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A trio of American wines

I typically try a few more expensive American bottles around the holidays of which this post features three of them.  The 2013 Sojourn, Chardonnay, Durell Vineyard, Sonoma Coast is the sole pricier white wine.  With a bit of air and only a moderately cool temperature, this bottle showed quite well.  The oak plays a supporting role such that the grippy flavors and mineral finish are what keep you returning to your glass.  The 2013 Tenet Wines, The Pundit, Syrah, Columbia Valley is an interesting wine for it is made in Washington state and is the combined effort of Chateau Ste. Michelle, Michel Gassier, and Philippe Cambie.  These last two names you should recognize for they produce many of the French wines I continue to enjoy.  This American Syrah is quite savory with gobs of flavor and a great price.  Finally, the 2010 B Cellars, Blend 24, Napa Valley has benefited from some age.  This forward and ripe wine holds nothing back, including the oak influences, and has enough balance such that it will please for a few more years. These wines are available at MacArthur Beverages.

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2013 Sojourn, Chardonnay, Durell Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – $47
This wine is 100% Wente clone Chardonnay whole cluster fermented in in 40% new French oak barrels. Alcohol 14.3%.  With toasted fruit on the nose the slightly around, almond flavored start made way to attractive, grippy flavors.  The integrated acidity was balanced by some ripe tannins before the minerally finish.  ***(*) Now – 2021.

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2013 Tenet Wines, The Pundit, Syrah, Columbia Valley – $18
This wine is a blend of co-fermented 94% Syrah, 3% Grenache, 2% Mourvedre and 1% Viognier that was aged in 23%new French oak and 16% new American oak.  Alcohol 14.3%.  The aromas of high-toned black fruit merged with sweet oak.  In the mouth the ripe and sweet fruit had a savory thickness with gobs of flavors.  This well done wine sported ripeness and minerals towards the finish with modern touches of ink.  *** Now – 2018.

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2010 B Cellars, Blend 24, Napa Valley – $45
This wine is a blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Sangiovese, 11% Petite Sirah, and 11% Syrah.  Alcohol 14.9%.  The ripe, round start was not loose in any way for the structure slowly came out.  There were ripe tannins, baking spices, and a sweet back end of cinnamon.  This is balanced for just a few years of age then drink up.  *** Now – 2019.

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From mature Aubert to old Mongeard-Mugneret, an annual holiday dinner with Lou

December 21, 2015 2 comments

Lou and I gathered with our wives last week for our annual pre-Christmas dinner.  We started in the living room drinking Champagne and eating a crab dip based on a recipe Lou grew up with as a child.  The NV The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Champagne was our young bottle.  With more biscuit aromas than yeast the textured flavors were of lemon fruit and chalk by the finish.  This is an easy going Champagne which will continue to provide interest for several years to come.  I opened the 1970s release of the NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne with great curiosity.  I served it extra cold to help preserve any bubbles.  Despite the sound of some gas escaping when I removed the sound cork, the wine was indeed flat.  This then was a balanced, lively old wine with the right amount of density, tart apple flavors, and old wood.  I even found the fine golden amber color matched the nutty aromas on the mouth.  Lou mentioned Abe Schoener’s carbonated sparkling wine so I had every intention of subjecting a small sample to our Soda Stream.  While I forgot to do so I did mix a glass of the two Champagnes to positive effect.

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With dinner we started with Lou’s oldest bottle of Aubert in the form of the 2008 Aubert Wines, Chardonnay, Reuling Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.  This is a fairly alcoholic wine so it took an iteration or two to get it at the right temperature.  Once the temperature was correct, this was a glorious Californian Chardonnay.  It was aromatic, rich in the mouth, and quite mouthfilling but with fine acidity and minerality.  It was a treat.  We then moved to older Burgundy.  The popped and poured 1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux immediately smelled great.  Lou and I exchanged a quick glance to confirm the bottle was in sound shape.  It took almost half an hour for the flavors to catch up.  Then for one hour this was a compelling wine to smell and taste, reasserting that old Burgundy can make a fine drink!  The evening ended with a glass of 1966 Offley Boa Vista, Vintage Port.  It is not the most complex of wines but the sweetness is delivered with a seductive mouthfeel and a noticeable dose of old wood.  It is an old Vintage Port that can be drunk without concern.

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NV The Rare Wine Co, Les Mesnil, Blanc de Blancs, Grand Cru Champagne
Imported by the Rare Wine Co.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose reveals more biscuit aromas than yeast.  In the mouth, the very fine and firm bubbles quickly dissipate leading to a lively start of lemon flavors.  With bright acidity on the tongue things wrap up with a textured, chalky finish.  *** Now – 2020.

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NV Besserat de Bellefon, Grande Tradition, Champagne (1970s release)
Imported by The Rare Wine Co.  In the glass was a golden amber color with a finely aromatic nutty nose.  The acidity gives an initial impression of a prickle on the tongue but there is no doubt this wine is flat.  There is a fine balance of nut flavors, old wood, and tart apple flavors.  The wine is slightly textured with salivating acidity, and a slight density.  All in all, it is a charming still wine.  *** Now.

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2008 Aubert Wines, Chardonnay, Reuling Vineyard, Sonoma Coast
Alcohol 15.6%.  With air and proper temperature the nose smelled of waxy sweet aromas, butterscotch and supportive oak.  This is a mouthfilling, sexy with but the consistent acidity and good minerality make it a joy to drink.  The flavors start with sweet yellow fruit but turn to white by the finish.  ****(*) Now.

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1978 Mongeard-Mugneret, Grands-Echezeaux
Shipped by Robert Haas Selections. Imported by Vineyard Brands.  The fine and deep nose was scented with aromas of cranberries and cherries.  It took 15 to 30 minutes for the tart red fruit flavors to take on sweetness.  This mixed well with the floral start, watering acidity, and ripe old wood hints in the finish.  This lively wine was compelling to drink for another hour and even picked up a touch of grip in the end.  **** Now.

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1966 Offley Boa Vista, Vintage Port
Imported by The Rare Wine Co. Alcohol 20%.  The marshmallow sweetness is matched by the round body making for a luxurious feeling wine from the very first glass.  While not too complex, the fruit is pure and the supportive hints of old wood are just right.  This bottle was in great shape without any hints of heat.  In the end, a great old Port to drink.  ***(*) Now but will last.

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Liquid research: tasting recent arrivals at MacArthur Beverages.

September 21, 2015 Leave a comment

This past week I joined Phil at MacArthur Beverages to sample several new wine selections.  With the clear bottle, the color of the 2013 Spook Light, Skin Fermented Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay might look odd at first.  However, this is a skin fermented wine so the orange-rust color is correct.  It is a generous and rounded wine that has attractive minerals.  I found the 2010 M & S Ogier, l’Ame Soeur, Syrah de Seyssuel, VdP Collines Rhodaniennes to be a subtle example of northern Rhone Syrah.  Though well-made and enjoyable, it did not knock my socks off.  The 2012 Domaine Gramenon, La Sagesse, Cotes du Rhone is a very interesting wine that continued to change and evolve while I was at the store.  Initially it was quite earthy and young then shortly before I left it was more generous with very clean fruit and a beautiful rosemary flavor.  This deserves to be tasted again!  The bottle of 2012 Domaine Leon Barral, Faugeres reminded me of earlier vintages where I fell in love with the fruit and delivery of flavors unique to Barral.  There was nothing but pleasure from this wine which I recommend you drink within the next two years.  The guys had trolled the Californian dump-bin from which came the 2004 Pax, Red Wine, Sonoma Hillsides, Sonoma County.  Let us just say it was massive.  Tim then returned with a bottle of the 2011 Le Paine, Piane, Colline Novaresi.  I neglected to take a picture but my initial taste of this mostly Croatina based wine was very promising.  There is certainly a different flavor profile to the rather floral, black fruited flavors.  This long, textured wine deserves another visit as well.  Thanks to everyone for letting me join in!

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2013 Spook Light, Skin Fermented Pinot Gris, Hawke’s Bay – $35
This wine is 100% skin-fermented Pinot Gris that was rested on the lees in stainless steel until bottled.  Alcohol 13.1%.  This rounded and weighty wine, had red fruit that mixed with a hint of skin/stems, juicy acidity, and a linear mineral streak.

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2010 M & S Ogier, l’Ame Soeur, Syrah de Seyssuel, VdP Collines Rhodaniennes – $60
Imported by Robert Kacher.  This wine is 100% Syrah sourced from 13 year old vines that was completely destemmed then aged 18 months in 20% new oak barrels.  Alcohol 12.5%.  The nose bore hints of meat, pepper, and some smoke.  In the mouth were purple black fruit with an initially very modest structure.  The wine was harmonious and mouthfilling with some earth-like complexity.  The structure eventually built as did blacker fruit.  A bit shy at this point.

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2012 Domaine Gramenon, La Sagesse, Cotes du Rhone – $37
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  This wine is 100% Grenache sourced from 60 year old vines that was fermented in cement cuve before aging 12 months in barriques.  The animale nose made way to ripe, quickly expanding flavors of dark red fruit.  This wine continued to change, initially possessing floral flavors that poked through before a hint of tea, then took on complexity from a strong rosemary flavor that mixed with fresh, clean fruit.  There was certainly a very fine, drying tannic structure.  Very interesting.

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2012 Domaine Leon Barral, Faugeres – $26
Imported by Kermit Lynch.  Alcohol 13.5%.  This opened up noticeably to offer ripe, red, grippy fruit that had a subtle citric note.  It continued to be a vibrant wine with dark, floral potpourri notes, ripe tannins, a grippy nature, and fruit that almost became sweet.  I like the animale flavors.  This bottle drank very well with consistent stability.

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2004 Pax, Red Wine, Sonoma Hillsides, Sonoma County – $20
This wine is a blend of 52% Syrah, 47% Grenache, and 1% Roussanne.  This big red wine was evocative of big Australian wine that had a stemmy, mineral side.

All over the place with Pinot Noir

Denise and Shane came over this weekend to check out the new house.  After touring the interior and exterior with a glass of NV Pommery, Brut Royal, Champagne we settled down in the living room.  Here we tasted through a variety of Pinot Noir wines.  This was my second time drinking the 2001 Domaine Serene, Pinot Noir, Evenstad Reserve Willamette Valley.  I think it is drinking great right now with good presence of mature aromas and flavors.  There is some distracting heat in the finish, the absence of which would elevate the wine, but does not prevent any enjoyment.  I was completely surprised and disappointed by the 2003 Archery Summit, Pinot Noir, Arcus Estate Willamette Valley.  This was a strong wine with aromas and flavors evocative of an oaked Australian wine. Once past the nose it was more attractive in the mouth but not my style of wine.  Our bottle of 2005 Amalie Robert, Pinot Noir, Amalie’s Cuvee, Willamette Valley was a tart and sour mess making it undrinkable.

I then opened up two bottles from Anthill Farms.  We drank up the regular Sonoma Coast with dinner so I did not bother to take a note.  The 2013 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Campbell Ranch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast opened up on the second night.  There was that brighter, new wave sort of nose but in the mouth were surprising savory, weighty flavors with attractive minerality.  In the end this should become a lovely wine after further aging.  Finally, I opened a bottle of 2012 Shelter Winery, Pinot Noir, Lovely Lily, Baden for my second experience.  I rather enjoyed the 2011 vintage but the 2012 just does not hold the same level of interest.

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2001 Domaine Serene, Pinot Noir, Evenstad Reserve Willamette Valley – $30
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was fermented in stainless steel then aged for 12 months in roughly 90% new French oak.  Alcohol 14.1%.  The rose revealed mature aromas of red fruit, spices, vanilla, and sweet cedar.  In the mouth were powdery, ripe strawberry flavors that mixed with maturity.  There was a rounded start with weighty flavors and a little glycerin.  With air the maturity came through as well as riper fruit.  The wine picked up some heat and roughness in the finish which, in being a touch distracting, prevented a higher rating.  *** Now-2017.

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2003 Archery Summit, Pinot Noir, Arcus Estate Willamette Valley – $40
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir that was fermented in both wood and stainless steel fermenters using indigenous yeasts.  It was aged for 11 months in 75% new French oak.  Alcohol 14.5%.  There was a powerful nose of roast which reminded me of a big, oaked Australian wine that did not age well.  The flavors were better but delivered in a full-bore manner.  This grippy, robust, dark fruited wine was just too much for me. * Now but will last.

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2005 Amalie Robert, Pinot Noir, Amalie’s Cuvee, Willamette Valley – $20
Alcohol 13.2%.  The tart red aromas smelled past prime.  In the mouth, the tart and sour red fruit flavors was way beyond drinking.  Not drunk so not rated.

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2013 Anthill Farms, Pinot Noir, Campbell Ranch Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – $46
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from 14 year old vines vines located with a few miles of the Pacific Ocean at 750 feet. Alcohol 12.9%.  There were brighter, red fruit and varietal aromas.  In the mouth the weightier flavors were surprising.  The wine was savory with brighter and mineral, black fruit that became dry in the finish.  It did show some tart, red flavors as the nose would indicate, with plenty of acidity.  An attractive wine that needs time and air.  ***(*) 2016-2020.

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2012 Shelter Winery, Pinot Noir, Lovely Lily, Baden – $18
Imported by T. Elenteny Imports.  This wine is 100% Pinot Noir.  Alcohol 13%.  A pleasant enough delicate nose of green house aromas and red fruit.  The hard red and tart fruit eventually drank better with watering acidity, lighter flavors, and an interesting mix of chalky minerals and tannins.  ** Now.

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Flavor Town

December 17, 2014 Leave a comment

The wines of California can certainly deliver on flavor with the 2012 Relic Wine Cellars, The Archive, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast being an excellent example.  I would not particularly think that this is a Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast but perhaps that does not matter.  If you are looking for aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, and acidity this offers all of that in balance so just enjoy drinking glass after glass.  The 2012 Gorman Winery, The Devil You Know, Columbia Valley is young and tight so there is not much to write about at this time.  Leave it in the cellar for a few years.   I do not know what to make of the 2010 Robert Sinskey Vineyards, POV Los Carneros, Napa Valley.  I was completely overwhelmed by the forward fruit and oak influences that I promptly recorked the bottle.  Strange enough, upon revisiting the wine, it had completely changed course.  It showed more restrained green house infused fruit, minerals, and structure for aging.  It could actually develop quite well.  Who knows!? Personally, I would avoid the gamble and just buy The Relic.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 Relic Wine Cellars, The Archive, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast – $27
This wine is 100% Pinot Noir sourced from the Kashaya Vineyard that was destemmed then fermented with indigenous yeast and aged for 11 months in 50% on the lees in new French Burgundy barrels. Alcohol 14.3%.  The wine bore riper fruit than expected but it quickly fleshed out to be balanced.  There were sweet spices and a vanilla hint that mixed with the good fruit.  The wine had noticeable acidity on the tongue tip, a subtle glycerin mouthfeel, and barely any tannins.  There was a bit of a zip and a pepper note in the finish.  Not necessarily evocative of Pinot Noir but very tasty.  *** Now-2016.

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2012 Gorman Winery, The Devil You Know, Columbia Valley – $26
This wine is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 13% Petit Sirah, and 8% Petite Verdot that was aged for 16 months in French oak.  Alcohol 14.7%.  The nose was subtle with low-lying aromas of  dense young fruit.  In the mouth were slightly tart flavors of red over black fruit and some powdery bitter chocolate.  The acidity was more noticeable than the structure.  **(*) 2016-2019.

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2010 Robert Sinskey Vineyards, POV Los Carneros, Napa Valley – $33
This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged for 19 months in new and used French oak barrels.  Alcohol 14%.  Very forward and overwhelming aromas of cocoa and spices followed by mouth filling flavors.  The wine completely changed on the second night to show fresh, ripe, green house flavors mixed with tart black fruit in the finish, black minerals, and more structure.  *(*)/**(*) 2015-2022.

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More Chardonnay Than I Realized

March 21, 2014 1 comment

I drink Chardonnay from California and while I have bought bottles of Kendall-Jackson, Vintners Reserve from a famous DC merchant, other wines in the $20-$30 range can offer an engaging experience.  Recently both Jenn and I have been enjoying bottle after bottle of 2012 The Ojai Vineyard, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County.  If the name Ojai sounds familiar that could be due to all the press it received as a result of the Wine Writers Symposium, check out Robert Parker Responds to Jon Bonne.  I think this wine will hit its peak towards the end of the year but right now offers up a nice blend of fruit, acidity, oak influence, and presence.  The 2012 Elizabeth Spencer, Special Cuvee, Chardonnay, Mendocino had lots of verve and remained lively for days.  It was a young wine that could use half a year in the cellar but I was attracted to the acidity and tannin combination.  I enjoy tannins in a white wine.  The 2010 Brewer-Clifton, Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills may at first seem austere but reveals itself to be a careful combination of the savory, tang, acidity, and smoke.  More reflective than quenching but I enjoyed it.  Both Jenn and I liked the 2011 Antica, Chardonnay, Napa Valley on the first night when it had yellow fruit, salivating acidity, and stones but then it kind of fell apart the next night.  Be sure to drink it in one sitting.  The 2012 Crossbarn by Paul Hobbs, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast had yellow tropical fruit, lively acidity, spices, and perhaps a little too much intention for my preference.  I believe there is good diversity in the wines below so try one that sounds most attractive to you.  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages.

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2012 The Ojai Vineyard, Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County – $25
Alcohol 14%.  The color was a medium golden-straw with a nose of Chardonnay and some toast.  In the mouth there was controlled ripeness complemented by nice spices and texture.  With air it took on yellow, juicy fruit, and a vein of baking spices.  There was acidity on the tongue tip and increasing texture that left a persistent aftertaste.   *** Now-2017.

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2012 Elizabeth Spencer, Special Cuvee, Chardonnay, Mendocino – $25
Alcohol 14.1%.  The color was a very light straw.  The nose remained subtle with tropical notes and sweet nuts (yup).  The finely textured fruit in the mouth had a core of acidity and pleasing tannins which were ripe and built on the cheeks.  It was somewhat compact to start with but over several days built some roundness to the firm white fruit.  Had lots of verve.  *** Now-2018.

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2010 Brewer-Clifton, Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills – $28
Alcohol 14.0%.  There was a little smoke to the yellow fruit aromas.  In the mouth the wine had some savory weight, acidity, and grip from the start.  It had tang and freshness combined with weight and an expansive aftertaste.  There was a chalky finish before the acidity hit the back of the throat and the smoke return in the aftertaste.  Deliberate.  *** Now – 2015.

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2011 Antica, Chardonnay, Napa Valley – $30
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was fermented in 30% new French oak then aged for six months on the lees.  Alcohol 13.8%.  The color was a light golden yellow.  The nose was fresh with yellow fruit and underlying toast.  In the mouth the fresh acidity balanced the white and yellow fruit.  The wine showed some density with salivating acidity and some stone notes.  It was best on the first night.  *** Now.

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2012 Crossbarn by Paul Hobbs, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast – $25
This wine is 100% Chardonnay which was fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic fermentation, then 12-15% saw oak.  Alcohol 14.1%.  The nose bore yellow, tropical aromas that mixed with some toast.  In the mouth was a slightly textured start with a crisp start of yellow fruit that was felt on the tongue tip.  It was round in the mouth, lively on the tongue,  with ripe spices in the finish.  It ended more lush with a tropical hint to the flavors.  ** Now-2015.

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2012 Melville, Chardonnay Estate, Santa Rita Hills – $26
Alcohol 14.5%.  This was the most forward with rounder, softer flavors and toast notes.  Not my style.  * Now.

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A Variety of Californian Chardonnay

November 5, 2012 1 comment

As much as I like German Riesling Jenn likes Californian Chardonnay so I am always in search of a wine which may be drunk by the glass.  At the cheap end you cannot go wrong with the Kendall-Jackson, Vintner’s Reserve.  There is a bit of a paint-by-numbers aspect to the wine but still it is a rather drinkable $11 big Chardonnay.  The best value of the bunch is the J Vineyards, Chardonnay.  Lovely flavor, texture, acidity, and just a hint of wood coming out in the aftertaste.  We have already drunk through several bottles.  The most expensive and rather interesting was the Fort Ross made by Jeff Pisoni.  While there is lovely bright yellow fruit there is an attractive, pleasurable mouthfeel which kept grabbing my attraction.  This is a powerful wine with plenty of barrel notes poking through.  I suspect it might be best in half a year.  I recommend you check out the vineyard images on the website.  The vines are less than one mile from the Pacific Ocean!  These wines were purchased at MacArthur Beverages and Unwined.

2011 Kendall-Jackson, Chardonnay, Vintner’s Reserve – $11
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from estate vineyards in Monterey, Santa Barbera, and Sonoma Counties.  It was both fermented then aged on the lees in French and American oak barrels. TA 7.0 g/L, pH 3.35, Alcohol 13.5%.  The color was a light golden-yellow.  The light to medium strength nose revealed toasty, yellow fruit.  In the mouth there were medium bodied, ripe yellow fruit from the start.  There was also a vein of apple-like acidity on the tip and sides of the tongue.  It was a little grippy before some toast notes in the finish and the teeth-coating sweet spices in the aftertaste.  It has ticked all of the check boxes.  ** Now-2014.

2008 J Vineyards, Chardonnay, Russian River Valley – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from both estate and other vineyards.  It was fermented with indigenous and Burgundian yeasts then both fermented and aged in 40% new Burgundian oak barrels.  Malolactic fermentation took six months followed by 12 months of aging.  TA 6.0 g/L, pH 3.50, Alcohol 14.3%.  The color is a light to medium yellow.  The nose bore toasty yellow fruit and ripe citrus aromas.  In the mouth there was initially focused yellow citrus fruit with acidity.  Then with air the flavors took on weight and expanded in the mouth.  Low-lying ripe and spiced fruit left sweet spices on the tongue.  There was a toasty aftertaste with good acidity.  Good Value! *** Now-2013.

2008 Mount Eden Vineyards, Chardonnay, Saratoga Cuvee, Santa Cruz Mountains – $20
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from Mount Eden and Domaine Eden vineyards.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was medium yellow.  The light to medium strength nose revealed yellow fruit, apples, and barrel notes.  The mouth followed the nose but with more pineapple and acidity from the beginning.  The flavors were higher pitched then a little creamy towards the finish.  The aftertaste had some spicy spices, toast, and a good mouthfeel.  ** Now.

2007 Tandem, Chardonnay, Sangiacomo Vineyards, Sonoma Coast – $30
This wine is 100% Chardonnay from the defunct Tandem which is now La Follette.  Alcohol 14%.  The color was a light+ golden-yellow.  The light maturing nose revealed heavy yellow fruit and wood notes.  In the mouth there was a luscious mouthfeel of buttery, round yellow fruit with stood up with sweet spices and ripeness.  Supported by integrated acidity there was a little toughness in the finish along with some toast notes in the aftertaste.  A bit flamboyant.  ** Now-2013.

2009 Fort Ross, Chardonnay, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast – $35
This wine is 100% Chardonnay sourced from the new Fort Ross-Sea View AVA at altitudes of 1200-1700 feet.  It is 65% old Hyde and 35% old Wente selections which underwent primary, malolactic, and 10 months aging in 30% new and 70% neutral French oak barrels.   Alcohol 14.5%.  The color was a light golden straw which was slightly cloudy.  The nose was light to medium with yellow fruit and wood.  In the mouth there was yellow fruit at first with a wood note then a tropical bit with a lovely mouthfeel.  There were spices, white peach, bright fruit, acidity, and a great mouthfeel.  With air this wine remained round and supple from the start with glycerine texture and wood toast in the aftertaste.  ***(*) 2013-2015.