Friday, November 28, 2014

Virginia Goodness From Stinson Vineyards

Up there with my favorite rosés of the year.
This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Stinson Vineyards is one of many small Virginia producers deserving some attention. For a handful of years now, Stinson has been putting out a bunch of exciting bottles that will challenge your conceptions about Virginia wine.

The wines are made by Rachel Stinson, who was interviewed here on Terroirist. “My ultimate goal is to make good, clean, commercially viable wine,” Rachel said. I think that’s a great way to describe them.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

SRP: $23
Exotic nose of white peach, guava, nectarine and lemon zest. On the palate, the acid is pronounced and very tangy, but there’s a slightly creamy mouthfeel that comes with the guava and grapefruit. Lots of cut to this wine, with a hint of grass and minerals that lingers onto the finish. A more bracing style, but so well-done. A very impressive Virginia Sauv Blanc.

Virginia, Central Region, Monticello
SRP: $17
Beautiful light strawberry color. Aromas of bananas, watermelon and strawberries, with a hint of sea salt and spicy oregano. Juicy and fresh on the palate with lots of watermelon, banana and ruby red grapefruit, gushing and delicious, backed up by notes of herbs, a kick of pepper and some sea salt notes. Dry and clean but a kick of red Jolly Rancher on the finish. Crisp, fruity, full of personality, easy to drink, what else do you need? I’d love to throw this into a blind tasting of Bandol rosés.

2011 Stinson Vineyards Tannat
Virginia, Central Region, Monticello
SRP: $32
Medium purple colored. Deep, rich and complex on the nose, with blackberries and blueberries along with tilled soil and graphite, some notes of anise and campfire wood. Firm tannins on the palate, the acid adds brightness. The tart blackberry and blueberry fruit is delicious, and it’s accented by notes of black licorice, black pepper, black licorice, dark chocolate shavings, soil and charred wood. Delicious, and it opens up nicely in the glass, but this has serious structure for aging. Tannat has been making waves in Virginia for a while, and this is one reason why. I’d love to try it again in four to six years. Aged 20 months in 50% new French oak.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Stunning Stuff: Cameron Arley's Leap Pinot Noir

It’s been a while since I’ve created a post about a specific bottle of wine. But, then again, Cameron Pinot Noir is something else. 
The juice from this 2011 Arley’s Leap Pinot Noir comes from a hillside plot of vines above the Abbey Ridge Vineyard. (Cameron’s Abbey Ridge Pinot and Chardonnay are also consistently exceptional.) Many vineyards have interesting stories behind their names, but Arley’s Leap may be my new favorite. Apparently it’s named after owners Bill and Julia Wayne’s departed dog, Arley, who got scared by a cat and jumped off a second story balcony to his untimely demise. Poor guy. At least his memory lives through one killer Pinot Noir.

My thoughts…

Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
Clear, light ruby color. Bold spice elements (tobacco, black pepper, oregano, pickled peppers) accenting the bright cranberry and red plum fruit, hints of light roast coffee. Bright acid makes this refreshing to drink, fine-grain tannins help as well. The red plum, cranberry and red cherry fruit is crunchy and fresh, gliding across the palate. This wine has a whole lot of pickling spices and mineral notes working for it, and it’s hitting all the right spots. Cool, clean, complex yet elegant. Ready to drink now but the stuffing for some near-term aging is here. This is a stunner for my palate. (93 points)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Wine Reviews: Cali Cabs & Merlots

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Since my last report on California Cabernets, I’ve received a lot of goodies, and some solid Merlots as well. Unsurprisingly, Napa steals the show, but this report features some impressive wines from other regions as well.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

2010 Niner Wine Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Boot Jack Ranch - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $35
Dark ruby color. On the nose: currant jam, tart blueberries, some mocha, violets, deep loamy soil, sweet vanilla and dark chocolate. On the palate, I like the combination of tart acid and dusty tannins — the structure is great here. The cool red currants and tart blueberries come in waves, very clean and pure. I love the graphite, roasted coffee, underlying tobacco and sage elements. Complex, it has staying power, somehow both elegant and bold. Includes dashes of Petite Verdot and Carmenere, aged 18 months in 33% new oak. What a steal for $35. (91 points)

No big surprise: Caymus Cab slays.
2012 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 40th Anniversary - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $60
Dark purple color. Gorgeous nose of blueberry, rich currants, blackberry, rounded out by cola, vanilla, loamy soil, sweet mocha and a hint of tobacco. Full-bodied and rich with structured but velvety tannins and some acid for refreshment. The fruit is layered and complex, with waves of blueberry, red and black currants and some dark plum jam, then add in the elements of cola, cedar, espresso, graphite, mint and tobacco. A bold wine but it presents itself well, chewy and smooth at the same time with a long finish. Shows surprisingly well but will unfold a lot in the cellar. (92 points)

SRP: $50
Deep ruby-purple color. Lovely nose of deep blackberry, boysenberry and currants, backed up by elements of cola, violets, plum cake and dark chocolate. Great balance on the palate between the dusty-fine tannins, medium acid and silky fruit. Flavors of black cherry, currants and roasted fig, mixed in with notes of vanilla, root beer, but also some loamy soil, black olive, graphite and charcoal. Complex and offering cellar potential, but oh so delicious now. The finish is long and smooth and fresh. A blend of 60% Cabernet, 20% Merlot, 10% Malbec and 10% Petite Verdot, 13.9% alcohol. (91 points)

2012 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $50
Bright magenta purple color. On the nose I get lots of blueberry pie, some blackberry jam, dark roasted coffee and violets. Bold and mouthfilling, glycerin-like with solid tannins and medium to low acid. The blue and black fruit is bold and rich and laced with dark coffee, caramel and milk chocolate. A full and fruit-forward wine with toasted oak and a big punch, but it’s clearly well-made stuff with a long a rich finish. Needs some time to fully express itself.  80% Cabernet, 16% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc and 2% Petite Verdot, aged 19 months in 30% new French oak. (87 points)

SRP: $80
Bright dark ruby-purple color. Nose of deep currants and black cherries along with cola, damp earth, sweet violets, caramel and clove. Juicy acid on the palate, moderately firm tannins, a smooth and enticing mouthfeel. Flavors of roasted figs, bright currants, black cherries, laced with smoke, graphite, tobacco, caramel, roasted chestnut and anise. A smoky herbal note on a long finish. Rich and age-worthy yet it’s smooth, fresh and food-friendly. 18 months in 75% new French oak barrels. (91 points)

The most expensive wine in the bunch,
but this 2011 Cardinale Cab is a beauty.
2011 Cardinale Cabernet Sauvignon - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $250
Medium purple color. Nose shows smooth currants and black cherries, rich but nuanced, along with tobacco and roasted red pepper, root beer and coffee. Firm tannic structure but they’re not rough around the edges, some medium acid for balance. The black cherry and red and black currant fruit tastes tart yet rich, and it’s mixed together with complex cola, sweet red pepper, wet leaves, spearmint, caramel, dark chocolate and espresso. Very long and creamy onto the finish with bold toast and vanilla. I’m usually a little hesitant about this level of oak, but all the other elements are firing, so the oak is somehow restrained in spite of itself. Delicious right out of the bottle, but don’t think twice about cellaring this for three to five years and it will probably drink wonderfully for quite a while. 89% Cabernet and 11% Merlot aged 18 months in 81% new French oak. (93 points)

2011 La Jota Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain - California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
SRP: $75
Medium purple color. Aromas of deep blueberries, black currants and dark plums, underlined by caramel, mocha, anise, black magic markers with notes of graphite and. On the palate, solid tannins but they’re not too rough, medium acid, the fruit is rich and chewy (blackberries, currants, dark plums). Significant oak influence but it’s complemented with complex notes of pencil shavings, dark roast coffee, brown sugar, black magic marker. Smooth but rich on the finish, this is a big wine that needs time to mellow out, but it’s a beauty with a lot of depth and purity. 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Franc, aged 19 months in 90% new French oak. (92 points)

SRP: $60
Medium purple color. Nose of dark plums, boysenberry and blackberry sauce, sweet caramel, chocolate and some scorched earth. Velvety and rich on the palate with moderate and dusty tannins and medium acid. Blueberries, blackberries and cassis on the palate, slightly roasted and jammy but the wine doesn’t taste hot. I get a mix of espresso, roasted chestnut, dark chocolate, campfire pit and wood shavings. The finish is creamy, rich and long. A deep and concentrated wine but it’s still easy to drink, although I’d gladly cellar this for two to five years to see it unwind. 100% Cabernet aged 28 months in 50% new French oak. (90 points)

SRP: $75
Vibrant purple color. Smells of plums, currant jam, sweet pipe tobacco, loam and cedar. Structured tannins, a smooth and velvety mouthfeel with medium to medium-plus acid. The red and black currant fruit is juicy and fresh, add in some blackberry sauce, anise and cola. I also get a note that reminds me of mossy rocks and wet leaves, which I love. Long, refreshing finish with lingering vanilla cola and cedar shavings. Beautiful now but should age nicely over the next five years or so. Aged 26 months in French oak and two years in bottle, includes 4% Merlot. (90 points)

2012 Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvée - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
SRP: $20
Jammy blueberries, rich raspberry jam, sweet roses and red licorice on the nose. Rich and open on the palate with significant tannins but medium to low acid. High octane, but very pretty, with sweet raspberry and blueberry flavors, doused with mocha, anise cookies, caramelized sugar and toasted oak. Bold but juicy and easy to drink at the same time. Ready to go but will do nicely over two or three years. Cabernet and Merlot. (89 points)

2012 Amici Cabernet Sauvignon Olema - California, Sonoma County
SRP: $22
A deep purple-violet color. Tight on the nose, takes time to coax out the blueberry pie, blackberry jam, hints of mocha and caramel as well. Fleshy on the palate with blueberry and blackberry jam, supported by grippy tannins, a bit low on the acid for my palate. Notes of wet leaves, milk chocolate and cedar linger onto the finish. Perhaps it’ll smooth out a bit over the next year or two, but I’m not sure about cellaring it for very long. 91% Cabernet, 8% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot aged 16 months in 30% new oak. (85 points)

2011 Franciscan Estate Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $20
Dark plum and black cherry aromas, mixed with smoke, roasted coffee, some violet and lavender notes. Fleshy on the palate, with ripe red and black fruits, supported by dusty-fine tannins and medium+ acidity. I really like the sleeker approach of 2011 here, seems to show more nuance and freshness. Espresso and cedar undertones, a hint of tobacco. Very well-put together with a long, tart finish. Includes 8% Cab, 8% Malbec and 2% Syrah. (90 points)

2010 Grgich Hills Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $42
An earthy-ruby color in the glass. Lush nose of dark plums and currants, some loamy soil and mocha, some dried rose potpourri and tobacco notes. Rich and velvety but balanced and clean at the same time, with refreshing acid and solid tannic structure. Lovely berry compote, tart black currants, mixing with cedar, fallen leaves, moss and shaved dark chocolate, all sorts of complexities. Some sweet mocha and vanilla on the creamy and long finish. Lovely in so many ways, but dont worry about burying this in the cellar and forgetting about it for a while. (90 points)

2011 Clos du Val Merlot - California, Napa Valley
SRP: $35
Aromas of red and black currants and cherries, tart but full, with notes of loamy soil, violets and a hint of black olive. On the palate, this wine shows fine-grain tannins of medium strength, with some tang from the acid. The berry and plum fruit is bright but rich, and laced with complex notes of smoke, earth, vanilla and loamy, rocky soil. Showing some potential for the cellar, although it’s fine to drink now, maybe with a few hours in the decanter. Includes 16% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc, aged 18 months in 25% new French oak. (91 points)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Grab Bag of Bordeaux Reds

I review a lot of California Bordeaux variety wines for the wine blog Terroirist, but this week I’m going back to the source. 

These aren’t the sought-after big growths that demand massive prices, but these wines could make up quite a good bargain-hunting list (relatively speaking).

The wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

2010 Château de Sours Blanc “La Source” - France, Bordeaux, Bordeaux Contrôlée
SRP: $35
A clear lemon color. Interesting mix of rich fruit (guava, pineapple) and tangy citrus (lime, lemon zest), a hint of mineral and green onion. Tangy on the palate, with a crisp citrus profile. Some guava, honey and nutty notes add richness, but the mineral and saline tones keep it balanced. Lovely freshness to this wine. A blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. (87 points)

2011 Château Moulin Riche France, Bordeaux, Médoc, St. Julien
SRP: $56
Dark ruby colored. On the nose, blackberries and black currants abound, mixing in with some cedar, incense sticks, dried violets and roasted coffee. On the palate, this is plummy and dark berry-driven with dusty tannins and medium acid. Lots of roasted coffee, pencil lead, cedar and loamy soil. Some violets, tobacco and crushed granite as well with a long, pretty finish. Needs time to unwind for sure, but a very solid blend of 71% Cab and 29% Merlot. (90 points)

2004 Château Canon France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Canon-Fronsac
SRP: $25
Medium garnet colored, a bit of bricking at the edges. Smells of red currants covered with sun-dried tomatoes, roses, rhubarb and pickles. Fresh acid on the palate, the tannins are quite strong. Tart currants and cherries meet earth, dust, tobacco and rich soil. Underling notes of iron and mineral. A hint of sweet herbal spice on the finish. A lot of stories to tell now, but still holding up and could age more. 100% Merlot. (89 points)

2009 Château de Malengin - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Montagne-St. Émilion
SRP: $20
Vibrant ruby color. Soft, juicy black cherries and wild blackberries on the nose, also some bay leaf, tobacco and pepper undertones, woven together quite well. On the palate, dusty tannins, some freshness from the acid. Juicy red berry fruit leads to notes of sweet red flowers, some cedar, notes of black pepper and mushroom, a hint of spearmint? Juicy, fresh, probably one to drink over the next three or four years. For $20, a solid wine for sure. (88 points)

2011 Château Royaumont - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Lalande de Pomerol
SRP: $45
Bold nose of plum cake, currant jam, cedar, smoke and some dusty, earthy notes. On the palate, fleshy plums and tart currants on a firm tannic frame, a balancing act with the fresh acid. The loam and graphite elements are pronounced, and I get touches of bell pepper, bay leaf and dusty earth. Pleasant young, but this is one for the cellar and I’d like to try it in another three to five years. 70% Merlot, 30% Cab Franc. (88 points)

2011 Château La Pointe - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
SRP: $33
Nose shows vibrant berries, red currants, violets, loam and some tobacco. Silky on the palate with tart red and black currants all over the place and fine but firm tannins. Notes of roses, coffee and graphite add complexity. A bright personality, fresh and inviting, but could develop and settle in the cellar. (87 points)

This piece was first published on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Before the Bubbles: Still Pinot from Veuve Clicquot

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

It’s painful to say this, but I’ve never visited Champagne. It’s high on my list but, alas, my Champagne experience comes only from sipping flutes. So I was excited to attend a wine dinner with one of Veuve Clicquot’s winemakers, Pierre Casenave, at
Boss Shepherd in Washington, DC.

Of course, the menu feautured lots of bubbles — the orange label brut, the non-vintage rosé, the 2004 rosé and the tête de cuvée La Grande Dame — but I was most excited by the still red wines. Rarely bottled or sold, these Coteaux Champenois reds offer a unique peek into the terroir-translating power of Pinot Noir.

Pierre, who joined Veuve Clicquot in 2008, is part of a team of winemakers and tasting panelists who work together under chef de caves Dominique Demarville to craft the various house blends. At this tasting, Pierre focused on the different Pinot Noirs that are blended into the higher-end cuvées. These 2013 vintage still reds came from Verzy and Bouzy, both Pinot-heavy Grand Cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims region. 

I asked Pierre about the difference between Verzy and Bouzy in terms of their terroir imprint for Pinot. He said Verzy is “impacted more by minerality” and provides a fresher, brighter approach. Bouzy is more about depth, structure and spice. But, Pierre cautioned, the vintage is everything. “What’s true one year is completely false the next year.” In addition to the Verzy and Bouzy, we also tasted the Clos Colin. Pierre produced only six barrels of the Clos Colin, a select parcel within Bouzy that is blended into La Grande Dame. 

When it comes to Pinot Noir, Pierre said his job is to avoid bitterness and astringency as the grapes struggle to ripen in the cool Champagne climate. If that’s his goal, I think he succeeded wonderfully in 2013. I found these wines to be fresh, open, inviting and complex, without a trace of anything green or bitter. As I swirled and sniffed the wines extensively, taking in the complex aromas, Pierre chimed in with a disclaimer: “First of all, it’s not meant to be drank as a still wine.” Well, he could’ve fooled me.

The Verzy was brisk, clean and full of fresh red fruit and minerals. The Bouzy had a lot of similar elements, but it was tinged with more floral and tea elements. The Clos Colin was one of the most mineral-centric Pinot Noirs I’ve tasted. It’s an unbelievably stony and complex Pinot with laser-like focus and electric acid, yet an effortless feel on the palate. 

At the end of the night, we were served glasses of Cliquot’s orange label brut, Clicquot’s bread and butter bubbly, along with straws. Diners were encouraged to use the straws to stir some of the still red wine into the bubbly and create our own blends. 

It’s a fun idea, but I pushed the bubbles aside and continued contemplating the beauty and uniqueness of the still reds.

My tasting notes on the Coteaux Champenois reds and the Grande Dame rosé are posted below.

2013 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Verzy Rouge - Champagne, Coteaux Champenois
A light cherry juice color. Almost Gamay-like on the nose, like a burst of bright strawberries and cherries with exotic flowers, minerals and chunks of rock. So silky and fine on the palate, with light tannins and refreshing acid. Red currants, white cherries, strawberries, the fruit is so bright and gushing. I love the mineral, black tea and rose hips though. This has a long finish with notes of oyster shell and a hint of tobacco leaf. I have no other Pinot Noirs with which to compare this — it is its own thing, a very pretty thing. All stainless steel. (91 points)

2013 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Bouzy Rouge - France, Champagne, Coteaux ChampenoisJust a tiny bit darker than the Verzy. Nose of pure cherries and wild strawberries, a Morgon-like mineral and granite note along with exotic violets and roses, some lavender and potpourri. Tart and clean on the palate, with smooth and dusty tannins and high acid. The red currants and cranberry fruit is so clean and crisp and crunchy, and it’s laced with rose hips, limestone, black tea and an array of oceanic notes like sea salt and crushed shells. Long, zesty, just a tiny bit more structure than the Verzy. As a lover of lean and high acid Pinots, I find this to be a truly gorgeous wine. (91 points)

2013 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Bouzy Rouge Clos Colin - France, Champagne, Coteaux ChampenoisCherry juice color. Intoxicating nose of white and red cherries, wild strawberries, dried cranberries, not to mention the fall leaves, violets, nettles and graphite. The palate is incredibly smooth and clean while the acid is electric, well-structured by the dusty tannins. Red cherries and raspberries, so fresh, tangy and pure, backed up by complex notes of loam, truffle, cigar smoke and gravel roads. The minerality in this wine is intense, and the overall package is so complex. More black fruit than the other two wines, this is the most intricate and lasting, at the same time it’s so delicate and elegant wine. I’m stunned. (96 points)

2004 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut Rosé La Grande Dame - France, Champagne 
Vibrant copper-salmon-orange color, a bit deeper in color than the 2004 Brut Rosé. Such aromatic complexity, it really takes time to open up and show its true stuffing: strawberries, apricot, red apple peel, limestone, oyster shell, sea breeze, biscuits and a hint of smoke. Tart acid on the palate, this is an intense wine but it maintains an elegant posture despite itself. Red cherries, currants and wild strawberries play off of minerals, chalk, oyster shell. Lovely toast and brioche, I get some really interesting notes that I can’t quite place, something like barley and sweet onions, but whatever it is I love it. Time coaxes out all sorts of complexity. A beautiful wine, but decades away from maturity. Fascinating to taste this wine alongside the still 2013 Clos Colin Pinot Noir. (94 points)

Now, on to planning that Champagne trip.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wine Reivews: California Rhone Reds

This post first appeared on the award-winning daily wine blog Terroirist.

I never get tired of California interpretation of Rhone wines. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and blends with other lesser-known grapes, these wines have always intrigued me. And when it comes to California Rhone wines, the diversity of styles and blends has never been better. This report features a few deep and complex Syrahs as well as a handful of ever-quirky wines from Randall Graham.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single-blind.

2009 Aril Syrah Estate - California, Napa Valley, Atlas Peak
SRP: $45
Bright ruby colored. On the nose, juicy red currants, black cherries, along with lavender, cola, dark chocolate and bourbon cask notes. On the palate, this is full of fruit and structure with medium tannins, shot through with solid acid. Red currants, cherries, plums, accented by cocoa powder, sweet spices, barbecue sauce, vanilla and caramel. Full, complex, gorgeous, lots of life ahead. Bold but juicy, with a long finish of coconut, grilled herbs and fig cookies. Aged 16 months in 20% new French oak. (92 points)

2010 Kieran Robinson Syrah Le Voyageur - California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
SRP: $43
Dark ruby-purple color. Aromas are deep and dark, with blackberries, plum, roasted coffee, loamy soil, paved road and black olive. Firm but silky tannic structure, fresh acid, rich and tangy fruit (blackberry, black cherry, cassis). Lots of black olive, loam, campfire soot and roasted coffee flavors. Hints of BBQ sauce come out with time. Bold, but elegant and lovely, with an incredibly long finish. This beauty needs time or a really good decant. 12.9% alcohol. (92 points)

2012 Niner Wine Estates Syrah - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $30
Vibrant purple color. Blueberry pie, juicy blackberries, some underlying espresso and violets on the nose. Juicy and chewy on the palate, with a good balance between fine but solid tannins and some medium acid. Jammy blackberries and plums, juicy and full of fruit, but I also get some elements of teriyaki jerky, rhubarb and tilled soil. Bold but has a silky presence and a long finish with notes of flowers and black tea. Concentrated, perhaps a bit of time will help this open up, but it’s quite delicious right now. Aged for 18 months in 70% French, 20% Hungarian and 10% American oak.
(89 points)

2012 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
SRP: $20
Clear cherry color. Smells of dark cherries, spicy herbs (oregano, pepper), a bit of jammy fruit but lots of earth and savory tones as well. Silky but rich on the palate with medium acid and fine tannins, combining to form a lip-smacking, chewy texture. Flavors of tart red cherries and juicy blackberries mixed with pipe tobacco, earth and soy notes. Could age in the near term, but this seems ready to go now. A blend of 53% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 18% Mourvedre and 2% Counoise. (89 points)

2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Contra - California
SRP: $13
A pretty rose-violet color. Fresh cherries and raspberries on the nose, along with lots of roses, potpourri, vermouth spices, some savory tones. Full, fine tannins, fresh acid, such delicious flavors. Red and sour cherries, raspberries, tangy and tart, but packed with sage, black pepper, anise and menthol. Long, pretty, complex. 56% Carignan, 17% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre and 1% Cinsault. A screaming value. (89 points)

2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant en bonbonne Reserve - California
SRP: $79
A kind of purple-cranberry color in the glass. Black cherries, cranberries on the nose, some complex spice tones, with black pepper, dried herbs, some earthy-mushroom accents. Very pretty on the nose. The palate is great: gritty tannins, crisp acid and tons of flavor. The fruit is dark and crunchy, like the skins of black cherries and plums, and I get all of these pepper, earth, menthol and pickle notes, maybe even some braised meat. Old world accents, but it’s got the grit of a California Rhone blend. I knew this batch of reds was from California, but this would be a great ringer in a Chateauneuf tasting. Impressed with this blend of 30% Syrah, 28% Grenache, 22% Mourvedre and 20% Cinsault.
(92 points)

2009 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant - California
SRP: $45
Medium purple color. Interesting nose of black cherries, cranberry sauce, pepper, sweet herbs and a mushroom and soy note. Fleshy but firm tannins, tangy acid, quite balanced and pretty. The black cherry and tangy plum fruit shows a tart, fresh but bold approach at the same time. I love the soil, pickle, meat and pepper notes, which add all sorts of complexity. Lots of interwoven flavors, but it could use some time to unwind. Just a step down in complexity from the en bonbonne reserve, but this is a beautiful wine. 36% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre and 19% Cinsault. (91 points)
2013 Bonny Doon Vineyard Grenache Clos de Gilroy - California, Central Coast
SRP: $20
Smells like purple Kool-Aid packets, Twizzlers, vanilla cola and rose petals. Light tannins, soft acid, a fresh and juicy mouthfeel that’s reminiscent of Beaujolais. Flavors of strawberry jam and cranberry sauce, and I get some pepper, rhubarb and green olive notes as well. A juicy, fun, fruit-packed blend of 75% Grenache, 17% Syrah and 8% Mourvedre. (87 points)

2012 Bonny Doon Vineyard Grenache Cuvée R Rancho Solo - California, Central Coast, Monterey County
SRP: $48
Light purple color. Black and white pepper, rose potpourri and earthy aromas on top of tangy red fruit. On the palate, medium tannic structure, moderate acid, the red and black berry fruit tastes bold and sweet but also crunchy. This wine shows lots of earth, wet leaves and herbal undertones that make it really interesting to analyze, but it’s as straight-up drinkable and enjoyable as it is intriguing. Very impressive, seems good now but could do well with some near-term cellaring. (90 points)