Category Archives: USA – California

Firesteed, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Gris 2019

($16):  With roughly twice the acreage planted as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio, in Italian) is Oregon’s second most widely planted variety, after Pinot Noir.  As a wine, Pinot Gris’ spectrum is wide, ranging from light and innocuous to rich with stone fruit flavors and even some sweetness.  Firesteed’s falls into the latter category with subtle pear-like flavors had a hint of sweetness in the finish.  Bright acidity keeps this fleshy wine fresh.  It would be a good choice for highly spiced food and for those who like wasabi with their sushi.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 27, 2020

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay “Russian River Selection” 2018

($35):  Gary Farrell is well-known for producing excellent single-vineyard Pinot Noirs.  They also produce a bevy of single-vineyard Chardonnays.  This one, however, their Russian River Selection, is a blend of Chardonnay grown in five vineyards: Westside Farms, Bacigalupi Vineyard, Rochioli, Allen and Olivet Lane.  It is a wonderful expression of Russian River Valley Chardonnay with just the right amount of richness anchored by riveting citrus-like acidity.  In short, it’s easy to describe this Chardonnay in one word, yummy!  You’ve heard this from me before, but it needs to be repeated: Its 13.3 percent stated alcohol demonstrates that you don’t need super ripe grapes to make a super wine.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 27, 2020

Laetitia, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Chardonnay Estate 2019

($22):  Let me jump to the bottom line: This is a great value Chardonnay.  Racy and clean, this vigorous Chardonnay has the barest hint of alluring creaminess as well.  Though not an opulent style of Chardonnay, it still has plenty of stuffing and terrific energy.  Its charm is amplified by a trace of grapefruit pith-like flavor in the finish.  Its 13.4 percent stated alcohol, once again, belies the idea that you need super-ripe grapes to make a super wine.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 27, 2020

Merry Edwards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Meredith Estate 2017

($68):  Wow!  It’s worth repeating, Wow!  And I don’t mean that in terms of power, I mean that in terms of stature and finesse.  Merry Edwards has always been one of my favorite producers, especially for Pinot Noir, but she has outdone herself with their 2017 Meredith Estate.  Talk about a track record.  In the last decade, I’ve scored only one Meredith Estate less than 95 points—the 2011 received 94.  She purchased the 24-acre site in 1996 and planted to Pinot Noir a couple of years later.  They consider it their flagship wine.  I think the 2017 is their best ever, showing more finesse and sleekness than in previous years without sacrificing intensity.  Heidi von der Mehden, who is Merry Edwards new winemaker after serving as Edwards’ assistant since 2015, told me during The SOMM Journal’s Geographical Digest webinar, “Domestic Bliss,” that the 2017 vintage was cooler than usual, which she felt explained the slightly different profile of the wine.  It’s a gorgeous wine with what I think of as the hallmark of Pinot Noir — flavor without weight.  Without a trace of heaviness, it dances, seemingly forever, on the palate.  It’s both racy and voluptuous, but not overdone, with an emphasis on the savory side of Pinot Noir.  Its suaveness makes it a joy to drink now.  Its impeccable balance suggests it will evolve beautifully with age, so there’s no rush.
98 Michael Apstein Oct 27, 2020

Ridge Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) “Lytton Springs” 2018

($44):  Full disclosure: I am prejudiced against Zinfandel.  So, perhaps my enthusiasm for this wine is helped by the absence of a varietal name on the label, but I don’t think so because I tasted it in a line-up of Zinfandels at a SommCon Virtual Summit.  This is a captivating red blend, based primarily (72 percent) on Zinfandel.  Petite Syrah (18 percent), Carignane (8 percent) and Mataro, all grown in the same vineyard and vinified together, a so-called field blend, round out the wine.  The beauty of this wine is its balance  — lush dark fruit intermingled with spice cresting a brambly profile.  The tannins contribute balance by adding a welcome hint of bitterness, offsetting the apparent ripeness.  It’s actually restrained, at least for contemporary Zinfandel. (At “only” 14.5 percent stated alcohol, it could be considered low alcohol for Zinfandel.)  This is great choice as we head into colder weather and heartier food.  Ready now, but Ridge’s wines develop beautifully over time, so there’s no rush if you lay down a case.
95 Michael Apstein Oct 27, 2020

Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County (California) Sauvignon Blanc 2019

($20):  Founded in 1972 by David Stare and still family-run, Dry Creek Vineyard continues to excel.  Dry Creek Vineyard’s initial focus was on Sauvignon Blanc because Stare loved the wines of the Loire Valley.  So, it’s not surprising that Dry Creek Vineyard continues to make a consistently fine Sauvignon Blanc.  The 2109 follows in those footsteps.  It takes a balanced, middle-of-the road approach with a little bit of everything and not too much of anything.  Fleshiness offsets an invigorating citrus element.  Lively, but not aggressive, acidity stimulates the palate.  A delightful hint of grapefruit pith-like bitterness in the finish enhances the overall picture.  Although you can enjoy a glass by itself, it really shines next to a plate of grilled swordfish.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 20, 2020

Raeburn Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2019

($22):  The focus of the 2019 Raeburn Pinot Noir is firmly on bright pure cherry-like fruit.  Suavely textured, it is easy to enjoy this mid-weight wine now.  A touch of heat and a hint of sweetness in the finish likely results from the 14.5 percent stated alcohol.  It’s rare to find a Pinot Noir that’s this enjoyable at this price.
88 Michael Apstein Oct 20, 2020

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (Central Coast, California) Cabernet Sauvignon “Signature” 2016

($90):  An over-sized bottle with the wine weighing in at 15.1 percent stated alcohol accurately predicts the nature of this Cabernet Sauvignon:  powerful.  Fruit-forward and dominant, it’s a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with small amounts of Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere and Saint-Macaire, an ancient grape from Bordeaux, which is no longer used there, but was included in the allowed mix for Meritage wines in California.  Ready now, it’s a soft, fleshy wine that imparts sweetness, then finishes nicely with an offsetting hint of bitterness.  Those looking for density and oomph in their Cabernet will embrace it.  It’s ironic that J. Lohr, who won the 2020 California Green Medal Sustainability Award and prides itself on a commitment to sustainability, opts to use a heavy bottle that most environmentalists criticize for adding unnecessarily to the wine’s carbon footprint.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 20, 2020

Black Stallion Estate Winery, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Limited Release 2017

($60):  The packaging — over-sized bottle — and 15 percent stated alcohol suggests this Cabernet is from the “bigger is better” school.  And there is no question, it’s a big, ripe wine with plenty of power.  Yet, it’s not overblown or overdone.  The grapes come primarily from mountain vineyards throughout the Napa Valley, which accounts for its freshness, according to Black Stallion’s website.  It leads with lovely aromatics and then delivers a mix of deep black fruit-like flavors, spice and herbs.  The tannins provide structure, but are unobtrusive under the layers of fruit.  Good acidity keeps it fresh and in balance, except for a touch of heat in the finish, reflecting the high alcohol.  Though not my style of Cabernet, it is well-made and people who enjoy high octane “Napa Cab” will love it.  Its supple and velvety texture makes it ideal for drinking tonight with a grilled hunk of meat.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 20, 2020

 

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard 2016

($80):  Site matters.  A skeptic of that statement just needs to taste this Pinot Noir made from grapes grown in a vineyard located in the windy Petaluma Gap of Sonoma next to the Gary Farrell Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley.  This one has the power and robust nature of the Toboni and Martaella, but with layers of savory nuances that add complexity.  Though it displays a muscular style, it is not overdone.  Bright acidity keeps it from falling into the “Pinot-Syrah” category.  More tightly wound than Farrell’s other Pinot Noir, this wine could use further bottle age.  It should develop beautifully because of its wonderful balance.  If you can’t wait — and that’s understandable — open it a couple of hours before dinner.
94 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2020

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Santa Maria Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard 2016

($70):  Santa Maria Valley’s east-west orientation is unusual in California where most of the valleys run north-south.  Its orientation, which allows cooling Pacific Ocean breezes, explains its cooler climate despite its southern California location.  The bright red fruit-like profile reflects the coolness of the site.  Though this Pinot Noir has fewer savory notes, touches of spice season it nicely and add complexity. Its raspberry-like flavors dance on the palate.  It’s a lighter and brighter Pinot Noir, which Theresa Heredia, the winemaker, calls, “sexy and spicy.”
92 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2020

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Toboni Vineyard 2016

($55):  The warmth of the Russian River Valley compared to the Sonoma Coast or Santa Maria Valley accounts for riper raw material for this Pinot Noir, which is translated into a more robust wine.  Similar to the one from Martaella Vineyard, it delivers power at the expense of subtlety.  But, showing that site is critical, its fruit and spice profile differs from the Martaella even though the vineyards are a stone’s throw apart. It’s not the style of Pinot Noir I personally look for, but it is well made and certainly will have an audience.  The glossy tannins, a hallmark of Farrell’s Pinot Noir, make it a good choice now with grilled beef.
90 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2020

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Martaella Vineyard 2016

($65):  Those who love a more robust style of Pinot Noir will embrace the Martaella Vineyard bottling from Gary Farrell, in relation to the rest of this producer’s lineup.  The focus here is on the ripe, plum-like fruitiness.  As with all of Farrell’s Pinot Noirs, the tannins are fine and the textured refined, which makes it easy to enjoy now.  The sunny Santa Rosa plain where the vineyard is located helps explain the opulence in the wine.
91 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2020

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard 2016

($55):  This wine presents a fascinating comparison with the Farrell’s Dijon Clones Pinot Noir from the same vineyard.  The winemaker says it’s a blend of five clones of Pinot Noir instead of two Dijon clones.  It has the same power as the Dijon Clones bottling, but reveals less complexity at this stage.  In my mind, it suffers by comparison to its stablemate.  As a stand-alone wine, I’d be thrilled to drink it with grilled salmon.  The lesson for me is that clones matter, but that subject is far too geek-y for this review, so I’ll leave it at that.
92 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2020

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Hallberg Vineyard Dijon Clones 2016

($60):  The warmer Russian River Valley compared to Farrell’s Fort Ross bottling explains the riper style of this Pinot Noir.  Black fruit flavors mingle with savory earthy components in this juicy, bright, and long wine.  Though slightly bigger and bolder than their Fort Ross Pinot Noir, it remains impeccably balanced.  Again, a modest -– by today’s standards — 13.7 percent stated-alcohol reinforces the notion that riper grapes don’t necessarily make better wine, especially when dealing with Pinot Noir.
95 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2020

Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery, Fort Ross – Seaview (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Fort Ross Vineyard 2016

($75):  The Fort Ross Vineyard is a cold site, lying less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean and roughly 1,500 feet above sea level.  The temperature rarely exceeds 85º, all of which explains the wine’s profile: a fabulous combination of beguiling fruitiness and smokey savory nuances.  Lively acidity gives it brightness and amplifies its charms.  Beautifully balanced, it’s long and refined, with suave tannins.  It conveys what I think of as a Burgundian sensibility, namely, one of flavor without weight.  All of 13.2 percent stated-alcohol shows you don’t need super ripe grapes to make a super wine.
96 Michael Apstein Sep 1, 2020

Site Trumps Everything

Tasting a line-up of the 2016 Gary Farrell Pinot Noirs shows why Theresa Heredia, the winemaker for wines, is adamant about the importance of site.  Same grape variety, same vintage, same winemaking, so how else to explain the wonderful difference between the Pinot Noir she made from grapes grown in the Fort Ross Vineyard in the Fort Ross—Seaview AVA and the one made from those in the Toboni Vineyard, located in the Russian River Valley?  These wines reinforce the idea that site (a.k.a. terroir) is alive and well in California.  American wine consumers are finally starting to come around to the idea of terroir, a concept vehemently articulated by the French.  Perhaps if we just talked about the importance of site instead of using a French word, Americans would embrace the concept.

Terroir, or place of origin, is important whether we speak of wine or any other food product.  Though we Americans do not have the legalized appellation system the Europeans have for food and wine, there’s no question that the character of the product varies depending on its place of origin.  Idaho potatoes, Copper River Salmon, Washington State apples all command premium prices because of their origins.  Door County (Wisconsin) cherries are prized above those grown elsewhere.  In the broadest concept, briny East Coast oysters are vastly different from their creamier West Coast cousins.  Yes, they are different species, so maybe it’s not just locale, but even the same species of oysters harvested in adjoining towns on Cape Cod taste different.

It’s no different when it comes to wine.  Place is critical.  Two impediments have led to our reluctance to accept the concept of terroir when it comes to wine.  First, in the 1970s, the early days of the modern American winemaking industry, the winemaker was all important.  When the 1973 Montelena Chardonnay bested prestigious white Burgundies at Steven Spurrier’s now famous 1976 Judgement of Paris tasting, no one asked the origin of the grapes.  It was Mike Grgich, the winemaker, who received the acclaim.

Secondly, California wineries rarely focused on specific vineyard sites.  In the past, and in large measure today, wineries would obtain their grapes from various parts of Napa or Sonoma, to use those two areas as examples, and blend them to make a finished wine.  Winemakers rightly would speak about the differences between Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, or within sub-regions of Napa, but consumers rarely had opportunities to taste the differences between the wines because very few producers bottled them separately.  So, if a consumer tasted a Jordan Cabernet made from Sonoma grapes side-by-side with one from Beaulieu Vineyards whose grapes came from Napa Valley, were you tasting the difference between origin of the grapes or producers’ style?  In the past, Robert Mondavi made separate bottlings of wines that highlighted the vast differences between the Oakville and Stags Leap districts of Napa Valley, but few other producers did so.  My point is that unless you taste wines made by the same producer, the average consumer will never be able to separate the impact of site from the impact of producer.

Compare this practice to the tradition in Burgundy, recently awarded UNESCO World Heritage status because of the patchwork of vineyards that makes Burgundy the classic case in point for the concept of terroir.  There, traditional and current marketing was and is done via négociants.  In Burgundy, the individual estates are small and fragmented, with farmers owning portions of vineyards scattered over several villages.  Production from each plot is small, which means it is impractical for individual growers to make, bottle and market their wines themselves.

The négociant, or wine merchant, system evolved in the 19th century to solve this problem.  Growers from throughout Burgundy would sell their grapes or newly pressed juice to large merchant houses, such as Maison Louis Jadot or Maison Louis Latour to name two of the best.  In turn, these houses would blend the grapes or juice purchased from several growers, each of whom owned plots in the same vineyard or village.  The négociant would then make, bottle and market the wines under his name.  Although the system started for economic reasons, a consequence was that it allowed the general consumer to taste wines from different villages made using the same winemaking techniques.  Since the winemaking was the same, the only differences among the wines were where the grapes were grown.  The uniqueness of terroir—the importance of site—became easy for the entire world to see, understand and appreciate.

Which brings me back to Gary Farrell’s array of 2016 Pinot Noirs.  It certainly helps that Theresa Heredia is an excellent winemaker and avoids the temptation to put her imprint on the wines at the expense of individual sites.  I’m certain that winemaking techniques, including oak aging, could have made all seven of the Pinot Noirs that I sampled recently taste the same.  But, because she let the various sites speak, the wines did, in fact, speak clearly—and differently.  The range of Pinot Noirs provides something for everyone, from more delicate and savory wines to those that are robust and powerful.

Gary Farrell was a pioneer in single-vineyard Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.  Though I sampled seven of Gary Farrell’s 2016 Pinot Noir recently via a Zoom® tasting along with several colleagues, Heredia told us that they make between 12 and 14 different ones depending on the year.  In addition to buying grapes from well-respected growers throughout the Russians River Valley, they buy grapes from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Maria Valley and from vineyards in the Sonoma Coast AVA.

The wines were all very good, although dramatically different stylistically, reflecting their origins.  They are all easy to recommend.  Those who prefer bolder Pinot Noirs that focuses on fruitier flavors will gravitate towards the Russian River bottlings because the warmer climate there—compared to Bien Nacido and Fort Ross—produces riper grapes.  The Bien Nacido and Fort Ross bottlings, in contrast, will be more appealing to those who prefer a lighter expression of Pinot Noir with an emphasis on its savory aspect.  The flavors dance across the palate.  The Gap’s Crown Vineyard bottling, from Sonoma Coast, delivered a nicely balanced combination.  It also taught two lessons: first, it weighed in at the same 14.1 percent stated alcohol as two from the Russian River Valley, the Toboni and Martaella Vineyard, yet handled it far better, showing you cannot judge a wine by the numbers.  And, second, the Gap’s Crown and the Fort Ross couldn’t be more different, yet both reside in the Sonoma Coast AVA.  I guess the Sonoma Coast AVA could use more sub-divisions.

Gary Farrell (Fort Ross Seaview, Sonoma Coast) Fort Ross Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($75):  Review copy:  The Fort Ross Vineyard is a cold site, lying less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean and roughly 1,500 feet above sea level.  The temperature rarely exceeds 85º, all of which explains the wine’s profile: a fabulous combination of beguiling fruitiness and smoke-y savory nuances.  Lively acidity gives it brightness and amplifies its charms.  Beautifully balanced, it’s long and refined, with suave tannins.  It conveys what I think of as a Burgundian sensibility, namely, one of flavor without weight.  All of 13.2 percent stated-alcohol shows you don’t need super ripe grapes to make a super wine.  96

Gary Farrell (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir Dijon Clones 2016 ($60):  Review copy: The warmer Russian River Valley compared to Farrell’s Fort Ross bottling explains the riper style of this Pinot Noir.  Black fruit flavors mingle with savory earthy components in this juicy, bright, and long wine.  Though slightly bigger and bolder than their Fort Ross Pinot Noir, it remains impeccably balanced.  Again, a modest-–by today’s standards—13.7 percent stated-alcohol reinforces the notion that riper grapes don’t necessarily make better wine, especially when dealing with Pinot Noir.  95

Gary Farrell (Sonoma Coast, Sonoma County) Gap’s Crown Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($80):  Site matters.  A skeptic of that statement just needs to taste this Pinot Noir made from grapes grown in a vineyard located in the windy Petaluma Gap of Sonoma next to the Gary Farrell Pinot Noirs from the Russian River Valley.  This one has the power and robust nature of the Toboni and Martaella, but with layers of savory nuances that add complexity.  Though it displays a muscular style, it is not overdone.  Bright acidity keeps it from falling into the “Pinot-Syrah” category.  More tightly wound than Farrell’s other Pinot Noir, this wine could use further bottle age.  It should develop beautifully because of its wonderful balance.  If you can’t wait—and that’s understandable—open it a couple of hours before dinner.  94

Gary Farrell (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($55):  This wine presents a fascinating comparison with the Farrell’s Dijon Clones Pinot Noir from the same vineyard.  The winemaker says it’s a blend of five clones of Pinot Noir instead of two Dijon clones.  It has the same power as the Dijon Clones bottling, but reveals less complexity at this stage.  In my mind, it suffers by comparison to its stablemate.  As a stand-alone wine, I’d be thrilled to drink it with grilled salmon.  The lesson for me is that clones matter, but that subject is far too geek-y for this review, so I’ll leave it at that.  92

Gary Farrell (Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County) Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($70):   Santa Maria Valley’s east-west orientation is unusual in California where most of the valleys run north-south.  Its orientation, which allows cooling Pacific Ocean breezes, explains its cooler climate despite its southern California location.  The bright red fruit-like profile reflects the coolness of the site.  Though this Pinot Noir has fewer savory notes, touches of spice season it nicely and add complexity. Its raspberry-like flavors dance on the palate.  It’s a lighter and brighter Pinot Noir, which Theresa Heredia, the winemaker, calls, “sexy and spicy.”  92

Gary Farrell (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($65):  Those who love a more robust style of Pinot Noir will embrace the Martaella Vineyard bottling from Gary Farrell, in relation to the rest of this producer’s lineup.  The focus here is on the ripe, plum-like fruitiness.  As with all of Farrell’s Pinot Noirs, the tannins are fine and the textured refined, which makes it easy to enjoy now.  The sunny Santa Rosa plain where the vineyard is located helps explain the opulence in the wine.  91

Gary Farrell (Russian River Valley, Sonoma County) Toboni Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016 ($55):  The warmth of the Russian River Valley compared to the Sonoma Coast or Santa Maria Valley accounts for riper raw material for this Pinot Noir, which is translated into a more robust wine.  Similar to the one from Martaella Vineyard, it delivers power at the expense of subtlety.  But, showing that site is critical, its fruit and spice profile differs from the Martaella even though the vineyards are a stone’s throw apart. It’s not the style of Pinot Noir I personally look for, but it is well made and certainly will have an audience.  The glossy tannins, a hallmark of Farrell’s Pinot Noir, make it a good choice now with grilled beef.  90

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August 26, 2020

E-mail me your thoughts about the importance of site in general or Gary Farrell’s wines in particular at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein.

Sosie Wines, Sonoma County (California) Brut Nature “First Things First” 2018

($30):  To borrow Sosie’s phrase, first things first: people will either love or hate this well-made sparkling wine because it’s different.  Composed entirely of Roussanne, a white grape indigenous to France’s Rhône Valley, it conveys stone fruit — think nectarine-like — flavors.  It’s made by the traditional Champagne method of performing the secondary fermentation in the bottle.  The resulting fizz keeps it fresh and balanced, so it’s not heavy, but it doesn’t exactly dance on the palate as would a more traditional sparkler made entirely from Chardonnay.  Fine as a stand-alone aperitif, it works even better with food, such as grilled swordfish with a caper butter sauce.
90 Michael Apstein Aug 18, 2020

A Winery in…L.A.?

California red wine selling for $150+ a bottle is not a rarity anymore.  But who’s heard of a Los Angeles winery selling one for that price?  For that matter, who’s heard of Los Angeles wineries at all?  If you haven’t, you’re not alone.  I asked two well-respected California-based wine writers if they had ever heard of this winery and was met with a deafening silence.

So, let me introduce you to Moraga Winery, located in the tony Bel Air section of Los Angeles.  Visible from Interstate 405 and a quick 15 minutes from LAX, Moraga Bel Air sits in an upscale—to say the least—residential neighborhood overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

First, a little background.

Though California “Wine Country” today is centered north of San Francisco in Napa and Sonoma Counties, the original Wine Country was actually centered in Los Angeles.  In 1836, a couple decades before Hungarian Agoston Haraszthy imported European vines to Sonoma County, Frenchman Jean-Louis Vignes (what an appropriate name) brought French vines and planted them on the east bank of the Los Angeles River, in what is now downtown Los Angeles.  There were over 100 wineries in Los Angeles County in the early 19th century, sending wine to the thirsty 49ers mining for gold up north.  Los Angeles-based wineries never survived following prohibition, but Vine Street reminds us of the city’s wine legacy.

Fast forward to 1959, when Tom Jones, CEO of Northrup Aviation, and his wife, Ruth, purchased this jewel of a property located on the edge of the Santa Monica Mountains that had been owned by famed film director Victor Fleming, who won an Oscar for Gone with the Wind.  In 1980, Jones started planting vines and after several experiments, finally settled on Bordeaux varieties.  Though their first commercial vintage was 1989, it wasn’t until 2005 when they built a winery that they established themselves as an estate winery—meaning they use only their own grapes and vinify them on-site.  Prior to 2005, the wine was made entirely from their grapes, but in a Napa Valley winery.

In 2013, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp owns, among others, Fox News and Dow Jones Company, which publishes The Wall Street Journal, purchased the 14-acre estate, which includes an 8,000 square foot house, gardens, winery and vineyards, for $28.8 million.

Currently, Moraga Bel Air has just under 7 acres of vines, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon (4.3 acres), Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc (each 1.2 acres), Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (each 0.1 acre).  They make two wines, a red and a white, simply labeled as such with a California appellation.  Scott Rich, the winemaker who has been with them since the mid-1990s, explains that the composition of the red wine usually contains more than 75 percent of Cabernet Sauvignon and could be labeled as such, but since the blend varies each year depending on how each of the individual varieties do, they don’t want to constrain themselves with varietal labeling.  Though the white is always 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, they still label it simply as white wine, to keep the labeling consistent.  Rich explains that since Moraga Bel Air does not sit within a recognized AVA, they had the option of either using the county or state appellation.  They opted for California over Los Angeles County, since consumers might not take a wine from Los Angeles seriously.  Hint, they should.

Rich emphasizes that their site is unique.  Just five miles from the ocean, the soil and bedrock of this section of the mountains is uplifted seabed and marine in composition, specifically known as Santa Monica shale.  He notes it is not limestone, but rather a limestone precursor.  Additionally, situated on a fault line, the vineyard is very well drained.  Located at the mouth of a canyon that faces Santa Monica Bay, the vines benefit from consistent afternoon sea breezes that keep the vineyards much cooler compared to the surrounding area.  Rich remarks that prior to 2018, a very hot year, temperatures rarely exceeded 100ºF at their vineyard whereas just a few miles away triple digit temperatures were common during each the summer.

It took a lot of work and experimentation—and money—to get Moraga where it is today.  Early on, Rich recounts how they opted to declassify and not bottle half of the wine because it failed to meet their standards.  The learning-curve was steep.  They wound up replanting extensively as they learned what grew best where.  They discovered that the conventional wisdom of planting Cabernet Sauvignon in south-facing vineyards, which should be warmer and better suited for that variety, didn’t work because that slope was too cold as a result of the cooling Pacific breezes.  North-facing sites made horrible Sauvignon Blanc, according to Rich, because they were too hot for that grape.  So, they converted those vineyards to Cabernet Sauvignon, which thrived in the warmer site.  They even had to remove areas that had been carefully terraced previously when it turned out that that was not the best system for vines.

Rich describes the winemaking of the white as “super simple.”  The juice settles over-night.  He racks it off the gross lees and adds a little sulfur and then, using only native yeast, ferments twenty percent of the juice in new small French oak barrels where it remains for only a few weeks.  He ferments and ages the remainder in stainless steel tanks and blends the two batches before bottling.  They produce roughly 300 cases a year.  The wine retails for $115 a bottle.

Rich’s decision to age the red wine entirely in new, small, French oak barrels was serendipitous.  Reluctant to age the wine in used barrels for fear of introducing organisms not indigenous to their estate, Rich opted to age the initial vintage entirely in new French oak barrels.  The wine turned out just fine, according to him, and he has continued the practice ever since.  The variable, depending on the vintage, is the length of time the wine spends in barrel, anywhere from 18 to 22 months.

Moraga’s 2016 Red Wine (91 pts, $175), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (78 percent), Merlot (21 percent), with the remaining one percent split between Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, is, like the Bel Air neighborhood, plush and suave.  Nicely balanced, it delivers both spice and a plethora of fruit flavors enrobed in silky tannins.  Most importantly, the wine is not overdone.  You feel the effect of oak aging without it intruding.  Its 14.7 percent stated alcohol is noticeable only by a hint of heat in the finish.  Bright acidity keeps this refined wine lively.

Moraga’s production of red wine has been variable, between 200 and 700 cases, because of yields and overall quality.  Rich relates how he thinks they should be producing between 600 and 700 cases of the red a year, “as long as Mother Nature cooperates.”

Here’s hoping She does.

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E-mail me at Michael.Apstein1@gmail.com if you’ve ever heard of Moraga and follow me on Twitter @MichaelApstein and on Instagram.

July 22, 2020

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Old Vine Zinfandel 2017

($35):  Full disclosure, Zinfandel is one of my least favorite wines.  Petit Sirah runs a close second because both usually are impossibly overdone wines.  So, I shuddered when I read the blend:  Zinfandel (76%), Petit Sirah (22%) and Carignane.  But that’s why you taste.  Dry Creek Vineyard has a stunning track record with their Zinfandels, especially their Old Vine bottling, which they define as coming from vines of more than 50 years of age.  Their website proclaims that many of the vines are over a century old and some have been around for 130 years.  Old vines typically provide smaller yields of higher quality fruit, imparting complexity to the wine.  That’s the case with this Old Vine Zinfandel.  Briary and spicy, it handles the 14.9% stated alcohol effortlessly.  Balanced and neither over the top nor hot, it’s classic full-bodied Zinfandel, but with elegance.
92 Michael Apstein Jun 30, 2020

Frog’s Leap Winery, Rutherford, Napa Valley (California) Merlot 2017

($40):  This Merlot shows why it’s such a popular kind of wine.  Silky tannins enrobe plummy-like fruitiness and make this wine a delight to drink now.  In the Frog’s Leap style, it shows restraint, impressing you with elegance and suaveness rather than weight and power.  An attractive hint of bitterness in the finish reinforces its breeding.
92 Michael Apstein Jun 9, 2020

Frog’s Leap Winery, Rutherford, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Grown 2017

($65):  John Williams, owner and winemaker at Frog’s Leap, has a knack for whimsy.  It’s apparent from his website, from his tagline, “time’s fun when you’re having flies,” to the fine print at the very end of the back label —”open other end.”  But there’s no whimsy in this bottle.  It’s serious.  And gorgeous.  Beautifully proportioned, it combines savory, olive-like nuances with lush dark fruit.  It’s a wonderfully deep, yet restrained Cabernet, the kind that gave Napa Valley its well-deserved reputation.  Its structure is suave, showing no astringency or harshness.  I just wish he’d ditch the oversized bottle — it detracts from the restraint and elegance of the wine.
93 Michael Apstein Jun 9, 2020

Frog’s Leap Winery, Napa Valley (California) Zinfandel 2018

($35):  Here’s a Zinfandel for those of us who generally avoid that wine.  Frog’s Leap signature style of restraint highlights the charms of the varietal.  Briary and spicy notes complement its dark fruitiness.  Bursting with flavor, yet not overdone, it’s balanced.  Those looking for a brawny powerhouse Zinfandel will be disappointed.   But those who want a wine you can actually drink throughout a meal of barbequed chicken with adore it.
91 Michael Apstein Jun 9, 2020

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) “The Mariner” 2017

($50):  Dry Creek Vineyard, founded by David Stare in 1972, has been a leader in the Dry Creek Valley wine renaissance.  Stare started by focusing on Sauvignon Blanc because of his love of Loire Valley wines, but quickly expanded the portfolio.  The Mariner, a typical Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (69%) Merlot (15%), Cabernet Franc (6%) and equal parts Malbec and Petit Verdot, is powerful yet elegant.  Suavely textured, it has plenty of structure without being astringent or aggressive.  Savory, olive-like notes intermingle beautifully with dark fruitiness.  Long and graceful, it’s a delight to drink with a grilled steak.
93 Michael Apstein Jun 9, 2020

Ron Rubin Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2017

($25):  Consumers should be pleased with this well-priced Pinot Noir because it has more complexity than you’d expect at the price.  It’s ripe and supple, but unlike many Pinot Noir at this price, it has some earthy, savory nuances.  It’s not just sweet cherry juice.  It’s a great introduction to the charms of Pinot Noir without breaking the bank.
88 Michael Apstein May 26, 2020

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Old Vine Zinfandel 2017

($35):  Full disclosure, Zinfandel is one of my least favorite wines.  Petit Sirah runs a close second because both usually are impossibly overdone wines.  So, I shuddered when I read the blend:  Zinfandel (76%), Petit Sirah (22%) and Carignane.  But that’s why you taste.  Dry Creek Vineyard has a stunning track record with their Zinfandels, especially their Old Vine bottling, which they define as coming from vines of more than 50 years of age.  Their website proclaims that many of the vines are over a century old and some have been around for 130 years.  Old vines typically provide smaller yields of higher quality fruit, imparting complexity to the wine.  That’s the case with this Old Vine Zinfandel.  Briary and spicy, it handles the 14.9% stated alcohol effortlessly.  Balanced and neither over the top nor hot, it’s classic full-bodied Zinfandel, but with elegance.
92 Michael Apstein May 26, 2020

Dry Creek Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley (Sonoma County, California) Sauvignon Blanc 2019

($20):  The inclusion of Sauvignon Gris, a faintly colored mutation of Sauvignon Blanc, and Sauvignon Musqué, which some believe is a biotype of Sauvignon Blanc, helps explain this wine’s appealing fleshy texture.  (Sauvignon Musqué and Sauvignon Blanc have identical DNA and therefore are the same grape, according to Jancis Robinson et al’s Wine Grapes.)  Whatever the composition, Dry Creek’s is a softer and gentler expression of Sauvignon Blanc.  Its graceful, lengthy finish and modest bite adds to its appeal.  It’s a delightful wine to sip before dinner and then carry to the table.
89 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Jordan Vineyard & Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

($58):  Jordan made the difficult decision several years ago to abandon their longstanding and original concept of an estate wine, that is, one made entirely from their own grapes.  They made the honest assessment that their grapes were not always the best ones that were available.  It must have been a scary decision.  In retrospect, it was a brilliant move.  They now use their best grapes plus ones from a dozen or more growers to fashion their Cabernet.  The 2016, a classic Bordeaux-blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (80%), Merlot (11%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Malbec, maintains their classic refined style.  Jordan has always focused on an understated elegance and their 2016 fits that mold perfectly.  With a glossy texture, it delivers layers of fruit, spice and savory elements.  As it sits in the glass for a half an hour, it expands.  Thankfully, it is not in the bigger is better style.  An engaging hint of bitterness in the finish reminds us that they have avoided the temptation to pick super-ripe grapes and make an over-the-top jammy Cabernet.
94 Michael Apstein May 19, 2020

Siduri Wines, Santa Barbara County (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir 2018

($30):  The grapes for this multi-vineyard bottling come primarily from the Sta. Rita Valley, whose east-west orientation is rare in California where most of the valleys run north-south.  Sta. Rita’s orientation allows cool Pacific Ocean influences to reduce temperatures, especially close to the coast, making it an ideal locale for growing Pinot Noir, a grape that prefers lower temperatures to higher ones.  Siduri’s Sta. Rita bottling is a fine contrast to their other two, falling somewhere in the middle.  Slightly riper and more full-bodied that their Willamette offering, it is more restrained compared to the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, reflecting its cooler environment.  This is a great trio.  Thanks to Siduri for reminding us that France does not have a monopoly on terroir.
90 Michael Apstein May 5, 2020

Siduri Wines, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir 2018

($40):  Siduri, known for their single-vineyard bottlings of Pinot Noir has expanded their portfolio to include ones from a variety of vineyards.   In this case, the grapes come from throughout the Russian River Valley.  Compared to its Willamette Valley bottling, their Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is broader and riper, with dark fruit flavors.  There’s no bitterness in the finish in this plush suavely textured wine.  The slight increase in stated-alcohol (14.5 vs 14.3%) is noticeable by a hint of heat in the finish.  Overall, the greater power and ripeness reflects the warmer Russian River Valley sites compared to the Willamette.
88 Michael Apstein May 5, 2020

Qupé, Santa Barbara County (Central Coast, California) Chardonnay Y Block 2018

($22):   Qupé, established in 1982, has always focused on wines made from varieties usually associated with France’s Rhône Valley — Syrah, Mourvèdre, Grenache, Marsanne and Roussanne.  So where did this fabulous Chardonnay come from.  The Chardonnay came from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley, primarily from the Y Block, which was planted exclusively for Qupé in 2005, according to their website.   In keeping with their focus, there’s Viognier (2%) and Marsanne (1%) in the blend.  Balanced and restrained, it’s a great value, delivering far more than its $22 price tag suggests.  Subtle fruitiness, a subtle roundness provided by judicious oak aging, come together seamlessly.
93 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Mettler Family Vineyards, Lodi (California) Albarino 2019

($20):   American consumers have embraced Albariño, the most important white grape in Spain’s Galicia region, because of the energetic and spicy wines made from it.  And now, with roughly 450 acres of it, almost a one-third of which was planted in the last three years, the grape — and wine — is making inroads into California vineyards.  Mettler’s is a lovely example of what California can do with Albariño.  Though a softer and riper style that the ones coming from Rias Baixas, its traditional home in Galicia, Mettler’s delivers subtle spice atop floral elements and a welcome slight bitterness in the finish. It’s a good choice for full-flavored seafood.
90 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery, Arroyo Grande Valley (Central Coast, California) Pinot Noir Estate 2018

($27):  It’s rare to see a Pinot Noir of this stature for less than $30 a bottle.  The grapes for this fruit-forward Pinot Noir come entirely from Laetitia’s vineyards, which means they control all of the farming, and, importantly, the timing of the harvest.  It conveys bright and ripe red fruit-like flavors without being over the top or jammy.  A whiff of vanilla from oak aging doesn’t dominate or overwhelm the wine’s fruitiness.   Tannins are fine, making this suavely texture Pinot Noir ideal for current consumption.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 28, 2020

Sebastiani, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

($40):  The world needs more renditions of Cabernet Sauvignon like this one —  specifically, well-priced and well proportioned.  It delivers ripe, but not over-ripe fruit flavors, and a wisp of vanilla-kissed oak.  But savory and “not just fruit” accents peek through, creating balance and saving it from being fruit-heavy.  Suave tannins mean you can open tonight to drink with the steak that’s coming off the grill.
91 Michael Apstein Apr 21, 2020

River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir “Stephanie’s Cuvée” 2017

($30):   With raspberry-like nuances, this fruit-forward Pinot Noir has moderate weight and suave tannins.  Lively acidity keeps it fresh.  The 14.3 percent stated alcohol, noticeable by a slightly hot finish, adds a pleasing roundness to the wine.  Thankfully, not being a bombastic wine, it would go nicely with grilled salmon.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

River Road Family Vineyards and Winery, Alexander Valley (Sonoma County, California) Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2018

($25):  Here is a polished Cabernet Sauvignon that displays black fruit enrobed in suave tannins.  Despite plenty of dark fruit flavors, it’s not overweight as evidenced by its modest — by today’s standards — 13.9 percent stated alcohol.  Its creamy texture and kiss of vanilla-like notes allows for immediate enjoyment.
88 Michael Apstein Apr 14, 2020

Dutton-Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch, Walker Hill Vineyard 2017

($50):  The contrasting Chardonnay under the Dutton-Goldfield label displays the same balance and suaveness as its brother from the Rued Vineyard. Instead of citrus notes, subtle toasty and nutty ones caress the palate. Still, great enlivening acidity keeps it fresh throughout the meal.  Like the Rued Vineyard Chardonnay, this one has enormous energy.  Neither of these wines tire during dinner.  Is one “better” than the other?   I think not, which is why I score them the same.  They are variations on the same theme.  And a lovely theme at that.
95 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020

Dutton-Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Rued Vineyard 2017

($55):  Warren Dutton, the renowned Sonoma County grape-growing farmer who tragically died in 2001, planted this Chardonnay in this vineyard in the late 1960s.  Steve Dutton, his son, is now responsible for the farming, while Dan Goldfield takes care of the winemaking.  Dutton-Goldfield makes two easy-to-recommend Chardonnays, this one and one from the Dutton Ranch Walker Hill Vineyard.  They are wonderfully different despite similar winemaking and demonstrate that the concept of terroir is alive and well in California.  This one delivers a subtle richness accented by lively citrus-infused flavors.  Lively and seamless, it weighs in at a modest — these days — 13.8 percent stated alcohol.
95 Michael Apstein Jan 21, 2020

Sequoia Grove, Napa Valley (California) Chardonnay 2017

($32):  Sequoia Grove is an “old-timer” in terms of Napa Valley wineries, having been founded 40 years ago, in 1979.  Their 2017 Napa Valley Chardonnay delivers richness, opulence and a healthy dose of oakiness. Good acidity keeps it fresh. Those looking for subtlety in their Chardonnay should look elsewhere, but those who embrace sumptuousness in their Chardonnay will love it.
90 Michael Apstein Jan 14, 2020

Steele Stymie, Lake County (California) Merlot Founder’s Reserve, Limited Production 2016

($42):  Jed Steele, who has made wine in California for almost 50 years, is no stranger to the endeavor.  He has purchased fruit from Stymie Vineyard for 15 years before buying it in 2005.  A big wine, it is not overblown (though the bottle is).  Savory nuances and good acidity hold your attention.  A suave texture and fine tannins allow for consumption without further bottle aging.  It would be a good choice for a hefty steak.
90 Michael Apstein Jan 14, 2020

Dutton-Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Rued Vineyard 2017

($55):  Warren Dutton, the renowned Sonoma County grape-growing farmer who tragically died in 2001, planted this Chardonnay in this vineyard in the late 1960s.  Steve Dutton, his son, is now responsible for the farming, while Dan Goldfield takes care of the winemaking.  Dutton-Goldfield makes two easy-to-recommend Chardonnays, this one and one from the Dutton Ranch Walker Hill Vineyard.  They are wonderfully different despite similar winemaking and demonstrate that the concept of terroir is alive and well in California.  This one delivers a subtle richness accented by lively citrus-infused flavors.  Lively and seamless, it weighs in at a modest — these days — 13.8 percent stated alcohol.
95 Michael Apstein Dec 24, 2019

Dutton-Goldfield, Green Valley of Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Dutton Ranch, Walker Hill Vineyard 2017

($50):  The contrasting Chardonnay under the Dutton-Goldfield label displays the same balance and suaveness as its brother from the Rued Vineyard. Instead of citrus notes, subtle toasty and nutty ones caress the palate. Still, great enlivening acidity keeps it fresh throughout the meal.  Like the Rued Vineyard Chardonnay, this one has enormous energy.  Neither of these wines tire during dinner.  Is one “better” than the other?   I think not, which is why I score them the same.  They are variations on the same theme.  And a lovely theme at that.
95 Michael Apstein Dec 24, 2019

Piper Sonoma, Sonoma County (California) Blanc de Blancs NV

($22):  Piper Sonoma, a subsidiary of Piper Heidsieck, the French Champagne company, has been producing sparkling wines in California since 1980.  Their wines have taken a quantum leap in quality recently.  Take this Blanc de Blancs for example.  Made primarily from Chardonnay (75%), with Pinot Blanc rounding out the blend, it is focused, with touches of green apple-like flavors. It has a laser-like pleasantly piercing quality that refreshes the palate.  Sure, you can enjoy it as an aperitif, but it also works beautifully on the dining table along with grilled fish.
92 Michael Apstein Dec 24, 2019

Scharffenberger Cellars, Mendocino County (California) “Brut Excellence” NV

($20):  Scharffenberger Cellars was, and now is again, judging from this wine, a leader in California sparkling wine.  Founded in 1981, at a time when the subsidiaries of French Champagne companies were establishing outposts in California, Scharffenberger showed that domestically-owned producers could make top-flight sparkling wines.  (Of course, Schramsberg was the leader in that category.) Scharffenberger went through some tough times, re-created as Pacific Echo at one point.  Now they are back in form under the management of Maisons Marques and Domaines, who itself is a partner with Champagne icon, Roederer.  This Brut Excellence is extraordinary for what it delivers for 20 bucks.  Fruity and friendly, a thread of acidity keeps it vibrant.  It serves double duty as a stand-alone aperitif as well a wine for sushi, chicken in a cream sauce, or even sautéed pork chops.
93 Michael Apstein Dec 24, 2019

Matanzas Creek Winery, Sonoma County (California) Chardonnay “Journey” 2016

($65):  Big bottle.  Big price tag.  Big wine.  Despite the all-around size, it is wonderfully balanced and nuanced, combining richness and verve.  Matanzas Creek, which has been an iconic source in Sonoma County since 1977, notes on its website that they’ve built its reputation on Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, which is true.  They should probably add Chardonnay to that list, judging by this wine.
94 Michael Apstein Dec 17, 2019

Rodney Strong Vineyards, Chalk Hill (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay 2016

($22):  This is a remarkable Chardonnay.  It’s rare to find a balanced Chardonnay at this price.  Frequently, they’re too fruity or too oaky.  This one strikes balance.  It’s fruity, but not overdone, with a touch of creamy toasty oak, which, again, is not overdone.  Fresh and zesty, it’s easy to recommend at the price.
91 Michael Apstein Dec 17, 2019

Tongue Dancer, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard 2017

($50):  Similar to Tongue Dancer’s 2017 Pinot Noir, their Chardonnay packs plenty of flavor.  Thankfully, despite its weight and intensity, the winemaking team maintained balance with invigorating acidity that keeps the wine fresh and lively.  It is lush with hints of tropical fruit-like flavors.  Its 14.4 percent stated alcohol explains the touch of heat in the finish.  Overall, Tongue Dancer succeeded with a bold Chardonnay that remains inbounds.
91 Michael Apstein Nov 26, 2019

Tongue Dancer, Sonoma Coast (Sonoma County, California) Pinot Noir Putnam Vineyard “Pinot de Ville” 2017

($65):  The over-weight bottle prejudiced against this wine, but that assessment disappeared with the first sip.  Yes, it’s a big Pinot Noir, with savory exuberance intertwined with deep fruit flavors.  Still, it does not fall into the Pinot Syrah — overdone category.   A hint of sweet oak peeks through in the finish.  The tannins are glossy and bright acidity keeps it fresh.  If your tastes run to bold Pinot Noir, this is for you.
91 Michael Apstein Nov 26, 2019

Steele, Lake County (North Coast, California) Cabernet Franc 2017

($20):  Jed Steele has been a luminary in the California wine industry.  He started his career 50 years ago in 1968 at Stoney Hill winery in Napa.  His eponymous winery in Lake County marks its 25th anniversary with the 2017 vintage.  If he can’t get it right, no one can.  And, year after year, he continues to get it right.  This 2017 Cabernet Franc is a seamless mid-weight balance of dark fruit and savory notes all held together by beautiful structure.  It finishes fresh and lively with an attractive hint of bitterness, which to me is the sign of a fine wine.  Its weight and finesse would make it a good choice for grilled tuna this winter.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 26, 2019