Gems in My Glass . . . August 2016

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Navarro Vineyards 2015 Pinot Blanc; Anderson Valley, Mendocino County, California:  Gorgeous fragrant, floral notes lead the way as this dazzling Pinot Blanc approaches the nose.  Silky and elegant on the palate with Golden apple, lemon curd, blanched almonds, mineral notes and a touch of honeycomb thrilling the palate.  Fresh and sunny with a beautiful texture and a long lasting aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20

Adamant Cellars NV Scintillate Sparkling Tempranillo Rosé; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Fully engaging scents of potpourri and rose petals prepares you for this perfect evening bubbly.  Flavors of watermelon candy, fresh strawberries and a touch of bubble gum unroll onto the palate with a lasting stream of acidity holding firm.  The finish delivers a bright kick of orange zest.  SRP: ~$75

Garrison Creek Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Deep, dark and oh so delicious is this full-bodied, finely structured Cabernet.  Strikingly balanced with layers of cassis, blackberry, tobacco, savory spice, graphite and just the right touch of oak joining forces with refined tannins and a smooth texture.  Approachable now, yet also promises years of ageworthiness ahead.  SRP:  $65

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2015 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Wrap your mind around a bowl full of sweet strawberries, ripe raspberries and crisp watermelon with citrus highlights!  From the expressive aroma through the juicy palate, this dry Rosé is a winner.  Brisk, fresh and well balanced with lively acidity; entirely thirst quenching.  SRP:  $24

Long Shadows Vintners 2013 Pedestal Merlot; Columbia Valley, Washington:   Here is a sophisticated and complex Merlot that opens with expressive wild berry and violet aromatics. In the mouth it showcases wonderful purity and richness as flavors of sweet blueberries, black currants, marionberries, savory spice, hints of cocoa and well-integrated oak unfold.  Finely grained tannins provide the perfect framework, and the finish is persistent.  SRP:  $60

McCay Cellars 2015 Viognier; Lodi, California:  Scents of stone fruit and a suggestion of herbs awaken the senses.  This all stainless steel wine is a magnificent example of the variety, brilliantly capturing the spirit of Viognier.   White peaches, fresh apricots, a splash of lemon-lime and a pinch of white pepper entwine, and the mouthfeel is plush with a nice thread of acidity keeping it up beat through the satisfying finish. SRP:  $35

Ledson Winery & Vineyards 2012 Howell Mountain Zinfandel; Howell Mountain, Napa Valley, California: From vines that are head trained and dry farmed comes this classy Zin.  A delicious melding of fresh blueberry, black plum and sweet blackberry fruit, nice band of minerality, and healthy dash of savory spice elegantly coat the palate.  The juicy fruit is supported by a firm structure and medium to firm tannins.  SRP:  $60

Rousseau Freres 2014 Touraine Noble Joué Rosé; Loire Valley, France:  A blend of 50% Pinot Meunier, 35% Pinot Gris and 15% Pinot Noir, this is a delightful Rosé with a floral, fruity aroma.  Flavors of Rainier cherries, sweet raspberries, lemon curd and a sprinkle of thyme invigorate the palate and stay fresh and bright from start to finish.  SRP:  ~$16

Benziger Family Winery 2013 Tribute Estate Blend; Sonoma County, California:  Ripe dark berries and spice on the nose lead to an enchanting first sip.  This complex red Bordeaux blend (crafted predominately of Cabernet Sauvignon) is lush with a velvety texture, firm structure and supple tannins.   Generous layers of cassis, Bing cherries and blueberries accented by fresh tobacco and spice box notes carry nice weight on the palate, and the aftertaste lives on and on.  SRP:  $85

Gems in My Glass . . . July 2016

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2016 International Women’s Wine Competition

The 2016 International Women’s Wine Competition got off to a fine start.  Elegant tables adorned with fresh multi-hued pink and violet orchids, lavender spit cups and matching lavender napkins greeted the judges.  A room full of women wine professionals, including winemakers, sommeliers, grape growers, vintners and wine writers were chosen purposefully (studies have shown that a greater majority of wines sold in the USA are purchased by women).   The competition continued as smooth as it gets with Debra Del Fiorentino at the helm, assisted by her experienced and well versed crew; they never missed a beat.

The entries from around the world impressed the judges from the get go.  To our delight, my panel began with sparkling wines (which I oft have the pleasure of judging at competitions).  Needless to say, our morning started off in a most enjoyable way!  Sauvignon Blanc and other white varieties came next to kick off our still wine categories, followed by Pinot Noir and Malbec, and our day ended evaluating Sherry and Sake.  Not a bad day’s work.

Noteworthy wines securing Gold Medal (or higher) awards from our illustrious panel included:

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2012 Late Disgorged Brut Rosé; Carneros, California:   Composed of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, this delightfully dry sparkling wine shows off an eye catching mousse and pinkish salmon hue, citrus blossom aromas and an energetic tiny bead.  Baked pie crust, strawberries and creamy lemon custard interlace on the palate, carried by lively acidity.  A touch of spice brings the wine to a memorable finish.  SRP:  $50

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards 2007 Late Disgorged Royal Cuvée; Carneros, California: Biscuity aromas fill the senses with this blend of 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Chardonnay, and royal it is.  Intensely flavorful, with Granny Smith apples, quince paste, creamy pears, fresh baked bread and minerally notes flowing seamlessly onto the palate.  The tiny, endless stream of bubbles will send you into a dreamy state of mind.     SRP:  $37

Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards took home Best of Show Sparkling honors for their 2004 Late Disgorged Carneros Cuvée.  Wow, a blend of 53% Pinot Noir, 47% Chardonnay, this complex bubbly is exquisite.  The brilliant hue and pinpoint bubbles are mesmerizing, and the yeasty aroma knocks your socks off.  Bright layers of raspberries, fresh green apples, spiced pear chutney, flaky croissants and citrus accents unfold with remarkable vibrancy, and the lingering finish is simply divine.  SRP:  $75

Hagafen Cellars 2012 Late Disgorged Brut Cuvée; Napa Valley, California:   This engaging wine reeled us in with its heady aromas of sugar cookie dough, and a dazzling display of tiny bubbles delighted the eyes.    Luscious and vivid in the mouth with Golden Delicious apples, juicy Rainer cherries, a touch of orange zest and attractive leesy notes framed by spirited acidity.   Bright and invigorating through the lovely aftertaste.  SRP:  $48

Villa Maria 2015 Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand:  We all easily identified New Zealand style Sauv Blanc characteristics on the nose.  That profile remained consistent on the palate, with juicy melon, gooseberry, hints of herbs and fresh squeezed lime tingling the taste buds.  Classic varietal expression of NZ Sauvignon Blanc in a sparkling wine style, with nice acidity holding firm throughout.  SRP:  ~$16

Andis Wines 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Shenandoah Valley, Amador County, California:  Floral aromas waft from the glass with this striking Sauvignon Blanc, which garnered the Best of Show White Wine award.  Bursting at the seams with sweet Meyer lemon, Granny Smith apples, perfectly ripened nectarines and fresh cut herbs, this precisely balanced, energetic wine electrifies the palate and lingers with brightness and persistence.   SRP:  $19.99

Charles Krug Winery 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; St Helena, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a highly aromatic, mineral driven Sauvignon Blanc that wows from first sip.   Well balanced with brisk acidity, it is vibrant and compelling as notes of lime zest, grapefruit and lemon verbena interlace with the lovely thread of minerality on the palate; brilliant.   SRP:  $18

Cupcake Vineyards 2015 Sauvignon Blanc; Marlborough, New Zealand:   The unmistakable profile screams Marlborough as the aromas lift from the glass.    Fresh mowed grass, gooseberries, grapefruit and lime sorbet fill the senses, and juicy fruit is complemented on the palate with crushed herb accents.   Bracing acidity carries through the zesty finish.   SRP:  ~$11 www.cupcakevineyards.ccom

Berryessa Gap Vineyards 2015 Estate Sauvignon Blanc; Yolo County, California:  Pale straw in color, this invigorating Sauvignon Blanc is clean, bright and fresh.  Star fruit, kiwi and fresh peach flavors highlighted by a generous splash of lemon and orange citrus fruit stream radiantly onto the palate. Bracing acidity keeps it lifted through the long-lasting finish.  SRP:  $23

Pico 2015 Malbec; Mendoza, Argentina:   A bit shy on the nose up front, this richly fruited Malbec opens more fully with aeration.  Dense dark berries and ripe black plums converge at the core.  This lush Malbec broadens in the mouth, with earthy elements and plenty of spice joining the sweet, jammy fruit.  Well balanced and easy to quaff with a fresh, clean finish.  SRP:  ~$18

Grizzly Peak Winery 2013 Estate Malbec; Rogue Valley, Oregon:   Expressive aromas of dark berries and spice draw you into the glass.  Delectable blackberry, black cherry and spiced berry compote flavors entwine with bittersweet chocolate and fresh ground pepper as it flows onto the palate.  Nicely textured and balanced, finishing with a subtle hint of chocolate covered coconut.    SRP:  $35

Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery NV Lauren Elizabeth; Door County, Wisconsin:   This tasty fruit driven white wine, crafted of La Crescent (a cold hardy hybrid grape) and Honeycrisp apples, is gentle yet lively on the palate.  Flavors of Honeycrisp apples, freestone peaches and apricots swirl in the mouth with a dash of lemon lime juice; easy to quaff.    SRP:  $14.95

Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider Winter Appey Spice Hard Cider; Portland, Oregon:  This full bodied hard cider capturing Best of Show Cider honors, is reminiscent of Grandma’s apple pie and warms you right up!    Fresh apple pie, cinnamon and nutmeg and raisin tart flavors take center stage, with roasted nuts and caramel adding complexity.  Perfect for a winter holiday feast.  SRP:  ~$13

Bold Rock Hard Cider Crimson Ridge Vat #1 Chiles Orchard Hard Cider; Monticello, Virginia:    Inviting aromas of spiced applesauce greet the nose with this rich and smooth hard cider.  Tasty layers of apples sautéed in butter and brown sugar, allspice, and citrusy notes coat the palate.  Round with no hard edges yet bright and energizing, it is remarkably balanced.  SRP:  ~$12

Kooksoondang 2012 Rice Makgeolli – Peach; South Korea:   A beautifully fragranced aroma lifts from the glass with this generously fruited frizzante style brew.  Silky smooth and elegant, this peachy elixir gently spills onto the palate with yummy flavors and mild to moderate acidity, and the spritzy element keeps it dancing on the palate.  Drink while it is young and fresh, and serve chilled.   SRP:  ~$10

Additional top awards equally worthy of seeking out included:  Best of Show Red Wine and BEST OF SHOW Wine to Oak Farms Vineyards for their 2014 Barbera from Lodi, California ($25); Best of Show Rosé Wine to Holman Ranch Vineyards & Winery for their 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir from Carmel Valley, California ($22); and Best of Show Dessert/Late Harvest to Cupcake Vineyards for their 2015 Moscato D’Asti Italy ($14.99).

Visit to review all the awards for this year’s competition, and CONGRATS to each and every award winner!

Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Savor your way through California’s delightful Central Coast

Heading south to Paso Robles for the 2016 Central Coast Wine Competition is always a joy, and this year is no exception.   The wines are showing beautifully, and the passion of the winemakers and vintners is palpable.  Results for this year’s competition are in!   The Best Red wine and Best of Show award went to San Marcos Creek for their 2014 Fling’s First Crush, a Grenache based blend.  Best of Class honors for sparkling wine was captured by Laetitia Vineyard & Winery for their NV Brut Cuvee.  Best Pink wine was awarded to Sexton for their 2015 Grenache Rose.  Gary and Marcy Eberle (owners of Eberle Winery) scored two Best of Class Awards, one for their 2015 Viognier (Best White Wine) and the other for their 2015 Muscat Canelli (Best Dessert Wine).

Here are my impressions of these fabulous sippers, and other Gold medal winning favorites:

Laetitia Vineyard & Winery NV Brut Cuvee; Arroyo Grande Valley, California:  This vivacious sparkling wine (made from 53% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 17% Pinot Blanc) displays a tiny bead, and draws you in with its fragrant scent of citrus-laced stone fruit.  Flavors of crisp pears, creamy apples, and lemon zest with hints of fresh baked bread are unveiled on the palate; dazzling!  SRP: $25

San Marcos Creek Vineyard & Winery 2014 Fling’s First Crush; Paso Robles, California:  From the enticing aroma and bright entry to the last juicy sip, this blend of 50% Grenache, 33% Zinfandel and 17% Petite Sirah is captivating.  Deeply concentrated with red raspberry, blackberry and ripe plums surrounded by all-spice and fresh cracked peppercorns.  It’s rich and mouth coating with a firm backbone of tannins, nice acids keeping it lively, and a finish that just keeps on going.  SRP:  $39

Eberle Winery 2015 Viognier; Paso Robles, California:  Here is a classic, gorgeous Viognier that is simply irresistible.  Aromas of delicate white flowers and a splash of citrus pave the way for a resplendent palate showcasing perfectly ripe nectarines, apricots and honeydew melon.    Hints of lemon verbena and fresh squeezed orange juice add further delight, and the wine is perfectly balanced.  SRP:  $26

Sextant Wines 2015 Grenache Rosé; Paso Robles, California:  Crafted of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, this seductive dry Rosé is crisp and radiant.  Strawberry, tropical melon and cranberry cocktail flavors with accents of citrus and chopped herbs enliven the palate; a lovely quaff.    SRP:  $21

Cinquain Cellars 2013 Reserve Malbec; Paso Robles, California:  Aromas of black fruit and vanilla bean waft from the glass.  This tightly wound, complex wine offers up dense blackberry and black cherry at the core, with accents of well integrated oak, exotic coffee, and savory spice.  Beautifully structured and balanced; an extraordinary Malbec. SRP:  $60

Hearst Ranch Winery 2014 “Pico Creek” Merlot; Paso Robles, California: This smooth, finely textured Merlot (composed of 75% Merlot and 25% Petit Verdot) fills the palate with fresh herbs, juicy blueberry, raspberry and blackberry fruit, and a tasty thread of cocoa.  Shows off immaculate balance, pretty tannins, and a lifted finish. SRP:  $30

Michael Rose Cellars 2015 Estate Bouschet Rosé; Central Coast, California:  Fragrant berry aromas draw you into this delectable Alicante Bouschet Rosé.  Lively acidity frames raspberry, blueberry, cranberry and subtle spice flavors that simply dance on the palate.  Thirst quenching, bright and elegant. SRP:  $26

Tlo Wines 2014 Pinot Noir; Edna Valley, California:  A highly expressive Pinot Noir displaying berry and cherry cola notes at first whiff.  The palate is equally compelling with layers of sun ripened Bing cherries, fresh raspberries, a touch of spiced oak and forest floor nuances; well crafted.  SRP:  $40

J Dusi Wines 2014 Dante Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel; Paso Robles, California: A rich and jammy mouthful! Reminiscent of a bowl brimming with juicy, ripe summer raspberries, blackberries and cranberries topped with vanilla bean scented cream.  Oh so spirited, fresh and pure, with a finish that lingers after the final sip.  SRP:  $38

Brophy Clark Cellars 2014 Chardonnay; Santa Maria Valley, California: Aromas of orchard fruit and buttery croissants set the stage for a yummy mouthful of sautéed pears, pineapple, baking spices and well placed underlying oak.  Fully flavored and well balanced with a satisfying, persistent aftertaste.  SRP: ~$20

Eberle Winery 2015 Muscat Canelli; Paso Robles, California:  This vibrant, semi-sweet Muscat Canelli awakens the senses with a pretty floral aroma and fills the mouth with luscious flavors of gingered pears and fresh peach compote.  Striking acidity creates a beautiful balance and the finish is heavenly.  SRP: $20

View all the results for the 2016 competition at  For more enjoyment, spend a few days in this delightful locale to taste and purchase these award winning wines, and other delectable wines being made throughout the Central Coast wine region.

Gems in My Glass . . . April 2016

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Lavender Ridge Vineyard and Winery 2014 Grenache Rose; Sierra Foothills, California:  Here is a yummy dry Rose crafted with immaculate precision and purity of fruit.  The enticing aromatic draws you in, and the vibrant flavors of fresh raspberry, watermelon, lemon-lime citrus accents and touches of fresh chopped herbs entwine sumptuously.  The finish is bright and persistent.   Vintage 2014 sold out, but do not miss the newly released 2015.  It is equally compelling, and just won a Gold medal!  SRP:  $16

Shadowbox Cellars 2009 Anne Katherina Vineyard Pinot Noir; Carneros, California:  I thoroughly enjoyed my last bottle of this classy 2009 vintage Pinot Noir.  Tantalizing forest floor aromas pave the way to a delicious mouthful of cherries, raspberries, exotic mushrooms, savory earth-driven spice notes and nicely managed oak (from 16 months in 45% new French oak barrels).  The wine remains beautifully balanced with good lift, and shows off a silky texture through the elegant finish.   SRP:  $56 (For the current 2012 vintage; the 2009 vintage is sold out.)

Gramercy Cellars 2013 The Third Man; Walla Walla Valley, Washington:  Here is a well-crafted red blend composed of 76% Grenache, 19% Syrah and 5% Mourvédre that captures the essence of these expressive Rhone varieties.  Black raspberry, blueberry, boysenberry and pretty spice aromas and flavors engage the senses from first intoxicating whiff.  In the mouth it is satin smooth, lively and well structured with pretty underlying oak nuances, and the finish is long and lifted.  SRP:  $42

Lady Hill Winery Fons Amoris 2012 Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:  The alluring aroma of a fragrant cherry compote laced with herbs lifts from the glass as this remarkable Pinot Noir approaches the nose.  Elements of black cherry, cola, pomegranate and exotic tea spice really hit the mark as the wine blossoms with elegance on the palate.  Silky and well balanced with hints of anise on the memorable, earth scented finish.  SRP:  $70

Dehlinger Winery 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon; Russian River Valley, California:  Wow, this provocative wine has aged beautifully and still has years ahead.  Minerality, old world earthiness, black currant, plum skin, licorice and sun dried cherries create a divine kaleidoscope of flavors through the palate.  Complex with refined tannins and perfect balance, and the finish is equally impressive as it lingers on and on.  SRP: This vintage is sold out.  To be added to their mailing list for new releases visit their website:

L’Ecole No 41 2015 Chenin Blanc; Columbia Valley, Washington:  The aroma is resplendent with lovely florality and tropical fruit.  Fanning out on the palate are well defined layers of star fruit, ripe melon, honey crisp apple, juicy clementine segments, and sweet Meyer lemon notes that meld in exquisite harmony.  Lively, well balanced and vibrant from entry through last satisfying drop.  SRP: $14

Galleano Winery Old Vines House Zinfandel; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This tasty wine, offered at an incredibly reasonable price, is simply delicious.  Generous in fruit and spice, it coats the mouth with succulent blackberries, boysenberries and blueberries accented by hints of cocoa, vanilla and spice.  Perfect as an afternoon sipper, or to pair with a juicy burger hot off the grill.  SRP:  $7.75

Galleano Winery Rose of Peru Sherry; Cucamonga Valley, California:  This rich elixir with a divine hue and nutty aroma is reminiscent of a fine old world Oloroso Sherry. Decadent flavors of honey roasted walnuts, dense, spicy fruit cake and candied orange peel unwind onto the palate.  The texture is velvety, the balance spot on, and the forever finish leaves you in a dreamy state of mind.  SRP:  $35

Cougar Crest Winery 2009 Cougar Hills Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon; Walla Walla, Washington:  Setting the stage for this well built Cab Sauv you’ll find distinctive aromas of black fruits and decadent chocolate.  Multi layered with cocoa dusted boysenberry, red currant and blackberry fruit enhanced by a sprinkling of dried herbs, and savory olive tapenade notes joins in on the back palate.  Rich velvety tannins and well placed acidity shine from the initial sip through the lasting finish.    SRP:  ~$75




Judgment of Geyserville III – Scintillating Syrah

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Judgment of Geyserville, Tasting Notes No Comments

Five wine writers reconvened for our third annual Judgment of Geyserville, and this year it was all about Syrah.  The four geographic areas represented were British Columbia, California, Oregon and Washington. Three wines from the designated areas (each crafted by a different producer) were blind tasted, vying for Gold, Silver or Bronze acclaim.  After the blind tasting concluded and prior to the unveiling, a spirited discussion ensued.  Each wine clearly displayed good varietal characteristics and skillful use of oak. This year the scoring range was very tight; with high marks awarded to all (Gold or Silver was achieved by each of the twelve wines).


Drew Family Cellars 2013 Valenti Ranch Syrah, Mendocino Ridge:  Tightly wound, this wine opens with a minty, raspberry aroma.  Bright up front with layers of red cherry, raspberry and juicy plum highlighted by clove notes, pepper spice and a trace of brininess.  Supported by fine grained tannins, the wine remains lively as the flavors continue unwinding through the palate.   Purity and balance prevail from initial sip to lingering finish.   GOLD SRP:  $45

Lagier Meredith Vineyard 2013 Syrah, Mount Veeder: Dark berry and floral scents entice the nose.  This wine is radiant on entry and gains momentum on the palate with earthy, blackberry and olallieberry flavors melding with grilled meat elements and savory spice.  Well placed oak nuances, vivacious acidity and an uplifted finish top off the lovely package.  GOLD SRP: $48

Qupé Wines 2011 Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard Syrah, Edna Valley:  Spicy berry and earthy aromas win you over at first sniff.   Well balanced and irresistible as purple plums, cranberry, cassis, black pepper spice and hints of black tea weave harmoniously on the palate.  This Syrah showcases a concentrated flavor profile and firm tannins yet remains elegant, and the finish is everlasting. GOLD SRP: $35


Ross Andrew Winery 2010 Boushey Vineyard Syrah, Columbia Valley:  Dusty earth and fresh picked ripe berries captivate the senses.  The entry is brilliant, and the flavors stay focused through the palate with cranberry, sweet blackberry fruit and mixed peppercorn accents.  This smoothly textured wine displays refined tannins, and finishes with impressive depth and persistence.   GOLD SRP: $38

Bunnell Family Cellar 2009 Boushey-McPherson Vineyard Syrah, Yakima Valley:  Here is a bold Syrah that opens with earthy, intense dark fruit and tobacco leaf on the nose.   Lush and balanced, it coats the mouth with deep flavors of black cherry, blackberry jam, hints of coffee and well integrated oak.  Round tannins show nicely through the supple finish. SILVER SRP: $42

Palencia Winery 2012 Syrah, Yakima Valley:  This compelling Syrah with gorgeous purity showcases crushed berries and floral, spicy aromas.  On the palate it remains spicy and lively with red raspberry, black cherry and wild berry fruit at the core.  Juicy and well balanced through the finish, with subtle oak and bright, sweet berries lingering on and on.  GOLD SRP: $30


Abacela Vineyard and Winery 2012 Estate Syrah (Barrel Select), Umpqua Valley: Engaging mint, mixed berry and hints of eucalyptus tantalize the nose.  The entry shimmers with boysenberry, huckleberry, cocoa, anise and savory spice, and the well-defined flavors intensify as they flow onto the palate.  Firm tannins frame the pretty fruit, and the wine remains expressive and lively through the persistent aftertaste.   SILVER SRP: $29

Reustle Prayer Rock Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah, Umpqua Valley:   Here is a sophisticated, finely textured Syrah.  Dark berry and underlying gamey notes intrigue from the first whiff.  Layers of roasted meat, blackberry, dark chocolate, licorice and earthiness join splendid acidity, creating a kaleidoscope of flavors on the palate.  A precise balance and firm tannins carry this gem to a memorable finish.    GOLD SRP:  $39

Zerba Cellars 2012 Estate Syrah, Walla Walla Valley:   Black fruits and an appealing touch of cured meat greet the nose.  Lush and round on the palate, as juicy purple plums, huckleberries, charcuterie and cinnamon spice swirl deliciously in the mouth.  Refined tannins and complementary acidity provide excellent structure for the sustaining finish.  SILVER SRP: $36

British Columbia

Nichol Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Okanagan Valley: Aerate this wine to fully appreciate the dark fruit and savory aromas lifting from the glass.  Intensely structured with flavors of black plum, blackberry, wild game, herbs and spice unraveling on the palate.  Integrated chalky tannins wrap around the deep fruit, and the wine finishes with vigor.  SILVER SRP: $40

Vanessa Vineyard 2012 Syrah, Similkameen Valley:  This appealing Syrah was co-fermented with 6% Viognier.  Its vibrant fruit shines, from the black cherry aromas through the mouth filling boysenberries, plums and black cherries accented by vanillin and sweet spice.   Shades of oak sit neatly in the background, and the finish sings of sugar-dusted berries.   SILVER SRP: $39

C.C. Jentsch Cellars 2013 Syrah, Okanagan Valley:  Earthy, woodsy aromas excite the senses, paving the way to layers of dense black plums, blackberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, cassis, chopped herbs and roasted meat that entwine delectably on the palate.  Displaying beautiful oak management, clear-cut balance, and tannins that thrive; a complex, well-honed wine.   GOLD SRP: $30

In summary, the critics generally agreed these fine examples of Syrah are beautifully nuanced and meticulously balanced, with sound varietal character.  Syrah is a nice sipper on its own, and pairs remarkably well with a variety of foods, from vegetarian, to pulled pork, lamb chops, grilled beef, barbecued ribs, and hearty stews.  Well-crafted Syrah Rosé and sparkling Rosé wines are also available if you’re in the mood for refreshing and lighter, more delicate style Syrahs.  In my opinion, the popularity of Syrah/Shiraz has been trending up recently, and I think it is about time; hurrah for Syrah!

Gems in My Glass . . . December 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Great Northwest, Tasting Notes No Comments

Wine Press Northwest 2015 Platinum Judging; Gold sings, Platinum soars!

The Wine Press Northwest Platinum wine competition treats judges to a unique experience; judging wines from an elite group.  All entries in this competition secured Gold or Double Gold status in one of many  competitions previously held around the world.  Got your attention?  I’d imagine so, if seeking out well-crafted wines is on your list of favorite activities.  Here are some of the remarkable Platinum winning wines my panel had the pleasure to judge; surely you’ll find wines that trigger a must have thought in your mind!

Walla Walla Vintners 2013 Cuvée; Washington: This brilliant ruby hued blend, crafted of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon 27% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Franc, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot and 3% Carménère delivers nicely ripened red and black fruit and a dash of cocoa powder to the nose. Generous in the mouth with tasty blackberries and chocolate covered cherries interlacing with savory spice, underlying oak and tea leaf accents, it simply captivates. Nicely built with well-rounded tannins and a finish that is smooth and satisfying. SRP: $32

Henry Earl Estates 2010 Homesteader; Red Mountain, Washington: The fragrant floral aroma engages the senses as this velvety textured blend of 36% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Malbec, 13% Cabernet Franc and 14% Petit Verdot lifts from the glass. Fresh and lively on the palate with luscious flavors of cranberries, cherries, blackberries, cassis, anise and cigar box accents that unfold and wrap around grippy tannins. Drinking beautifully now, and the rich fruit, precise balance and structured tannins suggest it is also a good candidate for the cellar. SRP: $40

Mercer Estates 2012 Sharp Sisters Red Blend; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is a plush, concentrated blend of 40% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Cabernet Franc, 3% Sangiovese, 3% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 1% Tempranillo and 1% Grenache that really delivers with its juicy blueberry, cola, wild raspberry, sweet plum, toffee, spice box nuances and lovely oak integration. The tannins are finely grained, and the wine shows good structure throughout. SRP: $26

Sinclair Estate Vineyards 2011 Pentatonic; Columbia Valley, Washington: Tightly wound and layered, I appreciate how this spunky blend, composed of 68% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 14% Petit Verdot and 4% Cab Sauvignon, provocatively opens up with aeration. Red currant, blueberries, cassis and blackberries entwine with graphite, well placed oak and savory spice as it unfolds onto the palate. This sophisticated Bordeaux blend displays refined tannins, and the finish is long and gratifying. SRP: $40

Eight Bells Winery 2012 Red Willow Vineyard 8 Clones Syrah; Yakima Valley, Washington: Alluring bacon fat aromas start the love affair with this complex, precisely balanced Syrah. Satin smooth in texture, with layer upon layer of juicy plums, blueberries, anise, black cherries, spice enhanced grilled meat, savory olives and minerally notes framed by powerful tannins. Deep, dark and delicious through the lengthy finish. SRP: $32

Chateau St. Michelle 2012 Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon; Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington: The scent of roasted coffee beans deliciously wakes you up. Rich red fruit, bittersweet chocolate and underlying toasted oak (from 22 months aging in 60% new French and American oak) swirling on the palate offer further stimulation. One glass leads to another of this silky, well-crafted Cabernet Sauvignon. The sumptuous flavors linger dreamily beyond the final sip. SRP: $36

Zerba Cellars 2012 Petit Verdot; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: Fragrant violets on the nose and the classic opaque purple/black Petit Verdot hue confidently steer this gorgeous wine onto the palate. Broadening in the mouth are multiple shades of dense blackberries, wild berries and purple plums, vanilla, cedar, earthy notes and a dusting of herbs. The flavors interlace in harmony and provide a perfect counterpoint to the vibrant acidity and firm tannins. This is a powerful, delectable Petit Verdot. SRP: $45

Dusted Valley Vintners 2012 Wallywood; Columbia Valley, Washington: This blend of 52% Syrah, 24% Petite Sirah, 16% Mourvédre and 8% Grenache is deeply hued and broadcasts intense berry and herbal aromas. Chock full of blackberries, plum skin, savory spice, graphite, roasted coffee and tasty highlights of cured meats that weave through from entry, through mid-palate, to the engaging and lifted finish. The dense fruit is lush, and the acids and tannins provide a firm structure; lovely. SRP:  $42

Dunham Cellars 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon XVIII; Columbia Valley, Washington: Here is an irresistible Cabernet with an intense, alluring aromatic of fresh tobacco and black fruits. Well defined and complex, the focused flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plums commingle with black olive, a pinch of multi-colored peppercorns and understated toasty oak. Powerful in structure and finely balanced with a firm backbone of tannins, this gem is approachable now, and promises to be age-worthy as well. SRP: $45

Desert Wind Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Wahluke Slope, Washington: This snappy Cabernet Sauvignon opens with notes of eucalyptus, ripe berries and herbs on the nose. Round and mouth filling with oodles of sweet boysenberry jam, spiced cherry pie, tart huckleberry and a touch of roasted green bell pepper melding with earthy elements. Nicely balanced, full flavored and easy to quaff through the pleasing finish. SRP: $18

L’Ecole No. 41 Winery 2012 Seven Hills Vineyard Estate Syrah; Walla Walla Valley, Washington: This tantalizing Syrah offers up a handful of violets deliciously sharing the aromatic stage with dark berry fruit. Compelling and precisely balanced on the palate with roasted meat, notes of sizzling bacon, ripe blueberries, olallieberries, black plums, spiced black tea and a tinge of earthiness. This smartly crafted Syrah displays lovely purity, and the subtle oak provides a nice backdrop through the persistent finish. SRP: $36

Visit these wineries and/or their websites, or check with your favorite wine shop to pick up a bottle or two of the award winning wines from the Wine Press Northwest Platinum Judging. You can also find information about additional award winners in this month’s issue of Wine Press Northwest, or the website Cheers!

Gems in My Glass . . . November 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Tasting Notes No Comments

Laird Family Estate 2014 Red Hen Chardonnay; Oakville, Napa Valley, California:  This lean, mineral laden Chardonnay displays enticing tree fruit and citrusy aromas.  Vivid and energizing as layers of crisp green apple, clementine, fresh herbs and a subtle touch of oak unfold deliciously on the palate.  Decant to fully appreciate, or cellar for future enjoyment. SRP:  $35

Laird Family Estate 2012 Phantom Ranch Pinot Noir; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Here is a generously fruited Pinot Noir broadcasting juicy Bing cherries, wild raspberries, black tea and spice box notes from the engaging aroma through the rich, satisfying palate.  Well balanced and mouth coating as it makes its way to the buoyant, lingering finish.  SRP:  $55

WineSmith Wines 2005 Mangels Ranch Reserve Syrah; Suisun Valley, California:  Floral and dark berry aromas provide a pretty introduction to this stunning Syrah.  Flavors of blueberry compote, purple plums, and huckleberries meld with earthiness, saddle leather and creamy chocolate notes.  Rich and intense with a striking backbone of tannins.  Splendid now, yet also promises many years ahead.  SRP:  $50

Artesa Winery 2012 Estate Reserve Chardonnay; Carneros, Napa Valley, California:  Spicy aromatics wrap around fresh pear, apple skin and floral notes that delight upon entry.  Bright and bracing with Anjou pear, Honeycrisp apple, a dash of clove, and lemon-lime citrus notes that expand exquisitely on the palate and mingle with a thread of minerality and subtle oak.  Energetic and well defined through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $35

Artesa Winery 2012 Tempranillo; Alexander Valley, California:  Abundant black fruit and hints of spice tempt the nose with this dense yet lithe Tempranillo.  Brambly and rich on the palate with oodles of juicy boysenberries, blackberries, sweet black plums and brown spice creating a marvelous mosaic of flavors on the palate.  Full bodied and pure through the commanding, uplifted finish.  SRP:  $45

Trojak~Knier 2014 Chardonnay; Napa Valley, California:  The tantalizing, flinty nose of this Burgundian style Chardonnay paves the way to a gorgeous silky entry.   Stimulating the palate are layers of creamy pear, minerality, hazelnut and flaky, buttered croissants melting in your mouth.  Focused and well balanced with spiced barrel notes and lively acidity, this wine lingers well beyond the last graceful sip.  SRP:  $44

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2013 The Expedition; Horse Heaven Hills, Washington:  Earthy, wild blackberry notes rise temptingly from the glass as this juicy red blend approaches the nose. A blend of 34.5% Merlot, 26.6% Syrah, 24.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14.4% Grenache, here is a wine with copious fruit showcasing blueberries, blackberries and raspberries that entwine with a twist of pepper, anise and allspice.   Perky and fresh, and a great value too. SRP:  $15

Ayoub Wines ??? Vineyards Pinot Noir; Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon:  Red fruit and mushroom aromas jump from the glass with this vibrant Pinot Noir.  The entry explodes with brightness and flavor.  Flavors of wild cherry, juicy strawberry, hints of pepper spice and the essence of forest floor wrap around finely grained tannins, exhilarating the palate.  Finishing with elegance; this wine shows off wonderful depth and purity.   SRP:  $55

Ayoub Wines 2013 Mojo; Dundee Hills, Oregon/Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California:  This unlikely pairing of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir delivers a celebratory homerun.  Rich, full bodied and deeply structured; dark berry and graphite components of Cabernet Franc and black cherry, earthy, minerally elements of Pinot Noir mesh like a meticulously woven tapestry. Complex and precise in balance, with a memorable, lasting finish.   SRP:  $75

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Afleet Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Alluring forest floor aromas draw you into this tightly wound, complex wine.  Cherries, pomegranate seeds and a suggestion of sautéed mushrooms exhilarate on entry and charm the palate, with exotic tea spice and oak nuances chiming in on the extended finish.  Velvety smooth in texture and oh so lively with vibrant fruit and acidity.   SRP:  $66

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Hawkster Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Aromas of sun ripened cherries and a hint of fresh mint stimulate the senses as the wine approaches the nose.  Cola, a touch of earth and herbs, purple plums and sweet black cherries offset by upbeat acids saturate the palate.  A smooth, mouth filling wine that broadcasts well integrated oak and a hint of vanillin through the refined finish.  SRP:  $66

Maggy Hawk Wines 2012 Stormin’ Pinot Noir; Anderson Valley, California:  Decant for full enjoyment now, or cellar for couple years to fully appreciate this intense, full bodied Pinot Noir.  With aeration, it delivers savory spice, earthiness and dusty berry aromas upfront.  On the palate it is powerful and tightly structured with dark cherries, black raspberries, cardamom, anise, and firm tannins.  SRP:  $66

Domaine Serene 2011 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir; Willamette Valley, Oregon:   From the cool 2011 vintage comes this impressive, zesty Pinot Noir.  Florality, dried cherry, exotic spice, earthy notes and skillfully integrated oak come together in harmony as this ethereal Burgundian style Pinot glides across the palate.  Beautifully restrained in alcohol at 13.1%, this is a chic and graceful Pinot Noir.  SRP:  $75

Domaine Serene 2013 Clos du Lune Vineyard Chardonnay; Dundee Hills, Oregon:  From their highest elevation Chardonnay vineyard, this cellar worthy Chardonnay begs to be decanted, and you’ll be finely rewarded by decanting if you choose to open it now.  Simply exquisite in structure, texture and balance, this Chard sings with crisp green apple, lemon zest and minerality. Complex and layered, with skillfully managed oak positioned nicely in the background.  SRP:  $70

Domaine Serene 2012 Grand Cheval; Willamette Valley, Oregon/Walla Walla Valley, Oregon: This blend of 66% Syrah (Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley) and 24% Pinot Noir (Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley) is available from the winery only and well worth seeking out.  Deep black fruit, roasted meat and bacon notes upfront are enhanced with tobacco spice, cherry licorice, savory spice and shades of oak.  Confident and full bodied, it’s a robust, intensely structured wine.  SRP:  $80

Robert Sinskey Vineyards 2012 Pinot Gris Late; Los Carneros, California:  Incredibly aromatic, this vivacious late harvest Pinot Gris really delivers, completely satisfying the sweet tooth.  Snappy, bright and in no way cloying, layers of citrus infused poached pears, honeysuckle, caramelized nuts, gingersnaps and crème brulee notes entrance the senses from the first whiff, to the irresistible rich and lively palate, through the elevated finish.  What a way to end the night!  SRP:  $24 (375ml)

Gems in My Glass . . . September 2015

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Sonoma, Tasting Notes 1 Comment

2015 Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition

Judging the annual Sonoma County Harvest Fair Wine Competition this month was invigorating, stimulating and clearly reinforced the bountiful goodness, or better said, greatness, of Sonoma County wines.  The highlighted wines below were among the Double Gold Award winners from my panel.  A Double Gold (GG) award goes to wines receiving a Gold vote from each of the judges on the panel.  Many GG and Gold medals were awarded.  You can view the full medal tally by visiting (click on the Drink tab, and then Award Winning Wines).

J Vineyards & Winery Cuvee 20 Brut NV; Russian River Valley, California:  Alluring aromas and a dynamic tiny bead will have you hovering over the glass as if in a dream before the wine meets your lips.  Crafted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this precise and vivacious sparkling wine showcases creamy pears, spiced lemon bars, crisp apples and crème brûlée melding harmoniously through the persistent finish; let the celebration begin! SRP:  $28

Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards 2006 Extra Brut Reserve Cuvée; Carneros, California:  Wow; floral and yeasty aromas join well delineated layers of freshly baked bread, apple pie, brown spices and a zesty splash of lemon zest dancing on the palate.  This wine teems with purity, complexity and fine balance.  An exhilarating stream of tiny bubbles lingers from the first sip to the memorable last one.  SRP:  $47

Balletto Vineyards 2014 Estate Rosé of Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  Scents of a delicate rose bouquet fill the senses with this elegant dry Rosé.  Delighting the palate are pretty flavors of strawberries and Rainer cherries, citrus blossom and a touch of herbs.  Perfectly balanced and crisp, with brisk acids keeping the wine remarkably bright and refreshing.  SRP:  $18

St. Anne’s Crossing Winery 2014 Zinfandel Rosé; Dry Creek Valley, California:  Here is a brilliantly expressive, unabashed dry Rosé that completely engages the senses.  Layers of red raspberries, succulent red plums and savory spice accents fill the mouth.  Well balanced with lively acidity, this savvy wine is every bit as juicy and full flavored as one could desire from America’s sweetheart grape.  SRP:  $18

Kelley & Young Wines 2014 Robert Young Vineyards Nuit de Young; Alexander Valley, California:  This very sophisticated dry Rosé boasts elements of fresh cherries, blueberries, cranberries, a tinge of graphite and tea spice on the nose and through the flavorful palate.  Crafted of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, it is complex, well structured and beautifully food friendly.  The texture is smooth, the balance spot on, and the engaging finish leaves you wanting more!  SRP:  $32

Kobler Estate Winery 2014 Bacigalupi Vineyards Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  An intensely aromatic Chard opening with tree fruits and hints of vanilla exciting the senses.  Spilling onto the palate are delectable flavors of spiced apple and pear compote, warm buttered toast and vanilla bean accents.  Full bodied and well composed with a lasting aftertaste.   SRP:   $46

Pezzi King Vineyards 2013 Reserve Chardonnay; Russian River Valley, California:  This well balanced Chardonnay broadcasts perfumed floral aromas.  It fills the mouth with flavors of delectable creamy lemon custard, caramelized bananas, a touch of oak and citrus blossom accents.  Nicely structured with a smooth texture, it remains lively through the long finish.  SRP:  $36

Kunde Family Winery 2014 Reserve Chardonnay; Sonoma Valley, California:    Full bodied and confident, this dazzling Chardonnay draws you in with aromas of fresh picked apples and a kiss of citrus.  Creamy and well crafted, it is brimming with pear, apple and key lime pie flavors that interlace with brown spice and underlying cedar notes.  The captivating finish is bright and extended.   SRP:  $45

Gustafson Family Vineyards 2011 Heritage Tree Vineyard Zinfandel; Dry Creek Valley, California:  Aromas of licorice and ripe berries engage the senses with this mouthwatering Zinfandel.  On the palate are well defined layers of wild berries, chocolate covered cherries, vanillin, anise and cloves that entwine in harmony.  There is a purity about this wine that shines, and it offers good lift throughout.  SRP:  $32

DeLoach Vineyards 2013 OFS Zinfandel; Russian River Valley, California:   Here’s an enticingly aromatic, firmly structured Zin that tantalizes the senses.  Rich and lip-smackingly delicious, it is chock full of juicy boysenberries, warm, cinnamon-scented blackberry pie, savory spice and oak nuances.   Lush, dense and smartly balanced with a persistent aftertaste.   SRP:  ~$35

Matrix Winery 2013 Estate Reserve Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  This generously fruited wine opens with aromas of a mixed floral bouquet and wild berries.  It’s plush, velvety and full of black cherry, spiced marionberry pie, toffee and boysenberry jam at the core.  Underbrush, tinges of herbs and oak spice weave deliciously on the palate.  A full bodied, well balanced and mouth filling Pinot Noir.  SRP:  $52

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards 2012 Vine Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  Deeply hued and complex, this aromatic Pinot Noir is lush and juicy.  Sweet black cherry and black raspberry fruit meld with earthiness and exotic spices, and hints of toasty oak provide a complementary underlying note.  Well placed acidity keeps it bright, and the finish is focused and satisfying.    SRP:  ~$46

MacMurray Estate Vineyards 2013 Winemaker’s Block Pinot Noir; Russian River Valley, California:  In this glass a classy Pinot Noir awaits.  Provocative forest floor aromas set the stage for the burst of flavors exciting the palate.  Black cherry, raspberry, exotic tea spices, licorice and subtle oak spices integrate like a finely woven fabric.  Silky refined tannins and lively acidity keep the wine in precise balance. SRP:  $60

Congrats to each and every Sonoma County producer who earned medals from this year’s competition.  I encourage all to take advantage of tasting these well made award winning wines before they sell out!


Gems in My Glass . . . June 2015

Australia, Tasting Notes No Comments

Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 2

Anyone who has imbibed Shiraz from Australia is likely well attuned to Penfolds.  This winery was established in 1844 and is going strong more than 170 years later.  The meandering drive to their property in the Barossa Valley was delightful.  After a warm welcome by Matt Woo (responsible for red table wines and Penfolds fortified collection), we relaxed comfortably around a private table to engage in a lively discussion and tasting.  Matt grew up in New South Wales in a family passionate about food and wine.  He earned a Wine Science Bachelor Degree, and is dedicated to continuing the long tradition of Penfolds wines for years to come.  There is plenty of goodness to shout about here, so without further delay, let’s dive right into the wines:

Penfolds Vineyards 2014 Bin 51 Riesling; Eden Valley, Australia:  Stony minerality permeates the nose and palate with this intense, mineral driven Riesling.  Spot on varietally correct, this wine comes from a vineyard planted in the 60’s in the Eden Valley, a richer soil than what is typical in the Barossa, Matt explains.  The entry is eye opening with its vibrancy.  The stream of minerality remains constant, with flavors of white peach and citrus peel at the core, elevated by a steadfast level of acidity.  SRP:  $30

Penfolds Vineyards 2013 Reserve Bin A Chardonnay; Adelaide Hills, Australia:  This whole bunch pressed Chardonnay is tightly wound with impressive complexity.  Aged 9 months in 40% new and 60% one year seasoned French oak barriques with every new and seasoned French oak barrique its own unique 225-litre ferment, the quality of the oak program is clear. Layered and elegant as it flows from the glass, I appreciate the Asian pear, toasted oak undertones, hints of lemon verbena, a suggestion of butterscotch and the solid thread of minerality gracing the palate.   Dynamic, well-structured and perfectly balanced through the polished finish; without question an ageworthy Chardonnay.   SRP:  $100

Penfolds Vineyards 2013 Bin 144 Yattarna Chardonnay; Tasmania, Adelaide Hills, Victoria, Australia:  This Chard opens with enticing tropical aromas.  The palate shows off guava, pineapple, citrus and exotic spices that are spun together like an intricate, handwoven fabric.  The mouthfeel is divine, and the wine remains rich yet uplifted with vibrant acidity through the tasty, lasting finish.   SRP:  ~$50

Penfolds Vineyards 2011 Bin 28 Kalimna Vineyard Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia:  Aromatic flowers on the nose linger as this red fruited wine hits your lips.  Raspberry, red cherry licorice whips and pomegranate juice flavors swirl on the palate with pretty herbal accents.  The tannins are velvety smooth; a striking Shiraz from the challenging 2011 vintage.  SRP:  $40

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  The exquisite aromatics exude the wow factor, and it doesn’t stop there. This wine is multilayered in the mouth, where bright red and black berry fruits, spiced meat and minty accents interlace with style, beautiful richness, and purity.  Complex and deep with silky tannins; a magnificently crafted wine.  SRP:  $80

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon; a multi-district blend, including fruit from Bordertown, Padthaway, Coonawarra, Robe, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, Wrattonbully and Margaret River, Australia:   Black licorice drops and wild blackberries on the nose remain focused on the palate, with layers of sweet tobacco spice, eucalyptus, cassis, black plums and well integrated oak adding further dimension.  Firm tannins provide a solid backbone for this noteworthy Cabernet.  SRP:  $80

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Magill Estate Shiraz; Adelaide, Australia:  This elegant single vineyard Shiraz enthralls the nose, delivering scents of cured meats and wild berries.  Unraveling on the palate are focused flavors of raspberries, red plums, cola, savory spice and tinges of earthiness wrapped around smooth, refined tannins.  Aging 15 months in 65% new French oak, 30% new and 5% seasoned American oak contributes spicy vanilla notes that linger on the persistent finish; a focused and delicious wine.   SRP:  $130

Penfolds Vineyards 2012 Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon; Barossa Valley, Padthaway, Coonawarra, Wrattonbully, Adelaide Hills, Australia:  Black currant and spice rise from the glass of this American oak aged Cab Sauvignon.  Complex and deliciously mouth filling as distinct layers of blackberry, cassis, vanilla bean, caramelized sugar and plums meld with exotic Asian spices delighting the senses.  Marvelously cohesive, and the precise balance of fruit, acids and firm tannins promises many additional years of enjoyment.  SRP:  $350

Penfolds Vineyards 2010 Grange; Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale, Magill Estate, Australia:  Crafted every year since 1951, Grange is highly acclaimed around the globe, and deservedly so.  Penfolds again knocked it out of the park with this intensely weighted, extraordinary 2010 vintage.  Perfumed floral and dark fruit aromas could not be more enticing.  Tightly wound and complex, this classy wine exhibits well defined tiers of raspberries, purple plums, black licorice, olives, hints of smoke and eucalyptus, and fresh baked pastry flowing across the palate around a solid backbone of tannins.  Finishes deep, dark and incredibly long; unquestionably ageworthy with decades of life ahead.  SRP:  $785

Penfolds Vineyards Great Grandfather Rare Tawny:   One to linger over in front of a roaring fireplace.  You can’t go wrong with this expressive Tawny, sourced from the Grandfather Solera (average age above 20 years).   Scents of caramelized nuts and fig jam on the nose prepare the way for the rich palate of chewy caramel, roasted figs, orange peel and almond toffee.  Made for 75 vintages, this wine is a longtime favorite of many; simply heavenly.   SRP:  $350

Decades ago I tasted my first Penfolds wine, and a visit to the Barossa Valley has been on my bucket list for years.  It was well worth the wait, I highly recommend it!  Meanwhile, you can visit their website at for additional info about their history, the property, and their wines.

Gems in My Glass . . . May 2015

Tasting Notes No Comments

Stars Aligned in the Barossa Valley, Australia – Part 1

My visit to the Barossa Valley wine region could not have been more enlightening and enjoyable.  A big thank you to good friend Daryl Groom for providing personal introductions to winemakers and vintners he worked with for years back in his homeland.  It is no surprise Daryl, his wife Lisa, and their children still carry strong ties and a deep fondness for this beautiful countryside, and Daryl continues to produce stunning Barossa Valley Shiraz and Sauv Blanc from Adelaide Hills.

On a sparkling day under sunny skies, we meandered through rolling hills and arrived at Whistler winery.  A family operation, the Pfeiffers have been grape growers for four generations.  It all began with Albert Heinrich Pfeiffer whose passion was carried on by his son Hubert Irving Pfeiffer, his grandsons Martin and Chris Pfeiffer, and now his great grandchildren.  Whistler winery began when Martin and his wife Sally purchased “The Block” in 1982. (Martin had previously managed vineyards for Penfolds).  Martin took care of the vineyards, and Chris handled the administration side of the business.  Now, the next generation is carrying on the tradition, including Matt in finance and distribution, Mel managing the Cellar Door, events and marketing, and Josh tending to winemaking and viticulture.

They have 35 acres planted to vines, including Semillon, Riesling, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Grenache and Mourvedre (Mataro).  Their picturesque property is where you’ll find their charming cellar door (tasting room), surrounded by their winemaking facility,  shade trees and picnic tables where family and friends spend relaxing, fun filled days with great sips and tasty bites.  Their charming pups BJ and Cooper, and their pet kangaroos are a stone’s throw away as well.  They generously provide shelter for rescued kangaroos.  The serene, spacious grounds are groomed and ready to welcome guests each week.  About 70% of their wines are sold on the premises out of their Cellar Door.    Josh, winemaker and viticulturist, is in the process of taking the vineyard fully organic and biodynamic.  As we headed into the tasting room, Martin enlightened us about the 2015 harvest.  After quite a dry season, they completed an extremely early harvest this year (all the fruit was picked by March 5).   Their wines are precise and pure, showcasing the Barossa Valley terroir beautifully.  Among my favorites include:

Whistler 2014 Riesling; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Inviting mineral notes rise from the glass with this snappy, expressive Riesling.  Lean, palate pleasing and nicely dry, it boasts juicy peaches and nectarines, hints of lime zest and lovely acidity while maintaining focused minerality from start to satisfying aftertaste.  SRP:  $25

Whistler 2013 Reserve Semillon; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Flinty stone notes shine with Whistler’s Reserve Semillon.  Layers of fresh picked apples and pears, hints of spice and a creamy texture entwine with vibrant acids make a memorable statement on the palate.  Dry and streamlined on the finish, it is complex and well structured.  SRP:  $23

Whistler 2014 Mathilda Louise Rose; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Named after Martin’s and Chris’s great grandmother, this spunky Rose, a blend of Grenache and Mataro, displays abundant scents of red berries and cherries on the nose.  Spirited with bracing acidity, you’ll find delicious flavors of sweet summer strawberries, raspberry sorbet, and a splash of lemonade enlivening the palate.  A trace of herbs kicks in on the bright finish.  SRP:  $20

Whistler 2014 Get in My Belly Grenache; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Here’s a rewarding quaff that opens with aromas of black licorice sticks, wild berries and a warm raspberry tart captivating the nose and mouth.  Spicy and deeply fruited with a fine balance and confident air about it.    (Sold out)

Whistler 2012 GSM; Barossa Valley, Australia:  A delightful blend of 52% Grenache, 26% Shiraz and 22% Mataro, this wine impresses with its smooth texture and rich, dense fruit displayed from the very first sip.  Succulent purple plums take the lead and join cured meats, blackberries, allspice and earthy nuances that meld in harmony as the wine richly coats the mouth.  Tannins hold firm through the lingering finish.  SRP:  $30

Whistler 2012 Hubert Irving; Barossa Valley; Australia:  Named in honor of Martin’s and Chris’s father, this blend of 41% Merlot, 37% Grenache, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Mataro is a wine to please any red wine aficionado, and easy on the pocket book, too.  Brimming with blueberries, boysenberries and Bing cherries, it is juicy and approachable now, a perfect sipper for a meal around the barbeque grill.  SRP:  $20

Whistler 2012 Merlot; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Strikingly hued with an aroma that will charm the socks off any red wine lover, here is a polished, smooth as silk Merlot.  Lush and buoyant with blackberries and blueberries joining graphite, a touch of earthiness and a generous sprinkling of spice.  Well integrated oak and supple tannins top off the superb package.  SRP: $27

Whistler 2012 Reserve Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:  The glistening entrance, jam-packed with heady fruit and freshly ground black peppercorns, is mesmerizing.  Intense in structure, you’ll revel in delicious layers of anise, cocoa-dusted berries, spiced oak and tinges of roasted meats saturating the palate.  This ageworthy Shiraz is complex and thoroughly balanced with the unwavering flavors lingering far beyond the final drop. SRP:  $70

Whistler Wines 2012 Estate Shiraz; Barossa Valley, Australia:   Full bodied and intensely structured, you’ll find power in the glass without an over the top sense of alcohol.  The plummy, dark berry, spicy entry expands in the mouth with pretty toffee accents and vanilla notes from aging in second year seasoned American oak.  This well-crafted wine is approachable now and also promises years of further enjoyment ahead.  SRP:  $40

Whistler Wines 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon; Barossa Valley, Australia:  Fresh cut herbs and underbrush on the nose meld with black fruits, licorice drops and savory spice.  Hints of fresh earth and well integrated oak play a nice supporting role in the background.  Ethereal as it floats across the palate, this savvy Cab finishes bright and lifted on the memorable finish.  SRP:  $30

Put the Barossa Valley on your bucket list and don’t miss the chance to hop on over to Whistler.  Pack a picnic, sip their delicious wines, and meet this engaging family.  Chris and his wife Jayne also own and operate their charming Whistler Farms B&B, you’ll want to check that out too.  Visit Whistler’s website at

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