Alsatian Gewurztraminer–a Little Bit of Heaven

I have long been a sucker for Gewurztraminer–hard to find one I don’t like–and when it comes to Alsatian Gewurztraminer, what’s not to like. These three beauties illustrate the diversity and complexity of the little grape with the big name.

2016 Beck-Hartweg Gewurztraminer comes from a small historic (back to 1590) winery. Expect delicate aromas, a fruity palate, and a clean finish.  20.00

2016 Meyer-Fonne Gewurztraminer is a relative newbie in the business (only three generations). Complex aromas evolve on the palate as ripe fruit and honey notes emerge.  24.00

Barmes Buecher Gewurztraminer Tradition 2012 carries on a long tradition indeed–going back to the 17th century.  Rich, sensuous and intense, Barmes Buecher, makes a big impression with its tangy finish.  31.00

Beck-Hartweg, Barmes Buecher & Meyer-Fonne Gewurztraminers


Charles Smith Wines Rock

Charles Smith might sound like a pretty common name, but in the wine industry, Charles Smith is one-of-a-kind. Smith was born near Napa and went on to manage some big name European rock bands–in the process he developed a taste for fine wines before getting into the business of wine-making for himself.

The fledgling wine maker released a few hundred cases of his first wine in 2001–and within a decade he was being named Wine Maker of the Year by the press. Bottom line: classy wines at great prices.

2016 Kung Fu Girl Riesling gets 90pt rating regularly–it’s wonderfully aromatic and off-dry. And dripping with juicy Riesling flavors. Goes great with all kinds of food–especially Asian/Indian/spicy. Knock yourself out for about thirteen dollars.  13.00

2016 The Velvet Devil Merlot indeed wraps velvet around its lush dark fruit. Rich and focused, The Devil will remind you just how good a Merlot can be.  13.00

2016 Boom Boom! Syrah: dark fruit, rich tannins and lodes of blackberry fruit, with some boysenberry. Oh, and there is just a touch of Viognier to gild the lilly.  18.00

Charles Smith Boom Boom! Syrah, Kung Fu Girl Riesling & The Velvet Devil Merlot

Flora Springs: Exceptional Whites

Flora Springs 2017 Sauvingnon Blanc starts with exceptional fruit and from there it just gets better. Aged in a combination of French oak and stainless steel for seven months, the wine rests on its lees (pulling in richness and flavor.) The result is textured and creamy, with notes of fig, honey dew and apricot–and a reminder that Sauvignon Blanc can be a symphony of flavors. 27.00

Flora Springs 2017 Family Select Chardonnay is 100% Napa Chardonnay aged for seven months in French oak. Medium-bodied and textured, this Flora Chard brims with Meyer lemon, tropical fruit and toasty oak. Oh, and it is creamy, too, thanks to partial malolactic fermentation (converting tart malic acid into soft/rich lactic acid.) Don’t worry about understanding the science–your senses will tell you everything you need to know about Flora’s mouthwatering Chardonnay. 36.00

Flora Springs: 2017 Sauvignon Blanc & Family Select Chardonnay

Robert Mondavi Winery’s Oakville Wines

Robert Mondavi’s remarkable terroir-driven Oakville wines are classic examples of Napa’s best. Near the heart of Napa valley, and between the Mayacamus and Vaca mountain ranges, Oakville is home to some of Napa’s finest fruit.

Robert Mondavi Winery’s 2015 Fume Blanc,Oakville was one of Mondavi’s brilliant creations–both marketing and wine making. Clean, crisp citrus acidity and depth of fruit.  20.00

Robert Mondavi Winery 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville carpet bombs the senses with lush dark fruit. Elegant tannins and nuanced oak complete this picture perfect Napa gem.  58.00

Robert Mondavi Winery 2015 Fume Blanc, Oakville & Robert Mondavi Winery 2014 Caberent Sauvignon, Oakville

Clos du Val Wines: Masterful Wines

Clos du Val winery goes back to the early days of Napa wine making when CdV made a name for itself–and the California wine industry early on by impressing French wine experts at blind tasting in 1976–in what is now known as “The Judgement of Paris”. American wines stunned and surprised the French wine pros–and Clos du Val was one of the small handful of Napa wines to be featured. Simply said, The Judgement of Paris put California wines on the map–and the world stage.

It’s safe to say that Clos du Val has gone about its business of producing serious, quality wines in the decades since Judgement Day in Paris–but business-as-usual at Clos du Val is changing. New leadership at the winery has chosen to take the business back to its roots–literally–by choosing to focus entirely on estate-grown fruit. Using only their own fruit means cutting back production by about 50%–not the sort of thing business men are famous for.

Still, Clos du Val CEO Steve Tamburelliis confident that concentrating on making their wines strictly from their own premium fruit will bring the label back to its roots–in every sense of the word.

2015 Clos du Val Estate Three Graces–Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot–100% Estate fruit in 100% new French Oak.  175.00

2015 Clos du Val Estate Hirondelle Cabernet Sauvignon–100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon in 100% new French oak.  105.00

2015 Clos du Val Hirondelle Cabernet Sauvignon, left & 2015 Clos du Val Three Graces

2015  Clos du Val Estate Cabernet Sauvingon  (below) brings in a bit of Merlot and Cabernet Franc for a rich, classic casis/blueberry Cab. Clos du Val’s Estate includes some of the finest vineyards in Stag Leap, Yountville, and Carneros. Eighteen months in French oak puts the crowning touch on this beautiful Cabernet. 50.00

2015 Clos du Val Estate Cabernet Sauvignon & 2017 Clos du Val Estate Pinot Noir Rose

2017 Clos du Val Estate Pinot Noir Rose is made from 100% Estate Pinot–its refined citrus notes and crisp acidity make the perfect match for salmon or other seafood.  30.00

2016 Clos du Val Estate Pinot Noir get nine months in French oak and comes across with robust red fruit character–especially cherry. rich on the palate and long and smooth on the finish. A beauty.  40.00

2016 Clos du Val Estate Chardonnay & 2016 Clos du Val Estate Pinot Noir

2016 Clos du Val Estate Chardonnay is 100% barrel fermented. Layered aromas of citrus, apricot and spice lead to beautifully balanced acidity on the palate. This is a Cab drinkers Chard.  40.00

2017 Band of Roses Rose–a Cool Wine

Band of Roses Rose comes from Charles Smith Wines–out Washington–a venerable producer of quality wines at affordable prices. Band of Roses Rose is no exception. For twelve to fourteen bucks you get a dandy rose built from 100% Pinot Gris and loaded with heady aromas and fruit. Perfect summer party wine at a cool 12.00-14.00.

2017 Band of Roses Rose

Cremant d’Alsace–French Bubbly Without the Champagne Price

Cremant is a style of French sparkling wine made in several regions of France (outside the Champagne region itself) using the Champagne method (secondary fermentation in the bottle, etc.) Cremant d’Alsace is Cremant made in the Alsace region–a small region on the eastern border of France–right up against Germany.

Geography lesson aside, Cremants are a great way to drink French bubbly without paying Champagne prices. Cremant tend to less than half the price of Champage–sometimes way less. Cremant does differ from Champagne in several ways: Cremant does not have restrictions on the type of grapes used, and those grapes do not have to come from  Champagne. Cremant is meant to be drunk young and does not benefit from aging like Champage.

So, if you are okay with popping the cork  sooner, rather than later, you will be rewarded with excellent French bubbles from a range of wonderful grapes–and you won’t have to hit the credit card hard at all. Time’s a-wasting, drink up!

Willm Cremant d’Alsace Blanc de Noirs NV: Blanc de Noirs means “white from black”–in this case, sparkling white from Pinot Noir grapes (accomplished by crushing the grapes but running the juice off with almost not skin contact–hence the white color.) Moderately dry, majorly tasty.  15.00

Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut Rose NV: another Cremant made entirely with Pinot Noir–but this time more contact time with the skins produced a nice coral/pink color. Flavor follows color with notes of strawberry and cherry in a crisp, dry style. Creamy and long in the finish.  22.00

Jean-Baptiste Adam Cremant d’Alsace Emotion Brut Reserve: Chardonnay dominates with just a touch of Pinot Noir. full-bodied and textured with citrus and strawberry features. Mouthwatering.  22.00

Gustav Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace Brut NV: a cool combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Noir. Being a “brut”, the Lorentz is relatively dry, just not bone-dry. A classy sparkler for an aperitif.  25.00

Adam, Willm, Albrecht, & Lorentz Cremant d’Alsace wines, 15.00-25.00

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhones Shine

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhones are probably one of the most familiar French wines in American wine shops. There is good reason for that. Guigal CdRs some consistently reliable for quality and value. Cotes du Rhones covers a vast area–with wines are overwhelmingly red: Grenache, Syrah, Cinsaut, Carignan, and Mourvedre. Part of what makes CdRs popular is that they tend to be relatively light and fruity. The three CdRs below range from the standard CdR Rouge to sub-appelations of the Rhone valley.

E. Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rouge, 2015, is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre-great aromas and structure.  17.00

E. Guigal Saint Joseph Rouge, 2015, is 90% Syrah blended with a touch of Marsanne/Roussanne. The fruit is sourced from a distinct sub-area on the Western bank of the Rhone–the heart of the appellation. 17.00

E. Guigal Crozes-Hermaitage, 2015: “Hermitage” translates into: Syrah, a grape synoymous with the Rhone. Lots of red and dark fruit prevail–along with pepper and spice. Classic Rhone-style Syrah. Two years in oak leaves the wine layered in flavor. 27.00

2015 E. Guigal Cotes du Rhones

Chapoutier Strikes Again!

Michel Chapoutier has been making wine in the western part of the Languedoc region (in the South of France) for about twenty years. In that time he has made Bila-Haut wines a Be On The Look Out For label for French wine lovers.

Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda is a Syrah, Grenache, Carignan blend commonly seen in this part of France–but there is nothing common about Chapoutier’s wines. He has taken both farming and wine making to a new level by letting the vineyards speak for themselves with wonderful natural character. So, if you’re looking for an honest French gem without breaking the bank, put the Bordeaux down for a moment and give a Chapoutier wine a taste.  28.00

If you look closely at the photo below, you will raised dots on the label. Yes, it’s braille. One of Chapoutier’s friends was blind, and found shopping for wine difficult–so Chapoutier honored his memory by incorporating Braille into each label.

M. Chapoutier 2016 Domaine de Bila-Haut L’esquerda

Geyser Peak Cab–and its Devilish Big Brother

2015 Geyser Peak Cabernet (CA) shows up with honest red berry flavors and soft tannins–just the thing for an easy, everyday red–at house wine price:  12.00

2013 Geyser Peak Devil’s Inkstand (named for a geological formation nearby) has it all: Alexander Valley fruit, and twenty one months in 100% French oak. The result is intense and layered–with dark preserved fruit and herbal notes. Polished tannins and nice staying power on this big guy–should have real cellaring potential.  55.00


2015 Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon (CA) & 2013 Geyser Peak Devil’s Inkstand Cabernet Sauvignon

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