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 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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2019 Giocoso (Red Blend, Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra, Fiddletown, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Giocoso (Red Blend, Paso Robles) by Lusso Della Terra (Luxury of the Land), Fiddletown, Amador County CA

Equal parts Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Dark semi opaque color. Out of the bottle, thick nose with lots of black plum and ripe blackberry. Secondary notes of cola and crisp vanilla caramel. Tertiary notes of thin crisp anise and wet wood leather linger in the back.

Body is nicely balanced from front to back. A slightly silky, viscous body greets the palate. Unobtrusive tannins provide good structure and counterweight to crisp caramel and anise, both framing ripe plums. The more temperate climate of this region shines here as the fruit is well expressed while remaining fairly dry. Restrained acidity goes almost unnoticed. No one characteristic is off balance. The finish is characterized by subtle dry tannic grip ripe fruit, caramel. This big blend channels the Paso Robles region and its characteristic restraint quite nicely while also remaining very approachable for a broad spectrum of palate.

I caught up with Edward, owner, winemaker and Assistant Winemaker Clare, earlier this winter and had a unique opportunity to explore an eye watering lineup of their creations. He recently relocated his operations and established his estate in Fiddletown, just outside Plymouth CA. I very much look forward to following his interpretation of the terroir out here in the Sierra Foothills. Welcome to the foothills Edward and Lusso Della Terra!

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Harold’s Reserve (Red Blend) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: Harold’s Reserve (66% Syrah, 33% Zinfandel) by TKC Vineyards, Plymouth, CA

Dark opaque color. Crisp intense nose with lots of dry plum and blackberry. Swirling unlocks a burst of sweet dark cherries, red vines licorice and a hint of soft oak vanilla. A touch of dry dusty granite lingers in the distant background. Good sense of place.

A bright, fresh, crisp attack greets the palate. Moderate acidity creates good tension up front. This is quickly followed by thin, crisp and firm tannins, which add great structure. A crisp oak vanilla adds more dimension to a very structured body, further enhancing dry fruit expression. Body quickly dissipates, leaving behind tart blackberries, bitter cola and a slightly dusty dry tannic grip. A gentle spice punctuates the whole experience.

This very small boutique winemaker has been making little gems for over 40 years. Not far off Shenandoah road in Plymouth, Amador, you’ve likely driven by many times and missed it. This past weekend I was only tickled to stumble upon it and even better, Karina the winemaker was pouring our tasting just outside the cellar. I liked every one of her wines. They were all well built, balanced, and fairly dry, especially for this region. She has a very mature style. Have you tried TKC wines yet? What’s your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.

2011 Syrah (Monarch Mine) by Terre Rouge Easton Wines

Tonight’s Occasion: 2011 Syrah (Monarch Mine Vineyard, Sierra Foothills) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines, Plymouth CA

Dark semi opaque color. Looks unfiltered. Out of the bottle nose is warm and weighted. This wine is all terroir up front. Reminds me of Beaujolais Gamay or Loire Cab Franc in its expression. Big leather up front with unmistakable wet wood and dusty granite. This wine asserts its origins with a keen sense of place. Within minutes it’s full identity reveals itself in the form of a rich, creamy anise. An unmistakable hallmark expression of the Sierra Foothills. Just beautiful. As it settles, ripe dark cherries, sweet berries and plum reveal themselves with hints of herbs I can’t pinpoint, a sort of eucalyptus.

There is no attack. You are greeted by a long, wide and fairly deep body from start to finish. Dry dusty tannins provide a thick chassis upon which a well integrated melange of leathery notes, dark plum, blackberries and hints of mushroom slowly play. As it finally transitions to finish, the stage clears, leaving black currants and anise and warm gentle spice. The palate is rendered slightly dry and tingling with spice and the chest warms.

There are many reasons why Terre Rouge * Easton was our first inaugural Winemaker of the Year for 2019. This bottle reminds me of all of them. A fine example of what is possible in this region, California and the world at large with a relentless commitment to the art form and excellence. I am just tickled every time I open one of these wines.

Nicely done Bill, Jane and the entire crew at Terre Rouge Easton Wines!

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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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2019 Touriga by Amador Cellars

Tonight’s occasion: 2019 Touriga by Amador Cellars, Plymouth California.

Very aromatic, floral nose as soon as you open the bottle. Wow. Reminds me of spring blossoms, wild tropical flowers, passion fruit, a touch of jasmine and honeysuckle. Is this really Touriga? Wow. Closer inspection reveals ripe berries, sweet cherries, wet granite leather and touch of licorice. As it opens up it reveals subtle notes of baker’s cocoa. I can pick up the nose from two feet away on the patio outside. What an entrancing bouquet.

Body is light, plush, soft, and chock-full of subtle layers. My goodness. I have never seen a take on Touriga like this. Crisp caramel lingers in the back, thin whispy tannins provide an ever shifting structure. Transition to finish is seamless as the whole set shifts and fades. Various notes from the nose carry through, constantly rotating over the palate.

I remember Michael the winemaker telling me this was a not the typical Touriga. It was made to be enjoyed now, even chilled. Touriga is such a massive varietal, it’s shocking to see it in this form. I have never seen a Touriga (or a red for that matter) done like this. Very creative. This is a conversation piece. I need to get more for my cellar!

Nicely done Mike and the entire crew at Amador Cellars! Wow!

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2016 Resolute by Iron Hub, Amador County, California

Tonight’s occasion: 2016 Resolute (Aglianico) by Iron Hub Wines, Amador County, California.

This region may be known for its Zinfandel, Barbera and others, but I must say, the way Aglianico expresses itself here is more than noteworthy. This Winemaker’s take on the varietal does not disappoint.

Dark rich color. Nose is slightly shy, with intense dark plums and dark cherries. The slightly mineral granite leather typical of this region is unmistakable. Distant notes of berries and a crisp herbal expression linger in the back, reminiscent of minty, eucalyptus freshness.

Body is nicely balanced and greets you with a thick, viscous, slightly weighted, spicy, mouth feel. Reastained acidity makes a delayed appearance while bold crisp tannins provide solid structure. Transition to finish is seamless and characterized by a slightly sweet berry expression, spice heat and enduring tannic grip.

The Resolute is a gorgeous wine. Just like the 2015, this vintage evokes the same sentiments. I love it! I added this wine to the cellar and very much look forward to following its progression.

Nicely done Tom and Beth!

2017 Montagñaro by Bella Grace Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Montagñaro by Bella Grace Vineyards (@bgvineyards
), Amador County, California.

This Winemaker is known for many of her amazing wines, most notable of which is her Barbera. However this modest red blend really piqued my interest during my visit. What may come across as an afterthought and value proposition, turns out to be a lovely, layered, pleaser of a wine.

Nose is initially a little shy but quickly reveals plum, vanilla, sweet cherries, and licorice on a granite undertone typical of this region. This is the beauty of a blend. I bought a case, and this is the last bottle. It went quick!

Nicely balanced, medium body greets with vanilla. Dark cherries add moderate tannins, introducing good structure. Sandy, granite mineral leather moves forward, bringing great dimension. Finish turns slightly buttery, revealing hints of pomegranate and spice.

I love this wine! It makes me smile. I love how understated it is. When a great winemaker has a little fun, and blends already great wines, this is what you get – a hidden gem. Do yourself a favor and buy it by the case. Thank me later.

Nicely done Michael and the Bella Grace team!