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Winter 2017 12-Picks

Red Wines

2014 Darms Lane Cabernet Sauvignon “Fortune 1621” Napa Valley
Built for service with sauced or fatty meats, this sleek textured Cabernet has firming tannins, but a complex layering of flavors to keep their grip in check. The nose and flavors that follow fan-out as a skillful marriage of black raspberry, black cherry, red and black currant, violet, grilled fig, cola, rose, cedar, hazelnut, leather and tobacco leaf. With airing, the wine proves rich and lingering, and sweet-natured red cherry notes take center stage. It is beautifully food-worthy already, but expect two years of steady improvement. Blended with 8% Merlot & 2% Petite Verdot. 2296 cases made.

2015 Folkway “Revelator” Proprietary Red Wine Central Coast
Dark fruit and sweet-savory spice are central themes in this generous, soft-edged Bordeaux-esque blend. In the nose, on the palate and through a plush, lingering finish, its rich notes of dark berries, black cherry, black and red currant and black fig seem steeped in layers of mocha, toffee, cedar, clove, mace, leather and black tea. Juicy fruit and polished tannins combine to keep the opulence dinner-friendly, so it is ready to enjoy. A blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot and 2% Petite Verdot. 1400 cases produced.

2013 Storrs Pinot Noir Santa Cruz Mountains
Elegant balance and textbook Santa Cruz Mountain fruit are hallmarks of this Pinot. The aromas are a soft-edged perfume of red raspberry, red currant, red cherry, whortleberry, rose, pink peppercorn, sumac berry, sandalwood and canela, with hints of dry flowers and woodsy forest-floor spice. It is medium bodied and silky, yet slightly juicy, with lots of red fruits and pretty spice notes that linger and earthy undercurrents in counterpoint. If rich enough for dark, fatty beef dishes, it will not overpower roast chicken. 2100 cases produced.

2014 Wild Hog Sangiovese Nova Vineyard Dunnigan Hills Yolo County
Amiable and forthcoming, this is a wine balanced for stylish dinners. The nose is a melange of darkly ripe cherries, brandied cherries, dried red plums, mulling spices, cola, root beer bark and hints of white pepper and star anise. Things are slightly more zesty on the palate, where sour cherry, cherry pit, cola, root beer bark and licorice flavors create a supple, genteel and food-friendly mouth-feel. Long and satisfying, it is ready to enjoy. 300 cases produced.

2016 Elizabeth Spencer Grenache Mendocino
Delivering fine varietal character and a charming style, this is already a delicious dinner wine. The nose is bright and focused, as scents of black currant, red raspberry, strawberry, red cherry and Kirsch join others of pink peppercorn, vanilla, clove, licorice, hazelnut husk, bay leaf and oregano in an elegant, youthful perfume. The wine is firm, yet forthcoming and never rough, and its aromatic promise is realized on the palate and through a dry and lingering finish. Delicious now with Winter’s rich stews and roasts, it should grow more so ever the next few years. 600 cases made.

2015 Oro en Paz Carignan Del Barba Vineyard Contra Costa County
Old vine intensity is clearly evident in this racy, focused, beautifully varietal wine. The nose is a bright mix of red cherry, raspberry, red plum, dried cranberry, red rose, cinnamon, pink peppercorn, baking spices and crushed rock. It proves every bit as zesty on the palate, where a racy mouth-feel reins-in chiseled red fruit flavors tied to contrasting notes of clove, mace, star anise, cinnamon and leather. Lingering and truly food-worthy, it should be terrific with roast pork, grilled sausages and a myriad of other entrees.  From 130 year-old vines. 220 cases made.

White Wines

2016 Whitehall Lane Chardonnay Carneros
2016 marks a stylistic change for this bottling, with a shift toward greater elegance. The aromas are a genteel perfume of white peach, Asian pear, baked apple, orange blossom, lime curd, brioche and vanilla wafer. It is supple and quietly rich in the mouth, where flavors of green melon, Asian pear, baked apple, lemon meringue, vanilla, baking spices, yellow rose and white pepper find harmony. The finish lingers, with just a hint of honey at the end. 520 cases made.

2015 Korbin Kameron Sauvignon Blanc Moon Mountain District
As zesty as it is rich and complex, this is a wine designed for fancy sauced entrees on cold winter nights. The aromas are a plush, classy layering of guava, kiwi, honey, dried golden mulberry, golden fig, passion fruit, lime curd, creamy vanilla, lemon grass and white pepper. The opulence is firmed a bit on the palate, as mineral undercurrents and citric brightness counterpoint the deep fruit and spice. The finish carries everything that the nose promised, yet the flavors are further enhanced by hints of persimmon, pineapple sorbet, cilantro and a dollop of honey. Delicious now, it should be better still next year. Blended with 10% Semillon. 300 cases produced.

2014 Forlorn Hope Verdelho “Que Saudade” California (Calaveras & Amador)
This Portuguese grape has clearly found a home in our state. The nose of this forthcoming beauty is a creamy-rich melange of baked apple, white peach, chestnut honey, orange blossom, white rose, pie crust, brioche and almond scents. It proves deftly balanced and as flavorful as hoped on the palate, where notes of Meyer lemon, pineapple core and lime zest bring a bright piquancy to all the richness. It holds its balance and focus through a long, satisfying finish and it is ready to enjoy. 637 cases made.

2016 Union Sacré Gewürztraminer “Belle de Nuit” Paraiso Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
Fermented “on the skins”, this wine draws immediate attention for its rich coppery color. The flavors are unusual as well, as scents of nectarine chutney, honeydew melon, lychee, apricot, cantaloupe, orange blossom and white tea fan out. It proves soft-edged if just as exotic on the palate, where nectarine, lychee, Mandarin orange, pink rose, nut husk, Thai basil, spearmint, white pepper and saline mineral notes are all evident. Genteel and lingering, it could prove a surprisingly attractive match to both Thai curries and holiday turkey. 328 cases produced.

2016 Hawley Viognier Sonoma County
If perfumed with notes of jasmine, honeysuckle, orange blossom and white pepper, the aromas of this Viognier are primarily centered on baked pear, lychee, apricot, white peach and cantaloupe. Pear, apricot, peach, melon, brioche, jasmine, white rose, honeysuckle, orange flower water and white pepper fill out the flavor profile. Those flavors are rich, quietly zesty and never heavy, and they linger nicely. It is ready to drink and should be especially tasty with Thai or Vietnamese dishes. 750 cases produced.

2016 Cass Marsanne “Estate” Paso Robles
The nose of this outstanding Marsanne is complex and varietally on-target, as scents of orange blossom, mango, apricot, fresh pineapple, baked apple, peach, melon, honeysuckle, white rose and brioche all eventually fan-out, There is a pin-point balance of richness and zest on the palate, where tongue-coating flavors of mango, white peach, pear, apricot, honeysuckle, beeswax, white rose, white pepper and a hint of orange marmalade are all apparent. Its long, creamy, flavor-packed finish should make it a fine match for holiday turkey. 500 cases made.