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Autumn 2015 12-Picks

Red Wines

2010 Inspiration Cabernet Sauvignon Gallaway Vineyard Dry Creek Valley
Gutsy and delicious, this is a Cab built for steaks and spice-rubbed grilled meats. The nose presents a chiseled mix of black raspberry, black currant, black cherry and blueberry fruit scents with sweet-savory contrasts of toasted cedar, star anise, black tea, dark chocolate and tobacco. All these notes are stamped on the palate as well, where juicy fruit and rich licorice-laced spice flavors are braced by a gutsy core of tannin and fine fruit acids. Lingering, focused and immediately attractive, it is a notable bargain. Blended with 20% Merlot, 126 cases produced.

2012 Tatedog Cabernet Sauvignon Wisner Vineyard Livermore Valley
As fruit-driven as it’s vintage promises, but true to it’s appellation, this is yet another fine and dinner-worthy Tatedog Cab. The nose offers a bright, generous and slightly floral mix of black cherry, dark plum, vanilla toffee and black tea scents, with pretty hints of violet and camphor in the background. In the mouth, it proves medium-bodied and as flavorful and well balanced as expected, layering notes of red plum, black cherry, preserved crab apple syrup and vanilla toffee. The finish is lingering and grows in focus as the wine airs, while moderate tannins add grip, but no hint of roughness. 200 cases produced.

2012 Vrai Cote Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast
This Pinot is as bright, focused and elegant as it’s tip-top vintage promises. The aromas, centered on a bright medley of black cherry, plum, whortleberry, dark rose, sumac berry and pink peppercorn, are greatly enhanced by supporting notes that include star anise, black tea,sandalwood, mulling-spices and hints of white chocolate, ginger snaps and damp pine. The wine is sleek, racy and youthfully firm on the palate, although the lingering finish is already getting silky. A classy, yet versatile bottling at a bargain price, it is likely to get better for another year or two. 800 cases produced at Chasseur Cellars.

2011 Outcast Grenache Oak Knoll Napa Valley
Varietally on-target and packed with personality and immediate appeal, this is a delightful bottling. The flavors, a juicy and delicious mirror of the very forthcoming aromas, are a focused, zesty panorama of textbook Grenache fruit and spice: highlighted by strawberry, red raspberry, red cherry, red currant, red rose and pink peppercorn married to spice notes of star anise, clove, bay leaf, rosemary, vanilla and tobacco. Those flavors stay long and hold true, while the balance is never less than food-friendly, which means that this beauty will be a terrific accompaniment to a myriad of entrees. 350 cases produced.

2010 Larner Vineyards “Elemental” Proprietary Red Wine (GSM) Santa Ynez Valley
Offering the flavor profile and most of the virtues of fine Chateauneuf du Pape, this domestic version layers focused aromas and parallel flavors of pomegranate, grenadine, strawberry, red raspberry, sumac berry, pink and white peppercorn, date, vanilla, toasted grain, licorice root and sweet tobacco. The finish is lingering and the wine's intrinsic zest keeps it sleek in texture and delightfully food-worthy. Delicious already, it should only get  better over the next two to four years. A blend of 57% Grenache, 33% Syrah & 10% Mourvedre, 228 cases produced.

2011 Brutocao Cellars “Quadriga” Proprietary Red Wine Hopland Ranches Mendocino
Deftly-balanced, fun to drink and ready to enjoy, this is a fine warm weather dinner red that opens with zesty scents of red raspberry and red plum along with richer notes of dark plum, black fig, vanilla, cedar and some leafy dried herbal hints. The red fruit tones that dominate the nose are joined on the palate by flavors of red cherry, blueberry, violet, rose and cedar. The finish is slightly juicy and lingering and as easy-going as the varietal blend suggests. A blend of 45% Sangiovese, 41% Primitivo, 9% Barbara & 5% Dolcetto. 1000 cases produced.

 White Wines

2013 Whitehall Lane Chardonnay Carneros
This tasty Chardonnay is from a fruit source new to Whitehall and the tasting profile is intriguingly reminiscent of French Macon. The nose shows bright zest and some minerality in support of scents of fresh apple, apple skin, preserved lemon and hazelnut. There is good rich fruit on the palate and hard dryness, and the flavors of dried apple, golden fig, preserved lemon, minerals and hints of toasted nut are lingering and food-worthy. Fruit sourced from the Francis Mahoney vineyard, 800 cases produced.

2011 Dearden Wines Chardonnay “Little Giant” Carneros
This delicious Chardonnay is as impressive for its balance as for it's richness and depth. The aromas are a slightly exotic mix of white peach, baked apple, pear, tangerine, lemon curd and yellow rose scents over a sweet-savory background of vanilla wafer, nutmeg, clove and ginger bread. All that focused richness decorates the palate as well, yet the opulence is curbed by “river-stone” minerality, which leaves the lingering finish cutting-dry and dinner-worthy. 147 cases produced.

2013 Windsor Oaks Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley
This refreshing beauty is immediately engaging for its racy lemon curd, green melon, lime, grapefruit zest, quince jam, guava, lemon grass and mock orange scents. The flavors are slightly richer, yet the zest never falters, so the lingering flavors of quince, guava, lemon grass, lemon custard, honeydew melon, honeysuckle and grapefruit zest come on sleek and easy-drinking. A great gulper, it will be terrific with all of Summer's fresh seafood appetizers and entrees Blended with 10% Pinot Gris, 340 Cases produced.

2014 Longoria Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara County
This is a delightfully fresh summer white, with bright aromas suggestive of preserved lemons, stone fruits, fresh apples, mock orange blossoms and Panetone. It proves just as engaging and neatly focused on the palate, where it picks up mineral hints that couple with citric zest to keep the refreshment steady through a lingering finish centered on white peach, apple and lemon. Fruit sourced from the Clover Creek & Alisos vineyards, 396 cases produced.

2013 Mill Creek Gewurztraminer Estate Dry Creek Valley
This Gewurtztraminer, although close to fully dry, is otherwise classically Californian in style. It is soft-edged on the palate and aromatically complex, and its aromas of jasmine, tangerine, lemon drop, lychee, beeswax, honeysuckle, honeydew melon and hints of baking spice are replicated on the palate in a genteel and quietly refreshing manner. Ready to drink and a tasty Summer sipper, it will be delicious with sautéed seafoods and should prove a fine companion to a variety of Asian dishes. 360 cases produced.

2014 Lo-Fi Riesling Coquelicot Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley
This dinner-worthy Riesling opens bright and elegantly creamy to the nose, where white grapefruit zest, apple sauce, apricot, pear, pineapple core, lemon, honeysuckle and slate aromas find a pretty harmony. On the mid-palate the slate-like mineral notes take center stage, giving this already fully dry bottling  a cutting-edge and firming its core flavors of baked green apple, pineapple core and honeysuckle. It remains bone-chilling dry through a complex, lingering finish. Built for raw shellfish, sushi and the like, it should serve as nicely with fried calamari, cracked crab or sole in buerre blanc. 151 cases produced.