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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2016 Grand Vin De Bordeaux by Chateau La Tour De Mons, Margaux

Tonight’s Occasion: 2016 Grand Vin De Bordeaux by Chateau La Tour De Mons, Margaux, France.

Dark opaque plum color. Nose is a bit shy, with notes of slightly ripe dark plums, hints of ripe cherries, damp wood and that all too familiar fine, sedimentary, river silt. Swirling vigorously releases more intense leather and a touch of anise. It’s hard to go wrong with Margaux.

Body is precisely balanced from front to back. Dry plums carry over albeit with a little restraint, lightening the body and providing firm, crisp tannic structure. A precise almost unnoticeable oak softens the tannins and intensifies the fruit essence ever so slightly. Subtle anise and wet wood eventually take over the stage just before handing over to an emerging gentle spice heat. This marks the transition to finish as the body fades away leaving behind harmonious melange of very fine grained dusty tannic grit and a warm spice.

This highly coveted often overlooked sub-region of Bordeaux is best known for its big, bold, dry, age worthy wines and characteristic terroir driven expression. They are typically hard to come by and command a premium when you go find them. This Margaux is a fine example of what a Bordeaux is. I put out a WineSnob Alert on this wine several months ago when it was available for just under $40 – a steal for what it is. It lives up to every other Margaux in my cellar and I look forward to following this vintage over the next decade.

Tres bien fait! 🍷😘👌🏽

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2016 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley) by Dierberg * StarLane

Tonight’s occasion: 2016 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley) by Dierberg * StarLane, Santa Barbara County, CA.

Deep intense color. Nose is a little shy out of the bottle with notes of raspberry, blackberry, a touch of cherry cola, licorice and damp wood leather with an underlying herbal suggestion almost eucalyptus like. It’s very faint and hard to discern. Swirling vigorously unlocks a burst of berries and cherry cola, over and over and over again… Ugghhh.

Body is light, crisp, balanced from front to back. This wine eases onto the palate, very gently, with mere suggestions of faint dark cherry and plum skins. Not too ripe, not too tart, just right, a mere tannic suggestion. There is a masterfully integrated crisp neutral oak you would easily miss. This all combines to form a supple, creamy underlayment. It has a nicely integrated mouth feel. A warm, firm but restrained spice emerges and persists over the palate. Transition to finish is seamless as the melange of whispers and suggestions slowly fade away leaving the palate slightly moist, under a gentle crisp tannic grip and gentle, warm spice tingle.

The 2014 vintage is one of my all-time favorite Pinot Noirs. This 2016 vintage falls right in line. It is an absolutely gorgeous wine sure to keep the focused, advanced palate engaged even entranced. A very sophisticated, nuanced expression, the Dierberg SMV Pinot holds a special place in my heart and Cellar. I don’t think I will ever be able to get enough of it. This is what you get when wine comes first before everything else.

I have to go now…

Read more about my first visit to Dierberg * StarLane here.

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2018 Il Corvo (Columbia Valley) by Novelty Hill-Januik

Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Il Corvo (Columbia Valley) by Novelty Hill-Januik, Woodinville, WA.

Super Tuscan Blend: 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Sangiovese, 4% Merlot

Dark intense slightly opaque color. Long legs. Out of the bottle, a weighted nose with notes of slightly ripe plums, dark cherries, subtle dusty woody leather and hints of cola. Swirling vigorously intensifies all notes, bringing out more cherry cola.

Body is somewhat light, crisp, for a wine this big. It shows good balance from attack to finish. Slightly restrained plums and blackberry greet the palate, introducing a measured structure with dusty, fine grained tannins. Bold spice makes its entrance shortly after and remains, warming the palate from start to finish. A clean crisp oak complements and enhances the fruit essence, conspiring with dark cherries to create a subtle cherry cola. As it opens up, slightly mineral, loamy sedimentary underpinnings reveal themselves as the palate clears in transition to finish. Dusty tannins render the palate parched shut while wisps of crisp oak dance in the background.

My only regret is not bringing back an extra bottle. This is a very well built terroir driven wine with a broad appeal. Still very young, I can see this wine aging beautifully over the next decade. Laying a couple of these down would be a good idea. Novelty Hill-Januik has made a great wine here. Expertly crafted. It was a challenge picking one one during my visit earlier this year, as every wine in their lineup far exceeded any expectations.

Nice work folks!

WineSnob TV:
You can watch more about my visit to this winery while tasting in Woodinville here:
Off The Beaten Path – Woodinville, Seattle, Washington

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2007 Cabernet Sauvignon by Chateau Montelena

Tonight’s occasion: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon by Chateau Montelena, Napa, California.

Dark opaque color. Intense, warm nose out of the bottle with notes of tart plum and slight wet wood. Swirl to intensify the plum, dark cherries leather, release, a slightly creamy butterscotch caramel and subtle red vines licorice. Terroir is fairly neutral. Expression overall is clean, somewhat modest, a mature classic Cabernet Sauvignon. I like it.

Body is smooth. Nicely balanced right down the middle, front to back. Slightly ripe plums accompanied by restrained tannins deliver a harmonious structure and integrated mouth feel with more softer than delineated transitions. Oak is almost undetectable if not for its effect of creating slightly silky mouth feel and enhancing notes of berries in this otherwise fairly dry wine. Pepper spice permeates most of the stage, eventually falling back as it opens. Body forms the bulk of the experience with a seamless transition to a restrained finish characterized by hints of cherry cola, crisp, dry, fine tannic grip and a touch of bold spice that lingers midway down the chest.

This wine has had plenty of time to integrate very nicely. After 14 years it still stands tall. I feel like this is how it was meant to be enjoyed. It’s a classic example of a Napa Cab, well built, and will like be showing like this over the next 5 or so years easily. If you have any in your cellar, now would be the time to start enjoying it.

Nicely done Chateau Montelena!

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2018 Eighteen Sixty One (GSM) by Skinner Vineyards

Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Eighteen Sixty One (GSM) by Skinner Vineyards, Fair Play CA

Deep intense semi-opaque color. Nose is a little shy out of the bottle with an unmistakable dusty old leather. Swirling vigorously unlocks a slightly heavy layer of dark cherries, cola, and blueberries. Leather turns from slight sawdust to wet wood. Distant hints of licorice could almost be missed. As it opens up, the cherry cola becomes more pronounced.

Body has almost no attack. It is balanced right down the line and greets the palate almost immediately with a soft plush light mouth feel. It brings a smile to my face because I know winemaker Adam Smith comes from an Oregon Pinot Noir background. The subtlety here bears an uncanny resemblance. Dark cherries are heavily restrained providing an unobtrusive structure. Minerality is subtle and has the effect of wetting the palate. Body is bone dry. If there is oak, I cannot detect it. I feel like I am tasting nothing but the grapes, the vines and the subtle parts of the terroir. Body and finish are almost one as wet an dry interplay on the palate, over a thin whispy cola.

Skinner for me has always been reference to the greater region. Adam’s style is precise, with clear vision and an unmistakable influence as a natural Pinot winemaker. For a region and Vineyard that easily makes some of the biggest boldest wines I know, this is a textbook exercise in restraint, balance and nuance. This wine demans focus and undivided attention of the intermediate to advanced palate.

Nicely done Adam and the entire crew at Skinner Vineyards!

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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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2017 Pinot Noir (Elton) by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Elton, Eola-Amity Hills) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon.

Slightly warm weighty nose with a noticeable albeit restrained minerality in the form of a wet slate accompanied by a hint of caramel butterscotch and damp wood. Swirling vigorously unlocks subtle bursts of black licorice, sweet cherry and very distant honeysuckle you would almost certainly miss.

Light, slightly dry and viscous body shows great balance. Crisp tannins provide firm, lean structure. Dark, tart plum a crisp, clean oak vanilla provide creamy mouth feel. This quickly gives way to a subtle cola as it fades away into a slightly dusty finish culminating in a gentle spicy heat at the back of the palate.

This is an very well built Pinot. It represents its origins very nicely without being overly abstract. It is measured, clean, slightly bold with a touch of flair, especially in the nose. I love this region and I was very pleased to find that this Winemaker decided to open a tasting room in my own backyard – an authentic taste of Willamette Valley, here in Sacramento, California.

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2018 Minuit by DeLille Cellars

Tonight’s occasion: 2018 Minuit (French for Midnight) by DeLille Cellars, Woodinville, WA

70% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, Yakima Valley

Deep dark as midnight. Out of the bottle, nose is slightly shy, warm, with a healthy dose of ripe plums and blueberries which only intensify when swirled. A faint caramel butterscotch lingers in the back. Terroir is expressed in the form of a dusty silty leather, so subtle it could be missed. A faint anise makes an appearance in the distance. I briefly picked up very faint herbs. I like it! This is clearly a Malbec, very nicely complemented by Cabernet Sauvignon. After about an hour, the Anise is more intense and pronounced.

Body is absolutely gorgeous! Not as heavy as the color and nose would suggest. Balanced from front to back. It begins with a suggestion of acidity while ripe plums and blueberries rush in to balance it out. Slightly restrained tannins provide great structure while a very clean oak expression softens the edges, creating a clean plush mouth feel. This act quickly vanishes, giving way to thin blackberry and cola as it transitions to a finish characterized by crisp, dry tannic grip and a warm spice that descends down into the chest. There is a subtle freshness rendered on the palate like a mint-eucalyptus. My lips a left dry, yet moist. After an hour the tannins turn dusty and this texture permeates the entire experience.

Now I remember what caught me about this wine when I visited them not long ago. Very nicely done DeLille!

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2012 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) by Easton

Tonight’s occasion: 2012 Zinfandel (Fiddletown) by Easton (@terrerougeeastonwines), Plymouth, Amador, California.

Deep dark clear ruby red color. Pouring right out of the bottle fills the air with crisp plum. Closer inspection reveals this Zinfandel’s faint raisin/berry underpinnings and a very unmistakable star anise, a hallmark of this region’s terroir. The nose then recedes until swirled again. Hints of wet wood leather linger in the back. This is surprisingly restrained for a Zin

Body is precisely balanced from front to back. Clean crisp and measured. Plum turns more ripe dark cherry, wet wood and oak become more refined crisp caramel. Crisp tannins provide precise frame as they quickly turn buttery, and render the palate moist. Mouth feel is clean, light. Transition to finish is characterized by subtle black currant as the body fades gently, revealing a gentle spice, moist lips and slight dusty tannic grit.

This Winemaker’s work is some of the best I’ve seen yet. This zinfandel is no exception and should easily stand as a reference, an example of everything Zinfandel could be, not just in this region but California and the world at large. NOW! is the time to indulge in his work.

Thank you Bill, Jane and the entire crew at Terre Rouge Easton wines for bringing us world class wines.

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