Joseph Swan Vineyards - 2009 Zeigler Vineyard Zinfandel ($30)
This Russian River Valley wine was an unexpected experience. Often California Zinfandel is either big and jammy or spicy and peppery. This Zinfandel was unexpected because it was neither. It had good dark fruit flavors and was smooth. A nice wine to enjoy with a meal.
Michael David - 2012 Lodi Petite Petit ($27 1.5L)
I always passed by this cartoon character label with the two elephants sipping wine. But Wine Enthusiast recently named this wine their #2 pick on the 2015 top 100 wines, giving it a 94 point rating. That caught my eye! And, as it happened, I found this 1.5 liter magnum at an amazing price. So, as Wine Enthusiast says "Don't let the cartoony label fool you, this is a fantastic wine." This is dark red wine with big rich fruit flavors. But, as Wine Enthusiast goes on "For all its density and depth, however, this is not an overpowering monster." A really good highly rated wine at a terrific price. You need to try this one!
Cristom - 2011 Mt. Jefferson Cuvée Pinot Noir ($30)
Really enjoyed visiting Cristom Vineyards in Oregon's Willamette Valley and tasting their wines. Pinot Noir is the wine in Willamette Valley and this one from Cristom is very nice. While some of the Pinot's from Willamette Valley are big wines, this wine from Mt. Jefferson is a toned-down version, tending more toward the delicate Pinot's of California. What you immediately notice with this wine is the oak in the aroma. Nearly like putting your nose into a fresh oak barrel. But the oak is not overpowering on the pallet. A nice Pinot Noir worth seeking out.
Hook & Ladder - 2012 Los Amigos Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon ($21)
If you are looking for a big, bold Cab, this is not the Cab for you. It's a great wine, don't get me wrong. But it has nice red fruit flavors and very moderate tannin. Probably due to the blending with Merlot. A nice red wine at an affordable price.
Moshin Vineyards - 2009 Bowman Vineyard Zinfandel ($28)
A great Zinfandel from the Shenandoah Valley that has a nice peppery flavor and smooth finish. Shenandoah Valley is located in Amador County, and area well known for Zinfandel. Great with a steak. Wish I could go back for more!
Dutcher Crossing - 2013 Proprietor's Reserve Syrah ($30)
This is a terrific Syrah. It's a deep purplewine with dark fruit flavors and cola, . The mouth is filled by luscious red fruit which give way to mouth coating tannins that linger on the pallet and just a touch of mouth watering acidity. A well balanced wine that shows the power of Dry Creek Valley. Really nice!
Locations E3 - 2013 Blend ($18)
Another of Dave Phenney's blends. This time Locations E3 blends Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvèdre and Carignan from old vines with low yields locations from Priorate, Jumilla, Toro, Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Always interesting blends from Phenney who made a journey through the different areas of Spain to form this unique blend. Locations E3 spends 12 months in oak barrels to offer a balanced and unique wine. You won't find other red blend from Spain with this much quality and character, especially at this price point. Another great value worth picking up!
Francis Ford Coppola - 2013 Director's Cut Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
A wonderfully smooth and easy Cab to drink. Alexander Valley produces dependably excellent wines, and this one is no exception. Full-bodied with nice oak and berry flavors and a soft finish. Decanted for approximately one hour before devouring this great wine with a terrific steak dinner. Don't miss this one. It's a great value.
Tenshen - 2013 Red Blend ($21)
This blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Merlot and Mourvèdre is outstanding. Joey Tensley, Wine Maker, exceeded my expectations on this one by a mile. The blend of varietals give this red big, bold flavor with the smoothness you'd expect from a Merlot. This one has the great nose of black fruit, the wonderful mouthfeel of herbs, meat and tar, and a finish that lingers with smoothness. I went back for more!
Beran -- 2012 Zinfandel ($23)
If you love a good Zinfandel, this one will knock your socks off. This wine is produced by Joey Wagner, Son of famed Camus winemaker Chuck Wagner. Joey has done amazing things with this wine. Sourced from throughout California, this Zinfandel drinks smooth with a strong finish of chocolate and vanilla. Try this one!
Caymus Vineyards --2013 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($70)
Don't have to say a lot. It's Caymus. It's excellent! This wonderful Cab from Chuck Wagner is his 41st and he just continues making some of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon on the planet. This one has distinctive favors of vanilla and butterscotch and finishes smooth, with a great lingering dark fruit flavor. If you get a chance, splurge. It's well worth it.
Kramer Vineyards -- 2010 Rebecca's Reserve Pinot Noir ($35)
Picked this up during a visit to Kramer Vineyards in Gaston, Oregon. They have a beautiful location and several excellent wines. The 2010 Rececca's Reserve is very nice with flavors of cherries, raspberries and an earthy depth. Check them out and give this one a try!
Cristom -- 2013 Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Pinot Gris ($17)
Picked this one up during a visit to Cristom in Oregon. This winery is making a bunch of great wines. Enjoyed talking with Tom (the 'Tom' of Cristom) about the family winery. This Pinot Gris is not your ordinary Pinot Gris. This is not overly fruity and not sweet. It's just pure, crisp, clean and mellow. A real find and great value. Don't just think of Willamette Valley for Pinot Noir. This other Pinot is terrific!
Gary Farrell -- 2011 Russian River Pinot Noir ($30)
If you like Pinot Noir from the Russian River, you are going to absolutely love this one. This has all the great cherry, raspberry and cola flavors yet is delicate and has a wonderful finish. Can't wait to try more from Gary Farrell!
Charles Smith 'Chateau Smith' -- 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($13)
Charles Smith is a tremendous winemaker in the state of Washington. This Cabernet from Columbia Valley is another fine example of his work. Excellent depth of character and very light tannin. A really nice Cab and a great value, too!
Sbragia Family Vineyards -- 2011 Andolsen Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($33)
Really came to love the Sbragia Family Vineyards after having visited their beautiful winery a couple of years ago. Previously had found their Merlot to be super and it was no surprise that their Cab is equally outstanding. Great fruit and a lasting finish. The Sbragia Family is making great wines that you should try. You will not be disappointed!
Locations F2 -- French Red Wine ($18)
This is one of Dave Phinney's line of Locations wines. Dave Phinney has made quite a name for himself at Orin Swift Cellars, and is continuing to exhibit his amazing wine making talents in his line of Locations wines. This red blend from France includes Grenache, Syrah and "assorted Bordeaux varietals" according to the spec sheet. This blend exhibits the delicate and subtile flavors of the French wines with raspberry, strawberry and cherry. This is a terrific wine and a tremendous value.
Provenance Vineyards -- 2011 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon ($32)
This was an unexpected find. Opened this bottle and found it to be incredibly smooth for a Cab. But, this is no ordinary Cab. Very light on the tannins, deep in flavors and wonderful lingering fruit of blackberry and black cherry. This is a superb wine that deserves your attention.
Clos Pegas -- 2011 Carneros Merot ($18)
A really nice Merlot. Smooth and rich with strong fruit flavors of black cheery and subtile tobacco nuances. Light on tannin and finishes very nicely. I went back and picked up two more. You should too!
Barton Family Winery -- 2010 Kashmir ($38)
Visited the Barton Family Winery a couple of years ago on a trip to Paso Robles. Great little farmhouse tasting room and some tremendous wines. Had put away this bottle of Kashmir, 100% Syrah, for a couple of years and just recently pulled it out. This was tremendous! Right out of the bottle, it was smooth, with great fruit and a wonderful long finish. This is two-for-two with this winery. The Barton Family established Grey Wolf Cellars in 1994. During my visit, I also picked up a bottle of Grey Wolf Zinfandel that was out of this world delicious! Keep an eye out for Barton and Grey Wolf wines. And make a point to visit them next time you are in Paso Robles. I know I will!
Daou -- 2013 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
A tremendous Cab from a beautiful winery in the hills of Paso Robles facing the Pacific Ocean. This wine has amazing bold fruit flavors, with a smooth and lasting finish. With great earthly and oak flavors, you'll be amazed that such an outstanding Cab is produced in Paso Robles. You can bet this one will only get better with age, if you can keep from drinking it now. Go out and try this one. And be sure visit this beautiful winery set in a stunning location.
Ridge Geyserville -- 2012 ($30)
A wonderfully complex blend of Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre and Alicante Bouschet. The 71% Zinfandel nearly qualifies this as being labeled as a varietal, but the other grapes blended into the wine give it a smooth and rich depth of character. Made from sustainably grown grapes, Ridge Geyserville is a winner!
Tower 15 The Jetty --2011 Paso Robles ($21)
A blend of 41% Syrah, 28% Grenache, 17% Mourvedre and 14% Petite Sirah produced by Pali Wine Company. Paying homage to lifeguard tower 15 on the beach in Pacific Palisades, California (or 'Pali' as the locals call it), this wonderful blend has great depth of character with a smooth finish. Picked this one up at the Pali tasting room in Santa Barbara's Funk Zone. It was a great tasting experience and a terrific wine! Seek this one out.
Matrix -- 2011 Russian River Valley Zinfandel ($32)
This was a really nice Zin! Smooth right out of the bottle with great bright fruit and a terrific finish. Matrix sources their Zinfandel grapes throughout the Russian River Valley. For this bottling, Matrix has blended the Zinfandel with Petite Sirah to add structure and finesse. Matrix has a great little tasting room at their winery that's definitely worth a visit next time you are in the Russian River Valley. Amazing Pinot Noir too!