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2010 Family Winemakers Tasting San Francisco

August 30, 2010

2010 FAMILY WINEMAKERS TASTING SAN FRANCISCO – Fort Mason Festival Pavillon, San Francisco, California (8/22/2010-8/23/2010)


Family Winemakers of California has been doing annual trade tastings since 1991, and their events now include one-day tastings in Del Mar and Pasadena. Their biggest event, however, is the annual two-day tasting at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Festival Pavillon. A few hours of the first day of that event are open to the public, but the rest of that day and all the second day are limited to the trade and media. I’ve been attending for several years now, from when I originally lived in Southern California and regularly attended the Pasadena event. I’ve been making it a point to participate in the San Francisco tasting since my relocation here, a little before the ’05 tasting. The event this past Sunday and Monday was the 20th Anniversary San Francisco Family Winemakers Tasting, and over 340 producers were represented.

I tasted very strategically at this year’s event, arriving with my plan and must-hit list based on prior tastings and research. I ended up sampling 287 wines in the two days, from 78 producers. Due to time constraints, I had to pass up nearly a dozen of the producers on my priority list, not to mention many that I’d tasted recently enough to leave off my must-do plan. Since I try hard to get to as many producers as possible that are new to me, and there were 49 producers in the program who were pouring for the first time in this tasting, I prioritized visiting as many of them that looked promising as possible.

In the past, when I don’t research and plan as much as I did this year, I often end up tasting a lot of dreck, but that wasn’t the case this year. I ended the annual tasting feeling quite good about the state of California independent producer wines, but I’m sure that was mainly because I pre-selected a lot of producers that I already know to be strong, or about which I’d heard good advance press. Amongst the producers new to me and/or new to Family Winemakers, the ones I was most impressed with are:
Buoncristiani
Cornerstone
Dragonette
Field Recordings
Fog Crest
Ispiri
Lamborn Family
Macauley
Peter Paul
Portfolio Limited
Thomas George
Westerhold
Yorba

Among the producers with which I was already familiar, the standouts were:
Audelssa
Calera
Chateau Montelena
Core
Corison
Diamond Terrace
Fortress
Frostwatch
Hanzell
Jemrose
Jones Family
Kent Rasmussen
Ladd Cellars
Lagier Meredith
Littorai
Navarro
Pahlmeyer
Paloma
Paul Hobbs
Robert Biale
Saxon-Brown
Sequum
Sojourn
Sol Rouge
Titus
Turley
Villa Creek
York Creek.

A little on the disappointing side, this year, based on what I’ve tasted in the past were JC Cellars, Justin, L’Aventure, Outpost and Tablas Creek.


As far as vintage perceptions, the ’07 vintage continues to impress me a lot, while the smoke impact on a lot of ’08s, and the relative weak concentration of many of them, remains a theme for that vintage. I didn’t taste enough ’09s to get a strong impression of the vintage, but most that I did try were good.

Since Cabernet is so strongly identified in my mind with California, and with Family Winemakers in general, here’s my list of the Cabs that made the biggest impact on me at the tasting:
’06 Audelssa Reserve
’06 Chateau Montelena Estate
’07 Corison
’07 Diamond Terrace Howell Mountain
’07 Kent Rasmussen
’05 Lamborn Family
’06 and ’07 Macauley Beckstoffer To-Kalon
’06 Pahlmeyer Red
’07 Paul Hobbs Napa
’06 Portfolio Limited Edition
’07 Sequum Four Soil Melange
’07 Sojourn Howell Mountain
’07 Titus Reserve

Amongst the other big reds, including Syrahs and Petite Sirahs, but also red blends, Cab Francs and a lone Tannat, the ones I found most memorable, meriting 92+ or more points, were:
’07 Audelssa Summit
’07 Core Hard Core
’07 Jemrose Syrah Cardiac Hill
’07 Kent Rasmussen Petite Sirah Esoterica
’08 Lagier Meredith Syrah
’05 Lone Madrone Tannat
’07 Paloma Merlot
’08 Robert Biale Petite Sirah Royal Punishers
’08 Robert Biale Zinfandel Monte Rosso
’07 Sequum Zinfandel Kidd Ranch
’07 Titus Petite Sirah
’08 Turley Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge
’07 Turley Petite Sirah Hayne
’07 Westerhold Syrah
’07 Yorba Tempranillo

The list of whites that most impressed me has to start with the stunning ’08 Hanzell Chardonnay, and then continues with:
’07 Fog Crest Chardonnay Estate
’07 and ’08 Frostwatch Chardonnay
’09 Jemrose Viognier Egret Pond
’08 Navarro Gewurztraminer
’08 Peter Paul Chardonnay
’07 Rock Wall Riesling

It seems a little odd and a bit unfair for me to single out Pinot Noirs, as I ended up having to avoid many of my favorite Pinot makers at this tasting for the sake of time, because I’d already reported on most of them from tasting at Pinot Days earlier this year. Nonetheless, the ones that I did get to that weren’t represented at Pinot Days and that I rated 92+ or higher at this tasting were:
’07 Calera de Villiers Vineyard
’08 Fog Crest Estate
’07 Ladd Cellars Moore Ranch
’09 Lagier Meredith Pott Chester’s Anvil
’07 Littorai The Haven

Finally, in the sweet wine category, the strongest wines I tasted, rating 92+ points or more, were:
’08 Fortress Novateur
’07 Fortress Semillon Finale
’07 Macauley Semillon
’06 Navarro Gewurztraminer Cluster Select Late Harvest
’05 York Creek Port

The following is an alphabetical listing of all the producers I visited, with a little background info about them (and usually an indication of why I included them on my hit list this year), along with my tasting notes:

Ackerman


Ackerman has taken advantage of the new tiny bottle format for a tasting kit, pictured above, that they can send to reviewers or buyers. This is a small family project, making only 500 cases a year of Cabernet that retails for about $75. In ’07, they also made a Cab/Sangiovese blend. The flavor profile here is dominated by black fruit. These are decent Cabs, but I wasn’t wild about them.

Adastra

I’ve enjoyed the Adastra Pinots, especially the Proximus, at Pinot Days, so wanted to try more of their wines. They’ve been producing wine since 1995, and make only 1500 cases a year, comprised of Chardonnay (including a non-oaked version), Merlot, Pinot and a Red Blend. Most successful for me were the Proximus Pinot, the Merlot and the Red Blend, the latter of which is named after co-owner Edwin Richards, pictured on the right.

  • 2009 Adastra Chardonnay N’Oak – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Apple nose; okay, apple palate; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Adastra Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Light apple nose; tasty, apple, pear palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Adastra Pinot Noir – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Brett, tart red fruit nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Adastra Pinot Noir Proximus – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Rich cherry, black cherry nose; rich cherry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Adastra Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Plum, berry, menthol nose; plum, berry, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Adastra Ed’s Red – USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, blue fruit, menthol nose; black fruit, blue fruit, menthol palate; medium finish (43% Syrah, 39% Zinfandel, 13% Petite Sirah, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)

Anaba

I’ve been passing the new tasting room for this project, which was started in ’06, when I drive up Arnold in Sonoma on my way to my sister’s in Kenwood for some months now, and meaning to try them. They’re making 4500 cases a year with fruit sourced from Carneros, the Sonoma Coast and Sonoma Valley. The Chardonnay was the best of what they poured at the tasting; the rest of the wines were good but not particularly memorable or complex.

  • 2008 Anaba Coriol White – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice tart peach, citrus nose; tart peach, citrus, floral palate; medium finish (48% Roussanne, 30% Viognier, 12% Marsanne, and 10% Grenache Blanc) (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Anaba Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Tart pineapple, apple nose; apple, tart pineapple palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Anaba Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Baked cherry, smoke nose; smoke, tart cherry palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (released the day before) (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Anaba Coriol – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/23/2010)
    Smoke, tart red fruit, plum nose; smoke, tart red fruit, plum palate; medium finish (38% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre, 25% Petite Sirah, 10% Counoise) (88 pts.)

Andrew Geoffrey

Andrew Geoffrey has been producing Cabernet from the Diamond Mountain District since ’95, and currently makes 1700 cases a year priced at $75 retail. It’s a solid Cabernet, which includes a small amount of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.

Audelssa


Erich Bradley, above, is the talented winemaker for Audelssa, as well as his own project, Sojourn. I’ve been enjoying and buying Audelssa wines for some years now. The ’07s, although very young, were showing well, but the most impressive was the ’06 Cab Reserve. This project of the Schaefer Family is now producing 7,000 cases per year, mostly with estate fruit.

  • 2007 Audelssa Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Berry, blackberry nose; tasty, berry, blackberry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Audelssa Estate Winery Summit – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice black fruit, herbal nose; tasty, nice black fruit, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Audelssa Estate Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Rich berry, blackberry, black fruit nose; berry, blackberry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Azari

I took a flier on this producer making its FW debut because they make Chardonnay, Pinot and Syrah from Sonoma Coast fruit. I wasn’t that impressed with the results.

  • 2009 Azari Winery Chardonnay Corkscrew – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Green apple nose; apple, lime palate; short-medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Azari Winery Pinot Noir Corkscrew – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Big cherry, red fruit nose; tart, acidified?, red fruit palate; short-medium finish (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Azari Winery Syrah Corkscrew – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Smoky, tart black fruit nose; tart black fruit palate with good acidity; medium finish (87 pts.)

Barnett

I’ve liked Barnett Cabs in the past, especially the ’93, so decided to check in on current releases. The Cab was a tasty, chocolatey, ripe monster. The other two wines were not as strong.

Buoncristiani

Buoncristiani is definitely a family project, of the Buoncristiani Brothers, who have been making several varietal wines from Napa since ’99. They currently produce 3500 cases a year. I liked the whole line up, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Malbec, which is one of the better Cali Malbecs I’ve tried.

  • 2006 Buoncristiani OPC Proprietary Red – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Baked berry nose; baked berry, Vegemite palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Buoncristiani Syrah Artistico – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, berry, espresso nose; deep black fruit, berry, espresso palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Buoncristiani Malbec – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Winter 2011) – nice black fruit, berry, intriguing nose; deep berry, black fruit palate with poise; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Buoncristiani Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Fall 2010) – deep berry, plum nose; tight, tasty, plum, berry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Calera

Calera’s Josh Jensen, who has been making artisanal Pinot from his unique spot since ’74, had to have been wearing the most eyecatching pants at the event. I always try to fit in a tasting of these wines, if Josh is present, as the Pinots are such unique expressions, and he often includes at least a couple of library wines for comparison, as he did here. The Pinot from the new vineyard, de Villiers, really stood out for me, followed by the other ’07s, Ryan and Mills. Benchmark alternative Cali Pinots for sure.

  • 2009 Calera Viognier – USA, California, Central Coast (8/23/2010)
    Apple, honeysuckle nose; apple, honeysuckle palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Calera Viognier – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Herbal, bay leaf nose; herbal, bay leaf palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast – USA, California, Central Coast (8/23/2010)
    Apple, lime nose; apple, lime palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Calera Chardonnay Mount Harlan – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Lime, apple nose; lime, apple palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Calera Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast (8/23/2010)
    Nice roses, red fruit nose; roses, red fruit palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Calera Pinot Noir de Villiers Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Ric raspberry, cherry nose; rich raspberry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Calera Pinot Noir Ryan Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Rich cherry, baked cherry nose; cherry, baked cherry, herbal palate; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Mineral, black cherry nose; mineral, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2000 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Brett, red fruit nose; earthy, red fruit, cinnamon palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 1997 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Mount Harlan (8/23/2010)
    Mature, earthy, herbal, red fruit nose; mature, earthy, herbal, red fruit palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)

Carrefour

I was impressed by the Carrefour wines at last year’s FW, so decided to revisit them. The ’06s weren’t quite as strong as the ’05s I’d tasted the year before, but these are still good wines. I particularly liked the Pinot, from a vineyard planted in ’86 and ’87, and the Merlot.

Carter

This was Carter’s FW debut, and their wines were recommended by someone on the WineBerserkers board. The project was started in ’98 and now makes 1200 cases of Cabernet and Merlot. Both the ’07 Merlot and Cabs were showing well.

Cartograph

This was another FW debut, of a winery launched just last year by owner/winemaker Alan Baker with partner Serena Lourie. They are making 500 cases of Gewurz and Pinot. I found the Gewurz dry and tasty, and also enjoyed the Split Rock Pinot. The Two Pisces Pinot had a bit too much brett for me, and Alan was very honest in confirming what I was tasting there.

  • 2009 Cartograph Gewürztraminer – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice floral, roses nose; tasty, dry palate with good acidity; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Cartograph Pinot Noir Split Rock – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice tart cherry, raspberry nose; tart cherry, raspberry palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Cartograph Pinot Noir Two Pisces – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Brett, tart cherry nose; brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish (88 pts.)

Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena hadn’t been listed in the advance materials as a participant this year, so it was a nice surprise to see their table. These are always benchmark Napa Cabs, and the ’06 Estate was very good, as was the ’08 Chard.

Coastview

Coastview wines and the winemaker, Ian Brand, were a recent subject of one of my blog posts. I had already tasted through, and written about, most of what they were pouring at FW, so just tasted these two tank samples of their second label wine, which will both be excellent values when they are released. Ian is pictured below with his lovely bride Heather.

Core

I told Dave Corey I was disappointed in not having been able to get up to Core when I visited Santa Barbara with friends a few weeks back–his facility was very far north from where we were staying, and I just couldn’t get the gang to leave the beach on Sunday to drive all the way up there. It was good to be able taste through some of his many offerings here, as it had been awhile. Dave coaxes a lot of intense flavor out of his fruit, and the Grenache, Hard Core blend, Mourvedre and Crazy Eights, especially, all exhibited that quality. Enjoyable wines, as usual, at a wide price range, starting as low as $12. Dave and Becky now make 5,000 cases a year.

  • 2007 Core Grenache Santa Barbara County – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Big spicy cherry, berry nose; intense, spicy berry, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Core Hard Core – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Big berry, boysenberry, black raspberry nose; tasty, berry, boysenberry, black raspberry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (37% Mourvedre, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Syrah, 4% Grenache) (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Core Mister Moreved Alta Mesa – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Green herb, black fruit, charcoal nose; intense green herb, black fruit, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (79% Mourvedre, 21% Grenache) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Turchi Malbec Santa Barbara Highlands Block 1 – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Big black fruit, charcoal nose; tasty, tart plum, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Kuyam 13 Moons Santa Barbara Highlands – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Tart black fruit nose; black fruit, licorice palate; medium finish (retails for $19) (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Core Crazy Eights – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/23/2010)
    Rich black plum, baking spice nose; black plum, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Corison

Cathy Corison is the owner/winemaker, and is currently making 2,000 cases a year. The ’07 was quite good, but it was also instructive to taste the ’98 and ’02 library selections they were pouring.

  • 1998 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Kronos Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Maturing, herbal, meaty nose; meaty, mature, tart cassis palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2002 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, licorice nose; black fruit, licorice, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon Kronos Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Oct. 2010) – black fruit, berry nose; tight, tart black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (Sept. 2010) – Nice herbal, black fruit, cassis nose; tight, but tasty, herbal, black fruit, cassis palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Cornerstone

I tried the Cornerstone line up because Craig Camp, one of the owners, is on WineBerserkers. The ’06 Howell Mountain was quite good. They’re making 5,000 cases a year, and Jeff Keene is the winemaker.

Corté Riva

Corté Riva is a project of winemaker Lawrence Cortez, longtime cellar master for Pride, that began in 2001. Corté Riva is particularly known for their rich and chocolatey Merlot, and the ’06 they were pouring did not disappoint in that respect. The Cab and Petite Sirah are good wines too. Current production is 2500 cases.

  • 2006 Corté Riva Cabernet Franc – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma (8/22/2010)
    Deep, plush black fruit, oak nose; ripe black fruit, espresso palate; medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2006 Corté Riva Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, faint herbal, mint nose; rich black fruit, espresso palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Corté Riva Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, menthol nose; deep black fruit, menthol palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Corté Riva Petite Sirah – USA, California, North Coast (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, berry, oak nose; tight, tart black fruit, berry palate with grip; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Dashe

I was trying to minimize the amount of Zins I tasted at FW (I’m simply not a fan of the grape, although I respect the results from some of the best makers, like Ridge). I was intrigued enough, however, by past tastings of Michael Dashe’s L’Enfant Terrible bottlings, to want to check in just on those, rather than his whole line of Zins. The L’Enfants are aged in large older French oak barrels, and bottled with low SO2 levels. These are lighter bodied, food friendly wines, and the Grenache was quite good.

Demetria

I was intrigued by this producer’s wines at last year’s FW, which is why it ended up on my list again. They are making 5,000 cases a year with fruit from Santa Rita Hills and Santa Ynez Valley. The Chardonnay and red Rhone blend, Pantheon, were both very good.

  • 2008 Demetria Chardonnay – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (8/22/2010)
    Apple, citrus nose; peach, apple palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Demetria Cuvée Papou – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (8/22/2010)
    Tart apple, lemon, lanolin nose; soft, lanolin, citrus, mineral palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Demetria Pinot Noir – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (8/22/2010)
    Brett nose; a little brett, tart red fruit palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Demetria Pantheon – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice light black fruit, herbal nose; tart black fruit, pepper palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)

Diamond Terrace

I enjoyed these wines at Family Winemakers last year. Thomas Brown is the winemaker for Diamond Terrace, and Maureen and Hal Taylor, pictured below, are the owners. This project started in ’99 and currently makes only 500 cases. The ’07 Howell Mountain Cabernet was one of the best Cabs I tasted during the whole event.

  • 2007 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain (8/23/2010)
    Big berry, baked berry, plum nose; berry, baked berry, plum palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; tasty, deep berry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2006 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/23/2010)
    Berry, black fruit, plum, vanilla nose; tight, black fruit, plum, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Donum/Robert Stemmler

Donum Estate bottles both under the Donum label and a second label, Robert Stemmler. The Donum labeled wines were the superior offerings, especially the Carneros estate Pinot. Donum Estate produces 8,000 cases a year, and the winemaker is Kenneth Juhasz.

Dragonette

A few WineBerserkers posters recommended visiting Dragonette, which is how this producer, making its FW debut, ended up on my hit list. The owners and winemakers are the triumvirate of John and Steve Dragonette, and Brandon Sparks-Gillis, pictured below. I particularly liked the Syrah, with its bacon fat and smoky flavor. The Pinot Noir was quite rich and tasty too.

Ehret

Nick Goldschmidt is the winemaker for this project, founded in 2005 and making 1500 cases of wine based on grapes from Knights Valley. The two I tried were good; the last bottle of Syrah, unfortunately, was corked, so I didn’t get to try a good sample of that.

Field Recordings

I mentioned this producer in my blog report on a recent dinner at Luce Wine Restaurant, because that’s where I first tried one of their wines, the Chenin Blanc, and it got my attention. It was great to meet Andrew Jones (pictured left below), the energetic winemaker/owner behind this project, which was founded in ’05. The prices on these wines, ranging from $18 to $30, are very reasonable, and they all reflect a point of view. My favorites are the intense Petite Sirah, the “Chorus Effect” blend, and that unusual, very dry Chenin Blanc. The label graphics and presentation are very interesting too. What a welcome new voice from the Central Coast.

Fog Crest

Fog Crest makes 1500 cases a year. James Manoogian is the owner and Daniel Moore the winemaker. The estate Pinot was particularly good, but the whole line up was solid.

  • 2008 Fog Crest Vineyard Chardonnay LAGUNA WEST – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pear nose; pear, apple palate; medium finish (12 mos. in neutral oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Fog Crest Vineyard Chardonnay Estate Bottled – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pear, lemon curd nose; very tasty pear, lemon curd palate with balance; medium-plus finish (18 mos. in oak, 50% new French) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Fog Crest Pinot Noir LAGUNA WEST – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Cherry, incense nose; tasty, cherry, spice, incense palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Fog Crest Pinot Noir Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Deep black cherry, black raspberry nose; deep black cherry, black raspberry palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Fortress

Nils Venge is the winemaker for Fortress. They launched in ’04, and are currently making 8,000 cases a year. The sweet wines, Novateur and Finale, were both very good.

  • 2008 Fortress Petite Sirah Red Hills Lake County – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County (8/23/2010)
    Nice tart black fruit, smoke nose; tart black fruit, smoke palate; medium-plus finish (20 mos. in oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Fortress Novateur – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County (8/23/2010)
    Tart apricot nose; apricot, tart peach palate; long finish 92+ pts. (70% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc; 12 mos. in neutral French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Fortress Sémillon Finale – USA, California, North Coast, Red Hills Lake County (8/23/2010)
    From 375 ml – creme brulee, apricot nose; rich, creme brulee, apricot palate; long finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Frostwatch

Brett Raven is owner and winemaker at Frostwatch. These are intriguing wines, and I enjoyed them at last year’s FW. The Chards are particularly strong. They’re making 900 cases a year, with a reasonable price range of $21 to $38.

  • 2009 Frostwatch Kismet – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lovely pear, apricot nose; tasty, apricot, pear palate with good acidity; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Frostwatch Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lovely floral, honeysuckle, apple nose; floral, honeysuckle, apple palate; medium-plus finish (indigenous yeast; 6 mos. malo; 43% new French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Frostwatch Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (releasing in 2 mos.) – nice apple, citrus nose; apple, citrus palate; medium finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Frostwatch Merlot – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice plum, berry nose; tasty, tart plum, berry, black fruit palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (2 years in barrel) (91 pts.)

Hanzell

Hanzell is a benchmark California Chardonnay, also one of the most potentially long aging domestic Chards, and the ’08 they poured was the best Chardonnay at this event. Wonderful juice. The new second label offering, Sebella, was also good. Weakest was the ’07 Pinot, which did not show any better than it did at Pinot Days.

  • 2008 Hanzell Chardonnay Sebella – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Citrus, tart apple nose; tasty, citrus, tart apple palate; medium finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Hanzell Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice mineral, tart apple, citrus nose; tasty, tight, tart apple, mineral palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Hanzell Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (8/22/2010)
    Herbal, forest floor, pine nose; tight, tart red fruit, pine palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (about 15% whole cluster) (90 pts.)

Hearthstone

This was Hearthstone’s debut at FW. They make 1400 cases a year, and the winemaker is Paul Ayers. This was a good line up, and the Pinot and Grenache were particularly good.

Hestan

Hestan makes 6000 cases a year. The wines were okay–best was the ’06 Cabernet.

Ispiri

This was a FW deput, and Alan Baker of Cartograph recommended trying them. The ’07 Cab was particularly good.

  • 2007 Ispiri Wines Maylena – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Cassis, plum, menthol nose; tasty, poised, cassis, plum palate with integrated oak; medium finish (88% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon; 50% new French oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Ispiri Wines Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice berry, plum, menthol nose; tasty, berry, plum, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (w/10% Merlot) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Ispiri Wines Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (bottled 6 days earlier) – tart red fruit nose; tasty, tart red fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (50% new French oak) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Ispiri Wines Pinot Noir Corona Creek – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pre-release (bottled 6 days prior) – major menthol, cherry nose; menthol, cherry palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)

JC Cellars

JC Cellars’s line up was good, but not as strong as prior years. Jeff Cohn is the winemaker/owner.

Jemrose

Michael Browne, of Kosta Browne, is the winemaker for Jemrose, and this was a strong line up, as it was at last year’s FW. They are currently making 1400 cases a year. Best of all was the ’07 Syrah Cardiac Hill.

  • 2009 Jemrose Viognier Egret Pond – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice apple, peach nose; very tasty, apple, peach palate; medium finish (stainless steel and neutral French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Jemrose Grenache Foggy Knoll – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, berry nose; tart black fruit, berry palate; medium finish (w/5% Viognier) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Jemrose Syrah Cardiac Hill Bennett Valley – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit nose; tasty, tart black fruit, bacon fat palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (30% whole cluster, 20% new French oak) (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, black plum nose; poised, tasty, black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (55% Syrah, 45% Merlot) (92 pts.)

Jones Family

Thomas Rivers Brown is the winemaker for Jones Family, and the ’07 Cab was particularly strong. They make 1,000 cases a year.

  • 2007 Jones Family The Sisters – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black raspberry, berry nose; tight, black fruit, tar palate; medium-plus finish (Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Jones Family Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Reticent black fruit nose; tight, tart black fruit, berry palate with grip, needs 7 years; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Justin

Justin makes very good reds from Paso Robles, but I found this line up weaker than usual for them. They produce 50,000 cases a year.

  • 2007 Justin Vineyard Justification – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, plum, oak nose; black fruit, plum, oak palate; medium finish (65% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Justin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, black plum nose; deep black plum, black fruit palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Justin Vineyard Savant – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Oak, black fruit nose; oak, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (62% Syrah, 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec) (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Justin Vineyard Isosceles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; deep black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Justin Vineyard Obtuse (Traditional) – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Eucalyptus, menthol nos;e berry, menthol, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (88 pts.)

Kent Rasmussen

I enjoyed Kent Rasmussen’s wines at last year’s FW, and wanted to try them again this year. The ’07 Cab and ’07 Petite Sirah were among the best wines of the weekend, and the whole line up was strong. Kent Rasmussen is the owner, along with Celia Ramsay, and winemaker, and they’re making 20,000 cases annually.

Krupp Brothers

I enjoyed this line up at last year’s FW, and these continue to be wines with a point of view and memorable packaging. My favorite was the ’07 Syrah.

L’Aventure

L’Aventure is a benchmark Paso Robles producer for me, but I found these ’08 bottlings to be significantly weaker than prior vintages.

  • 2008 L’Aventure Côte-à-Côte Estate – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Baked berry, oak, herbal nose; deep berry, oak, charcoal palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 L’Aventure Estate Cuvée – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Nice plum black fruit, French oak nose; berry, vanilla, oak, ripe plum palate; medium-plus finish (50% Syrah, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)

Ladd Cellars

Eric Lundblad, owner/winemaker of Ladd Cellars, is a buddy, and I tasted through his Pinots at Pinot Days, with the exception of this Moore Ranch Pinot. I was quite impressed. Eric is making 650 cases a year, from grapes sourced from Russian River and the Sonoma Coast.

Lagier Meredith

Stephen Lagier is the winemaker, and his partner Carole Meredith is the emeritus Davis professor responsible for identifying the parentage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and Zinfandel, among other accomplishments. I always look forward to trying their Syrahs, which are among the best in California. The Chester’s Anvil project is in conjunction with Aaron and Claire Pott of Pott Wine. The Chester’s Anvil Pinot is quite good, as is the blend Hattorai Hanzo. The ’08 Lagier Meredith Syrah is also quite good, if tight, as usual, at this stage.

  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Pott Chardonnay Chester’s Anvil – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Nice apple, lemon nose; apple, peach palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Syrah Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (8/22/2010)
    Tasty tart plum, herbal palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Pott Pinot Noir Chester’s Anvil – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/22/2010)
    Nice black cherry, black raspberry nose; rich, tasty, black raspberry, black cherry, cinnamon palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Lagier Meredith Syrah – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder (8/22/2010)
    Pre-release (10/1/10 release) – deep tart black fruit, espresso, herbal nose; tight, tasty, tart black fruit espresso palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Lagier Meredith Pott Chester’s Anvil Hattori Hanzo – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Lovely, deep plum, berry, menthol nose; deep plum, berry, menthol palate; medium-plus finish (Merlot 32%, Syrah 24%, Cabernet Sauvignon 24%, Cabernet Franc 16%, Malbec 4%) (92 pts.)

Lamborn Family

Heidi Barret is the celebrity winemaker for Lamborn, founded in ’82, and the ’05 Cab is particularly impressive. They make 1600 cases a year.

Littorai

Ted Lemon founded Littorai in ’93, and his Chards and Pinots are benchmarks for more Burgundian (for lack of a better term) Chards and Pinots in California. The ’08 Charles Heintz is a lovely Chard, and the ’07 Savoy and Haven Pinots were very strong.

  • 2008 Littorai Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Light citrus, apple nose; citrus, apple palate with good acidity; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Littorai Chardonnay Charles Heintz Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Nice citrus, pineapple nose; balanced, tart pineapple palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Littorai Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Nice cherry, rhubarb nose; tart cherry, raspberry, oak palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Littorai Pinot Noir Savoy Vineyard – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (8/23/2010)
    Tart cherry nose; tasty tart red fruit, tart cherry palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Littorai Pinot Noir The Haven – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Rich cherry, incense, baked cherry nose; tart cherry, red fruit palate, needs 2-plus years; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Lone Madrone

Tablas Creek’s Neil Collins is the winemaker/owner of Lone Madrone, which makes very affordable and approachable wines, produces an impressive range of whites, reds and blends. The best was the ’05 Tannat, probably the best Tannat made in California.

  • 2008 Lone Madrone La Mezcla Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Peach, nectarine nose; peach, herbal, mineral palate; medium finish (blend of Grenache Blanc and Albarino) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone Roussanne Points West Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Apple, oats nose; tasty, creamy textured, apple, citrus palate; medium finish (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Lone Madrone La Mezcla Roja – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Carbonic maceration, herbal, nose; carbonic maceration, herbal, tart berry palate; short-medium finish (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone Zinfandel Bailey Ranch Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Berry, green herb nose; berry, green herb, charcoal palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Lone Madrone “Old Hat” Osgood Family Vineyard Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Deep berry, plum nose; berry, plum, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (78% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone Points West Red – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Mineral, stone, black fruit nose; tight, tart berry black fruit palate with depth; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (2/3s Syrah, 1/3 Mourvedre; some Hungarian oak) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Lone Madrone The Will Will’s Hills – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Berry, black fruit, herb, bay leaf nose; berry, black fruit herb, bay leaf palate; medium-plus finish (41% Grenache, 40% Petite Sirah, 19% Zinfandel) (92 pts.)
  • 2005 Lone Madrone Tannat Paso Robles – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, tar nose; black fruit, tar, cherry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Macauley

Kirk Venge is the winemaker for Macauley which produces only 700 cases from Napa and Alexander Valley. The owner, Mac Watson, is pictured below. I particularly enjoyed the ’07 Zin, the ’07 Cab, the ’07 Beckstoffer To-Kalon Cab, and the ’07 late harvest Semillon.

  • 2009 Macauley Sauvignon Vert – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lime, citrus nose; tangy, tart citrus, lime palate; medium finish (stainless steel and neutral oak; old vine Sauvignon Vert) (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Berry, chocolate nose; berry, chocolate, caramel palate; medium-plus finish (83.4% Zinfandel, 16.6% Petite Sirah) (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Brett, cedar nose; plum, cedar palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice black fruit, plum, vanilla nose; tasty, black fruit, plum, vanilla palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2006 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; deep black fruit, berry palate with grip; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry, tar nose; deep black fruit, berry, tar palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Macauley Sémillon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Very nice coconut, confectioner’s sugar nose; coconut, creme brulee, apricot, spice palate; long finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Mantra

Mantra was founded in 2000, and Michael Kuimelis, Jr., is the winemaker/owner. This was a good showing, especially the two ’07 Cabs.

  • 2007 Mantra Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County (8/23/2010)
    Cassis, berry nose; tasty cassis, cedar palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Mantra Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Deep berry, black fruit nose; tight, tasty, berry, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Mantra Syrah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Alexander Valley (8/23/2010)
    Smoke, roasted black fruit nose; smoke, black fruit, charcoal palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)

Mauritson

Mauritson makes 9,000 cases a year from Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile and Sonoma County. Clay Mauritson is the owner/winemaker. This was a good line up, especially the ’07 Buck Pasture blend.

Mercy

Alan Philips is the winemaker for Mercy, which was launched in ’08, and is now making 3,000 cases a year. The lineup is good, especially the ’08 Chard Zabala Vineyard.

Navarro

Navarro is a benchmark producer from Anderson Valley, and regularly makes one of the best Gewürzes in the state. The ’08 is terrific, and the ’07 l’Ancienne Pinot is quite good too. It was a treat to try the ’06 Late Harvest Gewürz as well.

Outpost

Thomas Brown is the winemaker for Outpost, and these are usually very good Grenaches, Cabs and Petite Sirahs. I was less excited by the results this year, but the Zin was quite good.

  • 2008 Outpost Grenache – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, berry nose; good, baked berry palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Outpost Zinfandel – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/22/2010)
    Rich berry, black fruit nose; berry black fruit palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Pahlmeyer

Jason Pahlmeyer is the owner of this company, and the winemaker is Erin Green. They make 20,000 cases a year and the wines, especially the Proprietary Red, are quite good.

  • 2008 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice apple nose; apple, oak palate; medium finish (89 pts.)
  • 2006 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Pencil lead, black fruit nose; tasty, black fruit, pencil lead palate; medium-plus finish (81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec) (93 pts.)
  • 2007 Pahlmeyer Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, charcoal nose; black fruit, charcoal palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Paloma

Barbara Richards soldiers on at Paloma since the passing of her husband. and her 1850 cases of Merlot from the project they started in ’94 continue to be one of the best Merlots made in California. The ’07 was very good.

  • 2007 Paloma Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Berry, black fruit nose; tasty, black fruit, berry, eucalyptus palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)

Parallel

Internationally famous consultant/flying winemaker Philippe Melka is the winemaker at Parallel. I’d enjoyed the wines at last year’s FW, and they showed well again this year.

Paul Hobbs

Paul Hobbs is a legendary California winemaker. Crossbarn is a label he founded in ’91. They’re good, and well priced wines, but the Paul Hobbs label is stronger, and the ’07 Paul Hobbs Cab is particularly good.

Peju Province

Peju goes back to ’82, and makes 35,000 cases a year. These were good wines, especially the ’06 Cabernet.

Peter Paul

My buddy Michael Carpenter suggested I’d be surprised by these wines, and I was. The Chard was very strong, but the Pinots were good too. This project was launched in ’08 by owner Jessica Paul, with Daniel Moore and Jeff Morgan as winemakers. They’re making 2500 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot.

  • 2008 Peter Paul Wines Chardonnay – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Nice, leesy, apple nose; tasty, apple, peach palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Smoke, cherry nose; smoke, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Hill Station Road – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/23/2010)
    Cherry, black cherry nose; tasty cherry, black cherry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Portfolio Limited Edition

This project was founded in 2000 by owners/winemakers Genevieve and Luc Janssens. They’re making only 250 cases a year of Cab, priced at $125.

  • 2006 Portfolio Limited Edition – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Big black fruit, baked black fruit, espresso nose; black fruit, baked black fruit, espresso palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc; 100% new French oak) (92 pts.)

Robert Biale

Robert Biale is known for its Zins and Syrahs. This was a particularly strong line up.The ’08 Monte Rosso Zin was over the top. Great wines.

Robert Keenan

Keenan has a long tradition, since 1974, and currently produces 11,000 cases. The ’07 Cab Franc is particularly good.

Rock Wall

This is the Rosenblum Family project, since they sold Rosenblum, with Shauna Rosenblum as winemaker. They are making 5,000 cases. The Riesling was the best of their line up at FW.

Roessler

Wells Guthrie, winemaker/owner of Copain, is the winemaker here, along with Scott Shapley. Richard and Roger Roessler are the owners. They are making 7500 cases per year. The results are good but not spectacular.

  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir Griffin’s Lair – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (8/23/2010)
    Spicy cherry, red fruit nose; spicy cherry, oak palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (8/23/2010)
    Spicy cherry, berry nose; spicy cherry, berry palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir Peregrine – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Rita Hills – Sta. Rita Hills (8/23/2010)
    Big cherry, spice, oak nose; cherry, spice, oak palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Roessler Pinot Noir Bluejay – USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (8/23/2010)
    Oak, cherry nose; oak, cherry palate; medium-plus finish (89 pts.)

Rosati

Zelma Long is the consulting winemaker to this project, founded in ’87, making 900 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon a year from southern Mendocino County.

Saxon-Brown

Jeff Gaffner is the owner/winemaker of Saxon Brown, which was launched in ’97. The Syrah was particularly good.

Sensorium

Jeff Ritchey is the winemaker/owner of this project that has been making wines since ’02, amounting to 900 cases this year. They’re good wines across the board.

Sequum

Paul Skinner is winemaker/owner at Sequum, which is producing 550 cases, since 2002. This was a very strong line up. The ’07 Cabernet Four Soil Melange was particularly impressive.

Sojourn

Erich Bradley, winemaker, and Craig Haserot are partners in Sojourn. I taste these wines regularly, as Craig and Erich are buddies. I sampled the Cabs again, and the ’07s continue to be impressive.

Sol Rouge

Bryan Kane is the winemaker/owner of Sol Rouge, which was launched in ’05, and produces 1200 cases a year. It’s a high vine density, hillside project in the Mayacamas Mountains. The ’06 Cabernet Reserve was particularly good, but the wines are quite good across the board.

  • 2007 Sol Rouge Viognier – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Floral, honeysuckle nose; peach, honeysuckle palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Sol Rouge The Gypsy Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (8/22/2010)
    Lime, floral nose; lime, chalk palate; medium finish (blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier) (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Sol Rouge Rosé – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Berry nose; dullish berry palate; medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge The Gypsy – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Deep berry, raspberry nose; tart berry, raspberry palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Sol Rouge Mourvedre – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Big berry, plum, black fruit nose; tasty black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Sol Rouge Syrah Lake County – USA, California, North Coast, Lake County (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, nose; tart black fruit, herbal, pepper palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon Lake County – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/22/2010)
    Nice berry, eucalyptus nose; tight, tasty, berry, eucalyptus palate; medium-plus finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, herbal nose; black fruit, black raspberry, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Sol Rouge Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Mayacamas Mountain – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/22/2010)
    Nice, rich, black fruit, berry, herbal nose; very good, black fruit, berry, herbal palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)

Stage Left

Stage Left started in ’04, and currently produces 1200 cases a year. The line up was generally good, with the Petite Sirah being the best of all.

  • 2008 Stage Left Cellars The Go Getter – USA, California, Central Coast (8/22/2010)
    Apple, floral nose; tasty, peach, cream floral palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (63% Viognier, 32% Grenache Blanc, 5% Roussanne) (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Stage Left Cellars Syrah The Scenic Route – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, herbal nose; herbal, black fruit palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Stage Left Cellars Grenache – USA, California, Central Coast (8/22/2010)
    Big berry, chocolate nose; cherry, berry, chocolate, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish 90+ pts. (92% Grenache, 8% Mourvedre) (90 pts.)
  • 2005 Stage Left Cellars Grenache – USA, California, Central Coast (8/22/2010)
    Rich berry, chocolate, baking spice nose; tasty, berry, chocolate, baking spice palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Stage Left Cellars Petite Sirah – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep berry, blackberry, vanilla nose; tasty, black fruit, berry palate with depth; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)

Tablas Creek

Tablas Creek is a benchmark Paso Robles producer. The ’08s are not as strong as prior vintages, but these are always very well made wines. The ’06 Syrah and ’08 Esprit were particularly good.

  • 2009 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Apple, green fruit nose; green apple, mineral palate; medium finish (42% Viognier, 26% Roussanne, 21% Marsanne, 11% Grenache Blanc) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Lime, chalk nose; tasty, tart apple, tart peach, green fruit palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Berry, black fruit nose; tasty, tart berry, black fruit palate; medium finish 90+ pts. (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Tablas Creek Syrah – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; black fruit palate with green notes; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2008 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Nice black fruit, plum, berry nose; tasty, tart berry, plum palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (38% Mourvedre, 32% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 6% Counoise) (91 pts.)

Thomas George

Thomas George was making their FW debut. They were founded in ’08, by owner Jeremy Baker with winemaker Chris Russi, making 9,000 cases. The Pinot Lancel Creek is particularly good.

Titus

These were very nice wines. Philip Titus is the winemaker, and partners with brother Eric as owner. They are producing 10,000 cases, and started back in 1990. The Petite Sirah is particularly impressive and tasty.

  • 2007 Titus Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Olive, herbaceous nose; solid, tasty, herbaceous, olive palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Herbal, tart black fruit nose; tart black fruit, herbal palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Titus Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Lovely, deep, tart black fruit, espresso, herbal nose; deep tart black fruit, espresso, herbal palate; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Titus Petite Sirah – USA, California, Napa Valley (8/23/2010)
    Bright, herbal, black fruit nose; tasty, deep black fruit, herbs palate; medium-plus finish (93 pts.)

Turley

Turley is usually represented at Family Winemakers, but normally they only pour one wine. This year it was two, and both were very good, but the Petite Sirah Hayne was terrific. I enjoyed tasting through a complete vertical of the Petite Hayne a few years back, and this is a worthy successor to the line of great Petites from this vineyard.

  • 2008 Turley Zinfandel Rattlesnake Ridge – USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain (8/22/2010)
    Nice, poised, tart berry, black fruit nose; tasty, tart berry, espresso palate with depth; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Turley Petite Sirah Hayne Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley, St. Helena (8/22/2010)
    Opaque purple red violet color; lovely, rich, boysenberry, dark chocolate nose; tasty, tight, tart berry, blackberry, chocolate palate with balance; long finish 93+ pts. (93 pts.)

Valdez Family

Ulises and Adelina Valdez started this project in 2004, with Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars acting as consultant winemaker. They make 3500 cases a year. The ’07 Landy Vineyard Zin was the best of what they were pouring, but it was a good line up overall.

Villa Creek

Villa Creek wasn’t even listed in the program, but it was listed in the advance materials as a debuting producer this year at FW, and I’d enjoyed some of their wines in the past. The Grenache was one of the best Cali Grenaches I’ve had in awhile. The Willow Creek and Avenger blends were also strong.

  • 2008 Villa Creek Garnacha Denner Vineyard – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Big berry, plum nose; tasty, berry, plum palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Villa Creek La Boda – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, oak nose; black fruit, oak palate; medium-plus finish (50/50 Grenache/Mourvedre) (89 pts.)
  • 2008 Villa Creek Willow Creek Cuvée – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry, herbal nose; deep black fruit, berry, herbal palate; medium-plus finish (50% Denner Vyd Grenache, 25% James Berry Syrah, 25% Denner Mourvedre) (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Villa Creek Avenger – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry, licorice nose; tasty, black fruit, berry, licorice palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (75% Syrah, 15% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache) (91 pts.)

VITUS

VITUS was another debuting producer at FW, founded by Fred Hearn and winemaker John Gilpin in ’05. They make 900 cases a year. The ’07 Cabernet was the best of their offerings, a major step up from the ’06 edition.

  • 2007 VITUS Merlot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oak Knoll (8/23/2010)
    Nice tart plum nose; plum palate with poise; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2007 VITUS Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Plum, berry nose; plush plum, berry palate; medium-plus finish (with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) (91 pts.)
  • 2006 VITUS Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville (8/23/2010)
    Black fruit, plum nose; black fruit, plum palate; medium finish 88+ pts. (with Merlot and Cab Franc) (88 pts.)

Westerhold

Russell Bevan, pictured below on the right, is the winemaker for this new project, started by John Westerhold and Sharon Bauman in ’07. Russell is known for fashioning rich and intensely flavored wines, and this ’07 Syrah was another delicious addition to his growing portfolio. I was especially delighted by the pepper note on this rich and deep Syrah.

Yorba

This was my first time tasting these wines from a project started by the Kraemer Family in 2003. Ann Kraemer is the viticulturalist for Ken Bernards, of Ancien, so Ken makes the wines for Ann, who was a delight to meet. The line up was strong, especially the Syrah and Tempranillo (one of the best Cali Tempranillos I’ve tried). They’re currently making 1600 cases, and the price range is $26 to $38.

  • 2007 Yorba Barbera – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/23/2010)
    Herbal, plum nose; tart plum, herbal palate; medium finish (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Yorba Zinfandel – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/23/2010)
    Deep black fruit, berry nose; tasty, tart black fruit, berry palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (82% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah) (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Yorba Syrah – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/22/2010)
    Deep black fruit, chocolate nose; tasty, tart black fruit, tart chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2007 Yorba Tempranillo – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County (8/22/2010)
    Spicy berry nose; tasty, spicy berry palate with depth; medium-plus finish 92+ pts. (95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano) (92 pts.)

York Creek

I’ve enjoyed York Creek’s wines, made by owner Fritz Maytag, in the past. These were again quite good, especially the ’04 Petit Verdot bottling and the ’05 “Port.”

  • 2006 York Creek Vineyards Cabernet Franc – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, espresso nose; black fruit, espresso, dark chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (91 pts.)
  • 2006 York Creek Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Estate – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Black fruit, coffee nose; tasty, black fruit, coffee palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 York Creek Vineyards MXB – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Berry, black fruit, coffee nose; berry, black fruit, coffee palate; medium-plus finish 91+ pts. (91 pts.)
  • 2004 York Creek Vineyards Petit Verdot – USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District (8/22/2010)
    Tart black fruit, graphite nose; tart black fruit, graphite palate with depth; medium-plus finish (92 pts.)
  • 2005 York Creek Vineyards Port – USA, California, North Coast, Napa / Sonoma (8/22/2010)
    Port, berry, caramel nose; big, rich, berry, chocolate palate with depth and complexity; long finish (93 pts.)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 31, 2010 5:32 am

    Impressive as always Richard.

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