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Wine Pick of the Week

2007 Pvt. Res. Cabernet Sauvignon   Beringer Napa Valley Alcohol: 14.6% Suggested Retail: $180* *This wine not currently available at the winery. Several internet sources have it for $125-$150.   “Beringer's Private Reserve is a reliable example of top echelon California Cabernet and the 2007 vintage may be among their best efforts. It's 100% Cabernet Sauvignon with two-thirds of that coming from the Bancroft and Steinhauer vineyards atop Howell Mountain. “Powerful, rich . . . you could even describe it as opulent. Aromas of cassis, blueberry and anise announce that this is a wine to be reckoned with. Lush flavors…
2012 Sky High Ranch Pinot Noir   Ferrari Carano Mendocino Ridge Alcohol: 14.5% Suggested Retail: $48   “This is a powerful example of what a California Pinot Noir can be. Stopping well short of the unfortunate, too-big style some winemakers have taken with this variety, the Ferrari Carano Sky High Ranch still delivers plenty of punch. Aromas of blackberry, dark cherries and a little cedar precede layered flavors that demonstrate the breadth of the Pinot Noir palette. Dense berry flavors (blackberries, blueberries) are prominent, with some mocha and dark chocolate in the background. There's a fullness in the mouth and…
2012 Rosato di Sangiovese   Valley of the Moon Winery Sonoma Valley Alcohol: 13.9% Suggested Retail: $18   “The linguistically-challenged can translate Rosato di Sangiovese as a rosé wine made from Sangiovese, the grape variety responsible for wonderful Chianti in Italy, but one that hasn't reached those heights as grown and vinified in California. “Color is fairly deep—we'd describe it as between salmon and hot pink. Aromas of Maraschino cherries and an orange slice as found in a Shirley Temple, followed by flavors of Bing cherries and strawberries. There seems a little residual sugar, but it gives a richness and…
2012 Heritage Vines Zinfandel   Dry Creek Vineyard Sonoma County Alcohol: 14.5% Suggested Retail: $20   “This 2012 Heritage Vines really does exhibit characteristics of Zinfandels from an earlier era. Fruit was sourced from vines that are the product of cuttings from a pre-Prohibition Zinfandel vineyard grafted to modern rootstocks. Petite Sirah provides 15% of the blend. “There's a bit of that quality the reviewer has called 'brambly,' a descriptor that has no real definition, but sometimes resonates with other Zin fans. The Dry Creek Heritage Vines Zinfandel has lots of berry fruit personality—blueberries and blackberries say the winery's tasting…
2012 Riesling   NxNW Horse Heaven Hills (Washington) Alcohol: 13% Suggested Retail: $12   “American Rieslings are under-appreciated, but there are some decent ones, particularly those grown in Washington. North by Northwest (the NxNW identity on the label) makes wines from the Columbia River Basin of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. Grapes for this Riesling were sourced from the Wallula Benches in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA, just south of Washington's Tri-Cities. The winery makes several other varieties and is operated by the King Estate, well-known for its Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. “The 2012 NxNW treatment…
2012 Chardonnay Belle Terre Vineyard   Chateau St. Jean Alexander Valley Alcohol: 14.4% Suggested Retail: $30   “One of three vineyard-designated Chardonnays from Chateau St Jean, the 2012 Belle Terre is rife with characteristics said to evoke 'stone fruits.' More specifically, we'd say both white and yellow peaches—throw in nectarines of the same two hues, too. Some spice in the aroma and maybe just a hint of hazelnuts. Plenty of vanilla from the oak, but there's a lemony citrus that offsets or complements that creamy vanilla aspect. A solid representative of the traditional California style with this variety.” Food Affinity:…
2010 Pinot Noir "Seven Twenty Eight"   Fiddlehead Cellars Santa Rita Hills Alcohol: 14.1% Suggested Retail: $42   “Maybe a little explanation about this wine's provenance is indicated. It comes from the Santa Rita Hills AVA, which is in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. The grapes were sourced from the Fiddlestix Vineyard which is at the 7.28 mile marker on Santa Rosa Road, hence the 'Seven Twenty Eight' identity on the label. The winery thinks it would be a fine idea if folks enjoyed a bottle on July 28th and we don't disagree. However, the wine is so good,…
2012 Chardonnay   Sanctuary Russian River Valley Alcohol: 14.2% Suggested Retail: $30   “High quality fruit and solid winemaking practices provide an unbeatable combination in this Sanctuary Chardonnay. Grapes were sourced from the Heintz and Dutton vineyards in the cooler Russian River Valley appellation of Sonoma County. With only 30% malolactic fermentation followed by sur lie ageing there's an attractive combination of good acidity, yet creamy fullness. “Pear and peach aromas precede full and rich feeling in the mouth. Those pear and peach aromas evolve to flavors of apple, vanilla and crème caramel.” Food Affinity: “There's enough acidity to make…
2012 Chardonnay, Cold Creek Ranch   Chateau St Jean Sonoma Coast Alcohol: 14.4% Suggested Retail: $30   “Lively acidity in this Chardonnay from a cool vineyard in western Sonoma County. Pineapple, white peaches and lemon complemented by vanilla and spice from substantial oak aging. There's texture to the wine, almost a viscosity. This is a big Chardonnay—not subtle, but we liked it.” Food Affinity: “Dishes playing off the creamy citrus personality would be the direction we'd take. Baked lemon chicken would work, as would salmon croquettes in cream sauce. Grilled Portobello mushrooms might be a tasty vegetarian option.”
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon,  “Charles Wetmore”   Wente Vineyards Livermore/San Francisco Bay Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $30   “Wente honors Charles Wetmore with this Cabernet bottling. Wetmore was one of the 19th Century pioneers of the California wine industry. His importation of vine cuttings from France in the 1880s set the tone for Livermore's wine industry. Though comprised of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, this Livermore Valley wine includes other grape varieties native to Bordeaux (9% Petite Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc, 1% Merlot) and also a bit of Petite Sirah (9%). The result is a surprisingly rich and complex wine. “Dark…
2012 Riva Ranch Chardonnay   Wente Vineards Arroyo Seco/Monterey County Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $22   “Wente really pioneered this variety in California. The family first planted it early in the 20th Century and brought out the first varietally-labeled bottle of Chardonnay in 1936. Since the 1960s this Livermore-based winery has also been developing vineyards in Monterey County. “Riva Ranch is located in Monterey County's Arroyo Seco appellation and is the source for this wine—one of four different bottlings of Chardonnay from Wente. The color is golden and aromas tend to be floral and just a little bit spicy. There…
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon   Sanctuary Wines Rutherford Alcohol: 14.2% Suggested retail: $40   “Here is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Usibelli Vineyard in the Rutherford appellation. As the price of Napa Cab moves higher and higher, $40 isn't bad for such single-vineyard bottlings and an internet check indicates this wine can often be found for less. “Wines made from grapes grown in this part of Napa are often said to exhibit the 'Rutherford dust.' The phrase may sound like marketing department hype, but there really is a dusty/spicy aspect to wines made from Rutherford fruit that doesn't show up…
Vinho Rosé (N/V)   Espiral Portugal Alcohol: 10% Suggested Retail: $4.99   “We don't ordinarily review house wines or beer products from breweries that sell only their own products. It's not that these wines and beers aren't good, it's just that many of our readers may not have ready access to them. To the best of our knowledge today's 'Pick' is sold by just one company—but Trader Joe's has many locations in California, so we bend our rule. “This week we're all about colors. This rosé is actually a 'green wine.' But there are white versions of this Portuguese green…
  Red Hat (N/V)   Mellowood Vineyard El Dorado County Alcohol: 14.2% Suggested Retail: $28   “We tasted this wine at a visit to the winery a couple of weekends ago, liked it and purchased a bottle to take home. Without having tasted it, we'd never have spent more than 10 bucks for a non-vintage product without varietal components identified on its somewhat hokey label. However, quality tells, regardless of how it's presented. “The fruit is bright and shows cherry and raspberry aspects. A bit of spice and white pepper in the background reminds us of Zinfandel the way Sierra…
2012 Estate Rosé Wine   Miraflores El Dorado County Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $18   “Vibrant color hints that this might be a rosé with a little more personality than most. While there would be nothing wrong with knocking back a couple of glasses by the pool, there's enough substance in this dry rosé to regard it as worthy of more serious applications. It is made from Barbera grapes grown on the Miraflores estate south of Placerville in California's Sierra Foothills. Raspberry, cherry and a little blackberry are evident in the aroma and these qualities are repeated in more vivid…
2013 Sauvignon Blanc   Dry Creek Vineyard Dry Creek Valley Alcohol: 14.1% Suggested Retail: $18   ”Here's another take on the Sauvignon Blanc grape which has been a signature variety for this winery (albeit when defined as Fumé Blanc). This wine has the recognizable Sauvignon Blanc personality, though it is layered in a richer, tropical fruit expression. The aromas include melon, mango and maybe lime leaves. On the palate, there are still citrus and melon flavors, but there is more citrus and a richness to the melon. There's almost a viscous feeling in the mouth, which is likely the presence…
  2013 Belle Blanc   Acquiese Winery & Vineyards Lodi Alcohol: 13.5% Suggested Retail: $26   “Lodi is known primarily for its red wines. This grapegrowing region 35 miles south of Sacramento produces outstanding Zinfandels and decent, if unspectacular, Cabernet and Merlot. Lodi also grows white grapes and many wineries in more prestigious wine regions are happy to bolster their Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc bottlings with fruit sourced from Lodi. “But there's more to the story than that . . . “At Acquiesence, Sue Tipton makes wines from white grape varieties native to France's Rhône Valley. Production is small, but…
2012 La Capra Cabernet Sauvignon   Fairview Coastal Origin Region (So. Africa) Alcohol: 14% Suggested Retail: $ 8.99   “Opens with aromas of blackberry and plum. Flavors include those fruits, along with some mocha and just a bit of spice. Not a great wine, but a decent one that reflects a different interpretation of this grape variety than would be found in California—or in Bordeaux, for that matter.” Food Affinity: “We'd like to be clever here and suggest some esoteric South African dish. However, we're not familiar enough with the cuisine of that country to do so. We enjoyed the…
2012 Chardonnay   Chateau St Jean Sonoma Coast Alcohol: 14.2% Suggested Retail: $20   “Chateau St Jean is one of California's best known and most consistent producers of Chardonnay. The Sonoma Valley winery offers an array of what are called vineyard-designated bottlings, each one displaying the attributes of the fruit produced from a single vineyard property. “This week's 'Pick,' however, is a blend of grapes from multiple vineyard sources in the cool Sonoma Coast appellation. A winemaker familiar with the attributes of fruit from different vineyards has an advantage and Margo Van Staaveren, who has been with Chateau St Jean…
Brut Rosé N/V   J Vineyards & Winery Russian River Valley Alcohol: 12.5% Suggested Retail: $38   “We have commented on the J Brut Rosé before. The NV designation means it's non-vintage. Most (French) Champagnes and their New World cousins are non-vintage bottlings, which may be blends of juice from grapes harvested from more than one specific year. Consistency is the objective, rather than risking the variables that could be found in fruit harvested from each separate year. This bottle of wine was made at a different time than the one we reviewed 14 months ago. Presumably, it's a year…
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