2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, CA

Deep dark ruby color. Nose is shy. Greets with dark plum, old sawdust, and a touch of beeswax. Swirling vigorously adds a slight rocky essence, hints of licorice, shortbread and flutter of minty, herbal freshness toward the back.

Up front, thin, slightly under-ripe dark plum. This is quickly followed by restrained currant, black licorice and a noticeable old, woody leather. Acidity is fairly unobtrusive and could be easily overlooked but for the precise amount of tension it lends to this understated body. Crisp, clean and fully integrated tannins roll off the palate in short order, transitioning to black currants and subtle bitter cola towards the back. Transition to finish is seamless leaving the palate slightly parched with a gentle spice tingle. The cola and currants develop a subtle sweet dimension as the palate resets. As it opens up, a firm tannic grip develops over the entire palate as some of tannins caramelize to add a slight sweet aftertaste. This wine is very much reminiscent of a classic old world style Bordeaux. I can’t help but wonder how amazing a Meritage/Bordeaux blend from Mayacamas would be.

This is a mature, dry, old world look at Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, California and the World at large. I highly recommend it for the advanced palate. If you want to get an appreciation for the kind of wines that put Napa on the world stage decades ago, Mayacamas is a great place to start. Their program has gone largely unchanged over several generations of custodians. Their work provides a great reference point and study for the enlightened and curious palate.

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the estate for a private tasting last fall and the experience exceeded all expectations. For many years I have come assume there were little left in the Napa region in the form of true, single estate, artisan winemakers with small batch production wines. It’s an expensive proposition these days, especially for a highly sought-after region as Napa. This is why I was even more excited to realize that this small team of custodians (as they refer to themselves) are passionately preserving and continuing the legacy of this storied region with absolutely no room for compromise. This alone is reason enough to explore their wines.

No big, spicy, jammy, fruit bombs here. No overbearing manipulation, additives, or blending down [with Lodi grapes]. It’s simply wine from a vineyard in Napa, made the same way it always has been for generations, clean crisp, true… and there is a lot to said about that these days. It’s so refreshing for a WineSnob!

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2019 Pinot Noir by Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

2019 Pinot Noir by Morgan Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

Bright, clear, ruby color. Shy nose, greets with wet hay, subtle raspberry, cherry and sweet cranberry. Swirling unlocks red vine licorice, honey nectar, and a sweet citrus afternote reminiscent of Meyer lemon. All mere suggestions at their most intense. Sophisticated.

Body greets with a gentle, soft, weighted, zesty, viscous composure. Once the palate adjusts, a soft, bitter, licorice, wet wood, cranberry, and slightly under-ripe raspberry dominate the expression. The overall expression is familiar yet different. This is clearly Santa Lucia Highlands, one of my favorite regions for Pinot Noir. A crisp, refined oak caramel vanilla rounds out the body without distracting the palate and rendering the mouth feel more plush and luxurious. This whole act quietly vanishes leaving the palate slightly dry and moist, completely neutral. Impressive. That’s a first.

This iconic region and its fairly neutral terroir among other key factors make it the perfect place for growing and making rich, nuanced, exquisite Pinot Noir with a unique expression of its fruit characteristics. In this way, this wine showcases this iconic region so well. By blending so many clones it becomes a true celebration of SLH and Pinot Noir. What a great representation. Nicely done!

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2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel by the Sea, California

2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel by the Sea, California

Rose gold color. Aromatic nose greets with strawberry, white cranberries, wet wood and a hint of honey. Swirling intensifies the nose, adding a bit of cantaloupe and dusty earthy essence. This is Pinot Noir!

Body greets with a punch of citrus lemon, under-ripe strawberry and a faint, crisp caramel. This creates a slightly viscous, weighted mouth feel. Hints of white pepper pop up randomly as the body fades, leaving behind a dry grippy lemon zest, touch of minerality and a tingle of spice.

I keep thinking Bougie Rosé 🤣🤦🏽‍♂️. This wine is proof that Rosé is best when made from Pinot Noir. Clean, crisp, light and refreshing.

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2021 Nebbiolo (Clarksburg) by Haarmeyer, West Sacramento, CA

2021 Nebbiolo (Clarksburg) by Haarmeyer, West Sacramento, CA

Think you’ve seen all Nebbiolo can be? Think again!

Light clear, transparent almost iridescent color. Bright crisp nose with subtle citrus and sweet cola. Swirling unlocks a gentle sedimentary earth leather and intensifies the cola, adding a little zest.

Slight Citrus and lemon zest up front on the body. This is quickly followed by subtle bitter cola, mineral and sedimentary leather. A touch oak lends a crisp refined caramel that further accentuates the fruit with hints of raspberry, red cherries and strawberry. Beneath all this lies a bone dry wine. This all quickly vanishes across the palate leaving behind parched lips and a touch of spice. Most certainly a chillable red.

Nothing ventured nothing gained. The wine world seems to have no shortage of folks who insist on having found, seen, tasted or learned all there is to know about wine. To all, I suggest you take a look at what the folks at Haarmeyer are doing. It’s a great approach to and perspective on wine I think we all could use these days. From harvesting for pH instead of Brix and creating subtle, low intervention wines that are simply delightful.

Thank you Craig for the great wines and hospitality! I’m excited and look forward to many more vintages.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA


2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA

2021 Winemaker of the Year

Slightly restrained nose. Clean crisp and ripe plum. Most interesting is a distant beeswax. Tannins are firm, clean, fully integrated into the body. A slight departure from the norm in this region known for big, bold, brash wines. It reads on the light side ever so slightly. Bright crisp fruit expression, crisp sharp tannins, slight peppery finish. Underneath a refined smooth body with bright fruit accentuated by a touch of refined caramel lies a dry wine. A great reference Cabernet for anyone exploring this region and California at large.

As it opens up this region really emerges in a very bold way with prominent star anise, granite leather and tannins develop a fine grained dusty texture that coats the entire palate with a firm ironclad grip.

I have been following Brian Bumgarner’s work for over a decade. His wines are understated, faithful to the region and the art form.

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2016 Meritage by Miraflores Winery, Sierra Foothills, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Meritage (Bordeaux blend) by Miraflores Winery, Sierra Foothills, California

Intense, dark, ruby color. Clean, crisp, slightly restrained nose with ripe dark berries, ripe plums and cherries, sawdust, eucalyptus and a honeybees wax so faint you’d likely miss it. Swirling vigorously intensifies the whole bouquet.

Body is balanced from front to back. Unlike the nose would suggest, it is fairly dry. Fruit carries over albeit restrained, in the form of thin, crisp dark plum and cherry skins. A faint eucalyptus minty essence underlies this opening. Tannins are measured, thin, barely noticeable and fully integrated into the body. Faint hints of oak caramel match this expression nicely, lending a subtle silky mouth feel. A few sips in, a smoldering spice emerges midway through the body and lingers. The whole experience slowly fades away across the palate leaving behind a subtle bitter cola a hint of caramelization (sweet) as it breathes and oxidizes.

In a region no stranger to big, bold sometimes brash wines, I find Miraflores wines overall to be subtle, nuanced and very nicely balanced. A departure from established norms. I liked everything I tasted while visiting the estate not long ago, however if I had to pick one, it would be this Meritage. It embodies everything I liked about all the single varietals and really showcases their wines and precise execution. Not just for this region, but California at large.

I had a great time visiting Miraflores a couple weeks ago. At the end of the road, off the beaten path, this beautiful estate felt more like a quiet retreat. A perfect match for their wines. The staff were casual, friendly, knowledgeable and very much involved in the production process. I had known about this winery for many years yet somehow this visit had escaped me. I started with a flight of Reds. My intention was to get a read on the estate, vines, terroir and overall expression as well as the winemaker’s own interpretation and vision of what each varietal should look like for this region.

Midway through the Red Flight I decided to make this visit my only stop for the day so as to better focus my tastings and get a good appreciation for their wines, the estate and overall story, all at a leisurely pace. I explored the White Flight as well and the recurring theme I picked up on was delicate subtlety and nuance – the hallmarks of this winemaker and the winemaking program overall.

I had the opportunity to do a private barrel tasting which further enhanced my appreciation for their style of wine. This led me inextricably to the question: “is there a Bordeaux Blend in the lineup?”. To my delight, there was indeed a Bordeaux Blend. It wasn’t on the tasting list but in the cellar. After tasting their individual Bordeaux varietals it became clear to me that if they had a bled, it would make for a subtle, rich, layered and sophisticated blend. My host pulled out their 2016 Meritage. I was sold. I thought all the wines were great but for me, this blend really combined them very nicely and rose to the front to the lineup. I capped my experience with a tasty charcuterie plate – thank you Elliot and the entire crew at Miraflores! I also enjoyed the tour of the unique, very interesting and eclectic collection of antique art pieces from around the world!

2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Cash Allen) by Blanchard Family Wines, Healdsburg CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Cash Allen, Alexander Valley) by Blanchard Family Wines, Healdsburg CA

Deep clear ruby color. Out of the bottle sweet red vines licorice and wet grassy earth. As it breathes, slightly ripe plums, dark cherries and dusty leather. Swirling intensifies the licorice as it turns from red to black. This dominates the nose. Just gorgeous. Who said Cab Sauv can’t be pretty??

Body is balanced from front to back. A touch of acidity greets the palate, lending gentle tension as a light (for a Cab) thin body quickly rushes in with crisp plums and cherries. Tannins are fully integrated and unobtrusive, barely noticeable but for the subtle bitter cola and cassis. A touch of crisp, woody oak emerges midway to create a silky mouth feel and further soften the unobtrusive structure. Hints of green pepper, herbs and spice emerge towards the back. This whole act quickly vanishes upon the palate. Leaving the lips slightly dry under a smoldering spice heat.

Oh man. This is a beautiful Cab. I would venture to say, a Pinot Lover’s Cab. Light, layered, expressive. Both on the nose and in the body. I can’t take credit for finding this gem of a wine. That goes to one of my WineSnobs. Thank you Daryl. I need to take a closer look at what’s going on at Blanchard Family Wines.

2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Tonight’s Occasion: 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon.

Rich Rosé, strawberry almost copper color. Reminds me of my favorite orange wine. Full bodied aromatic nose with intense ripe, strawberry, cherry and raspberry. This nose screems everything you would expect from a Rosé. I love it. A subtle secondary earthy leather lingers in the background. It is a Pinot Noir after all. Sweet Citrus, honeysuckle and jasmine emerge as it breathes. Stop it already!

A silky viscous weighted body greets the palate immediately. Sweet citrus reminiscent of Meyer lemon adds a touch of tension across an otherwise velvety smooth body. Strawberry and cherries carry over very nicely. A smattering of white pepper. As the body thins out towards the back, a faint crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French Oak emerges. It mineral underpinnings are revealed in the finish through slightly moist lips.

This is a classic Rosé. Very nicely composed. It is further elevated by Pinot Noir from this region. It retains a broad appeal while keeping the enlightened palate entertained. Every cellar should keep this Rosé on hand. Great value and great job guys!

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Merlot by Acheson Wine Company, Sacramento CA

Tonight’s Occasion: Merlot by Acheson Wine Company, Sacramento CA

Do you have those moments when you can’t help but wonder, how did we get here? How did wine become such a complicated affair? Why do we always invariably gravitate towards overbearing, obsessive, hyperbole? This wine makes me want to set it all down and just be content with what is. If there is such a thing as “Plenty Good Enough”, this would be it.

Slightly ripe dark plums and dark cherries. Touch of crisp refined caramel. Faint hints of sweet minty eucalyptus. Rocky, dust dirt.

Rich clear blood red color. Soft gentle body. Balanced. Rich, restrained ripe dark plum. Fully integrated suspended tannins add weight, viscosity and body. Through each sip, they slowly coat the palate and lips with a thin, firm, lingering, dry grippy layer. Warm spice emerges and lingers long after the finish. Hints of bitter leather linger in the distant background, complementing the fruit and caramel quite nicely. As it opens up that minty eucalyptus and slightly bitter turns into a subtle root beer.

Why obsess over what this bottle/vintage would look like someday. Just let go, pop the cap and enjoy an honest to goodness, well made Merlot. When you’re done, head back down to tasting room for a refill. The time to live is now…

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2019 GSM by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 GSM (Red Blend – Baby Rattlesnake Vineyard, El Dorado) by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

43% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre

Dark, slightly opaque color. Intense aromatic nose with slightly ripe plums, dark cherries, granite leather with a hint of butterscotch and licorice.

Body shows good balance front to back. Weighted. Fruit carries over albeit in the form of slightly under-ripe plum and dark cherries. Interesting. It is fairly dry, with bold fruit character. This is very much in line with this region. Longer ripening season yields intense fruit flavors. Tannins are a fully integrated, fine grained dusty suspension that slowly precipitates upon the palate, building up layers of intensity. A slightly dry, bitter cola takes over the transition to finish leaving the palate slightly dry with a mild warm spice.

This is a Classic GSM from the Sierra Foothills. Nicely done with a great expression and sense of place. I love what Robert and his team at E16 are doing. I highly recommend taking a look at their wines. All very small batch, limited production, expressive wines.

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