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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2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California

Tonight’s occasion: 2013 Syrah by Skinner Vineyards, El Dorado, California.

Dark opaque color. Popping the cork releases a bouquet of dark berries and herbal essence. Eucalyptus and mint comes to mind. As it settles, a heavy tart plum is accompanied by a touch of sweet cherry. Secondary leathery granite terroir quickly makes its presence known. Swirl vigorously and unlock a burst of star anise unmistakable with this greater region. It is particularly reminiscent of a sweet Absinthe and lingers in the background. I love this. As you swirl, the nose turns sweeter.

Heavy, viscous, dark plum dominates the body. Firm acidity and bold tannin go hand in hand. Neither yielding to the other. Body is bone dry. Woody, berry, and earth notes combine to create a soft slightly creamy overtone. One of my favorite Snobs, Guy (@wine.alchemy | FootHillsWino) best describes it as Bacon Fat. Massive, deep rooted, fine grained tannins permeate the entire experience. Transition to finish is fairly seamless as tart plums cede to a relentless dry, dusty tannic grip. Black currants and a smoldering heat are all that is left to see your palate off on its journey to its long dry finish in the desert.

Skinner makes some of the best Syrah in my cellar. I keep several cases of various vintages as reference wines. They serve as fine examples of mature, well built, wines from the Sierra Foothills. I highly recommend Skinner for the intermediate to advanced palate especially. This 2013 is just now coming of age and should show especially well over the next 5 years and beyond.

Well done Skinner!

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Reserve: 2015 Chinon Bonaventure by Chateau de Coulaine

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Chinon Bonaventure by Chateau de Coulaine (@chateaudecoulaine), Loire, France.

Warm thick nose out of the bottle with plenty of mushrooms loamy leather. Some call it barnyard or old victorian. Some don’t care for it but I absolutely love it and can’t get enough. It begins to dissipate within minutes to reveal sweet ripe dark cherries, some berry and subtle hints of marshmallow.

Body is more balanced than not with a subtle suggestion of acidity before quickly centering on the palate. Tannins are not as pronounced as one might expect, fairly restrained, allowing a rich meaty mouth feel. Plums replace cherries from the nose and that leathery essence permeates the background. It reads like an impeccably decorated old world set. Subtle spice guides the transition to a finish characterized by gentle tannic grip and warm, moist lips, tingling with spice.

I can only think of a few wines I’ve tasted that express leathery terroir this clearly. It is a sultry wine that feels wise beyond its age. For around $20/btl it’s a head scratcher. Please let me order a few more before it sells out 😅. This my friends is why I stay off the beaten path. Some little known Chateau in Chinon has been making this wine sine the 1300s.

Tres bien fait mes amis! 🍷😁👌🏽

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Review: 2015 Pinot Noir (Orchestral) by Hahn

Tonight’s occasion: 2015 Pinot Noir (Orchestral) by Hahn Wines, Santa Lucia Highlands, Central Coast, California.

Deep Ruby-Burgundy color. Big rich nose out of the bottle with bold floral aromas, berries and damp wood forrest floor with hints of cedarwood and black licorice. As it opens up and the heat dissipates, notes of citrus make an appearance over a pleasant leather.

Body is smooth, mildly acidic. It is characterized by buttery creamy tannins and spice from front to back. This is after all a big California Pinot at 14.5% ABV. It has a fairly lush silky mouth feel which can be deceiving as this wine is fairly dry. Very little, if any fruit is carried over. The leather and wood notes conspire to trick the palate into sensing otherwise. Finish is rather subdued as it quickly fades away leaving more than a healthy tingle of spice. Faint suggestion of black currants accompanies the finale.

Hahn is a pretty big estate with many offerings through most mass market distribution. However when visiting such a winery, you have to know what to ask for. See, every winemaker no matter how big, has a passion project. One they pride themselves in. A work of personal craftsmanship which is typically never on the menu. This is what I am most interested in with any winemaker. Only 73 cases of this lovely Pinot were produced. The layering, character and complexity shows. This is the type of wine I seek out wherever I go.

Nicely done Hahn!

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Reserve: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) by Louis Martini

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon (Sonoma County) by Louis Martini, Napa, California.

Not all wines have to be an intense, even sometimes laborious exercise for the senses. There are times when one just needs an honest wine. Not every bottle has to be an occasion. Sometimes I just want to contemplate other matters and not necessarily have to focus so intently on the wine. These are the moments that I resort to the unsung heroes of my cellar – The Pleaser. A wine that doesn’t overwhelm your senses or demand your attention. A wine that hits a few key notes and maybe offers an interesting suggestion or two. A clean, well made, honest wine, most importantly, for a great price. These wines I stock by the case.

This Louis Martini Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon is just that. A winner. It embodies the value proposition. A hint of that Sonoma dirt, good fruit, dry plum and blackberry, a touch of cedarwood, balanced body, a finish characterized by a moderately dry tannic grip and a touch of spice. It is always available and for a good price that makes a case an approachable proposition for most.

This is the wine that draws you in and draws your interest towards their signature wines such as their Napa Cab and Monte Rosso Cab Franc, both of which are noteworthy and in my reserve.

I love a winery that not only puts out great signature wines, but also makes a good flagship wine I can enjoy on any given day.

Nice work!

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Review: 1994 Rioja (Grand Reserva) by Pedro Urbina, Spain

Tonight’s occasion: 1994 Rioja (Grand Reserva) by Pedro Urbina, Spain.

Incredibly sharp, vibrant nose for any vintage, let alone one this old. Out of the bottle, firm crisp berries wrapped in marshmallow caramel. Tertiary notes of damp driftwood gradually evolve into a wet loamy sandy leather. Swirl vigorously to unleash a burst of spice heat which quickly gives way to sweet cherries. WOW!

Body is… well… my friends this is how Tempranillo was truly meant to be enjoyed. A touch of that signature acidity greets the palate along with nicely restrained tannins that have had 26 years to perfectly integrate. A firm, crisp, bold, tannic structure emerges midway and is capped with a thin veneer of black currants, faint caramel, blackberry and tart black plum. A slate-like essence emerges towards the back as crisp tannic structure begins to dissolve into a fine grained dust. As it opens up, this mineral slate moves forward all the way to the nose. This marks the transition to finish. It exits rather unceremoniously however leaving the palate completely dry and tingling with spice.

This is an example of a real hidden gem. A well made, robust wine, appropriately aged and truly representative of Rioja. Incredible!

Bien hecho Amigos!

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Cellar Update #2 – Stocking up

Hey WineSnobs! Did you miss my cellar update #2 from a couple weeks ago? Here’s an overview of some wines I added to my cellar this week. These are wines I have previously reviewed on here.

Here is a list of the wines and their reviews (will update with more info):

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Reserve: 2008 Sangiovese (La Tarantella) by Hitching Post

Tonight’s occasion: 2008 Sangiovese (La Tarantella) by Hitching Post, Happy Canyon, Santa Barbara, California.

Deep dark color. Warm intense nose with a tart plum up front. Swirl vigorously to unlock secondary notes of caramel and ripe dark cherries. Terroir appears neutral but closer inspection reveals a touch of minerality. This is already big next to most Sangiovese I’ve had.

On the body, the attack is mildly acidic but quickly tempered by tart plum which midway through, introduces a good balance of tannic structure. The caramel notes step further back and add great accompaniment to the overall slightly silky, jammy mouth feel. Once opened, tannins develop a fine grained texture towards the back. The finish is abrupt as the body quickly vanishes, leaving your palate dry, lips tacked shut and a gentle but ever increasing spice warms the palate down to the chest.

I can’t imagine what this wine was like at bottling. It must have been barely approachable because 12 years later it is still standing tall and strong. This bottle is a real treat. I had no idea they made a Sangiovese, let alone one like this. My good friend brought this back from the central valley. Thank you Jill for your generosity and kindness.

Nicely done!

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Review: 2017 Merlot (Grand Selection) by Lapostolle, Chile

Tonight’s occasion: 2017 Merlot (Grand Selection) by Lapostolle, Valle del Rapel, Chile.

Healthy nose full of plums and dark cherries. This wine is a pleaser. With subtle hints of leather and damp cedarwood in the back, it is very approachable. Not overly complex or abstract, it strikes a good balance essential to broad appeal.

Body follows suit with plenty of good fruit in the form of tart plums and blackberry. Faint oak and a touch of leather play in the background. Bold and slightly dry tannins provide firm structure. Tannins develop a dry, fine grained texture in the finish leaving the palate thoroughly parched and tingling with a touch of spice. This wine is young but shows really well for its age.

This wine is by all accounts a Pleaser. A great every day sipper. I can see even the most advanced palate indulging in what it offers just as much as the beginner enthusiast. At a price point of under $15 it presents great value and punches above it’s weight. I’m not the least surprised. This comes from a winemaker whose every wine so far has left me scratching my head. I like what these folks are doing down there in Chile.

Bien hecho amigos!

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