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.

Three Excellent Pinots From Gregory James

We wrote a brief review of Gregory James Wines in Part 2 of our Garagiste Northern Exposure preview.  We liked their wine so much we ordered half a case.  We’ve now tasted each of the three wines. We were not disappointed.  And, as an added bonus, their 2014 Patchy Fog Vineyard is a major bargain at $31.

Hawk Hill 2014

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The 2013 Hawk Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($48) opens with aromas of earth and leather.  The palate is bright bing cherries and notes of spice with a hint of cranberry.  The finish is long and complex with lingering spice. This wine will improve even more with another year or two in the cellar. (We also have several bottles of the 2014 but two seemed like enough for last night.  We’ll add to this review in the coming days.)

The 2014 Hawk Hill Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($48) carries a lesson in how the California wine industry has evolved.  If you have any friends who still believe vintage doesn’t matter in California wines, have them taste this side by side with the 2013.  The two could not be more different.  This one starts with aromas of bing cherries and raspberries leading to bright cherries on the palate.  The characteristic long finish with a terrific acid – tannin balance rounds out a great experience.

Patchy Fog 2014

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The 2014 Patchy Fog Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($31, major bargain!) begins with lush, ripe aromas of black cherries and chocolate.  The palate is more black cherries, a bit of licorice, and a hint of spice.  Another long, complex finish makes this a terrific experience.


About Gregory James

The winery name is a combination of the first names of the two owners.  Greg Adams is the winemaker and viticulturist.  Jim Demuth is the president and handles the business side of the operation.  They share a mutual love of the land and grapegrowing — in fact, they met while digging around in a vineyard.

Greg (left) and Jim

Greg (left) and Jim (click for larger image)

From their website:

Site matters to Gregory James.

We grow and source our grapes from vineyards located within the maritime reach of the Pacific Ocean. Here, the cool foggy nights and mornings dramatically shroud the varied terrain producing grapes of remarkable intensity and character.

Our vineyard sites are tucked away among rolling hills, bucolic valleys and dramatic ridge tops of the West Sonoma Coast where each location tells its own story.

We invite you to share in the hard won results of farming in the extreme coastal environment of the Pacific Ocean. 

Greg and Jim actually have help from a third partner.

Charley the third partner

Charley the vineyard doodle. “Fastest doodle in the west.”

Charley joined the family in 2009 thanks to a gift from cherished friends Paul & Jamie. He has been an integral part of the wine team specializing in moral support and gopher scenting. He leads a charmed life in the hills and vineyards of the Sonoma Coast.




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



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.

Encostas do Lima 2011 Vinho Verde

Encostas do Lima Vinho Verde bottleI mean, really, how could I resist?  A bottle of wine with my name on the label.  Appropriately enough, the price was right at $9.97.  Like the Joel Gott sauvignon blanc mentioned a few days ago, this was an impulse buy at the checkout counter at Artisan Wine Depot.  (I’ll review the tasting of Neyers Vineyards wines tomorrow.  That was the reason for our visit today.)

My lovely wife’s reaction: “Really, really good ginger ale.”  From my youth in the midwest, memories of Vernor’s old-fashioned ginger ale were triggered.  This wine is just that good.

The Eocnstas do Lima 2011 Vinho Verde is typical of the youthful exuberance found in most of these “green” wines.  This one assuredly does not taste green.  With just a hint of secondary fermentation, the wine has aromas of white peaches and nectarines.  The flavor is not complicated, lime and a bit of melon.  If we had not already picked the Gott sauvignon blanc as our wine bargain of the month, this would be our choice.

Encostas do Lima Vinho Verde

Encostas do Lima Vinho Verde


Wine Bargain of the Month


Joel Gott sauvignon blanc

Joel Gott sauvignon blanc

Joel Gott 2012 sauvignon blanc ($8.99) is easily our wine bargain of the month.  Available at this price at Artisan Wine Depot in Mountain View.  The wine has aromas of grapefruit and lime with white peaches on the palate.  A hint of tangerine on the finish turns this wine from palatable to downright interesting.  Joel and Sarah can be proud of this baby.  Get them while they last.

Two Wine Bargains from Fresh and Easy

Two wine bargains from Fresh and Easy: a chardonnay and a pinot noir.  Plus a somewhat new business model.

A couple of weeks ago, a Fresh and Easy supermarket opened near us.  While checking out the store we noticed some unusual wine labels.  Brought ’em home and found two clear winners.

The label is Cloud Valley, but don’t bother looking for it on the web.  It’s produced and bottled as a private label exclusively for Fresh and Easy.  More on that later.

The pinot noir is labeled “California 2010.”  That’s it.  The back label description is, “begins with graceful aromas of sweet cherries, strawberries, and a slight hint of earthiness, followed by soft flavors of vanilla, light oak, and ripe raspberry.”  That’s as honest a description as we could give.

The chardonnay is also also labeled California 2010.  I don’t need notes because we’re drinking this one right now.  It opens with aromas of green apples, followed by a mouth-filling explosion of honey and butter.  The back label is equally effusive, but I can’t agree with their exact description.  This wine is so good it probably should be illegal.

But what about the bargain?  Through Valentine’s Day (2012) Fresh and Easy is offering these two at $5.99 a bottle.  The regular price is $7.99.  Highly recommended.

One final note on the business model.  The back label says “Vinted and bottled by Terravant Wine Company, Buellton, California.”  Until now, Buellton was mainly known as the home of the original Pea Soup Andersen’s.  Terravant is exclusively in the private label – custom crush – tell us what kind of help you need and you can buy it from us – business.

According to their website, Fresh and Easy only has locations in California, Nevada, and Arizona.  I apologize to the rest of the world, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to persuade the company to open in your neighborhood.

An Elk Cove Bargain for Bay Area Pinotphiles

There’s an Elk Cove bargain for bay area pinotphiles at Artisan Wine Depot in Mountain View.  Elk Cove 2009 Willamette Valley pinot noir is on sale for $19.99 a bottle, about 1/3 off regular retail.  At that price it’s not just a bargain — it’s a steal.  Aromas of strawberries and brambleberries, with an explosion of red plums on the palate and a long mineral finish with silky tannins.  Great stuff, highly recommended.

We ran across Elk Cove during our two week Oregon trip last summer.  When we saw this one on sale, we jumped at the chance.  Artisan will ship to other states, so don’t be shy.  Get it while you can!