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!

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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!

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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.

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2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards

Tonight’s Occasion: 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir (Whole Cluster) by Willamette Valley Vineyards, Oregon.

Rich Rosé, strawberry almost copper color. Reminds me of my favorite orange wine. Full bodied aromatic nose with intense ripe, strawberry, cherry and raspberry. This nose screems everything you would expect from a Rosé. I love it. A subtle secondary earthy leather lingers in the background. It is a Pinot Noir after all. Sweet Citrus, honeysuckle and jasmine emerge as it breathes. Stop it already!

A silky viscous weighted body greets the palate immediately. Sweet citrus reminiscent of Meyer lemon adds a touch of tension across an otherwise velvety smooth body. Strawberry and cherries carry over very nicely. A smattering of white pepper. As the body thins out towards the back, a faint crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French Oak emerges. It mineral underpinnings are revealed in the finish through slightly moist lips.

This is a classic Rosé. Very nicely composed. It is further elevated by Pinot Noir from this region. It retains a broad appeal while keeping the enlightened palate entertained. Every cellar should keep this Rosé on hand. Great value and great job guys!

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2017 Chardonnay by Panther Creek Cellars, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Chardonnay by Panther Creek Cellars, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Soft, restrained nose with primary notes of mild citrus and under-ripe peach. There is a prominent damp slightly mineral leather which dominates as soon as you begin swirling. White cherries linger.

Body is ever so slightly acidic, greeting with firm but restrained citrus. A viscous slightly weighted mouth feel counters this tension quite nicely. A buttery shortcake lingers in the background. Mineral leather carries over, rendering the palate slightly moist. White pepper permeates the stage. A subtle bitter zest emerges is it transitions to finish. Under-ripe white cherries, crisp, refined caramel and a spice tingle are all that it left.

If I were to open a Chardonnay on any given day, this would be it. It is a well executed Chardonnay that achieves good balance through subtle contrasts; a little buttery body with a little acidity and tension, retrained fruit with subtle minerality and spice. I like it!

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2019 Pinot Noir (Wholer Vineyard) by Sojurn, Sonoma

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Pinot Noir (Wholer Vineyard – Russian River Valley) by Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma, CA

Dark ruby color. Aromatic nose with red berries, raspberries and that all too familiar Sonoma Dirt up front. This is where my mind goes every time I think of Sonoma Pinot – the dirt. Damp earth mixed with dry grass/hay. Sometimes more forest floor, sometimes more mushroom, open field as is the case with this one. Swirling vigorously adds a touch of red vines licorice. The entire bouquet intensifies. Almost intoxicating. Love it!

Body is balanced right down the middle, front to back. A soft plush mouth feel greets the palate with light raspberry, touch of strawberry all wrapped in a weighted, silky texture. Tannins are barely noticeable and secondary, providing just enough structure. A gentle spice warmth gradually emerges towards the back as the body fades, leaving behind subtle bitter cola. The two gently coating the lips. And just like that, with little fanfare, the show is over. Time for another sip!

I love what Sojourn is doing with their Pinot Noirs. You can’t go wrong here. Great, faithful Pinot from Sonoma. Highly recommend. You won’t be disappointed!

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2017 Chardonnay by Pali Wine Co

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Chardonnay (Charm Acres – Sonoma) by Pali Wine Co. Lompoc, CA

Another quick look today at a nice little Chardonnay. Sometimes simple done right is all you need. Clean, crisp, shy nose, good fruit, and a touch of that iconic earthy Sonoma leather. Great slightly weighty, slightly creamy body. Restrained acidity, zesty finish. Unpretentious. Not abstract nor extreme. Modest doses of complementary characteristics. Good balance. Serve this one super chilled. A great go-to Chardonnay by a team known for some really great wines! Nicely done folks!

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2019 White Blend by Panther Creek, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 White Blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir – Willamette Valley, Oregon) by Panther Creek Cellars, Woodinville, WA.

Bright and light up front with soft notes of citrus, peach, green apple, subtle damp old dried grassy leather, and a hint of butterscotch so faint you’d likely miss it. It’s a bit shy on the nose and needs to be teased out.

Body is dry, balanced right down the middle. White cherries burst onto the stage, aloof, as a slightly silky mouth feel follows closely, filling the stage. A crisp refined caramel suggestion is barely noticeable, more like nectar. This then rolls over to a very light slightly bitter citrus, like lemon zest. This marks the transition to finish as the entire stage vanishes, leaving behind a subtle warm spice tingle and faint tannic grip.

This wine is a gentle reminder that white blends really need to be a thing. I have never quite enjoyed white wines as much because they generally lack this kind of body, balance and expression. This wine embodies the best both varietals and their highly complementary characteristics. The body, subtlety and nuance of Pinot Noir with the bright crisp of clean expression of Chardonnay. A great, well executed combination.

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2019 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino, by Bodega Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina

Tonight’s Occasion: 2019 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino, by Bodega Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina

Deep, dark, intense, semi-opaque color. Out of the bottle notes of slightly under-ripe dark plum contrast with butterscotch. Secondary notes of damp old dead wood and underbrush. Swirling vigorously unlocks slightly ripe dark cherries and a licorice so faint you’d likely miss it. Fruit essence intensifies.

Body is balanced from to back. A slightly thick body greets the palate immediately with intense dark plum. A punch of buttery oak elevates and softens this intense plum while momentarily ripening the fruit. Fully integrated dusty fine grained tannins are suspended throughout the body creating an omnipresent structure that lends a certain weight. The grain is so fine, they remain suspended, never precipitating. White pepper hits the palate midway along with a brief acidic punctuation. A fully integrated melange of every note dances upon the palate, slowly fading into the shadows until all that’s left is remnants of intense dusty tannins, hint of cola, lime zest, and a warm spice heat past the back of the palate. As you progress, more and more tannic dust coats the palate as it slowly reveals its brutish old Vine characteristics.

This is an interesting Malbec. Bold, fairly dry, good balance, faithful with good terroir expression. Great execution. The story behind this wine, it’s origins and inspiration. I have to give my brother credit for finding this wine. Like many of the wines he’s brought me, this one prompts further exploring. If you stumble across this Malbec, it should present a great excursion for the intermediate to advanced palate. Bien hecho amigos!

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2003 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Bordeaux, France

Tonight’s Occasion: 2003 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France

Brown-Burgundy color. Out of the bottle, nose is shy with a soft gentle expression. A dry old leather permeates the stage. Supple dark plum slowly turns ripe as it breathes. A plush caramel emerges. Hints of white pepper. Old leather develops a sedimentary, silty characteristic. As it breathes that silty terroir moves to the forefront, along with a touch of slightly woody, slightly sweet star anise.

Body is balanced from front to back. Clean crisp, highly delineated tannins greet the palate in the form of dark plum skins. They immediately form a firm clear continuous structure with a fine grained grit coating. This quickly dominates the palate. Restrained acidity broadens the palate as dry plums, dark cherries and old leather gently fill the stage creating a soft, mellow, ever lightening mouth feel. As the body stretches thin almost to the point of disappearing, the tannic structure holds firm, like steel girders. Eventually this is all that is left upon the palate. The restrained acidity trades places with a white pepper which itself transitions to a bold spice heat through the finish down into the chest. This old sage has a few good punches left in it. My lips are parched, chest warm, mind pondering this occasion.

This is a great Bordeaux. It’s had almost two decades to integrate very nicely. While clearly in its more advanced years, it’s expression is no less interesting, no less enjoyable, especially for the intermediate to advanced palate craving a solid, faithful Bordeaux. Chateau Mouton Rothschild is a highly coveted Bordeaux. As a result, I can’t help but feel like it is often misunderstood, over-aged, left to languish and slowly die in the cellar. The 2003 is a gentle, graceful vintage compared to the others I have opened. While past it’s peek expression (not by much), it is still no less a great Bordeaux and a treat to indulge. If you have any of this vintage on hand, you should drink it now!

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