Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Oh, Val...You Are Wonderful

Val.  Valpo.  Valpolicella.  Whatever you want to call her, she doesn't care.  Just call her.  Light and breezy, but not at all lacking in substance and personality, Valpolicella lives life in the shadows of her more popular (and expensive) siblings: ripasso and amarone.  But being overlooked means Val is more available, more affordable, and, frankly, more fun.  At 12.5%, this 2016 Mazzi Valpolicella Classico ($12) is light enough to gulp, but packs enough acidity and delicious goodness to bring a smile to the end of even the roughest of days.  Like its northern cousin schiava, Valpolicella is fleet-footed, often liltingly aromatic, and just damned easy to get along with.

As we look ahead to spring and the change of seasonal cuisines, consider experimenting with Val.

Monday, February 12, 2018

FEL Chardonnay: Masculine Brawn, Feminine Poise

2016 FEL Chardonnay Anderson Valley $32
From the founder of namesake winery Cliff Lede comes this second label homage to his grandmother, Florence Elsie Lede (hence, FEL.)  In a nutshell: elegant packaging, voluptuous nose, and a palate full of contrasts. The nose is classic, statuesque California Chardonnay; big and broad shouldered, with warm hi-toned notes that leads into a mouth that is decidedly different- refined and expressive of leaner fruit character without being timid or losing an ounce of its ambition and elegance. Striking acidity shines through unencumbered by oak or malo.  An easy wine for committed Cali chard lovers, but also one with enough bridging to entice Burgundy fans to come in for a closer look at what’s possible in the Anderson Valley.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Markus Wines: Lodi Like You've Never Had

Lodi, is an AVA in California sitting east of San Francisco bay and southeast of Sacramento.  LoCa, as it's sometimes known, has been earning itself a reputation for growing ballsy zin at affordable (by west coast standards) prices.  It has increasingly become sourcing grounds for such value players as Bogle, Cline, Michael David, and others, but value is not the whole play there, as the Lodi Native project proved.

Still, it's a curious effort indeed that Markus Niggli, native of Switzerland and the man behind Borra Vineyards, has released a line of reds only one of which is zin-based.  What's he doing?  Taking a whack at the LoCa mold is my guess.  Unencumbered by a stifling regional rule book, Markus uses a free hand in blending to create age-worthy wines featuring acidity.  That's right, longevity and food-friendliness as priorities is a rare thing indeed - especially in these parts.  Such a different approach accompanied by deft winemaking skills is refreshing.

Though one of sample bottles received was corked (review forthcoming), others proved the importance of suspending judgement.  Though on the pricey side for this area, these are unique, well-made wines worth seeking out.

2015 Markus Syrah 'Zeitlos' Lodi $39 
Beautiful translucent in the glass. The nose points toward deeply-flavored fruit framed by mystery and intrigue. But the mouth provides tension in juxtaposition. The syrah is savory and succulent, made even more alluring thanks to the accompanying viognier, carignan, and petite. Wines that manage to straddle the sweet/savory make it hard to resist coming back for sip after sip after sip, and this is one of them. Bravo!  (76% Syrah, 12% Carignane, 8% Petite Sirah, 4% Viognier)
2015 Markus 'Sol' Red Wine Lodi $39 
Stridently defined by sturdy oak framing and filled in with polished black fruit. Big and angular thanks to the dominant petite sirah, it’s also gushing with finely textured gritty tannins that will appeal broadly. Hard to conceive that this is from Lodi, that’s how well-structured it is. (42% Petite Sirah, 37% Syrah, 21% Mourvèdre)
2015 Markus Zinfandel 'Blue' Lodi $39 
Bright zinfandel fruit pops with energy in this deeply-scented and high-toned, swashbuckling beast. Lots of heft and octane delivered in a surprisingly lithe body. Polished and well made. Oh, and the finish? Like a country mile: dust, languid, and enjoyable - as long as you’re not behind the wheel. Whoa!  16.5% ABV (90% Zinfandel, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Petite Sirah)

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2017: Winners and Losers

Happy New Year!  Like every year, 2017 was a year of ups and downs in the wine world.  Here's my personal take on the winners and losers, many of which serve as cautionary notes of what to avoid, as well as where exploration is likely to be rewarded.

Let's get the bad news out of the way first.

California wine
As Eric Asimov of the New York Times aptly put it, "Few things have been as damaging to the American wine industry as its homogenization."  And it's not homogenization in the direction of uniform quality.  Case in point is Belle Glos' 2016 Clark & Telephone bottling, a chocolate cola masquerading as pinot noir (and last seen at the grocery store with a price tag of $63!)  Unrecognizable as wine, let alone pinot noir that came from a plant, it is emblematic of the abandonment of character in California wine.  This trend of uniformity has been growing the last couple of years, but appears to really be accelerating now.  There are still some winemakers out there making unique wines that reflect place and personality, but they are fewer and further between than ever, making experimentation a more expensive hit and (mostly) miss endeavor.  Such a shame and a primary reason why I drink so little domestic wine anymore. 

Australian Wines
Still languishing in the long hangover from the Yellow Tail malaise (the effect of the ubiquity of that brand on the general public's perception that all Australian wines should cost eight dollars or less), Australian wine continues to suffer through an identify crisis.  The quality of their everyday wines isn't helping matters, either.  Recent exploration with half a glass of the 2015 Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz ($17) proved to be half a glass too much - simply undrinkable and the first wine I've dumped in a long time.  I described the same wine from the 2007 vintage as "Massive, dense, and exciting.  While not quite complex, it is faithfully Syrah and made to be heady." This country has so much potential that has been realized in years past, but appears to have taken a very wrong turn.

Internet Consumers
Wholesalers are flexing their muscles through their lobbying associations and cracking down on interstate wine shipments.  Several states have already issued cease-and-desists to major wine e-commerce retailers and are instituting carrier reporting to track wine, beer and spirits shipments from out of state.  Beginning this year UPS and FedEx will be required to report shipments from wineries and retailers.  Just think about that for a second.  Privacy rights?  The Constitution's Commerce Clause?  Enforcement?  You can bet this will fuel a new wave of lawsuits, but it will take a while for those to materialize and work their way through the system.  In the meantime, expect to feel the effects of this as initiatives go into effect in many states.

Fire Victims
Fires last October in northern California's wine country ravaged countless acres, buildings, and lives, yet most of the questions I've fielded on the subject have been about the impact to wineries.  With the exception of the couple of dozen production facilities that were among the approximately 10,000 structures lost to these fires, wineries are going to be fine.  Harvest was almost completely over with by the time the smoke got thick and, because vineyards are resilient and don't really burn very well, my guess is that the vineyards - and the industry more broadly - will be fully back online this spring.  However, thousands of homes have been destroyed, their occupants uprooted, and lives changed forever.  Let's not forget them (United Ways’ Northern California Wildfire Relief and Recovery Fund.)

Grapes and Alcohol
Still think climate change isn't real?  Then you haven't talked to a farmer - or looked at alcohol levels in wine lately.  Here's the skinny: Grapes need two kinds of ripeness to be ready for picking: sugar ripeness, measured by brix, and phenolic ripeness, which is a function of acid, pH levels, color, and other factors.  In an ideal world (i.e. climates suited for viticulture), grapes achieve both ripeness types at the same time.  But when your growing season is hotter than usual and without important pronounced diurnal temperature swings, sugar ripeness happens before phenolic ripeness. You can't make (good) wine without solid representation on both sides, so while growers are waiting for phenols to develop, brix increase.  The more sugar you have, the higher the alcohol content.

There's a six pack of California samples waiting for my attention all of which are north of 15.5% and a few of which are 16%+.  After you get north of 14.5% ABV (and sometimes even less), there's no escaping the scorching effects of the booze.

With that behind us, let's look at what there is to celebrate and look forward to in wine!

South African Whites
No, that's not the name of a politically incorrect Cape Town punk band, but it is a category I'm pretty excited about these days.  Reasonably priced and full of exciting flavors, if there seems to be a consistent theme that keeps me coming back, it's texture.  Whether it's the Babylon's Peak chenin blanc, or either of the sauvignon blancs from Bayten and Te Mata, the supple feel of these wines is as entrancing as their sophisticated laying of flavors.  Huge bang for buck here and low risk for those with an appetite for experimentation.

Southern France Reds 
There's been a lot of hype over the last couple of years for the 2014 and 2015 vintages - and, for once, it's well-deserved, though, interestingly, some of the best French wine I've had this year is from 2013.  Regardless, I have yet to hit on a dud from Cote du Rhone, Roussilon, or Languedoc in a while.  What's more is that a boatload of drinking pleasure - even wines with serious guts - can be had easily in the under $15 range!  Faves to keep an eye out for: Cabirau, Boisset, and Ferraton to name a few.

Washington Reds
While shopping for California reds is riskier than ever, its rival to the (way) north continues to produce powerful and refined cabs, merlots, and syrahs at (mostly) reasonable prices.  Sure, you can get really high end wines from producers like Cayuse, Andrew Will, and others, but there are a number of wineries pumping out elegant, potent knife-and-fork reds that drink at triple their price.  Look for 2014 Wines of Substance Cabernet Columbia Valley at $17, almost anything by Mercer, but the 2014 Mercer Canyons Cabernet Horse Heaven Hills is an amazing, age worthy steal at $15.

Sure, Brunellos get all the press, but they are out of reach for most of us.  Thankfully, there's plenty of ordinary rosso juice from the area.  So, how is Rosso di Montalcino like Brunello? Same grape variety, same region, less barrel time, and (a lot) less money.  I've been lucky enough to hit on a string of incredibly pure, honest rossos this year including ones from Domus Vitae and Valerio. Ranging in price from $15-$25, these are a little pricier than my definition of value wines, but still represent a good buy and a great experience.  Food is a must, though, for these wines to truly come alive.

Close Outs
Consolidation in the wholesale tier continues and with that comes portfolio clean outs.  Smaller producers and importers have a harder time competing to have their voices heard (and products represented) in a marketplace increasingly dominated by huge powerhouse wine companies.  While this does not bode well for consumers in the long term, wines made by the little guys who are getting squeezed out of markets often end up in the close out bin at significant (30-50%) discount.  It's also the last we might see of those wines, so when your local retailer showcases a closeout wine, give it a try - I've found some real gems/steals by taking a flyer on these wines.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Banshee Pinot Noir: One To Be Thankful For

2015 Banshee Pinot Noir Sonoma County $22
Faithfully true to its roots, this full-flavored, medium-full-bodied Pinot exudes delicious fruit and admirable acidity while sporting very moderate alcohol (13.6%). All this for (way) under $30?  Unheard of.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Suggestions For Thanksgiving

If there is any mention of the holiday at all on these pages, it’s to remind people to not overthink the beverage choice so that there’s plenty of mind space free to exercise gratitude.  In addition to reiterating that sentiment this year, here are a few less ethereal recommendations.

First, Thanksgiving is a quintessentially American holiday, so keep your beverages domestic. Beaujolais nouveau maybe the most heavily marketed wine this time of the year (heck, ever), but there are a million better options from right here in the good old US of A. Enjoy them. 

Next, take that guidance down to the next level of granularity and make sure at least one bottle on your table is local to the region you are celebrating Thanksgiving in. Wine, good wine even, is made everywhere. Open yourself to being surprised while supporting someone sitting at a dining room dinner table not too far away from yours. 

Third, keep it frugal. That doesn’t mean you should buy cheap stuff, it means don’t spend a lot. So much wine priced at $15 a bottle is better than a lot of the stuff priced at over $30 a bottle. Explore, be curious, and be bountiful in your selections along with your gratitude. 

Also, unless it is a subject matter that brings everyone at the table great joy, don’t belabor the wine. Rest assured that it will do it’s job as a social lubricant and accompaniment to the meal whether you fawn on it or not. Instead, perhaps consider lavishing a compliment on someone for their qualities rather than their accomplishments.

Finally, celebrate this holiday in peace and safety. Enjoy, laugh, eat, and rub your belly. We are a lucky bunch all of us. This week is set aside for pausing and realizing that.  


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What's In Your Cellar?

The other night some of our favorite neighbors stopped over for an impromptu pre-dinner drink. Suggesting their preference for red wine, I invited the husband to the basement to peruse options in our makeshift cellar (a not so glorified closet that used to house half empty cans of paint). When asked if there was anything in particular they like, his unsurprising response was, “California?”

It didn’t occur to me until much later how different the selection is down there than it was even just five years ago. As it turned out that night, we only had a couple of bottles of California red to choose from. Not that ours is a particularly large selection, but that definitely wasn’t the case (pardon the pun) for most of my wine drinking years. 

So, (for the voyeuristically inclined) what is down there? More to the point, why?   Because it is loosely organized by region, and easiest to see which shelves have the most bottles, the following are arranged more or less by decreasing quantity:

Without a doubt, the bottles we have the most of are also the ones that have been down there the longest. Ironically, while these wines are perhaps the most loved, they are the ones I have the least opportunity to enjoy. Mostly vintage ports dating back to the mid 1980s, there are also a few oddballs, like a 93 Hungarian Tokaji, an Australian Muscat, and a couple of mediocre bottles of mid-90s Sauternes.  Few wines are as rewarding - and forgiving - when aged.  I look forward to enjoying these over the coming decades.

Next, it’s probably a tie between France and Italy. The French wines are more or less evenly split between Bordeaux and Rhône/southern France. The longevity of Bordeaux makes it easy to hold onto bottles and revisit them over the years. The freshness and energy (not to mention price tags!) of the southern French wines make them irresistible for the short term, particularly given the back to back fantastic vantages of 2014/15. More than any other region, the Rhône Valley is my go to source these days.

The Italian bottlings are, by number, focused on Piedmont. Nothing outrageous here, just some Nebbiolos, Barbarescos, and a few Barolos waiting for the right time. The others are a random smattering of Montalcinos, Sangioveses, and other blends. As we head into colder months and menus change toward more braised and savory foods, the acidity of these Italian wines are very much prized at our dinner table.

Noticeably absent is Spain.  There are a couple of old school Riojas biding their time, but the overpowering oak regimen currently in vogue on the Iberian peninsula is off-putting to me.  Which is too bad. 

All but forgotten and sitting in a corner collecting dust is an unopened case of Columbia Crest Gold, a big cabernet franc-based blend that packs a wallop, but will be a magnificent wine in a few more years. At $8.99, I could not help myself from stocking up on this perennial favorite.  I've also got a half case of a California cabernet that I regret buying - it serves as a reminder to enjoy a wine at least twice before stocking up.

That's it for the US?  Pretty much.  What does that tell you about my preferences for domestic wines these days?  They're too much, that's what.

There’s a separate shelf for whites randomly filled with some French burgundy bargains, a few South African selections, and one or two bright Italian varieties.   There are a few other odds and ends here and there, including a vertical of Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate running from 1997 to 2002. Why I am still holding onto these I do not know as they are likely well past their prime now. A few bottles of bubbly that have been hanging around waiting for an occasion are getting dustier every month.

I am proud to say that with very few exceptions (such as the ports) the ceiling on what I paid for these wines is $20.  What does your cellar look like?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Happiness Is $13 Wines

Every now and again I get to enjoy the generous enthusiasm of other wine lovers.  Being a guest for these experiences has afforded me access to an echelon of wines I never would otherwise be able to taste.  I'm grateful for this, but I'm also glad my daily bread is exploring the universe of more moderately priced offerings.

Having recently drunk through a quiver of (someone else's) expensive wines, I'm reminded of something from this blog six or so years ago.  Following is a repurposing of that article.

David Brooks of the NY Times wrote an op ed piece about the Haimish line. According to Brooks, Haimish is "...a Yiddish word that suggests warmth, domesticity and unpretentious conviviality."

I can't do his piece justice without committing aggravated plagiarism (really, it's worth a read), but in it Brooks argues that when choosing nicer, more luxurious options over the simple, less expensive, you distance yourself from the discovery more plentiful in spontaneous, communal experiences.  He also draws a loose, but compelling connection between living below the Haimish Line and being happy.

I believe this to be true.  Not that happiness is unattainable above the Haimish Line (hell, 600 thread count sheets make me happy), but in focusing less on trappings we avail ourselves more to immersion and, well, laughter.

This got me to wondering: Is there a Haimish line for wine?

There is.  It's a wandering, blurry line connecting data points as slippery as one's ideologies, but it's a line all the same. Wine's Haimish line is the price, story, lineage, brand, etc. above which lie your expectations and below which resides your appetite for adventure and exploration.  Tough elements to quantify, but in actively seeking out experiences under the Haimish line, you open your mind and senses with purpose while suspending prejudices.  This sense of wonder is not only essential to connecting with the soul of your surroundings, but is a gift on parallel with contentment. 

If that resonates even a little, how can it be anything but great?

So, which wines are below the Haimish line?  Eveyone's line is informed by his and her own experiences, circumstances, hopes, and dreams, so it's impossible to predict which will fall where for you.  But chances are that merely knowing about the line, you'll find more wine lying beneath it.

Anecdotally, Matt Kramer, longtime columnist for Wine Spectator lamented the predictability of great wines in his article 'Why I No Longer Buy Expensive Wine'.  In it he confesses an overpowering desire to pursue surprise over security.  I'm guessing Kramer got the memo about the Haimish line a while ago.

Happy hunting.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hugel: Tradition & Value in Alsace

Though completely unfamiliar with this producer and only having a passing acquaintance with the wines of Alsace, I was eager to taste through these wines and learn a thing or two. That said, almost without exception and despite limited exposure, this region has been a consistent source of terrific quality at value prices for white wines.  When the email arrived asking if I'd be interested in reviewing some samples in honor of National Hugel Day on November 4 (wait, a winery has it's own day?!), I jumped at the chance.

What do we know about the Hugels?  Well, they are not the new kids on the block, that's for sure.  Currently in its thirteenth generation of operation, the family combines over 350 years of winemaking experience with modern approaches to marketing.  Check out those labels!  Old school!

Anyway, these were a treat to taste through as they're a departure from what is typically promoted in domestic markets.  They're also very versatile wines that would complement your Thanksgiving table nicely.  Enjoy.

2016 Hugel 'Gentil' Alsace $15
Platinum blonde in the glass with a clean nose.  The mouth delivers honeysuckle, steel, wet rocks, and white flowers with seamlessly-integrated acidity. Fruity in the middle, and otherwise dry with a medium long finish. this kitchen sink blend of noble grapes is not too serious, nor is it trying to be, either. Very versatile profile that make this ideal for a wide range of cuisine and conversation. Think anything from Thai to Thanksgiving.

2015 Hugel Pinot Blanc 'Cuvee les Amours' Alsace $17
The similarities between this and a young cava go well beyond the slight shade - aromas border on austere (relenting a bit as it warms) and lead into a decidedly disciplined structure that brings orderliness to the tension and grip. A damn fine ride for the money. 

2014 Hugel Gewertztraminer Classic Alsace $27
Pretty pale straw in the glass, but appearances are the only restrained aspect of this wine. Powerful aromatics channel strong wet flowers, talcum powder, and industrial lubricant. These carry through to the palate where a wine nerd’s paradise of juxtapositions awaits. Metallic framework holds the ample, soft fruit and acidity in check while your mouth delights in attempting to decipher myriad flavors. An important note: revisited after a few days, the harder edged elements had softened considerably and merged beautifully into the remainder of the wine's fabric. I take this as a positive sign for its longevity and improvement therein. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Bonus Offers

WTSO (Wines 'Til Sold Out) is one of the original flash sites set up to help liquidate the glut of surplus higher-end wine that flooded the market back in the Great Recession.  Unlike so many others that have folded, WTSO has managed to cultivate a loyal following of enthusiastic customers who enjoy the big discounts - and free shipping options.

In the spirit of keeping things interesting, WTSO recently introduced Bonus Offers, a way to offer buyers more choices than the single bottle being offered for sale.  To help draw attention to this new feature (and probably dispel concerns that "bonus" could mean plonk), their people sent a sample of one of their bonus wines.

Plonk it is not.  I'll be checking into this more in the coming days/weeks.

2011 Sojourn Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Wholer Vineyard $47
From the lackluster 2011 vintage comes this overlooked pinot from a pedigreed vineyard in the Russian River Valley. According to Sojourn’s website, the current vintage of this wine (2015) retails for $48 a bottle, so it's not really a bargain unless you're willing to risk the vintage/age factor....at six years old, you'd be smart to wonder if a domestic pinot noir could be over the hill, but you'd be wrong in this case.  The nose is full of lively, sophisticated varietal character. Soft and round, the mouth is expansive in its range of spice-framed tea-tinged flavors. This wine is terrifically true to both variety and place as it straddles the vulnerability of pinot’s lightness with the powerful cola and sun-baked influences of the Russian River Valley. Not even close to over the hill. Really enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Recycling Words: Mercer Estates

My introduction to Mercer's wines first came six plus years ago.  The wines, reds in particular, were impressive.  (Take a walk down memory lane here.)  In the years since, I've had the opportunity to revisit their portfolio a number of times.  Their line up has evolved into different levels, but the core offerings remain intact with most of the grapes coming from the under appreciated Horse Heaven Hills AVA.

A sampling of three Mercer reds arrived a couple of weeks ago.  Tasting through them, I found myself stymied to come up with fresh words to describe them - that's how blessedly unchanged they are.  And as impressive as the consistency of these wines is, that they have remained largely price-stable is a gift to the consuming public. 

As we head into full-bodied wine season (and the holidays), wise wine lovers will accept this gift without hesitation.  Once again, these wines punch well above their weight, delivering terrific drinking pleasure for the money.

2015 Mercer Estates Sharp Sisters Red Blend Horse Heaven Hills $20
Wonderfully inviting aromatics, laced with cedar spice give way to an exciting palate packed with energy and rich flavor. The relaxed, approachable texture sits in juxtaposition to the tightly wound fruit. Coiled and poised, this wine is striking now, but will evolve handsomely as the next five or so years unfold. Yet another in a string of Mercer winners. 

2015 Mercer Estates Malbec Horse Heaven Hills $20
Rich and opaque in the glass and bursting with black fruit and oak spice aromas, first impressions of this imposing wine carry through to the palate where that attack echoes the nose. Chewy and with a good grip, this is high potency stuff that begs for air - and a hearty steak. Classy, thanks to a good dollop of cabernet in the blend, even if it is gargantuan. 

2014 Mercer Estates Merlot Horse Heaven Hills $20
Same as it ever was, which is to say, fantastically reliable. Inviting with its vanilla-tinged nose, this statuesque, masculine-yet-refined wine exemplifies why Washington state - and Mercer in particular - is at the epicenter of merlot‘s redemption. Highly deserving of your hard earned dollars. Run, don’t walk.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Cline Cashmere - Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

Regular readers know my position on the Twinkiefication of American palates and how many producers are catering to it.  In true cranky old man fashion, I've lamented everything from the schmaltzy branding of these products to the heavy-handed manipulation required to turn grape juice into liquid adult candy.  (Kids these days!)  So, no surprise that I was prepared to dislike this pair of samples that arrived recently.  After all, one is named Cashmere and the other Cashmere Black Magic. 

The regular bottling is labeled "exquisite", the other "alluring" and "dark" (Halloween gimmickry?),  reaffirming the suggestion that these wines are among the aforementioned high sugar, high alcohol ordnance. But what does closer examination reveal?

 For starters, the regular Cashmere wine is mostly mourvèdre, the other primarily petite sirah. Wait, what?! I was expecting overripe zinfandel and Mega Purple as the primary blending elements. The back label also surprises another way - proprietors Fred and Nancy Cline use proceeds from these wines to fund breast cancer research and Alzheimer's patient care. What a bonus. Who doesn't want to support that kind of advocacy?  Besides, read on for my impressions of the caliber and value of these wines...

Bottom line: I'll be making it a point to seek out these - and other Cline wines - soon.

2015 Cline Cashmere Red Blend California $15
Color and density are lighter (much, in fact) than anticipated, showing a medium garnet in the glass - lighter actually than most pinots. Nose is exciting and fast-moving, leading to a mouth full of lovely fruit kaleidoscope characterized by strong spices. Tannins are well integrated into the fine texture. Very accessible and enjoyable. Besides being an abject lesson in not judging a book by its cover, I love this wine and the way it's presented because it is introducing a whole category of drinkers to what is really a traditional Rhone blend. Sneaky and genius.  Bravo.

2015 Cline Cashmere Black Magic Red Blend California $15
Here again expectations have been defied. The syrupy viscosity anticipated in a wine with a name like Black Magic just isn’t there. In its place is an attractive, deep ruby color that moves in the glass like and unadulterated, long-legged cabernet. The nose is active with bright fruit outlined by subtle green vegetable characteristics and the same spicy allure as the regular Cashmere bottling. The palate is what really sets this bottle apart from its sibling thanks to the unapologetic brawn of petite sirah, which shows off its heft and texture with honesty and true varietal character. While definitely a big wine with lots to offer those with big wine appetites, it is not the gloppy monster I’ve come to expect from dark red blends. Well made and composed.