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Winter 2016 12-Picks

Red Wines

2013 Oro En Paz Cabernet Sauvignon Old Redwood Vineyard Chalk Hill Sonoma
Elegant and flavor-rich, this Cabernet reveals its "Chalk Hill" pedigree through a focused aromatic line-up that includes blackberry, black currant, black cherry, black peppercorn, violet, clove, vanilla humidor-spice and graphite scents. The wine is supple in texture, yet zest, dark mineral notes and polished tannins create a racy framework to showcase the lingering berry, cherry, mineral and savory-spice flavors. With airing, additional notes of laurel, black licorice and star anise layer-in more richness. The result is a dark, beautifully dinner-friendly Cab. 280 cases produced.

2014 Chroma Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles
Dense and juicy, the aromas of this Cab are centered on black currant, Cassis, dark cherry and black fig, with notes of Kalamata olive, peppercorn and dark tobacco in support. There is almost "heady" richness on the palate, where lingering black fig, dark cherry, black currant, date sugar, olive, dry sage, cola, black peppercorn and "Boston brown-bread" flavors confirm the wine's promise of richness. This ready-to-drink Cab is built for steaks and dark beef roasts. 600 cases produced.

2014 Spell Pinot Noir "Nichole's Blend" Sonoma County
This bright Pinot has a genteel, red fruit-centered nose, with scents of raspberry, boysenberry, strawberry, Maraschino cherry, baking-spice and hints of sweet tobacco all in attendance. Things are as pretty as expected on the palate, where flavors of "orange cream sickle", nutmeg, cola and some understated minerality support the soft-edged, yet forthcoming red berry and cherry fruit. The finish is long and the style food-friendly, so it should prove a fine foil to many a holiday feast. Blended from four highly regarded vineyards. 882 cases produced.

2013 Griot Proprietary Red California
Dark cherry, pomegranate syrup, pink, white and Schezuan peppercorn, black raspberry, violet, date sugar, coffee bean and tobacco scents all play a part in the juicy aromatic makeup of this wine. It is round and creamy in the mouth, yet zest and a bit of tannic grip moderate all the richness to leave it dinner-friendly. The finish is a lingering mix of red currant, red raspberry, grenadine, "red vines" licorice, licorice root, clove, tobacco, cola, pink peppercorn, laurel and anise, with a suggestion of lavender. It is ready to enjoy. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Merlot & Petite Verdot. 97 cases produced by Revenant Winery.

2014 Whitehall Lane Zinfandel Pedrazzini Vineyard Sonoma Valley
This is an "old vine" Zin with plenty of character, yet its flavors are delivered in the sleek, dinner-worthy style that Whitehall is noted for. At opening, rich aromas of pomegranate syrup, sour cherry, red plum, cracked peppercorn and "jerk-spice" are main themes. Zest and some well-polished tannins firm things on the palate, yet the flavors are rich, distinctive and lingering, with pomegranate, sour cherry, Umeboshi plum, dark berries, Oolong tea, espresso bean, black fig, humidor-spice, star anise and walnut husk notes fanning-out in fine balance. Dark roasts, steaks and crusted pork tenderloin will all benefit from this wine's company. 226 cases produced.

2013 Skylark "Red Belly" Proprietary Red Wine North Coast
Full of charm and infectiously drinkable, this New World "Cotes du Rhone" has a bright, fruit-centric nose of bottled cherry, cranberry liqueur, freeze dried strawberry, white and pink peppercorn and sweet brioche scents. It is at once vibrantly fresh, peppery, fruity and texturally supple on the palate, where the flavors gush forth with no accompanying heaviness or coarseness. The main flavor themes include lingonberry, pomegranate, bottled red cherry and lots of peppery spice. At the end, everything is in perfect harmony, and everything lingers, so this "gulpable pleasure" will be as comfortable with roast pork or turkey, as with pizza or spaghetti. A blend of 48% Carignane, 28% Syrah and 24% Grenache. 1000 cases produced.

White Wines

2015 Muscardini Rosé Of Sangiovese Alpicella Vineyard Sonoma Valley
This Rosé, ready to enjoy and a near perfect wine for the holiday table, fans-out as a rich and forthcoming melange of Panetone fruits, strawberry tart, watermelon, red rose, dry red cherry, pink peppercorn, coriander and sandalwood scents. Watermelon, nectarine, strawberry-cherry cobbler, brioche, pink peppercorn, star anise and baking-spice flavors are all clearly delineated on the palate and they unfold in a richer and more lingering cascade as the wine airs. 250 cases produced.

2013 Zepaltas Chardonnay "Babushka" Russian River Valley
Rich and generous, this complex bottling offers aromas of stone fruit, golden fig, fresh apple sauce, Asian pear, pineapple core, vanilla cream pie, baking-spice, preserved lemon and mock orange. Youthful firmness and good density are both evident on the palate, where apple skin and nut husk notes bring a piquant counterpoint to the wine's richer core of white peach and apple. Golden fig and yellow mulberry notes join in at the end, along with quieter suggestions of yellow rose, white pepper, nutmeg, clove, cashew and pistachio. Built for winter's richer entrees, it is tasty now and destined to be more so next year. 150 cases produced.

2015 Tatedog Sauvignon Blanc Louis Mel Vineyard Livermore Valley
Easygoing, yet full of pretty fruit and spice, this is a versatile Sauvignon Blanc at a great price. The aromas are a bright mix of honeydew melon, gooseberry, grapefruit and lime zest, white pepper and honeysuckle. On the palate, the texture is sleek and the flavors a piquant blend of honeydew, green apple, lime zest, orange pith and a hint of vanilla cream. Long, bright and easy, it would be delicious with fresh crab, raw clams or sashimi. 200 cases produced.

2015 Toulouse Gewüztraminer Valley Foothills Vineyard Anderson Valley
This is a delightfully engaging, varietally perfect Gewürztraminer. The aromas are a focused perfume of jasmine, honeysuckle, yellow rose, tangerine zest, orange melon, apple, lychee, and white pepper scents. The texture is supple yet never heavy, while the flavors are a forthcoming mirror of the nose, with applesauce, Asian pear, chamomile and nut husk notes added-in to bring more impact to a very long finish. The final package is as stylish as it is precise, and this beauty should prove a near ideal holiday turkey companion. 234 cases produced.

2015 Blacksmith Pinot Blanc Mendocino
If still a bit youthfully reserved in aromatics, this wine is already expressive on the palate, where the texture is gently creamy and the fruit quietly zesty. The flavors come-forth as a harmonious mix of white peach, green apple, melon rind, lemon and lime zest and pineapple core, with apple blossom and white pepper accents, and subtle undercurrents of brioche and toasted almond. The finish is long, well-focused and varietally pin-point, and this delicious bottling is ready to enjoy. 100 cases produced.

2015 Palmina Vermentino Santa Ynez Valley
This is a rich and engaging white of distinctive character, and the zest and minerality to balance its notable creaminess. In the nose, coarser impressions of white pepper and mineral salts counter-point plusher scents of green plum, stone fruit and melon, while more delicate suggestions of cucumber, Thai basil and fennel provide floral elegance. The texture proves palate-coating and despite the wine's many contrasts the fruit notes push to the forefront to create an almost juicy mouth-feel. The finish is plush and lingering, yet bone dry, while savory-herbal flavors of salted lemon, white pepper, cucumber and basil manage to find harmony with fruitier notes of plum, white peach, apple skin and honeydew melon. The result is an extremely versatile food wine that is delicious all by itself. 70 cases produced.