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Summer 2017 12-Picks

Red Wines

2013 Revenant Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The “high-octane” bottling a great Napa vintage promises, this knockout Cab is a head-turner the moment the cork is pulled. Black currant, blackberry, blueberry, black cherry and black fig aromas surge immediately from the glass supported by sweet-savory spice notes that include bitter chocolate, dark tobacco, espresso bean, baking-spice, sandalwood and star anise. Big year tannic grip is notable on the palate, yet it soon gives up center-stage, as airing brings a plush wave of fruit and spice in a near-perfect mirroring of the aromas. Lingering and layered, the finish brings immediate pleasure, while underlying “grip” and fruit intensity suggest that even more beauty can be expected. 156 cases made.

2014 Whitehall Lane Petit Verdot Fawn Park Vineyard St Helena Napa Valley
Gutsy, flavor-packed and poised for summer grilling, this age-worthy red really satisfies. The nose is a focused mix of blueberry, black cherry, black raspberry, dark plum, black fig and violet fruit scents, with sweet-savory counterpoints of peppercorn, clove, vanilla toffee, dark chocolate, cedar, leather and graphite. Palate-coating and full of grip, the mouth-feel well represents this always gutsy varietal and the flavors grow ever more forthcoming with air, as cedar, bitter chocolate and dried herbal notes deftly frame-in the wine’s deep and lingering fruit tones. This will prove a terrific steak wine right now, but expect five years of improvement. 265 cases produced.

2013 Chalone Pinot Noir “Heritage Vines” Chalone District Estate Vineyard
Offering Chalone’s characteristic mix of red fruit and earthy spice, this classy Pinot offers fruit-centered scents of red plum, red currant, raspberry, Amarena cherry, Bing cherry, grenadine and blueberry, married to sweet-savory notes of dry red rose, pink peppercorn, clove, tea, ginger snap, Panetone, sandalwood and hints of star anise and cardamom. The mouth-feel, mirroring the nose, is sleek and soft-edged: yet the wine is quietly grippy, as tannin and chalky mineral undercurrents firm and tighten. The flavors prove an elegant replica of the nose, and they linger seductively, as airing brings both depth and precision. This once great winery is coming back into form, and with a few years of cellar-time this bottling will bring big rewards. 3605 cases produced.

2015 Groundwork Syrah Santa Barbara
Spicy, complex, focused and almost saturated with flavor, this terrific Syrah is as underpriced as it is satisfying. The aromas and long-lingering flavors deliver a cornucopia of fruit and spice that includes black currant, blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, black fig, root beer bark, peppercorn, licorice root, black olive, black tea, bay leaf, rosemary, oregano, sage and dark foresty notes. It is sleek and supple on the palate, yet bright and gutsy as well. An absolute gift for summer grillers, it gives great pleasure already, yet could get even better over the next year or two. 500 cases produced.

2015 Calstar Zinfandel “Za Za Zin” Lodi
God’s gift to pizza or spaghetti, this delicious Zin practically jumps down the throat. Bright, focused and forthcoming in fruit and spice, the aromas are direct and varietal, with sour red cherry, red raspberry, pomegranate, pink and black peppercorn, sumac berry and red rose all standing in relief. The flavors are a zesty rush of sour cherry candy, red currant jam, grenadine, raspberry, black pepper and Constant Comment tea, over firming mineral undercurrents. Sleek in mouth-feel yet grippy enough for service with fatty grilled meats, it is downright gulp-able all by itself, while zest makes it a near-ideal summer red. 225 cases made.

2015 Field Recordings Petite Sirah “PETS” Paso Robles
Packed with juicy-ripe fruit, this wallet friendly red packs aromas of dark plum, mulberry, dark boysenberry, blueberry, black fig, dark chocolate and licorice root into a compact package. It is fleshy yet surprisingly soft-edged on the palate, where its rush of black and blue fruits is companioned with flavors of black licorice, dark chocolate, black olive, black pepper, clove, leather and suggestions of rose and violet. If perhaps lacking the guts, drama and pepper-packed finish of old-vine Petite Sirah, it is dinner-worthy and very satisfying. 150 cases made.

White & Rosé Wines

2015 Davis Family Chardonnay “Estate Vineyard” Russian River Valley
This creamy-rich Chardonnay offers a blustery combination of bright zest and sweet-natured fruit that is identifiably Russian River. The nose is a seductively forthcoming mix of sweet fresh apple, white peach, lemon curd, pineapple core, vanilla wafer, grain, baking-spice and toasted nut scents. It proves as plush as expected on the palate, where creamy vanilla wafer, pie crust and nougat support white peach, apple, lemon and pineapple. The finish is generous and lingering, with zesty notes of orange zest, Meyer lemon and white pepper supplying balance. 321 cases produced.

2016 Alma de Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County
Complex and varietally expressive, this fine bottling is also subtly elegant. Its aromas are a somewhat exotic perfume of lemon sorbet, grapefruit zest, guava, brioche, cucumber, lemon grass, white pepper, camphor, orange blossom and celery seed. Those distinctive notes are vividly reprised on the palate, where the texture is racy and polished. The wine has a bright and lingering finish, which seems almost weightlessly elegant. Lovely by itself, it might be super with sole in a butter sauce. 400 cases made.

2015 Horse & Plow Pinot Gris Napa Valley
Elegantly complex and racy to the nose, this stylish bottling offers fresh aromas of honeydew melon, preserved lemon, baked apple and jasmine over harder-edged notes of nut husk and mineral salts. It is brighter on the palate, where white peach pit, pear skin, fresh red apple, honeydew melon, yellow rose and nut husk flavors dominate the mineral elements to bring a softer, more sip-able mouth-feel. Finishing long, piquantly dry and notably food-friendly, it should be a terrific companion to tapas, sushi and a myriad of appetizers and hot weather treats. 225 cases produced.

2016 Kinero Grenache Blanc “Alice” Paso Robles
Refreshing and bright yet never hard-edged, this pretty bottling is both a tasty sipper and a terrific companion to hot weather meals. The nose is a genteel mix of preserved lemon, grapefruit zest, watermelon, green-melon rind, wild strawberry and orange blossom, with quiet mineral undertones. It proves silkier than expected on the palate, yet it is intense and notably zesty, delivering focused flavors of Meyer lemon sorbet, grapefruit zest, fresh apple sauce, white peach pit, white pepper, white rose, honeysuckle, orange blossom and brioche. The finish is lingering and firmed by a hint of minerality. 300 cases made.

2015 De Tierra Riesling Zabala Vineyard Arroyo Seco
The nose of this dinner-balanced Riesling offers youthfully-coiled aromas of lemon and lime zest, white strawberry, dried peach, yellow rose, orange blossom and slate. It is more expressive in the mouth, where slate-like minerality, grapefruit zest and lemon sorbet notes firm-up the texture, while contrasts of dried peach, apple and hints of yellow rose, brioche and shaved coconut bring depth. The ultra-long finish is cutting-dry. Reminding of fine Austrian Riesling, this racy beauty could prove an elegant match to Linguine con Vongole. 140 cases produced.

2016 ONX “Indie” Rosé of Tempranillo Paso Robles
This is an outstanding Rosé: refreshing, complex and notably food-worthy. The aromas and the lingering flavors that follow offer an intriguing interplay of Fuji apple, red raspberry, whortleberry, tart strawberry, peach pit, pink rose, pink peppercorn and white pepper which hover above a harder undercurrent of chalky minerality. The texture is extremely rich, yet the finish cuts clean, fresh and dry. It should prove a terrific companion to a wide variety of hot weather meals. 852 cases produced.