A High-End Pinot for $24 – Calera Central Coast (WA92, $23.95)

October 12, 2016 90+ Bargains  No comments

Calera Central Coast LabelWith the domestic Pinot Noir boom in full force, it's increasingly difficult to find value in this hot category.  As with other hot categories, I look to the top producers' lesser wines.  Calera makes Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) from exclusive vineyards on Mt. Harlan and the $50+ price points reflect that exclusivity.  But each year they combine grapes from some of the Central Coast's best vineyards and make a Central Coast bottling.  The "Central Coast" label may be generic, but the vineyards are anything but.  Many of the vineyards are used for the flagship wine for other wineries.  Names like Bien Nacido and Solomon Hills are featured on the label which details the percentage that each vineyard makes up.

The look of this wine is decidedly Burgundian with a transparent ruby, but on

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The Brilliant Wines of Ridge

October 4, 2016 News and Opinion  No comments

IMGP6222In the last year I've had the pleasure of visiting two of Ridge's most famous vineyards: Lytton Springs in Sonoma and Monte Bello in the Santa Cruz mountains high above Silicon Valley.  Those two vineyards, along with Geyserville, make up the top bottlings for Ridge, and have for over 40 years.   During that time, very little has changed and the result is one the longest-lived wines in the U.S. (Monte Bello) and two of the most American wines (Lytton Springs and Geyserville).

Here are some of the reasons I love Ridge:

Monte Bello is one of the longest-lived wines in the country.  This year, I tasted a vertical of the '88, '03 and '12 and they were all brilliant.  That's especially impressive considering '88 was a poor vintage in California and the wine was 28 years

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A Wine I Buy Every Year – Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet (RP95, $89.95)

September 28, 2016 90+ BargainsHigh End Values  No comments

Beringer PR LabelI own, or have owned, the '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '09, '11 and '12 Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet.  That's really as much endorsement of this wine as I could possibly provide.  But since that doesn't make for a very entertaining or informative blog post, let's discuss why this is such a great wine year in and year out. Beringer owns tons of acres of vineyards all over Napa in many varied appellations (and many more beyond).  This diversity allows them to take the very best fruit of a given year and blend it to create a remarkably consistent and remarkably high quality Cabernet each year.  And while Beringer does make some ultra high volume bulk wine, their Private Reserve Cabernet is, and has always been, one of the very best wines in California.

I visited the winery in May

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A Killer Single Vineyard Sonoma Syrah for $17

September 27, 2016 High End Values  No comments

baldassari_syrah_nolanThere are less great wine deals than there were 4-5 years ago.  That fact, combined with my increasingly picky taste in wine, means that when you see a post about a great deal on this blog, you can rest assured the wine is noteworthy.  That said, there are great wines available at every price point and there should be no need for qualifiers like"it's good for the price".  Here is a great example:

Fans of cool-climate Syrah are going to want to check out this excellent single vineyard from Sonoma's Bennet Valley.  This cool climate growing region is a sweet spot for Syrah and Baldassari has nailed it with their 2013 from Nolan Vineyard.

This shows like a slightly riper St. Joseph with a deep purple color, beautiful black pepper on the nose and notes of smoked meat with a nice mix of

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A 2013 Yountville Napa Cab $40 (RP91)

February 20, 2016 90+ Bargains  No comments

IMG_5970Yountville is one of the top appellations in the Napa Valley, that much is for sure. Dominus certainly thinks so, with their wine selling for close to $200 per bottle. Kapcsandy's "Grand Vin" from Yountville's State Lane Vineyard is close to double that. That's why a Yountville Cabernet, at the entry price for generic Napa designated wines, got my attention.

The Liparita "V Block" Yountville Cabernet is rich, bold and opulent, especially for Yountville, where the wines tend to be more restrained. The aromatics are beautiful and pronounced. Chalk it up to the 2013 vintage where perfect weather allowed winemakers to hang their grapes as long as they pleased. Oh and about the 2013 vintage: I thought Napa Cabernet couldn't get better after drinking a bunch of 2012s. I was wrong.  This is

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2007 Rioja Reserve Under $30 (RP94)

February 9, 2016 90+ Bargains  No comments

thumb_1393_botellas_labelAt our Saturday blind tasting, we tasted through a lineup of 10 different wines, from Chablis to red Burgundy, Paso Syrah to Napa Cabernet.  All of the wines had some debate around them, until I broke out a "bonus bottle".  Everyone pinned it as well-aged, high-end Rioja - and they were right.  Furthermore, they were impressed.

For Rioja, the 2007 Viña Ardanza Reserva from La Rioja Alta is about as traditional as it gets.  A smokey nose of tobacco, dill and vanilla lead to a palate of bright red fruit with excellent length, all at a modest 13.5% alcohol.  The winery doesn't release this until it's ready to drink, so consumers have an opportunity to buy an aged (and well stored) Rioja at the surprisingly low price of $30.  In a perfect world, more wineries would release aged wines like

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A Favorite Pinot Value – 2013 Talbott Kali Hart ($14.95)

January 15, 2016 Uncategorized  No comments

Talbott Kali Hart 2013 Pinot Noir LabelDuring a recent trip to the Monterey peninsula, I made it a point to stop by Talbott's Carmel Valley tasting room.  I've always admired their wines, especially their Kali Hart bottling which represents one of the very finest values in both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

We tasted through all of Talbott's bottlings, and though their higher-end pinot and chardonnay is excellent, the clear value is the Kali Hart.  This wine is 100% estate fruit from Talbott's highly regarded Sleepy Hollow Vineyard.  It's up-front and juicy yet has the depth to age for several years.

Talbott was recently sold to Gallo winery.  Hopefully they allow Talbott to continue the roll they've been on for the last decade.
Buy Here: 2013 Talbott Kali Hart Pinot Noir $14.95

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A 1er Cru Red Burgundy Under $50

January 11, 2016 High End Values  No comments

jadot_beaune_1er_cru_LRGLet's get this out of the way early.  Burgundy is overpriced.  Forget Napa, Bordeaux or any other of the top winemaking regions.  Burgundy is where the world's most expensive wine is made.  To make matters worse, the region's marginal climate makes for some bad vintages and bad wines.

Ferarri's are overpriced too.  They are fussy and hard to keep running, but much like the wines of Burgundy, when they are performing, they are brilliant.

That brings us to the wine at hand.  Louis Jadot's 2012 Beaune 150th Anniversary 1er Cru.  Unlike the "reserve" moniker here in the U.S., "Premier (1er) Cru" actually means something in France.  It's a designation given to only the best vineyards in the best regions.  Jadot only makes this wine in the best vintages and if the 92-94 point score from

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The Best Cabernet Value in the U.S.

December 17, 2015 90+ Bargains  No comments

Daou_14CabSauv_750ml_ftDaou wines has arguably the most stunning property in Paso Robles.  The winery is perched at the top of a mountain at 2200 feet above sea level, with panoramic views of Paso below.  It's that elevation that allows them to grow amazing Cabernet in an area that's usually too hot to produce great Cabs.

At $22, which is the lowest price in the country, this is the greatest value in California Cabernet.  This wine has something that virtually all Cabs, and indeed most wines in this price range, are lacking: character and uniqueness.  The nose is outstanding with fruit, oak, and spice blending to create something really special.  On the palate, it's just top-notch Cabernet; seamless and textured.

The lowest price in the country, a 91-93 point rating from the Wine Advocate, and an

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Black Friday: Round Pond Estate Cabernet ($46.95, RP93)

November 27, 2015 High End Values  No comments

IMG_5682It's rare that I write up a wine twice, but this one deserves it.  Even though it's young, I opened a bottle of Round Pond's 2012 Estate Cabernet for Thanksgiving and it really is spectacular.  They recently hired Thomas Rivers-Brown as their consulting winemaker and it shows all his hallmarks.  I buy his (much more expensive) wines from Schrader, Outpost, Mending Wall and Rivers-Marie and if you want to taste a TRB wine without spending 2-5x, this is your wine.  It's hard to describe what makes his wines so unique.  The nose is a sweet combination of fruit and oak with neither jumping out - it's actually hard to tell the difference.  The palate is incredibly refined, pure and seamless.  There is huge concentration, but I wouldn't call this a huge wine.  In summary: WOW.

Every day is

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