At least three of this week’s top ten wines come from the celebrated Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley. Clendenen’s Nebbiolo may too; it doesn’t say on the label, but the likelihood is high. It’s the first Nebb to make it onto the top ten, and the best from California I’ve ever had. After that, the list is rounded out by three Pinot Noirs, three Syrahs and a trio of Chardonnays. Production on all wines was low, with none exceeding 835 cases. Laetitia unfortunately didn’t reveal production numbers, but my guess is that their Reserve du Domaine also was made in small quantities. You’ll see some well known names here: Jim Clendenen, Brian Talley, Greg La Follette, Brian Babcock, Dan Goldfield. Through life’s turmoils and upheavals, the old masters march on.
Au Bon Climat 2008 20 Years in the Shed with Bob at Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. $75, 75 cases, 13.5%. Santa Maria Valley. From Jim Clendenen. Bob is Bob Lindquist, proprietor of Qupe, who produces his wines in the same facility, located on the Bien Nacido estate.
Bien Nacido 2007 Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah. $52, 70 cases, 14.5%. From the Millers, proprietors of Bien Nacido, an inaugural release. Of course they have access to the best blocks!
Dutton-Goldfield 2009 Dutton Ranch-Freestone HIll Vineyard Pinot Noir. $58, 400 cases, 13.5%. Russian River Valley. Dan Goldfield at his best, in a superb vintage.
Babcock 2009 Upper Crust Syrah. $50, 145 cases, 15.6%. Santa Maria Valley. 100% Syrah. High octane, but balanced and lush.
Talley 2009 Rosemary’s Vineyard Chardonnay. $46, 207 cases, 14.5%. Always a favorite, from this great Arroyo Grande Valley vineyard.
Clendenen 2003 Brico Buon Natale Nebbiolo. $35, 450 cases, 14.1%. Santa Maria Valley. An awesome wine, nearly eight years old.
La Follette 2009 Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay. $30, 835 cases, 14.2%. Sonoma Coast.
K. Furtado 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard Chardonnay. $29, 190 cases, 14.6%.
Sanguis 2008 Endangered Species Rhone blend. $70, 175 cases, 15.2%. Syrah co-fermented with Viognier and Roussanne. The label says “California” but I believe the grapes are from Santa Barbara County.
Laetitia 2009 Reserve du Domaine Pinot Noir. $40, cases produced not known, 14.5%. From the sprawling estate in the Arroyo Grande Valley, one of the coolest growing areas along the coast.
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%
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%
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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.