2013 Alexander Valley Vineyards Primitivo ($45)   This week’s Behind the Cork™ feature is a special one. During my last visit to Alexander Valley Vineyards I had the pleasure of spending time in the tasting room with Denise Gill, their Tasting Room Manager. And, I got to taste a bunch of really great wines.  This Alexander School Reserve Primitivo was one of several that I brought home.  The grapes are from their Wetzel Family Estate, located on the property settled in the 1840’s by Alexander Valley’s namesake, Cyrus Alexander. And, the Alexander School Reserve wines focus on some of the best and most unique lots of grapes that they harvest each year.  If you know Primitivo, you know that its DNA analysis proved that Zinfandel and Primitivo are the same variety. But, at the Wetzel Family Estate, they grow both side by side in a tiny hillside vineyard planted high above the winery, and they claim that flavors of each are dramatically different.  They state that the Primitivo has “l oads of black fruit with great acidity, while the Zinfandel has jammy raspberry flavors and lots of spice .” I have to strongly agree!  This is a special one. Next time you are in Alexander Valley, you must stop at Alexander Valley Vineyards. In addition to a great bunch of wines offered in their tasting room, they have extensive wine caves that can be toured upon special request.  This Primitivo was a real pleasure. Look for it. Cheers!
  2013 Robert Young Alexander Valley ‘Big Rock Block’ Cabernet Franc ($65)   This one’s a real treat. Alexander Valley is a favorite of mine and this Cabernet Franc from Robert Young Estate Winery is an exceptional example of the Alexander Valley wines.  I picked this one up during my 2018 visit to Alexander Valley. I was familiar with the wineries along the main road. But, for my final stop of the trip, I decided to go off the main road and check out Robert Young. I didn’t know anything about their wines so I went in with no expectations. Then, I was blown away.  Along with this delicious Cabernet Franc, I also tried their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Verdot. They were all outstanding and I brought home one of each!  This ‘Big Rock Block’ Cabernet Franc is rich and complex with wonderful dark fruit flavors and oak aging that makes for an amazing wine with low tannin and a long smooth finish.  While my “Behind the Cork™” features are often wines that are easily affordable and easily attainable, this Robert Young Cabernet Franc is a bit pricier and you’ll probably only find it at the winery, but it’s a tremendous find that will be featured in the “Great Wines” page of the website.  If you get the opportunity to be in Alexander Valley, take the short trip off the main road and visit Robert Young Estate. It’s well worth the visit! Cheers!
  2016 Panthera Russian River Valley Chardonnay from The Hess Collection ($45)   This 100% Chardonnay comes from The Hess Collection of wines from the Russian River Valley.  Hess Family wines was founded by Donald Hess in 1978. Today, Tim Persson (Donald’s son in law) and his wife Sabrina are owners of Hess Family Wine Estates and are the fifth generation of the Hess family to lead the company.  Panthera is part of a new collection of wines that are not Hess branded. But it certainly represents the tradition and heritage of Hess wines.  This Panthera Chardonnay has a great balance of pear, peach and hints of pineapple along with some acidity and is rounded out with light oak. The oak comes from 15 months of aging in 35% new French oak.  According to the notes, “ The word Panthera is believed to be of East Asian origin, meaning ‘the yellowish animal’ or golden-yellow. ” This coloring in indeed striking in this inaugural vintage of Panthera.  This Panthera should please any Chardonnay drinker. Look for it!
  2016 Lion Tamer Red - The Hess Collection ($45)   This red blend comes from The Hess Collection of wines from Napa Valley.  Hess Family wines was founded by Donald Hess in 1978. Today, Tim Persson (Donald’s son in law) and his wife Sabrina are owners of Hess Family Wine Estates and are the fifth generation of the Hess family to lead the company.  The Lion Tamer is part of a new collection of wines that are not Hess branded. But it certainly represents the tradition and heritage of Hess wines.  This red blend is comprised of 40% Malbec, 27% Zinfandel, 21% Petite Sirah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Mourvedre, 1% Petite Verdot and 1% Merlot.  While the Lion has been the emblem of the Hess Family for nine generations and the name  Lion Tamer  has become the nickname for Malbec because of their use of Malbec to ‘tame’ the tannin in their Cabernet Sauvignon wines.  The Malbec certainly does its job in taming this wine. It’s amazingly smooth and full of big juicy dark fruit flavors of black plum, black currant, cassis and boysenberry. This wine is a delight and oh so easy to drink.
  2016 Écluse Ensemble ($48)   This Bordeaux red blend from Écluse in Paso Robles is truly an ensemble of varietals. It’s produced from 29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cab Franc, 15% Petit Verdot, 14% Merlot, 14% Malbec and 7% Carignane. A little bit of everything!  And the result is quite tasty. It has bright red fruit flavors such as cherry but also has hints of pepper, licorice and other spices.  Écluse has masterfully blended this wine to be big in flavor and smooth on the finish.  If you’re passing through Paso Robles on Highway 101, Écluse is just a couple of minutes away and well worth the stop. And, you’re likely to find the warm and friendly owner Steve Lock (Lock is Écluse in French) in the serving room.  This is a really good one! Cheers!
  2015 1858 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($70)   From Chuck Wagner, famous for producing Caymus, this is a big Cab with great depth of character, nicely oaked and very smooth on the finish.
  2013 Alexander Valley Vineyards “Cyrus” ($52)   This is a wonderful Bordeaux blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cab Franc, 7% Merlot, 5% Malbec and 4% Petit Verdot.  This wine is named for the founder of Alexander Valley, Cyrus Alexander. And today, Alexander Valley Vineyards (AVV) is located on his original homestead. If you look closely on the hilltop above the AVV wine cave, you’ll see Cyrus’ final resting place.  This is a wonderfully complex blend that’s easy on the palette and really exemplifies the wines of Alexander Valley.
  2013 Miner “The Oracle” ($99)   Well, it just doesn’t get much better than this one!  This Bordeaux blend is 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cab Franc, 17% Merlot, 2% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. And it’s wonderful.  From the Stagecoach Vineyard grapes, this blend from Napa is so complex, has multiple depths of character and is just velvet on the finish. A real treat and worth it!
  2013 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon ($75)   This is an old dependable Cab from Alexander Valley in Sonoma. You can’t go wrong with this one. It’s oak aging adds to the aromas and deep, rich, complex flavors. And, they have a beautiful new site in Alexander Valley that worth just a visit. This one’s a standard and an easy go-to for an excellent Cab for any occasion.
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