Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo

Abacela Vineyards, Umpqua Valley, Oregon

While everyone and their wine-loving aunt Jeannie are busy going gaga for Oregon Pinot Noir and, increasingly Chardonnay (both deserving to be sure), another grape has slowly been building a track record that is now too good to ignore. Oregon Tempranillo deserves your attention, but give it quietly please -- it's generally still an amazing bargain, thanks to being largely off the radar for most wine lovers, even those who live in Oregon.

Oregon Tempranillo languishes in obscurity primarily due to the fact that with a couple of notable exceptions, it's largely been planted in the wine growing areas of Oregon that are not the superstar successful Willamette Valley. But in places like the Umpqua Valley and Rogue Valley and Applegate Valley, this Spanish grape variety has convinced many a winemaker of its virtues. Now it simply has to convince consumers -- no mean feat when most of the airtime for Oregon Wine is sucked up by its Burgundian cousins.

I first tasted Oregon Tempranillo when a bottle arrived on my doorstep perhaps 7 years ago. Unlooked for and unannounced, bearing the name of a winery I had never heard of, this bottled did what I hope for whenever I pull out an unsolicited wine sample and pop the cork: it amazed me. The wine was true to its varietal character, balanced, and tasty. Epic? No. But good enough for me to ask under my breath, "who the heck is Abacela Vineyards and what on earth are they doing growing Tempranillo in Oregon."

Back then, a lot of people were probably asking Earl Jones that question. Maybe even Earl himself. In 1993, he moved his family to Southern Oregon and planted 12 acres of Tempranillo, having convinced himself that the climate was perfect for growing the grape that, in his opinion, no one had ever gotten right in America.

"At the time, California had 535 acres of Tempranillo, and all but one were in the Central Valley,' says Jones. "There was one acre in Napa. I tasted that wine in barrel, and said, 'Hmm, thats pretty good,' but then I said to myself 'I believe I can do better.'


Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo

Tempranillo ready for harvest, Weisinger Vineyards


Tempranillo, from the Spanish temprano which means early, is one of the world's most planted grape varieties, hovering somewhere in the 4th to 6th range in terms of global acreage. It lives up to its name by ripening a full 2 weeks or more earlier than many of its red cousins -- most notably Grenache -- with which it is often paired in several famous wine regions of Spain, including Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Toro. It has been cultivated in these areas, as well as in Portugal for several hundred years, but recent DNA evidence also shows that it has had a somewhat long foothold in southern Italy (Toscana and Baslicata) under the name Malvasia Nera. It was formally introduced to California in 1905 by Frederic Bioletti, but it may have arrived earlier, mixed with various Spanish and Italian varieties planted by early Italian immigrants in the Sierra Foothills. It has since spread to Washington State and Idaho, though quite possibly this is due entirely to Jones' success with the grape.

In the late 80s, after a long academic and research career in cellular biology and immunology, Jones saw the proverbial writing on the wall when it came to the future of the healthcare system and the academic world that fed it. At 52, and not yet ready to retire, he decided to set himself to solving what he felt was the mysterious lack of decent American Tempranillo, by then his favorite grape.

"I thought I had some decent insights from the time I spent in Spain,' says Jones who managed several visits for business and pleasure while still teaching and doing research. "All the books say soil is most important in determining terroir, but I believe that's largely bullshit. Climate is the obvious dominant feature. Soil plays a role, no doubt, but it is not the most important thing. When I saw Alejandro Fernandez making arguably a better Tempranillo in alluvial deposits on a river 150 miles from Rioja, and then saw the weather station data from there and from La Granja showing the same growing degree days and six month season, I said to myself it's environmental, and that's that.'

Armed with this insight, Jones researched regions from South Africa to South America to the West Coast, where he felt there was strong potential. After dismissing Walla Walla, Washington and Idaho for their winter freezes -- 'More than 10 days below ten degrees and you'll kill Tempranillo vines" says Jones -- he settled on Oregon's Umpqua River Valley.


Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo

Vineyards in the Umpqua Valley (Courtesy of Umpqua Valley Winegrowers)

"There were six wineries in the Umpqua at that time, and before I made the trip out, I bought all their wines and had them shipped to me and I was really disappointed,' recalls Jones. "I didn't know much about winemaking but I knew good wine, and they weren't very good. But on one of my exploratory trips to the Northwest, I bought every local wine I found in a grocery store and one of them, a Merlot was good, and that told me it was possible."

Two years after that Merlot, and having found a farmer willing to unload 500 acres at the price Jones was willing to pay for 50, he moved to the region and planted vines armed with the best ideas his own research and theories would permit. At the time, the roughly 20 vineyards and six wineries operating in the region were focused on the big five international varieties -- Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet and Merlot. Jones likes to tell the story of attending a local wine group meeting and telling one inquisitive woman what he was planting.

"At the end of the evening, some guy came up to me and said, 'Mr. Jones, you do realize that wine grapes are permanent plantings -- you can't temporarily plant them.' it was like a kids game of telephone among people who hadn't really ever heard of Tempranillo."

Jones is proud to have pioneered a grape that has become something of a signature for the region, albeit a quiet one. Roughly fifty wineries now produce Tempranillo across several different growing regions across the state: Applegate Valley, Columbia Gorge, Columbia Valley, Rogue Valley, Umpqua Valley, Walla Walla, and even the Willamette Valley. Most producers farm less than 5 acres, and only ten or so of those make more than 1000 cases of the grape per year.

Over the years, Abacela has continued to send me samples now and again, and I've watched the wines mature into self-assured deliciousness, thanks to the efforts of winemaker Andrew Wenzl and his partner in farming, Greg Jones, Earl's son.

So when the Oregon Tempranillo Alliance asked me to come up and taste through their wines to both educate myself and give feedback to the winemakers, I was very pleased to accept. I spent an afternoon tasting through many flights of wines along with my fellow visiting critics, wine writer Mike Dunne and Bree Boskov, MW.

What does Oregon Tempranillo taste like, you ask? I have a couple of ways of answering that question. I made tasting notes on the forty-some-odd wines that I tasted while I was there and have posted those below. For fun, I also dumped my tasting notes into a word cloud generator to see what kinds of themes emerged. After deleting a lot of common words and tweaking some variables, it was interesting to see how things sorted out.
Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo

My tasting notes

I showed my cloud to the organizers and they got kind of excited about it, so with the permission of my fellow critics, I also made word clouds from their notes, as well as a combined cloud that integrated all three of our notes.
Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo

Mike Dunne's notes

Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo
Bree Boskov's notes

Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillo
A combined cloud of all three of our notes

I don't find these clouds particularly profound, nor surprising in their similarities and differences across three professional tasters, but they're a fun little exercise that can reveal some interesting traits.

More deliberately, let me say that Oregon Tempranillo seems to have quickly moved through or altogether avoided the trap that snares many burgeoning wine regions in their early days. The state of Idaho provides an unusually interesting comparison by way of illustrating this point. Idaho's Snake River AVA has also found that Tempranillo may be a very suitable, even successful grape in that region.

My own tastings have led me to share that opinion. However I have also found that Idaho Tempranillos (and indeed most of the wines I've tasted from Idaho) suffer from too heavy a hand in their making. The wines are often slaked in oak, over-extracted, sometimes picked too ripe, and show generally disjointed characteristics.

The causes of these shortcomings are likely myriad, ranging from inexperienced winemaking, a lack of understanding of the site or grape, or simply people just trying too hard to match their notions of what makes for "fine" wine. I've seen such issues in many up-and-coming regions such as Colorado, Texas, Arizona and more, to the point that I consider them pretty typical growing pains for a new region.

The Tempranillos of Southern Oregon occasionally show some of these mistakes, to be sure, but on the whole, I was very impressed with the balance, ripeness, use of oak, acidity levels, and overall character of these wines. Many of the best wines had a lovely black tea or smoky character that I enjoyed greatly (and which appears somewhat prominently in the word clouds above), along with their cherry fruit. In a brief survey conducted at the event, more than 72% of the winemakers present reported using 25% or less new oak for their wines, 84% of them age their wines for more than 12 months in barrel, and 38% age their wines for more than 18 months in barrel. Most use commercial yeasts and almost every winemaker adds acid to their wines.

In our discussions, my colleague Bree Boskov noted that many of the Tempranillos we tasted were 100% varietal bottlings. She rightly suggested that more winemakers could consider bolstering acidity with some of the grapes used for just such a purpose in Spain. I would also love to see more winemakers using native yeast fermentations instead of commercial yeasts.

But these are often the luxuries of self-assured winemakers resting upon a foundation of solid market demand, something that Oregon Tempranillo may not yet fully have. Which means you have a chance to get in on the secret early.


TASTING NOTES

Below are the tasting notes for every Oregon Tempranillo I had the pleasure of tasting a few weeks ago at the Oregon Tempranillo Alliance tasting. They were tasted blind in flights of five or so wines over the course of several hours. Alcohol levels, along with other identifying information, were provided after the fact. Other than editing my notes for grammar, and grouping the wines by ratings, I have made no changes to the thoughts I recorded while tasting.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9

2015 Abacela - Reserve Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and black cherry. In the mouth, muscular tannins surround a core of cherry and black cherry fruit that is bright with excellent acidity. Nice black tea notes swirl in the background as a faint citrus hint touches the finish. Excellent. 14.9% alcohol. Cost: $49. click to buy.

2015 2Hawk Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of slightly grapey cherry and black fruits. In the mouth, very faint tannins surround a core of bright cherry fruit that is tinged Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillowith sweet black tea. Very pretty, with excellent acidity and nice length. A touch of mocha on the finish. Delicious. 13.8% alcohol.

2014 Castillo de Feliciana Tempranillo, Walla Walla Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cedar and black tea. In the mouth, flavors of black tea and cherry and mocha are wrapped in a fleecy blanket of tannins. Good acidity keeps the wine bright and fresh as mocha and oak flavors linger in the finish. The wood is present here but pretty well integrated. Is this Abacela? 14.0% alcohol.

2014 Red Lily "Life of Riley" Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and black tea. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and black tea notes are draped in a thick fleecy blanket of tannins. Excellent acidity makes for a bouncy mouthful and faint notes of mocha in the finish speak to particularly well integrated wood. Very nice. Includes 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.3% alcohol. Cost: $30. click to buy.

2014 Schmidt Family Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cedar and a touch of leather. In the mouth, aromatically sweet flavors of cherry and cedar and herbs have a wonderful texture that adds a rustic honesty to this wine. Perhaps unfined and unfiltered? Fine grained, powdery tannins, excellent acidity and the merciful absence of overt oak influence make me like this wine a great deal. 14.4% alcohol. Cost: $42. click to buy.

2014 Red Lily "Red Blanket" Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and tea and a touch of herbs. In the mouth, black cherry and black tea flavors mix with a hint of cedar and leather. Muscular tannins buff the edges of the palate and linger with a hint of citrus peel in the finish. Very nice. Includes 19% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.0% alcohol. Cost: $22. click to buy.

2013 Foon Estate Vineyard Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Dark ruby in the glass, with a hint of purple still lingering, this wine smells of forest floor and dried flowers and cherry. In the mouth, flavors of cherry and leather and herbs and forest floor have a nice powdery tannic backbone and excellent acidity. This wine tastes like it has some bottle age to it, and is quite pretty for it. 13.5% alcohol.

2015 Stone Griffon Tempranillo, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium ruby in the glass with some purple still remaining at the core, this wine smells of sandalwood and red fruits and dried flowers. In the mouth, the wine is quite lithe and light on its feet, with more ethereal flavors of cherry and sandalwood and dried herbs. But the tannins grow in strength as the wine passes over the palate and linger with suede texture and notes of bergamot in the finish. Pretty. Excellent acidity. 14.0% alcohol.

NV EdenVale Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in the glass, but headed towards ruby, this wine smells of cherry and tea and cedar. In the mouth, cherry and cedar flavors are quite smooth and velvety, with powdery, ethereal tannins that buff the edges of the mouth. Good acidity and very nice balance. I wonder if this wine has a bit of age on it. 15.5% alcohol.

2016 Belle Fiore Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of black cherry and black tea with hints of flowers. In the mouth, dark and powerful flavors of black cherry and black tea are wrapped in a skein of muscular tannins with a fine, powdery texture. Broad shouldered and powerful, this wine nonetheless has the acidity to be very drinkable. Notes of tea and citrus peel linger in the finish. Unknown alcohol. Cost: $49.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9

2015 Coventina Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of oak and cherry. In the mouth, juicy cherry and berry flavors mix with a coffee and mocha note. Good acidity and a sense of slightly elevated alcohol, but quite tasty. Get in Early on Oregon TempranilloWell integrated wood. 13.7% alcohol. .

2015 Weisinger - Reserve Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and mocha. In the mouth, flavors of cherry and mocha and a touch of coconut have very faint powdery tannins and a medium-bodied, lithe character. Light on its feet. Very pretty, but with a distinct American oak signature that somewhat upstages the fruit. Nonetheless, tasty. 14.0% alcohol. .

2015 Coventina - Reserve Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cola and cedar. In the mouth, bright cherry and cedar flavors have a dusting of powdery tannins, and a nice bounce thanks to excellent acidity. Good length and very nice balance, with a mocha finish that even leans a little minty. 13.5% alcohol. .

2009 EdenVale Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and plum and grapey cedar. In the mouth, particularly juicy flavors of cherry and plum and boysenberry have a sweet oak note that lingers through the finish as the tannins gain stiffness. Excellent acidity. The fruit is slightly candied, but overall this is an excellent and tasty mouthful. 16.0% alcohol. . Cost: $65. click to buy.

2016 Triple Oak Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and plum and a bit of cedar. In the mouth, bright cherry and cedar flavors have a light cola and mocha note to them and are bouncy with excellent acidity. A nice cola note lingers in the finish. Faint tannins gain strength as the wine lingers on the palate. This is very easy to drink. Well-integrated oak stays very unobtrusive in the wine. 13.9% alcohol. .

2017 Triple Oak Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and dried herbs and tea. In the mouth, bright cherry and black tea flavors have a nice floral note to them, wrapped as they are in suede-like tannins that gain muscle as the wine finishes with cherry and cola notes. Excellent acidity. 13.5% alcohol. .

2016 Plaisance Ranch Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and violets. In the mouth, rich black cherry flavors mix with a touch of tea and herbs. Thick fleecy tannins flex their muscles as the wine finishes with a bit of a citrus note. Powerful, and needs a little time. Includes 8% Merlot. 13.5% alcohol. .

2016 Weisinger Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of oak and dark fruit. In the mouth, juicy black cherry and black tea flavors have a wonderful silky texture to them, and are backed by fine-grained muscular tannins. Nice floral notes linger in the finish. There's a distinct oak signature to this wine, but it does not overpower the fruit, despite being more prominent than I would like. Less wood, more of that beautiful fruit please. Still, a very tasty mouthful. 14.2% alcohol. .

2015 Belle Fiore Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Inky, opaque garnet in the glass, this wine smells of boysenberries and blueberry pie. In the mouth, rich blueberry and black cherry fruit has a nice brightness to it thanks to excellent acidity. Powdery tannins flex their muscles in the background with the scent of graphite lingering a bit in the finish, but definitely letting the dark, powerful fruit take the stage. Unknown alcohol. . Cost: $49.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5

2015 Pebbleston Cellars Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a shy nose. In the mouth, bright red fruits have a faint tangy funkiness. In the mouth, bright cherry and sandalwood fruit has an increasing grip on the palate. Faint cedar notes linger in the finish with a hint of mocha. Excellent acidity. 14.1% alcohol.

2015 Stone Griffon - Reserve Tempranillo, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of bright cherry fruit and a touch of wet leaves. In Get in Early on Oregon Tempranillothe mouth, bright cherry and cedar notes are draped in a sneaky blanket of tannins that gain strength as the wine finishes. Lively and light on its feet, but the tannins add some seriousness. 14.0% alcohol.

2015 Plaisance Ranch Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of grapey boysenberry and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry fruit has a faint vegetal quality that hangs in the background. Faint tannins wrap around the core of fruit. There's a brightness to the finish that is nice. Good acidity. Includes 10% Syrah. 14.0% alcohol.

2014 Red Lily Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and earth and wood. In the mouth, fine grained tannins wrap around a core of cherry fruit that is tinged with oak. Though a bit strong, the wood is well integrated and smooth, and leaves a slight bourbon quality in the finish. American oak? 14.6% alcohol. Cost: $35. click to buy.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5

2016 Holloran - Stafford Hill Tempranillo, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet felt and red fruit. In the mouth, mellow flavors of cherry and other red fruits have a subdued and earthy touch. Good acidity and a medium-bodied feel, but missing some intensity and complexity. 13.8% alcohol. . Cost: $ . click to buy.

2016 Naked Winery "Oh! Orgasmic" Tempranillo, Columbia Gorge, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass this wine smells of wet wood and red fruit. In the mouth, wet wood and cherry fruit is somewhat subdued but has a nice earthy aspect. Good acidity and length but missing some dynamism. Includes 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14.4% alcohol. . Cost: $80. click to buy.

2016 Holloran Tempranillo, Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of sweet oak and red fruits. In the mouth, sweetish flavors of mocha and cherry have a bright acidity and surprising lack of tannic backbone. Rare for me to want tannins but this needs more. Excellent acidity. Lacking in complexity and a bit too much wood. 14.3% alcohol. .


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8

2016 Nicole Reese Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of red fruit and a touch of mocha. In the mouth, bright cherry and cocoa powder flavors are nicely non-oak-inflected character, with hints of peanut butter. Missing some complexity and depth. 12.3% alcohol.

2014 Foon Estate Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and wet wood and a hint of earth and raisins. In the mouth, flavors of dried fruit and cherries and raisins have a bright and bouncy acidity to them, wrapped as they are in a gauzy blanket of tannins. Somewhat dried out. 13.7% alcohol.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 7 AND 7.5

2015 Kriselle Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine smells of struck match and red fruits. In the mouth, red fruit flavors are somewhat pinched between tight tannins. Decent acidity but slightly narrow in character. 14.9 alcohol. .


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 7

2012 South Stage Cellars Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and grapey boysenberry. In the mouth, grapey boysenberry flavors have too much jamminess for my taste. Low typicity. 14.4% alcohol.

2016 Schultz Tempranillo, Applegate Valley, Oregon
Inky, opaque garnet in color, this wine smells of grapey black cherry and boysenberry. In the mouth, lush black and red fruits have a light tannic grip to them and a more simplistic grapey character that is pleasant but not compelling. Good acidity. 13.5% alcohol.

2015 Abacela - Fiesta Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in color, this wine has somewhat muted aromas of cherry and sawdust. In the mouth, cherry fruit flavors are bright and even a little lean, but wrapped tightly in a skein of muscular tannins. Good acidity but somewhat compressed and narrow. 14.2% alcohol.

2015 Weisinger Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of mocha and sweet oak. In the mouth, what would likely be very pretty cherry fruit is mostly overshadowed by the sweet mocha and vanilla notes of oak, which also lends its drying tannins to the overall impression of just too much wood on this wine. Decent acidity and length. 14.0% alcohol.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 6.5 AND 7

2015 Schmidt Family Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of boysenberry and blueberries. In the mouth, the wine is very grape-soda in flavor with hints of cherry. Good acidity, and faint tannins but not much typicity or complexity. 14.8% alcohol. .

2016 Ryan Rose Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a slightly shy nose of wood and red fruits. In the mouth, the wine is light on its feet, with faint tannins and good acidity but unfortunately the dominant flavor in the wine seems to be wood. Faint red fruits poke through sweet oak flavors a little, but this is all sweet vanilla oak. 14.0% alcohol.

2017 Silvan Ridge #3 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of lots of new oak. In the mouth, the wine is basically in an oak straightjacket. What would clearly be pretty cherry fruit is obliterated by new French oak. Good acidity, but c'mon! Stop abusing your fruit!!! Alcohol unknown.

2013 South Stage Cellars Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of grapes and prunes and raisins. In the mouth, flavors of dried red and black fruit have a vegetal and herbal edge that turns slightly menthol in the finish. Odd. Decent acidity. 14.5% alcohol.


WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 6

2017 Silvan Ridge #1 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of slightly vegetal aromas. In the mouth, vegetal flavors and red fruits take on a slightly bitter edge. Faint tannins grab the edges of the mouth.

2017 Silvan Ridge #2 Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark, cloudy garnet in color, this wine smells of oak and red and black fruits. In the mouth, the dominant flavor is oak, which all but obliterates the fruit with sweet mocha flavors. Overdone. Not great acidity either.

2016 Naumes Family Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of new oak and basically nothing but. In the mouth, it's a New French Oak cocktail with the pretensions of fruit. Decent acidity. Mouth-drying tannins that clearly come from the barrel. Ugh. 13.8% alcohol.

2016 2Hawk Tempranillo, Rogue Valley, Oregon
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of oak and black cherry. In the mouth, black cherry flavors have a hard time surfacing in the sea of new oak, whose tannins dry out the mouth and leave it parched. Too much wood. Can't taste the fruit, really. Decent acidity 13.2% alcohol.

2009 Abacela Tempranillo, Umpqua Valley, Oregon
Very dark, almost inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of stewed prunes and raisins. In the mouth, dried black cherry fruit is matched with slightly drying tannins for a flat, dried out feeling with a hole in the middle palate. Overdone and not recommended. Picked too late, I suspect. 14.3% alcohol.



An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux

The World Atlas of Wine describes it as the "largest fine-wine district on earth," and while we make a big deal in the wine world about the link between geography and flavor, in Bordeaux the Atlas notes that "no where else in the wine world is the link between geography and finance so evident."

Bordeaux is certainly the most famous wine region on earth, having captivated everyone from poets to politicians for centuries. But for many wine lovers, especially Americans, it remains one of the most difficult wine regions to understand and enjoy.

The Cabernet and Merlot dominated wines of the region have long been benchmarks for the grape variety, but if your first taste of these varieties came from California, chances are that the more savory and tannic renditions from Bordeaux might seem fierce and unforgiving. While the region's wines have become more approachable over the past few decades, thanks to the influence of Robert Parker and global warming, among other factors, they are still often built around an acid and tannic profile that seems austere compared to the plush ripeness of California wines. The wines of Bordeaux are still made to age, which means they can be very tight and narrow-seeming in their youth.

Bordeaux's accessibility also suffers from its sheer size and the dizzying number of producers, appellations and hierarchical classifications of which wine drinkers must make some sense as they begin to explore. The lack of varietal labeling adds to the difficulties in remembering what is what for anyone weaned on bottles that clearly display the name of a grape.

Nonetheless, once upon a time, it was relatively easy for an intrepid wine drinker to attempt an understanding of the regions wines simply by purchasing bottles at their local fine wine merchant. As recently as 25 years ago, buying top-quality Bordeaux was still within the reach of a middle-class lifestyle. This is sadly no longer true. Even the second growths have become so prohibitively expensive that they practically make more sense as investment vehicles than beverages to drink with dinner.

The financial realities of the Bordeaux market mean that the opportunities to taste top wines are all but non-existent for most wine lovers. Even the chance to taste well-aged versions of lesser wines now comes at such a premium that most young American wine enthusiasts mature into savvy wine drinkers these days without really having experienced or understood Bordeaux.

And of course, that's saying nothing about Bordeaux's brand image, which remains, well... stuffy. Bordeaux is the land of immense Chateaux owned by the wealthy elite, to whom one must apply in order to visit their meticulously groomed estates.

While I personally can still remember in my very early days of exploring wine paying roughly $50 for Pontet-Canet, a Grand Cru from the Pauillac appellation, my own experiences with Bordeaux as a burgeoning wine geek 20 years ago were largely marked by the difficulties I describe above.

Having now tasted many of Bordeaux's top wines in their youth and across many decades of age, I feel like I have a general sense of the wines and the region, though I'm far from being truly competent.

My problem is that I just don't want to be competent. Bordeaux doesn't excite me nearly as much as other wine regions. I think this lack of enthusiasm stems from both the wines themselves and their pricey inaccessibility. I like a well-aged Bordeaux just fine, but even the finest of the wines, those that I would rate at 9.5 or higher on my rating scale, don't send a thrill through my bones in the same way that say, older Burgundy does. I've stood side-by-side with knowledgeable Bordeaux lovers, tasting Cos d'Estournel (one of my favorite estates) back into the 1960s and, despite thoroughly enjoying the wines, have not swooned to near the extent as have my companions.

Perhaps it simply may be that the flavors of Bordeaux just aren't among my favorites, and thus I don't seek them out. In search of a robust red wine, I'm much more likely to pick up a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Bandol than a Bordeaux.

Despite this fact, I do enjoy reminding myself what good Bordeaux tastes like, and so when a group of estates came to San Francisco recently under the banner of Tour des Deux Rives (Tour of the Two Riverbanks), I dropped in to walk around the tasting with a number of other members of the press and trade. My notes on the wines I tasted are grouped together below.


THE LEFT BANK


Bordeaux as a region surrounds the confluence of two rivers, the Dordogne and the Garonne, which flow together into the estuary of Gironde (as seen in the satellite photo above) before exiting to the Atlantic ocean on the west coast of France. The region has traditionally been divided into the Left Bank, or all the wine regions to the left (west and south) of the Garonne river, and the Right Bank, or all the wine regions to the right (north and east) of the Dordogne river.

Of the two areas, the Left Bank holds more, and more storied, appellations. It begins near the sea with the large appellation known as the Medoc that tracks south along the Garonne River encompassing the well known sub-appellations of Saint-Estephe, Pauillac, Saint-Julien and Margaux (collectively known as the Haut-Medoc), followed by the appellations of Pessac-Leognan, Graves, and finally Sauternes as you move south of the City of Bordeaux.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux

A view of the city of Bordeaux on the banks of the Garonne river.

The land on the Left Bank varies considerably from North to south, but generally features well drained, gravelly soils with some clay. The Gironde estuary helps regulate temperatures and the Atlantic influence is tempered by coastal forests, leading to relatively mild winters and warm summers.


ST-ESTEPHE
The northernmost (and most downstream) appellation of the Haut-Medoc, St-Estephe has heavier, more clay-influenced soils than the other appellations further south, leading to more water retention, a handy trait in hot, dry summers. While it is difficult to generalize, especially in an age of ambitious winemaking, the wines of St-Estephe have a reputation for being more robust and brawny than their southern cousins. The best wines of the region are often found to be made on those parcels that have a higher proportion of the gravelly soils that mark the best plots of the more famous appellations such as Margaux and Pauillac.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2009 Chateau de Pez Bordeaux Blend, Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass with a hint of brick beginning to show, this wine smells of cassis, truffles and pencil shavings. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is still vibrant, with notes of cedar, pencil shavings and tight, muscular tannins wrapped around the core of fruit. Citrus notes linger in the finish with dried herbs. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Aged in 40% new oak, with the balance being split between 1st and second use barrels. Unfiltered. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.


An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2015 Chateau Haut-Beauséjour Bordeaux Blend, Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, dried herbs and dried flowers. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit is tart and tightly wedged in a fist of fine-grained tannins. Excellent acidity and length. Aged in 40% new oak. The blend is higher in Merlot than most other estates in the region. Score: around 9. Cost: $40. click to buy.



PAUILLAC
The superstar sub-appellation of the Medoc, Pauillac plays host to three of the five so-called "First Growths," that were classed as Premiere Grand Cru during the 1855 classification of the region that largely cemented the hierarchy (and pricing) of wineries ever since. Marked by pockets of deep river gravel, washed down from millennia of flooding, the soils are about as perfect as can be for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, which finds its apotheosis in many of the vaunted and ridiculously expensive wines that call this appellation home.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2010 Chateau Mouton Rothschild "Le Petite Mouton" Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and oak. In the mouth, tight, drying tannins instantly coat the mouth and seem to squeeze flavors of cherry, cedar and pencil lead. Good acidity and length. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. This is the estate's second label. Score: around 9. Cost: $229. click to buy.

2010 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Premiere Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark ruby in the glass with some garnet highlights, this wine smells of dried flowers, cedar and pencil lead. In the mouth, juicy cherry still predominates, backed by cedar and graphite wrapped tightly in a suede blanket of tannins that are smooth and very well integrated into the wine. Extremely long finish and excellent balance and poise. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Average vine age of 44 years. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $999. click to buy.

2014 Chateau Mouton Rothschild Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Premiere Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells gamey, with cherry and floral notes backing up the meaty notes. In the mouth, cedar, iodine, cherry and some bright citrus notes are juicy and linger even as a muscular fist of tannins closes onto the wine, powdery and fine. Still too young. Give it 5 to 10 years. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. Average vine age of 44 years. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $529. click to buy.




An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2012 Chateau d'Armailhac Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Cinquième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells berry bright with black cherry and boysenberry aromas. In the mouth, cassis and black cherry fruit is boisterous with juicy acidity and wrapped in cloud of powdery tannins. Missing some depth but still tasty. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Average vine age of 46 years with some plantings exceeding 100 years old. Score: around 9. Cost: $50. click to buy.

2010 Chateau d'Armailhac Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Cinquième Cru, Bordeaux, France Medium
garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar and forest floor. In the mouth, citrusy notes of cedar, dried cherry and herbs mix prettily with decent acidity. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Average vine age of 46 years with some plantings exceeding 100 years old. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $85. click to buy.




An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2009 Chateau Clerc Milon "Pastourelle" Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry, cedar and graphite. In the mouth, cherry, cedar and forest floor aromas swirl and bounce with excellent acidity. Light, tacky tannins. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $55. click to buy.

2012 Chateau Clerc Milon Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Cinquième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has an extremely strong graphite aroma backed by cherry fruit. In the mouth, the wine is juicy and smooth, with cherry, cedar and spice box flavors. Very pretty citrus notes linger in the finish. The tannins are powdery and fine grained, coating the mouth and lingering with the cedar and citrus in the finish. Tasty. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. Average vine age is 53 years old. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $150. click to buy.

2010 Chateau Clerc Milon Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Cinquième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, but headed towards ruby, this wine smells of wet chalkboard, dried flowers and turned earth. In the mouth, cherry and citrus flavors have a beautiful brightness to them thanks to excellent acidity and a surprising purity given the earthiness of the nose. Muscular tannins still have a lot of strength but don't overpower the fruit. Delicious. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. Average vine age is 53 years old. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.




An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2011 Chateau Pichon Longeueville Comtesse de Lalande "Reserve de la Comtesse" Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Deuxième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pencil lead and darker cherry and plum fruit. In the mouth, black cherry and cedar flavors are wrapped in sandpaper-like tannins that compete with a very silky texture to the wine and wrap the fruit tightly. Cola nut lingers on the finish. Great acidity. Quite complex and delicious. Mostly a blend of Cabernet and Merlot. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $65. click to buy.

2011 Chateau Pichon Longeueville Comtesse de Lalande Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Deuxième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of wet chalkboard and earth, pencil shavings, cigar box and cocoa powder. In the mouth, juicy cherry and cedar flavors take on citrus notes and aromas of Pu-erh tea through the finish. Powdery, fine grained tannins. Excellent acidity and length. Mostly a blend of Cabernet and Merlot with an average vine age of 35 years. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $165. click to buy.

2010 Chateau Pichon Longeueville Comtesse de Lalande Bordeaux Blend, Pauillac Deuxième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry fruit and cedar. In the mouth, the wine is exceedingly silky, almost creamy in texture with cherry, cedar, graphite and a hint of herbs. Wonderfully seamless with fine-grained tannins and excellent acidity, the wine has a citrus aroma that lingers through a very long finish. Outstanding. Mostly a blend of Cabernet and Merlot with an average vine age of 35 years. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $230. click to buy.




ST-JULIEN
While it may not be home to as many First Growths as Pauillac, St-Julien can boast the highest proportion of classed growths of any commune in the region. Its mix of clay and gravel is similar to Pauillac allowing the estates in this smallest of the famous four Medoc to produce wines of finesse and power.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2010 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou "Croix du Beaucaillou" Bordeaux Blend, Saint-Julien Deuxième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of pencil lead, cassis, dried herbs and cedar. In the mouth, tight powdery tannins offer a cloud through which flavors of cedar and hints of citrus emerge. Juicy with excellent acidity and a long finish. A blend of roughly 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. Croix du Beaucaillou is a single-vineyard site, rather than a "second wine" from the Chateau. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $70. click to buy.

2015 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou Bordeaux Blend, Saint-Julien Deuxième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells earthy, with notes of cigar box and miso paste. In the mouth, it is tight and citrusy, with cherry and cedar and dried herb flavors. Somewhat stiff, with a bitter finish. Good acidity. A blend of roughly 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. Score: around 9. Cost: $185. click to buy.

1989 Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou Bordeaux Blend, Saint-Julien Deuxième Cru, Bordeaux, France
Medium ruby in the glass headed towards brick, this wine smells of cedar and pencil shavings, leather and barnyard. In the mouth, cedar, leather and barnyard flavors mix with a touch of mushroom and citrus. Powdery tannins linger with the citrus and dried mushroom in the finish. A blend of roughly 80% Cabernet and 20% Merlot. Score: around 9. Cost: $280. click to buy.



An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2014 Chateau Lalande-Borie Bordeaux Blend, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, graphite and berries. In the mouth, the fruit is bright and juicy with notes of cherry, cedar and with citrus lingering in the finish. Tight but not overpowering tannins. A blend of roughly 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, and 10% Cabernet Franc. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $45. click to buy.



PESSAC-LEOGNAN
Overlapping with the southern part of the city of Bordeaux, Pessac-Leognan (really a combination of the two appellations Pessac and Leognan) was made, and remains, famous thanks to Chateau Haut-Brion, perhaps the most historical estate in Bordeaux, and one whose owner is thought to be responsible for the concept of red Bordeaux wine in its modern form. Known for pine trees before wine, the region's sandy, gravelly clay soils host at least as many trees as vines, but equally as many houses, as suburban sprawl continues to encroach on the region.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2015 La Parde de Haut-Bailly Bordeaux Blend, Graves, Bordeaux, France
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a somewhat shy nose of red fruits and earth. In the mouth cherry fruit is wrapped in tight tannins and has a rather short character on the palate. Decent acidity. A rough blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $45 click to buy.

2011 Chateau Haut-Bailly Bordeaux Blend, Graves Grand Cru, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass this wine smells of dark cassis and pencil shavings. In the mouth, dark cherry fruit has a tremendous citrus kick and is wrapped in putty like tannins that lay thick on the tongue. Cedar notes emerge over tine. A serious mouthful. A rough blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Score: around 9. Cost: $120. click to buy.

2010 Chateau Haut-Bailly Bordeaux Blend, Graves Grand Cru, Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine has a citrusy floral aroma that is very charming. In the mouth, earthy notes mix with bright cherry and cedar amidst a gauzy haze of very fine-grained tannins. Great acidity makes the fruit quite juicy still. A rough blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 3% Petit Verdot. Score: around 9. Cost: $180. click to buy.



SAUTERNES
The journey of many wine lovers is marked by two eras: the time before they've ever had a Sauternes, and the time after. Unlike the rest of Bordeaux, Sauternes and its neighbor Barsac focus on making primarily white, and generally sweet wines. These wines, made with grapes affected by the so-called Noble Rot, botrytis cinerea, are among the most exceptional and long lived dessert wines in the world. When the 1855 classification was made of the top wines in Bordeaux, Sauternes was the only appellation outside of the Medoc to be be classified, and its superstar estate, Chateau d'Yquem was given its own special rank of Premiere Cru Superieur, placing it effectively on the same playing field as the First Growths of the Medoc.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2016 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes Blend, Sauternes Premier Cru Supérieur, Bordeaux, France
Pale gold in the glass this wine smells of honeysuckle and apricot. In the mouth, the wine is voluminous and cloud-like, its characteristic mouth-filling cloud of silky texture delivering flavors of orange blossom, honeysuckle, and white peaches with incredible acidity and finesse. Moderately to very sweet, and stunning. A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $400. click to buy.

2005 Chateau d'Yquem Sauternes Blend, Sauternes Premier Cru Supérieur, Bordeaux, France
Medium gold in the glass, with aromas of apricot and orange peel, this wine tastes of orange marmalade, honey, and white flowers. Silky and bright and very sweet, with hints of dried citrus in the finish. A blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $330. click to buy.

2017 Chateau d'Yquem "Y" Sauternes Blend, Sauternes, Bordeaux, France
Near colorless in the glass with a faint greenish gold tinge, this wine smells of passionfruit and white flowers. In the mouth, explosively bright passionfruit and green apple flavors have a crystalline purity and electric resonance thanks to outstanding acidity, with little trace of botrytis influenced flavors. A light sweetness pervades the wine which combined with the mouthwatering acidity makes for an utterly gulpable, delicious elixir of floral freshness. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $175. click to buy.




THE RIGHT BANK


The French refer to this region as the Libornais, after the town of Libourne which has long governed the region surrounding the Eastern bank of the Dordogne river. It has many sub-regions ranging from the famous Pomerol and St-Emilion, to the much less well known appellations of Canon-Fronsac or Castillon Cotes de Bordeaux. The soils of the Right Bank will often contain a lower proportion of gravels in their clay than the Left Bank, but unlike the Left Bank, the soils can also include primary rock, especially in the limestone inflected region of St-Emilion. Unlike the mostly flat Medoc region, the right bank also gives way to more hills, resulting in vineyards with different slopes and sun orientations.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux

A view of St-Emilion, the UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Right Bank.


POMEROL
A wide, flat gravel bed mixed with clay, not unlike many of the best growing regions in Bordeaux, Pomerol lacks one thing that clearly marks the other top appellations of Bordeaux: big Chateaux. Instead of massive gated estates, Pomerol is mostly just a bunch of vineyards interspersed with houses and a small church or two. Left out of the famous 1855 classification, Pomerol is the place where the superstar vineyards of Petrus and Le Pin sit alongside names few have ever heard of. Merlot finds one of its greatest expressions on the soils of Pomerol, along with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2008 Chateau Hosanna Bordeaux Blend, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France Medium
ruby in the glass with a very mature orange at the rim, this wine smells of licorice and dried flowers. In the mouth, juicy cherry and plum flavors mix with cedar notes. Incredibly silky and gorgeously textured, with fine-grained tannins and a minutes-long finish. Delicate and outstanding. A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Score: around 9.5. Cost: $200. click to buy.

2014 Chateau Hosanna Bordeaux Blend, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells slightly gamey, with slightly sappy floral and cherry aromas. In the mouth, that sappiness continues with sour cherry and plum and dried herb flavors transitioning to a meaty, olive-like savoriness. Fine tannins float in a haze through the wine and coat the mouth. Good acidity and length. A blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $180. click to buy.


An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2011 Chateau Certain de May Bordeaux Blend, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of barnyard, cherry and earth. In the mouth, rich, powdery and mouth-coating tannins are the first impression, followed by leather and barnyard flavors that suggest a modicum of brett? Herbs and earth and dark fruit give the wine a powerful aspect. Despite the funkiness, this is an appealing wine. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: around 9. Cost: $130. click to buy.

2010 Chateau Certain de May Bordeaux Blend, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cedar, earth and meat. In the mouth, rich mouth-coating tannins surround cherry and cedar flavors that modulate towards citrus in the finish. The tannins become dusty and fill every nook and cranny of the mouth. Good acidity. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $210. click to buy.




An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2009 Chateau Bourgneuf Bordeaux Blend, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
A cloudy, very dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells gamey, with earth and mushroom leading the cherry fruit aromas. In the mouth, the wine is rich and dark with cherry, black cherry and earth flavors tinged by a hint of sweetness. Juicy with excellent acidity. 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Score: around 9. Cost: $80. click to buy.


An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2008 Chateau Lafleur-Gazin Bordeaux Blend, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and cedar. In the mouth, cherry, cedar, licorice, and cola flavors are dusted with faint tannins. Excellent acidity. Notes of dried flowers linger in the finish. Mostly Merlot, with about 20% Cabernet Franc. Score: around 9. Cost: $60. click to buy.


An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2009 Chateau de Sales Bordeaux Blend, Pomerol, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of...my notes read quite clearly: funky leather. In the mouth, flavors of cherry and old socks definitely have a funky aspect to them, but don't let that keep you from trying this wine, which has appealing characteristics, if only because the bright fruit wins in any contest with the funk. A blend of roughly 70% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $60. click to buy.



ST-EMILION
Situated on something of an plateau above the Dordogne, St-Emilion is somewhat unique in the world of Bordeaux, both for its limestone slopes and the fact that it has a (much contested and litigated) classification of its own, in which hundreds of Grand Crus exist alongside 18 First Growths and 64 Second Growths. This large growing region has little urban structure outside of the picturesque village of St-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage site. St-Emilion is where the garagistes movement truly began -- small producers making super expensive, modern-style wines that captured the attention and pocketbook of collectors worldwide, at least for a time.

An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2006 Chateau Magdelaine Bordeaux Blend, Saint-Émilion Premiere Grand Cru Classe, Bordeaux, France
Medium ruby with brick highlights at the rim, this wine smells of dried flowers and mushrooms. In the mouth, red apple skin, and dried cherries are ethereal and silky across the palate as extremely bright acidity elevates citrus notes and dried herbs in the finish. Very pretty and vibrant. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $80. click to buy.


An Infrequent Encounter with Bordeaux2009 Chateau Puy-Blanquet Bordeaux Blend, Bordeaux, France
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells grapey and cherry-like. In the mouth, that grapey character continues with cherry notes and tight tannins. Smooth but somewhat undeveloped. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $50. click to buy.

* * *

Well, there you have it. A brief tasting tour through Bordeaux, which was a nice refresher for me personally on the charms of the region, and the jaw-dropping pricing of some of the wines. Of course, there's a lot more to Bordeaux than just its most famous appellations, but I'm afraid I'm not qualified to be a guide in those regions yet. I hope to have the opportunity to update my knowledge of the so-called Cru Bourgeois in time.



Do You Know Petit Verdot?

Primarily used as a component in Bordeaux-style blends, Petit Verdot could use a champion or three. I found a trio of winemakers who take this grape beyond the blend, making it the star of the show.

My first article for SevenFifty Daily takes a look at Petit Verdot through three winemakers:

I not only explore the difficulty of making wine from this thick-skinned, tannic grape, but also consider how the heck you sell it.

Take a look:

The Challenges and Rewards of Making Petit Verdot

Vineyard image courtesy Virginia Wine.

The post Do You Know Petit Verdot? appeared first on Jameson Fink.

Two Wines That Prove Colorado Is The Next Wine Region to Watch

I grew up in Colorado. If you had told me as a high schooler that Colorado would one day be making fine wine, I would have laughed in your face. High quality beef? Sure. Beer? of course. Fantastic weed? Plausible. But wine? Never. But that was before I understood the origins of the vitis vinifera in the arid plateaus and of central Asia. That was before I visited Chile and Argentina and Turkey and Sicily and before I tasted wines from the high deserts and scrubby foothills of snow capped mountain ranges.

Now the idea of Colorado wine is not only plausible, it's quite intriguing. Which is why, two years ago, I jumped at the chance to be a judge at the Colorado Governor's Cup wine competition. Wine judging is thankless work. It's tedious and difficult, and usually yields a splitting headache for me at the end of the day. But it also remains the single best way to take a crash course on an unknown or less familiar region or wine style. So I've had something of a short education in Colorado wine, and since then, I've been watching it close enough to be able to confidently say that it has crossed the line from regional novelty to serious potential.

Two Wines That Prove Colorado Is The Next Wine Region to Watch

You see, wine is now made in every one of the fifty united states. But in many states, it remains a largely local fascination -- something that the locals enjoy because it is theirs, but not worthy of much attention by wine aficionados, let alone the major critics. In recent years, several states have broken out of the cottage industry territory by making wines that were simply too good to ignore. Virginia, New Mexico, Arizona, Michigan, Texas and New Jersey have all proven that they can make wines capable of holding their own against wines from America's much better known wine regions such as California, Oregon, Washington, and New York.

Colorado now belongs in that company. Though there are some who have been making that case for decades.

Chief amongst the believers in Colorado's potential you'll find a surprisingly famous name: Warren Winiarski, the Stag's Leap Wine Cellars winemaker responsible for the winning Cabernet Sauvignon at the legendary 1976 Paris Tasting. In perhaps the least known episode of the famed winemaker's professional history, Winiarski left his position at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1968, and accepted a winemaking position at Ivancie Cellars, a pioneering winery founded by a wine loving dentist that would close six years later after having made wine primarily from grapes trucked in from California. But along with making wine from Napa fruit, Winiarski helped to put some vines in the ground that would literally be the seeds of an idea that encouraged other adventurous, enterprising and risk-tolerant wine lovers to try their hands at more local production. The knowledge that grapes had been cultivated in the state as far back as the late 1800s helped Winiarski and others that followed imagine the possibilities, and beginning in 1978 commercial wineries began to pop-up around the state.

Two Wines That Prove Colorado Is The Next Wine Region to Watch

Today, Colorado boasts more than 120 vineyards with 1000 acres of vines spread across several key winemaking regions and two official American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). More than 88% of the vines are in the high plateaus of Mesa County, which borders Utah in the western part of the state, but wine is now made in more than 9 different areas of the state.

Winemakers have experimented with many different grapes in Colorado over the years, and they continue to do so. The local winemakers seem particularly excited about aromatic white wines such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Viognier, and Muscat, but while I've had reasonably competent examples, I've yet to have one of these that really excites me from Colorado. Instead my tastings have led me to believe that the most promising grapes in the state are Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and other Bordeaux blends. I've also tasted a couple of really excellent Chardonnays and Petit Verdots.

Colorado is on its way up, and as with most up-and-coming regions, that means there's still a lot of value to be had in the region. While there are some winemakers using very expensive barrels and charging $40+ a bottle, some of the best wines can still be had for under $20. Unfortunately, the flip side of this equation is that outside of Colorado these wines can be a little tougher to locate. But there's always Wine Searcher.

So, if you're a curious wine lover (and you should be, as that is a virtue) then I suggest you get a taste of what the Rocky Mountains have to offer. Here are two wines that truly demonstrate Colorado's potential.

2015 Guy Drew Vineyards Syrah, Colorado
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of blackberry and, curiously, strawberry fruit. In the mouth, ripe flavors of blackberry and boysenberry have a wonderful cool stony aspect to them with just a faint hint of aromatic sweetness. Excellent acidity and balance, this is a beautifully poised wine that will please most Syrah lovers. 14.9% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $18. click to buy.

2015 Holy Cross Abbey Reserve Merlot, Colorado
Medium to dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of plum and cherry fruit. In the mouth, slightly nutty flavors of cherry and plum are juicy and bright thanks to excellent acidity. There's clearly wood present, and more wood flavor than I would like, but it is nicely integrated into the wine and delivers a mocha sweetness to the finish. Very well made. 14.1% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $28.

Images courtesy of the Colorado Wine Industry Development Board.



Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 4, 2018

Hello, and welcome to my periodic dig through the samples pile. I'm pleased to bring you the latest installment of Vinography Unboxed, where I highlight some of the better bottles that have crossed my doorstep recently.

This week included some more wines from one of my favorite producers in Italy, Feudi di San Gregorio. I've been writing about these wines for more than a decade, and they just keep getting better. This week we're looking at two Aglianicos -- their entry level Taurasi bottling, and their more reserve Piano di Montevergine, both of which are worth getting your hands on, but the Piano is showing beautifully at the moment.

While still on that side of the Atlantic, we should note the ever-affordable Viña Real bottling from C.V.N.E. that represents their entry-level Rioja. At $16 it's an easy house red.

Closer to home, this week features some prestigious producers of Pinot and Cabernet. I've got three single-vineyard bottlings from William-Selyem that are fairly true to the winery's form, though one could have done with a little less oak.

On the Cabernet side, we've got three wines from the single-vineyard producer Nickel & Nickel, whose Cabernets are quite reliably polished and tasty. My favorite was the State Ranch Cabernet, which offered everything that you want from a traditionally modern Napa Cabernet.

Vinography Unboxed: Week of March 4, 2018Detailed notes below. Enjoy.

2015 Williams Selyem "Eastside Road Neighbors" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine smells of cherry and raspberry. In the mouth, bright cherry and raspberry fruit is clearly oak inflected, but so boisterous with bright acidity that it's hard not to enjoy the juiciness as it washes over the palate. Muscular tannins wait in the wings to add some stiffness to the wine and shepherd it through a long life. 13.6% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2015 Williams Selyem "Williams Selyem Estate Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and boysenberries. In the mouth, bright cherry fruit flavors are shot through with the flavors of oak, which stick out a bit much for my taste at this point in the wine's evolution. Excellent acidity and underlying minerality, plus suede-like tannins that hang at the edges of the palate. Give it a bit of time and it will really sing. 13.3% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $200. click to buy.

2015 Williams Selyem "Rochioli Riverblock Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California
Medium garnet in color, this wine smells of raspberry, cherry and fresh cut herbs. In the mouth, aromatically sweet flavors of black raspberry and raspberry are tinged with dried herbs and the faintest sweetness of oak. Gorgeous, silky tannins hang at the edges of perception, and lovely acidity keeps the fruit bright and juicy across the palate. Delicious. 13.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $135. click to buy.

2011 Feudi di San Gregorio Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of black cherry and leather and earth. In the mouth, supple, powdery tannins billow around a core of black cherry, leather, and earth. Good acidity and very nice structure, but very very drinkable. Excellent. 14.5% alcohol. Score: around 9. Cost: $39. click to buy.

2011 Feudi di San Gregorio "Piano di Montevergine" Aglianico, Taurasi, Campania, Italy
Dark garnet in the glass, this wine smells of blackberry and black cherry and leather. In the mouth, black cherry and sour cherry flavors have a wonderful brightness thanks to excellent acidity, and a tangy sourness that lingers pleasantly in the finish. Very fine grained tannins skirt the edges of the mouth. Smooth as silk. Almost regal in its bearing. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $58. click to buy.

2013 Viña Real "Crianza" Tempranillo, Rioja, Spain
Light to medium ruby in the glass, this wine smells of sweet cherries and raisins. In the mouth, cherry and a faint raisin flavor mix with vanilla and leather. Excellent acidity keeps the fruit vibrant in the mouth despite being on the dried end of the spectrum, and the tannins are so light as to be imperceptible. Aged for 12 months in a mix of French and American oak. 13.5% alcohol. Score: around 8.5. Cost: $16. click to buy.

2015 Nickel & Nickel "Element 28" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, Napa, California
Dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cola. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors have a mouthwatering juiciness to them thanks to excellent acidity. Fine grained tannins add a little grip, but this wine is mostly about juicy fruit and a touch of caramelized oak smokiness that is quite appealing. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $??

2015 Nickel & Nickel "John C. Sullenger" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa, California
Very dark garnet in color, this wine smells of cherry and cassis. In the mouth, cassis and tobacco leaf flavors have a very grapey primary character, bursting with acidity. Fine grained but very muscular tannins aggressively grip the palate. This wine is quite young yet, and should be left alone for a year or two at least. 14.5% alcohol. Score: between 8.5 and 9. Cost: $100. click to buy.

2015 Nickel & Nickel "State Ranch" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville, Napa, California
Inky garnet in the glass, this wine smells of ripe cherry fruit. In the mouth, cherry and cola flavors have a touch of cocoa powder to them even as they burble with bright acidity. Fine grained tannins flex their muscles as the wine finishes, gripping the palate firmly while notes of sour cherry and a touch of citrus linger in the finish. Very well integrated oak, and nice balance. 14.9% alcohol. Score: between 9 and 9.5. Cost: $100. click to buy.



The Rockstar Vintage: Tasting 2016 Cabernet at Premiere Napa Valley

Some people run a marathon once each year. That's not my speed. Instead, I knuckle down and taste 200 Cabernets for breakfast on one particular Saturday morning.

Each year, the Napa Valley Vintners Association pulls out all the stops to host its annual fundraising event known as Premiere Napa Valley. Not to be confused with its star-studded charity auction in the spring (known as Auction Napa Valley), Premiere Napa Valley is a more focused event. It is a barrel tasting and auction, in which the wines on offer are all unique creations made specifically and only for this event, offering purchasers the opportunity to own an incredibly rare wine that often represents the very pinnacle of the winemaker's efforts in that vintage. All the invited bidders are ostensibly in the wine trade (retailers, distributors, etc.), while other attendees include the media and winery staff. The proceeds from the auction of more than 200 unique lots of wine go to help fund the Vintners Association itself.

The auction action at Premiere always serves as something of a barometer for California wine, measuring both the strength of the Napa brand in the marketplace, as well as the interest in the upper echelon of fine California wine (many auction lots sell for well over $2000 per bottle).

This afternoon, the Vintners raised more than $4.1 million dollars at the auction, which was a hair less than the $4.2 million earned last year, a bit less than the $5 million raised in 2015, and $6 million earned in 2014 and 2015. I continue to be surprised at the downward trajectory of earnings at this event. If I were a betting man, given the strength of the economy, and the quality of this vintage, I would have expected this year's take to be an uptick again. I'm somewhat stumped as to the reason for the continued decline in revenues. It does seem to me that there are fewer of the real superstar wineries (extremely allocated, hard to get labels like Scarecrow, Futo, Dalla Valle, etc.) consistently offering auction lots, and these are the ones that push bids into the six figure range. While the Alpha Omega, Rombauer and Vine Hill Ranch lots hit $75,000 apiece (VHR was just 5 cases, making for a bottle price of $1250) and Staglin clocked in at $65k, only Silver Oak's lot made it to six figures at $110k, and most of the other bids fell below $50k. I haven't done the analysis, but it may also be that wineries are offering smaller lots, which are in turn resulting in smaller bids.

In any case, the economics of this event interest me much less than the wines on offer. Each of the auction lots at Premiere usually represents something approximating the best possible wine that a given winery can make in the vintage. Consequently, the wines offer a unique window into the pinnacle of quality for that particular vintage. Every year, I attend Premiere with the goal of tasting as many of these wines as I can, in an effort to get a bead on the vintage as a whole in Napa.

The Rockstar Vintage: Tasting 2016 Cabernet at Premiere Napa Valley

In the case of today's event, the vintage under review was the 2016 vintage, which as vintages go, was about as close to perfect as you get. Especially after a (finally) wet winter that, if it didn't end it completely, certainly provided much needed relief to the multi-year drought in California. The most remarkable thing about the 2016 growing season was perhaps the fact that it was unmarked by any extreme weather events. The spring was relatively normal, the summer mild, and things heated up a little towards the end of the summer leading to a steady harvest into October, and plenty of warning for the first rainfall of the season, letting almost everyone get harvest in without a hitch.

The resulting wines are really very, very good. I'd describe them as generous, but beautifully balanced. Acidity was excellent (though one never knows how much of that is nature contributed versus winemaker contributed in general) and tannins are mostly supple, fine grained, and well proportioned. Those who chose to harvest on the earlier side got mouthwatering cherry fruit flavors, and those who waited for more maturity got powerful black cherry and cassis qualities.

Not since the 2013 vintage have I been so excited about the quality of these wines, and, truth be told, I believe 2016 will exceed 2013 in quality if only because it seems almost impossible not to have made excellent wine in 2016. I think it was a very forgiving vintage, allowing those with less skill to make good wines, and those with true talent to make exceptional wines.

The Rockstar Vintage: Tasting 2016 Cabernet at Premiere Napa Valley

There were many standouts among the wines today, many from unsurprising sources, as well as a few from producers I'm not used to seeing at the top of my lists. Continuum, Corison, Ovid, and Staglin are often among my favorites. Inglenook offered a really gorgeous, racy wine this year, as did O'Shaughnessy, whose red blend of Malbec, St. Macaire, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and other "lesser" Bordeaux varieties was as delicious as it was interesting. Not surprisingly, Schramsberg's late disgorged sparkling wine showed exceptionally well and made for a delicious palate cleanser amongst the big reds.

As perhaps a more quantitative evaluation of the vintage, it's worth noting that this year, compared to my notes for the last 10 years of attending this event, contains the single largest number of wines scored at or above 9 on my scale. Let me be blunt: 2016 is a rockstar vintage for Napa. Mark my words.

I continue to watch the evolution of oak usage in these wines with both amusement and fascination. This year's sampling yielded an interesting inversion of sorts. A number of producers known for their judicious or even rare use of new oak told me specifically that the wine they had produced for this event used more new oak than normal, and deliberately so in the hopes of being more attractive to buyers. On the other hand, I continue to be appreciative of what seems to be a general and gradual moderation in the use of newer oak by many producers, at least for these particular auction wines (no assumptions should be made that this approach will carry over into these producers' mainstream releases). I continue to be impressed that number of producers are deliberately selecting used or neutral barrels for these wines, which result in wonderfully fresh and pure expressions of fruit that I find much superior to their oak inflected (or overwhelmed) counterparts.

Here are my scores for everything I tasted. The notes in italics after each wine are my brief thoughts made on the spot while tasting. I managed to get through most of, but not all, the 219 wines on offer. Note that anyone interested in getting ahold of the wines below can discover their availability through Premiere Napa Wines, a web site designed to connect successful bidders with consumers who may want to purchase the wines.

The mainstream releases of the 2016 vintages from these wineries (i.e. the ones that will cost you much less than $800 per bottle) will likely be mostly in the autumn of 2018 or in the months following the spring of 2019.


WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9.5 AND 10
2016 Continuum Estate Red Wine, Napa Valley. A stunner of a wine. Seamless and polished.
2016 Corison Winery "Premiere Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Lithe, gorgeous
2016 Inglenook "Cask Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Stony, gorgeous, lean and mouthwatering.
2016 Ovid Napa Valley "MMXVI" Red Wine, Napa Valley. Gorgeous, supple, fantastic fruit with almost no trace of oak influence.
2016 Staglin Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Phenomenally juicy, silky, delicious.
2016 O'Shaughnessy Estate Winery "Best of the Bordeaux Blenders" Red Wine, Howell Mountain. Lovely, expressive, wonderful acids, and a refreshingly unique blend of "lesser" grapes.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9.5
2016 Arietta "First Franc" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Juicy, bright, herbal.
2016 Arrow & Branch "Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena. Wonderful earthiness matched with ripe fruit
2016 Cliff Lede Vineyards "Diamond Fire" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Rich, powerful.
2016 Davies Vineyards "McEachran/Aguirre" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District. Juicy fruit, bright
2016 Davis Estates "The Final Phase" Red Wine, Napa Valley. Bright, delicious.
2016 Dyer Vineyard, Meteor Vineyard "The Wolf Origin" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Very pretty, lush, but with an acidic edge that is very nice.
2016 Flora Springs Winery & Vineyards "Tres Appellations" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich, ripe fruit, juicy, with some restraint.
2016 Galerie Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Really pretty, great acidity and balance.
2015 Heritance Vintners "Beckstoffer Georges III" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Juicy, delicious, with just the right amount of herbal leanness.
2016 Hourglass "Eye of The Beholder" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, juicy, cherry cola
2016 Matthiasson "Dead Fred Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville. Dunno who Fred was, but he's got some kick. Great acidity and restraint.
2015 Notre Vin "In Memoriam" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Gorgeous, sour cherry, mouthwatering.
1997 Schramsberg Vineyards "Schramsberg Reserve Late Disgorged" Sparkling Wine, Napa Valley. Always fantastic. Yeasty, salty, brioche yumminess.
2016 Stony Hill Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Juicy, mouthwatering, ripe for this producer.
2016 The Debate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Juicy, with great balance. Rich, but not over the top.
2016 Turnbull Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Bright, juicy, lovely.
2016 Viader Vineyards & Winery "Homenaje" Red Wine, Napa Valley. Very pretty blueish and red fruits. The Malbec shows in this wine.
2016 Volker Eisele Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Chiles Valley District. Gorgeous, supple, cherry cola.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 9 AND 9.5
2016 Accendo Cellars "Mountain & Bench" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Alpha Omega "Dr. To Kalon" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Rich, ripe, but not over the top.
2016 Antica Napa Valley - Antinori Family Wine Estate "C.S. & F. Ltd" Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak. Young. Needs time, but nice balance.
2016 Beaulieu Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Bright, juicy, delicious.
2016 Blackbird Vineyards "Premiere Napa Valley Cuvee" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Muscular tannins.
2016 Clos Pegase "Les Minéraux" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Coho "SoNa" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Pretty, with nice acidity.
2016 Dakota Shy "Next Chapter" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Darioush Red Wine, Napa Valley. Rich and ripe but with great acidity.
2008 Domaine Chandon Brut Sparkling Wine, Yountville. Deliciously saline and bright.
2016 Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot, Napa Valley. Plummy and bright but a lot of oak showing.
2016 Ehlers Estate "Block 4" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.
2016 Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Farella Vineyard "Terrace Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville. Bright, with more oak than normal, but not overdone. Still, would have preferred less wood.
2016 Favia "The Summit" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Oak signature but lovely
2016 Freedom Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Quite pretty.
2016 Gemstone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville. Mocha surprise.
2016 HALL "Sacrashe" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Velvety.
2016 Hewitt Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Jamieson Ranch Vineyards "Redemption" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Quite nice.
2016 JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset "Decadence" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich.
2016 Joseph Phelps Vineyards "Backus Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Rich and ripe.
2017 Kale Wines "Heritage McGah Vineyard" Red Wine, Rutherford. A really nice blend of 85% Grenache and 15% Mourvedre.
2016 Keenan Winery "Tribute ll" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Bright and juicy.
2016 Kuleto Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Lail Vineyards "Henry VIII" Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. Juicy, bright, intense, floral
2016 Lang & Reed Wine Company "XX" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Gorgeous.
2016 Larkmead Vineyards "The Lark Ascending" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Great acidity, very pretty fruit.
2015 LATERAL Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Juicy.
2016 Lewis Cellars "Premiere" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Juicy.
2016 Luna Vineyards "Riserva" Sangiovese, Napa Valley.
2016 Merus Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville. Pretty.
2016 Mi Sueño Winery "Herrera Selección" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville. Pretty.
2016 Mt. Brave Red Wine, Mount Veeder. Silky, lovely.
2016 Nickel & Nickel Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Fruity, muscular tannins. Lots of wood.
2016 NINE SUNS Grenache, Napa Valley. Juicy, lovely
2016 PlumpJack Winery "East Meets West" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Pretty.
2016 Pott Wine "Being and Time" Red Wine, Mount Veeder. Heidegger would be proud, but that's just an interpretation.
2016 Pride Mountain Vineyards "Summit Select" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Raymond Vineyards "Masquerade" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2017 Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Los Carneros. Quite pretty.
2016 Seavey Vineyard "Franco-Swiss Terrace Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Fantastic; fine, grained tannins.
2016 Shafer Vineyards "Sunspot Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Very rich.
2016 SODHANI Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.
2016 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery "Spring Creek Vineyard" Petite Sirah, St. Helena. Restrained and deep, with well managed tannins.
2016 Spring Mountain Vineyard "Fog Line" Red Wine, Spring Mountain District. Really nice acidity and cool fruits.
2016 Stone The Crows Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich and ripe, but delicious.
2016 Switchback Ridge "Anniversary Blend" Red Wine, Calistoga. Juicy, delicious.
2016 Terra Valentine "Earth, Sea and Sky" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Tasty.
2016 TEXTBOOK "Paris Accord Fake Wine" Red Wine, Oakville. Lovely restrained, juicy
2016 The Hess Collection Winery "Ridge 4" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Juicy with lots of blue fruits.
2016 Tierra Roja Vineyards "Ames Straight" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Perfumed.
2016 Trefethen Family Vineyards "Celebrating 50 Years" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Balanced bright
2016 Vine Cliff Winery "Memories" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Very pretty.
2016 Vineyard 29 "The St. Helena Special" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.
2016 William Hill Estate Winery "The Notch" Red Wine, Napa Valley.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 9
2016 Anderson's Conn Valley Vineyards "JYGNTOR" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Artesa Vineyards & Winery Red Wine, Napa Valley.
2016 AXR Winery "Sleeping Pritchard" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Barlow Vineyards "Vineyard 4415" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Boeschen Vineyards "Gullwing Amalgam" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.
2016 Boich Family Cellar "Proprietor's Barrel" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Bougetz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District.
2016 Buehler Vineyards "Kindly Well" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Buena Vista Winery "The First" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District.
2016 Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 CAMi Vineyards "THS" Red Wine, Calistoga.
2016 Chappellet Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Chimney Rock Winery "North to South" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Clos Du Val "Full Circle" Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District. Fairly ripe and missing the leanness we're used to from Clos du Val.
2016 Correlation Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Rich
NV Courtesan "Veronica" Red Wine, Napa Valley.
2016 Emerson Brown Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Foley Johnson Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Freemark Abbey "VanZ Vineyard" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.
2016 Ghost Block & Markham Vineyards Red Wine, Napa Valley.
2016 Girard Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Oaky
2016 Groth Vineyards & Winery "Sweet Spot" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Hertelendy Vineyards "L'Éternité" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Ideology Cellars "Cento" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.
2016 Jean Edwards Cellars "Trois II" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Kelly Fleming Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga.
2016 Kenefick Ranch Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga.
2016 La Jota Vineyard Co. Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. Heavily oaked, but great fruit.
2017 Leaf And Vine "Unicorn Tears" Chardonnay, Oakville.
2016 Long Meadow Ranch Winery "Bear Canyon Vineyard" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley.
2016 Louis M. Martini Winery "254 Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Materra, Cunat Family Vineyards Merlot, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.
2016 Miner Family Winery "Three's Company" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Nemerever Vineyards "Hillside" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Newton Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Oakville East Exposure "Harter Hill" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Paradigm Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Paraduxx Red Wine, Napa Valley.
2016 PEJU "60/40 Heart & Soul" Red Wine, Napa Valley.
2016 Pine Ridge Vineyards "5x5" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Progeny Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder.
2016 Provenance Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Round Pond Estate "SVS Gravel Series" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2015 Schweiger Vineyards "Mr. Hyde's Blend" Red Wine, Spring Mountain District.
2016 Sciandri Family Vineyards "I Am Delicious" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville.
2016 Silverado Vineyards "Limited" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery "Louis XIV" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars "S.L.V. First Growth Cabernet Franc" Cabernet Franc, Stags Leap District.
2016 Stags' Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District.
2016 Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Stewart Cellars "NOMAD Heritage Blend" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Titus Vineyards "Ehlers Lane Hillside Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Truchard Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Los Carneros. Earthy and restrained.
2016 Twomey Cellars Red Wine, Napa Valley. Oaky.
2016 VHR, Vine Hill Ranch "Assessment" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Vineyard 7&8 "Homestead" Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain District. Super rich
2016 von Strasser & Lava Vine Winery "So Sori" Cabernet Sauvignon, Diamond Mountain District.
2016 Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Y. Rousseau Wines "Les Deux Montagnes" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2015 Yao Family Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8.5 AND 9
2016 Amici Cellars "Missouri Hopper" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. Very ripe
2016 Axios Napa Valley "Tridelphia" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Barnett Vineyards "Mountain Meets Valley" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Ripe.
2016 Bell Wine Cellars, Hoopes Vineyard, Mira Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville.
2016 Bella Union Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Buoncristiani Family Winery "A Tale of Two Mountains" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Burgess Cellars "Brush Breaker" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Heavily oaked.
2016 Ca' Momi Pinot Noir, Los Carneros.
2016 Cain Vineyard & Winery "François' Pick" Petit Verdot, Spring Mountain District.
2016 Calla Lily Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Faust "The Pact Barrel Selection" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville.
2016 Frank Family Vineyards "Winston Hill" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Grgich Hills Estate "Paradise Block Old Vine Cabernet" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville. Struck match smokiness with a bit of funk.
2017 Hestan Vineyards "Estate" Grenache, Napa Valley.
2016 Honig Vineyard & Winery "Campbell Hillside Cabernet" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Jarvis "Frankly Franc" Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley.
2016 Krupp Brothers "The Brothers' Choice" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Mario Bazán Cellars "Mario Bazán Premiere Reserve" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Monticello Vineyards "Block 2" Cabernet Sauvignon, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Ripe
2016 Mount Veeder Winery Red Wine, Mount Veeder. Tannic.
2016 Nellcôte "Tumbling Dice" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Palazzo Wine "Midnight Angel" Cabernet Franc, Los Carneros.
2016 Paul Hobbs Winery "Nathan Coombs Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville.
2017 Pellet Estate "The 'A.K.'" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.
2016 Porter Family Vineyards "Lion's Lair" Cabernet Sauvignon, Coombsville.
2016 Quixote Winery Petite Sirah, Stags Leap District.
2016 Reynolds Family Winery "CFMR16" Red Wine, Napa Valley.
2016 Robert Craig Winery Red Wine, Howell Mountain.
2016 Rutherford Hill Winery "Rutherford Dust" Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 S. R. Tonella Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford.
2016 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Swanson Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Tamber Bey Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville.
2016 Terlato Vineyards "EPISODE" Red Wine, Napa Valley.
NV ZD Wines "Petit Abacus" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.

WINES WITH A SCORE AROUND 8.5
2016 Anthem Winery And Vineyards, Llc Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder. Too ripe
2017 Bouchaine Vineyards "Best Barrel" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros.
2016 Hesperian Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak.
2016 J. Moss Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Quilt Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Ripe. Too much so.
2016 Red Mare Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.
2016 Rocca Family Vineyards "Grigsby Vineyard Old Vines Winemaker's Barrel" Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville. Too ripe for me.
2016 Rubissow "Hawkwind" Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder.
2017 Schermeister Cellars "Oak Before Smoke" Chardonnay, Atlas Peak.
2016 Starmont Winery & Vineyards "Stanly Ranch Estate" Pinot Noir, Los Carneros.
2016 Taplin Cellars "Ethel Lewelling Taplin" Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena.
2016 Tate Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley.

WINES WITH A SCORE BETWEEN 8 AND 8.5
2015 Casa Nuestra Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley. Too grapey.
2016 JAX Vineyards "Block 3" Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga. Too ripe.
2016 Metaphora Wines Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Raisined
2016 Palmaz Vineyards "T-Block" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Too raisined for my tastes.
2016 Rombauer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak. Too ripe, too sweet




Woodinville: Board Track Racer Tasting Room

 

Board Track Racer Tasting Room Coming to Woodinville

From Mark Ryan Winery

SEATTLE, February 1, 2018 — Mark McNeilly is excited to announce that he’s opening a new tasting room in Woodinville, this time dedicated to his Board Track Racer line of Washington wines. Located at 19501 144th Ave F-900 in Woodinville’s Warehouse District, the tasting room will open its doors on Saturday, February 24 at 12pm.

Board Track Racer Cellars, one of Mark Ryan Winery’s sister projects, produced its first vintage in 2008 and is named for the wild wood track motorcycle races of the 1920s. The labels for all the wines are inspired by the same era, with great motorcycle-centric graphics—McNeilly is a big fan of vintage motorcycles and the freewheeling spirit they convey. 

 

The current Board Track Racer wines are:

The Vincent Red (Columbia Valley Blend)

The Vincent White (Chardonnay)

The Chief (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot)

The Shift (Syrah, Mourvedre)

 

With inviting gray walls, blond wood, and a communal table for 12, the Board Track Racer tasting room will have a relaxed, motorcycle and rock-n-roll vibe, like the Mark Ryan tasting room. The space has a glass garage door that will offer guests a peek into barrel storage that is shared with neighboring wineries. Capacity is about 85 making the tasting a great option for private events too. 

“The Board Track Racers wines are wonderfully accessible both in taste and price point,” says McNeilly. “I’m thrilled to have a second Woodinville venue to share the wines!”

The tasting room will be open Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm – 6pm, pouring tastes of the Board Track Racer wines, as well as select bottles from both Megan Anne Cellars and Mark Ryan Winery on rotation. For more information, call 425.481.7070. 

Established in 1999 by Mark Ryan McNeilly, Mark Ryan Winery is an acclaimed Washington winery based in Woodinville, just north of Seattle. A largely self-taught winemaker, the first vintages were crushed and produced in garages of friends and family—in the years since, the winery has grown in size, earning respect and acclaim from wine lovers and critics alike along the way. The goal has always been to make delicious wines that stand as true representations of the vineyard from which they come. For more information, visit www.markryanwinery.com.

 
 

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Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

Dynasty noun – a succession of people from the same family who play a prominent role in business, politics, or another field.

The Lurton Family can trace its winemaking roots in Bordeaux back to the 17th century. But it was the marriage of Denise Recapet to Francois Lurton in 1923 that the story of this family dynasty begins. Denise and François Lurton had four children, André was born in 1924, Lucien in 1925, Simone in 1929 and Dominique in 1932.

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

André, married to Elizabeth Garros, received the family home, Château Bonnet. In 40 years he amassed property totaling 600 hectares situated primarily in Entre-deux-Mers and the Pessac-Léognan appellation, of which he was one of the founders in 1987. Today, the fourth and fifth generations of Lurton’s control 27 Bordeaux châteaux. Everything from Bordeaux’s largest producer, Chateau Bonnet which is run by patriarch Andre Lurton to 2nd growth Margaux property Chateau Brane Cantenac to Château Cheval Blanc and Château d’Yquem.

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de LololToday the family has wine interests on most continents and almost all major wine growing regions. In their turn, Andre’s sons, François and Jacques, acquired wine estates in Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain and the Languedoc.

 

“If I were a vine, I would choose to be planted in Chile.” François Lurton

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de LololFrançois and Jacques Lurton found this “dream land” whilst working as consultants for the San Pedro vineyards. The first bottles of Araucano, the name of the last of Chile’s indigenous people, was first released in 1997. In 2000, François bought 200 hectares of land in the valley of Colchagua. The valley around the town of Lolol, had that certain ‘je ne sais quoi’, that combination of high altitude clay-limestone soils, radical diurnal temperature change and the cooling influence of the morning fog.

 

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

The estate is located in a high valley that runs from East to West, which funnels cold air from the Pacific Ocean. The large temperature differences between the sea and the land causes a white fog “Humo Blanco” to develop, which can be seen most mornings just above the estate vineyards. Hot, dry days and foggy, cool nights, textbook perfect conditions for growing great wine.

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

The Lurton family bring literally centuries of winemaking knowledge to bear on this project. But, Francois is a forward thinking man with a vision. Francois Lurton employs 10 full time enologist that work across France, Argentina, Spain and Chile. 2012 the Araucano wines obtained organic certification. In 2013, Hacienda Araucano obtained biodynamic certification (Demeter). The winery is also 100% solar powered.

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

Lolol is one of the new coastal appellations in Chile. This wine represents the essence of the cool climate of Lolol. It is made up of the best plots of four grape varieties that excel in the valley: Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Cabernet Franc. This blend was put together by Francois himself. The grapes are handpicked, double sorted and then left for a lengthy cold soak to gently extract the fruity aromas and smooth tannins. Once fermented separately the different grape varieties are blended together and are aged in French oak for 18 months. A true Chilean wine with a French touch.

Children of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de LololClos de Lolol Red Wine 2013 (Chile) $14.99 / Save $10

“Woodsy, spicy aromas of herbal plum and berry come with a light coating of chocolate. A round, rubbery palate is tight in the long run. Saturated plum and blackberry flavors are oaky in front of an extracted finish that runs long and doesn’t hold back. Drink through 2022.” 91 pts Wine Enthusiast

92 James Suckling, 91 pts Wine Advocate

“There’s never been a better time to buy Chilean wine.” James Suckling, “Indeed, hundreds of outstanding quality wines are entering the market. It doesn’t hurt that the current vintages available, especially for reds, are fantastic – mostly 2013, 2014, and 2015.”

@Chef_LennyChildren of the Vine : Bodegas Lurton Araucano Clos de Lolol

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I’ll Be Here, Hiding Under The Blanket (January 2018 Wine Product Review Roundup)

It’s time for the first monthly wine product sample review round-up of the new year, which means you now have a couple of recommendations for vinous-related things to buy after you’ve returned the crappier gifts that you received during the holidays! You’re welcome!

Since it’s been as cold as Dante’s icy ninth circle of hell around here lately, I decided to focus on reading material, all the better to curl up in front of a fireplace with (drink in hand, naturally) and enjoy while hiding from the real world under a cozy blanket.

First up is Red Wine: The Comprehensive Guide to the 50 Essential Varieties & Styles, (Sterling Epicure, 288 pages, $27.95) by three people that I happen to know personally (consider yourself full-disclosure-warned): the affable World Wine Guys Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen, and the legendary Kevin Zraly (who might actually still owe me some money). This well-designed book has been getting serious positive press lately, and I’m happy to report that it’s well-deserving of all of it. The subtitle is apt, as Red Wine focuses on being comprehensive rather than exhaustively deep. Having said that, for 98% of wine lovers, they will not need (nor are they likely to find) a better guide to world’s fine red wine grapes than this one. Each grape gets at least a two-page spread that includes wine color, a tasting profile scale that focuses on the wine’s acidity/body/tannin combo, tasting notes and food pairings with at-a-glance icon references, a photo, a brief write-up, and a list of recommended wines to try (from bargain through to splurge price-levels). More ubiquitous grapes get a longer treatment, focusing on stylistic variances between countries, as well as winemaker quotes, and a handful of obscure red varieties (Teran, anyone?) get short highlights. Mad props to Christine Heun, who is credited as the designer, for putting together one of the easiest to navigate references I’ve ever seen in the wine world.

I’ll Be Here, Hiding Under The Blanket (January 2018 Wine Product Review Roundup)Closing out this month’s roundup, we have the gorgeously-photographed (think major food-porn style) Drink Progressively: From White to Red, Light- to Full-Bodied, A Bold New Way to Pair Wine with Food (Spring House Press, 240 pages, $27), by Hadley & TJ Douglas, the husband-and-wife owners of Boston’s The Urban Grape. This is a food-and-pairing-focused wine guide, and includes recipes by Straight Wharf’s Gabriel Frasca. The main idea behind Drink Progressively is to focus on wine body above all else, and then suggest wines and recipes to match that body accordingly. The Douglases do this by moving wines through an increasing body scale of 1 to 10, which leaves us with shorthand terms like “5W” (to describe whites from Burgundy and Mosel, for example) and “9R” (e.g., for bolder reds from Dry Creek Valley, Mendoza, and Barossa). It’s a clever, seemingly-simple conceit that I found gets confusing very quickly. Having said that, this book might be worth the cover price for the recipes and wine recommendations alone, though the latter tend towards the geekier (and therefore probably more difficult to find) end of the spectrum. The unsung hero here is Beatrice Peltre, whose photographs are downright stunning.

Cheers!

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Underground Wine Project

“With my idle hands there’s nothing I can’t do
But be the Devil’s plaything baby and know that I’ve been used”
-Idle Hands by the Gutter twins


To say Mark McNeilly and Trey Busch like to keep busy is literally an understatement. Both have made a name for themselves in the wine business, not just as winemakers but as leaders in the industry. Both Mark Ryan Winery and Sleight of Hand Winery garner scores in the 90’s across the board in the press. Both, these guys are not just successful winemakers but champions of the Washington wine industry. They are also great friends, lovers of good food and great music.

Underground Wine Project
“Let your hands do what they will do
Stand inside, make your maker’s move”

Launched in 2009 with a wine called Idle Hands, the wine quickly became a cult hit. ‘Idle Hands’ was named after a song by Gutter Twins – Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees and Greg Dulli of The Afghan Whigs.

Both of the Underground wine project wines are sourced from Red Mountain. Idle Hands is a 90% Syrah 10% Cabernet Blend sourced from Red Heaven Vineyard. Devil’s Playground is the inverse, 90% Cabernet and 10% Syrah sourced from Quintessence Vineyard. Both these wines are great expressions of Red Mountain fruit.

“My eyes have seen, they have been shown
This is an occupation to stand alone”

In the highly competitive world of wine it is rare to see this sort of collaboration and camaraderie. These guys make great wine and are the sort of guys that make working in the business fun.

Underground Wine ProjectDEVIL’S PLAYGROUND CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 (WA)  $37.99 

This is a delicious, lively and very luxurious Red Mountain Cab for the price. Lots of vanilla laced blackberries, cassis and mocha flavors, with bright, refreshing acidity and juicy tannins. The wine is full bodied and definitely drinks with some sizzle. A nice buy in small batch, top shelf Cab.

Underground Wine ProjectIDLE HANDS CAB SYRAH 2014 (WA) $32.99

Super rich and full bodied Syrah based blend From Mark Ryan and Trey Busch using Red Mountain’s top vineyards. Dark, sexy and full of mocha, blackberry, plum and roasted coffee bean notes. Delicious with a big steak.

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