Patz and Hall 2017 Sonoma Coast

Patz and Hall bottle Patz and Hall 2017 Sonoma Coast

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We drank this for Thanksgiving.  The Patz and Hall 2017 Sonoma Coast pinot noir ($48) is excellent.  We’re usually reluctant to recommend a blend from an AVA.  But Sonoma Coast is home to some of our favorites.  After tasting this wine, we rate it a bargain.

The wine opens with aromas of red cherries, licorice, and rose petals.  On the palate the wine is lighter than, say, Russian River Valley or Santa Lucia Highlands pinots.  The flavors feature black cherries, a hint of forest floor. Immediately after opening, tannins are a bit intense.  Solve this problem either by curbing your impatience or decanting.  We were in no hurry, and it was worth the wait.  Silky tannins add a hint of spice and pave the way to a long, complex finish.

James Hall and Donald Patz met in the 1980s when both were at Flora Springs Winery and Vineyard.  James was the assistant winemaker and Donald was national sales manager.  Here’s Anne Moses’s description.

Moses pull quote Patz and Hall 2017 Sonoma Coast

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Patz and Hall wines were served in the Bush administration.  Meet the four founders.

James Hall, Anne Moses, Heather Patz, and Donald Patz Patz and Hall 2017 Sonoma Coast

James Hall, Anne Moses, Heather Patz, and Donald Patz (click for larger image)

Siduri Chardonnay 2019

Yes, you read that correctly.  Siduri has released a chardonnay.  Grapes are from Willamette Valley.  It’s pretty good and, as we expect from these folks, interesting.

White flowers, orange blossom, and a hint of mango on the nose.  The palate is lemon backed by pineapple with hints of banana and vanilla, with a long, succulent finish. $35 from the winery, $28 to club members.  Unique and easily worth a try to see if it appeals to you.

We are of two minds about Siduri’s chardonnay history.  One of us remembers a chardonnay being served at a Siduri dinner in the distant past.  The other, older, reviewer does not remember this.

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.

Belden Barns Hosting Virtual Wine Tasting

Belden Barns is hosting a series of virtual wine tastings starting at the end of March.  Here’s the idea.  You order wine from them.  Then you participate in the virtual tasting via Zoom.  But you have to move fast if you want the 11 bottle package with one bottle of each wine.  Orders must be placed by MARCH 19 (tomorrow as I type this). Added bonus: a 35 percent discount on those 11 bottle near-cases. Click here for the order page.  Also a pdf version of the complete e-mail is at the end of this article.

Here’s what Nate and Lauren say:

In other, more exciting news, beginning on Sunday, March 29th, Nate and I will be hosting free virtual wine tastings every Sunday evening at 5 to 6pm PST.  Each week, we’ll explore a new varietal/bottling from our portfolio, inviting participants to weigh in on attributes like taste, appearance, and perfect pairing ideas.  On the agenda will be fun experiments to explore how the taste of wine changes when paired with different random items from your stockpile (think: beans, marshmallows, rice, peanut butter, popcorn, mac & cheese, etc).  We’ll also include fun questions like “Which song would go best with this wine?” and “If this wine were to come to life as a celebrity, who might it be?”

And here’s the schedule.
Sunday, March 29th      Sauvignon Blanc
Sunday, April 5th           Pinot Noir (a comparison between our Estate and Serendipity bottlings)
Sunday, April 12th         Gruner Veltliner
Sunday, April 19th         Rosé
Sunday, April 26th         Grenache
Sunday, May 3rd           Blanc de Noirs (sparkling!)
Sunday, May 10th         Syrah (a comparison between our Estate and Cadabra bottlings)
Sunday, May 17th         Chardonnay
Sunday, May 24th         Late-Harvest Viognier

Here’s the pdf of the e-mail.

Belden Barns virtual tasting

Belden Barns 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

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We’ve written about these folks quite a bit over the years.  About a week ago we got our wine club shipment.  The pinots can wait but the lure of the Belden Barns 2017 sauvigvnon blanc ($26) proved irresistable.

And we were not disappointed.  Aromas of honey and tangerine with just hint of grassiness lead to a palate of pineapple and honeydew melon.  The finish is long and multi-layered moving into a touch of wet slate.  This is a major bargain.

The Beldens planted a unique clone of sauvignon blanc.  Nate describes it as “the pedigreed vine material originally sourced from Collio, Italy near the Slovenian border.”  We are pretty sure the terroir is a contributing factor.  Sonoma Mountain is rocky with an interesting soil structure.  They benefit from being directly aligned with the Sonoma wind gap.  Days are cool and foggy, something very unique for properties east of highway 101 in Santa Rosa.

Buy this wine and try it.  Unless, of course, you are a fan of the grassy, vegetal sauv blancs.  In that case, this is not for you.

Nate in the barn Belden Barns 2017 Sauvignon Blanc

Nate in the barn (click for larger image)



Piper-Heidsieck Visits Chef Chu’s With Artisan

Our friends at Artisan Wine Depot invited us to a special food and champagne pairing on September 19. The champagne was from Piper-Heidsieck with their local expert and evangelist Kyle Kaplan.  Food pairings were from the legendary Larry Chu who also put in several appearances.  Chef Chu’s has been a fixture in Los Altos (CA) for 48 years.  It was the first restaurant I visited that fused California cuisine with traditional Chinese recipes.  If you’re ever in the neighborhood, this landmark is worth a special trip. We put together a video montage of this event.

There were nine champagnes on the menu.  Five were vintages, including four with the coveted “Cuvee Rare” designation. Those included the 2007 Brut Rose, the 1988 Brut, the 1998 Brut (magnums only), and the 2002 Brut.  A fifth vintage, the 2008 Brut was actually our favorite.  We bought half a case.

Cuvee Rare is a special designation for vintages that are exceptional.  There is a special label, affixed by hand, for these vintages.

Cuvee Rare

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Kyle got to (literally) show off his chops by demonstrating how to open a champagne bottle with a sabre.  The image below doesn’t do the event justice.  Watch the video above to get the full impact.

Sabre Bottle Opening

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Two GSMs from Dilecta

Orion and Tony

Orion and Tony

Dilecta was one of our discoveries on our trip to Paso Robles in January.  Following the recommendation of Wills and Kath Carter (proprietors and hosts at the fabulous Canyon Villa), we visited the winery for a delightful hour of tasting and conversation.  Owner – winemaker Orion Stang knows his way around the standard GSM grapes.  But technically these are not GSM in that he often uses only two of the three grapes.  Tonight we opened the 2014 Unorthodox and Cookie.  The two could not be more different.  Before reading further, here’s some advice.  If you have these in your cellar, leave them for at least another year, and two would probably be a good idea.  They’re tasty right now but will improve with more age.

Unorthodox 2014 78% syrah 22% mourvedre opens with aromas of earth, licorice and black raspberries.  The palate is spice with some tannins and more black raspberries.  A long and tangy finish rounds out a very pleasant experience.  This one could wait another year. (The 2014 is no longer available from Dilecta.  The 2015 is $52.)

Playful Dilecta dog

Playful Dilecta dog

The 2014 Cookie is big.  Really big.  The wine opens with deceptive aromas of black olives, black raspberries and spice.  The palate is a bomb.  Deep, rich, and opulent with more spice and dark fruit.  Youthful tannins with a good acid balance and fruit backbone imply this one will continue to improve for at least five years. (The 2014 is no longer available from Dilecta.  The 2015 is $62.)

Orion’s mom is an artist.  She designs the labels for the wines.  These labels are much wider than the traditional size.  As such, only a video clip can do them justice.

If you’re a fan of syrah, you can do no better than Mr. Stang’s wines.

Dilecta About Page

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Tablas Creek 2012 Esprit de Tablas

Tablas Creek 2012 Esprit de Tablas

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“Like a French Rhône, only good!” were the first words out of my mouth.  The Tablas Creek 2012 Esprit de Tablas opens with aromas of smoke, leather, and black cherries.  The palate is black raspberry, cassis,  black tea, and sweet spices.  A nice finish, with silky tannins.  You can’t buy this from the winery, even though it’s listed in their library.

A quick search of several wine retail websites produced zero hits.  Wine.com estimates the retail at around $55.  If you go looking and find a place that has some for sale, please let us know.

Dante Robere 2012 Reserve Syrah

Reserve Syrah 2012Rummaging in our Eurocave I ran across this goodie. It’s been a while since we visited Dante Robere, one of the best wineries in the Livermore Valley.  The Dante Robere 2012 Reserve Syrah was excellent after decanting. Smoke and black raspberries on the nose. Palate of spice, milk chocolate, and more raspberries. A long, delicious finish with well-structured, silky tannins. If you own a bottle or two, this may be the time to pop the cork.

They’re selling the 2015 vintage right now for $42. Pick up half a case if you have the patience. Dan and Bob know their stuff.

A Day in Paso Robles

When William and Katherine invited us to spend two nights at The Canyon Villa, we jumped at the chance. As always, the food, friendship, and accommodations were superb. We got January off to a good start by spending a day in Paso Robles. And we found two terrific wineries we did not know about. As an added bonus, we were the first to visit the tasting room at a third winery that doesn’t even open until February.

Lauren and Leslee A Day in Paso Robles

Lauren Rava and Leslee Falkenberg of Rava Wines (click for larger image)

We promised Lauren and Leslee that we wouldn’t do a full write-up of Rava Wines until they release their full wine lineup next month. We’ll just say that what we tasted shows a lot of promise and potential. We’ll write a longer review in February.  But you can taste their excellent sparkler and albariño right now. They are also pouring a selection of Brophy-Clark wines.  (John Clark is doing double duty as the winemaker at both Brophy-Clark and Rava.) Make an apopointment first. And ask for a tour of the spectacular facilities. By the way, Rava is a must-visit for the scenery, architecture, and good vibes. Those planning a wedding or other event should consider this place.

Ryan and Grace A Day in Paso Robles

Ryan and Grace (click for larger image)

Next up was Deovlet Wines (pronounced Dev’-let). We were greeted by Ryan Deovlet and Grace. Three outstanding pinot noirs led to one question: why haven’t we found these folks before? It turns out that we had visited their tasting room once. But it was occupied by 4 Vines.

Dilecta dog wants to play A Day in Paso Robles

Dilecta dog wants to play

Finally, we arrived at Dilecta. William and Katherine have their wines on The Canyon Villa’s in-house wine list. We were greeted enthusiastically by the winery’s golden retriever who was eager to play. Owner – winemaker Orion Stang rescued us from the puppy and proceeded to pour us some yummy GSMs. We’re normally not big fans of Rhône-style blends, but Dilecta has made us believers.

Dilecta's Orion Stang and Tony A Day in Paso Robles

Dilecta’s Orion Stang and Tony (click for larger image)

Three for three on the day. And 2018 is off to a very, very good start.

A Unique Experierience At Williamson Wines

Williamson Wines was the top new find on our trip to Sonoma. After a few wines, co-founder Dawn Williamson joined us at the table for a lively conversation. Along with her husband Bill they provide a unique experience at Williamson Wines. First, you can’t beat the price for the tasting: $0.00 for groups smaller than six people. Second, they serve the wine tastes accompanied by food morsels so you can evaluate the wines in the context of an appropriate food.

Dawn and Bill emigrated from Australia about 35 years ago. They’ve been making wine since 2002. And their wine is great!

Dawn with our crowd A Unique Experierience At Williamson Wines

Dawn with our crowd (click for larger image)

An unusual, terrific aspect of Williamson is their restaurant. There are a number of wine and food pairing options:

Wine and Food Pairings A Unique Experierience At Williamson Wines

Wine and Food Pairings (click for larger image)

Or visit The Terrace at Eighteen (18 Matheson St. in Healdsburg).

The Terrace at Eighteen A Unique Experierience At Williamson Wines

The Terrace at Eighteen (click for larger image)

If you’re feeling flush, a mere $395 gets you a 30 minute helicopter ride over Sonoma Valley followed by a tasting at the winery:

Helicopter Flight and Wine Tasting A Unique Experierience At Williamson Wines

Helicopter Flight and Wine Tasting (click for larger image)

The Wines

But let’s talk about their wines. By my count they offer 47:

Williamson Wine List A Unique Experierience At Williamson Wines

Williamson Wine List (click for larger imaage)

By making so many different wines, Williamson can produce small lots of each wine and still achieve some economies of scale. Production is 12,000 to 15,000 cases per year. That’s between 255 and 319 cases per wine on average.

Here’s what we tasted.

2015 viognier “Frolic” Mendocino County ($34). Aromas of honeysuckle and orange blossom greet you. On the palate, light flavors of peach and apricot, with a nice finish of well balanced acidity. The food pairing was apple horseradish jam.

2014 grenache “Embrace” Dry Creek Valley ($47). Aromas of cotton candy supported by light hints of blood orange peel. Flavors of hint of apple and cranberry notes of light leather and soft tannins finish. The food pairing was Moroccan date sauce.

“Entice Cuvée” Bordeaux-style blend ($48). Blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, petit verdot. Youthful aromas of coffee and blackberries greet you from the glass.. The cabernet sauvignon appears immediately on the palate, but softened by the merlot and malbec. The food pairing was jalapeño and sweet pepper jam.

2012 cabernet sauvignon “Indulge” Dry Creek Valley ($65). Rich plum and blackberry with a hint of tobacco to the nose. White pepper and plum with hints of caramel, tobacco and black licorice on the palate with assertive tannins finish. Age this one for a year or two. The food pairing was blue cheese and honey.

2015 pinot noir “Rapture” Sonoma Coast ($56). Aromas of bing cherry and cranberry with hints of cinnamon and leather. The palate is earthy and big, with notes of brambleberry and clove lead to a long finish with silky tannins. The food pairing was truffle salt.

Dawn and Bill Williamson

Dawn likes “Wednesday night recipes” that people can actually cook. As she put it,

People come to wine country and they think you’re going to have the big Viking stove, and you have to have all this stuff. We ship to New York, we ship to Washington, people have beautiful apartments, but they don’t have huge kitchens. We like recipes that you can cook in an apartment kitchen, that you can get on the table in a reasonable amount of time, and, as I tell young people, if you screw up it’s still going to be all right. … I have hundreds of cookbooks with all the pretty pictures. I enjoy them. You flip through them and see how pretty they are. You say, “That looks good,” then you look closely and it’s ¼ teaspoon of everything you’ve ever heard of.

Together they have put together a memorable, unique wine-tasting experience. Assisted, of course, by their terrific wines. Not bad for immigrants from down under!

Three Days in Sonoma County

We met my brother Tom and his wife Ginger in Windsor for three days of wine-tasting and conversation. This is the overview of our three days in Sonoma County.

We discovered a  really good winery that was new to us: Williamson Wines. We finally got to visit Belden Barns. We first discovered them in 2014. We revisited several old favorites including the Spire Collection (Maggy Hawk, Windracer), Zichichi (reviewed by us in 2011), Balletto (reviewed in 2016), Chateau Montelena (reviewed in 2017), Siduri (reviewed more times than we can count), and Pech Merle (which we’ve been meaning to review, mentioned in our overview of the Family Winemakers Tasting).

And, as an added bonus, we discovered two great restaurants in Healdsburg.  Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar does seafood (surprise). The Brass Rabbit occupies the space once used by Chez Ralph. Both offer outstanding food and excellent service.

RN Estate 2015 Chardonnay Solomon Hills Santa Maria Valley

RN Estate 2015 chardonnay

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This is Roger Nicolas’s first chardonnay and it sure is a winner. Aromas of wet slate and lemon curd lead gently to more minerality on the palate with hints of lemon and tropical fruit. A long finish with a slight butter tinge. We rate the $49 as a fair price for a wine this subtle and varied.



RN Estate 2009 Cuvée des Artistes

RN Estate 2009 Cuvée des Artistes

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We are long-time members of the RN Estate wine club. Today, as I was browsing the Eurocave™ I spotted this beauty on the shelf. Before I write about it, here’s some advice if you’re lucky enough to own some of this: give it a few more years. There are still some slightly rough tannins and a bit of oak. But we’re old and impatient. (If you’re curious about our history with this winery, search for RN Estate.)

Forthwith, my notes: aromas of smoke and black pepper followed by a dark, brooding palate. Notes of brambleberries and dried tart cherries lead to a long, slightly tannic finish. If you can find it, buy it and be patient.

Amazingly, you can still buy this on the RN Estate website for a mere $49. This is a serious bargain.

Owner-winemaker Roger Nicolas regularly makes these blends, using proportions adjusted to each year’s vintage. The 2009 is 50 percent syrah, 19 percent cabernet sauvignon, 18 percent merlot, and 13 percent zinfandel. In Bordeaux and Burgundy a blend like this would be illegal. Luckily for us, Roger is beyond the reach of the French wine authorities.

Heitz Cellar 2010 Trailside Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

Heitz 2010

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We’ve had this for a year or two and decided to open it for Easter dinner. Aromas of vanilla, plums, and other dark fruit. On the palate silky tannins, excellent acid balance and tons of fruit. Even if you think you don’t like cabs, if you can find this you’ll love it.

Heitz has quite a library available on their website. You can pick up a bottle of this for a mere $80. It looks like this was the last vintage from this vineyard. Get it while you can.