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12 Picks Winter 2023   

Winter 12 Picks Tasting Notes

Red Wines

2021 Exit West Proprietary Red Blend Boatique Estate, Red Hills, Lake County

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 93 Points

This is a delightfully successful Bordeaux-esque blend that goes down with the polish of a much more expensive wine. The aromas are elegantly focused, and the scents of black raspberry, dark sour cherry, blueberry and boysenberry fruit rise above others of sweet baking spice, cedar, vanilla and an emerging hint of star anise. It is beautifully polished on the palate, where the tannins are notable yet never intrusive, and the pretty oak spice notes seem quietly luxurious. The finish is long and satisfying, and if this wine lacks the depth of great Napa Cabernet it is a pure pleasure to drink, especially with food. Expect another twelve to eighteen months of positive evolution. 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Petite Sirah, 16% Cabernet Franc, 14% Merlot and 7 Petite Verdot. 672 cases produced.

2020 Three by Wade Cabernet Sauvignon, California

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 91+ Points

Soft-edged and pretty, this generous Cab offers aromas of red raspberry, cranberry, toasted grain, mace and peppercorn. It is bright and easy drinking on the palate, where raspberry, cranberry, vanilla and baking spice notes hold center stage. The finish lingers and coarse tannins are never an issue, so this Cab drinks well now and can match a wide variety of cuisines. Fruit sourced from Mendocino, Napa, Paso Robles and Sonoma. 6900 cases produced.

2021 J. Runquist Petite Verdot, Creekside Vineyard, Jahant District, Lodi

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 92+ Points

Spicy, varietally on-target and attractively fruity, the nose of this immediately appealing red offers focused aromas of black raspberry, blackberry, pomegranate, toasted cedar, peppercorn and dark earth poised above crushed rock undercurrents. In the mouth it is lean and gutsy yet polished and rich, and the mid-palate fruit is a sweet-natured reprise of the nose. The finish is long lasting and the wine is beautifully food-balanced. Delicious already with winter stews. roasted meats and the like, it is likely two years from its full expression. 1000 cases produced.

2020 Troxel Family Estate Pinot Noir, Elke Vineyard, Anderson Valley

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 91 Points

Focused and age-worthy, this youthful Pinot Noir from the long-established Elke Vineyard has a nose that focuses on dark cherry galette, plum compote, cranberry, toffee, baking-spice and dark forest scents. Things prove surprisingly gutsy on the palate, where a core of coiled cherry and red plum fruit is counterpointed by leather, mocha, toffee, dry sage and forest floor spice notes. Young and lingering, it is built for food service and will serve well with dark, fatty meats, seared duck breast and the like. It should be even better in another twelve to eighteen months. 284 cases made.

2021 Desire Lines Syrah, “Winds of Change”, California

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 93 Points

This terrific Syrah is vivid, focused and notably fruit-driven from the moment the cork is pulled, as chiseled aromas of black raspberry, pomegranate syrup, violet, Schezuan and black peppercorn, beet, clove and dark earth pour forth with more or less equal intensity.  It is vibrantly fresh on the palate, where polished tannins frame-in piquant red, blue and black fruits and lots of peppery spice. If sleek in texture and obviously still in its youth, it is nevertheless delicious, long and extremely food worthy right now. Expect at least two years of positive growth. A blend sourced from 68% Santa Barbara fruit and 32% North Coast. Includes less than 1% Viognier. 450 cases produced.

2021 Curran Tempranillo, Santa Barbara County

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 91+ Points

Although California Tempranillos often disappoint, this one is a charmer. The nose is a quietly rich, focused medley of red currant, dried raspberry, strawberry galette, grenadine, mace, hazelnut and quietly earthy scents. It is medium-bodied and gently piquant in the mouth and offers a firming note of tannin in support of red apple skin, red currant, strawberry cobbler, grenadine and mace flavors. Everything lingers, and the wine is elegantly styled for dinner service. This one seems an especially fine match for a crusted pork roast or sausage pilaf. Less than 400 cases produced.

White Wines

2021 Whitehall Lane Chardonnay, Sonoma Valley

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 92 Points

There is a subtle sophistication to the nose of this wine, where gently creamy white peach and baked apple notes are immersed in scents of vanilla, nutmeg, baking spice and meringue. It is supple and gently zesty on the palate, where white peach, apple, preserved lemon and vanilla flavors create a lingering harmony. If tasty by itself, it seems built for service with baked chicken, veal scaloppini or clams served in a creamy sauce over pasta. 441 cases produced, from the Hicks Vineyard.

2022 Massican “Gemina” Proprietary White wine, California

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 93 Points

This is a truly exceptional wine, charming from the first sip, and vinified from grapes rarely encountered on these shores. The nose opens with vibrant zest and cutting minerality at center stage, with lovely aromas of fresh pear and apple sauce in counterpoint. The mid-palate fruit iproves rich in character and tongue coating in texture yet vibrantly fresh. In the mouth everything is bright but scaldingly dry, so the wine virtually cries out for food service. Flavors of pear skin and slate are highlights of the lingering finish. Wonderfully versatile, it will be as delicious with raw oysters as with a grilled pear, walnut, romaine lettuce and blue cheese salad. A blend of 62% Greco and 38% Falanghina. 843 cases produced.

2022 Filomena Vermentino, Unti Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 92+ Points

Elegantly rich and quietly zesty, the nose of this gently palate-coating wine poises youthfully shy scents of lychee, quince, apricot pit, fresh lime, white peach and white pepper above a backdrop of saline minerality. The flavors are more forthcoming on the palate, where piquant fruit, peppery notes and sea shell salinity create a harmony that uplifts the fruit. The lingering finish is scaldingly dry, in line with the grape’s classic varietal profile, and everything about the wine suggests service with sea food or shellfish entrees. It is ready to enjoy. 50 cases produced.

2019 Cruess Fiano, Bolland Vineyard, Russian River Valley

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 93 Points

There is a background impression of creaminess to this wine’s complex aromas of apple, quince, golden berry, greengage plum, kumquat marmalade, peach butter and vanilla. It proves rich in texture yet surprisingly dry on the palate, where bittersweet apple skin and apricot pit flavors move to center stage. The finish proves as lingering and flavor-packed as the aromas promise, and the combination of richness and balance should make it a versatile dinner companion. Fermented with full skin contact, 300 cases produced.

2022 Cochon Pinot Blanc, Shop Block Vineyard, Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 91 Points

This pretty bottling offers genteel aromas of apple skin, baked apple, quince paste, preserved lemon, vanilla and baking spice with fine zest and notable mineral undertones. Lemon, fresh and baked apple, grapefruit, apricot pit, quince and mineral flavors come forth with brighter zest and more intensity on the palate, and these linger through a piquant, mineral-dry finish. It is truly satisfying, and is ready to enjoy. 125 cases produced.

2022 Hennessy Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County

San Francisco Wine Panel Score 90+ Points

This is a charming, easy going Sauvignon Blanc with an aromatic core of fresh lime and honeydew melon braced by lemon grass and a hint of parsley. On the palate is is both refreshing and long lingering, and it holds an attractively food worthy balance all the way. Genteel and refreshing, it is built for service with sole in butter sauce, steamed mussels and a myriad of other treats. 112 cases produced.



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