New Reviews Sept. 21 2017


Alamos 2016 Torrontes Salta Argentina ($13)

This delicious, easy-to-drink wine can be found for $10 or less at chain grocery stores. It’s a fab party wine, with juicy pineapple, Asian pear and grilled peach personality, and enough acidity to keep it refreshing. 87

Ashes & Diamonds 2015 No. 1 Blanc Napa Valley ($45)

Equal parts Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc, this white wine is remarkably vibrant and precise – even though it was 100% barrel fermented in 40% new French oak and aged sur lie (without stirring). It’s full-flavored and mouth-filling, at just 12.7% alcohol. 94.

Kunde Family Winery 2016 Magnolia Lane Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma Valley ($17)

This crowd-pleaser – often discounted at grocery stores — is perfect for picnics and barbecues, with juicy citrus, peach and mango aromas and flavors. Hints of honey and leafy herbs add interest to this refreshing wine. 89

Ladera Vineyards 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley ($30)

Howell Mountain and Oak Knoll District grapes, three different clones, and fermentation in a combination of stainless steel and French oak, created this multi-layered wine – one of the most complex and delicious Sauvignon Blancs I’ve tasted from Napa Valley from the 2016 vintage. Layers unfold with each sniff and taste: white flowers, tropical fruit, citrus, sage, green apple and a toasty note on the finish. 94

Martin Ray Winery 2016 Chardonnay Sonoma County ($20)

Subtle oak frames the bright, mouthwatering green apple, melon and Meyer lemon aromas and flavors of this wine. Straightforward and tasty, it comes at a very fair price. 88

Shafer Vineyards 2015 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay Carneros ($52)

Rich and full-bodied, with hints of lees and minerals, this mighty-fine wine offers a complex melange of citrus, pear, apple and peach fruit, backed by racy acidity. It weighs in at 14.9% alcohol, yet there’s no heat on the palate. It’s a big wine that impresses with its elegance and balance. 95.

Stonestreet Estate Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Alexander Valley ($35)

Fermentation and aging in a mix of stainless steel and oak gives this wine mouth-filling texture and complexity. Yet it remains refreshing and lively, with crisp Meyer lemon and pear fruit accented by cinnamon and nutmeg spice. 92

Whitehall Lane 2016 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford Napa Valley ($24)

Simply delicious. Green melon, pear, candied lemon, fig, mango and fennel notes come together in this seamless, complex and utterly refreshing wine. Don’t ponder; just enjoy. 92


Ashes & Diamonds 2015 No. 1 2015 Rosé Napa Valley ($35)

I’m not often impressed by saignee-method rosés, made from the bleed-off wine/juice from a red-wine fermentation. Many are harsh and tannic, from the time the liquid spends in contact with the grape skins and seeds. Matthiasson employed saignee for this 100% Cabernet France rosé and with striking results. It’s delicate, crisp and seamless, with pretty red berry, cherry and mineral character. 13.2% alcohol. 91

Kokomo Winery 2016 Pauline’s Vineyard Grenache Rosé Dry Creek Valley ($24)

There is a wonderful balance of richness and bright acidity in this single-vineyard rosé. Wild strawberry, Bing cherry, watermelon, tangerine flavors are bold yet fresh, and there’s a pleasantly bitter Luxardo cherry liqueur note on the juicy finish. I no longer have to write “wines for Thanksgiving” columns, yet there is a certain holiday in November for which this wine is well-suited. 90

Presqu’ile Winery 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé Santa Maria Valley ($22)

A savory, salty sea-spray aroma sets this Santa Barbara County wine apart from the pack. It’s also a basketful of juicy strawberry, watermelon and blood orange fruit, with midpalate weight and a long, mouthwatering finish. It’s unmistakably Pinot Noir, and pretty. 91


Alexander Valley Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc Alexander Valley ($30)

There are few 100-percent Cabernet Francs from Sonoma County and this is one of them. Medium-full-bodied and lush, it gushes with blackberry, black cherry and plum aromas and flavors, finishing with vibrant acidity. Not to be mistaken for a Chinon, it’s a well-done version of ripe, warm-climate Cab Franc. 93

Argento 2014 Reserva Malbec Valle Uco Mendoza Argentina ($18)

Medium-full-bodied and showing as much savory character as ripe fruit, it offers plum and dark cherry aromas and flavors, accented by black olive and anise. Supple tannins and juicy acidity bring all the elements together in a rewarding, moderately priced wine. 88

Ashes & Diamonds 2014 No. 1 Cabernet Franc Napa Valley ($75)

A splash of Merlot adds complexity to this beautiful Cab Franc, which has the suppleness and refinement of a Pinot Noir, with the savory tobacco, leafy greens and bright dark cherry and plum fruit typical of Cabernet Franc. It’s at once powerful and finessed, with generosity and drink-now smoothness. 13.9% alcohol. 95

Ashes & Diamonds 2015 Rancho Pequeño Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Napa Valley ($125)

Dan Petroski made this wine, and Diane Snowden Seysses over Cabernet Sauvignon for A&D Bordeaux varietals production in 2016. Despite being aged in 95% new French oak barrels, this Araujo-grown wine shows very little toastiness, with the fruit absorbing the oak and converting it to texture and mouthfeel. Notes of blackcurrant, dark cherry, forest floor and cedar are classic Cab. 13.5% alcohol. 94

Ashes & Diamonds 2014 Grand Vin A&D Vineyard Oak Knoll District Napa Valley ($95)

This Right Bank-style Merlot (75%) and Cabernet Franc blend comes from Kashy Khaledi’s own vineyard. This is what Merlot-based wines should be in my perfect world: smooth, juicy cherry and red plum fruit and supple tannins, slightly tart acid backbone, and oak framing for structure. 14.5% alcohol. 92

Bogle Vineyards 2015 Essential Red California ($12)

This bargain of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon offers juicy fruit, soft tannins and a luscious texture. It’s a golden retriever: friendly and reliable. 87

J. Lohr 2015 Gesture Mourvedre Paso Robles ($30)

Mourvedre, a Rhone variety most often used in blends, shines in this stand-alone bottling. It’s not a traditional Mourvedre in the way of France’s Rhone Valley, but rather a deep dive into concentrated black plum, blackberry and blueberry fruit, with woodsy, earthy complexity, supple texture and a generous, rewarding finish. Very New World. 94

MacMurray Estate Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir Select Russian River Valley ($38)

Cherry cola, raspberry, boysenberry and plum aromas and flavors mark this soft, rounded Pinot with hints of black tea and spice. Straightforward and supple, it could use more complexity, yet is a crowd-pleaser nonetheless. 89

Martin Ray Winery 2015 Pinot Noir Green Valley of Russian River Valley ($35)

Bright, tangy, tart red cherry, cranberry pom. Aged 50% new french oak, though it’s not toasty, just textured. Hints of blueberry, boysenberry, allspice, cola Medium-bodied, crisp, transparent, refreshing. 13.8% alcohol. 90

Ordaz Family Wines 2014 Pinot Noir Placida Vineyard Russian River Valley ($38) 

Chuy Ordaz is another transplanted grape whisperer, based in Sonoma Valley. He and his winemaking son, Eppie, produce wine via a long-term lease with the Placida Vineyard in Sebastopol. This Pinot has cola and woodsy, truffle notes accompanying the luscious red-fruit aromas and flavors. 90

Valdez Family 2014 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley ($45)

Ulises Valdez, an immigrant from Mexico who became a master grapegrower for many of Sonoma’s finest producers, has his own brand, which he runs with his wife, daughters and sons. Their sumptuous Pinot Noir delivers ripe cherry and raspberry fruit, plus hints of sarsaparilla, vanilla and toasty oak. 91.

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