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Autumn 2016 12-Picks

Red Wines

2013 Cederquist Cabernet Sauvignon “Kingfish” Knights Valley Sonoma
Darkly rich and altogether impressive, the nose of this notably-underpriced Cabernet melds scents of black cherry, black currant, dark plum, blueberry, violet, vanilla toffee, star anise, baking spices, laurel and hints of Thai basil and graphite in to a concentrated, focused melange. It is powerfully structured and grippy on the palate, yet the intense fruit easily dominates both the vibrant acidity and the polished tannins. What results is a gutsy, lingering cascade of mixed dark cherries and dark berries, black fig, cola, dark tobacco, graphite, vanilla, clove, mace and other baking-spice flavors. It is gorgeous now, but expect at least four years of improvement. 50 cases made.

2013 Wrath Pinot Noir “Pommard 4 & 777 Clones” San Saba Vineyard Monterey
Already nicely evolved, this is a tasty, dinner-friendly Pinot. The aromas center on strawberry, whortleberry, red cherry, dried cranberry and blood orange, with savory-spice notes that challenge for center stage. A creamy strawberry-red cherry mix dominates on the palate, where the texture is soft-edged and flavors of pink peppercorn, orange zest, sandalwood, rose, allspice and cardamon join in to create an elegant, sweet-natured harmony. The finish is long and the texture supple and the wine should grow in appeal over the next two years and beyond. 389 cases made.

2014 Whitehall Lane Merlot Napa Valley
Polished and supple, this lovely wine pairs forthcoming fruit with intriguing hints of Oriental spices. The aromas are a harmonious mix of sweet dark plum, black raspberry, blueberry, black currant, violet, black fig, sandalwood, vanilla, baking-spice and mocha-coffee scents. It provides some unexpected zest on the palate, in support of black cherry, dried blueberry, dark plum, Asian plum sauce, sandalwood, coriander seed, mace, and bay leaf flavors. Chinese five-spice, star anise and a peppercorn undercurrent chime-in at the end. Already well-evolved and food-friendly, it will grow steadily more attractive over the next two years and beyond.

2012 Pressed Malbec Santa Barbara County
This quietly seductive red is “dark and dusty” to the nose, where dried blueberry, blackberry, black currant, dark plum and violet join cedar, tobacco, mace and a hint of Thai basil to create a complex, if slightly low-key perfume. Things are firm and deftly balanced on the palate, where a bit of tannic grip and a dusty-earthy note underpin the core flavors of sour plum, blueberry, black currant, cola, star anise, clove and baking spices. Food-friendly through its lingering finish, it will be especially tasty with spice-rubbed barbecued meats. 150 Cases produced.

2012 Quinta Cruz Tempranillo Pierce Ranch San Antonio Valley Monterey
Quietly rich, subtly complex and suggestive of old-style Rioja, the nose of this Spanish-inspired red layers scents of vanilla toffee, creme brulee, baking spices and date sugar over richer notes of sour cherry, salted plum, dried cranberry, dried fig and dried golden mulberry. Both elegance and grip are notable on the palate, where sour cherry takes center stage above the sweet-savory and dried fruit flavors. The finish is gently crisp and lingering, and it should prove a fine companion to Veal Marsala or braised pork belly. 925 cases produced.

2014 Muscardini Zinfandel Los Chamizal Vineyard Moon Mountain District Sonoma Valley
Vibrant, spicy, gutsy and intensely fruity, this dramatic Zinfandel is built for service with barbecued meats, braised beef short ribs and the like. The nose offers crisply focused dark cherry, pomegranate syrup, sour cherry, dried cranberry, black and white peppercorn, black tea and dark mineral scents. The wine is decidedly peppery on the palate, where black tea, sandalwood, graphite, licorice root, mineral and bay leaf notes provide savory contrast to deep sour cherry and pomegranate syrup centered fruit. Tannin, zest and minerality bring tension and food-worthiness to the ultra-long finish. Expect several years of positive development. Blended with 10% Petite Sirah. 578 cases produced.

White Wines

2015 Union Sacré Chardonnay "La Marianne" Gold Coast Vineyard Santa Maria Valley
Sleek in texture, yet generous in fruit and spice, this lovely bottling marries scents of baked apple, white peach and lemon curd with floral-savory notes of orange blossom, white rose, baking spices and hazelnut. The flavors are a sweetly-rich melange of fresh apple skin, baked apple, dried apple, white peach, pineapple core, lemon curd, brioche and toasted hazelnut, with background floral suggestions and firming mineral undercurrents. The finish is lingering and the balance food-worthy and everything is in place and ready to enjoy. 130 cases produced.

2014 Grimm’s Bluff Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
Star winemaker Paul Lato has created a classy and impressively concentrated wine with plenty of personality. The nose pushes-forth vibrant aromas of lime, peach ice tea, honeydew melon rind, lemon grass, cucumber, fresh green apple, mock orange, brioche, coriander seed and white pepper. Things are richer and the texture is fuller than expected on the palate, where dried peach, dried golden fig, preserved lemon and lime, cucumber and white pepper flavors are starkly contrasted by chalky mineral notes. Rich, zesty and lingering, the finish is brilliantly food-friendly, so the wine will compliment richly sauced poultry as easily as it will raw sea foods. 490 cases made.

2014 Calstar Sauvignon Blanc Russian River Valley
Soft-edged, yet focused and vibrant, this Sauvignon Blanc is both dinner-worthy and a delightful sipper. The aromas are a brightly pert mix of pink grapefruit, lemon-lime and guava, with hints of lemongrass, orange blossom and brioche in the background. It proves refreshing and as easy-going as expected on the palate, where it fans out a lingering melange of citrus, tropical fruit and lemongrass flavors over quiet suggestions of starfruit, celery seed, coriander seed and dried orange peel tea. 195 cases produced.

2015 Toulouse Pinot Gris Helluva Vineyard Anderson Valley Mendocino
Bright, focused and quietly rich, the nose of this outstanding Pinot Gris folds scents of white peach, melon, baked apple, jasmine, honeysuckle, white pepper and clove into a tidy package. There is a slightly creamy impression on the mid-palate, where Crenshaw melon, Fuji apple, dried peach, pear skin, white pepper, pink rose and lemon-lime hints rise above firming mineral elements. Chalky minerality is a stronger theme as the wine airs, while dried peach, dried apple and a hint of “Jolly Rancher” watermelon candy chime-in at the finish. 358 cases produced.

2015 Morgan Albariño Monterey
This is a sensational Albariño, as delicious and as varietally correct as could be hoped for. The nose is a precise, super-bright mix of apple skin, quince jelly, stone fruit, Green Gage plum, green apple candy, lemon blossom, mineral and sea salt aromas. It is vividly fresh in the mouth, with flavors that are an intensely fruity, piquantly fresh mirror of the aromas. The texture is taut and the finish super long and refreshing without being at all citric, while the layering of mineral salts at the finish leaves the drinker ravenously hungry. A heroic appetizer wine. 375 cases made.

2015 Leo Steen Chenin Blanc Saini Vineyard Dry Creek Valley
This is a rich and complex white with a future, and its concentrated aromas of pear liqueur, baked apple, lemon peel, white pepper, orange blossom, chamomile tea, brioche and chalk are elegantly framed. A piquant sappiness brings firmness to the wines rich mid-palate and through a lingering finish where pear, apple, dry peach, white peach and mineral notes vie for pride of place. Certainly tasty now with seared scallops and the like, it will grow even more so over the next few years. 700 cases produced.