Carneros Pinot – Donum is World-Class!

Donum (meaning “gift of the land” in Latin) was created in 2001 when Buena Vista Winery was sold to Allied Domecq… but retained 120 acres of vines that had been meticulously replanted by Anne Moller-Racke, vineyard manager at Buena Vista for 15 years, for a special Pinot noir project she had been working on while at the winery. She took over the winemaking responsibilties and started touting the Carneros region as a premium site for Pinot Noir. The 2010 estate, comprised of the best of 4 different lots, is a tremendous effort considering the challenging vintage so only a limited supply of 589 cases were produced. Anne has been at the forefront of putting Carneros on the map as a serious Pinot Noir producing area and has she ever succeeded!


2010 Donum Estate Pinot Noir

…raspberry and black cherry flavors that are ripe and seductive, with spice, loam and sandalwood details. Notes of cassis, raspberry jam and red licorice crescendo on the long finish, with very refined tannins….

Peter Michael’s Big-Name Neighbor Scores Big!

Picking the best grapes from some of the 30 year old Cabernet vines in their Knights Valley vineyards, Beringer decided to release a “Reserve” bottling in 2008 to complement its regular KV release. The 2009, which was Wine Spectator’s #8 on the Top 100 of 2012, and according to senior writer James Laube “…the best Beringer Knights Valley wine I can recall and one of winemaker Laurie Hook’s best efforts,” is already starting to reach cult status. The 2010 takes it up a notch as both Wine Spectator and Robert Parker score it 94 points. Amazingly rich and elegant, it definitely approaches Peter Michael’s bottlings (the vineyards are right next door) at half the price. Only 5,000 cases were produced and the buzz surrounding this release has been overwhelming. Beringer continues to produce high quality wines at every price level and really shines on this new effort.


2010 Beringer Cabernet
Knight’s Valley Reserve

…Blue and black fruit, grilled herbs, tobacco, sage and rosemary are all layered into this relatively succulent, round Cabernet… Sweet floral notes along with a hint of tar and violets add complexity on the finish….

Best Syrahs In America – Reynvaan Reigns!

Matt Reynvaan’s trio of syrahs serve notice that this young producer has a knack for the variety: all three display their share of power and dense flavor, with plenty of savory attributes coaxed from the 17-acre, cobblestone-laced “In the Rocks Vineyard” at the base of the Blue Mountains known around Walla Walla for the soil’s similarity to Châteauneuf-du-Pape. The rocks absorb sun and radiate warmth to the vines through the cool nights. The Reynvaans have entrusted their entire operation to neighbor and Washington cult star Christophe Baron of Cayuse Vineyards. It is the only winery with which he consults because he has been given carte blanche to go for the best, and it shows in the Syrah-based wines’ vibrancy and unmistakable minerality. In less than 10 years, Reynvaan has already reached cult status. The winery is already sold out of its current vintage. No need to say anymore. It will be your only chance to grab these classics. World-class Syrah in Washington!


2010 Reynvaan In The Rocks

Polished, open-textured and compelling, with roasted beet, licorice, crushed rock and smoke accents surrounding a core of pulsing cherry and plum fruit, lingering intensely on the impeccably balanced finish….

2010 Reynvaan The Contender

Firm in texture, showing dense tobacco and brown sugar accents to the blackberry and licorice flavors, which linger against lightly crunchy tannins on the intense, deftly balanced finish….


2010 Reynvaan The Unnamed Syrah

Vibrant and crisp, with ripe currant and dark plum flavors washing over the crinkly tannins as the expressive finish takes hold. Hints of licorice and black olive lurk in the background….


Zonte’s Footstep: “The Proof is in The Bottle”

I like the company mission statement at Zonte’s Footstep: “The truth is out there in the vineyard… but the proof is in the bottle.” Yes, it is. One of the mavericks of modern Aussie wine is involved here, yup, Ben Riggs. That slogan fits his work here in Langhorne Creek, where more cabernet is planted than shiraz, for good reason. It is revealed with a pointed shovel. The subsoil here is a 40 million year old alluvial plain with red sand over ancient limestone yielding cabernet that resembles an excellent Haut-Medoc from Bordeaux; solid plump cabernet that is juicy, not too grippy. Langhorne Creek Cabernet, this is a textbook version. Take note. You’re gonna want that.


2010 Zonte’s Footstep Avalon Tree
Cabernet Sauvignon

Supple cabernet, with a seamless impression of French oak… Magical work. Ben Riggs has fashioned a lovely cabernet here from an excellent vintage… impressive at this price. Classically constructed….

Sleeper of the Vintage and Best Buy of 2010

Bob and I tasted 2010 Tour St. Bonnet in Bordeaux in January and looked at each other in amazement. Nothing new to B-21 though, this mightily valued Medoc wine, we have bought a number of vintages in the past and this is one of the top values of the vintage. Perhaps why Chateau Latour bullied them recently into dropping the article “La” preceding their name over a couple centuries previously? Anyhow, this is the real article, a wine exhibiting excellent structure and considerable brawn, authentic Bordeaux as it has tasted for many years. Half and half Cab and Merlot and the last 10% petit verdot, it is dark, dry, mineral and earthy with that classic cedar note. This a case for buying by the case, very high quality, affordable and classic. (14%) 90/100.

2010 Chateau Tour Saint-Bonnet

A beautiful sleeper of the vintage… classic cedar wood, tobacco leaf, creme de cassis, licorice and some balsam wood notes in a strong, medium to full-bodied, layered style…

91 points, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate (Feb 2013)



Buy Now
Buy Now


Mondavi Still Means Napa Cab… 92 Points for 2010!

When Robert Mondavi sold his winery to beverage giant Constellation Brands in 2004, I could already see the writing on the wall… Mondavi’s trademark Cabernet was going to become another mass produced Cab that would be manipulated into a quaffing wine to entertain the masses. For once in my life, I’m glad to say I was wrong. Genevieve Janssens, director of winemaking for Mondavi’s Napa projects has continued her success with the most notable name in Napa Cab and remained devoted to upholding the Mondavi image. Being with Mondavi since 1978, Genevieve was the perfectly logical choice for that position, it’s easy to see the importance of it for her. Every vintage since the sale has brought a new level of sophistication. 2010 is stunning. The most common themes for the vintage were low yields of small, flavorful berries and excellent flavor maturity at favorable, relatively-low sugar levels. Using vineyard sites from mostly Oakville and Stag’s Leap District, it has a whopping 32% of the grapes coming from the famed and iconic To-Kalon Vineyards. The price is amazingly affordable. Robert Mondavi would be proud to see that his name has not been compromised.


2010 R. Mondavi Cabernet

All the classics are here… blackberry essence, plush, mouth filling black fruit components, beautifully integrated with mineral notes, mocha, tobacco and clove. Will last 15 years or longer, too.

2009 R. Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

…rich, seductive and full-bodied. Roasted, coffee beans, tobacco, licorice, incense and mint are all wrapped together in a rich, sensual fabric that is highly appealing. …no denying the 2009 is beautiful….


2009 R. Mondavi Reserve Cabernet

…sumptuous and beautiful. Plums, mocha, cloves and pencil shavings are all woven together in this gorgeous, large-scaled Cabernet Sauvignon. All the elements are in the right place….


2010 Bordeaux: Let’s Get It Started!

Anybody knowing me knows that I am totally into Bordeaux. Well, a few weeks back I was lucky enough to go there and to taste a number of 2010s. It is another fabled vintage, more 2005 than 2009. Wines of considerable spine, with good acids and tannin structure galore. Classic style, 2010, showing the particular “cerebral” style that is typical of Bordeaux with freshness, acids and tannins to match the plentitude of Cab and Merlot. Stay tuned, we are beginning to wheel and deal another great vintage and it should be to your delight.


2010 Chateau Moya

Dark and mouthfilling, with lots of anise, raspberry, boysenberry and fruitcake flavors pumping along, while a driving graphite spine imparts freshness and vivacity. Drink now through 2018.


2010 Chateau du Gaby

Still very primal, but enticing, with sappy raspberry, sweet spice, melted licorice and linzer torte notes that have yet to stretch out fully. There’s racy acidity as well, so this should knit nicely.


2010 Tour de Pez

This deep-colored wine has the alcohol and firm tannins to match its hue. It’s very dense and structured, but it also plays up the ripe blackberry fruits. Give it many years to soften out.


2010 Fleur Cardinale

…floral notes intermixed with black raspberry, blueberry and boysenberry fruit… Exuberant and flamboyant with full-bodied richness, stunning purity and an impressive, textured mouthfeel and finish…


The Most Famous Moustache of the Rhone

One look at the marvelously mustached and gregarious vigneron, Serge Férigoule of Domaine Le Sang des Cailloux, and you feel you’re about to taste wines that are as unique and wild as the man behind the hidden smile. Luckily for us, Serge’s mustache is no showman’s prop. Nope. His Cuvee Traditionelle, named each year for one of his three daughters, is a testament to traditional Southern Rhone flair… those wild, chewy notes with just enough fruit to soften them up and fill glasses with pure joy. Serge treats his vines with the same love and respect he gives his daughters. His devotion reveals itself with lofty notes of black raspberry, hints of licorice, whiffs of smoke and whispers of garrigue and a palate of tangy, savory radiance. Serge has been caled “…one of the most brilliant producers in Vacqueyras…” by Parker. It’s a Rhone World!


2010 Sang des Cailloux
Vacqueyras Cuvee Floureto

Solid, full, textbook Vacqueyras with exceptional delineation from the ridiculously perfect 2010 vintage. A better from Vacqueryras would be tough to find…

Takin’ It Easy In South Africa

The Big Easy, that’s Ernie Els’ big, fluid golf swing. Well, like the man himself, his wine is pretty formidable and aptly named, like his money swing. His “Proprietor’s Blend” gives volumes of vivid blackberry and cassis and full-throttled fruit on the palate and a seductive finish that goes 300 yards, like his drive. The wine is big, plush and easy to enjoy. Heck, Parker himself gave this sexy blend of all 5 red Bordeaux varietals along with a dash of syrah 93 points! To me, this tastes more like a bodacious Napa red rather than something from South Africa. Either way, it’s fun drinking and an excellent value. You’re gonna want that.


2010 Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend

…The palate is medium-bodied with svelte tannins. It is more opulent than the 2009 with beautiful pure cassis and blackberry fruit towards the rounded, sensual finish. This is a hole in one….

2010 Marchetti: A Most Seductive Montepulciano

2010 is shaping up as quite a fine vintage across Italy. Just taste this smooth, plummy gem, a luscious and artisanal Italian red value with the old-school ethnicity of the Marche. I could tell this bottle wowed the crowd at our Italian grand tasting this month as much as super-Tuscans, Barbarescos and other big bucks bottles I had on offer. The Rosso Conero drinks beautifully, lots of fruit with an edge of spice and smoke, amazing for the price. It’s also a delicious way to end your Montepulciano confusion: Lovely six syllables, but they apply to too many wines. This wine is made from montepulciano the grape, not in Montepulciano the place (in Tuscany). Marchetti comes from the Marche, an old and newly-promising region a couple of hours south of Bologna on the Adriatic. It’s one of the best places in Italy to grow montepulciano and Maurizio Marchetti is one of the guys showing it off. You already know Marchetti for his killer verdicchio and he’s just as artful with his red. He blends in a little sangiovese, but it’s the 90 percent montepulciano that gives the wine its character.


2010 Marchetti Montepulciano

Loads of ripe fruit wrapping around a serious core of concentration. 2010 is shaping up to be fabulous in Italy and this is a sneak peek. The ethnicity of the Marche is textbook… The purity is stunning.

Great Value: 2010 Francois Carillon Bourgogne Blanc

My May visit to Burgundy took me to some impressive addresses in Puligny-Montrachet. Carillon is certainly one, the family producing wine in Puligny-Monrtrachet since 1632. In 2009, Francois and his brother Jacques decided to split the domaine. Francois Carillon has a masterful touch in the cellar, that is clear. He had been the domaine’s vineyard manager, so the 2010s were most telling of his cellar talents. I have lined up on the Francois side, after all you gotta get it right in the vineyard to get it right in the cellar. Of all Francois’ wines tasted, the most remarkable to me was this little Bourgogne Blanc, so I had to press him. Sure the 1er Cru were impressive, but Francois seemed to be most proud of the Bourgogne, telling me that it is from three parcels within the Puligny-Montrachet appellation with vine ages of 45, 54, and 58! In fact, I preferred it to the village Puligny Montrachet. The richness of old vines is not to be missed. This is a stunning value and I urge you to give it a swirl.


2010 Carillon Bourgogne Blanc

Sophisticated nose; old vine pedigree. Rich and unctuous on the palate, although it does not have the terroir based acid drive that, say, a 1er cru would reward… A real crowd-pleaser.

Barruol’s Next Big Thing is Here!

Louis Barruol, a good friend and the owner of Gigondas giant, Saint Cosme, has become a living legend and a force of conservation in the Rhone. He also made the wine placing #2 in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 this past season. Known and loved for his beautiful Gigondas in the south, he is now gaining a solid reputation for wines from the north. Importer Kermit Lynch, another friend, recently commissioned Louis to craft some exclusives for him. Good thing, too! Louis has become a vineyard saint of late, unearthing growers still having plots and blocks of Syrah’s ancient predecessor Serine. Helping these growers preserve these treasured land, Louis turns their bounty into some of the most delectable and intense northern Rhones being made. We should be grateful it’s a Rhone world!


2010 Louis Barruol
Saint-Joseph Les Coches

…plum, fig and boysenberry pâte de fruit notes at the core, but also very racy, with a vibrant graphite spine and mouthwatering cut on the finish. …dusting of charcoal for added texture and grip. Intense….

2010 Louis Barruol
Cote Rotie La Viaillere

Gorgeous cocoa and bitter espresso aromas and flavors slowly give way to dark, steeped currant, plum and blackberry fruit notes, while the back end struts with ample charcoal and singed bay leaf accents….


2010 Louis Barruol
Hermitage Les Pierrelles

A fleshy, ganache-driven version, featuring mulled plum and blackberry fruit inlaid with anise and Turkish coffee notes. Fresh fruit hangs on the finish. More bass than treble here, but the effect is rock-solid….


More 2010 Jadot Burgundies Just Arrived!

Ahhh… Burgundy. No place on the planet is more terroir-focused than the diabolically diverse soils of the Cote d’Or. This diversity is why we “Burghounds” (thanks, Allen) go nuts for the good stuff. No house in the Cote d’Or has the of the house of Louis Jadot and its magically methodical winemaker of 42 years, Jacques Lardière, who has retired after 42 years at the helm. He took over as head winemaker in 1970 and Jadot thrived ever since and now owns over 150 hectares of vines and works with hundreds of growers to make sure fruit is pure and wines are precise. Jacques never talks up his wines, his humble manner belying his mastery, instead he allows the label of Jadot and the skill of its growers tell the story, vintage after vintage. A gentleman like Jacques is always missed, but I have many memories of him in my cellar.



100 Pointer: Bodacious Beaucastel

Hommage a Jacques Perrin 2010

You’ve heard of legendary Beaucastel and have hopefully tasted how glorious the 2010 Rhone vintage is. Have you heard how the Perrin family who’ve been making wine at the 14th century domaine for nearly a century and scored a perfect WA100 for their ultra sensuous Hommage a Jacques Perrin? I tasted this cuvee in May at the property with Cesar Perrin, grandson of Jacques. I was blown away by the massiveness of the wine, and dizzied by its litheness thanks to the vintage’s bright acidity, the wine is quite literally perfect. Surging out of the glass with a nose of garrigue herbs, blueberries, truffles, and hints of smoked meat, the palate is truly stunning, with an enormity that has to be experienced to be believed. The finish… book yourself a room, you’ll need the night! Figure this beauty will last long enough to share with a generation or two. A flawless example of why “it’s a Rhone World!”


2010 Chateau Beaucastel CdP
Hommage a Jacques Perrin

…perfect… Inky blue/purple, with an extraordinary nose of smoked duck, grilled steaks, Provencal herbs, blackberries, blueberries, kirsch, licorice and truffle… massive, concentrated, full-bodied…