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!
I recently got to sit down for a tasting with one of my all-time favorite winemakers Brian Bumgarner of Bumgarner Winery.
We tasted a three vintage vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon from across the El Dorado region, from their library.
Best part was, I got to share this very special moment with some of you, my favorite WineSnobs. It was one of those moments that make me feel very lucky, fortunate and blessed!
Thank you all for coming along for the ride, joining the fun on WineSnob and sharing your journey through wine discovery with me. Can’t wait to taste with you again soon!
Thank you Jennifer and Brian Bumgarner for this opportunity!
This is a long uncut recording of our virtual tasting. I recommend you open a bottle and watch along. Below are tech sheets for the wines we tasted.
Bumgarner 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
The 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is made from two high elevation vineyards within El Dorado. The Cabernet Sauvignon is from an old vine Cabernet Block in a Pleasant Valley Vineyard just under 3000 feet. The Malbec is from a Camino vineyard at 3100 feet. The alpine breezes flowing down off the Sierras cool these high elevation vineyards and allow the grapes to mature slowly while retaining their natural acidity.
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.
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.
Earlier this year I was presented with an opportunity to take a look at a couple wines from a little winery I had never heard of before. It was Dawn’s Dream Winery, situated in Carmel by the Sea, just south of Monterey, CA.
Without knowing much more I of course jumped at the opportunity. A quick lookup of the winery, suggested this was right up my alley – a small batch production, artisan winery off the beaten path. The bulk of their offerings were Pinot Noirs for which this region – California Central Coast – is known for. It also told me there was a certain level of maturity in their craft as Pinot Noir can be one of the most unforgiving varietals to work with at every step of the wine making process.
A week later I received two bottles. One was their entry Pinot Noir (Rechael) which I reviewed here – Wine Review: 2017 Pinot Noir (Rachael) by Dawn’s Dream. The other was their Signature Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) which sits at the top of their lineup and which I reviewed here – Wine Review: 2017 Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) by Dawn’s Dream. This gave me a great perspective and appreciation for the dynamic range of this winemaker’s skill. I was delighted to find that both wines were very well made, especially the Ben Sogno which had a unique expression all by it’s own. I found it most interesting and intriguing.
COVID-19 and the Lockdown
Just as I was wrapping up my reviews, I began planning a trip down to Carmel, to learn more about this winery, do a deeper dive into their wines and an overall appreciation for what they do. Unfortunately COVID-19 and the ensuing Lockdown put all my plans on hold indefinitely.
A good ending
No sooner than wineries were allowed to reopen (under new health and safety guidelines), a new opportunity presented itself in the form of an invitation to come down and spend the weekend exploring Dawn’s Dream wines. Determined to not let this one slip away, I immediately checked my calendar and booked the next available weekend!
I left early Saturday morning and made the drive down from Sacramento in good time. Arriving about an hour before the noon opening time, I took some time to explore the local scene in Carmel by the Sea. It is a beautiful, quaint, little community with lots of texture, color, interesting architecture. It feels almost out of a fairy-tale with lots of small independently owned boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and bistros.
Finally! I found it!
Tucked away behind a corner building, and set back with two narrow entryways, I finally found Dawn’s Dream Winery. You’ll probably miss it on your first pass but will surely find it on second glance or after checking your google maps. I arrived just before the Tasting Room opened. It was outdoor seating only and the weather was perfect! I found a cozy spot and my host immediately began walking me through the wines (see tasting menu below).
I found the atmosphere at Dawn’s Dream Winery Tasting Room to be calm, quiet and reflective. The decor and presentation was impeccable, deliberate and somewhat minimalist if not uncluttered. This was very much in harmony with their wines which I found to be all about subtle nuance. The service was professional, prompt and no more than was necessary. The wines were allowed to speak for themselves.
This leads me to my next point. I think their wines should appeal nicely to the Intermediate-to-Advanced palate. I can see a beginner or a less mature palate finding themselves a little lost here, primarily because their wines resemble more the traditional old world Burgundian style. They fall on the dryer side of the spectrum. Being primarily Pinot Noir, their expressions are delicate and nuanced with characteristics only a more experienced palate would be able to discern, recognize and appreciate. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, exploring the whispering notes in relative calm and tranquility.
In a part of the world where the “Big California Pinot” reigns supreme, I highly recommend Dawn’s wines, if for nothing else, to gain a good reference point for what I think Pinot Noir was really meant to look like. I was able to take tasting notes as I worked my way down the menu. Below are my notes (and some of Dawn’s notes) for each of their offerings.
2019 Pinot Noir Rosé
We agree. Light, crisp, refreshing. Complex for a Rosé. This is not surprising as it is in fact a Pinot Noir. Interesting. Tart white plum and stone fruits, Good earthy leather. Haha You don’t see that in a rose. Great concept. I obviously haven’t been paying attention to Rosé of Pinot Noir. I love the subtle nuance the grape brings. See Dawn’s notes below.
The new vintage of our award-winning Rosé draws you in with its delicate hue of peachy pink and introduces itself with lively hints of tangerine, lemon zest, and ripe apricot. Your mouth is flooded with a supple texture and notes of ripe strawberry and watermelon. This wine is best described as precise with its crisp acidity leaving your mouth watering, craving another
Very aromatic. Crisp. Clean. Just the right amount of acidity. See notes. Of whites, chardonnay tends to be my least favorite as most seem to be off balance but this one walks that fine line surprisingly well. This is a Chardonnay I can get behind. Nicely done! See Dawn’s notes below.
Our golden “Nugget” delights with characteristics of tropical fruit and a hint of lemon zest on the nose highlighted by refreshing and off-dry notes of pineapple and guava. With only 2 months on 75% new French oak and no malolactic fermentation, this wine is rich while still maintaining a crisp and playful acidity. It would be the perfect aperitif with oysters or aged Gouda.
2018 Rachael Pinot Noir
Fairly consistent across vintages. Echoes my notes on the 2017. Great pleaser for the advanced palate. Light, crisp, aloof, fun, easy. See Dawn’s notes below.
This beautiful vintage starts with a wonderful aroma of rich plum and dark cherry. An essence of fresh cedar is on display with a touch of cinnamon and clove. Your mouth is filled with flavors of bright, wild raspberry and it finishes with soft acidity, making this wine very approachable. Our Rachael Pinot is consistently a crowd favorite!
2018 Alyssa Pinot Noir
Deeper color, slightly bigger nose. More intense berries and a little plum. Feels rich. Fuller, rounder mouth feel. A touch more structure and more pronounced spice finish. A little more layered. More of a sipper. Subtle dry tannic grip on finish. Classic medium bodied Pinot. Nicely done. See Dawn’s notes below.
Ripe pomegranate and violet tickle your nose while candied orange peel dazzles the tip of your tongue with a sumptuous acidity. The finish is silk-soft and swift with touches of black cherry and spice, making this 2018 vintage a most promising release of our beloved “Alyssa” Pinot Noir!
2018 Nicole Pinot Noir
Love the color on this one. Vibrant ruby red. Great intensity on the nose. Good oak and caramel, touch of plum. Creamy body. Great tannic structure and balance. Long gentle but intense finish with lots of grip. Touch of spice. Right up my alley. Nicole demands your attention. Love it! See Dawn’s notes below.
Named after Dawn’s oldest daughter, the 2018 vintage of Nicole makes a bold statement right at the nose with aromas of intense cooking spices and a sweet touch of sugarplum. Hints of bright red cherries and violet on the palate roll into brown sugar and cardamom with daring tannins at the finish. An incredibly food friendly wine that will age extremely well for several years in your wine cellar.
“Bel Sogno” means Beautiful Dream, and this proprietary red blend is exactly that! This exclusive wine begins with dark, blue fruits and adds complexity with wet slate, anise, and vanilla. A rich textured mouth feel reveals notable chalky but balanced tannin giving power and length. This wine displays elegance and restraint despite this being a very substantial Pinot Noir.
2018 Eliza Jane Sangiovese
Dark rich color. off the bat. Nose with heavy punch of leather. Trying to pinpoint what spices I’m picking up but they are very present in the earthy leather, intense and unmistakable. Unlike your typical Sangiovese, this one is a touch jammy/chewy but dry (without being sweet). Lots of dark plum, bark cherry and black berries all most expressed in solid, imposing tannic structure (unlike the typical Sangiovese). This certainly is an interesting, unorthodox take on a Sangiovese. I like it. I would lay this down for a while. I keep drifting back to that earthy nose.
The 2018 Eliza Jane is our inaugural Sangiovese named after Dawn’s first granddaughter. This big, bold and beautiful wine expresses deep aromas of ripe strawberry and cherry which develop into darker fruits of blueberry and blackberry over light characteristics of coffee, dried earth, and thyme. This wine is lush and giving with fine silky tannins.
Meeting Dawn Herself
I did not expect to meet the woman behind this understated winery but at the end of my visit it was great to finally meet the mind behind it all and bring my experience full circle. I could see how it all came to be. I found Dawn to be a bit reserved, deliberate, measured and thoughtful in her delivery. She is clearly passionate about her vision for the winery and giving back to her community, specifically women and children in need. I found her conviction and passion for leaving the world a better place refreshing. The world needs more people like Dawn, especially in these times.
Great Wines for a Great Cause
Dawn’s dream has always been to help create dreams for others by donating her product, money or time to support nonprofit organizations both locally and globally. Dawn’s passion for helping women and children equals her passion for making wine. Dawn has produced award-winning wines of exceptional quality and elegance while maintaining a business model that allows for the opportunity to give back… [Read more here].
I look forward to checking on Dawn’s Dream Winery regularly and following their future releases. Thank you for sharing your dream with me Dawn!
Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) by Dawn’s Dream Winery. Total production of 250 cases.
The nose is very restrained. Off the bat, you pick up a gentle sweet cherry and marshmallow which feels more like an interaction between berry and vanilla from the oak. I pick up another aroma far in the back I initially thought was floral but it does have a herbal quality. You have to strain to pick it out. It’s obvious this wine will not reveal itself easily. As it opens up, the nose develops a subtle creamy undertone.
Body is even more elusive. A very subtle tartness greets the palate. However just as you expect a hit of acidity, a noticeable chalky texture takes over and dominates the rest of the experience. Remember these are all whispers. I’ve never actually felt (not just tasted) this type of chalky minerality in a wine. An interesting expression of the terroir through the grape, unhindered by the winemaker. A testament to their skill and craft. None of the fruit is carried forward. Towards the back gentle but very present tannins bring good structure as they guide you to a fairly dry finish capped by a hint of spice that doesn’t linger very long.
This wine should not be paired with anything. You will miss the whole affair with a tainted palate. It is different in it’s own way yet very familiar in its elusive expression. I’ve seen this before from this region. Bel Sogno is a very mature Pinot, made more in the traditional style with a little Coastal California flare. It is showing really well right now and should be perfect over the next several years. I wonder what it’s progression over time will be like. It is an elegant, graceful, wine that prompts reflection.
As I follow this bottle through the evening, I keep thinking I should start a vertical in my cellar to better follow its evolution. I can think of only one other wine in my cellar that this reminds me of.
Deep rich color. Crisp nose greets you with lots of plum, a little cherry, subtle oak, and slight mineral. The heat and spice in this wine is more pronounced in the nose and diminishes through the rest of the experience. In the body, a subtle acidic attack is quickly overwhelmed by big buttery tannins giving it a noticeably chewy mouth feel. The finish takes an interesting turn with an abundance of wood as oak and vanilla turn into cedar with a hint of licorice.
One of the things that I like about this winemaker, is the wines are appropriately aged before release. They are not rushed to the glass. This way you can expect a quality, mature wine whenever you visit the winery. This vintage is almost 10yrs old. It is showing really well right now. I think this is what it was meant to be. It has just entered its peak and should be perfect any time over the next 4-5 years before its more nuanced characteristics start to fade. It is a great example of what is possible in this region. If you are looking to explore the most current frontier of California wine country, this is where I recommend you start. Well done Skinner!
Late last year as we wrapped our year long rediscovery of the Fair Play and greater Foothills and South El Dorado Hills region we stumbled upon this humble winemaker as he was just moving into his new humble estate in Fair Play. After sharing some wine with him and hearing his story, I couldn’t be happier to welcome another talented winemaker to the region.
Nose is thick and full of berry, plum and an intense sweet cherry. Atypical for a Cabernet Franc. A subtle hint of leathery terroir lingers in the back. The body is fruit forward however not as much as the nose would suggest. The plum carries over into the body. This is a Cab Franc and I don’t expect more than two or three dimensions in the body. This one is no exception. However like a well built Cab Franc, what is does, it does really well. Excellent chassis provides good structure. Massive crisp tannic grip begins to dominate the affair before it’s over. Other than its ever tightening tannic grip the finish is dry, clean, and smooth. Great contrast. No spice. This is a classic California Cabernet Franc.
I look forward to following his work closely. 😁🍷🍷🍷
Au Pied du Mont Chauve’s 2015 Burgundy White is one of my favorite wines, so much so that I had this wine with the first dinner I ever cooked for my girlfriend. It was aged wonderfully! The wine has a mouth-watering acidity, that makes you crave a butter or cream-based sauce. Each sip is smooth and silky. It has hints of juicy pineapple, crisp green apple, and creamy vanilla on the nose and palate. I would definitely recommend this wine to any burgundy lover, but also suggest it to those who are looking for a fun break from an Oregon Chardonnay.
The Domaine Au Pied du Mont Chauve, is operated by Francine Picard, daughter of one of the biggest winemaking families in Burgundy. Francine, daughter of Michel Picard, grows beautiful grapes on the hills of Chassagne-Montrachet. Her wines are normally characterized by their limestone minerality, and supple fruits. Her calling has been to remain true to the tradition, and this is what any Burgundy drinker searches for. This wine, a premier cru, was selected for excellence, and lives up to that standard.
🌟: 9/10, 3 Preference, 2 Complexity, 1 Pairability, 1 Convenience, 2 Drinkability
💲: 30.00 USD (TotalWine)
🥐: I paired this with a braised chicken with a creamy mushroom reduction.
About our guest
Ethan Turner is author of today’s Guest Review. All the way from Scottsdale Arizona, Ethan is a certified Level 1 Sommelier actively working in the service industry where he gets to sharpen his palate on a daily basis. In his own words.
“Going to a wine shop is like going to a library. Each wine has its own story, flavor profile, and shelf life. Some wines are popular and become classics, some wines are trendy and go out of style within a few years. That makes it really hard to find the right wine. I love helping find what’s perfect for them.”
After a few false starts at finding a proper establishment that took not just their wines but also their Australian wines seriously, I finally stumbled upon The Winery. I should have started here and so hopefully this post will help any fellow winesnobs out there get a decent start to their visit to this part of the world.
The Winery is a Wine Bar, “A quirky urban garden oasis in the heart of Surry Hills” and I would agree on all counts. It is also warm, welcoming, inviting, rustic, simple. It is as one would imagine, Australian. I was looking for a place where I could explore Australian wines. Hopefully small batch production, artisan wines. I realized this was a tall order for a big city like Sydney but I knew there had to be a few of them.
I wanted to get an overarching sense of what Australian wines are all about. There is such a thing. Similar to the overarching theme one refers to when they say “Big California Pinot” or “Napa Cab”. I also wanted to get a feel for the overall quality and hence maturity of the Australian wine industry overall.
Fortunately I arrived at the right time. They had just upgraded to a new tasting station which afforded many more wines to be available for tasting on demand. Once I explained what my objective was, my hostess was very gracious enough to let me explore wines and vintages previously unavailable for tasting.
All the Aussie wines I tried were good, well made wines. This is perhaps the single biggest overarching theme of this trip. See, in California, if you ask for an Aussie wine, you’ll most likely be presented with YellowTail… That’s like asking for a California wine and getting Gallo… Nuff said. Below are three wines that stood out the most for me as well as my notes from this outing.
2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Tomfoolery
Slightly fruity nose with good berry, a little plum and oak. Restrained body, mild acidity, showing good balance, structure and moderate fruit. 14.5% ABV is unnoticeable. Smooth finishes, once opened develops long gentle tannic grip.
2018 Grenache by Tarot
Clean crisp wine. But this is an illusion. This is a bid powerful wine. At 14.9% ABV, an iron fist in a velvet glove. Nose subdued with hints of strawberry, oak, cherry and the faintest of earth in the background. Oak and cherry carry through the body, introducing heat and mild tannin. A surprising amount of structure once opened. Finish throws a fake as massive spice and tannin make a late entrance towards the end. This wine is no joke. If this Tarot is any indication of your fortunes, you’d better buckle-up. 😳
2014 Shiraz by Gaelic Cemetery Vineyard
Trying to read this wine is akin to stepping up to an old brick building and trying to sniff the bricks. It just won’t work. The nose is very reserved, giving only hints of berry, faint raisin, cherry. Leather, mineral, licorice and black currant only momentarily when swirled vigorously. This wine does not like to be disturbed. A massive tightly integrated body proves a challenge to pick apart. Minerality is pronounced. Very structured, inky, earthy come to mind. The finish quickly gives way to super heavy massive granite tannic grip that just won’t quit! I think I just found my new favorite Aussie wine! 😭🍷