Doran Vineyards Pinotage 2013

Nice, balanced offering of South Africa’s patented Pinot Noir x Cinsault crossing from a fairly new domaine near Paardeberg Mountain (fun fact: at the turn of the last century, South African farmers had nicknamed Cinsault “Hermitage,” so “Pinotage” naturally followed). Pale ruby with bright reflections and pink-ish rim. The nose at once shows ripe and dried red fruits, but still has a real brooding character, offering intense notes of smoke, crushed stone, leather, wilting violet, bitter herbs and petrol. Musky. Medium-full; fairly concentrated and plump on the attack, velvety tannic feel on midpalate, with lots of sage/herbal notes on the back end and a mouth-drying finish. Enjoy this one with duck breast with stonefruit compote, wild salmon with cream sauce or pasta/risotto with mushrooms and butter. W.M

Kumeu Village Chardonnay 2014

This is some of the best New Zealand has to offer for serious, food-friendly Chardonnay at an “everyday drinking” price point. The flinty, Chablis-esque nose entices with subtle aromas of crisp green apple and wet stones; as well as not-so-subtle aromas of aged sheepsmilk cheese. Concentrated but mineral-driven and bone-dry. Slightly spritzy feel on attack indicating lees contact and unoaked ageing environment, but balanced otherwise. Drink right away with oysters and cream sauces. W.M.

Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Pale straw color and star bright. Pretty nose offering candied lime, grapefruit, melon, peach, citrus blossom and wet stones with the slightest hint of bitter herbs. Fresh and lively with a core of citrus wrapped neatly in minerality, the finish is bright and crisp. Beefed up a bit by a sprinkling of S millon and fermented mainly in stainless steel with a sprinkling of neutral barrel. Fruity yet food-friendly, this wine offers balanced ripeness, minimal green-ness and should be drunk either as an aperitif, a partner for oysters and sushi, or a foil for rich, earthy dishes like gnocchi with mushrooms or jaeger schnitzel. W.M.

Sleight of Hand, The Sorceress. 2015

Killer juice from one of the great producers of Rhône varietals in Walla Walla. Don’t let the cartoon-y branding fool you; the team at Sleight of Hand makes some of the most seriously delicious and food-friendly wines in WA State. This blend is sourced from old vine sites in the Columbia Valley. Pale ruby in the glass, with an intense nose to be fawned over. Kirsch, raspberry/blackberry jam and violet aromas intermingle with pepper, smoke, herbs and black olives. Ripe and rich but graceful on the palate with a nice open-knit feel and spicy finish. Truly a wine of character and terroir. Definitely pay a visit to SOH if you’re ever in Walla, it’s the only tasting room I’ve been to where one can sip world-class wine and jam out to Soundgarden in a backdrop of wine-stained barrels and vintage concert memorabilia. Rock ‘n’ roll lives at Sleight of Hand! W.M.

Groth Sauvignon Blanc 2017

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Valley Floor Sauvignon Blanc from one of Oakville’s top grower/producers. Medium straw and star-bright. Mandarin, lime and grapefuit aromatics intermingle with tropical fruit, grass, wet stone and asparagus. Very energetic on the palate. Full-throttle citrus attack, followed by a seemingly soft midpalate leading to a crisp, herbaceous and bitter finish. Lipsmackingly fresh and DYING for food. Think goat cheese, halibut and beef stroganoff. W.M.

L’Ermitage Brut 1997

Top bottling from Roederer Estate’s Mendocino property in the Anderson Valley. 50/50 Pinot/Chard topped with a “reserve dosage” aged at least 5yrs in French oak before an additional five months of bottle ageing before release. A gentle layer of fine bubbles appear upon pouring but quickly dissipate, revealing a medium-concentrated gold wine showing its maturity with rather dull reflections. True to the hot ’97 growing season, ripe, even baked bartlett pear and golden apple abound on the nose, along with hazelnut, brioche, butterscotch and toffee. Rich, full and broad on the attack, but cut nicely with a brilliant acidity that makes for quite an energetic finish for such a seemingly developed wine. Surprisingly complex, definitely enjoy this sparkler with rich dishes. Entrées, ideally. W.M

The Mendocino Ridge AVA is coastal with cool climate and high altitude located in the Mendocino County. It goes from the Pacific Ocean inland to the Anderson Valley.

Beringer Chardonnay 2016, Oak Knoll District

The ‘terroir‘ and climate in California varies a lot, the Pacific Ocean brings cold winds that generates a temperate climate and fog nearby, while mountain barriers like in Sonoma and Napa keeps the weather warm. There are more then 100 AVAs in California among which the famous Napa, Russian River Valley, Rutherford and Sonoma. The largest wine region is the Central Valley.

 

A fairly new project from one of California’s oldest wineries. This valley floor Chardonnay is nothing short of classic: bright moderate-lemon in color with complex aromatics of meyer lemon, dried pineapple, bread, cream and subtle hints of hazelnut. The palate is full of energy; ripe and round on the attack but the balanced acidity is definitely present on the mid-palate and finish. Drink now or cellar for a more toasty, honeyed style in 8-10 years. W.M

 

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Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, 2016

This is a beauty from one of the most highly regarded California Pinot Noir producers. Ripe and expressive, there is no shortage of sweet citrus and tropical fruit on the nose, which is fairly intense. Very focused. Some wood frames the fruit nicely and adds a polished feel on the palate. The attack’s initial richness gives way to a piercing acidity on the midpalate that makes this a wonderful food wine (and an affordable one at that). Paired very nicely with beef stew over egg noodles. Imagine that. W.M.

 

Robert Mondavi, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 1996

Drink now. Open and expressive, this Cab goes back to the days when the actual Mondavi family was still running things at Robert Mondavi Winery. Brick color gives way to a garnet rim. This is a dead-ringer for quality St. Julien with aromas of kirsch, tobacco and tomato leaf. Full but restrained with a dry finish.
W.M

Stag’s Leap Fay. Cabernet Sauvignon 2002.

IMG_0592.jpgDense, concentrated and still quite youthful, this wine hails from historic Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars first Estate vineyard planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in the eponymous district of Southeastern Napa. Very balanced but still compact on the palate; the firmness of the tannins tells this taster that this wine is still in its adolescence.

W.M.