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

Geyser Peak Pinots

2015 Geyser Peak Pinot Noir is what a lot of twelve dollar Pinots would like to be–loaded with red fruit character and finishing up soft and spicy: Deal. 12.00

2014 Geyser Peak Pluto’s Fury Pinot Noir ups the ante some, price-wise, but it over-delivers on quality/value. Russian River fruit pops out of the glass with vibrant color and flavor. In this day of pricey California Pinots, Pluto’s Fury is a joy to behold.  26.00

 2014 Geyser Peak Pluto’s Fury Pinot Noir & 2015 Geyser Peak Pinot Noir (CA)


Geyser Peak Whites Rock

Just tasted the latest line up (2016) of Geyser Peak whites–Nice, very nice. Even Geyser Peak’s entry-level Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (12.00) bring on solid fruit and genuine character.  Just when you think it can’t get any better, along comes Geyser Peak 2016 Russian Ranches Sauvignon Blanc (22.00) with its zingy acidity and layers of exotic fruit and Geyser Peak 2016 Water Bend Chardonnay–and its creamy, mouthwatering fruit (26.00).

2016 Geyser Peak Gems: Sauvingnon Blancs & Chardonnay


Stella Pinot Grigio is pure Sicilian sunshine. Packaged in cool little pop top cans (four to a package=750ml) or in traditional bottles, Stella is a delight with its light, fresh pear/peach/citrus flavors. Stainless steel production insures that those flavors pop right out. PG is not usually my go-to white is clean, refreshing–Stella reminds me a bit of Vermentino–a Mediterranean cousin.

Hung up about wine in a can? Well, I guess you could always pour it into a glass…But seriously, if you’re on a hike, a picnic, at the pool, or beach–this little cutie is just the thing.  13.00

Stella–Sicilian Pinot Grigio


Four Virtues 2016 Lodi Zinfandel/Bourbon Oak Aging

Four Virtues 2016 Lodi Zinfandel With Bourbon Oak Aging: Four Virtues Zin is a product of rich, full-bodied Lodi Zinfandel finished in heavily charred new American oak Bourbon barrels. Big and robust? Ya, with dark berry, spice–and a soft, smokey finish. And it comes in at a whopping 16.8% ABV.  20.00

Four Virtues 2016 Zinfandel

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