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Top 10 wines of the week


A Russian River Pinot Noir tops this week’s list, followed by a pair of Napa Valley Cabernets, 3 Chardonnays from the Santa Rita Hills and one from Carneros. Rounding out the list are two Syrahs, one from Santa Rita Hills and the other from Dry Creek Valley. As usual, you’ll find my full reviews and scores in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast.

Williams Selyem 2008 Litton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir. Tasted blind alongside a dozen other Pinot Noirs from the winery, the Litton bottling stood out for sheer depth, complexity and class. I gave the ‘07, the first vintage from Williams Selyems’ first estate vineyard in the Russian River Valley, a perfect 100 points. Case production not revealed, alcohol 14.2%, $100

Joseph Phelps 2009 Eisrébe Scheuebe. The variety is a German crossbreed of Silvaner and Riesling. Phelps artificially freezes the grapes before pressing to create an ice wine, and an absolutely stunning one at that. It’s one of the best dessert wines in California, and will age. 800 cases, 8.5%, $50

Joseph Phelps 2007 Backus Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. The famous vineyard is in Oakville, and the wine displays the classic structure and ageworthiness of that commune. Will age for decades. 1,300 cases, 14.5%, $250. Kudos also for Phelps’ 2007 Insignia.

Kuleto Estate 2006 India Ink Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes come from the winery’s hilly estate in the Vacas, above the Silverado Trail. Nice to see this property back in form after some off years. 303 cases, 14.7%, $80. Praise also for the winery’s Frog Prince and Villa Vista Cabs.

Diatom 2009 Babcock Vineyard Chardonnay. Diatom is Greg Brewer’s visionary Chardonnay project. The wine is unoaked and unbelievably pure and crystalline. 100 cases, 15.5%, $48. Pretty much as good is Diatom’s ‘09 Huber Vineyard Chardonnay. Both wines hail from the Santa Rita Hills.

Melville 2009 Clone 76 Inox Chardonnay. Mr. Brewer makes the list again as winemaker of this fabulously rich, exotic and crisp Chardonnay. No oak was used (“inox” is French for stainless steel). 872 cases, 14.1%, $36

Jaffurs 2008 Ampelos Vineyard Syrah. The vineyard is in the Santa Rita Hills, and the wine, while a bit high in alcohol, shows a cool-climate pepperiness. It’s big and rich and dry. 103 cases, 15.2%, $46. Good scores also for Jaffurs’ ‘08 Upslope and Thompson Vineyard Syrahs.

Vineyard of Pasterick
2005 Syrah. This little-known Dry Creek Valley producer turns out very good Syrah year after year. This ‘05 is quite rich, showing some age and drinking beautifully now. 387 cases, 15%, $38

Foley 2008 Barrel Select Chardonnay. Another spectacularly good Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay, only this time it’s rich in buttered toast and vanilla cream from oak barrels. 330 cases, 14.6%, $35

Peter Franus 2009 Chardonnay. Rich, oaky, minerally and laden with tropical fruit. A real crowd pleaser from the Napa side of Carneros. 86 cases, 14.1%, $32

  1. Our Insurance Agency has ordered cases of wine from The Vineyards of Pasterick form several years. Their Syrah which has such a rich flavor and is always a big hit with our Clients. It makes great Christma Gifts. We would highly recommend this wonderful wine.

    Larson and Hartung Insurance

  2. Joseph Phelps Eisrebe may be a delicious wine but it is not an ice wine.Canada & Germany make these wines and there are strict standards including leaving the grapes on the vine until 17* F(-8*C) for several hours.It is not just the freezing but being on the vine for months after the normal harvest that intensifies the flavour.As the grapes are in danger of rot and being eaten ,to say nothing of the vagaries of weather,ice wine is a risky & expensive product.Mechanically freezing grapes can produce “iced ” wine or “icebox” wine not “ice wine ” or eisweine.

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