2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) by Louis Martini, Napa Valley, California
Deep dark ruby color. Out of the bottle, ripe plums, and blackberries over a subtle backdrop of sawdust. Swirling vigorously unleashes bursts of sweet pinewood, ripe dark cherries, licorice and a faint freshness akin to mint/eucalyptus. Yummy.
Body is fairly balanced up front. A touch of acidity and fine grain dusty tannins greet the palate with mild tension. This is quickly followed by slightly ripe plum, dark cherries and red apple skins so faint you’d likely miss it. The fruit quickly dissipates as the fine grained tannins precipitate into an ever thickening coat of grit upon the palate. Hints of cola, currants and spice emerge as it transitions to finish. Lips are rendered parched shut under a thick dusty tannic grip and smoldering spice heat.
I seldom indulge in Napa wine country but when I do, I stop by Louis Martini. You’ve likely driven by this unassuming and understated Napa Winery. Its custodians have done a great job of documenting, preserving and continuing its legacy. It’s grounds and experience follow form and function, the tastings focused but casual and thoughtful. Louis Martini should provide a great benchmark for the Modern Day Napa Cab in any cellar.
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.
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.
Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Rosé of Tempranillo (Clarksburg) by Passaggio Wines, Treasure Island, San Francisco
Crisp, clean, slightly weighty, viscous mouth feel. Crisp dry, firm finish. Good balance. Dry cherries, raspberries and gentle floral aromas.
Perhaps my shortest review yet but for good reason. I was under the illusion I could actually pull it off in the hot tub. Needless to say it’s a challenge to do anything other than just kick back with this Rosé by one of my favorite winemakers off the beaten path. A perfect way to end the week. Nicely done Cindy!
Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon (Texas High Plains) by Newsom Vineyards, Texas Hill Country.
Dark intense semi-opaque color. Nose is a little shy out of the bottle with slightly under-ripe plums and faint damp wood. Swirling vigorously unlocks an explosive intensity of licorice, a sweet cherry cola and root beer essence and hint of eucalyptus. Not surprised here at all. This milti-generational grower made a lasting impression on me when I visited their understated tasting room in Texas last year. Intense, powerful, terroir driven, old world style wines.
Body is bold as expected. Moderately acidic attack greets the palate, along with a viscous body. Under-ripe dark plums banana skins and spice follow closely. After breathing it softens a little. Fresh blueberries emerge. Body is bone dry, no nonsense, strickly business. This is the main show. You sip this slow. Oak is unnoticeable but for the way it enhances the fruit characteristics. The symphony of notes from the nose further intensify across the palate growing louder and louder until there is nothing left on the palate but a thin, crisp, dry tannic grip over smoldering spice.Oh boy. This is a Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine makes a statement. You can taste every part of the fruit that came from the vineyard. Great fidelity. It started with good grapes and was allowed to be itself. It feels unpretentious, un-manipulated. I recommend decanting for a bit. You may have to re-cork and explore the next day. I probably should have used my coravin because it clearly has many more years ahead of it. I’m taken back through vivid memories of my trip through Texas Wine country. Nicely done folks!
Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Vertice (Carmenere/Syrah) by Ventisquero, Colchagua Valley, Chile.
Deep ruby color. Nose is shy out of the bottle with primary earth notes of wet wood leather and grassy herbs. Swirling unlocks crisp dark Plum skins and dark cherries and an even more intense leather. A slight mushroom develops along with a faint caramel.
Wow a beautifully balanced body awaits. Rich bold crisp fruit expression greets, further accentuated by a measured amount of oak. This develops an old leathery quality midway. Crisp unobtrusive tannins provide a precise amount of structure. Unless you are looking for them, you won’t notice until the finish. Hints of green pepper and spice punctuates in the background. The body feels precise with a smooth finish that firms up slightly as it opens.
Like the Enclave we recently looked at, this wine shows great attention to detail, a broad appeal while keeping the intermediate to advanced palate engaged. It is a high quality wine from a great region especially known for its Carmenere. Winemaker Felipe Tosso and the entire Ventisquero team have done an excellent job of presenting us with Artisan quality wines like this that truly represent this region and all its possibilities. Bien hecho Amigos!
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!
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.
Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Le Grand-Pere (The Grandfather, Rhone Blend) by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, CA.
Warm nose, with ripe dark cherries, plum and berries. Together with a secondary anise this ripeness creates a red vines licorice essence. Good sense of place. This expression is typical of a faithful wine from this region. Subtle oak vanilla blends in and accentuates nicely.
Body greets with a touch of acidity lending some good tension. This is quickly smothered by ripe plum and cherry. A punch of oak vanilla further elevates the fruit, morphing into a crisp, refined caramel. Thick, bold tannins provide a slightly restrained structure but as it opens up they pull forward and dominate the experience from front to back, giving this wine’s youth away. Definitely recommend decanting. Transition to finish is seamless, characterized by blackberries, black currants, and a fine grained dusty but firm tannic grip.
This region is known for its longer ripening season. This extended hang time results in more intense fruit flavors and a bigger bolder wine overall. This is its identity. It’s sense of place. Slightly fruit forward, shows good balance. I think with more cellar time this wine should further integrate very nicely. Recommend at least 5 to 10 more years. Get yours now and lay them down.
Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Petite Sirah by Paza Estate Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA.
Dark opaque color. Ripe dark plum, ripe dark cherries and a touch of sweet oak vanilla. A damp wood and old leather essence lingers in the background. Swirling unlocks hints of licorice, spice and unmistakable granite dust.
Body is on the softer side of balanced. Dark plum, cherry skins, greet the palate immediately. Wet wood, granite leather and oak provide a great plush mouth feel while accentuating the fruit. Blackberries, and black currants provide great structure underlayment. As it opens up, seemingly restrained tannins roar to life, completely dominating the entire experience with a firm dry grip. Spice gives way to more black currant. Finish leaves the palate dry, lips parched shut with a mild spice tingle.
This is my favorite of the Paza lineup. It’s a nice Petite Sirah. It shows good creativity while maintaining its sense of place. The other wine that stood out was their sparkling wine. It is pretty good. We will be taking a look at it here soon. If you’re looking for nice, little, quaint winery off the beaten path, this is a great, fun little, chill experience with great views. There’s also a good chance you will be hosted by the owner/winemaker. Nicely done Paza!