Grand Daddy of California Wine Events: Family Winemakers San Francisco

2013 Family Winemakers at San Francisco's Fort Mason
2013 Family Winemakers at San Francisco’s Fort Mason
The two-day annual Family Winemakers of California Tasting in San Francisco (FW) is the most comprehensive showing of California wines in the state. The event is mainly for trade and media, but it’s open one day to the public for three hours. It’s the one event all year in which great small producers like Paloma and Seavey regularly participate, and is also a forum often used by new labels to debut, hoping to garner distribution and/or retail awareness.

Over 500 wineries belong to the organization, and over 215 were on hand for the event this year, offering about 700 wines.

It is impossible for one person to taste more than a fraction of the wines poured during this event. This year I cheated: Besides participating in both days of the tasting, I also attended the Napa Vintners Association event two days before, at which a lot of the same wineries were represented. I also regularly receive samples from a number of FW participants, and made recent strategic visits to other regular attendees. All in all, from the two-day event and other tastings over the past few months of producers represented there I put together 372 tasting notes on wines from 98 producers, virtually half of those in attendance—i.e., an impossible number to taste and analyze during the course of the two days.

In selecting the producers to taste through at this event, I focus on the strongest, most consistent ones in my tastings over the years whose wines I haven’t otherwise reported on recently, as well as on labels I haven’t tried yet, especially those showing their wines at FW for the first time.

Among the latter group, the standouts for me this year, with one or more wines rating 92 points or higher, were Herb Lamb (93 point Cabernet Sauvignon), Kaena (93+ point Grenache), Somerston (92 point Cabernet Sauvignon) and Valance (92 point Cabernet Sauvignon).

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.

Among the most exciting new finds at the tasting for me were Kaena’s Grenaches, which are among the best of that varietal I’ve ever had from California.

Mikael & Sally Sigouin of Kaena
Mikael & Sally Sigouin of Kaena

Kaena is the project of Mickael and Sally Sigouin in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley. Mickael is also winemaker for Beckmen. All of their Grenaches were strong, but the 2010 Larner Vineyard and 2010 Tierra Alta Vineyard were particularly impressive (93+ and 93 points respectively). The couple really need to work on their website, however, which currently offers no way to order the wines online.

I was also very impressed by the complex and delicious Zinfandels being made by Ottimino, especially the 2010 Biglieri Vineyard (93+ points, $38 from the winery), and the very strong lineup of single vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from Thomas Fogarty, a Santa Cruz winery I profiled here, including the very ageworthy 2011 Pinot Noir Henry Ayrton’s Block Rapley Trail Vineyard (94 points, $80 to mailing list members only).

Carole Meredith & Steve Lagier of Lagier Meredith
Carole Meredith & Steve Lagier of Lagier Meredith

Also amazing, as usual, was the lineup from Lagier Meredith. These are the wines created by U.C. Davis Professor Emeritus Carole Meredith and her winemaker husband Steve Lagier. Their Syrah, made from fruit grown on their estate vineyard, has long been one of California’s most complex and ageworthy. They are also now making a terrific Zinfandel, the first in the U.S. to employ on the label the name reported in Jancis Robinson’s recent book on wine varieties as the earliest confirmed one used for the variety in Croatia where it originated, Tribidrag. In partnership with talented winemaker Aaron Potts, the couple also make delicious wines under the Chester’s Anvil label, including what I think is California’s best Malbec ($40).

My highest rated wines of the entire event were the 2010 Lagier Meredith Syrah (95+ points, $48 from the winery); 2010 L’Aventure Estate Cuvée (95 points, at an average of $74 from U.S. retailers); 2010 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (94+ points, and a good value for highly rated Napa Cab at $46); and 2010 Paloma Merlot (94+ points, $54).

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Barbara Richards and son Sheldon of Paloma

These tastings also reconfirmed a major conclusion of my report on last year’s FW—that California wines are exhibiting more balance—higher acidities and lower alcohol levels, resulting in wines with more vivacity and less heaviness—than was true just a few years ago.

This continues to be facilitated by cool recent vintages—2010 and 2011—but is also attributable to conscious decisions on the part of winemakers and growers, reacting in part to consumer demand.

The result is a lot of really delicious wines that are fit for drinking in the nearer term, good partners for food that don’t knock you out with the high alcohol levels of the past.

This is really notable in Cabernet Sauvignons from cool 2010. Many of these exhibit the kind of savory, loamy character one gets from old-style California Cabs, i.e., from the ‘60s and ‘70s–before the super ripe style of the ‘80s took over.

Good examples of young Cabs in this style besides the Chateau Montelena are the 2010 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon Napa (91+ points, pre-release); 2010 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon Napa (93+ points, $51); 2010 Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon HL Herb Lamb Vineyard (93 points, $150); and 2010 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Mountain Estate Bear Point (91+ points, $49).

For my ratings and tasting notes on all 372 wines, see below.

Ahnfeldt

  • 2011 Ahnfeldt Chardonnay Provocative – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe pineapple nose; ripe pineapple palate; medium finish 84 points

  • 2010 Ahnfeldt Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; brett, VA nose; brett, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish 85 points

Amapola Creek

  • 2010 Amapola Creek Zinfandel Monte Rosso – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Medium dark red violet color; tart berry, briary nose; tight, briary, tart berry palate, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2009 Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark red violet color; black currant, tar nose; black currant, tar palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot) 91 points

Anakota

  • 2004 Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon Helena Dakota Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley
    Dark ruby color; mature, black currant, oak nose; mature, black currant, oak palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points

Ancien

  • 2011 Ancien Chardonnay Carneros Estate – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Light yellow color; almond, hazelnut nose; almond, hazelnut, tart apple palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2012 Ancien Pinot Gris Sangiacomo Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; tart peach nose; tart peach, tart apple palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2011 Ancien Pinot Noir Jouisance Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart red fruit, sous bois nose; tart cherry, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Ancien Pinot Noir Shea Willamette Valley – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; savory, tart red fruit, cranberry nose; savory, tart red fruit, cranberry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Lifted, ripe red fruit, tart cherry nose; ripe red fruit, tart cherry, strawberry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Ancien Pinot Noir Coombsville – USA, California, Napa Valley, Coombsville
    Dark cherry red color; floral, tart cherry nose; floral, tart cherry, roses palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Ancien Pinot Noir Fiddlestix Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

Arger-Martucci

  • 2008 Arger-Martucci Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; VA, tart currant nose; tart currant palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2008 Arger-Martucci Odyssey – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; tart black currant, tart black fruit nose; tart black currant, tart black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah; 22 months in mainly French and Hungarian oak) 89 points

  • 2008 Arger-Martucci Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Dark red violet color; tart red currant, menthol nose; tart red currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (95% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot) 90 points

  • 2007 Arger-Martucci Petite Sirah Old Vine – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; brett, tart currant nose; brett, tart currant, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points

Arrow & Branch
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  • 2012 Arrow & Branch Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light green-tinged yellow color; aromatic, green melon nose; lime, ripe green fruit palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2010 Arrow & Branch – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; tart black currant, leafy nose; tart black currant, leafy palate; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec) 90+ points

  • 2010 Arrow & Branch Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Pre-release (Oct ’13 release) – very dark red violet color; black currant, tart black fruit nose; tasty, black currant, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot) 91+ points

Bacio Divino

  • 2011 Bacio Divino Pinot Noir Lucie Bacigalupi Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry nose; tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 90+ points 90 points

  • 2010 Bacio Divino Vagabond – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; VA, tart plum, pepper nose; tart plum, pepper palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 90 points

  • 2009 Bacio Divino Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; tart black currant, loam nose; tart black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish (14.6% alcohol) 91 points

Bailiwick
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  • 2011 Bailiwick Wines Vermentino – USA, California
    Light yellow color; aromatic, tart pear nose; tart pear, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2010 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Foray – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart black cherry nose; tart black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2010 Bailiwick Wines Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; red pepper, jalapeno, olive nose; red pepper, jalapeno, olive palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2010 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, apple nose; tart cherry, apple palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points 90 points

  • 2010 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Michaud – USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; savory, tart cherry, red berry nose; savory, tart cherry, red berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2010 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Silver Pines Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; smoky, red fruit nose; smoky, red fruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2010 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; savory, tart cherry nose; savory, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

Balverne

  • 2012 Balverne Sauvignon Blanc Forever Wild – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very light yellow color; aromatic, very tart peach, citrus, tart grapefruit nose; tasty, juicy, intense, tart gooseberry, tart citrus, ripe grapefruit palate; medium-plus finish (13.7% alcohol; $25 SRP; sample provided by winery) 91+ points

  • 2012 Balverne Chardonnay Estate Grown Unoaked – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe apple, green apple, tart pear nose; tart apple, very tart pear, mineral, saline palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish (13.8% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 88+ points

  • 2012 Balverne Sangiovese Forever Wild – USA, California, Sonoma County, Chalk Hill
    Medium dark orange pink color; tart red berry, cranberry nose; tasty, juicy, tart cranberry, tart currant palate with medium acidity and drying tannins; medium-plus finish (good pairing with tomato dishes and pizza; 14.1% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 90 points

  • 2010 Balverne Pinot Noir Estate Grown – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; black cherry, vanilla, black cherry syrup, watermelon nose; ripe black cherry, black raspberry, tart berry, ripe watermelon palate; medium-plus finish (13.8% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 89 points

Barlow

  • 2012 Barlow Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Pale green-tinged yellow color; appealing, ripe lime, green melon nose; tasty, focused, lime, tangy citrus palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2009 Barlow Vineyards Barrouge – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, tart black currant nose; tart black currant, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2009 Barlow Vineyards Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; berry, violets, black fruit nose; berry, violets, black fruit palate; medium finish 91 points

  • 2009 Barlow Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; tart black currant nose; tasty, tart black currant, violets palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

Barr

  • 2011 Barr Estate Winery Albariño – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light yellow color; tart peach, tart pear nose; tart peach, tart pear palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2008 Barr Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; maturing, tart black currant, licorice nose; maturing, tart black currant, licorice, tar palate; medium-plus finish (42 months in oak) 86 points

  • 2008 Barr Estate Winery Malbec – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium dark red violet color; tart berry, tar nose; tart berry, tar palate; medium-plus finish F(90% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) 87+ points

  • 2007 Barr Estate Winery Jubilado – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium dark red violet color; black currant, tar nose; tar, espresso palate; medium-plus finish (60% Petit Verdot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon) 88 points

Benovia

  • 2011 Benovia Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium ruby color; appealing, cherry pie, pie crust, baked berry nose; rich, tasty, ripe cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Benovia Pinot Noir Cohn Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, baked cherry nose; tart cherry, raspberry, tart strawberry palate, rich but balanced; medium-plus finish (vineyard planted in ’70s; 20% whole cluster) 92+ points b>

  • 2011 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium ruby color; savory, herbal, light coffee nose; tasty, complex, tart red fruit, coffee, dried herbs palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Benovia Pinot Noir La Pommeraie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium ruby color; rip cherry, cherry pie filling nose; tasty, rich, balanced, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

Bien Nacido
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  • 2011 Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Light yellow color; appealing, tart pear, almond nose; tasty, tart pear, almond palate; medium-plus finish (from Block W) 92+ points

  • 2011 Bien Nacido Vineyards Chardonnay Solomon Hills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Light yellow color; almond, tart pear nose; juicy, almond, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, strawberry, rhubarb palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (14.1% alcohol; old vine Pommard from Q Block, with small amounts from Block G and Block 40) 93+ points

  • 2009 Solomon Hills Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, baked cherry nose; rich, baked cherry, sour cream palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Bjorn
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  • 2010 Bjorn Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    From magnum – very dark purple red violet color; VA, tart black currant nose; tart black currant, violets palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 91 points

Blair

  • 2012 Blair Estate Pinot Gris – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
    Light yellow color; Rainier cherry, ripe peach, apricot nose; rich, Rainier cherry, ripe peach, apricot palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Blair Estate Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
    Medium orange red color; baked cherry, tart cherry nose; baked cherry, tart cherry, black cherry, apricot palate; medium-plus finish (planted in 2007) 90+ points

Ca’ Momi

  • 2012 Ca’ Momi Bianco Di Napa – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light green-tinged yellow color; fresh, orange blossom, tart pear nose; fresh, orange blossom, tart pear palate; short-medium finish 86 points

  • 2012 Ca’ Momi Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, oak nose; oak, baked pear palate with some residual sugar; medium finish 84 points

Cain

  • 2007 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Five – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; pencil lead, tart black currant, tart black fruit nose; tight, dense, tart black currant, pencil lead, tart black plum, light cedar palate with medium acidity; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc) 92 points

  • 2008 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Concept The Benchland – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, tart black currant, tart blackberry nose; tight, tart black currant, tart blackberry nose; tight, tart black currant, tart blackberry, light espresso palate with density and medium acidity; medium-plus finish (48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc, 9% Petit Verdot) 91 points

  • 2008 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Five – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark purple red violet color; pyrazine, tart red currant, bell pepper nose; tart red currant, bell pepper, pyrazine palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot) 87 points

Castello di Amorosa

  • 2012 Castello di Amorosa Gewürztraminer – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Light yellow color; aromatic, appealing, ripe apple, tart pear, light cinnamon, lychee nut, gardenia nose; very tasty, spicy, juicy, ripe pear, lychee nut, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 92 points

  • 2011 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay Reserve Bien Nacido Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Light lemon yellow color; tart pineapple, ripe pear, almond nose; juicy, tart pineapple, ripe lemon, almond palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (14.8% alcohol) 90+ points

  • 2011 Castello di Amorosa Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light lemon yellow color; lemon gelee, tart pear, almond nose; tasty, medium bodied, tart lemon, tart pear, vanilla, almond palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (14.4% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 89 points

  • 2012 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Grigio – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Light yellow color; tart pear, green apple nose; tasty, tart apple, pear palate with crisp acidity; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 90+ points

  • 2011 Castello di Amorosa Pinot Noir Los Carneros – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Medium dark ruby color; ripe cranberry, tart cherry nose; silky textured, tart cherry, tart cranberry, strawberry rhubarb, oak palate; medium finish (14.3% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 88 points

Ceja

  • 2010 Ceja Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Light yellow color; reduction, tart peach, ripe lemon nose; rich, creamy textured, tart peach, ripe lemon, reduction palate; medium finish (no malo) 88 points

  • 2009 Ceja Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; reduction, menthol, red fruit nose; reduction, menthol, red fruit palate; medium-plus finish (13.7% alcohol) 88 points

  • 2008 Ceja Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium ruby color; tart black currant, berry nose; tart black currant, berry, loam palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol) 90 points

Center of Effort

  • 2010 Center of Effort Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Light yellow color; almond, baked pear, baked apple nose; almond, baked pear, baked apple, hazelnut palate; medium-plus finish (14.6% alcohol) 89+ points

  • 2009 Center of Effort Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Light lemon yellow color; tart pineapple, guava nose; tart pineapple, guava, oak palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (10 months in French oak; 14.5% alcohol) 89 points

  • 2009 Center of Effort Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Dark cherry red color; oak, cola,, blackberry nose; oak, cola, blackberry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol) 89 points

  • 2010 Center of Effort Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; black cherry, cola nose; black cherry, cola palate; needs 1-2 years to integrate; medium-plus finish 90 points

Cenyth

  • 2009 Cenyth Proprietary – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark ruby color; tart berry, black currant, brett nose; mature, tart berry, black currant, bret palate; medium-plus finish (47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec) 88 points

Chacewater

  • 2012 Chacewater Riesling – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Light yellow color; appealing, tart peach, ripe pear nose; juicy, tasty, tart pear, tart peach palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (13.8% alcohol) 91 points

  • 2012 Chacewater Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Very light yellow color; smoke, lemon grass nose; tart citrus, lemon grass, gooseberry palate; medium-plus finish (13.8% alcohol) 90+ points

  • 2011 Chacewater Cabernet Sauvignon Sierra Foothills – USA, California
    Medium ruby color; redolent, berry, black currant nose; baked berry, black currant palate; medium-plus finish (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot; 13.7% alcohol) 87 points

  • 2011 Chacewater Merlot Sierra Foothills – USA, California
    Medium ruby color; appealing, cherry, red berry nose; tart cherry, plum palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol) 90 points

  • 2012 Chacewater Syrah Estate – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Light medium cranberry red color; cranberry nose; tart cranberry palate; medium finish (13.9% alcohol) 87+ points

  • 2011 Chacewater Syrah – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
    Dark ruby color; baked black fruit, smoke nose; baked black fruit, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol) 88+ points

  • 2010 Chacewater Petite Sirah – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County
    Very dark ruby color; tart berry, black fruit nose; pepper, tart black fruit, tar palate; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (94% Petite Sirah, 6% Petit Verdot) 91 points

Chateau Montelena

  • 2010 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon (Non Estate) Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, wild berry, mulberry, tart blackberry, violets nose; tight, tasty, ripe mulberry, violets, tart black currant, blackberry palate with sweet tannins; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc; 14 months in French and Eastern European oak, 12% new; 13.9% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 94+ points

Coquelicot
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  • 2011 Coquelicot Winery Riesling Coquelicot Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light yellow color; appealing, ripe peach nose; tasty, ripe peach, pear palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2010 Coquelicot Winery Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light yellow color; tart gooseberry, guava nose; guava, ripe gooseberry palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Coquelicot Winery Sangiovese Santa Ynez Valley – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; red berry, juniper berry nose; juicy, ripe red berry, juniper berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Coquelicot Winery Pinot Noir Coquelicot Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, blackberry, lavender nose; blackberry, lavender palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2010 Coquelicot Winery Mon Amour – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Dark red violet color; aromatic, tart berry, black currant nose; tasty, tart black currant, berry, bramble palate; medium-plus finish (38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, 20% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot) 91 points

Darms Lane
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  • 2012 Darms Lane Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll
    Light yellow color; apple, almond nose; apple, almond palate; medium-plus finish (10 months in French oak, 40-50% new) 91+ points

  • 2011 Darms Lane Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; appealing, black cherry, cola nose; creamy textured, black cherry, cola palate; medium-plus finish (10 months in 50% new French oak) 91+ points

  • 2008 Darms Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Linda’s Hillside Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; baked berry, black currant nose; baked berry, black currant, oak palate; needs 3 years to integrate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Darms Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Bon Passe Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark maroon color; appealing, tart black currant, loam nose; tart black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc) 92 points

Donelan

  • 2011 Donelan Chardonnay Nancie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; appealing, pear, vanilla, pear cream nose; creamy textured, tart pear, vanilla, pear cream, apple cream palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (13.7% alcohol; sample provided by winery; sample provided by winery) 92 points

  • 2011 Donelan Venus – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Light yellow color; tart pear, pear cream, almond nose; rich, creamy textured, almond, tart pear palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (12.5% alcohol; Roussanne fermented in stainless steel and neutral oak with some skin contact; sample provided by winery) 92 points

  • 2011 Donelan Pinot Noir Two Brothers – USA, California, North Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; ripe raspberry, tart cherry nose; juicy, ripe red raspberry, ripe cranberry palate; medium-plus finish (14.4% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 90 points

  • 2009 Donelan Cuvée Moriah – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark red violet color; dried black fruit, dried fig, violets nose; tar, dried berry, tart berry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

Dutton-Goldfield

  • 2011 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Rued Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley
    Light yellow color; aromatic, baked apple, tart pear nose; tasty, baked apple, tart pear, almond palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay Dutton Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; almond, tart apple nose; tasty, juicy, almond, tart apple, baked apple palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch Fox Den – USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; black cherry, black raspberry nose; black cherry, black raspberry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch/Freestone Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium ruby color; black cherry, baked cherry nose; black cherry, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2012 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Dutton Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color; aromatic, baked cherry, cinnamon nose; baked cherry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

Edict

  • 2011 Edict Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; guava, lanolin nose; rich, guava, lanolin palate; medium-plus finish 86 points

  • 2011 Edict Framed – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Light yellow color; citrus, lemon nose; citrus, lemon palate; medium-plus finish 88 points

  • 2011 Edict Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Light yellow color; lemon grass, ripe citrus nose; lemon grass, ripe citrus palate; medium-plus finish 88 points

  • 2010 Edict Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, nose; baked cherry, brown sugar palate; medium-plus finish 87 points

  • 2010 Edict – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Opaque purple red violet color; black currant, cedar, tobacco, violets nose; black currant, cedar, violets, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish 88 points

  • 2009 Edict Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; cassis, cedar, oak nose; cassis, cedar, oak palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

Ellipsis

  • 2012 Ellipsis Wine Company Chardonnay Laguna Nueva Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; lemon, citrus nose; tart apple, citrus palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2012 Ellipsis Wine Company Rosé of Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light pink color; tart cranberry nose; tart cranberry, ripe red berry palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2011 Ellipsis Wine Company Pinot Noir Tina’s Block de la Montanya Vineyards – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; cherry cider, VA nose; cherry cider, light brett palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2011 Ellipsis Wine Company Rosé of Sangiovese – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Light pink orange color; tart orange, blood orange nose; tart orange, blood orange palate; medium finish 88 points

EONIAN

  • 2010 EONIAN – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Nearly opaque purple red violet color; roasted berry, smoke, tart black fruit nose; roasted berry, smoke, tart black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (80% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon) 88 points

Field Recordings

  • 2011 Field Recordings Wine “Fiction” – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light yellow color; aromatic, floral, ripe pear nose; tasty, floral, ripe pear, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Field Recordings Wine Chenin Blanc Jurassic Park Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light yellow color; oxidized apple nose; oxidized apple, lanolin palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2012 Field Recordings Wine Pinot Gris – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light yellow color; peach, ripe apple nose; peach, ripe apple palate with lowish acidity; medium finish 87 points

  • 2012 Field Recordings Wine Pinot Noir Wonderwall – USA, California, Central Coast, Edna Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, menthol nose; ripe cherry, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2012 Field Recordings Wine Zinfandel Almanac Old Potrero – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Grande Valley
    Dark magenta color; appealing, violets, brambley, berry nose; tasty, violets, brambley, berry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Field Recordings Wine “Chorus Effect” K.O. Koligian Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; baked black fruit, black currant nose; baked black fruit, black currant palate; medium finish 87+ points

Flying Horse

  • 2010 Flying Horse Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; black currant, loam nose; black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2009 Flying Horse Petit Verdot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, VA, ripe currant nose; ripe currant palate; medium finish 87 points

Fog Crest

  • 2011 Fog Crest Vineyard Chardonnay LAGUNA WEST – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; tropical fruit, papaya, passion fruit nose; tropical fruit, papaya, passion fruit palate with low acidity; medium finish (neutral oak, 100% malo) 87 points

  • 2011 Fog Crest Vineyard Chardonnay Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, papaya nose; ripe pear, papaya palate with lowish acidity; medium finish (6% new French oak) 89 points

  • 2011 Fog Crest Vineyard Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, rich, tart cherry, raspberry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Fog Crest Vineyard Pinot Noir LAGUNA WEST – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; strawberry jam, cherry nose; strawberry jam, cherry palate with good acidity; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Frank Family

  • 2012 Frank Family Vineyards Chardonnay Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, apple nose; rich but balanced, tart lemon, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, ripe black currant, ripe black fruit nose; tasty, ripe black currant, ripe black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc; 20 months in oak, 30% new) 92 points

  • 2011 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; tart berry, ripe black fruit nose; tart berry, ripe black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (89% Zinfandel, 11% Petite Sirah) 87 points

Freemark Abbey

  • 2012 Freemark Abbey Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; tart apple, tart pear nose; tart apple, tart pear palate with lowish acidity; medium finish 88 points

  • 2012 Freemark Abbey Viognier – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Light yellow color; aromatic, ripe pear, floral nose; poised, tasty, creamy textured, ripe pear, apple palate; medium finish 91 points

  • 2010 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; cassis, black currant nose; rich, ripe black currant, cassis palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Freemark Abbey Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium ruby color; appealing, cedar, plum, cassis nose; tasty, cedar, plum, cassis palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Fulcrum

  • 2011 Fulcrum Pinot Noir ON Point – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; oak, tart cherry nose; oak, tart cherry palate; needs 1-2 years to integrate; medium finish 89 points

  • 2011 Fulcrum Pinot Noir Brosseau – USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone
    Dark cherry red color; soft, berry, oak nose; berry, blackberry, oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Fulcrum Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; black cherry, black raspberry nose; tight, black cherry, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Fulcrum Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Carneros – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; black cherry, cola nose; black cherry, cola palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

Galerie

  • 2012 Galerie Sauvignon Blanc Naissance – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very light green-tinged yellow color; ripe lime, ripe gooseberry nose; tasty, tart lime, lemon grass, lightly smoky palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2011 Galerie Sauvignon Blanc Naissance – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very light green-tinged yellow color; smoky, white grapefruit nose; smoky, tart green melon, mineral, white asparagus palate; medium-plus finish (50/50 stainless steel and neutral oak; clones 1, 317 and 376) 92 points

Gauge

  • 2012 Gauge Wines Chardonnay 20 Gauge Chardonnay – USA, California
    Light yellow color; tart apple, tart citrus nose; tart apple, tart citrus, green herb palate; medium-plus finish (no malo) 86 points

  • 2010 Gauge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 12 Gauge Cab – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark cherry red color; lifted, tart black currant, leafy nose; tart black currant, berry palate; medium finish 87 points

Grgich Hills

  • 2010 Grgich Hills Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light green-tinged yellow color; baked lemon, reduction nose; reductive, tart lemon, citrus palate; medium-plus finish 88 points

  • 2011 Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc Dry Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; smoky, very tart peach, tar pear nose; crisp, very tart peach, mineral, citrus palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (13.2% alcohol; sample provided by winery) (90 points)

  • 2009 Grgich Hills Merlot Estate Grown – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark maroon color; tart berry, black fruit, violets nose; tight, rich, creamy textured, tart berry, tart black fruit, black currant, violets palate with balance; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (14.8% alcohol; 18 months in mix of large and small French oak barrels, 30% new; 3.63 pH; sample provided by winery) 93 points

  • 2010 Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark maroon color; appealing, tart black currant, loam nose; tasty, tart black currant, loam, tart berry, blackberry, violets palate; could use 2-3 years; long finish (91% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot; 21 months in French oak, 60% new; 3.72 pH; 14.7% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 93+ points

Handley

  • 2006 Handley Brut Rosé – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Light medium pink gold color with light mousse; baked apple, oxidized apple nose; baked apple, oxidized apple, tangy cherry palate; medium finish 85+ points

  • 2009 Handley Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color; reduction, lifted, tart cranberry, sous bois nose; tart cranberry, sous bois, mineral palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2009 Handley Pinot Noir RSM Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color; rosehips, hibiscus nose; rosehips, hibiscus, tart cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points

  • 2012 Handley Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Light medium pink color; tart cherry, orange nose; tart orange, tart cherry palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2009 Handley Pinot Noir Mendocino County – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Medium cherry red color; floral, rosehips, tart cherry nose; floral, rosehips, tart cherry, reduction palate; medium finish 87+ points

Hendry
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  • 2012 Hendry Albariño Hendry Ranch – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very light yellow color; clean, fresh, tart apple nose; tart apple, citrus, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2012 Hendry Chardonnay (Unoaked) – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; tart lemon nose; tart lemon palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2010 Hendry Chardonnay Barrel Fermented – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; toasted almond, hazelnut nose; medium bodied, butter, almond palate; medium-plus finish (30% new oak; good for the style) 91 points

  • 2008 Hendry Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, black currant, blackberry nose; rich, black currant, blackberry jam palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2010 Hendry Zinfandel Block 28 – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart berry, wild berry nose; tasty, tart berry, wild berry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Hendry Zinfandel Blocks 7 & 22 – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, tart berry, briary nose; tasty, tart berry, briary palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Herb Lamb
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  • 2012 Herb Lamb Sauvignon Blanc Two Old Dogs – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very light yellow color; aromatic, lemon grass, tart grapefruit nose; focused, lemon grass, tart grapefruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2010 Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon Two Old Dogs Herb Lamb Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; lifted, aromatic, tart currant, menthol, bay leaf nose; tart red currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (13.8% alcohol) 91 points

  • 2010 Herb Lamb Cabernet Sauvignon HL Herb Lamb Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, lifted tart red currant, menthol, mint nose; tight, tasty, balanced, tart red currant, menthol palate; needs 4-plus years; medium-plus finish 93 points

Hiatus

  • 2012 Hiatus Cellars Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; tart citrus, lemon nose; very tart citrus, sour lemon palate; medium finish (85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon) 86 points

  • 2011 Hiatus Cellars Pinot Noir Griffin’s Lair Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark red violet color; tart cherry, oak nose; oak, tart red fruit, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 87 points

  • 2007 Hiatus Cellars – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; VA, smoky, roasted black fruit, hickory nose; smoky, roasted black fruit, hickory palate; medium-plus finish (39% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc, 22% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Zinfandel) 86 points

Hidden Ridge
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  • 2007 Hidden Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 55% slope, Hidden Lot N° 1 (Morton’s Bottling) – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark red violet color; appealing, red currant, tobacco, black currant nose; tasty, black currant, tart berry palate; ready now; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 92+ points

  • 2008 Hidden Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 55% slope – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, mature, black currant, black fruit, espresso nose; tasty, mature, black currant, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (18 months in 80% new oak; 14.9% alcohol) 92 points

Hilliard Bruce

  • 2011 Hilliard Bruce Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
    Light yellow color; appealing, ripe pear, apricot nose; rich, ripe pear, tart apple, baking spice palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finis (14.3% alcohol) 91 points

  • 2010 Hilliard Bruce Pinot Noir Sun – USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
    Very dark ruby color; tart berry, berry syrup, baked berry nose; rich, berry syrup, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish (14.3% alcohol) 91 points

  • 2010 Hilliard Bruce Pinot Noir Moon – USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
    Very dark ruby color; black cherry, black raspberry, berry nose; rich, black cherry, black raspberry, berry, grapey palate; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 90+ points

Hopper Creek

  • 2011 Hopper Creek Winery Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; smoke, tart grapefruit nose; smoke, tart grapefruit, jalapeno palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2010 Hopper Creek Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown, Produced & Bottled – USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
    Barrel sample – very dark red violet color; tart black currant, menthol, oak nose; tart black currant, menthol, oak palate; medium-plus finish 89-91 points

  • 2007 Hopper Creek Winery Merlot Estate Grown, Produced & Bottled – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark ruby color; chocolate, mint nose; chocolate, mint palate; medium-plus finish (w/1.5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 14.1% alcohol) 88 points

  • 2011 Hopper Creek Winery Merlot Estate Grown, Produced & Bottled – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Barrel sample – dark ruby color; focused, ripe berry, oak, black currant nose; focused, ripe berry, oak, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 88-90 points

Houdini

  • 2009 Houdini Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Dark red violet color; tart currant, oak nose; tight, tart currant, cedar palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish (96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot; 24 months in oak; 14.8% alcohol) 90+ points

  • 2009 Houdini Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium red violet color; red currant, tart plum nose; ripe red currant, plum palate; medium-plus finish (24 months in oak; 15.2% alcohol) 91 points

J. Wilkes

  • 2010 J. Wilkes Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Bright light chartreuse yellow color; appealing, ripe pear, light honeysuckle, tart apricot nose; lush, rich, ripe pear, tart apricot, vanilla, white flower palate; medium finish (14.3% alcohol; 24 mos in oak, 50% new) 90+ points

  • 2012 J. Wilkes Pinot Blanc Bien Nacido Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Light green-tinged yellow color; clean, fresh, tart peach, ripe apple nose; tasty, light, clean, tart peach, applesauce palate with a touch of salinity; medium finish (13.8% alcohol; stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation; ideal with Thai food; good value at $15) 90 points

  • 2010 J. Wilkes Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Dark ruby color; ripe black cherry, ripe berry, black raspberry, light graham cracker nose; ripe black cherry, black raspberry palate with integrating French vanilla oak; medium finish (14.5% alcohol; 14 mos in French oak, 30% new) 87+ points

Kaena

  • 2012 Kaena Grenache Blanc La Presa Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light peach yellow color; tart peach, apple nose; very tart peach, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol) 89 points

  • 2012 Kaena Grenache Rosé – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light medium orange pink color; ripe pink grapefruit nose; tasty, juicy, cranberry, ripe pink grapefruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2012 Kaena Sauvignon Blanc Ballard Canyon – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light yellow color; aromatic, lemon grass, tart gooseberry nose; lemon grass, tart gooseberry, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol) 91+ points

  • 2012 Kaena Viognier – USA, American
    Light yellow color; appealing, honeysuckle, ripe pear nose; honeysuckle, ripe pear palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol) 91 points

  • 2011 Kaena Hapa Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe pear nose; juicy, tart pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish (84% Grenache Blanc, 16% Roussanne; 13.9% alcohol) 90+ points

  • 2010 Kaena Grenache Larner Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark ruby color; baked berry, charcoal, clove nose; tasty, rich, baked berry, clove, charcoal, tart berry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (15.2% alcohol) 93+ points

  • 2010 Kaena Grenache Tierra Alta Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Medium dark red violet color; lifted, baked berry, clove, licorice nose; tasty, baked berry, clove, licorice palate; medium-plus finish (15.1% alcohol) 93 points

  • 2010 Kaena Grenache – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark cherry red color; floral, tart berry, berry jam nose; tasty, tart berry, berry jam, tart black currant palate; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 92 points

  • 2011 Kaena Syrah Tenth Anniversary Tierra Alta Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    From magnum – very dark ruby color; roasted black fruit, tar nose; tasty, roasted black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 92+ points

  • 2010 Kaena Hapa – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark ruby color; tart berry, tar, charcoal, roasted fruit, brett nose; tasty, tart berry, tar, charcoal, roasted fruit, brett palate; medium-plus finish (50% Syrah, 38% Grenache, 12% Mourvedre) 92 points

Keenan
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  • 2011 Keenan Winery Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, yellow apple nose; tasty, creamy textured, tart lemon palate; medium-plus finish (no malolactic) 91+ points

  • 2009 Keenan Winery Mernet Reserve – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Dark red violet color; menthol, tart currant nose; tasty, tart black currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2009 Keenan Winery Merlot Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, black currant, loam, cedar nose; tasty, ripe black currant, blackberry, loam, espresso palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2009 Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; black currant, loam, cedar nose; black currant, loam, cedar palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2009 Keenan Winery Merlot Reserve Mailbox Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Dark red violet color; appealing, black currant, black fruit nose; tight, tasty, black currant, black fruit, saline palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2009 Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Spring Mountain District – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, leafy, black currant nose; black currant, leafy palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2009 Keenan Winery Syrah – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; roasted black fruit, light pepper nose; roasted black fruit, light pepper, tar, iodine palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Kendall-Jackson

  • 2009 Kendall-Jackson Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Very dark purple red violet color; tart black currant, cedar, violets nose; tasty, ripe black currant, cedar palate; medium finish (88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc; good value at $19) 89 points

Ladera
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  • 2012 Ladera Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; lemon grass, grapefruit nose; ripe, juicy, tart peach, papaya palate; medium finish 89 points

  • 2011 Ladera Pinot Noir Pillow Road Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, tart cherry, sous bois nose; tasty, tart raspberry, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2009 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; cassis, cherry nose with a little heat; cassis, cherry palate; medium finish (97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Petit Verdot) 88 points

  • 2009 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, black currant, violets, berry nose; rich, black currant, berry, violets palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2010 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Stile Blocks – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Dark maroon color; rich, black currant, mulberry, berry nose; rich, black currant, mulberry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot) 92+ points

Lagier Meredith

  • 2010 Chester’s Anvil Gewürztraminer – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Very light yellow color; very aromatic, lifted, gardenia, citrus nose; fresh, ripe white grapefruit, citrus palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2012 Lagier Meredith Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Light pink color with pale meniscus; appealing, focused, watermelon, tart cherry nose; tasty, juicy, cranberry, tart red currant palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (70% Syrah, 20% Zinfandel, 10% Mondeuse) 92 points

  • 2010 Chester’s Anvil Malbec – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Very dark purple red violet color; earthy, tar, tart plum nose; tasty, tart plum, currant, Maraschino cherry palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Lagier Meredith Zinfandel Tribidrag – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Dark red violet color; aromatic, hibiscus, tart cherry, red berry nose; tasty, balanced, hibiscus, tart cherry, red berry palate; medium-plus finish (reminiscent of an Occhipinti Frappato) 94 points

  • 2010 Lagier Meredith Syrah – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Very dark red violet color; tar, pepper, tart black fruit, clove nose; tight, tar, roasted black fruit, pepper palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 95+ points

  • 2010 Lagier Meredith Precious Bane – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Opaque red violet color; VA, baked berry nose; baked black fruit, licorice, clove palate; long finish 91+ points

Lamborn Family
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  • 2009 Lamborn Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage VII Proprietor Grown – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, black currant, violets nose; plush, tasty, black currant, violets palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2010 Lamborn Family Vineyards Zinfandel “Middle-Aged Vine” – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
    Medium dark red violet color; appealing, ripe berry, brambly, black currant nose; balanced, ripe berry, brambly, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

L’Aventure

  • 2010 L’Aventure Estate Cuvée – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque black red violet color; roasted black fruit, tar, espresso nose; delicious, rich but structured, dense, tar, roasted black fruit, espresso palate; needs 5 years; long finish (42% Syrah, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petit Verdot; 100% new oak) 95 points

  • 2010 L’Aventure Côte-à-Côte Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque purple red violet color; very appealing, roasted black fruit, dark chocolate, tar nose; intense, tar, dark chocolate, roasted black fruit, tart berry palate; needs 4-5 years; long finish (42% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre; 50% new oak) 93+ points

  • 2010 L’Aventure Optimus – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque black red violet color; roast coffee, espresso, tar, roasted plum nose; tasty, tart black fruit, roasted plum, espresso, roast coffee palate with good acidity; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish (55% Syrah, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petit Verdot; 50% new oak for 15 months) 93 points

  • 2010 L’Aventure The Sibling – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque ruby color; appealing, tart cherry, ripe red berry nose; tasty, rich, tart cherry, baked cherry, berry palate; accessible now but should age well for 4-5 years; medium-plus finish (70% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Grenache; 14 months in 50% new French oak) 92 points

  • 2010 L’Aventure La Suite – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque ruby color; appealing, lifted, baked cherry, ripe berry nose; rich, silky, ripe berry, baked berry, baked cherry palate; tasty now; medium-plus finish (43% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre, 17% Syrah; 50% new French oak for 14 months) 91+ points

  • 2010 L’Aventure Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque red violet color; appealing, mocha, chocolate nose;p rich, dark chocolate, mocha, tart black fruit palate; ready now; medium-plus finish (15.3% alcohol) 91+ points

Law Estate

  • 2010 Law Estate Wines Audacious – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark ruby color; VA, berry nose; ripe berry, baked raspberry palate; medium finish 86 points

  • 2010 Law Estate Wines Intrepid – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Opaque purple red violet color; VA, baked berry, black fruit nose; baked berry, black fruit palate; medium finish 86 points

  • 2010 Law Estate Wines Beguiling – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium dark red violet color; tart black fruit, berry nose; tart black fruit, berry, clove palate; medium-plus finish 88 points

  • 2010 Law Estate Wines Sagacious – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark ruby color; baked berry, black fruit nose; tart black fruit, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points

Lost Canyon

  • 2011 Lost Canyon Chardonnay Ruxton Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light lemon yellow color; pineapple, ripe lemon nose; tart lemon, tart pineapple, mineral, ripe lime palate; medium-plus finish (13.9% alcohol; sample provided by winery; great pairing with lemon chicken) 91 points

  • 2010 Lost Canyon Pinot Noir Morelli Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; intense, green bean casserole, baked cherry, raspberry jam, tart red berry nose; tight, tart cherry, raspberry jam, green bean casserole palate with firm texture; could use 1-2 years bottle age; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 83 points

Macauley
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  • 2012 Macauley Chardonnay California Russian River Valley Dutton Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; almond, tart pear nose; tasty, tart pear, almond, saline palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2009 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark ruby color; tart black currant, loam, berry nose; tight, tobacco, tart black currant, loam, berry palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2010 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Pre-release (Sept. 2013) – very dark red violet color; appealing, black currant, blackberry nose; juicy, tasty, black currant, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Macauley Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark purple red violet color; appealing, lavender, violets, baked berry nose; rich, lavender, violets, baked berry, mulberry palate; needs 4-5 years; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Macauley Zinfandel Old Vines – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; tart berry, bramble, raspberry jam nose; tasty, tart berry, bramble, raspberry jam palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

Madroña

  • 2012 Madroña Riesling – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County
    Light yellow color; tart peach, lime nose; tasty, tart peach, lime palate; medium-plus finish (.75 RS) 89 points

  • 2011 Madroña Riesling Dry – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County
    Light yellow color; lime, very tart peach nose; lime, very tart peach, lemon palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Madroña Cabernet Franc Estate Grown – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
    Dark ruby color; tart red currant, green olive nose; tart red currant, green olive palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2010 Madroña Malbec – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Very dark ruby color; tart berry, horseradish nose; tart berry, horseradish palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Madroña Zinfandel Estate Grown – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
    Dark ruby color; tart red currant, pepper ose; tart red currant, pepper palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2010 Madroña Zinfandel Estate Grown – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
    Medium dark ruby color; cinnamon, tart berry nose; cinnamon, tart berry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2008 Madroña New-World Port – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    From 375 ml – very dark ruby color; port, baked berry nose; tasty, baked berry palate; long finish 91 points

Merryvale

  • 2011 Merryvale Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Light yellow color; appealing, tart pear nose; tasty, ripe pear, pear cream palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points 91 points

  • 2012 Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; aromatic, lemon grass, tart gooseberry nose; rich, tart grapefruit, lemon grass palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Merryvale Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; roses, cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, ripe cranberry palate with brightness; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2009 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; tart currant, loam nose; tasty, balanced, tart currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Merryvale Profile – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; cassis, red currant, cedar nose; tight, cassis, red currant, cedar palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish (92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot) 92+ points

Napa Cellars

  • 2012 Napa Cellars Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; aromatic, ripe grapefruit, citrus nose; ripe grapefruit, citrus palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2012 Napa Cellars Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe lemon, oak, butter nose; soft, creamy textured, tart pear, oak palate; medium finish 87 points

Navarro

  • 2011 Navarro Vineyards Chardonnay Mendocino – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Light yellow color; appealing, almond, tart pear nose; tasty, almond, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Navarro Vineyards Gewürztraminer Estate Bottled Dry – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Aromatic, floral, lychee nut nose; floral, lychee nut palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

Niner

  • 2012 Niner Wine Estates Sauvignon Blanc Boot Jack Ranch – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light yellow color; tart apple nose; tart apple palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2008 Niner Wine Estates Fog Catcher – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; black currant, baked black fruit nose; black currant, baked black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points

  • 2010 Niner Wine Estates Merlot – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; tart black fruit, loam nose; tart black fruit, loam palate; medium-plus finish 87 points

  • 2009 Niner Wine Estates Twisted Spur – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Very dark red violet color; tart red berry, cinnamon nose; tart red berry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points

  • 2010 Niner Wine Estates Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; cassis, black currant nose; cassis, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points

  • 2010 Niner Wine Estates Sangiovese Boot Jack Ranch – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium red color; tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, tar palate; medium finish 88 points

Ottimino

William Knuttel and Brad Alper of Ottimino
William Knuttel and Brad Alper of Ottimino
  • 2009 Ottimino Zinfandel Rancho Bello – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, lifted, tart berry, violets nose; tasty, tart berry, black cherry, raspberry jam palate; medium-plus finish (20 months in 35% new oak) 92+ points

  • 2010 Ottimino Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, lifted, violets, floral, black raspberry nose; tasty, violets, floral, black raspberry, black cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (20 months in 35% new oak) 93+ points

  • 2010 Ottimino Zinfandel Ottimino Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; berry, briary, black raspberry nose; tasty, balanced, berry, briary, black raspbberry palate; medium-plus finish (20 months in 35% new oak) 93 points

Paloma

  • 2010 Paloma Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Medium red violet color; appealing, tart cherry, tart black fruit, black raspberry nose; tight, tart cherry, black cherry, cassis palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) 94+ points

Parallel

  • 2009 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Black Diamonds Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, currant, ripe red berry nose; plush, currant, ripe red berry, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2009 Parallel Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, loam, tart black currant nose; plush, tart black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Petroni

  • 2011 Petroni Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; lemon grass nose; lemon grass, grapefruit palate; medium-plus finish (14.2% alcohol) 90 points

  • 2010 Petroni Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Light yellow color; musky peach nose; musky peach, lemon palate; medium-plus finish (14.1% alcohol) 88 points

  • 2011 Petroni Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; black cherry, cola nose; black cherry, cola palate; medium finish (14.5% alcohol) 88+ points

  • 2006 Petroni Poggio Alla Pietra – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark red violet color; very ripe berry, blackberry nose; very ripe berry, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2008 Petroni Rosso di Sonoma – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Very dark ruby color; tart berry, red berry nose; tasty, tart berry, red berry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (75% Syrah, 20% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon; 15.5% alcohol) 90+ points

Picayune

  • 2012 Picayune Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very light yellow color; ripe lime, lemon grass nose; lime lemon grass palate; medium-plus finish (55% Sonoma, 45% Napa; 14.1% alcohol) 91 points

  • 2011 Picayune Cellars Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    From magnum – medium cherry red color; black cherry, tart berry nose; black cherry, tart berry, black cherry jam palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

Ramey

  • 2011 Ramey Claret – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium ruby color; appealing, lifted, black currant, loam nose; black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2010 Ramey Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark ruby color; black currant, baked berry nose; tasty, black currant, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Ramey Syrah Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark ruby color; roasted black fruit, violets nose; tight, roasted black fruit, violets palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

Rocca Family

  • 2009 Rocca Family Vineyards Merlot Grigsby Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
    Medium dark ruby color; ripe berry, oak nose; ripe berry, oak, boysenberry palate; medium-plus finish (98% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon) 91 points

  • 2009 Rocca Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Grigsby Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville
    Very dark purple red violet color; black currant, cedar nose; black currant, cedar, ripe berry palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2009 Rocca Family Vineyards Vespera – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark ruby color; tart black fruit, tar, berry nose; rich, tart black fruit, tar, berry palate; medium-plus finish (75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petite Sirah, 12% Petit Verdot, 1% Syrah) 89 points

Round Pond

  • 2012 Round Pond Sauvignon Blanc Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Pale yellow color; tart green apple nose; nondescript, tart apple, citrus palate with low acidity; medium finish 85+ points

  • 2010 Round Pond Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Very dark ruby color; ripe red currant, oak nose; tight, ripe red currant palate; medium-plus finish 87 points

Rutherford Grove

  • 2012 Rutherford Grove Sauvignon Blanc Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Light green-tinged yellow color; tart citrus nose; odd, tart citrus, oak palate; medium finish 84 points

  • 2007 Rutherford Grove Petite Sirah Spring Creek Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark ruby color; boysenberry, vanilla nose; boysenberry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish 86+ points 86 points

Saddleback

  • 2011 Saddleback Cellars Viognier – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg
    Light yellow color; baked pear nose; baked pear palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2011 Saddleback Cellars Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Light yellow color; poached pear, almond nose; tasty, poached pear, almond, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2010 Saddleback Cellars Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
    Dark red violet color; appealing, black currant, black fruit nose; black currant, black fruit palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2008 Saddleback Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; appealing, black currant, baked black fruit nose; tasty, black currant, tart berry palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (2 1/2 y;ears in oak, 1 year in bottle) 91+ points

Saxon Brown

  • 2009 Saxon-Brown Chardonnay Durell Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Light medium yellow color; appealing, lemon cream, nutmeg, light clarified butter, pineapple nose; tasty, tart lemon, full bodied, fleshy, mineral, light nutmeg, tart pear palate with firm texture and good balance; medium-plus finish (14.5% alcohol; 11 mos in barrel, 50% new oak) 92 points

  • 2009 Saxon-Brown Sémillon Fighting Brothers Cuvée – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Light medium yellow color; intriguing, lightly savory, citrus, lemon oil, tart peach nose; ripe, creamy textured, juicy, tart peach, ripe pear, apricot jam palate with residual sugar; medium-plus finish (would work with foie gras, crab cake) 90+ points

  • 2008 Saxon-Brown Zinfandel “Stonewall” Parmelee-Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark purple red violet color; appealing, briary, ripe currant, black currant, violets, ripe berry nose; rich, briary, ripe black currant, tart berry, toast palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (15.7% alcohol; aged in Burgundy barrels, 1/3 new) 91 points

  • 2009 Saxon-Brown Pinot Noir Hayfield Block Durell Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; baking spice, baked cherry, black cherry nose; youthful, ripe black cherry, black raspberry, red raspberry, baking spice, cranberry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (11 mos in French oak, 50% new, 50% once used; Pommard, 777, 115 and a little Swan clone) 91+ points

  • 2009 Saxon-Brown Syrah Owl Box Parmelee-Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, tart blackberry, tart black fruit, tar, black pepper, white pepper nose; tasty, roasted black fruit, black pepper, tar, violets, tart berry palate with depth; long finish (Shiraz clone 1 with 3-4% Viognier and a little Marsanne and Roussanne to help set color) 94 points

  • 2009 Saxon-Brown Syrah Camp Block Parmelee-Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Pre-release: very dark purple red violet color; appealing, roasted black fruit, pepper, tar, incipient bacon fat, violets nose; tasty, firm, tart black fruit, roasted black fruit, black pepper, black olive palate with good acidity; needs 1-2 years; long finish (Durrell selection clone; 14.7% alcohol) 93 points

  • 2009 Saxon-Brown Zinfandel Fighting Brothers Cuvée – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, ripe black currant, black fruit, light sage, violets, mulberry nose; very tasty, rich but balanced, juicy, violets, ripe black currant, ripe berries, blueberry palate; long finish (15.5% alcohol) 93+ points

Scott Harvey
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  • 2012 Scott Harvey Riesling Jana – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Very light yellow color; ripe pear, apple nose; ripe pear, apple palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2011 Scott Harvey Barbera J&S Reserve – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, ripe red berry, black fruit nose; tasty, tart berry, blackberry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2009 Scott Harvey Zinfandel 1869 Old Vine – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; berry, blackberry, ripe black fruit nose; tasty, tight, black fruit, tar, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Super Hero Wines InZINerator – USA, California
    Medium dark ruby color; carbonic maceration, red berry nose; carbonic maceration, red berry palate; medium finish (14.5% alcohol) 88 points

  • 2007 Scott Harvey Fortè – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Dark red violet color; VA, cherry, dried cherry, berry nose; cherry, dried cherry, berry palate; long finish 91 points

Seavey
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  • 2010 Seavey Vineyard Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium dark red violet color; lifted, leafy, tobacco nose; tasty, tobacco, leafy, tart currant palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (94% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon) 92+ points

  • 2010 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Caravina – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; cassis, tart red currant nose; tight, tart currant, tart cassis palate with good acidity; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; tart red currant, tart black currant nose; rich, tart black currant, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot) 93+ points

Silver Trident

  • 2010 Silver Trident Pinot Noir Benevolent Dictator – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
    Dark cherry red color; ripe cherry, brown sugar, black cherry nose; ripe cherry, brown sugar, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (clones 667, 777 & 115; 40% new oak) 91+ points

  • 2010 Silver Trident Cabernet Sauvignon Twenty Seven Fathoms – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, black currant, berry, loam nose; black currant, berry, loam palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Singer Cellars

  • 2010 Singer Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; leafy, black currant nose; leafy, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Singer Cellars Petit Verdot – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; licorice, spice, tart cassis nose; licorice, spice palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2010 Singer Cellars The Rhapsody – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, black currant, tart berry nose; black currant, tart berry palaet; medium-plus finish (Merlot, Cab Franc blend) 91+ points

Somerston

  • 2009 Somerston Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown Napa Valley Estate Grown – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, ripe blackberry, berry, violets nose; ripe blackberry, berry, violets palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2012 Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
    Very light yellow color; ripe pear nose; tasty, tangy, tart pear, tart apple palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89+ points

  • 2012 Priest Ranch Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena
    Very light yellow color; tart apple, green apple nose; tart apple, green apple palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Priest Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, cassis, loam, berry nose; tasty, ripe berry, cassis palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Stemmler
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  • 2011 Stemmler Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; black cherry, black raspberry jam nose; black cherry, black raspberry jam palate; medium finish 89 points

  • 2011 Stemmler Pinot Noir Estate Grown – USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros
    Medium dark cherry red color; aromatic, tart cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Donum Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium ruby color; baked cherry nose; baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

Stone Edge Farm

  • 2009 Stone Edge Farm Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, tart black currant nose; tasty, tart black currant, raspberry jam palate; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2009 Stone Edge Farm Surround – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Medium dark red violet color; mature, black currant nose; mature, black currant, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish (56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot) 91+ points

Stonestreet
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  • 2011 Stonestreet Chardonnay Broken Road – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Light yellow color; lemon cream, pear cream, ripe apple nose; rich, creamy textured, apple, tart pear, tart pear cream palate with integrating oak; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Stonestreet Chardonnay Bear Point – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Light yellow color; almond, baked pear nose; tasty, almond, baked pear palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2007 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Monolith – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Very dark black red violet color; maturing, tart black currant, tart blackberry, berry nose; focused, tart black currant, berry, tart blackberry, mineral palate with firm, sweet tannins; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (1800 foot elevation; 100% Cabernet Sauvignon) 92+ points

  • 2010 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Mountain Estate Bear Point – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Dark ruby color; herbaceous, tart currant, tobacco nose; herbaceous, tart currant, tobacco palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2010 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon Monument Ridge – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley
    Dark ruby color; cassis, herbaceous nose; cassis, herbaceous, loam palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish 91 points

Tablas Creek

  • 2011 Tablas Creek Roussanne – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light medium yellow color; almond, saline nose; almond, saline, tart green apple, cream palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2012 Tablas Creek Vermentino – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Very light yellow color; almond, apple nose; almond, apple, spicy, green fruit palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2011 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light medium yellow color; green almond, hazelnut nose; green almond, hazelnut, saline, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2012 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light yellow color; ripe apple nose; ripe apple palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2011 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light yellow color; green almond, tart pear nose; green almond, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2012 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Rosé – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Light yellow pink color; almond, baked pear nose; almond, baked pear palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark cherry red color; tart berry nose; tart berry, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium dark ruby color; tart cherry, tart berry nose; tart cherry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2011 Tablas Creek Mourvedre – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium ruby color; tar, red berry nose; tar, red berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Tantara

  • 2011 Tantara Chardonnay Bien Nacido Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Light medium yellow color; oak, pineapple nose; oak, pineapple palate; medium finish 87 points

  • 2011 Tantara Pinot Noir Solomon Hills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Medium dark ruby color; cranberry, tart red fruit nose; cranberry, tart red fruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Tantara Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Maria Valley
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, rhubarb nose; baked cherry, rhubarb palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Taplin

  • 2008 Taplin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Terra 9 – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Dark red violet color; ripe black currant, ripe berry nose; tight, ripe black currant, ripe berry, loam palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (28 months in 50% new French oak) 91 points

  • 2009 Taplin Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Terra 9 – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; black currant, berry nose; black currant, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

Thomas Fogarty

  • 2010 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Grown Albutom Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light lemon yellow color; appealing, lemon gelee, lemon cream, sweet butter nose; tasty, tangy, creamy textured, tart lemon, sweet butter, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (11.9% alcohol; 3.27 pH, 7.3 g/L TA; sample provided by winery) 93 points

  • 2010 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Estate Grown Langley Hill Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light lemon yellow color; appealing, tart pineapple, ripe pear, light graham cracker nose; tasty, rich, poised, tart pear, ripe lemon palate with bright acidity and integrating oak; medium-plus finish (12.9% alcohol; 3.4 pH, 6.0 g/L TA; sample provided by winery) 92 points

  • 2010 Thomas Fogarty Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light lemon yellow color; ripe pear, pineapple, tart peach nose; tasty, rich but balanced, tart lemon, mineral, very tart pineapple palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (13.5% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 91+ points

  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Henry Ayrton’s Block Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark ruby color; appealing, ripe cherry, clove, anise, black cherry nose; dense, tight, ripe raspberry, ripe cherry, tart cherry palate with sweet tannins; good now but could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (Martini clone; 12.8% alcohol; planted in 1983; sample provided by winery) 94 points

  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Block M Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark ruby color; appealing, aromatic, tart cherry, dried cherry, anise, ripe raspberry, black raspberry nose; tasty, balanced, juicy, ripe raspberry, tart cherry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (Martini clone; 13.3% alcohol; planted in 1983; sample provided by winery) 93+ points

  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Estate Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Very dark cherry red color; tart cherry, black cherry, baked raspberry, light graham cracker nose; juicy, rich but balanced, ripe cherry, black raspberry palate with sweet tannins and bright acidity; good now but could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (Martini clone; 13% alcohol; planted in 1983; sample provided by winery) 93 points

  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Estate Razorback Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, tart cherry, ripe cranberry, strawberry rhubarb nose; juicy, tart cherry, tart raspberry, strawberry rhubarb palate with balance and lively acidity; could use 1-2 years medium-plus finish (Swan, 115, 667 & 777 clones; 12.7% alcohol; planted in 1996; sample provided by winery) 92+ points

  • 2011 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark ruby color; tart cherry, ripe strawberry nose; tasty, silky textured, ripe strawberry, tart cherry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (12.9% alcohol; sample provided by winery) 91 points

Trecini

  • 2012 Trecini Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; lemon grass, citrus nose; tart citrus palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2011 Trecini Cellars Pinot Noir Vicini’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; oak, tart berry nose; oak, tart berry, cola palate; medium-plus finish 88 points

  • 2008 Trecini Cellars Merlot Vicini’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark red violet color; black currant, tart black fruit nose; black currant, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

Tristant
IMG_2587

  • 2007 Tristant Vineyards Mirifice – USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
    Dark red violet color; mature, currant nose; plush, mature, ripe currant, plum palate; medium-plus finish (80% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot; 14.1% alcohol; 2 years in oak, 3 years in bottle) 90 points

Valance
IMG_2586

  • 2009 Valance Cabernet Sauvignon Valance – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; tart black currant, leafy, loam nose; tart black currant, leafy, loam palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2007 Valance Cabernet Sauvignon Valance – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Very dark red violet color; black currant, loam, light eucalyptus nose; tart black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Victor

  • 2011 Victor Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California
    Dark red violet color; tart currant, leafy nose; tart currant, leafy palate; medium finish 85 points

  • 2011 Victor Vineyards Roadside Red – USA, California
    Medium dark red violet color; red berry nose; red berry palate; medium finish 84 points

  • 2011 Victor Vineyards Zinfandel “Old Vine” Zinfandel – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Medium dark cherry red color; VA, baked cherry nose; baked cherry palate; medium finish 84 points

Vinemark

  • 2010 Vinemark Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; black currant, baked black fruit nose; black currant, baked black fruit, saline palate; medium finish 85 points

  • 2011 Vinemark Cellars Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Medium red violet color; VA, red berry nose; red berry palate; medium finish 85 points

  • 2009 Vinemark Cellars Primitivo – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; baked and stewed black fruit nose; baked and stewed black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 84 points

  • 2010 Vinemark Cellars Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; weedy, tart currant nose; weedy, tart currant palate; medium finish 84 points

Vino Noceto
IMG_2569

  • 2012 Vino Noceto Pinot Grigio – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg
    Light yellow color; tart peach, apple nose; tart peach, apple palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2010 Vino Noceto Barbera Linsteadt – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley
    Medium ruby color; aromatic, ripe red berry, tart cherry nose; tasty, ripe red berry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2010 Vino Noceto Sangiovese – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley
    Dark cherry red color; aromatic, ripe red berry, dried cherry nose; tasty, ripe red berry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Vino Noceto Sangiovese Riserva – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart berry, dried berry nose; tart berry, dried berry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2009 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, licorice, dried berry nose; tasty, licorice, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2012 Vino Noceto Moscato Blanco Frivolo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley
    Light yellow color; aromatic, ripe pear, orange blossom nose; rich, ripe pear, orange blossom palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

Violet-Green

  • 2006 Violet-Green Cabernet Franc Alder Springs Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Very dark red violet color; VA, tart currant nose; tart currant, green olive palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2007 Violet-Green Cabernet Franc Alder Springs Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Very dark red violet color; tart red currant nose; tart red currant, olive palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2006 Violet-Green Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Very dark ruby color; VA, tart berry nose; tart berry palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2010 Violet-Green UltraViolet Quercus Ranch – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County
    Dark red violet color; VA, baked red fruit nose; baked red fruit, ripe red currant palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2007 Violet-Green UltraViolet Alder Springs Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Very dark red violet color; VA, tart currant nose; tart currant, olive palate; medium-plus finish (50% Merlot, 41% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc) 88 points

Wait Cellars
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  • 2012 Wait Cellars Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Hazy light yellow color; almond, apple nose; almond, apple, saline palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Wait Cellars Pinot Noir Green Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cranberry nose; tart cherry, cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Wait Cellars Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; hibiscus, tart cherry, cranberry nose; hibiscus, tart cherry, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Westerhold Family

  • 2011 Westerhold Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Westerhold Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Dark cherry red color; lifted, tart cherry, rhubarb nose; tasty, tart cherry, rhubarb palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2009 Westerhold Family Vineyards Syrah Westerhold Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Very dark red violet color; baked black fruit, clove nose; baked black fruit, clove, pepper palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Westerly

  • 2010 Westerly Vineyards Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Light medium yellow color; ripe pear, almond nose; rich, ripe pear, almond palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2012 Westerly Vineyards Fletcher’s White – USA, California, Central Coast, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
    Light yellow color; smoky, lime, lemon grass nose; smoky, lime, lemon grass palate; medium finish 89 points

  • 2009 Westerly Vineyards Fletcher’s Red – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Medium dark ruby color; tart black fruit, roasted black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (46% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Syrah) 91 points

  • 2010 Westerly Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
    Medium ruby color; black cherry, black raspberry nose; black cherry, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2010 Westerly Vineyards Syrah Côte Blonde Happy Canyon – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark ruby color; roasted black fruit, pepper, tar nose; roasted black fruit, pepper, tar palate; medium-plus finish (93% Syrah, 7% Viognier) 91+ points

William Knuttel
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  • 2012 Robin K. / William Knuttel Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; tart apple, tart pear nose; tart apple, tart pear palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2011 Robin K. / William Knuttel Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium yellow color; green almond, apple nose; green almond, apple palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2011 Robin K. / William Knuttel Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; baked cherry, brown sugar nose; baked cherry, brown sugar palate; medium finish 89 points

  • 2011 Robin K. / William Knuttel Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; baked cherry, cinnamon, smoke nose; baked cherry, cinnamon, smoke palate; medium finish 87+ points

  • 2010 Robin K. / William Knuttel Cabernet Sauvignon Dry Creek Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark ruby color; cassis, loam nose; cassis, loam palate; medium-plus finish 88 points

  • 2010 Robin K. / William Knuttel Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
    Dark ruby color; cassis, black currant nose; cassis, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Zenaida

  • 2010 Zenaida Cellars Wanderlust Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; baked black fruit, tar nose; baked black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (50% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre; 15.8% alcohol) 88 points

  • 2010 Zenaida Cellars Zephyr – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red violet color; baked black fruit nose; baked black fruit, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (55% Syrah, 40% Zinfandel, 5% Viognier; 15.6% alcohol) 87 points

  • 2011 Zenaida Cellars Zinfandel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark ruby color; baked black fruit, tar nose; baked black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points

  • 2010 Zenaida Cellars ZC Red – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark ruby color; berry, black fruit nose; berry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (45% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Petite Sirah) 88+ points

West Sonoma Coast: Distinctive, Cool Climate Pinot, Chardonnay & Syrah

West Sonoma Coast vineyard looking toward the ocean (courtesy West of West Festival)

West of West is the early August weekend festival devoted to wines made from grapes farmed on the far western coastline of Sonoma County. This year was the event’s third outing and it was based in an ideal new location: Sebastopol’s spacious Barlow Event Center. All in all, it was one of the most enjoyable and well organized regionally focused wine events I’ve ever attended.

There’s a confident aura of success evident in this festival that derives, in part, from the presence of some of California’s most accomplished winemakers. We’re talking the likes of Littorai’s Ted Lemon, Failla’s Ehren Jordan and Peay’s Vanessa Wong. Other great producers with long track records that have estate vineyards in this region include Flowers, Marcassin and Peter Michael.

Littorai's Ted Lemon
Littorai’s Ted Lemon
The festival’s programming was also smart, hip and fun. I particularly enjoyed a blind Syrah seminar tasting led by Ehren Jordan that took participants through 11 wines from seven regions. Audience members were asked to guess which of the wines were from cool versus warm climates, and from the Old World versus the New. Ehren, together with Master Sommelier Gillian Balance and wine writer Alder Yarrow, shared quips along with their impressions of the wine and thoughts on the trajectory of the making of Syrah in California.

West of West Syrah seminar
West of West Syrah seminar
The grand tasting—held both Saturday and Sunday–featured wines from three dozen producers. I tasted many excellent Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays and Syrahs at this event all attesting to the favorable conditions for these particular varieties in the largely cool, high altitude conditions of California’s true Sonoma coast.

The official Sonoma Coast AVA dates back to 1987. Thanks to its main proponent, Sonoma Cutrer–which wanted an appellation encompassing all of its far flung vineyards in order to be able to use the term “estate bottled” on their labels—the appellation’s boundaries cover 750 square miles, all the way from Carneros in the southeast to just north of Annapolis in the northwest.

The focus of West Sonoma Coast Vintners, the association of wineries and growers that sponsors West of West, is the northwestern slice of this vast region descending from the coast near Annapolis down to the Sebastopol Hills. This area, comprised of only about 10% of the territory encompassed by the total Sonoma Coast AVA, extends about seven miles inland on average except for a large bulge, running as much as 15 miles inland, where the southern portion takes in the Green Valley AVA immediately to the west of the Russian River Valley appellation. Besides Green Valley, the other federally recognized AVA contained within this unofficial West Sonoma Coast area is the Fort Ross-Seaview AVA that was just approved at the end of 2011.

This AVA starts at an elevation of 920 feet, and most of its steep, pine forest enclosed vineyards are located at about 1200 feet above sea level, with some running as high as 1800 feet. This puts them well above the fog line, so they receive plenty of sun during the ripening period, but with cooling breezes from the ocean and rivers in its canyons that usually keep the temperature from getting as high as vineyards further inland, like those in Russian River Valley.

The new AVA was the focus of the festival’s morning seminar on Saturday, August 3, with two of the pioneer growers in the area—David Hirsch and Lee Martinelli, Sr.—moderated by San Francisco Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonné. David and Lee reminisced about the early years of wine growing in what was then a very remote location, while the tasting focused on Pinot Noirs from seven AVA producers from both the 2010 and 2011 vintages.

Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir seminar panel at 2013 WoW
Fort Ross-Seaview Pinot Noir seminar panel at 2013 WoW
The first modern plantings of wine grapes in the area were the 1972 vineyards planted by Mick Bohan, a sheep rancher whose family had first arrived in the area in the 1870s. David Hirsch came to Fort Ross in 1978 and began planting primarily Pinot Noir in 1980. Daniel Schoenfeld, owner of Wild Hog Vineyard, put in his first grapes—Zinfandel and Gewürztraminer–in 1981. He later budded the Gewürz over to Pinot Noir. Lee Martinelli, Sr.’s father-in-law, George Charles, first planted Chardonnay in 1981. He and Lee together planted Pinot Noir in 1995. Wine writers first began extolling the quality of wines from this area in the mid-1980s.

The panelists suggested there might be an influence on the wines from the forests that surround them. David Hirsch told us that Bob Unterman, an influential local agronomist, concluded the area’s soils are tremendously acidic due to pine deposits from these forests. In preparing the ground for plantings the soils here typically have to be amended with large quantities of lime. Jon told us he regularly feels he detects a “coniferous” quality in the region’s Pinots, which he characterized as possessing a “dark minerality.”

The Pinot Noirs at the tasting, and others from this area I’ve tasted over the last few years, consistently exhibit the darker fruit spectrum of Pinot Noir: black cherry, black raspberry, and the occasional blackberry. They also tend to have firm, sweet tannins and good acidities, making for very structured wines that benefit more than most California Pinots from a few years of bottle aging.

Due to the steepness of the terrain, the relatively small amount of land suitable for farming, the inadequate water supply and generally low yields, there will never be large quantities of wine from the West Sonoma Coast. What there is, though, is well worth seeking out if you are a fan of cool climate Pinots, Chardonnays and Syrahs.

Of the 102 wines I tasted at WoW, eight were barrel samples. Finished wines rating 92 points or higher for me came from 17 of the 36 wineries represented: Baker Lane, Ceritas, Cobb, Failla, Flowers, Fort Ross, Freeman, Halleck, Hirsch, Littorai, Peay, Red Car, Small Vines, Sojourn, Soliste, Sonoma Coast Vineyards and Zepaltas.

Ehren Jordan
Failla’s Ehren Jordan

My highest rated Pinots at the event included several meriting 93 points or higher. More than half of those—i.e., the Ceritas 2011 Costalina; Failla 2011 Occidental Ridge; Flowers 2011 Camp Meeting Ridge; Littorai 2011 Hirsch and Platt bottlings; Peay 2011 Scallop Shelf and Sonoma Coast; and Soliste 2010 Foret—are, unfortunately, sold only in tiny quantities through the wineries’ mailing lists and/or are already sold out. That makes the following highly rated Pinots that still are available even greater relative bargains: the Failla 2011 Estate (93+ points, widely available at an average price of $36), Failla 2011 Hirsch (93 points, $58), Fort Ross 2009 (93+ points, $38), Fort Ross 2009 Reserve (94 points, $55), Hirsch 2010 San Andreas Fault (93 points, $61), and Hirsch 2011 The Bohan-Dillon (93 points, $38).

My highest rated Syrahs at this event were the Failla 2010 MxM Estate (95 points, mailing list only), Peay 2011 La Bruma (93 points, mailing list only), and Red Car 2010 Estate (93 points, $35).

There were also a lot of strong Chardonnays at the tasting, but the only one I rated 93 points or higher was the 2011 Ceritas Porter-Bass (winery mailing list only).

For my complete tasting notes on the 102 West Sonoma Coast wines I sampled at this year’s event, see below.

Baker Lane

  • 2009 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark red violet color; aromatic, pepper, smoke nose; medium bodied, pepper, smoke palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2010 Baker Lane Syrah Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, stemmy, tar, pepper, smoke nose; tart roasted black fruit, tar, tart berry, violets palate with good balance; medium-plus finish (13% alcohol) 92+ points

Banshee

  • 2011 Banshee Pinot Noir Marine Layer – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; aromatic, sandalwood, tart cherry nose; tasty, sandalwood, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Banshee Pinot Noir Tina Marie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; focused, cranberry, tart cherry nose; cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry puree palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Benovia

  • 2012 Benovia Chardonnay Fort Ross-Seaview Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – light yellow color; pear, almond, toasted almond nose; creamy textured, pear, almond, toasted almond palate; medium-plus finish (20% new oak) 91-92+ points

  • 2012 Benovia Pinot Noir Tilton Hill Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; sous bois, cranberry nose; sous bois, cranberry, rosehips palate; medium-plus finish 91-93 points

Ceritas

John Raytek and Phoebe Bass of Ceritas
John Raytek and Phoebe Bass of Ceritas

  • 2011 Ceritas Chardonnay Porter-Bass Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; tart pear, apple nose; juicy, ripe pear, ripe apple palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Ceritas Chardonnay Heintz Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; very appealing, ripe pear, vanilla nose; ripe pear, vanilla, pineapple palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2012 Ceritas Pinot Noir Hellenthal Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium ruby color; appealing, tart cherry, tart raspberry nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry, mineral, saline palate; medium-plus finish (own rooted Calera clone) 92-94 points

  • 2011 Ceritas Pinot Noir Costalina – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; very appealing, tart cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, delicious, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus 93+ points

  • 2012 Ceritas Pinot Noir Elliott Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium dark cherry red color; floral, ripe cherry, raspberry nose; floral, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (clones 112, Mt Eden; 40% whole cluster) 90-92 points

Cobb

Ross Cobb
Ross Cobb
  • 2008 Cobb Pinot Noir Emmaline Ann – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; appealing, ripe cherry, confectioner’s sugar nose; ripe cherry, confectioner’s sugar palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2009 Cobb Pinot Noir Joy Road Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; cranberry, rosehips nose; focused, cranberry, rosehips, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2010 Cobb Pinot Noir Coastlands Vineyard: Diane Cobb – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, cranberry nose; sous bois, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

Emeritus

  • 2010 Emeritus Vineyards Pinot Noir William Wesley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; cranberry, sous bois nose; cranberry, sous bois palate; needs 1-plus year; medium-plus finish (14.3% alcohol) 89 points

  • 2010 Emeritus Vineyards Pinot Noir Hallberg Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cranberry nose; tart cherry, cranberry palate; medium finish 88 points

Failla

  • 2012 Failla Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; tart pear, apple nose; tasty, ripe pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Failla Pinot Noir Estate Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; focused, ripe black cherry, blackberry, black currant nose; tasty, ripe black cherry, tart blackberry, violets palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2012 Failla Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; tart cherry, floral, roses nose; tasty, ripe cherry, ripe raspberry palate with grip; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Failla Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; cranberry, rosehips nose; cranberry, rosehips, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Failla Pinot Noir Occidental Ridge Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; rosehips, cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, delicate, tart cherry, ripe cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2010 Failla Syrah MxM Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    From magnum – nearly opaque purple red violet color; very aromatic, pepper, roasted plum, lavender, white pepper nose; tasty, tight, complex yet somehow delicate, roasted black fruit, pepper, white pepper, lavender palate with near medium acidity; needs 3-4 years; long finish (13.9% alcohol) 95 points

Flowers

  • 2011 Flowers Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, white jasmine nose; ripe pear, white jasmine, tart pineapple palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Flowers Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, cranberry nose; tight, sous bois, floral, delicate, cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish 92 points

  • 2011 Flowers Pinot Noir Camp Meeting Ridge – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, tart cherry, light cedar, raspberry nose; tasty, poised, tart raspberry, tart cherry palate with delicacy and firm sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 93 points

Fort Ross

Linda Schwartz of Fort Ross
Linda Schwartz of Fort Ross
  • 2011 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Sea Slopes Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; reticent, dried green herb, cranberry, oregano, sous bois nose; tight, tart cherry, cranberry palate with medium acidity; needs 3-4 years; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; saline, tart raspberry, raspberry preserves nose; tasty, tart cherry, mineral, salmon palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2009 Fort Ross Pinot Noir Reserve Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; floral, tart cherry, raspberry jam nose; very tasty, raspberry, raspberry jam, ripe cherry palate with balance; medium-plus finish 94 points

  • 2009 Fort Ross Pinotage Fort Ross Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Pre-release – very dark cherry red color; tart blackberry, tar, reduction, confectioner’s sugar nose; tight, tart blackberry, confectioner’s sugar, tar, reduction palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91 points

Freeman

Ed Kurtzman (winemaker) and Akiko Freeman (proprietor)
Ed Kurtzman (winemaker) and Akiko Freeman (proprietor)
  • 2011 Freeman Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium orange pink color with pale meniscus; appealing, grapefruit nose; ripe cranberry, sous bois, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Freeman Pinot Noir Akiko’s Cuvée – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; cranberry, sous bois, iodine nose; tasty, black cherry, ripe berry, tart blackberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Freeman Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, ripe raspberry nose; tasty, ripe berry, ripe raspberry, raspberry jam palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Freestone (Joseph Phelps)

  • 2011 Freestone (Joseph Phelps) Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; almond, baked pear nose; almond, baked pear palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Freestone (Joseph Phelps) Pinot Noir Freestone Vineyards – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark ruby color; oak, green herb, cranberry nose; oak, green herb, tart cranberry palate with medium acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 86+ points

  • 2010 Freestone (Joseph Phelps) Pinot Noir Quarter Moon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; ripe cranberry, oak nose; ripe cranberry, oak, green herb palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 87+ points

Gros Ventre

  • 2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; baked cherry, tart berry nose; baked cherry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Slightly cloudy, medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry syrup nose; simple, ripe cherry, confectioner’s sugar palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2011 Gros Ventre Pinot Noir First Born – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Slightly cloudy red ruby color; ripe cranberry, tart cherry nose; ripe cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Halleck

  • 2012 Halleck Gewürztraminer Dry Gewurtztraminer Saralee’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very light yellow color; aromatic, gardenia, jasmine nose; tasty, gardenia, jasmine, ripe lime palate with racy acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2012 Halleck Sauvignon Blanc Little Sister – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very light yellow color; fresh, lemon grass, lime nose; delicious, lemon grass, fresh lime palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2008 Halleck Pinot Noir Hillside Cuvée – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium red color; tart strawberry, saline nose; tasty, tart strawberry, saline, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Hartford Court

  • 2010 Hartford Court Chardonnay Far Coast Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium yellow color; pineapple, lemon chiffon nose; pineapple, lemon chiffon palate; medium finish 86+ points

  • 2009 Hartford Court Chardonnay Seascape Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium golden yellow color; almond, marshmallow, tart lemon nose; tasty, almond, marshmallow, tart lemon palate; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2011 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Land’s Edge Vineyards – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; oak, tart cherry nose; oak, tart cherry palate; medium finish 87+ points

  • 2010 Hartford Court Pinot Noir Far Coast Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; oak, tart cherry nose; oak, tart cherry palate; medium finish 87 points

Hirsch

Jasmine Hirsch
Jasmine Hirsch
  • 2011 Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; tart apple, tart pear nose; tasty, tart apple, tart pear, ripe lemon palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2010 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, ripe cherry, black cherry, subtle spice, black raspberry nose; tasty, poised, black cherry, black raspberry, tart strawberry palate; could use 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (30% Pommard) 93 points

  • 2010 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; cranberry, green peppercorn nose; cranberry, green peppercorn, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (from old vines) 91+ points

  • 2011 Hirsch Vineyards Pinot Noir The Bohan-Dillon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; floral, ripe raspberry, cherry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (good value at $34) 93 points

LaRue

  • 2011 LaRue Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; watermelon, cranberry nose; juicy, ripe cranberry, tart cherry palate with orange acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points

Lattanzio

  • 2011 Lattanzio Pinot Noir Umino Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; hibiscus, rosehips nose; light medium bodied, hibiscus, rosehips, cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium finish 89 points

Lioco

  • 2011 Lioco Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; baked cherry, vanilla nose; tasty, plush but balanced, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Lioco Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; cranberry, rosehips nose; tight, cranberry, rosehips, tart cherry, raspberry jam palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (30-40% whole cluster) 91+ points

Littorai

  • 2011 Littorai Chardonnay Thieriot Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; very appealing, tart pear, apple nose; tasty, poised, ripe pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Littorai Pinot Noir The Pivot Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; very appealing, ripe cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, focused, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2011 Littorai Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cranberry nose; poised, tart cherry, cranberry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Littorai Pinot Noir Platt Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; appealing, black cherry, black raspberry nose; rich but balanced, black cherry, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

MacPhail

  • 2012 MacPhail Pinot Noir Rosé – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very light orange pink color; tart cranberry nose; tart cranberry, tart watermelon palate; medium finish 90+ points

  • 2011 MacPhail Pinot Noir “The Flyer” – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, ripe cranberry, oak nose; tart cherry, ripe cranberry, oak palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 MacPhail Pinot Noir Sundawg Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; tart cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; oak, ripe cranberry nose; plush, floral, ripe cranberry, oak palate; medium finish 89 points

Marimar

  • 2009 Marimar Estate (Marimar Torres) Pinot Noir Dona Margarita Vineyard, Chico’s Run – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; cranberry nose; tart cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 89 points

  • 2009 Marimar Estate (Marimar Torres) Pinot Noir Mas Cavalls Dona Margarita Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cranberry nose; silky textured, tart cherry, cranberry palate; medium finish 89 points

Martinelli

  • 2009 Martinelli Chardonnay Charles Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium yellow color; pineapple, oak nose; pineapple, oak palate; medium finish 86 points

  • 2011 Martinelli Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intense, oak, red fruit nose; intense, oak, red fruit palate; medium finish 87 points

  • 2010 Martinelli Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with clarity; oak, light green peppercorn, talc nose; tart berry, light green peppercorn, oak palate with grapey note toward finish; medium-plus finish 90 points

Pahlmeyer

  • 2011 Pahlmeyer Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark ruby color; oak, tart cherry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, red fruit palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (14.9% alcohol) 91+ points

Patz & Hall

  • 2010 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Jenkins Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Fall 2013 release – dark red violet color; ripe cranberry, stems nose; ripe cranberry, stems, sous bois palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (15% whole cluster) 89+ points

  • 2011 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark red violet color; ripe cranberry, oak, tart cherry nose; plush, ripe cherry palate with sweet tannins; medium-plus finish 91 points

Paul Hobbs

  • 2012 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay CrossBarn Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; apple, baked pear nose; apple, baked pear palate; medium finish 88 points

  • 2011 Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir CrossBarn Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark red violet color; ripe cranberry, oak nose; medium bodied, cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish 89 points

Peay

Peay's Vanessa Wong
Peay’s Vanessa Wong
  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Chardonnay Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; almond, ripe pear nose; oak, almond, ripe pear palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Scallop Shelf – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, ripe cranberry, ripe cherry nose; tasty, rich but balanced, ripe cranberry, ripe cherry palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points

  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; appealing, tart cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, rich but balanced, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 93 points

  • 2011 Peay Vineyards Syrah La Bruma – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark red violet color; entrancingly appealing, lifted, violets, black pepper, tart black fruit, incense, cardamom nose; very tasty, a little tight, tart black fruit, violets, tart berry palate with good balance; long finish (12.5% alcohol) 94 points

Ramey

  • 2010 Ramey Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium yellow color; appealing, hazelnut, almond nose; tasty, hazelnut, almond, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points

Red Car

  • 2011 Red Car Chardonnay Zephyr Farms – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; tart pear, oak nose; tasty, tart pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Red Car Pinot Noir Estate Fort Ross – Seaview – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; appealing, black cherry, black raspberry, baked black cherry, subtle spice, nutmeg nose; tasty, tart black cherry, black raspberry, nutmeg, coffee palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 92 points

  • 2011 Red Car Pinot Noir Heaven & Earth Bohemian Station – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; sous bois, hibiscus nose; light bodied, delicate, cinnamon, tart cherry, hibiscus palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2010 Red Car Syrah Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark red violet color; initial reduction, lavender, violets, tart berry nose; very tasty, balanced, tart berry, violets, tart black cherry palate with near medium acidity; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (13.3% alcohol) 93 points

Siduri

  • 2012 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Pratt Vineyard – USA, California, South Coast
    Barrel sample – medium dark ruby color; gunpowder, baked raspberry nose; plush, gunpowder, baked raspberry, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish 90-91+ points

  • 2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color with pale meniscus; green peppercorn nose; stemmy, green peppercorn, tart cherry palate; needs 4 years to integrate the stem inclusion; medium-plus finish 89 points

Small Vines

Paul and Kathryn Sloan of Small Vines
Paul and Kathryn Sloan of Small Vines
  • 2012 Small Vines Wines Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, apple nose; rich, tart pear, ripe apple palate; medium-plus finish (Mount Eden & Hyde clones; 10% new oak; 10% stainless steel; picked at 22.2 brix) 92+ points

  • 2012 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – dark cherry red color; appealing, ripe cherry, strawberry, raspberry nose; tasty, rich but balanced, ripe cherry, strawberry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92-94 points

Sojourn

  • 2011 Sojourn Pinot Noir Campbell Ranch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, black cherry nose; ripe cherry, black cherry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2011 Sojourn Pinot Noir Ridgetop Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; tart cherry, ripe cranberry nose; tight, ripe cherry, cranberry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points

  • 2011 Sojourn Pinot Noir Silver Eagle Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, ripe cranberry nose; ripe cherry, ripe cranberry palate; medium-plus finish 92 points

Soliste

Soliste Cellars' Claude Koeberle and Donald Plumley
Soliste Cellars’ Claude Koeberle and Donald Plumley
  • 2011 Soliste Cellars Sauvignon Blanc St Andelain – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Light yellow color; lime, lime cream nose; textured, lime cream palate; medium-plus finish (16 mos in cigar barrels, no malo) 92+ points

  • 2010 Soliste Cellars Chardonnay L’Age D’Or – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light yellow color; ripe lime, lime cream nose; tasty, rich, lime cream, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (30% malo) 92 points

  • 2010 Soliste Cellars Pinot Noir Foret – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, vanilla nose; rich, balanced, ripe cherry, raspberry, raspberry jam palate; medium-plus finish (50% whole cluster, 5 picking passes at harvest, gentle basket press) 93 points

  • 2012 Soliste Cellars Pinot Noir Soleil Rouge – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Very light pink color; watermelon nose; tasty, watermelon, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91 points

  • 2009 Soliste Cellars Pinot Noir T-Block Sonatera Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium ruby color; floral, cranberry nose; tasty, juicy, tart cranberry, tart cherry, mineral, floral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 92+ points

Sonoma Coast Vineyards

  • 2011 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Chardonnay Gold Ridge Hills – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; lemon, baked lemon nose; lemon, baked lemon, bay leaf palate; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2009 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Pinot Noir Freestone View Block Balisteri Family Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; savory, baked cherry, ripe cranberry nose; cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90 points

  • 2010 Sonoma Coast Vineyards Syrah Occidental Road Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark red violet color; appealing, complex, tar, roasted black fruit, pepper, violets, Worcestershire sauce nose; tasty, tight, violets, tart berry, tar palate with integrating oak; long finish (13.9% alcohol; 3.55 pH) 92 points

32 Winds

  • 2011 32 Winds Chardonnay Lucky Well U.V. – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light yellow color; almond, baked pear nose; creamy textured, almond, baked pear palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points

  • 2011 32 Winds Pinot Noir Lucky Well U.V. – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; oak, cranberry, cinnamon nose; juicy, cherry, cinnamon palate; medium finish 88+ points

  • 2010 32 Winds Pinot Noir Hirsch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Cloudy medium cherry red color; cranberry, sous bois nose; cranberry, sous bois, tart cherry palate; medium finish 89 points

Wild Hog

  • 2010 Wild Hog Vineyard Pinot Noir Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Nearly opaque purple red violet color; VA, baked cherry, berry nose; simple, tart berry, berry jam palate; medium finish 87 points

Zepaltas

Ryan Zepaltas
Ryan Zepaltas
  • 2011 Zepaltas Pinot Noir DeVoto Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    From magnum – medium ruby color; cranberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, cranberry, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points

  • 2012 Zepaltas Pinot Noir DeVoto Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; floral, hibiscus, ripe raspberry nose; tart cherry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91-93 points

  • 2012 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Suacci – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, vanilla nose; plush but balanced, tart cherry, vanilla, hibiscus palate; medium-plus finish 91-92+ points

California Wines Showing More Balance: SF Family Winemakers Tasting

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Family Winemakers of California is the primary trade association for the state’s wineries. They lobby—for increased market access, fewer taxes and fees, and less regulation—and they assist members in marketing their wines. The primary way they assist in marketing is through organizing large tastings for the trade and media. The biggest of these tastings is the annual two-day event at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Festival Pavillion, which took place on Sunday and Monday this week.

Buyers fly in from around the country for this event, which I’ve attended for several years now. Last year over 300 producers were on hand. This year, however, following months of reports showing significant post-recession recovery in fine wine sales, there were less than 250 participating wineries. Even among those who had reserved tables at the event and been announced as participants there was a significant number of no shows—over two dozen. These absences were presumably due, in most cases, to the fact that this year’s event fell two weeks later than usual, coinciding with harvest activities that commenced early in this year of generally favorable weather conditions.

Although it is impossible for a single person to taste even half of the wines poured at this event, I always prepare a detailed target list, aimed at taking me to as many new producers and first-time participants in this event as possible, as well as to many reliable producers—like La Jota, Paloma and Turley—who usually participate in few, if any, tasting events other than this annual affair.

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Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars

To reach a manageable number, I eliminate from my list producers whose wines I’ve sampled recently at other events—like Pinot Days, the recent West of West Festival, and a comprehensive tasting of Lake County producers that occurred the day before this tasting. I usually end up with a target list of about 100 wineries, and ultimately make it to about 70% of those.

That was exactly the case this year. By the end of nine hours of tasting from Sunday through Monday, I had sampled 244 wines from over 70 producers.

I can’t claim the wines I end up tasting—which this time represented close to one-third of what was poured—are a representative sampling of California’s wine production. Since I focus about equally on producers that are new to me and producers I know well, with proven track records, I tend to taste a lot of good things, as well as a lot of average to mediocre wines. Nonetheless, after sampling over 20 dozen wines, mainly current releases, from wineries located all over the State, one walks away with a comparative sense of recent vintages and some possible trends.

If California were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest wine producer, after Italy, France and Spain. California has long been heavily planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are very big varieties for us too.

This event always seems to me to be heavily dominated by Cabernet and the other varieties associated with the red wines of Bordeaux—Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Once again, many of the best and most ageworthy wines at this event were Cabernets and Bordeaux blends.

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Winemaker Jim Duane of Seavey, producer of some of the best Cabs at this event

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, the Cabernets I tasted this year were noticeably more balanced and lower in alcohol. These wines—with their tart currant, menthol and tobacco flavor profiles–reminded me a lot of the typically balanced, ageworthy Cabs we produced here prior to the mid-1980s.

A mini-trend I noticed was an increasing percentage of Petit Verdot in the meritage blends I tasted. There were even 11 single-variety bottlings of Petit Verdot represented this year, more than double the number poured only two years before.

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Darms Lane bottled a delicious Petit Verdot

I’m a big fan of black fruited, structured Petit Verdot, with its signature pencil lead notes. It’s a grape many Bordeaux producers are very fond of, but in too many years it doesn’t get ripe enough there to play much of a role in their blends. In the warmer, drier conditions of California, by contrast, this grape seems to be doing very well, and I suspect we’re going to see it playing an even bigger role in our state’s meritage offerings. (As of 2011, it was the 14th most planted black grape in California, but stood tenth in tonnage of black grapes crushed.)

The coolness of recent vintages also appears to have had a salutary effect in promoting balance in wines made from other grapes that tend toward ripeness and high alcohol levels, like Zin and Petite Sirah.

Of the over 70 producers whose wines I sampled at this tasting, the 23 producers responsible for one or more wines I rated 92 points or higher were Adastra, Ancien, Black Sears, Cain, Culler, Darms Lane, Field Recordings, Freemark Abbey, Keenan, La Jota, Lamborn Family, Mauritson, Merryvale, Paloma, Saxon-Brown, Seavey, Sojourn, Spring Mountain, Tablas Creek, The Terraces, Turley, Vino Noceto and Wallis Family. None of the couple dozen producers that were new to me at this tasting made the list above, although I did taste some good wines from newer producers like Anakota, Cowan Cellars, Galerie, J. Rickards, Patel, Petroni, Tayson Pierce, Trombetta Family and Wait Cellars.

The best Cabernets and Meritages for me, meriting 92 points or higher, were:
2006 Black Sears Red – 92 points
2009 Black Sears Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – 93 points
2008 Cain Concept The Benchland – 92 points
2007 Cain Five 92+ points
2009 Culler La Palette – 92+ points
2009 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvigon – 92 points
2008 Robert Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon – 93 points
2009 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon – 92 points
2009 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon – 93 points
2008 Lamborn Family Cabernet Sauvignon – 92+ points
2009 Merryvale Profile – 92 points
2009 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon Caravina – 93+ points
2008 Seavey Cabernet Sauvignon – 93+ points
2008 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – 93 points
2007 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – 92+ points
2007 Spring Mountain Elivette – 93+ points
2008 Spring Mountain Elivette – 94 points
2010 Wallis Family Cabernet Sauvignon Little Sister – 92+ points
2010 Wallis Family Cabernet Sauvignon – 93 points

Pinot Noirs I rated 92 points or higher were:
2009 Adastra Proximus – 92 points
2010 Ancien Shea – 92 points
2010 Ancien Red Dog – 92 points
2010 Ancien Fiddlestix – 92+ points
2010 Sojourn Russian River Valley – 92 points
2010 Sojourn Wohler – 92+ points
2010 Sojourn Ridgetop – 93 points

Zinfandels I thought merited 92 points or higher were:
2010 Black Sears Estate – 93 points
2010 Mauritson Dry Creek Valley – 92 points
2008 Saxon-Brown “Stonewall” Parmelee-Hill – 92+ points
2010 Turley Pesenti – 94 points
2009 Vino Noceto OGP Grandpere Vineyard – 92+ points

Other varietal reds that impressed, including Merlots, Cab Francs, Petite Sirahs and Petit Verdot, included:
2009 Darms Lane Petit Verdot Bon Passe Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Robert Keenan Cabernet Franc Spring Mountain District – 92+ points
2008 Robert Keenan Merlot Napa – 92+ points
2009 Robert Keenan Merlot Reserve Mailbox Vineyard – 93 points
2008 Paloma Merlot – 92+ points
2009 Seavey Merlot – 93 points
2010 The Terraces Petite Sirah – 92+ points
2010 Turley Petite Sirah Hayne – 93+ points
2009 Vino Noceto Barbera Linsteadt – 92 points

Other red blends that impressed me were
2011 Field Recordings “Fiction” – 92 points
2010 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas – 92+ points
2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel – 93 points

The only white this year that I rated 92 points or higher was Spring Mountain’s exceptional, white Bordeaux-like 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (92+ points).

For my complete tasting notes in alphabetical order by producer, see below:

2012 22ND ANNUAL FAMILY WINEMAKERS OF CALIFORNIA TASTING – Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason, San Francisco, California (9/9/2012-9/10/2012)

Adastra

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  • 2010 Adastra Chardonnay N’Oak – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; poached pear nose; poached pear palate with near medium acidity; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Adastra Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; hazelnut, baked pear nose; hazelnut, baked pear palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2011 Adastra Syrah Optimism Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Light orange pink color; cranberry, tart lemon nose; cranberry, tart lemon palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Adastra Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, floral nose; rich, ripe cherry, raspberry, floral palate; medium-plus finish (mainly Swan clone) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Adastra Pinot Noir Proximus – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; ripe cherry, vanilla nose; ripe cherry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (Pommmard, 777 and 115) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Adastra Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; earthy, tobacco nose; earthy, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Adastra Ed’s Red – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; baked black fruit, berry nose; baked black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (55% Dolcetto, 33% Zinfandel, 12% Syrah) (87 pts.)

Anakota

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  • 2005 Anakota Cabernet Sauvignon Helena Dakota Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; appealing, tart currant, tart plum nose; suave, tart currant, tart plum palate with fine tannins; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Ancien

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  • 2010 Ancien Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear, apple nose; tasty, tart pear, ripe apple palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Jouisance Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; floral, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, floral palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Shea – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley (9/9/2012)
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; floral, earthy, cinnamon nose; ripe cherry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Red Dog Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, cranberry, cinnamon nose; tart cherry, cranberry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Fiddlestix – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; intense, lifted, spicy tart cherry nose; spicy, tart cherry, raspberry palate with balance; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

A-non-ah-mus

Black Sears

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  • 2006 Black Sears Winery Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appelaing, lifted, dried berry, black fruit nose, reminiscent of Nebbiolo; tasty, tart black fruit, dried berry palate; medium-plus finish (50/50 Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon) (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Black Sears Winery Zinfandel Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; herbal, hibiscus, tart black fruit nose; youthful, characterful, tart black fruit, pepper, hibiscus palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Black Sears Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; herbal, black tobacco nose; tasty, tart lum, floral, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (clones 337 & 191) (93 pts.)

Cain

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  • NV Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Cuvée NV8 – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; tar, tart black fruit nose; tasty, tart black fruit, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish (48% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Concept The Benchland – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; savory, tart black fruit, herbs nose; tasty, tart black fruit, herbs, tobacco palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Five – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; herbs, tart black fruit, earthy nose; tasty, tart black fruit, herbs, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Cabernet Franc) (92 pts.)

Carol Shelton

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Cornerstone

Corté Riva

  • 2007 Cortez 78 (Corte Riva) Firepit – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark ruby color; tart cherry, tart berry nose; tasty, poised, tart cherry, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Cortez 78 (Corte Riva) Petite Sirah – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; lifted, charcoal, tart black fruit nose; tasty, tart black fruit, lavender palate; medium-plus finish (98% Lake Co., 2% Napa Valley) (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Corté Riva Cabernet Franc – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; roasted black fruit nose; roasted black fruit, chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Corté Riva Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, tart black fruit, herbs nose; tart black fruit, spice palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Cowan Cellars

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  • 2010 Cowan Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Isa – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (9/9/2012)
    Lightly cloudy light-medium yellow color; appealing, intense, tart green fruit, lime nose; oily textured, tart green fruit, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Cowan Cellars Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/9/2012)
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; floral, sous bois nose; tart cranberry, sous bois, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Cowan Cellars Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (9/9/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, earthy, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, sous bois, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Cowan Cellars Syrah Moaveni Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (9/9/2012)
    Pre-release: Dark magenta color; nice, roasted black fruit, pepper nose; pepper, roasted black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Culler

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  • 2011 Casaeda Gewürztraminer – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino (9/9/2012)
    Very light yellow color; aromatic, old roses, floral nose; tasty, tart citrus, mineral, floral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Culler Syrah Casaeda – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/9/2012)
    Tart black fruit, light pepper nose; tart black fruit, roasted black fruit, savory palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Culler Cabernet Sauvignon Casaeda – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/9/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; tart black fruit, tobacco nose; tart black fruit, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Culler La Palette – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart currant, lightly herbaceous nose; tart currant, pencil lead, tart black fruit palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot) (92 pts.)

Darms Lane

  • 2010 Darms Lane Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, hazelnut nose; ripe pear, hazelnut palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (10 mos in French oak) (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Darms Lane Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; sous bois, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, sous bois palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Darms Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Bon Passe Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark maroon color; tart currant, ripe currant nose; tart currant, ripe currant, lightly herbaceous palate; medium-plus finish (w/7% Petit Verdot, 3% Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Darms Lane Petit Verdot Bon Passe Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Opaque purple red violet color; violet, ripe berry nose; tasty, violet, ripe berry palate; medium-plus finish (with 3% Cabernet Sauvignon) (92 pts.)

De Tierra

  • 2009 De Tierra Chardonnay Vindegard – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear, hazelnut nose; hazelnut, pear palate with lowish acidity; medium finish 86+ points (86 pts.)
  • 2009 De Tierra Chardonnay Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; hazelnut nose; hazelnut, pear palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 De Tierra Pinot Noir Silacci Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; floral, baked cherry nose; baked cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2008 De Tierra Merlot Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; rich, tart plum, cedar nose; tart plum, cedar, tobacco palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2007 De Tierra The Puzzler – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; oak, roasted black fruit, smoke nose; oak, roasted black fruit, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (50/50 Syrah/Merlot) (86 pts.)

Domaine Le Mieux

  • NV Domaine Le Mieux Apple Vin de Pomme Sparkling – USA, California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County (9/9/2012)
    Light medium golden yellow color; apple cider nose; tart apple cider, chalk palate; medium finish (81 pts.)
  • 2009 Domaine Le Mieux Viognier – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear nose; tart pear, honeysuckle palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Domaine Le Mieux Tempranillo – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; ripe berry, oak nose; oak, ripe berry, black fruit palate; medium finish (84 pts.)

Dragonette

Sept 2012 066

Elizabeth Spencer

Field Recordings

  • 2011 Field Recordings Wine “Fiction” – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart grapefruit, chalk, tart gooseberry nose; tasty, tangy, tart pear, peach, ripe citrus palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Field Recordings Wine “Fiction” Rosé – USA, California (9/9/2012)
    Light orange pink color; focused, tart pink grapefruit, pear nose; juicy, tart pear, ripe pink grapefruit palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Field Recordings Wine Old Potrero – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Grande Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark purple red violet color; smoke, charcoal, tart black fruit nose; smoky, charcoal, tar, tart black fruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Field Recordings Wine Petite Sirah Red Cedar Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Dark purple red violet color; ripe black fruit, clove, chocolate nose; tasty, tart black fruit, clove, baked plum palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Field Recordings Wine “Chorus Effect” K.O. Koligian Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; fresh, ripe berry, apricot nose; tasty, ripe black fruit, tart berry, apricot palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Field Recordings Wine “Fiction” – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Very dark purple red violet color; pepper, charcoal, tart black fruit nose; fresh, pepper, charcoal, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Field Stone

Field Vineyards

  • 2009 Field Vineyards Chardonnay Katarina – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart lemon, apple nose; tart lemon, apple palate; medium finish (no malo) (88 pts.)
  • 2003 Field Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Katarina – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (9/10/2012)
    Opaque red violet color; maturing, baked plum, black fruit nose; baked plum, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points (French & Am oak for 36 mos) (87 pts.)

FiftyRow

  • 2009 Smoke Screen Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (9/10/2012)
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; cola, black cherry nose; cola, black cherry palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2007 FiftyRow Syrah – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; baked black fruit, oak nose; baked black fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 FiftyRow Cabernet Sauvignon Morisoli Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford (9/10/2012)
    Very dark purple red violet color; violets, tart berry, plum nose; violets, tart berry, plum palate; medium-plus finish (24 mos. in new French oak) (89 pts.)

Frank Family

  • 2010 Frank Family Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/10/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, loam nose; baked cherry, loam palate; medium finish 89+ points (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark ruby color; tart berry, spice nose; tart berry, spice palate; medium-plus finish (w/3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petite Sirah) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Frank Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; menthol, cassis, ripe currant nose; tasty, ripe currant, menthol, cassis palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (w/3% Merlot & 3% Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)

Freemark Abbey

Sept 2012 104

  • 2009 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark maroon color; menthol, tart black currant nose; tasty, black currant, loam, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (with 12% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc) (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon Bosché Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black currant, leaf tobacco nose; tart black currant, leaf tobacco palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Galerie

  • 2011 Galerie Sauvignon Blanc Naissance – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; smoke, lemon grass nose; tasty, smoke, lemon grass, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (50/50 stainless steel and neutral oak; clones 1, 317 and 376) (91 pts.)

Guarachi

  • 2010 Guarachi Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear, floral, almond nose; tart pear, floral, almond palate; medium finish 88+ points (11 mos in new French oak, 50% new) (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Guarachi Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/10/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; lifted, ripe cherry, oak nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Guarachi Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; brett, cinnamon, tart red fruit nose; brett, cinnamon, tart red fruit palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Idle Hour

J. Rickards

Sept 2012 105

  • 2011 J. Rickards Sauvignon Blanc Croft Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; lemon grass, tart grapefruit nose; smoky, tart grapefruit, lemon grass palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 J. Rickards Zinfandel Ancestor Selections – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; tart berry, baked berry nose; tart berry, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2010 J. Rickards Malbec Ashley’s Vines – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; violets, tart berry nose; violets, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 89+ points (89 pts.)
  • 2009 J. Rickards Sauvignon Blanc Twilight – USA, California, Sonoma County (9/10/2012)
    From 375 ml – light yellow color; baked peach nose; ripe, baked peach, apricot, lemon grass palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Jones Family

Sept 2012 106

  • 2010 Jones Family Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; intense, oily, tart peach nose; intense, oily textured, tart peach palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Jones Family The Sisters – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black fruit, black currant nose; tart black fruit, black currant palate; medium-plus finish (80% new French oak; 1% Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black fruit, leaf tobacco nose; tart black fruit, leaf tobacco palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Justin

Kathryn Kennedy

  • 2009 Kathryn Kennedy Lateral – USA, California (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; cedar, tart plum nose; cedar, tart plum, tobacco palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (45% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 14% Malbec, 7% Pinot Noir; Kathryn Kennedy is spinning this off as a separate label) (91 pts.)

Keenan

<Sept 2012 059

  • 2010 Robert Keenan Winery Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; ripe pear, ripe lemon nose; tasty, rich, poised, creamy textured, tart lemon palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Franc Spring Mountain District – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, lifted, tart currant, herbs nose; tasty, tart currant, herbs palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Robert Keenan Winery Merlot Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; lifted, tart black fruit, herbs nose; tasty, tart black fruit, herbs palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Robert Keenan Winery Merlot Reserve Mailbox Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; nice, herbs, tart black fruit nose; tight, tart black fruit, herbs palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (20 mos. in French oak; 14.3% alcohol) (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black fruit, tar, herbs nose; tight, tart black fruit, tar, herbs palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

La Jota

  • 2009 La Jota Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (9/10/2012)
    Very dark purple red violet color; ripe plum, berry nose; tasty, ripe black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (9/10/2012)
    Opaque red violet color; tart black fruit, menthol nose; tasty, tart black fruit, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (w/12/% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Mt. Brave Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (9/10/2012)
    Very dark purple red violet color; appealing, black currant nose; tight, ripe black currant, blackberry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (w/5% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc) (93 pts.)

Ladera

Sept 2012 103

  • 2011 Ladera Sauvignon Blanc Howell Mountain – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; smoky, gooseberry nose; gooseberry, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart currant, loam, menthol nose; tart currant, loam, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart currant nose; menthol, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (w/3% Petit Verdot & 2% Malbec) (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Ladera Pinot Noir Pillow Road Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; black cherry nose; black cherry, cola palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Lamborn Family

Sept 2012 062

Larry Hyde & Sons

  • 2009 Larry Hyde & Sons Pinot Noir Hyde – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; oak, baked cherry nose; baked cherry, oak palate; medium finish (11 mos in oak) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Larry Hyde & Sons Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/9/2012)
    Dark red violet color; spicy cherry, berry nose; juicy, spicy, ripe cherry, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; plush, ripe black fruit, cedar nose; tasty, plush, tart black fruit, cedar palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Mountain – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; ripe berry, black fruit, tar nose; creamy textured, baked black fruit, caramel oak palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Lavender Blue

  • 2010 Lavender Blue Viognier – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; floral, honeysuckle nose; honeysuckle, poached pear palate; medium finish (15.7% alcohol) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Lavender Blue Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Valley, Tracy Hills (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; poached pear, floral nose; ripe, poached pear, floral palate; medium finish (85 pts.)
  • 2009 Lavender Blue Petite Sirah Canino Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (9/9/2012)
    Opaque red violet color; brett, chocolate nose; tart plum, chocolate, brett palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Lavender Blue Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Central Valley, Tracy Hills (9/9/2012)
    Very dark maroon color; baked plum, fig, chocolate nose; baked black fruit, fig palate; medium-plus finish (w/3.5% Petite Sirah) (83 pts.)

Mario Bazan

Sept 2012 109

  • 2011 Mario Bazan Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; intense, lemon grass, smoke nose; intense, lemon grass, smoke palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Mario Bazan Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Atlas Peak (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; pepper, tart currant nose; pepper, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Mario Perelli-Minetti

Sept 2012 108

Maroon

  • 2011 Maroon Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart lemon nose; tart lemon, citrus palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Maroon Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll (9/10/2012)
    Bricking medium red color; mature, smoky, tart red fruit nose; tart cherry, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Maroon Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – USA, California, Napa Valley, Yountville (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; intense, baked black currant, oak nose; intense, baked black currant, prune, oak palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Mauritson

Sept 2012 107

  • 2011 Mauritson Wines Sauvignon Blanc Dry Creek Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; intense, lemon grass, tart grapefruit nose; intense, lemon grass, tart grapefruit palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Mauritson Wines Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark ruby color; lifted, tart berry, tart cherry nose; tasty, rich, ripe cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (w/3% Petite Sirah) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Mauritson Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County – USA, California, Sonoma County (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart currant nose; tasty, menthol, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Rockpile Winery (Mauritson) Buck Pasture – USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, red berry, ripe currant nose; tasty, red berry, ripe currant palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot) (90 pts.)

Merryvale

  • 2010 Merryvale Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; lifted, pear, white jasmine nose; ripe pear, white jasmine, peach palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (43% new French oak) (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Merryvale Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; lifted, ripe cherry, raspberry nose; ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Merryvale Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark ruby color; ripe cassis, black currant, light menthol nose; tasty, cassis, black currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 5% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Merryvale Profile – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, ripe black currant, cassis nose; tasty, cassis, black currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc; 14.8% alcohol) (92 pts.)

Mitchell Katz

  • 2010 Mitchell Katz Chardonnay Shadow Hills Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; poached pear, Bosch pear nose; ripe pear, poached pear palate; medium-plus finish (50% new American oak, 50% malolactic) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Mitchell Katz Sangiovese Crackerbox Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; oak, ripe berry, plum nose; ripe cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points (75% new French oak) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Mitchell Katz Petite Sirah Falling Star Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley (9/10/2012)
    Opaque purple red violet color; baked berry, baked black fruit nose; baked berry, baked black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2005 Mitchell Katz Cabernet Sauvignon Tawny Port Falling Star – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley (9/10/2012)
    From 375 ml – medium orange color; coffee, caramel, blond fig nose; coffee, caramel, blond fig palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Montage

  • 2009 Montage Vineyards Chardonnay Garrison Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart citrus, ripe apple nose; oats, hay, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Montage Vineyards Pinot Noir Hummingbird Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, baked cherry nose; tart cherry, red fruit, oak palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Montage Vineyards Syrah Vintner’s Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; roasted plum, pepper nose; roasted plum, pepper palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (3 years in oak; 14.6% alcohol) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Montage Vineyards Grenache Camp 4 Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light red color with pale meniscus; dried cherry, oak nose; light-medium bodied, tart red fruit, cinnamon palate; medium finish (88 pts.)

Naumann

Sept 2012 095

  • 2009 Naumann Vineyards Tre Roso – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, ripe plum, berry, black fruit nose; ripe plum, berry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc) (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Naumann Vineyards Chardonnay Ashley Hills – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; ripe pineapple, pear nose; ripe pineapple, pear palate; medium finish 86+ points (86 pts.)

Paloma

Sept 2012 046

  • 2008 Paloma Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Dark ruby color; tart plum, black fruit, baked plum nose; tasty, poised, tart black fruit, tart plum palate; will go 15 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (w/15% Cabernet Sauvignon) (92 pts.)

Patel

Sept 2012 098

  • 2009 Patel Proprietary Red – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark maroon color; appealing, black currant, French oak nose; plush, black currant palate; medium-plus finish (70% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Malbec) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Patel Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; ripe black currant, berry, vanilla nose; ripe black currant, berry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Patel Proprietary Red – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; herbs, black currant nose; tasty, herbs, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (68% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, with Malbec and Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)

Peter Paul

  • 2010 Peter Paul Wines Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear, peach nose; tart pear, peach palate; medium finish (50% neutral oak, 50% stainless steel; no malolactic) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Peter Paul Wines Chardonnay Mill Station Road – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear, light hazelnut nose; tart pear, light hazelnut palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Peter Paul Wines Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart lemon, lemon cream nose; tart lemon, lemon cream palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Mill Station Road – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; black raspberry nose; black raspberry, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Trenton Road – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, black cherry nose; baked cherry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Temperance Hill – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Eola – Amity Hills (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark red color; forest floor, herbs nose; forest floor, herbs palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Peter Paul Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; tobacco, tart black currant nose; tobacco, tart black currant palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Petroni

Sept 2012 096

  • 2010 Petroni Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart grapefruit, lemon grass nose; ripe grapefruit, lemon grass palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Petroni Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very light yellow color; lemon grass, smoke nose; tasty, lemon grass, smoke, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Petroni Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown – USA, California, Sonoma County (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; loam, tart black currant nose; loam, tart black currant palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (15.5% alcohol) (90 pts.)
  • 2005 Petroni Brunello di Sonoma Poggio Alla Pietra – USA, California, Sonoma County (9/10/2012)
    Bricking dark red violet color; aromatic, dried berry, chocolate, baked plum nose; dried berry, chocolate, baked plum palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Pietra Santa

  • 2009 Pietra Santa Chardonnay Twin Terraces – USA, California, Central Coast, Cienega Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light straw yellow color; ripe pear, peach nose; ripe pear, peach palate with low acidity; medium finish (blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris) (85 pts.)
  • 2008 Pietra Santa Sangiovese – USA, California, Central Coast, Cienega Valley (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; aromatic, light cherry, red berry nose; tasty, tart red berry, very tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Pietra Santa Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Collection – USA, California, Central Coast, Cienega Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black currant, loam nose; tart black currant, loam palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Pride

  • 2010 Pride Mountain Vineyards Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; oak, nutty, almond nose; tasty, tart pear, almond palate with near medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Pride Mountain Vineyards Syrah – USA, California, Sonoma County (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; tart plum, lightly herbaceous nose; tart plum, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Pride Mountain Vineyards Merlot – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; ripe black fruit, chocolate nose; ripe black fruit, chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (w/9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Petit Verdot and .5% Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Pride Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black currant, menthol nose; tart black currant, menthol palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (w/11% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot) (90 pts.)

R & B Cellars

  • NV R & B Cellars The Improviser – USA, California (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark red violet color redolent, tart red fruit, char nose; tart red fruit, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (62% Lake Co. Zinfandel, 28% Contra Costa Mourvedre, 4% Contra Costa Barbera, 4% Napa Petite Sirah, 1% Napa Cabernet Franc, 1% Napa Merlot) (86 pts.)
  • 2009 R & B Cellars Zinfandel Zydeco – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark red violet color; baked black fruit, oak nose; baked black fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish 86+ points (86 pts.)
  • 2006 R & B Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Lyric of the Vine Reserve – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; baked black fruit, oak nose; bake black fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)

Robert Biale

Rua

  • 2009 Rua – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Opaque red violet color aromatic, tart berry, black fruit, menthol nose; tasty, tart black fruit, menthol, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish (Merlot & Cab Franc, co-fermented; 2/3s to 1/3) (90 pts.)

Saxon-Brown

Sept 2012 053

  • 2008 Saxon-Brown Sémillon Cricket Creek – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; aromatic, oily, rich citrus nose; oily textured, ripe pear, tart peach palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Saxon-Brown Sémillon Casa Santinamaria Vineyards – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; aromatic, herbs, very tart peach nose; tasty, oily textured, tart peach, mineral, orange blossom palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (75 yr old field blend vineyard with Muscadelle) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Etre Wines Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/9/2012)
    Light golden yellow color; pineapple, tart pear nose; rich, pineapple, tart pear palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Saxon-Brown Chardonnay Durell Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (9/9/2012)
    Light lemon yellow color; mineral, earthy, toasty, tart lemon nose; tasty, rich, tart lemon, lemon cream, mineral, hazelnut palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Saxon-Brown Zinfandel “Stonewall” Parmelee-Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (9/9/2012)
    Medium dark red color; aromatic, ripe cherry, raisins, ripe berry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Seavey

Sept 2012 051

  • 2009 Seavey Vineyard Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, tart black fruit, herbs, tobacco nose; tart black fruit, espresso palate; approachable now; medium-plus finish (w/10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 50% new French oak) (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Caravina – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black fruit, espresso nose; tasty, rich black fruit, espresso palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Seavey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, redolent, tart plum, roasted black fruit nose; tasty, rich but poised, tart black fruit, tart blackberry, tar palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (w/10% Petit Verdot) (93 pts.)

Sempre Vive

  • 2008 Sempre Vive Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; ripe black currant nose; tart blackberry, ripe black currant palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Sempre Vive Petit Verdot – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; tart black currant, deep black fruit nose; tart black currant, deep black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Smith-Anderson

  • 2009 Havens Wine Cellars Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; apricot, peach nose; apricot, peach palate; medium finish (85 pts.)
  • 2007 Stonehedge The Noble Red – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; lifted, ripe red fruit, apricot, cherry nose; ripe red fruit, apricot, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (1/3 each Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) (88 pts.)

Smith Madrone

  • 2011 Smith Madrone Riesling Estate Bottled – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; ripe lime, green melon nose; ripe lime, green melon palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Smith Madrone Chardonnay Estate Bottled – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; hazelnut, tart pear nose; hazelnut, tart pear, apple palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Smith Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Bottled – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; menthol, tart currant, bay leaf nose; menthol, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (w/ 9% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot) (91 pts.)

Sojourn

Sept 2012 111

  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Wohler Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; intense, tart cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, intense, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; ripe cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Ridgetop Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (9/10/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; redolent, floral, ripe raspberry, cherry nose; silky textured, floral, ripe raspberry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Spann

  • 2009 Spann Vineyards Cabernet Franc four barrels Sonoma County – USA, California, Sonoma County (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; redolent, ripe currant nose; brett, ripe currant palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Spann Vineyards Malbec four barrels – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; violets, ripe berry nose; violets, ripe berry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Spann Vineyards Mo Jo – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; oak, baked black fruit nose; oak, baked black fruit palate; medium finish (48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Sangiovese, 7% Syrah, 5% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc) (87 pts.)

Spring Mountain

Sept 2012 047

  • 2009 Spring Mountain Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; appealing, oily, tart citrus, tart peach nose; rich, oily textured, tart citrus, mineral palate, very Graves-like; medium-plus finish 92+ points (w/18% Semillon) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, tart berry, black fruit, French oak nose; very tasty, black fruit, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish (78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot) (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Spring Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; redolent, tobacco, herbs nose; youthful, tasty, tart black fruit, tobacco, herbs palate medium-plus finish 92+ points (w/3% Cabernet Franc) (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Spring Mountain Vineyard Elivette – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart plum, herbs, tobacco nose; tight, tart black fruit, black tobacco palate; needs 4 years; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2008 Spring Mountain Vineyard Elivette – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart black fruit, dark chocolate nose; tasty, tart black fruit, dark chocolate palate; needs 4 years; long finish (94 pts.)

Tablas Creek

Sept 2012 100

  • 2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; ripe pear nose; ripe pear, mineral, tart peach palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (60% Roussanne, 35% Grenache Blanc, 5% Picpoul) (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/10/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; tart berry, anise, garrigue nose; tasty, tart berry, garrigue, mineral, anise palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/10/2012)
    Pre-release (mid-Oct. 2012 release) – dark red violet color; tart cherry, tart berry, garrigue, anise nose; tasty, tart berry, beetroot, anise, garrigue, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Tayson Pierce

Sept 2012 099

The Terraces

  • 2010 The Terraces Riesling – USA, California, North Coast, Napa County (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; aromatic, tart peach, baked pear nose; oily textured, tart peach, poached pear palate with minerality; medium-plus finish (no malo) (90 pts.)
  • 2011 The Terraces Chenin Blanc – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; pear, tart green apple nose; spicy pear, green apple palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 The Terraces Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; tart berry, spicy plum nose; tasty, tart berry, spicy plum palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2008 The Terraces Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Opaque purple red violet color; tart black fruit, charcoal, graphite nose; tasty, tight, tart black fruit, charcoal palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish 91+ point (91 pts.)
  • 2011 The Terraces Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear, tart apple nose; tasty, tart pear, tart apple palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 The Terraces Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley (9/9/2012)
    Opaque black red violet color; appealing, rich, tart black fruit, savory, light herb nose; tasty, chewy, tart black fruit, savory, dried herbs palate; long finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Trombetta Family

Turley

  • 2010 Turley Zinfandel Pesenti Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (9/9/2012)
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, ripe berry, black cherry nose; tasty, tangy, tart black cherry, tart berry, graphite, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (vineyard planted in 1920) (94 pts.)
  • 2010 Turley Petite Sirah Hayne Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (9/9/2012)
    Very dark purple red violet color; rich, ripe black fruit, chocolate, chocolate cake nose; rich, creamy textured, tart black fruit, tart berry, black plum palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)

Veedercrest

Sept 2012 110

  • 2010 Veedercrest Chardonnay Ruhl Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart lemon nose; ripe lemon, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (stainless steel, no malo) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Veedercrest Merlot Villa Mille Rose – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; appealing, tart plum nose; tart plum, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (w/ 10% Cabernet Sauvignon) (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Veedercrest Cabernet Sauvignon Vintner’s Reserve Rutherford – USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; redolent, baked black fruit nose; baked black fruit, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Veedercrest Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; aromatic, tobacco, tart currant nose; tobacco, tart currant, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (w/ 10% Merlot, 2.5% Petite Verdot, 2.5% Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Veedercrest Cabernet Sauvignon Mt. Veeder – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (9/10/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; redolent, baked black fruit, black currant nose; baked black fruit, black currant palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Vena

  • 2010 Vena Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; oily, ripe gooseberry nose; oily textured, ripe gooseberry palate; medium-plus finish (85% stainless steel) (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Vena Vineyards Merlot – USA, California, Sonoma County, Knights Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; redolent, ripe plum, red berry nose; ripe plum, red berry palaet; medium finish (15 mos in oak) (87 pts.)

Vino Noceto

<Sept 2012 042

  • 2011 Vino Noceto Pinot Grigio – USA, California, Central Valley, Clarksburg (9/9/2012)
    Pale pink yellow color; ripe apple, light peach nose; juicy, tart peach, palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Vino Noceto Moscato Blanco Frivolo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley (9/9/2012)
    Pale yellow color; ripe peach, fruit salad nose; rich, sweet, peach, fruit salad palate with some acidity; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Vino Noceto Sangiovese – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (9/9/2012)
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart red fruit, red berry nose; tart red fruit red berry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Vino Noceto Sangiovese Riserva – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley (9/9/2012)
    Medium dark red color; tart red fruit dried red fruit nose; tasty, very tart red fruit palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Vino Noceto Sangiovese Dos Oakies – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark red color; tart red fruit, cranberry nose; tasty, tart red fruit, cranberry, cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (Brunello clone) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Vino Noceto Barbera Linsteadt – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, tart cherry, red fruit, oak spice nose; tasty, ripe cherry, tart cherry, red berry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (probably the best California Barbera I’ve tasted) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (9/9/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; baked berry, plum, maple syrup nose; tasty, tart plum, baked berry, tart black fruit palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Wait

  • 2011 Wait Cellars Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pear nose; tasty, tart pear, ripe lemon palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Wait Cellars Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark cherry red color; intense, ripe cherry nose; tasty, rich, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Wait Cellars Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (9/10/2012)
    Dark red violet color; intense, black cherry nose; black cherry, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Wallis Family

Sept 2012 049

  • 2010 Wallis Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Little Sister – USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; tart black fruit, herbs, savory nose tasty, tart black fruit, coffee, herbs palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (w/ 2.5% Petit Verdot; decent value at $45 SRP) (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Wallis Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain (9/9/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; roasted fruit, tart black fruit, espresso, herbs nose; roasted black fruit, espresso, herbs palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Yeilding

Sept 2012 054

  • 2010 Yeilding Wine Pinot Noir Alder Springs Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino (9/9/2012)
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; forest floor, earthy nose; tasty, earthy, forest floor, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Yeilding Wine Bell Springs Cuvée – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino (9/9/2012)
    Dark ruby color; smoky, tar, dried black fruit nose; smoky, tar, dried black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points (35% Cabernet Franc, 30% CAbernet Sauvignon, 25% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot) (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Yeilding Wine Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino (9/9/2012)
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, tart black fruit, herbs, light pepper nose; tart black fruit, herbs, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Yeilding Wine Chardonnay – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino (9/9/2012)
    Light yellow color; tart pineapple, ripe pear nose; tart pineapple, ripe pear palate; medium finish (50% stainless steel, 50% oak, 50% malo) (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Yeilding Wine Pinot Noir Late Harvest – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino (9/9/2012)
    Dark red color; black cherry nose; sweet, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)

San Francisco Pinot Days: Pinot from All Over

June 2012 098

The eighth annual Pinot Days grand tasting occupied San Francisco’s Fort Mason Festival Pavilion this past Saturday. This was my sixth year attending the event, and I’ve seen it shrink, particularly over the past couple years, from a two-day-plus extravaganza, featuring several seminars with winemakers in addition to the Sunday grand tasting, to now a single, half-day event on Saturday. Yes, there were a couple of related dinners with winemakers, and a retail store tasting that coincided with the event. Pinot Days claims to still be the biggest Pinot Noir festival in the world, with over 200 producers and around 500 wines. Nonetheless, this is not the three-day-weekend, wall-to-wall Pinot fest it used to be.

Has the Pinot frenzy following Sideways finally cooled off? Certainly a great deal of Pinot has been planted in California in the last several years, and the high demand for the grape of a few years back seems to have slaked. It may also be that with a growing number of trade and public tastings focused on particular regions that excel in Pinot—like the stellar Sta. Rita Hills tasting I reported on here, Santa Cruz Mountains’ Pinot Paradise, and the upcoming West Sonoma Coast tasting this August—people may be less attracted to a Pinot-from-anywhere event, as Pinot Days has become.

Pinot Days was also missing several of the top producers it has featured in the past—names like Arcadian, Hanzell, Littorai, Kosta Browne, Merry Edwards, Mount Eden, Peay and Pisoni. With reduced yields in the last couple of vintages, the word around the festival was that producers like these passed on this event because they didn’t have wine left to sell. Even producers represented at the event were, in some cases, not pouring their more celebrated wines since, again, they had little or none of those wines remaining in inventory.

The geographical reach of the event, however, expanded further, from the usual California and Oregon contingent, with a sprinkling of Burgundy, to include New Zealand and even Chilean Pinot. And, as always, there were new producers from all over.

To focus my tasting efforts, I passed on great producers from regions I’d tasted recently, like Sta. Rita Hills and the Santa Cruz Mountains, and targeted wineries that were new to me, or regions I’ve tasted very little lately, like New Zealand. As a result, I had to pass up tasting wines from terrific producers like Alma Rosa, Baxter, Big Basin, Cargasacchi, Clos Pepe, Fort Ross, Mahoney, Scherrer and Siduri.

The vintages represented were largely 2008, 2009 and 2010. Of these, 2008 was the weakest in California—due to fires and untimely rains–although it was a very good vintage for Oregon. The 2009s from California tended to show well, with ripe fruit and structure, but the 2010s were also very good, in a lighter style. In fact, having now tasted 155 domestic Pinots from 2010, compared to 480 Pinots from 2009, I find I’m scoring more 2010s at a higher level—giving more of them 92 and 93 points—than I did proportionately with the 2009s. Some of these may age well too, but it’s largely a vintage that will be enjoyable in the shorter term, while we wait for our ‘09s and ‘07s to mature.

June 2012 094

Some other noticeable, and commendable trends, from the 2010s I tasted at this event, and otherwise recently, are higher acidities and lower alcohols than in years past, thanks both to the cooler weather conditions in 2010 as well as to decisions by many growers and winemakers to pick earlier and to favor acidity over super-ripeness. There continues to be quite a bit of experimentation with some level of whole cluster inclusion, but I felt even in the wines where the stem or whole cluster inclusion went above 15 or 20%, the green, stemmy flavors weren’t as overwhelming as they were a couple years back when the stem inclusion trend started to become really noticeable and, for me, obtrusive.

The 2010 vintage was apparently a very good one too for New Zealand, with a relatively long growing period. Their Pinots were more savory and higher in acid than their California counterparts, making them excellent food wines. My favorite New Zealand producers at this event were Ellero and Spy Valley.

The French Pinots poured were quite mediocre, and not at all representative of the glories of red Burgundy. I’ve recommended in the past that the Burgundy offerings be omitted at this event, in favor of keeping the focus on local West Coast Pinot, and I think that’s still good advice.

The California producers whose wines I sampled that were showing best for me at this event, scoring an average of 91 points or higher, were Abiouness, August West, Benovia, Freeman, Joseph Phelps, Joseph Swan, Kanzler, Ladd, Mansfield-Dunne, Small Vines and Sojourn. My favorite Oregon producers were Rex Hill, Stoller, William Hatcher and Winderlea.

For an upcoming Pinot-dominated event that is expanding, and focused on one of California’s hottest regions—in terms of popularity and attention, not climate—I highly recommend the second annual West of West Festival August 3-5. This event spotlights the West Sonoma Coast, and will include such top producers as Anthill, Benovia, Cobb, Fort Ross, Hirsch, Littorai, Peay, Small Vines and Sojourn. The weekend-long event will include informative seminars and grand tastings, as well as dinners and related activities. Tickets may be purchased here.

The wines I rated highest at this tasting, at 92 points or higher, were all from producers I’ve lauded in the past, so no new wineries (to me) in these ranks:
2010 Benovia La Pommeraie – 93 points
2010 Benovia Bella Una – 92 points
2010 Freeman Keefer Ranch – 92 points
2008 Joseph Swan Trenton Estate – 92+ points
2009 Ladd Cellars Cuvee Abigail – 92 points
2010 Small Vines Russian River Valley – 92 points
2010 Small Vines Baranoff Vineyard – 92+ points
2010 Sojourn Rodgers Creek Vineyard – 92 points
2010 Sojourn Gap’s Crown Vineyard – 92+ points
2010 Sojourn Sangiacomo Vineyard – 93 points
2010 Sojourn Ridgetop Vineyard – 92+ points
2010 Sojourn Wohler – 93 points

For my complete tasting notes, see below. Note: in a few cases below, my notes record wines that I tasted the preceding month, when I tasted through the wines of a few Pinot Days producers at an open house at Vinify Wine Services in Santa Rosa.

A to Z Wineworks

  • 2010 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir – USA, Oregon
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; roses, tart cherry nose; soft, tart cherry, roses palate; medium finish (89 pts.)

Abiouness

June 2012 087

  • 2008 Abiouness Pinot Noir Stanly Ranch – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium cherry red color; redolent, floral, baked cherry nose; baked cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Abiouness Pinot Noir Hudson Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, tart red fruit, raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (clones 777 & Pommard) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Abiouness Pinot Noir Silacci – USA, California, North Coast, Carneros
    Medium dark cherry red color; hibiscus, rosehips nose; tart cherry, hibiscus palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (Pisoni clone) (91 pts.)

Arista

June 2012 085

  • 2010 Arista Winery Pinot Noir Mononi Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; light reduction, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, ripe red fruit palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Arista Winery Pinot Noir Toboni Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark ruby color; tart cherry, spice nose; ripe cherry, spice, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

August West

June 2012 084

  • 2010 August West Pinot Noir Rosella’s Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Medium dark ruby color; appealing, ripe raspberry, baked cherry nose; tasty, ripe raspberry, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 August West Pinot Noir Graham Family Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, tart raspberry, tart cherry nose; floral, tart raspberry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Bachelet

Belle Glos

  • 2010 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Meiomi – USA, California
    Dark ruby color; lifted, tart cherry, baked cherry, baked raspberry nose; tart cherry, baked cherry, baked raspberry, cherry syrup palate; medium-plus finish (85 pts.)

Benovia

June 2012 074

  • 2011 Benovia Pinot Noir Rosé Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light pink color; light floral, tart raspberry nose; tart cherry, Rainier cherry, raspberry palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Benovia Pinot Noir La Pommeraie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark ruby color; appealing, cherry, ripe raspberry, floral nose; tasty, ripe raspberry, cherry, light berry palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark ruby color; ripe cherry, black cherry, berry nose; ripe cherry, black cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Benovia Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Tart cherry, tart baked cherry, raspberry nose; tart cherry, tart baked cherry, raspberry, strawberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Benovia Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; cherry, raspberry, light pie crust nose; cherry, raspberry, light pie crust palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Bernardus

Bichot

Brack Mountain

June 2012 083

  • 2011 Brack Mountain Winery Origine Rosé of Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light pink color; tart red fruit, blood orange nose; tasty, dry, tart blood orange, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2011 Brack Mountain Winery tramanto Rosé of Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light orange pink color; tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, dry, tart strawberry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bench Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; strawberry, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, strawberry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 L’Oliveto Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; floral, tart cherry nose; tart raspberry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Cyprus Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart raspberry, floral nose; tart raspberry, tart cherry, rosehips palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Brandborg

  • 2011 Brandborg Pinot Noir Scarlet Cuvée – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
    Light medium pink color; floral, cranberry nose; reduction, tart cherry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Brandborg Pinot Noir Bench Lands – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
    Light medium red color; lifted, tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Brandborg Pinot Noir Love Puppets – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; reduction, light cranberry nose; reduction, light cranberry, rosehips palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Brandborg Pinot Noir Estate Ferris Wheel Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; floral, tart cherry nose; floral, tart cherry, cranberry palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Couloir

  • 2010 Couloir Wines Pinot Noir Londer – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, roses, tart cherry nose; tasty, coiled, tart cherry, mineral, floral, rosehips palate with medium acidity; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (clones Pommard and 115; 1/3 whole cluster; 1/3 new oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Couloir Wines Pinot Noir Monument Tree – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; reduction, tart cherry, rosehips, floral nose; tart strawberry, stems, floral, rosehips, mineral palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (Dijon clones 777. 667 & 115; 1/3 whole cluster; 1/3 new oak; 13.3% alcohol) (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Couloir Wines Pinot Noir Chileno Valley Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Marin County
    Light medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; green bean, rosehips, stems nose; rosehips, green bean, tart strawberry, forest floor, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (1/2 new French oak; 1/3 whole cluster; 12.8% alcohol) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Straight Line Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium cherry red color; lifted, roses, tart cherry, cinnamon nose; tart strawberry, tart cherry, rosehips palate; medium finish (45% whole cluster; 13.9% alcohol) (90 pts.)

Craggy Range

  • 2010 Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Vineyard – New Zealand, North Island, Wairarapa, Martinborough
    Medium dark cherry red color; lifted, tart cherry, stems, savory nose; tart cranberry, tart cherry, stems palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Daniel

  • 2010 Daniel Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Roberts Road Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; lifted, floral, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, floral, rosehips palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Daniel Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, hibiscus nose; tart cherry, hibiscus palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Ellero

June 2012 080

  • 2009 Ellero Pinot Noir Pisa Terrace – New Zealand, South Island, Otago, Central Otago
    Medium dark cherry red color; focused, baked strawberry, raspberry nose; baked strawberry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Freeman

  • 2010 Freeman Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, hibiscus, rosehips, cranberry, tart cherry, Jolly Rancher, pie crust nose; tart cherry, cranberry palate with medium acidity; would benefit from a year in bottle; medium finish 90+ points (14.2% alcohol) (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Freeman Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, ripe cranberry, tart raspberry, pie crust nose; tasty, cherry, raspberry, baked raspberry, pie crust palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (14.2% alcohol) (92 pts.)

Greywacke

  • 2010 Greywacke Pinot Noir – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
    Dark cherry red color; reduction, ripe cranberry nose; tart cranberry, tart red fruit palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Inception

  • 2009 Inception Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Medium cherry red color; intense, spicy, baked orange, baked cherry, clove nose; spicy, baked orange, baked cherry, clove palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Inception Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast
    Medium red color; spicy, black cherry, black raspberry nose; tea, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (12 mos in 15% new French oak) (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Inception Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills
    Medium dark cherry red color; spicy cherry, orange nose; spicy cherry, orange, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Jacob

John Tyler

June 2012 076

  • 2002 John Tyler Wines Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color; mature, Burgundian, sous bois, tart cherry, floral nose; mature, tart red fruit, mineral, mushroom, iron palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2004 John Tyler Wines Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; mature, redolent, dried cherry, tart raspberry, pie crust nose; mature, dried cherry, tart raspberry, pie crust palate, a little tight yet; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2008 John Tyler Wines Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium cherry red color; unusual, spicy cherry, cranberry, sous bois, earthy nose; mature, dried cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Joseph Phelps

June 2012 067

  • 2009 Joseph Phelps Freestone Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, tart raspberry, oak, sous bois nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry, oak, sous bois, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (20% whole cluster) (91 pts.)

Joseph Swan

June 2012 069

  • 2010 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Cuvée de Trois – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; appealing, tart cherry, hibiscus, floral nose; nice, light-medium bodied, tart cherry, tart strawberry, mineral, hibiscus, rosehips palate; medium-plus 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Saralee’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; lifted, floral, hibiscus, tart cherry, tart strawberry nose; floral, hibiscus, tart cherry, tart strawberry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Trenton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color; VA, tart cherry, floral, roses nose; very appealing, tart cherry, roses, rosehips palate; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Great Oak Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; a little VA, roses, floral, tart cherry nose; tight, tart red fruit, floral, hibiscus palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Kanzler

June 2012 075

  • 2010 Kanzler Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; padron chilies, stems nose; tightly wound, padron chilies, tart cherry palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (20% whole cluster) (91 pts.)

La Crema

  • 2010 La Crema Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium ruby color; fresh, ripe cherry nose; ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 La Crema Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium ruby color; reduction, tart cherry nose; reduction, tart cherry, tart raspberry palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Ladd

June 2012 070

  • 2009 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, tart cherry, sous bois nose with some reduction; tasty, tart cherry, sous bois palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; appealing, hibiscus, cranberry, tart cherry nose; poised, tart strawberry, cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (Moore Ranch fruit; clones 667 & 777) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; reduction, tart cherry, floral nose; tart cherry, cranberry, floral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir Cuvée Abigail – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; French oak, tart cherry, raspberry, sandalwood nose; appealing, ripe cherry, raspberry, oak spice palate that will integrate with time; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Ladd Cellars Pinot Noir Moore Ranch Vineyard Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color; reticent, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, raspberry, rhubarb palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Longfellow

  • 2009 Longfellow Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; reduction, tart black fruit nose; heavy reduction, tart black fruit palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (clones 667 & Pommard) (87 pts.)
  • 2003 Longfellow Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Bricking medium dark cherry red color; mature, tart cherry, black fruit nose; mature, tart cherry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Lost Canyon

June 2012 066

  • 2009 Lost Canyon Pinot Noir Morelli Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; appealing, black raspberry, spicy cherry nose; tasty, black cherry, black raspberry palate with good balance; medium-plus finish 90+ points (20% whole cluster; French oak for 10 mos, 40% new) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Lost Canyon Pinot Noir Goff-Whitton Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; bay leaf, tart cherry nose; tight, tart cherry, bay leaf palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (there are bay trees near the vineyard) (91 pts.)

MacPhail

  • 2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Pratt Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; appealing, tart cherry, sous bois, tart orange nose; tasty, tart cherry, sous bois, tart orange palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 MacPhail Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color; VA, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Mansfield-Dunne

  • 2010 Mansfield-Dunne Pinot Noir Peterson Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, mineral, tart baked red fruit nose; distinct, tart red fruit, iron, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Mercy

  • 2009 Mercy Vineyards Pinot Noir Cedar Lane Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
    Medium red color; lifted, baked cherry nose; baked cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (Pommard & 667 clones, in 25% new oak) (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Mercy Vineyards Pinot Noir Griva Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
    Medium dark cherry red color; sous bois, savory, tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (clones 667, 777 and Pisoni) (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Mercy Vineyards Pinot Noir Griva Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
    Medium dark cherry red color; hibiscus, floral nose; hibiscus, tart red fruit palate; medium-plus finish (clones 667, 777 and Pisoni) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Mercy Vineyards Pinot Noir Zabala Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
    Medium red color; redolent, tart cherry, oak spice nose; tart cherry, oak spice; medium-plus finish (clones 115, 667 and a little Pommard) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Mercy Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Arroyo Seco
    Medium cherry red color; cranberry, baked cherry nose; cranberry, baked cherry, sous bois palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Mooney Family

June 2012 089

Mountford

  • 2008 Mountford Pinot Noir Liaison – New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara
    Light red color with pale meniscus; stems, sous bois, savory nose; tasty, tart red fruit, vaguely smoky palate with integrating oak; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Mountford Pinot Noir Estate – New Zealand, South Island, Canterbury, Waipara
    Light medium red color; lifted, cranberry, tart cherry nose; sous bois, tart cranberry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Nautilus

  • 2010 Nautilus Estate Pinot Noir – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
    Light medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; heavy reduction, tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, strawberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Olson Ogden

  • 2009 Olson Ogden Pinot Noir Manchester Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino Ridge
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, oak spice nose; tart cherry, cinnamon, oak palate; medium-plus finish (17 mos in French oak, 50% new) (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Olson Ogden Pinot Noir Alder Springs – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Dark cherry red color; a little VA, black cherry, berry nose; tart black cherry, tar, cherry palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (17 mos in French oak, 65% new) (89 pts.)

Palliser

  • 2008 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir – New Zealand, North Island, Wairarapa, Martinborough
    Light medium cherry red color; savory, tart cherry, dried cherry nose; savory, tart cherry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Papapietro Perry

Poulleau

Rex Hill

Small Vines

June 2012 091

  • 2010 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark ruby color; tart cherry, baked cherry, spice nose; tasty, plush, baked cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark red color; reduction, sous bois nose; tight, sous bois, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; reduction, spicy, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, tart red fruit, floral palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Sojourn

June 2012 092

  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; ripe cherry, floral, baked raspberry, spice nose; baked cherry, tart baked raspberry, tart raspberry, tart strawberry palate with medium acidity; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; floral, strawberry, baked strawberry nose; tasty, light-medium bodied, floral, tart strawberry, ripe cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, roses, tart raspberry, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart raspberry, tart cherry, floral palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium ruby color; baked cherry, floral, tart cranberry nose; intense, structured, tart cranberry, floral, tart cherry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Ridgetop Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium red color; appealing, floral, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, tart raspberry, floral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Sojourn Pinot Noir Wohler Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, tart raspberry nose; tasty, tart raspberry, baked raspberry, tart cherry, raspberry syrup palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Spy Valley

  • 2007 Spy Valley Pinot Noir Envoy – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
    Medium dark cherry red color; savory, sous bois, cranberry nose; cranberry, spicy tart red fruit palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Spy Valley Pinot Noir – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
    Medium cherry red color; stems, savory, tart cranberry nose; cranberry, tart red fruit palate; medium finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Stoller

June 2012 081

  • 2009 Stoller Pinot Noir SV Estate Dundee Hills – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Medium cherry red color; floral, rosehips, hibiscus, tart cherry nose; floral, rosehips, hibiscus, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Stoller Pinot Noir SV Estate Dundee Hills – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Medium dark red color; lightly savory, cranberry, tart red fruit nose; solid, tart cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Veramonte

  • 2010 Veramonte Pinot Noir Ritual – Chile, Aconcagua, Casablanca Valley
    Dark ruby color; reduction, bird poop nose; reduction, bird poop, tart red fruit palate; medium-plus finish (82 pts.)

Villa Maria

  • 2010 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
    Medium cherry red color; oak, red fruit nose; oak, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2010 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Single Vineyard Taylors Pass – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough, Awatere Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; intriguing, savory, dried red fruit nose; tight, tart cherry, tart red fruit, mineral palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

White Rose

William Hatcher

Wilson-Daniels

  • 2010 Wilson-Daniels Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast
    Medium cherry red color; savory, tart red fruit nose; slight, cranberry palate; short medium finish (84 pts.)

Winderlea

June 2012 082

  • 2009 Winderlea Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, baked raspberry, tart red fruit nose; tasty, spicy, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; long finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Winderlea Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Light medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; earthy, savory, tart red fruit nose; earthy, savory, tart red fruit, cranberry palate with medium acidity; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Winderlea Pinot Noir Legacy – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Light cherry red color with pale meniscus; focused, floral, savory nose; savory, tart cranberry, tart red fruit, rosehips palate; long finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Winderlea Pinot Noir Legacy – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; floral, rosehips, sous bois nose; floral, rosehips, sous bois, tart cranberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Wither Hills

  • 2010 Wither Hills Pinot Noir – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough, Wairau Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; light reduction, cranberry, stems nose; tart cherry, cranberry, baked cranberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Woodenhead

June 2012 090

  • 2008 Woodenhead Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color; earthy, tart red fruit nose; spicy, baked cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Woodenhead Pinot Noir Wet Kiss Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Pre-release – medium cherry red color; redolent, baked cherry nose; cherry pie, baked cherry, raspberry palate with grip; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Wren Hop

  • 2010 Wren Hop Chardonnay Gap’s Crown – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light lemon yellow color; focused, tart apple, lemon, pear nose; tight, tart apple, apple skin, tart peach palate with saline notes; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Wren Hop Pinot Noir The Fire Messenger – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, floral, tart black cherry nose; tight, tart black cherry, oak palate; needs 3-plus years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (100% Swan clone; 11 mos. in 100% new French oak) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Wren Hop Pinot Noir Siren’s Lure – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Very dark cherry red color; oak spice, tart raspberry, tart cherry nose; tart black cherry, tart raspberry, oak spice palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (good fruit but showing too much oak; clones 115 and 777; 12 mos in 100% new French oak) (90 pts.)

State of Zinfandel 2012: ZAP Grand Tasting

ZAP2012 016

2012 ZAP: GRAND TASTING AND K&L TASTING – The Concourse, San Francisco, and K&L, Redwood City, California (1/20/2012-1/28/2012)

This was my first time attending the annual grand tasting of the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers’ Zinfandel festival. This was the event’s 21st year. I found it a tremendously well organized gathering, especially from the standpoint of a media representative, thanks to the terrific program booklet, helpful lists of the producers arranged by different categories, and four-hour tasting window for trade and media before the public portion of the event. I also appreciated the quiet room they set aside, lined with one or two bottle samples from almost every producer, to which media could adjourn and taste at their own pace once the main floor got quite crowded by mid-afternoon.

All the prior participants I spoke with were delighted with the event’s move this year from Fort Mason to the Concourse Convention Center. The new venue has more space, is carpeted (cutting down on the noise level), has easy access along the side for producers for set up, and is in a more convenient location in the City, with better rapid transit and parking access.

In the almost seven-hour time period I had for tasting at Saturday’s event (I took out about 20 minutes to scarf down a sandwich), I managed to sample 216 wines, 213 of them Zins or Zin blends. The preceding week, at a tasting event with several ZAP producers at K&L, I’d tasted an additional 14 Zins, so my tasting notes below comprise a total of 227 Zins and Zin blends between the two events, from a total of 132 producers.

Some of the highlights for me included Zinfandels from Italy (Accademia dei Racemi) and South Africa (Blaauwklippen), and extremely old vine Zins from Bedrock, Limerick Lane, Puccioni and Vino Noceto. The producers responsible for at least one wine that I rated 91 points or higher were Bedrock, Black Sears, Bucklin, Carol Shelton, Charter Oak, Collier Falls, Deerfield Ranch, Gamba, JC Cellars, Limerick Lane, Mauritson/Rockpile Winery, Ottimino, Outpost, Puccioni, Ravenswood, Ridge, Robert Biale, Storybook Mountain, Tofanelli, Turley, Vino Noceto and Woodenhead.

The most outstanding wines of the tasting, for me, wines that I rated 92 points or higher, were:
2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel Old Vine – 93 points
2010 Bedrock Wine Co. The Bedrock Heirloom – 92 points
2009 Black Sears Winery Zinfandel Estate – 93+ points
2006 Black Sears Winery Zinfandel Estate – 92 points
2007 Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel Wild Thing Cox Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Charter Oak Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard – 93 points
2009 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Block 1910 – 93+ points
2010 Mauritson Wines Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – 93 points
2010 Rockpile Winery (Mauritson) Zinfandel Westphall Ridge Vineyard – 92+ points
2010 Rockpile Winery (Mauritson) Zinfandel Rockpile Ridge Vineyards – 93 points
2009 Ottimino Zinfandel Ottimino Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Puccioni Zinfandel Old Vine – 92 points
2007 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch – 92+ points
2008 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard – 92+ points
2007 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard – 93 points
2009 Woodenhead Zinfandel Braccialini – 92 points

The range in quality was much wider than I find in the typical large scale tasting. Besides the excellent wines listed above, and many that were nearly as good, or just a notch or two below, I found several wines that were virtually impossible to drink, and many that were very high in alcohol, low in acidity and/or dominated by oak, causing me to score them in the low 80s to mid-70s.

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.

For more details on some of the producers, and my complete tasting notes and scores, see below.

Accademia dei Racemi

2012 ZAP
This winery in Puglia has Primitivo vines that are 30-40 years old. Their wines had the highest acidity of any I tried at the grand tasting, along with a distinctive note of honey on the nose. They were probably among the lowest in alcohol too, at 13%.

Alderbrook

  • 2007 Alderbrook Zinfandel Three Goose – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    1st bottle corked
    2nd bottle – ripe black fruit, berry nose; oaky, black fruit palate; medium finish (81 pts.)

Alexander Valley Vineyards

Amphora

  • 2008 Amphora Zinfandel – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Focused berry, ripe black fruit nose; baked black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Ancient Peaks

  • 2009 Ancient Peaks Zinfandel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Tar, herbal nose; tar, black fruit, anise palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Artezin

  • 2010 Artezin Zinfandel Mendocino County – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County (1/28/2012)
    Roasted black fruit nose; roasted black fruit palate; medium finish (w/10% Petite Sirah, 1% Carignan) (83 pts.)

Austin Hope

B.R. Cohn

  • 2009 B.R. Cohn Zinfandel – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, iodine nose; tart black fruit, iodine palate; medium finish (86 pts.)

Baldwin

Ballentine

Barefoot

  • NV Barefoot Cellars Zinfandel – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    Oak, stewed nose; weak, oaky, dried fig, cold tea palate; medium finish (65 pts.)

Bedrock

I previously wrote here about the remarkable wines being made by Morgan Twain Peterson under this label, including very complex and ageworthy Zins from very old vineyards. Morgan, whose father is Ravenswood’s Joel Peterson, sources Zin from great heritage vineyards like Monte Rosso and his family’s own Bedrock Vineyard. These are truly outstanding Zins, which should age into burnished beauties, much like Ridge’s best Zins.

  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Lovely, redolent, plum, wild berry nose; tart wild berry, tart black cherry palate with grip; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (from vines planted from 1880 to 1918; 22% new French oak) (93 pts.)
  • 2010 Bedrock Wine Co. The Bedrock Heirloom – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Dark purple red violet color; tart berry, black fruit, light herbs nose; tight, tasty, balanced, tart berry, tart black fruit palate; needs 3 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Beekeeper

2012 ZAP
Ian Blackburn, the highly energetic entrepreneur behind L.A.’s very successful Learn About Wine (LearnAboutWine.com), is now making his own wine under this label with the help of Mauritson’s Clay Mauritson. The ’09 we tasted is his very first vintage. The wine boasts delicious, ripe Rockpile fruit, but I would like to see a little more acidity and a gentler use of new oak in this very high priced offering. At $60, it was one of the most expensive bottlings of the day. Nonetheless, Ian and Clay are a formidable team, and I am sure that this new label will find a following.

  • 2009 Beekeeper Cellars Zinfandel Madrone Spring – USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile (1/28/2012)
    Dark purple red violet color; intense, blackberry, dark chocolate, honeycomb nose; plush, ripe blackberry, mulberry, honeyed palate with lowish acidity; medium-plus finish (81% Zinfandel, 19% Petite Sirah; 15 mos. in French and American oak) (90 pts.)

Bella

Benessere

Berryessa Gap

Blaauwklippen

2012 ZAP
This was my very first Zinfandel from South Africa, where there is precious little Zin to be found. The wines are made from 35-year-old vines, thought to have been brought to the country from Italy. They have also purchased some vines from California in recent years, which should be going into production soon. The nose on the dry Zin was most unusual and savory, and reminded me more than any wine I’ve ever smelled of one of my favorite Spanish treats, pata negra.

  • 2007 Blaauwklippen Zinfandel – South Africa, Coastal Region (1/28/2012)
    Intriguing, smoke, savory, oregano, pata negra nose; tight, tart berry, savory, smoke palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (from 35 yr old vines thought to have been brought from Italy; 14 mos. in 225 litre oak) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Blaauwklippen Zinfandel Noble Late Harvest – South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch (1/28/2012)
    From 375 ml – redolent, tart berry, anise, baked black fruit nose; tasty, sweet, baked black fruit, baked berry, herbs palate; long finish 90+ points (90 grams RS; 10% alcohol) (90 pts.)

Black Rock

  • 2008 Black Rock Wine Works Zinfandel – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (1/28/2012)
    Stewed black fruit nose; pepper, tart black fruit, savory palate; medium-plus finish 86+ points (86 pts.)

Black Sears

2012 ZAP
These are always remarkable, powerful, complex wines, with a distinctive black pepper note. In 1979, Joyce Black and Jerre Sears purchased land at the top of Howell Mountain. They were partners with Mike Beatty in Howell Mountain Vineyards before selling the HMV label in order to focus on the Black Sears project. They farm the vineyards organically and biodynamically. They have 17 dry farmed acres of Zinfandel, planted in the ’70s with bud wood from the Hayne Vineyard, and six acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and small parcels of Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Black Sears’ Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon have gone into wines made by Robert Craig, Elyse, Schrader, T-Vine and Turley, among others. In 1997, the family started producing a few hundred cases per year under their own label. Their winemaker currently is Thomas Brown; the ’06 was made by the equally renowned Ted Lemon.

  • 2009 Black Sears Winery Zinfandel Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (1/28/2012)
    Baked black fruit, fig, pepper nose; powerful, tasty, black pepper, tart black fruit palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Black Sears Winery Zinfandel Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (1/28/2012)
    Tart black raspberry, tart black cherry nose; tasty, poised, tart black cherry, black raspberry, light pepper palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Black Sears Winery Zinfandel Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (1/28/2012)
    Barrel sample – briary, tart plum nose; tasty, briary, tart red plum, sage, oregano palate; medium-plus finish 91-93 points (91 pts.)

Bogle

Bonneau

  • 2008 Bonneau Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Appealing, ripe black fruit, prune nose; tasty, ripe black fruit, prune palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Bonneau Zinfandel Rockpile – USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, prune nose; ripe black fruit, prune palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bonneau Zinfandel Egret – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, chocolate nose; ripe black fruit, fig palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)

Bota Box

  • 2010 Bota Box Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California (1/28/2012)
    From 3 liter box – stewed black fruit nose; stewed black fruit palate; short-medium finish (77 pts.)

Brazin

  • 2009 Brazin Zinfandel Old Vine Rockpile – USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile (1/28/2012)
    Focused ripe black fruit, French oak nose; ripe black fruit, licorice palate; medium finish 86+ points (86 pts.)

Brown Estate

  • 2010 Brown Estate Chaos Theory – USA, California, Napa Valley, Chiles Valley (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, blackberry nose; tasty, velvety textured, ripe black fruit, plum, fig, cedar palate, somehow reminiscent of a super-ripe Pomerol; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Brown Estate Zinfandel Rosemary’s Block – USA, California, Napa Valley, Chiles Valley (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, rosemary nose; ripe black fruit, ripe blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Brutocao

  • 2007 Brutocao Zinfandel Reserve – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino (1/28/2012)
    Brett, ripe black fruit nose; bretty, black fruit palate; medium finish (78 pts.)

Bucklin

2012 ZAP

  • 2009 Bucklin Zinfandel Bambino Old Hill Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, ripe berry nose; ripe black fruit, ripe berry palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Bucklin Zinfandel Old Hill Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County (1/28/2012)
    Tart berry, tart black fruit nose; tart berry, tart black fruit, tart black prune palate; medium-plus finish (vines date from 1885) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bucklin Mixed Blacks – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Tart berry, tar nose; tar, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Buena Vista

  • 2008 Buena Vista Zinfandel Arpad’s Selection – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Lifted, tart black fruit, herbs, tart blackberry nose; tart black fruit, herbs, tart blackberry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

C.G. di Arie

Calstar

Carlisle

  • 2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Monte Rosso Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Berry sample – baked black fruit, stewed berry nose; baked black fruit, stewed berry, deep berry palate with oak edges; medium-plus finish 88-90 points (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Carlisle Zinfandel Martinelli River Road Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Barrel sample – tart berry, herbs nose; tasty, dried herbs, tart black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish 90-92 points (90 pts.)

Carol Shelton

Sept 2012 112
Santa Rosa-based Carol’s been a winemaker for 30 years, and Zin is her favorite variety. I think her Wild Thing Cox Vineyard is a very good buy for about $19, made entirely with indigenous yeasts.

  • 2007 Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel Wild Thing Cox Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County (1/20/2012)
    Dark red violet color; intriguing, tart berry, tart raspberry nose; tasty, focused, balanced, tart raspberry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish (great value at only about $19) (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel Karma Zin Rue – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/20/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; baked berry, plum nose; maturing, tasty, ripe black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (from 110 yr old vines) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Carol Shelton Wines Zinfandel Monga Zin® Lopez Vineyard – USA, California, South Coast, Cucamonga Valley (1/20/2012)
    Dark red violet color; tart berry, light oak nose; youthful, tart berry, red fruit, light cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Cedarville

Cellar No. 8

Chacewater

  • 2010 Chacewater Zinfandel – USA, California, Sierra Foothills (1/28/2012)
    Barrel sample – tart black fruit, stewed black fruit nose; ripe and stewed black fruit palate; medium finish 86-88 points (86 pts.)

Charter Oak

2012 ZAP
I’ve enjoyed Charter Oak’s Zins in the past, but the ’09 Monte Rosso is the best one yet. Robert Fanucci comes from a winemaking Italian-American family, but he didn’t try his hand at making wine until 1986, after losing his job at a securities firm. He relies on indigenous yeasts and attributes the special qualities of his wines to thrice daily punch downs using antique equipment inherited from his grandfather.

Chateau Montelena

  • 2009 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Medium red violet color; intriguing, roasted berry nose with sweet green herb lift; tight, tart berry, oak, sweet green herb palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Chateau Montelena Zinfandel Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    A little reticent, roasted berry, light mint nose; tight yet, tart roasted berry, tart black fruit palate; needs 1 year; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Chatom

  • 2007 Chatom Vineyards Zinfandel – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Calaveras County (1/28/2012)
    Lifted, ripe black fruit, blackberry nose; ripe blackberry, ripe black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (good version of the ripe style) (90 pts.)

Chronic

  • 2010 Chronic Cellars Mr. Nibbles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Baked black fruit, baked bean nose; baked black fruit, baked bean palate with low acidity; medium finish (65% Zinfandel, 15% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre, 5% Grenache) (83 pts.)

Claudia Springs

Cline

Collier Falls

These were remarkably good Zins in a very ripe style. Barry and Susan Collier launched Collier Falls after buying 20 acres of vineyards in the northwest corner of Dry Creek Valley from Ferrari-Carano in 1997. They planted the Primitivo vines that same year. I really like the unique mint and menthol notes on the Primitivo, and was impressed with the complexity of the Zin, which Barry said was less ripe than usual in 2008. The winemaker is Marco DiGulio, who came to Collier Falls from Lokoya. The wines see extended maceration and cold soaking. They are aged in a mix of French and American oak for 18 to 24 months.

  • 2008 Collier Falls Primitivo – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/20/2012)
    Medium dark red violet color; dried berry, menthol, mint nose; tart berry, herbs, mint, menthol, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (vines planted in ’97) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Collier Falls Zinfandel Private Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/20/2012)
    Dark red violet color; intense, dried berry, berry, black fruit nose; tasty, complex, black fruit, dried berry, fig, lilac palate; medium-plus finish (very good for a ripe style) (91 pts.)

Cycles Gladiator

  • 2009 Cycles Gladiator Zinfandel Lodi – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    Baked berry, nutmeg nose; oaky, baked berry, nutmeg palate; medium-plus finish (78 pts.)

Cypher

  • 2009 Cypher Winery Zinfandel Dante Dusi – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, blackberry nose; rich, ripe blackberry, chocolate palate with low acidity; medium-plus finish (85 pts.)

D-Cubed

  • 2007 D-Cubed Zinfandel Korte Ranch – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (1/28/2012)
    Focused, ripe black fruit, herbs nose; intense, ripe black fruit, sweet green herbs palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Dashe

2012 ZAP

De Loach

  • 2009 De Loach Zinfandel OFS – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Tart berry, tart black fruit nose; tart berry, tart black fruit palate, a little hot; medium finish (86 pts.)

Deep Purple

  • 2010 Deep Purple Zinfandel Lodi – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    Stewy black fruit nose; unpleasant, stewy black fruit palate; short-medium finish (58 pts.)

Deerfield Ranch

  • 2007 Deerfield Ranch Zinfandel – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Stewed berry nose; stewed berry, black licorice, tar palate; needs 2 years; long finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Deerfield Ranch Zinfandel White Perry – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Stewed berries, stewed plum nose; intense, stewed berry, stewed black fruit, iodine palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Deerfield Ranch Zinfandel Old Vine Buchignani-Garcia Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Appealing, tart plum, dried berry, tar nose; focused, tart plum, dried berry, tar, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Del Carlo

  • 2009 Del Carlo Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    1st bottle – baked black fruit, fig nose; nasty, mercaptan palate
    2nd bottle – oaky, stewed black fruit nose; mercaptans, frightening (50 pts.)

Della Costa

  • 2010 Della Costa Zinfandel Dancing Lady – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (1/28/2012)
    Black fruit nose; baked black fruit, extracted palate; medium finish 85+ points (85 pts.)

Dogwood

  • 2007 Dogwood Cellars Zinfandel – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County (1/28/2012)
    Oak, black fruit nose; ripe black fruit, blackberry, tart berry, currant palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Dono dal Cielo

  • 2007 Dono dal Cielo Zinfandel – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Placer County (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, berry nose; oaky, black fruit palate; medium finish (79 pts.)

Dry Creek Vineyard

Easton

  • 2009 Easton Zinfandel Estate – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, California Shenandoah Valley (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, jammy nose; oak, ripe black fruit, jammy palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)

Edmeades

  • 2007 Edmeades Winery Zinfandel Perli – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino Ridge (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, black fruit compote nose; ripe black fruit, black fruit compote palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Folie à Deux

Fontanella Family

Four Vines

  • 2009 Four Vines Zinfandel Sophisticate – USA, California, Sonoma County (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, stewed black fruit nose; ripe black fruit, stewed black fruit palate with heat; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)

Frank Family

  • 2009 Frank Family Vineyards Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; ripe berry compote, baked berry nose; medium-bodied, baked berry, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Fritz

Gamba

2012 ZAP

  • 2009 Gamba Zinfandel Old Vine Gamba Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Dark purple violet color; redolent, black fruit, blackberry nose; tasty, rich, black fruit, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Gamba Zinfandel Old Vine Moratto Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Baked black fruit, stewed plum, brambly nose; rich, tasty, tart black fruit, stewed black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 89+ points (planted 1920) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Gamba Zinfandel Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Intense, baked berry, oak, baked plum nose; tasty, intense, tart plum, baked plum, oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Gann Family

  • 2007 Gann Family Cellars Zinfandel – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (1/28/2012)
    Smoky, roasted berry nose; oaky, smoky, black fruit palate; medium finish (75 pts.)

Gnarly Head

  • 2010 Gnarly Head Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit nose; simple, tart black fruit, carbonic maceration palate; medium finish (82 pts.)

Gregory Graham

Grey Wolf

Guglielmo Family

Gustafson Family

Haraszthy Family

Harney Lane

  • 2009 Harney Lane Zinfandel Old Vine Lizzy James Vineyard – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    Stewed black fruit, stewed berry nose; stewed black fruit, stewed berry, apricot palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Harney Lane Zinfandel – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, chocolate nose; chocolate, prune, ripe black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Hartford

  • 2010 Hartford Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Prune, stewy nose; stewy black fruit, prune palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)

Headbanger

  • 2009 Headbanger Zinfandel – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma (1/28/2012)
    Chocolate, fig nose; figgy palate; short-medium finish (76 pts.)

Hendry

  • 2009 Hendry Zinfandel Blocks 7 & 22 – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit nose; ripe black fruit, black fruit liqueur palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Hunt

  • 2007 Hunt Cellars Zinfandel Outlaw Ridge – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, tart berry, nutmeg nose; mulberry, baked berry, chocolate, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)

Ironstone

Jaxon Keys

JC Cellars

2012 ZAP

  • 2009 JC Cellars Zinfandel St. Peter’s Church Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (1/28/2012)
    Ripe plum nose; ripe black plum, ripe berry, oak palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 JC Cellars Zinfandel Iron Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Lifted, lavender, tart black fruit nose; lavender, ripe black fruit palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish 90+ points (vineyard has a patch of lavender in the middle) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 JC Cellars Zinfandel Sweetwater Springs – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, violet nose; tight, ripe black fruit, violet palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (w/15% Petite Sirah) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 JC Cellars Zinfandel Dusi Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, blueberry nose; rich, ripe black fruit, blueberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 JC Cellars The Impostor – USA, California (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, oak nose; tart black fruit, oak, lead pencil palate; medium finish (83 pts.)

J. Dusi

  • 2009 J. Dusi Zinfandel Dante Dusi Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Light oak, raisin, clove nose; tight, clove, black fruit palate; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 J. Dusi Fiorento – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Clove, black fruit, raisin nose; raisin, black fruit, clove palate; medium-plus finish (50% Zinfandel, 25% Carignane, 25% Syrah) (88 pts.)
  • 2007 J. Dusi Zinfandel Haute Haute Haute Dante Dusi Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    From 375 ml – boysenberry, blackberry compote nose; sweet, baked berry, boysenberry palate, a little hot; long finish (87 pts.)

Joel Gott

  • 2009 Joel Gott Zinfandel – USA, California (1/28/2012)
    Stewed plum, stewed berry nose; oak, jammy, stewed plum, fig jam palate; medium-plus finish (83 pts.)
  • 2009 Joel Gott Zinfandel – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (1/28/2012)
    Focused, black fruit, tar, stewed black fruit nose; oak, stewed black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (85 pts.)

Kenneth Volk

  • 2009 Kenneth Volk Zinfandel Enz Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Lime Kiln Valley (1/28/2012)
    Baked black fruit, licorice nose; baked black fruit, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Klinker Brick

  • 2009 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, herbs nose; ripe black fruit, rosemary, pepper palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Limerick Lane

2012 ZAP
I am indebted to Doug Wilder for alerting me that the new Limerick Lane Zins, starting with the ’09 vintage, were worth checking out. The winery was sold last year to Jake and Alexis Bilbro. Jake, pictured above, is head of sales and marketing for Marietta Cellars, where his brother Scot is assistant winemaker. Scot is the new winemaker for Limerick Lane. Together Jake and Scot have selected blocks of old vines for these special bottlings, and the 1910 bottling, especially, was spectacular.

  • 2009 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Block 1970 – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Appealing, baked berry, black cherry nose; oak, baked berry, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Block 1934 – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Dark purple red violet color; baked berry, stewed black fruit nose; tasty, baked berry, baked black raspberry palate with depth; long finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Block 1910 – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Dark purple red violet color; intriguing, deep, berry, dried berry, wild berry nose; tasty, tart wild berry, dried berry, sense of salinity, dried black fig palate; long finish 93+ points (93 pts.)

Mauritson/Rockpile Winery

2012 ZAP
I profiled Clay and his family’s vineyard in part III of my report on a visit last year to Zinfandel’s Mecca, Dry Creek Valley. The Mauritson family has been growing grapes in Dry Creek Valley since 1868. Clay’s great-great-great grandfather, S.P. Hallengren, was a pioneer grape grower in the Rockpile region, where he first planted vines in 1884. He shipped all his wine back to his native Sweden. The family’s Rockpile homestead and ranch grew to 4,000 acres by the early 1960s when all but 700 ridge top acres was taken by the Army Corps of Engineers to develop Lake Sonoma. The family currently manages 310 vineyard acres in the Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Rockpile appellations. It was Clay who got the family into making wine when he returned after graduating the University of Oregon in 1997. His first vintage under the Mauritson label was with a Dry Creek Zin in 1998. He worked in sales and marketing at Kenwood Vineyards for five years. He started making wine full time under the Mauritson and Rockpile labels in 2002 after having also worked under the winemakers at Taft Street Vineyards and Dry Creek Vineyards. I have very much enjoyed his wines, including a powerful Petite Sirah and a Bordeaux blend called Buck Pasture. These Zins were easily among the best of the day.

Mazzocco

McCay

Milliaire

Miro

  • 2010 Miro Zinfandel Grist Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Baked black fruit nose; baked black fruit, plum sauce palate; medium finish (84 pts.)

MoniClaire

Montevina/Terra d’Oro

Mounts Family

  • 2009 Mounts Family Winery Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Herbs, tart black fruit nose; tart black fruit, sweet green herbs palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Murphy-Goode

Novy

  • 2010 Novy Zinfandel Ellsbree – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Focused, tart plum nose; tart plum, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Opolo

  • 2010 Opolo Zinfandel Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Lifted, ripe black fruit, ripe blackberry nose; ripe black fruit, ripe blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Ottimino

  • 2008 Ottimino Zinfandel Zinfinity – USA, California, Sonoma County (1/20/2012)
    Very dark ruby color; ripe berry, plum nose; simple, berry, ripe plum palate; medium finish 87+ points (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Ottimino Zinfandel Rancho Bello – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/20/2012)
    Dark red violet color; focused, berry, black fruit nose; tasty, tart black fruit, berry, light oak palate with low acidity; medium finish 88+ points (from 10-15 yr old vines) (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Ottimino Zinfandel Little 8 Von Weidlich – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/20/2012)
    Dark ruby color; intriguing berry, blackberry, vanilla, black fruit nose; tasty, blackberry, black fruit, vanilla palate with lowish acidity; medium-plus finish (from 30 yr old vines) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Ottimino Zinfandel Rancho Bello – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Redolent, baked berry, stewed plum nose; tasty, stewed black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Ottimino Zinfandel Little 8 Ottimino Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Intriguing, dried berry, subtle herbs, black fruit nose; complex, tasty, tart black fruit, herbs, tar palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Ottimino Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Barrel sample – intriguing, lifted, tart berry, dried berry, subtle spice nose; tasty, tart berry, subtle spice, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish 91-93 points (50 yr old vines) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Ottimino Zinfandel Windsor Oaks – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/20/2012)
    Dark ruby color; ripe berry, baked berry, light caramel, baking spice nose; plush, baked berry, caramel, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Outpost

  • 2010 Outpost Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (1/28/2012)
    Barrel sample – appealing, lifted, berry compote, stewed berries nose; tasty, rich but poised, baked berries, baked black fruit, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Pech Merle

Pedroncelli

Proulx

Puccioni

2012 ZAP
I previously profiled Puccioni in part I of my report on last year’s visit to Dry Creek Valley. Starting with the 2007 vintage, the Puccioni wines are based on grapes grown on Glenn Proctor’s family’s ranch, where his great grandfather, Angelo Puccioni, who came to the area from the small village of Coselli, Italy, first planted Zinfandel in 1904. The ranch sits in a small valley with up slopes on each side. The elevations go from 400 to 1000 feet. The vineyards are planted on the west facing slopes. The hillside vineyards are planted to old clone Zinfandel, on St George and 1103 Rootstock, largely head trained. The ranch’s 15 acres of vines are largely Zin, and a field blend in the old vine vineyard planted in 1904. One acre is planted to Alicante Bouchet and another to Petite Sirah. I like their Petite Sirah as well. This old vine Zin is worth tracking down.

  • 2009 Puccioni Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Lovely, floral, ripe raspberry nose; tasty, complex, ripe raspberry, tart berry palate; could use 2 years; medium-plus finish (from vines planted starting in 1904) (92 pts.)

Rancho San Miguel

Rancho Zabaco

Ravenswood

2012 ZAP
Joel Peterson learned winemaking working with Joseph Swan. He launched his Ravenswood label in 1976, but continued working his day job in the lab at Sonoma Valley Hospital until 1992. He has been tremendously influential in helping to promote Zin as the source of serious, powerful wines. He was also so successful at making wine that people wanted to buy that the company was selling 440,000 cases a year by the time Joel and his partner sold the label to Constellation Brands in 2001. Joel has continued to oversee production. For a large production winery, these are remarkably good wines.

  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Dickerson – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Stewed black fruit, plum nose; tart plum, black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Big River – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (1/28/2012)
    Baked plum, fig nose; tasty, fig, baked plum, stewed berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Belloni – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Baked black fruit, caramel, light chocolate nose; tasty, caramel, baked berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Ravenswood Icon – USA, California, Sonoma County (1/28/2012)
    Very dark red violet color; nice tart berry, tart black fruit nose; tasty, rich but poised, tart black fruit, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (blend of Zin, Petite Sirah, Carignane and Alicante Bouschet) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Barricia – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Baked berry, stewed berry nose; tasty, stewed and baked berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (with 28% Petite Sirah) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Baked berry, baked plum nose; tasty, baked plum, berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/28/2012)
    Poised berry, baked berry nose; tasty, ripe berry, baked berry, ripe black fruit, clove palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Ridge

  • 2009 Ridge Zinfandel Ponzo Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/20/2012)
    Dark ruby color; lifted, baked cherry, raspberry, rhubarb pie nose; approachable, baked cherry, graham cracker crust, cherry syrup palate; medium-plus finish (with 2% Petite Sirah) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Ridge Zinfandel York Creek – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (1/20/2012)
    Dark ruby color; baked berry, graham cracker crust nose; tight, baked berry, ripe berry, graham cracker crust, oak palate; needs 1-plus year; medium-plus finish 91+ points (with 7% Petite Sirah) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Ridge Zinfandel Pagani Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (1/20/2012)
    Dark red violet color; appealing, ripe cherry, ripe raspberry, vanilla oak nose; tasty poised, ripe berry, baked berry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (with 5% Alicante Bouschet and 3% Petite Sirah) (92 pts.)

Robert Biale

These are always remarkable wines–ripe and powerful, but also complex and balanced. The Biale family have been growing Zinfandel since 1937. The winery currently owns and farms 24 acres of vineyards, which supplies about 30% of the grapes for their wines. The winemaker is Steve Hall.

  • 2010 Robert Biale Zinfandel R.W. Moore Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Ripe berry, brambly, tart black fruit nose; tasty, poised, balanced, tart black fruit, tar, anise palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2010 Robert Biale Zinfandel Black Chicken – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Redolent, dried berry, briary, light pepper nose; tasty, sweet, tart black fruit, dried berry, black raspberry palate with a sense of herbs; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Robert Biale Zinfandel Party Line – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Medium dark purple red violet color; redolent, wild berries, black cherry nose; tasty, poised, black cherry, wild berries, dried herbs palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Rock Wall

Rosenblum

Saddleback

  • 2009 Saddleback Cellars Zinfandel Old Vines – USA, California, Napa Valley (1/28/2012)
    Lifted, ripe black fruit, blackberry nose; concentrated, ripe black fruit, blackberry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Scott Harvey

Seghesio Family

Sobon Estate

  • 2010 Sobon Estate Zinfandel Old Vines – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (1/28/2012)
    Oaky, ripe black fruit nose; ripe black fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish (w/3% Petite Sirah) (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Sobon Estate Zinfandel Rocky Top – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (1/28/2012)
    VA, tart berry, fig nose; tart berry palate, a little hot; medium-plus finish (83 pts.)

Soda Rock

  • 2009 Soda Rock Winery Zinfandel Wentworth – USA, California, Sonoma County (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, oak nose; oak, tart black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (6% Petite Sirah) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Soda Rock Winery Zinfandel – USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile (1/28/2012)
    Ripe plum, baking spice nose; baked berry, baking spice, baked black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Spenker

St. Amant

Starry Night

  • 2009 Starry Night Zinfandel Old Vine Nervo Station – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (1/28/2012)
    Deep violet, ripe berry nose; sweet, violet, ripe berry, blueberry palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Starry Night Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (1/28/2012)
    Ripe berry, violet, blueberry nose; ripe berry, violet, blueberry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Steele/Shooting Star

Stonehedge

Storybook Mountain

Talty

2012 ZAP

  • 2008 Talty Winery Zinfandel – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley (1/28/2012)
    Tart black fruit, salty prune nose; tart black fruit, salty prune palate; medium-plus finish (w/7% Petite Sirah, 3% Carignane; 40 yr old vines) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Talty Winery Zinfandel Filice Connolly – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (1/28/2012)
    Deep, herbal, tart black fruit, chocolate nose; herbal, tart black fruit, salty prune, tart chocolate palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (65 yr old vines) (90 pts.)

The Chancellor of Zin

The Federalist

Tin Barn

Tofanelli Family

Trader Moon/Old Moon

Trentadue

Tres Sabores

Turley

  • 2009 Turley Zinfandel Dogtown Vineyard – USA, California, Central Valley, Lodi (1/28/2012)
    VA, tart plum nose; tart plum, tart black fruit, baked plum palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Turley Zinfandel Hayne Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (1/28/2012)
    Barrel sample – intriguing, stewed plum, baked berry nose; tasty, complex, baked berry, stewed plum palate; medium-plus finish 90-92+ points (90 pts.)

Valdez Family

Van Ruiten

Victor Hugo

  • 2009 Victor Hugo Zinfandel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (1/28/2012)
    Ripe black fruit, plum nose; black fruit, tar palate; medium finish 85+ points (85 pts.)

Villa Toscano

Vino Noceto

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Vino Noceto is a project started by owners Jim and Suzy Gullett focusing primarily on Italian varieties, especially Sangiovese inspired by Chianti Classico. The winemaker is Rusty Folena. Their Zin bottling is from the ancient 19-acre Grandpère Vineyard, documented as the longest producing Zin vineyard in the country, planted in 1868 with the oldest known clone of Zin in the United States. These are remakably complex and balanced wines that seem like a comparative bargain at $29.

  • 2008 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (1/20/2012)
    Medium dark ruby color; rich berry, ripe cherry, blackberry, toast nose; tasty, tart berry, ripe cherry, blackberry palate with toast from integrating oak; medium-plus finish 92+ points (from vines dating back to the 1860s) (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (1/20/2012)
    Medium dark ruby color; focused, tart berry, herb, toast nose; tasty, balanced, complex, baked berry, toast, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (a terrific old vine Zin for $30; from vines dating back to the 1860s) (93 pts.)

Woodenhead

2012 ZAP
I’ve been following Nikolai Stez’s career for a long time. He was assistant winemaker at Williams-Selyem before launching his own label. He makes delicious Pinots, Syrahs and Zins. I was very sorry to hear that the vines that were the source of the tasty Braccialini bottling were ripped out this year. Pictured on the right is Nick’s business partner Zina Bower, and on the left is her buddy Erin, who also happens to be a longtime friend of mine.

The Many Moods of Pinot Noir

own rooted Pinot Noir vines at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills
own rooted Pinot Noir vines at Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in Santa Rita Hills

So far in discussing different styles of wine, we’ve explored two of the most widely planted grapes in the world—Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Now it’s time to talk about what may be the world’s most beloved grape, Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir from its region of origin, France’s Burgundy appellation, has an almost fanatic following among wine geeks and collectors. The top vineyards of Burgundy—its “grand crus” and “premier crus”—are, on the whole, very small, and usually divided up among many producers. There’s a relatively tiny quantity of red Burgundy, which is what Pinot Noir is called in Burgundy, compared to the vast amounts of Bordeaux produced, and the increasing demand for it by collectors worldwide has led to enormous prices and scarcity.

Domaine de la Romanee Conti tasting
Domaine de la Romanee Conti tasting

Pinot Noir has also become wildly popular in the United States, with its acreage having grown dramatically over the past 15 years. California and Oregon both produce large quantities of Pinot Noir these days, and the demand appears to still be growing. The number of festivals and events devoted to Pinot Noir–like the Pinot on the River event focused on Sonoma County Pinots I wrote about in the last post on my blog–also dwarf those devoted to any other grape.

Pinot Days San Francisco
Pinot Days San Francisco

It certainly helps that Pinot is one of the most versatile varieties when it comes to food pairings. Its delicate flavors and usually good acidity match up ideally with salmon, duck and lamb, but also go well generally with poultry, lighter meats, vegetables and heavier types of fish. It also tends to be lower in alcohol than some of the bigger, heavier red varieties, thus meeting the current interest in wines with less alcohol.

The grape, one of the oldest varieties of vitis vinifera currently cultivated, has a thin skin, which makes it highly susceptible to a variety of diseases and rot. Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon, which derives so much of its coloring matter, or anthocyanins, and tannins from its thick skins, Pinot’s thin skin results in red wines that are lighter in color and lower in tannin. Compared to most popular wine grapes, Pinot is also very sensitive to wind, temperature extremes, the types of soil in which it is grown and how it is pruned.

So what are the different styles of Pinot Noir? Since so many growers and winemakers refer to it as a “fickle” grape, explaining that it is both hard to grow and often tricky to make wine out of, perhaps we should refer to the “moods” of Pinot rather than styles.

As an early ripening grape that needs lots of hang time to ripen fully, the most important contributor to style is the climate in which it is grown. It does not do well at all in very warm climates and tends to excel and produce more flavorful grapes when grown in cool climates like Burgundy, New Zealand, Oregon and cooler, more coastal portions of California, like the Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Santa Lucia Highlands.

Pinot Noir is more prone to mutation than most grape varieties, and there are a lot of available clones, including some that have been particularly selected by French authorities to excel in cool climates and be relatively disease free. These are known as the Dijon clones. Other clonal selections have developed in California itself, and seem to do better in warmer locations than the early ripening Dijon clones. Some of these clones tend to produce wines that feature red fruits, like raspberries and cherries, while others tend toward blue and black fruit characteristics, like black cherry and darker berries. Other contributors to the style of the finished wine are the decision whether to pick it earlier or later, whether stems are included in the fermentation, the length of time the juice is allowed to mix with the skins (maceration time), and how much new oak is used in barrel aging.

Pinots from Testarossa and Roar
Pinots from Testarossa and Roar

Some of the successful California producers who aim for a riper, fruitier style include David Bruce, Roar, Sojourn, Testarossa and Kistler. They will wait to pick at optimum ripeness and sugar levels, and often use extended cold macerations to extract as much color and flavor as possible from the skins. Excellent California producers that pick earlier, going for a higher acid and more minerally style, include Arcadian, Calera, Copain and Littorai. Producers whose vineyard locations and clonal selections tend to produce the most structured and ageworthy Pinots include Fort Ross, Mount Eden and Pisoni.

Since Pinot Noir is so sensitive to its environment, Pinot grown in particular areas takes on noticeable flavor characteristics. Russian River Pinot Noirs, for example, are known for a distinct cola flavor, while Anderson Valley Pinots have strong spice notes. In Burgundy as well, Pinot Noir grown in northern villages like Gevrey-Chambertin tends to show more blue and black fruit characteristics, while the great villages of Vosne-Romanée and Chambolle produce wine that has more red fruit characteristics and delicate, floral noses. Further south, in Nuits-St. George and Pommard, the fruit takes on an earthier and often more tannic character.

9/26/10 Ridge Lytton Springs Bloggers Tasting
the result of destemming

The practice of fermenting some or a high percentage of whole grape clusters, i.e., stem inclusion, also has a profound effect on the style, flavors and amount of aging required of the wine. Unless the stems are fully ripe, and sometimes even when they are, they impart green notes and flavors to the wine, ranging from camphor and various mints, to green chili pepper, asparagus and green beans. Over time–five to ten years of bottle age–the tannins imparted by the stems can resolve some, and the green notes can evolve to “forest floor” and tobacco characteristics.

Great California Pinot Noirs
Great California Pinot Noirs

A couple of the most famous and highly priced Burgundy producers, Domaine de la Romanée Conti and Domaine Leroy, regularly include a high percentage of stems from their very low yielding grapes in fermentation, and the practice has become increasingly common in Burgundy, Oregon and among a number of California producers. The California producers that currently use the highest level of stem inclusion are Calera, Melville and Rhys. I am personally not a fan of Pinot with high stem inclusion, but there are many who prefer the results of this practice to the more fruit-dominated character of Pinot with low or no stem inclusion.

So what style, or mood, of Pinot Noir do you prefer? And which regions and producers are your favorites? Knowing what the stylistic differences are in wines made from a particular grape variety can help you find the one that most fits your taste preferences. Zeroing in on the region or winemaking techniques that go into producing that particular style of Pinot can also help you locate other producers whose wines you will likely enjoy.

2011 Pinot on the River: Delicious Sonoma Pinot Noirs

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2011 PINOT ON THE RIVER – Town Square, Healdsburg, California (10/23/2011)

This eighth annual edition of Pinot on the River was a very fun event, with lots of great wines. Most of the producers come from Sonoma County, but Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot was the focus of the event’s morning seminar. The location and weather proved ideal for the grand tasting portion of the event this year, with cool, sunny skies on the square in Healdsburg. I tasted a total of 147 wines from 65 producers, which was nearly everything on hand, including 91 from the supple and generally delicious 2009 vintage (and 17 from the, so far, underwhelming 2010 vintage).

Ten winemakers/owners, representing 11 producers, were on hand for the morning seminar devoted to Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Unfortunately the temperature at that hour of the morning in the outdoor location where the tasting was held was not ideal for tasting, as it was really too cold, hovering around 58 degrees, for the wines to be fully expressive. It was great to hear from the winemakers, however, especially regarding the challenges of growing wine in the relatively cool SCM climate. For more on that seminar, see below.

My average score for the day was 89.27 points, which is a high score for me on a large-scale tasting of this kind. I was very familiar with most of the producers, which include many that I taste and visit on a regular basis, but there were a few that were new to me: Bluxome Street, Bruliam, St. Rose and VML.

Pinots rated 89 points and higher below were very good and enjoyable. The very top producers at this tasting, for me, responsible for one or more wines I rated 92 points or higher, were Balletto, Benovia, Big Basin, Keefer Ranch, Littorai, Mount Eden, Small Vines, Sojourn and Windy Oaks. The following are the wines I rated 92 points or higher:

2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Winery Block – 92 points
2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir BCD – 92 points
2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Cohn Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una – 93 points
2009 Benovia Pinot Noir La Pommeraie – 93 points
2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – 92 points
2008 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – 92+ points
2009 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – 92 points
2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – 92+ points
2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate – 92+ points
2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Russian River – 92+ points
2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard – 93+ points
2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard – 93 points
2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast – 93 points
2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast – 92+ points
2008 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard – 92 points

For the complete tasting notes, and additional comments on particular producers, see below.

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Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir Morning Seminar

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from left, Jeffrey Patterson of Mount Eden, Jim Schultze of Windy Oaks, Bradley Brown of Big Basin, and Prudy Foxx, President of the Santa Cruz Mountains Viticulture Association

As mentioned above, at 10 am when this seminar started, it was too chilly for these wines to show properly. My tasting notes for this seminar are really based on not only what I was able to get out of the icy glass, warming it as best I could, but also deciphering the wine underneath the ice, based on my prior experiences with the wine or winery.

Santa Cruz Mountains is my home wine country. It was officially designated an appellation in 1981, becoming the first appellation recognized for its mountainous terrain, with vineyards up to 2600 feet. The typical vineyard size, given the terrain, is also quite small compared to other appellations. About a quarter of the appellation is planted to Pinot Noir, another quarter to Chardonnay, a third quarter to Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest to other grapes. The climate is cool and often foggy and cloudy in spots, favoring Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which crave cool growing conditions.

Prudy Foxx summarized the 2011 SCM vintage as being “nature’s reaction against high alcohol wines.” At most, grapes got to 23-24 brix, versus the 25-27 range in warmer years. The Spring rains also washed off pollen, stopping grapes from setting in a lot of rows and vineyards. There was also a lot of “shatter,” i.e., flowers that never formed berries. Tonnage was about half as much as usual. On the other hand, Prudy claimed, it was an opportunity to pull flavors from SCM grapes that they haven’t seen for years.

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  • 2008 Mount Eden Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Bottled – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; reticent cherry, black cherry, baking spice nose; baking spice, tart cherry, tart raspberry, mineral palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Windy Oaks Estate Pinot Noir Proprietor’s Reserve Schultze Family Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium cherry red with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; rhubarb, light French oak, graham cracker nose; tight, tart cherry, rhubarb, graham cracker palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (30% whole cluster, 34-day fermentation; 70% new French oak; 24 mos. in barrel; oldest block, very steep) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark ruby color; intense, tart cherry, black cherry, floral nose; creamy textured, tart cherry, black cherry, subtle spice palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Alfaro Family Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark ruby color; ripe black cherry, wild berry nose; tight, tart raspberry, tart black cherry, wild berry palate with good acidity; medium finish 90+ points (clones 667 & 777) (90 pts.)
  • 2001 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Bottled Santa Cruz Mountains – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Slightly bricking medium ruby color with pale meniscus; mature, dried berry, sweet tobacco, tart cherry nose; mature, tart raspberry, tart red fruit palate with medium acidity; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Vine Hill Winery Pinot Noir Cumbre of Vine Hill Raffaelli Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark ruby color; baked cherry, baking spice, rhubarb nose; tight, baking spice, baked cherry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (667, 777 and Pommard) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Muns Vineyard Pinot Noir – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark ruby color; aromatic, baked raspberry, brown sugar, black cherry, nutmeg nose; tight, tart black cherry,k black raspberry, nutmeg palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (clones 114, 115, 667 and 777) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Burrell School Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Very dark ruby color; brett, tart berry nose; tight, tart berry, baked berry, brett palate; medium finish (planted in 1991; Pommard 05 & 3 Dijon clones) (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Beauregard Vineyards Pinot Noir Bald Mountain Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium dark ruby color; spicy, baked cherry, baked berry, American oak nose; ripe raspberry, black raspberry, vanilla palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Thomas Fogarty Pinot Noir Estate Rapley Trail Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium cherry red color; sandalwood, black cherry nose; tight, black cherry, sandalwood, soy sauce palate; medium finish (Martini clone; 3 yr old air dried French oak) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Rhys Pinot Noir Family Farm Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, San Mateo County
    Dark ruby color; stems, savory, green bean, green bean casserole nose; tight, stemmy, thin tart red fruit palate with firm tannins; needs 7 years; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Alysian

  • 2008 Alysian Wines (Gary Farrell) Pinot Noir Floodgate Vineyards Rock Hill – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; ripe cherry, cinnamon nose; cinnamon, ripe cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Alysian Wines (Gary Farrell) Pinot Noir Rochioli Vineyard, Allen-Rochioli Blocks – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice tart cherry, floral nose; tasty, poised, tart cherry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Auteur

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  • 2009 Auteur Pinot Noir Sonoma Stage Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color; nice cherry, baked cherry, red fruit nose; tasty, silky textured, baked cherry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Auteur Pinot Noir Back Block Shea Vineyard – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, French oak nose; baked cherry, French oak palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Bailiwick

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Bailiwick was launched in 2009 by brothers Bryan and Paul Vais. They’ve been making wine as hobbyists since the ’80s. Their inaugural 2009 releases are quite impressive.

  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Borderline – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Marin County
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; floral, hibiscus, tart cherry nose; soft, tart cherry, floral palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (inaugural release; Swan selection, Dijon and Pommard clones; 16 mos. in French oak, 50% new) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; tart cherry, hibiscus nose; tasty, tart cherry, hibiscus palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Silver Pines Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
    Medium red color; tart cherry, light incense, herbal nose; tasty, herbal, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (100% clone 115) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bailiwick Wines Pinot Noir Michaud – USA, California, Central Coast, Chalone
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, sandalwood nose; tart cherry, tart red fruit palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Balletto

I was very impressed with this Balletto lineup. They’ve progressed a lot since I first tasted Balletto’s Pinots two years ago. The Ballettos own about 500 acres of vines in the cool, southern part of the Russian River AVA, planted to Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. They sell most of their grapes to other wineries, selecting about 10% of what they grow for their own wines. Anthony Beckman, formerly with Peay, is the winemaker. There is clearly delicious fruit here, which is generally complimented by the winemaking.

  • 2010 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; strawberry pie, raspberry nose; tasty, strawberry pie, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Winery Block – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; graham cracker, cherry nose; ripe cherry, ripe raspberry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir BCD – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; ripe cherry, raspberry, floral nose; tasty, poised, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Balletto Vineyards Pinot Noir Burnside Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice cherry, baked cherry, cola nose; cola, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Benovia

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I’m a big fan of Benovia’s Pinots. Their Chardonnays are quite good too. The owners are Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane, along with co-owner and winemaker Mike Sullivan. They have 71 acres of estate vineyards, including the Cohn Vineyard. The Pommeraie Vineyard is owned by the Martinellis. The Bella Una is a blend of grapes from two Russian River vineyards, Martinelli and Dutton Manzana, consisting of Dijon clones 115 and 828.

  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, cranberry nose; rich, tart cherry, cranberry, tart raspberry palate with good acidity; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; spicy, tart cherry, tart raspberry, baking spice nose; tight, tart strawberry, tart raspberry palate with a touch of brett; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Cohn Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, hibiscus, tart strawberry nose; tasty, poised, tart cherry, tart red fruit palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (planted in 1970) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir Bella Una – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; appealing, focused, rich cherry, black raspberry nose; tasty, rich but poised, tart cherry, black cherry palate with subtle spice and good acidity; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Benovia Pinot Noir La Pommeraie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark ruby color; tart cherry, ripe raspberry, French oak nose; tasty, poised, tart cherry, raspberry palate with integrating oak; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Berridge

  • 2009 Berridge Wines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, graham cracker, oak nose; tart cherry, French oak palate; needs 2 years; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Berridge Wines Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, oak, pie crust nose; tight, tart cherry, pie crust palate; medium-plus finish (mostly Londer fruit) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Berridge Wines Pinot Noir Mendocino – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium dark red color; tart cherry, light floral nose; tart cherry, tart berry, floral palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Big Basin

  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Coastview Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Medium dark cherry red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; tart berry, tart cherry nose; tart black cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Lester Family Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Floral, tart cherry, hibiscus nose; tart cherry, floral, hibiscus palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Alfaro Family Vineyards – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry nose; appealing, tart cherry, floral palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Big Basin Vineyards Pinot Noir Woodruff Family Vineyard – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; focused, berry, black cherry nose; berry, black cherry, raspberry palate; medium finish (91 pts.)

Black Kite

  • 2009 Black Kite Pinot Noir Kite’s Rest – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, light brett nose; tart cherry, light brett palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Black Kite Pinot Noir River Turn – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; baked raspberry, cherry pie filling nose; soft, baked raspberry, cherry pie filling palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Bluxome Street

  • 2009 Bluxome Street Winery Pinot Noir Thorn Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; brett, tart red fruit nose; soft, brett, tart raspberry palate; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Bluxome Street Winery Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark red color; reticent, cinnamon, light smoke nose; light smoke, tart baked cherry palate; medium finish (83 pts.)
  • 2010 Bluxome Street Winery Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark red color; oak, tart cherry, baking spice nose; tart cherry, tart raspberry, baking spice palate; medium finish 87+ points (87 pts.)

Breggo

  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; pie crust, lightly spicy cherry nose; soft, spicy cherry, pie crust palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Ferrington Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, baked rhubarb nose; soft, tart cherry, baked rhubarb palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Breggo Cellars Pinot Noir Donnelly Creek – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, cherry pie, graham cracker nose; tight, cherry pie filling, graham cracker palate; medium finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Bruliam

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  • 2009 Bruliam Pinot Noir Doctor’s Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, baked cherry, pie crust nose; tasty, baked cherry, pie crust palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bruliam Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    (Pre-release: Jan. 2012 release) Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cherry pie filling, herbal nose; soft, cherry, pie filling, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Bruliam Pinot Noir Deer Meadows Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color; tart cherry, spicy nose; soft, spicy cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Bruliam Zinfandel Rocky Ridge Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile
    Dark cherry red color; deep berry, violet nose; violet, berry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Burrell School

  • 2006 Burrell School Vineyards Pinot Noir Principal’s Choice Estate Reserve – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; maturing, tart red fruit, baked berry nose; tart black cherry, baked berry palate with firm tannins; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Calstar

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  • 2009 Calstar Cellars Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart berry nose; tasty, tart berry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Calstar Cellars Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked raspberry, cherry nose; tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Calstar Cellars Pinot Noir Londer Estate Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart black cherry nose; black cherry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Canihan Family

  • 2007 Canihan Family Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; minty, chocolate nose; chocolate, cherry, mint palate; medium finish (French oak for 23 mos.) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Canihan Family Pinot Noir Exuberance Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, raspberry nose; tight, ripe cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Canihan Family Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; red fruit, light mint nose; light brett, red fruit, mint palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Cartograph

  • 2009 Cartograph Pinot Noir Floodgate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color; ripe cherry, French oak nose; tasty, tart cherry, French oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Cartograph Pinot Noir Perli Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino Ridge
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, vanilla, French oak nose; tart cherry, vanilla, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Claypool

  • 2009 Claypool Cellars Pinot Noir Purple Pachyderm Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; smoke, tart cherry nose; odd, smoke, tart cherry palate with no acidity; medium finish (82 pts.)

Couloir

  • 2010 Couloir Wines Pinot Noir Londer – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Pre-release – dark cherry red color; tart black cherry, tart berry nose; tasty, tart cherry, tart black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Demuth Family

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  • 2006 Demuth Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Demuth Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Light medium orange red color with pale meniscus; nice, baked blood orange nose; tasty, mature, blood orange, caramel palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Demuth Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Demuth Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; cherry, raspberry nose; tart cherry, oak, graham cracker palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

De Novo

  • 2010 De Novo Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; intense, dried cherry nose; dried cherry, oak palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 De Novo Pinot Noir Destein Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Bennett Valley
    Light medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; odd, dried berry nose; dried berry, fig palate; medium-plus finish (86 pts.)
  • 2007 De Novo Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; dried fig nose; dried fig, orange palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Desmond

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I like the floral quality and relative lightness of these Desmond Pinot Noirs. Bill and Danette Robbins’s five acres are planted to Dijon clones 115, 667, 777 and 828. I think they’re doing a terrific job.

  • 2008 Desmond Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe raspberry, subtle French oak, floral nose; raspberry, baked raspberry, floral palate; medium finish (clones 115, 667 & 777) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Desmond Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; hibiscus, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, hibiscus palate with good acidity; medium finish (clones 115, 667 & 777; 11 mos in 40% new French oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Desmond Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; light strawberry, floral nose; tasty, tart strawberry, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Donatiello

  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; spicy, tart cherry nose; ripe raspberry, spicy cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Hervey Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; rich berry, cherry nose; rich cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Maddie’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, black fruit nose; tight, tart cherry, black fruit palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Tina Marie – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart black cherry, black fruit nose; tight, tart black cherry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 C. Donatiello Winery Pinot Noir Block 15 Floodgate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; ripe raspberry, floral, tart cherry nose; ripe raspberry, floral, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Donum

  • 2009 Donum Pinot Noir Estate Grown Carneros – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Pre-release – medium red color with pale meniscus; focused cherry, cherry pie filling nose; tasty, focused, tart cherry palate; needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Foursight

  • 2009 Foursight Pinot Noir Zero Charles Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, rhubarb nose; tart cherry, rhubarb palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Foursight Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (20% new oak) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Foursight Pinot Noir Clone 05 Charles Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry, savory nose; tart cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, savory palate; medium-plus finish (100% Pommard 05 clone; 50% new oak) (90 pts.)

Freestone

  • 2008 Freestone Pinot Noir Fogdog Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, raspberry, roses nose; tasty, tart cherry, roses, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Gundlach Bundschu

  • 2008 Gundlach Bundschu Pinot Noir Pommard and Dijon Clones Estate Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, cinnamon nose; tart cherry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Hahn/Lucienne/Chef’s Table

  • 2009 Lucienne Pinot Noir Doctor’s Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry, vanilla nose; baked cherry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Chef’s Table (Hahn) Pinot Noir SLH – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, black cherry nose; spicy, black cherry, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Handley

  • 2009 Handley Pinot Noir RSM Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; tart cherry, spice nose; tart cherry, cinnamon, spice palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Handley Pinot Noir Anderson Valley – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color; vanilla, berry nose; vanilla, red berry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Keefer Ranch

  • 2009 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium cherry red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe cherry, baked cherry nose; tasty, poised, ripe cherry, baked cherry, light pie crust palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Ketcham

  • 2009 Ketcham Estate Pinot Noir Ketcham Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, light brett nose; tart cherry, light brett, sour cream palate; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2009 Ketcham Estate Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, sour cream nose; tart cherry, sour cream palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Landmark

  • 2009 Landmark Pinot Noir Grand Detour – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, tart cherry, smoke nose; smoke, tart cherry, blood orange palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

La Rochelle

  • 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Light orange pink color; tart cranberry nose; tasty, tart cranberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2010 La Rochelle Pinot Meunier Four Sisters Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Barrel sample – medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intriguing, intense, baked raspberry, baked strawberry nose; tasty, baked strawberry, raspberry, apple, earthy palate; medium finish 90-91 points (100% Pinot Meunier) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 La Rochelle Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; nice, strawberry pie nose; tasty, richly flavored but light-medium bodied, strawberry pie, graham cracker palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)
  • 2008 La Rochelle Pinot Noir Block A Sleepy Hollow Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; rich, cherry pie filling nose; tasty, cherry pie filling, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ points (91 pts.)

Landy Family

  • 2009 Landy Family Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; French oak, tart cherry nose; baked cherry, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Littorai

Ted Lemon founded Littorai in ’93, and his Chards and Pinots are benchmarks for more Burgundian (for lack of a better term) Chards and Pinots in California. The Hirsch Vineyard bottling was particularly delicious in this lineup, although it could benefit from a few years of bottle age.

  • 2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, baked raspberry nose; tasty, focused, tart cherry, cinnamon, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Cerise Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; brett, tart red fruit nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Littorai Pinot Noir Hirsch Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color; floral, ripe cherry, ripe raspberry nose; tasty, tight, ripe cherry, raspberry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

Lost Canyon

  • 2009 Lost Canyon Pinot Noir Morelli Lane Vineyard Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; herbal, tart cherry, black cherry nose; tart black cherry, light herb palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Lost Canyon Pinot Noir Saralee’s Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; baked cherry, baked raspberry nose; baked cherry, baked raspberry palate; medium finish (88 pts.)

MacPhail

  • 2009 MacPhail Pinot Noir Toulouse Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, floral nose; floral, baked cherry, forest floor palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 MacPhail Pinot Noir Wildcat Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; reduction, tart cherry nose; tart cherry, reduction palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

MacRostie

  • 2009 MacRostie Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice tart cherry, floral, raspberry nose; tasty, tart cherry, floral, baked raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 MacRostie Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; tart baked cherry, smoke nose; tart baked cherry, smoke palate; medium finish (87 pts.)

Mahoney

  • 2007 Mahoney Vineyards Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; intense, brown sugar, berry nose; soft, berry, brown sugar palate; medium-plus finish (good value at under $20) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Mahoney Vineyards Pinot Noir Las Brisas Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; berry, ripe cherry nose; soft, tart berry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Mahoney Vineyards Pinot Noir Mahoney Ranch – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, floral nose; tasty, tart cherry, floral, tart raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Martin Ray

  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir Angeline – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; tart berry, cherry nose; simple, tart berry palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, black cherry nose; tart cherry, black cherry palate; medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Very dark cherry red color; pie crust, vanilla, black cherry nose; black cherry, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Martin Ray Pinot Noir Reserve Los Carneros – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Very dark cherry red color; oak, berry nose; tight, oak, berry palate; medium-plus finish (84 pts.)

Masút

  • 2009 Masút Pinot Noir – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, sour cream nose; soft, tart cherry, sour cream palate; medium finish (87 pts.)

Matrix

  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Buoncristiani – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intense, baked cherry, hibiscus nose; soft, baked cherry, hibiscus palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Bacigalupi – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; floral, tart cherry nose; unusual, focused, tart cherry, floral palate; medium-plus finish 89+ points (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Nûnes Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; oak, hibiscus, odd nose; odd, tart cherry, oak, hibiscus palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Reserve Bacigalupi – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry oak nose; tart cherry, oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Reserve Nûnes Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice baked cherry nose; odd, tart cherry, oak, green herb palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Matrix Pinot Noir Reserve Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, pie crust nose; soft, tart baked cherry, pie crust palate; medium finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

Merryvale

  • 2009 Merryvale Pinot Noir Carneros – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; nice raspberry, baked raspberry, cherry nose; soft, raspberry, tart cherry palate; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Merryvale Pinot Noir Stanly Ranch Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; nice cherry, baked cherry nose; soft, poised, baked cherry, ripe cherry palate; medium finish (89 pts.)

Orsi Papale

  • 2009 Orsi Papale Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark red color with pale meniscus; baked raspberry, oak nose; tight, baked raspberry, French oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Patz & Hall

  • 2009 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Chenoweth Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark ruby color; ripe raspberry, spicy cherry nose; rich, ripe raspberry, spicy cherry palate; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Hyde Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
    Dark cherry red color; baked cherry nose; soft, baked cherry, tart black cherry palate; needs 1-2 years; medium finish (90 pts.)

Phillips Hill

  • 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Hinterlands 50% Manchester Ridge, 50% Oppenlander – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; oak, tart cherry, baked cherry nose; oak, tart cherry, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Phillips Hill Pinot Noir Wiley Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Light-medium red color with 2 millimeter clear meniscus; light, tart red fruit nose; tart red fruit, lightly spicy cherry, French oak palate; medium finish (88 pts.)

Portalupi

  • 2009 Portalupi Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; black cherry, berry, French oak nose; ripe black cherry, French oak palate; medium finish (from Rochioli East Block) (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Portalupi Pinot Noir Russell Family Ranch – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark cherry red color; black cherry, berry, French oak nose; soft, tart black cherry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish 87+ points (87 pts.)

Red Car

  • 2010 Red Car Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; intense, cherry candy, berry nose; soft, tart cherry palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Red Car Pinot Noir The Aphorist Bartolomei Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; simple, red berry palate; short-medium finish (85 pts.)

Small Vines

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My post from last year regarding this producer, and the winemaker/owner’s Burgundian approach to high density plantings, can be found here. Paul is making wonderfully complex and expressive wines, and these 2009s showed particularly well.

  • 2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; appealing, black cherry, tart berry, raspberry nose; tasty, rich, tart berry, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir MK Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; raspberry, cherry pie filling, floral nose; tasty, silky textured, raspberry, tart cherry, lightly savory palate; medium-plus finish 93+ points (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Small Vines Wines Pinot Noir Baranoff Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; rich, aromatic, ripe berry, ripe cherry, berry liqueur nose; lush but poised, ripe raspberry, berry palate; needs 2-3 years; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Sojourn

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I’ve written a number of times here about Sojourn’s wines, both the Pinots and the very tasting Cabernets, and owners Craig Haserot and his partner/winemaker Erich Bradley are friends of mine. The wines are consistently good, and expressive of the vineyard sources. The 2009 Rodgers Creek showed particularly well.

  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe cherry, cherry pie filling, pie crust nose; poised, juicy, tart cherry, pie crust, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Rodgers Creek Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Light medium red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; nice, tart raspberry, tart cherry, pie crust nose; tasty, silky textured, tart cherry, tart raspberry plate; medium-plus finish (80% Pommard clone) (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Wohler Russian River Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, dried cherry nose; baked cherry, cherry pie filling, pie crust palate; needs 1-2 years; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • >2009 Sojourn Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Dark cherry red color with 1 millimeter clear meniscus; ripe raspberry, spicy, berry nose; sexy, ripe berry, ripe raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ points (92 pts.)

St. Rose

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  • 2009 St. Rose Pinot Noir Nunes – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; roses, tart cherry nose; tasty, tart red fruit, blood orange, roses palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (clone 777, planted 1998) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 St. Rose Pinot Noir Ten Block Nunes – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; black cherry, brown sugar nose; tasty, tart black cherry, brown sugar palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)

Taz

  • 2007 Taz Pinot Noir Fiddlestix – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills
    Medium dark cherry red color; oak, tart cherry, orange nose; oak, tart cherry, orange palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Terlato

  • 2008 Terlato Vineyards Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Light medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, tart plum nose; tart cherry, tart plum palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Thumbprint

  • 2007 Thumbprint Cellars Pinot Noir Pratt Vineyards – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, berry, VA nose; tart cherry, tart berry palate; medium-plus finish (Martini clone) (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Thumbprint Cellars Pinot Noir Schneider Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, lightly smoky nose; tart cherry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish (Pommard clone) (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Thumbprint Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve Nugent Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, oak nose; oak, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

TR Elliott

  • 2007 TR Elliott Pinot Noir Burgonet – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium dark red color with pale meniscus; oak, tart cherry nose; oak, baked cherry palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2008 TR Elliott Pinot Noir Queste – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color with pale meniscus; oak, tart cherry, raspberry nose; oak, tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)

VML

  • 2010 VML Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; black cherry, oak nose; black cherry, oak, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)
  • 2010 VML Wines Pinot Noir ivywood – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, oak nose; tart cherry, oak, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2010 VML Wines Pinot Noir Winemaker’s Select – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Dark cherry red color; tart cherry, oak, black cherry nose; tart cherry, oak, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Waits-Mast Family

  • 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Amber Ridge – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; brett, tart red fruit nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish (84 pts.)
  • 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Hayley Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; baked cherry, raspberry nose; baked cherry, raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 88+ points (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Waits-Mast Family Cellars Pinot Noir Deer Meadows Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley
    Medium red color with pale meniscus; tart cherry, baked cherry nose; tasty, tart cherry, baked cherry, dried cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ points (90 pts.)

Wind Gap

  • 2010 Wind Gap Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Medium cherry red color with pale meniscus; stems, green bean nose; tart cherry, stems, light green bean palate; medium finish (60% whole cluster) (89 pts.)