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.

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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.

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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.

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2019 GSM by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 GSM (Red Blend – Baby Rattlesnake Vineyard, El Dorado) by E16 Winery, Fair Play, Sierra Foothills, CA

43% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre

Dark, slightly opaque color. Intense aromatic nose with slightly ripe plums, dark cherries, granite leather with a hint of butterscotch and licorice.

Body shows good balance front to back. Weighted. Fruit carries over albeit in the form of slightly under-ripe plum and dark cherries. Interesting. It is fairly dry, with bold fruit character. This is very much in line with this region. Longer ripening season yields intense fruit flavors. Tannins are a fully integrated, fine grained dusty suspension that slowly precipitates upon the palate, building up layers of intensity. A slightly dry, bitter cola takes over the transition to finish leaving the palate slightly dry with a mild warm spice.

This is a Classic GSM from the Sierra Foothills. Nicely done with a great expression and sense of place. I love what Robert and his team at E16 are doing. I highly recommend taking a look at their wines. All very small batch, limited production, expressive wines.

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2017 Tempranillo Reserve by Polynesian Girl, Sierra Foothills, California

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Tempranillo Reserve by Polynesian Girl, Sierra Foothills, California

Ripe plums. Right out of the bottle, a prominent red vines licorice. A very subtle dusty, decomposed granite and wet wood linger in the back. A restrained sense of place. A subtle buttery oak and cedarwood complements very nicely. An very faint herbal note I can’t quite pinpoint lingers.

The nose can be deceiving. Body greets with a big (albeit restrained), weighted, fine grained dusty, highly integrated, tannic mix . It is very dry. Measured oak helps soften and mask this wine’s massive stance. Dry dark plum dominates the expression. A subtle citrus emerges midway and lingers up to the finish As it opens up and the fine grained tannins precipitate, the palate is rendered dry and under an ever intensifying grip. A gentle warmth lingers down the chest.

This is a beautiful execution of a Tempranillo from this region. It has a great sense of place. A massive wine, with with a gentle disposition and fidelity. I thoroughly enjoyed her Tempranillo but I must say I am enjoying this Reserve even more. It is very rich and really embodies everything I love about this region and the artisan winemaker. Nicely done Tatiana.

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Don Giovanni by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: Don Giovanni by Naggiar Vineyards, Sierra Foothills, CA

29% Cab Sauv, 29% Syrah, 14% Malbec, 14% Maurvedre, 14% Cab Franc

Slightly ripe plum, licorice, touch of butterscotch. A damp rocky essence emanates from the background reminiscent of damp slate after a warm summer rain. Subtle tertiary notes of sweet blueberries and a hint of pinewood.

A touch acid greets the palate lending a bit of good tension. This quickly relaxes over the palate giving way to a subtle wet wood leather which slowly morphs into a subtle oak caramel. The fruit expression is slightly muted and quickly thins out across the palate consisting of plums, blueberries and blackberries. Tannic structure is fairly restrained, dissolved, and fully integrated. It never quite precipitates until after the finish where it slowly coats the entire palate and lips in a fines grained dusty grit. As it opens up I’m picking up more of that rocky dirt.

This is a terroir driven wine. Fairly dry. The Don Giovanni was the result of a collaboration with Naggiar Vineyards. A cross vintage blend of various estate wines. I was given Carte Blanche to create the latest edition of this wine. Working with a lineup of faithful wines in the cellar, and some inspiration from owners Shawn and Mary Naggiar, my goal here was to create a blend where each varietal was expressed, did not dominate, compensated for if not complemented the others. The best part of this project, was that the individual wines were solid if not amazing and could stand alone by themselves. The Malbec is also available as a stand-alone. We will be looking at it later. Naggiar Vineyards has always been a grower first, producing good fruit and this shows in their wines.

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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 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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2014 Syrah (Jay Wilderotter) by Terre Rouge Easton Wines, Plymouth, CA

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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