Deep, dark, rich color. Slightly warm, restrained nose with notes of blackberries, and subtle dark plum. Terroir is subtle and in the form of a slight sandy, loamy leather. Oak is very measured, and makes its presence known through a very distant licorice and cedarwood. You would likely miss it.
Body is precise. Balanced front to back. Fruit is carried over as a slightly dry dark plum. Crisp, measured tannins provide clean structure, creating a classic foundation from attack to finish. Transition to finish is seamless, culminating in a subtle back and forth between creamy and dry tannic grip, ultimately leaving the palate parched. A reminder of its youth. A hint of spice caps the experience. This is more of a nuanced Cab than most people might be accustomed to. I suspect this ultimately has to do with the climate. It does not have the typical overpowering characteristics of say a Northern California Cab (aggressively acidic, tannic, spice).
This is a great Cabernet Sauvignon. It is showing surprisingly well for its relatively young age. It should age quite nicely, given more time to further integrate. I would pick up a few bottles. Enjoy one now and revisit this vintage in about 5 years. This is a pre-release look at this vintage. I previously reviewed the 2016 and looking at my notes, the 2017 is very reminiscent of it, surprisingly consistent if not a tad more mature.
It was nice to finally visit this little estate tucked away in the Santa Cruz Mountains (see photos from my visit below). I especially want to thank Dr. Julie and her husband Albert for being to kind and gracious for hosting me and giving me an extended tour of the property and the vineyard. It was a real treat. It was inspiring to see the amount of work they have put into making this passion of theirs become a reality. This is what I love most about being off the beaten path.
I very much look forward to visiting them again soon. If you do decide to attend one of their tastings, don’t forget to ask Dr Julie if she has any of her Tomato Jam on hand. It is simply sublime and unlike anything you’ve had. You won’t be disappointed. Join their club to secure your annual allotment of this very limited and unique wine.
Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Martin Ray.
Bright rich ruby color. Beautiful nose out of the bottle characterized by wet sandy loamy leather. This quickly pulls to the back and gives way to berries and sweet cherries. There are faint tertiary herbal notes as well as a touch of sweet cola and the faintest hint of warm cedarwood. Swirl vigorously to revisit the whole affair. Nice!!!
Body shows good balance up front with a slightly milder acidity. Oak quickly moves to the front, as tannins introduce good structure. The oak is just enough to tease out a velvety, buttery, mouth feel. Berries and sweet cherries play secondary notes. It is fairly dry but this is initially masked by the oak play and fruit notes. A graceful transition to finish culminates in slightly dry tannic grip and a noticeable dose of spice.
This is a well made wine. My favorite part is the nose. I absolutely love that Sonoma dirt, and it shines through in this Pinot. I’m not the least surprised coming from this winemaker. At this price point (currently listed for $19.99 on wine.com) it punches above its weight and presents good value. It is a pleasant (and slightly playful) wine to sip and should appeal to a broad spectrum of palates. For the advanced palate, the nose and finish should tickle your fancy. Buy 6, buy a case. You can’t go wrong having a solid every day Pinot on hand. Nicely done Martin Ray.! 🍷😁👌🏽
Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Martin Ray wines delivered to your doorstep.
Tonight’s occasion: 2012 Many Hands Cuvée Rouge (Bordeaux style blend) by Bumgarner, El Dorado, California.
Deep, dark, opaque, almost inky color. Warm shy almost neutral nose out of the bottle. Swirl vigorously to unlock notes of dark plum and cherry. Secondary oak introduces a very subtle vanilla caramel occasionally punctuated by faint cedarwood. Terroir is fairly neutral up front in what feels like a rocky granite sand.
Body is fairly balanced, starting off mildly acidic in the form flesh from green tart plums. Firm, persistent fine grained tannins quickly take over, introducing robust structure. Towards the back, faint vanilla softens the edges ever so subtly, giving a good mouth feel. This marks the transition to finish which is dominated by dry, ultra fine grained tannins. The palate is left parched and tingling with spice notes. I’m thirsty! Now wondering if I should have let this bottle lay down another 5 years at least.
I have been following this winemaker’s work for well over a decade now and I absolutely love his more traditional style and unwavering adherence to fundamental principles. I highly recommend his wines for the intermediate-to-advanced palate. This Bordeaux style blend really showcases his mastery of big varietals. When I think of wines off the beaten path, Brian Bumgarner is one of the first that come to mind. Pick up any of his wines now and forget about them. Thank me 10-15yrs from now. Oh, and save me a glass! 😁🍷
Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Pinot Noir (Sanford & Benedict Vineyard) by Sanford of the legendary Sanford and Benedict Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara California.
Subtle aromatic nose characterized by rich fine leather of slightly damp loamy terroir intertwined with faint sweet berries, touch of dark cherries and vanilla. This wine commands a clean palate and clear mind.
Body is balanced right down the middle, front to back. An attack with suggestion of acidity is quickly counterbalanced by subtle tannin in the form of dark cherries. This creates just the right amount of background structure and foundation for a silky, whispy mouth feel. Oak vanilla and berries continue their gentle interplay as they carry over from the nose, introducing yet more whispers of musical harmony. Body and finish appear as one through a seamless transition culminating with gentle whispers of dry tannic grip and faint spice.
This is a terroir driven wine. An exercise in restraint and balance. A strict adherence to core principles. It reads like a thesis in Pinot Noir excellence. You cannot explore wines from the California central coast without indulging in this specific Pinot Noir by this storied founders’ vineyard. I keep this particular Pinot Noir on hand in my cellar as a benchmark and reference.
This wine is currently in stock and available for order. To support our work off the beaten path, you can use the link below. Thank you for your support and for stopping by.
Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Sanford wines delivered to your doorstep.
Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Cabernet Franc (Chinon) by Remy Pannier, Loire, France.
Dark plum color. Warm restrained nose with a lovely leather of slightly mineral, sedimentary terroir. You get a punch of mushrooms right out of the bottle. This quickly dissipates and is replaced by dark plum and blackberry. There’s a bit of a smokey cocoa essence. I like the nose on this one.
Haha this is definitely a Cab Franc by all accounts. Body is balanced. It has a plum mouth feel with lots of crisp clean tannic structure. The mineral leather carries over here as well as it’s smokey cocoa essence. Once opened the already graceful body softens around the edges for a smooth gentler feel. The finish is rather unceremonious, fading away, leaving behind a dry moderate tannic grip.
This is a Cabernet Franc after all. A great example too. I don’t expect too much drama or dimension from this varietal but what it does, it does it well. At 12.5% ABV this is one you can take your sweet time and eek out every nuance without any palate fatigue. I don’t think I’ve tasted Cab Franc from Loire before. I like how the terroir is so nicely expressed.
Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Remy Pannier wines delivered to your doorstep.
Earlier this year I was presented with an opportunity to take a look at a couple wines from a little winery I had never heard of before. It was Dawn’s Dream Winery, situated in Carmel by the Sea, just south of Monterey, CA.
Without knowing much more I of course jumped at the opportunity. A quick lookup of the winery, suggested this was right up my alley – a small batch production, artisan winery off the beaten path. The bulk of their offerings were Pinot Noirs for which this region – California Central Coast – is known for. It also told me there was a certain level of maturity in their craft as Pinot Noir can be one of the most unforgiving varietals to work with at every step of the wine making process.
A week later I received two bottles. One was their entry Pinot Noir (Rechael) which I reviewed here – Wine Review: 2017 Pinot Noir (Rachael) by Dawn’s Dream. The other was their Signature Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) which sits at the top of their lineup and which I reviewed here – Wine Review: 2017 Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) by Dawn’s Dream. This gave me a great perspective and appreciation for the dynamic range of this winemaker’s skill. I was delighted to find that both wines were very well made, especially the Ben Sogno which had a unique expression all by it’s own. I found it most interesting and intriguing.
COVID-19 and the Lockdown
Just as I was wrapping up my reviews, I began planning a trip down to Carmel, to learn more about this winery, do a deeper dive into their wines and an overall appreciation for what they do. Unfortunately COVID-19 and the ensuing Lockdown put all my plans on hold indefinitely.
A good ending
No sooner than wineries were allowed to reopen (under new health and safety guidelines), a new opportunity presented itself in the form of an invitation to come down and spend the weekend exploring Dawn’s Dream wines. Determined to not let this one slip away, I immediately checked my calendar and booked the next available weekend!
I left early Saturday morning and made the drive down from Sacramento in good time. Arriving about an hour before the noon opening time, I took some time to explore the local scene in Carmel by the Sea. It is a beautiful, quaint, little community with lots of texture, color, interesting architecture. It feels almost out of a fairy-tale with lots of small independently owned boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and bistros.
Finally! I found it!
Tucked away behind a corner building, and set back with two narrow entryways, I finally found Dawn’s Dream Winery. You’ll probably miss it on your first pass but will surely find it on second glance or after checking your google maps. I arrived just before the Tasting Room opened. It was outdoor seating only and the weather was perfect! I found a cozy spot and my host immediately began walking me through the wines (see tasting menu below).
I found the atmosphere at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting Room to be calm, quiet and reflective. The decor and presentation was impeccable, deliberate and somewhat minimalist if not uncluttered. This was very much in harmony with their wines which I found to be all about subtle nuance. The service was professional, prompt and no more than was necessary. The wines were allowed to speak for themselves.
This leads me to my next point. I think their wines should appeal nicely to the Intermediate-to-Advanced palate. I can see a beginner or a less mature palate finding themselves a little lost here, primarily because their wines resemble more the traditional old world Burgundian style. They fall on the dryer side of the spectrum. Being primarily Pinot Noir, their expressions are delicate and nuanced with characteristics only a more experienced palate would be able to discern, recognize and appreciate. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, exploring the whispering notes in relative calm and tranquility.
In a part of the world where the “Big California Pinot” reigns supreme, I highly recommend Dawn’s wines, if for nothing else, to gain a good reference point for what I think Pinot Noir was really meant to look like. I was able to take tasting notes as I worked my way down the menu. Below are my notes (and some of Dawn’s notes) for each of their offerings.
2019 Pinot Noir Rosé
We agree. Light, crisp, refreshing. Complex for a Rosé. This is not surprising as it is in fact a Pinot Noir. Interesting. Tart white plum and stone fruits, Good earthy leather. Haha You don’t see that in a rose. Great concept. I obviously haven’t been paying attention to Rosé of Pinot Noir. I love the subtle nuance the grape brings. See Dawn’s notes below.
The new vintage of our award-winning Rosé draws you in with its delicate hue of peachy pink and introduces itself with lively hints of tangerine, lemon zest, and ripe apricot. Your mouth is flooded with a supple texture and notes of ripe strawberry and watermelon. This wine is best described as precise with its crisp acidity leaving your mouth watering, craving another
Very aromatic. Crisp. Clean. Just the right amount of acidity. See notes. Of whites, chardonnay tends to be my least favorite as most seem to be off balance but this one walks that fine line surprisingly well. This is a Chardonnay I can get behind. Nicely done! See Dawn’s notes below.
Our golden “Nugget” delights with characteristics of tropical fruit and a hint of lemon zest on the nose highlighted by refreshing and off-dry notes of pineapple and guava. With only 2 months on 75% new French oak and no malolactic fermentation, this wine is rich while still maintaining a crisp and playful acidity. It would be the perfect aperitif with oysters or aged Gouda.
2018 Rachael Pinot Noir
Fairly consistent across vintages. Echoes my notes on the 2017. Great pleaser for the advanced palate. Light, crisp, aloof, fun, easy. See Dawn’s notes below.
This beautiful vintage starts with a wonderful aroma of rich plum and dark cherry. An essence of fresh cedar is on display with a touch of cinnamon and clove. Your mouth is filled with flavors of bright, wild raspberry and it finishes with soft acidity, making this wine very approachable. Our Rachael Pinot is consistently a crowd favorite!
2018 Alyssa Pinot Noir
Deeper color, slightly bigger nose. More intense berries and a little plum. Feels rich. Fuller, rounder mouth feel. A touch more structure and more pronounced spice finish. A little more layered. More of a sipper. Subtle dry tannic grip on finish. Classic medium bodied Pinot. Nicely done. See Dawn’s notes below.
Ripe pomegranate and violet tickle your nose while candied orange peel dazzles the tip of your tongue with a sumptuous acidity. The finish is silk-soft and swift with touches of black cherry and spice, making this 2018 vintage a most promising release of our beloved “Alyssa” Pinot Noir!
2018 Nicole Pinot Noir
Love the color on this one. Vibrant ruby red. Great intensity on the nose. Good oak and caramel, touch of plum. Creamy body. Great tannic structure and balance. Long gentle but intense finish with lots of grip. Touch of spice. Right up my alley. Nicole demands your attention. Love it! See Dawn’s notes below.
Named after Dawn’s oldest daughter, the 2018 vintage of Nicole makes a bold statement right at the nose with aromas of intense cooking spices and a sweet touch of sugarplum. Hints of bright red cherries and violet on the palate roll into brown sugar and cardamom with daring tannins at the finish. An incredibly food friendly wine that will age extremely well for several years in your wine cellar.
“Bel Sogno” means Beautiful Dream, and this proprietary red blend is exactly that! This exclusive wine begins with dark, blue fruits and adds complexity with wet slate, anise, and vanilla. A rich textured mouth feel reveals notable chalky but balanced tannin giving power and length. This wine displays elegance and restraint despite this being a very substantial Pinot Noir.
2018 Eliza Jane Sangiovese
Dark rich color. off the bat. Nose with heavy punch of leather. Trying to pinpoint what spices I’m picking up but they are very present in the earthy leather, intense and unmistakable. Unlike your typical Sangiovese, this one is a touch jammy/chewy but dry (without being sweet). Lots of dark plum, bark cherry and black berries all most expressed in solid, imposing tannic structure (unlike the typical Sangiovese). This certainly is an interesting, unorthodox take on a Sangiovese. I like it. I would lay this down for a while. I keep drifting back to that earthy nose.
The 2018 Eliza Jane is our inaugural Sangiovese named after Dawn’s first granddaughter. This big, bold and beautiful wine expresses deep aromas of ripe strawberry and cherry which develop into darker fruits of blueberry and blackberry over light characteristics of coffee, dried earth, and thyme. This wine is lush and giving with fine silky tannins.
Meeting Dawn Herself
I did not expect to meet the woman behind this understated winery but at the end of my visit it was great to finally meet the mind behind it all and bring my experience full circle. I could see how it all came to be. I found Dawn to be a bit reserved, deliberate, measured and thoughtful in her delivery. She is clearly passionate about her vision for the winery and giving back to her community, specifically women and children in need. I found her conviction and passion for leaving the world a better place refreshing. The world needs more people like Dawn, especially in these times.
Great Wines for a Great Cause
Dawn’s dream has always been to help create dreams for others by donating her product, money or time to support nonprofit organizations both locally and globally. Dawn’s passion for helping women and children equals her passion for making wine. Dawn has produced award-winning wines of exceptional quality and elegance while maintaining a business model that allows for the opportunity to give back… [Read more here].
I look forward to checking on Dawn’s Dream Winery regularly and following their future releases. Thank you for sharing your dream with me Dawn!
Clear light color. Out of the bottle a gentle burst of floral notes, a touch of honey. This slowly dissipates to suggestions of tart stone fruits and a slate-like minerality punctuated by a touch of leather and citrus notes. Swirl vigorously to unlock the whole experience all over again. Very cool!
Body is very nicely balanced retaining moderate acidity while presenting a smooth, creamy and rounded mouth feel. The winemaker struck a perfect balance here. Stone fruits pull forward as floral notes fall back. You could almost miss the faint mineral leather. Transition to finish is seamless, only briefly punctuated by subtle dry tannic grip and a touch of spice which leaves the lips tingling. At 12.8% ABV, the palate can really explore this nuanced wine without being overwhelmed or fatigued. I like that.
I have been tasting some amazing white wines this summer from this region. This Grenache Blanc exposes the palate to new levels of excellence. There has been a clear attention to detail and forethought put into this wine. It is showing well now and should further integrate nicely over the next few years. I’d get a few, have some now and save some for later. Very nicely done Skinner!
Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Skinner wines delivered to your doorstep.
Clear, rich ruby color. Out of the bottle you are greeted with a lovely herbal bouquet with wet wood undertones. Fruit plays secondary and tertiary notes with subtle hints of berries and red cherries with a certain crisp character. A touch of spice and mineral. Once opened up, a hint of caramel permeates the nose.
Body is bigger and bolder than it looks. You are greeted immediately with bold acid and broad well rounded tannins. This provides great structure. The wet wood and fairly neutral terroir take second stage. Subtle hits of cedarwood conspire with black currants to create a faint Absinthe-like locorice. Finish is brisk, quickly giving way to fine grained tannins and rendering the palate parched.
I have been following this winemaker for a while and absolutely love what they do with Nebbiolo however this is my first time trying the TreVigne (Three Vineyard) and I could immediately recognize its layered structure and complexity, relative to the others. They have managed to take such a big, massive grape and turn it into a refined experience, it’s impressive.
Molto bene Travaglini! 🍷😁👌🏽
Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Travaglini Gattinara wines delivered to your doorstep.
In 1868 something begins to ravage France’s vines. After some digging—pun intended—it is discovered that a plant louse/ aphid known as phylloxera (phyl·lox·e·ra) was enjoying the roots instead of the wines in which they produced.
Although it is somewhat debated, the phylloxera mite is thought to have come from America sometime in the 1850’s. Back in Missouri Charles Valentine Riley, Missouri’s entomologist recognized the affliction in Frances plantings and wrote French botanist Jules Émile Planchon in 1870 to inform him that he too had observed this louse, feasting on the leaves of American vines, and not on the roots—his letter was quickly dismissed.
After some persistence, Riley visited France in 1871 and a argued that American rootstock was resistant to the aphid since the two had evolved together. He was correct! Then in the winter of 1872 George Husmann—The Father of the Missouri Grape Industry in Herman, Missouri—also a scientist, educator, and writer—sent nearly 400,000 cuttings to Montpellier, France. In spite of some French resistance to using American root stock the project was successful and the so-called la défense began.
To this day, all vines with few exceptions are planted on this Missouri bred rootstock in France and America with a local exception—our Astral Cabernet Sauvignon. To this day Astral remains one of the few California Cabernet’s not reliant on disease resistant stock, due in large part to Happy Canyon’s lack of humidity, and the presence of sandy soil!
~ Dierberg * Star Lane
Not long ago I reviewed the Astral Cabernet Sauvignon by Dierberg * Star Lane. I had been wanting to explore this wine since my visit a few years ago and it did not disappoint (see link to my post just above). Shortly after, Dierberg shared the story behind this vineyard. I found it very interesting and thought you might enjoy reading (posted with permission).
Tonight’s occasion: 2014 Petite Sirah by Peterson, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County. Courtesy of Casemates who invited me to review tonight’s offering. I am writing this as I begin my review.
Dark opaque color. Warm intense nose full of big plum and dark cherry. I pick up secondary notes of berries tertiary notes of cedarwood and wet sand sedimentary earth.
Body is mild mannered with just a touch of acidity accompanied by big buttery plummy tannins creates a very nice full mouthfeel. Body has good fruit but remains dry (not sweet). The sandy terroir makes an appearance towards the back with a hint of minerality. Finish is smooth, crisp and brisk ending with a dry tannic grip that leaves the palate parched.
This is a surprisingly mature wine that is showing really well right now but should further develop nicely over the next few years. At $159.99/case from Casemates (as of this writing), I would buy a case, enjoy half now and lay the rest down. This winemaker is onto something. I have been consistently impressed with the quality of their wines and the head scratching value. This is without doubt a good deal on a great well made wine!