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Winter 2015 12-Picks

Red Wines

2010 William Gordon Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Alexander Valley
The class, personality and dinner-worthiness of this Cabernet brings to mind the best Alexander Valley Cabs of the past. The aromas are a firm and precisely focused mix of dark cherry, black cherry, red currant, “red vines”, powdered sumac, baking-spice, tobacco and black peppercorn. On the palate, zest and tannic grip bring raciness, greater focus and near-perfect dinner balance to lingering red cherry, red currant, Santa Rosa plum, licorice root, cedar, baking-spice, tobacco and mineral flavors. A terrific dinner wine now, it should prove ever more appealing over the next five years. 550 cases produced.

2013 Whitehall Lane Merlot Napa Valley
This impressive Merlot displays the class and firm structure of the 2013 harvest in its focused aromas of dark plum, black currant, blackberry, vanilla, coffee toffee, cola, bouillon and humidor-spice. It proves attractively gutsy on the plate, where zest keeps the mouth-feel sleek and the texture is notably polished. The flavors are led by dark plum, blackberry, vanilla and black tea, and the other promised fruit and spice notes kick-in to add depth and round the lingering finish into balance. Deliciously dinner-worthy now, it should improve in the cellar for another few years.

2012 Kastania Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This is an elegant, spicy and deftly structured Pinot Noir with lots of fruit and spice. The nose offers a genteel perfume of red raspberry, whortleberry, dry red cherry, cranberry, red rose, allspice, sandalwood, sumac berry, black tea and anise. Every one of those aromatic elements is present on the palate, where fruit zest and a bit of tannic grip brace flavors that are otherwise decidedly feminine. The finish is lingering, food-worthy and graced with pretty red fruit and star anise flavors. Delicious now, it may be even better in another year or so. 285 cases produced.

2013 Lautrec Pinot Noir Anderson Valley
This is an elegant, well-focused Pinot with more class and grip than its price suggests. The nose offers genteel notes of red plum, strawberry, red cherry, red rose, pink peppercorn, star anise and sandalwood. In the mouth, the texture proves gently palate-coating, while at the same time it is attractively braced by a bit of tannin. The finish is lingering and full flavored, with a hint of tobacco added to the forthcoming red fruit and sweet-savory spice. Produced at Toulouse Winery. 800 cases produced.

2012 Outre’ Graciano Stiletto Ranch San Benito County
Juicy, darkly fruity and built for rich cold weather fare, this is an impressive California rendering of a rarely seen Spanish varietal. The aromas are a spicy mix of blackberry, dark boysenberry, dried black cherry, blueberry, violet, cedar, black licorice, black tea, dark chocolate, sandalwood and sage. It proves as gripping on the palate as expected, with structured yet well-evolved, lingering flavors that mirror the aromas. The overall impression is of a young, gutsy, yet already very flavorful red that cries out for service with darkly roasted meats, ragouts, winter stews and the like. It should grow more complex and appealing over the next few years. 70 cases made.

2013 Damselfly Petite Sirah Central Coast
This Petite Sirah has the weight and guts of a pricier wine, along with lots of dark fruit and spice to compliment winter foods. The nose is a focused mix of blackberry, blueberry, black currant, violet, Schezuan and black peppercorn scents, with plenty of savory spice in reserve. It is meduim-bodied, yet decidedly gutsy on the palate, where dark fruit and savory counterpoints hover above a firm undercurrent of polished, but noticeable tannin. The finish is complex and lingering, and the dark berry and peppercorn notes gain depth from others of black tea, black olive, cola, bitter chocolate, sandalwood and laurel. A textbook steak wine, it will nicely match rich entrees of many sorts. 110 cases produced.

White Wines

2014 Kivelstadt Rosé of Mourvedre “Twice Removed” Loevitt Vineyard Lake County 
This is a complex and flavorful dry Rosé that should be a fine compliment to a myriad of foods. The aromas are an appealing and extremely complex mélange of strawberry, white peach, peach pit, watermelon, grapefruit zest, cantaloupe, white and pink peppercorn, sandalwood, clove and anise scents. The depth is just as impressive on the palate and through the wine’s bright and lingering flavors. Capable of harmony with a wide variety of foods, it should prove a fascinating and welcome guest at the Holiday table. 100% Mourvedre, 480 cases produced.

2013 Kinero Chardonnay Rosemary’s Vineyard Arroyo Grande Valley
This is a rich and stylish Chardonay with plenty of currant appeal and more to come. The aromas are a quietly rich mélange of white peach, baked apple, preserved lemon, vanilla cream pie, toasted hazelnut and almond scents. Things are more evolved and forthcoming on the palate, where baked apple, white peach, vanilla wafer, coconut cream pie and hazelnut flavors find a rich, if clearly youthful harmony. Although it is already very tasty, it may be two years from its full expression. 160 cases produced.

2014 Schug Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma Coast
Complex, bright, gently creamy and distinctive, the nose of this seductive wine subtly marries scents of kiwi, gooseberry, peach pit, honeydew melon rind, lime zest, lemon cream pie, coriander seed and brioche. On the palate it sports an elegant, gently palate-coating mouth-feel, while brioche and meringue add depth to its core flavors of peach pit, preserved lemon, melon and key lime pie. Soft in texture, yet appropriately zesty, it should prove a near-ideal companion to Linguine con Vongole. 2952 cases produced.

2014 Fatto a Mano Arneis Fox Hill Vineyard Mendocino
Rich, bright, focused and distinctive, the nose of this fruit-forward bottling melds scents of white peach, preserved lemon, yellow rose, vanilla wafer, mock orange, fennel bulb, nut husk, coconut water and mineral salts into a neatly composed package. It is a bit richer and juicier on the palate, where the nut husk, mineral, vanilla and coconut notes give support to more dominant notes of peach and preserved lemon. Saline minerality brings the lingering finish into full dinner-worthy dryness. It should be outright delectable with Peruvian grilled shellfish or Cacio e Pepe. 200 cases produced.

2013 Qupe Marsanne Santa Barbara County
Qupe Marsanne can be both delicious at release and a notable ager, and the 2013 will certainly be both. The nose is a bright, focused and forthcoming mix of dried golden fig, honeysuckle, quince, guava, kumquat marmalade and mineral scents. It is sleek and bright on the palate, with lingering flavors of quince, guava, white mulberries, Persian raisins, orange marmalade and hints of dark minerals and marzipan. A perfect companion for sauced fish or fowl, it is a lovely dinner wine already and one that should get better for at least four years. Blended with 25% Roussanne, 1620 cases produced.

2014 Corkscrew Riesling “Luma Blanc” Azari Vineyard Sonoma Coast
This decidedly dinner-friendly Riesling shows subtly complex scents of Asian pear, baked apple, preserved lemon, dried peach and kiwi, with hints of coconut, vanilla and sandalwood in the background. In the mouth it is medium to light in body, yet gently palate-coating and fully dry, with flavors that elegantly mirror the aromas. The finish is lingering, with lots of dried peach and a hint of sandalwood at the end. 125 cases produced.