2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills) by Rusack, Central Coast, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills) by Rusack Vineyards, Central Coast, CA

Deep ruby color. A burst of bright ripe berries fills the air as soon as it’s uncorked. This is the most recognizable hallmark of a faithful Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Crisp, bright red cherries, raspberries and berries. A soft sand and driftwood leather lingers throughout the stage. Swirling intensifies the nose across the board. It’s intoxicating. Hints of pepper dot the experience. Just beautiful.

Body greets with a touch of acidity in the form of a slight citrus cola essence. This is quickly followed by a subtle, crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak. Very gentle, crisp tannins quickly follow lending a grounding effect with just enough structure to frame the stage. Body takes a slightly soft, plush mouth feel. Sweet citrus (think Meyer lemon), subtle cola and berries reemerge towards the back. This marks the transition to a gentle fading finish as gentle tannins and mineral leather take turns drying and wetting the palate. A gentle spice punctuates the whole experience.

One of the first winemakers I explored from this region. It’s amazing how much of an impact the right winemaker can have on the inquisitive palate. Rusack is a must for the intermediate to advanced palate. One seeking to better familiarize their palate with this region and its unique expression. A faithful wine that is representative of both the Varietal and the region. A great sense of place. Nicely done Rusack!

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Read more on my first visit to Rusack Vineyards a few years ago.

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 Rusack wines delivered to your doorstep.

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2018 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) by Amrita Cellars

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) by Amrita Cellars, Santa Rosa, CA

Out of the bottle this is clearly Russian River Pinot Noir. With primary soft notes of ripe red cherries and a wet leather of fine sedimentary soil this wine shows good sense of place. That Sonoma dirt/terroir shines through. Russian River gives it more of a fine silt twist as opposed to damp forest floor typical of say the Sonoma Coast. Bright berries and a hint of fresh herbal essence so subtle you’d likely miss it. Swirling vigorously only intensifies this subtle nose slightly, adding more cherry cola. I like it!

Body is nicely balanced from front to back, greeting with a touch of dry citrus, hints of cherries, and raspberry. Soft unobtrusive tannins quickly fill in the body, adding depth while a fain crisp oak creates a slightly plush, creamy mouth feel. Midway through, a gentle bitter cola emerges, ushering in the transition to finish. As the body fades, a mushroom leather makes a brief appearance. Ahhh Sonoma! As the show concludes, fruit notes take turn bowing out while the palate slowly drifts between moist and grippy dryness. A faint spice tingle remains and linger briefly.

This wine checks all the hallmarks of a classic Pinot Noir. It is a a clean, faithful and nuanced look at this region and this varietal. This is pretty far off the beaten path and about as artisan as it gets. I met the unassuming owner/winemaker Sunny last month at an industry function organized by our friends over at Sheldon Wine and Spirits (@sheldonwineandspirits). This is what I love about venturing off the beaten path. There seems to be a surprise in store at every turn. We truly are living in a golden age of winemaking. Great work Sunny. I look forward to many more vintages from you.

Harold’s Reserve (Red Blend) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: Harold’s Reserve (66% Syrah, 33% Zinfandel) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Dark opaque color. Crisp intense nose with lots of dry plum and blackberry. Swirling unlocks a burst of sweet dark cherries, red vines licorice and a hint of soft oak vanilla. A touch of dry dusty granite lingers in the distant background. Good sense of place.

A bright, fresh, crisp attack greets the palate. Moderate acidity creates good tension up front. This is quickly followed by thin, crisp and firm tannins, which add great structure. A crisp oak vanilla adds more dimension to a very structured body, further enhancing dry fruit expression. Body quickly dissipates, leaving behind tart blackberries, bitter cola and a slightly dusty dry tannic grip. A gentle spice punctuates the whole experience.

This very small boutique winemaker has been making little gems for over 40 years. Not far off Shenandoah road in Plymouth, Amador, you’ve likely driven by many times and missed it. This past weekend I was only tickled to stumble upon it and even better, Karina the winemaker was pouring our tasting just outside the cellar. I liked every one of her wines. They were all well built, balanced, and fairly dry, especially for this region. She has a very mature style. Have you tried TKC wines yet? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

2013 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyards, Fair Play CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyard, Fair Play CA

Dark opaque color. Firm nose with an intense dry dark plum and dusty cedarwood essence. Swirling vigorously unlocks sweet ripe dark cherries and licorice. There is a clear separation between the notes.

Body is firm on the attack, balanced from front to back. A slight citrus tension persists, as a counterpoint to a slightly restrained dry dark plum structure. Blackberries and dark cherries fill the body with fine grained dusty mouth feel. Oak is barely noticeable if not for a slight softening of the edges. This wine is pretty dry, but retains a bold fruit expression – a hallmark of this region and its extended ripening season or hang-time as folks up the hill call it. A warm spice heat permeates the entire experience. Transition to finish is marked by subtle black currants and crisp fresh palate right before succumbing to firm dry dusty tannic grip. As it opens up, licorice turns to a bold star anise. Another hallmark of this region.

This wine is unmistakable, clean, crisp, structured and highly delineated. A textbook representation of this region. For those who wish to familiarize themselves with this frontier of California winemaking, I highly recommend studying Jonathan’s wines. Decades obsessing over every detail has yielded, for the enlightened palate, an uncompromising look at the Sierra Foothills. Nicely done Jonathan!

Jonathan’s Petite Sirah is surprisingly consistent across vintages. I had a distinct pleasure and privilege to look at the 2002 not long ago and despite the clear age difference, they share more similarities than not. The 2013 vintage is just now beginning to shine. I think it will only develop more beautifully over the coming decade. These wines age very gracefully over long periods while maintaining excellent structure and balance. Because they are so good, the hardest part is to not open the younger vintages. Give them a decade and you won’t be disappointed.

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2017 Pinot Noir (Kalita Vineyard) by Panther Creek

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Kalita Vineyard – Willamette Valley, OR) by Panther Creek Cellars, Woodinville, WA

Dark intense ruby color. Subtle aromatic nose with bright cherries, raspberries and a hint of sweet cola. An underlying wet mineral leather permeates the nose. This is its sense of place – Willamette Valley.

A bright body greets with a touch of acidity in the form of a slightly sweet citrus reminiscent of a Meyer Lemon. This is quickly counterbalanced with a slightly viscous weighted body. Crisp tannins add great structure midway through as crisp caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak and red cherries fill the palate. A taught mineral leather carries over. This marks the transition to a finish characterized by a firm, dry tannic grip over a wet mineral leather.

This is a well built Pinot with a touch of personality. This small understated boutique winemaker was one of the highlights of my visit to Woodinville. Their small batch production artisan wines are just the type of wines I obsess over and constantly seek out, off the beaten path.

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Be sure to check the out the Panther Creek Cellars, website for occasional bundles, specials and opportunities. They are currently offering a Holiday Bundle. It’s a great opportunity to explore their signature wines. See link below.


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 Willamette Valley Vineyards wines delivered to your doorstep.

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2011 Pinot Noir (Black Pine) by Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2011 Pinot Noir (Black Pine) by Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma CA.

Nose is very shy out of the bottle with hints of dark cherry skins. Swirling vigorously releases a bold leather of damp fine sedimentary soil and wet wood. Hints of sweet cherry and cola linger in the back. A citrus so faint you’d likely miss it.

Body is balanced right down the middle, front to back. Wet wood leather carries forward almost immediately. Dark tart skins also emerge, bringing firm structure. Bitter cola, black berries and black currants paint a dark, dim lit stage. It is dry, somewhat serious in its expression. Earth notes wander about the palate throughout the experience. The body softens slightly as it transitions to finish as dark berries and hints of oak elevate slightly before falling back into the darkness and leaving the palate slightly moist and under the spell of a gentle but crisp tannic grip and spice tingle. As it opens up over an hour or two, subtle caramelization of those tannins lend a subtle pleasing sweetness to the body and suppleness to the mouth feel.

This is a flagship wine by our 2020 Winemaker of the year. Intended to introduce the world to their more limited signature wines. Roessler Pinot tends to be on the medium to full bodied side of the spectrum. This means, unlike traditional Pinot Noir, they actually benefit from cellar time. They tend to age gracefully. I opened the 2010 Vintage a year or so ago and this 2011 vintage is definitely more robust with more years ahead of it. It has had time to integrate very nicely. Both should be a real treat. The newer vintages are even more vibrant and should be very interesting to follow over time. Nicely done guys!

Tonight we paired the Black Pine with a pear, prosciutto, arugula pizza and truffle fries. Delicious!

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2017 Tannat by William + Chris Vineyards, Texas Hill Country

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Tannat (Hye Estate) by William + Chris Vineyards, Texas Hill Country.

Dark intense ruby color. Out of the bottle, nose is slightly restrained. This is a Tannat and as expected, that signature dry dark plum greets. This is followed closely by ripe blackberries. In the back, a buttery almost shortcake lingers interspersed with a smokey wood essence. First thing that comes to mind is “Texas Brisket!”. It’s a bit haunting in its expression. Swirling vigorously unleashes a veritable symphony of notes. Ripe dark cherries, more blackberries, a bold thick leathery essence, red vines licorice and dirt. … Oh Boy! The nose on this is AMAZING!!!

A creamy, slightly weighted viscous body greets the palate immediately. Little of the fruit carries forward other than some blackberry and black currants. A subtle bitter cola permeates. For a Tannat, it appears mild mannered at first blush. But as it breathes, dark, bold, dusty tannins start to dominate every aspect of the experience, providing a firm but loosely bound granular structure. Leather plays second fiddle. Finish?? I have no idea. Let’s ask the incessant, massive, dry, dusty tannic grip holding my parched lips shut. This is the show you came to see and you’d be foolhardy to expect anything else.

You don’t drink this wine. It drinks you. If you’re lucky, it won’t spit you out. This wine has so many years, perhaps even decades of vibrant life ahead of it. For as young as it is, it is very expressive and rich. I keep wondering what this Tannat would look like 10 years from now. This is a Gem. Get it now and forget about it. I’ll be expecting an invitation. To Chris and the entire crew at William Chris, nicely done folks!

My good friend and fellow Texan WineSnob, Jenn brought me a bottle of their Tempranillo this summer. Check out her guest review on WineSnob. After reviewing the William Chris Tempranillo on here I knew I absolutely had to visit this winemaker. not long after I was on my way to Austin, TX to explore wine country with Jenn. Our visit to William Chris did not disappoint. It exceeded my wildest expectations. The warmth, hospitality and shared enthusiasm for the art form, legacy, terroir and pride in craftsmanship was refreshing. We spent our entire day at the winery. I couldn’t have hoped for a better host than our Sommelier Francisco. He was a veritable wellspring of knowledge not just about the wines but the estate, winery, vineyards, their long history and the region at large. Oh, and the Charcuterie was to die for! Stay tuned for a WineSnob TV segment on my visit.

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2019 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Carneros) by Corner 103, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Carneros) by Corner 103, Sonoma CA

Crisp notes of sweet cherries and berries out of the bottle. A gentle secondary butterscotch caramel. A damp earthy leather lingers in the back. These are all key hallmarks of a faithful Sonoma Pinot. Everything is fairly restrained overall.

Body shows good balance, slightly biased towards creamy than acidic. Cherries carry over as well as butterscotch caramel, albeit slightly more intense. Thin barely noticeable tannins provide good structure. Mouth feel is soft, light if not plush. Towards the back, the body fades to more of a cola and sweet citrus expression. Transition to finish is seamless, ending with a fairly neutral palate. No spice heat or tannic grip.

This is a clean, crisp, understated if not uncomplicated Pinot. It retains good sense of place without being overly abstract to the average palate (a tricky balance). This Pinot should appeal to a broad spectrum of palates; from beginner to intermediate and advanced. In summary, this is a faithful Sonoma Pinot for all to enjoy! I like it! Great job Lloyd and and the entire crew at Corner 103!

I recently visited their tasting room while while exploring boutique artisan wineries in Sonoma and I have so say the wines match the decor, ambiance and vibe. The warm, calm modernist setting right on the square in downtown Sonoma made for a great focused and guided tasting. If you are in the Sonoma area, I highly recommend making appointment and stopping by. If you do, don’t forget to let me know your thoughts and tag me on social media.

2014 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Belle Glos

Tonight’s Occasion: 2014 Pinot Noir (Las Alturas – Santa Lucia Highlands) by Belle Glos, Monterey County, CA

Intense, ruby color. Out of the bottle, nose is all terroir up front with an intense damp wood leather. This note is unwavering as subtle dark cherries peek through from behind the scene. As it breathes bright berry expression typical of this region pulls forward nicely. Hints of red vines licorice and soft buttery oak linger in the background. Beautiful nose. This wine is alive.

Body is slightly creamy up front. A viscous body is framed by soft tannins in the form of dark cherry skins lending unobtrusive structure to this full bodied Pinot. Soft buttery oak lends a nice creamy mouth feel, further accentuating the fruit and softening the tannins. Towards the back, a warm spice heat emerges along with a firming of tannic structure. This marks the transition to finish characterized by a long slow tango between an intensifying spice heat and tightening tannic grip over a backdrop of subtle bitter cola. Both eventually settling for a truce.

This is my first Belle Glos wine. Even at 7 years of age (long for a Pinot), it feels like it could still use more time to further integrate. I recommend decanting for at least 30 minutes. It is a well built, terroir driven wine, faithful to its origins. I’m not sure what took me so long to explore their wines but I very much look forward to exploring the rest of their lineup. Nicely done Belle Glos!

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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 Belle Glos wines delivered to your doorstep.

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2017 Grenache (Rogue Valley) by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Grenache (Rogue Valley) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Southern Oregon

Intense clear ruby color. Aromatic nose with bright ripe fruit, cherries, raspberries and red vines licorice. A white pepper permeates the stage. Hints of crisp refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak.

Body is balanced from front to back. A soft, lush, slightly weighted mouth feel greets the palate immediately, usually a mineral expression. This quickly dissipates into a thin, wispy cloud. Contrary to what the nose would suggest, it is dry. Cherry and raspberry carry forward as mere suggestions. A crisp caramel accentuates the restrained fruit. Thin, crisp tannins provide a restrained, unobtrusive but firm structure. A bold, crisp spice emerges midway and intensifies through the finish. Transition to finish is seamless, culminating in a subtle bitter tannic grip, hints of crisp caramel, and a warm spice heat. For the sensitive/advanced palate there is a touch of bacon fat so faint you’d likely miss it. Can you pick it out?

Grenache is fast becoming one of my favorite varietals. As with Pinot Noir, it is highly terroir expressive. I love exploring how it channels different regions and their terroir. In this case – Southern Oregon – it presents a more subtle, nuanced even muted expression. This region is known for some very nuanced wines and tamed big varietals. This is a well executed Grenache that opens the window into this region with a view the intermediate to advanced palate should appreciate. Willamette Valley Vineyards has done a great job with this wine.

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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 Willamette Valley Vineyards wines delivered to your doorstep.

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