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Ripe, juicy, and versatile as always, with a super-fresh kick of acidity, Ampelos' basic Pinot Noir is composed primarily of grapes from certified organic and biodynamic Ampelos vineyard and John Sebastiano vineyard with 14 months in French oak (23% new). The zesty nose of cranberry, earth and peppery herbs precedes bright red raspberry and tangy cherry fruit flavors that combine with buoyant acidity, gentle tannins, rich licorice notes, and hints of tobacco, black pepper and thyme. A truly delicious everyday Pinot Noir from an estate with integrity. Ariana Rolich
Bedrock's 2014s are impressive in their freshness and balance across the board, but Evangelho is extra subtle and structured, with pink and purple floral aromas that carry onto the palate of crushed purple berries with tart, tannic skins, an abundance of blood orange and citrus oils that I associate with Evangelho, and fresh, gritty minerality. Evangelho is 40-foot-deep beach sand planted in the 1890s to Zinfandel, Carignane, Mourvedre, and more. The fine folks at Bedrock call it a "viticultural survivor- wedged betweem a PG and E plant, a Burger King, and a motel that rents rooms by the hour." Pretty and refreshingly acidic, this is a Zinfandel blend to unite diverse drinkers. 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.
Bow & Arrow's preeminently drinkable Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend, magnum edition! Jonas Mendoza
Winemaker Chris Brockway makes Brea Cabernet from Margarita Vineyard in Paso Robles, the same site behind the delicious and popular Broadside Cabernet. The 2013 is riper and more fruit-forward than the previous year's vintage, leaning more toward California than Bordeaux. Juicy black cherry, black currant, and ripe black plum flavors delicately interweave into dried thyme, sage, and compacted earth undertones. Jonas Mendoza
A Merlot that one doesn't have to look "Sideways" at. Ripe red plum and cherry compote flavors are underscored by vanilla and cloves notes and lifted red floral aromatics. Sourced from the famed Margarita Vineyard in Paso Robles. Jonas Mendoza
The 2006 "Old Man's Reserve" Syrah (90% Syrah, 6% Roussanne, and 4% Petit Verdot) started alongside Clos Saron's Stone Soup Syrah of the same vintage, but was aged for four years in 1,200L oak oval foudre, and then aged in bottle for almost an additional 6 years prior to its release. Reminiscent of an older Barbaresco, the "Old Man's Reserve" has flavors of stewed morello cherry, carob, and dark chocolate on the initial attack, then glides seamlessly into secondary flavors of saddle leather, air-dried bresaola, and tar. One of my favorite Clos Saron bottlings, it's a wine that is drinking well now, but can age for an additional 10-20 years. Jonas Mendoza
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 lush and ripe, with brambly raspberry and cherry fruit, baking spice, and earthy flavors. Jonas Mendoza
Cathy Corison's winery is located on their home vineyard, Kronos, in Napa Valley's Rutherford AVA. The Cabernet vines are planted on gravelly loam soils and are some of the oldest Cabernet Sauvignon vines in the valley. Black cherry, cassis, and black currant flavors resonate on the palate framed by a prominent tannic structure. A quintessential example of power intersecting with elegance, and a wine that will reward cellaring for the next 8-10 years. Jonas Mendoza
After leaving Turley Wine Cellars in 2013, Ehren Jordan focused full-time on Failla, his winery centered around producing pure expressions of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Syrah (not to mention an incubator for many talented young winemakers). Jordan has returned to his deep Zinfandel roots with Day. 2015 is the first vintage, from choice Zinfandel vineyards around Sonoma County, full and generous, with effusive, exotic aromas of incense and peppercorns, which infuse the gracious palate of floral wild berry fruit supported by layers of bramble, spice, and bright acidity. Ariana Rolich
I cannot think of a California winemaker working today whom we admire and celebrate as enthusiastically as Steve Edmunds of Edmunds St. John. What greater accompaniment can there be, then, to great holiday feasts than this great big bottle of Rocks and Gravel from a great American winemaker? Displaying a greater resemblance to L'Anglore Tavel than to the typical California GSM blend, 2015 Rocks and Gravel is juicy and generous with invigorating acidity and lots of life ahead. Perfumed and mouth-watering aromas of wild rose, black currant, tea leaves, and wild cherry with a terrifically spicy, bright and balanced palate of black raspberry, cherries and cherry skins, sweet tobacco, juicy young tannins and vibrant acidity. Medium bodied and crystal clear at 13.2% alcohol, this wine opens up beautifully and will reward cellaring. Ariana Rolich
What to do while we wait for Enfield's fabulous Shake Ridge Tempranillo to mature? Drink Pretty Horses! Enfield's John Lockwood is a long-time lover of Spanish wines, the rare new-world winemaker who understands the potential finesse and complexity of Tempranillo. Pretty Horses made from 2 well-known sites: Shake Ridge in Amador County and Matthew Rorick's (Forlorn Hope) Heritage Vineyard in Calaveras. Hibiscus, black pepper, spicy raspberry and earthy cherry, oregano, and orange oil on the nose, with a bright, earthy palate of red plum, stewed strawberry, cherry cola, and thyme, with soft, sweet tannins and and warm soil on the finish. Ariana Rolich
An invigorating wine made from apple, honey, and elderberry! All of the components are allowed to coferment naturally without the addition of lab yeasts or SO2 before a year-long elévage in neutral oak barrels. A gorgeous translucent ruby in the glass, it shows bright aromas of red apple skin, cranberry, pomegranate, and brown spice on the nose. Tangy is the word that comes to mind on the palate, with tart red apple, white pepper, juicy red raspberry, strawberry, blueberry, and lemon peel. There is a fair amount of grip, and the finish is long and citrusy. This would be an esoteric pairing with Asian dishes or burgers and is fantastic by itself. Tim Gagnon
Bei Ranch is a unique and powerful place, the source for one of Eric Demuth's most distinctive and powerful Cabernets and his singular Bei Ranch Syrah. Centered around a massive pair of boulders on a ridgetop at 1500 feet in the Sonoma Coast, Bei Ranch is less than 4 miles from the Pacific Ocean, with rocky soils of Franciscan shale and schists, gleaming with quartz and serpentinite. 2012 Bei Ranch Cabernet is full of dense black fruit and purple berries, with forceful young tannins, rugged resinous herbs, and deep, metallic mineral tone. Recommended with anything braised or barbecued! Ariana Rolich
Kenny Likitprakong, of Ghostwriter reknown, started this label in 2005 without owning a winery or a single vine. Instead, he chooses to work nomadically with small lots of carefully selected fruit and low overhead costs that allow him to craft thoughtful, affordable and delicious California juice. Folk Machine spends nine months on the lees in used French oak barrels with only occasional stirring and is bottled without racking to avoid over-extraction - the result is 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.
This is among my favorite wines to introduce people to the Santa Cruz appellation, and not coincidentally, to Kenny Likitprakong’s wines. The Pinot Noir is a blend of several Santa Cruz vineyards, which varies from year to year. This wine has black raspberry and cherry flavors, subtle hints of baking spice and red flowers, framed by a lithe, sinewy texture. Drink now or anytime within the next five years. Jonas Mendoza
The grapes for this inaugural (and very tiny) vintage come from parcels surrounding the legendary Maresh Red Barn and farmed by 90-year old owner Jim Maresh Sr. The blocks are own-rooted Pommard clones planted in 1978. This wine has all the brambly black fruit of the regular Maresh Vineyard bottling, but with additional power, elegance, and structure. I tasted a bottle with the winemaker Kelley Fox in front of the Red Barn itself. Rugged tannins frame a dark core of black raspberry and cherry fruit; after several hours, the wine unfurls with flavors of blackberry, mushroom, and freshly rained earth. A truly special bottling indeed! Jonas Mendoza
Hank Beckmeyer and his French wife had been working in Germany in the music business, and had caught the wine bug while travelling throughout Europe. Influenced by the ideas of Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka and Austrian philosopher-spiritualist Rudolf Steiner, they moved to the United States and purchased a property in California’s Sierra Foothills in 2001. La Clarine Farm’s winemaking approach is minimalist: neither chemicals, fertilizers, nor tillage are employed in the field; neither industrial yeasts, sulfur dioxide, nor new oak used in the cellar. Cedarville Vineyard lies upon a south-facing exposure on decomposed granite soils, similar to those in the heartland of the Northern Rhone. With a light yet sinewy texture, this Syrah impresses with dried and stewed black cherry, crushed herbs, leather, and cinnamon stick flavors. -Jonas Mendoza
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, 2013 is the deepest, most focused and delicious vintage yet for Pied a Terre. Rich ripe plum, tart black berries, with red raspberry and black pepper, deep, resinous herbs 0thyme and oregano - with dark, smokey earth. There is great energy and elegance in this bottle, which will elevate your next meal of steaks and lamb burgers from the grill. Ariana Rolich
To quote a wise colleague, upon tasting the 2015 rosé from Poe: "Woah! I was not expecting that..." Winemaker Samantha Sheehan blends Pinot Noir from dry-farmed Olcese vineyard, planted in 1974, and Pinot Meunier from organically farmed Van der Kamp vineyard on Sonoma Mountain, which was planted in the early 1950s, fermented in stainless steel with no malolactic fermentation. It delivers a bright bolt of taut, vivid herbal red berries and bristling acidity, with a covert hint of pent-up CO2 and elegant, dusty mineral earth. A mouth-watering aperitif and seriously invigorating pairing for tartares, late-summer tomato recipes like homemade gazpacho, and crunchy peppers fresh from the grill. Ariana Rolich
Precedent's Evangelho bottling with teach the Zin-averse to contemplate this fragrant, complex, and age-worthy grape anew. Tart, sweet, and creamy boysenberry and black cherry fruit on the nose, with pink flowers, citrus zest, incense spice, and licorice; rich and full flavors on the palate exude both perfect ripeness and fresh acid, with juicy black and dark red fruits, salty brine, licorice, bergamot, orange oils, and a long mineral finish. Evangelho is a very special vineyard, composed of own-rooted Zin with Carignan, Mourvedre, Palomino, Muscat, Chasselas, etc planted in 1890 on deep alluvial sands Contra Costa county. this s the wine to celebrate! Ariana Rolich
2004 Granite Crown is a unique blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Syrah from Renaissance, the pioneering estate in the Sierra Foothills where Gideon Beinstock of Clos Saron got his start in California. Aromas of rich and refreshing red and black currant, blueberries, and mocha, with smooth and juicy mouth-filling flavors of sweet plum, tart cranberry, green peppercorns, wild berry, fine-grained tannins and loads of minerals. Lush and satisfying right now, but Renaissance builds their wines to age so don't be afraid to cellar a few of these as well! Ariana Rolich
The 2011 Rhys Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Bearwallow Vineyard was one of the most enjoyable bottles that I've had from the US, and I'm rejoicing that Rhys has decided to make affordable, early-drinking Pinot Noir from this same vineyard. On the nose, the wine is quite expressive with ripe red cherry and raspberry fruit and elegant red floral notes reminiscent of Chambolle-Musigny or Volnay. The palate is equally expressive with black raspberry and cherry fruit, freshly tilled soil, and baking spice flavors. The lithe core of black fruit is surrounded by well-integrated tannins. Jonas Mendoza
Testa Vineyard was founded in 1912 by Italian immigrants Gaetano and Maria Testa, and now farmed by 4th generation wife-and-husband team Maria and Rusty Martinsen. The grapes come from 65 to 80 year-old organically and dry-farmed vines. The wine envelops the nose with macerated black cherry and dried black raspberry notes; on the palate, black cherry skin and licorice stick. The texture is light and lithe with firm tannins and bright acidity. Jonas Mendoza
It's difficult to find a quality Oregon Pinot Noir under $25, let alone one that pairs remarkably with food. St. Innocent blends the fruit from their estate vineyard (Zenith) with that from several other sites within the northern Willamette Valley (Vitae Springs, Freedom Hill, Temperance Hill, and Momtazi). On the palate, very ripe and dark fruit flavors (morello cherry, black raspberry) are framed by a sweet and robust body. Pair with roasted pork and steak tenderloin. Jonas Mendoza
Swick’s Pinot Noir rosé is one of the most complex rosés I’ve tasted from the Willamette Valley (let alone the rest of the United States). The rosé is a blend of organically farmed grapes from the Cancilla and Roots vineyards, which are cooler, higher altitude sites. With a light cherry robe, this wine has a kaleidoscopic range of flavors: blood orange, wild cherry, umeboshi plum, dried tarragon, and cured meats. A sumptuous rosé to have with Christmas dinner and to brighten even the darkest winter months! Jonas Mendoza
2014 is the 32nd vintage for Philip Togni and his family at their Spring Mountain estate, whose 2000 case production is increasingly sought-after and enduringly majestic. The Tanbark Hill is made from their young vines (the Tognis started planting in 1981) of Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and a bit of Petit Verdot. Aromas of red berries and plum with creamy oak continue on to the vibrant, classically built palate - rich, delicious, and layered. A wine to age or pair with steak. Ariana Rolich