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Top 10 Wines of the Week


Napa Valley did well this past week. Out of about 110 wines I tasted, it placed six in the Top Ten. The list is rounded out by 4 Pinot Noirs, two of them from the Russian River Valley, one from Santa Maria Valley and one from the increasingly well-regarded Edna Valley.

Silverado 2008 SOLO  Cabernet Sauvignon (Stags Leap); $90, 1,864 cases, 14.7%

Anomaly 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (St. Helena); $85, 826 cases, 14.6% (also the 2007 vintage, with which the ‘08 was co-released)

Oakville East 2008 Core Stone Bordeaux blend (Oakville); $125, 150 cases, 14.5% (also their 2008 Exposure Cabernet Sauvignon)

Freeman 2009 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $48, 323 cases, 14.2%

Siduri 2009 Ewald Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $44, 147 cases, 14.3% (Also Siduri 2009 Clos Pepe Pinot Noir)

Robert Mondavi 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville); $45, 7,685 cases, 15.6%

C. Beck 2008 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley); $38, 130 cases, 13.9%

Claiborne & Churchill 2009 Twin Creeks Pinot Noir (Edna Valley); $36, 248 cases, 13.8%

Alta Maria 2009 Pinot Noir (Santa Maria Valley); $28, 1,660 cases, 13.9%

Robert Mondavi 2009 To Kolan Vineyard Reserve Fume Blanc (Napa Valley); $40, 1,867 cases, 14.2%

Top 10 wines of the week, plus Dept. of Oops!


Keating 2008 Beckstoffer Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. $95, 341 cases, 14.2%

Lioco 2009 Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $60, 335 cases, 13.5%

Pride Mountain 2009 Vintner Select Cuvée Chardonnay, Napa Valley. $47, 326 cases, 15%

Brion 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $85, 574 cases, 14.5%

Tangent 2009 Paragon Vineyard Albariño, Edna Valley. $17, 2550 cases, 13.5%

Arrowood 2007 Merlot, Sonoma Valley. $42, 694 cases, 15.5%

Amizetta 2007 Estate Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $85, 150 cases, 14.5%

Bernardus 2009 Seirra Mar Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Lucia Highlands. $40, 302 cases, 14.3%

Clos La Chance 2008 Lila’s Cuvée Rhône red blend, Central Coast. $40, 176 cases, 14.5%

Continuum 2008 Bordeaux blend, Napa Valley, $150. 2000 cases, 14.9%

* * *

Dept. of Oops!

I’d like to know what Hop Kiln’s management was smoking when they decided to launch helicopter tours to the Westside Road winery for tourists from the Sonoma County Airport. It didn’t take long for local residents to complain to county officials, who promptly issued a cease-and-desist order to Hop Kiln. I guess the helicopters were too noisy. Maybe Hop Kiln can switch to silent blimps instead.

Top 10, twice


Top 10 wines of the week

Lots of old, familiar names on this week’s list.

Flora Springs 2008 Hillside Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford); $100. 347 cases, 14.2%.

Dragon’s Tooth 2007 Bordeaux Blend (Napa Valley); $75. 14.2%, cases not reported. From Trefethen.

Talley 2008 Rosemary’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Arroyo Grande Valley); $70. 399, 13.9%.

Sinor-LaVallee 2008 Talley-Rincon Vineyard Pinot Noir (Arroyo Grande Valley); $40. 73, 14.8%

Signorello 2009 Hope’s Cuvee Chardonnay (Napa Valley); $65. 72, 13.9%

Shafer 2008 Merlot (Napa Valley); $48. 7200, 15.3%

Truchard 2008 Syrah (Carneros); $28. 1,035, 14.3%

Robert Foley 2009 Charbono (Napa Valley); $35. 1,400, 13.5%

Jeff Gordon 2008 Jeff Gordon Collection Chardonnay (Carneros);  $45. 238, 14.2%

Chappellet 2008 Signature Cabernet Sauvigno (Napa Valley); $48. 8,125, 14.9%

Top 10 wine destinations for men

From the Men’s website, here are the favorite wine destinations for dudes in the world:

Napa Valley
Ribera del Duero
Barossa Valley
California Central Coast/South of France [tie]

Top 10 wines of the week


The interesting thing about this week’s list is that all six Pinot Noirs are under 14% alcohol. I think we can safely say that the worm has turned: vintners are restoring balance to this variety, which ought to be delicate, not heavy. The days of 15% Pinot Noir are numbered. Why this is so is hard to say. It’s probably a number of factors: cooler vintages (just wait until the 2010s come out!), winemaker sensitivity to the bashing they’ve taken for years from critics for Rhône-style Pinot, and–often overlooked–the maturing of the grapevines. Older vines with deeper roots make more balanced and complex wines. At the same time, I see no evidence that California’s other great red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, is lightening up. Many of the best still hover at 15% or higher, as witness the Meander Morisoli on the list. I think the critics of high alcohol are going to have to accept a split decision: they won with Pinot Noir and lost with Cabernet.

Copain 2009 Wentzel Pinot Noir (Anderson Valley). 13.7%, $50. Also their  ‘09 Monument Tree Pinot Noir, 13.7%.

Tyler 2008 Bien Nacido Vineyard N Block Pinot Noir (Santa  Maria Valley); 13.9%, $65. Also their ‘08 Clos Pepe, 13.5%, and ‘08 La Encantada, 13.7%.

Littorai 2008 The Pivot Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); 13.9%, $65.

Meander 2008 Morisoli Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Rutherford); 15.2%, $120.

Yates Family 2006 Flower Red Blend (Mount Veeder); 14.5%, $50.

Volker Eisele 2009 Gemini Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc (Napa Valley); 14.5%, $25.

Morgan 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands); 13.8%, $48.

Trefethen 2009 Dry Riesling (Oak Knoll); 12.5%, $22.

Tyler 2008 Presidio Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County); 13.9%, $52.

Dutton-Goldfield 2009 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); 13.5%, $38.

Visiting Chez Mondavi, and Top 10 Wines of the Week


I go today (Thursday, when I posted this) to Rob Mondavi’s place, up in the Carneros, for dinner. He invited me to meet some of his friends, none of whom is older than 45. They represent a new, upcoming generation in Napa Valley. Some have familiar last names (Burgess, Gott, Mondavi, Steltzner, Truchard, Viader) but, as the sons and daughters of veterans, are establishing their own reputations. Others are not known to me.

In the case of a younger winemaker taking the helm in Napa Valley, think of the weight they must feel pressing down on their shoulders. Tradition. Expectations. Quality. And, yes, reviews. When you make wine in Napa Valley you are playing in the NFL, the NBA, Major League Baseball. Especially in these perilous economic times, they have got to experience some angst every once in a while. Can you keep the family tradition going forward into the second decade of the 21st century? Can you make a success from the career you’ve chosen, and upon which you’re risking a great deal? Will you let your parents down?

I’m looking forward to this event with a keener anticipation than many other things I’ve gone to lately. I’ll let you know how it went.

Meanwhile, here are the top 10 wines of this past week.

Bartalotti 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. $60, 144 cases, 15.2%.

Robert Mondavi 2008 I Block Fume Blanc, Oakville. $75, case production not revealed, 14.7%.

Robert Mondavi 2008 Reserve Chardonnay, Napa Valley. $40, case production not revealed, 14.2%.

Chime 2009 Pinot Noir, Sonoma County. $19, 1,100 cases, 14.4%.

Sean Thackrey 2008 Devil’s Gulch Ranch “Andromeda” Pinot Noir, Marin County. $45, 700 cases, 14.4%.

Calera 2008 Ryan Pinot Noir, Mt. Harlan. $40, 2,856 cases, 14.9%.

Laird 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. $16, case production not revealed, 13.8%.

Volker Eisele 2007 Terzetto Bordeaux blend, Napa Valley. $75, 450 cases, 14.7%.

Cambria 2008 Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley. $22, case production not revealed, 14.5%.

Vine Cliff 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $55, 1,200 cases, 14.3%.

Top 10 Wines of the Week


Five Syrahs make this week’s list, a first for my Top Ten Wines of the Week. The Valley of the Moon and Bianchi are good values.

Later today, I’m going up to the Napa Valley Vintners for the second in a series of large blind tastings they’re setting up for me. I’m looking forward to 4 or 5 hours “in the zone.” Will spend the night up there because, even though I’ll be spitting, enough alcohol gets into the bloodstream that I don’t want to drive back to Oakland, especially on a Friday getaway afternoon. I’m never very hungry after a big tasting, so I’ll probably head over to ZuZu for dinner and have a couple little plates of tapas, with some soul-refreshing Sherry.

Donelan 2008 Richards Family Syrah, Sonoma Valley. $90, 140 cases, 14.2%. This is the winery formerly known as Pax, owned by Joe Donelan. The wines are crafted by Tyler Thomas. Also their 2009 Kobler Family Vineyard Syrah, from Green Valley, and the 2008 Cuvée Keltier Syrah, with a Sonoma County appellation. Serious Syrahs.

Marimar Estate 2008 Doña Margarita Vineyard Chico’s Run Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. $49, 146 cases, 14.9%. Also Marimar’s 2008 Don Miguel Vineyard La Masia Pinot Noir. Marimar Torres strikes gold with her new ‘08s.

Thomas Fogarty 2008 Rapley Trail Vineyard Block M Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains. $70, 71 cases, 13.5%. What interesting things Fogarty is doing these days. They are producing some of the best Pinot Noirs in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Also their Block B Pinot, from the same vineyard, and the Windy Hill Vineyard.

Highway 12 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley. $38, 175 cases, 15.1%. A big, warming wine, made by Michael Sebastiani, of the famous family.

White Oak 2006 Syrah, Napa Valley. $26, 2,046 cases, 14.9%. Good price for a Syrah this good, and easy to find.

Maclaren 2008 Dry Stack Vineyard Syrah, Bennett Valley. $35, 173 cases, 14.5%.

Windstream 2009 Sarmento Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands. $40, 250 cases, 14.9%. The vineyard has been source of good Pinots from Sequana, Tudor, Windbreak and others.

Calcareous 2008 Viognier-Marsanne, Paso Robles. $28, 437 cases, 14.5%.

Bianchi 2006 Heritage Selection Syrah, Paso Robles. $18, 825 cases, 14.3%.

Valley of the Moon 2008 Syrah, Sonoma County. $16, 3,600 cases, 13.5%.

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