2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills) by Rusack, Central Coast, CA

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!

Explore more Rusack wines on WineSnob.

Read more on my first visit to Rusack Vineyards a few years ago.

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2013 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyards, Fair Play CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Petite Sirah by Cedarville Vineyard, Fair Play CA

Dark opaque color. Firm nose with an intense dry dark plum and dusty cedarwood essence. Swirling vigorously unlocks sweet ripe dark cherries and licorice. There is a clear separation between the notes.

Body is firm on the attack, balanced from front to back. A slight citrus tension persists, as a counterpoint to a slightly restrained dry dark plum structure. Blackberries and dark cherries fill the body with fine grained dusty mouth feel. Oak is barely noticeable if not for a slight softening of the edges. This wine is pretty dry, but retains a bold fruit expression – a hallmark of this region and its extended ripening season or hang-time as folks up the hill call it. A warm spice heat permeates the entire experience. Transition to finish is marked by subtle black currants and crisp fresh palate right before succumbing to firm dry dusty tannic grip. As it opens up, licorice turns to a bold star anise. Another hallmark of this region.

This wine is unmistakable, clean, crisp, structured and highly delineated. A textbook representation of this region. For those who wish to familiarize themselves with this frontier of California winemaking, I highly recommend studying Jonathan’s wines. Decades obsessing over every detail has yielded, for the enlightened palate, an uncompromising look at the Sierra Foothills. Nicely done Jonathan!

Jonathan’s Petite Sirah is surprisingly consistent across vintages. I had a distinct pleasure and privilege to look at the 2002 not long ago and despite the clear age difference, they share more similarities than not. The 2013 vintage is just now beginning to shine. I think it will only develop more beautifully over the coming decade. These wines age very gracefully over long periods while maintaining excellent structure and balance. Because they are so good, the hardest part is to not open the younger vintages. Give them a decade and you won’t be disappointed.

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2013 Aglianico del Vulture by Tenuta Del Portale, Italy

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Aglianico del Vulture by Tenuta Del Portale, Italy.

A little over two years ago I looked at the 2012 Vintage – one of my first forays into the world of Aglianico. This vintage comes with equal intensity albeit just a touch restrained but still a big wine no less.

Joining us for this review is Laura, a globetrotting Sacramento Food Blogger and Charcuterie Artista Extraordinaire. Check out her work on Instagram at @oneluckycat_77

Rustic nose with mushroom, tobacco, wet forest floor and an intense sharp leather. A slightly sharp acidic attack takes the palate time to adapt. Dry tart dark tart cherries accompany a thick dusty mouth feel. As it opens up the mushrooms intensify. A little later a very subtle raw honeycomb lingers in the back. It is so faint you’d likely miss it. Cherries turn ripe and a buttery vanilla emerges. Finish slowly pulls back but remains dusty, gritty, earthy and still massive.

I love everything about this wine. It is unapologetic. Big, Bold, Beautiful.

Molto Bene! 🍷😁👌🏽

2013 Sangiovese (Hillside) by Vino Noceto

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Sangiovese (Hillside) by Vino Noceto, Plymouth, CA.

Intense ruby color. This is a Noceto after all. Out of the bottle, a slightly warm, damp nose full of sweet cherries, subtle leather and a hint of wet mineral. This dissipates but quickly returns with a swirl along with hints of licorice, sweet cherry cola and a chalky granite. What a treat.

Body greets with a pinch of acidity. This is quickly smothered by a smooth, silky ,velvety body not unlike the Riserva, maybe a touch lighter. One subtle but noticeable characteristic is a hint of bitter cola that permeates the background. This lingers long after the body has faded away. This has a slight mouth watering effect in the finish as it turns to subtle sweet cherries and a touch of spice.

I wanted a treat today and I got it. This Sangiovese is has really come along nicely. If you have any, I recommend opening it now. Everything is restrained, and gentle while retaining much of its character. A great wine from an understated winery and one of my favorite winemakers. Rusty and the entire crew at Vino Noceto, nicely done!

Molto bene!🍷😁👌🏽

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1885 Established (2013 Red Blend) by Three Wine Company

Tonight’s Occasion: 1885 Established (2013 Red Blend) by Three Wine Company, Contra Costa County.

Dark opaque color. Out of the bottle nose is slightly subdued but clearly intense with big, dark, tart plums, hints of slightly ripe, dark cherries a damp, old oak leather. Swirling vigorously unlocks bursts of red vines licorice and a certain cool crispness. Interesting. I think
This wine needs to be decanted for a while. It is still very tight.

The nose is completely misleading! Body is very smooth and balanced from front to back. Tart plums turn ripe providing a great marriage between measured acidity and gentle tannic structure. The oak and cherry fill and soften the mouth feel very nicely. In a vanishing act, the body quickly dissipates across the palate leaving behind a fine, dusty tannic grip and gentle but persistent warm spice heat midway down the chest.

This is a treat of a wine. The kind I would open with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time. It is by all accounts a big bold wine at 15.3% however the winemaker has actually pulled off this balancing act quite nicely. Well done Matt and the entire crew at Three Wine Company!

2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California.

Dark opaque color. Popping the cork releases a bouquet of dark berries and herbal essence. Eucalyptus and mint comes to mind. As it settles, a heavy tart plum is accompanied by a touch of sweet cherry. Secondary leathery granite terroir quickly makes its presence known. Swirl vigorously and unlock a burst of star anise unmistakable with this greater region. It is particularly reminiscent of a sweet Absinthe and lingers in the background. I love this. As you swirl, the nose turns sweeter.

Heavy, viscous, dark plum dominates the body. Firm acidity and bold tannin go hand in hand. Neither yielding to the other. Body is bone dry. Woody, berry, and earth notes combine to create a soft slightly creamy overtone. One of my favorite Snobs, Guy (@wine.alchemy | FootHillsWino) best describes it as Bacon Fat. Massive, deep rooted, fine grained tannins permeate the entire experience. Transition to finish is fairly seamless as tart plums cede to a relentless dry, dusty tannic grip. Black currants and a smoldering heat are all that is left to see your palate off on its journey to its long dry finish in the desert.

Skinner makes some of the best Syrah in my cellar. I keep several cases of various vintages as reference wines. They serve as fine examples of mature, well built, wines from the Sierra Foothills. I highly recommend Skinner for the intermediate to advanced palate especially. This 2013 is just now coming of age and should show especially well over the next 5 years and beyond.

Well done Skinner!

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2013 Pinot Noir (Shea Vineyard) by St. Innocent

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Pinot Noir (Shea Vineyard) by St. Innocent, Willamette Valley, Oregon.

Deep dark clear ruby color. Lovely floral bouquet with bright berries and a hint of caramel. Swirl vigorously to intensify the caramel. Terroir is more on the mineral side of the spectrum as it is typically the case with this region.

Body is more plum than berry. Mild acidity coupled with moderate spice make it a lively affair front to back. Transition to finish is seamless and capped by dry tannic grip and spicy tingle. A touch of minerality and black currant permeates the entire experience, giving it good crisp structure. As it opens up, it becomes increasingly evident that this wine, while very approachable, is still young, despite being a 7 year old vintage.

I’m not the least surprised. Shea Vineyard produces some coveted fruit. Only skilled winemakers get to make wine from such grapes. The last Pinot I had from these grapes was by Roger Roessler Wines. This is well made wine that certainly brings this winemaker to one’s attention. Nicely done!

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have St. Innocent wines delivered to your doorstep.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon by MV Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Reserve) by MV (Miller Vineyards), Fair Play, California.

Last year our search for Winemaker Of The Year took us on an unexpected journey. We toured various California wine country but none left a an indelible mark like the Sierra Foothills. We were on the road almost every weekend of the year and tasting several times a week. We encountered so many amazing winemakers toiling away at their life’s passion. About half a dozen emerged as hands down in the class of their own, not just on a local or California stage but on a world stage. MV Vineyards was perhaps the most notable in this respect.

Tonight we look at a Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a distillation of what a big California Cab is all about. A true artisan work of art by a craftsman with absolutely no compromise and every possible attention to detail. Batches are so small you will never find this masterpiece anywhere else but in the little cottage at the end of the road in Fair Play.

Dark inky color. Big, warm, intense nose with caramel and marshmallows which quickly dissipate once it opens up. Subtle plum, blackberries, bramble bush and wild herbs take center stage. Terroir is very restrained an leans on the mineral sandstone side of the spectrum.

Body is measured. Well balanced from front to back. A measured dose of blackberries and plum carry over while retaining its dry overall posture. Herbs and wild bush remain in the back while bold well structured fine grained tannins take over the transition to a firm but restrained finish, capped with a healthy dose of spice. Simply amazing!

You cannot speak of California Wines and not have immersed yourself in art like this. This is the frontier, the leading edge of what made California wines what they are today. You will never find a corporate mass production wine that comes even close to this. This, like the others we have reviewed on here are worth a trip to California and the Sierra Foothills. Well done Mr. & Mrs. Miller!

2013 Syrah (Les Cotes de L’ouest) by Terre Rouge

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Syrah (Les Cotes de L’ouest) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines, Plymouth, California.

Dark rich intense color. Nose is restrained with gentle notes of plum, dark berries and hint of sweet cherry. Terroir is tastefully expressed through subtle wet sandy leather. Once opened up, a hint of mushrooms emerges when swirled.

Body is balanced from front to back, attack to finish. Mild acidity opens up the palate which is quickly filled in with plums, dark cherries and the faintest hint of dried apricot all wrapped in massive, heavy tannin. A seamless transition to finish characterized by an ever tightening tannic grip resulting in parched lips sealed shut with a spicy tingle.

Terre Rouge is our 2019 Winemaker Of The Year. This is their flagship wine, intended to introduce the wider consumer audience to their exquisite small batch wines. It is a head scratcher of a wine because it stands head and shoulders above most reserve Syrah I’ve had. It presents an incredible value at a mind boggling price point. It embodies what a classic California Syrah is all about. I keep a case on hand as a baseline comparison whenever reviewing a Syrah and I can say many Syrah have fallen to this humble wine. Well done Bill, Jane and the entire Terre Rouge Easton Team! 🍷😁👌🏽

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Terre Rouge wines delivered to your doorstep.

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Reserve: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon by Sterling Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon by Sterling Vineyards, Calistoga, Napa Valley.

Dark rich color. Upon opening, I am hit with an intense bouquet of floral notes (lavender comes to mind) that quickly vanishes, giving way to intense plum, berry and mineral terroir. As it opens, a sweet cherry vanilla emerges then vanishes. I get the feeling this wine did not appreciate being disturbed this early in its journey. Body is big, heavy, dry, very spicy. None of the nose carries over other than the mineral terroir. Transition to finish is seamless as tannins turn slightly creamy just before infusing the palate with a lasting spicy grip. At 14.9% ABV, this is a big Napa Cab by all accounts. Despite this it still exhibits good balance.

This wine has a long road ahead, on its journey to its fullest expression. I probably won’t be opening anymore of this vintage for another 5 years or so. I look forward to seeing how it develops over time.

This is a well built wine.🍷😁👌🏽

Thanks to wine.com and their extensive library, you can now access most of the wines I review on here. You can use the link below to have Sterling wines delivered to your doorstep.

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