Category Archives: California Wines – Reviewed

Turnbull Winery | A Napa Stalwart Finds Renewed Focus

Turnbull Winery | A Napa Stalwart Finds Renewed Focus

Turnbull Winery

Napa wineries located directly off of Napa’s bustling main artery Highway 29 sometimes get a bad rap – although maybe not for the reason you’d expect. You see the issue typically isn’t the quality of the wine, as some of the most respected wineries in the valley enjoy the level of visibility and prestige afforded by such a location.

But the crowds and overall guest experience can be quite a different story. Let’s just say that tour buses and bachelorette parties are not an uncommon sight, and sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you found yourself wrangling with some Napa snobbery here and there.

My suggestion? Make your way to one of Highway 29’s most underrated gems: Turnbull Winery, where the only wrangling you’ll have to do will be with yourself when you’re forced to figure out which wines you enjoyed the most!

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The New Lokoya Estate | Lokoya Finds The Home Its Always Deserved

The New Lokoya Estate | Lokoya Finds The Home Its Always Deserved

Lokoya Estate

Visiting Napa’s New Lokoya Estate

Lokoya needs little introduction to avid collectors. For over twenty years, these highly-acclaimed wines have found themselves right at home in the cellars of discerning enthusiasts throughout the world. Yet the brand itself never really had a place to call home, until now.

While existing fans and collectors could taste the wines at Cardinale’s Oakville estate on the Napa Valley floor, it was always more of an accommodation for loyal supporters rather than a complete Lokoya experience.

While Cardinale aspires to be the perfect blend of benchland and mountain vineyards, Lokoya is always 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from a single mountain AVA (Veeder, Spring, Howell and Diamond) vinified in the same exact way to communicate the purest singular expression of mountain terroir possible. As Winemaker Chris Carpenter’s sees it, Lokoya is a study of the mountain through the lens of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Commanding Wines Deserve a Commanding View

Lokoya Estate

The terrace at the new Lokoya Estate

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Silverado SOLO 2013 Review | Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Silverado SOLO 2013 | Silverado Vineyards 

Silverado SOLO 2013

In 1976, a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District stunned the world by outclassing its French counterparts in the now infamous Judgement of Paris blind tasting. Since California had not been deemed capable of producing world-class wines by established old-world wine regions before, the results sent shockwaves throughout the wine world, forever cementing Napa’s reputation as a world-class wine producing region and catapulting it onto the world stage.

That very same year, Ron and Diane Miller acquired the Stags Leap Vineyard that would become home to Silverado Vineyards. In 1968, it has become the third vineyard to be planted to Cabernet Sauvignon within this now highly sought-after AVA, and also included plantings of Riesling and Pinot Noir at the time of the Millers’ prescient acquisition. But they immediately recognized the sites potential for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, quickly replacing those under-performing varieties with the the traditional Bordeaux ones that thrive there today.

Silverado SOLO

From my Instagram – click the image to see more of my wine adventures!

The Silverado SOLO is produced solely from Cabernet Sauvignon from the original Stags Leap Vineyard that surrounds the winery. It represents the highest expression of Cabernet Sauvignon crafted at Silverado Vineyards. It was conceived to commemorate the winery’s 25th anniversary of producing wine from this special vineyard, a collaborative suggestion from Winemaker, Jon Emmerich and General Manager, Russ Weis.

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Spring Fever? | 6 California Chardonnays You Can Count On Under $40

Spring Fever? | 6 California Chardonnays You Can Count On Under $40

Best Chardonnay

From my Instagram page. The Frank Family Chardonnay traveled with me all the way to Newport Beach! You can click the image to see more.

To say it has been an uncommonly warm winter here in the nation’s capital would be quite the understatement. In the last week of February alone, I witnessed cherry blossoms in bloom, heard the hair-raising crackle of intense thunderstorms, and played tennis in record-setting sunny seventy-five degree weather. Thank goodness climate change is a complete farce, right?! (Insert sarcastic, scared to death emoji here.)

So understandably all of this warmth has me reaching for chilled, crisp white wines far earlier than usual. I mean, this should be Cabernet Sauvignon prime-time for me! So I thought I would take this opportunity to point out some Chardonnays you can reliably count on in the coming months, as temperatures promise to rise alongside political tensions.

Reliably Good Chardonnays You Can Actually Find, and Afford!

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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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Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards | Expect Big Things from this Small Producer

Perliss Vineyards

When you think of Calistoga, you would be correct in thinking that this sleepy locale nestled within the Northern stretches of Napa Valley is known for its relatively warmer temperatures than those areas of the valley located further south, with their proximity to the cooling influences of the San Pablo Bay.

Yet on the beautifully clear August morning when I visited Perliss Vineyards, I pleasantly surprised by the cool, persistent breezes serenading me as I explored the organically cultivated, gently sloped 2.6 acre Raven Vineyard with vintner Anthony Perliss.

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Your Virtual Visit to Lodi | Uncorking My Favorites!

Your Virtual Visit to Lodi | Uncorking My Favorites!

Fields Family Wines Cinsault

In my recent post, A Renewed Perspective on Lodi Wine, I enthusiastically raved about my recent visit to this often underappreciated region. Meeting the innovative, down to earth winemakers and tasting the fruits of their labor amongst the very vines responsible for their production was enough to convince me that Lodi is doing something right.

But I realize that not everybody is able to hop on a plane and travel to Lodi (though do I hope that you’re able to make it there, eventually!); which is why I put together this compilation of the most compelling, interesting wines I tasted in Lodi. Consider this list the itinerary for your virtual visit. You might even find, as I did, that you wish to revisit a glass or two of these beauties!

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Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta’s Well | “The Spur” Red Blend Review

Murrieta's Well

For me, Summer is all about burgers on the grill and debating who has the best pork BBQ in town. The dress, the cuisine, and the attitude are all about being relaxed and casual – so the question becomes finding a well-crafted, flavorful wine that can stand up to hearty summer fare yet isn’t so expensive that you have to take it too seriously. After recently tasting the 2013 Murrieta’s Well The Spur Red Blend, I’m convinced it’s the perfect wine to savor during our last few days of Summer.

Murrieta’s Well produces exclusively estate-grown wines from their 500 acre estate in California’s Livermore Valley. At Murrieta’s Well, acclaimed Winemaker Robbie Meyer takes great pride in identifying key microclimates on the estate and crafts each vintage from a unique blend representing the best of what the estate has to offer. In his nineteen year experience as a winemaker, his wines have earned over ninety 90 point ratings, yet still manage to offer a lot of bang for the buck.

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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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Ehlers Estate | Where To Start Your Day In Napa

Ehlers Estate | Your Mornings Will Never Be The Same

Ehlers Estate

I’m not much of a morning person. It typically takes me a few hours, and a least as many coffees before I’m completely awake. My morning routine is pretty mundane here in Washington, D.C. Up at 7:20, make a quick coffee and then take the kids to school. After returning home,  I make some fried eggs, another coffee and get to work in my home office. Exciting stuff, right? But after my recent visit to Ehlers Estate, it has been quite the challenge to return to my normal morning routine…

I’ve been to many tastings that start at 10 am, but to my knowledge Ehlers Estate is the only Napa Valley winery offering the opportunity to wake up over a flight of estate-grown wines paired with buttery, flaky croissants delivered fresh from Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Where else but in Napa Valley can you literally wake up to a wine tasting?!

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