Meeting George Bursick of Maxville Winery

Tasting Maxville Wines in Chiles Valley

What a fantastic wine tasting and lunch today with George Bursick, Executive Winemaker of Maxville Winery. We tasted the wine in a very historic place, the restaurant at the Society of Illustrators in Manhattan. I was excited to attend this private tasting because I was curious to try wine from Maxville Winery in the little-known Chiles Valley. The Chiles Valley was first established in 1840 and became an AVA in 1990.   The Chiles Valley is a sub-appellation of the Napa Valley nestled in the Vaca Mountains.  This might sound like a lot of geography before we get into the tasting, but geography is everything when it comes to wine. Most visitors think of all wineries being in the “Napa Valley” or in “Sonoma,” yet there are many different micro-climates in this region. Though I have never been to the Chiles Valley, after tasting these ...

Nine Savory White Wines, Because Autumn Is Not All about Reds

Let’s say that for dinner you’re having cod stew with leeks, potatoes and chorizo or a spicy shrimp risotto or grilled swordfish with a black pepper crust. This is not the time for a delicate, winsome little white wine and probably not even a lighter red, It’s the time for a savory white wine, earthy, bracing, saline. These are especially appropriate for these chilly Fall weeks that lead into Winter. Herein, I offer nine examples of such savory white wines, not really accommodating as aperitif quaffs, because of their assertive personalities, but certainly amenable for heartier fish and seafood dishes. Enjoy!
The Apaltagua Reserva Pinot Gris 2017, San Antonio Valley, Chile, displays a pale straw-gold color and seductive aromas of mango and begonia, with notes of green olive and preserved lemon and a background of limestone and flint; the wine is quite lively and alluring on the palate, supple ...

Attractive California Cabernet Sauvignon Picks: Flora Springs Winery, Addendum Wines, and Murrieta’s Well

Hello Friends,

Nearly every day when wine o'clock approaches, you can find me uncorking or unscrewing a new adventure. Being a wine enthusiast, a wine writer, and someone who appreciates the liquid expression of place, a person’s vision, and Mother Nature’s influence, I find wine to be one of the most intriguing beverages around. The world of wine offers endless opportunities to learn and taste new things.

The wines featured in this post (the three Cs) are complex, complete, and compelling Cabernet Sauvignon wines. They are all from California, and from 2015—a vintage largely marked by warmth, drought, and accelerated harvest, which led to lower yields and high-quality fruit. Appealing, fruit-dominant Cabernet Sauvignon wines with big personalities are king of Napa Valley, and deservingly so. However, under-the-radar wine regions like Livermore Valley, situated just east of San Francisco, should not be overlooked—especially for medium- to higher-tier value.

With ...

Wine of the Day, No. 437

October purports to be International Merlot Month, though why that should be the case leaves me scratching the old noggin. Other wines get a day of recognition, but merlot gets a month? Well, it’s all marketing, n’est-ce pas? Anyway, the Wine of the Day is not the venue in which to sort out the problems inherent in the grape and its character. Rather, let’s look at a fine example of the grape from a venerable winery in California. The Markham Vineyards Merlot 2015, Napa Valley, is not only delicious but distinctive enough that it doesn’t feel like a cabernet sauvignon wannabe. A blend of 90 percent merlot grapes with 5 percent each cabernet sauvignon and petite sirah — the latter an unorthodox touch — the wine aged 15 and a half months in French and American oak, 32 percent new barrels. The color is dark ruby-purple with a vivid violet ...

#MerlotMe In The Kitchen: A #WinePW Special

wines for fall, Sonoma wine, Napa wine
#MerlotMe wines from California — an October celebration. Photo Credit: Jill Barth
Many years ago I walked into a wine store and the clerk approached me with a question: “What’s your favorite wine?” Hmmm. It’s an honest question, but anyone who has tasted as much wine as I have will never be able to provide an answer. Another version of the inquiry sounds like this, “What sort of wine varieties do you like best?” Same hesitation, on my part. Even a single variety can present itself as endless. Perhaps none more so than merlot, which thrives in France, Italy, Chile, the United States and Australia. Simplified, merlot provides silky tannins and red or dark fruit — it’s complex and depended upon in blends but can fashion a staid single varietal wine. I’ve found that versatility on the table is a characteristic that is often overlooked. To prove that ...
J Lohr, Robert Hall, Still Waters, Ancient Peaks, california wine
#MerlotMe 2
#MerlotMe 1

Wine of the Day, No. 401

Time to get back to the Wine of the Day, a series that has been on hiatus since May 25. For today, let’s look at the Rombauer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Napa Valley, produced by a winery well-known for cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and zinfandel. The grapes are fermented 90 percent in stainless steel and 10 percent in neutral French oak barrels, and the wine ages three months in this combination, the wood lending a nuance of layering to the texture. The color is pale straw-gold; the bouquet is an appealing melange of lime peel, lemongrass and pear, highlighted by notes of lychee and grapefruit, limestone and flint; a few moments in the glass bring out touches of fig and yellow plum with a hint of gooseberry. After this panoply of delights, the wine feels both transparent and dense on the palate, where lively acidity animates citrus and stone fruit flavors ...

12 California Chardonnays I Liked

You may be thinking apropos the title of this post, “F.K., why didn’t you just say ’12 California Chardonnays’? Why add ‘I liked'”? Because, Dear Reader, I don’t like many chardonnays made in California, so when I come across a dozen that I can write about together, I want to emphasize that fact. The reason, as you probably know from having been a devoted reader of this blog — bless your little pointy heads! — is that so many chardonnays from The Golden State are saturated with swamps of oak that I open even one with trepidation, and when I’m looking for an appropriate white wine to drink with dinner, I will open just about anything other than chardonnay. It’s a real crap-shoot, this whole chardonnay business. The wines reported on in this post age in French oak barrels for varying amounts of time and using various percentages ...

Wine of the Day, No. 393

I came across the Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars “Karia” Chardonnay 2012, Napa Valley, at a trade event hosted by a local distributor. The pioneering Napa Valley winery was purchased in 2007 by a partnership formed by Ste Michelle Estate and Piero Antinori. The Washington-based Ste Michelle imports the wines of Antinori into the United States. Anyway, the Karia ’12 Chardonnay was poured by mistake; the distributor thought it was the 2015, but, boy, the 2012 is an absolute beauty. Made 80 percent in French oak, 20 percent new barrels, and the rest in stainless steel, the wine offers a pale straw-gold hue and intoxicating aromas of apple and apple blossom, classic notes of slightly roasted pineapple and grapefruit and lingering overtones of smoke and almond skin. The attractive texture balances deftly between a dense, almost talc-like character and riveting acidity, providing support for tasty stone-fruit flavors opening to elements of ...

Miner Family Winery 2017 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc

In July 1993 the Oakville and Rutherford AVA's were carved out of the central Napa Valley AVA in order to accentuate their specific micro-climates best suited for Bordeaux varieties. Both areas contained well drained gravely soils and moderately warm with each region influenced by early morning fog and afternoon breezes (with Rutherford warmer, lower in elevation, and less affected by wind and fog). Whereas Cabernet Sauvignon is the principle crop in both AVAs, each also shares an affinity for Sauvignon Blanc. The same is true with the Chiles Valley AVA, another sub-AVA in northeastern Napa Valley. This AVA is located in the Vaca Mountains and has a cooler climate than the majority of Napa Valley due to its higher elevations and a cooling breeze from the Pacific Ocean. Miner Family Wines encompasses these three AVAs with their 2017 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($22) where 40% comes from Rutherford's Shartsis Vineyard, ...

Wine of the Day #375

The Cornerstone Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Napa Valley, was fermented and matured in a combination of stainless steel tanks and neutral French oak barrels. The effect is of a white wine that’s crisp and animated as well as framed by a subtle, supple haze of mildly spicy wood. The color is pale gold; a knock-out, seductive bouquet of smoke and heather, lime peel and pink grapefruit is amply supplied with roasted lemon, lemon balm and verbena. The texture is dense, almost talc-like, yet graceful, elegant and lively on the palate, while flavors are deftly balanced between citrus and stone-fruit; a few moments in the glass add notes of hay, thyme and leafy fig, with hints of limestone and lemongrass on the finish. 14.1 percent alcohol. A beautifully made sauvignon blanc for drinking through 2020 with roasted and grilled fish and seafood. Winemakers were Charles Thomas and Kari Auringer. Excellent. ...

A Celebration of Zinfandel, Part One: Five Wineries

The ZAP conference held in San Francisco in January — that’s Zinfandel Advocates & Producers — gave me the chance to discover terrific wineries I had not encountered before and become reacquainted with some old favorites, to taste several phenomenal older zinfandels and, sadly, to try a few examples that exemplify everything that can go wrong with the grape. C’est la vie. I’ll post to the blog on all these categories eventually, but today and coming up soon, I’ll celebrate 10 wineries that are doing everything right. Of necessity, these notations are brief, reflecting the quick nature of the tasting situations.
Winemaker for Berryessa Gap is Nicole Salengo, whose principle is to produce balanced 100-percent varietal zinfandels that are not overly bold or over-ripe. Grapes are hand-picked, hand-sorted and hand-punched down three times a day during fermentation. Aging is in used and neutral French oak barrels. The vineyard and ...

Weekend Wine Notes: A Range of Cabernets

The range of these cabernet sauvignon wines starts with geography; we touch Napa and Sonoma in California, Clare Valley and Coonawarra in Australia, and Chile’s Maipo Valley. The deployment of the cabernet grape ranges from a 3/4 majority to 100 percent. Prices range from $20 to $140 and ratings from Very Good+ to Exceptional, implying that at least in those directions there’s something here for everyone who likes the grape. The vintages are 2013, ’14 and ’15. As usual in these Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew the details of technical, geological, historical and personnel matters for the sake of incisive reviews ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks and designed to pique your interest and whet your palate. Enjoy … always in sensible moderation. With one exception, these wines were samples for review.

Burgess Cellars Estate Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Napa Valley. 14.7% alc. 75% ...

Aglianico Connections in the Napa Valley

I recently attended the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in St. Helena, California. At each meal, we were offered a selection of wines from Napa Valley Vintners, including a segment called A Toast to New Discoveries with Unexpected Napa Wines. In that lineup, a certain wine caught my eye: Benessere Vineyards 2014 Anglianico St. Helena.
red wine from Napa, Italian wines in California
The vines in February at Benessere Vineyards in St. Helena, Napa County. Courtesy: Benessere Vineyards
“Aglianico is a dark-skinned Italian variety indigenous to the Campania region around Naples. It produces a deep ruby wine with powerful aromas and flavors and significant tannin,” says the winery. “Our friends Bill and Kathy Collins grow the only Aglianico in Napa Valley, all of which comes to Benessere. We source Aglianico and Zinfandel (planted in the early 1900s) from the historic ‘Collins Holystone Vineyard’ adjacent to our estate.” My curiosity was sternly grabbed. The only Aglianico in Napa? ...
Italian wine from Napa, Napa Valley Vintners, Wine from California
Collins Holystone Vineyard, Red wine, Napa Wine, Napa Green, Fish Friendly Farming

Wine of the Day, No. 353

The Hess Collection “Allomi” Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa Valley, could stand as an exemplar of that famed region’s penchant for sleek, chiseled cabernet wines. Aged 18 months in American oak, 25 percent new barrels, this cabernet, a blend of 92 percent cabernet sauvignon with 6 percent petite sirah and 2 percent petit verdot, offers a dark ruby-purple hue and heady aromas of ripe and fleshy black cherries, raspberries and plums permeated by iodine and mint that unfurl just a hint of vanilla, cloves and bittersweet chocolate. With its dense, gritty tannins, the thing feels hewed from flint, delivering a lithe and supple texture and intense, concentrated black-skin fruit that delves deep into areas of walnut shell, brambles and forest floor; vibrant acidity lends the wine lips-smacking drinkability, all concluding in a large-framed, granitic finish. 14.8 percent alcohol. Winemaker was Dave Guffy. Now through 2023 to ’25 with your heartiest ...

Quick Sip: A Delicious Trio of Red, White & Sparkling with Addendum Wines, Bonterra, and Casa Valduga

Hello Friends,

Just about every day, as wine o'clock approaches, you can find me uncorking or unscrewing a new adventure. Being a wine enthusiast, a wine writer, and someone who appreciates the liquid expression of place, a person’s vision, and Mother Nature’s influence, I find wine to be one of the most intriguing beverages out there. The world of wine offers endless opportunities to learn and taste new things.

The wines featured in this post are all worthy of your attention and dinner table, and they are sure to make that special occasion even more memorable. But if you’re like me, don’t wait for a special occasion; make today that special occasion. 

You can start by popping the cork and enjoying one of these delicious wines any time you like. Good friends and food are optional—but are highly recommended. For further information and where you can find these wines, ...

Weekend Wine Notes: A Case of Sauvignon Blanc

We touch on several regions today on this brief survey of sauvignon blanc wines: Lake County, Monterey, Napa and Sonoma in California, the poetic Horse Heaven Hills in Washington, the North Fork of Long Island, and New Zealand’s Marlborough appellation. The wines range for tasty little quaffers to products that display great tone, character and dignity. As usual in this series, I eschew data of the technical, historical, geographical/geological and personal for quick, incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks, designed to whet your palate and pique your interest. Enjoy, but in moderation. These wines were samples for review.

District 7 Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Monterey. 13.5% alc. Pale gold hue; a hit of pure lime peel, celery seed, lemongrass and gooseberry, hay and thyme; very dry but juicy, displaying taut acidity and flint-like minerality and a pleasing silky texture. Very Good+. About $16.

50 Great Wines of 2017

The prices of these 50 Great Wines of 2017 range from an unprecedented $15 to a whopping $250. Not that I expect My Readers to hasten out and snatch up a bottle of wine that costs $250, but when an extraordinary wine crosses my horizon and I rate it “Exceptional,” well, it goes on this list no matter the price. That’s one of the criteria for this annual roster: Every wine I rated Exceptional in 2017 is included automatically, followed by wines I rated Excellent and that I go back through the reviews and parse very carefully. Now I’m sure My Readers understand that by “50 Great Wines” I’m not saying that these are the 50 greatest wines in the world, just that they’re great wines — as I interpret greatness — that I tasted during the year in question. What makes a wine great? Purity, intensity, integrity, authenticity, as ...