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MORE PINOT NOIRS

 





MIURA
This label is the work of a former professional "cork puller."  Emmanuel Kemiji was the sommelier at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton dining room.  

He must have had too much to drink one night, because he embarked on a project of actually making wine.  Now he's got some help from an old college buddy who, coincidentally, was the winemaker for a Carneros winery called Saintsbury.

The "Miura" name, aside from being that of a famous "boiler" maker (famous for 'low mass boilers') and of a Japanese porno queen, refers to a rather strong Spanish bull.  Bull fighters in Spain (where Emmanuel spent a number of years in his youth) regard the "Miura" as the most formidable of opponents.  

The famous (legendary) bull-fighter Manolete met with death in a battle against a Miura bull in 1947.  

So, Kemiji, taking the bull by the horns, has a number of wines under his "Miura" banner.    

Though they make wine from some of the more famous Santa Lucia Highlands sites, there's a cooler-climate vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands...Silacci.  The 2010 from that site is terrific and a bit more elegant.



The same crew makes a dynamite Syrah...Antiqv2s...one of the few in California that, at times, has actually resembled a good Rhône wine!
 
Currently in stock:  
2010 Santa Lucia Highlands "Silacci" Pinot Noir SALE $54.99


 

 

OCCIDENTAL

This little enterprise is the work of Steve Kistler and his daughters.  Kistler is a brand famous for its Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  A new owner of one of their vineyard sources apparently expressed interest in partnering with Kistler, so Steve sold him a hefty percentage of Kistler Vineyards.  

So the new chapter in Kistler's tale is a small production of Pinot Noir in a newly-built winery in the town of Bodega, a few miles east of Bodegas Bay and a 15 minute ride southwest of the town of Occidental.  Phelps' Freestone winery is also a few minutes' ride from Bodega.

We have a 2014 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir from this new label/old winemaker.

The fruit comes from two vineyard sites, the Bodega Headlands and Occidental Station vineyards.  They leave the juice to macerate with the grape skins for five days prior to the fermentation kicking off...native yeasts...François Freres French oak barrels...60% new cooperage.  No fining or filtering...yadda yadda yadda.  Sounds good.

Luckily it tastes good, too.  The wine shows nice dark cherry fruit and just a whiff of wood...with 60% new oak you might expect the wood to be more prominent, but when you have good fruit, sometimes the oak is dominated by the wine.

Currently in stock:  2014 OCCIDENTAL Sonoma Coast PINOT NOIR  $66.99

 

 

 


PATZ & HALL
The Patz & Hall story began in the mid-1980s when Donald Patz was a marketing guy at Flora Springs and James Hall was assistant winemaker there.  The two eventually went their separate ways, but were pals who decided a collaborative effort would be a challenge.

Add to the mix, Anne Moses (she turns water into wine) and Heather Patz (the glue that holds the place together) and you have a couple of dynamic duos.

They've been making really fine Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays for nearly three decades.  They bottle a regional Pinot Noir (Sonoma Coast), along with a number of single vineyard offerings.  

Impressively, the wines have been consistently good.  I don't know if they're attentive in the vineyard and cellar or if they sell off wine in bulk which doesn't make the cut.  But what they choose to put their label on has been reliably fine.

The founders hit the jackpot in the Spring of 2016 when the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates company bought the whole operation.  Patz & Hall say they're sticking around, but we do not know the future of this place.
 
 

Winemaker James Hall.


The 2015 Sonoma Coast is a delightful wine.  It's from a number of famous-named vineyards...Dutton, Martinelli, etc. Lots of nice cherry, pomegranate and berry notes with some brown spice tones such as nutmeg, clove and cinnamon.  The wine is smooth, supple and easy to drink.  It's best at cool cellar temp, of course.  Probably best in its youth, too.



There's a Hyde vineyard bottling of Pinot these days...we've long been fans of the Hyde bottling of Chardonnay.  From the Carneros region, the 2013 displays loads of strawberry fragrances and flavors.  It's wonderfully perfumy, too.  Exotic.  


The Pisoni bottling is one of the best Pisoni vineyard wines on the market...deeply fruity, fairly full as Pinots go...nice now with duck or lamb as there's even a little 'grippy' edge to this wine.

 


Currently in stock: 2015 PATZ & HALL Sonoma Coast PINOT NOIR  (Winery Price $47) SALE $39.99
2013 PATZ & HALL Carneros "HYDE" PINOT NOIR   SOLD OUT

2014 PATZ & HALL Santa Lucia Highlands "PISONI VINEYARD" PINOT NOIR  89.99 (last bottles)


 

 

 

 

 

 


 

PEAY VINEYARDS

The Peay brothers have a cool little wine venture in the northern, coastal reaches of Sonoma County...the northernmost vineyard site in the Sonoma Coast appellation.

From the town of Sea Ranch, you'd drive about 15-20 minutes to reach beautiful "downtown" Annapolis, some 4 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean.

And while some Sonoma Coast vineyards are above the fog in the mornings, the Peay vineyards are often shrouded in morning fog and they routinely get some maritime breezes, further cooling their vines.

To get grapes ripe in Annapolis, yields must be rather meager, otherwise the fruit doesn't achieve sufficient sugar levels to make wine.  It's quite a challenging venue and it's what makes the Peay wines rather distinctive and special.

There's been a bit of backlash from California's uber-ripe sort of wines, spawned by wineries seeking to achieve high numerical point scores from various critical journals.  A few wine-specialist labs even offer analysis services to help wineries guarantee 90+ point scores and to achieve this twisted "success," relatively high levels of alcohol are required. 
One group of vintners organizes tastings and seminars to trumpet their lower alcohol, higher acid wines.  Maybe you've seen references to "In Pursuit of Balance" events?

We have attended a few of them and found a number of scrawny, malnourished wines which we did not find balanced in two respects:  
1) lacking "soul" and masquerading as deluxe bottlings.
2) price tags that are totally out of balance considering the quality of the wines.

At these tasting events, we've found but a small percentage of the wineries showing off their wares to be of interest.  
And the Peay wines routinely shine brightly!

One of the Peay brothers handles the marketing of their wines and over the past few years we've found the availability to be a bit unpredictable.  Sometimes they hope to restrict the sale of their wines exclusively to restaurants with the hope consumers will be favorably impressed, contact the winery and buy cases at top dollar, thus depleting the inventory.
Other times reality sets in and they need some help finding customers.  

We currently have a lovely Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir.  It's a nice, crisp Pinot Noir with some red berry/cherry notes along with a hint of orange peel.  Add to the mix a faintly earthy tone...underbrush, perhaps.  The wine is quite charming now and a good match with duck or lamb.  It can probably age well for a few years, too.

Currently in stock:  2016 PEAY Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir  $43.99

 
 
 

 

 
PISONI VINEYARD
Gary Pisoni is a nut!  I remember meeting this fellow a number of years ago, well before he achieved any sort of fame or notoriety.
 
 
He was driving by Burlingame and due to celestial alignments, stopped into our humble wine emporium.  
He poked around the shop, looking at the various wines and was unusually delighted that we had some bottles of various wines from the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti.  

Pisoni told me he was growing some Pinot Noir and there was something about cuttings from Burgundy...the La Tâche vineyard of Romanée-Conti...and that I ought to stop by his little vineyard down in Monterey.  It turned out he was, according to the legend, cultivating Pinot Noir vines that had been brought to California from France's Burgundy region.  The cuttings he had obtained, goes the story, were brought in surreptitiously and he's propagated these and started with a few acres.

Gary's dad, the late Eddie Pisoni, started a farming business in 1952 in Monterey.  He grew lettuce, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, beets and beans.  
The family purchased 280 acres, or so, in the Santa Lucia Highlands, intending for livestock.  The land was too dry for farming vegetables.  
But Gary had been bitten by the wine bug and so he planted Pinot Noir, wanting to make his own version of Grand Cru caliber Pinot Noir.  

Pisoni attended San Jose State University and he enjoyed French wines, especially Bordeaux.  Bordeaux, that is, until he discovered Burgundy.
In those early 1980s he was cultivating Pinot Noir and the quality of the fruit turned out to be promising.  His Mom and Pop gave him the green light on planting more and the rest is history.

The land, though, was quite dry and Pisoni, for many years, drove a truck into the hills to give those thirsty vines a bit of water.  It took many years before they were able to locate water on the property. That was in 1991

With his friend and neighbor, Gary Franscioni, Pisoni collaborated don a newer vineyard which is called Garys' Vineyard for the two Garys. 
 
There are two Pisoni sons:  Mark and Jeff.  Sons of Bacchus, they are.

Mark studied Agricultural Economics at UC Davis as well as earning an MS in Farm Business Management at Cornell University back East.  He wears the title of Vineyard Manager and he also oversees the Pisoni Farms, their vegetable business.  Five hundred acres of produce, so that's nothing to sneeze at!

Jeff Pisoni went off to Cal State Fresno and learned winemaking there.  He experienced some vintages at Sonoma's Peter Michael winery and at Monterey's Bernardus Winery before taking on the winemaking duties for the family enterprise.  

The Pisoni and Lucia wines are made in Sonoma wear Jeff Pisoni resides.  

Their Pinot Noirs are not shy & retiring...these routinely display notes of ripe Pinot Noir fruit.

The 2016 Lucia comes from the Pisoni, Garys' and Soberanes vineyards.  They use only French oak and the wines sees about one-third new barrels.  The fruit, being rather intense, seems to soak up the wood so oak isn't dominating.  The wine is quite charming presently and will grow, likely, for a couple of years.

The 2015 Garys' is displays some of the brown spice notes we like in Pinot Noir.  There's bright red fruit notes of cherry and raspberry, too.  The harvest yields were smaller than normal.

Currently in stock:  2016 LUCIA  "Santa Lucia Highlands" Pinot Noir SALE $44.99  (last bottles)
2015 LUCIA "Garys" PINOT NOIR  $59.99








 


 
 
 





ROBERT SINSKEY

For an old, well-established winery, we find Sinskey to be a name that's a little bit below-the-radar of many wine drinkers.  

Part of this lack of notoriety is due, in part, because Sinskey isn't a huge public relations guy.  In fact, he's a bit allergic to many wine publications, not offering free samples of his wines so that some critic can come up with a numerical score to describe and quantify the wine.  When you make wines which are intended for the dinner table and not for beauty contests, this is a perfectly sensible philosophy.

In fact, Rob Sinskey proudly says he's not interested in making a wine that's going to earn a 96 point rating from today's critics.  In fact he says "We don't care what score the wine didn’t get because we don’t want to drink what is currently defined as a 96 point Pinot Noir. We prefer to work with nature, grow it well and do  the minimal to make a classically proportioned Pinot Noir."

The Sinskey name has been around for more than three decades and we think they make terrific Pinot Noir these days.  

The story began with Rob Sinskey's father, who was a doctor and wine aficionado.  He bought some land in the Carneros region as the acreage was economical in those days.  He was a bit of a foodie and thought Pinot Noir would be the wine of the future, as it was versatile on the dinner table.  
Doc Sinskey was selling grapes, but then when the " big" winery buying his fruit was sold, the new owners cancelled the contract.  And Sinskey ended up being "paid" for past sales by, essentially, inheriting land in the Stags Leap District which had a winery use permit.  Soon the Sinskey name would be emblazoned on bottles of wine.

Young (at the time) Rob Sinskey had received a degree in fine arts from a school in New York and dad needed help.  Sinskey's been helping ever since.

They have a nice cellar along the Silverado Trail.  It's got a nice patio for tasting their wines under the sun and an indoor tasting bar that's adjacent to a professional kitchen.  Rob's wife is a chef and so combining their talents, visitors are treated to a few pours of Sinskey's wines and Maria Sinskey's culinary treats.

 

 
They have numerous cavernous cellars where their various wines are slumbering until they're ready to bottle.


Cooperage that has been emptied and cleaned are waiting to be placed back in a stack of barrels.



Over the years they'd purchased grapes from neighboring growers to augment their production and finally they decided to just grow their own.  And in the early 1990s they embarked on a program of cultivating grapes biodynamically.  

The 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir is a delight.  
They use heirloom clones of Pinot Noir and the wine is comprised of 32 "lots" of batches, as each parcel is picked and vinified separately.  They source from five estate-owned vineyards in the Carneros region.  The vineyards are harvested at night and the juice is fermented with indigenous yeasts.  It's put into French oak and they use about 30% new wood, enough where you can sense a bit of oak seasoning, but not so much that it shifts the focus from the fruit to the wood.

The wine has beautiful Pinot Noir fragrances with notes of cherry, strawberry and pomegranate. There may even be a faintly floral tone to the fragrances.   As noted earlier, oak is not a main feature of this wine, as they work diligently to showcase the grape in Sinskey wines.  The tannins are modest and it's delicious in its youth and should remain in good condition for a number of years.  
Currently in stock:  2014 ROBERT SINSKEY Carneros PINOT NOIR SALE $43.99


 




ROAR
The Franscioni family has been in Monterey County since the mid-1880s when Silvio Franscioni Sr. settled in the area and engaged in dairy farming.  His son Joe changed the family enterprise from milk to agriculture and he grew beans, beets and potatoes.  Joe's son Gary studied Agri-Business at Cal Poly and took the reins of the family farm.  They had 200 acres of row crops in the Salina Valley.

He saw that wine grapes had good potential, so he planted the family's first vineyards in 1996.  That site is called Rosella's as it's named after Gary's wife.

In 1997, thinking this might be a good move, he partnered with local legend Gary Pisoni and these two friends planted what's now known as "Garys' Vineyard" as it's owned by the two Garys.   Those grapes are highly sought-after and some Franscioni had the idea of keeping some fruit and trying his luck with winemaking.

The first vintages of what's called ROAR were well-received.  They were vinified by Adam and Dianna Lee who founded the Siduri winery.  They bought fruit from Franscioni, as well.

The Lees assistant winemaker was a fellow named Scott Shapley and he's been affiliated with ROAR since their first vintage in 2001.  

They've been making wine in various facilities from Sonoma and currently in San Francisco.  They're in an urban winemaking facility sharing space with a few other vintners.

The Franscionis have two sons who've both taken a shine to the ROAR wine project.  
Adam studied accounting at the University of San Diego and worked as a bean counter for a biotech company before deciding to join his folk's business.  He's is found in the cellar assisting Shapley.  He also is ROAR's road warrior and we see him periodically presenting the wines hither and yon.

Nick Franscioni studied Computer Science and Business Administration at USC in Los Angeles and worked as a business consultant before coming back home to "consultant" with his father on vineyard management.  He, too, plays the role of road warrior and is seen at trade tastings presenting the ROAR wines.

 The wines have been made with the idea of simply guiding the fruit in the bottle.  Grapes are picked at night and brought to the winery in the morning...they're destemmed and the juice is cold-soaked for a few days before the start of fermentation.  Once the fermentation has finished and the wine is dry, they'll put the Pinot Noirs into French oak.  They have three favorite cooperages and buy a fair bit of new wood for each vintage.

The Pinot Noirs continue to be very showy.  They make some good Chardonnay, too, but they're more famed for the Pinots.

We get a few bottles with each release.
As these are a bit rare, we don't offer these precious bottles for shipping...they're a reward of sorts for customers who set foot in the shop.
(Thanks for understanding that.)
 
Currently in stock:  2016 ROAR Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir  $41.99
2016 GARYS' Vineyard Pinot Noir $59.99 (last bottles)
2016 SIERRA MAR  Pinot Noir $53.99 (last bottles)

 






MARGUERITE RYAN CELLARS

Marguerite Ryan, known as "Peggy" to her friends, graduated from law school but then enrolled in the University of Warren Winiarski.  

That "school" has many noteworthy graduates, including Paul Hobbs, John Kongsgaard and Michael Silacci.  Add Peggy Ryan to the list.  

She came to California in the early 1990s and enrolled in some enology classes.  Ryan landed a job at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars doing lab work.  

The Ryan Cellars label was born in 1996 and it's grown from a mere 70 cases of wine to several hundred.  Knowing she tries to make balanced and refined wines, I suppose Mr. Winiarski influence has had a major impact on her winemaking philosophies.  

The Ryan Cellars label has offered Pinot Noirs from several top, famed vineyard sources.  Peay Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast appellation is one.  Another is the famed Pisoni Vineyard, along with other Santa Lucia Highlands sites.  There's also been Pinot Noir from a vineyard in Napa's Wild Horse Valley (where Winiarski used to source Riesling, once upon a time).  And there's been a Pisoni vineyard bottling, too.

Today we have a Sonoma Coast bottling from the 2013 vintage.  The total production is a whopping 42 cases.  Yes...two barrels.  It comes from the Walala Vineyard, a little patch in the northwestern part of the Sonoma Coast appellation.  The Kosta Browne winery has used fruit from this place for its Sonoma Coast bottling.

Ryan's wines tend to be lighter and less oaky, so if you're a Kosta Browne fan, this is probably not a wine you'll find to be to your taste.

 

We like it, though.  But then we don't require a wine to be inky dark in color, have tons of oak (though we do enjoy a bit of wood in some of our wines) or be tannic or sweet.  

Currently in stock: 
2013 RYAN CELLARS "Sonoma Coast" Walala Vineyard  Sold Out




SEA SMOKE

This new property is the work of a creative fellow named Bob Davids.  This guy has an amazing story, starting off in various phases of the automotive industry, working for General Motors.  From there he grew wings and worked for aviation mogul Bill Lear.  

Later he got into electronic games and founded a company called Radica.  If you've ever seen a fishing rod "game" with an electronic bass fishing game attached to it: That is Bob Davids' own design!



While working in Hong Kong cranking out electronic games, he attended a wine event and a bottle of 1947 Château Climens from France's Barsac region put Davids under its spell.  So enchanted by wine was he that Davids came to California and bought a hundred acre property near the Santa Ynez River.  

The winery gets its name from the smoke-like fog that wafts over this property from the Pacific Ocean.  

Sea Smoke currently has a lot of buzz amongst the wine geek community.  The winemaker was a young lady named Kris Curran.  We understand the current winemaker is a fellow named Don Schroeder.
 
The wines we've tasted have been very showy.  They are big, ripe, deep reds with a note of Burgundian-styling, but we find them more reminiscent of some California Syrah wines.  These are dark in color and lavishly-oaked.  Notes of mocha and toasty oak are common in each wine.  Since they're new, availability is rather limited.
 
Currently available:  Please inquire...




SOQUEL VINEYARDS
The Bargetto name is etched in stone in the annals of Santa Cruz wine history.

We knew the Bargetto name back in the late 1960s as they were the best source of fruit wine in the state of California.

The family always seemed to want to be held in high regard for wines made of grapes, though.

A couple of the Bargetto clan, a set of twin brothers, founded this competing brand called Soquel Vineyards, back in 1987.  Peter and Paul Bargetto teamed up with an old school friend of theirs (Jon Morgan) and this little enterprise is making some nice wines these days.

We've found a couple of Pinot Noirs to be worthy wines and have brought in their 2014 Estate Bottling of their Partner's Reserve.

It comes entirely from their small estate in Soquel and we like it for a variety of reasons:  
1.  It smells and tastes like Pinot Noir.  
2.  There's a nice touch of oak (80% new French oak, but it's not crazy-oaky).  
3.  It's well-priced so we can afford to drink it more than once-in-a-lifetime.  
4.  It's under 14% alcohol (13.8%).

 

Currently in stock:  2014 SOQUEL VINEYARDS Santa Cruz Mountains "Estate" PINOT NOIR "Partners' Reserve"  Sold Out

 



WAXWING WINE CELLARS
Here's a label you probably have not heard of.  

Winemaker Scott Sisemore has a number of interesting enological notches on his belt...he started his winemaking journey at McDowell Valley Vineyards in Mendocino and later spent time at Rosenblum Cellars and Ravenswood.  He was affiliated with our friends at the Pellegrini Family winery where they specialize in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Some Pinot producers are challenged to make numerous small lots, buying fruit from vineyards scattered around the state (or beyond).  Scott has been making Pinot Noir and Syrah from fruit grown in Sonoma, though he's dipping his toe in the Santa Cruz Mountains' pool and exploring that region.

Waxwing's 2015 Pinot offers a nice cherry-like fruit note and there's a bit of earthiness here along the lines of "forest floor" tones. It's from the Ascona Vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

We are told there were less than 3 barrels of this wine produced from a little vineyard along Skyline Boulevard in Los Gatos.  This place is about 5 miles south of Mount Eden's estate in Saratoga.  It's kind of a gentleman farmer's vineyard, though whomever planted the Pinot Noir there included a few interesting clones:  Pommard, Louis Martini, Mount Eden and clone #115.  The wine spent about 15 months in oak in once-used French oak.  

We like the red fruit notes of this medium-bodied, rather elegant Pinot.  It's low in alcohol for a California Pinot Noir, just a tad above 13%.

The wine can be put on the dinner table for service tonight...but thanks to a good level of acidity, it should continue to develop for a few more years if you want to stash a bottle or two for future drinking.


 
Currently in stock:  2015 WAXWING Santa Cruz Mountains "Ascona Vineyard" PINOT NOIR $44.99

 





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