California tagged posts

A Top Notch Tempranillo Blend from… California ($14.95)

October 6, 2015 Uncategorized  No comments

firefall_red_blend_LRGUntil a few years ago, I had only experienced good Tempranillo, make that any Tempranillo, from one place: Spain.  That was until I had Epoch's Tempranillo from Paso Robles.  That is a mind blowing wine that will make you wonder why more California growers aren't experimenting with this grape.

Luckily for those of us "in the know" (the readers of this blog), another winery is doing just that.  As the Sierra Foothills region of California is starting to make a name for itself with Rhone varietals, Firefall, from a single 2400 ft elevation vineyard called "Little Rattlesnake", blends Rhone grapes with 27% Tempranillo to create a delicious red wine.

This is a polished wine with big fruit and great length.  It's a true crowd pleaser and would make a fun wine to throw into a blind

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Oakville Ranch Cabernet – Single Vineyard 94 Point Magic $44.95

August 29, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

Every time I drink an Oakville wine, I'm amazed at the uniqueness of the flavor.  Cabernet made from this tiny appellation in the center of the Napa valley, flanked by Yountville to the south and Rutherford to the north, is immediately identifiable by its exceptional density and powerful but sweet tannins.

The 2008 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon is no exception.  At this young age, it pours a deep, opaque purple.  The color alone identifies this wine as something special.  The nose is sweet and round, another signature of Oakville, with a nice balance of ripe fruit and new oak flavors.  On the palate, it shows its youth with mouth-coating, biting tannins that get sweeter as the lengthy finish lingers on.  Let this baby sit for 10 years and it will be absolutely epic.  If you don't

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La Crema Monterey Chardonnay ’09 – 90 point daily drinking value.

June 16, 2011 Daily DrinkersHigh End Values  No comments

What's better than sitting outside on a warm evening with a cool glass of Chardonnay?  For me, not a heck of a lot, especially when that cool glass is from La Crema, who makes one of the best values in California Chardonnay hands down.  All of their Chardonnays are really good year after year and this, the lowest priced in their lineup, still shows as a premium wine.

This wine actually reminds me of the 94 point Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay in a lot of ways.  It's oaky and buttery, yet balanced with a persistent acidity - a truly impressive expression of California Chardonnay.  The round mouthfeel combined with crisp pineapple flavors tell me that this isn't a one trick pony like a lot of Chardonnay in this price range.  I've found that most Chards in the under $20 category are

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Lander-Jenkins Chardonnay ’09 – The next great value $7.99

April 4, 2011 Daily DrinkersWines under $10  No comments

I love finding a house Chardonnay that drinks totally guilt free because it's cheap and tastes great. The problem is, the more great Chardonnay you taste, the harder it becomes to find a daily drinker! I'm discovering that this is a problem with all kinds of wines. Drinking great wine resets your standard for what you consider a good wine. Luckily, despite this not-so-tragic phenomenon, I'm still finding great values in the under $10 value range all the time.

We enjoyed the Lander-Jenkins 2009 Chardonnay in the back yard on a warm Friday evening. This wine is perfect for such a setting. One thing the French have been doing for hundreds of years (besides retreating), is blending grapes for added complexity. Complexity is not something usually found in an $8 domestic Chardonnay, but

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A Photo Tour through the Stags Leap District: Hartwell Estate

March 15, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End ValuesHow To  One comment

As our guide at Hartwell Estate Winery said, "This is Cabernet country".  The Stags Leap AVA is indeed Cabernet country ever since Stag's Leap Wine Cellars put California Cabernet Sauvignon on the map when it won the famous 1976 Paris tasting.  Since then, wine production in Napa Valley has grown exponentially, but Cabernet from the Stags Leap District remains arguably the most sought after in the country.  This is the first in a series of posts where we will take a tour through this historical district of the Napa Valley.

A little known property on the west side of the Silverado Trial, Hartwell Estate should start to make it on the wine loving public's radar if the quality of their product is any indication.  The winery is perched near the top of a dormant volcano, offering sweeping views of the surrounding valley.  The Tuscan inspired look was inspired by Bob Hartwell's wife Blanca.  As is a common theme in the Napa Valley wine scene, Bob Hartwell didn't make his money selling wine, but rather in another industry, in his case aerospace.  It turns out Velcro might actually be a key ingredient to good wine, along with a great site and a talented winemaker.

That talented winemaker is Benoit Touquette assisted by consultant (and his mentor) the famed Michel Rolland.  As expected, no expense was spared at Hartwell.  From the $35,000 cement fermenting tanks (imported from France), to the 100% new French oak all of their Cabernet calls home, everything is top notch, and it shows!  In fact, I would say the Hartwell wines were the some of the best we tasted during our three days in the Stags Leap District.

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Single Vineyard Rhone Ranger Grey Stack “The Folly” $19.95

February 28, 2011 Daily DrinkersHigh End Values  No comments

If you aren't on the lookout for Rhone Ranger blends from California, you are missing out on an up-and-coming segment that is providing some great values.  The same grapes that made Sine Que Non an impossible to find cult wine, have remained under the radar for some reason.  Grenache and Syrah blends, and to a certain extent Mourvedre, blend to create interesting, elegant and fun to drink wines.

Paso Robles and Santa Barbara county are producing some of the best, but Grey Stack's Greywacke Vineyard "The Folly" is from Russian River Valley, of all places.  This Syrah and Grenache blend is an absolute stand out value at $20 and a must try for anyone looking for a departure from the norm of California Cabernet.  I like Syrah, but believe that when blended with Grenache, it really "kicks

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Zin Deal of the Year- Norman 2004 Old Vine half bottles $4.99

January 26, 2011 Daily DrinkersWines under $10  No comments

Wasn't I just saying there is no real old vine wine in the U.S. except Zinfandel?  Now is your opportunity to taste some of the finest wine from vineyards that are 115 years old!  The location of these vineyards might be a surprise to many.

The Cucamonga Valley in Southern California's Riverside County is the location of some of the oldest vineyards in the United States.  In its heyday, before Prohibition, it was home to more vineyards than Napa and Somoma counties combined.  But alas, many of those vineyards were let go during prohibition and later overtaken by urban sprawl as Los Angeles grew to encompass multiple counties.

The few vineyards that are left make some of the country's best Zinfandel and Norman's "Old Vines" certainly doesn't disappoint.  If you've had Opolo's Zins

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Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot #52- Top under $10 value.

November 19, 2010 Daily DrinkersWines under $10  No comments

There really aren't very many stand-out domestic red wines under the $10 price point.  So discovering Marietta Cellars' Old Vine Red non-vintage "Lot #52" bottling was a real pleasure for me.  And isn't pleasure what wine is about after all?  You don't drink it to quench your thirst.  If you do, it might be time to take a vacation from the vino...

Pleasure is the name of the game with this wine and you don't have to believe me.  Here's what Robert Parker has to say about this perennial value:
"If readers have not yet learned the formula here, it is: Marietta Cellars equals high quality, modest prices and considerable pleasure!" - Robert Parker
What is it made out of?  Who cares?  It tastes like good wine.  Seriously, it's mostly Zinfandel with a kitchen sink worth of other varietals.

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Broman Syrah 2004- Napa style at its finest WS91

May 23, 2010 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

How is a 2004 highly rated Napa Syrah still available for purchase in 2010, for under $20?  Great question!

If you're a fan of California Syrah, you will be hard pressed to find a better value.  Bob Broman has been making wine in Napa Valley since 1994.  His 1999 Cabernet is one of my favorite all time wines, so I had to try his Syrah.  Broman sources his grapes from highly acclaimed Napa vineyards and that quality clearly comes through in his wines.  This particular example is from the soon to be named Oak Knoll AVA of Napa.

The 2004 Syrah is already showing the complexity of its six years of age.  An aromatic nose is followed by a sweet, rich taste.  The age is apparent by the sediment stuck to the side of the bottle; usually a sign that the wine hasn't been abused or sloshed

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Huntington Petite Sirah 2006- Amazing Quality for $6.99

May 15, 2010 Daily DrinkersWines under $10  No comments

We hosted a BBQ this weekend and I knew I had the perfect wine.  Petite Sirah is big and bold enough to hold up to spicy pulled pork and, come to think of it, they actually have a lot in common.  Both are smokey, slightly sweet , a little spicy and really tasty.  Furthermore, neither are expensive, but both are amazingly fulfilling.  Is there anything better than a beautiful spring evening, time spent with good friends, pulled pork BBQ and a great bottle of wine?  I think not.

This is another winner from Hahn Family Wines, the makers of one of my favorites, Hahn Estates Meritage.  I don't think you will find a better California red at this price point.  Grapes are sourced from throughout California's best growing regions, and perhaps because of this blending,  the Huntington Petite

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