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.

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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2017 Chardonnay by Pali Wine Co

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Chardonnay (Charm Acres – Sonoma) by Pali Wine Co. Lompoc, CA

Another quick look today at a nice little Chardonnay. Sometimes simple done right is all you need. Clean, crisp, shy nose, good fruit, and a touch of that iconic earthy Sonoma leather. Great slightly weighty, slightly creamy body. Restrained acidity, zesty finish. Unpretentious. Not abstract nor extreme. Modest doses of complementary characteristics. Good balance. Serve this one super chilled. A great go-to Chardonnay by a team known for some really great wines! Nicely done folks!

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2017 Carignane by Reichwage Winery, Russian River Valley

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Carignane (Mancini Ranch – Russian River Valley) by Reichwage Winery, Sebastopol CA.

Soft gentle nose with ripe cherries and raspberries up front. A sweet floral nectar like essence permeates the nose. A wet wood leather undertone. Very nice, if not luxurious.

Nose can be a bit misleading. Body is bone dry. Greeting with firm, slightly acidic attack. This has the effect of stretching and opening up the palate, bringing good tension. This quickly gives way to red berries and cherries, albeit restrained, light and crisp. An unobtrusive wood further softens the expression, giving it a somewhat plush, luxurious mouth feel. Thin, crisp, firm but unobtrusive tannins quickly precipitate upon the stage, holding firm across the entire experience. Hints of cola, and citrus lemon linger about as the stage fades away leaving my lips dry, edges tingling ever so subtly with white pepper.

We continue exploring this Winemaker’s work. What caught me from the beginning was the level of finish his wines show. This one is no exception. A lighter bodied Carignane. Subtle, nuanced, perhaps a Pinot lover’s interpretation. I like it! Nicely done Max!

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2017 Tempranillo Reserve by Polynesian Girl, Sierra Foothills, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Tempranillo Reserve by Polynesian Girl, Sierra Foothills, California

Ripe plums. Right out of the bottle, a prominent red vines licorice. A very subtle dusty, decomposed granite and wet wood linger in the back. A restrained sense of place. A subtle buttery oak and cedarwood complements very nicely. An very faint herbal note I can’t quite pinpoint lingers.

The nose can be deceiving. Body greets with a big (albeit restrained), weighted, fine grained dusty, highly integrated, tannic mix . It is very dry. Measured oak helps soften and mask this wine’s massive stance. Dry dark plum dominates the expression. A subtle citrus emerges midway and lingers up to the finish As it opens up and the fine grained tannins precipitate, the palate is rendered dry and under an ever intensifying grip. A gentle warmth lingers down the chest.

This is a beautiful execution of a Tempranillo from this region. It has a great sense of place. A massive wine, with with a gentle disposition and fidelity. I thoroughly enjoyed her Tempranillo but I must say I am enjoying this Reserve even more. It is very rich and really embodies everything I love about this region and the artisan winemaker. Nicely done Tatiana.

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2017 Benchmark Tuscan Blend by Umbriaso, San Francisco, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Benchmark Tuscan Blend (Sonoma) by Umbriaso, San Francisco, California

Deep dark (but clear) burgundy color. Out of the bottle this wine is recognizable with great sense of place – Sonoma. Subtle earth notes of damp woody forest floor and cherry cola. Not as pronounced as in more terroir driven varietals from this region such as Pinot Noir but unmistakable. I love this kind of fidelity. Crisp slightly ripe dark plum skins of the Syrah and a sweet citrus from the Sangiovese play second fiddle. Swirling unlocks hints of red vines licorice. A nice crisp, clean, beautiful aromatic nose.

Body is balanced from front to back. Fairly dry with great fruit characteristics. A slightly weighted mouth feel greets the palate immediately. Restrained plum and mild citrus acidity part immediately. One precipitating into thin crisp unobtrusive tannic structure, the other transitioning to light bright berries. The later quickly dissipates leaving behind a subtle cola as the tannic structure grows in intensity. This marks the transition to a finish dominated by a dry, fine grit tannic grip and the faintest hint of spice. Not a single trace of the body remains. Just my lips parched shut.

This wine shows great execution. Clean, crisp, delineated with a great sense of place. You don’t have to look very far to find a hidden gem. Mr Hayes has been pouring his art on Treasure Island for a while now. There’s a little Winemakers’ Co-operative out there I highly recommend you visit. It’s called Treasure Island Wines. On any given day you can find an Artisan quietly pouring wines crafted with an obsessive attention to detail. This my friends, is what wine really is about.

2017 GSM by Robert Oatley, McLaren Vale, Australia

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 GSM (40% Grenache, 33% Syrah, 27% Mourvedre) by Robert Oatley, McLaren Vale, Australia.

Clear, bright Ruby color. Out of the bottle a nose full of terroir notes. A damp earthy turf dominates. Secondary notes of sweet cherries and ripe raspberries. A soft sweet woody essence lingers in the background. I’m not surprised by this expression. This region is known for other terroir driven/expressive varietals such as Pinot Noir, a blend of three highly terroir expressive varietals should shine like this.

Body is creamy, slightly viscous and weighted. Skipping introductions and greeting the palate with a gentle urgency and mid body expression. The whole package up front. The leather translates beautifully into the body and dominates. I don’t see this often. You typically smell the leather, but in this case you taste it. I really like this but I also realize some folks don’t care much for it. If you love a Chinon, Beaujolais or a faithful Cab Franc from Loire Valley, you will enjoy this GSM. Body quickly evaporates over the palate leaving behind faint hints of berries and whisps of refined caramel and spice so faint you’d likely miss it. A thin tannic structure remains along with subtle bitter cola. The lips swing between moist and dry until final settling on gentle dryness.

I have thoroughly enjoyed every wine I’ve had from McLaren Vale. This Winemaker’s wines are no exception. They are faithful, terroir driven. Clean crisp execution. They present a great opportunity for a look at this region for those of us on the other side of the Pacific Ocean and for that I am grateful. Great work Mates!

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2017 Vertice (Carmenere/Syrah) by Ventisquero, Colchagua Valley, Chile

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!

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You can access Ventisquero wines directly from the Ventiquero Wine Club website as well as on wine.com, both linked below.

https://ventisquerowineclub.com

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2017 Mariner (Meritage / Bordeaux Blend) by Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Mariner (Meritage / Bordeaux Blend) by Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County CA

Dark opaque color. Nose is thick, slight intensity. Dark plums, blackberries, none too ripe, non too tart. A pleasant woody leather lingers in the background, along with a very subtle bee’s wax. Swirling vigorously adds a touch of cola to the mix as well as a ripeness to the berries.

Body greets with a touch of acidity. This has the effect of drawing a very gentle tension across the palate. Thin, firm, dry, chiseled tannins add clean, crisp structure while a refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak gently cloaks an otherwise fairy dry body while softening the mouth feel. This quickly evaporates leaving behind a firm dry tannic underlayment, bitter cola, and a smattering of spice as the palate slowly drifts between moist and dry grip.

Very interesting. When I think Bordeaux Blend from this region I immediately expect big peppery, jammy tannin bomb. However this wine is anything but that. Very clean, crisp well executed. It feels like a fair amount of care, thought and consideration went into it. It is subtly unique in its expression. I think this winemaker has made a great Meritage in the Mariner. Nicely done folks!

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2017 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Amrita Cellars

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast) by Amrita Cellars, Santa Rosa, CA

Nose is very shy. Every note is little more than a whisper. Crisp raspberry, bright red berries overlay a subtle wet woody grassy turf. Red vines licorice eventually emerge as it breathes.

Body is balanced from front to back. Greeting with a very soft, silky mouth feel. Berries carry over albeit very restrained. Subtle citrus and cola like linger. Faint shadows of structure precipitate as the body fades into clouds and whiffs of the different notes. This show continues, slowly diminishing until there’s very little left on the palate but faint dusty grit and candle flames worth of warmth on winter night.

This is an very nice take on the classic Burgundian style of Pinot. It is very subtle. The average palate would likely find this too abstract and nuanced. However for the intermediate to advanced palate, it should prompt focus and quiet appreciation. I can also see this showing well as a chillable red. I think it’s impressive that such a small artisan wine can show such nuance and subtlety. Nicely done Sunny!

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WineSnob Discount

Sunny, owner/winemaker would like to invite you to taste his small batch production artisan wines. I think you should too, especially if you enjoy California Pinot Noir. You can order yours via their website Amrita Cellars (amritacellars.com) and use Promo/Discount Code WS2022 to get 10% off your order. A great opportunity to support a small artisan winemaker and explore another hidden gem off the beaten path. Be sure you share your thoughts and tasting notes with me.