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Top 10 wines of the week, 7/2-7/9, 2010


Six Cabernets/Bordeaux blends, one Pinot Noir, a Chardonnay, and — ta da! — two Tempranillos. Imagine that! You find my complete reviews and scores in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast.

Von Strasser 2007 Reserve Bordeaux Blend, Diamond Mountain. From a winery that’s really been hitting its peak lately comes this small-production gem. Made from Cabernet Sauvigon, Petite Verdot and Malbec, it’s just about perfect. Ageable, too. $125, 172 cases, 14.2%

Kudos also to Von Strasser’s 2007 Post Vineyard, Estate, Sori Bricco and Agira Cabernets, all of them extraordinary.

Dominus 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. Easily the best Dominus in memory, maybe ever. Yountville can be iffy, but the perfect 2007 vintage pushed the grapes to ripeness. Shows the usual finesse and elegance, with plenty of blackberry fruit. An obvious cellar candidate. $129, 5,000 cases, 14.1%

Byron 2008 Nielson Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley. From this famous old vineyard, the first commercial planting in Santa Barbara County, comes this absolutely delicious Pinot Noir. Hard to imagine anything tasting better. Good price, too. $34, 514 cases, 14.8%

Kudos also to Byron’s 2008 Monument, Bien Nacido, Julia’s and Sierra Madre Pinot Noirs.

Jarvis 2008 Tempranillo, Napa Valley. From the estate vineyard, high in the Vaca Mountains east of the Silverado Trail. Easily the greatest California Temp I’ve ever reviewed. That’s not saying much, but the wine truly is wonderful. $53, 136 cases, 14.5%

Azur 2007 Red Blend, Napa Valley  $55, 150 cases, 14.8%. Pity the winery provides so little information about this wine, either with paperwork that came with the bottle or online. Probably a Bordeaux blend, and a beauty, made in the cult style. Looks like Philippe Melka had a hand in production. Memo to owner Julien Fayard: more info, please!

Mario Bazan 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. A family-owned winery. Mario used to run Mondavi’s Tokalon and the Opus One vineyards, then went to Stag’s Leap before starting his eponymous winery, in 2005. This ‘07 Cab shows classic Napa elegance. $50, 290 cases, 14.2%

Twisted Oak 2007 The Spaniard Red Blend, Calaveras County. I’ve been a fan of The Spaniard for years. The blend is mainly Tempranillo, with some Graciano and Garnacha (Grenache). Complex flavors of cherry liqueur, green olives, cocoa. Very fine and unique. $49, 730 cases, 14.4%

Ledson 2007 Cepage, Sonoma County. Ledson’s wines are often overpriced, but they can be quite good, as evidenced by this stylish Bordeaux blend. Accessible now for its punchy fruit and sweet smoky oak. $86, 1001 cases, 14.5%

La Follette 2008 Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast. This is Greg La Follette’s (Tandem, DeLoach) latest effort. He turns to old friends, the Sangiacomos, for the grapes, which are mainly the Wente clone. The wine is exotic, minerally and, yes, Burgundian. $30, 395 cases, 14.1%

Whitehall Lane 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. May be too soft for extended ageability, but super-delicious over the next six years. Shows great concentration and depth. The grapes are from St. Helena and Rutherford. From a sometimes overlooked winery. $60, 2,260 cases, 14.5%

  1. Steve,
    Thank you for choosing our wine in your top 10 selection. I obviously owe you a little more information.
    This is my personal project I started in 2007. I have been working closely with Philippe since 2006 but kept things very separate.
    Azur is the result of my own vision and wine-making. The blend is a Bordeaux blend plus Syrah with fruits from Rutherford and Stagecoach. I describe this wine as a proprietary blend to be judged on the very own personality of the wine besides varietals but respecting the Bordeaux style by education.
    Looking forward to showing you more in the future. – Julien

  2. Carlos Toledo says:

    Hi Steve.

    How do you set the wines temperatures if the tasting is truly blind (i trust you on this completely)? What i mean is: any given wine or grapes could taste/smell better or worse at, say 18C or 20C….or 17C and so on.


  3. Carlos, I don’t worry too much about temperature. Reds are room temp. Whites come out of the fridge about 15-20 mins. before.

  4. Steve,

    Jeff and Scott are doing great things for the Calaveras area and the Spanaird is one of their very best.

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