Sonoma tagged posts

The Next Coming of The Prisoner: Coppola Director’s Cut Cinema

July 2, 2012 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments


I was a big fan of Orin Swift's "The Prisoner" when it came out.  So much so that it was the first wine I spent real money on.  The receipt below shows I spent $210.28 on a six pack at over $35 per bottle!


The price of The Prisoner has dropped since then, but in my opinion, so has the quality.  I thought maybe my tastes had just changed, so I opened my last bottle of the 2005 vintage The Prisoner earlier this year and confirmed I do indeed like that wine better than the last several releases (they are now on 2010).  As so often happens with popular wines, the temptation to increase production caused quality to diminish.

I have never tasted a wine quite like the early versions of The Prisoner until now.  And, it came from an unexpected source:

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Two Values from the Legendary Paul Hobbs: Crossbarn

July 20, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

Paul Hobbs makes wine from the very best vineyards in California.  Think names like Hyde, Stagecoach, To-Kalon and Dr. Crane.  He has numerous 100 point ratings and has established himself as perhaps the top winemaker and consultant in California and beyond.

But what happens to all of those expensive grapes he buys that don’t quite make the cut for his $100+ wines?  I'll give you a hint.  He doesn’t just throw them away.  He makes them into his Crossbarn series of wines.  You might call Crossbarn a second wine, but that wouldn’t really do these wines justice.  The Crossbarn series are on par with most wineries top tier productions, but Hobbs just holds himself to a higher standard.

I've had a number of vintages of both the Chardonnay and the Cabernet and each impress every time. 

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Deal Alert: 2007 Chalk Hill Estate Red – RP95 for $54.95

May 17, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

This is just one of those outstanding deals of a vintage where the score and the price don't match up.  Chalk Hill has a fabled history of producing one of Sonoma County's top Bordeaux Blends. The perfect 2007 growing season, combined with their continuous efforts to find the perfect site/varietal/rootstock combination, have paid off in a major way.  Half Cabernet and a quarter Malbec, make this a unique blend for California, but as Allison Steltzner pointed out, California is a great place to grow Malbec and I applaud Chalk Hill's liberal use of the varietal.

Buy this wine to drink now or lay it back for 20 years.  Robert Parker and Wine Enthusiast gave it 95 points and Wine Spectator gave it 93.  The lowest price on WineBid.com for a 95 point California Cabernet blend is $70 and this

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Amapola Creek Syrah 2007 – Dick Arrowood’s personal masterpiece.

May 16, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

I predict that 10 years from now, Syrah will be right up there with Cabernet Sauvignon in terms of popularity in the United States.  Wine writers have been touting U.S. Syrah for a while, but I think they were a little premature with their predictions.  It takes time for growers to figure out the best locations, rootstock, vine trellising and production methods.  I believe that the U.S. has now figured out the grape that the French and Aussies made so popular before us.  American Syrah has arrived.

Richard "Dick" Arrowood started his career in wine in the '60s and by the '70s became winemaker at Sonoma icon Chateau Ste. Jean.  There, he created arguably Sonoma County's most famous red wine, Cinq Cepages.  Arrowood went on to found his namesake winery, which he sold in the 90s when the

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Ridge Lytton Springs ’08 – Perfectly balanced. $29.95 RP93

April 17, 2011 Cellar WorthyHigh End Values  No comments

In my humble opinion, Ridge makes the best Zinfandel in the country.  Plain and simple.  I'm admittedly not a huge Zin drinker because the super high alcohol, sweet style doesn't appeal to me.  In fact, some Zins are so sweet that I'm sure there is residual sugar, much like dessert wines.  That fact got me wondering why I like the Zinfandel grape at the hands of Ridge's capable winemaker.  So, I read the label.

Though most modern wine labels focus on pretty pictures (gimmicks), Ridge actually includes useful information on theirs.  There I discovered the answer to my question.  Ridge Lytton Springs only contains 14.4% alcohol.  It's not uncommon to see Zins above 16%.  It's also perfectly dry.  Since sugar equals alcohol, the picture is all of the sudden becoming clear.  Reading on,

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A Potential 93 Point Cabernet from Kendall-Jackson $19.95

March 28, 2011 Cellar WorthyDaily Drinkers  No comments

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Kendall-Jackson's $15 Chardonnay from the Grand Reserve series.  Judging by the 33 Facebook "Likes" bestowed upon that post, I'm not the only one who is a big fan of that wine.  I actually saw that Chard on the wine list at Capital Grille in Chicago for $45 and was tempted to order it, even knowing I can buy it for $15.  That's how good the wine is.  Kendall-Jackson really came out swinging this year, with their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Grand Reserve rivaling the Chardonnay in terms of value and quality.

Coming mostly from Kendall-Jackson's estate vineyards in Sonoma County, this wine is more Bordeaux-like than many from warmer Napa county.  Rich chocolate and coffee notes define the palate and the finish is firm and long (that's what she said).

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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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Landmark Overlook Chardonnay- Really good every time! $19.95 WS92

July 28, 2010 Daily Drinkers  No comments

Landmark's Overlook Chardonnay is one of those wines that's just great every year.  It's nice to have those bottles that, in a crunch or on a restaurant menu, you know will always be good, regardless of the vintage.  Case in point, this Chardonnay has received a 90 or higher rating from one or more of the major publications for every vintage since 2001.  At $20 it's kind of in the middle price range that wineries avoid- the the high end of daily drinker territory but not splurge territory either.  Don't let that hold you back.  This is better than many $40 Chardonnays out there.

The '07 Landmark Overlook Chardonnay strikes a nice balance between malolactic fermentation richness and acidity.  It's a balance that many winemakers aren't able to achieve but it's magic when they do.  The

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Etude Pinot Noir 2007- Textbook Carneros Pinot under $30

June 20, 2010 High End Values  No comments

The Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast are amazing places.  Napa specifically is a fraction the size of the Bordeaux region, yet grows basically all of the grape varietals of the entire country of France.  The reason?  The Pacific Ocean and Mayacamas Mountains combine to create unique microclimates all over the valley, each uniquely suited to the many varietals that thrive there.

Etude's Estate Pinot Noir is grown in the Carneros AVA that covers part of Napa and Sonoma counties.  Breezes from San Pablo Bay keep Carneros cooler than the rest of Napa Valley making it perfectly suited to growing Pinot Noir grapes.  Etude focuses on making great Pinot Noir in this region and the 2007 has certainly delivered.  It's exceptionally fragrant, earthy and complex, with a full bodied texture that I find

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La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma- Always a good bet $14.95

June 17, 2010 Daily Drinkers  No comments

La Crema's Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is one of those rare wines that's an incredible value year after year.  They make almost 500,000 cases of this particular bottling- nearly 6 million bottles- so it really need to be good, otherwise they are going to have a ton of unsold wine!  Every decent restaurant in the country should have this on their menu because it's inexpensive and always delivers.

The last few Chardonnays we've reviewed on these pages have been the no oak, non malolactic fermentation style.  This is not that kind.  The '08 La Crema is buttery and full bodied in the traditional California style.  Our last review, the '07 Vina Robles Huerhuero Vineyard Cabernet, talked a lot about the sense of place in the wine, created because the grapes are all harvested from a single

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