Category Archives: Napa

New Project Yields Profound Wine

It’s not often a wine made in California strikes me as “profound.” Don’t get me wrong, the Golden State makes delicious wines. The usually reliable climate in most of California’s winemaking regions leads to steady ripening and big, full-bodied, fruit forward wines. But for a young California wine to remind me of experiences I’ve occasionally had with old Barolo or mature white Burgundy? Those rare moments of awe when you sit in silence with a wine, sensing secrets and mysteries embedded there along with the sublime pleasure one is experiencing. That, for me, is an encounter with something profound.
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Grand Daddy of California Wine Events: Family Winemakers San Francisco

The major stars of the tasting for me, with strong lineups overall and one or more wines rating 93 points or higher, were Bien Nacido, Benovia, Chateau Montelena, Grgich Hills, Herb Lamb, Kaena, Keenan, Ladera, Lagier Meredith, Lamborn Family, L’Aventure, Ottimino, Paloma, Saxon Brown, Seavey, Thomas Fogarty and Vino Noceto. Continue reading

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Chardonnay, Napa, Paso Robles, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Rosé, Russian River, Santa Barbara, Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, Syrah, Zinfandel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

California Wines Showing More Balance: SF Family Winemakers Tasting

What was noteworthy for me among the wines I tasted was a decline in the overripe versions of these wines that had come to dominate production over the last two decades. Due, I’m sure, to the relative coolness of the last few vintages in California, as well as to a conscious aim for higher acid, more balanced wines by an increasing number of winemakers here, I tasted many more balanced, lower alcohol Cabernets this year. Continue reading

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Chardonnay, Napa, Paso Robles, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Russian River, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, Syrah, Zinfandel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Silver Oak: Reappraising a California Cabernet Icon

When I talk to people who say they really like California Cabernet, but who don’t otherwise seem all that knowledgeable about wine, nine times out of ten they tell me Silver Oak is one of their favorites and/or the one they collect. Silver Oak has also long been among the top selling wines at restaurants, and was number two again in 2012 on Wine & Spirits Magazine’s Restaurant Top 50 list of top selling Cabernets. For wine geeks, on the other hand, few major labels are more regularly derided than Silver Oak. Many in the highly knowledgeable wine crowd have taken to referring to the wine as “Silver Joke.” Why does this brand, whose origins date back to the early 1970s, so sharply split casual wine lovers from ardent wine geeks?
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2001 Napa Cabernets: Ripeness, High Alcohol & Accelerated Maturity

I think there are probably a number of factors that went into accelerating the age cycle for the 2001s we tasted, but the higher alcohol levels and lower acidities in these wines, as compared to very ageworthy Cabernets from the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s I’ve enjoyed, certainly must have played a major role in making many of these wines more enjoyable in their youth than 11 years on. While there was rich, plush fruit on many of the best of these, few of them were showing the kind of structure required for ageworthy Cabernets. Continue reading

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State of Zinfandel 2012: ZAP Grand Tasting

I know that it is hard to grow Zinfandel, in part because individual grapes tend to ripen at very different rates. It seems clear from a tasting like this that it is not so easy to make very good Zinfandel either. I applaud the producers who manage to do so, crafting complex and intensely flavorful wines, often from very old, extremely low yielding vines. Continue reading

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Cabernet Sauvignon: A Question of Style

Cabernet Sauvignon is a major “gateway drug” into the joys of drinking wine. Some styles emphasize the rich black currant, cassis, plum and/or berry fruit and de-emphasize the grape’s huge tannins. It’s those very tannins that can help a Cab to age into something with even greater complexity and range of flavors but that often keep it from being something enjoyable to drink in the short term. Continue reading

Posted in Bordeaux, Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Napa, Santa Cruz Mountains | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments