Joel Gott California Sauvignon Blanc 2020


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The Joel Gott California Sauvignon Blanc 2020 has become our hot-weather white wine of choice. Widely available for about $10. We get ours from Total Wine’s Mountain View store.

Aromas of honeydew melon, pineapple, and juicy pear with citrus notes. The palate opens with ripe, tropical fruit flavors followed by crisp acidity on the mid-palate and notes of red grapefruit on the long, balanced finish. All of this is very subtle, so clear your taste buds first.

The website calls this “Santa Barbara” designated region. That’s not on the label. But who cares? Buy some and enjoy!


Another Bargain From Sean Minor


Last night we uncorked Sean Minor’s 2018 Sonoma Coast pinot noir ($22), This is another bargain from Sean Minor.  At this price, refill your Eurocave™.

The wine opens with aromas of spice and red cherries.  On the palate more cherries, strawberries, vanilla, and a hint of toast.  Terrific lush mouth feel. You will not go wrong with this beauty.

Two Post Holiday Sales Worth Your Time and Money

Siduri and the Loring Wine Company both make superb pinot noirs.  And now they are running two post holiday sales worth your time and money.

Siduri routinely has a post-holiday warehouse clearance sale.  This is a rare opportunity to acquire some older vintages.


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But the real find is Loring Wine Company.  They were one of our three newcomers of the year in 2014.  We first encountered them at the 2014 Santa Lucia Highlands Gala. Our review was detailed and very favorable.

Loring has reduced their prices and is now offering 30 percent off.  Here’s the official announcement.


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Siduri’s sale ends in a few days.  They are already running out of some wines.  As far as we know, Loring hasn’t put a time limit on their sale.  But I have little doubt that they, too, are seeing their inventory depleted.

Two WALT Bargains at Artisan

WALT La Brisa Two WALT Bargains at Artisan

Artisan Wine Depot is currently featuring two WALT pinot noirs at bargain prices. We’ve written about WALT several times before. When we read about this we rushed over to pick up a couple of bottles of each. And they could not be more different. One is from the Sonoma Coast, the other from Anderson Valley. Each is an excellent reflection of the terroir of its respective AVA. (Prices quoted are in effect at Artisan as of February 14, 2020.)

WALT Blue Jay Two WALT Bargains at ArtisanWALT’s 2017 La Brisa ($36.97) is a blend of three Sonoma Coast vineyards: Bob’s Ranch, Gap’s Crown, and Calesa. Gaps Crown is up in the hills. In our experience, the grapes most closely resemble Anderson Valley. That explains why this Sonoma Coast is lighter than we’d expect.

The wine is on the red side of-purple with aromas of rose petal, tangerine peel red raspberries. Medium-bodied with flavors of crushed raspberry, cola, freshly turned soil, and tobacco linger on the palate. The texture is rich and leads into a long finish with balanced oak and minerality.

The 2017 Blue Jay ($39.99) is from hillside vineyards in the Anderson Valley. The color is lighter than La Brisa, tending away from purple and toward ruby. Aromas of blood orange, strawberries with hints of forest floor. Complexity on the palate shows flavors of wild blueberries, baking spice and red raspberries. The long finish is smooth tannins, oak, and balanced acidity.


Sean Minor Returns

[Editor: Mr. Minor never really left.  What went missing was the author’s brain.]

We were excited to get an e-mail from this old favorite.  And we were even more thrilled to discover that Sean is still making pinot noir.  We ordered a mixed case.  This review will cover tastings made over the course of a week.  We’ve reviewed Sean’s wines before, but somehow he fell through the ever-widening cracks in our brains.

We had remembered – incorrectly, as it turns out – that Sean had stopped making pinot noir.  Thankfully, a helpful employee refreshed our ever more failing memory.  He stopped making Carneros pinots, shifting instead to the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs.

The Wines

His 2016 Central Coast pinot “Four Bears” ($16) opens with mild aromas of black cherries and leather.  The palate is lush and full with flavors of chocolate covered cherries and a hint of spice.  The finish features long, smooth, silky tannins.  Another terrific deal.

The 2016 Central Coast chardonnay “Four Bears” ($14) tends to lemon curd.  Aromas of citrus and smoke lead to pineapple and lemon curd palate.  A nice long finish rounds out the experience.

But the real champion is the 2015 Sonoma Coast pinot noir ($22).  Aromas of cranberries and bing cherries lead to a palate that features more cherries and spices.  A long, complex finish opens with smooth tannins and a touch of acid, merging seamlessly into more spice.  At $22 per bottle this counts as a major bargain.  Get this one while it lasts. And don’t be afraid to let it sit for a year or two.  This one has some aging potential.

The Business

The website has been updated significantly since our last visit.  Vibrant colors with a sparse, almost Japanese, layout.  The design is warm and welcoming.  Here’s an example:

Little Black Dress

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Sean and Nicole are the perfect winery couple.  For those who are curious, the “Four Bears” designation refers to their four kids.

Sean and Nicole

Followed by a clear, clean statement of purpose.  Companies searching for a mission statement could learn a lot from this:

Statement of Purpose

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An interesting side note: Sean was born in Kansas “surrounded by surrounded by agriculture and the hard work and values responsible for the enviable work ethic of Midwestern people.”  It happens that Tony’s maternal grandparents owned a farm in Kansas.  He spent many summers there when he was a child.  [Editor: That’s what Tony claims.  Given the state of his memory, I would be skeptical.]

These are good folks making wines that are incredible values.  If you’ve never tried them before get online and order a case  or two!  Here’s their team:

The Sean Minor Team

Stuart, Nicole, Larry, Barbara, Sue, Sean, Kristi



Major Year End Bargain From Knez

We’ve reviewed Knez Winery before.  They were  a major find on our jaunt to the Anderson Valley.  Now they’re offering a year end bargain that’s hard to resist.

Knez 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir

Their 2013 Anderson Valley Knez Reserve pinot noir is made from a vineyard located between their Cerise and Demuth Vineyards.  Regular price from the winery is $59 per bottle.  Right now this lovely wine is on sale for half price.  At $29.50 this is what you need for your holiday celebrations.  We bought six bottles, drank one tonight, and can recommend it without any reservations.

Cheers, everyone!

Artisan Does Italy

It’s been a while since we visited Artisan Wine Depot. (For a retired couple we seem to be awfully busy.) But then we were invited to a tasting of Italian wines, olive oils and imported foods. How could we say no?

The Sponsors

Casa de Case takes its name from Kris and Howard Case. This couple loves Italian food and wine. In 2000 they started Casa de Case as an importer. Their original focus was Italian olive oil. After a few successful years they quit their day jobs to focus on turning Casa de Case into an importer and distributor of Italian foods. Shortly thereafter, they began importing wines from wineries they had visited and enjoyed.

Kris and Howard Case

Kris and Howard Case (click for larger image)

Our usual practice is to review the wines in the order tasted. But this time we’ll make the primary ordering by winery. That way we can give you some background on each winery before moving on to their wines. All prices quoted are the Artisan single-bottle prices, not including shipping and handling.


Be warned: if you visit the Mustilli website and don’t read Italian, have your dictionary ready (or use a web translation service). Italian only written here. But the site itself is visually spectacular.

The first wine featured a new grape, the Falanghina. Well, it was new to us. Specifically, the wine was “Vigna Segreta” 2015 Falanghina (Sannio, Campania, Italy) ($30). That name sounded too short for a good Italian wine so we visited the winery website. Sure enough, the full name is “Vigna Segreta Falanghina del Sannio Sant’Agata dei Goti DOC 2015.” As for the wine, it’s pleasant enough with very light aromas and flavors of white peaches and minerality. If you’re looking for a wine to beat the summer heat that’s guaranteed not to offend any of your guests, this is a good bet.

Mustilli’s “Artus” 2015 Piedirosso di Sannio (Campania, Italy, $30) was our favorite among the reds. Aroma of plums and red fruits, with a delicate finish of floral notes, herbs, lavender, thyme and sage.

La Baia Del Sole

Lo and behold, La Baio Del Sole‘s first wine was a vermentino. And it was our favorite of the event. We first encountered this grape on our visit to Tessa Marie in Los Olivos. The Italian version features much less vermouth flavor. This one is very nice indeed. The wine is the “Oro d’lsee” 2016 Vermentino Colli di Luni (Liguria, ltaly, $16) Our tasting notes feature aromas of peaches and honeysuckle with more peaches and some minerality on the palate. This one qualifies as a BARGAIN.

A second vermentino, “Sarticola” 2015 Vermentino Colli di Luni _ (Liguria, ltaJy, $20) had been kept on the skins a few days. We found it overpowering.

Vermentino nero? Black vermentino? Apparently. The “Prima Brezza” 2015 Rosato IGT (Liguria di Levante, Italy, $15). Not to our taste, but quaffable.


There were several other wineries and wines at this event.  But the nebbilios were too, well, nebbolio-esque.  As always, we’ve reviewed what we liked.

Balletto Vineyards Has Great Wine and
an All-American Success Story

Balletto mainly grows grapes. They keep ten percent for their use. And their wines are pretty terrific. Not to mention reasonably priced. All their wines are estate grown and bottled, with a Russian River Valley AVA designation. And the best word to describe their wines is unusual. You will find aromas and flavors that, in our experience, are unique.

Wow Wine Country Dawn Balletto Vineyards Has Great Wine and an All-American Success Story

Wow Wine Country Dawn (click for larger image)

The Wine

Balletto’s 2016 sauvignon blanc ($19) is a little heavy on the grapefruit for our taste, but with nice, unusual lemon-lime undertones.

Their 2016 “Teresa’s” chardonnay ($20) features tropical fruit and green apple, again, quite unusual.

Addie the Winery Dog Balletto Vineyards Has Great Wine and an All-American Success Story

Addie the Winery Dog (click for larger image)

A 2016 gewürztraminer ($19) was heavy on lychee nuts and ripe pear, lacking much of the traditional spice. Nutty aromas make this another unusual, but not bad, wine.

We’ve always had problems with pinot noir rosé. Usually most of the pinot character is lost with the coloration. But Balletto’s 2016 offering ($18) shows good pinot character, both in the nose and on the palate. This is a major bargain and just the thing for upcoming warm summer evenings.

Their 2014 pinot noir ($29) is a blend from seven vineyards. Aromas of dark fruit with a hint of leather. The palate is an explosion of juice, with a lush butterscotch. finish. Another bargain.

A single-vineyard pinot noir, the 2013 “Burnside” ($42), was lighter with less fruit, more tannins and more oak than the blend. This will improve with age.

Finally, the 2013 zinfandel ($28) was another delightful surprise. Aromas of brambleberries, followed by a soft palate, a small hint of spice, and an overall very nice experience.

The Winery and Its History

To understand the Balletto winery you need to know something about the Balletto family. In 1977 John Balletto started growing vegetables at the tender age of 17. The untimely death of his father sidetracked his college ambitions. With the help of his mother Hazel, he planted produce on five acres in Sebastopol.

Balletto Tasting Room Balletto Vineyards Has Great Wine and an All-American Success Story

Balletto Tasting Room (click for larger image)

The business grew. With the help of Pete Barbieri, the family bought a ranch in Santa Rosa. The business continued to expand. John started leasing land, but quickly realized that fluctuations in lease rates did not make for a stable business environment. With his wife Terri he bought a large parcel at 5700 Occidental Road and built a packing and shipping house. That building is the winery tasting room today.

Jacqueline Balletto and Winemaker Anthony Beckman

Jacqueline Balletto and Winemaker Anthony Beckman (click for larger image)

The Ballettos eventually became the largest vegetable grower north of the Golden Gate with 700 acres under cultivation. But losses caused by three successive El Niño storms combined with competition from Mexico after NAFTA was signed convinced them that there was no future in that market. Luckily they already had 35 acres of chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot gris on their home ranch west of Sebastopol. The family began the full-blown conversion to grape growing in 1999. Today they have over 500 acres in the Russian River Valley. In July 2010, the Balletto Family was honored being awarded the Sonoma County Farm Bureau Farm Family of the Year.

There are actually three vineyard sites. The Santa Rosa Plains are a few miles west of Santa Rosa. Sebastopol Hills is southwest of the town of Sebastopol. And they now have a vineyard in the Petaluma Wind Gap, an up-and-coming region featuring very cold, windy conditions.

Balletto Vineyard Map Sebastopol Hills Balletto Vineyards Has Great Wine and an All-American Success Story

Balletto Vineyard Map Sebastopol Hills (click for larger image)


Some days we get lucky. We feel very fortunate to have stumbled onto Balletto. They have terrific wine and a fabulous story.

Schloss Biebrich Sekt

Schloss Biebrich SektBargain of the decade.  Trader Joe’s is offering Schloss Biebrich Sekt for $5.49 a bottle.  This is a sparkler from Germany’s Henkell & Co. Gruppe. Trust us, this will not compete with any reasonable quality sparkler — from the US, France, Italy, or — yes — Germany.  But it is light, unpretentious, and very quaffable.  It’s also about 11% alcohol so you don’t have to destroy your liver.

We occasionally review serious bargains.  At this price you can afford to buy a few bottles to see if you like it.