2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA


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.

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2016 Meritage by Miraflores Winery, Sierra Foothills, California

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!

2018 Viognier by Polynesian Girl, Sierra Foothills, CA

2018 Viognier by Polynesian Girl, Sierra Foothills, CA

Beautiful aromatic nose out of the bottle with gentle notes of stone fruit (peach, apricot), white cranberry and touch of red apple and citrus. It’s pretty!

Body greets with a gentle citrus. Slight viscosity. Very little of the other fruit carry over. If there is any oak, it certainly is indiscernable if not for the slight silky mouth feel. As it opens the lips seem to become coated with a slight sweet citrus aftertaste. The minerality of this region and its terroir plays nicely. There is no finish per se, as the body slowly fades away.

This wine is bone dry, crisp, clean. At 11.9% ABV you can take your sweet time and indulge. The more I think about it, it feels very deliberate, especially considering what I have come to expect from this region in general. This understated winemaker set out to explore the upper bounds of this varietal and elevate it’s above the norm. The result is a mature, classy, execution. I recommend for the intermediate to advanced palate.

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2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Cash Allen) by Blanchard Family Wines, Healdsburg CA

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.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc by Sanford, Santa Ynez Valley, California

2015 Sauvignon Blanc by Sanford, Santa Ynez Valley, California

On the nose. Soft peach nectarine and lime zest. Subtle wet wood leather. Faint butter.

Body is dry, shows good balance, greeting with citrus up front quickly followed by a faint barely noticeable refined caramel. This creates a slightly viscous mouth feel. A touch of minerality further accentuates this and moistens the lips ever so slightly. Finish is characterized by citrus zest, and subtle spice warmth.

This is a classic Sauvignon Blanc. Subtle. Unsurprising from this Winemaker who’s wines tend to read like a thesis of what is possible in this region. The folks at Stanford have been great stewards of this legendary and historically significant vineyard. If you’re ever in the area I recommend stopping by to baseline your palate and establish a reference point. Nicely done folks.

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2021 Viognier by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2021 Viognier by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, CA

White gold color. Out of the bottle, slightly restrained notes of ripe cantaloupe and fresh mellon. Hints stone fruit as it settles. An underlying rocky, slate leather lingers in the background, barely noticeable but unmistakable for this vineyard and region at large. As it breathes, the mellon develop a subtle honeysuckle. This is Viognier.

Body is light with a touch of viscosity. Fruit carries over nicely with more stone fruit. Apricot and ripe peach pull forward. There’s almost a mango-like essence. A gentle spice warmth slowly emerges midway. As it opens up, notes of sweet citrus and cedarwood linger. The whole show slowly fades, leaving the palate warm.

This is Viognier done right. Not too overpowering on the aromas. A little restraint goes a long way. It’s what you get when you take good fruit, put it through a clean standard program and stay out of the way. Wine should be this simple. Unfortunately that’s rarely the case.

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2019 White Blend by Peterson Winery, Healdsburg CA

2019 White Blend by Peterson Winery, Healdsburg CA

Equal parts Vermentino, Verdelho, Vernaccia.

Nose is a little shy up front with primary earthy notes of damp, grassy fields. slightly under-ripe strawberries, white cherries, citrus. Swirling vigorously intensifies the old dusty sedimentary leather. I like a white wine that shows earth notes like this.

Body is dry, slightly viscous and greets with a touch of crisp acidity which adds good tension. These complement each other nicely. Slightly under-ripe strawberries and white cherries carry over nicely. A touch of white pepper. A certain tartness emerges towards the finish. I can’t tell if it’s minerality or from skins. Almost like a lemon zest. It slowly coats the palate. Good mild to medium finish.

This is a slow sipper. The blend brings great dimension and body. An understated, dry, terroir driven blend. This winemaker presents a serious, straightforward wine, without frills or pretenses. Well worth a look for those curious to understand this region and its expressions.

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2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Tonight’s Occasion: 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon.

Rich Rosé, strawberry almost copper color. Reminds me of my favorite orange wine. Full bodied aromatic nose with intense ripe, strawberry, cherry and raspberry. This nose screems everything you would expect from a Rosé. I love it. A subtle secondary earthy leather lingers in the background. It is a Pinot Noir after all. Sweet Citrus, honeysuckle and jasmine emerge as it breathes. Stop it already!

A silky viscous weighted body greets the palate immediately. Sweet citrus reminiscent of Meyer lemon adds a touch of tension across an otherwise velvety smooth body. Strawberry and cherries carry over very nicely. A smattering of white pepper. As the body thins out towards the back, a faint crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French Oak emerges. It mineral underpinnings are revealed in the finish through slightly moist lips.

This is a classic Rosé. Very nicely composed. It is further elevated by Pinot Noir from this region. It retains a broad appeal while keeping the enlightened palate entertained. Every cellar should keep this Rosé on hand. Great value and great job guys!

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2017 Chardonnay by Panther Creek Cellars, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Chardonnay by Panther Creek Cellars, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Soft, restrained nose with primary notes of mild citrus and under-ripe peach. There is a prominent damp slightly mineral leather which dominates as soon as you begin swirling. White cherries linger.

Body is ever so slightly acidic, greeting with firm but restrained citrus. A viscous slightly weighted mouth feel counters this tension quite nicely. A buttery shortcake lingers in the background. Mineral leather carries over, rendering the palate slightly moist. White pepper permeates the stage. A subtle bitter zest emerges is it transitions to finish. Under-ripe white cherries, crisp, refined caramel and a spice tingle are all that it left.

If I were to open a Chardonnay on any given day, this would be it. It is a well executed Chardonnay that achieves good balance through subtle contrasts; a little buttery body with a little acidity and tension, retrained fruit with subtle minerality and spice. I like it!

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Merlot by Acheson Wine Company, Sacramento CA

Tonight’s Occasion: Merlot by Acheson Wine Company, Sacramento CA

Do you have those moments when you can’t help but wonder, how did we get here? How did wine become such a complicated affair? Why do we always invariably gravitate towards overbearing, obsessive, hyperbole? This wine makes me want to set it all down and just be content with what is. If there is such a thing as “Plenty Good Enough”, this would be it.

Slightly ripe dark plums and dark cherries. Touch of crisp refined caramel. Faint hints of sweet minty eucalyptus. Rocky, dust dirt.

Rich clear blood red color. Soft gentle body. Balanced. Rich, restrained ripe dark plum. Fully integrated suspended tannins add weight, viscosity and body. Through each sip, they slowly coat the palate and lips with a thin, firm, lingering, dry grippy layer. Warm spice emerges and lingers long after the finish. Hints of bitter leather linger in the distant background, complementing the fruit and caramel quite nicely. As it opens up that minty eucalyptus and slightly bitter turns into a subtle root beer.

Why obsess over what this bottle/vintage would look like someday. Just let go, pop the cap and enjoy an honest to goodness, well made Merlot. When you’re done, head back down to tasting room for a refill. The time to live is now…

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