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“There is no such thing as Round Hill”: 1974 Round Hill, 1970 LMHB, and 1978 Mastantuono

January 4, 2019 2 comments


Sickness and scheduling issues meant I was never able to host any tastings this holiday break. I did manage to meet up at Lou’s house for an impromptu tasting of mature wine.  I was given several bottles of 1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves from that odd DC cellar years back.  With ratty labels (the 1970 is still visible though) and good fill, the cork came out in good shape.  Just a brief bit of bottle stink soon blew off to reveal deep aromas.  It is deep flavored as well, yet also lifted, quickly showing fully mature flavors.  Equally good, the 1974 Round Hill, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley lived up to my hopes.

It is due to these two wines that I stayed at Lou’s for nearly five hours as we finished off both bottles.  Two years ago I mentioned Round Hill in the context of some old Ernie’s bottles I had opened.  Ernie Van Asperen ran a chain of more than 80 liquor stores in California.  He also operated a negocient business, purchasing up extra wine from wineries who bottled it for him under the Round Hill and Ernie’s labels.  Round Hill wines could be highly regarded and won medals at the Los Angeles County Fair.  Frank J. Prial, a judge at the fair, wrote in The New York Times that he found this “amusing because there is no Round Hill.”

As for what was in our bottle we do have some clues.  In 1980, the Underground Wine Journal wrote that the 1974 Ernie’s “Special Selection” Cabernet came from old Souverain stocks that were sold off in the 1970s.  In 1974, Souverain was sold by J. Leland Steward to a group of investors.  They in turn sold Souverain to Pillsbury Co. under which the new winery was constructed in Alexander Valley.  It was not a profitable deal, for Pillsbury sold off the Souverain winery and its assets in 1976.  Round Hill was founded in 1977.  That same year Frank J. Prial noted that wine from Sonoma Vineyard and Souverain were bottled under the Round Hill label.

There is a strong chance, then, that the 1974 Round Hill is actually Souverain.  Whatever it is, Ernie knew what he was doing for it is an excellent wine at the height of maturity.

I do love a good surprise and the 1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County represents just that.  I refrained from any prior research so was quite impressed with the savory and saline profile of this full-bodied, red fruited wine.  Founded in 1976, Mastantuono is the fifth oldest winery in Paso Robles.  The Dusi Vineyard was planted in 1923 so even at the time, the Mastantuono was made from old vines.  The 1978 vintage was a hot year producing “intensely flavored” Zinfandel according to Robert Parker Jr. in The Washington Post during 1981.  This bottle is intense yet savory, lending interest as it reflects both the vintage and vineyard.  It lasted about two hours in a decanter before it started to fade.

The wines that evening were a treat!

1970 Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, Graves
Deep flavored with ripe hints and goof lift.  Additional notes of low-lying leather and minerals adds complexity.  The watering acidity weaves through the palate as the wine grips the sides of the gums, turning redder in flavor.  With air it offers up deep flavors of cranberries and other bright fruit.  **** Now but will last

1974 Round Hill Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 12.5%.  A deep, black cherry color offers more pigment than the LMHB.  Immediately striking as medium-bodied with good fruit weight and rounded nature.  This wine is rich in flavor with no hard edges due to fully integrated structure.  It is dense and gravelly with minerals and grip by the middle.  It took half an hour to open up in the decanter, eventually offering big mouth feel and flavor for hours.  A touch of structure comes out in the end. **** Now but will last.

1978 Mastantuono, Zinfandel, Dusi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County
Alcohol 12.5%. A fresh nose with an herbaceous hint.  A savory, salty start soon yields bright red fruit that is deep in flavor.  This is a medium to full-bodied wine with quite the weight to the fruit.  Flavors of candied berry and old leather mix with good watering acidity, actually zippy acidity.  A very solid wine.  The savory personality makes it stand out.  *** Now but will last.

Grenache Blanc from California

This past week we tried three bottles of California Grenache Blanc from three different regions.  The 2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley  is a good value.  You first notice salinity and stone dust which is soon followed by fruit and  a mouth-coating aftertaste.  This wine responds well to air and some warmth which will make you pleased with the wine and $20 price.

Two of the wines have an interesting connection in that the vineyard which sources the Three Clicks fruit is planted with cuttings that came from Tablas Creek.  The 2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles is locked down.  I kept an open bottle in my refrigerator for a week and the wine barely changed.  Right now it is evocative of lemons but it needs to shake off its firmness before it should be drunk.  On the other hand the 2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County is expressive.  I have enjoyed tasting the last several vintages of this wine at the annual MacArthur Beverages California Barrel Tasting and the current released vintages is just as good.  You taste the white fruit and the stones but it is crispness that captures my attention.  If you can only afford one bottle then grab the Three Clicks.  Add in the Priest Ranch if you want to compare wines.

 

2015 Priest Ranch, Grenache Blanc, Napa Valley – $20
Alcohol 14.8%.  This saline and stone dust infused wine has a dense start followed by ripe, white fruit flavors in the middle, and a pervasive, mouth-coating aftertaste.  It is well structured and balanced for further life.  *** Now – 2020.

2015 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Grenache Blanc, Paso Robles – $30
Alcohol 14.4%. Tasted over several nights this wine remained largely unevolved.  The flavors of white fruit, lemon, and baking spices are supported by lemon-like acidity, fine texture, and some density.  It adds a lifted, floral note in the finish.  This will last! **(*) Now – 2032.

2015 Three Clicks, Grenache Blanc, Branham Vineyard, Sonoma County – $28
Alcohol 14.3%.  There is a slightly weighty yet crisp start with good white fruit that overlays chalk.  The liveliness makes you return for another glass. *** Now – 2020.

Steller NY Gewurztraminer, CA Carignan, and one more

Lou and I squeezed in a tasting this past week based around New York Gewurztraminer and California Carignan.  Lou purchased his bottle of 2007 Red Newt Cellars, Gewurztraminer, Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Finger Lakes when he visited the winery last year.  Lou enjoyed it at the winery and I certainly enjoyed it at his house.  This is a top-notch, special wine.  It is mature in aroma and flavor but the wine is still very fresh with a seductive mouthfeel.  It is an eye-opening wine from the Finger Lakes but more importantly, it is a great glass of wine!

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For the reds we started with 2012 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas, Paso Robles.  There was a time when Jenn and I drank the Cotes de Tablas as our daily table wine.  Prices eventually crept up so we now drink Tablas Creek wines with less frequency.  The 2012 vintage of the Patelin de Tablas is a fruity, forward wine which you may drink or gulp from the very first glass.   There is even good complexity to hold up to scrutiny and a friendly price.  The 2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Sonoma County was certainly my favorite red wine of the night.  With a meaty nose, this floral flavored wine combined both power and elegance.  All of the Sandlands wines are fascinating!  From the same vintage, the 2012 Lioco, Indica, Mendocino County offers tart, citric, red fruit but also has a rounded body.  This bottle is completely different expression of Carignan, that being of pure fruit flavors.

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2007 Red Newt Cellars, Gewurztraminer, Sawmill Creek Vineyards, Finger Lakes
Alcohol 13.8%. The nose was immediately aromatic with honeysuckle.  The acidity is present from the very start as nut accented, tropical flavors develop.  The wine is very fresh with a seductive, glycerin mouthfeel.  Drinking very well right now.  **** Now – 2021.

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2012 Tablas Creek Vineyard, Patelin de Tablas, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 53% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre, and 2% Counoise.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The dusty red fruit aromas took on some cherry and plum notes.  In the mouth this gentle, ripe flavored wine is an all-round good drinker for the next few  years.  It is a touch soft with only a moderate amount of tannins.  Why hold back?  **(*) Now – 2017.

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2012 Sandlands Vineyards, Carignane, Sonoma County
This wine is 100% Carignane.  Alcohol 14.2%.    The meaty aromatic nose makes way to somewhat firm, red fruited start in the mouth.  There is more intensity with fuzzy, fruitier flavors matched by good acidity and structure.  The mouthfeel is attractive.  The wine develops a polished wood note, showing more fruit, a strong floral component, and certainly more power.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

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2012 Lioco, Indica, Mendocino County
This wine is 100% old-vine Carignan that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 11 months on the lees in neutral oak.  Alcohol %.  Aromatic.  In the mouth there is a somewhat tart fruited start.  The citrus and floral flavors  mix with more acidity as it continues into the tart middle.  The wine becomes a touch rounded with a tangy middle, fuzzy citrus pith, and red fruit.  The fruit is actually quite good and pure.  The wine does take on a lipsticky finish with rather fine, drying tannins.  *** Now – 2019.

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One Time Spaceman @OneTimeSpaceman

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The Moon Duck by One Time Spaceman is not the product of astronauts but rather musician and winemaker Mark Adams.  In this case from the winemaker side of Mark Adams who you might know from Saxum or Ledge. There is not much written about these wines.  The One Time Spaceman is a negociant line.  Wines from this line may be a blend of purchased juice and that Mark fermented in-house himself.  This was a rather interesting wine with an attractive nose and mouth of delicate, fresh berries that in no way reveal any heat.  I thought our bottle showed better on the second night which confirms my view that it is best to cellar this wine for a few years.  Jenn liked it on both nights.  I often think of Rhone blends when it comes to Paso Robles.  In a manner this is but with a good twist.  Give it a try.  This wine is available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2010 One Time Spaceman, Moon Duck, Paso Robles – $30
This wine is a blend of Mourvedre, Grenache, Syrah, and Tempranillo which was aged mostly in neutral French oak.  Alcohol 15.5%.  The color is a medium grapey garnet.  The light nose is fresh with delicate berries.  The mouth follows the nose with very fresh berries, spices, and perhaps a hint of nutmeg.  It is light in aspect with some tart acidity on the tongue and minerals in the finish.  There is a persistent aftertaste of ripe, black fruit.  With air this continues to show balance, good acidity, and gentle ripe tannins.  ***(*) 2015-2023.

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California, Rhode Island, Macedonia, and More

December 17, 2012 1 comment

For the most part I take pictures of all of the wines I drink, be it by the glass or bottle.  I write down tasting notes for the vast majority of these wines but in social settings I find taking notes prevents me from joining the conversation.  I want to maintain a history of everything I drink, not to tout trophy bottles (which rarely cross my lips) but to provide material for a vinuous biography later in life.  The first two wines were brought by my Uncle to Thanksgiving dinner.  He served the 2009 Etude, Pinot Noir Estate in a decanter with the bottle squirreled away.  In a feat of sheer luck and brilliance I deduced 2009 Californian Pinot Noir.  I do not drink many Californian Pinot Noirs but this worked well in the general hub-bub of dinner which was punctuated by a few crackles from the fireplace.  I believe everyone enjoyed it for it was tasty to drink.  We then moved on to the 2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Cent-Vignes.  Still showing firmness this wine encouraged you to take small sips then reflect upon them.  I think it should be cellared a few more years but I did not mind its current state.

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2009 Etude, Pinot Noir Estate, Carneros
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from various vineyards and aged in French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14.4%.  There was a light to medium strength nose of dark red fruit.  In the mouth the flavors were spicy with brambly Pinot fruit then brambly bluer fruit.  The wine became racy towards the finish where a sweeter side and some spice came out.  This was forward, pleasing, and drinking well out of a decanter.

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2007 Albert Morot, Beaune Cent-Vignes, Beaune 1er Cru
Imported by Robert Kacher Selections.  This wine is 100% Pint Noir which was fermented in stainless steel and is raised in some new oak.  There was a light nose of wild, red fruit.  In the mouth the black cherry flavors were framed with blacker fruit in the finish.  It was still a touch firm with integrated acidity which kept the wine lively and matched by a sense of levity.  There was texture in the finish and orange juicy acidity.  Should drink for a decade but needs a few more years.

We recently popped over to Shane’s for a roasted chicken dinner.  I brought over the Cornelissen and the Tikves in brown bags for the fun of it.  I poured small tastes of the Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4 to which Shane wondered if it was something like a Movia wine.  It did not come across too well with exclamations, spitting, and dumping occurring all at once.  This sparked an idea in Shane’s head so he chilled down a Rhode Island Riesling.  The current release is 2010 so his bottle of 2008 Newport Vineyards, Vintner’s Select Riesling has a few years of age on it.  It was a perfectly acceptable wine, while a bit sterile and lacking flavor in the finish, it smelled and tasted like Riesling.  And it was from Rhode Island, how cool.  The 2010 Tikves, Barova, Red showed well reflecting the studious attention paid to the vineyards and winemaking.  Philippe Cambie is the consulting winemaker.  He has helped create a modern wine with fruit flavors that make you scratch your head and wonder what varietals the wine was made from.  Lastly, there was the 2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel.  I thought the color and nose were a bit more advanced than its age.  Unsure of vintage I guessed it a French wine made from Syrah and Grenache perhaps from Gigondas.  I got 50% of the varietal composition correct!  And being Tablas Creek a guess of France was not too off base.  To Shane the fruit had a purity which reminded him of California.  I really like the wines of Tablas Creek but am remiss that the Cotes de Tablas Rouge became too expensive for a daily wine.

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Frank Cornelissen, Susucaru 4, Dry Rose, Etna
Imported by Fruit of the Vines.  Produced from the free-run juice of various indigenous varietals.  Alcohol 13.5%.  Rather cloudy in the glass which is not surprising given the clumps in the bottle.  Beautifully texture, aromatic nose is very enticing.  Then in the mouth it started with pure tart, thin, dry flavors.  Very tart at first but after an hour or two the flavors were of pure, dry, grapefruit juice followed by a yeasty Pilsner finish.  Strange disconnect between the nose and mouth.

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2010 Tikves, Barova, Red, Republic of Macedonia
Imported by Eric Solomon/European Cellars.  This wine is a blend of 85% Kratosija and 15% Vranec sourced from 35-year-old vines located on soils of Smolnik with humus and Povilna wyth fern and mountain flora biomass.  It was aged in stainless steel. Alcohol 14.5%.  There were well made flavors of lightly powdery black and red fruit, a little woodsy tannin, plenty of well done acidity.  Young, nice, and well made.  Should drink well over the short-term.  Contemporary but with a flavor profile I cannot put my finger on.

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2008 Newport Vineyards, Vintner’s Select Riesling, Rhode Island
This wine is 100% Riesling.  Alcohol 12%.  There was a light Riesling nose. In the mouth the white fruit was somewhat ripe at first with clean Riesling fruit.  There was a decent start with some acidity then the wine muted and faded off with no acidity and loss of flavor.  A pleasant enough drink which made a favorable introduction to the wines of Rhode Island.

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2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles
This wine is a blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise sourced from the 120 acre organic estate vineyard.  It was fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts then aged in French oak foudres.  Alcohol 14.5%.  It smelled a bit older on the nose with rich, clean mixed fruit which reminded me of Gigondas.  In the mouth there was a dense mixture of black fruit, spices, and a long, lifted aftertaste that left dark flavors of wood box in the mouth.

We Taste Canadian Wine Amongst Others

September 4, 2012 2 comments

Lou and I took advantage of some quiet time this past holiday weekend to taste a random selection of wines. Lou brought two wines from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. The Summerhill Pyramid Winery was interesting for it was my first time tasting the Ehrenfelser grape. This is a German cross between Riesling and Silvaner. A far more interesting drink was the Stag’s Hollow red wine. While I have tasted both Canadian white and dessert wines I am confident that the Stag’s Hollow is my first experience with a Canadian red. There was a slightly underripe, greenhouse nose somewhat in contrast to the mouthfeel and alcohol level. With my last glass of the wine it managed to take the essential turn for I unknowingly cast aside all analytical thoughts and simply enjoyed the wine for what it was.

The Maison Bleue, Au Contraire is not my particular favorite style of white wine but it is impeccably balanced and I suspect will live for many years. The ungassed, unrefrigerated leftovers were still strong on the third day. The Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel is a lovely, deep wine which requires several hours of air for current consumption. I highly recommend cellaring it another 3-5 years. I can readily sum up the Colline St Jean, Vacqueyras as a young wine confident with blueberries and pepper. This too should be stuck in the cellar for several years. We wrapped the tasting up with the Clos Les Lunelles. Lou had purchased some of the 2009 vintage so thought it would be fun to try the 2001. At eleven years of age there are mature notes with the ample roast aromas and flavors. The color is almost impenetrable and the structure is still significant against the fruit so perhaps this is best to drink sooner?

The Tablas Creek, Colline St Jean, and Clos Les Lunelles were double-decanted about two hours prior to tasting. The other wines were opened up right before we tasted them. As usual the leftover were split up between Lou and I, gassed with Private Preserve, then tasted on the following night.

2010 Summerhill Pyramid Winery, Ehrenfelser, Okanagan Valley –
This wine is 100% Ehrenfelser sourced from organic vineyards and fermented with indigenous yeasts. It was Pyramid Cellared. Alcohol 11.0%. The wine is a very light straw color. There is a sweet, floral nose mixed with tropical notes. In the mouth the wine is moderately sweet with immediately mouthfeel from the residual sugar. The mouth follows the nose tropical fruits and floral notes with a good mouthfeel. The flavors dry up in the finish where, perhaps, a touch of chalk exists. Well developed flavors but not much depth and it could stand to have more acidity. ** Now.

2010 Maison Bleue, Au Contraire, Yakima Valley – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from a 9 acre block of the French Creek Vineyard planted in 1980. It was fermented and aged sur-lie for seven months in a 50% stainless steel and 50% oak. 50% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. Alcohol 13.2%. The color is a light yellow. The light nose reveals white fruit. In the mouth this wine is very precise with light, focused flavors. It is a little chalky. The acidity powers the entire wine even as it puts on a little weight. There is a good mouthfeel and a decent, lengthy aftertaste which leave some ripe tannins on the teeth. On the second night there were some yellow fruit, yeast, and barrel notes. *** Now-2017.

2009 Stag’s Hollow, The Heritage Block, Okanagan Valley –
This wine is a blend of 63% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from estate and purchased fruit. It was fermented with selected yeasts and underwent malolactic fermentation before aging 18 months in American and French oak. TA 6.6g/L, pH 3.63, RS 2 g/L Alcohol 14.1%. The color is a light to medium cherry ruby. The nose was tight with some greenhouse notes. In the mouth this Bordeaux blend showed some violet fruit then a touch of tart, red fruit. It was a little racy with some supportive licorice flavors and cherry notes. At first I thought the finish was a bit medicinal but that impression faded. Later that night and the next day the wine fleshed out nicely with some sweet spices along with dry tannins. In the end a satisfying glass. *** Now-2015.

2007 Tablas Creek, Esprit de Beaucastel, Paso Robles –
This wine is a blend of 44% Mourvedre, 29% Grenache, 21% Syrah, and 6% Counoise sourced from the 120 acre organic estate vineyard. It was fermented in stainless steel using indigenous yeasts then aged in French oak foudres. Alcohol 14.5%. The color is a medium ruby. The light to medium nose bore aromas of sweet ripe fruit, a little bramble, and tilts towards red fruit. The flavors immediately start off concentrated with a good mouthfeel. There are bluer fruits with power, very fine drying tannins, and some initial let-loose heat in the aftertaste. Still young with some carbon dioxide. After several hours the wine came together with garrigue, some sweet spice, and captivating dark, earthy notes which hang low through the aftertaste. The herbs are quite nice. A lovely wine but still tight. **** 2016-2030.

2010 Domaine de la Colline St Jean, Vacqueyras – $23
Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils. This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache, 25% Syrah, and 5% Mourvedre sourced from a 14 hectares of 50 year old vines on soils of clay and limestone. The fruit was fermented with indigenous yeasts in cement vats before aging in 70% cement vat and 30% used oak barrels. Alcohol 14%. The medium strength nose reveals young pure fruit with a powerful pepper note and eventually blueberry jam. In the mouth the pepper fruit shines through as the wine puts on complexity in to the aftertaste. There are strong, fine+ drying tannins and sweet spices. On the second night the wine remains young with an added graphite note to the blueberry fruit, a racy aspect, and a dark note in the aftertaste. There is prominent structure to this modern styled wine. ***(*) 2017-2025.

2001 Clos Les Lunelles, Cotes de Castillon – $35
Imported by MacArthur Liquors. This wine is an approximate blend of 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc.Alcohol 13.5%. The darkest of wines with a very dark core showing some garnet and brick on the thin rim. The medium strength nose carries older fruit, some roast, a little sour red fruit, wood, and dried tobacco. I also noted aromas of grilled hot dogs. In the mouth there are strong flavors of herbs and roast delivered in a surprisingly round manner. With air the dry red fruit mixes with fig and dried fruit. The acidity is balanced and the aftertaste is good. Plenty of life ahead but I suspect the tannic structure will outlive the fruit. *** Now-2020.

Two Blends from California

We periodically drink wine from California and this occasionally includes those with a few years of bottle age.  It has been a few years since we last opened the Four Vines and that bottle left at best a solid impression.  This time I was more pleased, particularly with the aftertaste, and wonder if in a few years it will become a good drink.  The Verite came across as disjointed and hot on the first night such that I promptly shoved the cork back in.  On the second night the flavors had fleshed out creating better harmony.  But there was still some distracting heat. The Four Vines was purchased a few years ago from MacArthur Beverages.  The Verite was purchased at Wide World of Wines.

2005 Four Vines, Anarchy, Paso Robles – $24
This wine is a blend of 40% Syrah, 29% Zinfandel, and 31% Mourvedre.  Alcohol 15.0% vol.  The color is medium ruby.  The medium to full-bodied wine has flavors of black cherry and lipstick.  The flavors start off  tangy and tart before a little black tea and maturity comes out.  There was something else I couldn’t put my finger on.  The pleasing aftertaste leaves sticky, sweet red fruit on the lips.  ** Now-2019.

2004 Verite, Archipel – $25
This wine is a blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 13.5% Cabernet Franc, and 3.5% Petite Verdot of which 79% is from Sonoma Valley and 21% from Napa County.  Alcohol 14.4% vol.  The medium strength nose reveals wood box aromas.  In the mouth this was better integrated on the second night with hard black fruit flavors, mature notes, and coffee.  The dry flavors took on some heat in the aftertaste along with wood notes, cinnamon, and drying tannins.  ** Now-2017.