Review: Wines of Fathers & Daughters, 2015 Releases

fathers and daughters cellarsFathers & Daughters is a brand new winery operating out of Anderson Valley. Its first two wines, a sauvignon blanc and a pinot noir, come from the Ferrington Vineyard. Thoughts follow.

2013 Fathers & Daughters Sauvignon Blanc Anderson Valley Ferrington Vineyard – Minerally and herbal, this grassy sauvignon blanc offers a restrained edge of coconut and pineapple and a relatively simple structure. The finish is not particularly remarkable as the acidity begins to fade by this point, but it pairs well enough with food. B / $25

2012 Fathers & Daughters Pinot Noir Ella’s Reserve Inaugural Release Anderson Valley Ferrington Vineyard – A nearly killer pinot, flush with cherry, strawberry, and raspberry, tempered with slightly bitter/sour rhubarb notes, plus a sprinkling of baking spices and licorice root. Lots going on, but such beautiful balance, with a long finish (though maybe a bit tart in the end). A- / $42

Review: Wines of Orsianna, 2015 Releases


Orsianna is made by the family of Fred Tocchini, who operates the San Francisco Wine Trading Company. (We reviewed their single-barrel bottling of Four Roses a few months back.) Now we’re taking a peak into what Tocchini and co. can do with wine, including some fresh whites and some lightly aged reds.

2013 Orsianna Sauvignon Blanc Mendocino County – Apple and melon-focused, and a bit gooey on the palate with creme brulee notes and some toasted marshmallow character. That’s far from the norm for sauvignon blanc, but the gentle sweetness here gives it an “everywine” character that works fine both on its own and with food. Don’t be surprised if your date asks if it’s chardonnay. B+ / $15

2013 Orsianna Chardonnay Mendocino County – Fairly traditional chardonnay, nougaty and nutty, with buttery vanilla dampening the fruit component. This is a chardonnay-lover’s chardonnay, chewy and rich with an almost dessert-like character to it at times. Just a hint of acid on the finish gives it a little spark. B / $17

2010 Orsianna Merlot Sonoma County – A well-crafted and still-youthful wine, despite the 2010 vintage date. Fresh strawberry up front, some violet florals, then a long, soothing fade-out. The fruit is the focus from start to finish with this wine, but the violet edge gives it more to chew on. A- / $20

2009 Orsianna Cabernet Sauvignon Mendocino County – Well aged and starting to show a little balsamic character which finds some pleasant companion in its notes of cloves, ginger root, and licorice root. Forceful and a bit astringent at times. Drink now. B+ / $20 /

Review: 2012 Tormaresca Neprica Puglia

Tormaresca NepricaTormaresca is part of the Antinori empire and is based in Puglia, “the heel” of Italy. We don’t get a lot of Puglian wines here, and we certainly don’t get many blends that include negroamaro, a dark red grape native to this area.

Neprica gets its name from the three grapes in this blend — 40% negroamaro, 30% primitivo, and 30% cabernet sauvignon.

It’s a curious concoction but a very drinkable little red wine. They call this “pizza wine” where I’m from — lightly jammy, lots of fruit, but with plenty of body to enjoy alongside a hearty, possibly spicy meal. Fresh red berries, milk chocolate, and a touch of vanilla give this a New World flavor, but the lightest dusting of dried herbs add some needed balance.

B / $12 /

Review: Franciscan Equilibrium and Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Vintage

franciscan Equilibrium non vintage bottle shotIt’s still hot enough outside for cold white wine. Here are two new releases from Franciscan worth a look.

2014 Franciscan Equilibrium – A blend of sauvignon blanc (72%), chardonnay (17%), and muscat (11%). If you don’t like that perfume of muscat, don’t bother applying — it shows through clearly even though it’s the lowest proportion of this blend. The rest is baked apples, brown sugar, and white flowers. A bit much at times. Serve well chilled. B / $16

2014 Franciscan Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley – Crisp, and lightly tropical, this simple sauvignon blanc has overtones of fresh grasses and more of those white flowers. Some honeydew notes emerge on the lightly sweet finish. I’d love to see a bit more acidity, but all told, it’s a solid example of the varietal. B+ / $18

Scenes from Jordan Winery’s Harvest Lunch

If you’re a fan of Jordan, you need to make a point to get out to the winery during harvest season, when the winery puts on its annual series of harvest lunches, beautiful buffet spreads that pair well with Jordan’s signature chardonnay and cabernet.

I recently attended lunch here — the final harvest lunch of the season (and, owing to another early harvest, after picking had long since been completed) — and was amazed with the meal and the wines.

Here’s a brief report of the wines poured, and some pics of the experience.

2013 Jordan Chardonnay – fresh and flavorful, with strong apple and light brown sugar notes; crisp and pretty / A-

2008 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – opulent and loaded with violets, currants, and some raspberry; seductive earthiness leads to a long and silky finish / A

2011 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon – youthful at present and quite tight; predominantly herbal, with some dark chocolate notes / B+

Review: Zinfandels of Murphy-Goode, 2012 Vintage

MURPHY_GOODEMurphy-Goode is a venerable Sonoma-based producer of all manner of wines. Today we look at the company’s new 2015 zinfandel releases, all from the 2012 vintage.

2012 Murphy-Goode Liar’s Dice Zinfandel Sonoma County – Rather thin, without much character on the nose aside from some balsamic notes. On the palate it offers a somewhat watery body with ample greenness — not at all the jammy fruit bomb that you expect with zin. That wouldn’t normally be a slight, but there’s just not enough character here to make this overly worthwhile. C+ / $21

2012 Murphy-Goode Snake Eyes Zinfandel Alexander Valley – A significant improvement, revealing an initial gingerbread note that seemingly comes out of nowhere — I mean that in a good way. Over time, the wine settles into a groove that offers dense currant, some cinnamon and cloves, and dark chocolate-covered cherries. Well-rounded and cohesive. Give it a little chill to coax out more flavor. A- / $35

2012 Murphy-Goode Reserve Zinfandel Alexander Valley – Similar in profile to Snake Eyes, sans the gingerbread. With a plummy core it’s fruit-focused to the extreme, though dry and not at all over-sweetened. The lasting finish features notes of dried tea. Very well crafted but not as exotic as Snake Eyes. A- / $40

Wines of Saratoga: Big Basin and Cinnabar

On the outskirts of Silicon Valley in Northern California you’ll find a town called Saratoga, where about a dozen sleepy wineries make their home. Not a lot of wine is actually made here, but you will find tasting rooms and wine bars a-plenty should you come to town for a visit.

Recently, before a visit to Mountain Winery (Paul Masson’s original home is no longer a real winery but is now a concert venue; bring a blanket and eat before you come!) we visited a pair of Saratoga’s most visible operations, Cinnabar (ubiquitous on many a budget wine list) and Big Basin (a superstar of California Rhone-style wines).

Thoughts on all wines tasted follow.

Wines of Big Basin

2013 Big Basin Vineyards Bald Mountain Chardonnay – A Santa Cruz bottling, well rounded with a nice body; slight tart edge of lemons and apples. A- / $55

2012 Big Basin Vineyards Coastview Pinot Noir – Vanilla overtures lead to ripe raspberry and a chocolate finish. A- / $44

2013 Big Basin Vineyards Homestead Blend – GSM plus carignane and a touch of cab. Chewy, fruit-forward, chocolate and cherries; an easy-drinker. B+ / $36

2013 Big Basin Vineyards Lester Pinot Noir – Santa Cruz fruit. Very nice, young with some tightness showing. A- / $NA

2012 Big Basin Vineyards Paderewski Vineyard GSM – Paso Robles grapes; balanced with some blue cheese notes; licorice, vanilla, dark and brooding. A- / $55

2011 Big Basin Vineyards Odeon – 50/50 syrah and cabernet. Curious, drying and tannic. A big food wine, with herbal notes. A- / $48

2012 Big Basin Vineyards Grizzly – 65% grenache, 35% syrah. Beautiful but brooding on the nose; dense body, lots of earth and mushroom notes. B+ / $NA

Wines of Cinnabar

2012 Cinnabar Mourvedre – Heavy, grilled meat notes, dark fruits and cocoa powder. B / $42

2012 Cinnabar Cruver – A blend of tinta cao, touriga nacional, tempranillo, and souzao. A very unusual California wine; but it’s light on its feet with with black pepper, perfume, and some mint. Very unusual but worthwhile. A- / $42

2012 Cinnabar Zhu Sha – Lodi blend of barbera, petite sirah, petit verdot, and teroldego. (Yeah.) Quite jammy, with some underlying tanning. Strawberry notes are punchy. B / $34

2012 Cinnabar Syrah – Silky with lovely fruit, balanced raspberry, vanilla, and tannin. Light on the body but loaded with flavor. A- / $42

2012 Cinnabar Petite Sirah – Dusty with tobacco notes, balsamic flavors. Powerful and pushy. Some greenness. B+ / $42

2013 Cinnabar Mercury Rising – A cabernet blend from everywhere; layered tannins, herbal edge, and some jam. Pleasant, but unchallenging. B / $22

2014 Cinnabar Incantation – Viognier and orange muscat. Very aromatic, citrusy with a light and fresh finish. B+ / $NA

2013 Cinnabar Chardonnay Monterey – Steel barrel fermented, more buttery than I expected since it doesn’t see oak — think buttered popcorn — but pleasant enough. B / $NA

Review: NV Blandy’s Rich Madeira Alvada 5 Years Old

I know you’ve been dying to get your hands on a new Madeira, amirite? OK, so this fortified wine is not the world’s hottest category, but the market leader, Blandy’s, is still innovating with the release of Alvada, a five year old blend of 50% Bual and 50% Malmsey grapes.

What’s Alvada? Per Blandy’s: “Alvada is … derived from the Madeiran word ‘levada.’ A levada is a granite channel that one finds all over the island. Exclusive to the Island of Madeira and critical to the grapes and all agriculture on the island, levadas help move water throughout the island to irrigate farmland. These levadas are still used to this very day and in total span more than 1,350 miles altogether.”

Deep coffee brown in color, with classic Madeira overtones on the nose — acidity, well-tanned leather, and prune notes. The body tells a bit of a different story, though — light for a Madeira, and quite fruity, showcasing macerated raisins and sour cherries that mingle with the nutty notes and oxidized wine characters. The finish is also light but keeps the focus on the fruitier elements. Definitely a starter Madeira, but a finer example of how enjoyable this wine style can be even at a very young age.

19% abv.

B / $18 (500ml) /

Tasting Report: Rosso Montefalco and Montefalco Sagrantino, 2015 Releases

It’s been a year since we checked in with our friends in Montefalco, Umbria, and the time was nigh to revisit the wines of this storied region in Italy. Six wines were tasted as part of this live event broadcast from Italy — four 100% Sagrantino wines and two Rossos, which are only 10 to 15% Sagrantino but are mostly Sangiovese (60 to 70%). Other grape varieties make up the balance.

Let’s taste!

2011 Perticaia Montefalco Rosso DOC – Ample earth, dried herbs, and a lashing of currants. Restrained, this wine keeps the focus on the earth and its treasures — rosemary, sage, and some eucalyptus. B+ / $28

2011 Colpetrone Montefalco Rosso DOC – A much different, fruitier wine, with fresh strawberry and blackberry dominating the palate. Almost jarring at first, with its new(er) world approach and vanilla notes. Fresh and lively — and one of the few wines here that are approachable without food. B / $19

2008 Tenuta Castelbuono (Lunelli) “Carapace” Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – Dense, wintry, with some smoky and coal dust notes on the nose. Aging well, the body exudes raisin and prune notes, old wood, and more charcoal notes. Thick and palate-coating with tannins and a lasting finish. B+ / $37

2009 Antonelli Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – More balsamic character on this wine, its darker fruit notes tempered by spices and dried herbs. Earthy and mushroomy, with notes of truffles and cured meats. Give this one ample time in glass to show off the dense fruit at its core. A- / $45

2008 Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – Lovely cherry starts things off on this expression of Sagrantino which has lightened up considerably since last year’s tasting of the same vintage. Watch for notes of dark chocolate and vanilla, and a finish that brings out blueberry notes. A really fun wine with a balanced but complex character. A- / $40

2009 Arnaldo Caprai “Collepiano” Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG – Tannic and still quite tight, this wine needs some air to pull fruit from the dusty coal and char notes that lie beneath the surface. This is a wine that will be ready to drink in another decade, but for now it showcases tightly bound earth and roots, licorice, and the essencce of a well-used fireplace in an ancient manor. Hints of blackberry and blueberry emerge on the finish… a taste of what’s to come (some day). A- / $60