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.

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!

Read more about Bumgarner Wines on WineSnob

2018 Zinfandel by Caddis Wines, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Zinfandel by Caddis Wine, Sonoma Valley, CA

Purple, semi opaque color. Out of the bottle a firm, tart, black plum greets the nose. As it breathes, this turns slightly ripe. Slightly ripe dark cherries and boysenberry emerge atop a soft faint butterscotch underlayment. This progression continues, ripening, slowly adding sweeter notes until it finally reveals both its identity, Zinfandel and sense of place, Sonoma in the form of a raisin and loamy, earthy leather both so faint you’d likely miss them.

Smooth buttery tannins smother the palate in the form of crisp plum and berry skins accompanied by crisp caramel. These conspire to create a soft, slightly viscous mouth feel. Interestingly, it’s acidity that usually greets the palate first but the opposite is true here. Midway through, a slightly dry tartness re-balances the body. A gentle spice heat emerges, intensifying as it transitions to finish. The palate is rendered dry, with a gentle tannic grit and plums and berries fully ripen. At this stage the spice heat has made it farther down, warming the chest.

This is a clean, classy execution for a Zinfandel. A varietal better known for its brute, brash, and often off-balance expression, this winemaker has made a handsome, gentleman’s wine of it. If you are in the Sonoma area, I highly recommend stopping by the understated tasting room and taking a look at Chris’ work. You will be pleasantly surprised at the quality of his wines and tickled by just how artisan and limited (79 cases) his wines are. Truly special. Nicely done Chris!

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2018 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) by Amrita Cellars

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley) by Amrita Cellars, Santa Rosa, CA

Out of the bottle this is clearly Russian River Pinot Noir. With primary soft notes of ripe red cherries and a wet leather of fine sedimentary soil this wine shows good sense of place. That Sonoma dirt/terroir shines through. Russian River gives it more of a fine silt twist as opposed to damp forest floor typical of say the Sonoma Coast. Bright berries and a hint of fresh herbal essence so subtle you’d likely miss it. Swirling vigorously only intensifies this subtle nose slightly, adding more cherry cola. I like it!

Body is nicely balanced from front to back, greeting with a touch of dry citrus, hints of cherries, and raspberry. Soft unobtrusive tannins quickly fill in the body, adding depth while a fain crisp oak creates a slightly plush, creamy mouth feel. Midway through, a gentle bitter cola emerges, ushering in the transition to finish. As the body fades, a mushroom leather makes a brief appearance. Ahhh Sonoma! As the show concludes, fruit notes take turn bowing out while the palate slowly drifts between moist and grippy dryness. A faint spice tingle remains and linger briefly.

This wine checks all the hallmarks of a classic Pinot Noir. It is a a clean, faithful and nuanced look at this region and this varietal. This is pretty far off the beaten path and about as artisan as it gets. I met the unassuming owner/winemaker Sunny last month at an industry function organized by our friends over at Sheldon Wine and Spirits (@sheldonwineandspirits). This is what I love about venturing off the beaten path. There seems to be a surprise in store at every turn. We truly are living in a golden age of winemaking. Great work Sunny. I look forward to many more vintages from you.

Read more Amrita Cellars on WineSnob.

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.

2018 Pinot Noir (Twin Hills) by Reichwage Winery, Sonoma Coast

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (Twin Hills) by Reichwage Winery, Sebastopol CA.

Clear ruby color. Slightly shy nose greets with a flutter of red cherries, raspberries and subtle cola. As it breathes a damp, driftwood emerges in the background. Swirling intensifies the nose ever so slightly. Cherries turn slightly sweet with the emergence of caramel notes. Ahhhhh that quintessential Sonoma Dirt makes an appearance along with a touch of red vines licorice.

Body is light, bright. In line with the nose, greets with a slightly crisp attack which quickly hands off to a slightly viscous body of crisp caramel, damp wood leather and bitter cola. Great soft mouth feel. Thin but firm tannins provides crisp structure from front to back. Body is bone dry. Fruit carries forward in mere suggestions of raspberry. Hints of mushroom linger in the back, so faint you’d likely miss it. After a long expression, body quickly vanishes, leaving a dry palate with cola, mushroom leather, crisp lingering tannic grip an mild spice warmth.

Everything is a mere suggestion. This wine is very subtle and nuanced in its expression. It was made in the vineyard and obsessed over in the cellar. Pinot Noir doesn’t lie. It is unforgiving. In a sense a rite of passage for a winemaker. This one is squarely for the advanced palate. More traditional Burgundian style while preserving its sense of place. It reads like an exercise in core principles. What a great, well made wine! Just beautiful…

Explore more of Max Reichwage’s wines here.

2018 Pinot Noir (O’Brien) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon

Tonight’s Occasion: 2018 Pinot Noir (O’Brien, Eola-Amity Hills) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon

Intense ruby color. Slightly restrained nose with crisp, slightly sweet cherries, raspberries, and a touch of pomegranate. There’s a certain faint bitter essence in the distant background. This is typical of the region and its terroir at large. I love it when a wine shows good sense of place. In this case a subtle mineral leather. Swirling vigorously adds a little more raspberry and leather. Classic.

Slightly crisp greeting on the body with cherries and refined caramel reminiscent of neutral oak. A very mild sweet citrus adds great mouth feel not unlike Meyer Lemon. Crisp tannins provide unobtrusive structure. This slowly morphs into a mild spice heat as it transitions to finish. A prickly spice tingle takes over the lips as raspberries, cherries and cola quietly debate who exists the stage last.

I love what these folks are doing with their wines. Their tastings are more of an education on the region and it’s wines. Execution is clean, crisp and highly terroir driven. I have a soft spot for Pinot from this region and Willamette Valley Vineyards channels that very nicely in all their wines.

Read more Willamette Valley Vineyards on WineSnob.

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