Thursday, October 11, 2018

Villa Maria: New Zealand Surprises

Villa Maria is one of those ubiquitous labels that you easily recognize, but maybe haven't actually tried.  The sixer of samples that arrived a couple of weeks ago of course contained their workhorse sauv blanc, but there were some surprises in there, too.  Most notable were the two Taylor's Pass bottlings, which are decidedly more upscale than the Marlborough line.  The bubbly sauv blanc was also a first for me; something of a novelty, but one that could easily become dangerous in warm weather sessions.

Following are reviews of my favorites from the bunch - keep an eye out for these.

2017 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Bubbly New Zealand $15
Carbonated sauvignon blanc with all the attendant Kiwi character.  A little shocking at first (bubbles and sauv blanc seem like strange bedfellows), but like grandma used to say, "It's only kinky the first time!" Could be habit forming.

2017 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough $14
Zing, zip, bop, boo, bang! Energy and assertiveness drive taut fruit and acidity in this value porch quaffer. At the same time, there’s no reason why this couldn’t walk down the aisle with a hearty pasta with scallops and shrimp. This is their workhorse sauv blanc that definitely qualifies as a crowd-pleaser BBQ wine.

2017 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Taylor's Pass Vineyard Marlborough $26
A substantial step up in refinement and poise from the regular Sauvignon Blanc and by far my favorite in this lineup. While still honoring the region’s stylistic traits, this bottle is not out to be showy or prove anything. Instead, it confidently expresses elegance and dynamite fruit character in a package that is both inviting and invigorating.

2017 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Taylor's Pass Vineyard Marlborough $42
Restrained, but only at first. Much like it’s vineyard sibling, it’s not out to prove anything, yet still has plenty of stuffing. While the fruit is balanced, round, and beautiful, and the acidity providing framing both structural and delicate, it’s the texture that beguiles. Like warm bath water at the perfect temperature, the supple aspect in the mouth is seductive. Hi tone but airy spices on the periphery add to the complexity in and unobtrusive way. Bravo!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Turning Point? Probably Not, But That's Okay

Back labels are like political ads - they usually just tell you what they think you want to hear.  I've come to expect the silly, borderline vulgar product of writing rooms that also do romance novels. Mass market appeal labels these day read something like,
"We caress each grape into surrendering its deepest sensuality.  The result is a luxurious wine evoking layers of rich chocolate, cedar spice, and Victoria's Secret lingerie."
 
But this inviting bottle was stacked on an end cap at Whole Foods. The salmon in my basket needed something to swim in, so, what the hell.  Besides, in stark contrast to the above, the back label reads, 
"By hand harvesting at relatively low brix and minimal use of new oak, we seek to produce elegant, balanced wines that convey the soul of each site."
Low brix? Minimal oak? Balance?  Where do these people think they are?  France or something?

Presqu'ile Winery is in the northern reaches of Santa Barbara county.  Like most wineries around there, their pinor noirs are on the pricey side.  But at $21, this 2016 Presqu'ile Winery Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County seems to be trying to draw drinkers into their higher end stuff. It’s a pinot that actually tastes like pinot. It's well made with respectable acidity and enough fruit to stand up to grilled fish.  It’s also under 14% abv.  
Is it a sign of a turning point?  I highly doubt it.  And that's okay because there's more of it out there for those of us who don't need a Danielle Steele wine.

Cheers

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Murrieta's Well: Upping Up Their Game


Nestled in the Livermore Valley (southeast of Oakland and northeast of San Jose), Murrieta’s Well has been around for some time, and it’s clear from these bottlings that they have been working on upping their game.  Sourced from sustainably-farmed estate vineyards that have been online for 130 years, these wines show more than heritage - a competent hand in the cellar.  As winemaker Robbie Meyer said of his approach during virtual tasting recently, "Improve, improve, improve."

It shows.

Sometimes reviewing wine samples is not that much fun. Like any other product, there is a lot of mediocre wine out there and finding something nice to say about some of the stuff that hits my doorstep can be a real struggle. Not so here. These were fun to drink and examine.  Savvy drinkers will be rewarded by seeking these out.

2016 Murrieta's Well White Blend 'The Whip' Livermore Valley $26
A lot of players contributing to this bright, taut white blend. Sauvignon blanc provides energy and brilliance, while semillon adds delineation, shape, and acidity. Chardonnay (seemingly an oddball in this blend) amplifies the body, and two other spice rack grapes - orange muscat and viognier - add floral sophistication and subtle fruit character. Complex and evolving as you drink it, yet refreshing and easy to like.  Will please casual quaffers and wine nerds alike.

2017 Murrieta's Well Dry Rose Livermore Valley $30
Made from a curious blend of Rhone varieties - grenache, counoise, and mourvèdre - this clean, spirited refresher packs seriously energetic acidity and finishes dry and clean. Straightforward in a good way.

2016 Murrieta's Well Merlot Livermore Valley 'Small Lot' $46
Deep, elegant opacity in the glass. Gregarious aromas with prominent black fruit and toasted cedar spice. Impossibly seamless texture despite fine grained tannins. Terrifically balanced. Marvelous structure supporting big, sophisticated fruit bracketed by tense vigor. Anyone who thinks merlot is less serious or capable than Cabernet needs to sit down with a bottle of this.  Delicious and expensive tasting.

2016 Murrieta's Well Red Blend Livermore Valley 'The Spur' $35
A classic Bordeaux blend, this dense, rich wine is framed in proud oak and cloaked in velvet.  Each grape brings its A game to the table.  Appealing as it is in its youth, there's a promise that this claret will blossom in a year or few as adolescence emerges into grace.  In the meantime, enjoy this rich fox with any-damn-thing you like.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Pinot Noir In The New Millenium: Oregon Is The New California

Once upon a more innocent time, Oregon vintners fancied themselves descendants of the Burgundians, making cool climate pinot noir that strived to be lean, nuanced, and acidic.  Chardonnay was similarly styled, though the better money was in pinot - especially after Sideways.  On a business trip to Portland around Y2K, I stole a half day to check out the Willamette Valley.  Tucked in between intermittent car dealerships and stretches of dusty hills were tasting rooms and wineries unconvincingly proclaiming those Burgundian roots.

On that same visit, I asked a bartender at a local wine bar what value-priced pinot noir he suggest I try.  Whatever it was left me wanting, but when he told me that it was $67 a bottle, I laughed out loud and promptly exited the building.  There was a pious feel to the place, the wines were nothing special, and the prices were every bit as jaw-dropping as Napa - a strange combination for a place desperately trying to get out of California's shadow.

Meanwhile, California pinot was sort of a rebel's folly.  Not much of it was made, except in Santa Barbara county and the Santa Lucia Highlands, places that were (and to some degree still are) backwater hickvilles.  Pinot was hard to farm, difficult to market, and, itself living in the shadow of merlot.  But it tasted unlike any other grape and a lot of what was being made was good.  I remember wondering not only how Oregon was going to compete with California, but why they'd want to. Then came Sideways.

I haven't been back to the Willamette Valley since that trip, so I can't comment on whether it's a more welcoming vibe, but in the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, Oregon winegrowing and winemaking has become more mature and sophisticated, and it shows in the wines.  They're more expressive and appealing, satisfied with their own identity rather than borrowing from European cousins.  The region has earned its success, no longer playing second fiddle to France or California.  If you need proof, just check out how much shelf space is devoted to Oregon pinot vs other places at your local retailer.  It might not be equivalent, but it's probably close.

As the planet warms and tastes evolve, California pinot is now typified by concentrated flavors of candy, cola, and syrup.  Blech!  This is not good, nor is it unique to pinot noir, but at the same time, richness and potency have also moved north into Oregon.  Anymore, Oregon's pinots taste like yesteryear's Californians.  Which make this an interesting time.  At the extreme end of this sits the Wagner family's (Caymus, Belle Glos, and formerly Meiomi) Oregon venture, Elouan, which tastes like a slightly less artifical (but no less antiseptic) version of Meiomi. However, moderacy still exists.

Case in point is the 2014 Iris Pinot Noir Oregon ($20). Iris is over 100 miles south of the Willamette Valley in the foothills of the Oregon Coastal Range. Acidity? Check. Varietal character? Check. Balance? Check, check, and check.  This wine is the whole package without being showy, overt, or expensive. 


So, if Oregon is the new California, is California the new Australia?

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Foolhardiness Of Vintages

It was sometime around 1997 or so and a group of us were out for dinner.  St Supery cabernet was on the wine list for a reasonable sum.  "Is it the 94 or 95?", I asked the server.  After a long and justifiable pause/stare, she said that she would check.  Doubling down on embarrassing myself, I declined the 95 and instead ordered a beer, leaving the waitress and my dining companions aghast and bemused.  I like to tell myself that all of us have histories peppered with regrettable moments like this, but maybe mine more so.  Maybe my youth isn't quite behind me yet, either.

I was both a victim and champion of the idea that vintage matters supreme.  And it does.  Sort of.  Sometimes. Well, kind of.  Though less and less the netter I've gotten to know wine. Grapes, like all agricultural products, are susceptible to the vagaries of weather.  The amount and timing of precipitation, hours of sunlight, speed of winds, enduring temperatures and temperature swings all factor into the growing conditions and contribute greatly to what comes off the vine. But that's not the ending, it's just the point when mother nature hands-off the ball to man.  

Yet vintage charts, which score regions' harvests in terms of quality and longevity in the bottle remain a focal point for many collectors.  There is tremendous hazard in this.  Not only does it create a false sense of security, but over-valuates vintage as a driving factor in quality.  Few people (including those who use vintages charts as signposts) realize that many of them are created based on observations of just a couple of handfuls of bottles that have historically been among the best in a given growing area.  To infer any kind of baseline from such an elitist data sample is foolhardy - like saying the new Subarus are great after driving your uncle's Porsche.

This reliance also causes many to overlook an entire production year simply because the chart gave the year a lower number than the prior.  And that's a shame.  Sure, if the weather is absolute crap - hail storms during harvest, for example - there's little remedy to be had in the cellar. But in most years, the weather is neither perfect nor awful in a binary sense.  And in every year, crews have to team up and make the most of what nature hands off.  If experience and sound practice are employed, even so-so years can yield terrific wines.

Case in point is one of my most memorable wines in recent years, the 2013 Domaine de Velanges Macon-Prisse Les Clos.  Though more recent vintages (especially 2014) have received greater acclaim in the Maconnaise region, this wine outshines the 2014, 15, and 16 combined.  What's more is that the vintage ratings have helped propel the price of this wine from $14 to $20.  What I wouldn't do for case of the "difficult" 2013!

The point is, unless you're trying to decide between a 2014 and 2015 first growth Bordeaux to save for your daughter's wedding, skip studying the vintage charts and instead get to know producers.  It'll taste better in the long run.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Oh, Burg!

For many in the US, the term Chablis is synonymous with those honker boxes of Franzia your spinster aunt used to plow through with alarming enthusiasm.  But Chablis is actually a place - the place - where chardonnay first found fame.  Sitting at the north end of Burgundy, the area is cooler, producing wines of greater tension and energy.  There's little flab and plenty of acidity in these whites.  Like much of Burgundy, Chablis is often a label that carries a hefty price tag.  So, it's only at the fringes of the region where I can afford to experiment.

I recently took a flier a marked-down bottle of Chablis.  The producer was not familiar to me, and the quality of 2016 in Burgundy was also an unknown, but the reduced price ($20) seemed like a fun splurge while on vacation.  What the hell, right?

On reflection, it was perhaps the best $20 I've spent on wine in a long time.  Part of the reward was certainly in how unexpectedly delightful the wine was.  And, yes, it was balanced and brilliant and crackling with energy, but what was perhaps most appealing about this wine was the simple way in which it channeled its complexity.  There was no shouting coming from the glass, no show-boating or overt, caricature-like characteristics.  Instead, a poise and self-assured calmness that made it highly companionable. Suddenly that $20 seems like a screaming bargain.




Saturday, July 21, 2018

Wine & Aging

This blog has been around for almost a decade. Looking into the archives, there are many favorable reviews for wines that today seem like overblown, uber-concentrated caricatures of themselves. No, this post isn't another lamentation on domestic wines and the Twinkiefication of the American palate.  And, yes, climate change has something to do with wines being different than they were 10 years ago, as do style trends. But if there's any truth to the saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then a decade of aging (my aging, that is, not wines') can't be discounted.

As my personal tastes gravitate away from largess and toward wines of distinctive acidity, I've wondered about the impact years of tasting wine have had on my preferences.  Or maybe it's not the continuous consumption of wine, but just the years of walking the earth. This musing lead me to find two pieces, one academic and the other journalistic. 

The first is a 1993 publication from the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health titled 'Changes in taste and flavor in aging'.  It's full of scientific jargon, as you'd expect from any academic paper, but the layman's gist of it is that people lose their ability to detect levels of salt, sweet, and sour as we age. No big surprise. The other is a 2012 article in the New York Times that goes on to suggest that this explains why, as we age, people compensate for the loss of sensation by seeking out foods higher in salt and sugar.  Anyone who has shared a meal with an octogenarian knows that there are no big revelations here, either.

But neither of these shed any light on why one would begin to wince at wines that have more sugar, more obviousness, or more of the flavors our deteriorating taste buds have trouble identifying.  Nor do they help explain why this aversion have been replaced by a proclivity for brilliance and luminescence.

Maybe I've turned into the crotchety old guy at the end of the block who yells at kids driving past, "Turn that music down!" Or the cardigan-wearing sophisticate who condescendingly rambles on about the loveliness of overlooked nuance.

There's got to be a better explanation for this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

2 Wines I Didn't Want To Like, But Loved Instead

It's a well-worn trail.  Family-run winery expands beyond their original footprint.  Production increases, geography of sourcing leans towards cheaper grapes, and, regrettably, quality dips.  The expansion is usually preceded by some influx of new cash or outright acquisition.  Brands like William Hill, Edna Valley, and Chateau Souverain come to mind.  Whereas once their wines were risk-free no-brainers, now they are, well, not.

The first time I visited Hess was in the mid-late 90s.  They made a few highly regarded cabs from mostly Mt Veeder fruit, along with a few other mostly-overlooked siblings.  It was a novelty of a stop on the Napa Valley tour, what with its modern art collection in an ivy-covered gallery.  But I put my hands on as much of those bottles as I could afford back then.  Today, Hess is a growing multinational wine company with brands like MacPhail, Amalaya, and Artezin in its portfolio.  And the Hess brand itself has expanded well beyond its original Mt Veeder offering, as many larger wineries do, series levels ranging from specific vineyards to the more general California AVA.

The Hess Select series is at the latter end of the spectrum, but also includes bottlings from the slightly tighter Central Coast and North Coast appellations.  So, when a couple of Hess Select samples arrived, I wondered with a bit of skepticism if they hadn't followed that well-worn path.  Prepared not to like these as I was, I kept a mind as open as my mouth and plunged in.  And am I ever glad.

Would I prefer these wines be priced a few dollars lower? Sure. But that's because I'm a cheapskate.  And that shouldn’t stop anyone from feeling confident in reaching for them.

2015 Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon North Coast $19
Though labeled as a North Coast AVA, this Cabernet is textbook Napa from a decade or two ago. That is to say, strong backbone, terrific structure, honest fruit, and all around drinking pleasure. The fact that it is available at the grocery store makes this all the more accessible. There are many evenings when I want to reach for a Northern California Cabernet, but so much of it has become overextracted syrup. Not so with this.  Solid and impressive.

2016 Hess Select Pinot Noir North Coast $20
I looked around for cameras to be sure I was not being punked after first tasting this wine.  (I actually did.)  This wine is undeniably California, but equally undeniable is its quality and character. Prominent acidity and high toned notes of burnt orange peel and crushed sun baked flowers flutter behind your eye. Yes, it’s got some body to it, but the balance and tension (yes, tension!) drink like heady coastal vineyard fruit at triple the price. Damn!


Monday, June 25, 2018

Smiles In A Bottle: Smith-Madrone Riesling

2015 Smith-Madrone Riesling Spring Mountain Napa Valley $32

The best rieslings I’ve ever had all share a juxtaposition in common - each of their qualities, when looked examined individually, appear incongruous and disjointed as a collection. Yet in the glass they mysteriously assemble into something irresistible and enjoyable. Such is the case with this bottling made of 100% dry-farmed riesling from Napa (and you thought they just grew cab and chard there!)

This Smith-Madrone is like a bracing dip into a refreshing pool. A steely, slightly funky nose speeds into an iridescent, Granny smith-aromatic palate framed by zingy, bright, electric fruit, and crisp energy.  The acidic vigor and clean finish all add up to smiles followed by refills. Blessedly modest (12.6%) alcohol and dry, dry, dry.  Fun to drink and really darn good.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Addendum Cabernets: Even Better Than Lightning Striking Twice


While it’s a little hard to get excited about tasting big boy cabernets on a 92° day, it is an excuse to spend a little subterranean time in a quiet, cool refuge from the heat. Besides, I was delighted to see these samples arrive in advance of a virtual tasting. Last year‘s debut for this Fess Parker-launched brand was nothing short of eye-popping. Can lightning strike twice, this time for the 2015 vintage? Read on to find out.

For decades now, Napa Valley has been a revolving door of sorts. Newcomers arrive with naïve notions of winemaking stardom, not unlike young Midwesterners flocking to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. What Napa newcomers lack in experience, they often attempt to make up for with money. Lots and lots of money. And so goes the joke: if you want to become a millionaire vintner, best to start with tens of millions.

This steady influx of financiers, Silicon Valley magnates, and other well-heeled industrialists have helped keep both property values and, therefore, grape pricing among the highest in the world. So, when the folks at Fess Parker Winery down in Santa Barbara County launched their Napa-based based brand, Addendum, last year, I wondered, “What are they thinking?"  With no land holdings in the area and leases on all the high-quality vineyards mostly spoken for, where did they think they were going to score fruit of high enough quality to differentiate them in a highly saturated market?  Well, I put that question to the winery bosses during a virtual tasting recently. Here's the gist of what they said:

Relationships are important, as are the introductions made by those we've enjoyed mutual respect with for some time, but we are also not some johnny-come-lately....we're bringing experience and professionalism to the table, which makes a difference to the growers we're talking to...and don't underestimate the ability to pay on time. Basically, it's not any one thing, but the combination of a lot of factors that have played to our advantage in getting access to these sites.

OK, that's the grape story, but what about the wines? You can revisit my impressions from the 2014 vintage here, but some categorical observations about these 2015's: First, and perhaps most importantly, these bottlings are not just a tour de force of exceptional talent in the cellar, nor are they simply evidence of careful sourcing, but a brilliant combination of both. The result is cabernets that ooze Napa Valley character, reflect winemaking craft and competence, and pack allure and excitement into the polished package. Finally - and what has me shaking my head at myself - is that these wines are worth every penny of their not inconsiderable price tags - and then some.

In my write up of their inaugural releases I wrote, "These wines will stir a carnal corner of your soul."  This statement remains so with the 2015 (and I cannot recall extolling such flattery on any California wine in year,) leading me to believe that either lightning strikes twice or winemaker Blair Fox has perfected alchemy.  These wines have been made in minuscule quantities, so don't walk, run!

2015 Addendum Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley $90
Medium density and color in the glass, but insanely perfumed with aromatics that soar with imagination. Infatuation is instant. (Remember that scene from the movie Jerry Maguire? Where she says, “you had me at hello.” This wine had me at first sniff.) The magic continues into the forepalate where elegance prevails. Dark fruit runs to a deep core framed by ultra finely integrated tannins and a balanced cigar box presence. Two thoughts immediately come to mind: first, this is a wine that has all the stuffing for improvement with cellaring. Second, who's going to have the patience? Voluptuous without being showy, and still so elegant. What a romantic pleasure to drink.

2015 Addendum Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard Atlas Peak $95
More olfactory sensuality, this time with a warmer, rounder shape to the nose. Expressive and luxurious aromatics, which is exactly how it presents at first taste. A commanding monument of flavor reinforced by mouth-coating tannins and a structure that exudes refinement. Less flowery, but more serious than the Napa Valley bottling. Some wines beg for a good steak, but a good steak will beg for this wine.

2015 Addendum Cabernet Sauvignon Skellenger Lane Vineyard Rutherford  $95
Alluring, spicy aromatics give way to a massive, intense, powerful, and coiled block wall of black fruit and oak framing.  Rigidly structured and tight right now. Not as immediately approachable as the other two wines in this lineup, but I would love to meet this one again in 10 years.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The 3 Toros of Matsu

Three wines arrived as samples last month, each with a cool, modern label baring an up-close photo of a farm-hardened man.  Though the men on the bottles are different (perhaps three generations from the same lineage?), I was expecting the wines to taste more or less the same.  After all, all are made from the same vintage, by the same winemaker, and of 100% Tinta de Toro (as tempranillo is known in the part of north-central Spain where these are from.)  There's also the issue of homogenization, or the miserable trend towards sameness that is lamentably not isolated to wines made the US - too many Spanish wines are suffering under the international, over-oaked influence.

But I was in for a surprise. Though they certainly share a common heritage and flavor thumbprint, each of these presents with its own unique qualities. I tasted them in completely random order, and ended up saving the best for last. (No exaggeration on that note: find some of that!)  Categorically, you can expect to find strength and poise in all of these wines.  There's a tightness to them that suggests patience and cellaring will be rewarded, but there's also enough spatiality in them to let the aromatic luminescence shine through.

2015 Matsu Tinta de Toro 'Picaro' $14
Still quite closed and coy, but showing the necessary ingredients for finesse after it has a chance to mature and open: mid-weight with a tight, dense core framed by aromatic, bright flowers and herbs, and finishing with chalky tannins. Much more nuanced and quite different from the often blunt wines from this region. Excellent food wine.

2015 Matsu Tinta de Toro 'Viejo' $47
Inky as it flows from the bottle and intense, dusty black fruit on the nose. Big tannins coat the hidden, but strong fruit core. Wow. Something of a tightly wound powerhouse when first opened, yet very approachable. Despite its brawn, it’s polished and well-made. Think ropa vieja or grilled meat with fried olives. 

2015 Matsu Tinta de Toro 'Vecio' $22
Beautiful ultraviolet nose with just a whiff of savory on the fringes. But just wait until you taste this. Wow. Such poise, elegance, balance, and craft. Each of the components of this wine speak of individual character that combined make up a wonderful, layered, complex beauty. Seamlessly stitched without a drop out of place. Very refined and extremely well done. Wow!  Finishes long, with enough fine tannins to suggest improvement with mid-term cellaring. Did I say wow? I’ll say it again.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Whole Lot Of Goodies

Forgive for the time between installment here, but there's just been so much great wine to examine, assess, and consume with glutenous abandon that I've neglected to return to chronicle the debauchery.  With that an an apology, there are some terrific and unusual discoveries in store for you today.  From a palomino-dominated domestic blend (no, not the horse!) to an amazingly honest bragain French grenach, there's something for everyone in this batch.  But we'll start with a remembrance and celebration of life.  Enjoy!

2017 Rombauer Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley $24
Koerner Rombauer, who founded this winery in the pioneering days of Napa Valley, passed away earlier this month.  A pilot with a love of wine, his was a full, adventurous life.  What better way to honor his legacy than cracking open a bottle of this joyful, fresh wine on the porch this summer?  Energy bursts from the glass in abundance, signalling a permission for spontaneity and serendipity that tends to thrive in warmer weather.  Very high-quality while remaining true to the Northern California sauvignon blanc style - fresh cut grass, salivary-gland-inducing Granny Smith, and bracing acidity. This wine makes me so happy!




2013 Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva $17
Old school honesty meets new world racy. Everything you want in a Rioja - clean, round tempranillo fruit shining through bright, food-friendly acids, and a juicy squirt of vibrancy to plumb it all out. Best part? Mercifully lacking in the oak-bludgeoning regimen and high alcohol now typical in this region. Most enjoyable Rioja I’ve had in a long, long time.  Amazing value, too!




2016 Le Paradou Grenache France $9
I know nothing about the background of this wine - where in France it's from, its lineage, how it was farmed or harvested, etc.  Yet that doesn't interfere one iota with my enjoyment of it. Here's a simple wine that  actually tastes like grenache, over-delivering at this price point by a country mile. Straightforward, but with a nice acidic crunch that finishes clean and beckons you back for more. Available from Marketview Liquor online.




2016 Farmhouse Red California $11
I saw a big stack of these wines at a local grocery store recently and was pleased to find them in such prominent distribution, no doubt due to this venture being propelled by well established Cline Cellars. The concept of this particular brand is natural wind me again. The back label suggests that biodynamics are at the forefront of their vineyard practices - an admirable endeavor that absolutely has an impact in the bottled result   The red is rich and inky as it splashes into the glass, settling into a deep garnet. Initial aromatics suggest fresh, young black and red fruits. The palate offers more of the same, plus a generous dose of sweet vanilla oak and even a dollop of tannic structure. Good for summer holiday barbecue fare and pleasing a crowd of neighbors

2017 Farmhouse White California $11
Almost watery in appearance, but don't be fooled. Generous on the nose with sweet, ripe white flowers that continue into the mid palate where a surprisingly taut acidity awaits. Drier than the nose channels with notes of (riesling?) subtle petrol characteristics. Cerebral, but accessible. Tastes a bit like a kitchen sink blend you might find in Alsace. A little something for everyone here - especially the price. Turns out it's the 44% palomino that's channeling that interest (just 1% reisling.) Bravo.