The Wine Guy - Wine & Food Reviews

Recent Wine Reviews
ABOUT OUR REVIEWS: We review various wines and make objective conclusions as to the qualities of the wines on the date tasted.  If a wine is not suitable for a positive review (minimum of 80 on a 100 point scale), we do not publish the results.  An old saying applies, "If you cannot say something nice, don't say it at all."  Wines reviewed on this site have met our criteria as wines that are palatable and worthy of purchase and consumption.   You will rarely see a  100 rating.  However, a rating or 89+ is considered exceptional and highly recommended. Our ratings and reviews are subjective and may differ from your own experience.  We offer them as a guide to help you determine whether, or not, to purchase a wine.  As for restaurant reviews, we call it like we see it!                 
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BourassaVineyards named Napa Valley
"Winery of the Year"!

by The Wine Guy


Recent Reviews:

Bourassa Vineyards  - Our Napa Valley "Winery of the Year"!

2012 Vinum Auri Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

My first "97" rating in over 11 years!  The 2011 version scored an amazing 96 points. This wine deserves all of the accolades it can get.

Vinum Auri is Latin for "Wine of Gold" and it is just that!

Aromatics layered with ripe fruit of blackberries and currants with a hint of cinnamon. This full-bodied wine is both broad and savory with a bold, yet elegant, body.  The ripe, dark berries, black currants, spice, mocha and subtle oak are pleasing on the palate. It is a well balanced wine with complexity and richness reserved only for top-notch Napa Valley Cabs.

This Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon will cellar for at least 15 years, and beyond.

I don't know how he does it, year after year, but Vic Bourassa continues to craft exceptional wines that are pure gold!

Winery price: $150.00

Bourassa Vineyards
2013 "Symphony" Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

This Napa Valley red is truly a "symphony" of flavors (aromas not bad, either)!

It all begins with a pleasant bouquet of  vanilla and rich, ripe dark berries.  That is the prelude to a magnificent flavor profile featuring round tannins and a creamy texture bonding together the familiar flavor combination of fresh cherry and dark chocolate.

If ever a word described a wine to perfection, it is this "Symphony!"

I have enjoyed all of the recent vintages of Bourassa Vineyards Cabs and I highly recommend that everyone join their wine club.  It is the best way to experience what I call "Home Run Wines!"

Winery price:  $75.00

Bourassa Vineyards
2013 Harmony ³ (Napa Valley)

This Napa Valley "Right Bank" style Bordeaux blend shows a rich dark purple color, pleasant floral and spice aromas, with rich, spicy, ripe dark cherry and berry flavors that follow. There is not a 2013 Bordeaux that can stand up to this delightful wine!
This wine is expected to age nicely over the next decade. These grapes were picked at the right time to produce a well structured, full-bodied wine. It is a beautiful wine for sipping or with prime rib, sharp cheddar or rich and spicy pasta.

Winery price: $65.00

Sol Rouge
2014 Rosé   (Lake County)

The best Rosé  I have tasted this year! It was like a journey to Provence but the wine comes from Lake County.  The appealing pale salmon color sets the stage for enticing flavors with fresh, crisp, cool character and lively acidity layered with berry and currant fruits. The wine appears to be unfiltered as there was sediment in the glass.

It is a refreshing compliment to seafood, especially lobster. It’s full in the mouth while remaining completely fresh.

Winery price: $18.00

Bourassa Vineyards
2011 Vinum Auri Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)

My first 96  in over 7 years!  This wine deserves all of the accolades it can get.

See the 2012 review above (97 points!)

Winery price: $150.00

Bourassa Vineyards
2012 Malbec (Napa Valley)
When I think of California Malbec, I just cannot relate them to those of Argentina or Australia.  What a surprise when I smelled the aromas and tasted the flavors of the 2012 Bourassa Malbec - wow!  I wondered how it was possible to make such an intriguing varietal in Napa Valley.

The deep (I mean deep) rich red color were an indicator of what was to follow: a pleasant dusty nose displaying hints of dark berries led me to believe that something special was coming next.  There is a lot going on with masculine flavors of blackberries, pomegranate, plum, cocoa powder, currant, molasses, a hint of leather, and  black cherries. The soft tannins and acidity are moderate allowing for a smooth transition to a long and lasting finish.

Once again, Vic Bourassa has hit a home run with this beautiful Napa Valley Malbec!

Bourassa Vineyards
2012 Maestro 3 Red  Blend (Napa Valley)
First, I will admit that I am partial to Bourassa Vineyards wines.  If I could have a bottle every night I would be in heaven!
The 2012 Maestro 3 Red Blend sets a new standard in eclectic, elegant wines from the Napa Valley.  It is a wine of pleasant contradictions - bold, yet elegant, intense, yet soft, pleasantly spicy, yet long smooth finish.
I did a blind tasting of the wine not knowing the varietals used and found it to exhibit the boldness of a 5-star Zinfandel coupled with the rich, soft tannins of a premier Cabernet Sauvignon. When I saw the content (40% Zinfandel, 30% Malbec, 30% Syrah) I was blown away!  Rarely do I make such an error in the varietal mix and I attribute that to the bold structure that makes this wine so great.
I can sum up the wine in a short phrase, "Rich spiciness with a wonderful mouthfeel and long-lasting finish."  This is the wine I will be proud to serve to guests on any special occasion.
Vic Bourassa has hit another home run with this beautiful and approachable wine which is ready to enjoy now or cellar for a few years - the question is why cellar?  Enjoy it now!
Winery price:  $65.00
B Cellars
2010 Blend 25 (Napa Valley)
This unique blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 42% Syrah offers a scintillating nose of ripe fruit and rich espresso. The palate is rewarded with flavors of blackberry jam, ripe dark cherries, and rich flavorful spices. The wine shows a pleasant mouthfeel of rich, soft tannins with well-balanced acidity. It is full-bodied and complex with a lasting finish.  
I tasted most of B Cellars current releases in November 2013 and found them ALL to be extremely enjoyable.
Winery price:  $64.00
Bourassa Vineyards
2010 Vinum Auri Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
First impressions make a difference!  That is true with the bottle featuring a metallic emblem and red wax cap cover which stimulates the curiosity, asking "What's inside?"  There is no disappointment there!
This is a really BIG Cab!  First impression of the aromas include dark ripe fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg.  The best is yet to come as the palate is rewarded with smooth, silky flavors of sophisticated, lush, ripe dark berries featuring soft tannins with a long finish. 
It is an extremely approachable wine now and should gain additional complexity and will cellar well for the next 15+ years.
I am pleased to reward this wine with my first 95 rating in 5 years!
Winery price:  $240.00
Bourassa Vineyards
2013 "Symphony" Cabernet Sauvignon  (Napa Valley)

Review to be posted soon.

Winery price: $75.00
The Wines of Castello Banfi (Tuscany)
These are some of the best (and moderately priced) wines that Italy has to offer.  The castle is a sight to see, the restaurant is unbelievable, and the wines are superb! We have visited there on 4 occasions (recently June 2013 and August 2013).  I would rank their restaurant, La Taverna, as the Number #1 dining experience in Italy!
Now, this is what I think of the wines:
2010 Cum Laude (Montalcino)
You immediately notice the intense ruby red color followed by a bouquet of dark berries, cherries, and luscious jammy plums.  The mouthfeel is pleasantly powerful with a smooth, long finish hinting of licorice and tobacco.  The wine is very well structured with nice and soft tannins. This wine is approachable now and will cellar well for several years.
2008 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG (Montalcino)
This is a Brunello that is ready for consumption much sooner than its counterparts and displays all of the positive characteristics of a top-rated Brunello.  It probably deserves a higher score but a 92 is ample for the vintage.
The color is a beautiful ruby red with garnet nuances. The nose is complex and sweet with aromas of plum jam and cherry that show hints of spice, coffee, licorice and tobacco. The powerful structure is full with soft pleasant tannins  supported by an acidity that gives freshness and a long finish. This is a wine that is worthy of sipping with, or without, food and which will also benefit from lengthy cellaring, yet is enjoyable now.
2007 Poggio All'Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva  (Montalcino)
This 100% Sangiovese shows intense deep color that tells you that a treat is in store! The wine shows well with a very complex nose with hints of licorice, mocha, vanilla, plum jam, toffee, tobacco and a slight note of violet. On the palate the concentration of flavors is stunning. The structure is broad, deep and soft with elegant well-balanced tannins, vibrant acidity, and a long, flawless finish. This wine is ideal for long-term, seemingly ageless, cellaring potential.
Other wines were tasted and reviews will follow upon my return.  In all, these wines are stellar and widely available in Italy and North America. If you are ever in Tuscany, make a reservation at their restaurant for the tasting lunch!
JRE - John Robert Eppler Wines
2007 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
It has been a LONG TIME since I gave a 94 rating and this one deserves it! 
This is truly a Cab lover's dream made of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petite Verdot with a sensuous nose, lovely fruit and balance, and a nice long finish.  Rich and savory on the palate, the wine is approachable with tannins that are noticeable, yet soft and pleasing, sending a message that the wine will age beautifully for several years.
I think of this wine as one to sip and savor over a period of hours while reading a book or just contemplating all of life's rewards.  This is a "memory building" wine that you will taste in your mind long after the bottle is empty.  Enjoy it with gusto!
John Eppler truly knows how to produce outstanding wines at reasonable prices!
Winery price:  $65.00
Wente Vineyards
2012 "Riva Ranch" Chardonnay (Livermore Valley)
This is the perfect summertime Chardonnay with rich, lush flavors that exemplify a great Chard - at a modest price!
The aromas of green apple and tropical fruit are followed with flavors of mild citrus, ripe apple, pear, vanilla, and a hint of spiciness. It is well balanced and full bodied. The wine delivers a long and refreshing finish.
I enjoyed a second bottle in 2 weeks and found it consistent with the first tasting.  Sure tastes like a more expensive Chardonnay! 
2010 Magnavino "Butterfly" Chardonnay
Beautiful intense aromas followed by buttery, rich flavors of ripe fruit. Perfectly balanced  with a nice long finish.  For the price, there is no better value in Chardonnay in California. This wine is carefully crafted by winemaker Rob Wagner and is a hidden gem!  Highly recommended with ALL of their other Lodi wines. 
Special Review:  Materra Cunat Family Vineyards
In 12+ years of reviewing wines, this is the first time I have reviewed the entire wine list of one winery.  I am honored to review the wines of Materra Cunat Family Vineyards of Napa valley.  Perhaps it is because I admire the winemaking skills of consulting winemakers Bruce Regalia and Michael Trujillo and vineyard manager Chris Madrigal that I fell in love with these wines.
2011 Materra Sauvignon Blanc
Refreshing and flavorful, perfect with almost any food or occasion.
This wine is intriguing in its bouquet, exploding with fresh aromas of
pineapple, peach and honeysuckle. Flavors harmonize of ripe nectarines,
tropical fruits and guava with a hint of grapefruit.  Truly exemplifies the best of Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc.
2011 Materra Viognier
Bright tropical fruit and white peaches. The palate is teased with
apricot, lemon zest and clean mineral notes that crescendo to a lingering
finish. This wine has enough body and texture to pair with BBQ or
marinated chicken dishes, chutney or mango salsas and creamy sauces.
2011 Materra Chardonnay
Bursting with aromas of rich apple, pear nectar and kiwi fruit. Fresh
apricots, vanilla toast, and buttery caramel round out the nose. Full flavors
of lemon peel and citrus compliment a creamy middle palate and lead to
a balanced, crisp lingering finish with grapefruit overtones. A real steal at
2008 Materra Estate Merlot
Aromas of cola, smoky bacon, cherries and plums with a background of
roasted herbs. Flavors of ripe cherries and blueberries with a spicy herbal
note are framed by chalky tannins and bright acidity which contribute to the
length and complexity of this wine. Will age longer than most Merlot through 2020.
2008 Materra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Deep, rich, concentrated aromas of black cherry with hints of sweet cedar
spice and cocoa. The flavors and texture are bold, rich and dense with multiple
layers of black fruits, dark chocolate and spice all laced in harmony with
perfectly integrated tannin and acidity. "A big bold wine with a velvet glove!"  The wine will benefit from 5-8 years of aging.
Elke Riesling
2011 Riesling (Germany)
This hard-to-find German gem is a delightful and refreshing take on Mosel Valley Rieslings.  It is distributed by Savorian Wines but found only in a handful of retail stores.
The aromas are crisp with hints of peach, apricot and apple.  It is a refreshingly complex wine with a pleasant balance of citrus and sweet fruit.  The finish is long for a Riesling.
This is the best recent example of what a "holbtrocken" should be.  It definitely reminds one of their time on the River Mosel.  Very pleasing wine with spicy food, especially Thai, seafood, chicken and pork.  Very similar to Clean Slate Riesling but better. Highly recommended.
Ironstone Vineyards
2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Sierra Foothills)
    This is, by far, the best Sierra Foothills Cabernet Sauvignon I have experienced – bar none!
    It shows a complex nose with hints of violets and ripe dark berries. I savored the aromas for a full two minutes before advancing to the taste.  Very approachable with lively black plum and blueberry flavors and nice earthy overtones and fruit balance.  Fully developed fruit up front with tones of cassis, cedar, tobacco and  currant. Low acid and fine tannins. A surprisingly long finish that leaves a pleasant impression.
    This well-structured wine is delightful now, with or without food, and will continue to be pleasurable for years to come.  Amazing that it strongly resembles a good Napa Valley Cab.  
Patland Estate Vineyards                      
2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
    Henry and Olga Patland have created a beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon that reflects the highest quality of Napa Valley Cabs. There own website says it best, " Dark garnet hue; Deeply layered aromas of black cherry, cassis, graphite, truffle, molasses, French oak, sage, vanilla and black pepper. Expect a full mid palate density laced with intense flavors of chocolate covered cherries, integrated toasty oak, blackberry, toasted almonds and baker’s chocolate. The persistent yet balanced finish exhibits excellent depth, purity, and elegance."
    I could not have said it better! I recently tasted the 2008 and it is even better!
Retail: $80.00
Malk Family Vineyards                      
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
    This Cabernet Sauvignon is an outstanding representation of a GREAT Stag's Leap Cab ... and, one of only a handful of our 93 ratings ever!
    The aromas of rich fruit and spice give an intriguing first impression on the nose.  The rich and sophisticated fruit is well-balanced with notes of cherry, currant and chocolate.  The wine shows off full body with rich and pleasing tannins that allows it to be enjoyed now, but it should age beautifully for many years to come.
    I tasted this wine both immediately after opening and again after a bit of decanting.  I was pleasantly surprised that the wine from the bottle demonstrated an explosion of flavor that is rarely found in a freshly-opened bottle.  Now, after an hour in the decanter, this wine became an unbelievable glass of dynamite (in a very positive sense) that has left a lasting memory - something that few wines have ever done for me. I can actually taste the flavors in my mind after 8 days.
    This wine does not need food ....just an armchair and a friend to enjoy it together!  The 2006 vintage received 93 points from us....who knows if next year will receive our first 95 ever!
      Not many cases were made and it sells out quickly thanks to the stewardship of Brian and Nancy Malk and winemaker Robbie Meyer.
Retail:  $72.00
Haber Family Vineyards
2007 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
Rating: 94 
    This Cabernet Sauvignon displays aromas open with a bounty of blueberries and sweet tobacco smoke. The smooth, elegant, brightly balanced palate reveals flavors of dark berry, cherry, candied orange, and toasted herb. The finish is long, supple and  silky with clove and dark chocolate lingering notes.
    It is particularly impressive when served with braised short ribs or oven-roasted lamb.  As with the '06 version, I enjoy the wine by just pouring a glass and sipping it slowly while in a conversation with good friends.
    It is ready for enjoyment now or will cellar well for several year Unfortunately, I only have one bottle left! .... This is an OUTSTANDING wine!
    If you are ever at a Howell Mountain wine tasting event be sure to say hello to the owners, Ron and Sue-Marie Haber, who are two of the most congenial people you will ever meet.
Winery price:  $90.00
Alpha Omega
2007 "Era" Blend (Napa Valley)
    The best word to describe this wine is "rich!"  It has all the components of a truly great wine.  As it ages, it is sure to become a superstar and among the very best to be produced by the Napa Valley.
    The ripe and rich flavors explode on your palate with bold blueberry jam and black cherry, pepper, tobacco, and cinnamon.  The finish is long and pleasing with a nicely balanced layer of chocolate.
    This is a wine that you can sip slowly for hours and it does not need food to bring out its best attributes.  The winemaker is an artist who has created a masterpiece.  Bravo! 
Winery price: $160.00
Paul Mathew
2007 "TNT" Pinot Noir (Russian River)
Winery price:  $36.00
2007 "Ruxton" Pinot Noir (Russian River)
Winery price:  $40.00
   The two wines were blind tasted in the same seating. Both showed well with the Ruxton Vineyard revealing finer attributes and edged out its partner wine.
    First, the TNT:  a crisp cherry and red currant nose gives a hint as to what will follow with a nice balance of fruit and acidity.  The wine was allowed to go through Maloactic fermentation in barrel and is well balanced.
    Next, the Ruxton:  this one revealed aromas of dark cherry and the palate was rewarded with rich black cherry with hints of cinnamon and spices that combined to make this a gentle, yet well structured Pinot Noir.
    Both wines are unfiltered and would pair well with lamb, turkey, fish or well-seasoned pork.  Nice to just sip and enjoy without food!
2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Stag's Leap)
    Dark purple in color with a nose of cherry, cassis and hints of vanilla.  The palate is rewarded with similar flavors that are well balanced. The tannins are well structured with a nice balance of fruit.  The finish is smooth and long.
    This wine is worthy of a great meal with venison, beef or even a wild mushroom vegetarian plate.
Winery price:  $60.00
2007 Proprietor's Blend (Napa Valley)
    This wine instantly pleases every sense from beginning to end.  It is big and bold with just the right mixture of fruit and smooth tannins.  The nose is instantly greeted with the delightful aromas of jammy ripe berries.  The palate is rewarded with bold tones of rich blackberry and blueberry, plus hints of leather that is not overwhelming.  The mouth feel is full and long that finishes with a chocolate coating.
    I purposely avoided learning of the makeup of the wine until the tasting was complete.  As expected, it was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot with 69% Estate Cabernet.  The wine will gracefully age for many years but I would not hesitate to serve it to valued friends now.  It is a real crowd pleaser!
Winery price: $60.00
Vertical Tasting of the 2001, 2003 & 2004 "Lake William" Blend
(Napa Valley)
    In 2005, I first discovered the treasures hidden in the caves of Jarvis Wines.  When I was in retail I sold the entire Jarvis line because every varietal was an outstanding wine.   It was not until I first visited the caves where the crush is done, the winemaking is meticulously overseen, and the bottles are left resting for years that I truly understood why the wines are so great.  Literally, the bottle never sees the light of day, from the time the grapes are harvested during the cool nights until the wooden case is opened by the consumer.
    Now, for the tasting results.  I did a blind tasting of the 2001, 2003 and 2004 with 5 friends.  Here are the results:
2001 "Lake William" Blend:  The wine showed an enormous bouquet of black cherries and cinnamon; exceptional for the vintage.  The palate was rewarded with the bold flavors of cherries and dark berries followed by a long and pleasing finish.
2003 "Lake William" Blend:  The aromas of rich berry and vanilla are followed by warm and bold black berries that encourage you to sip the wine slowly and savor every possible drop.  The finish is remarkably long for a 2003 and allows the taste buds to reminisce fondly until the next sip.
2004 "Lake William" Blend:  The final selection in the triage was equally pleasing to both nose and palate.  The rich red currant showed nicely with elegant dark berries dominating the finish.  The influence of the Nevers French oak was evident with pleasant hints of vanilla that was pleasing but not overpowering.
My favorite?  The same as all others in our group and our findings were confirmed when we tasted again without the bottle covers.  We all agreed that the 2003 was the favorite!  Now, don't get me wrong - any of these fine wines would be a beautiful choice for pouring at any special occasion.  These are truly GREAT wines that exemplify the best that Napa Valley has to offer!
    It's partner wine was one of the Top 100 Cabs of the Napa Valley.
2001 = 91
2003 = 94
2004 = 93
Winery price:
2001 = $85.00
2003 = $85.00
2004 = $105.00
Midsummer Cellars
2007 "Canon Creek" Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
   This wine says it all about quality Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon with beautiful fruit and soft, friendly tannins. Jammy, full-bodied, rich mouthfeel, caramel, butterscotch, intense long-lingering finish.
    It deserves a big, juicy steak or a highly seasoned lamb chop to enhance its flavors.  This is a big and bold  wine!
    It is one of the Top 100 Cabs of the Napa Valley.
Winery price:  $48.00
Cliff Family Winery & Farm
2005 "Gary's Improve" Zinfandel (Napa Valley)
    Perhaps the BEST Napa Valley Zinfandel of 2005?
   Beautiful spicy aromas and flavors. Blackberry jam flavors mingle nicely with black pepper spice.  This is a rich Napa Zin that will surprise and please the senses. Best described as smooth and bold!
    We recommend that you visit the tasting room in St. Helena (by appointment) and taste wine and matching dried fruits and nuts.
Winery price:  $35.00
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
    This Cab displays aromas of ripe blackberries, cassis, and toffee.  The palate is rewarded with rich, ripe blackberries, dark cherry, and chocolate combining to make a marvelous blend of ripe fruit and a well-balanced tannin.  It is complete throughout with a pleasing nose, depth on the mid palate, and a long and satisfying finish.
    The wine is surely deserving of a higher score but it was tasted in a cave on a rainy day which likely lowered it just a bit.  I look forward to trying it again in the near future.
    It was one of the Top 100 Cabs of the Napa Valley.
Retail: $90.00
2007 Merlot (Napa Valley)
    This is the closest Merlot to a Cab I have ever tasted!  Dark, rich color with pleasant dark fruit and chocolate and vanilla on the nose.  If you taste this Merlot blind, you will also be convinced that your are drinking a Cabernet Sauvignon with its full body and well-balanced tannins.  The finish is long and memorable with the chocolate notes lingering for some time. 
    I would be proud to serve this Merlot at any dinner party or as a stand-alone sipping wine.
    It's partner wine was one of the Top 100 Cabs of the Napa Valley.
Retail:  $45.00
Wallis Family Estate
2006 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2006 "Little Sister" Cabernet Sauvignon (Diamond Mountain) Napa Valley
    The two wines were tasted simultaneously in a blind tasting - first without food and then with Braised Short Ribs and roasted vegetables.  I took extensive notes and later went to their website to see if my palate was similar to that of the Winemaker.  Surprisingly, or maybe not, my descriptors matched perfectly with his, as follows:
2006 Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon:
"Bold aromatic characters of black currants, mouth filling plums, espresso and toast topped off with vanilla bean ice cream notes. This wine has an opulent full bodied character that lingers long after the wine is swallowed."
2006 "Little Sister" Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon: 
"This wine is a blend of Bordeaux varietal NapaValley fruit and home ranch fruit. It has aromas of mocha, tobacco, earth and vanilla with a mouth filling sweet entry and notes of cassis, smoke and vanilla bean. The tannins are rich and balanced with a lingering finish."
    The wines are limited and you must contact the winery for availability.
Rodney Strong
2008 Pinot Noir (Russian River)
    The winery has been producing popular priced wines for a long time and the quality just keeps improving year after year. The 2008 Pinot Noir Estate Vineyards has everything you look for in a great Pinot. Maybe its the 2% Syrah that Winemaker Rick Sayre utilized to give the wine a texture and flavor that says, "I've arrived!"
    The rose petal nose excites the senses and is followed by vanilla, cola, and spice that reward the palate.  It is a remarkable wine when you consider the price.  Outstanding Pinot Noir that will cellar well.
Retail: $20.00
Watch for a new review of Rodney Strong wines every month
Smith Wooten
2004 Cabernet Franc (Napa Valley)
    It is really not fair to review this wine since the 2004 vintage is no longer available in shops.  However, I pulled out my last bottle of the vintage last night and it was unbelievable!  Outstanding nose and rich, indepth flavors plus a long rewarding finish make this a great wine.  I truly wish I had more in the cellar. Gary Wooten does a fine job of making such outstanding wines, including the Croze brand.
Retail:  N/A
Smith Wooten
2006 Cabernet Franc (Napa Valley)
    After my review of the "2004" vintage (above), I secured a bottle of the 2006 release.  It met my expectations.
    Plum spice and cedar open the nose of this latest version of Napa Cabernet Franc. Rich, ripe boysenberry and blueberry stand out on the palate with full mouthfeel and delicate tannins. The wine is very intense and easy to drink now but will cellar for many years. Truly a delectable wine.
Retail:  $35.00
Madrigal Vineyards
2006 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley)
    Madrigal Vineyards, located in the northern section of Napa Valley near Calistoga, make several varieties of red wine, but the Petite Sirah is the wine they are still most known for locally. Napa natives have a passion for the big bold fruit Petite Sirah offers but it is hard to find a great one.  Madrigal does it year after year!
    The 2006 version continues the tradition with "a dense, jam-packed nose of cherry/berry and an opaque purple black color. It is packed with rich ripe fruit and detailed flavors with tame, juicy tannins and roundness through the finish.
   In summary, it is big, bold, and exuberant!  Full bodied, balanced with all the bold character one seeks in a solid Petite Sirah. Best with spicy sweet barbecued meats.There were only a limited number of cases produced.  It is sure to sell out fast!
    Winery price: $27.00
Roberts + Rogers on Howell Mountain
2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
     As with all Howell Mountain Cabs, this one will need a little time to mature and come into full balance but it is a sure winner. While I tasted this wine during a  Howell Mountain winery tasting with numerous other wines, this one stood out with its rich, ripe fruit and and concentration of flavors. It has a deep red color with  black cherry, plum and blackberry aromas on the nose.  There is a nice balance of fruit and tannins with a predominance of the blackberry. The wine is intense and the tannins are pleasingly velvety and long through the finish.
       This was the inaugural vintage for Roberts+Rogers and they have hit a home run!
Winery price:  $75.00
Palmaz Vineyards 
2005 "Gaston" Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
     When you taste this Cab you know you are in Napa Valley!  The nose shows a pleasing mixture of dust and ripe berries.  It is well-balanced with rich fruit and surprisingly soft, yet bold, tannins that reveal the structure but do not distract from the enjoyment of the wine. The finish is long, intense and memorable.
     This wine is drinkable now but will easily age nicely for 12-15 years.
Winery price:  $150.00
Porter Family Vineyards 
2008 Sandpiper Rose (Napa Valley)
     The BEST California Rose I have ever sampled!  It has just the right aromas and flavors to qualify as my all-time favorite.  The nose is tropical fruit of pineapple, strawberries and passionfruit.  The ripe berry flavors please your palate from the beginning with a perfect and surprisingly long-lasting finish fro such a wine.  The grapes are Syrah and were carefully grown and masterfully processed to make this a delicate and enjoyable Rose.
       Outstanding summer wine or perfect for any holiday.
Winery price:  $20.00
Hope & Grace Vineyards
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
     This Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the St. Helena Appellation and is true to the fine wines produced from that area. The wine shows Intense aromas of chocolate, dark berries, and spice. The plum and cherry flavors please the mid-palate and the finish is long and rewarding. It will only improve as it ages with "grace."
Winery price:  $48.00
Jessup Cellars
2008 Zinfandel (Napa Valley)
     This is an amazing Napa Valley Zin that has just the right balance of fruit and tannins for enjoyment now.  It is well structured and should cellar longer than most Zinfandels from the Napa Valley.
Retail:  $35.00 
Bennett Lane
2005 Cabernet Sauvignon(Napa Valley)
     The aromas of  cherries and mixed floral indicate a light flavor.  However, on the palate the wine has a pleasant mouthfeel with flavors of black cherry and plum and balanced tannins.  The secret is to sip the wine slowly which will lead to a full velvety finish.
Retail:  $55.00
Conn Creek
2005 Anthology Blend (Napa Valley)
     This Bordeaux-style blend creates a sense of excitement with the first sip.  The nose is a bit off (at this time) but the aromas of red and black fruit are evident.  The blend is 68% Cabernet Sauvignon,19% Cabernet Franc,6% Merlot,5% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot.  The wine is very pleasing to the palate with, as the winemaker describes, "... nuanced expressions of creamy oak and berry cobbler."  It is truly and elegant and robust wine with well-balanced silky tannins.
Retail: $50.00
Groth Vineyards
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
        If you enjoy a big, bold Cab - this one will make you happy. It comes from the Oakville Appellation and is lush with significant fruit and pleasing gentle tannins. The black cherry and blackberry flavors show through with an elegant style. The 83% Cabernet Sauvignon and 17% Merlots make a perfect blend for this vintage.  The wine is approachable now, especially with meat, but should cellar well for 12-15 years.
         It was one of the Top 100 Cabs of the  Napa Valley.
Retail: $60.00
Baldacci Vineyards
2005 Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
       This "Black Label" Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The integrated aromas are complex and meld together nicely. The  deep, dark color gives a preview of plum, leather, fig and chocolate flavors that linger on the palate for an smooth and lasting finish. The complexity and balance of this wine makes it enjoyable now, but should lay down for several years to come.
Retail: $65.00
Trespass Vineyards
2006 "Rendezvous" Blend (Napa Valley)
       This small production winery puts out some phenomenal wines with the "Rendezvous" at the top of the list.  This delicate blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon shows plenty of ripe red fruit.  Cherry and  raspberry aromas shine through nicely.  The palate is rewarded with an interesting mix of cherry, strawberry, and blackberry.  The tannins are present but not overpowering allowing a long and smooth finish. Winery price: $45.00 approx. The 2005 Cab is also worth a serious taste at $58.00
Goosecross Cellars
2006 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
       They just continue to produce a top-notch Howell Mountain Cab year after year - The 2006 vintage is no exception. First glance reveals rich, deep and dark color.  The aromas are perfumed with black plum, cherry, and anise. The palate is rewarded with flavors of black cherry, cedar, and dark chocolate that lead to a pleasing, long-lasting finish with well-integrated tannins.
      Be sure to visit their tasting room which is off the beaten path just off the Yountville Crossroad on State Lane. Jose will make the experience most enjoyable!
Winery price:  $69.00
Sonoma Vineyards
2007 Syrah (Sonoma County)
     I love a great Syrah that is beeming with rich, ripe flavors that make you sit back and say "Yum!"  This one fits the bill.
     Right away, the aromas of ripe plum and blueberry dominate the nose and set the tone for what is about to be experienced. The flavors of rich and silky blackberry jam, with just the right amount of spice, carry through to a long and satisfying finish.  For the price, it is unbelievable as you think you are tasting a wine that is twice the price.  Overall, a great Syrah experience that doesn't break the bank.
Suggested retail:  $15.00
Amici Cellars
2006 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley)
    Amici Cellars continues to produce some of the finest Pinot Noir (Mendocino) and Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley) California has to offer.  Winemaker Jeff Hansen has a knack for consistency and quality in these great wines.
    This is a Cabernet Sauvignon to be savored with slow sips to make the enjoyment last as long as possible. The palate is greeted with smooth, soft tannins and lush flavors of blackberries, vanilla and spices. The oak is not overpowering and allows the fruit to show through nicely.  The finish is long with pleasing hints of chocolate. In summary, it is a rich and aromatic wine that should cellar nicely for the next 10 years.  This is a “must buy.”
Winery price:  $39.00
2007 "Vern's" Chardonnay (Santa Barbara County)
    The winery is located in Santa Barbara County and in the Santa Rita Hills.  A visit to the winery is pleasant with a well-designed tasting room and knowledgeable staff.  We tasted 6 wines;two that are widely available on the market, both were pleasing to the palate. Their tasting notes are, however, misleading because of the added descriptors that are meant to be cute.  Such phrases as jicama,saltwater taffy, seashell and Italian parsley are not words I would choose to describe Chardonnay.  They claim their staff combines all of their notes onto the tasting sheets.  While such descriptors, including asphalt, wet leather, and charcoaled meats used to describe their Syrah are meant to be in jest, they do not do justice to wines of this high quality.
    Now, for the Chardonnay that is being reviewed here, it was yellow-gold in color, with rich citrus fruit on the nose. The wine is crisp,fresh and very palatable with honey, apricot, and green apple with a nice firm finish. It is likely this Chardonnay will develop nicely in the bottle and is highly recommended.
Winery price:  $24.00
2005 "Diamond T" Chardonnay (Monterey County)
    Talbott Vineyards has a long and solid reputation as Monterey County's premier Chardonnay house.  Their style is easy to recognize and was described by Wine Spectator as "...super rich, opulent and concentrated..."
    The 2005 "Diamond T" Chardonnay is ripe with flavors of pineapple, citrus and ripe pears that coat the palate, giving it an exotic and plush texture. The minerals and oak shine through nicely resembling the finest grand crus of Burgundy. That is perhaps because the vines are clones from the Corton-Charlemagne Chardonnay that were planted in the early 1980's. It is an elegant Chardonnay that will cellar well for years to come. In summary, it is "a masterpiece in complexity and an overall powerful wine."
    My only previous tasting was the 2001 Chardonnay that left me wanting more.  That vintage was high in acid and needed more time in the cellar.  The 2005 is head and shoulders above that, and as a matter of fact, most other Chardonnays I have tasted in recent months.
    The price tag is around $60.00
New reviews coming next week!
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