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Autumn 2018 12-Picks

Red Wines

2015 Foley Johnson Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate” Rutherford Napa Valley
This is a rich, structured, fruity, focused, identifiably “Rutherford” Cabernet that offers style, early appeal and aging potential. The aromas are a forthright mix of Amarena cherry, black cherry, blueberry, black currant, mulberry, grilled black fig, licorice root and Bourbon vanilla tobacco. It is fruit-forward if firm on the mid-palate and notably food-balanced: with bright Amarena cherry flavors at center-stage but with all the other promised elements in place. Tannins and firming mineral notes push in at the finish. Delicious already with dark fatty meats, it will be a deeper, more classically elegant wine in two or three years. Blended with 15% Merlot, 4% Petite Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec. 2820 cases made.

2016 On Point Pinot Noir “Christinna’s Cuvée” North Coast
Supple, deep and food-worthy, this is a fine Pinot at a surprising price. The nose opens fruit-forward, with red cherry pie, black cherry, whortleberry, pomegranate, black raspberry, strawberry, red plum and pink rose fanning-out in more or less equal proportion, while notes of sumac berry, pink peppercorn, sandalwood, leather, dried maple leaf, baking spices and sweet tobacco leaf chime-in in support. All these notes are delivered to the palate, but with gentility and quiet zest. The finish is lingering and suggests great versatility food-wise. It may yet grow in dimension over the next eighteen months, yet its current charms make the wait unnecessary. 132 cases produced.

2014 Lawer Syrah Betsy’s Vineyard Knights Valley
Packed with vivid fruit, fascinating savory elements and gutsy richness, this is a gorgeous and age-worthy red. The nose fans-out a meaty perfume of black cherry, blueberry, Cassis, black fig, licorice, peppercorn, bresaola, red rose, violet, leather, clove, bitter chocolate and graphite. All of the diverse savory elements are clearly visible on the palate, yet they remain subservient to the fruit, while the wine’s feral and earthy undercurrents keep in harmony with the fruit and spice. The mouth-feel is very generous, while the finish is long and never less than satisfying. Decant and savor now with your favorite lamb or beef roast, or wait to see the magic three years of cellar-time will bring. 100% Syrah, 226 cases made.

2015 Groundwork Mourvedre Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard Santa Barbara County
Varietally on-target and full of bright fruit and dark spice, this is an immediately engaging wine. The nose offers seductive fruit scents of blueberry, teaberry, dark plum, blackberry, black currant, dark sour cherry and violet, counter-pointed by notes of root beer bark, star anise, clove, peppered bouillon and air dried beef. The balance of flavors proves as bright, complex and focused on the palate, where the texture has appropriate tannic backbone but no rough edges. The finish is long and racy, and it leaves a lasting memory of sour red cherries, zesty red plums, sarsaparilla and star anise. It should prove a delicious partner to a wide variety of cuisines, and is ready to drink. 400 cases produced.

2017 Fableist Malbec Central Coast
A trace one dimensional and undramatic at opening, this Malbec grows richer, deeper and significantly more impressive as it airs. With airing, the nose rolls-out a medley of red and black currant, black plum, blackberry, cedar, licorice root, clove, black tea, dark chocolate, espresso and peppercorn scents. All these fruit and spice notes make their appearance on the palate, where the texture is sleek and the tannins low-key. The finish is complex and satisfying, and this bargain bottling is ready to enjoy. 100% Malbec, 1300 cases produced.

2015 St Amant Vintage Port Sierra Foothills Amador County
Our favorite domestic Port in recent memory, this juicy-rich and satisfying wine offers authentic flavor, style and generosity without the need of heavy cellar-time. The nose and the palate-coating flavors that follow are a harmony of blackberry cobbler, black plum, black currant, black fig, bitter chocolate, date molasses and black peppercorn. The finish is long, with the alcohol well submerged, while the tannins are just apparent enough to keep away any suggestion of over-sweetness. If clearly a wine that will benefit from time in the cellar, it is definitely a pleasure to drink already. A blend of traditional Portugeuse grape varieties. 125 cases produced.

White Wines

2016 Betwixt Chardonnay Steiner Vineyard Sonoma Mountain
Redolent of Sonoma Mountain’s density, distinctive fruit and minerality, this is a richly flavorful Chardonnay. The aromas are a composed medley of white peach, golden fig, baked apple, brioche, honeycomb, straw, nutmeg, baking-spice and vanilla wafer, with slate-like undercurrents. It is tongue-coating and rich on the palate, where notes of dried yellow peach and dried golden mulberry are folded into the flavors promised in the nose. The finish is full and lingering, and the wine is built for service with richly sauced fish, fowl or veal. It should improve over the next twelve to twenty-four months. 75 cases produced.

2016 Verdad Albariño Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Edna Valley
Bright and forthcoming, the aromas of this pretty white are a genteel mix of lemon curd, lime zest, Asian pear, white peach, cantaloupe and orange blossom, counter-pointed by a hint of “riverstone” minerality. It is soft-edged yet quietly zesty in the mouth, where flavors of Meyer lemon sorbet, Crenshaw melon, pear skin, peach pit, vanilla, white rose and jasmine find a nice harmony. The finish lingers, offering an attractively food-friendly piquancy. It is ready to enjoy. Certified Biodynamic. 500 cases produced.

2017 Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford Napa Valley
Bright, focused and forthcoming, this delicious wine offers scents of lemon sorbet, honeydew melon, lemon grass, cucumber, brioche, orange blossom, honeysuckle, lavender and white pepper, along with a suggestion of oyster shell. Is is fresh yet engagingly soft-edged on the palate, with flavors of preserved lemon, lime curd, honeydew melon, cucumber, jasmine, honeysuckle, coriander seed, dried orange and white pepper. The finish is harmonious, refreshing and long.

2017 St Amant Verdelho “Miss Independent” Sierra Foothills Amador County
This notably underpriced wine is delightful from start to its lingering finish. The nose is genteel, fresh and quietly rich, and delivers a complex array of kiwi, guava, kumquat, Fuji apple, white peach, pineapple core,  key lime, orange blossom, cucumber, celery seed and brioche scents. It is gently refreshing in the mouth, reprising the aromas with just a bit more citric zest and a trace of minerality. If surprisingly complex, it is nevertheless easy-drinking and ready to enjoy. 206 cases produced.

2017 Tessier Riesling Zabala Vineyard Arroyo Seco Monterey
Dinner balanced and dry, this lovely Riesling is also complex, focused, elegant and distinctive. The aromas and the flavors that mirror them fan-out as a zesty perfume of Meyer lemon, apple skin, tangerine, peach pit, kiwi, lime curd, melon rind, lavender, chamomile, white rose, jasmine, brioche and shaved coconut: all underscored by chalky minerality. The texture is supple and the overall impression is of bright, youthful energy. Delicious now, it will be more so in twenty-four months. 400 cases produced.

2016 Carol Shelton “Coquille Blanc” Proprietary White Wine Paso Robles
Fruity, zesty, soft-edged and notably genteel, the nose of this Rhone-inspired blend poises suggestions of golden apple, melon, Persian raisin, apricot, peach, pineapple soufflé, honeysuckle and clove above a drying undercurrent of chalky minerality. It is gently zesty and deftly balanced on the palate, where its mélange of pretty fruit gains greater dimension from notes of guava, nutmeg, bees wax, yellow rose and vanilla wafer. The finish is focused, lingering and fun to drink. This will prove a fine companion to fish, fowl and conversation. A blend of Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Rousanne and Viognier. 300 cases produced.