2017 Mariner (Meritage / Bordeaux Blend) by Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County

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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2004 Rioja (Gran Reserva Especial) by Bodegas Urbina, Cuzcurrita, España.

Tonight’s Occasion: 2004 Rioja (Gran Reserva Especial) by Bodegas Urbina, Cuzcurrita, España.

Clear intense color. Out of the bottle, soft notes of slightly ripe plum and driftwood leather. Ripe dark cherries, red vines licorice, cola and subtle rocky mineral essence linger in the back. Swirling unlocks puffs of sweet fruit essence and earth notes. As it breathes, mild butterscotch and crisp eucalyptus emerge, so subtle you’d likely miss them. Ahhhhh… Yes.

Body shows good balanced. Subtle acidity brings a slight tension. This is immediately countered by thin dry plum that forms an unobtrusive structure. A barely noticeable touch of oak vanilla further softens the already well integrated tannins to create a slightly silky mouth feel while elevating the fruit. This successfully masks an otherwise dry body. A faint spice momentarily ponders it’s appearance before receding with the rest of the body. This marks the transition to finish as a wet wood leather grows more prominent, ending in moist lips, gentle tannic grip and subtle spice tingling. As it opens up, the body becomes slightly chewy.

This is how Tempranillo was meant to be enjoyed. It needs time, a lot of time. It has had time to integrate nicely and find its balance. I would venture to say it is at its peak expression. This is a fantastic example from a stubborn winemaker who insists on serving wine when it is ready and not a moment sooner. I looked at the 1994 Gran Reserva and recall it was enlightening experience that changed the way I look at Rioja and Tempranillo at large. This wine is currently available for a bargain. The 2000 Seleccion vintage is also available at a head scratching price. Check the WineSnob Watch List for more hidden gems.

Reader Tasting Notes

One of my favorite WineSnobs, Jeremy was kind enough to share his thoughts and notes on this wine. I love it! Enjoy!

Out of the bottle…”effin Yummy!” 😂 let’s see how this develops… 🤔… as I suspected, still effin yummy!!!

Aright…honest initial impression.

Color is striking. It’s bright and translucent, garnet color. Very appealing in the glass.

Nose on first pour was raspberry and cherry cola. Almost tickles the nose with fizziness. Swirl and sit for 15 minutes…if you can wait that long…leather and caramel. Subtle though. There’s something dark creeping that I can’t identify. A little funky…mossy or muddy? Mushroom maybe?

Taste is medium, almost light bodied. Very bright and acidic for a wine of this age. Perfect balance. Fruit is secondary. Rich cherry almost like an old fashioned with a smoky ice cube. Leather. Something that burns the throat a bit, in a nice way. A little peppery. Tannins grip after 30 minutes. A pleasant bitterness on the back that lingers with the spice. (Minty?)

This wine is so good you could brush your teeth with it.

It’s not mouth puckering like a beaujolais, but makes me think that direction.

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2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Enclave) by Ventisquero, Chile

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Enclave, Maipo Andes Valley, Pirque) by Ventisquero, Chile

Dark, opaque, plum color. Out of the bottle, nose is a little shy for a Cabernet Sauvignon, with characteristic notes of plum and blackberries. Neither over ripe nor too tart, just right. A dusty, woody leather lingers on the background along with hints of licorice and pomegranate and a touch of cherry cola. Swirling vigorously intensifies and ripens the plum, cherry cola pulls forward as nose fades to a fine dust.

Body is precisely balanced right down the middle, from front to back. A dry, slightly restrained, dark plum greets the palate immediately followed by oak vanilla so subtle you’d likely miss it. This conspires to create a slightly creamy, buttery mouth feel. Faint licorice carries over as well as a touch of cola. Fine grained, dusty tannins precipitate, eventually forming a gentle gradient of well integrated structure. This is a big wine on all accounts but I barely noticed this finely tuned structure. Midway through, a subtle nudge of spice ushers in the transition to finish. As the body slowly fades away like desert rain on a hot summer day, subtle hints of cola, cocoa, warm spice, and dusty tannic grit linger on the palate. After hours of decanting the grip on the palate becomes a dominating force. Body thickens and develops a subtle viscousity. Licorice intensifies and turns from more red to black licorice, holding short of pure star anise.

This Cab exhibits and obsessive attention to detail. It feels like there was a clear vision of what it was destined to be – a thesis, a textbook example of what Cab was meant to look like. Not just from Chile, but on a world stage. No rock and roll here, no over-the-top off-balance notes. Just a quiet focused reflection on the world’s most popular varietal. Chief Winemaker Felipe Tosso and his team have not only created a great wine in the Enclave but a unique opportunity for enlightenment and development of the enthusiast’s palate. The Enclave is one of the best Cabernet Sauvignon I have had yet. Bien hecho amigos!

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You can access Ventisquero wines directly from the Ventiquero Wine Club website as well as on wine.com, both linked below.

https://ventisquerowineclub.com

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2019 Pinot Noir (Ridgetop) by Sojourn, Sonoma

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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2017 Pinot Noir (De Ponte Vineyard) by Panther Creek

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (De Ponte Vineyard – Willamette Valley, Oregon) by Panther Creek Cellars, Woodinville, WA

Crisp nose with slightly tart berries, and a touch of red cherries. Subtle secondary notes of creamy vanilla and minerality interplay, filling the stage with bitter sweet essence. Tertiary notes of wet wood leather linger in the back. Nice.

Body is restrained. A silky smooth body greets with a touch of sweet citrus. Mild tannins quickly precipitate, adding subtle structure. Thin, crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak along with a touch of minerality fill the body in faint broad strokes. These quickly dissipate, leaving thin tannic structure, and mineral essence. This fades away into a subtle dance between sweet and bitter over thin crisp tannic grip.

I’m enjoying exploring the Panther Creek lineup this winter. I remember visiting the tasting room earlier in the spring and I liked every wine they poured. I can’t wait to revisit, hopefully this coming spring, for an in depth look at what they are all about. If you are like me an love the complexity and nuance that comes with small batch production artisan wines, I highly recommend checking out their wines. Visit WineSnob.blog for more and updated reviews of Panther Creek wines.

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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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2017 Pinot Noir (Maverick Vineyard) by Panther Creek Cellars

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Maverick Vineyard – Willamette Valley) by Panther Creek Cellars, Woodinville, WA

Beautiful aromatic nose greets with raspberries up front and a mild leather of sedimentary soil essence. Swirling vigorously unlocks blackberry and sweet cherry and a faint cedarwood in the back, so subtle you’d likely miss it.

Body is balanced from front to back, greeting with a touch of acidity in the form of a mild citrus. This creates good tension. Cherries and blackberries quickly bring good balance and mouth feel along. Mild but crisp tannins provide good unobtrusive structure. Transition to finish is seamless as body evolves, developing a subtle, crisp caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak. This accentuates the cherry essence, turning it slightly sweet. This one note lingers over the palate through the finish. The palate is rendered slightly dry with just the faintest hint of cola.

This Pinot is on the lighter side of medium bodied. A well built wine that offers a familiar while different look at this region. I have come to expect a certain caliber of Pinot from this region in general and Panther Creek delivers here again with great complexity without being overly abstract. It remains approachable and should please the intermediate to advanced palate. Nicely done Panther Creek!

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2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills) by Rusack, Central Coast, CA

Tonight’s Occasion: 2013 Pinot Noir (Santa Rita Hills) by Rusack Vineyards, Central Coast, CA

Deep ruby color. A burst of bright ripe berries fills the air as soon as it’s uncorked. This is the most recognizable hallmark of a faithful Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir. Crisp, bright red cherries, raspberries and berries. A soft sand and driftwood leather lingers throughout the stage. Swirling intensifies the nose across the board. It’s intoxicating. Hints of pepper dot the experience. Just beautiful.

Body greets with a touch of acidity in the form of a slight citrus cola essence. This is quickly followed by a subtle, crisp, refined caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak. Very gentle, crisp tannins quickly follow lending a grounding effect with just enough structure to frame the stage. Body takes a slightly soft, plush mouth feel. Sweet citrus (think Meyer lemon), subtle cola and berries reemerge towards the back. This marks the transition to a gentle fading finish as gentle tannins and mineral leather take turns drying and wetting the palate. A gentle spice punctuates the whole experience.

One of the first winemakers I explored from this region. It’s amazing how much of an impact the right winemaker can have on the inquisitive palate. Rusack is a must for the intermediate to advanced palate. One seeking to better familiarize their palate with this region and its unique expression. A faithful wine that is representative of both the Varietal and the region. A great sense of place. Nicely done Rusack!

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Read more on my first visit to Rusack Vineyards a few years ago.

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2017 Pinot Noir (Kalita Vineyard) by Panther Creek

Tonight’s Occasion: 2017 Pinot Noir (Kalita Vineyard – Willamette Valley, OR) by Panther Creek Cellars, Woodinville, WA

Dark intense ruby color. Subtle aromatic nose with bright cherries, raspberries and a hint of sweet cola. An underlying wet mineral leather permeates the nose. This is its sense of place – Willamette Valley.

A bright body greets with a touch of acidity in the form of a slightly sweet citrus reminiscent of a Meyer Lemon. This is quickly counterbalanced with a slightly viscous weighted body. Crisp tannins add great structure midway through as crisp caramel reminiscent of neutral French oak and red cherries fill the palate. A taught mineral leather carries over. This marks the transition to a finish characterized by a firm, dry tannic grip over a wet mineral leather.

This is a well built Pinot with a touch of personality. This small understated boutique winemaker was one of the highlights of my visit to Woodinville. Their small batch production artisan wines are just the type of wines I obsess over and constantly seek out, off the beaten path.

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Be sure to check the out the Panther Creek Cellars, website for occasional bundles, specials and opportunities. They are currently offering a Holiday Bundle. It’s a great opportunity to explore their signature wines. See link below.

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2014 Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands) by Belle Glos

Tonight’s Occasion: 2014 Pinot Noir (Las Alturas – Santa Lucia Highlands) by Belle Glos, Monterey County, CA

Intense, ruby color. Out of the bottle, nose is all terroir up front with an intense damp wood leather. This note is unwavering as subtle dark cherries peek through from behind the scene. As it breathes bright berry expression typical of this region pulls forward nicely. Hints of red vines licorice and soft buttery oak linger in the background. Beautiful nose. This wine is alive.

Body is slightly creamy up front. A viscous body is framed by soft tannins in the form of dark cherry skins lending unobtrusive structure to this full bodied Pinot. Soft buttery oak lends a nice creamy mouth feel, further accentuating the fruit and softening the tannins. Towards the back, a warm spice heat emerges along with a firming of tannic structure. This marks the transition to finish characterized by a long slow tango between an intensifying spice heat and tightening tannic grip over a backdrop of subtle bitter cola. Both eventually settling for a truce.

This is my first Belle Glos wine. Even at 7 years of age (long for a Pinot), it feels like it could still use more time to further integrate. I recommend decanting for at least 30 minutes. It is a well built, terroir driven wine, faithful to its origins. I’m not sure what took me so long to explore their wines but I very much look forward to exploring the rest of their lineup. Nicely done Belle Glos!

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