During the course of 2018 AppellationsTen tasted many wines from around the world. Some of these wines caught our attention in particular. These outstanding wines deserve special mention and make up our Significant Seventy for 2018. We hope you will find them significant too.
Why did we find these wines significant? First look at the meaning of “significant”, which indicates remarkable, worthy of attention, noteworthy. Something in these wines and caused us to take particular notice. Overall quality of course, but the impact of a wine upon us is important, and any of a number of the wine’s attributes, for example the sensual aspects, delivery, or texture that were gratifying or unique. Unique wines usually enthuse us.
In line with the scope of AppellationsTen, the Significant Seventy are not confined to a particular country or area. The world is our domain. Price is not a selection factor and wines come from across the spectrum. The only ordering in the text is by wine style grouped as follows –
A• Special Recognition
A• Pinot Noir
A• Bordeaux, France, Red
A• Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-Style Blends
A• Further Red
A• Dessert, White
Price Performance wines
For 2018 we have acknowledged a few wines that show exceptional value for money. These wines are annotated PP (Price Performance) next to the price. We plan to increase this category in coming years.
A few mature wines are included in our selection. These serve to demonstrate the ageability of particular varietals or producers.
AppellationsTen is excited to bring you the most exciting wines we tasted during 2018. We encourage you to investigate these wines and find adventure in the process. We hope you are as thrilled and inspired by these wines as we are!
For 2018 we are giving special recognition to the top wines in the following categories –
Wine of the year. As the name suggests, the most noteworthy and of the highest quality.
Greatest Impact. A wine that will be immediately esteemed upon drinking, and long remembered.
Most Unique. Novel, original, and individualistic. Not to attract attention, but for the conviction and effort to assist a particular wine, grape varietal, or terroir to display its best. Such labors help the international wine market to avoid a too narrow and complacent path.
Honorable Mention. Worthy of acknowledgement.
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Wine of the year, 2018
97, Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron, Pauillac, 2015
The finest Pichon Baron I had the pleasure of tasting. Astounding elegance and thrilling purity on a texture of satin. Inside this sublime ruby-purple envelope lies a classically structured Pauillac. Incredibly perfect balance of fruit, acidity, and fully integrated, structuring tannins. The size is not apparent, but the character is riveting. Great and instantaneous impact! Notes of cassis, peony, lead pencil, and minerality. The composition is almost four parts Cabernet Sauvignon to one-part Merlot. Barely medium in weight with great purity of fruit, the impression is powerful. Profound classicism and refinement!
Greatest Impact, 2018
95, Château Suduiraut, Sauternes, 2015
Viscous and rich is this radiant light gold, mid-weight-plus Suduiraut. Showcases an intense, aromatic nose of fresh sliced apricots, acacia honey, and orange marmalade. The acid-sugar balance could not be more perfect. Delivers fresh intensity, great impact, and fine length. A real beauty!
Most unique, 2018
95, Cabernet Franc, Drava, Lodi, 2014
Steve Carson, winemaker at Drava and co-owner along with his brother William, has encouraged the Cabernet Franc grape in his 2014 to expose its grace, class, and refinement to uncommon heights. Drava’s extraordinary 82-case production offers enticing expressive fruit, great elegance, and a sublime character while unveiling notes of boysenberry, black-cherry, and a hint of peony. Deft, buoyant, and light in touch this wine nevertheless delivers great presence. Transparent ruby with purple highlights, the wine features great purity of fruit with a respectable level of tension, prodigious expression, and a lightly tangy finish. Amazingly subtle and delicate with a very fine touch. About $26 PP
Honorable mention, 2018
95, Blackbird Vineyards Paramour Napa Valley 2010
The right treatment and blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot can form a gorgeous elixir. Usually this formula comes to mind with Château Cheval Blanc in St. Emilion, France. Another winery that got it right is Blackbird in Napa Valley with their 2010 Paramour offering. Dazzling purity of fruit and clarity does this effort provide. Demonstrating suppleness and nimbleness the wine is loaded with ripe, sweet fruit delivering aromas of fresh blackberries, forest floor, and pencil shavings, followed on the palate by black cherries, dark plums, black raspberries. The ripe structuring tannins are wrapped in the sweet fruit and are imperceptible. About $125.
93, Aglianico del Vulture, 2008 Bisceglia Gudarrà
Bisceglia, a forty-hectare estate of indigenous and international varietals founded in 2001 in the Aglianico DOC appellation of Southern Italy, says that soils of volcanic origin bring out the best in the black Aglianico grape. The Aglianico vine originated in Greece and was brought to southern Italy by Greek immigrants. This semi-transparent ruby Aglianico del Vulture delivers the impact of intense ripe flavors of red cherries, red bramble berries, and mineral overtones of granitic gravel. The fine-grained, tannins lend to the light texture and are largely absorbed by the rich fruit, yet provide a notable structure to the Aglianico. This inviting 2008 displays bright acidity providing refreshing lift, good length, and an extraordinary character. A grape varietal all should get to know, and this wine is a real price-performer! About $17. PP
91, Pinot Noir, Alma Rosa Winery, Bentrock Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, 2016
Alma Rosa is located in the Santa Rosa Road corridor under Pacific Ocean influence on north-facing slopes, where the heat of the afternoon sun is reduced which, they say, permits optimal ripening. This dark-ruby-purple, 290 case effort by Alma Rosa is packed full of dark, sweet, rich, full-flavored fruit. Aromas of black cherry, rose petal, and sassafras climb from the glass, and strawberry, black tea, and cinnamon traverse the palate. This mid-full weight features a velvety texture with fine tannins, and good length. About $62.
91, Pinot Noir, Byron Winery, Monument Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, 2014
More than any other characteristics, Byron’s Pinot Noir over the decades exude a medium to full-bodied roundness with dimensionality, a silky-smooth glycerol-like texture, and they always showcase the attributes of the Pinot Noir grape varietal faithfully. This 2014 Monument is no exception. Most notable on the palate are black-cherries, mulberries, with just a whisper of green tea. The grapes source from alluvial outcroppings and sandy loam soils at an elevation of 500 to 800 feet above sea level about18 miles from the Pacific. Byron calls Monument their flagship Pinot Noir. Roughly 300 cases were produced and oak was 100% French about 90% new. About $45.
91, Pinot Noir, Cuvée Laurène, Domaine Drouhin, Dundee Hills, Oregon, 2015
Fresh and delicate showing bright fruit with great purity and complexity. Delivers fresh red cherries, pomegranate, sassafras, and cardamom aromas and on the palate. Red with ruby highlights, this pretty 2015 which Domaine Drouhin calls their flagship also offers fine grained tannins and good length. Sourced from Drouhin’s estate vineyard, grapes are destemmed, fermented with indigenous yeasts, and then élevage takes place in French oak of which no more than 20% are new. About $70.
92, Pinot Noir, Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Akiko’s Cuvée, Sonoma Coast, 2016
This medium-bodied, dark ruby-purple Pinot Noir delivers a rich robust character along with a deliciously near-compelling quality. Simultaneously Akiko’s Cuvée reveals refinement, excellent definition, and fine balance while offering a rich rear-palate of intense, sweet red and dark fruit punctuated by Moyer plum, pomegranate, blueberries, and sassafras. Has Burgundy character with a California sunt6an. This 420-case production for 2015 is a selection of the finest cellar lots sourced from Freeman’s two estate vineyards Yu-ki and Gloria at 35% and 20% respectively, with the balance coming from Campbell Ranch, KR, and Pratt Sexton at 15% each. The selection is typically sourced from cool locals, and 2015 is no exception. After a five-day cold-soak, fermentation occurs in open-top fermenters with hand punch-down up to three times daily. élevage follows for 11 months in French oak 45% of which are new, 20% one-year-old, and 35% neutral. About $50.
93, Pinot Noir, Hitching Post Wines, Cork Dancer, California Central Coast, 2015
Dark transparent dimensional ruby, this blend of grapes sourced from Santa Maria Valley and the Santa Rita Hills displays dark fruit with great purity, delivers great flavor content, is exceedingly expressive, and shows fine intensity, all without excesses. Cork Dancer is very nicely structured with gentle tannins, is representative of the varietal, and is just really good Pinot Noir! About $30.
92, Pinot Noir, Lutum Wines, Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, 2014
Velvet textured and perfectly balanced, the alcohol is pleasingly moderate at 13.9% in this deep garnet 2014. Offers rich fruit without extremes unveiling Chelan cherries, pomegranate, and cinnamon. Medium to light-weight, the finish is long and juicy. The grapes for this wine were sourced from slopes of clay-loam soils from the Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, first planted in 1972. Regime in the cellar was destemming, a five-day cold-soak, fermentation, then 18 months in French oak barrels. About $64
93, Pinot Noir, Radio-Coteau, La Neblina, Sonoma Coast, 2016
The calling card to this exciting 2016 Pinot Noir is its exceedingly expressive flavor content. The aromas are intriguingly viny, while La Neblina unveils on the palate spicy dried brambleberries, raspberries, dark red cherries, and a note of sarsaparilla. The name means fog in Spanish due to the effect of the misty blanket that enters from the Pacific Ocean cooling the coastal Pinot Noir vineyards appropriately. La Neblina is Radio-Coteau‘s flagship Pinot Noir sourcing in 2016 from the Kirk Lokka, Radio-Coteau, and Alberigi vineyards, and is bottled unfined and unfiltered. About $50
91, Pinot Noir, Sinor-LaVallee, White Label-Bassi Vineyard, San Luis Obispo County, 2016
The calling-card of Mike Sinor’s White Label-Bassi Vineyard Pinot Noir is expressiveness and flavor content. Mid-weight with rich, sweet fruit, yet agile showing fine balance and good length. Delicious, featuring mulberry, blueberry, and strawberry in the glass, with juniper and candied orange peel aromas. For this ultra-limited effort from estate grapes grown 1.2 miles from the Pacific Sinor says he selects clones, blocks, and barrels that yield wines with lower alcohol and higher acidity. About $45.
92, Pinot Noir, Gisèle, WillaKenzie Estate, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2015
WillaKenzie’s Gisèle is all about agility and expressiveness of the place, of the fruit, and of this dark ruby purple-tinged semi-transparent 2015 Pinot Noir. Delivers complexity and good flavor content to the glass – strawberries, boysenberries, violets, and just a hint of allspice and forest floor. The agility manifests itself as animation and responsiveness in the touch and feel. This is also a complex wine. WillaKenzie calls the winery a “site-driven, estate winery”. Gisèle, named after the founder’s sister, is a 40/60 blend of fruit from the Jory Hills and WillaKenzie Estate vineyards. The vineyards are named after the soil types: Jory’s soil is volcanic, and WillaKenzie’s is ancient sedimentary soil of marine origin. Cellar treatment on this 180-case production included a six-day cold soak, partial whole berry fermentation, with total time on skins of about 20 days. Élevage, 10 months in French oak, 20% new. About $30
90, Pinot Noir, Chehalem Winery, Corral Creek Vinyards, Chehalem Mountains, Newberg, Oregon, 2014
Chehalem Winery produced this 262-case effort from one of their estate vineyards, Corral Creek, which lies in the Chehalem Mountains AVA, entirely within the Willamette Valley AVA in Oregon. Élevage was 11-months in French oak, part new and part one-year old. This medium-light weight, red-purple 2014 demonstrates very respectable fruit featuring red cherries, strawberries, with a hint of caraway seed in a mineral setting. Possesses really nice overall balance and finishes quite long. About $50
91, Pinot Noir, The Eyrie Vineyards, 2015
Pastel-maroon in color, the restrained character and mineral overtones of this Pinot Noir hold the interest for what ensues. On the palate red and black cherries with just a hint of cranberries open. This mid-weight shows a velvety texture with mild, well-integrated tannins, excellent overall balance, and quality dark fruit. Grapes are over two thirds estate fruit which is certified organically farmed on basalt soil, and élevage is in 11% new French oak. A nice modest 13.6%. About $30
89, Pinot Noir, Calera Wines, Central Coast, 2016
This red-purple mid-light weight opens with a slight texture and a mineral background. Aromas of forest floor and white pepper followed on the palate by red fruit, spice-box, and herbal notes. The cellar regime was 14 days primary fermentation, 100% malolactic fermentation, and 11 months in 100% French oak, 10% new and 90% neutral. About $30
90, Pinot Noir Bouchaine Estate Carneros 2015
Ruby in color, this graceful mid-weight Pinot Noir unveils aromas of mulberries, red cherries, and cloves and represents the varietal well. Just a hint of tannins that time should solve. Supple on the palate with a nice touch and long finish. About $35
Bordeaux, France, Red
94, Chateau Canon La Gaffelière, St.-Émilion, 2015
The 2015 Canon La Gaffelière is composed of three parts Merlot, two parts Cabernet Franc, and the balance in Cabernet Sauvignon from organically certified estate grapes. The organic certification simply adds to the progress that proprietor Stephan von Neipperg has achieved over time with this chateau. This deep ruby St.-Émilion showcases a savory and delicious trait that spells hedonistic in style. Boasting ripe blackberries, spicy dark plums, and fresh roasted coffee, this is a wine plentiful with rich fruit that envelope the ripe tannins. Lightly textured, the acid level elevates the fruit.
94, Clos Fourtet, St.-Émilion, 2015
Pretty, semi-transparent ruby in color, is this blend of nearly 90% Merlot, with the balance in Cabernet Sauvignon and half as much Cabernet Franc. Lightly textured and bright, the 2015 Clos Fourtet, is rich and lavish in character, delivering profuse savory fruit. Aromas of blueberries and violets, with boysenberries. spice-box, and chocolate on the palate. Well-structured with mild, ripe tannins.
94, Chateau Larcis Ducasse, St.-Émilion, 2015
The 2015 Larcis Ducasse is a very compelling effort showing plenty of elegance. Nicolas Thienpont and Stéphane Derencourt have put together a blend approaching 90% Merlot, with the balance in Cabernet Franc offering fresh dark cherries, raspberry pie, dark plum and a nuance of cinnamon. Reveals a smooth, light texture with rich fruit of excellent purity. Ripe, well integrated tannins provide structure and the acid level creates lift.
92, Chateau Clinet, Pomerol, 2015
Toasted oak in the nose, along with black cherries and plum, with a deep-ruby color. Plentiful rich dark quality fruit in the foreground. The components are in balance, with acid lift and mild, well managed tannins. Lush power, inviting, and well made.
93, Chateau Gazin, Pomerol, 2015
A big one is this dark-ruby 2015 Gazin! Loads of opulent black fruit with in a forward style. Black cherry, blackberry, with hints of roasted coffee and toasty-oak on the palate, the wine displays good balance, and delivers a delicious character. The big, ripe, structuring tannins are fully absorbed into the rich, dense fruit.
93, Chateau Haut-Bailly, Pessac-Léognan, 2015
Deep ruby with purple highlights, delivers aromatic, perfumed notes of plum, black currants, with a blueberry touch. Bright with elevated acid levels. The 2015 Haut-Bailly boasts a delicious character with ripe sweet tannins, great purity to the rich dark fruit, and a certain precise bearing to its medium-body, all concluding in a lengthy finish.
91, Chateau Olivier blanc, Pessac-Léognan, 2015
Pale straw in color with sparkling silver highlights is this blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Sémillon. Herbaceous aromas of dry/green grass, jalapeño, and gooseberry, while on the palate bright grapefruit and white peach. This impressive medium-light-weight delivers a silky suppleness, impact, and precision in character. Fine effort!
92, Chateau Léoville-Barton, St-Julien, 2015
Dark purple color, the 2015 Léoville-Barton is a blend of nearly 15% Merlot with the balance Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend carries some weight while delivering notes of spice-box, blackberry, and lead pencil. Great purity of fruit, outstanding balance, significant tannins that are well integrated into the fruit, and excellent length.
93, Chateau Léoville-Poyferré, St-Julien, 2015
Dark ruby in color, the 2015 Léoville-Poyferré shows a light richness with good flavor content. The composition is about two thirds Cabernet Sauvignon, a quarter Merlot, and a dollop each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Offers black currant, blackberry, cedar, and graphite. Delivers plentiful ripe fruit, a smooth character, fine freshness, and boasts a superb balance of fruit, tannin, and acid.
91, Chateau La Lagune, Haut-Médoc, 2015
Radiant ruby, the 2015 La Lagune reveals a delicious character, good flavor content, and rich forward fruit. In the glass well balanced with a smooth texture, giving up black cherry, blackberry, spiciness, and cedar, all leading to a lengthy finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux-Style Blends
93, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000 Araujo Eisele Vineyard, Napa Valley
The 38-acre Eisele Vineyard at the base of the Palisades near Calistoga was originally planted to grape vines in 1884. Here they say “winemaking takes a back seat to terroir”. In 1990 Bart and Daphne Araujo purchased the Eisele Vineyard from Eisele and in 2001 they converted to biodynamic farming practices. The services of high-profile consulting enologist Michel Rolland were also enlisted. The 2000 effort from Eisele Vineyard exceeds four-fifths Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest in Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, and Merlot. This deep ruby-purple offering is a sensational example of aged Cabernet! Agile on the palate and displaying fabulous complexity, this mid-to-light-weight delivers great impact. Offers up aromas of antique wood, tobacco leaf, violets, and petrichor, while on the palate black currants, red and black cherries, and dried figs. Excels at exceptional balance with fine delineation. An extraordinary effort! About $180.
92, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Pride Reserve, Napa-Sonoma County
Pride Mountain Vineyards, a 235-acre property, straddles the Napa-Sonoma County line at the top of Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Mountain Range at an elevation of 2,100 feet. Pride says they strive to make “big red wines on the black-fruit side of the ripeness spectrum that nonetheless maintain balance, nuance, and complexity”. Pride Reserve has the benefit of excellent terroir consisting of red volcanic soil almost entirely dry-farmed, stimulating roots reaching 30 feet deep, including being sourced mainly form Prides’ vineyard block with the oldest vines first planted in 1982. The grapes reap the benefits of the elevation encompassing generally better drained soils and greater phenolic content from the UV stimulating thicker skins. This 2014, purple with cobalt hues in color, was fermented in stainless with élevage in French oak. Harvest took place in October for this blend of 97% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Petit Verdot. Delivers black cassis, black cherry, and black tea with just a hint of graphite. Richly fruited but deft, showcases a graceful snowflake-like texture, a supple touch and feel, and uncommon demeanor making impact in an understated way. About $145.
92, Cabernet Sauvignon Silverado Vineyards Napa Valley 2004
A blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon with a dollop each of Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cabernet Franc tossed in sourced from some of Napa Valley’s notable vineyards including Stags Leap District Vineyard, Mt. George, and Haystack. Brick-red and packed with lush, ripe, sweet fruit is Silverado’s 2004 Cabernet. Very approachable and lavishly inviting with a supple touch on the palate, the ’04 delivers black cherry, blueberry, and freshly baked blackberry pie. Despite the near-decadence the wine is nicely balanced and classy. About$50.
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Trinchero, Central Park West, St. Helena, Napa Valley
Dark-ruby in color, Trinchero’s 2013 delivers rich black cherry and blackberry fruit with a cholate cordial background. Revealing an intense rear-palate this dense Cabernet Sauvignon displays a razor-sharp focus, excellent balance, and a heightened acid level making it a great food companion. About $95.
94, Cabernet Sauvignon Ghost Block Estate Oakville 2015
The fruit for Ghost Block’s 2016 Cabernet was sourced from their organic certified 30-year-old estate vineyard, Rock Cairn, situated with a western exposure on deep, gravelly loam. Delicious and opulent, the 2015 Ghost Block Estate brings a panoply of aromas and flavors to the glass of tangy mulberries, blackberries, caramel, and milk chocolate. This deep purple, black-hued Cabernet is a complete package demonstrating harmony of parts, a supple touch, and is underpinned by fresh quality fruit wrapped in mild tannins. About $65.
91, Cabernet Sauvignon Palmaz Vineyards 2014 Coombsville
A 3,904 case effort of 99% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc, the 2014 Palmaz spent 21 months in 92%new French oak and was bottled July of 2016 at14.9% alcohol. This deep ruby-purple Cabernet opens with ripe sweet fruit revealing intense notes of red and black currants, spices, red brambleberries, caramel, and juniper. A dense and well-balanced wine, and quite approachable despite the notable tannins peering through the fruit which nearly envelope them. About $185.
92, Acumen PEAK Cabernet Sauvignon, Atlas Peak, Napa Valley, 2012
Acumen’s PEAK Cabernet sources from high elevation estate grapes on Atlas Peak. This dark-ruby colored mid-weight delivers good definition and well-structured dark fruit supported by heightened acid levels. Brings black-currants, blueberries, star-anise, and flint to the glass with well-managed tannins and a lengthy finish. About $150.
92, Groth “Reserve” Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
The fruit for Groth‘s Reserve Cabernet, about one fifth Merlot, comes from their 165-acre estate in Oakville. Deep purple in color yielding dark berries, fresh baked fruit cobbler, spice box, and a hint of anise. Displays delicious flavor content. especially on the rear palate. A little more time and the tannins will have completely harmonized with the considerable fruit. The structure is certainly there, and the acid level generates refreshing lift. About $145.
93, Cabernet Sauvignon Robert Craig Estate Howell Mountain 2011
The Robert Craig Winery, founded in 1992, lies on 150 acres at 2,300 feet along the highest ridge of Howell Mountain. Their specialty is small-lot, mountain grown Cabernets. Robert, growing Napa mountain cabernet since 1980, had a key role in the in creating the Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain AVA’s. This deep ruby-purple 2011 is a blend of mainly Cabernet Sauvignon with under 10% each of Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot, and spent near 18 months in French oak, predominately new. If anything, this Cabernet is expressive and subtle on the palate, although plenty of extract is apparent. The moderate tannins are in harmony with the ripe, rich, dark fruit. Delivers black plums, crème de cassis, and black-cherry compote on the palate with mineral overtones. About $100.
92, Bordeaux Blend, Opus One Napa Valley 2014
Obscuring-purple in color, this mid-weight unveils aromas of pungent mulberries, violets, mocha, and tobacco leaf. Well extracted and intense, black fruit follows on the palate including black-currants, and black-cherries. Well-structured with firm tannins apparent toward the finish, showing cut and depth of character. About $330.
91, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 Hall Bergfeld, St. Helena, Napa Valley
This ruby colored Bergfeld Cabernet from Hall estate fruit, planted in gravelly alluvial soil showcases red berry and cherry fruit, with a hint of baking spices and a whisper of toasty oak. Refreshing and bright from the elevated acid level, this 2914 demonstrates definite substance and intensity, but with polish and balance. About $175.
91, Bordeaux blend, Rudd 2014
Rudd’s 2014 Bordeaux-style blend is a mélange of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot, all coming from Leslie Rudd’s Oakville estate grapes. The vines are situated on red volcanic core stone overlaid by alluvial fan gravel. Opaque ruby in color with a predominating dusty-violet hue, the wine is silky smooth and softly-textured on the palate conveying extraordinary opulence. Yields gorgeous blue Damson plum, black currants, blueberry, juniper, and sassafras. About $240.
90, Cabernet Sauvignon Silver Oak Soda Canyon Napa Valley 2013
Silver Oak’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot. The wine spent 24 months in 85% new and 15% once used American oak, plus 20 months more in bottle. This ruby-purple Cabernet offers up fresh blackberries, crème de cassis, with notes of tobacco leaf and dill. After a smooth entry, structuring tannins in this mid-weight manifest on the rear palate and lead into a lengthy finish.
91, Bordeaux Blend Delectus Cuvee Julia Napa Valley 2007
In the 2007 Cuvee Julia Delectus has fashioned a heavy-weight, textured and intense, featuring a complex character. The tannins are ostensible but is well compensated for by the coating and rich black fruit. Decadent dried figs, black currants, and dark cholate lead into the long finish. All this grandiloquence yields quite a delicious, red wine. About $93.
91, Sauvignon Blanc, Materra, Cunat Family Vineyards, Napa Valley, 2017
This pale-straw 2017 conveys hardly a clue of sweetness in its invigorating acidic frame. This brisk style of Sauvignon Blanc fits the character of the varietal so well. Aromas of dry grass and white grapefruit, and essences of the palate fresh lemon and caramel sauce. About $25.
91, 2013 Stony Hill Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay
Founders Fred and Eleanor McCrea enjoyed their first Stony Hill vintage on Spring Mountain in 1952. Winemaker Mike Chelini has been fashioning their renowned Chardonnay for nearly forty years. The pale gold 2013, a nine-year old mid-weight, is aging gracefully revealing complexity, softened edges, fine balance, notable viscosity, and a silk-like palate-feel. Displays purity of fruit with a harmony of pear, green apple, almonds, and just hints of pineapple and flint.
93, Riesling Keller Abtserde Grosses Gewächs 2006
Elegance with some size best defines this light gold Riesling from Keller. No bigger than mid-weight, this Trocken brings some viscosity, suppl PPs, and rich fruit with a sensual touch to the glass. The aromas unveil notes of lemon curd, white peach, and petrol. Although not bright, the acid level is noted. Glides across the palate nicely and finishes well. About $120.
92, Sauvignon Blanc, Acumen, Mountainside, Napa Valley, 2017
The brisk entry and invigorating acidic structure of this light-straw colored, medium-light-weight is truly in synch with the character of the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety. This deft 2017 delivers not only intensity, but deftness too. Showing refreshing, herbaceous, and grassy aromas, a hint of white grapefruit on the palate complements and the finish is long. About $30
90, Verdejo, Bokisch, Clay Station Vineyard, Lodi, 2016
Part of this 164-case effort by Bokisch was permitted to remain on the skins for four hours before going to press and fermentation in an effort to enhance complexity. Aging took place in stainless steel drums, with portions in new French oak and Acacia barrels. This mid-weight pale Verdejo, typically produced in Rueda, Spain, yields aromas of white spring flowers, fresh sliced honeydew melon, and fennel. Smooth and gentle on the palate while not showing excessive acidity, this delicious 2016 delivers fresh white peach with a hint of golden raisins. About $20 PP
91, Chardonnay, Rombauer Vineyards, Carneros, 2016
Rombauer continues annually with their absolutely delicious, in-your-face, as I like to refer to it, Chardonnay. Showcasing a creamy, smooth texture, and stuffed with aromas and flavors of fresh pineapple, mango, apricot pie, and Creme Brule. In the cellar the grapes received whole-cluster pressing while still cool, then cold-settled overnight. The juice was next racked to barrel for primary and malolactic fermentations. Lees were stirred at two-week intervals to enhance the rich creamy aspects. About $37
92, Pahlmeyer, Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015
Pahlmeyer’s 2015 Napa Valley cuvée is composed of fruit from their estate vines at 1,700 ft. in elevation on Atlas Peak. The wine experienced both fermentation and élevage in new French oak, chiefly Vosges VTG, for 11 months and was bottled without fining or filtration. Delivers Meyer lemon zest, almonds, and notes of citrus blossoms. Concentrated and dense conveying viscosity on the palate. Despite the 100% malolactic fermentation, the wine’s presentation is precise, focused, as well as showing fine purity of fruit and a lengthy, flavorful finish. About $75.
92, Chardonnay, Pahlmeyer Savoir Faire 2014
Pahlmeyer puts their specially selected barrels of Chardonnay into “Savoir Faire”, which in French means understanding how to perform something well. Deep golden in color, the aroma unveils rich aromatics of honeyed pineapple, apricot, and hazelnuts while the palate follows full and fleshy delivering apple turnover, D’Anjou pear, and subdued anise. Full-bodied with ripe, opulent fruit, purity, and good balance. About $125.
92, Albarino de Fefinanes, Bodegas del Palacio, 2017
Pale straw in color. Aromas of the ocean come to mind, with sliced lemon and Granny Smith apple. Bright on the palate with restrained notes of tart citrus and mineral. Purity of fruit, nicely balanced, statuesque, good length, very well focused and seamlessly integrated. Notably refreshing. About $27
93, Chablis Premier Cru, Le Domaine d’Henri, “Fourchaume, 2014
Great character with proper firmness in this structured, mineral-driven (think granite) Premier Cru. This pretty straw-yellow, mid-weight Chablis makes a statement and correctly portrays its appellation. Exhilarating acid level with superb balance of components and taste. Restrained flavors of lemon-lime citrus and green apple. A real piece of work! About $42
89, Viognier, Berghold, Lodi, 2015
A big one from east Lodi yielding gorgeous aromas of peach, stone fruit, melon, and fennel. Viscous, rich, and intense, the acid level is elevated, nicely balancing the robust character and making for food-friendliness. This pale gold Viognier was aged in stainless steel. About $24 PP
91, Keenan Spring Mountain Chardonnay 2015
Keenan’s 2015 Chardonnay was fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels. Remaining on the lees for bâtonnage, barrels were stirred weekly. No malolactic fermentation occurred, and bottling took place after seven months of aging. Sourced entirely from dry farmed estate fruit at an elevation of 1,700 feet on Spring Mountain, this pale straw Chardonnay by Keenan delivers a honeyed nose with pineapple and acacia, along with pear and mineral tones on the palate. This very approachable Chardonnay displays gorgeous purity of ripe fruit with an uncommon light texture. About $35.
90, Viognier, Peirano Estate Vineyards, Lodi, 2016
In 1879 a grape grower from Genoa, Italy, one Giacomo Peirano, immigrated to California with visions of the Gold Rush in mind. Fortunately for us, he later apparently decided there was more gold in grapes, bringing Zinfandel cuttings from his family’s vineyard in Italy to plant on 300 acres of land that he purchased in Lodi. Estate grown, this pale-gold Viognier opens with aromas of stone fruit, mineral tones of wet gravel, and honey, followed with hints of anise, tangerine, and fresh sliced peaches on the palate. Aged in 4% new French oak barrels, the notable structure and elevated acid level contrasts flawlessly with the rich fruit. With its weight, size, and intensity this white could virtually be labeled muscular. Demonstrates notable character and fine length punctuated by pleasant bitters. About $16. PP
92, Chardonnay Rombauer Proprietor Selection 2016 Carneros
Rombauer’s Proprietor Selection is selected from the best, or is a combination of the most harmonious vineyard blocks in top vintages, like a “reserve”. The 2016 is just 8th vintage in 35 years. Unveils aromas of caramelized pineapple, tropical guava, and baked pear tart, followed on the palate by white peach, pears, and warm baked cloved-apple. The palate of Rombauer’s Chardonnay is generally plush with a lavish, opulent richness and a velvety, creamy texture, and this 2016 is no exception despite having no malolactic fermentation. About $70
90, Chardonnay, Barnett Vineyards, Sangiacomo, Carneros, 2017, about $35
The distinguishing characteristic of this sparkling medium-light-gold Chardonnay is exceptional purity of fruit. Showing pineapple and mango aromas this mid-light-weight Chardonnay is especially smooth. Delivers outstanding overall balance, finishing quite long with notes of pear and stone fruit on the palate. The 38% malo-lactic fermentation left sufficient malic for a firm framework of acidity.
91, Zinfandel, Drava, Lodi, 2014, This 146-case effort by Drava was harvested quite late at 28.3 Brix, hence the16.5% alcohol level, which does not flaunt itself. Medium-light-purple in color, this Zin delivers aromas of jammy-sweet, red and black fruit. Quite subtle in character, but plenty of complexity with great expressiveness, on the palate Drava’s Zin displays raspberries and strawberries with a smooth texture. About $26. PP
91, Petite Sirah, 2014 David Fulton Winery, St. Helena, Napa Valley
Black-inky-purple, David Fulton’s big, muscular 2014 was produced from 100% Petite Sirah fruit from their estate vineyard. Loaded with black plum, blueberry, and mocha, this heavy-weight is well proportioned with an inobtrusive, structuring tannic frame and a long finish. About $52.
90, Zinfandel 2015 Robert Biale Founding Fathers Napa Valley
Biale’s transparent purple Founding Fathers Zinfandel opens with aromas of aromatic tangy mulberries and wet gravel, followed by dark brambleberry jam, red plum, and black pepper in the mouth. Hedonistic in character, this mid-weight has sufficient heft, it excels at delicious flavor content which is Biale’s hallmark, and showcases a nice smooth feel with well-managed, soft tannins. About $29.
89, Garnacha, Bokisch, Lodi, 2015 Pale-pastel red-purple is this 280-case production of Bokisch 2015 Garnacha. Showcases red-bramble berries, cranberries, and a note of roasted peanuts. Balanced, bright, and refreshing with a lengthy finish. About $25. PP
91, Zinfandel Tres Sabores Perspective Rutherford Perspective Estate 2015
A deep ruby agile Zin delivering a fully-fruited palate of black-raspberries, bramble berries, dark plum jam, and baking spices. The wine’s mid-light weight belies its bright energy and fruity richness. Smoothly textured, ripe tannins, demonstrates complexity and good balance. In English Tres Sabores means three flavors. More specifically, and according to owner – winemaker Julie Johnson, the three flavors at Tres Sabores are terroir, vines, and spirit. The estate fruit is dry-farmed and the age is nearly four decades. A nice piece of work. About $50
93, Le Pianelle, Bramaterra, Piemonte, 2011
This blend comes from Bramaterra, a northern subregion in Piemonte (alto Piemonte) which outshone its southern neighbors Barolo and Barbaresco in wine production significance prior to World War I. The soils of cooler climate Bramaterra are primarily sandy and volcanic, contrasted with the calcareous marls in Barolo and Barbaresco. The 2011 mix, principally Nebbiolo with about a tenth each of local red varietals Vespolina and Croatina, was fermented in Tino, large conical oak vats, then aged in used larger casks and used barriques for nearly two years. This 2011 effort, Le Pianelle’s second, would not be called dense but does display a robust presence. Dusky garnet in color, the wine is lightly textured and very slightly coating displaying good purity of fruit and uniqueness of character. On the palate stone, black cherry, and a hint of black tea. About $39
90, Plavac Mali, Grgic Vina, Grgich Hills Estate, 2016
Plavac Mali’s parent is Zinfandel, or as it is known in its native Croatia, Crljenak Kastelanski. Such an uncommon aroma and taste profile, and all good.in this deep-violet colored wine. Presents real personality with aromas of dusty, dark cherry-fruit revealing a Mediterranean herbaceous charm alongside an earthy character. At least mid-weight with fine tannins, the touch and feel are soft with a faint mealy impression to the texture. Not shy on alcohol at 15%, this 100% Plavac Mali was harvested September 10-17 with sugar at 25 degrees Brix and fermented in stainless steel, and saw 12 months French oak. Total acid is 5.4 g/L, and pH is 3.66. Plavac Mali translates to “little blue” in Croatian, recognizing the small blueish grapes, which seem to show through in the violet colored wine. About $40
94, Château Coutet, Barsac, 2015
I have always found that one of the trademarks to Château Coutet’s fabulous sweet dessert wine is great balance. The 2015 is no exception, and maybe that comes from experience gained since their first production in 1643. The 2015 is one of the more substantial Coutets I have tasted recently, delivering plenty of honeyed richness and viscosity. This medium-light gold Barsac showcases apricot, stone fruit, and lemon verbena, along with lift and good length.
92, Chateau de Fargues, Sauternes, 2015
The 2015 Chateau de Fargues, in the de Lur Saluces family since 1586, brings delicate but pungent aromas of white flowers, candied orange peel, honeysuckle, and mango. On the palate, this medium-plus-weight, light-gold colored stickie offers a lightly-textured, viscous feel, notable intensity, and a persistent finish.
95, Château Guiraud, Sauternes, 2015
The 2015 Guiraud, certified for organic viticulture in 2011, displays a deep-bronzed-gold color. Pure aromatic scents of Kamahi honey, candied lemon rind, and quince emerge. Unveils precision in character, greater than mid-weight, notable textured viscosity, and excellent balance.
95, Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2015
A thrillingly aromatic nose of the purest aromas, lemon verbena, gooseberry jelly, fresh apricot, candied lemon rind, and quince. This light gold Haut-Peyraguey delivers great purity of fruit, with an extraordinary elegance, on a light weight frame. Great balance and length. About 95% Sémillon and the balance Sauvignon Blanc.
95, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey, Sauternes, 2015
Pale gold in color and medium-light in weight, the nose of this Lafaurie-Peyraguey reveals aromatic white flowers, stone-fruit, and spiciness, with hints of butterscotch, and freshly cut lime and lemon in the mouth. A lighter style with lift, elegance, yet plenty of intensity and impact.