7 Great Wines from our Wine Club Meeting

Our Fall wine club had some great wines and delicious food. There was no theme so people could bring whatever wine they wanted. For food, we had stuffed breads (eggplant and pepperoni) smoked salmon that was caught in Alaska by one of our members, shrimp scampi, some breads and cheeses and blueberry pie for dessert. Overall it was a really fun meeting. Quite the diversity in wines but they were all quite good!

  • 2015 Hartford / Hartford Court Zinfandel Old Vine – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Tasted Blind. Aromas of huckleberry, raspberry, pepper and licorice. Flavors of raspberry, blueberry and wild cherry. Upon first tasting this it was still a tad tight but when I re-tasted 30-45 minutes later it had really opened up so I raised my score. Ended with a great 25-30 second finish. This really packs a lot of flavor in there without any heat. My wine of the night and the Group’s #2. (94 pts.)
  • 2011 Ponzi Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Tasted blind. This nose was really closed down upon my initial tasting. Believe it was served too cold. Once it warmed up it started to show aromas of mineral, lime and flowers. Had flavors of graham cracker. Touch of oak on there was quite nice. Had this pegged for a White Burgundy. I had this tied for 3rd and it was the group’s 5th wine of the night. (92 pts.) In stock!
  • 2015 Dark Horse Wines Chardonnay The Original Dark Horse – USA, California
    Tasted blind. Aromas of kumquat, mineral and tropical fruit. Flavors of tropical fruit, lime and slate. Had a nice finish of 25 seconds. I had this pegged as a Viognier because it was cold and that’s what it really tasted like. Certainly not a Chardonnay. I had this tied for 3rd and it was the group’s 4th favorite of the night. I tasted this after the big reveal when it had some time to warm up and it changed quite a bit. Definitely not a Viognier at that point and would have dropped my score. So the secret here is to keep it really cold and this can be a really nice, inexpensive wine. (92 pts.) In stock!
  • 2014 Quilt Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tasted blind. This has some big aromas of blackberry, plum and current. Got flavors of blackberry, currant, cherry, touch of earth and a touch of green pepper. Ends with a nice 30+ second finish. This is a big wine in the style of Caymus but leaves a little to be desired in structure. Still, for those that like the style this is considerably cheaper than Caymus and in the same ballpark. I guessed a Malbec because of the big fruit on this. This was my 2nd favorite wine of the night and the Group’s wine of the night. (93 pts.) Available
  • 2010 Cantina Terre Del Barolo Barbaresco – Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
    Tasted blind. Aromas of rosewood, tar and flowers with more tar, cherry and earth on the palate. I guessed Chianti because I did not get big overwhelming tannins on this so figured it could not be Nebbiolo but I was wrong. Ended with a 25+ second finish. I did enjoy this wine but the group rated it 6th on the night. (91 pts.)
  • 2015 Cherry Pie (Hundred Acre) Pinot Noir – USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
    Tasted blind. Aromas of mushroom, leaves and toast. Flavors of cherry, mushroom, strawberry. Lots of cherry on this. Big wine but not incredibly complex. Finish last about 25 seconds. I had this pegged for a Oregon Pinot Noir because of the earthiness but was shocked to see the Cherry Pie. This has always been a good value. I had this in 6th and it was the group’s 3rd wine. (90 pts.) Available
  • 2000 Di Meo Fiano di Avellino Selezione Erminia – Italy, Campania, Fiano di Avellino DOCG
    Tasted blind. Aromas of mint, mineral and crushed rock. Flavors of mineral, stone and a touch of slate. Ends with a 20 second finish. Certainly a unique wine but certainly not the 95 points Wine Advocate gave it. I had this tied for 6th and the group had it tied for 5th. (90 pts.)

Highlights from Napa and Sonoma Trip

Over the course of four days, I was able to taste at several wineries in Napa and Sonoma. I was only able to take very general notes during the tastings but they give you a good idea of my thoughts towards the wines.

Thursday August 17th

Ramey Wine Cellars

Ramey Wine Cellars Tasting

I started off in Sonoma on Day 1 and bounced in and out of the Russian River Valley. The day started off with a 10AM tasting at Ramey Wine Cellars. We here at Oxford Liquor Shoppe have been carrying the Ramey wines for years, big fans of the Chardonnays, the Caret and Cabernet Sauvignon. David Ramey tries to achieve a very balanced style and is not trying for a heavy handed wines. It proved to be a very enjoyable tasting.

2014 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast **2010 is in stock $33.99

This wine was light and crisp with a nice acidity. A good introduction to the house style for the white wines. 91 points

2014 Chardonnay Russian River Valley *available

This was a touch fatter but still done in a very restrained style that Ramey is famous for. Got some tropical fruit on this. 92 points

2014 Chardonnay Woolsey Road *available

From a vineyard specifically allocated for Ramey by Martinelli, this was bigger than the regional blends and ended with a longer finish. 93 points

2014 Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard *available

My favorite of the four Chardonnay’s. Was the biggest but provided great depth of flavor and still not overpowering. Excellent. 94 points

2014 Syrah Sonoma Coast *available

This wine was dark with notes of coffee and dark berry. 91 points.

2015 Claret Napa Valley *2014 available

Always well done, this had notes of blackberry, currant and a long finish with a touch of iron. 93 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley **2012 in stock for $77.99

This Cab was quite silky compared to the other cabs I tasted on the trip with soft tannins. Ended with a nice dark berry finish. 92 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Annum *available

Big but nuanced. Provided the longest finish of the four reds. Can probably use a little more time in bottle. 94 points

Hartford Family Winery

I then headed over to Hartford Family and it was the first time I have ever had their wines. I came away very impressed. They make Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel and were strong across the board!

2015 Chardonnay Four Hearts Vineyard *available

This was bigger than the Ramey but was beautiful and not overpowering. More traditional in style but had some finesse to it. 93 points

2014 Chardonnay Stone Cote

This was even bigger than the Four Hearts and very buttery. But for all it’s size, it’s style was quite refined for a bigger wine. 94 Points

2015 Chardonnay Russian River Valley *available

A step down from the first two wines but also a lower price point. Solid and delicious. A nice introduction to their style. 92 points

2014 Pinot Noir Land’s Edge *available

This is beautiful with a lot of Pinot character. Again, a bigger style but balanced and not overpowering. 94 points

2014 Pinot Noir Velvet Sisters *available

More similar than different compared to the first two Chardonnays but very awesome wine with a long finish. 94 points

2014 Pinot Noir Warrior Princess Block *available

From Oregon, there was a clear difference here compared to the first two Pinot Noir’s. It definitely showed that Oregon terrior. 94 points

2015 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

Some bing cherry on this and actually got some tannins. A clear step down but again a lower price point wine. 91 points

2015 Zinfandel Russian River Valley *available

This was extremely impressive. Made like a Pinot, has that silkiness to it. Not your typical Zin fruit bomb. 94 points

2014 Zinfandel Dina’s

This was just awesome. Lots of fruit but refined like their Pinot’s. Shocked to see over 15% alcohol on here because it felt much lower. 96 points.

2014 Zinfandel Hartford

Another excellent bottle but bigger and heavier than the others. More fruit explosion on this. 95 points.

2012 Syrah Outer Limits

A nice effort. Not heavy and dark like a typical Syrah that can be a little too much sometimes. 93 points

2014 Zinfandel Port

I usually don’t go for “ports” outside of Portugal but this was quite nice. Not very heavy for a port style wine. Silky. 93


Have come onto my radar the last few years for their entry level Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, which are really good values for the money. They also do several higher end bottlings that are right up there with the tops wines in California.

Stonestreet Winery

This is a photo in the front of the winery looking at their mountain vineyards way off in the distance.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc Estate Cuvee

This Sauvignon Blanc had lots of grapefruit on the nose along with kiwi and grapefruit on palate. Ended with a nice finish. No oak on this. 90 points

2014 Sauvignon Blanc Aurora Point

The oak influence shows on the nose of this but the palate has flavors of kiwi and lime. 90 points

2014 Chardonnay Estate Cuvee *available

This is a very nice Chardonnay for the money with notes of lemon meringue and done more in a classic California style. 91 points

2014 Chardonnay Upper Barn *available

This proved to be more elegant than the estate. Where the estate could be a little raw around the edges, this provided a more refined option with greater depth of flavor. Nice long finish. 95 points

2014 Chardonnay Gravel Bench

The biggest of the three Chardonnays. Lots of toast and butter on this one. Probably could use some short term cellaring. 95 points

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Cuvee *available

Like the 2012, just a wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon for the money. This has big berry aromas with some dark fruit on the palate. A fine introduction to the Stonestreet style. 93 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Rockfall *available

The Rockfall was a real crowd pleaser with some bigger tannins but a longer finish than the estate. 95 points

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Christopher

The oak on the nose of this wine was very noticeable but provided wonderful notes of blackberry, currant and chocolate. A bit of a style change from the Rockfall but a nice contrast. 95 points

Alpha Omega

Visited here the last time I was in Napa and they really have top notch wine. The winery is beautiful and was shocked to see they now offer valet parking. Pretty fancy! That aside, the wines were just as good as I remember them.

Alpha Omega Chardonnay

2014 Chardonnay Reserve **2012 Regular Chardonnay in stock $65.99

A fine Chardonnay with notes of pineapple, mango and citrus. Honestly don’t recall a big difference between this and the regular bottling. 93 points

2015 Chardonnay Toyon

Very similar in style and quality to the Reserve but just a hair behind in my opinion. 92 points

Alpha Omega Red Wines

2012 Proprietary Red

This was a big tannic wine still with notes of cassis, chocolate and plum. 94 points

2013 Proprietary Red *available

The most backward of all the red wines with very drying tannins. Notes of currant, blackberry and cherry. 93

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon *available

Again, very tannic but fruit was open for business for a 2014. Notes of herb, cherry blackberry and plum. 94 points

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Barrel Sample

Drinking pretty awesome right now for such a young wine. Note even as tannic as the other red wines but could have seen more air. A clear step up from the other 3. 96-98 points

2011 Late Harvest

Notes a honey, peach and apricot. Close to the Honig Late Harvest. 93 points

Robert Mondavi

Robert Mondavi Winery Statue in Front

First time visiting even though I’ve been to Napa twice before. Went mainly to try the I Block, which is only available at the winery. Beautiful winery and by far the biggest tourist attraction as far as wineries are concerned.

Robert Mondavi Winery

2014 Fume Blanc To Kalon I Block

From the oldest Sauvignon Blanc grapes planted in North America. This is beautiful with no sight of grapefruit. So balanced and refreshing. Think this will improve with age. History says it will. 94 points

2015 Sauvignon Blanc Stag’s Leap District

Tons of grapefruit on this. Not nearly on the level as the I Block. 89 points

2014 Fume Blanc Oakville

Enjoyed this more than the Stag’s Leap. No grapefruit. Like the oak influence here. 91

2013 Maestro

Solid wine but expected a bit more from this. Not near the level of the reserve. 91 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Really nice. Balanced. More old world but still definitely California. An often overlooked wine in this day and age but most of it still comes from To Kalon vineyard. 95


Robert Mondavi 2003 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $99.99

Robert Mondavi 2004 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve $102.99


Have always admired Honig for their quality wines and affordable prices. Their Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the best values in all of Napa Valley.

Honig Birdbox and Fan

We took a tour of the entire vineyard which was a great experience. Above shows a birdbox that they have throughout their vineyards and wind machine to prevent frost.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford *available

Always enjoy Honig’s Rutherford bottling. Touch more refined than the regular Sauvignon Blanc and you can really see the quality. 91 points

Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon *available

Another fine vintage for this Cabernet. Notes of blackberry, mocha and cherry throughout. 92 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Campbell

First time having this wine. Slight step up in quality from the regular Cab bottling. 93 points

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Bartolucci *available

The Bartolucci is just like the Sauvignon Blanc in the respect that I can always see the bump up in quality, although the difference between this and the 2014 regular Cab is a lot smaller this time. 93 points

2015 Late Harvest

Always been a fan of the Late Harvest although it seems to have crept up in price. Very refined and more balanced than the 2016 with flavors of honey and apricot. 93 points

2016 Late Harvest

Still a well made dessert wine but this just needs time to settle down in the bottle. 91 points

Joseph Phelps

Could say we saved the best for last? We did a pretty comprehensive tasting at Phelps. We tasted through their latest releases but then did something I had never done before. Every year Phelps does experiments with different barrels of their wines. So we had the chance to taste their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in 4 different types of oak barrels. The first was neutral oak, the second was French oak (medium toast), the third was American oak (medium toast) and the fourth was French oak (heavy toast). It provided quite an interesting education on the effects of oak on the wine.

Joseph Phelps same wine aged in 4 differnent oak barrels

Below are the notes from their current releases. Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon has always been good but they have done a lot of work to improve their other wines.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc *available

Always been a fan of their Sauvignon Blanc’s but this needs some time. Little too spry at the moment. 91 points

2014 Chardonnay Pastorale

A well made Chard done in a very classic style. Not overdone. 92 points

2014 Pinot Noir Pastorale

Although a nice wine, this was definitely overshadowed by the Pinot’s we had in Sonoma. 90 points

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon *available

Their regular Cab can be really nice in good vintages and this was one of those vintages. Still has some tannins to resolve but can be drunk now with a long decant. 93 points.

2013 Insignia *available

Just a classic vintage of this great wine. I have always been a fan of this and when it hits it really hits. Right up their with the top wines of the trip. 98 points.


Joseph Phelps Vineyards

A fabulous White Bordeaux and 3 Outstanding Cabs

DINNER WITH FRIENDS – Home of the Slywka’s (4/15/2017)

Got together with friends and drank a great white along with 3 great Cabs Cooked a great Surf and Turf with stuffed lobster tails I got at Stowe’s in West Haven and filet mignon.


  • 2013 Château Smith Haut Lafitte Blanc – France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
    Lovely nose of apricot, pineapple, cut grass, lime and mineral. Wine is really unique with a lot going on. Flavors of mineral, guava, blood orange and like this sour patch kid thing going on. Sounds kind of weird but it had this crazy sour but sweet thing happening. Ended with a 30-35 second finish. Been a while since I’ve had the regular bottling since I’ve been drinking the second label. Not as good as the great 2005 but this is a killer bottle. (95 pts.)
  • 2014 Myriad Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Three Twins Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Decanted for 3 hours. Big nose of vanilla, currant, blackberry, cherry and a touch of earth. Nose was really jumping out of the glass. On the palate, flavors of blackberry, currant, toasty oak and fig. This really had a big attack and the finish sailed on for 40-45 seconds. A big wine for sure but well made and tons of fruit. My favorite of the 3 Cabs we had but really splitting hairs. (96 pts.)
  • 2013 Sinegal Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Decanted for 3 hours. Nose of blackberry, bell pepper, currant and cherry. The nose on this started off the same as the Myriad but quickly changed in the glass with some air. Flavors of currant, cherry, raspberry and earth. This came through as more balanced than the first wine with out that bombastic attack. Ends with a beautiful 40 second finish. A fantastic showing for this wine. (95 pts.)
  • 2013 Stone the Crows Cabernet Sauvignon Three Twins Vineyard – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Decanted for 3 hours. Tough to follow up the Myraid and Sinegal but this really held its own. Aromas of vanilla, blackberry, earth, iron and black cherry. This was more different than similar to the first two wines. Flavors of blackberry, cherry, currant and a touch of earth. Again, not as bombastic as wine 1 and more balanced like wine 2. Ended with a great 40 second finish. Thomas Rivers Brown does a great job with Schrader and you can see a bit of the same style in this wine. (95 pts.)

Overall had 4 really strong wine. It was interesting seeing the difference between the 2014 and 2013 Cab’s. Obviously, winemaker and vineyard play a part hear but the Myriad and Stone the Crows are from the same vineyard so it was nice to see the comparison. The Cabs were exceptionally high quality but all under $100, which is the going rate for high end Napa cabs nowadays. For what they were, they were a relative bargain.

Tasting Notes on 6 Wines from our Winter Wine Club Meeting

On February 25th, we got together for our Winter wine club meeting. We didn’t have a theme for the meeting so everyone could bring whatever they wanted. We were fortunate enough to have someone bring some Pepe’s pizza which was very good. We also had some homemade perogies, an assorted mixture of apps, some desserts and probably the greasiest eggplant rollatini I have ever had (I brought that, can’t always pick a winner). The meeting proved to be very interesting with a lot of the wines scoring very closely together.


SEYMOUR WINE CLUB MEETING 2/25/17 – Home of Lew Stanio (2/25/2017)

  • 2014 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc – USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
    Tasted blind. Aromas of Honeysuckle, lemon, beeswax and flowers. Flavors of citrus, honeysuckle, lemon and melon. Had a beautiful acidity on this. Finish went on for 30+ seconds. I guessed the Merry Edwards that I brought and I was right. This was my wine of the night and was the #2 wine overall. Available to order. (93 pts.)
  • 2014 Kendall-Jackson Pinot Noir Vintner’s Reserve California – USA, California
    Tasted blind. Aromas of plum, cherry and earth on the nose. Flavors of cherry, earth and raspberry. Fruit really shines through on this and nicely balanced. Finish went on for 25 seconds. I had actually tried this earlier in the day and recognized it as the Kendall Jackson. Excellent for the money. This was the #3 wine on the night. In stock. (90 pts.)
  • 2012 Adobe Road Redline – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Tasted blind. Aromas of plum, fruitcake and coffee. Flavors of plum, cherry pie, mocha and a touch of iron. Ended with a long finish of 25+ seconds. Guessed a red blend from California. Definitely tasted some petit sirah in there. Turns out I was right. This wine finished 5th on the night. (91 pts.)
  • 2014 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast – USA, California, Central Coast
    Tasted blind. Aromas of honey, mineral and slate. Flavors of pear, apple, mineral and note of star fruit. More settle than the previous wines. Finish lasts about 25 seconds. Guessed a Chardonnay from France. Note surprised when the bag came off. Wine finished 6th on the night. In stock. (90 pts.)
  • 2015 Daou Vineyards The Pessimist – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Tasted blind. Aromas of licorice, cinnamon, and Asian spices. Smells older than it actually is. On the palate, this had flavors of plum, licorice and smoked herbs. Finish went on for abut 30 seconds. This one threw me for a loop. I guessed a Chateauneuf-du-Pape. This was my #2 wine and it was the wine of the night. (92 pts.)
  • 2015 E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône Blanc – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Côtes du Rhône
    Tasted blind. Aromas of peach, honeysuckle, citrus and flowers. Flavors of citrus, grapefruit and tangerine. Great acidity on this. Took me a while to figure this out. At first though it was a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because of the grapefruit but settled on a Viognier from the Rhone. This is going to be great in the Summer. Finished 4th on the night. In stock. (90 pts.)

The Perfect Bubbly to Ring in the New Year!

Let’s face it, people try to drink sparkling wine all year but it’s synonymous with one particular holiday: New Year’s Eve! There is nothing quite like popping a nice bottle and ringing in the New Year (along with the Twilight Zone marathon on SyFy)! Oxford Liquor Shoppe has you covered for all of your New Year’s needs. Here are fours great bottles to celebrate and won’t break the bank.


Korbel NV Brut California Organic Grapes $14.99

#73 on this year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2016, this is a clear step up from the normal Korbel bottling.

Wine Spectator 90 points

“Crisp and luscious, this is a winning bubbly for a big party. Aromas of cinnamon, ginger and citrus lead to creamy flavors of pear and blanched almond. Drink now.”
Gloria Ferrer N.V. Blanc de Blancs Carneros $19.99
Another very affordable bottle from California. This comes from one of the best sparkling wine houses in the United States, making quality stuff for decades now. A step up from the Korbel.
Wine Spectator 90 Points
“This sparkler agilely balances crisp and creamy details with lemon tart and toasted nut aromas, showing layered flavors of lemon zest and cinnamon brioche. Drink now. 5,400 cases made.”
Sigura Viudas Aria N.V. Cava Estate Brut $12.99

Sigura Viudas has always been a house favorite but this is a nice contrast to the entry level style. While the entry level aims for crispness and acidity, the Aria goes for creaminess. Almost like a mini version of the Vollereaux but at a fraction of the price!
Vollereaux Champagne Brut

Vollereaux NV Champagne Brut $31.99

This is a bit more expensive but a great value for a Champagne. This is better than Moet’s Imperial or Veuve Clicuot and less expensive to boot! Been carrying this for a long time and it never disappoints. A creamy style that is sure to please!

Wine Spectator 92 Points

“Rich and refined, with layers of pear pastry, black cherry, hazelnut, lemon cream, honey and floral notes. A spicy thread of minerality winds through this wine, as does the precise and seamlessly integrated acidity.”

Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016 Available at Oxford Liquor Shoppe!

At the end of every year, Wine Spectator comes out with their Top 100 Wines of the Year. Once the wines are announced, there typically is a mad dash to obtain these wines. The Wine of the Year instantly becomes very hard to find and goes up in value. Some people say it might be a little over-hyped and there are plenty of good wines not on the list but one thing that can’t be denied is the wines on the list are all high quality wines.  The list contains a nice variety of red wine, white wine, sparkling wine and dessert wine as well as a good balance between imported wine and domestic, including selections outside of California. Oxford Liquor Shoppe has done a good job over the years bringing in these wines, most of the time we have these in stock before the list is announced.  For the last few years we have been posting what wines we have in stock from the current year’s list as well as wines we may have from a previous years list.

Top 100 Wines of 2016

Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon

#32 2014 Intrinsic Cabernet Cabernet Columbia Valley $19.99

“Firm in texture, brimming with raspberry, black cherry, violet and herb flavors that come together harmoniously on the finish against refined tannins. Offers presence and persistence. Best from 2018 through 2024.”


#41 2015 Kono Sauvignon Blanc $13.99

“This refreshing white offers a clear, focused mix of passion fruit, lime, mango and green apple flavors on a light, smooth body. Finishes with a succulent juiciness, showing echoes of lemon verbena. Drink now.”

#42 2014 Vina Montes Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley Classic Series $9.99

“There’s minerally freshness to the ripe dark plum, blackberry and cherry flavors, with peppery hints. Well-structured and crisp midpalate, featuring Asian spice and black fig notes on the finish. Drink now through 2020.”
2013 kung fu girl

#45 2015 Charles Smith Riesling Kung Fu Girl $12.99

“Tangy and zingy, with lively acidity that balances against gobs of ripe pear and apricot flavors, carrying through the long, lime-accented finish. Drink now through 2020.”

Hahn 2013 Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands

#67 2014 Hahn Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands SLH $19.99

“The texture is plush, with lots of complex flavors, ranging from plum to anise to dusty, cedary oak. Satisfying from start to finish, ending with dusty, nutmeg-scented tannins. Drink now.”

#70 2014 Ravines Riesling Finger Lakes Dry $16.99

“A taut, dry style, with pure lime, kiwifruit and pippin apple flavors backed by a slate note that gives the finish good tension and length. Very solid. Drink now through 2017. 5,475 cases made.”

#73 NV Korbel Brut California Organic Grapes $14.99

“Crisp and luscious, this is a winning bubbly for a big party. Aromas of cinnamon, ginger and citrus lead to creamy flavors of pear and blanched almond. Drink now.”

#75 2014 Bodegas Godeval Vina Godeval Valdeorras Cepas Vellas $16.99

“Pear, peach and quince flavors mingle in this expressive white, while notes of mineral, tangerine and ginger add complexity. Shows depth and focus, with a clean, juicy finish. Drink now.”

#76 2011 Carpineto Vina Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva $24.99

“A rich, powerful style, this evokes black cherry, black currant, plum, leather and tar flavors. Balanced and ready to enjoy, with lingering accents of spice and tobacco. Drink now through 2023.”

Past Glories Still Available

Top 100 Wines of 2015

#16 2009 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Port Score 93 Price $22.99

“Dense and rich, with amply spiced flavors of ripe dark plum and cherry compote. Mineral notes emerge midpalate, leading to a lush, chocolate-filled finish. A fresh and engaging style. Drink now.”


#21 2014 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Score 93 Price $29.99

“Stylish and generous, exhibiting a complex array of flavors, from white grapefruit and lemon curd to candied ginger, lemon verbena, honeysuckle and lime zest. Achieves elegance, power and refreshment in lovely harmony. Drink now.”


#35 2013 Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros Score 93 Price $38.99

“A creamy-textured, charming style that’s easy to drink yet is deceptively complex and layered, with a mix of vanilla-scented oak and vibrant peach, nectarine, honeydew and apricot flavors. Long on the finish. Drink now.”



#78 2012 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Score 91 Price $29.99

“Exhibits ripe and juicy yet firm flavors of currant and blackberry amid a gravelly earthiness before finding focus on the finish, where the tannins are chewy, revealing a licorice touch. Drink now through 2025.”

Top 100 Wines of 2014

#16 2012 Two Hands Shiraz Bella’s Garden Score 95 Price $79.99

“Utterly seamless, focused, powerful and elegant, layered with cherry, boysenberry and red plum fruit, revealing glints of coffee, jasmine and cardamom that add extra nuances. Delivers complexity without extra weight. The finish won’t quit. Drink now through 2022.”

#43 2013 Charles Smith Kung Fu Girl Riesling Score 91 Price $12.99

“Crisp and sleek, with juicy, expansive nectarine and peach flavors that play against citrusy acidity, finishing with zing and a sense of softness that lets the finish keep singing. Drink now through 2020. 128,806 cases made.

#54 N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Napa Valley Prestige Score 91 Price $22.99

“Packs in a lot of complexity, with aromas of apple, fresh ginger and rubber that lead to crisp and layered flavors of raspberry and spice. Drink now. 173,000 cases made.


Top 100 Wines of 2007

#7 Robert Mondavi 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve Score 95 Points Price $102.99

“Weaves together a complex array of ripe, rich currant, anise, smoky oak and black cherry. Dense, concentrated and persistent, with great depth and focus. Ends with an amazingly long, richly flavored finish. Best from 2008 through 2018.”

Top 100 Wines of 2002

#37 Rosemont 1999 Syrah McLaren Vale Balmoral Score 93 Points Price $32.99

“A bit more aristocratic than most Aussie Shirazes, this one strikes a beautiful chord of rich blackberry and currant fruit, hinting at anise and pepper. Has a fleshy frame, with sweet spicy notes darting in and out through the long, harmonious finish. Drink now through 2010. 10,000 cases made.”

Tasting Notes on 6 Wines from our Fall Wine Club Meeting

Our wine club got together for our Fall meeting and it did not disappoint. We meet 4 times a year to break bread and drink wine. Sometimes we have a theme, other times we don’t. This week’s past meeting there was no theme so people could bring whatever they wanted. It proved to be an interesting assortment of wines. You would be surprised how tough it is to guess the grape when your drinking it blind. It could be quite challenging, especially with even the most popular grapes. This meeting saw 2 whites and 4 reds, which went nice with the buffalo chicken pizza, turkey quesadillas (what else are you suppose to do with leftover turkey), spring rolls and an assortment or cheese and meats.


  • 2010 Crowley Pinot Noir Entre Nous – USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Tasted blind. This was a pop and pour. Boy did it need a decant because this was an 84 when I first had it. Lot of wet leaves on the nose and a simple wine with short finish. Upon retasting, got some cherry, matchstick, tobacco and earth on the nose. Flavors had plumped up with some cherry, earth and beet. Like a totally different wine. I gave this wine 88 points and it finished 6th on the night. (88 pts.)
  • 2013 Lavau Gigondas – France, Rhône, Southern Rhône, Gigondas
    Tasted blind. Similar to the first wine, this needed some air to open up. Not as big a difference as the first wine but was noticeably better upon retasting. Aromas of cherry, earth red fruits and licorice led to flavors of cherry, plum and dark red fruits. Ended with a 20 second finish. I gave this wine 90 points and it finished 3rd on the night. (90 pts.) In Stock.
  • 2015 Jules Taylor Pinot Noir – New Zealand, South Island, Marlborough
    Tasted blind. Decanted for over an hour before serving. Nose of citrus, which is strange for a red wine, tea and cherry. It then had flavors of cherry, green tea, earth and mineral. Closer to Burgundy than anything from the states. Still the citrus nose is pretty unique. I gave this wine 92 points and it finished 2nd on the night. (92 pts.)
  • 2013 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tasted blind. Nose of beeswax, mineral and wet stone. Got some honey, lemon, mineral, stone and melon on the palate. Ended with a 25+ second finish. This one had me stumped. Guessed a Sancerre. Shocked when the bag came off. Never really liked their chardonnay’s before but this was nice. I gave it 92 points an it came in 5th on the night. (92 pts.)
  • 2014 Kirkland Signature Cabernet Sauvignon Signature Series Napa County Napa Valley – USA, California, Napa Valley
    Tasted blind. This was a bit closed down initially but opened up with some nice cherry, raspberry and boysenberry aromas. Ended up having a lot going on there. The palate had some flavors of plum, cherry, earth, blackberry and a floral thing going on. Ended with a 30+ second finish. Pegged this as a Sonoma Cab in the $40 range. Everyone was shocked when the bag came off. This was my wine of the night and I gave it 93 points and it finished 4th. Bought a bottle of this a week later just to see if it showed as well and it was just as good. Curious who makes this for them and what the grape source is. (93 pts.)
  • 2014 Viña Godeval Valdeorras Cepas Vellas – Spain, Galicia, Valdeorras
    Tasted blind. Nose of tropical fruit, honeysuckle and mineral. More tropical fruit on the palate with lemon, honey, pear and a hint of grapefruit. Nailed this as a Godello. Just a nice wine for the money. I gave this 92 points and it finished 1st overall. (92 pts.) In stock.

The Jules Taylor and Vina Godeval ended up being on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2016.

Exploring Malbec, a Grape with a Bright Future

The world of wine is just as trendy as anything else. Wines become the hottest thing then all of the sudden they’re not. Over the years things like Blue Nun led the rise of Riesling from Germany, California introduced their version of barrel aged Chardonnay as well as the White Zinfandel craze, and more recently Shiraz from Australia had it’s time in the sun. Only the quality of the wine and pedigree of the grape dictate whether it sticks around after it’s hot streak. The current hot trendy wine currently belongs to the Malbec grape from Argentina but the grapes origins come from the old world.

Malbec’s birthplace is in the French region of Cahors. The wine was grown there for several hundred years enjoying great notoriety from the middle ages until the 19th century. The grape, known locally as Cot, had a great reputation for quality and was shipped all over the world. “The black wine” of Cahors rivaled Bordeaux to the Northwest but the region had two devastating events. The first was phylloxera, an insect that attacks grape vines and kills them. Whenever they hit, the vines need to be grafted to American root stock which the insets won’t go after. The second event was a frost that decimated 75% of the regions vines in 1956, effectively wiping them out. It takes years, even decades, to recover from something like that. After that the grape went dormant. The grape is one of the six red grapes allowed in Bordeaux wines but it was never a major player there. It wasn’t until Argentina came along and made the grape it’s own that Malbec became a major player again.

It’s easy to see why Malbec has become so popular over the last 6-7 years. The wines are typically fruit forward, easy drinking and aren’t as heavy or tannic as a Cabernet Sauvignon. Most importantly, the quality is high but the wines are inexpensive which has really fueled it’s popularity. Steak houses can serve it by the glass cheap, offering a tasty compliment to a juicy steak. Argentina has been the epicenter of this movement and it’s the most widely planted grape in the country.They have done some great things with it, including some high altitude vineyards that are some of the highest elevations for vineyards in the world.

With the popularity of Malbec comes other regions trying there hand with the grape. Versions have surfaced from Bordeaux, California, Chile, Washington and of course Cahors trying to get back in the game. I thought it would be fun to pick out three and taste them against each other. Here are the results.

  • 2009 Château de Chambert Cahors – France, Southwest France, Cahors
    Nose gravitates more towards the old world with notes of blackberry, kirsch liquor, smoke and violets. Trends more towards the black fruits than the red fruits. Very dark color, almost black with a magenta rim. More blackberry and kirsch liquor on the palate of this along with an earthy note and touch of iron. Finish lasts maybe 20 seconds. Wine will definitely peak your interest in Cahors if your a fan of the grape. (90 pts.)

  • 2010 Waterbrook Malbec Reserve – USA, Washington, Columbia Valley
    Nose is more fruit forward than the Chambert and you can tell it’s new world. Color on this is very similar to the first wine being almost black. Trends more towards the red fruits with cherry and plum but still get violets and kirsch liquor like the Cahors. Palate is also fruit forward. Really get smacked with it in the beginning with flavors of cherry, plum, kirsch liquor and a earthy note on the finish. Finish lasts about 20 seconds as well on this. (90 pts.)

  • 2011 Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec – Argentina, Mendoza
    Amazing how different the 3 noses on the 3 wines are. The Catena is the most forward of the 3 wines. Aromas of dark cherry, kirsch liquor, plum and smoke jump out of the glass. Again a very dark wine, almost black in color. The palate is again very forward with flavors of dark cherry, plum, kirsch liquor and a mineral note on the finish. This had the longest finish of the 3 wines as well, going on for about 25-30 seconds. Outstanding quality for the money. (92 pts.)

I have to say this was fun. It was interesting to compare and contrast the three wines plus I love to see diversity in wine. It’s good to see Cahors trying to establish itself back in the quality circle. That wine really opened my eyes to the region. Washington seems like it can do interesting things with the grape although they need to try and keep prices in check to compete. Argentina is certainly doing great things with the grape and I firmly believe that the wines will have some longevity because the quality is clearly there.

Could you tell the difference?

Being a sommelier and known as a “wine guy,” people often ask me if you could really tell the difference between a $100 bottle of wine and a $10 bottle of wine. I usually tell them “It depends.” There are so many factors that go into that question. Let’s assume that the price above for each bottle is the actual cost and not discounted. Let’s also assume that the comparison is between two bottles from the same or similar regions. The reason for this is if your comparing a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon  to a Bordeaux they are very different wines. If you have the Napa Valley first, these wines typically have more alcohol and are more fruit forward with bombastic personalities. Following up with the Bordeaux would make it seem too rustic and simply overpowers the wine. Having the Bordeaux first has the opposite effect. A Bordeaux, typically with lower alcohol and more finesse, makes the Napa Valley Cabernet too alcoholic and flabby. So you really need an equal comparison. The last factor is it depends on the taster. If you have someone that doesn’t have that much experience tasting wine try the two bottles they probably aren’t going to see a difference. So the answer would be no. Unless you enjoy wine, I would not advocate spending that much money on a bottle of wine.

So let’s say that the conditions above are met. Now what? Well I believe that there are good bottles of wine at every price point. So there are nice bottles to be had for $10 and there are some bad bottles to be had at $100. So if you picked out your best $10 could it beat a bad $100 bottle? While it’s certainly possible it’s still a long shot. When a winery is making a bottle costing $100, they are aiming for a very high quality level. To bring the 100 point wine rating scale into the picture for a moment, someone buying a $100 bottle may be expecting at least a wine rating of 95 points. Anything below that may be a disappointment. But for a $10 bottle, a really high quality one may get 90 points. So although that may be a nice bottle, especially for the money, it might not be enough to say it is better than the $100 even though it may not reach that 95 point threshold. No don’t get me wrong, there are some bottles that cost $100 that aren’t even hitting that 90 point mark.

My general feeling is that someone who does enjoy wine will be able to tell the difference. They don’t have to be a wine expert either! They really just need to enjoy wine. Well this past weekend I did a little experiment. I have a friend who I get together with every so often and he too loves wine. So of course we crack a few bottles when we get together, typically some really nice stuff. The past couple of times we have been tasting blind. Now if you don’t know what that means there are two different definitions. Single blind means you don’t know the wine but you may know the region, the grape or the vintage. Double blind means you know nothing at all. So for the wines we cracked, we only knew the grape: Cabernet Sauvignon. He said to bring your “A game” so we both picked out two really nice bottles. I then decided to make it interesting by throwing in a $20 bottle I recently had. The $20 bottle was excellent and I thought it would make it difficult to identify in a blind tasting. All wines were decanted for 1 hour. Here are the results:

Wine 1

We both agreed the aromas on this were closed, meaning it was not giving up much. What I did get was some plum and iron. After sitting in the glass for a while the nose started to open up. Tasting this wine was a different story. It had some nice plum, cherry and iron flavors. It certainly had some complexity to it but my friend and I then argued over the finish. I said it lasted about 30 seconds, which to me is long. My friend argued that 30 seconds was not a long finish and it was shorter than the other wines. Overall I gave this wine 92 points and my friend scored it a 90. Interestingly enough, my friend called this out as the ringer before even tasting the other wine!. Since I had it a week or two before, it was pretty easy for my to identify it immediately as well.

Wine 2

This was a much bigger wine than the first one. The nose exploded out of the glass with aromas of blackberry, black cherry and roses. It was much more intense and very much from Napa Valley. The color on this was a very dark red, somewhat similar to wine 1. Drinking this was sheer joy! Favors of blackberry, currant, vanilla and a touch of iron dance across your palate. This was not just a monster wine though. It was beautifully put together that balanced power and elegance. The finish lasted about 45-50 seconds, clearly longer than the first wine. My friend’s impressions were similar to mine. I gave it a 96 and he gave it a 98.

Wine 3

An important distinction between this wine and the other wines was the color. As a red wine ages it gets lighter in color and this one was starting to show some bricking around the rim, a clear sign of age that my friend quickly pointed out. The nose on this also exploded out of the glass with sweet cherry and plum but also showing some more mature aromas of mushroom. Similarly on the palate it had some nice flavors of plum, cherry and blackberry but started showing mature notes mingled in with earth. The finish on this was about as long as wine 2. My friend and I both gave this 96 points.

The Wines

Wine 1 – 2014 Intrinsic Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley Washington Release Price $20

Wine 2 – 2012 Lail Cabernet Sauvignon J Daniel Cuvee Napa Valley Release Price $225

Wine 3 – 2004 Opus One Propriety Red Napa Valley Release Price $180


Tasting the Intrinsic on it’s own was one thing but tasting it next to two high end wines was another. It first got my attention by getting 92 from Wine Spectator. On it’s own it’s a fantastic wine for only $20 and could probably sell for three times it’s price if it came from Napa Valley. My friend is a more experienced taster and it was easy for him to pick this out without even trying the other wines. He actually used deductive reasoning to pick out his wine as well. Since he guessed wine 1 was the ringer and he knew that he didn’t bring an older wine (wine 3), he concluded wine 2 was his. The Lail received a perfect score, 100 points, from Robert Parker. Opus One, when the 1979 vintage was released, was the most expensive wine from Napa Valley at the time. It’s had its ups and downs over the years but the 2004 recently got a 96 from Robert Parker.


This certainly wasn’t highly scientific but it was fun to put the above theory to the test. The less expensive bottle definitely stood out compared to the other two wines. I’d like to do this again but with a larger sample size. It’s pretty safe to say though that on this day the less expensive wine was identified as inferior to the other wines.

Nebbiolo: An Unsung Hero

Four times a year I belong to a wine club that gets together to have a blind tasting. For those unfamiliar with this, it’s where you taste wines blind.  In our case, we brown bag all the bottles and take turns pouring the wines. Sometimes everyone just brings whatever they want or we have a theme. We score all the wines using the 100 point scale. At the end we tally all the scores and then remove the bags to reveal what was poured. This past weekend we got together and the theme was the Nebbiolo grape, our first time having a dedicated meeting to wines made from this grape.

For those of you unfamiliar with the grape, let me fill you in. Nebbiolo was made famous in the Piedmont region of Italy. Although not the most widely planted grape in the region (the workhorse Barbara grape has that claim), it is by far the most famous. It makes the distinctive wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, which some people actually think are the grape names but they would be wrong. Unlike the United States, old world grape producing countries like France, Italy and Spain categorize their wines by region instead of the grape. So a Red Bordeaux from France, for example, could be Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc or any other grapes used to make red wine. The Barolo and Barbaresco regions are only allowed to make red wines from Nebbiolo, so we always know what the grape is. The same can’t be said for the rest of the Piedmont region though. The grape is grown in other regions outside of Italy but unlike other grapes that have found popularity in other parts of the world, this one has not.

The Nebbiolo grape produces very distinct wines. These red wines are typically lighter in color but get more orange as they age. Nebbiolo has a very pronounced tar scent and flavor, which evolves as it ages. Typically they don’t even start getting good until about 10 years of age but these are some of the longest lived red wines in the world because they can be very tannic. Drinking a 30 year old Barolo is an unforgettable experience because there really is nothing out there like it because Nebbiolo is so distinctive. It is often compared to Burgundy but not because of the aromas or flavors but because of structure of the wine and the region.

Now that I’ve given you some background information onto the wines! We tasted 5 wines that night. All wines below are in the order tasted.


Wine 1 – 1998 Vallana Gattinara – Off to a good start. For an 18 year old wine this wasn’t showing any obvious signs of aging. The nose on this was very nice with the classic tar aroma along with roses and cherry. For flavors, this had some nice raspberry, tar, tomato and tobacco with again no real signs of aging. Had a lot of fruit but a tad more elegant than the other wines that night. Maybe that was a sign? The wines ended with a nice finish of about 25 seconds that played on the fruit and tar theme. Tannins were there but not overwhelming, probably because I decanted this for 4 hours. Yes this was the wine I brought and Gattinara is located in Northern Piedmont. I gave it 92 points and it finished tied for last place.

Wine 2 – 2009 Villadoria Barolo – This wine’s nose was a touch bigger than the last wine and more complex. Had some nice aromas of cherry (more intense than the last wine), tomato leaf, roses and earth. I found this to be more tannic than Wine 1 but was still showing quite nicely. Flavors of earth, tobacco and cherry really stood out here. Like the first wine, the finish was about 25 seconds. I gave this an extra point because the nose was a touch more complex. So 93 points and it finished tied for last.

Wine 3 – 2011 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco – What immediately struck me about this wine was the biggest nose yet. A big aroma of cherry just jumped out of the glass with secondary aromas of lavender and cedar. The funny thing on this was besides the big blast of cherry, Wine 2 still had the more complex nose for me. Once tasted, it was easy to see that this wine was just a baby. Flavors of tar, cherry earth and a touch of spice danced across my palate. My wife brought this wine and it was also decanted for 4 hours. Definitely tasted good but only just starting to realize its potential. I gave it 92 points and it finished in 3rd on the night.

Wine 4 – 2005 Cascina Bruciata Barbaresco – This wine changed things up a bit on the nose with a very prominent matchstick aroma but familiar cherry, tar and roses. It’s tough when you have all the same grape and basically the same region because they share a lot of similarities. You could tell that this was starting to tie things together on the palate with again cherry and tar but more raspberry flavors as well as game mixed in. It ended with a 30 second finish that just eclipsed all the other wines. This was well structured and edges the other wines out along with Wine 2 as my favorites of the night. I gave this 93 points and it finished tied for 1st.

Wine 5 – 2010 Massolino Barolo – The final wine of the night was another strong showing. More aromas of cherry, tar, game and roses danced across the nose. Similar to the last wine, this had some nice cherry, raspberry, game and tar flavors. The finish was a touch shorter than Wine 4 but this was a excellent wine. Massolino is a very strong name in Barolo and it’s not surprising to see this wine finish strong. 2010 was one of the best vintages in probably the last 15 years in Barolo. The other 4 wines were all over the place in other members scores but this wine was consistent which is why it finished tied for 1st. I gave it 92 points.

Overall, this was one of our strongest meetings in recent memory. Typically we usually have one wine that shines above the rest with a few outliers people don’t like as much. The average score for each wine was over 90 points and I can’t remember that ever happening. Nebbiolo tends to be on the more expensive side with the average price to entry around $30, which is more expensive than most other grapes. On the flip side, for $50-$75 you can really get some top wines from the grape/region where you would be spending well over $100 or even $200 in places like Napa Valley or Bordeaux. If you have never had a chance to try this grape now is the time with a lot of 2010’s still widely available and if you see anything older make sure to jump on it.