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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 ...

12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine: 11th Day

Pricing is power, but sometimes producers get ahead of themselves in terms of ambitious tariffs. These examples today illustrate how makers of sparkling wine in the Charmat process of second fermentation in tank, rather than in the individual bottle, as in Champagne and other regions, over-reached and did a disservice to consumers. These wines were samples for review.
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Le Grand Courtage sparkling wines are made in Nuits-Saint-Georges in Burgundy but have nothing to do with that great appellation and its 27 Premier Cru vineyards. Le Grand Courtage “Grand Cuvée” Blanc de Blancs, nv, for example, is a blend of chardonnay, ugni blanc, colombard and chenin blanc; of that quartet of grapes, only chardonnay is permitted in Burgundy, which is why the Grand Courtage wines — there’s also a brut rosé — carry the broadest possible designation: France. Nothing in the material associated with the products indicates the fashion of ...

Addendum: Another Legacy of Fess Parker

For coonskin-cap-wearing Baby Boomers, Fess Parker’s legacy will always be the lead characters in the television series he starred in — Davy Crockett (1954-55) and Daniel Boone (1964-70). Once he retired from acting, Parker, who stood a commanding 6-feet 5-inches tall, launched into the real estate and hotel/resort business, then following his dream of starting a winery in Santa Barbara County in 1989, focusing on Rhone Valley grape varieties. Parker died in 2010, but his family continues to expand the winery’s activities with reach into Napa Valley. The family includes daughter Ashley Parker-Snider; son Eli Parker, CEO; and Ashley’s husband Tim Snider, president. Addendum involves cabernet sauvignon from Rutherford and Atlas Peak, the latter site being the well-known Stagecoach Vineyard. Winemaker is Blair Fox. These are limited edition, expensive wines that are, as the big wine magazines say, approvingly, “thoroughly oaked,” though they’re too thoroughly oaked for my taste. The ...

Big Deal Red Wines, Part One

What qualifies as a “Big Deal” wine? You could say price, and while that enters in it’s not the determining factor. You could say a “big” wine in terms of power and structure and alcohol content, and those elements could also be important. What really clinches the deal, though, on a Big Deal wine is the producer’s intention that a wine represent the best of the vineyards and the treatment in the winery, a wine that manifests every quality that to the winemaker stands for integrity, purity and intensity, a wine that, in other words, encapsulates the best that a vineyard and a vat of grapes can possibly deliver. Today’s post is the first in a series of perhaps three entries that examine Big Deal red wines from various countries and regions. This post offers 10 wines — mostly cabernet sauvignon-based but also two merlots; two of the wines are ...

Wine of the Day, No. 323

No limp, wimpy red wine here, the Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Merlot 2015, Napa Valley-Carneros, sings of its character is full-throated ease, with rippling muscles and lithe structure, like the person on the treadmill next to you at the gym. If you drive along Highway 29, the central thoroughfare in Napa Valley, Clos Pegase is unmistakable. Designed by well-known architect Michael Graves, the winery, founded in 1984 just south of Calistoga, resembles a post-modern rendition of a Mayan temple. Owner Jan Strem, also an active collector of contemporary art, sold the winery (but not the art) to Vintage Wine Estates in 2013. The vineyard in Carneos was named for Strem’s wife. The wine is a blend of 90 percent merlot and five percent each petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon; it aged 16 months in French oak, 32 percent new barrels. It’s as opaque a black-ruby hue as a wine can ...

Wine of the Day, No. 319

I wonder why the people at Grgich Hills Estate feel it necessary to include on the label of their Fumé Blanc wines the script “Dry Sauvignon Blanc.” Is anyone out there in America worried about picking up by mistake a bottle of sweet sauvignon blanc? I seriously doubt it. Anyway, rhetorical questions aside, the Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc 2015, Napa Valley, displays all the virtues of a wine that’s always one of my favorites and a high point in tasting the sauvignon blanc grape every year. Made from certified organic vineyards, the wine aged six months on the lees in neutral oak barrels, 20 percent in the standard 59-gallon barriques, 80 percent in large old foudres of 900-gallon capacity. It offers a pale straw-gold hue and arresting aromas of roasted lemon and lemon balm, celery seed and lemongrass, lilac, gunflint and graphite. As is typical of this wine — ...