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2016 Hook & Ladder Cabernet Sauvignon Los Amigos Ranch Chalk Hill Sonoma
This Cabernet amply demonstrates the fruit clarity, depth and tannic structure that is clearly possible, yet seldom realized, in this fine appellation. Darkly focused from start to finish, it will prove a brilliant match to grilled steaks and darkly caramelized roasts now, but may reach grander heights if allowed a few years of cellar-time. The aromas are a chiseled mix of blackberry, blueberry, black currant, cedar, clove, graphite, and dark forest-floor scents. Contrasts of gutsy fruit, firming tannic grip and dark minerality are notable on the palate, yet the wine’s deep core of fruit is never less than dominant, carrying its richness and bright focus through a lingering finish. 3500 cases produced.
2018 Tilth Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
This Pinot Noir is brightly focused and certifiably Russian River Valley in its fruit-centric mix of pomegranate, red raspberry, red currant, strawberry jam, pink peppercorn, mace, sandalwood and hazelnut husk. Strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate and blood orange zest flavors dominate the mid-palate, where the texture is racy and mace, baking-spice and hazelnut husk bring savory backup. Lingering and food-worthy now, it should grow in elegance and flavor intensity over the next eighteen to thirty months. The finish gets even better with airing, offering a blast of strawberry jam and blood orange as it does. 500 cases produced.
2018 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley
If youthfully reserved, this wine fans-out with classic Limerick Lane vineyard character in chiseled focus. The nose melds scents of raspberry cremesickle, Santa Rosa plum jam, fresh pomegranate, red apple skin, pink peppercorn, star anise, nutmeg and hard-edged mineral notes into a precise yet ultimately elegant melange. It is piquantly fresh, large-scale and sharply dry on the mid-palate, where a coiled mirroring of the aromas is evident and the concentration is noteworthy. The finish is ultra-long and sparkles with raspberry, pomegranate, red plum, red cherry, black and Schezuan peppercorn, black tea, star anise, clove and dark earth flavors in high relief. Altogether delicious now, it should be spectacular in another two or three years. 1766 cases produced.
2017 Sans Liege “The Offering” Rhone Grape Blend Santa Barbara County
A veritable “New World” Chateauneuf du Pape, this spicy wine offers a complex perfume of dark sour cherry, red raspberry, strawberry jam, Grenadine, pink rose, pink peppercorn, sumac berry, sandalwood and a suggestion of black licorice. It opens with counterpoints of youth, elegance and heady richness on the palate, yet proves very engaging and dinner-balanced. The flavors are a medley of fresh red fruits and creamy dark fruits enriched by notes of cherry pit, pencil lead and sandalwood, and a push of star anise that highlights the lingering finish. A blend of 45% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 21% Mourvedre & 1% Viognier. 2500 cases produced
2016 Talawind Pinot Noir Russian River Valley
Focused on authentic Russian River Valley fruit, this is a pleasurable Pinot Noir at a great price. The aromas are a genteel perfume of black cherry, cranberry, strawberry, sumac berry, peppercorn and toasty oak. The wine is as focused, yet even more lighthearted on the palate, with quietly piquant flavors of wild cherry, cherry pit, strawberry sorbet, pink peppercorn, mace and hazelnut husk flavors. The finish lingers nicely, carries just enough tannin to create a dinner-friendly package. Pretty now, it will be more so next year. 350 cases produced.
2018 Fidelity Zinfandel “Railyard” Alexander Valley
Dinner-balanced, focused and clearly a bargain, this Zin offers forthcoming aromas of blackberry jam, dark cherry and black, pink and Schezuan peppercorn, over an undercurrent of black tea. On the palate it is medium-bodied, with a sleek mouth-feel, attractive zest and richer flavor than the nose suggests. Those flavors center on red boysenberry, red and black raspberry, black and pink peppercorn, clove, hazelnut and black tea. Piquant and lingering, the finish replicates the mid-palate notes, but with a blast of red raspberry at the end. 650 cases made.
2018 Whitehall Lane Chardonnay Carneros
If Whitehall’s 2017 Chardonnay was their most flavorful to date, their 2018 could become their most texturally seductive. The aromas are a trace shy when the wine is first opened, yet they ultimately fan-out as a subtlety-rich medley of baked green apple, golden mulberry, white peach, lemon shortbread, nutmeg, baking-spice and vanilla wafer scents. The wine is at once piquant, tongue-coating and elegantly supple in the mouth, where evolving flavors of pear skin, green apple skin, tarte tatin, mace, baking-spice and nougat find harmony. The finish lingers well, although the wine’s youth is also evident, as notes of apple skin and Meyer lemon zest still dominate. If already a fine companion to elegantly-sauced fish or fowl, it will grow more flavorful over the next few years. 465 cases produced.
2019 Alma de Cattleya Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County
In 2019, as in the past, Cattleya delivers gorgeously focused, refreshing, balanced fruit at a knockout price. The nose offers fresh, focused aromas of grapefruit zest, lemon sorbet, honeydew melon, dried peach, lemongrass and white pepper. The same bright display jumps-forth on the palate, where the wine is lighthearted and the lingering flavors are a bright display of lemon, grapefruit, guava, peach pit, green melon and lemongrass above subtle background minerality. Terrific now with lemon-pepper braised crab or spiced prawns, it will grow in dimension over the next eighteen months. 2000 cases produced.
2018 Korbin Kameron Sauvignon Blanc Moon Mountain Sonoma County
This delicious mountain-grown Sauvignon Blanc is as distinctive for its counterpoints of richness and zest as for its fruit character. The aromas are a forthcoming mélange of gooseberry, fresh golden fig, dried peach, lemon curd, pineapple core, Mandarin orange and vanilla wafer. It is tongue-coating, yet ultra refreshing on the mid-palate, where the flavors closely mirror the nose. The finish is long and ideally food-balanced, with Goldenberry, dried golden mulberry, fresh fig, white pepper, lemon zest and orange peel tea all in focus. It is ready to enjoy. 300 cases produced.
2018 Skinner Grenache Blanc El Dorado County
Bright, mineral-laced and focused, the nose of this delightful refresher pushes-forth an intriguing mix of lemon sorbet, honeysuckle, white rose and orange blossom scents, above a deep chalky undercurrent. It is as fresh, yet even more distinctive on the palate, where lemon drop and honeysuckle flavors dominate and Meyer lemon zest flavors team with hard-edged mineral notes to create a wine clearly built to enhance appetizers. The finish is delicious and pin-point balanced, so this one will serve as comfortably with sole in butter sauce as with Kumamoto oysters. 345 cases produced.
2018 Palmina Pinot Grigio Santa Barbara
If a bit slow to open, this young Pinot Grigio ultimately unfolds as a generous, satisfying, fully dry dinner wine. To the nose it offers impressions of melon, white rose and chestnut above a harder note of “crushed rock”. It proves texturally rich and soft-edged in the mouth, yet drying minerality stays at its core to contrast the pretty pear nectar flavors that flesh out the mid-palate and finish. It should show its best with baked chicken or white-sauced pasta. 900 cases made.
2017 Tangent Albarino Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley
Immediately engaging, the nose of this pretty Albarino offers fresh, lighthearted, varietally on-target aromas of green apple skin, pear, grapefruit zest and dry peach, with no hint of sweetness. Dry peach, grapefruit pith and a bit of golden fig round out the flavors and these notes continue through a dry, lingering finish. Built for appetizers, grilled summer entrees and “patio pounding”, it is ready to enjoy. 1800 cases produced.