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 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 askmen.com, here are the favorite wine destinations for dudes in the world:
Ribera del Duero
California Central Coast/South of France [tie]
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.
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%.
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%.
Some incredible wines this week. The predominance of Jackson Family brands is because I did a blind tasting of nearly 50 of their wines. As usual, you’ll find my complete scores and reviews in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast.
Stonestreet 2007 Rockfall Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley); $90, 212 cases, 14.5%. Also the winery’s Cougar Ridge, Monument and Christopher’s Cabs. All these vineyards are from Jackson’s extensive holdings in the high Mayacamas. It’s stupid to have to call them “Alexander Valley” but at this time the Feds have not recognized new appellations up there. The historic place name is Black Mountain; Jackson wants to call it Alexander Mountain; things are stalled.
Williams Selyem 2008 Litton Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $100. Case production not revealed, 14.2%. Last year’s bottling earned a perfect 100 points. Starting this year the wine will be known as Estate, not Litton, because Ridge sent Williams Selyem a cease-and-desist request based on their ownership of the Lytton Springs name for their Zinfandel blend.
Testarossa 2009 Doctor’s Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands); $56, 198 cases, 14.5%. Also their Sierra Madre Vineyard Pinot, from the Santa Maria Valley. I wish Testarossa would hold their Pinots back a little longer before release, but there’s no question they’re at the top of their game, and they have access to some of the greatest vineyards in California.
Rodney Strong 2007 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley); $75, 1,723 cases, 15.4%. Good for the winery, which has tried so hard with this bottling. Glad they’re not just sending it to bloggers anymore!
Benziger 2008 de Coelo Terra Neuma Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $69, 546 cases, 13.5%. I first visited Mike Benziger’s experimental Pinot Noir project when he was tearing up the land. It was a moonscape of white dust, Goldridge soil I believe. This is his third vintage and the wine shows a low-alcohol finesse.
La Crema 2009 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley); $40, 4,800 cases, 14.5%. Good buy, even at forty bucks. Elegant and classy.
Stephen Ross 2007 Stone Corral Vineyard Pinot Noir (Edna Valley); $50, 86 cases, 15.2%. The vineyard is in the heart of Edna Valley, co-owned, I understand, by the Talleys. The wine shows Edna Valley raciness but is very complex. See also Ross’s Bien Nacido Pinot.
Freemark Abbey 2007 Bosché Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $70, 689 cases, 14.5%. When I first visited Freemark Abbey, many years ago, as a novice wine lover, I was prepared to spend some money for a Cabernet to lay down. The lady in the tasting room urged me to buy the Bosché; the label then read Cabernet Bosché. I told her I wanted a Cabernet Sauvignon, not a Cabernet Bosché. I ended up buying their regular Cab, not the ageworthy Bosché. Oh well…
Matanzas Creek 2009 Chardonnay (Bennett Valley); $40, 7,379 cases, 14.4%. Excellent, crisp Chardonnay from this little-known cool region, at the base of Sonoma Mountain.
Thomas Fogarty 2007 Damiana Chardonnay (Santa Cruz Mountains); $48, 93 cases, 14.1%. Solid Chardonnay, from 30-plus year old vines grown 1,900 feet up in the mountains south of San Francisco.