Tag Archives: merlot

2009 Chateau du Gaby: 91 Point Spectator Steal

Buy 2009 Chateau Gaby, Canon-FronsacThis beauty from Bordeaux’s Canon-Fronsac is a dead ringer for great St.-Emillon. In fact, at just 15 km from St.-Emilion and Pomerol, Canon-Fronsac is a geological continuation of the St.-Emilion limestone plateau with clay soils that Merlot just loves, producing supple and sophisticated wines that keep me coming back for more. Gaby is so good and such a solid bargin that 90% of it is consumed in Europe! When I tasted it, I had to get it for you. When you pop this one, everyone will gab about just how unbelievably good it is. With plush, smooth tannins swimming in a core of Merlot-driven plums and hint of Cabernet herbs and the ability to age gracefully, 2009 Gaby is a show-stopping steal.

2009 Chateau du Gaby
A broad, fleshy, smoky style, with dark plum, currant paste, braised fig and baker’s chocolate notes that hang on the muscular finish. A gutsy style, but should be tamed a bit by cellaring….
91 points, Wine Spectator

Fantastic Fronsac: 2009 Fontenil

Dany and Michel Rolland produce one of the top wines of Fronsac at their home estate of Fontenil.
Dany and Michel Rolland produce one of the top wines of Fronsac at their home estate of Fontenil.

Michel and Dany Rolland produce one of the top wines of Fronsac at their home estate of Fontenil. Note that it is both of them that we mention here and not just Michel, Fontenil being about their love of winemaking and the estate they came to own and live and make wine together at in the mid 1980s. Yes Michel jets around consulting the rich and famous but at Fontenil it is a family affair and truly a labor of love. In 2010 I tasted all the wines of the family with Dany and she really lit up when we tasted and talked about Fontenil. It is the slopes of the village of Saillans as well as the talents and hearts of the Rollands that the wine comes from. Yes, and from 2009 also, a vintage of Fontenil Michel calls “grandiose with power and harmony.” Enough said. (14.5%) 92/100.

Buy 2009 Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac
2009 Chateau Fontenil
…relatively hefty alcohol at 14.5%, but it is not noticeable in this full-bodied, layered, opulent wine, with lots of black raspberry fruit intermixed with some blueberries and crushed rock….
92 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate

Life Beyond Beringer – Ed Sbragia Scores High!

Ed Sbragia, iconic winemaker for Beringer’s Private Reserve Chardonnays in the 80s and 90s, has always been a country boy from Sonoma. As he was producing world-class chardonnay in Napa, his heart’s always been in Dry Creek where he grew up, raised his own family and has his own label and winery. Family vineyards, too: Home Ranch is exactly that, where he grew up and where his father made wines; the cab grows at Doc Andolsen’s, the family doctor. And the chance to make wines with his son Adam was his dream. I like family stories, but the wines are the point. Pure Dry Creek, extremely fresh and juicy cabernet, remarkably elegant and sophisticated merlot and chardonnay that is full and rich. His latest release of Home Ranch Chardonnay and Merlot are tremendously outrageous values; the chard is expressive but not showy, the merlot is rustic, but elegant and spicy.

That’s a happy family right there. So salute them and we’ll let you in on one of Sonoma’s best small wineries.

 

2011 Sbragia Chardonnay
Home Ranch

…drop-dead gorgeous. Crushed rocks, butter. white orchard fruit and spices meld together in this harmonious, beautifully crafted Chardonnay… very 2011, which is to say focused and energetic…

 

2010 Sbragia Merlot
Home Ranch

An impressive wine. Ed Sbragia wrestles that famously briary Dry Creek rusticity to the ground, forcing it into refined elegance. With straightforward blackberry, cherry, mocha and cedar flavors…

 

 
2010 Sbragia Cabernet
Andolsen Vineyard

…utterly impeccable from start to finish. Firm mountain tannins… Iron, tobacco and licorice notes dominate, while the fruit takes a little longer to become evident. With time in the glass, the wine gets better and better…

 

 
2009 Sbragia Cabernet
Monte Rosso Vineyard

…hits the palate with juicy dark berries, grilled herbs, cedar and tobacco. There is lovely purity to the fruit backed up by pure, distinctive Monte Rosso tannins. A big, powerful finish rounds things out in style….

 

Shining Bright: 2009 Arnauton Grand Sol

We dig Fronsac wines at B-21, the commune is the right bank’s seminal source of outsized value wines. Chateau Arnauton, sitting at one of the high points of the Gironde, delivers Bordeaux deluxe with its Cuvee Grand Sol of the 2009 vintage. In keeping with the style of the vintage, Grand Sol, made of about 80% merlot, 15% cab franc on a southern facing slope, is lush and ripe, leaning to the modern style without any over extraction; rich with plush texture, dark and floral, and a clean and lengthy finish give this delicious deliverance. Ready to drink right now as well, it is a wine to bring many drinkers steering to the right bank of Bordeaux. 92 points. (14.5%)

 

2009 Chateau Arnauton Grand Sol

…fruits interwoven again with some crushed chalk and spring flowers make for some complex aromatics. Add some raspberry notes in the fruit flavor profile in the mid-palate, in addition to the full-bodied finish…

96pt Cote Rotie and 95pt Pomerol – Made in America!

Where is this country would you be apt to find a world class syrah and merlot? Napa or Russian River? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you… Santa Barbara and Columbia Valley. Well, Columbia Valley is not that much of a surprise as Merlot put Washington State on the map, but consumers still don’t realize that it’s probably the best this country has to offer for the varietal. But Syrah from Santa Barbara? Ojai has been churning out top notch syrah for 3 decades now, and the 2008 Roll Ranch is what American syrah is all about – rich and ripe, with the right balance of fruit and power. Even though Pedestal has only been around for 10 years, the pedigree behind it indicates world class. Pomerol vintner and international consultant Michel Rolland partners with Washington State wine visionary Allen Shoup to produce what in my humble opinion is the best Merlot made in America. This wine hit Wine Spectator’s Top 100 list last year at #11 and we were able to secure the last bit of the vintage. Both these wines are very limited but the rewards are immense.

 

2008 Ojai Syrah Roll Ranch Vineyard

…rich and remarkably composed Syrah of keen focus and real sophistication. It is at once substantial and exceptionally well-balanced with incisively fruity flavors and layers of interest even at this early age…

 

2009 Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot

This red is round, generous and expressive, offering plum, loganberry, cherry and clove flavors that pick up hints of loam and floral character as the finish tightens its focus. Impressive for its length and deft balance….

 

 

Haut-Brion: Bought It, and You Should, Too!

Sitting on the southern edge of the Saint-Emilion plateau is Chateau Tertre Daugay, once considered a “first growth” by Cocks & Feret, the famous reference book of Bordeaux published since 1850. Domaine Clarence Dillon, the company named after the banker that bought Ch. Haut-Brion in 1935, bought Tertre-Daugay last year. If the owners of Haut-Brion are interested in a property so am I. Tasting this two weeks ago at our annual festival of Bordeaux flavor I understand the allure. In a vintage like ’09, where even unknown quantities make themselves known, Grand Cru Classe properties like TD really shine, and it does. Broad-shouldered, black-fruited and lustrous upfront, the mid palate unfolds with earth and spice that is washed over again with rounded fruit and polished oak that gives a bit of volume to the wine. A fusion of the old and the new, this is an estate to watch, one that Prince Robert of Luxembourg, president of Dom. Clarence Dillon, called “a sleeping beauty.” (14.5%)

 

2009 Chateau Tertre Daugay

Blackberry, black licorice and spices. What a nose. Full-bodied, with supervelvety tannins and a long, long finish. Wonderful texture.

Cult Reds: Start ‘Em Up!

The term “cult wine” gets thrown around oten so it got me to wondering what makes a cult wine. Is it prices further out than the Edge of Space jump? Is it minuscule production levels? Is it a superstar winemaker? Is it a 90+ score? Well… yes and no. Which made me also wonder what wines B-21 has that qualify as Cali Cults. No simple task, but one that has its own rewards, like tasting through and picking out some seriously rockin’ juice that is worthy of Cult status. All the wines here offer up sublime nectar that even the most deferential connoisseurs would find intriguing and enjoyable. I did and think you will too! Before getting too worked up about these wines being priced out of orbit, though, let’s note that none are over the two Franklin mark – and more than a few are under a Grant! With wines from stars like Bob Foley of Switchback, Brooks Painter of Coho, Frenchman Luc Morlet of Morlet, as well as Carte Blanche, and Favia’s team of Annie Favia and Andy Erickson, who used to work at stratospheric wineries like Screaming Eagle, you’ll be swept up into the Cult of Cali Cab after the first sip! These folks are the new high priests and priestess of the Cult of Cali Cab, but the only thing leaving earth’s gravitational pull will be your palate as it rides the Cult of Cali rocket of pure delight!

 

2009 Coho Cabernet,SummitVine Ranch

A first-class Cabernet, this is dry, richly tannic and mouthwateringly tart in acidity. It shows savory blackberry and cherry flavors, while the oak gives it an umami tang of smoke….

 
2009 Switchback Ridge Merlot,
Peterson Family Vineyard

Rich, layered and well-structured, with floral red currant aromas and complex flavors of black cherry, anise and toasty spice that lead to big but ripe tannins. Drink now through 2018…..

 
2009 Switchback Ridge Cabernet,
Peterson Family Vineyard

Firm and muscular, with dense, rich dark berry, currant and blackberry fruit that’s complex, layered and tannic, yet with a supple edge and a long finish of melted black licorice….

 
2009 Carte Blanche Proprietary Red,
Napa Valley

This is a very rich wine that’s made in the modern style of soft ripeness and upfront deliciousness…. shows flashy blackberry, cherry, cassis and chocolate flavors…. sheer luxurious taste.

 
2009 Carte Blanche Cabernet,
Napa Valley

The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon caresses the palate with deep layers of dark red fruit, rose petals, smoke and espresso. …All of the elements flow gracefully to the huge, textured finish…

 
2009 Morlet Family Vineyards
“Coeur de Vallee” Cabernet

…caresses the palate with dark plums, dark cherries, spices, licorice and tobacco. …gorgeous mid-palate fleshiness and tons of character… Waves of fruit gain volume through to the structured elegant finish…

 

Chateau Villars: Textbook Fronsac

Chateau Villars is within the premier district of Fronsac, where Charlemagne also once camped famously. Not quite as historic, the current ownership of the Chateau dates back to the French revolution and the First Empire so you may say it is established as a traditional house. While its modern era began in the 1970s, its surge to becoming one of the reference point estates of the commune began in the mid 90s with the leadership of Thierry Gaudrie, the current proprietor. Seeing the expansion of other European countries inspired him to, utilizing modern technology to fully express the terroir and tradition of Fronsac. The style of Villars is resolutely authentic and shuns fashion. Straightforward with fresh and bright fruit initially, the mid palate shows expansivess and volume due to its use of 1/3 new oak. Oak does not imbue the palate but gives it roundness to accentuate the dark berry fruit and stony undertones. This is a purely pleasurable example of textbook Fronsac. (14%) 90/100.

 

2009 Chateau Villars

…resolutely authentic and shuns fashion. …bright fruit initially, the mid palate shows expansivess… Oak does not imbue the palate but gives it roundness to accentuate the dark berry fruit and stony undertones….

Fabulous Fronsac: 2009 Fontenil

Michel and Dany Rolland produce one of the top wines of Fronsac at their home estate of Fontenil. Note that it is both of them that we mention here and not just Michel, Fontenil being about their love of winemaking and the estate they came to own and live and make wine together at in the mid 1980s. Yes Michel jets around consulting the rich and famous but at Fontenil it is a family affair and truly a labor of love. In 2010 I tasted all the wines of the family with Dany and she really lit up when we tasted and talked about Fontenil. It is the slopes of the village of Saillans as well as the talents and hearts of the Rollands that the wine comes from. Yes, and from 2009 also, a vintage of Fontenil Michel calls “grandiose with power and harmony.” Enough said. (14.5%) 92/100.

 

2009 Chateau Fontenil

…deep bluish purple color and relatively hefty alcohol at 14.5%, but it is not noticeable in this full-bodied, layered, opulent wine, with lots of black raspberry fruit intermixed with some blueberries and crushed rock….

Bordeaux’s Great Value of 2012: La Vieille Cure

Perfectly situated, its vineyards reclining on the front side of a slope leading down to the River Isle, La Vieille Cure has slowly grown into one of the superstars of Fronsac. The sleepy and stellar commune, situated a few miles west of Saint-Emilion, where Merlot begins to deepen into wines that are dark and more concentrated than usual, is where Bordeaux drinkers get the most for their dollar. Since the 1980s money and fund manager Colin Ferenbach has renewed this estate and guided it to higher and higher regard in the wine world. With characteristic substance and concentration, the extra attention and judicious use of new oak give the wine that extra dimension, weight and layers of flavors that is deliciously satisfying. The best value of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage. (14.5%)

 

2009 Chateau La Vieille Cure

…The 2009 wine has deep, intense color, a rich mouthfeel, flawless purity and very impressive length. This is serious merlot (and a lot of cab franc), dusty blueberries as rich as they get at a remarkable price.

Our New Man in Cali: Robert Hall

After a tasting trip through the Rhone, Robert Hall, owner and lead viticulturist of Robert Hall Winery in Paso Robles, knew he wanted to make a grand bottle of vino. This desire drove him to search California for his ideal site, which he found and purchased in 1995. Today, with winemaker Don Brady, whose goal “is to capture the essence of the vineyard,” Robert Hall wines are crafted with care from estate fruit of their “Home Ranch,” “Terrace” and “Bench” vineyards. Hall’s aren’t showboat wines. They are built to satisfy and gratify the palate of thirsty folks like you and me. Luckily for us, I discovered Robert’s lovely estate driving north after hunting for Pinot in Santa Barbara. What a find! The wines are wonderful and criminally cheap! Cheers!

 

2009 Robert Hall Merlot

Impressive breed. This is excellent merlot from Paso Robles. Rich, full, with great delineation. Not just a monolithic ripe merlot, which is so often the case. Lots of intrigue mid-palate.

 

2009 Robert Hall Cabernet 

Chocolate richness, solid Paso Robles cabernet. Great balance in 2009…. Richer and riper down Paso way. This is irresistible cabernet for those who prefer a deeper, richer, less acidic style of cabernet….

 

Milbrandt Brothers Walla-Wallop all Other Values

Brothers Jerry and Butch Milbrandt grew up on the family’s farm in eastern Washington. When the grape rush began the brothers diversified, and with the assistance of famed Washington viticulturist Jim McFerran, began cultivating some of the state’s most sought-after fruit. Milbrandt has sold to many of the high-priced producers and they finally decided to make their own wines, and so Milbrandt Vineyards was born. Their Traditions series offers exceptional value and serious sipping that you’re gonna love!

 

2010 Milbrandt Vineyards
Cabernet Sauvignon Traditions
Polished, velvety and expressive, offering layers of black cherry, blackberry, chocolate and spice flavors that linger effortlessly on the extensive finish….

 

2009 Milbrandt Vineyards
Syrah Traditions
A polished red, displaying density to the blueberry, plum and dusky spice flavors. Finishes with a deftness that makes this feel vivid….

2011 Milbrandt Vineyards
Riesling Traditions

Fresh, light and vibrant, with juicy, tangy pineapple and pear fruit, picking up floral notes as the off-dry finish lingers….

 

2009 Milbrandt Vineyards
Merlot Traditions

Lush and ripe with plum, cherry and lots of sweet, toasted oak; smooth, dense and juicy with generous style and balance.

 

Pure Washington Wine Power From Bookwalter!

93-point Merlot is stunning!

Washington State has never been so good! Back in 1983, when Jerry Bookwalter started making wine, there were less than 170 wineries and none made wine like his son John’s Merlot. John sources fruit from some of the state’s most renowned vineyards and has had long term contracts for a while now. This is a truly pioneering family of Washington wine. John works hand in glove with his grower friends to make sure the fruit for his Cabernet and Merlot are ultra-ripe and über-gorgeous. One thing for sure: these are not quietly and shy little things, but are instead big, bold, and buxom beauties that command attention. Want something that jumps out of the glass with gobs of black fruits and heaps of spice? Bookwalter is it. I am really impressed with John’s merlot. We bought all that he had left at the winery for you.

 

2009 J. Bookwalter Foreshadow Merlot

Firm, focused, sturdy and expressive, balancing elegant and powerful dark berry, cherry, loamy earth and black pepper flavors against refined tannins, letting them sail through the long finish….

Killer Keenan Trio: ’08 Cab Franc, ’07 Merlot, ’07 Cabernet

Plus Killer Scores: 92WA, 92+WA, 94WA!

Michael Keenan’s quality never quits. Everything he brings down from Spring Mountain is big and rich, as close to Bordeaux as I get in Napa. His latest ’08 cab franc is dense, jammed with dark mountain berries and cherries, gorgeously perfumed. His ’07s are stunning, and sharp enough to impress Bordeaux top cru drinkers. You know I like Keenan, and I know you do too if you’ve met him and tasted his wines on one of his B-21 visits. I consider Spring Mountain first growth vines; and Mike’s winemaking is so sharp it’s invisible. What you get every time is elegant wine of intense fruit and pure terroir. To celebrate our long history and admiration, I’m offering all of Mike’s best to you at the lowest prices out there. Less than half of what some guys charge.

 

2007 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon

…dense ruby/purple hue along with plenty of crushed rock, black currant, black raspberry, white chocolate, and earth characteristics. A supple texture, beautiful concentration, and a long finish…

2008 Keenan Cabernet Franc

…This dense purple-hued wine is richly fruity with a beautiful floral, blueberry, raspberry and black currant-scented nose, good underlying minerality and a gorgeous fruit intensity without any sense of heaviness…

2007 Keenan Merlot
Reserve Mailbox Vineyard

…reveals hints of tremendous richness and intensity as well as abundant notes of cocoa, chocolate, wood spice, and red and black fruits. The tannins kick in at the end, and the wine… it is locked and loaded….