2011 Syrah (Monarch Mine) by Terre Rouge Easton Wines

Tonight’s Occasion: 2011 Syrah (Monarch Mine Vineyard, Sierra Foothills) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines, Plymouth CA

Dark semi opaque color. Looks unfiltered. Out of the bottle nose is warm and weighted. This wine is all terroir up front. Reminds me of Beaujolais Gamay or Loire Cab Franc in its expression. Big leather up front with unmistakable wet wood and dusty granite. This wine asserts its origins with a keen sense of place. Within minutes it’s full identity reveals itself in the form of a rich, creamy anise. An unmistakable hallmark expression of the Sierra Foothills. Just beautiful. As it settles, ripe dark cherries, sweet berries and plum reveal themselves with hints of herbs I can’t pinpoint, a sort of eucalyptus.

There is no attack. You are greeted by a long, wide and fairly deep body from start to finish. Dry dusty tannins provide a thick chassis upon which a well integrated melange of leathery notes, dark plum, blackberries and hints of mushroom slowly play. As it finally transitions to finish, the stage clears, leaving black currants and anise and warm gentle spice. The palate is rendered slightly dry and tingling with spice and the chest warms.

There are many reasons why Terre Rouge * Easton was our first inaugural Winemaker of the Year for 2019. This bottle reminds me of all of them. A fine example of what is possible in this region, California and the world at large with a relentless commitment to the art form and excellence. I am just tickled every time I open one of these wines.

Nicely done Bill, Jane and the entire crew at Terre Rouge Easton Wines!

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2016 Grand Vin De Bordeaux by Chateau La Tour De Mons, Margaux

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Grand Vin De Bordeaux by Chateau La Tour De Mons, Margaux, France.

Dark opaque plum color. Nose is a bit shy, with notes of slightly ripe dark plums, hints of ripe cherries, damp wood and that all too familiar fine, sedimentary, river silt. Swirling vigorously releases more intense leather and a touch of anise. It’s hard to go wrong with Margaux.

Body is precisely balanced from front to back. Dry plums carry over albeit with a little restraint, lightening the body and providing firm, crisp tannic structure. A precise almost unnoticeable oak softens the tannins and intensifies the fruit essence ever so slightly. Subtle anise and wet wood eventually take over the stage just before handing over to an emerging gentle spice heat. This marks the transition to finish as the body fades away leaving behind harmonious melange of very fine grained dusty tannic grit and a warm spice.

This highly coveted often overlooked sub-region of Bordeaux is best known for its big, bold, dry, age worthy wines and characteristic terroir driven expression. They are typically hard to come by and command a premium when you go find them. This Margaux is a fine example of what a Bordeaux is. I put out a WineSnob Alert on this wine several months ago when it was available for just under $40 – a steal for what it is. It lives up to every other Margaux in my cellar and I look forward to following this vintage over the next decade.

Tres bien fait! 🍷😘👌🏽

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2018 Napa Valley Sangiovese (Eliza Jane) by Dawn’s Dream Winery

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Napa Valley Sangiovese (Eliza Jane), by  Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel Valley, CA.

Rich ruby color. Thick, warm nose with lots of dry berries, red cherries, and a wet woody sandy leather. As it breathes, bursts of dried, dusty mushroom and red vines emerge. Swirling vigorously only intensifies these leathery terroir notes. Wow! This is right up my alley!

Body shows good balance off the bat. Greeting with just a touch of bright acidity in a citrus expression. This is quickly balanced out getting gentle tannins in the form of dry, dark, tart plums, blackberries and currants. The wet wood and slightly mineral expression emerges and conspires with a faint crisp (neutral) oak to create a soft, silky, palate-wetting overlayment. Transition to finish begins with a fade to subtle bitter as its dry dusty tannic foundations are laid to bear once again, only this time with a gentle spice tingle.

I absolutely love Dawn’s wines. The Pinot Noirs capture so much of the spotlight that is easy to miss this gem. I wasn’t expecting this but not the least surprised. Dawn’s wines tend to catch the focused palate off guard and prompt reflection. What a lovely take on the humble Sangiovese.

Nicely done Dawn and the crew!

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2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (Moonspell) by Bergevin Lane

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (Moonspell) by Bergevin Lane Vineyards, Walla Walla Valley, WA.

Dark intense semi opaque color. Big nose out of the bottle with dark plum filling the air immediately. As it opens up, the plum ripens a little, adding ripe dark cherry, a touch of wet sedimentary soil and wood creates the essence of damp forest floor. You’d likely miss it, but a very faint honey beeswax emerges towards the back. This wine is interesting and shows good complexity on the nose.

Body shows good structure and balance from front to back. Being from Walla Walla, tannins show good restraint. The milder climate has a taming effect on this easily bold varietal. Body is overall lighter than your average Cab. Not as chewy or jammy. For a cab, I’d describe it as medium bodied. This allows terroir notes to peak through ever so slightly in the form of a subtle mineral leather and cola. Blackberry and a crisp caramel (neutral oak) are prominent throughout. Transition to finish is seamless, ending with a slightly dry dusty tannic grit. If this wine is in fact 14.6% ABV, I’d say the winemaker has pulled a tricky balancing act. It is barely noticeable. I’d put it at about 13.8% ABV. It’s a pleasing, easy sipper.

This is a good, well built wine with enough complexity and nuance to keep the intermediate to advanced palate interested, without being overly abstract to the general wine audience. I think this winemaker has done a great job.

Head over to Casemates and order your own case for just $139. You won’t be disappointed! 🍷😁👌🏽

2018 Gamay Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Reichwage

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Gamay Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Reichwage Winery, Sebastopol CA.

Semi opaque color. Supple aromatic nose with notes of cherries, strawberries, wet soil, subtle oak and hints of butterscotch. Swirling vigorously adds hints of eucalyptus, herbs and mushrooms in the back. It is very reminiscent of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. Very interesting. I love this region and how the terroir is expressed in this wine.

Body greets with a slight bright (read acidic) attack. This is quickly matched and superseded by a full, plush, creamy, integrated, medium bodied mouth feel. Prominent notes are mushroom, wet wood, dark cherries, and hints of sweet citrus (think Meyer Lemon). Fascinating that I pick up earth notes at the front like this. The only Gamay I have explored were from France (Loire Valley I believe) and I do recall them being highly terroir driven. This one falls very much in line albeit not as heavy, slightly more expressive fruit but more subtle overall – think more of a big California Pinot. Tannins are very restrained, almost unnoticeable, providing good seamless and integrated structure. After a long and wide body, transition to finish is seamless and swift, leaving the palate under a subtle dusty, buttery, fine grained grip and modest spice tingle.

I like this wine. It is rich. I can taste the dirt. This is a Gamay and a terroir driven one at that. This wine absolutely pairs well with itself but if you must, mild artisan cheeses should do just fine. A hidden gem for sure. I am impressed with Max’s work and I look forward to following him.

Nicely done Max! 🍷😁👌🏽

Sierra Midnight (Lot #1) by Windwalker

Tonight’s Occasion: Sierra Midnight – Lot #1 by Windwalker, Fair Play, CA.

Dark opaque color. Thick aromatic nose out of the bottle with firm notes of dark plum, sawdust and a subtle but unmistakable tangerine peel. I remember while barrel tasting with Zach this spring, owner Jim opened one for us to try, this one note was haunting. We both obsessed over it for a while until we finally pinned it down – tangerine skins with a distant hint of all spice. As it breathes a soft licorice emerges, this wine’s sense of place. It only intensifies from here on.

Big, bold and beautiful. The body greets with a thick, somewhat viscous, silky if not slightly chewy mouth feel. Big fruit, matches bold fine grained dusty tannic structure. Ripe dark plums, blackberries and blueberries dominate. A subtle old wet wood leather permeates the entire experience. Gentle spice emerges midway, slowly intensifying through the finish. Transition to finish is seamless, ending with a slightly creamy, dusty, enduring tannic grip and spice heat.

Unshackled from time, this unique signature cross-vintage blend is an exercise in shunning the rules of rigid conventional thinking. Why not? Lot #1 is the first of its kind by this winemaker. After 10 or more years it has had time to integrate very nicely. Layers blend and transition together nicely. It is showing really well. It makes no apologies and embraces what this region is all about.

If you can get your hands on any of the Sierra Midnight lots, I highly recommend you lay them down for at least 10 or more years.

Nicely done Jim, Zach, Ryan and the entire crew at Windwalker.

2013 Aglianico del Vulture by Tenuta Del Portale, Italy

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Aglianico del Vulture by Tenuta Del Portale, Italy.

A little over two years ago I looked at the 2012 Vintage – one of my first forays into the world of Aglianico. This vintage comes with equal intensity albeit just a touch restrained but still a big wine no less.

Joining us for this review is Laura, a globetrotting Sacramento Food Blogger and Charcuterie Artista Extraordinaire. Check out her work on Instagram at @oneluckycat_77

Rustic nose with mushroom, tobacco, wet forest floor and an intense sharp leather. A slightly sharp acidic attack takes the palate time to adapt. Dry tart dark tart cherries accompany a thick dusty mouth feel. As it opens up the mushrooms intensify. A little later a very subtle raw honeycomb lingers in the back. It is so faint you’d likely miss it. Cherries turn ripe and a buttery vanilla emerges. Finish slowly pulls back but remains dusty, gritty, earthy and still massive.

I love everything about this wine. It is unapologetic. Big, Bold, Beautiful.

Molto Bene! 🍷😁👌🏽

2019 D’Oro (Riserva di Vermentino) by Via Romano

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 D’Oro (Riserva di Vermentino) by Via Romano, Sierra Foothills, CA

Rich aromatic nose. A bouquet of tropical fruit. I pick up notes of passion fruit, pomegranate, citrus, mild honeysuckle and an underlying mineral leather that greets the palate initially but quickly falls back as soon as you swirl vigorously. The nose is this wine’s hallmark. Massive, colorful, intense, beautiful.

The body is light. In complete juxtaposition with the nose. Smooth. Balanced from start to finish. A viscosity in the mouth feel. A light sweet citrus carries over, like Meyer Lemon as well as faint pomegranate. Subtle minerality has a slight palate wetting effect. White pepper emerges midway and gently frames a graceful, slightly dry finish that slowly fades off the palate.

This winemaker’s reds, particularly his Primitivo and Fiasco, have been my biggest distractions from exploring his whites. They are just as fun, dry, light, almost playful, light hearted and full of expression. If you’re ever in the El Dorado area, plan on spending some time at their tasting room. Take a few hours to go through both flights of red and white. You won’t be disappointed.

Molto bene Jon! 🍷😁👌🏽

2002 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyard

Tonight’s occasion: 2002 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyard, Fair Play, CA

Deep dark opaque, inky color. Out of the bottle, nose is a little shy, thick, warm, with a big, firm plum essence. A fine dusty granite lingers in the background. Swirling vigorously unlocks bursts of red vines licorice, damp woody leather, white pepper, spice. As it opens a distinct anise creeps forward – this wine’s sense of place. Hints of refined caramel linger in the distance, you’d almost miss it.

Big, bold, and beautiful! At almost 20 years of age, this wine greets with bold well integrated fruit, ripe plums, blackberries and blueberries, which create a firm, thick, monolithic structure. This is quickly accompanied by measured acidity and firm spice which both set the tone and create a vibrant stage. A thick viscous, creamy mouth feel emerges as it opens up. Transition to finish is seamless as an already massive tannic grip grows even more powerful, licorice and black currants jockey for second place. In the end, the palate succumbs to an ever tightening grip that lingers long after.

This is about as off the beaten path as it goes. For decades this Winemaker has been toiling away in this Vineyard, manifesting his singular vision for what is possible in this region. After almost two decades this wine shows impeccable structure, is surprisingly delineated, and remains vibrant. While tasting with owner/winemaker Jonathan this past weekend, I tried to imagine what the 2018 would look like and this 2002 confirms my thoughts. This Winemaker’s obsession with every detail shines here, from the vine to the wine. His wines make an essential study of this frontier of California Wine making. I highly recommend you take a look at his work.

Essentially a one-man show, he is very pressed for time and can only offer tastings by appointment only. Make enough time, don’t be late and enjoy a focused tasting of wines that represent the region in it’s truest form.

I’ve been waiting a few years now and I look forward to diving deeper into his wines here on WineSnob.

Nice work Jonathan!