Exceptional White

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Newton 2012 Chard

Newton 2012 Napa Chardonnay (Red Label)

Widely acclaimed as a California wine trailblazer, Newton Vineyard was one of the first wineries on Spring Mountain, a rugged yet serene appellation located west of St. Helena on the eastern flank of the Mayacamas range which separates Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Newton Vineyard was established in 1977, the vision of founders Dr. Su Hua and Peter Newton, who recognized the potential of Spring Mountain as a prime viticultural region. Newton’s approach to winemaking is meticulous, using techniques based on an old-world style including natural fermentation and bottling without filtration. The grapes are handled with care, hand-picked in small lots and transferred for gentle pressing to the Spring Mountain cellar. The winery is custom-designed to allow lots from 112 distinct parcels to ferment separately, affording the winemaker an abundance of options when constructing final blends. Barrel aging takes place in a cave built into the mountain directly underneath the winery.

Opening the 2012 Chardonnay I noticed a light yellow color with tropical and stone fruit aromas of stone fruit with a slight spicy scent. The palate was full of ripe fruits, apricots, peaches, pears, apple and lime citrus with a touch of oak and vanilla spice. The wine was well balanced with oak and acidity, not overly complex. The wine finished about medium with some oak on the ending. Their unfiltered offering has more complexity and depth, well worth a try if you can find a bottle.

Cheers!

Exceptional Red

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Two Hands 2013 Gnarly Dudes

Two Hands 2013 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz

Two Hands Wines was founded in early 1999 by Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz. The original aim shared by Michael and Richard was to make the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized Shiraz growing regions throughout Australia. Their intention was, and still is, to showcase the diversity of Australian Shiraz by highlighting regional characteristics and allowing the fruit to be the primary feature of the wines. Two Hands refers to the very personable approach taken with each parcel of grapes, no matter how big or small. Two Hands’ first vintage was in 2000, starting with just 17 tonnes of fruit. In 2004 a state-of-the-art winery was built in the picturesque Barossa Valley in South Australia, specifically designed for small batch handling. To maximise the individual regional and varietal characteristics and to allow for greater quality control, every parcel of fruit, no matter how small, is handled separately from crushing through to fermentation and oak maturation.

I recently review the 2013 Angels’ Share Shiraz, however the Gnarly Dudes packs a bigger punch. I noticed a clean deep and dark purple color with aromas of fresh blue/red fruits with spicy notes. The palate revealed rich ripe almost jammy fruits, plums, raspberries and blueberries with firm tannins and acidity to match. I noted some cacao, toasty oak and black pepper on a lingering finish. This wine needed some time after I opened it to approach it’s beauty, however sit this gem down for a while and you will be rewarded. Another very nice Shiraz from Two Hands!

Cheers!

Weekend Selection

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Dariuosh 2013 Chard

Darioush 2013 Napa Valley Chardonnay

Nowhere is the connection between wine and culture more evident than in the history of Persia. Discoveries dating to 5,000 B.C. in the Zagros Mountains of Northern Iran show that winemaking emerged as permanent communities replaced nomadic life and a new age of wine culture began. Darioush Khaledi was instilled at an early age with the winemaking craft of his father, inspired by wine culture in the literary city of Shiraz – in modern day Iran – and the ancient city of Persepolis. He became a lifelong collector, seeking out old world wines infused with tradition and energized by modern technique. Aspiring to the ideals of the American dream, Darioush immigrated to America to seek out opportunities others overlooked. He was an entrepreneur determined to realize his dream, yet always eager to share his journey through his love of wine borne of rich heritage. In 1997, Darioush and his wife Shahpar founded Darioush and began to realize a lifelong aspiration to share the art, architecture, wine, craftsmanship and culture that inspired their journey. The Darioush estate comprises 120 acres in Southern Napa Valley spanning the Mount Veeder and Oak Knoll AVA’s.

I recently reviewed the 2008 & 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and in a word, Tremendous! Being impressed, I reached for a Chardonnay to see how well that varietal was made. Pouring a glass, the color is a pale golden yellow with aromas of ripe stone fruits and a touch of citrus. Tastes of peaches, apple, dried fruit builds to a rich and creamy wine with perfumed oak flavors coming forth on the palate. Aged for 11 months in 70% new French oak, the finish shows structured acidity with a slight spicy mineral rustic finish, showing great depth. This Chardonnay stands out from the rest and should be on your “must have” list for the summer, however hurry only 2,705 cases were made.

Cheers!

Exceptional Red

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Two Hands 2013 Angles share

Two Hands 2013 Angels’ Share Shiraz

Two Hands Wines was founded in early 1999 by Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz. The original aim shared by Michael and Richard was to make the best possible Shiraz-based wines from prized Shiraz growing regions throughout Australia. Their intention was, and still is, to showcase the diversity of Australian Shiraz by highlighting regional characteristics and allowing the fruit to be the primary feature of the wines. Two Hands refers to the very personable approach taken with each parcel of grapes, no matter how big or small. Two Hands’ first vintage was in 2000, starting with just 17 tonnes of fruit. In 2004 a state-of-the-art winery was built in the picturesque Barossa Valley in South Australia, specifically designed for small batch handling. To maximise the individual regional and varietal characteristics and to allow for greater quality control, every parcel of fruit, no matter how small, is handled separately from crushing through to fermentation and oak maturation.

Opening a bottle of the 2013 Angels’ Share Shiraz (Angels’ Share refers to the portion of wine that evaporates during the fermentation process), I noticed a clean deep and dark reddish purple color with aromas of fresh blue fruits with an earthy mineral nuance. The palate revealed rich ripe fruit, blackberries, blueberries and also noting some hints of plum and dried cherries. The wine is well balanced with firm tannins and lively acidity. The finish shows some cacao and fresh oak with earthy herbs in a medium length. Should improve with a few more years. Very nice Shiraz!

Cheers!

Weekend Selection

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Blindfold 2012

Blindfold 2013 California White Wine

Established in 2009, The Prisoner Wine Co. emerged with the change in tenure of the Napa Valley red blend and the typical California Zinfandel. With over a decade of winemaking experience at Ravenswood crafting Zinfandel, winemaker, Jen Beloz started The Prisoner Wine Company along with a family of growers and a winemaking team to grow and produce a selection of premium blends, including Cuttings, Blindfold, and Thorn. Created to provide the perfect white wine companion to The Prisoner, Blindfold is bold and intriguing. In establishing their own spin on a white blend, winemaker Jen Beloz and her team sought out interesting Rhône and aromatic varietals that would nicely complement a classic Chardonnay base. The resulting wine is a blend of 35% Los Carneros Chardonnay, and 60% of a combination of Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc from the Central Coast with a finish of 5% of Riesling and Semillon combined (Note the 2012 blend had Chenin Blanc instead of Riesling).

I recently had tasted the 2012 and wanted to see if the 2013 vintage matched the superb 2012 vintage. Opening a bottle of the 2013 Blindfold White Wine, with anticipation, I was noticed a golden yellow color and fragrant aromas of tropical, citrus fruit and melons, similar to the 2012 aromas. This wine was aged, 25% in new French and Hungarian oak, 60% neutral oak and 15% in stainless steel for 10 months. The palate shows fresh fruit flavors of melons, citrus, peaches and pears, subtle cinnamon spice, hints of toasty oak. The 2013 seems to have livelier acidity and finished with mineral tones, and was well balanced. Certainly this wine would benefit from some cellar aging over the next few years. The creative blend produced a wine with grace and finesse that other wineries should take note.

Cheers!

Weekend Selection

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Faust 2012

Faust 2012 Napa Cabernet Sauvignon

Interesting to learn that Faust, the wine, celebrates a legend which has inspired many great minds, among them the German poet Goethe, from whose masterpiece they draw inspiration. In Goethe’s most famous work, the aging scholar Dr. Faust barters his soul in the afterlife in exchange for another chance at youth. He gets his chance, yet ultimately his soul is saved by love. Faust is indeed the fruit of renewed passion for Agustin Huneeus, though Mephistopheles has not yet appeared to claim his soul. The underlying premise for all of the wines he has ever produced has been that great wines must be a reflection of a great vineyard. Faust is not. Instead, Faust is a tribute to Napa Valley’s noblest grape – full-bodied, decadently rich and unctuous Cabernet Sauvignon.

Expressing the complexity of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape and diversity of the Napa Valley, Faust obtains Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Agustin’s family vineyards in Rutherford and Coombsville, one of Napa Valley’s newest appellations located in the eastern foothills south of Atlas Peak. Agustin’s relationships with growers in other Napa Valley appellations, such as Yountville, Mount Veeder, Atlas Peak, St. Helena and Rutherford, round out the wine with small lots from these spectacular mountain and valley terroirs. Faust is crafted at the Quintessa winery in Rutherford, a state-of-the-art winery with the most modern technologies. The grapes are hand-picked, double-sorted, gently crushed and fermented in stainless steel and French oak fermentation tanks. The wine is then transferred to French oak barrels for an aging period of 19 months

I wanted a nice steak, so I reached for a Faust to pair with it. The 2012 vintage is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc. Interesting Faust now adds Petit Verdot, making the wine a classic Bordeaux style blend, previous vintages they omitted Petit Verdot. Pouring a glass I noticed a deep ruby red color with inky edges and aromas of dark fruit, dark berries and a little spice. The palate showed ripe blackberries, some cacao, a little leather and oak. Very approachable for a 2012, and I was pleasantly surprised. On the finish tannins were subtle, yet firm, yielding to a smooth ending with just the right touch of oak, somewhat “Bordeaux like”. I had a 2006 not long ago, and this wine seems to have more aging potential than the 2006. I will be back to comment on other vintages as I am not disappointed in opening a bottle of Faust.

Cheers!

Weekend Selection

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Walt 2011 Las Brisa Pinot

Walt 2011 La Brisa Sonoma Pinot Noir

WALT Wines, owned by Vintners Kathryn Walt Hall and Craig Hall, produces premier Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Pacific Coast’s most distinctive vineyard sites, spanning nearly 1000 miles and including Sta. Rita Hills, Sonoma County, Anderson Valley, and the Willamette Valley. Kathryn’s parents, Bob & Dolores Walt, were dedicated winegrowers who loved the land and each other. Her family produced six different varietals that was sold to several great wineries. For Kathryn’s parents, growing grapes was a shared family vision.

In 2009, Hall partnered with Roger and Richard Roessler, brothers who sought the finest vineyard sources along the Pacific Coast to make a portfolio of small-production lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The initial phase of the partnership was to continue to craft wines from their prize vineyard sources under Hall’s team of expert winemakers and in their precision winemaking facilities. The combination of excellent fruit, masterful winemaking, and state-of-the-art equipment allowed Hall to produce special wines of great character and individuality. As Hall began sharing these wines with others, Craig and Kathryn felt it was fitting to commemorate her parents in this new endeavor and WALT Wines was born.

Opened a bottle, with grapes sourced from several select vineyards, aged in French oak (40% new), I noted rich aromas of lively red fruit, cherries and raspberries with a hint of exotic smelling spice. The vivid ruby wine was bursting with juicy ripe red berry flavors, smooth and sophisticated on the palate, with a warm touch of oak, mild tannins, balanced acidity, traces of mineral, and complex spice coming through. The wine was pleasant with long lingering finish. Bought this about a year ago and tasting great now, glad I had the patience to wait!

Cheers!

Weekend Selection

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16x20 2012 Chard Sonoma

Sixteen by Twenty 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

David & Karen Dunphy were born and bred in Minnesota. They have been living the Napa Valley dream since 2004, but chasing the dream since 1978. From the first day they sought out grapes from this region, they had a vision for expression of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Sixteen by Twenty refers to one of the most common canvas sizes used by artists for their oil paintings. Why? Because these dimensions often provide the ideal balance for their artwork. At Sixteen by Twenty they are artists in crafting fine wines, from vineyard to bottle. Paul Hobbs is one of the top winemakers in the world and he is Consulting Winemaker to Sixteen By Twenty Wines.

Opening their 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, I saw a glistening golden yellow color and noted aromas of citrus, green apple and stone fruits with some gentle floral scents. The palate shows juicy peaches, lemons and oranges with some crisp and spicy apples hitting softly. This limited production wine was sourced from two very small vineyards on the Sonoma Coast. The wine is complex and well balanced. The finish is crisp with a subtle touch of buttery oak on the finish, ending with a slight mineral tang. A little pricy, but worth it for a masterpiece.

Cheers!

Cellar Selection

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 Illumination 2013     Illumination 2013-back

Quintessa Illumination 2013

Fascinated with making a white wine from Quintessa, Agustin Huneeus planted a small plot of Sauvignon Blanc at the estate in 2002. Illumination first emanuated from this little vineyard, its rays penetrating the palates of sommeliers, friends and guests who requested it for their own cellars. He now shares this limited production wine with kindred spirits seeking illumination via wines that express their place of origin. Agustin Huneeus celebrated his 80th birthday, at harvest time in 2013, with the release of the latest vintage of Illumination.

I tasted Illumination at a recent wine tasting event hosted by Quintessa representatives and thought the wine was truly magnificent. The wine was clear, clean and had a bright sunshine yellow color. Aromas of green fruit and citrus were noted along with some floral edges. The wine is a blend of 49% Sauvignon Blanc Musqué, 36% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Semillon; 67% of the grapes came from Napa and 33% from Sonoma. The palate showed sweet ripe grapefruits, fleshy apple and some lemony nuances. The finish was better than medium, showing some spice and a touch of earthy minerals. Limited production, 3000 cases, so if you see it, grab one as it will not be there when you return. Outstanding!

Cheers!

Cellar Selection

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Quintessa 2011           Quintessa 2011-Back

Quintessa 2011

Quintessa, like all classic wines of the world, bears the same name as the vineyard from which it is made. In broad terms, Quintessa is a red meritage wine. Each year, it is a blend that can include some or all of the five varietals grown on the estate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Carmenere. The vineyard’s diversity provides a wide stylistic options for the winemaker. Fruit from each component block of Quintessa is harvested, and upon completion of fermentation, each block of wine is aged separately for up to two years in french oak barrels in their caves. After this aging period the components are brought together and the final Quintessa blend is created. The wine is then bottled and laid down for yet another year before release, yielding each vintage being unique, but with finesse and elegance from the character of the vineyards. Quintessa is a wine that complements food extremely well.

I recently tasted this at an event hosted by Quintessa representatives, at my favorite wine shop, Stew Leonard’s Wine, and thought the wine was truly outstanding, almost a crime drinking it so young when only time will enhance the wine. The 2011 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The wine was aged for 21 months in French oak (85% new). Pouring a glass of this remarkable wine I noticed a deep ruby red color with complex aromas of red and black fruits, and spicy notes of earthy peppery scents. The palate shows juicy red cherries, wild blackberries and herbs. On the long finish, notes of leather and cacao were present as well as structured tannins and a gentle mineral essence which gave this wine tremendous balance and silky finesse. This wine is truly a remarkable gem from Agustin Huneeus, and if you are looking for something truly special, grab a Quintessa, you will not be disappointed.

Cheers!