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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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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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.
Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Pinot Noir (Ridgetop – Sonoma Coast) by Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma, CA
Clear ruby color. Long legs. Bright raspberry and red berries on the nose. Fresh wet grassy turf, wet wood and hints of cola in the background. Welcome to the Sonoma Coast!
Even keeled body greets with a suggestion of citrus, raspberries, cola. A prominent refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak emerges and lingers along with a moderate warm spice heat. Thin fine tannins provide light, crisp, unobtrusive structure that lingers through the entire experience. Body quickly vanishes leaving behind crisp tannic grip, spice warmth and a slight bitter cola. As it breathes, the body develops a slightly creamy body. I love it!
I this is the second of three picks I brought back from my last visit to their tasting room. I found all their wines to be really well made and representative. This one has a bit more of a playful pleaser disposition while still echoing key characteristics of the terroir and region at large. They recently released a slew of new wines and I’m eager to get a closer look at the new lineup. Nicely done Sojourn! 🍷😁👌🏽
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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!
Tonight’s Occasion: 2015 Pinot Noir (Bel Sogno) by Dawn’s Dream Winery, Carmel Valley, CA
Deep ruby red color. Beautiful aromatic nose out of the bottle with notes of fresh raspberries, strawberries, and red cherries. A wet, rocky, earthy leather permeates a background punctuated by pops of red vines licorice. Swirl vigorously to reset the entire stage all over again. I love it! As it breathes, a dusty expression emerges, so faint you’d likely miss it.
Body is silky, creamy, smooth with a touch of viscosity. A touch of acidity greets the palate and remains present, adding gentle tension throughout the experience. Moderate tannins provide unobtrusive structure while refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak immediately tames this expression. The body is quickly dissipates leaving crisp caramel, wet rocky leather and thin, so what dusty/chalky tannins. A slightly mineral finish lingers. A gentle warm spice heat lingers through the entire experience.
This Pinot all on its own. It eschews most convention, especially for this region. Sharing only subtlety and nuance typical of this region, it has its own identity. It is dry, structured, somewhat bold for a Pinot and will likely be perceived as abstract by the average palate. It is however a well crafted, terroir driven if not fascinating wine that will keep the advanced palate perfect company, especially for New Year’s Eve. Now, if you’ll excuse me…
Tonight’s Occasion: 2011 Pinot Noir (Red Birds) by Roger Roessler Wines, Sonoma CA.
Clear, ruby red color. Bright aromatic nose out of the bottle with lost of raspberry, red cherry and pomegranate. Drooling. Cola and damp earth leather lingers in the background. This my friends, is Sonoma. Swirling vigorously intensifies ripeness, berries, leather and adds a touch of caramel. Just beautiful.
Beautifully balanced body from front to back, greets with a soft symphony of berries and silky mouth feel. A fresh crisp overlay hovers above the palate. I’m not sure what it is but it’s very nice, maybe herbal in nature? Soft, gentle and fluid tannins add structure hardly distinguishable from the body. As it fades, that minty almost eucalyptus freshness emerges marking the transition to finish. Along with cola, this gentle crisp freshness follows through a lingering finish capped by a gentle tannic grip, wet wood and subtle spice tingle.
My goodness. This Pinot Noir is absolutely gorgeous right now! I have perhaps one or two bottles left. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for. The 2011 vintage is beautifully embodied here. I have come to appreciate so much about Pinot Noir and its expression of different regions and their terroir, thanks in no small part to our 2020 Winemaker of the year. A visit to their understated tasting room is a must for the enlightened palate. Carefully curated wines from far and wide to help baseline your palate and provide you with a solid reference point. This is why I believe this winemaker is worth following. Their wines easily occupy a quarter of my cellar going back to 2006 vintages.
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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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Tonight’s Occasion: 2014 Syrah (Jay Wilderotter) by Terre Rouge * Easton Wines, Plymouth CA
Dark inky opaque color. Out of the bottle, nose is a bit shy. Dry, tart plum skins, blackberry and a touch of ripe dark cherries take center stage. A woody leather permeates the background. Swirling vigorously unlocks ripeness, licorice, a hint of crisp eucalyptus wood, herbal notes and granite mineral essence (a subtle bitterness that usually accompanies anise/licorice).
Body is firm, greeting with a touch of acidity and spice. This is almost immediately balanced by heavy dusty fine grained tannins dropping deep down and creating a solid monolithic base structure. Midway through, dry dark plum, and blackberry, conspire with crisp oak to create a slightly softer mouth feel. This quickly gets absorbed by the monolithic structure beneath, leaving black currants and a bitter mineral essence on the palate. At this point the entire palate is under a warm spice heat. Massive tannins and granite minerality sway the palate momentarily from slightly moist to dry and grippy and back again. This act continues until there is little left but parched lips and a spice tingle.
Also affectionately referred to as The Wildebeast, this wine is stands as yet another fine example from our 2019 Winemaker Of The Year. With great sense of place, and crisp execution, this wine is a faithful representation, a world class wine from this highly understated region. No journey into California wines is complete without venturing into Amador and the Sierra Foothills. This Winemaker’s wines stand as solid reference point for what this region and California at large has to offer.
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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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Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 La Mancha (estate field blend) by Wofford Acres Vineyards, El Dorado, CA
Out of the bottle nose is a little shy with an unmistakable tart black cherry, plum, and a touch of buttery vanilla on the back.
Body is smooth, crisp, balanced from front to back. Dark tart plums pull forward. This wine is bone dry and a Nebbiolo based field blend. There is good fruit but overall this is unmistakably Nebbiolo, unapologetically brute and brash. Bold tannins and bold acidity maintain firm tension across the palate. It drinks like a Barolo or big Barbaresco. Breathing only emboldens it’s expression, tannins develop a vise grip, mouth feel broadens, a hint of banana peel emerges so faint you’d likely miss it. This is likely a play between the fruit and granitic minerality typical of this region. Finish is massive, long, lingering, punctuated by faint pops of star anise, ahhhhh El Dorado and the Sierra Foothills.
This wine isn’t for everybody but it certainly is for me! I love a Nebbiolo! I love how understated it’s expression is. I love its unpretentious, unapologetic, even brutish disposition. La Mancha is a field blend typically of Nebbiolo, Petite Sirah and a little Merlot. The proportions vary with each vintage and harvest. This makes every vintage unique in its own way. I think it takes some courage to commit to a field blend. This means the varietals were blended right at harvest with no room to walk back the ratios. It is a massive, dry wine built for the long haul. 2013 needs at least 15yrs. I will likely add some to my very long-term reserve.