Category Archives: Between $30 and $49.99 | Reviewed

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet | Best Cabernet Under $50

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the historic Robert Mondavi Winery in January and tour the acclaimed To Kalon Vineyard adjacent to their Oakville estate. Widely regarded for its first-growth level quality, To Kalon has gained a near mythical status throughout the wine community in recent years.

Considering that it is arguably Napa’s most famous vineyard, with undeniably the most expensive fruit, it carries some serious cachet to have “To Kalon” on the label. Bottles regularly fetch $150 to $300+, with names like Schrader, Paul Hobbs and Carter Cellars paying record-level prices to Andy Beckstoffer for the rights to purchase fruit from his section of the To Kalon Vineyard.

Robert Mondavi Oakville Cabernet

My view from Mondavi overlooking the To Kalon Vineyard in January. Click to check out more from my Instagram!

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Franciscan Estate Winery | An Under the Radar Overachiever

Franciscan Estate Winery | An Under the Radar Overachiever

Franciscan Estate

I have been buying and drinking Franciscan Estate wines for years now. In fact, shortly after tasting the 94 point 2007 Franciscan Estate Cabernet Sauvignon I promptly added a few cases to my stores. Considering that I paid just under $20 at the time, these wines were amongst the most reliable, consistent values I had come across in Cabernet, especially Napa Cabernet, in some time.

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Galerie Wines | Winemaking Meets Artistic Expression

Galerie Wines | Winemaking Meets Artistic Expression

Galerie

As an artist, your first exhibition is your debut to the world. As exciting as it must be unnerving to gauge your reception, it is the invaluable opportunity to express your artistic talents in an uninhibited, open environment. But in this case, you needn’t visit a gallery to soak in this artists hard work, you need only to uncork a bottle of Galerie Wine.

Galerie Wines is an exciting and unique new project by Winemaker Laura Diaz Munoz which seeks to showcase the contrast in terroir between Knights Valley and Napa Valley. The road leading up to her inaugural Galerie Wines release has been a long and windy one.

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Frisson Wines | Checking in on New Releases!

Frisson Wines | Checking in on New Releases!

Frisson Chardonnay

Last spring I reviewed the 2011 Frisson Wines Cabernet Sauvignon and was really impressed. Despite the well publicized challenges of the 2011 vintage throughout Napa Valley, this boutique producer managed to produce a really distinctive, frisson-worthy Cabernet.

Just a few months after my post, Frisson Wines got some much deserved recognition when that same wine was awarded Double Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition! Not too shabby…

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Looking to Oregon for Quality Sub $30 Pinot Noir

Looking to Oregon for Quality Pinot Noir Under $30 | Finding The Best Oregon Pinot Noir

Best Oregon Pinot Noir

Perhaps no other varietal can be as rewarding and challenging at the same time as Pinot Noir. Fans of the fickle grape are intimately aware that when it’s bad, it can be thin, lifeless and devoid of character. But when it’s good, it can be downright transcendental.

But transcendental is expensive. For example, a bottle of recently-released Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Richebourg Grand Cru Burgundy will set you back nearly $2000, with prized vintages fetching considerably more. For that kind of money, shouldn’t it do more than just move you?!

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Anaba Wines Reviewed | Realizing a Dream in Sonoma

Anaba Wines Reviewed | Realizing a Dream in Sonoma

Anaba

Anaba Winery is rather conveniently located in Carneros at the ‘gateway’ to Sonoma Valley, so it is amongst the very first wineries you’ll spot as you make your getaway from San Francisco to wine country for the weekend.

Yet despite driving past Anaba’s charming, recently-restored 100 year old farmhouse building more than a handful of times I have surprisingly never stopped by to check them out – as I always seem to be on a mission to get to some producer that’s not so conveniently located.

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Bodegas Valdemar | A Legacy of Innovation in La Rioja

Bodegas Valdemar | A Legacy of Innovation in La Rioja

Bodegas Valdemar

My incredibly loyal readers know just how fond I am of Spanish wines. They often seriously over-deliver for the price and have an endearing ability to combine the best aspects of old-world wines (balanced, food-friendly and terroir-driven) with those of new world wines (more fruit-forward).

As a Sommelier friend was recently explaining to me, if he is looking to introduce a new world wine drinker to the old-world wine scene, he always starts in Spain. And if he were introducing them to the wines of Bodegas Valdemar, he would have both modern and old-world options to choose from within the same portfolio!

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Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must…

Smith Madrone Vineyards | A Spring Mountain Must

Smith Madrone

The views of Napa Valley below from Smith Madrone Vineyards

Something From Nothing | The Beginnings of Smith Madrone Vineyards

Tucked away at the very end of Spring Mountain Road lies Smith Madrone Vineyards. Situated at the highest point in the Spring Mountain District, its steeply sloped mountain vineyards reach grades of up to 34% at elevations between 1300 and 2000 feet.

Notable and familiar neighbors include Bothe Napa Valley State Park directly to the North, Barnett Vineyards immediately to the West and Keenan Winery lies due South.

The history of the property dates all the way back to the 1880 when a man by the name of George Cook secured a land grant authorized by then President Chester A. Arthur and planted vineyards and olive trees on the estate.

But when Stu Smith discovered this special parcel of land, with its expansive views of Napa Valley and rocky, well-drained volcanic soils, the existing vineyards were in disrepair and the property was still mostly just a forest!

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Chateau Cantenac Brown | Making It’s Mark in Margaux

Chateau Cantenac Brown | Making It’s Mark in Margaux

Cantenac Brown

A Grand Tasting in The Big Apple

Recently I had the incredible honor of being invited to attend the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2012 vintage release tasting at Cipriani’s in New York. The weather outside was frightful – they were calling for 3 feet of snow on that 26th day of January, and it was quickly accumulating outside.

But inside members of the wine media, restauranteurs and wine buyers from all over were warm with excitement. Why? Over 100 of the most prestigious Chateau in Bordeaux were on site to showcase their newly released 2012 vintage wines, either represented by their Chateau owners themselves or their representatives. Amongst the representatives in attendance was Mr. Jose Sanfins, the accomplished and passionate Technical Director of Chateau Cantenac Brown.

A Successful Vintage and a Great Find

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Whitehall Lane Cabernet Review | Whitehall Lane Winery

Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon Review | Whitehall Lane Winery

Whitehall Lane Winery

On my most recent trip to Napa Valley I had driven past Whitehall Lane Winery in Rutherford several times. The thought occurred to me that I had surprisingly never tasted any of their wines so I decided to stop in one night around 5:40 p.m. while on our way back to The Carneros Inn after seeing that they were open until 6 p.m. This is pretty late for wine tastings as most wineries close their doors between 4 and 5.

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