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Autumn 2017 12-Picks

Red Wines

2014 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
True to its highly-touted vintage, this is a gorgeous Cabernet: immediately forthcoming and packed with focused sweet-natured fruit. The nose surges-out as a lovely melange of blueberry, black raspberry, dark boysenberry, sweet dark plum, sandalwood, dried herb and baking-spice scents. It proves plump, bright and delightfully supple on the palate, where tannin brings structural balance rather than coarseness. On the palate, sandalwood and star anise bring a gently woody contrast to the push of dark boysenberry, black raspberry, blueberry, fig and dried dark cherry fruits. The finish is silky, lingering and ideally food-balanced, with any tannic grip appearing as an afterthought. Despite its current attractiveness, it should continue to improve for several years. Blended with 4% Petite Verdot & 2% Malbec.

2013 Idle Cellars Merlot Los Chamizal Vineyard Moon Mountain Sonoma Valley
Classically Moon Mountain in its gutsy-minerally presentation and altogether different from the soft-edged Merlots typically encountered, this is a deep and age-worthy wine. Exotic and intense, the nose combines scents of black currant, mulberry, black raspberry, violet, black fig, black licorice, graphite, charcoal, laurel, dried sage, tobacco, cedar, leather, peppercorn, dark earth and a hint of mint. Those dark mineral notes join tannic undercurrents to firm things on the palate, where tobacco, licorice root, savory spice, dried herb and bitter chocolate flavors overlay an emerging core of purple plum, black currant, mulberry, black cherry and black fig. Built for dark lamb roasts, grilled steaks and the like, it will grow even more expressive over the next few years. 198 cases produced.

2013 Betwixt Pinot Noir Helluva Vineyard Anderson Valley
Fruity, savory and floral influences are equally apparent in this elegant Pinot Noir. The nose melds scents of strawberry cobbler, dried red currant, Santa Rosa plum, bottled cherry, red apple skin, rose, sandalwood and baking spices. It is supple, if quietly gripping on the palate, where red plum, Maraschino cherry, dried berries, dried red rose, blood orange zest, sumac berry, pink peppercorn, coriander seed, star anise and baking-spice flavors fan-out in a genteel, lingering, food-balanced melange. Delicious already, it should achieve further harmony over the next two years. 120 cases produced.

2014 Sandhi Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County
Opening as a focused, if almost delicate wine, this Pinot grows significantly in aromatic intensity, depth and richness as it airs. The nose is a genteel perfume of red cherry, strawberry, red plum and red rose petal, accented by savory notes of sumac berry, pink peppercorn, sandalwood, cardamom and rosemary. It is quietly zesty in the mouth, where all the expected fruit and spice elements fan-out, with flavors of strawberry, watermelon and pink rose taking center-stage. The finish is polished, lingering and food-friendly. A truly lovely dinner wine now, it should improve for two years or more. 3000 cases produced.

2012 Tonti Family Zinfandel “Old Vines” Russian River Valley
Deeply rich and juicy, yet seductively racy, the nose of this vivid Zin lines-up sour cherry, pomegranate, black raspberry, “red vines”, licorice root, sumac berry, black & Schezuan peppercorn and orange zest scents in chiseled focus. It is soft-edged yet brilliantly zesty on the palate, where the intense red raspberry, sour red cherry and pomegranate flavors are accented by notes of red rose, licorice root, orange peel, Schezuan pepper and a hint of rosemary. Having reached its zenith, it is both a splendid dinner wine and a gorgeous sipper. 350 cases made, from vines planted in 1900, which typically produce between one-half to one ton per acre at this site.

2015 Falcone Syrah Paso Robles
Rich in fruit and aromatically complex, the nose of this food-worthy Syrah opens with bright scents of pomegranate and cranberry poised above a deeper core of black raspberry and dried black cherry, while black peppercorn, date, coffee bean, bresaola and graphite notes provide savory contrast. It is richly textured and fruit-dominant in the mouth, where black raspberry, pomegranate syrup,  blackberry, black currant, violet and grilled fig flavors parry with sweet-savory counterpoints of licorice root, date sugar, dark chocolate, leather, black pepper, dried beef, bay leaf, rosemary, dried sage and lavender. Long, juicy, quietly gripping yet dinner balanced, it will likely improve for two years or more. It is built for darkly roasted and grilled meats. 515 cases produced.

White & Rosé Wines

2015 Falcone Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley
Style and elegance are evident in this wine’s well evolved aromas of tarte tatin,  Asian pear, lemon curd, pineapple core, yellow rose, mock orange, vanilla wafer and baking spices. It is as stylish yet even more expressive on the palate, where the texture is both gently tongue-coating and quietly piquant. Baked apple and lemon flavors dominate, while pretty accents of vanilla wafer, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and hints of white pepper and minerals join-in and carry through a supple, lingering finish. Ready to enjoy, it should prove a near-perfect companion to sautéed or baked fish and fowl. 322 cases produced.

2015 Dragonette Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara    
Bright, rich and altogether extravagant in fruit, the nose of this beauty melds scents of lemon peel, preserved lemon, grapefruit, lime, kiwi, strawberry guava, peach pit, lemon grass, white pepper and brioche into an intense perfume. It is plush and almost blustery on the palate, where piquant yet tongue-coating guava, kiwi, lime zest, grapefruit, lemon grass,white pepper, salt-preserved lemon and vanilla pudding flavors carry the same energetic zest through a very long and buoyantly fruity finish. A gorgeous sipper, it will match a wide variety of lighter entrees. 300 cases produced.

2015 Chesebro Albariño Cedar Lane Vineyards Arroyo Seco Monterey
Slightly plump, yet zesty, distinctive and forthcoming, this Albariño serves up aromas and flavors that are a rich, yet piquant mix of Fuji apple sauce, apple skin, lemon, lime, green melon rind, white rose, honeysuckle, cucumber, celery and mineral salts.  The texture is supple and the wonderfully food-friendly balance carries through a long and very satisfying finish. It is ready to enjoy and should prove a wonderful foil to grilled octopus, fried calamari and the like, if one can resist gulping it on its own. 202 cases produced.

2016 Rococo Chenin Blanc Los Alamos Vineyard Santa Barbara
This wine is Vouvray-like in its racy balance and soft-edged zest, although its fruit expression is altogether Californian. The panorama of fruits offered to the nose and fanned out on the palate includes Fuji apple, Asian pear, white peach, tangerine, pineapple core, green melon, honeysuckle, white chocolate, white rose, straw, chalk, coconut water and orange peel. The finish is zesty, lingering and just a hint off-dry. A match to a wide variety of international cuisines, it will prove a terrific choice for fresh appetizers and lighter entrees. 153 cases produced.

2014 Zaca Mesa “Z Blanc” White Rhone Blend Santa Ynez Valley
Bright yet creamy, the aromas of this fruit-laden bottling are a cornucopia of yellow peach, strawberry guava, lychee, Persian raisin, lemon marmalade, honey, jasmine, mock orange, white pepper and brioche scents. It is palate-coating and just as generous in the mouth, offering flavors of orange honey, Persian raisin, lemon peel, dried peach, lychee, honeysuckle, kumquat marmalade, pineapple soufflé and brioche. It is lingering and generous to the end, and should serve nicely with lemony chicken, grilled fish with mango salsa or gourmet-style mac & cheese. 1500 cases made.

2016 Domaine Terre Rouge Rosé “Vin Gris D’Amador” Sierra Foothills
This is a lovely and focused Rosé with an outstandingly food-worthy balance. It fans-out a rich nose of bottled red cherry, dried raspberry, grenadine, “Jolly Rancher” watermelon candy, celery, habanero “hot salt”, white pepper and wet sand. It proves sleek and racy in the mouth and full of focused flavors, with white cherry sorbet, nectarine, dried raspberry, watermelon, pink grapefruit, white and pink peppercorn, mineral salts and brioche lingering in food-friendly harmony. A blend of 46% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre, 7% Roussanne and 7% Grenache Blanc. 360 cases produced.

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