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!
Last week I had a chance to sit down and catch up with one of my all-time-favorite Vintners, Roger Roessler of Roger Roessler Wines. On the menu was lunch at Della Santina’s in Sonoma, a family owned and operated Tuscan soul food experience. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend you stop by. To top it off, we were joined by our distinguished host, none other than owner and founder ‘Danny’ who shared endless stories from his upbringing in Italy to his exploits in San Francisco. What a special treat to share a meal with over a century and a half of knowledge and life experience.
We paired appetizers with with a Vermentino from Italy. Main course with 2004 Pinot Noir (La Brisa) from Roger’s private reserve and a Nebbiolo from Langhe!
By age 21, Roger had opened his first restaurant. He spent the following two and a half decades or so in the business of opening restaurants across the country. After accumulating what I would imagine a wealth of experience in the culinary and service industry Roger decided to dive into the wine world and share his passion for Pinot Noir with us. Taking a step back, this now seems like the logical thing to do. Food an all it’s nuance eventually must be paired with Pinot Noir. The highly personalized service and attention to detail carried over from all those years in the culinary and server industry.
I have been following Roessler wines for well over a decade now and can trace my profound appreciation for Pinot Noir back to that first visit to the Roessler tasting room just off the square in downtown Sonoma. I scoffed at the idea that anyone could pour 16 different Pinot Noirs and they’d be discernible. Boy was my young palate in for the lesson of a lifetime.
Roger is a Vintner in every sense of the word. Roger Roessler Wines, a small boutique gallery winemaker in the truest form. Unshackled by any traditional estate. Over the years he’s sourced grapes from some of the most coveted vineyards as well as other small hidden gems you’ve probably never heard of. He’s also owned a few over the years. Bringing together a small team of passionate individuals around a singular mission – to bring you good Pinot Noirs faithful to their origins.
The Roger Roessler lineup reads like a compendium of Pinot Noir from up and down the pacific coast. A visit to their understated tasting room makes for a nice, focused quiet study. In one stop you can explore the various nuances of this varietal’s expression from one region to another. This is precisely why Roger Roessler Wines was picked as the 2020 Winemaker of the Year. They have played no small part in my journey through wine. I’m pretty sure you won’t be the same after a visit either.
Thank you for bringing us all those great vintages all these years Roger. I look forward to many more! Happy Birthday!
Today Off The Beaten Path we are looking back in retrospect. We pay a visit to one of my all-time-favorite winemakers. I have been following Brian Bumgarner’s work for well over a decade now. His wines are some of the longest lived, oldest vintages in my cellar.
I spent the day chatting with Brian at their Estate, getting caught up and filling in the blanks on his story and journey up to that point. It was an honor, distinct pleasure and I am thrilled to take you with me.
This is a long form, free-flowing conversation. I recommend opening a bottle (I recommend, Bumgarner wine), kicking back and following along. I have added time-stamps below to help you navigate or skip ahead:
00:15 – Intro and background
03:58 – The beginning, chat with Brian Bumgarner
13:40 – Bumgarner Estate
17:08 – Winery dog Figgy
17:20 – A family business
19:09 – Greece and the journey through Europe
21:46 – What I love about Bumgarner Wines
22:26 – A look at 2018 Alicante Bouschet
23:56 – The story of Alicante
25:50 – Tasting notes
27:14 – Bumgarner Apple Cider
28:55 – Bumgarner Bumbly
30:28 – Always relishing the New
31:50 – 2020 Harvest
33:05 – The Pandemic and aftermath
34:49 – Reinventing and adapting to adversity
37:54 – Artisanal production
39:49 – Winemaking is challenging
40:46 – Exploring older vintages
46:54 – Walking the Semilion
51:00 – Walking the Sauvignon Blanc
51:30 – New graftings
52:50 – Aerial views of the Estate
53:25 – Sunset views with Brian Bumgarner
53:35 – My thoughts in closing
55:03 – A look at the 2016 Tempranillo
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 rich semi opaque color. Out of the bottle nose is a little restrained with primary notes of a tight crisp tart plum, secondary notes of anise, very distant woody tertiary notes and a honeysuckle so faint it likely goes unnoticed. Swirling vigorously unlocks a burst of nectar-like sweet dark cherry. Terroir is almost neutral but for a slightly wet sedimentary essence. I like it!
Dark plum turns slightly sweet and ripe on the attack, along with a burst of acidity. Soon after they agree to play, a healthy dose of spice makes an appearance. The three permeate the entire experience through the finish. A measured dose of tannins provides great structure without dominating. As it opens up, a subtle bouquet of spice notes linger. A measured amount of oak emerges to render a melange of various background notes. Hours later the finish is dominated by black currants anise and firm tannic grip. This Bordeaux style blend is young yet showing so beautifully. I can’t help but wonder what it would look like in another 5-10 years.
I stumbled upon Glacier View Cellars through casual mention while out exploring the local wine scene in the greater Seattle a couple weekends ago. Stephanie, Owner/Winemaker so accurately embodies what I live to explore – the small artisan winemaker off the beaten path. Her style is mature beyond her years, her execution has a certain precision and restraint to it.
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!
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. 😁🍷🍷🍷
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! 😭🍷