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A Fun Take on Cabernet Franc

Today’s Story: Ryme Cellars

Ryme Cellars was established in 2007 by husband and wife team Ryan and Megan Glaab. Ryan and Megan met while both working harvest at Torbreck Winery in Australia, and since then between the two of them they’ve held positions at Pax Wine Cellars, Peay Vineyards, Sine Qua Non, and Marcassin. Ryan and Megan started Ryme with one ton of Aglianico, later expanding into Vermentino, Ribolla Gialla, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc. Most recently they even added Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to the portfolio. The Ryme wines are those that Ryan and Megan like drinking, both by variety and style standards. Their fruit comes from sustainably- or organically-farmed vineyards, and winemaking is rather simple without cultured yeasts, temperature control, or added enzymes. Most of the reds ferment whole cluster while most of the whites ferment on the skins, and aging occurs in used French oak barriques before bottling unfined and unfiltered.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Alegria Vineyard Cabernet Franc

100% Cabernet Franc; 12.5% ABV

The 2017 Alegria Vineyard Cabernet Franc is medium to deep ruby in color. Given some time to open up in the glass, the wine showcases aromas of medium (+) intensity including black cherry, redcurrant, blackberry, plum, violet, pine, mild cedar, and cocoa powder. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate displaying notes of cherry, black raspberry, blueberry, plum, licorice, sweet tobacco, dried green herbs, and gravel. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) and dusty tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish.

Price: $27. I think this offers pretty solid value given the balance, intensity, and complexity that evolved in the glass. While it could have a longer finish to drive it home, there’s too much good here for the price level.

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Textbook Syrah From the Rocks District of Oregon

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir2020 Laughing Pig Rosé2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay, and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay from Big Table Farm.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Funk Estate Vineyard Syrah

100% Syrah; 15.1% ABV

The 2018 Funk Estate Vineyard Syrah is opaque deep purple in color, nearly black at its core. After about an hour to open up, the aromas are of medium (+) intensity and the nose showcases notes of blueberry, blackberry, plum, violet, green olive, black pepper, charred green herbs, and rocky minerality. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, with the palate displaying blackberry, black plum, mulberry, blueberry, violet, a hint of smoke, crushed rock, and cracked black pepper. This dry red is full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, high alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 134 cases produced.

Price: $48. This is a very solid Syrah and one that offers decent value in my opinion. It’s incredibly true to variety and showcases the terroir of the Rocks District beautifully, all while remaining fairly complex with good intensity and balance.

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Merlot as It Should Be

Today’s Story: Enfield Wine Co.

Enfield Wine Co. is a relatively small family-owned and operated winery established by John Lockwood and Amy Seese in 2010. John started working in the wine industry in 2004 at Heron Lake Vineyard, followed by harvests at Littorai, Bodega Melipal in Argentina, and Failla Wines. John remained with Failla for five years managing and farming their Sonoma Coast and Russian River estate vineyards, ultimately starting Enfield as a small passion project. In 2013, John left Failla and devoted his time entirely to Enfield.

Enfield focuses primarily on terroir as a starting point, working with small independent growers across a range of regions to source their fruit. John and Amy purchase fruit from Antle Vineyard and Brosseau Vineyard in the Chalone AVA, Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville, Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse Valley, Jesus & Patricia’s Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in Amador County. From these sites they acquire a range of varieties including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo amongst others, all with varying vine age as well. John’s philosophy is to harvest his fruit for balance and ferment the wines naturally in order to showcase each unique terroir, eschewing a heavy-handed winemaking style. The wines are often fresh, lively, and mineral-driven, though John does enjoy exploring esoteric bottlings as well.

I previously wrote about the 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc from Enfield.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Michael Black Vineyard Merlot

100% Merlot; 13.9% ABV

The 2018 Michael Black Vineyard Merlot is deep ruby in color with deep purple hues in the bowl of the glass. I decanted this for 2.5 hours due to its youth, which seemed perfect. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with a rather complex nose showcasing notes of black plum, blackberry, blueberry, violet, licorice, cigar box, clay, dried green herbs, baking spice, and cocoa. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, black raspberry, black cherry, sweet tobacco, cedar spill, crushed rock, and eucalyptus. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $45. I think this offers rather strong value, and it’s a fantastic representation of the Merlot variety. This is very well-balanced, offering great depth and length as well all while being rather young. For those wine drinkers who don’t like Merlot, I’d suggest giving it another shot with this bottling.

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Terroir Driven Pinot From the Sta. Rita Hills

Today’s Story: Tyler Winery

Tyler Winery is a relatively small winery and estate established by Justin Tyler Willett in 2005. At the time, Justin was assistant winemaker at Arcadian Winery and honed his craft with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay while maintaining several barrels in the corner of the cellar that ultimately became Tyler. Tyler Winery sources all of their fruit from Santa Barbara County, with major emphasis in the Sta. Rita Hills and more recently the Santa Maria Valley as well. Within the Sta. Rita Hills, Justin sources from acclaimed sites including Bentrock, La Encantada, La Rinconada, Sanford & Benedict, and Zotovich Family. In the Santa Maria Valley, Justin sources from Dierberg and the highly-regarded Bien Nacido Vineyard. In the past few years, Justin and his wife Amanda also purchased their first estate vineyard, named Mae Estate Vineyard, in the Sta. Rita Hills. In 2017, they planted 28 acres to Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah which were transplanted from vine materials sourced from trusting partners in 2015. The 2019 vintage marks the first from this estate site.

On the winemaking side, all vineyards practice organic viticulture and fruit is harvested by hand during the night. Hand-sorting occurs at the winery, then native yeast fermentation begins for both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in large oak vats. Wines are barreled down once dry, and new oak usage varies by variety, block, vine age, and vintage though the preference seems to go toward neutral oak. After a year or so in barrel, the wines are racked, blended, and returned to barrel for several more months. When ready, the wines are usually bottled unfined and unfiltered with the end result meant to showcase the unique terroir of each vineyard site or the appellation as a whole.

To learn or explore Tyler further, check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.2% ABV

The 2019 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color. I let this open up for 45 minutes to an hour in the glass and it really blossoms. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, stemmy strawberry, licorice, new leather, game, gravel, damp earth, thyme, and some oaky spice. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity, incorporating notes of tart cherry, black raspberry, spiced plum, rose, sweet tobacco, cured meat, crushed rock, charred green herbs, and mild baking spice. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $38 from the winery (I found it for $34 retail). I find this to be a rather solid value for domestic Pinot Noir, especially if you can find it closer to the $30 mark which seems reasonable with some searching. The wine is a very good expression of the Sta. Rita Hills, with balance, length, intensity, and complexity to match (and at such a young age).

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Gorgeous Sonoma Coast Syrah

Today’s Story: Pax Mahle Wines

Pax Mahle Wines was established in 2000 by Pax and Pam Mahle with a focus on Syrah and more “esoteric” varieties that can thrive in the cooler climate vineyards of Sonoma County and Mendocino. Pax and Pam moved to California wine country in 1997, though after a few years with Dean & DeLuca sourcing wines Pax decided he wanted to move into the production side of the wine business. Though Pax quickly rose to stardom producing Rhône variety wines (namely his Syrah), he expanded into working with Trousseau Gris, Chenin Blanc, Gamay Noir, and Mission with similar success. Pax farms his vineyards eschewing the use of chemicals and crushes his fruit by hand and foot as part of his minimal intervention philosophy. Pax only uses natural yeasts during fermentation and sulfur is added as minimally as required for stabilization only. Thanks to the high quality vineyard sites and his winemaking philosophy, Pax’s wines are magnificent representations of the varieties and terroir from which they come.

I previously wrote about the 2017 Sonoma Hillsides Syrah from Pax.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Griffin’s Lair Syrah

100% Syrah; 13.2% ABV

The 2016 Griffin’s Lair Syrah is deep ruby in color but with deep purple hues in the bowl of the glass. I let this open up in the glass for about an hour, though I think decanting is the proper move. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blueberry, blackberry, plum, violets, pine, cracked pepper, iron, and crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of blueberry, black plum, black cherry, sweet tobacco, mild smoke, cracked green peppercorn, charred green herbs, and chalk. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Very good quality, though I think patience will be further rewarded by cellaring this bottling.

Price: $60 (I found it for $50). I think this is somewhere between the fairly-priced and good value status, especially if you find it for around $50 like I did. There’s a great Old World charm to this wine, while the complexity and intensity are quite solid. It is still rather youthful though, so decant this or give it a couple more years.

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Young but Promising Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir

Today’s Story: Liquid Farm

Liquid Farm is a Chardonnay-focused winery established in 2009 in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA of Santa Barbara County, California. Founded by Jeff and Nikki Nelson, Liquid Farm started with four barrels of wine and the dream to produce Old World style Chardonnay while supporting local viticulture. Two of these first four barrels showcased a more mineral-driven profile that reminded Jeff and Nikki of Chablis so they named it White Hill after the white chalky hills of Chablis. The other two barrels showcased warmer tones and fuller profiles reminiscent of Meursault, so they named that wine Golden Slope after the Côte d’Or. Though Liquid Farm expanded their portfolio over time, they still focus on four Chardonnay bottlings as well as a rosé and small amounts of Pinot Noir.

Sticking to their love of terroir-driven wines, the winemaking philosophy at Liquid Farm is rather hands-off. Under the guide of winemaker James Sparks, winemaking follows the path of minimal intervention from manual harvest through to native yeast fermentation and aging in neutral oak barrels. The team makes no machine adjustments or additions to the wine in order to preserve a sense of place and true-to-variety profile, ultimately even letting the wines go through malolactic fermentation naturally. Given the cool climate of Sta. Rita Hills, these wines are often bottled with higher natural acidity and lower alcohol which makes them perfect table wines for anyone who appreciates the style and an expression of terroir.

I previously reviewed the 2016 Golden Slope Chardonnay from Liquid Farm. You can also check out their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2019 SBC Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13% ABV

The 2019 SBC Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color. Due to the wine’s youth, I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and it blossomed more and more as I drank it. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose displaying notes of ripe red cherry, raspberry jam, cranberry, leather, violet, cola, clove, and very faint cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of black raspberry, strawberry, cherry cola, sweet tobacco, clove, cracked pepper, and a touch of ground herbs. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. Fruit on this right now is gorgeous, though I’d recommend holding onto this for another year or two and I wager you’ll be rewarded as everything comes together.

Price: $45 (I found it for $40). I think this is pretty fairly-priced, particularly closer to the $40 level and with many stores selling this for $50. It’s a bit richer than I was expecting, though I think some of this can be attributed to youth and the wine should integrate well over the years to come. High quality is there, and this does a solid job of representing Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.

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Non-Vintage Grower Champagne with Remarkable Depth and Precision

Today’s Story: Champagne Agrapart & Fils

Champagne Agrapart & Fils is a grower Champagne house established by Arthur Agrapart in 1894. Situated in the village of Avize in the Côte de Blancs, the Agrapart holdings include 12 hectares (30 acres) of predominantly Chardonnay in mostly Grand Cru vineyards in Avize, Oger, Cramant, and Oiry. Today under the guide of fourth generation Pascal Agrapart (joined in 1984), the vineyards are farmed organically (and they have been for some time) while average vine age hovers around 40 years with many of the vines aged 70 years or older. Agrapart produces roughly 5,400 cases or less of Champagne each vintage, partially in an effort to maintain the highest quality standards both in the vineyards and in the cellar. At the end of the day these Champagnes are meant to show a true sense of place, so winemaking is rather hands-off including native yeast fermentation, long aging on the lees, and used-oak barrel aging. Come bottling, each wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Agrapart produces seven wines, beginning with the entry-level 7 Crus that I am reviewing today. The 7 Crus is a non-vintage bottling, made by blending two vintages together with fruit sourced from four Grand Cru vineyards and three 1er Cru vineyards. Next up is the non-vintage Terroirs bottling, which is a Blanc de Blancs (100% Chardonnay) sourced from only Grand Cru vineyards and made up of two vintages. To wrap up the non-vintage selections, the Complantée bottling is a field blend of today’s standard Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier Champagne varieties accompanied by “ancient” varieties of Arbane, Petit Meslier, and Pinot Blanc. It is also made exclusively with Grand Cru fruit.

The three main vintage wines of Agrapart include Minéral, Avizoise, and Vénus. All three of these are Blanc de Blancs made with only Grand Cru fruit, with the Minéral showcasing the precise and saline nature of the chalky soils. Meanwhile the Avizoise tends to be denser and richer thanks to deep, clay-rich topsoil and the Vénus is a single-vineyard expression of Avize. Last but not least, Agrapart produces very limited quantities of the Expérience bottling which is as natural as Champagne can get. This is a Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru and Brut Nature wine, made from old vines in Avize and produced without any external additives whatsoever. It’s also only made in select vintages, and is highly sought after.

Champagne Agrapart

Today’s Wine: NV ‘7 Crus’ Extra Brut

90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir; 12% ABV

The NV ‘7 Crus’ Extra Brut Champagne is medium to deep gold in color with gorgeous and delicate effervescence. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of green apple skins, ripe pear, lemon zest, white peach, honey, brioche toast, cheese rind, vanilla cream, crushed chalk, and wet limestone. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity with the palate displaying notes of peach, green apple, nectarine, quince, chamomile, honey, freshly-baked bread, oyster shell, sea salt, and crushed stone minerality. This dry Champagne is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $60. Though not inexpensive, I think this Champagne offers solid value as the intensity and complexity are profound. There is remarkable depth to this wine for an “entry level” bottling and the precision is laser-like. This drinks up there with Champagnes significantly more expensive.

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California Rosé of a Unique Blend

Today’s Story: Arnot-Roberts

Arnot-Roberts is a boutique winery established in 2001 by Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts, two childhood friends who grew up together in Napa Valley. After college, Nathan started working with his father as a cooper of oak wine barrels while Duncan pursued winemaking throughout Napa and Sonoma counties. Arnot-Roberts began with a single barrel of wine the duo produced in their basement and over time grew through the purchase of fruit from renowned vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, El Dorado, and Amador counties as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains. When selecting vineyards, Arnot-Roberts makes sure the farmers are both “passionate and conscientious” because their goal is to produce small quantities of honest, terroir-driven, and single-vineyard wines which truly express their unique place. The winemaking style is a mix of Old World and New World, with use of indigenous fermentation, little or no new oak, and often whole cluster.

I previously reviewed the 2016 Que Syrah Vineyard, 2018 North Coast Trousseau, 2018 Watson Ranch Chardonnay, and 2016 Vare Vineyard Ribolla Gialla from Arnot-Roberts.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Rosé

68% Touriga Nacional, 16% Gamay Noir, 11% Cabernet Franc, 5% Grenache; 11% ABV

The 2020 Rosé is pale copper in color with hues of pale salmon. The nose seems somewhat muted and aromas are of medium (-) intensity, showcasing notes of cantaloupe, white strawberry, raspberry, bubble gum, cured meat, and chalky mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of white cherry, raspberry, watermelon, orange rind, bubble gum, and saline. This dry rosé is light- to medium-bodied with medium acidity, low alcohol, and a medium-length finish. Fun to try given the blend, but this is lacking in intensity and length I was hoping for.

Price: $30 (but you should be able to find this around $25 in some locations). I can’t call this wine a good value, especially since I paid slightly more than the average $30 price-tag online. It’s lacking in intensity, complexity, and length which is somewhat disappointing given the Arnot-Roberts wines I’ve enjoyed in the past. Having enjoyed the Triennes rosé the other day at half the price, I find this a tough sell for me personally albeit it’s fun to try nonetheless given the blend.

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High Quality Provence Rosé From Two Burgundy Titans

Today’s Story: Triennes

Triennes is a wine estate established in 1989 in Provence, France by Burgundy legends Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac and Aubert de Villaine of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. Given their prowess in Burgundy, the duo became convinced that great wines of incredible quality could also be produced in the south of France when focus is put on the vineyards first and foremost. After they purchased their estate, Triennes underwent a massive replanting program to ensure the healthiest of vineyards, with vines and rootstocks specifically adapted to the local climate and microclimates. The vineyards are farmed as naturally as possible, with Ecocert organic certification following a transition that began in 2008.

As far as the Triennes wine portfolio goes, they produce three main wines of Saint Auguste (Syrah, Cabernet sauvignon, and Merlot), Viognier Sainte Fleur (Viognier), and the rosé I am reviewing today. They also produce a Merlot, Les Auréliens Blanc (Chardonnay, Viognier, Vermontino, Ugni Blanc, and Grenache Blanc), and Les Auréliens Rouge (Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon).

Today’s Wine: 2020 Rosé

Primarily Cinsault blended with Grenache, Syrah, and Merlot; 12.5% ABV

The 2020 Rosé is pale copper in color. Aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of white strawberry, raspberry, watermelon, mild cherry, dried green herbs, and subtle maritime minerality. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity, with the palate displaying notes of watermelon, juicy strawberry, rosewater, lime zest, a touch of vanilla, and finely crushed rock minerality. This dry rosé is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $15 for 750ml (closer to $8 in Europe). This is a very easy-going, fresh, and enjoyable rosé and I think for the price it offers great value. My 375ml bottle was $7.50, and I find myself hard-pressed to find another rosé at the quality level of this one for the price.

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Terroir-Driven Pinot Noir Born From an American and French Collaboration

Today’s Story: Racines Wine

Racines Wine is a collaboration between Santa Barbara winemaker Justin Willett (Tyler Winery and Lieu Dit) and French vignerons Étienne de Montille (Domaine de Montille in Burgundy) and Rodolphe Péters (Pierre Péters Champagne). In 2016, Étienne and his Chef de Cave, Brian Sieve, took an exploratory journey to California and Oregon in pursuit of their first winemaking venture outside of Burgundy, ultimately settling on the Sta. Rita Hills of California with Justin as their winemaker. A year later, Rodolphe joined the team to provide insight into Chardonnay and sparkling wine production, with the sparkling wine set for release in the near future.

As one might expect, the winemaking philosophy at Racines meshes well amongst all parties as they come from backgrounds of producing terroir-driven and elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. What’s more, they’re not trying to make something “Old World” or “Burgundian” per say, but rather simply showcasing the unique characteristics of the Sta. Rita Hills which has proven to be a rather high-quality AVA for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. All this being said, Racines’ Pinot Noir is fermented whole-cluster with pigéage throughout, while the Chardonnay production follows closely with the traditions of Burgundy and Champagne.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Sta. Rita Hills Cuvée Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2017 Sta. Rita Hills Cuvée Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color. I poured my glass and forgot about it for an hour or so, which this wine needs at its youthful stage. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the rather complex nose showcasing notes of black cherry, red plum, muddled strawberry, leather, violet, pine, cola, cinnamon, chopped green herbs, and wet gravel. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of red cherry, black raspberry, strawberry, blood orange rind, sweet tobacco, licorice, violet, chalk, and crushed rock. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a long finish. Pretty well-balanced and I love the layers upon layers to this wine that surface over time.

Price: $60 (I paid $48). I don’t know if I can necessarily go as far as calling this a screaming value (because there are a plethora of Pinot Noir options for half the price that drink incredibly well), but there is no denying the intensity, complexity, and length to this wine are all worthy to note. This is a gorgeous wine now, though I’m excited to see what a few more years of bottle age will accomplish.

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Lively, Precise, and Mineral-Driven Chenin Blanc

Today’s Story: Enfield Wine Co.

Enfield Wine Co. is a relatively small family-owned and operated winery established by John Lockwood and Amy Seese in 2010. John started working in the wine industry in 2004 at Heron Lake Vineyard, followed by harvests at Littorai, Bodega Melipal in Argentina, and Failla Wines. John remained with Failla for five years managing and farming their Sonoma Coast and Russian River estate vineyards, ultimately starting Enfield as a small passion project. In 2013, John left Failla and devoted his time entirely to Enfield.

Enfield focuses primarily on terroir as a starting point, working with small independent growers across a range of regions to source their fruit. John and Amy purchase fruit from Antle Vineyard and Brosseau Vineyard in the Chalone AVA, Haynes Vineyard in Coombsville, Heron Lake Vineyard in Wild Horse Valley, Jesus & Patricia’s Vineyard in Fort Ross-Seaview, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in Amador County. From these sites they acquire a range of varieties including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tempranillo amongst others, all with varying vine age as well. John’s philosophy is to harvest his fruit for balance and ferment the wines naturally in order to showcase each unique terroir, eschewing a heavy-handed winemaking style. The wines are often fresh, lively, and mineral-driven, though John does enjoy exploring esoteric bottlings as well.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc

100% Chenin Blanc; 12% ABV

The 2019 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc is pale gold in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose showcases notes of ripe yellow apple, pear, lemon zest, honeysuckle, ginger, flint, oyster shell, and saline. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity, and the palate displays notes of nectarine, white peach, yellow apple, honey, chamomile, crushed stone, and sea salt. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. A very precise and well-balanced Chenin Blanc.

Price: $35. I think this is well-priced for how balanced, complex, and intense the wine is. Nothing sticks out of place here and this is a very solid representation of Chenin Blanc. Though it’s more expensive than the previous Jurassic Park Chenin Blanc I had, the intensity and quality level of this wine justify it.

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Delicious and High-Quality Portuguese Bastardo

Today’s Story: Conceito Wines

Conceito Wines is a family-owned and operated wine estate with roots tracing back to the 1940s, though they did not start bottling their own wines until the 2005 vintage. Throughout their first several decades the Ferreira family sold their fruit to other producers, however when Rita Ferreira Marques joined after studying Oenology and working in Bordeaux, California, South Africa, and New Zealand the mantra changed. Conceito’s estate vineyards are located in Vale da Teja of the Douro Valley in Portugal, and they encompass 86 hectares (213 acres) across five separate sites. The climate of these vineyards is rather cool, augmented by high elevations between about 1,500 feet and 2,000 feet above sea level. All viticulture is organic without the use of pesticides or herbicides, while winemaking is of the minimal intervention approach. Each Conceito wine is meant to showcase the unique terroir of their sites in Portugal, and the portfolio consists of a flagship Conceito range as well as two Contraste bottlings (a red and a white) meant for more “relaxed” consumption.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Bastardo

100% Bastardo (Trousseau); 13% ABV

The 2018 Bastardo is pale ruby in color and fairly transparent. I let this evolve in the glass, with aromas of medium intensity and a nose that showcases notes of cherry, black raspberry, licorice, violets, smoked game, gravel, and mild spice. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of raspberry, red cherry, cranberry, red licorice, graphite, dried green herbs, and black pepper. This dry red is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $35. From quality, balance, and complexity standpoints I think this is very fairly-priced though there are better “values” out there. A lot of the Trousseau I’ve had seems to range from $25 to $45 and this fits right in the middle, but I do think several closer to $25 drink just as well as this one. Nonetheless this is a great and fun wine that can open you to more high-quality wines Portugal has to offer.

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Strong Value Grenache From a Relatively New Californian Producer

Today’s Story: Newfound Wines

Newfound Wines is a family-owned and operated wine estate established by Matt and Audra Naumann in 2016. With backgrounds in the wine industry and a shared passion for agriculture, they established Newfound Wines as a 40 acre ranch, vineyard, and winery in the Sierra Foothills of California. In addition to their estate High View Vineyard which needed replanting in 2016, Newfound sources fruit from several other sites including Cemetery Vineyard and Colombini Vineyard in Mendocino County, Enz Vineyard in the Lime Kiln Valley, Scaggs Vineyard and Yount Mill Vineyard in the Napa Valley, and Shake Ridge Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills. They focus on the varieties of Grenache, Carignane, Mourvèdre, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Semillon with an emphasis on organic viticulture as well as minimal intervention winemaking in an effort to showcase each variety and terroir as purely as possible.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Grenache Gravels

100% Grenache; 13.9% ABV

The 2018 Grenache Gravels is medium ruby in color and I let this open up for about 30-45 minutes in the glass before I started drinking it. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of muddled strawberry, black raspberry, cherry, red plum, leather, dried green herbs, mint, and crushed rock. Meanwhile the palate displays notes of raspberry, tart cherry, blackberry, licorice, red rose, chalk, and cracked pepper with prominent mineral undertones. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) and grippy tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Fruit is sourced from 85% Cemetery Vineyard in Mendocino County, 10% Scaggs Vineyard in Napa Valley, and 5% Yount Mill Vineyard in Napa Valley.

Price: $30. I think this offers very solid value for the price, as the depth is rather impressive at this stage and quality is certainly very high for an “entry” bottling. Though the tannins are slightly out of balance at this stage, I think they will resolve with another year or two and you’ll be left with a wine striking well above its price-point.

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Fun and Unique “Nighttime” Rosé

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.

I previously reviewed the 2018 Sweet Berry Wine from Las Jaras.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Superbloom Cuvée Zero Zero

27% Marsanne, 16% Roussanne, 16% Grenache Noir, 14% Mourvèdre, 10% Grenache Blanc, 10% Carignan, 7% Picpoul Blanc; 10.9% ABV

The 2020 Superbloom is deep salmon in color with pinkish hues, and it’s slightly hazy. This needed about 30 minutes to open in the glass, as there were some funky aromas that needed to blow off. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of watermelon, grapefruit, white cherry, strawberry, white rose, and saline. Meanwhile the palate displays notes of raspberry, strawberry, candied watermelon, mild white pepper, and stony mineral. This dry rosé is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low alcohol, and a medium (-) length finish. Very chuggable and fun but I wish the finish was a bit longer. 1,500 cases produced.

Price: $27. I sought this wine from my local wine shops for quite some time, and am glad to finally find it since I’m a big fan of Joel and Eric. This is a very fun, chuggable, and interesting rosé made from quite the blend of co-fermented varieties, however I think for the price there are better values out there.

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A Must-Try to Spice up Your Rosé Game

Today’s Story: Tenuta delle Terre Nere

Tenuta delle Terre Nere is a somewhat young but highly regarded wine estate founded by Marc de Grazia on the northern slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily. The first commercial vintage was in 2002, and the estate focuses on local Sicilian varieties with Nerello Mascalese and Carricante of principal importance. The estate today consists of about 55 hectares, of which 27 hectares are planted to vines in production and 7 hectares are breeding. The holdings are broken up into 24 parcels across six crus and range in elevation from 600 to 1,000 meters above sea level, with an ultimate plan to reach 38 hectares planted to vine. Aside from the 7 hectares recently planted, Terre Nere works with vines aged 50 to 100 years old, and the estate even has one parcel that survived phylloxera and is 130-140 years old!

Marc de Grazia has long been a proponent of single cru Etna wines, so he vinifies, ages, bottles, and labels each of his crus individually. These include Calderara Sottana, San Lorenzo, Bocca d’Orzo, Santo Spirito, Guardiola, and Feudo di Mezzo. All viticulture has been organic since Terre Nere was established (certified in 2010), and the prior owners farmed their vineyards organically for the previous two generations as well. Winemaking is meant to be minimally invasive, allowing de Grazia to showcase the unique Etna terroir in all of his wines.

To learn more, view images of the estate and vineyards, or explore the range of wines from Tenuta delle Terre Nere, I recommend visiting their website here. I also previously reviewed their 2019 Etna Bianco if you care to explore or revisit my thoughts on another wine in the portfolio.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Etna Rosato

100% Nerello Mascalese; 13% ABV

The 2020 Etna Rosato is pale copper in color, rather light for many rosé wines I’ve enjoyed. The aromas are of medium intensity, but the rather complex nose shows itself over time with notes of white strawberry, cherry, peach, raspberry, cured charcuterie meat, rose petal, flint, and saline mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of Rainier cherry, freshly-picked strawberry, peach, cantaloupe, chopped green herbs, crushed rock, sea salt, and white pepper. This dry rosé is medium-bodied though very crisp and lean with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $23. I think this is a great buy, as it offers beautiful balance, length, and complexity while being immensely chuggable on a hot day. This is the most fun, delicious, and rock-solid rosé I’ve had in a long, long time and I’ll be buying more as soon as I can.

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Complex Sonoma Coast Syrah Made in Miniscule Quantities

Today’s Story: Black Trumpet

Black Trumpet is a very, very small wine producer established in 2012 by Sophie Drucker and Garrett Pierce. Born out of their passion for Syrah and the Black Chanterelle Mushroom, Black Trumpet is a one to two barrel (25-50 case) annual production of Syrah from Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. They pick Syrah from some of their favorite organically-farmed sites (today’s 2019 bottling comes from the Charles Heintz Vineyard), and all harvesting is accomplished by hand. Grapes ferment in open-top barrels with partial stem inclusion and wild yeasts, with limited to no sulfur additions throughout the process. Come bottling, the wines are never fined or filtered to preserve both the variety characteristics and the expression of terroir.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Syrah

100% Syrah; 14% ABV

The 2019 Syrah is deep ruby in color and completely opaque. I decanted this for about an hour, as it’s still incredibly youthful. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blueberry, black plum, blackberry, anise, violets, mild smoke, cured meat, and cracked pepper. Flavors are also of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, licorice, bacon fat, charred green herbs, clove, black pepper, and chocolate. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 1-2 barrels (25-50 cases) produced each vintage.

Price: $35. I think this is very reasonably-priced given both the quality level and miniscule production numbers. In its youth, this is already very well-balanced with solid complexity and intensity. This also gives off a very Northern Rhône vibe while still showcasing the Californian fruit which I think can prove attractive for both Old and New World palates.

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An Oregon Take on Burgundy’s “Secret” Value

Today’s Story: Evening Land Vineyards

Evening Land Vineyards is a producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay located in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Though the label was “officially” established in 2005, their historic and world-class Seven Springs Vineyard dates back to 1984 when it was planted by Al MacDonald. Though the winery has changed hands a number of times, labels have been updated, and fruit sources have changed, sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman joined in 2014 and remain involved to this day. With their Seven Springs estate vineyard, which has been dry-farmed since inception and shifted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007, Parr and Moorman oversee significant Pinot Noir plantings followed by Chardonnay and then smaller amounts of Gamay. The Pinot clones include Calera, Pommard, Swan, and Mt. Eden, and they have produced some of the greatest wines in Oregon winemaking history with the vineyard in its earlier days a source for many highly-regarded wineries.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir from Evening Land.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain

Co-ferment of Pinot Noir and Gamay; 12% ABV

The 2019 Seven Springs Passetoutgrain is deep purple in color with ruby hues. Given some time to open up in the glass, this blossoms into a rather complex wine for its youth. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of cherry, raspberry, mulberry compote, blueberry, rose petal, rosemary, pine, and finely crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, cranberry, white cherry, mulberry, blueberry, savory garden herbs, black olive, and stony mineral. This dry red is light-bodied with high acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish. 595 cases produced.

Price: $35. I think this is pretty fairly priced given the balance, length, and complexity though there are probably better values if you look to Beaujolais for carbonic Gamay. I haven’t had any Bourgogne Passetoutgrain to compare this to, so I found my next tasting task.

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High Quality Kabinett Riesling From a Historic German Estate

Today’s Story: Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl

Reichsrat von Buhl was established in 1849 by Franz Peter Buhl, and the estate quickly became a benchmark of quality for Forster Riesling. Thanks to uncompromising quality, von Buhl Rieslings became some of the most expensive in the world and even filled the glasses of those toasting the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. Even Otto von Bismarck became a loving fan of von Buhl wines and praised their Ungeheuer which is sourced from the best plot of the 29 hectare Grand Cru Ungeheuer vineyard.

In 1909, Franz Eberhard Buhl (the son of Armand von Buhl and Juliane Schellhorn-Wallbillich) orchestrated the marriage of the von Buhl and Schellhorn-Wallbillich wineries, establishing one of the largest privately owned German wine estates at over 200 hectares. At this point, Franz Eberhard changed the winery name to Reichsrat von Buhl (adding his title as a member in the house of Lords in the kingdom of Bavaria). Franz Eberhard passed away young in 1921 and his widow Frieda Piper von Buhl adeptly ran the estate until her death in 1952. With no familial heirs to the estate, Reichsrat von Buhl went to Georg Enoch Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg who was a political friend of Franz Eberhard.

Over time, Reichsrat von Buhl decreased in size to about 52 hectares of vineyard land thanks to financial challenges, though they maintained ownership of some of the greatest sites in Deidesheim and Forst. From 1989 to 2013, von Buhl was leased to Japanese business man Toyohiro Tokuoka but changed ownership in 2005 to a local businessman named Achim Niederberger. When Tokuoka’s lease ended in 2013, von Buhl went back to being a family-run estate and winery.

All vineyards owned by Reichsrat von Buhl are certified organic and the current team is unified behind natural and sustainable viticulture. All white wines from von Buhl are Riesling (except for two noble sweet wines) and all red wines and rosé are made from Pinot Noir. Of all the land planted to vine that von Buhl owns, 45% is classified as either VDP.Erste Lage® (Premier Cru) or VDP.Grosse Lage® (Grand Cru) – source. For more on this historic German estate, check out the website here.

I previously wrote about von Buhl’s 2014 Forster Ungeheuer Riesling Großes Gewächs.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Armand Riesling Kabinett

100% Riesling; 9% ABV

The 2018 Armand Riesling Kabinett is pale gold in color. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of white peach, apricot, lemon peel, honeysuckle, petrol, and white pepper. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of yellow apple, white peach, tangerine, jasmine, honey, and flint. This off-dry Riesling is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, low alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $17. I think this is very well-priced and offers solid value. While it’s not the most complex wine, it is rather young and still offers great intensity and length that I desire in a Riesling. Quality here is definitely significant as well for the level of wine.

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Light and Easy-Going Summer Sipper

Today’s Story: Kapcsándy Family Winery

Kapcsándy Family Winery was established by Lou Kapcsándy and is a small, family owned and operated estate in Yountville of the Napa Valley. An immigrant from Hungary, Lou arrived in the United States in 1956 and worked as a chemical engineer and manufacturer in the Bay Area of California and Seattle. Wine became a focal point for Lou during his successful career thanks to colleagues in the wine business, however his desire to establish his own winery one day came after a visit to Château Leoville Las Cases with his wife Bobbie in 1998. With their son Louis Jr., Lou and Bobbie started searching for property in the Napa Valley when they stumbled upon the 20 acre State Lane Vineyard in Yountville which had been destroyed the previous year by phylloxera. In May 2000, the Kapcsándy family closed on this historic property (it was the source of fruit for Beringer’s Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon) and embarked on massive replanting of the vineyards. They planted the main Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, though also planted several acres to Hungarian Furmint. When the winery was completed in 2005, Lou’s vision was finally realized and both he and Louis Jr. remain highly involved today.

Kapcsándy wines are inspired by Bordeaux both in terms of vineyard management and winemaking style, resulting in lower-alcohol wines made from 100% estate-grown fruit. With both Lou and Louis Jr. active in the vineyards and estate management everyday, Kapcsándy practices sustainable farming with great appreciation for their soil and the environment. The family constructed nesting boxes, perch poles, and songbird houses to avoid the use of chemicals for pest control, and they also add compost to the vineyards and natural fertilizers to supply bacteria, photo nutrients, and trace elements which prove beneficial for vine growth. Further, Kapcsándy plants cover crops between the vines to prevent erosion and encourage beneficial insects to inhabit the vineyards and enhance this natural ecosystem. For more, check out the Kapcsándy website here.

I previously reviewed the 2014 Estate Cuvée and 2005 Estate Cuvée from Kapcsándy.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Furmint

100% Furmint; 13.2% ABV

The 2017 Furmint is pale yellow in color with greenish hues around the rim of the glass. This is an easy-going wine with aromas of medium intensity and a nose that showcases notes of lemon zest, ripe pear, green apple, lychee, honeysuckle, and wet stone. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of green apple, grapefruit, guava, lemon, white florals, and ginger. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Typically 100 or so cases produced.

Price: $30. While this may not necessarily be the most exciting white wine, it’s very high quality and well-made. It’s an easy-going summer sipper that’s fun to try, and is a highly unusual variety to find in the Napa Valley. If you like the Kapcsándy wines, this is worth trying at least once.

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An Etna Rosso to Introduce You to Etna Rosso

Today’s Story: Girolamo Russo

Girolamo Russo is a family-owned and operated wine estate located near the town of Passopisciaro on the north side of Mt. Etna in Sicily, Italy. The estate was “re-established” by Giuseppe Russo in 2005 who, though formerly a pianist, desired to continue his family’s tradition of winegrowing and named the estate in honor of his father. Girolamo Russo consists of 18 hectares of vineyards situated between 650 and 780 meters (2,132 and 2,559 feet) above sea level, with all farmed adhering to organic viticulture. Russo grows fruit in the crus of San Lorenzo, Feudo, and Feudo di Mezzo with many vines being a century old. In culmination with a minimally invasive winemaking philosophy that includes fermentation with indigenous yeasts and minimal oak influence, the wines are often described as pure representations of place.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Etna Rosso ‘a Rina

94% Nerello Mascalese, 6% Nerello Cappuccio; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 ‘a Rina is medium garnet in color with hints of pale ruby. I decanted this for about an hour but drank it over several. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of red cherry, stemmy strawberry, orange rind, a hint of rose petal, thyme, volcanic earth, mild smoke, and slight peppery spice. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of dried cherry, cranberry, dried strawberry, licorice, tobacco, leather, crushed gravel, cracked pepper, and stony mineral. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium but fine-grained tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $32. I think this offers pretty solid value for Etna Rosso, as it demonstrates good balance, intensity, complexity, and an obvious sense of place. Though it isn’t the best Etna Rosso I’ve had, for the price this is worth trying.

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Perfectly Aged Napa Valley Cab

Today’s Story: Robert Mondavi Winery

Robert Mondavi is a historical and world-renowned Napa Valley winery established by Robert Mondavi in 1966. With the immense history and promise Mondavi felt with the To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville, he set up his winery there amongst the vines and set out to craft Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that could compete with the greatest wines in the world. Mondavi did not only set his sights on Cabernet Sauvignon, however, releasing his first Fumé Blanc (made with Sauvignon Blanc) in 1968 which is the wine that ultimately became his signature bottling. As Mondavi’s prowess started to show in those early years, he also expanded into the Stags Leap District by acquiring the Wappo Hill Vineyard planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1969. In 1970, Mondavi met for the first time with Baron Philippe de Rothschild and the duo voiced an idea of creating a joint venture that ultimately became Opus One, established in 1978 with an inaugural vintage of 1979.

As Mondavi’s wines grew in prominence, so did his reputation almost like a father to Napa Valley winemaking. He was instrumental in bringing music to the Valley with his Summer Music Festival, showcased his philanthropic mindset by helping to pioneer Auction Napa Valley, and advanced the magic of food and wine pairing by creating the Mission Tour, Great Chefs of France, and Great Chefs of America programs. Robert Mondavi’s impact on Napa Valley and the wine world beyond is as strong and steadfast now as it was back then, and the world of California winemaking will forever thank him.

I previously reviewed the 1981 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and 1980 Reserve Pinot Noir.

Today’s Wine: 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon

87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot; 13% ABV

The 1987 Cabernet Sauvignon is medium to deep garnet in color. I drank this as a pop and pour, and there really wasn’t a huge amount of sediment in the bottle. Given a short time in the glass, the wine blossoms with aromas of pronounced intensity and a nose of redcurrant, blackcurrant, forest floor, violet, graphite, green bell pepper, eucalyptus, clay, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, redcurrant, mushroom, dried tobacco, charred green herbs, green bell pepper, crushed rock, and oaky spice. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, mature medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish.

Price: $110. This is a very fun wine to try and it’s showing very well, but I’d say it’s more of an experience wine than necessarily a “value wine.” The balance, intensity, and complexity are all great, but the shorter length of the finish does detract slightly from the overall experience of the wine.

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Budget-Friendly Pinot Noir From Trader Joe’s

Today’s Story: Cotillion (Trader Joe’s)

Out of curiosity and at the urging of a friend, I decided to try a few wines from Trader Joe’s and this is one of them. It’s a light day background-wise, as this seems to be one of the many bottlings made for Trader Joe’s specifically and I cannot gather much information beyond the back label. The wine I’m reviewing today is a Pinot Noir vinted and bottled by Ashford Court in American Canyon within Napa County, though the fruit comes from Monterey County (56%), Sonoma County (33%), and Santa Barbara County (11%).

Today’s Wine: 2018 Cotillion Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV (seems like it could be higher)

The 2018 Cotillion Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color and rather transparent. Given some time in the glass, the aromas blossom with medium (+) intensity and the nose showcases notes of black cherry, black raspberry, blood orange rind, leather, cola, baking spice, a hint of vanilla, and oak. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of strawberry, raspberry, red cherry, sweet tobacco, licorice, charred green herbs, and vanilla. Though the profile is exactly what I was expecting (fruity and with more oak influence than my personal preferred taste) this is better than I expected given the price. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a medium-length finish.

Price: $10. Though not a wine I’d personally buy again, I think this is actually quite good given the accessible price-point. It has broad consumer appeal and offers better complexity and balance than many wines in the same ballpark. It seems to be pretty good quality overall as well.

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Easygoing Malvasia Bianca From Contra Costa County

Today’s Story: Erggelet Brothers

Erggelet Brothers is a small wine producer which, as the name implies, was established by brothers Julian and Sebastian Erggelet. Julian and Sebastian grew up in southern Germany, and though Julian studied Medicine and Sebastian studied Philosophy & Economics the two picked up an appreciation and passion for wine along the way. Sebastian went back to school for Viticulture & Enology while Julian finished up his medical degree, and afterwards the brothers embarked on travels around the world and worked wine harvests, in cellars, and in kitchens to hone their palates in France, Switzerland, Australia, and Spain. The brothers journeyed to California in 2014 and worked at OVID, Seven Stones, and Martin Estate before ultimately starting their own winemaking project in 2015.

Today Julian and Sebastian source fruit from Contra Costa County in California, as well as some Pinot Noir from Oregon. The brothers put a major emphasis on farming, particularly “intentional” and organic farming. Julian and his wife Alli run an organic farming project called The Urban Edge in Brentwood, CA as well where they not only farm the Cecchini Family Vineyard but also grow 25 acres of mixed stone fruit, 5 acres of mixed vegetables, and 5 acres of asparagus. They also keep a watchful eye over ducks, chickens, goats, sheep, and rabbits.

Within the Contra Costa County, the Erggelet brothers source from two vineyards: Cecchini Family Vineyard and Del Barba Vineyard. They receive their Malvasia Bianca from Cecchini Family Vineyard, and Del Barba provides them with Carignane, Mataro, and Zinfandel. All wines ferment with indigenous yeasts and there are zero additions throughout the winemaking process. Come bottling, each wine is bottled unfined and unfiltered.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Cecchini Family Vineyard Malvasia Bianca

100% Malvasia Bianca; 12% ABV

The 2019 Cecchini Family Vineyard Malvasia Bianca is pale to medium yellow in color. Aromas are of medium intensity, and the nose showcases delicate aromas of peach skins, lime zest, yellow apple, white floral blossom, beeswax, and rosemary. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of peach, apricot, lime, white florals, honeycomb, wax, and sage. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This is a very good and fun wine that didn’t last long once the cork was pulled. 100 cases produced.

Price: $25. I think this is incredibly fairly-priced and offers good value given the balance, structure, and solid complexity. The only Malvasia I’ve had has always been Madeira, so I was excited to try this and it was everything I hoped for.

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Off-Dry Riesling From California’s North Coast

Today’s Story: Benevolent Neglect

Benevolent Neglect is a small passion project of winemaking friends Matt Nagy and Ben Brenner. As the name implies, winemaking here is best called minimal intervention as Matt and Ben believe a winemaker is meant to translate what the vineyard provides and not come in with a heavy hand in the cellar. The team rarely uses new oak, they don’t use oak substitutes, and eschew additives common in many corners of the winemaking world. They also refrain from adding water or acidity to alter the wines’ natural balance. All reds are unfined and unfiltered, while some of the whites only see filtering. Benevolent Neglect sources their fruit from the Central and North Coasts of California as well as Napa/Sonoma, producing a range of wines that stretch from Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to Rhône varieties and Ribolla Gialla.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Riesling

100% Riesling; 11.3% ABV

The 2018 Riesling is medium straw in color and transparent. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose displaying notes of lime, white peach, grapefruit, green apple skins, honeysuckle, and a small hint of petrol. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity, while the palate displays notes of green apple, lemon and lime zest, crisp pear, honey, and saline. This off-dry Riesling (RS of 15g/L) is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $28 (often found closer to $40). I think for $28 this is a solid Riesling and a fun one to try given the minimally invasive winemaking style and region where it comes from. It lacks in intensity on the palate for me, but overall it’s an enjoyable and fun Riesling to try.

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Complex and Ageworthy Howell Mountain Cab

Today’s Story: Red Cap Vineyards

Red Cap Vineyards’ story begins in 1998 with Tom and Desiree Altemus when they purchased a 10.5 acre property on Howell Mountain. Though Tom’s background is originally in finance working for IBM, he grew an appreciation for fine wine during business trips and ultimately quit to pursue a career as a chef in 1991. After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, Tom worked for famed chefs and restauranteurs including Michel Richard and Bradley Ogden before settling in at Brava Terrace in St. Helena. With the birth of the couple’s first child, Tom left the restaurant industry and the birth of their second child created the need to expand from Napa to Howell Mountain.

Having purchased their property, the Altemus family started planning their vineyards in 2000 with viability studies and archeological, biological, and botanical surveys. Due to seemingly endless regulations, the land was finally cleared and prepped in 2003 and the first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon released in 2005 with 50 cases. Having personally visited the property, I can attest that the land is not only beautiful but the vineyard rows are stunning to look at. The vineyards are planted on iron-rich volcanic soil that in person is very red and rocky, while all fruit is grown organically and hand-farmed.

I previously reviewed Red Cap’s 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, though I’ve consumed many bottles of their wine across vintages and including the Sauvignon Blanc as well.

Today’s Wine: 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15% ABV

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color, though incredibly opaque and nearly black at its core. I decanted this for about six hours, as these wines tend to need quite some time at this youthful stage. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, plum, blueberry, black cherry, violet, licorice, graphite, tobacco, cola, cedar, and chocolate. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, anise, violet, tobacco, cola, chocolate, and baking spice. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. 310 cases produced.

Price: $120 ($102 as a member). I’m a huge believer that these wines offer great value, especially with the club pricing. The wines are deep, concentrated, and complex beasts that need time in the cellar or plenty of air, but they always perform above their price-point to me.

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An Unusually Approachable Dunn Howell Mountain Cab

Today’s Story: Dunn Vineyards

Dunn Vineyards dates to 1979 when Randy and Lori Dunn purchased a 14 acre parcel in Angwin with about 5 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. Though Randy worked as a winemaker in Rutherford for his day job, he spent the nights and weekends with Lori and their young son Mike farming their vines. The Dunn family also farmed Harry Frank’s adjacent vineyards and purchased the fruit resulting in a first harvest of 9 tons of fruit. With an additional purchase of 3 tons from Beatty Ranch, the Dunn’s were on their way to producing their first vintage.

The family moved onto their property shortly thereafter with another young child, Jennifer, and Dunn Vineyards was officially bonded in 1981. After their second daughter, Kristina, was born, Randy was still working in Rutherford when the winery’s success picked up and encouraged him to leave his job in 1985 to move into a new family house and put all of their effort into Dunn Vineyards. By the late 1980s, Randy was consulting for other wineries, their wine was selling out, and the family needed to burrow into the mountain in 1989 to create more room for barrels.

Mike returned in 1999 and three years later became a full-time employee at Dunn Vineyards and after Kristina graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in winemaking and viticulture she joined as well. Today, Kristina’s daughters play in the vineyards and Mike’s son helps bottle the wines, making it seem the family tradition at Dunn Vineyards is set to continue into three generations and beyond. Today, the family farms 42 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon high up on Howell Mountain and the resulting wines are elegant yet profound and built for cellaring.

I previously reviewed the 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Dunn, which is a generally more accessible bottling made from mountain and valley floor fruit.

Today’s Wine: 2011 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 13.9% ABV (though it seems like it’s actually slightly higher)

The 2011 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is deep ruby in color and opaque. Given a couple hours to decant, this wine blossoms into a complex and approachable bottling. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, anise, menthol, lavender, leather, tobacco, and chocolate. There’s a touch of brett as well but not enough to detract. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, plum, blueberry, blackberry, dried tobacco, menthol, licorice, dried green herbs, and a touch of oak-driven spice. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $160 (I paid $112). I’ve long been a fan of Dunn’s wines, and I think they offer solid value next to their counterparts in other mountain AVAs and especially those on the valley floor. Though you have to be very patient with the Howell Mountain bottlings, this 2011 was rather approachable given the vintage conditions and I will certainly try to buy more.

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A Refreshing and Minimal Intervention Chenin Blanc

Today’s Story: Lo-Fi Wines

Lo-Fi Wines was established in 2014 by lifelong friends Mike Roth and Craig Winchester. Centered in a belief wines should be honest and transparent representations of their vintage and variety, Lo-Fi wines are meant to be consumed as everyday drinkers to pair with a broad range of foods and not locked away in the cellar. Through minimal intervention winemaking, Lo-Fi wines ferment naturally with native yeasts and see minimal to zero sulfur additions and no pH adjustments. The wines age in neutral oak barrels and are mostly bottled unfiltered, with the final product an easy-drinking and low alcohol wine. A number of the wines also see whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration.

I previously reviewed the 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir from Lo-Fi.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc

100% Chenin Blanc; 12.5% ABV

The 2020 Jurassic Park Vineyard Chenin Blanc is pale gold in color. Aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, pear skins, stone fruit, honey, white florals, and wet stone minerality. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of pear, yellow apple, lemon zest, peach, chamomile, honey, and saline. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. Easy drinking though it’s slightly funky/reductive particularly on the nose. 195 cases produced.

Price: $26. I haven’t had a ton of Chenin Blanc yet and it’s a variety I’m trying to explore more, but for the price this is a solid and fun one to try. While not the most intense wine, this offers a good array of aromas and flavors wrapped into an easy-drinking and enjoyable bottle. Enjoyable on its own or paired with food.

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Young but Complex Oregon Pinot Noir From the Yamhill-Carlton AVA

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I recently wrote about the 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé from Big Table Farm, though I previously reviewed the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay as well.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 14.5% ABV

The 2018 Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir is pale ruby in color with purple hues. I let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and the wine needed every second given its youth. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blueberry, blackberry, spiced plum, black raspberry, violet, leather, black olive, pine, crushed rock, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of raspberry, dried strawberry, black cherry, blueberry, blackberry, violet, dried tobacco, cola, and underbrush. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. 234 cases produced.

Price: $62. I think this is in the arena of very fairly priced to offering great value. I love the BTF Willamette Valley Pinot Noir at a lower price-point, but this Yamhill-Carlton bottling is certainly above and beyond. The intensity, complexity, and length in this Pinot are all profound and this is a bigger wine that certainly needs a few more years of age.

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Big and Bold Napa Cab From Calistoga

Today’s Story: Heritage School Vineyards

Heritage School Vineyards (initially named Harris Estate Vineyards) was established in 1997 by Mike and Treva Harris on an extension of Diamond Mountain in Calistoga of the Napa Valley. The property consists of 48 acres, however only 6 acres are planted to vineyards and 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2014, David and Linda Jenkins purchased the property and renamed it to pay homage to the Heritage School which was a private school for boys on site. Heritage School consists of three estate vineyards named Missiaen’s Hillside, Casey’s Lakeview, and Julie’s Creekside, as well as a non-estate vineyard source for Hannah’s Indulgence with all four wines names after the Jenkins’ daughters. Thomas Brown has been winemaker since 2006, and the wines age in a 100% new French oak barrel program. Production is rather limited, with total volumes typically around 1,200 cases per vintage.

Today’s Wine: 2014 Casey’s Lakeview Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.8% ABV

The 2014 Casey’s Lakeview Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is deep purple/ruby in color with heavy staining on the glass. I double decanted this bottle, as it’s still rather youthful. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, blueberry, crème de cassis, anise, clay, cinnamon, chocolate, vanilla, and toasted oak. There’s some heat from the alcohol as well that needs time to integrate. Meanwhile the flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of blackcurrant, black plum, blueberry, licorice, coffee grounds, iron, and rich dark chocolate. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. 250 cases produced.

Price: $140. Though this is certainly a high quality wine and offers good intensity and complexity, it’s not my preferred style. The oak influence definitely sticks out to me and this is a rather big and bold Cab. I think there are better values out there too given this price-point which sees a lot of competition.

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Fun Cabernet/Syrah Blend From the Walla Walla Valley

Today’s Story: K Vintners

K Vintners was established by Charles Smith as his first winery in December 2001. Located at the base of the Blue Mountains in Walla Walla, Washington, K Vintners produces small lot single vineyard Syrah and field blends of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Tempranillo, and Viognier which are all picked by hand, fermented using only natural yeasts, and basket pressed. Though Charles spent a lot of time during his developmental years traveling throughout the state of California and grew an appreciation for wine, his real passion for the beverage spawned during his time living in Scandinavia for roughly a decade. As a manager for rock bands and concert tours, Charles spent a great deal of time wining and dining before moving back to the United States in 1999. On a journey through Walla Walla in late 1999, Charles met a young winemaker who shared his passion for Syrah and Charles was convinced to move to the small city to make his own wine. In December 2001, Charles released 330 cases of his first wine, the 1999 K Syrah.

I previously wrote about K Vintners when I reviewed the 2016 The Creator back in February 2020.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Roma

80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah; 14.5% ABV

The 2016 Roma is deep ruby in color. I didn’t have a decanter at the moment, so I instead let this open up in the glass for an hour then drank it over several hours. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, blueberry, plum, tobacco, pencil shavings, black licorice, charred green herbs, crushed rock, chocolate, and mild baking spice. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, plum, black raspberry, sweet tobacco, black olive, slate, mocha, and a hint of mint. This dry red is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. 752 cases produced.

Price: $50 (I paid $43). I think this offers very solid value and is also fun to try given the blend. The balance, complexity, intensity, and length are all very solid and this wine continues to evolve with each passing moment in the glass. I’d certainly buy this again.

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Old School Napa Chardonnay for the Cellar

Today’s Story: Mayacamas Vineyards

Mayacamas was established in 1889 by German immigrant John Henry Fisher and is located in the Mt. Veeder AVA of the Napa Valley. Fisher went bankrupt in the early 1900s, however, and the winery ceased production with the onset of Prohibition (although bootleggers are said to have made wine in the cellars during the early years). Mayacamas was owned by the Brandlin family during the 1920s and 1930s, before being purchased by Jack and Mary Taylor in 1941 when the estate received its current name. Mayacamas changed hands yet again in 1968 when Robert and Elinor Travers purchased it, with the couple quickly setting about expanding the aging facilities and vineyard holdings while planting and replanting vines. Charles and Ali Banks purchased Mayacamas in 2007, though the winery has since changed hands again to the Schottenstein family.

Though the history of Mayacamas is long and inclusive of many ownership changes, the one constant is the traditional style of winemaking they practice. Mayacamas was one of the wines in the 1976 Judgment of Paris (they poured their 1971 Cabernet Sauvignon) which showed the estate can stand up with the greatest Californian and French wines of the world. Mayacamas dry farms their vineyards and transitioned a large portion to organic viticulture in 2013, further enhancing the quality of fruit. Very traditional in style, they age the wines in neutral oak to not mask any of the true expressions of the Cabernet Sauvignon variety or the terroir.

I previously wrote about Mayacamas when I reviewed the 1989 Cabernet Sauvignon last June.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Chardonnay

100% Chardonnay; 14% ABV

The 2019 Chardonnay is pale gold in color and transparent. 30 to 40 minutes in the glass does the wine wonders at this youthful stage. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing aromas of green apple, ripe pear, lemon zest, melon rind, honeysuckle, flint, and minerality reminiscent of finely crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are also pronounced, with the palate displaying notes of Granny Smith apple skins, lime pith, poached pear, chamomile, wet stone, mild white pepper, and almond. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $50. I think this is very well-priced and offers solid value. The intensity, complexity, and structure bode well for the longer term and this is made in a very old school style which I love.

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Fun and Refreshing Napa White Blend That Begs for an Oyster Pairing

Today’s Story: Matthiasson Family Vineyards

Matthiasson Family Vineyards is a relatively small winery established in 2003 by Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson. Steve grew up passionate about farming, passing time as a gardener and cook while in college before co-writing the California manual on sustainable vineyard practices in 1999 after graduate school for horticulture. Jill is also passionate for farming, particularly the sustainability side of it, and she studied botany at Penn before ultimately attending UC Davis for grad school studying traditional methods for soil health.

Matthiasson is probably most well-known for their Napa Valley White Wine that I’m reviewing today (an interesting blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ribolla Gialla, and Tocai Friulano), but they also either grow or source (often by lease) Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc amongst other varieties. Steve and Jill maintain their own vineyard in the West Oak Knoll area, while sourcing from others throughout the Napa Valley and Sonoma County including Red Hen, Bengier, and Linda Vista amongst others. All of the vineyards are either organically farmed or transitioning to organic viticulture, and as you might guess Steve and Jill believe great wine starts in the vineyards. Steve is pretty involved in each vineyard they source fruit from, catering farming practices to each specific one so that no matter the source their fruit is healthy and fully ripe. Coupled with his traditional winemaking methods, the Matthiasson wines come out beautifully balanced with lower levels of alcohol and gorgeous acidity.

I previously wrote about Matthiasson when I reviewed the 2018 Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay back in May, 2020.

Today’s Wine: 2019 White Wine

50% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Ribolla Gialla, 23% Semillon, 2% Tocai Friulano; 12.5% ABV

The 2019 White Wine is pale yellow in color. The aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose is absolutely gorgeous, showcasing notes of white peach, lemon pith, seashell, flint, raw almond, slight reduction (almost like petrol), wet river stone, and dried straw/hay. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, with the palate displaying notes of green apple, pineapple, white peach, lime zest, beeswax, wet rock, saline minerality, and mild oaky spice. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with vibrant, high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. The wine begs for an oyster pairing and the finish leaves one craving the next sip. 893 cases produced.

Price: $40. Though not inexpensive, I believe this wine offers great value solely based on its complexity, balance, and intensity. Then factor in that it’s fun, refreshing, and can age for quite a few years and you’ve got a showstopper.

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Chardonnay off the Beaten Path

Today’s Story: Jean Bourdy

Jean Bourdy is a historic family-owned estate dating to 1475 in the Jura region of France. Today under guidance of the family’s 15th generation and brothers Jean-Phillipe and Jean-François Bourdy, the family domaine consists of ten hectares (25 acres) planted to Pinot Noir, Trousseau, Poulsard, Chardonnay, and Savagnin. Winemaking here is incredibly traditional, beginning in the vineyards where the Bourdy brothers practice biodynamic viticulture using only cow manure as fertilizer and whey or flower teas for disease control. All wines ferment naturally with indigenous yeasts in old oak vats, then they age in old oak barrels and foudres that are at times 80 years old themselves. Wines are only topped up once and sulfur additions either never occur or only in very, very small doses, so the wines oxidize slowly in the very cold and damp cellars while adding complexity. The wines age out for several years before release, however the Bourdy brothers hold back some wine each vintage and today command an incredible library with wines going back to the 19th century.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Côtes du Jura Blanc

100% Chardonnay; 12.5% ABV

The 2016 Côtes du Jura Blanc is medium to deep gold in color and transparent. Per the suggestion on the back label, I opened this four hours before serving but did not decant it. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of yellow apple, golden pear, grilled pineapple, honey, sweet tart dust, chalk, freshly baked bread, almond, and charred oak. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate displays notes of baked yellow apple, peach, dried apricot, dried green herbs, white mushroom, wet stone, almond, toast, and sea salt. This dry white is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $30. For me, I think this is a great value though it will be a very different and “interesting” Chardonnay for what many will likely expect or be used to. The intensity, complexity, and balance are already great and this has the structure to go the distance. If you are unfamiliar with the wines of Jura and want to try something new, give this one a try.

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Fun Oregon Rosé That Differs From the Crisp Porch Pounders

Today’s Story: Big Table Farm

Big Table Farm is a relatively small winery and farm established in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 2006 by winemaker Brian Marcy and artist/farmer Clare Carver. Brian worked with wine in Napa Valley prior to starting Big Table Farm, spending a decade with stints at heavyweights like Turley Wine Cellars, Neyers Vineyards, Blankiet Estate, and Marcassin to hone his craft. Meanwhile Clare is a gifted artist and designs wine labels, many of which have been awarded.

Dedicated to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and small amounts of Pinot Gris and Syrah, Big Table Farm commenced with only 150 cases of wine and has grown to a few thousand cases today. The wines are made in a minimal style, designed to showcase each unique source’s terroir and all wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. With a major emphasis on sustainability and Clare’s passion for farming, the duo’s 70 acre property also acts as a working farm where they produce seasonal vegetables and raise animals. A visit to the property will not only showcase the wines, but you will see hens, pigs, goats, draft horses, and cows wandering about with an area dedicated to bee hives as well.

I previously wrote about the 2014 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and 2019 The Wild Bee Chardonnay from Big Table Farm.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé

100% Pinot Noir; 13.8% ABV

The 2020 Laughing Pig Rosé is deep salmon/pink in color. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of strawberry, raspberry, blood orange rind, rose petal, and dried green herbs. There’s some characteristic of meatiness there as well. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of tart red cherry, wild strawberry, pomegranate, raspberry, red rose, stony mineral, and mild white peppery spice. This dry rosé is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, very low tannins, medium (+) alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. 680 cases produced.

Price: $32. This is a fun and “different” rosé in that there’s more body here and it differs significantly from the crisp and light porch pounders we are typically used to. The wine is very well balanced, offers nice complexity, and is versatile which culminate into my opinion that this is certainly worth trying for the price. 

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Refreshing Pinot Grigio for the Summer Months

Today’s Story: Gargiulo Vineyards

Gargiulo is a relatively small, family-owned winery in Oakville, Napa Valley that produces about 3,400 to 4,000 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 seven years later 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, a rosé of Sangiovese, and a Pinot Grigio 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 when I reviewed the 2015 Aprile, 2017 Frank Wood Ranch Chardonnay, 2009 Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2012 Money Road Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Money Road Ranch Pinot Grigio

100% Pinot Grigio; 12.5% ABV

The 2020 Money Road Ranch Pinot Grigio is pale yellow in color with mild greenish hues near the rim of the glass. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of white peach, lemon zest, fresh cantaloupe, white wildflower, lemongrass, and wet stone. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of green apple, lime zest, pear, nectarine, grapefruit, honeysuckle, and gravel. This refreshing dry white is light- to medium-bodied with vibrant and mouthwatering high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very good representation of the variety, and one that isn’t too common in the Napa Valley.

Price: $40. This is very pricey for a Pinot Grigio, however the quality is impeccable and this is a great representation of the variety. Coupled with the wine’s great balance, small production, and purity I would buy this again. Very refreshing and enjoyable on a hot day.

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Honest Blaufränkisch That Doesn’t Break the Bank

Today’s Story: Rosi Schuster

Rosi Schuster is a family owned and operated wine estate located in the town of St. Margarethen in the Austrian state of Burgenland. Established in 1979 by Rosi Schuster, the estate consists of nine hectares (22 acres) of vineyards planted in St. Margarethen and Zagersdorf with some of the finest and oldest vines for the area. Though Rosi Schuster is known for Blaufränkisch, she also produces Sankt Laurent, Zweigelt, and Grüner Veltliner amongst a selection of other obscure varieties. Rosi was joined in 2005 by her son Hannes, and though he runs the estate today Rosi is still involved as both a guide and sounding board throughout production. Stylistically, Hannes was greatly influenced by Roland Velich of Moric and he transitioned Rosi Schuster to organic viticulture to start. The wines are meant to be classic representations of Burgenland and its terroir, and are fermented in open-top wooden or stainless steel tanks with both alcoholic and malolactic fermentations accomplished naturally and spontaneously. Hannes works exclusively with Stockinger barrels which don’t impart much oak influence into the wines, ensuring each bottling is the best and most honest representation of variety and place possible.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Blaufränkisch

100% Blaufränkisch; 13% ABV

The 2017 Blaufränkish is deep ruby in color with purple hues. I decanted this for about 45 minutes which seemed to be the right amount at this stage. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of blackberry, black plum, blueberry, black cherry, violet, sweet tobacco, and allspice. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, brambly blackberry, blueberry, licorice, black pepper, smoke, and mild baking spice. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish.

Price: $20. Though the intensity and finish length could be better, I still think this offers solid value at its price-point and the balance is already very impressive. Given the acidity and how this opened up, I think this needs another year or two before it really starts coming into its own.

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Fun Sicilian Amber Wine That Needs a Few More Years

Today’s Story: Azienda Agricola COS

Azienda Agricola COS is a revered wine estate established in 1980 in Vittoria on the Italian island of Sicily. COS was established by three friends, Giambattista Cilia, Giusto Occhipinti, and Cirino Strano, with the first letter of their last names creating the acronym of COS for which the project is named. COS is largely considered a pioneer and champion for Sicilian wines, namely seeking to prove that world-class and high-quality wines can come from the island. COS farms all of their vineyards adhering to organic and biodynamic principles, and they have never used synthetic or chemical fertilizers throughout the life of the venture. This philosophy carries over into the cellar as well, where the wines are made as naturally as possible. For instance, COS is an adopter of clay amphorae dug into the ground for aging because Occhipinti believes them to be a vessel that doesn’t mask any terroir-driven element of the wines. For any bottlings that do not age in amphorae, they use large neutral Slavonian oak botti or concrete tanks to similar effect. All wines see extended maceration, including the whites, which Occhipinti uses as natural preservative so zero sulphur needs to be added during winemaking and at most a minimal dose is added at bottling.

I previously wrote about the 2014 Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico delle Fontane from COS, which is a fun wine made from 60% Nero d’Avola and 40% Frappato.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Pithos Bianco

100% Grecanico; 11% ABV

The 2019 Pithos Bianco is pale amber in color. Given some time to blossom in the glass, the aromas are of medium (+) intensity and the nose showcases notes of orange rind, apricot, tangerine, peach skins, honeysuckle, delicate dried green herbs, honeycomb, and finely crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of peach, tangerine, apricot, melon, honey, saline, and crushed rock minerality. This dry amber wine is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium (-) alcohol, and a long finish. Quite good, though this is lacking some intensity I was hoping for and I will be curious to see how this develops over the next several years.

Price: $35 (closer to $20 in Europe). This is a very good value closer to the prices found in Europe, however for an average price of $35 in the US (I paid $40) I think this is just okay in value terms. The nose is gorgeous and quite complex, though the palate is lacking in intensity for me to really wow me. Given the acidity, great balance, and length though this should only improve.

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Traditional and Terroir-Driven Jura Built for the Cellar

Today’s Story: Les Matheny

Les Matheny is a small and relatively new winery, established in 2007 by the husband and wife team of Elise and Emeric Foléat in their hometown of Matheny in the Jura region of France. Emeric spent eight years working with legendary winemaker Jacques Puffeney before he and Elise started their own venture, which today consists of 3.5 hectares (8.6 acres) in the appellations of Arbois, Montigny-les-Arsures, and Poligny. Winemaking here is rather traditional and takes place in a no-frills converted farmhouse, with the resulting wines much more intense and terroir-driven compared to many of the lighter and more “popular” styles of the region. All wines ferment spontaneously in fiberglass tanks, there is no chaptalization or acidification, and malolactic fermentation occurs naturally in barrel. Whites age 4-9 years in neutral oak barrels, while reds age 18-30 months in neutral foudres and demi muids. All wines are then bottled unfined but with light filtration.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Trousseau Cuvée l’Alpierri

100% Trousseau; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Trousseau Cuvée l’Alpierri is pale ruby in color. I didn’t decant this but simply let it open up in the glass for about 45 minutes to an hour. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of ripe red cherry, strawberry, orange rind, violet, cured meat, black pepper, dried green herbs, and nutmeg. Meanwhile the flavors are more subdued and of medium intensity, while the palate displays notes of redcurrant, raspberry, wild strawberry, cherry, charred herbs, black pepper, and crushed rock. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $48. I think this is very reasonably priced and just needs some time in the cellar to really show at its best. The nose steals the show at this stage, but overall the wine is rather complex, has solid intensity, and great length. Patience will be rewarded handsomely here given the acidity and tannin levels.

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Fun Mineral-Filled White Blend From the Loire Valley

Today’s Story: Domaine de Bellevue

Domaine de Bellevue was established by Jérôme Brétaudeau in the Muscadet wine region of France’s Loire Valley. Not far from the Atlantic Ocean, the domaine sits in a maritime climate on granite soils where the wines are often low in alcohol and high in acidity with pronounced mineral characteristics. Domaine de Bellevue consists of 12 hectares (30 acres) of vineyards which are all farmed organically since 2009. Jérôme is in the process of moving to full biodynamic viticulture now. Jérôme works with 11 different varieties which is somewhat unusual in the region, and they include Merlot, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Gris, Savagnin, and Chardonnay to name a few. Winemaking here is rather traditional and minimally invasive so the wines can express themselves and the terroir in honest fashion, and they typically age in concrete eggs or clay amphorae.

Today’s Wine: 2019 La Justice

75% Chardonnay, 25% Savagnin; 12% ABV

The 2019 La Justice is pale gold in color. Given some time to open up in the glass, the aromas are of pronounced intensity and the nose showcases notes of yellow apple skins, lemon peel, stone fruit, white lily, flint, oyster shell, sea salt, and vanilla bean. There’s also a note somewhat reminiscent of cotton candy. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of baked yellow apple, ripe pear, tropical citrus, white floral blossom, dill, chalk, and brine. This dry white blend is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a long finish. Very fun and enjoyable to drink.

Price: $46. I think this is pretty fairly priced and even a good value given its complexity, balance, length, and fun factor. While the palate isn’t as intense as the nose, there are a lot of great factors at play here and this even reminds me a little bit of white Burgundy but with a heavier mineral presence.

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Great Value Pinot Noir to Stand Up to the Cult Wineries of the Russian River Valley

Today’s Story: Little Boat

Little Boat is a very small wine producer based out of Sonoma, California and it was established out of passion for wine and a father’s love for his son. I first learned of Little Boat when I met proprietor José Ignacio Cuenca at a Los Angeles restaurant, where we struck up a friendly conversation about family, wine, and other topics. I also had the pleasure of meeting his son Mateo, who created the artwork on the Little Boat labels. Little Boat is a group effort, and José works with Brad Alper, William Knuttel, Mike Miller, and the Treyzon family to craft these wines. They also receive help from sommeliers Harley Carbery, Phillip Dunn, Lucas Payá, and Robert Smith MS. Little Boat produces a range of wines including most notably a Russian River Valley Chardonnay, a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and a Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. (I previously wrote about the Pinot and Cab). There is also a rosé, very limited quantities of a reserve Pinot Noir, and a Rioja! Placement of these wines is highly selective, and they are generally found in high-end hotels and restaurants or highly curated wine stores.

I previously wrote about the 2018 Little Boat Pinot Noir and 2016 Little Boat Cabernet Sauvignon, so I’m excited to review the 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve today.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve

100% Pinot Noir; 13.7% ABV

The 2018 Pinot Noir Reserve is pale ruby in color. Aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of black cherry, black raspberry, red plum, violet, leather, cracked pepper, and cedar. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity and the palate showcases notes of strawberry, red cherry, dried red licorice, tobacco, underbrush, charred green herbs, and mild baking spice. This dry red is light- to medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This wine can stand up to any of the “big names” of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, and it’s certainly a treat to taste.

Price: $45. This offers considerable value for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, particularly given its intensity, complexity, and balance at this young age. As I tasted this and the “cult” RRV winery names popped into my mind, I was truly impressed by this Little Boat bottling.

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A Great Entry-Level Sweet Madeira

Today’s Story: The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Madeira

The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Madeira is a project launched in 1998 by Ricardo Freitas (owner of Madeira producer Vinhos Barbeito) and Mannie Berk (owner of The Rare Wine Company). The project was launched out of a mutual appreciation and love of Madeira, a wine that was America’s most highly sought-after during the 18th and 19th centuries before falling into obscurity. With a core portfolio of wines names after American cities where Madeira was most-prized, the Historic Series Madeira bottlings are meant to capture the unique style of each place. These include the Baltimore Rainwater Special Reserve, Charleston Sercial Special Reserve, Savannah Verdelho Special Reserve, Boston Bual Special Reserve, and New York Malmsey Special Reserve which showcase the tendency for drier Madeira in the southern states and sweeter Madeira in the northern states. In addition to this core portfolio, the Historic Series Madeira also includes limited releases named for Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, and the city of New Orleans. All wines are blended with Madeira ranging from 10 to 60 years old, and they are meant to be affordable bottlings to re-introduce this great wine to wider groups of consumers.

I previously reviewed the NV Charleston Sercial Special Reserve Madeira from The Rare Wine Co.

Today’s Wine: NV New York Malmsey Special Reserve Madeira

100% Malvasia; 19.5% ABV

The NV New York Malmsey Special Reserve is medium tawny in color though it has brownish hues since I’ve had this open for a few days. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing notes of fruitcake, spiced plum, prune, fig, clove, coffee grounds, toffee, and walnut. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the palate displays notes of dates, fig, fruitcake, sweet tobacco, caramel, mocha, browned butter, and oaky spice. This sweet Madeira is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $50. I think this is very solid value for Madeira, as the balance, length, intensity, and complexity here are quite profound. Though there are certainly better Madeiras out there, this Malmsey and the others from The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series are great beginner bottlings.

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Fun Natural Red Blend From a Relatively New California Producer

Today’s Story: Lo-Fi Wines

Lo-Fi Wines was established in 2014 by lifelong friends Mike Roth and Craig Winchester. Centered in a belief wines should be honest and transparent representations of their vintage and variety, Lo-Fi wines are meant to be consumed as everyday drinkers to pair with a broad range of foods and not locked away in the cellar. Through minimal intervention winemaking, Lo-Fi wines ferment naturally with native yeasts and see minimal to zero sulfur additions and no pH adjustments. The wines age in neutral oak barrels and are mostly bottled unfiltered, with the final product an easy-drinking and low alcohol wine. A number of the wines also see whole cluster fermentation and carbonic maceration, including the wine I am reviewing today.

Today’s Wine: 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir

72% Gamay, 28% Pinot Noir; 12% ABV

The 2020 Gamay / Pinot Noir is pale garnet in color and it almost has hues of deep salmon. This is unfiltered so there is some sediment as well. A bit funky right out of the bottle, I decided to let this open up in the glass for about 45 minutes and it was singing. The aromas are of medium intensity, though the nose is gorgeous with aromas of bright red cherry, strawberry, cranberry, gamey red meat, hibiscus, white pepper, and stony mineral. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of cherry, wild raspberry, freshly picked strawberry, rose, violet, white pepper, and savory green herbs. This dry red blend is light-bodied with medium (+) acidity, low tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. 710 cases produced.

Price: $22. I think this offers very solid value, particularly given its high quality, balance, and drinkability. While this could be more intense or longer on the finish, I don’t think that’s necessarily a focal point as these are meant to be consumed young and enjoyed by all.

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Beautiful Representation of Cabernet Franc From an Outstanding Loire Valley Producer

Today’s Story: Domaine Bernard Baudry

Domaine Bernard Baudry was established in 1975 by Bernard Baudry in the village of Cravant-les-Coteaux within the Chinon AOC of France’s Loire Valley. Bernard began with 2 hectares (5 acres) of vines though he grew his domain to 32 hectares (79 acres) of vineyards over time. Bernard’s vineyards are planted to about 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Chenin Blanc, and their soil types vary greatly across gravel, limestone clay, and sandy limestone throughout the Chinon AOC. Though the vineyards have always been maintained without chemical weed killers, all viticulture has been entirely organic since 2006. Winemaking is meant to be minimally invasive, which begins with manual harvest and gravity-fed movements in the cellar. All plots are harvested and vinified separately, following native yeast fermentation with no adjustments or additions. Some wines age in cement vats and others in oak barrels (when they want more structure) before most are bottled unfiltered. The rosé, white wines, and Les Granges are filtered for bottling. Remaining a family venture, Bernard’s son Matthieu joined in 2000 and largely leads winemaking today.

Today’s Wine: 2017 Le Clos Guillot

100% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV

The 2017 Le Clos Guillot is deep purple in color and opaque. I decanted this for about an hour, which really helps to bring out some of the more nuanced notes at this stage. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the nose showcasing aromas of blackberry, plum, black raspberry, cigar box, green bell pepper, tomato, leather, pencil shavings, wet gravel, and crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium (+) intensity, with the palate displaying notes of black cherry, blackberry, red plum, black tea leaf, dried underbrush, green bell pepper, mushroom, and crushed gravel. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but fine-grained tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $35. I think this is a very solid value wine, though it won’t be for everyone. The quality is incredibly high and the complexity at such a young age is great. The only reason I say it might not be for everyone is it’s incredibly terroir-driven and those classic Cab Franc bell pepper and green notes are there that can sometimes turn people away.

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My First Time Exploring Welschriesling

Today’s Story: Weingut Werlitsch

Weingut Werlitsch is a relatively small family-owned and operated wine estate and farm located in southern Styria in Austria. Viticulture and winemaking are spearheaded by Ewald Tscheppe, who took over this family property at the age of 26. Though the Tscheppe family had been involved in winemaking and farming for generations, Ewald is part of a newer generation making exciting, complex, and long-lived wines while advocating for biodynamic viticulture and minimally invasive winemaking.

The estate consists of about 18 hectares (44 acres) with roughly 12.5 hectares (31 acres) planted to vineyards and the balance dedicated to the winery, forests, pastures, and gardens. Weingut Werlitsch is certified biodynamic, and practically all of the vineyard work is done by hand thanks to the very steep slopes that make up the property. The vineyards are planted predominantly to Sauvignon Blanc and Morillon (a biotype of Chardonnay), though Ewald also grows Welschriesling. All fruit is hand-harvested, experiences slow pressing, and goes through fermentation only with native yeasts. Élevage is in large barrels and Austrian foudres, and the wines typically age for a minimum of 18 months but may see as long as 36 months. Bottling is accomplished with the wines unfiltered, and no SO2 is added unless absolutely necessary.

I previously wrote about the 2017 Glück, 2017 Ex Vero I, and 2017 Freude from Weingut Werlitsch so feel free to revisit those notes to get a better feel for their portfolio!

Today’s Wine: 2018 Welschriesling vom Opok

100% Welschriesling; 12% ABV

The 2018 Welschriesling vom Opok is medium gold in color. Given some time to open up in the glass, the aromas are of medium (+) intensity with the nose showcasing notes of ripe yellow apple, lemon zest, honeysuckle, savory green herbs, shaved ginger, dried pine, and wet stone. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of mango, yellow apple, a hint of pineapple juice, lemon, ginger, white wildflower, and limestone. This dry white is light- to medium-bodied with high acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish. This is my first ever Welschriesling, and is definitely a fun one to start with.

Price: $30. I think this is reasonably priced given its quality, complexity, and balance though I do prefer some of the other Werlitsch bottlings if I had to pick. The Ex Vero I was outstanding for around the same price or a few dollars more, and I loved both the Glück and Freude though they come in at a much higher price-point around $50.

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Mature and Elegant Napa Cab With “Cult” Beginnings

Today’s Story: BOND

BOND was established in 1996 by H. William Harlan and Bob Levy with the goal of creating single vineyard designate wines from a small number of carefully selected Napa Valley vineyards of “Grand Cru” quality. Though BOND does not own their vineyard sites, they currently have partnerships with five vineyard owners and all vineyard management is done by the BOND team themselves rather than the owners. Today BOND produces the Grand Crus of Melbury (est. 1999), Vecina (est. 1999), St. Eden (est. 2001), Pluribus (est. 2003), and Quella (est. 2006). They also craft a second wine called Matriarch (which I am reviewing today) and it is a blend of all five sites from the wine not included in the Grand Cru bottlings. The five vineyard sites are small hillside vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon, ranging from 7 to 11 acres in size. Total annual production for each Cru ranges from about 400-700 cases, whereas production of the Matriarch is less than 1,500 cases.

Today’s Wine: 2002 Matriarch

100% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.5% ABV

The 2002 Matriarch is deep garnet in color but it is still incredibly dark and opaque for its age. I decanted this for sediment, but it really only took about 30 minutes to show beautifully. The aromas are of pronounced intensity, with the incredibly complex nose showcasing notes of crème de cassis, stewed plum, prune, fig, licorice, cigar box, leather, damp earth, graphite, mushroom, dried green herbs, and chocolate. Flavors are also of pronounced intensity, and the equally complex palate displays notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherry, fig, rich baked plum, tobacco, licorice, charred herbs, wet soil, cocoa powder, and coffee grounds. This dry red is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, mature medium tannins, high alcohol, and a long finish. Absolutely gorgeous, and I don’t think it gets any better from here.

Price: $180. This is very appropriately priced, and given the rest of the wines in the Harlan family portfolio it offers great value if you’d like to see what their wines are all about. With the Matriarch much like the Mascot, these are wines that remain a staple for me when I purchase my Napa Cab allocations.

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Delicate and Easy-Going Australian Semillon

Today’s Story: Torbreck Vintners

Torbreck Vintners was established in 1994 by David Powell in Marananga of the Barossa Valley in South Australia. Torbreck began by sharecropping fruit from an abandoned dry-grown and old vine vineyard, though overtime they did purchase estate vineyards but continue to source from growers to fill out the portfolio of wines. Torbreck specializes in Shiraz, however they produce wines with other Rhône varieties including Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. Many of Torbreck’s source vineyards are generations old, with some of the vines producing fruit for their RunRig bottling 120-160 years old. Yields are painfully low, resulting in wines that are very complex and representative of their terroir. Winemaking is characterized by minimal intervention, and the Torbreck team views themselves as custodians rather than heavy-handers in the cellar. The wines age in barrel for as long as they deem fit to allow for the wine’s best expression, and all bottling is accomplished unfined and unfiltered. Each vintage, roughly 70,000 cases are produced.

Today’s Wine: 2019 Woodcutter’s Semillon

100% Semillon; 13% ABV

The 2019 Woodcutter’s Semillon is medium straw in color and fully transparent. The aromas are of medium intensity, with the very delicate nose showcasing notes of white peach, lemon peel, white lily, lemongrass, beeswax, dried tomato leaf, and marine mineral. The flavors are also of medium intensity, while the palate displays notes of white peach, ripe pear, honeydew melon, chamomile, beeswax, and saline. This dry white is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium alcohol, and a medium length finish. This is one of those great summer wines that is simple, straightforward, and delicious.

Price: $20. I’d say this is somewhere in the fairly-priced to good value range. While it’s not the most “exciting” wine, it is very well-made and does offer a fair amount of complexity and great balance for the price.

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Terroir-Driven Oregon Pinot Noir for a Great Price

Today’s Story: Evening Land Vineyards

Evening Land Vineyards is a highly-regarded producer of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay located in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon. Though the label was “officially” established in 2005, their historic and world-class Seven Springs Vineyard dates back to 1984 when it was planted by Al MacDonald. Though the winery has changed hands a number of times, labels have been updated, and fruit sources have changed, sommelier Rajat Parr and winemaker Sashi Moorman joined in 2014 and remain involved to this day. With their Seven Springs estate vineyard, which has been dry-farmed since inception and shifted to biodynamic viticulture in 2007, Parr and Moorman oversee significant Pinot Noir plantings followed by Chardonnay and then smaller amounts of Gamay. The Pinot clones include Calera, Pommard, Swan, and Mt. Eden, and they have produced some of the greatest wines in Oregon winemaking history with the vineyard in its earlier days a source for many highly-regarded wineries.

Today’s Wine: 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir

100% Pinot Noir; 13.5% ABV

The 2018 Seven Springs Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color and rather opaque. Given how young this is, I poured it into the glass and let it open up for about an hour and a half before drinking. The aromas are of medium intensity, however the nose is rather complex and offers gorgeous aromas of black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry, dried violet, forest floor, mushroom, asphalt, and savory green herbs. Meanwhile the flavors are also of medium intensity and the palate displays notes of black cherry, blackberry, a touch of anise, tobacco, purple florals, charred green herbs, a hint of smoke, and crushed rock. This dry red is medium-bodied with high acidity, medium (-) tannins, medium alcohol, and a long finish.

Price: $35. I think this offers very strong value, particularly given the complexity and terroir-driven nature of the wine at a young age. This is also already beautifully balanced, and certainly benefits from lengthy air time at this stage.

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Expressive and Exciting Sta. Rita Hills Syrah

Today’s Story: Black Sheep Finds

Black Sheep Finds (Holus Bolus and The Joy Fantastic) is a family owned and operated winery established by husband and wife Peter Hunken and Amy Christine in 2003 in Lompoc, California. Peter began his winemaking career in 2001 with Stolpman Vineyards, and also co-founded Piedrasassi where he remained until shifting all his attention to Black Sheep Finds in 2008. Amy has an impressive wine resume as well, earning the Master of Wine designation in 2013 and working with Kermit Lynch in Southern California.

Until 2015, Peter and Amy sourced all fruit for their wines from organically farmed vineyards in Santa Barbara County. In 2016, however, they completed the first harvest in their own estate vineyard named The Joy Fantastic which they began developing in 2014. The Joy Fantastic Vineyard is certified organic (CCOF) and consists of 5 acres planted to Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay, though Black Sheep Finds does continue to work with select vineyard partners as well. The partners include Bien Nacido Vineyard (where they source Roussanne), Presqu’ile Vineyard (where they source small amounts of Syrah), and John Sebastiano Vineyard (where they source Syrah for Holus Bolus).

I previously wrote about Black Sheep Finds when I reviewed their 2017 Holus Bolus Franc de Pied Syrah.

Today’s Wine: 2017 The Joy Fantastic Syrah

100% Syrah; 13% ABV

The 2017 Joy Fantastic Syrah is medium purple in color and opaque. I decanted this for 1.5 hours and drank it over the following hour or so. The aromas are of medium (+) intensity, with the nose showcasing aromas of blueberry, blackberry, plum, violet, smoked meat, pine, black peppercorn, and crushed rock. Meanwhile the flavors are of medium intensity, and the palate displays notes of blueberry, red plum, sweet tobacco, charred green herbs, smoke, cracked black pepper, and bitter dark chocolate. This dry red is medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium but tightly-knit tannins, medium alcohol, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $45. I think this is pretty fairly priced, though there are better “values” out there in my opinion. What’s really impressive here though is how complex and expressive the wine is, particularly given the very young age of the Joy Fantastic estate vineyard. I’ll certainly be revisiting this wine over the years to come.