Reserve: 2015 Chinon Bonaventure by Chateau de Coulaine

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Chinon Bonaventure by Chateau de Coulaine (@chateaudecoulaine), Loire, France.

Warm thick nose out of the bottle with plenty of mushrooms loamy leather. Some call it barnyard or old victorian. Some don’t care for it but I absolutely love it and can’t get enough. It begins to dissipate within minutes to reveal sweet ripe dark cherries, some berry and subtle hints of marshmallow.

Body is more balanced than not with a subtle suggestion of acidity before quickly centering on the palate. Tannins are not as pronounced as one might expect, fairly restrained, allowing a rich meaty mouth feel. Plums replace cherries from the nose and that leathery essence permeates the background. It reads like an impeccably decorated old world set. Subtle spice guides the transition to a finish characterized by gentle tannic grip and warm, moist lips, tingling with spice.

I can only think of a few wines I’ve tasted that express leathery terroir this clearly. It is a sultry wine that feels wise beyond its age. For around $20/btl it’s a head scratcher. Please let me order a few more before it sells out 😅. This my friends is why I stay off the beaten path. Some little known Chateau in Chinon has been making this wine sine the 1300s.

Tres bien fait mes amis! 🍷😁👌🏽

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Review: 2015 Pinot Noir (Orchestral) by Hahn

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Pinot Noir (Orchestral) by Hahn Wines, Santa Lucia Highlands, Central Coast, California.

Deep Ruby-Burgundy color. Big rich nose out of the bottle with bold floral aromas, berries and damp wood forrest floor with hints of cedarwood and black licorice. As it opens up and the heat dissipates, notes of citrus make an appearance over a pleasant leather.

Body is smooth, mildly acidic. It is characterized by buttery creamy tannins and spice from front to back. This is after all a big California Pinot at 14.5% ABV. It has a fairly lush silky mouth feel which can be deceiving as this wine is fairly dry. Very little, if any fruit is carried over. The leather and wood notes conspire to trick the palate into sensing otherwise. Finish is rather subdued as it quickly fades away leaving more than a healthy tingle of spice. Faint suggestion of black currants accompanies the finale.

Hahn is a pretty big estate with many offerings through most mass market distribution. However when visiting such a winery, you have to know what to ask for. See, every winemaker no matter how big, has a passion project. One they pride themselves in. A work of personal craftsmanship which is typically never on the menu. This is what I am most interested in with any winemaker. Only 73 cases of this lovely Pinot were produced. The layering, character and complexity shows. This is the type of wine I seek out wherever I go.

Nicely done Hahn!

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Reserve: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) by Louis Martini

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) by Louis Martini, Napa, California.

Not all wines have to be an intense, even sometimes laborious exercise for the senses. There are times when one just needs an honest wine. Not every bottle has to be an occasion. Sometimes I just want to contemplate other matters and not necessarily have to focus so intently on the wine. These are the moments that I resort to the unsung heroes of my cellar – The Pleaser. A wine that doesn’t overwhelm your senses or demand your attention. A wine that hits a few key notes and maybe offers an interesting suggestion or two. A clean, well made, honest wine, most importantly, for a great price. These wines I stock by the case.

This Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon is just that. A winner. It embodies the value proposition. A hint of that Sonoma dirt, good fruit, dry plum and blackberry, a touch of cedarwood, balanced body, a finish characterized by a moderately dry tannic grip and a touch of spice. It is always available and for a good price that makes a case an approachable proposition for most.

This is the wine that draws you in and draws your interest towards their signature wines such as their Napa Cab and Monte Rosso Cab Franc, both of which are noteworthy and in my reserve.

I love a winery that not only puts out great signature wines, but also makes a good flagship wine I can enjoy on any given day.

Nice work!

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Review: 1994 Rioja (Grand Reserva) by Pedro Urbina, Spain

Tonight’s occasion: 1994 Rioja (Grand Reserva) by Pedro Urbina, Spain.

Incredibly sharp, vibrant nose for any vintage, let alone one this old. Out of the bottle, firm crisp berries wrapped in marshmallow caramel. Tertiary notes of damp driftwood gradually evolve into a wet loamy sandy leather. Swirl vigorously to unleash a burst of spice heat which quickly gives way to sweet cherries. WOW!

Body is… well… my friends this is how Tempranillo was truly meant to be enjoyed. A touch of that signature acidity greets the palate along with nicely restrained tannins that have had 26 years to perfectly integrate. A firm, crisp, bold, tannic structure emerges midway and is capped with a thin veneer of black currants, faint caramel, blackberry and tart black plum. A slate-like essence emerges towards the back as crisp tannic structure begins to dissolve into a fine grained dust. As it opens up, this mineral slate moves forward all the way to the nose. This marks the transition to finish. It exits rather unceremoniously however leaving the palate completely dry and tingling with spice.

This is an example of a real hidden gem. A well made, robust wine, appropriately aged and truly representative of Rioja. Incredible!

Bien hecho Amigos!

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Reserve: 2008 Sangiovese (La Tarantella) by Hitching Post

Tonight’s occasion: 2008 Sangiovese (La Tarantella) by Hitching Post, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara, California.

Deep dark color. Warm intense nose with a tart plum up front. Swirl vigorously to unlock secondary notes of caramel and ripe dark cherries. Terroir appears neutral but closer inspection reveals a touch of minerality. This is already big next to most Sangiovese I’ve had.

On the body, the attack is mildly acidic but quickly tempered by tart plum which midway through, introduces a good balance of tannic structure. The caramel notes step further back and add great accompaniment to the overall slightly silky, jammy mouth feel. Once opened, tannins develop a fine grained texture towards the back. The finish is abrupt as the body quickly vanishes, leaving your palate dry, lips tacked shut and a gentle but ever increasing spice warms the palate down to the chest.

I can’t imagine what this wine was like at bottling. It must have been barely approachable because 12 years later it is still standing tall and strong. This bottle is a real treat. I had no idea they made a Sangiovese, let alone one like this. My good friend brought this back from the central valley. Thank you Jill for your generosity and kindness.

Nicely done!

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Review: 2017 Merlot (Grand Selection) by Lapostolle, Chile

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Merlot (Grand Selection) by Lapostolle, Valle del Rapel, Chile.

Healthy nose full of plums and dark cherries. This wine is a pleaser. With subtle hints of leather and damp cedarwood in the back, it is very approachable. Not overly complex or abstract, it strikes a good balance essential to broad appeal.

Body follows suit with plenty of good fruit in the form of tart plums and blackberry. Faint oak and a touch of leather play in the background. Bold and slightly dry tannins provide firm structure. Tannins develop a dry, fine grained texture in the finish leaving the palate thoroughly parched and tingling with a touch of spice. This wine is young but shows really well for its age.

This wine is by all accounts a Pleaser. A great every day sipper. I can see even the most advanced palate indulging in what it offers just as much as the beginner enthusiast. At a price point of under $15 it presents great value and punches above it’s weight. I’m not the least surprised. This comes from a winemaker whose every wine so far has left me scratching my head. I like what these folks are doing down there in Chile.

Bien hecho amigos!

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Reserve: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Prolific Vines

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon by Prolific Vines Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains.

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.

Review: 2018 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Martin Ray

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.! 🍷😁👌🏽

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Reserve: 2012 Many Hands Cuvée Rouge by Bumgarner

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! 😁🍷

Wine Review: 2014 Cabernet Franc (Chinon) by Remy Pannier

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.

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