural and permanent grass cover between rows during the winter. During harvest, all fruit is harvested by hand in small boxes and carefully sorted both in the vineyards and at the winery. Winemaking is accomplished by gravity-flow, fermentation is completed only using indigenous yeasts, and maceration is gentle with alternating punch downs and pump overs. Though Jean-Charles did change the farming practices, he follows in his father’s footsteps by providing cuttings of the salvaged native varieties to other vignerons throughout Corsica.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Cuvée Collection Ministre Impérial

22% Sciaccarello, 18% Nielluccio, 15% Montanaccia, 15% Carcajolo Nero, 12% Morescono, 10% Morescola, 8% Aléatico; 14% ABV

The 2016 Ministre Impérial is named for Jacques-Pierre-Charles Abbatucci, a leading military figure under Napoléon Bonaparte’s Premier Empire and later a senator and official councillor to Napoléon III. He was Jacques-Pierre Abbatucci’s grandson and Jean-Charles Abbatucci’s nephew. The wine itself is a moderately transparent pale ruby color with rose variation toward the rim. Once this opens up in the decanter, the nose emits aromas of cherry, redcurrant, boysenberry, red florals, ground herbs, leather, smoked gamey meats, earth, graphite, smokey minerality, and a hint of woodiness. On the palate, I get notes of cherry, redcurrant, wild blueberry, dried rocky soil, granite, herbs, smoke, slight peppery spice, and mineral. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, elegant and refined medium (-) tannins, and a long finish dominated by red fruit and rocky minerality. 500 cases produced.

Price: $95 (though if you can find this in Europe it seems to be closer to $60). This is a really cool wine to taste given the backstory on these varieties and the simultaneous elegance and complexity it presents for a Corsican wine. If you can find a bottle, I highly recommend giving it a try. Pair this with lamb, wild boar, veal, or charcuterie and cheese.

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Rising Star in Barolo

Today’s Story: Giulia Negri

The story behind Giulia Negri and her wines is a unique one, with Giulia taking over her family’s well-established Barolo estate at the age of 24. Though she studied management and biology during college, Giulia returned to the Langhe commune of La Morra after a palate-shaping journey through Burgundy. Inspired by the wines and winemaking practices of Burgundy, Giulia started crafting small amounts of Barolo released as several “microcuvées” before fully taking control of vineyard management and production of her family’s 150-year-old estate in 2014.

Located in the Serradenari cru of La Morra, Giulia’s vineyards stretch from 400 to 536 meters (1,312 to 1,758 feet) above sea level. Not entirely shocking after reading those numbers, Serradenari is the highest point in the Barolo zone with breathtaking views of the Alps from Liguria to Mount Cervino. Though the vineyards for her Barolo bottlings command West and Southwest exposure, Giulia inherited small plots of Northern facing Chardonnay and Pinot Nero planted by her father that allow her to experiment with the varieties that helped shape her palate in Burgundy. In caring for her vineyards, Giulia practices organic farming (she started in 2014) though full conversion and certification is expected for the 2019 vintage. A traditionalist at heart, Giulia hand harvests all fruit for her wines, practices long and gentle maceration, ferments with only indigenous yeasts, and minimizes filtration. Her resulting wines are elegant in their youth thanks to fine-grained tannins, yet they have the structure to withstand the test of time in the cellar.

The Giulia Negri portfolio consists of seven wines. Her three Barolo bottlings consist of Marassio (0.8 hectare at 536 meters above sea level), Serradenari (1 hectare at 520 meters above sea level), and La Tartufaia (2 hectares at 460 meters above sea level). In addition to her Chardonnay and Pinot Nero I mentioned earlier, she also produces a Langhe Nebbiolo Pian delle Mole and a Barbera d’Alba. Though these wines can be difficult to find due to the small quantities and relative novelty of production (I had to special order mine), Giulia’s wines are worth seeking out. Though young, she seems to be making quite the name for herself and is certainly a rising star in Barolo.

For more on Giulia’s background, facts about each wine, and pictures of this beautiful estate check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo La Tartufaia

100% Nebbiolo; 14% ABV

The 2015 Barolo La Tartufaia is pale to medium ruby in color and almost entirely transparent. This wine is a blend of 80% Serradenari cru (vines planted in 2004) and 20% Brunate cru (40-year-old vines). I stole a sip right out of the bottle, but because of its youth let this decant for an hour before pouring a glass. Once the wine opens up, the nose showcases aromas of bright red cherry, redcurrant, rose petal, violet, saddle leather, forest floor, underbrush, clay, tar, and delicate oak. In the mouth, I get notes of cherry, raspberry, dried cranberry, rose, cured meat, tobacco, loamy earth, rocky minerality, slight spice, a hint of truffle, and faint presence of oak. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with moderately high acidity, ultra-fine medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $60. I think this is a great value for Barolo, and I love the story behind Giulia and her wines as well. Pair this with duck, quail, filet mignon, truffles, or goat/sheep cheese.

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One of the Napa Greats

Today’s Story: Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Joseph Phelps Vineyards was founded in 1973 by Joseph Phelps and remains a family-owned and operated estate to this day. Though Phelps’ background is in construction and entrepreneurship, he grew an early interest in wine and established vineyards on a 670 acre former cattle ranch in Napa Valley. In 1998, Joseph’s son Bill joined the winery as Executive Chairman after a career in law and his sisters Leslie, Laurie, and Lynn later joined the Board of Directors. In 2016, family members Elizabeth Neuman and Will Phelps joined the winery team as third generation employees set on continuing the legacy Joseph started in 1973.

Today, the Phelps family owns and farms 425 acres of vineyards across St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Stags Leap District, Oak Knoll District, South Napa, and Carneros as well as 100 acres over two vineyards on the western Sonoma Coast. As stewards of the land, the Phelps family practices sustainable farming in an effort to improve the long-term vitality of their vineyards and soil. Some of these efforts include olive and fruit trees planted on the Home Ranch in St. Helena (as well as fruit trees in the Backus and Las Rocas Vineyards); bees on the Home Ranch to sustain the plants, trees, and vines; chickens on the Home Ranch to provide natural fertilizer to the soil; owl and bluebird boxes constructed in every vineyard; sheep brought in to mow cover crops and naturally fertilize the soil; composting grape skins and stems for use in the vineyards; and solar panels at the winery to offset energy needs.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Insignia

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot, 4% Merlot, 2% Malbec; 14.5% ABV

The 2010 Insignia is opaque deep ruby in color with a bit of purple at its core. I let this open in the decanter for about an hour to hour and a half before drinking any. Once the wine opens up, the nose is incredibly complex and changes over time with aromas of blackcurrant, cassis, smoked meat, tobacco, cigar box, thyme, black truffle, forest floor, graphite, crushed rock, violet, and a hint of oak. The palate is similarly complex with notes of blackberry, blueberry, red fruit, cedar, tobacco, damp earth, mushroom, pepper, slight baking spice, chocolate, and a touch of vanilla. This wine is full-bodied with medium acidity, velvety medium (-) tannins, and a long finish. I could smell this wine all day and was blown away by how elegant and ever-changing this is with air.

Price: $215. Not a cheap bottle of wine, but for premium Napa that goes up against the great wines of France this is well worth the price. Pair this with steak, lean game, or grilled lamb.

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Premier American Sparkling

Today’s Story: Schramsberg Vineyards

Schramsberg Vineyards was founded in 1862 by Jacob Schram when he purchased 200 acres and began the development of hillside vineyards in Napa. In 1870, Chinese laborers dug what became the first hillside caves in Napa Valley for aging and storing wine, with the winery quickly ramping up production. By 1880, Schramsberg was producing 8,403 cases of wine annually from 50 acres of vines, which ramped up to about 28,361 cases from 100 acres of vines by the year 1890. If this history sounds familiar, it’s because the Davies family purchased the Schramsberg property in 1965 and I’ve reviewed several of their still wines starting with the 2012 Ferrington Vineyards Pinot Noir in Who Wants Pie? on October 9. With their ownership, Jack and Jamie Davies started producing sparkling wines under the historic Schramsberg label with a goal of producing America’s premier sparkling wine.

Fun fact: Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs was served for President Nixon’s 1972 “Toast to Peace” with China’s Premier Zhou Enlai. Since then, Schramsberg sparkling wines have been served at official State functions by every U.S. Presidential administration.

Today’s Wine: 2005 J. Schram Sparkling Rosé

79% Chardonnay, 21% Pinot Noir; 12.3% ABV

The 2005 J. Schram is a bright salmon pink in color and fully transparent. On the nose, this sparkler showcases aromas of strawberry, raspberry, peach, baked red apple, toasted almond, brioche toast, and a hint of lees. Once in the mouth, the wine shows notes of cherry, strawberry, blood orange, apricot, grapefruit, hazelnut, and lightly buttered toast. Moderately full-bodied, this sparkling wine has vibrant mouthwatering acidity into a long finish ending in notes of crisp red apple skin and crunchy red berries.

Price: $110. Though this is one of the best sparkling rosés I’ve had, I would be perfectly content saving $40 and buying a Veuve Clicquot Rosé Champagne even though it’s a NV bottling. Pair this with shrimp, salmon, cold cuts, or sweet cheese.

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High Quality People Pleaser

Today’s Story: Alpha Omega

This is an easy one today so I can prepare for the Christmas Eve festivities, and if you celebrate the holiday as well my wine review shouldn’t keep you too busy! I wrote about Alpha Omega a couple times in the past, first reviewing the 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay in A Napa Take On Chablis and then the 2016 Cabernet Franc in The Cabernet in Cabernet Sauvignon.

Long story short, Alpha Omega is the creation of Robin and Michelle Baggett following their move to Napa Valley in 2006. Though Robin began his foray into wine much earlier, in 1988 as a grape grower and in 1998 by starting Tolosa Winery, Michelle worked in the design and development of hospitality brands before the couple culminated their pursuits into Alpha Omega. Today, Alpha Omega is known largely for their red wines and particularly high-quality single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, though they produce Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and late harvest wines as well.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Proprietary Red Wine

61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc; 14.6% ABV

The 2012 Proprietary Red is opaque deep ruby in color, almost black at its core. This needs some time to breathe, though once it opens up the nose emits aromas of blackberry, blueberry, plum, cassis, black cherry, cedar, graphite, tar, cinnamon, and oak. In the mouth, this expressive palate shows notes of blackberry, juicy plum, prune, dried leather, loamy earth, cocoa, black pepper, licorice, lavender, and a touch of vanilla. This bottling from Alpha Omega is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) finish with inky, concentrated dark fruit notes dominating.

Price: $90. Personally, I would pay up for the single vineyard wines from Alpha Omega or go with a different producer in the same price range. This wine is a bit far into the “people pleasing” category in my opinion with its rich, concentrated, and expressive fruit alongside vanilla and oak. This being said, however, most people would like this. Pair this with steak, a burger, pepper-crusted tuna, or grilled lamb.

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Both Complexity and Elegance from Sonoma County

Today’s Story: Vérité Winery

Vérité was founded in 1998 by wine industry visionary Jess Jackson. Though Jackson is most well-known for starting Kendall-Jackson after purchasing 80 acres of land he converted to vineyards in 1974 (he started bottling his own wine in 1982), he always wanted to create a wine that would stand up to the greatest in the world. This vision, and his belief that it could be accomplished in Sonoma County, helped lay the foundations of Vérité. During the 1990s, Jackson traveled to France and met vigneron Pierre Seillan who had already spent decades creating world-class wines in Bordeaux and Tuscany. The two struck up a friendship, and when Seillan visited California in 1997 Jackson asked him to start Vérité with him and this passion was born.

Seillan is a vigneron who follows a micro-cru philosophy throughout the viticultural and winemaking processes. This philosophy came about after Seillan worked across eight different appellations in Bordeaux, allowing him to realize the endless nuance between different vineyard sites. In bringing this philosophy to Vérité, Seillan crafts each wine from more than 50 micro-crus harvested and fermented separately before being aged in French oak barrels varying in toast. The resulting wines are characterized by an elegant and complex architecture that “embodies the timeless traditions of France and the limitless possibilities of California.” Though Jess Jackson passed away in 2011, his vision lives on through Seillan and will continue to do so under Hélène Seillan who joined as assistant winemaker to her father.

Vérité produces three wines including La Muse (Merlot dominated), La Joie (Cabernet Sauvignon dominated), and Le Désir (Cabernet Franc dominated). In addition to the micro-cru philosophy, each wine is produced with a belief that we are servants of the soil in winemaking and the wines should therefore “express the unfettered voice of the terroir.” Sonoma County is one of the most diverse winegrowing regions on earth and with vineyards located in the Bennett Valley, Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, and Knights Valley appellations Vérité wines elegantly display this nuanced terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Le Désir

61% Cabernet Franc, 31% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec; 14.3% ABV

The 2008 Le Désir is a beautiful medium ruby color. These wines are made for the long haul, so we decanted this bottle for about an hour before trying any. Once the wine opens up, the nose showcases aromas of dusty blackberry, black cherry, peppercorn, sous bois, white truffle, cigar box, mint, and oak. In the mouth, this beauty shows notes of blackberry, blueberry, purple florals, cigar box, smokey earth, green herbs, pepper, licorice, and a hint of oak. The wine is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $400. I’ve wanted to try a wine from Vérité for quite some time, though it is no easy price to stomach. Thanks to a very generous friend who brought this over for a party, I finally got a glimpse into why their wines are so pricey. Pair this with grilled beef (especially filet mignon), duck, or lamb.

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A Beautiful Marriage of Oakville and Stags Leap District

Today’s Story: Futo Wines

Futo Wines was founded in 2002 by Tom and Kyle Futo when they purchased Oakford Vineyards. Futo started as a 40 acre property with 7 acres planted under vine in the hills of Oakville, though Tom and Kyle added an adjoining 117 acres in 2004. This new property resulted in the addition of 6 acres of vineyards that were planted under the direction of famed viticulturist David Abreu and winemaker Mark Aubert. 2004 also marked the first vintage of Futo Wines, 80 cases of the Futo Oakville bottling. The winery was not yet completed, however, but was finished in 2008 in time to receive that vintage’s harvest. Late in 2011, Futo expanded yet again with the purchase of 40 acres in the Stags Leap District that included 9 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1986. This estate vineyard allows for a more efficient marriage of Oakville and Stags Leap fruit to produce the OV/SL bottling.

I had the privilege of visiting Futo and tasting with Daniel Ha back in September, and this was one of my favorite visits during my trip. We took a tour of the property, including the winery, before sitting down inside to taste the 2012 OV/SL and 2014 Oakville bottlings. These are both delicious wines full of power and complexity, while also displaying the unique terroirs of Oakville and the Stags Leap District. All of the farming at Futo is done by hand and vineyard management is 100% in-house which helps provide consistency across vintages yet constant improvement. Jason Exposto’s winemaking style is focused on restraint rather than influence, another excellent facet of the experience when tasting Futo’s wines.

Today’s Wine: 2012 OV/SL

75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot; 14.7% ABV

The 2012 OV/SL is an opaque medium to deep ruby color. I let this decant for about an hour before drinking. Once the wine opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, graphite, tobacco, red meat, smoke, earth, chocolate, and oak. When this wine hits the palate, I get notes of blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry, cedar, cigar box, loamy earth, slight iron, green herbs, and forest floor. This wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. 880 cases produced.

Price: $200 (but $250 direct from the winery). Certainly not a cheap bottle of wine, but everything I’ve tried from Futo is outstanding. If you can find this for a deal retail, it’s certainly worth trying. Pair this with steak.

The wine cellar at Futo.
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Sweet Berry Wine!!

Supposed to spit it out…..but no way Jose am I spittin’ this stuff out, it tastes like fruit!

Dr. Steve Brule

Today’s Story: Las Jaras Wines

Las Jaras Wines was founded in 2014 by winemaker Joel Burt and Hollywood comedian/director Eric Wareheim. Joel Burt, a winemaker at Domaine Chandon, was growing tired of making wines in a cookie-cutter, corporate, and mass-produced manner when he met Eric and the two realized they shared a passion for fine wine. The duo started planning their own wine label where they could produce wines in homage of “the old days” (think 1970s Napa) and Las Jaras was born. Joel describes their Cabernet “like a Dunn from the 80s, but way more approachable” and each wine in the portfolio is made largely using similar traditional techniques.

To achieve this style of wine, Joel remains very hands-off throughout the winemaking process. Las Jaras sources their fruit from various old vine vineyards, though most comes from Mendocino County. All fruit is hand-harvested and each variety goes through separate winemaking processes, all being hand-sorted at the crusher. Though each variety is vinified differently to best express that variety’s unique character, the long story short here is that Joel doesn’t add sulfur, the wines ferment with only natural yeasts, and bottling is accomplished with no fining or filtration. Today will be my first bottle from Las Jaras (and hopefully not my last) as I can appreciate wines made in traditional fashion with lower SO2 and alcohol content to better express the terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Sweet Berry Wine

54% Carignan, 28% Zinfandel, 12% Charbono, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Valdiguie; 13% ABV

The 2018 Sweet Berry Wine is a beautiful medium purple in color and moderately opaque. This takes a little bit of time to open up, but once it does the nose showcases aromas of blueberry, raspberry, strawberry jam, licorice, sweet tobacco, cured meat, cinnamon, and violet. In the mouth, this Carignan-dominated blend shows notes of tart cherry, cranberry sauce, plum, wild underripe raspberry, baking spice, sweet tobacco, and green herbs. Overall both the nose and palate come off quite sweet, actually reminding me somewhat of the Martha Stoumen Zinfandel I reviewed not too long ago. The wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, low tannins (surprisingly), and a long finish.

Price: $35. All gimmicks aside, I think this is a great value particularly for those not familiar with a more “natural” way of making wine. I put “natural” in quotes because Joel Burt takes the word with a grain of salt when it comes up to describe his style, but it does fit. Pair this with honestly any type of food you want, but steer toward chicken, duck, pork, or beef brisket – and you can add barbecue to all of that minus the duck.

For a little comedy behind this wine, check out the video here. For a more serious note on the winemaking process for this bottling (they go into a lot of great detail) check out the fact sheet here.

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Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove

Today’s Story: Domaine du Gros ‘Noré

Domaine du Gros ‘Noré was founded in 1997 by Alain Pascal, though he and his father Honoré grew and sold grapes on the property beforehand. Born in a small house surrounded by the vineyards in Bandol, Alain grew up to become an amateur boxer (thanks to his burly build and bear-claw-sized hands) and avid hunter but he always wanted to be a farmer. Though Alain and Honoré sold most of their fruit to Domaine Ott and Château de Pibarnon, the father and son duo also produced wines for their family’s enjoyment without estate bottling and commercializing it. After his father’s death, Alain shifted focus and founded Domaine du Gros ‘Noré (named after his father) which quickly helped catapult him to the forefront of winemaking in Bandol.

From the very beginning of his domaine, Alain sought to create wines through minimal intervention. Part of this vision includes fermenting his wines with only indigenous yeasts and not filtering them before bottling. Though he first became recognized for ripe and full-bodied wines thanks to his practice of allowing the grapes to mature fully on the vine before harvest, over the years he tried shifting toward wines of freshness and complexity by harvesting slightly earlier. The resulting wines offer both power and silkiness while depicting the sunny hillsides of Provence, its clay soil, and terroir in beautiful clarity.

Domaine du Gros ‘Noré consists of 16 hectares of vineyards, which Alain farms with help from his brother Guy. Alain’s vineyards are predominantly clay with some limestone, and the Mediterranean microclimate brings warm weather and full sun that culminates into expressive fruit.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Cuvée Antoinette

95% Mourvèdre, 5% Grenache; 15% ABV

The 2010 Cuvée Antoinette is deep ruby in color with bright ruby rim variation and slight particle presence in the glass. Once this opens up, the nose showcases aromas of ripe cranberry, cherry, red and purple florals, leather, cured meat, cigar box, loamy earth, graphite, and wet gravel. I also get a bit of heat on the nose, likely due to the relatively high 15% ABV. On the palate, this wine shows notes of cranberry, raspberry, dusty blueberry, smoke, tobacco, charred earth, mushroom, underbrush, and chocolate. The wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium dusty tannins, and a long finish dominated by dark fruit and earthy tones. While drinking beautifully right now, there is definitely another decade to enjoy this wine.

Price: $82. I paid a bit more than this here in the USA’s Midwest, but I think $82 is a great price-point for the wine. This is a beautiful representation of Mourvèdre and was a library release directly from the domaine. Pair this with gamey meats, especially venison or buffalo and bison.

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Relatively New GSM from Paso

Today’s Story: Booker Vineyard

Booker Vineyard as it exists today stems from the purchase of 100 acres by Eric and Lisa Jensen in 2001. The history of this land, however, traces back to the late 1920s when Claude and Dick Booker, two orphaned brothers, purchased land on Paso’s Westside that amassed to more than 1,200 acres by the turn of the century. The Bookers were some of Paso’s best-known residents for their farming knowledge and philanthropy, with their largest gift being 100% of their estate left to charity when Dick died in 1990 and Claude died in 2000.

Now back to 2001 with Eric and Lisa, the couple intended to use their new land to grow grapes for some of the best wineries in the Paso Robles area. Though they achieved this goal selling grapes to Saxum for five years and L’Aventure for two years, Eric and Lisa wanted more out of their land and decided to bottle their own wine beginning with the 2005 vintage. A unique and more personalized expression of their land, Booker wines are made by Eric Jensen himself.

Though Booker is not certified organic or biodynamic, their farming practices pull inspiration from both methods. The Jensens have come to realize that biodynamic farming practices help maintain the interconnected lifestyle and cycles of all entities in the vineyards, providing a boost to soil and vine health that becomes apparent in their wines. Furthermore, the vines are planted in rather high density so each plant can focus its energy on few clusters that create concentrated wines rather than an abundance of fruit. This is also important because Booker’s vineyards do not get much water.

Much like the mentality in the vineyards, Booker makes their wines in minimalist fashion. Eric strives to interfere as little as possible, with his red wine fermentations started using pump-overs and moving to punch-downs in most cases once fermentation starts. The wines are not racked until bottling and these wines are typically aged for 18 months. For more, check out the Booker website here where much of the above information finds its source.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Vertigo GSM Red Blend

52% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 18% Mourvèdre; 14.9% ABV

The 2016 Vertigo is medium to deep ruby in color and moderately transparent. Once the wine opens up (you will need to decant this) the nose offers enticing aromas of blackberry, blueberry, red berry jam, baked cherry, licorice, lavender, a touch of smoke, leather, game, chocolate, and a hint of vanilla. On the palate this wine displays delicious notes of blackberry compote, blueberry, black plum, candied cherry, scorched earth, graphite, blood, bitter chocolate, green herbs, and stony minerality. The wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, high tannins, and a long grippy finish dominated by dark berries and plum. Overall this is a complex yet sweet GSM that, while beautiful now with some air, needs time to fully come together in the cellar.

Price: $80. This is not cheap but fairly priced, though I would steer you toward better value wines (such as Ridge GSM) if you intend to drink it now. You need to be patient for a few more years with this one but will be handsomely rewarded. Pair this with red meats and game accompanied by mushroom or pepper sauce.

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One of the Last Remnants

Today’s Story: Château de la Guimonière

Château de la Guimonière was a very historic 15th Century estate with origins dating to the château built there in 1487. The estate’s vineyards were located on the hillsides of Layon à Chaume in the town of Rochefort sur ​​Loire and occupied 19 hectares under vine. 16 hectares of vineyard land was planted to Chenin Blanc, while the remaining 3 hectares consisted of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, based on my research, it appears the château is now simply a cottage designed for family or group travel accommodations. Perhaps you can stay there when visiting the area for some Loire Valley tastings.

As recently as the late 1990s, under ownership of the Germain family, the estate produced sweet wines after Bernard Germain purchased Château de la Guimonière, Château de Fesles, and Château de la Roulerie. Shortly thereafter, thanks to how difficult it can be to make sweet wines in the Loire Valley, the family sold off Château de la Fesles and Château de la Guimonière. They maintained ownership of Château de la Roulerie, however, which seemed to have the greatest promise thanks to its origins way back in the 11th Century. Perhaps I will try to find one of their wines to review someday.

Bonus fact: Bernard Germain, the former owner of Château de la Guimonière, is the father of Thierry Germain whose Domaine des Roches Neuves I reviewed a wine from in early November. Bernard’s other son Philippe runs Château de la Roulerie.

Today’s Wine: 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume

100% Chenin Blanc; 13% ABV

The 1997 Coteaux du Layon Chaume is a disconcerting pale to medium brown in color, almost more reminiscent of a sherry or white Tawny Port. There is zero sediment in the bottle and the wine is almost entirely transparent. Though many people would probably dump this out on first sight, I gave it the old college try and was handsomely rewarded. The nose offers still delicate aromas of dried apricot, baked peach, orange marmalade, honey, white florals, mixed nuts, and slight earthy game while remarkably not really showing signs of oxidation. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of candied orange, quince, marmalade, marzipan, licorice, caramel, toffee, and white floral liqueur. Medium- to full-bodied, this peculiar wine shows medium (+) acidity and a well-rounded finish that ends medium (+) in length.

Price: $100. At this price, I would not buy this wine again. While it was certainly a fun wine to try (I don’t have many wines from producers no longer in existence, or wines that come out brown but taste pleasant) I wouldn’t call it worth trying again. Pair this with rich, pungent cheeses or drink it alone for the odd experience.

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Bordeaux in California

Today’s Story: Jordan Vineyard & Winery

Jordan Vineyard & Winery was founded in 1972 by Tom and Sally Jordan, a husband and wife duo from Colorado. During the early years of their marriage, Tom and Sally shared a passion for French food and wine that they expanded upon by traveling throughout France, ultimately realizing they wanted a vineyard of their own. Not believing they could realistically purchase one in France, the couple had their epiphany over a glass of Beaulieu Vineyard Georges de Latour by realizing they could achieve their dream of crafting French-inspired wines in California. It was May of 1972 when this passion came to fruition and Tom and Sally signed the deed for their property in Alexander Valley.

At this time both Alexander Valley and the Napa Valley were quite rustic, full of prune orchards and cattle without much vineyard land. Tom and Sally removed the prune orchards on their property and set about planting 200 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot on the valley floor. Two years later, in 1974, the couple realized it was time to construct a winery and plans began for their 58,000 square foot French-inspired chateau overlooking the vineyards. The chateau took 18 months to complete, though the production wing was completed first one week before the 1976 harvest – Jordan’s first vintage.

Funny enough, Jordan hired André Tchelistcheff in 1974 as an enology consultant. If that name sounds familiar, it should because I wrote about André in my post on Beaulieu Vineyard. André was essentially the architect behind the Georges de Latour bottling, coincidentally the same wine that proved impetus for Tom and Sally to start Jordan, and he helped the couple select fermenters, oak tanks, barrels, and picker-stemmer and presses. André also hired Jordan’s winegrower Rob Davis to oversee the first vintage in 1976, and Rob remains winegrower to this day.

In 2005, Tom and Sally’s son John took over as CEO of the winery and while he remains fully committed to carrying on his parents’ vision he is making important steps in bringing the estate into the modern world. One of his major initiatives, for example, is making the winery more eco-friendly through sustainable practices and more diverse uses of the land. This endeavor so far includes “reducing the winery’s energy consumption, composting all of the winery’s organic waste, and installing hillside solar arrays to offset 75% of the winery’s electricity usage” – source. One of the most important traditions John carries, on the other hand, is hospitality. Jordan was one of the first (if not the first) wineries in Alexander Valley or Napa Valley with an executive chef in house and a hospitality wing that married wine tasting with food and entertainment with such ease. A visit to this winery is a must if you are in the area.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, 2% Malbec; 13.8% ABV

The 2015 Cab is an opaque, deep ruby in color with purple at its core. This wine requires some time to open up due to its youth, but once it does the nose emits aromas of black cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, purple florals, cedar, tobacco, graphite, smoked red meat, and a hint of vanilla. Once in the mouth, this gorgeous wine showcases notes of ripe cherry, boysenberry, black raspberry, earthy green herbs, cigar box, iron, and clove. The 2015 Cab is medium-to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) yet dusty tannins, and a long finish dominated by notes of cherry, earth, and black peppery spice. I think Jordan achieved their goal in producing Bordeaux-like wines in California, particularly with this 2015.

Price: $55. Jordan is a great value for this price range, as this drinks like a wine 25-50% more expensive. These wines have great aging potential as well, with many Jordans drinking beautifully after 10+ years of cellaring. Pair this with filet mignon, lamb, roasted chicken, or grilled pork loin.

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Liquid Gold

Today’s Story: Château d’Yquem

Château d’Yquem has a very long, mysterious history that traces its roots back to the 15th Century. One of the most interesting snippets of this history, for instance, is that the estate belonged to the King of England during the Middle Ages! In 1593, however, southwest France again came under control of the French crown by Charles VII and has remained as such since. It was also this year that the d’Yquem estate came under control of Jacques de Sauvage, a descendant of a local noble family. Though some winegrowing practices and late harvesting existed at this time, the Sauvage family did not start building the château for several more years and then began the long process of assembling land for the current estate plot by plot.

Jumping forward in time, it wasn’t until 1711 that the Sauvage family fully owned the estate under Léon de Sauvage d’Yquem. Furthermore, under the rule of Louis XIV, Château d’Yquem received noble status. The magnificent estate switched hands yet again, however, in 1785 when Françoise Joséphine de Sauvage d’Yquem married Count Louis Amédée de Lur-Saluces, a godson of Louis XV. Sadly, three years later in 1788, the Count died in a riding accident but his widow took over management of the estate and quickly displayed her acumen by sustaining and improving d’Yquem. One of the most notable practices at d’Yquem was established under Françoise Joséphine de Sauvage d’Yquem, for instance, which is picking over several passes (sometimes picking one grape at a time). Another notable feat under this young widow is the admiration noble figures around the globe felt toward d’Yquem, including Thomas Jefferson who reportedly purchased 250 bottles of the 1784 vintage for himself and additional bottles for George Washington.

Romain-Bertrand de Lur-Saluces, a grandson of Françoise Joséphine, took over the estate and helped guide it through seemingly endless successes in the second half of the 19th Century. For example, d’Yquem’s wines became a necessity for the rich and powerful throughout Europe, Russia, and Asia. In 1855, Château d’Yquem was awarded Premier Cru Supérieur in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, the only Sauternes awarded this level. Times changed, however, as they always do with estates of this age when World War I came and the château transitioned into a military hospital under Eugène de Lur-Saluces (a son of Romain-Bertrand). Eugène’s son Marquis Bertrand de Lur-Saluces took over the estate following the war (he had served in the trenches) and he is responsible for much of d’Yquem’s strength to this day. For instance, Marquis Bertrand fought relentlessly to save the estate during the Great Depression, helped determine many legal aspects of the Sauternes appellation as President of the Union des Crus Classés de la Gironde for forty years, and was a leading proponent of château bottling to guarantee authenticity. His death in 1968 changed the tides once again.

Though Bertrand was childless at the time of his death, he took precautions and named his nephew Alexandre de Lur-Saluces manager of Château d’Yquem. Alexandre struggled at first through difficult vintages, a crisis in the Bordeaux wine trade, and an inheritance tax that almost forced the estate to fail, though his efforts were saved with the exceptional 1975 vintage followed by several more during the 1980s. Alexandre managed the estate exceptionally well until 1996 when a family feud exploded over his brother’s decision to sell part of his 47% ownership stake, thus in turn requiring LVMH Moët Hennessy-Louis Vuitton to step in and purchase 55% of the estate. Though under new ownership, Alexandre remained manager of the estate until his retirement in 2004.

Though I could go on and on about d’Yquem’s terroir, vineyards, and winemaking practices I will leave it here with the history of Château d’Yquem. I encourage you to take a deeper dive on their website here to truly appreciate what goes into a bottle of this sacred juice.

Today’s Wine: 2001 Château d’Yquem

80% Semillion, 20% Sauvignon Blanc; 13.5% ABV

The 2001 d’Yquem is vibrant gold in color while being fully transparent. The nose cannot be mistaken for anything but d’Yquem with aromas of baked golden apple, grilled pineapple, dried apricot, peach, honey, caramel, almond and hazelnut, white pepper, and white florals sewn together in elegant harmony. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of orange peel, Dutch apple pie, creme brûlée, orange marmalade, honey, hazelnut, butter, and white lily flowers. The palate and its lip-smacking profile make it difficult for anyone to not savagely gulp this down. The wine is full-bodied with high acidity and a very long finish that sticks with you all night long.

Price: $450-650 for 750ml, $300-350 for 375ml. Somewhat of a funky price range on these bottles (depending where you are in the world) but nonetheless d’Yquem is reserved for a special occasion. Pair this with cheesecake, lemon tarts, custard, or savory cheeses.

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Left Bank Elegance

Today’s Story: Château Palmer

Château Palmer is a historic winery in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux with roots back to 1748. Once part of Château d’Issan, 50 hectares of vines came to the Gascq family through division of d’Issan by the estate’s heirs in 1748. The Gascq family took this land and started producing wine under Château de Gascq, quickly becoming a well-known winery who served the court of Versailles under Louis XV.

In 1814, however, Madame Marie Bumet de Ferrière (the widow of the last remaining Gascq heir) sold the estate to English Lieutenant Colonel Charles Palmer (later a Major General in the British Army). Palmer spent decades enlarging the estate and modernizing its winery, with Château Palmer spanning 163 hectares with 82 hectares under vine by 1831. Unfortunately for this great estate, Charles Palmer faced some financial issues that forced a sale and the estate fell under control of an agricultural mortgage corporation.

Several years later, Château Palmer returned to private hands when Émile and Isaac Péreire purchased it in 1853. The Péreire brothers previously built an empire spanning railways, real estate, and banking (they were rivals of the Rothschild family) but wanted to add a winery having grown up in Bordeaux. Unfortunately for the estate given its recent turmoil, Château Palmer received the Troisième Cru (Third Growth) designation in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. I say this is unfortunate only because Palmer used to have a reputation similar to Château Margaux and Château Beychevelle.

Though Palmer eventually grew to 177 hectares with 102 hectares under vine, the estate as it exists today came about in 1938. Owners had to sell land parcels thanks to World War I and the Great Depression, though the Mähler-Besse family from the Netherlands and the Sichel family took over and descendants helped rebuild the estate following World War II. Though the two families are still involved, they have entrusted management of Château Palmer with Thomas Duroux, a former winemaker at Tenuta Dell’Ornellaia.

I would like to end this post with some comments on the values of Château Palmer. Like many great historic estates, Palmer believes they must respect their soils and vineyards to achieve the greatest expression in their wines. To this end, they explored biodynamic farming in 2008 and the practice soon became a necessity in the eyes of those running the estate. Sheep graze on the land and in the vineyards, grass and flowers grow naturally, and the estate stopped using agrochemicals. These efforts are so far greatly rewarded, with Palmer producing some of the greatest Third Growth wines.

Today’s Wine: 1996 Château Palmer

55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot; 12.5% ABV

The 1996 Palmer is medium to deep ruby in appearance and moderately transparent as you edge toward the rim of the glass. Once this wine opens up in a decanter, the complex nose showcases aromas of blackcurrant, blueberry, black plum, violet, pencil shavings, forest floor, tobacco, truffle, black pepper, green underbrush, and coffee grounds. In the mouth, the wine offers notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, anise, cigar box, sweet tobacco, graphite, crushed rock, chalky minerality, and a hint of oak. The wine is full-bodied with high acidity, medium but elegant tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $250. A nice bottle of wine for a celebration with family, though this is not one of Palmer’s greatest vintages. I had a 1995 not too long ago that showed very well and was a bit more powerful, a nice surprise given it’s also not one of the greatest vintages. Pair this with high quality steaks or lamb.

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High Quality Napa Cab That Won't Break the Bank

Today’s Story: Groth Vineyards & Winery

Groth was founded in Oakville in 1982 by Dennis, a former executive at Atari, and Judy Groth. Though Groth is now very well-established in the heart of the Napa Valley and Dennis is highly involved in the wine community there, the couple almost purchased vineyard property in Sonoma County to pursue their dreams. It was the sheer beauty of vineyards on the valley floor that captivated their attention and fostered their move to the Napa Valley several years after founding the winery.

Groth Vineyards is truly a family endeavor today, with a couple of Dennis and Judy’s children active in day-to-day operations. The winery is also a state of the art institution, undergoing major construction in 2007 that brought along an extended crush pad, a second tank room for smaller barrels, and a remodeled Reserve barrel room. Groth consists of two major vineyard areas, roughly 100 acres for the estate vineyard and Cabernet Sauvignon and another 44 acres in Yountville where they get their Chardonnay and Merlot fruit.

Fun fact: the 1985 Groth Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is the first American wine ever to have received a perfect 100-point score by Robert Parker.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot; 14.9% ABV

The 2013 Cab is medium ruby in color with rose/garnet rim variation. To be honest, this is lighter in appearance than I expected. On the nose, I get aromas of cherry, blackcurrant, plum, black licorice, cigar box, baking spice, mint, and oak. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of black cherry, jammy blueberry, inky blackberry, black pepper, tobacco, clove, vanilla, and rocky minerality. This is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $50. I think this is a solid value for the quality of the wine. Groth also produces a Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is typically in the $100-120 per bottle range. Pair this with steak, prime rib, or beef short ribs.

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Youthful Burgundian Elegance

Today’s Story: Joseph Drouhin

Joseph Drouhin is one of the great historic producers in Burgundy, with origins dating back to 1880. Today, it is one of the largest estates consisting of 78 hectares (193 acres) throughout Chablis, Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, and Côte Chalonnaise. I previously wrote about the estate on November 2 in Refined, Aged Burgundy and for more background I’d suggest reading it if you haven’t already.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Beaune Clos des Mouches 1er Cru

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2012 Clos des Mouches is pale ruby/garnet in color and quite transparent. Though I didn’t have proper glassware (as demonstrated in the picture) once the wine opens up the nose showcases aromas of cherry, strawberry, raspberry, forest floor, slight barnyard, red rose, smoke, leather, and oak. On the palate I get notes of black cherry, wild strawberry, earth, pepper, tobacco, coffee, green underbrush, mushroom, and mineral. This wine is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, refined medium (-) tannins, and a medium length finish. A great bottling from Joseph Drouhin, though certainly not my favorite, and this needs at least another decade in the cellar.

Price: $120. This is a good price point, however I wouldn’t buy this unless you plan on cellaring it for another 5+ years. This seems like it needs time to come together and drop some of its baby fat, though I didn’t have a decanter and a long decant could perhaps do the trick. Pair this with duck, lamb, or a good burger.

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Preeminent California Zin

Today’s Story: Turley Wine Cellars

Turley was founded in 1993 by Larry Turley, the brother of famed winemaker Helen Turley. During the earlier years, Helen even consulted for her brother’s new winery. Though Larry entered the wine business more than a decade earlier in 1981 by co-founding Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford, he learned his love of Zinfandel and the vision for Turley was born. Turley Wine Cellars makes 47 different wines from over 50 different vineyards, all of which are of the Zinfandel or Petite Syrah varieties. With their specialty single-vineyard red Zinfandel bottlings, Turley sources from old vineyards with some dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and they are considered by many to be the best Zinfandel wines made in California.

Turley Wine Cellars started with one location in St. Helena in the Napa Valley, though during expansion opened a second winery in Templeton in San Luis Obispo county. Today, they have a third location in Amador County. As of 2011, Turley was producing 16,000 cases of wine and becoming a member of their private wine club can still take up to two years. All of the vineyards sourced for Turley are either certified organic or in the process of bering certified, and during the winemaking process all wines are fermented with natural yeasts.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Dogtown Vineyard Zinfandel

100% Zinfandel; 15.3% ABV

The 2016 Dogtown Vineyard Zinfandel is medium ruby in color with rose variation toward the rim of the glass. Once this wine opens up, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, raspberry, pine, earth, black shoe polish, leather, smoke, and dried green herbs. On the palate, I get notes of cherry, cranberry, raspberry, ripe black plum, tobacco, baking spice, green herbs, and oak. Like many Zinfandels, the sweet fruit dominates here. This is full-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $65. Certainly not an inexpensive Zinfandel, though the Dogtown Vineyard is consistently the lowest-yielding vineyard of the over 50 vineyards Turley makes wine from. If this is a little steep, Turley’s portfolio consists of 47 different wines of varying price-point. Pair this with barbecue, especially chicken or pork.

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Beauty from Howell Mountain

Today’s Story: O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery

O’Shaughnessy is a small, family-owned winery founded by Betty O’Shaughnessy Woolls and Paul Woolls in the late 1990s. Betty’s background is in real estate investment and development, though she grew a passion for food and wine that ultimately brought her to Napa Valley in 1990 when she purchased a home with vineyards in Oakville. Paul’s background on the other hand is law, though he also developed a passion for wine living in New Mexico during his college years. The two met at a wine tasting and have been partners in life and in winemaking ever since.

In 1997, the couple planted 35 acres on Howell Mountain (29 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and the remaining 6 acres a mix of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere, St. Macaire and Gros Verdot) on a 120 acre property. Several years later, in 2000, they expanded to Mt. Veeder by acquiring a 55 acre property to which 17 acres are planted. O’Shaughnessy’s Mt. Veeder holdings grew again in 2006 with the addition of a 265 acre property, though only 32 acres are planted and most is Cabernet Sauvignon. Lastly, we cannot forget the Oakville property where 32 acres surrounding Betty and Paul’s home are planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

O’Shaughnessy, like many smaller high-quality wineries with more-or-less distinctive vineyard sites, employs a winemaking philosophy that puts terroir at the forefront. Though the winery and all equipment is quite modern, the winemaker Sean Capiaux seeks to produce classic wines that are naturally fermented and bottled unfined and unfiltered. The resulting wines are elegant, expressive, and age-worthy while demanding respect for a still reasonable price tag.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

79% Cabernet Sauvignon, remaining 21% a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Petit Verdot, and St. Macaire; 15.2% ABV

The 2014 Howell Mountain Cab is an opaque, deep ruby/purple color with rim variation heavy on the purple side. Decanting is a must with this one, as its youth and powerful profile demand air time. The nose offers aromas of classic mountain fruit such as blueberry (very prominent) and blackberry alongside licorice, violet, aged leather, earth, dark chocolate, graphite, and oak. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of blueberry, crushed blackberry, plum, wild black raspberry, red and purple florals, crushed stone, and dried silt. As expected this is full-bodied with high acidity, elegant medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $110. I think this is appropriately priced while being a wonderful representation of Howell Mountain. O’Shaughnessy produces some of my favorite Cabernets, I just wish I got to drink them more often. Pair this with steak, lamb, a good burger, or beef short ribs.

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Beautiful Expression of Teroldego

Today’s Story: Agricola Foradori

Agricola Foradori traces its roots back to 1901 when the winery was established, however it did not come into the Foradori family until 1939 when Vittorio Foradori purchased it. The winery became a family venture when Roberto Foradori joined in 1960, coincidentally the same year of the family’s first vintage. Years later, in 1976, Vittorio unfortunately passed away unexpectedly and his wife Gabriella Casna Foradori managed the winery until their daughter Elisabetta could graduate with her enology degree. In 1984, Elisabetta faced her first vintage as a 19 year old though she already had her heart set on propelling her family’s winery and the Teroldego variety to high standards. Over time Foradori remained a family endeavor, with Elisabetta’s son Emilio working his first vintage in 2012 and her son Theo joining in 2015. Elisabetta’s daughter Myrtha joined this year to garden vegetables on the estate as well as plan for farming and expansion over the years to come.

One of the most important changes at Foradori over time, in my opinion, is the change to biodynamic farming in 2002. Though Elisabetta’s primary goal when first taking over the winery was the survival of the winery itself, over time she realized the importance of caring for land in such delicate manner to allow natural cycles and processes proliferate. Her minimalistic intervention in the vineyards and winery allows the fruit to express itself transparently, producing wines that are ideal demonstrators of place. In the winery, Elisabetta lightly (if at all) guides the wines through fermentation where there is no temperature control and only indigenous yeasts are used. Fermentation also takes place in different containers than the aging process, varying from oak casks and open-top tanks to clay tinajas. No sulphites are added until after the first racking (typically 6-8 months after drawing from the skins) so no wine will have more than 30mg/L SO2. At bottling, all wines are unfiltered.

Winery Statistics (found on the Foradori website here):

“We harvest the grapes from vineyards covering 28 hectares – 70% of Teroldego, 20% of Manzoni Bianco, 5% of Nosiola and 5% of Pinot Grigio – to produce an average of 160,000 bottles per year: 50,000 of Foradori, 20,000 of Granato, 25,000 of Fontanasanta Manzoni Bianco, 10,000 of Fontanasanta Nosiola, 10,000 of Fuoripista Pinot Grigio and 12,000 for each of vineyards of Sgarzon and Morei and 25,000 bottles of Lezèr.”

I encourage you to discover more for yourself on the Foradori website, particularly the tabs regarding the region, portfolio of wines, and photo gallery.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Granato

100% Teroldego; 13% ABV

This wine is an opaque deep purple color almost black at its core. Due to its youth, this certainly required a long decant. Once it opens up, the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, blueberry, wild red berries, farm land, violet, tar, smokey minerality, and mint. In the mouth, the Granato shows notes of blueberry, pomegranate, cranberry, lavender, forest floor, black tea leaf, and slight baking spice (especially cinnamon). The wine is medium- to full-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish. I suggest giving this a few more years of bottle age before drinking and this will drink magnificently for at least a decade beyond that.

Price: $75 (though you can find this for $60 or less in Europe). I like the price point (particularly overseas this is a screaming value), particularly for its complexity, ageability, and palpable high quality. Pair this with beef, lamb, or meat/red sauce pasta.

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The Matriarch of Diamond Mountain

Today’s Story: Davies Vineyards

Davies Vineyards is one of the most historic wineries in the Napa Valley, known as having the first hillside caves for storing and aging wine in the region. While known for their Cabernet Sauvignon, Davies also produces Pinot Noir as well as Sparkling wine under the Schramsberg label. For more on their history, check out my previous blog post Who Wants Pie?

Today’s Wine: 2013 Jamie Cabernet Sauvignon

91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot; 14.8% ABV

The Jamie bottling is Davies’ highest-end Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from their historic Diamond Mountain property. This wine is named in honor of Jamie Davies, with the label bearing her signature, who alongside her husband Jack revived Jacob Schram’s land and the Schramsberg label. The fruit for this wine comes from three vineyard blocks totaling 41 acres ranging from 500 to 1,000 feet elevation. Two blocks are from the original Schram holdings (Napa’s first hillside vineyards) and the third is the McEachran parcel planted in 1878.

The 2013 Jamie is deep opaque ruby in color. This bottle certainly needed some time in the decanter, and once the nose opens it showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, black licorice, cigar box, tobacco, perfumed purple florals, and oak. In the mouth, this wine shows notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, black raspberry, anise, graphite, cedar, and damp soil. The wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 275 cases produced.

Price: $200. While this is a delicious wine, I do not think it’s worth its price tag. This is twice as expensive as the other Cabs in the Davies portfolio and almost four times as expensive as their JD label. If you find yourself with a bottle, pair it with prime rib, filet mignon, or a New York strip.

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A Winery Synonymous with Napa Valley Itself

Today’s Story: Beaulieu Vineyard

Beaulieu Vineyard is one of the most historic wineries in Napa Valley, founded in 1900 by Georges de Latour and his wife Fernande. Located in the Rutherford AVA, BV got its name from Fernande when she first saw the property and said it was a “beautiful place,” or “beau lieu.” Georges de Latour sold his successful cream of tartar business shortly thereafter and the couple purchased 4 acres with the intent of producing wines that could stand up to their native France. When they began planting, de Latour brought in Phylloxera-resistant rootstock from Europe in order to buck the trend of a California wine industry in trouble.

Though I have written about several wineries with origins in the late 1800s or early 1900s, BV is different in that unlike many of their neighbors they not only survived Prohibition but thrived during Prohibition. How? BV started selling sacramental wine to the Catholic Church and saw their business increase by four times while those around them shuttered their wineries. Once Prohibition ended, however, the story becomes more “traditional” Napa with de Latour focusing on how to create the best wines from his land by instituting updated farming and winemaking techniques. In an effort to raise his status higher, de Latour traveled to his native France to meet André Tchelistcheff, a world-renowned viticulturist and enologist, who championed continuous innovation. It was André who, upon tasting the 1936 vintage of BV’s Private Reserve wine, encouraged de Latour to bottle their flagship wine. André would become BV’s winemaker, a role he would maintain for over 30 years. In 1940 BV released their first Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine still in production today.

BV has come a very long way from the initial 4 acre plot in 1900. BV currently operates on roughly 1,100 acres of estate vineyards, broken down into different “Ranch” designations. Ranch 1 (79 planted acres) came along in 1903, Ranch 2 (85 planted acres) in 1910, Ranch 3 in 1933 after the repeal of Prohibition, and so on. One of the cool features of BV’s winemaking technique is that each small vineyard lot stays separated throughout the entire process (not an easy feat with their vast holdings). During winemaking, each wine ferments such that the best expression of the fruit results. For instance, the white wines are cold-fermented to display a bright, vibrant character while the red wines are cold-soaked to showcase optimal color, flavor, and tannin. The reds are then fermented in small barrels and aged in oak varying in age, level of toast, and type.

For more on Beaulieu Vineyard’s history, portfolio of wines, or winemaking processes check out the website here, a source of much of the information above.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Tapestry Reserve

76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, and remaining 11% between Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc; 14.8% ABV

The 2014 Tapestry is deep ruby in color and is slightly transparent. I simply let this open up in the glass, and once it did the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, dark plum, redcurrant, cedar, crushed rock, light baking spice, and a touch of oak. Once in the mouth, this wine shows notes of black cherry, blueberry, pomegranate, dry chalky earth, licorice, graphite, vanilla, and green cooking herbs. This wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium yet refined tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. Tapestry is always a wonderful wine from this storied producer.

Price: $45. This is a great value Bordeaux blend, a view I consistently have when trying this bottling across vintages. From a producer that makes wine from $7 per bottle to $100+ per bottle, this is great for BV’s portfolio as well as the overall wine community portfolio. Pair this with steak, a good burger, or lamb.

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Rising Star in Sonoma County

Today’s Story: Daniel Cohn Wine Company (Bellacosa)

Daniel Cohn started Bellacosa following the sale of his family’s famous winery, BR Cohn, in 2015. Having grown up in the Sonoma Valley, Daniel was surrounded by wine since an early age. He walked the vineyards as a young boy and played in the soil, worked in the cellars racking barrels and cleaning tanks as he grew older, and learned the wine business as it grew into one of his greatest passions. Add this all to the fact that Daniel grew up around winemakers such as Helen Turley, Merry Edwards, and Steve MacRostie and it is no surprise he ventured out to create this new endeavor with Bellacosa.

Daniel has so far experienced much success with his new label, being named one of the Top 10 Hottest Wine Brands by Wine Business in 2016. This did not come without a cost, however, as Daniel spends enormous amounts of time traveling to sell his wine. For instance, during 2016 Daniel spent 308 days traveling racking up over 200,000 air miles while visiting 250 cities across the United States. Everywhere he goes, Daniel flies coach class, brings a suitcase with three bottles of wine, feasts on Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell, and books budget hotels last minute to get both best price and constant movement. This work ethic is truly admirable, and one of my favorite stories is how Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s started selling his wine in select locations because he walked into the stores with a bottle of wine and asked over a tasting. For more on Daniel’s tireless efforts, check out this Forbes article.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Bellacosa Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.2% ABV

The 2016 Bellacosa is deep ruby (almost purple) in color. On the nose I get aromas of blackberry compote, blueberry, plum, strawberry rhubarb, brown sugar and baking spice, vanilla, slight smoked meet, and a hint of alcohol. Once in the mouth, this wine showcases notes of blueberry, raspberry, cranberry, light dusty earth, milk chocolate, and vanilla. One thing I’d like to note is that this wine seems to fall apart by the mid-palate, almost in such a way I had to ask myself, “that’s it?” Nonetheless, this is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) silky tannins, and a medium length finish with notes of red cherry and blood.

Price: $24. This is certainly a nice value and one of the better Sonoma Cabs I’ve had for price. Further, this is certainly within the “people pleasing” category for Cabernet Sauvignon so it could make a good wine to bring to Christmas dinner in a few weeks. Pair this with a bacon cheeseburger with caramelized onions on top.

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For the Bold and the Daring

Today’s Story: Domaine Leon Barral

Domaine Leon Barral was founded in 1993 in the Faugères appellation, which lies within the heart of Languedoc-Roussillon (the Languedoc). Didier Barral, the proprietor today, is the 13th generation of his family to grow grapes though he is the first to start estate bottling his own wine under the domaine. From the domaine’s beginning, Didier devoted his 30 hectares of vineyards to biodynamic farming practices and is seen by many as a pioneer and visionary. For instance, one of the very unique aspects of Didier’s farming is his use of cows, horses, and pigs that roam the vineyards during the winter months to graze on cover crop while naturally fertilizing the soil. These animal helpers bring with them mushrooms, earthworms, ants, flies, toads, larks, and other lifeforms that all help aerate and add nutrients to the soil. For pictures of some of these helpers, check out the domaine’s website here.

If you couldn’t tell by now from what is written above, Didier is a naturalist winemaker. While it certainly starts with his biodynamic farmings practices, Didier utilizes very stringent practices in harvesting and in the cellar. During harvest, all grapes are harvested and sorted by hand and are sometimes destemmed and other times left whole cluster (depending on variety). The wine is vinified by gravity in large cement tanks, it is fermented with only natural yeasts, and maceration takes place for 3-4 weeks with manual punchdowns. Didier’s wines are also never racked, fined, or filtered and only a small dose of SO2 is added if necessary at bottling.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Faugères Valinière

80% Mourvèdre, 20% Syrah; 14.5% ABV

The Valinière is Barral’s smallest production cuvée, coming from 4.3 hectares of vines 15-30 years old. Like all of his vineyard land, these vines are planted in schist. The 2011 is deep, opaque ruby in color with garnet rim variation. There is sediment in the glass thanks to this being unfined and unfiltered (and possibly due to age). Once this opens up, the intense nose showcases aromas of blueberry, plum, black licorice, violet, nail polish remover, smoke, leather, damp soil, and a hint of barnyard. In the mouth, the wine shows notes of ripe black cherry, blueberry, red licorice, game, black pepper spice, wet rocky soil, and vibrant minerality. The 2011 Valinière is full-bodied with high acidity, dusty medium tannins, and a very long finish.

Price: $79. This wine is NOT for everybody. It is not for those who like big jammy, fruit-forward wines; it is not for those who like elegant, easy to drink wines. This being said, I was greatly impressed and enjoyed this wine (though my palate can become quite tired of the people-pleasers or the wines you can find anywhere). This is one of the greatest representations of “place” I have had to date (remember the farm animals). Pair this with grilled game meats or a dry-aged steak.

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A Fixture in Chassagne-Montrachet

Today’s Story: Domaine Bernard Moreau et Fils

The history of Domaine Bernard Moreau began in 1809 when Auguste Moreau built a cellar near the Champs Gain vineyard for ease when farming his Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It wasn’t until the 1930s, however, under Marcel Moreau that the family’s holdings started to grow exponentially. For instance, the domaine today operates on 14 hectares of vineyard land (9 hectares they own, 5 hectares they farm) and about 80% of that land was acquired by Marcel. Bernard Moreau took over the vineyards and cellar during the 1960s (at the age of 14!!) and the name “Domaine Bernard Moreau” came in 1977 under guide of Bernard and Françoise Moreau. With Bernard and Françoise at the helm, the domaine updated their winery, farming methods, and equipment in addition to buying more land to get to that 14 hectare total number. Their sons Alex and Benoît joined the team to help with winemaking and in the cellars, with their first vintage being 1995. From 1999 onward, Alex took over winemaking responsibilities and Benoît specializes in the vineyards.

The winemaking style at Domaine Bernard Moreau is best described as “hands off.” Like most estates producing exceptional wines in Burgundy, Alex and Benoît take a view that terroir should be the forefront of a wine and therefore they must care for the vineyards. While the farming practices at the domaine are characterized as sustainable (not organic or biodynamic), they use organic fertilizers with the soil and do not use pesticides. Also like many great estates, Moreau utilizes rigorous pruning, debudding, and green harvesting in an attempt to lower yields that are more expressive of the terroir. During aging of the wines, Alex uses 10-50% new French oak barrels (depending on wine and vintage) for 12-20 months (also depending on wine and vintage). For the Pinot Noir, Moreau does not rack, filter, or fine the wines at all.

Domaine Bernard Moreau produces a broad range of wines, and I highly suggest trying some of them. From the Bourgogne Blanc and Rouge to their Aligote and up through the multitude of 1er Cru Chassagne-Montrachet to the big-daddy Bâtard-Montrachet, I have not met a wine I didn’t like.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Chassagne-Montrachet Vieilles Vignes Rouge

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

This wine is medium ruby in color and moderately transparent. Though young, this is fairly approachable after some time in a decanter or your wine glass. The nose emits aromas of black cherry, plum, black raspberry, tomato sauce, black olive, earth, green underbrush, gravel, and saline minerality. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of tart cherry, underripe strawberry and raspberry, chalky earth, slight barnyard, green herbs, tobacco, and milk chocolate. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of this wine (though I suppose I shouldn’t be being familiar with their white wines). This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $55. This is a great value from an outstanding producer in Burgundy. Moreau’s wines seem to have flown mostly under the radar, though I noticed they are starting to pick up in demand and therefore price. Pair this with duck, roasted chicken, or even salmon.

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Opulent CdP

Today’s Story: Château de Beaucastel

A much-needed easy one today, as I’m still recovering from all the wine I drank over the Thanksgiving holiday and this past weekend… I previously wrote about Château de Beaucastel on October 27 in Ethereal Chateauneuf-du-Pape, coincidentally reviewing a different vintage of the same wine today.

Long story short, Beaucastel is a long-standing and famous producer of CdP. The château has had its ups and downs and changed ownership multiple times over the years, however with its deep roots and the Perrin family’s guiding hands over the last century the wines are of exceptional quality. I encourage you to read my previous post, linked above, for more of their exciting story.

Today’s Wine: 2003 Hommage a Jacques Perrin

60% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise; 13.5% ABV

The wine is medium ruby/garnet in color and opaque. Unfortunately I didn’t have a decanter, so I let this breathe in the glass and it allowed some initial barnyard to blow off the nose. When opened, the nose showcases aromas of black cherry, blackberry, purple florals, loamy earth, black truffle, tar, and exotic white spice. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, plum, black raspberry, black licorice, charred earth, truffle, Asian spice, and mineral. I was pleasantly surprised with the complexity of this wine given its status as a “lesser” vintage. This CdP is full-bodied with high acidity, medium refined and dusty tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. This is showing quite well right now, though I’d imagine it will stay in its optimal drinking window for another 5-7 years.

Price: $350 (though this vintage seems to have a very broad range of $250-500). Much like the last Hommage I reviewed (the 1994), this is a rare bottle experience that I couldn’t pass up. Unless you get a great deal, however, as lovely as this bottle is I’d save your money for a spectacular vintage such as 2001, 2007, or even 2009. Pair this with beef, game, or lamb (and truffles are your friend).

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Nearly Lost but Rising Again

Today’s Story: Commendatore G.B. Burlotto

Burlotto, founded in the commune of Verduno during the mid-19th century by Giovan Battista Burlotto, is another historic Barolo estate. A pioneer during his time dominated by French wine, Burlotto started bottling his Barolo bearing his estate’s name before even Giacomo Conterno’s Monprivato. This was a radical move, as all of his competitors continued to sell wine in cask or demijohn. As Burlotto rose to superstardom, he became the official supplier to the Royal House of Savoy and the Duke of Abruzzi took only his wine during his arctic expedition to the North Pole. G.B. Burlotto served as winemaker for 77 years (1850-1927, his death) all the while serving as Verduno’s greatest champion and bringing the commune up to par with Serralunga and La Morra.

Unfortunately, this did not last. Once G.B. Burlotto passed away both the estate and Verduno faded once more into the background. Nonetheless, Burlotto remained a small, family-owned and run winery that today is rising once again. The estate is managed by G.B.’s great niece Mariana Burlotto and her husband Giuseppe Alessandria, while winemaking duties fall to their son Fabio. Fabio introduced many modern techniques for making wine, however he does try to stick with the traditionalist methodology of his great-great-grandfather. In making the Monvigliero, for example, Fabio gently crushes the grapes by foot, there is 60-day maceration on the skins, and he ages the wine in large wood botte (source). This process is very rare nowadays, which makes it cool that Fabio produces his best wine in this manner.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Barolo Monvigliero

100% Nebbiolo; 14.5% ABV

The wine is pale ruby red, though it is bright and rather transparent. I decanted this bottle and drank it over two hours due to its youth, but I was surprised how approachable this is. The very aromatic yet delicate nose showcases aromas of wild strawberry, raspberry, rose petal, leather, earth, tar, pine, and white pepper. Once in the mouth, the 2015 Monvigliero shows notes of black cherry, strawberry, licorice, dried soil, limestone, and mineral all in elegant fashion. This is full-bodied with high acidity, medium (+) dusty tannins, and a long finish. I would cellar this for another 10 years (even though it’s shockingly approachable) but the bottle will last for decades beyond.

Price: $200 (though I got this for a steal at $100 retail). This is a very special bottle, and Burlotto’s top-tier wine, and the elegance this shows is worth the price. Pair this with duck, quail, or pork.

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No Rudy Kurniawan Here

Today’s Story: Domaine Ponsot

Domaine Ponsot traces its roots back to 1872 when William Ponsot acquired a home and vineyards that included plots in Clos des Monts-Luisants, Clos de la Roche, Gevrey-Chambertin Les Combottes, and Charmes Chambertin. Though he bottled a small amount of wine at this time, Ponsot used this mainly for personal use or for sale in restaurants the Ponsot family owned. In 1920, William’s nephew and godson Hippolyte Ponsot, a former diplomat, took over the estate due to William not having children. With the help of his brother Henri Ponsot, Hippolyte greatly expanded the estate’s holdings in Clos de la Roche. By 1932, Hippolyte was bottling all of his wines and 1934 marked the first vintage being marketed throughout France, Europe, and even the United States.

A familial estate since its beginning, Domaine Ponsot started to transition to Jean-Marie Ponsot (Hippolyte’s son) when he helped at the estate in 1942. By 1957, Hippolyte stopped working at the estate and Jean-Marie took over completely. Jean-Marie played a very important role in clonal selections within Burgundy during the 1960s and many of the well-known Pinot Noir clones including 113, 114, 115, and 667 come from Ponsot’s vineyard holdings in Clos de la Roche (source). In 1981, Jean-Marie’s son Laurent Ponsot began working at the domaine and he would ultimately take over management of the domaine in 1997 with his sister Rose-Marie. Laurent left work at the domaine in 2017, however Rose-Marie took over sole management and continues the family legacy today.

To learn about the painstakingly deliberate process Domaine Ponsot follows when they grow fruit, harvest fruit, and make wine, check out the “Our Job” tab on their website here. Also, explore the other tabs that do more justice than I probably could in what I try to keep relatively short and easy to read posts.

I will, however, leave you with a very interesting tidbit about Domaine Ponsot. Some of you may be familiar with the name Rudy Kurniawan already, but if not I encourage you to read about him or watch the “Sour Grapes” documentary on Netflix. Rudy was the center of a massive counterfeit wine fraud throughout the 2000s, and he used some of Domaine Ponsot’s “wines” throughout his crime. For instance, Rudy consigned bottles of Ponsot including 1945, 1949, 1959, 1962, 1966, and 1971 Clos St. Denis as well as a bottle of 1929 Clos de la Roche but the domaine did not estate bottle wines until 1934. Even worse, Ponsot didn’t make a Clos St. Denis until 1982. Laurent Ponsot quickly got wind of this and, knowing these wines must be fake, worked with the FBI in an attempt to bring Rudy to swift and brutal justice. (You may also know of Bill Koch’s battle against counterfeit wines….this also centered on Rudy).

Today’s Wine: 2009 Corton Bressandes Grand Cru

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

This wine is medium to deep ruby in color and moderately opaque. I let this open up in the glass, and once it did the nose showcases aromas of raspberry, strawberry, rose, white pepper, chocolate, rocky soil, rosemary, and mint. Once in the mouth, I get notes of cherry, strawberry, forest floor, game, purple florals, and stone minerality. The wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $290. Certainly a bottle for a special occasion, as many of Ponsot’s wines are. Pair this with chicken, rabbit, lamb, or a plate of mild cheese and charcuterie.

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Delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Two Rockstars

Today’s Story: Favia Wines

Favia was founded in 2003 by viticulturist Annie Favia and winemaker Andy Erickson, a husband and wife duo. Annie has experience working with John Kongsgaard and Cathy Corison, though her viticulturist expertise came working under David Abreu. Andy also has an extensive resume, which includes winemaking stints at Screaming Eagle, Dalla Valle, Ovid, Harlan Estate, and Staglin amongst others. Andy also consults for Arietta, Mayacamas, and Dancing Hares Vineyard.

I had an opportunity to visit Favia for a tour and tasting back in September, and it truly is a special experience. Annie and Andy live on the property in a home built in 1886 for the Carbone family, who are believed to be the first Italian immigrants to Napa Valley. Though modernized, Annie and Andy restored the home using historical documents alongside other structures on the property. A very cool feature, the cellar sits under the family home and Favia stores their wine right where they live. Strong believers in biodynamic practices and caring for the earth, Annie and Andy planted fruit trees, an olive orchard, and a garden (which we got to try a tomato from) in addition to the existing walnut orchard.

I highly suggest a visit to Favia if you take a trip to Napa Valley, as it’s a very small, unique tasting experience and is not too far from downtown Napa. In the meantime, check out their website here to browse their wines and see incredible pictures of the property.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Linea Sauvignon Blanc

Unfortunately I cannot find the blend percentages for this wine, though other vintages have been both 100% Sauvignon Blanc or a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Musquet. 14.2% ABV

The 2013 Linea is pale straw yellow in color and almost completely transparent. The nose on this is very lovely and delicate with aromas of apricot, tangerine, melon, stone fruit, honeysuckle, and white florals (particularly wildflowers). Once in the mouth, I get notes of pear, apricot, white peach, melon, pineapple, lemon zest, and saline minerality. This wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity and a medium (+) length finish that is both crisp and refreshing.

Price: $85. This is a bit high for Sauvignon Blanc, and even though this bottle isn’t easy to come by I’d be more comfortable paying closer to $60. Pair this with oysters, sole, green vegetables, or goat cheese.

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Deep-Rooted Presence in Nuits-Saint-Georges

Today’s Story: Domaine Henri Gouges

Though the Gouges family has deep-rooted history in grape farming going back 400 years, Henri Gouges didn’t form his domaine until 1920. When he no longer liked the idea of selling his fruit to négociants, Henri started producing, bottling, and selling his own wine in an effort to make higher quality wines. By 1933 this transition was fully complete and the domaine existed in similar fashion to its current status. A family endeavor throughout its history, Domaine Henri Gouges passed from Henri to his sons Marcel and Michel, then to Pierre and Christian, and finally to cousins Gregory and Antoine Gouges who manage the domaine today.

Undivided since its founding as a domaine, Henri Gouges today sits at roughly 36 acres of vineyards. Several of their holdings include Nuits St. Georges 1er Crus, though Henri Gouges does produce village wines as well. Though the winery and vineyards have been updated over time (including the use of organic viticulture and transition to a gravity flow winery), the domaine’s goal is to produce wines that truly represent and express the terroir. The harvest is carefully inspected and all fruit is completely destemmed, while vinification occurs in lined cement vats for approximately 15 days depending on wine and vintage. Once fermentation is complete, the wine is transferred to small oak barrels (typically 25% new) and each is fined with egg whites before light filtration and into the bottle.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Nuits-St-Georges 1er Cru Les Saint Georges

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

Pale to medium ruby in color and moderately transparent. Though visiting family for the holidays without my Zalto Burgundy glasses, the nose on this is still expressive with notes of black cherry, black and blue fruit, strawberry, forest floor, tobacco, tar, red and purple florals, and pepper. Once in the mouth, I get flavors of black plum, cherry, cranberry, cola, damp soil, licorice, clove, and slight green vegetation (though not a fault). This wine is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $160. Henri Gouges makes some great Burgundy for the price, and I’d suggest giving the wines a shot. While not necessarily easy to find, your local wine store with a good Burgundy selection should have some Henri Gouges. Pair this with lean beef, grilled or roast pork, or game birds.