2018 Pinot Noir by Mac Forbes, Yarra Valley, Australia

2018 Pinot Noir by Mac Forbes, Yarra Valley, Australia

Leathery nose greets with a good dose of loamy sedimentary and mineral dirt. Reminds me of that signature Loire Valley terroir. Once you get past this terroir driven nose, a subtle but bright cherry cola emerges. Hints of sweet citrus linger in the back. Swirling vigorously intensifies the leather and red berries. As it opens up, red vines licorice and mineral slate. I like it already.

Body is all business. A subtle zest greets the palate. Bone dry. Subtle hints of oak vanilla provide a counter note while enhancing the cranberry and under-ripe cherry expression. Mouth feel is thin, silky, almost wispy. It’s mineral underpinning reveals itself as a bitter cola as it transitions to a dry finish characterized by thin, crisp tannic grip, lemon/lime zest and white pepper.

This is a proper Pinot Noir. A highly terroir driven wine with a mature execution. I recommend for Pinot lovers with an advanced palate. At 11% ABV you can sit back and enjoy every nuance over and over with little to no palate fatigue. It is light enough, it can easily be enjoyed chilled.

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2018 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra

2018 Zinfandel (Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, Amador County, CA

Intense clear ruby color. Out of the bottle nose is restrained, especially for a Zinfandel with notes of straw, slightly ripe berries. That signature raisin is barely noticeable, almost nonexistent. Swirling vigorously adds ripe dark cherries, pinewood sawdust and honey beeswax. These all conspire to create a subtle anise essence. Rich. This is not your typical zinfandel.

Body is nicely balanced, greeting with a subtle acidity that lends good tension up front. This is followed immediately by a thin lightweight, dry body of blackberries and dark cherry skins. Tannins are crisp, heavily restrained and fully integrated into the body. A crisp, unobtrusive oak caramel softens this otherwise crisp, sharp body. Hints of stone fruit (especially dried apricots) linger in the distant background. Mouth feel is light, dry, smooth, especially for a Zinfandel. Midway a warm spice heat emerges and eventually dominates the entire palate. Ahhh yes, you can only tame Zinfandel so much. The palate is left fairly neutral in short order with little more than a warm spice heat from front to back and down deep into the chest.

This is a highly understated Zinfandel. It has really benefited from the more gentle climate of this region. The winemaker has done a great job of creating a very mature, classy interpretation of this varietal. In the right hands, Zinfandel can be so much more of a sophisticated wine. Nicely done Ed!

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2018 19 Block Mountain Cuvée by The Hess Collection, Napa Valley

2018 19 Block Mountain Cuvée, The Hess Collection, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley

Slightly ripe plums and dark cherries over a backdrop of sawdust and subtle pinewood. Swirling vigorously intensifies these notes, adding hints of black licorice. Overall the nose is fairly restrained. As it breathes, a soft butterscotch emerges along with a subtle eucalyptus both so faint you’d likely miss them.

Body greets with a subtle tension in the form of slightly unde-ripe blackberries. This is quickly taken over by herbal freshness which is in turn overlaid with a noticeable oak (reminiscent of new oak). It’s not off balance but fairly prominent. This compensates well for its relative dryness while accentuating the fruit. Tannins are fully integrated into the body, and slowly precipitate layer by layer eventually coating the entire palate with an almost waxy dry lingering grip. A gentle of spice tingle caps the finish.

This is a medium bodied Cuvée with a desirable composition that should appeal to a broad spectrum of palate while still remaining enjoyable if not interesting to the more discerning snob. It has more of a new world modern style and execution. A well made, quality wine.

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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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2018 Mourvedre by William Chris Vineyards, Texas

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Mourvedre (Texas High Plains) by William Chris Vineyards, Hye, Texas Hill Country.

Slightly opaque color. Unfiltered. Out of the bottle bright ripe dark cherries and plum fill the air along with dusty dirt terroir. There’s a bit of a rocky somewhat granitic essence. Not sure if this is a play between dirt and fruit. It is quite pleasant, resulting in hints of red vines licorice. Swirling vigorously intensifies the nose very nicely. As it breathes, faint grassy notes along with cola emerge in the back.

The body is ushered in by a slightly acidic attack, immediately drawing good tension across the palate. A slightly silky body follows immediately. It is. Light if not somewhat restrained compared to most Mourvedre which tend to be on the big, heavy monolithic end of the spectrum. A good dose of oak complements and further accentuates the bright fruit in this otherwise fairly dry wine. A grassy old wood leather moves forward midway through. As the body fades it gives way to a bitter cola which lingers well past the finish. Tannins are fully integrated in the form of a fine dusty suspension that does not precipitate, slowly coating and rendering the lips parched. A touch of spice warmth punctuates the experience. Pairing with salami (cured meats) and tart cheeses really highlights the fruit and vanilla. Fun!

Mourvedre is a terroir driven varietal and this one is faithful. It feels raw, oddly familiar but at the same time different. Rich fruit notes, prominent terroir, light, tight if not firm. This winemaker offers a great glimpse into how this varietal expressed in this region. I now remember why this one stood out of their eye watering lineup of amazing wines. Nicely done Chris!

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2018 Farmhouse Red by Amador Cellars, Plymouth CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Farmhouse Red by Amador Cellars , Plymouth CA

Almost opaque color. Out of the bottle, slightly under-ripe dark plum, star anise (very typical of this region), prominent berries (it is 43%Zin after all). In the back a subtle granite. The notes conspire to create a bubble-gum essence. Subtle floral notes of sweet rose petals, easily overshadowed by the star anise.

Balanced body is balanced, slightly restrained. Ripe dark plum up front quickly turns to fine dissolved and fully integrated tannins that stay suspended. A hint of oak vanilla accentuates the fruit in an otherwise fairly dry wine. The discerning palate would appreciate this. A smooth mouth feel gives way to an unceremonious finish leaving the lips slightly moist with a touch dusty tannic grit.

No secret here. I love this Winemaker’s work. Truly a family affair. This winery is family owned and operated. While Mike may have many more prized vintages under his belt, it’s always nice to take a look at his interpretation of the porch pounder and every day sipper. I love what he’s done here. It shows his versatility as a winemaker. If you read between the lines, you’ll find this is the type of wine that introduces the beginner palate to what great wines are all about. I believe among many-a-purpose, wine should also serve as an opportunity for enlightenment and education. This wine does just that.

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2018 Pinot Noir by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, Amador, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Adelaida District, San Luis Obispo) by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, Amador, CA

Ruby red color. Light bright cherry cola. Subtle damp earth. Swirling unlocks hints of red vines licorice and eucalyptus. I like it.

Body greets immediately with lots of bright fruit. Raspberries, cherries and red berries. A subtle oak further accentuates the fruit expression, and softens the body further, resulting in a soft, smooth mouth feel. Hints of banana peel emerge towards the back so faint you’d likely miss it. This marks the transition to finish as a warm spice heat emerges then intensifies through the finish. A gentle crisp tannic grip slowly tugs at the palate, alternating between wet and dry and the spice warmth creeps further down the chest.

I met up with a owner winemaker Edward not long ago. It was a rainy winter afternoon and I got to taste their eye watering lineup with Ed and assistant winemaker Clare. I like that they are up to and think they’re a great addition to the Fiddletown area. The line of bubbles deserves its own segment. It’s incredible. Great wines with a vibrant modern vibe and broad appeal. Definitely a must if you’re in the area. I’m looking forward to seeing what Ed and Clare do with the coming harvests! Nicely done Ed, Clare.

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2018 Meritage by Oakstone Winery, Fair Play, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Meritage by Oakstone Winery, Fair Play, CA

Rich intense ruby color. Out of the bottle nose is a bit shy with notes of ripe dark plums, damp wood leather and a honey beeswax essence. Swirling unlocks subtle cranberry, ripe dark cherries and a touch of granite. It is clean, crisp and fairly restrained. As it opens up, granite rock turns to a fine dust. Hours later, it develops a noticeable star anise, a note characteristic of this region. Great sense of place.

Body is balanced right down the middle, front to back. Crisp dark plum and cherry skins greet the palate immediately, hand in hand with just enough acidity to pull the stage slightly taught. It is fairly dry, despite its ripe nose. This is a faithful characteristic of this region. Dusty suspended tannins precipitate a firm crisp structure towards the middle. A subtle banana peel essence lingers along, Iikely a play between the mineral and wood notes. This act eventually dissipates leaving behind an ever tightening, dusty tannic grip eventually cementing a finish of subtle bitterness upon the palate.

I see why I picked out this wine during my visit to the winery. It is fairly mature for its age, well executed if not classy with a touch of flair. It may be showing well right now however I can’t help but wonder what it would look like another decade from now. The intense fruit expression typical of this region is channeled very nicely and with a little more integration it should make for a beautiful wine. Nicely done folks!

2018 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by E16 Winery, Fair Play, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Doctor’s Vineyard – Santa Lucia Highlands) by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

Clear ruby color. As soon as you uncork it, the space fills up with bright ripe red berries. Rich. Bright raspberries, cranberries drape over a soft dusty suede leather. Swirling intensifies the berries, adding a subtle pomegranate and a fine rock dust. This wine has a strong sense of place. It carries all the hallmarks of Santa Lucia Highlands. Indulging in Artisan Pinot from this region is distinct pleasure.

A silky, slightly weighted viscous body immediately drapes over the palate. Firm acidity reaches across the palate, drawing a firm tension. It’s an interesting sensation. This reinforcing an otherwise subtle, unobtrusive, thin, barely noticeable tannic structure. A refined caramel further elevates the fruit in an otherwise fairly dry body, creating a rich, opulent mouth feel. Midway through, a prominent spice emerges and remains through the finish and down into the chest. Body slowly fades leaving behind harm, slightly parched lips.

In a region dominated by Rhone and other big varietals, E16 is a an oasis for the Pinot lover in me. Pouring Pinot Noir from up an down the pacific coast, it’s a great change of pace for anyone looking to switch gears or simply take a walk on the subtler side. This is a well built wine with great sense of place. It’s really refreshing to enjoy and taste Artisan Pinot Noir from the central coast without having make the long trip down. Robert and the crew at E16 are onto something here. Nicely done! Cheers my friend.

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2018 Tempranillo by Bumgarner Winery, El Dorado, CA

I am pleased to present you with the 2021 Winemaker of The Year – Bumgarner Winery, Fair Play, El Dorado, CA. There’s a WineSnob TV segment coming but for now we look at one of their current releases.

2018 Tempranillo by Bumgarner Winery, El Dorado, CA.

Dark semi-opaque color. Big black plum and blackberries on the nose. A touch of buttery vanilla and anise lingers in the back. Great sense of place. Swirling vigorously intensifies the star anise, old wet wood and dusty granite leather. As it breathes a subtle ripeness develops in the background likely due to oxidation/caramelizing of those big tannins.

Body greets with a slightly acidic attack, introducing good firm tension to the palate. This is quickly countered by tart dry black plums, blackberries and a crisp caramel, immediately lending firm structure and full mouth feel. A slow burning spice heat works its way through all corners of the palate and down to the chest. Dusty, fine grained tannins precipitate, further anchoring the palate and asserting this wine’s character. Subtle, crisp caramel re-emerges momentarily signaling curtain call. Transition to finish is swift, leaving the palate bone dry, lips parched shut, tingling.

This a massive wine that shows some restraint. Good balance and execution renders it approachable to a broad spectrum of palate. However the finish give its youth away. This wine, while beautiful now, is just barely getting started. Another decade should reveal the true gem within. Get yours now but don’t drink it all. Lay the rest down and forget about it. You’ll thank me later. Nicely done Brian, Jennifer and the entire Bumgarner family!

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