2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley

2010 Cabernet Sauvignon by Mayacamas, Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, CA

Deep dark ruby color. Nose is shy. Greets with dark plum, old sawdust, and a touch of beeswax. Swirling vigorously adds a slight rocky essence, hints of licorice, shortbread and flutter of minty, herbal freshness toward the back.

Up front, thin, slightly under-ripe dark plum. This is quickly followed by restrained currant, black licorice and a noticeable old, woody leather. Acidity is fairly unobtrusive and could be easily overlooked but for the precise amount of tension it lends to this understated body. Crisp, clean and fully integrated tannins roll off the palate in short order, transitioning to black currants and subtle bitter cola towards the back. Transition to finish is seamless leaving the palate slightly parched with a gentle spice tingle. The cola and currants develop a subtle sweet dimension as the palate resets. As it opens up, a firm tannic grip develops over the entire palate as some of tannins caramelize to add a slight sweet aftertaste. This wine is very much reminiscent of a classic old world style Bordeaux. I can’t help but wonder how amazing a Meritage/Bordeaux blend from Mayacamas would be.

This is a mature, dry, old world look at Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, California and the World at large. I highly recommend it for the advanced palate. If you want to get an appreciation for the kind of wines that put Napa on the world stage decades ago, Mayacamas is a great place to start. Their program has gone largely unchanged over several generations of custodians. Their work provides a great reference point and study for the enlightened and curious palate.

I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the estate for a private tasting last fall and the experience exceeded all expectations. For many years I have come assume there were little left in the Napa region in the form of true, single estate, artisan winemakers with small batch production wines. It’s an expensive proposition these days, especially for a highly sought-after region as Napa. This is why I was even more excited to realize that this small team of custodians (as they refer to themselves) are passionately preserving and continuing the legacy of this storied region with absolutely no room for compromise. This alone is reason enough to explore their wines.

No big, spicy, jammy, fruit bombs here. No overbearing manipulation, additives, or blending down [with Lodi grapes]. It’s simply wine from a vineyard in Napa, made the same way it always has been for generations, clean crisp, true… and there is a lot to said about that these days. It’s so refreshing for a WineSnob!

Explore more Mayacamas on WineSnob.

Wine.com affiliate links are provided for your convenience. WineSnob.blog may receive a commission when you use the affiliate link below. See Affiliate Disclosure page for more info.

Shop Mayacamas wines on Wine.com

2019 Pinot Noir by Morgan, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

2019 Pinot Noir by Morgan Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

Bright, clear, ruby color. Shy nose, greets with wet hay, subtle raspberry, cherry and sweet cranberry. Swirling unlocks red vine licorice, honey nectar, and a sweet citrus afternote reminiscent of Meyer lemon. All mere suggestions at their most intense. Sophisticated.

Body greets with a gentle, soft, weighted, zesty, viscous composure. Once the palate adjusts, a soft, bitter, licorice, wet wood, cranberry, and slightly under-ripe raspberry dominate the expression. The overall expression is familiar yet different. This is clearly Santa Lucia Highlands, one of my favorite regions for Pinot Noir. A crisp, refined oak caramel vanilla rounds out the body without distracting the palate and rendering the mouth feel more plush and luxurious. This whole act quietly vanishes leaving the palate slightly dry and moist, completely neutral. Impressive. That’s a first.

This iconic region and its fairly neutral terroir among other key factors make it the perfect place for growing and making rich, nuanced, exquisite Pinot Noir with a unique expression of its fruit characteristics. In this way, this wine showcases this iconic region so well. By blending so many clones it becomes a true celebration of SLH and Pinot Noir. What a great representation. Nicely done!

Explore more Morgan Winery on WineSnob.

Wine.com affiliate links are provided for your convenience. WineSnob.blog may receive a commission when you use the affiliate link below. See Affiliate Disclosure page for more info.

Shop Morgan wines on Wine.com

2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel by the Sea, California

2019 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel by the Sea, California

Rose gold color. Aromatic nose greets with strawberry, white cranberries, wet wood and a hint of honey. Swirling intensifies the nose, adding a bit of cantaloupe and dusty earthy essence. This is Pinot Noir!

Body greets with a punch of citrus lemon, under-ripe strawberry and a faint, crisp caramel. This creates a slightly viscous, weighted mouth feel. Hints of white pepper pop up randomly as the body fades, leaving behind a dry grippy lemon zest, touch of minerality and a tingle of spice.

I keep thinking Bougie Rosé 🤣🤦🏽‍♂️. This wine is proof that Rosé is best when made from Pinot Noir. Clean, crisp, light and refreshing.

Explore more Dawn’s Dream wines on WineSnob.

2021 Nebbiolo (Clarksburg) by Haarmeyer, West Sacramento, CA

2021 Nebbiolo (Clarksburg) by Haarmeyer, West Sacramento, CA

Think you’ve seen all Nebbiolo can be? Think again!

Light clear, transparent almost iridescent color. Bright crisp nose with subtle citrus and sweet cola. Swirling unlocks a gentle sedimentary earth leather and intensifies the cola, adding a little zest.

Slight Citrus and lemon zest up front on the body. This is quickly followed by subtle bitter cola, mineral and sedimentary leather. A touch oak lends a crisp refined caramel that further accentuates the fruit with hints of raspberry, red cherries and strawberry. Beneath all this lies a bone dry wine. This all quickly vanishes across the palate leaving behind parched lips and a touch of spice. Most certainly a chillable red.

Nothing ventured nothing gained. The wine world seems to have no shortage of folks who insist on having found, seen, tasted or learned all there is to know about wine. To all, I suggest you take a look at what the folks at Haarmeyer are doing. It’s a great approach to and perspective on wine I think we all could use these days. From harvesting for pH instead of Brix and creating subtle, low intervention wines that are simply delightful.

Thank you Craig for the great wines and hospitality! I’m excited and look forward to many more vintages.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA


2015 Cabernet Sauvignon by Bumgarner Winery, Sierra Foothills, CA

2021 Winemaker of the Year

Slightly restrained nose. Clean crisp and ripe plum. Most interesting is a distant beeswax. Tannins are firm, clean, fully integrated into the body. A slight departure from the norm in this region known for big, bold, brash wines. It reads on the light side ever so slightly. Bright crisp fruit expression, crisp sharp tannins, slight peppery finish. Underneath a refined smooth body with bright fruit accentuated by a touch of refined caramel lies a dry wine. A great reference Cabernet for anyone exploring this region and California at large.

As it opens up this region really emerges in a very bold way with prominent star anise, granite leather and tannins develop a fine grained dusty texture that coats the entire palate with a firm ironclad grip.

I have been following Brian Bumgarner’s work for over a decade. His wines are understated, faithful to the region and the art form.

Explore more Bumgarner Wines on WineSnob

2016 Meritage by Miraflores Winery, Sierra Foothills, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Meritage (Bordeaux blend) by Miraflores Winery, Sierra Foothills, California

Intense, dark, ruby color. Clean, crisp, slightly restrained nose with ripe dark berries, ripe plums and cherries, sawdust, eucalyptus and a honeybees wax so faint you’d likely miss it. Swirling vigorously intensifies the whole bouquet.

Body is balanced from front to back. Unlike the nose would suggest, it is fairly dry. Fruit carries over albeit restrained, in the form of thin, crisp dark plum and cherry skins. A faint eucalyptus minty essence underlies this opening. Tannins are measured, thin, barely noticeable and fully integrated into the body. Faint hints of oak caramel match this expression nicely, lending a subtle silky mouth feel. A few sips in, a smoldering spice emerges midway through the body and lingers. The whole experience slowly fades away across the palate leaving behind a subtle bitter cola a hint of caramelization (sweet) as it breathes and oxidizes.

In a region no stranger to big, bold sometimes brash wines, I find Miraflores wines overall to be subtle, nuanced and very nicely balanced. A departure from established norms. I liked everything I tasted while visiting the estate not long ago, however if I had to pick one, it would be this Meritage. It embodies everything I liked about all the single varietals and really showcases their wines and precise execution. Not just for this region, but California at large.

I had a great time visiting Miraflores a couple weeks ago. At the end of the road, off the beaten path, this beautiful estate felt more like a quiet retreat. A perfect match for their wines. The staff were casual, friendly, knowledgeable and very much involved in the production process. I had known about this winery for many years yet somehow this visit had escaped me. I started with a flight of Reds. My intention was to get a read on the estate, vines, terroir and overall expression as well as the winemaker’s own interpretation and vision of what each varietal should look like for this region.

Midway through the Red Flight I decided to make this visit my only stop for the day so as to better focus my tastings and get a good appreciation for their wines, the estate and overall story, all at a leisurely pace. I explored the White Flight as well and the recurring theme I picked up on was delicate subtlety and nuance – the hallmarks of this winemaker and the winemaking program overall.

I had the opportunity to do a private barrel tasting which further enhanced my appreciation for their style of wine. This led me inextricably to the question: “is there a Bordeaux Blend in the lineup?”. To my delight, there was indeed a Bordeaux Blend. It wasn’t on the tasting list but in the cellar. After tasting their individual Bordeaux varietals it became clear to me that if they had a bled, it would make for a subtle, rich, layered and sophisticated blend. My host pulled out their 2016 Meritage. I was sold. I thought all the wines were great but for me, this blend really combined them very nicely and rose to the front to the lineup. I capped my experience with a tasty charcuterie plate – thank you Elliot and the entire crew at Miraflores! I also enjoyed the tour of the unique, very interesting and eclectic collection of antique art pieces from around the world!

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.

Explore more Polynesian Girl wines on WineSnob.

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.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc by Sanford, Santa Ynez Valley, California

2015 Sauvignon Blanc by Sanford, Santa Ynez Valley, California

On the nose. Soft peach nectarine and lime zest. Subtle wet wood leather. Faint butter.

Body is dry, shows good balance, greeting with citrus up front quickly followed by a faint barely noticeable refined caramel. This creates a slightly viscous mouth feel. A touch of minerality further accentuates this and moistens the lips ever so slightly. Finish is characterized by citrus zest, and subtle spice warmth.

This is a classic Sauvignon Blanc. Subtle. Unsurprising from this Winemaker who’s wines tend to read like a thesis of what is possible in this region. The folks at Stanford have been great stewards of this legendary and historically significant vineyard. If you’re ever in the area I recommend stopping by to baseline your palate and establish a reference point. Nicely done folks.

Explore more Sanford and Benedict Vinyard on WineSnob.

Wine.com affiliate links are provided for your convenience. WineSnob.blog may receive a commission when you use the affiliate link below. See Affiliate Disclosure page for more info.

Shop Sanford wines on Wine.com

2021 Viognier by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2021 Viognier by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, CA

White gold color. Out of the bottle, slightly restrained notes of ripe cantaloupe and fresh mellon. Hints stone fruit as it settles. An underlying rocky, slate leather lingers in the background, barely noticeable but unmistakable for this vineyard and region at large. As it breathes, the mellon develop a subtle honeysuckle. This is Viognier.

Body is light with a touch of viscosity. Fruit carries over nicely with more stone fruit. Apricot and ripe peach pull forward. There’s almost a mango-like essence. A gentle spice warmth slowly emerges midway. As it opens up, notes of sweet citrus and cedarwood linger. The whole show slowly fades, leaving the palate warm.

This is Viognier done right. Not too overpowering on the aromas. A little restraint goes a long way. It’s what you get when you take good fruit, put it through a clean standard program and stay out of the way. Wine should be this simple. Unfortunately that’s rarely the case.

Explore more Naggiar Vineyards on WineSnob.