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Spring 2018 12-Picks

Red Wines

2014 Chasseur Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
This stylish, fruity and elegantly balanced Pinot is satisfying now, but there are hints of more sophistication to come. The nose is a genteel perfume of red boysenberry, pomegranate, sour red cherry, black cherry and whortleberry married to subtler notes of pink peppercorn, sumac berry, sweet tobacco, star anise, baking spices, sandalwood and wild mushroom. Tannic grip is well suppressed on the palate, as sour cherry, raspberry, red plum and red boysenberry flavors quickly push-out, along with notes of dried orange peel, star anise, sandalwood and sweet tobacco. The finish is attractively zesty and impressively lingering and, with airing, notes of trumpet mushroom and savory spice start to make a fuller impact. These elements should grow in interest over the next three years or so. 509 cases made.

2015 Whitehall Lane Merlot Napa Valley
This fine and age-worthy Merlot offers bright aromas of red currant, Amarena cherry, cranberry, black raspberry and rose, with more subtle counterpoints of vanilla, baking spices, cedar and licorice root. It shows typical “2015 grip” on the palate, where flavors of red currant, pomegranate and sour red cherry create a slightly piquant foil to notes of dark tobacco, star anise, cocoa nibs, mace, clove and sandalwood. The finish is long and shows both fine structure and food-friendliness. With airing, notes of blueberry and black cherry bring an extra note of richness. Expect two years or more of steady improvement. Blended with 8% Cabernet Sauvignon.

2015 Martin Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon JD Hurley Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains
Complex, focused and elegant, the nose of this mountain Cab offers ripe red cherry, dark cherry, red currant, red plum, violet and rose petal scents in harmony with others of vanilla, sandalwood, dried sage, laurel, cedar, licorice root, pine needles and darker forest floor scents. It is medium-bodied, softly gripping and shows some hard minerality on the palate which makes it feel a hint lean at this stage. The finish is lingering although the fruit elements want a bit of air to fully dominate the savory. Fine dinner wine now, it should grow more aromatic, creamier, more elegant and more expressive over the next two or three years. Blended with 10% Merlot. 1028 cases made.

2016 Tessier Cabernet Franc Alegria Vineyard Russian River Valley
Drenched in fruit and savory spice, this beauty could be a ripe year Chinon. The nose reveals richness, depth and varietal precision in its scents of red and purple plum, dark cherry, blackberry, violet, rhubarb, vanilla, baking-spice, sandalwood and dark chocolate. It proves more exciting yet on the palate, where piquant cherry notes take the lead and jucier flavors of cranberry liqueur, plum galette, blueberry, violet, peppercorn, pimiento, baking spices and hazelnut flesh-out the richness. The finish lingers and the texture and balance are already dinner-friendly. It should well repay 18-24 months of cellaring, yet will be delicious with Prime Rib or a crusted pork roast right now. 150 cases made.

2014 Odonata Grenache Hook Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
This gutsy Grenache opens with a focused outpouring of red cherry, strawberry, lingonberry, raspberry tart, kirsch, red currant, and red rose scents in counterpoint to savory spice notes that include pink and white white peppercorn, Castelvetrano olive, rosemary, bay leaf and tobacco. This exotic mix is as apparent on the palate, where tannic grip and cherry pit piquancy step-in to bring a greater prominence to the hard spice notes. The finish is long and food-balanced and with airing the fruit notes take center stage and everything grows more polished and prettier, so although it is destined for improvement, it’s truly attractive already 240 cases produced.

2013 Chacewater Malbec Red Hills Lake County
Varietally on-target, focused and delivering “bang for the buck”, this Malbec offers aromas of cherry, plum, blueberry, cedar, clove, mocha and tobacco. It is sleek and supple on the palate, but offers fine zest and gentle grip to balance its mid-palate push of plum, fig, blueberry, spiced cherry and vanilla. The finish layers-in notes of leather, black tea, tobacco, licorice root and toffee which join the sweet-natured fruit in a lingering display. Ready to enjoy, it will prove a versatile dinner companion. Blended with 7% Petite Verdot. 793 cases produced.                   

White & Rosé Wines

2016 Scar of the Sea Chardonnay Santa Barbara County
This is a bright, extremely complex wine with lots of personality. The nose lays-out a vivid, harmonious perfume of lime curd, lemon marmalade, kumquat, white peach, green apple, orange blossom, brioche and white pepper scents. On the palate, notes of vanilla cream, mace, toasted hazelnut and a hint of celery seed provide a foil to the wines rush of citric, fruity and floral elements, while zest keeps its creamy, lingering finish in balance. Although capable of a few years of further growth, its current charms make waiting seem quite unnecessary. 600 cases produced.

2016 Neighborhood Vineyards Albariño “Silt & Strata” Central Coast
Clearly rich yet piquantly bright, the nose of this refresher centers on scents of lemon sorbet, white grapefruit, green melon rind and white rose, poised above a saline, oyster-shell like backdrop. It hints at roundness on the palate, but it’s super zesty, which pushes its flavorful melon, yellow citrus and mineral salt notes into refreshing counterpoint. This same tension carries through a lingering, piquant, palate-coating finish, where lemon and grapefruit zest, white pepper and oyster-shell flavors ride above softer honeydew melon notes to turn everything “hard-dry”. If near-ideal for sushi, fresh sea foods and grilled fowl, it might prove even more tasty with Crab Louie. 94 cases produced.

2016 Saddleback Vermentino Mahoney Vineyard Carneros
Varietally on-target, yet creamier than its Italian cousins, this is a seductive and food-worthy Vermentino. The nose offers scents of preserved lemon, pineapple core, stone fruit, green apple, brioche and white pepper over oyster shell salinity. The saline element is much more apparent on the palate, where it joins a note of celery seed to counterpoint fruity-savory flavors of white peach, peach pit, green apple skin, melon rind, cucumber, white rose, brioche, nut husk and white pepper. The lingering finish is both rich and stone dry. If clearly built for sea foods, its richness suggest that it could prove as lovely with Chicken Tetrazzini or Veal Piccata. 110 cases made.

2016 Stirm Riesling “Old Vine” Wirz Vineyard Cienega Valley
This is a near-perfect dry Riesling that displays grace, precision and lovely varietal character. The nose is youthfully coiled yet already impressively complex, as mineral-accented scents of lemon sorbet, lime and grapefruit zest, peach pit, fresh green apple, white rose, honeysuckle, chalk and white pepper line-up. It shows chiseled focus and a Germanic raciness in the mouth, where minerality and piquant zest are the platform for flavors of dried yellow peach, peach pit, red apple skin, Persian raisin, honeycomb, lemon curd, fresh coconut milk and white rose. The finish is long and Saar-like in its compact elegance. Terrific now, it will grow more so over the next five years. 140 cases produced.

NV Uvaggio Passito Dessert Wine Lodi
This stylish and complex dessert wine is clearly youthful yet already delightfully expressive. The aromas and the flavors that mirror them fan-out as a complex mix of pineapple core, lemon marmalade, mango sorbet, Persian raisin, praline, beeswax, peanut marzipan, yellow rose, jasmine, white pepper and white tea: all perched above a rich background of floral honey. It proves zesty and sleek on the palate, with an almost eiswein-like elegance. With airing the lingering finish layers-in notes of dried golden mulberry, golden fig, lemon bar, pink rose and some firming minerality. Seductive now, it should grow in beauty for several years at the least. A blend of 83% Vermentio 17% Moscato, from the 2012 & 2013 vintages. 350 500ml bottles produced. Residual Sugar 9.2%.

2016 ION Rosé of Grenache Sierra Foothills
This is a delightful Rosé: French in its subtly firm elegance; all California in its varietal expression. The nose fans-out as a racy mix of white cherry, cherry pit, tangerine zest, preserved citrus, lemon blossom, white rose and white pepper, with “river-stone” undercurrents. It is sleek in texture, yet forthcoming, as white cherry, passion fruit, mango, papaya, stone fruit pit, brioche, pink and white peppercorn and mineral flavors create a focused, lingering display that is as refreshing as it is long. It is beautifully dinner-balanced and ready to enjoy. Blended with 3% Cinsault. 150 cases made.