2017 Mariner (Meritage / Bordeaux Blend) by Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Mariner (Meritage / Bordeaux Blend) by Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County CA

Dark opaque color. Nose is thick, slight intensity. Dark plums, blackberries, none too ripe, non too tart. A pleasant woody leather lingers in the background, along with a very subtle bee’s wax. Swirling vigorously adds a touch of cola to the mix as well as a ripeness to the berries.

Body greets with a touch of acidity. This has the effect of drawing a very gentle tension across the palate. Thin, firm, dry, chiseled tannins add clean, crisp structure while a refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak gently cloaks an otherwise fairy dry body while softening the mouth feel. This quickly evaporates leaving behind a firm dry tannic underlayment, bitter cola, and a smattering of spice as the palate slowly drifts between moist and dry grip.

Very interesting. When I think Bordeaux Blend from this region I immediately expect big peppery, jammy tannin bomb. However this wine is anything but that. Very clean, crisp well executed. It feels like a fair amount of care, thought and consideration went into it. It is subtly unique in its expression. I think this winemaker has made a great Meritage in the Mariner. Nicely done folks!

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2017 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Amrita Cellars

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Amrita Cellars, Santa Rosa, CA

Nose is very shy. Every note is little more than a whisper. Crisp raspberry, bright red berries overlay a subtle wet woody grassy turf. Red vines licorice eventually emerge as it breathes.

Body is balanced from front to back. Greeting with a very soft, silky mouth feel. Berries carry over albeit very restrained. Subtle citrus and cola like linger. Faint shadows of structure precipitate as the body fades into clouds and whiffs of the different notes. This show continues, slowly diminishing until there’s very little left on the palate but faint dusty grit and candle flames worth of warmth on winter night.

This is an very nice take on the classic Burgundian style of Pinot. It is very subtle. The average palate would likely find this too abstract and nuanced. However for the intermediate to advanced palate, it should prompt focus and quiet appreciation. I can also see this showing well as a chillable red. I think it’s impressive that such a small artisan wine can show such nuance and subtlety. Nicely done Sunny!

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WineSnob Discount

Sunny, owner/winemaker would like to invite you to taste his small batch production artisan wines. I think you should too, especially if you enjoy California Pinot Noir. You can order yours via their website Amrita Cellars (amritacellars.com) and use Promo/Discount Code WS2022 to get 10% off your order. A great opportunity to support a small artisan winemaker and explore another hidden gem off the beaten path. Be sure you share your thoughts and tasting notes with me.

2004 Rioja (Gran Reserva Especial) by Bodegas Urbina, Cuzcurrita, España.

Tonight’s Occasion: 2004 Rioja (Gran Reserva Especial) by Bodegas Urbina, Cuzcurrita, España.

Clear intense color. Out of the bottle, soft notes of slightly ripe plum and driftwood leather. Ripe dark cherries, red vines licorice, cola and subtle rocky mineral essence linger in the back. Swirling unlocks puffs of sweet fruit essence and earth notes. As it breathes, mild butterscotch and crisp eucalyptus emerge, so subtle you’d likely miss them. Ahhhhh… Yes.

Body shows good balanced. Subtle acidity brings a slight tension. This is immediately countered by thin dry plum that forms an unobtrusive structure. A barely noticeable touch of oak vanilla further softens the already well integrated tannins to create a slightly silky mouth feel while elevating the fruit. This successfully masks an otherwise dry body. A faint spice momentarily ponders it’s appearance before receding with the rest of the body. This marks the transition to finish as a wet wood leather grows more prominent, ending in moist lips, gentle tannic grip and subtle spice tingling. As it opens up, the body becomes slightly chewy.

This is how Tempranillo was meant to be enjoyed. It needs time, a lot of time. It has had time to integrate nicely and find its balance. I would venture to say it is at its peak expression. This is a fantastic example from a stubborn winemaker who insists on serving wine when it is ready and not a moment sooner. I looked at the 1994 Gran Reserva and recall it was enlightening experience that changed the way I look at Rioja and Tempranillo at large. This wine is currently available for a bargain. The 2000 Seleccion vintage is also available at a head scratching price. Check the WineSnob Watch List for more hidden gems.

Reader Tasting Notes

One of my favorite WineSnobs, Jeremy was kind enough to share his thoughts and notes on this wine. I love it! Enjoy!

Out of the bottle…”effin Yummy!” 😂 let’s see how this develops… 🤔… as I suspected, still effin yummy!!!

Aright…honest initial impression.

Color is striking. It’s bright and translucent, garnet color. Very appealing in the glass.

Nose on first pour was raspberry and cherry cola. Almost tickles the nose with fizziness. Swirl and sit for 15 minutes…if you can wait that long…leather and caramel. Subtle though. There’s something dark creeping that I can’t identify. A little funky…mossy or muddy? Mushroom maybe?

Taste is medium, almost light bodied. Very bright and acidic for a wine of this age. Perfect balance. Fruit is secondary. Rich cherry almost like an old fashioned with a smoky ice cube. Leather. Something that burns the throat a bit, in a nice way. A little peppery. Tannins grip after 30 minutes. A pleasant bitterness on the back that lingers with the spice. (Minty?)

This wine is so good you could brush your teeth with it.

It’s not mouth puckering like a beaujolais, but makes me think that direction.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Enclave) by Ventisquero, Chile

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Enclave, Maipo Andes Valley, Pirque) by Ventisquero, Chile

Dark, opaque, plum color. Out of the bottle, nose is a little shy for a Cabernet Sauvignon, with characteristic notes of plum and blackberries. Neither over ripe nor too tart, just right. A dusty, woody leather lingers on the background along with hints of licorice and pomegranate and a touch of cherry cola. Swirling vigorously intensifies and ripens the plum, cherry cola pulls forward as nose fades to a fine dust.

Body is precisely balanced right down the middle, from front to back. A dry, slightly restrained, dark plum greets the palate immediately followed by oak vanilla so subtle you’d likely miss it. This conspires to create a slightly creamy, buttery mouth feel. Faint licorice carries over as well as a touch of cola. Fine grained, dusty tannins precipitate, eventually forming a gentle gradient of well integrated structure. This is a big wine on all accounts but I barely noticed this finely tuned structure. Midway through, a subtle nudge of spice ushers in the transition to finish. As the body slowly fades away like desert rain on a hot summer day, subtle hints of cola, cocoa, warm spice, and dusty tannic grit linger on the palate. After hours of decanting the grip on the palate becomes a dominating force. Body thickens and develops a subtle viscousity. Licorice intensifies and turns from more red to black licorice, holding short of pure star anise.

This Cab exhibits and obsessive attention to detail. It feels like there was a clear vision of what it was destined to be – a thesis, a textbook example of what Cab was meant to look like. Not just from Chile, but on a world stage. No rock and roll here, no over-the-top off-balance notes. Just a quiet focused reflection on the world’s most popular varietal. Chief Winemaker Felipe Tosso and his team have not only created a great wine in the Enclave but a unique opportunity for enlightenment and development of the enthusiast’s palate. The Enclave is one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have had yet. Bien hecho amigos!

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You can access Ventisquero wines directly from the Ventiquero Wine Club website as well as on wine.com, both linked below.


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2019 Pinot Noir (Ridgetop) by Sojourn, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Pinot Noir (Ridgetop – Sonoma Coast) by Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma, CA

Clear ruby color. Long legs. Bright raspberry and red berries on the nose. Fresh wet grassy turf, wet wood and hints of cola in the background. Welcome to the Sonoma Coast!

Even keeled body greets with a suggestion of citrus, raspberries, cola. A prominent refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak emerges and lingers along with a moderate warm spice heat. Thin fine tannins provide light, crisp, unobtrusive structure that lingers through the entire experience. Body quickly vanishes leaving behind crisp tannic grip, spice warmth and a slight bitter cola. As it breathes, the body develops a slightly creamy body. I love it!

I this is the second of three picks I brought back from my last visit to their tasting room. I found all their wines to be really well made and representative. This one has a bit more of a playful pleaser disposition while still echoing key characteristics of the terroir and region at large. They recently released a slew of new wines and I’m eager to get a closer look at the new lineup. Nicely done Sojourn! 🍷😁👌🏽

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2019 Giocoso (Red Blend, Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Giocoso (Red Blend, Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra (Luxury of the Land), Fiddletown, Amador County CA

Equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Dark semi opaque color. Out of the bottle, thick nose with lots of black plum and ripe blackberry. Secondary notes of cola and crisp vanilla caramel. Tertiary notes of thin crisp anise and wet wood leather linger in the back.

Body is nicely balanced from front to back. A slightly silky, viscous body greets the palate. Unobtrusive tannins provide good structure and counterweight to crisp caramel and anise, both framing ripe plums. The more temperate climate of this region shines here as the fruit is well expressed while remaining fairly dry. Restrained acidity goes almost unnoticed. No one characteristic is off balance. The finish is characterized by subtle dry tannic grip ripe fruit, caramel. This big blend channels the Paso Robles region and its characteristic restraint quite nicely while also remaining very approachable for a broad spectrum of palate.

I caught up with Edward, owner, winemaker and Assistant Winemaker Clare, earlier this winter and had a unique opportunity to explore an eye watering lineup of their creations. He recently relocated his operations and established his estate in Fiddletown, just outside Plymouth CA. I very much look forward to following his interpretation of the terroir out here in the Sierra Foothills. Welcome to the foothills Edward and Lusso Della Terra!

2015 Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel Valley

Tonight’s Occasion: 2015 Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel Valley, CA

Deep ruby red color. Beautiful aromatic nose out of the bottle with notes of fresh raspberries, strawberries, and red cherries. A wet, rocky, earthy leather permeates a background punctuated by pops of red vines licorice. Swirl vigorously to reset the entire stage all over again. I love it! As it breathes, a dusty expression emerges, so faint you’d likely miss it.

Body is silky, creamy, smooth with a touch of viscosity. A touch of acidity greets the palate and remains present, adding gentle tension throughout the experience. Moderate tannins provide unobtrusive structure while refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak immediately tames this expression. The body is quickly dissipates leaving crisp caramel, wet rocky leather and thin, so what dusty/chalky tannins. A slightly mineral finish lingers. A gentle warm spice heat lingers through the entire experience.

This Pinot all on its own. It eschews most convention, especially for this region. Sharing only subtlety and nuance typical of this region, it has its own identity. It is dry, structured, somewhat bold for a Pinot and will likely be perceived as abstract by the average palate. It is however a well crafted, terroir driven if not fascinating wine that will keep the advanced palate perfect company, especially for New Year’s Eve. Now, if you’ll excuse me…

2017 Pinot Noir (De Ponte Vineyard) by Panther Creek

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

Crisp nose with slightly tart berries, and a touch of red cherries. Subtle secondary notes of creamy vanilla and minerality interplay, filling the stage with bitter sweet essence. Tertiary notes of wet wood leather linger in the back. Nice.

Body is restrained. A silky smooth body greets with a touch of sweet citrus. Mild tannins quickly precipitate, adding subtle structure. Thin, crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak along with a touch of minerality fill the body in faint broad strokes. These quickly dissipate, leaving thin tannic structure, and mineral essence. This fades away into a subtle dance between sweet and bitter over thin crisp tannic grip.

I’m enjoying exploring the Panther Creek lineup this winter. I remember visiting the tasting room earlier in the spring and I liked every wine they poured. I can’t wait to revisit, hopefully this coming spring, for an in depth look at what they are all about. If you are like me an love the complexity and nuance that comes with small batch production artisan wines, I highly recommend checking out their wines. Visit WineSnob.blog for more and updated reviews of Panther Creek wines.

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2011 Pinot Noir (Red Birds) by Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma

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

Clear, ruby red color. Bright aromatic nose out of the bottle with lost of raspberry, red cherry and pomegranate. Drooling. Cola and damp earth leather lingers in the background. This my friends, is Sonoma. Swirling vigorously intensifies ripeness, berries, leather and adds a touch of caramel. Just beautiful.

Beautifully balanced body from front to back, greets with a soft symphony of berries and silky mouth feel. A fresh crisp overlay hovers above the palate. I’m not sure what it is but it’s very nice, maybe herbal in nature? Soft, gentle and fluid tannins add structure hardly distinguishable from the body. As it fades, that minty almost eucalyptus freshness emerges marking the transition to finish. Along with cola, this gentle crisp freshness follows through a lingering finish capped by a gentle tannic grip, wet wood and subtle spice tingle.

My goodness. This Pinot Noir is absolutely gorgeous right now! I have perhaps one or two bottles left. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. The 2011 vintage is beautifully embodied here. I have come to appreciate so much about Pinot Noir and its expression of different regions and their terroir, thanks in no small part to our 2020 Winemaker of the year. A visit to their understated tasting room is a must for the enlightened palate. Carefully curated wines from far and wide to help baseline your palate and provide you with a solid reference point. This is why I believe this winemaker is worth following. Their wines easily occupy a quarter of my cellar going back to 2006 vintages.

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2018 Tempranillo by Bumgarner Winery, El Dorado, CA

I am pleased to present you with the 2021 Winemaker of The Year – Bumgarner Winery, Fair Play, El Dorado, CA. There’s a WineSnob TV segment coming but for now we look at one of their current releases.

2018 Tempranillo by Bumgarner Winery, El Dorado, CA.

Dark semi-opaque color. Big black plum and blackberries on the nose. A touch of buttery vanilla and anise lingers in the back. Great sense of place. Swirling vigorously intensifies the star anise, old wet wood and dusty granite leather. As it breathes a subtle ripeness develops in the background likely due to oxidation/caramelizing of those big tannins.

Body greets with a slightly acidic attack, introducing good firm tension to the palate. This is quickly countered by tart dry black plums, blackberries and a crisp caramel, immediately lending firm structure and full mouth feel. A slow burning spice heat works its way through all corners of the palate and down to the chest. Dusty, fine grained tannins precipitate, further anchoring the palate and asserting this wine’s character. Subtle, crisp caramel re-emerges momentarily signaling curtain call. Transition to finish is swift, leaving the palate bone dry, lips parched shut, tingling.

This a massive wine that shows some restraint. Good balance and execution renders it approachable to a broad spectrum of palate. However the finish give its youth away. This wine, while beautiful now, is just barely getting started. Another decade should reveal the true gem within. Get yours now but don’t drink it all. Lay the rest down and forget about it. You’ll thank me later. Nicely done Brian, Jennifer and the entire Bumgarner family!

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