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Cameron and Marlen Porter share a love for music and wine that reverberates through the entire Amplify lineup, which combine precision, freshness, and deliciousness, exemplified perfectly by this vintage of their Camp 4 Carignane. Bursting with red fruit, fresh and pretty florals, and hints of earth and salt, this Carignane is a versatile delight, served with a chill alongside salads or burgers or steak tartare. Cam and Marlen explain the inspirations for with characteristic charm: "We fell in love with its wild iterations in the Roussillon, though the way we choose to interpret it is inspired equally by Poulsard from the Jura. As a result, Amplify Carignane is a delicate, lithe, limpid red wine with just a hint of the savage." Ariana Rolich
Before starting Baker Lane, Stephen Singer was the longtime manager and wine director at Alice Waters' legendary Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. Named after the street where Singer's vines and home are located, Baker Lane is dedicated to Pinot Noir and Syrah. Colors is Baker Lane's second label, less expensive, but just as well-made -- bold, expressive Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir at a surprisingly affordable price. Rich and ripe red fruit and wild berries, supple earth, with bright acid and impressive complexity in this price range. Highly recommended with seared duck breast, game birds, or vegetable stew. Ariana Rolich
55% Zinfandel blended with Carignane, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Alicante Bouschet, Grenache, Syrah, Barbera and a touch of whites for aromatics from old vine plantings (up to 100 years old) around Sonoma County, fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel and raised in a nice bit of French oak for a bold, bright-fruited, silky, and satisfying wine that is unbeatable at this price.
The grapes from this vineyard (named after George Besson Sr. and Jr. whose families have lived and tended this vineyard since the 1930s) is fermented with native yeasts, using 15% whole cluster (with the rest destemmed), and racked into neutral barrels, unfined and and unfiltered. This wine envelops the palate with black cherry skin and fruit flavors, and violet, freshly rained earth, and menthol undertones. Despite the lightness and brightness of this Grenache, all the flavors resonate with an understatedly profound intensity. Pair with roast turkey with cranberry sauce or mushroom and herbed stuffing! Jonas Mendoza
Situated at an altitude of 1700 feet, La Perla vineyard in Spring Mountain District is a true high altitude site, and a wonderful place to grow pinot noir. Cool air from the Pacific makes it here at night, lending extra acidity and structure to the wine. This is an elegant pinot, cast in a lighter and more graceful mold. The nose is a muted expression of black cherry and spiced plum. Herbal aromas becomes a dark, tea-like character on the palate that accompanies a pleasant surprise: evidence of some tannic grip. While not a powerfully tannic wine in any sense, it has enough to give a sense of order to the mid-palate that allows its fruit, brighter than on the nose, to shine through with the elevated acidity that is a hallmark of this winery. Remains in used French oak barrels for 16 months before bottling unfined and unfiltered. Andrew Farquhar
Counoise, here sourced from Eaglepoint Ranch located 1800 feet above the Ukiah Valley in Mendocino, is one of the rarer blending grapes from the Southern Rhone, and is not frequently made into varietal wines. But here Broc Cellars has created a beautiful wine that makes me excited to try and find more of this grape. Native yeast fermentation occurs in 5 ton open-top wood tronique, a tank that slants inward allowing more of the cap to remain in constant contact with the juice. This is followed by twelve months in 600-1200L old German casks. On the nose this Counoise has some dark fruit wrapped in a stylish melange of eucalyptus, sage, and baking spices. One the palate this wine is wonderfully savory, with animal hide, beef jerky, hoisin, and kid leather. Dark in fruit, medium in tannin, this wine is perfect for summer grilling but can be thrown in the cellar for a few years as well. Andrew Farquhar
This is a fantastic zinfandel. The varietal character remains but the alcohol has been brought to heel and the structure is resoundingly more crystalline than many of the soupier 16% abv offerings on the market. A coiled spring, with an array of black and red berry fruits and still moderately dense with tannin, there is a fine black pepper note on the palate and the finish begins with a burst of red fruit complexity that surprised me. There is a note of funkiness brought to it by the volcanic soils of the two vineyards: Arrowhead in Sonoma and Buck Hill in Russian River. This zin is destemmed, fermented in stainless steel and concrete, and aged for ten months in neutral oak. A great wine on its own, this would be a fine partner to steak, meatball marinara, or blood sausage. Drew Farquhar
This wine is sourced from the Oat Valley Vineyard in Alexander Valley, which contains 130+ year old vines! The decomposed sandy soil here makes this site phylloxera-proof as well. Planted sometime around 1890, this extraordinarily old vineyard includes, in addition to Carignan, plantings of Palomino, Zinfandel, and Alicante. Thus, this wine's cepage is 85% Carignan, 10% Alicante, 4% Zinfandel, and 1% Palomino. The grapes are then fermented using full carbonic maceration, which, when combined with the crazy concentration from the old vine fruit, makes this wine an exciting and atypical blend of incredibly concentrated depth and bright freshness. Charred meat and bone broth intermingle with pomegranate, strawberry, and bright cranberry flavors on the palate. The general intensity of its flavors is immense, it feels like drinking an entire historical period in one glass. Andrew Farquhar
To make a Saignée, a small percentage of juice is "bled" off during fermentation of red wines, to balance the ratio of skins to juice, and give more boldness to the resulting wine. The run off juice is fermented separately and yields a rosé that has a considerable amount of color, compared to rosés made by direct press, or with very short maceration times. In one of his "rants " from a few years back about pink wine, John Paul writes that "one should be drawn to the wine by its color, captivated by its elegant aromas, and finally conquered by its texture and lingering flavors." The 2016 Saignée Rose delivers on all counts. It has a lovely rich pink hue, pretty strawberry aromatics, and a fascinating fleshy texture and long finish. A perfect rosé for the fall/winter months! I get the sense from John Paul that he might be getting out of the rosé game soon, as the market that was demanding rosé 4 years ago now seems to him to be saturated with them… so this may be the last time we get a chance to drink the Cameron Saignée. I'd suggest getting a bottle or two and drinking sometime in the next 1-3 years. Eben Lillie
Cooper Mountain Vineyards started in 1978 when Dr. Robert Gross and his wife, Corrine, planted the first Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in the unique soils of Cooper Mountain in the Chehalem Mountains of Oregon's Willamette Valley. Today, the estate has more than 100 acres dedicated to organic and biodynamic farming and winemaking. This Pinot Noir is refreshing and ripe, with brambly raspberry and cherry fruit, baking spice, and earthy flavors. Serve with a chill. Jonas Mendoza
Our love affair is going strong with Drovers Pinot Noir, a collaboration between our friends at Encore Wine Imports and Brad Ford of Illahe Vineyards. Consistently delicious, but always reflective of vintage, Drovers delivers freshness and depth and a terrific price point. In 2015 there is rich dark cherry, crushed berries, earth, cola, and spice, with more density than the 2014 and admirable balance. Ariana Rolich
Steve Edmunds has a way with Gamay, confirmed each year by the energy and depth of his red and rosé Bone Jolly wines. 2016 is light-bodied and fresh, taut and bright, with tingly acidity, tart cranberry, juicy sour cherry and citrus, and salty mineral earth. We look forward to every new vintage from Edmunds St. John. Let the adventure continue! Ariana Rolich
This is a fresh and delicious Pinot that we would be happy to drink every night (happily, at $21.99, we could also afford to!). Pure fruits of dark cherry, baked strawberry and raspberry, aromas of violets, along with ripe nuances of Madagascar vanilla bean. The different vineyard selections for this vintage include Arroyo Seco & Antle vineyards and offer a satisfyingly gamey, savory contrast to the silky palate and makes this a distinctive new world Pinot Noir well worth stocking up on.
Belle Farms Pinot Noir is a perennially stunning single vineyard bottling from Ghostwriter, from 1.5 acres at 500 feet elevation, planted in 1999 to Champagne clones, just outside of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA in the foothills of Mount Madonna. We recently learned from winemaker Kenny Likitprakong that Belle Farms was ripped out after the 2014 harvest and is currently planted with broccoli to enrich the soils before replanting (the vineyard had been struggling for years and ultimately failed). 2013 was a gorgeous vintage for these valiant vines, with aromas of dry earth, sweet cherry, birch bark, cardamom, and clove, which swirl onto the palate of crisp cranberry, rich cassis, black raspberry preserves, and spicy citrus oils, with a bold acidic core. This cuvée always needs some air, and flavors evolve on the second day open toward elegant, high-toned fruit with graceful florals and a fresh, salty, mineral layer. An aptly named vineyard! Please decant. Ariana Rolich
This is a fascinating 100% Dolcetto from the Fox Hill vineyard in Mendocino county. Whole cluster fermented, these grapes were dumped into large fermenting bins, using pitchforks, where they were partially foot trodden, lending it more power and a hint of spice and floral characteristics. Native yeast primary and secondary fermentation, basket pressed off the skins, this wine spends ten months in neutral oak before bottling. Tart cranberry fruit, anise, with some baking spice character, it is surprisingly dense as well. The soft fruit of this wine is protected from the elements by more thickly wrapped tannin, with a fine hushed character of woodsmoke permeating this heavier clothing. This is still Dolcetto, so it is in no way massive, but it has much more breadth than other examples I've tasted. Andrew Farquhar
Sourced from the Fox Hill vineyard in Mendocino, this Nebbiolo is an intriguing collection of opposites. Light and almost copper colored, the nose shows both classic and recognizably Californian fruit characteristics while still evincing the archetypal Piemontese notes of tar and roses, all blended with some mint, cedar, and finely-grained earth. Light and elegant on the palate, after a moment its deep formal structure is revealed, with the great tannin and remarkable acidity one would expect from this legendary grape. Half the fruit was destemmed and the other half remained whole cluster and was foot trod. Native fermentation was followed by a ninety day sealed maceration. This is what gives this wine its blend of delicacy and power. Two years in neutral oak barrel and one in bottle finish the journey from grape to glass. Elegant now, this wine will develop in interesting ways until at least 2025. Andrew Farquhar
Kudos to our friend Richard Luftig for the phenomenal quality and price of Pied a Terre Cabernet! Always one of our best-selling American reds, 2014 is a deep, ripe, and focused vintage for Pied a Terre. There is great energy and balance in this bottle, which will elevate your wintry dinners and holiday gift lists alike! Ariana Rolich
Ridge Vineyards first made Merlot in 1974 on Monte Bello; after being initially blended into their famed Cabernet, the Merlot eventually showed enough structure and complexity to merit a separate bottling. Aged nearly 20 months in a combination of 40% new and 60% 4-5 year old American oak barrels, this Merlot displays clove, anise, and allspice aromatics. The high elevation of the Monte Bello vineyard (nearly 2600 feet!) shines through with red plum skin, tart red cherry, and fennel flavors, followed by a sinewy black olive finish. A Merlot to age for the next 5-10 years! Jonas Mendoza
A deep and brooding Washington Malbec from Joe Swick, this wine displays a subtle nose, with a bit of elegant dark fruit emerging from its gentlemanly reserve. Dark notes of spice and some husky minerality are clothed on the palate by a classic tannic grip. There is good structure but also fine integration of its various parts, which make it a wonderful complement for a wide range of foods. This is a great cold weather wine, that will be nice alongside rich cheeses, dark full-bodied sauces, and meats of various types, such as veal, game birds, poultry, and fine cuts of grass-fed beef. Andrew Farquhar
Under the Wire is the sparkling wine project of Morgan Twain Peterson and Chris Cottrell, whose ambition to make world-class California Champagne method bubbles is fed by truly excellent grape sources. This rose is Pinot Noir from David Hirsch's legendary vineyard on the true Sonoma Coast, just a mile from the San Andreas fault. The 2014 vintage was fermented with native yeasts in neutral barrels and disgorged in the spring of 2017 with 2g dosage. An American sparkler to celebrate!
An ode to the blending wines used to make champagne, this wine is 53% pinot noir and 47% chardonnay, vinified with no skin contact as a full-on high-energy white wine. Yellow apple and white peach on the nose mix with classic ripe unoaked Napa chardonnay character. The palate is quite different, having a briny quality and increased depth from the pinot noir. This wine is great for sipping cold on a sunny spring day. No new oak, native yeast fermentation in barrel. Andrew Farquhar
Brian and Stephy Terrizzi's Broadside project focuses on sustainably farmed vineyards and minimalist winemaking (native yeasts, minimal handling, neutral oak), as well as purity of flavor and varietal expression.Their Central Coast Chardonnay is a quintessential example of their wine growing and winemaking philosophy; a bright and creamy Chardonnay with ripe lemon and peach flavors and a saline minerality. Jonas Mendoza
The 2013 was a wet vintage but strongly benefited growers who dry-farmed and took advantage of the sunshine after the late September rains. The Chardonnay comes from a dry-farmed, owned-rooted Wente clone vineyard on marine sedimentary soils in Willamette Valley. Bright and slightly oxidative, the palate resonates with flavors of lemon pith, lemon curd, underripe peach, and marzipan and brightens with the wine's pointilistic acidity and minerality. Jonas Mendoza
A blend of 31% Melon de Bourgogne, 26% Chardonnay, 22% Chenin Blanc, 8% Viognier, 7% Riesling, and 6% Muscat sourced from Monterey, Mendocino, and Napa AVAs. The 2016 has a bouquet of lime flower, salty orange citrus and juicy stone fruit. The palate is rich and creamy but a cool mineral acidity gives an energetic lift that makes this fabulous for all seasons and with almost any dish. Recently we enjoyed this with fried shrimp tossed in chili oil. Amanda Bowman
Dragonette Cellars produces small lots of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc from cool-climate vineyards in California. The biodynamically farmed Duvarita Vineyard lies just west of the Santa Rita Hills appellation on gentle, south-facing slopes of almost pure sand. Although there’s less than 15% new oak, biscuity aromas mingle with ripe peach, melon, and lemon pith flavors along with honey and vanilla undertones. Vibrant and fresh, this Chardonnay perfectly exemplifies the terroir and potential of Santa Barbara County. Jonas Mendoza
This 100% chenin blanc is sourced from Merritt Island in the Sacramento river delta, near Clarksburg. Natural fermentation occurred after six days on the skin, and continued for a month. Broad and inviting on the nose, this wine has fine citrus character that mixes with a broader, more textured elegance on the palate. Lemon curd and a delicate peach character intermix over light tannin from the extended skin contact, though it is softer and prettier than many more deeply hued orange wines. This wine will pair excellently with heavier seafood, like braised scallops, lobster, or monkfish, particularly if a cream sauce is involved. Light sulfur only at bottling. Andrew Farquhar
The talented and tireless team of Cara and Aaron Mockrish have somehow managed to both take over farming prime slopes of Renaissance in North Yuba (Sierra Foothills) and combine Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier -- two of the wine world's most misunderstood, yet potentially lovely, varieties -- into something we can all agree on. Pearl Thief is irresistibly refreshing, flavorful, and textured, driven by tangy acidity and firm minerality (thanks, Renaissance!). Crisp stone fruits, fresh green herbs, honey-lemon and lemon balm intertwine with richer notes of sweet cream, pineapple, and intense apricot, on the way to a long, strongly mineral finish. A perfect accompaniment for curried vegetables and fish! Ariana Rolich
This beautifully rendered 100% Arneis from the Fox Hill vineyard in Mendocino is a classic.From two separate cooler parcels within the vineyard, the Arneis is planted on a well-drained mix of gravel and sand. Whole cluster pressing and natural yeast fermentation in stainless steel are followed by four months in neutral oak resting on the lees, which adds a layer of texture to the racy acidity. Restrained and finely etched, this wine has the structural elegance and clean lines of a woodblock print. Dried sap, beech bark, and mountain flowers intermingle with citrus and stone fruit character. Fine structure, great acidity, and a refined and delicate integration make this a fantastic match for seafood. Pair with flounder, shellfish, or smoked eel.
Precedent is the label of Nathan Kandler, longtime winegrower at Thomas Fogarty in the Santa Cruz Mountains, a renowned destination for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Precedent illustrates Kandler's versatility and curiosity and has introduced us to some truly unique California vineyard sites. Wirz Vineyard is home to 60+ year-old dry farmed, head-trained Riesling on decomposed granite over limestone in the Gabilan mountains. We usually have an off-dry Riesling on the holiday table, but I'm happy to go in a drier direction in this case... Concentrated, gleaming apricot, citrus rind, and tropical fruit is laced with gritty, long minerality and backed by supple texture and acidic tension. Terrific with herbed root vegetables and citrus glazed poultry or fish and anything peppery or spicy. Ariana Rolich
Precedent is the personal project of Nathan Kandler, winemaker at the excellent Thomas Fogarty estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains. If you've never had California Chenin Blanc or you're never been thrilled by one, Precedent is a pure rendition of the grape from 30+ year-old vines planted on pink granite and silica-rich quartz soils in eastern Lodi. Ripe and pretty aromas of lemon, honeycomb, and white flowers, followed by brisk flavors of citrus and white peach, with fresh acidity and salty minerals. Unfined and unfiltered with minimal sulfur additions. Ariana Rolich
This Chardonnay comes from younger vines in Rhys' Anderson Valley Bearwallow Vineyard, and aged for 14 months in 20% new French oak barrels. Like a riper Chablis, there are notes of zesty lemon, white nectarine, and just-ripe peach. On the palate, lemon juice, lemon pith, and saline flavors with bright acidity and a tight mineral core.A perfect introduction to Rhys' stunning Chardonnays. Jonas Mendoza
Made from a blend of foraged heirloom varieties of apples and Vermont and English cider apples grown by Sunrise Orchards in Cornwall, VT, this cider is made using the Méthode Ancestrale. Just like the grape-based pét nats we all know and love, it is bottled while it is still undergoing fermentation and is aged for two months on the lees before it is released unfined, unfiltered, and with zero SO2 added. The result is a bone-dry cider with pretty aromas of red berries, ripe pear, and apricot blossom. Gently sparkling and dangerously drinkable, this is one of my favorite releases from Shacksbury to date. Tim Gagnon
For Nathan Kandler, winemaker at Thomas Fogarty, Portola Springs is the most extreme of their Santa Cruz Chardonnay vineyards, with its very steep slopes and cool marine air influence. The Chardonnay grapes ripen very slowly and yields are frustratingly low. Portola Springs has a characteristic lemon drop and verbena with flavors of lemon oil, sea spray, and dried thyme. Pair with roasted cauilflower or chicken. Jonas Mendoza
Portola Springs Vineyard is a consistent standout in the excellent range of Thomas Fogarty Chardonnays. 2012 has riper, sunnier fruit tone than the austere 2011, without sacrificing any of Portola Springs' cool mineral core and impressive, driving acidity, owing to the low-yielding, late-ripening, nearly 40-year-old vines planted on basalt and shale. Complex and rich enough to handle poultry and pork dishes, with refreshing energy to compliment seafood and veggies. Ariana Rolich