Category Archives: Between $50 and $74.99 | Reviewed

Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet | The Other Other California Cabernet

Lake County Cabernet

If you’re not familiar with Lake County, that’s okay. Most aren’t yet aware of the potential of this sleepy section of Northern California wine country. But that’s about to change, as one of Napa’s power players just made a Warren Buffet style investment in these sun-drenched hills.

What’s interesting is that up until 1861, Lake County and Napa County were actually the same county – yet this quiet community with deep farming roots has mostly missed out on the fantastic wine industry successes of neighboring Napa and Sonoma counties to the south – and with it all of the tourism and hospitality fueling those economies today.

Though still quite small in comparison to Napa, vineyard acreage is on the rise, with around 9,000 acres now planted to vine, up from just around 100 in 1965. Compare that to over 45,000 in Napa and 60,000 in Sonoma, and you’ll see that Lake County has room for growth – and none other than Napa grape-grower extraordinaire Andy Beckstoffer has taken notice, in a big way.

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The Unusual Suspects | Beyond California Cabernet

The Unusual Suspects | Looking Beyond California Cabernet

Kobler Estate

I’m definitely guilty of writing a lot about California Cabernet. I freely admit that I have a real penchant for the sturdy varietal, particularly when it’s built to last. In California, Cabernet is king and sadly many of the best examples fetch a princely sum.

But if the myriad of interesting, lesser-known and even esoteric varietals I encountered on my recent trip to Napa and Sonoma are any indication, Cabernet isn’t all that’s thriving here in Northern California. Not only was I surprised to find Spanish and French stalwarts like Albariño, Tempranillo, Grenache and Malbec being produced at wineries I visited, but I was surprised by just how good they were. Oh, and did I mention I encountered an Aglianico?

The best part? These wines don’t command the regal prices of Cabernet. They lack the cachet, and are often the ‘pet’ projects of winemakers – who produce them because they are passionate about the varietal and love drinking them, while their bread and butter Cabernet and Pinot Noir offerings keep the lights on.

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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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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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Rombauer Vineyards | More Than Just Chardonnay!

Rombauer Vineyards & Winery | More Than Just Chardonnay!

Rombauer Vineyards

Sometimes the best surprises happen where you least expect them, right? That was certainly the case on my most recent visit to Napa Valley. After visiting over 10 wineries (it was a long trip), Rombauer Vineyards managed to make a lasting impression. You might be as surprised as I was to discover why.

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Viluko Vineyards Cabernet | Unearthing a Sonoma Gem

Viluko Vineyards Cabernet | Unearthing a Sonoma Gem

Viluko Vineyards Cabernet

I prefer not to play favorites, but if you were to ask me what my favorite winery was right now? For its uncompromising devotion to quality, value and relative obscurity, Viluko Vineyards boasts an unusually compelling combination of superlatives that’s begging to be discovered.

I first learned of the Viluko Vineyards when John Rimmerman of Garagiste compared the 2011 Viluko Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon to those produced by the revered Mayacamas Vineyards. Mayacamas is quietly very well-reputed for producing age-worthy, balanced and terroir-driven mountain Cabernet’s.

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Seavey Caravina Cabernet | Second Wine, First Rate Quality

Seavey Caravina Cabernet | Second Wine, First Rate Quality

Seavey Caravina Cabernet

My adoration for the wines produced by Seavey Vineyard began years ago when I tasted their 2000 Estate Cabernet. Despite being considered a relatively weak vintage by Napa standards, Seavey managed to produce a distinctive wine that was still showing incredibly well at over 10 years old.

Their family-run, boutique winery emphasizes quality over quantity and the wines impress for their power, structure and refinement in their youth as well as their graceful evolution in the cellar. My fondness for Seavey Vineyard was cemented when I visited the estate in the fall of 2013.

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Wren Hop Vineyards | Crafting Pinot for Cab Lovers

Wren Hop Vineyards | Crafting Pinot for Cab Lovers

Wren Hop

Google “Wren Hop” and amongst the results is Google’s own description as a ‘Place of Worship’. So you might understand my confusion after looking for directions to a winery that was the top recommendation of Nora Mahan, a well-connected travel concierge for American Express’ destination club Inspirato.

While Wren Hop Vineyards might not be a place of worship in the traditional sense, you might not find this to be such a gross mischaracterization after you visit and taste through their portfolio. To be frank… I’d be surprised if you didn’t find yourself worshiping their Pinot Noirs. Wren Hop

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Frisson Cabernet Sauvignon Review | Frisson Wines

Frisson Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Review | Frisson Wines

Frisson Wines

One night at a garden dinner party Houston businessman and wine-lover Terry Davis met veteran winemaker Wayne Donaldson and the two hit it off and became quick friends. A serendipitous meeting, the pair would soon be united by their mutual passion for Napa Valley and their love of wine.

After learning of Terry’s desire to make his own Napa Valley wine, Wayne contacted him shortly after their meeting with an opportunity to purchase three tons of Diamond Mountain fruit. For Terry, the moment was surely a ‘Frisson’ – the French description for a moment of intense excitement or thrill. With Wayne’s partnership and 25 years of wine-making expertise, Frisson Wines was born.

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