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Top 10 wines of the week



It’s been a while since I posted a TTWOTW, so here goes.You can see my scores and full reviews in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast.

This was a good week for value wines. You’ll note that four of my Top Ten retail for less than $30, while the Dichotomy is just a few bucks more than that. Anytime you can get a 90 point or above wine for $30 and under, you should grab it.

Some old, familiar names made the list. Geyser Peak, Rutherford Hill and Alexander Valley Vineyards have been around forever. There’s a reason why they abide: they do a good job. Krupp Brothers has two of the top ten. I have fond memories from years ago when Dr. Jan Krupp, who with his brother Bart bought and developed the land that eventually became Stagecoach Vineyard, took me on a tour of the land. Stagecoach has obviously turned into an important vineyard and in my opinion is single-handedly responsible for turning around the reputation of the Atlas Peak AVA. The vineyard actually spans Atlas Peak and Pritchard Hill, which is not yet an appellation; wines from Stagecoach qualify “only” for the Napa Valley appellation. The Doctor red blend, by the way, is an imaginative and thoughtful combo of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. I really believe more wineries would create these non-traditional blends were it not for the 75% varietal-bottling rule and the fact that most Americans seem to need the reassurance of a varietal name and not a proprietary one. We writers and educators are going to have to work on that.

Anyhow, here’s the list. Have a great weekend! Back on Monday morning with some interesting news.

Krupp Brothers 2010 M5 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); $150.

Krupp Brothers 2011 The Doctor Red Blend (Napa Valley); $90.

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2010 Cyrus (Alexander Valley); $65.

Rutherford Hill 2012 Limited Release Chardonnay (Carneros); $28.

Dichotomy 2012 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley): $32.

Geyser Peak 2011 Tectonic Red Blend (Alexander Valley); $28.

MacLaren 2011 Stagecoach Vineyard Syrah (Napa Valley); $45.

Bruliam 2012 Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast); $55.

Amici 2012 Olema Pinot Noir (Sonoma County): $20.

Geyser Peak 2011 Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon (Alexander Valley); $28.

Top 10 Wines of the Week

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Napa Valley and particularly Mount Veeder star on this week’s list, which also features a pair of Pinot Noirs. As always, you’ll find my complete scores and reviews in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast. Have a great weekend!

Mount Veeder 2006 Reserve (Napa Valley). $80, 3,000 cases, 14.5%. A big, tannic, vital wine for the cellar.

Diamond Creek 2008 Volcanic Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). $175, 490 cases. 14.1%. Also Gravelly Meadow and Red Rock Terrace. All three of Diamond Creek’s 2008s are big, tough, substantial wines packed with youthful tannins and bright fruit. All three need serious time in the cellar.

Robert Mondavi 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). $135. 7,715 cases, 15.5%. Made in the ripe style that Mondavi’s been seeing lately, this Cab will nonetheless develop over the decade.

Brandlin 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder). $90, 500 cases, 14.5%. Hard mountain tannins make this Cab chewy and astringent. Needs plenty of time.

Robert Craig 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mount Veeder). $70, 846 cases, 14.8%. They knocked the heck out of those Veeder tannins and as a result the wine is softly drinkable on release. But it will age.

Fess Parker 2009 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County). $50, 596 cases, 14.9%. Fess Parker and Bien Nacido make for a great combo in this richly voluptuous Pinot.

Franciscan 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). $27, 110,000 cases, 13.5%. What a great value. This wine sneaked into a blind tasting with other Cabs on the list and did just fine.

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2007 Cyrus (Alexander Valley). $60, 2,900 cases, 14%. I’ve always been a fan of Cyrus despite its dry herbaceousness that makes it lean compared to Napa. The wine is a Bordeaux blend based on Cabernet Sauvignon.

Alpha Omega 2008 Proprietary Red Wine (Napa Valley). $88, 1,500 cases, 14.1%. It’s a rich, softly delicious Bordeaux blend that shows well now.

Lucienne 2009 Lone Oak Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Lucia Highlands). $50, case production not revealed, 14.5%. Flashy, but a bit disjointed. Needs 2-3 years to come around.

Top 10 Wines of the Week, and The Chardonnay Symposium


As eclectic a list as has ever appeared in the Top 10, showing how, in California’s democracy, almost any kind of wine from any appellation can be good. As always, you’ll find my complete reviews and scores in upcoming issues of Wine Enthusiast. Have fun this weekend and play safe.

Jarvis 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 460 cases, 14.7%, $195. Spectacular 100% Cab, from the Vacas east of Napa. Also, Jarvis 2007 Lake Williams Cabernet.

De Loach 2009 Stubbs Vineyard Pinot Noir, Marin County. 50 cases, 13.5%, $40. There’s not a lot of Pinot in Marin, but what there is is tantalizingly fresh and complex. Also the winery’s 2009 Chardonnay, from the same vineyard.

Neal Family 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. 924 cases, 13.7%, $18. One of the best Sauvignons on the market, and look at that price.

Phillips Hill 2009 Hinterlands Pinot Noir, Mendocino. 140 cases, 14%, $38.  A delicate, transparent and complex young Pinot.

PureCoz 2007 Red Blend, Napa Valley. Mitch Cosentino is back, and in fine style with this Bordeaux blend + Sangiovese.

Calcareous 2009 Viognier-Marsanne, Paso Robles. 437 cases, 14.7%, $28. Dry and racy, with exotic flavors.

J. Keverson 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Dry Creek Valley. 312 cases, 14.4%, $34. Dry Creek Cabernet at its slightly rustic, charming best.

Hall 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. 8,700 cases, alcohol not known, $22. Rich and fruity, with a touch of gooseberry. Sorry I forgot to note the ABV.

Lost Canyon 2009 Morelli Lane Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. 340 cases, 14.1%, $45. A big, rich, spicy and delicious Pinot for drinking now. Also their 2009 Saralee’s Pinot.

Gundlach Bundschu 2010 Estate Gewurztraminer, Sonoma Coast. 2,250 cases, 14.4%, $23. Textbook cool climate Gewurz, spicy and fruity.


I hope you’ll come by The Chardonnay Symposium this July 22-23, down in the Santa Maria Valley of Santa Barbara County. This is the only fullscale event devoted to Chardonnay in California. I’ll be heading up a symposium; Karen MacNeil will be doing another. Lots of great wine and food, educational seminars and cool winemakers. Now in its second year, The Chardonnay Symposium, I predict, is going to be one of the biggest, most important wine events of the year.

Top 10 wines of the week


Six Cabernet Sauvignons or Cab-based blends top this week’s list, with one Pinot Noir, one Syrah, one Rhône blend and a Chardonnay. Napa Valley dominates, with six placements. Yes, the prices are high, but you get what you pay for (usually). As always, you’ll find my complete scores and reviews in upcoming copies of Wine Enthusiast.

Von Strasser 2008 Reserve (Diamond Mountain). 278 cases, 14.2%, $125. Its firm tannins and solid fruit core make it ageworthy.

Vineyard 7&8 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (Spring Mountain). 600 cases, 14.8%,  $125. The best wine from this winery in memory. An ager.

D.R. Stephens 2008 Moose Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley). 400 cases, 14.9%, $125. From St. Helena. Rich and fine, and one for the cellar.

Maybach 2008 Weitz Vineyard “Materium” Cabernet Sauvignon (Oakville); 425 cases, 14.8%, $125. Minerals give this young Cab a sleek tang.

Harbison 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley); 150 cases, 14.2%, $90. Decadent and oaky, with lots of sweet fruit.

Testarossa 2009 Niclaire Pinot Noir (California); $75. A delicious best barrels blend from the winery’s various vineyards.

Dutton Estate 2008 My Father’s Vineyard Dutton Ranch Syrah (Russian River Valley); 120 cases, 15.2%, $40. Soft, spicy and fruity, a lush wine to drink now.

Waterstone 2007 Study in Blue (Napa Valley); Cases not revealed, 14.5%, $45. Rich and soft blend of Cab, Syrah and Merlot for drinking now.

Talbott 2009 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay (Santa Lucia Highlands); 7,728 cases, 14.9%, $40. Typical Talbott SHV, ultraripe, exotic and oaky.

PharoahMoans 2009 Westside (Paso Robles); Cases not revealed, 15.9%,  $95. Okay, so the alcohol is high. So what? Move over, Saxum, this Rhône blend is coming at ya.

Top 10 wines of the week


Napa Valley dominates this week’s list, with six Cabernet Sauvignons/Bordeaux blends and two Sauvignon Blancs. The remaining two wines are both from Paso Robles. As always, my full reviews and scores will appear in future issues of Wine Enthusiast. Today, I’m off on a trip I’ve been looking forward to: to tour the wineries of the eastern side of Oakville and figure out how the Cabernets differ from those grown on the western side, where the soils, light, fog and rainfall patterns are quite different. Have a great weekend!

Moone-Tsai 2008 Cor Leonis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $175, 220 cases, 14.5%. A terrific wine, made from fruit grown in Pritchard Hill and Coombsville.

Hestan 2007 Stephanie Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $50, 1,600 cases, 14.9%. Flashy and rich.

Merryvale 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $65, cases not revealed, 14.5%. Ripe, balanced and delicious.

Brander 2010 Mesa Verde Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley. $22, 560 cases, 13.5%. Unoaked, but rich and fruity.

Nickel & Nickel 2008 Martin Stelling Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville. $140, 373 cases, 14.5%. Very tannic, per the house style, but massive in fruit. A wine to age.

Dominus 2008, Napa Valley. $149, 4,500 cases, 14.1%. A solid wine off the Yountville estate.

Fuse 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. $22, 1,963 cases, 14.5%. Another great value from this brand.

Kiamie 2006 Kiamie Kuvée, Paso Robles. $38, 800 cases, 15%. An offbeat red blend, soft and rich.

Vina Robles 2010 White4, Paso Robles. $16, 3,910 cases, 14.2%. A dry, savory blend of several white varieties.

Cliff Lede 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. $23, 6,552 cases, 14.7%. A fine example of a ripe, Napa style Sauvignon Blanc.

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