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Wine Reviews

Harlan, Dalla Valle, Bond & Other Highlights of ’13 Taste of Oakville

The Taste of Oakville media and press tasting held at Robert Mondavi Winery on April 15 saw 47 producers of Oakville AVA pour current releases. Some Oakville wineries also poured library wines. I discussed that last week in California Caberent Aging Potential—It’s Not About the Years, it’s the Character. Today’s article highlights the best of the current red wine releases I tasted.

I tasted 43 out of the 108 wines available, as many as I could in the time allowed while also talking with producers and taking notes. The tasting was well-organized and the producers friendly. Some wineries, such as Screaming Eagle and Dalla Valle were surrounded by a crush of would-be tasters which limited my tasting efficiency. On the other hand, numerous people asked enviously about my red plastic Solo spit cup which allowed me to get a pour and move on. I was happy to have brought it from home, since none were provided and everyone else was either swallowing or weaving through the crowd lips-first toward the on-table spittoons.

I focused on Oakville AVA Cabernet Sauvignon, the region’s star varietal, and started with wines I knew would be quick to disappear. Owing to differing release schedules based on producer preference and aging regime, the vintages varied from 2008 to 2011. I wasn’t able to taste a broad enough assortment from any particular vintage or location within the AVA to make general pronouncements. My comments below pertain only to the wines I describe. Don’t assume my omission of a producer to be a comment itself.

My Top Picks from the 2013 Taste of Oakville

(listed alphabetically within quality segments)

steden0Highest Recommendation

2009 Bond St. Eden, ~$350
Richly-flavored, smooth and supple. Medium-plus body and tannins of very fine powder. Cassis, spice and dark chocolate. This wine occupies a midpoint between the voluptuousness of Harlan and the self-disciplined Vecina. Tremendously good. Now through 2028.

2009 Harlan Estate, $500+
Love at first sip. A lively nose of blackberry, black cherry, licorice and spice. All of that plus chocolate in the full-bodied and very sensuous palate. Plenty of fine, powdery tannins and a very long finish. My very favorite of the day.

Very Highly Recommended

2009 Bond Vecina, ~$350
More structured and less effusive than the St. Eden, due in part to the eastern facing of this hillside vineyard. I suspect the opportunity to swirl the wine for a few minutes would have led to an even higher rating. Black currant, earth, blackberry, oak and spice. A great Cabernet Sauvignon and one for the cellar. 2017 - 2030+

2010 Collina Dalla Valle Napa Valley Red Wine, ~$90
From a hillside vineyard with relatively young vines. Dalla Valle intends Collina to be ready upon release and this one is. Charming and uninhibited on the nose with cassis, black cherry, licorice and spice. Those flavors continue on the palate of medium-plus body, tannins (light chalk) and finish. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc. Now - 2025.

2009 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon, ~$225
The flagship of Dalla Valle is built to open up and evolve with bottle age as your drink the Collina. A slightly reticent nose with dusty blackberry, spice and wood notes. Medium-plus body and tannins (light chalk). 79% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc. Best 2017 - 2029.

2010 Entre Nous Cabernet Sauvignon, $155
Nearly full-bodied and creamy on the palate with notable acidity. Flavors and aromas of black currant, spice and oak. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Petite Verdot. Best now through 2023.

2010 Futo Oakville, $300+
Futo’s top-of-the-line is powerful and voluminous. Excellent black currant and blackberry fruit, sprinkled with spice, shows on the nose and the full-bodied palate. Abundant chalky, chocolatey tannins are balanced by appreciable acidity. Accessible now but offering years of development potential. Now through 2027.

2010 Futo OV Oakville, $90+
Futo’s second wine is quite good in its own right but in a riper, more immediate style. The palate is nearly full-bodied with medium-plus chalky tannins and flavors of blackberry jam, spice and chocolate. Drink now through 2020.

2010 Gargiulo Vineyards OVX Cabernet Sauvignon, ~$195
The relatively cool vintage seems to have led to one of Gargiulo’s best efforts. This single-vineyard 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine is long and luxurious with very attractive black currant, black cherry, sweet spice and chocolate. Nearly full-bodied and replete with tannins of fine powder and chalk. Best 2015 - 2025.

2010 Macdonald Cabernet Sauvignon, $
This is the very first release of Macdonald Vineyards’ eponymous wine. Their 15-acre family vineyard lies within Mondavi To-Kalon and has been used in Robert Mondavi Winery’s Reserve and To-Kalon Cabernet since 1966. The Macdonald’s supply contract lets them keep some of the fruit and Graeme Macdonald has turned it into 90 cases of delectable wine. It’s full-bodied and juicy with generous tannins of chalk and fine powder. Flavors include nicely ripe black cherry, spice and vanilla. Now through 2025.

2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, $135
A very rich and inviting wine that will develop beautifully for at least 20 years. It's showing mouth-watering black currant and chocolate now. The body is nearly full with matching tannins of fine powder and chalk and an extremely long finish. Now through 2035+.

screaming eagle2010 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon, $1,500+
An excellent, structured wine of complexity and bold aromatics. Dark flowers, black currant, cocoa and oak lead the flavors. The tannins are firm with fine-grained and talc-like texture. Best 2018 - 2030.

2010 Screaming Eagle Second Flight, $450
Second Flight includes substantially more Merlot than the primary wine and is more welcoming right now. Medium-plus body and tannins of fine powder and chalk are balanced wonderfully by juicy cherries, oak, cocoa and spice. Long and delicious. Now through 2025.

Highly Recommended+

2009 DeSante Oakville Terraces Cabernet Sauvignon, $80
A full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from the eastern hills of Oakvile. Flavors of dark fruit, mint and cocoa with very fine, powdery tannins.

2010 Far Niente Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon, $135
Nearly full-bodied and loaded with toothsome tannins of fine powder. Flavors of cherry, coconut and carob predominate. Best now through 2023.

2010 Gargiulo G Major7 Cabernet Sauvignon, ~$135
The G Major 7 supplements its Cabernet Sauvignon with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. A full-bodied red with fine-grained tannins suspended in cream. Flavors and aromas include ripe cherry, slightly dried dark fruit and sanguine notes. Now through 2020.

2010 Plumpjack Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $98
Full-bodied and very approachable with juicy cherries, chocolate and spice that go on and on. Now through 2020.

Highly Recommended

2010 Ghost Block Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, $65
Aromas of very ripe black currant, spice and black cherry precede an appealing palate of black cherry and chocolate with medium-plus body and tannins (fine powder and chalk). Now through 2020.

2010 Oakville Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, $82
Nearly full-bodied and long with black currant, spice, licorice and medium-plus chalky tannins. Best 2015 - 2023.

2009 Paradigm winery Cabernet Franc, $62
Inviting with flavors of caramel, black cherry and chai spice. Medium-plus body and tannins (fine powder and chalk) with a lengthy finish. Now through 2020.

2010 Turnbull Wine Cellars “Oakville” Cabernet Sauvignon, $60
Yummy and full-bodied with flavors of coconut, cherry and brown spice. Medium-plus, fine-grained tannins and good length. Now through 2020+.

2010 Spoto Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $11
A small-production wine that spent 29 months in French oak and includes just 75% Cabernet Sauvignon blended with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Aromas of tobacco, black currant and spice. Medium-plus body with fine, powdery tannins and food-friendly acidity. Now through 2020.

2010 Stanton Vineyards Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, $75
The character of the black currant and the overall balance of the nose reminded me more of a traditional Bordeaux than other wines at this tasting. The palate goes the opposite direction toward Stanton’s preferred house style of full-body, ripe fruit and sweet powdery tannins. Now through 2018.

Interpreting My Wine Ratings


Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

23 California Sparkling Wines for Your Holidays — and All Your Other Days Too

I was going to title this article, “New Year’s Resolution: Drink More Bubbly.” But I didn’t want you to get the idea that you should wait until New Year’s Eve to start. As you have no doubt heard many times already, sparkling wine is not just for special occasions. It’s an excellent aperitif, palate cleanser, food wine and a wine for celebrations.

Part of this versatility is because there are so many different styles of sparkling wine, even from California producers. Lumping them all together just because they are effervescent doesn’t make a lot of sense. Below are 23 California sparkling wines I have enjoyed recently. I’ve included more information on food pairing than usual to help highlight their differences.

All wines below are non-vintage unless otherwise stated. They are listed in alphabetical order by winery and then in ascending order by price.

Domaine Chandon

Domaine Chandon Reserve Pinot Noir Rosé, $30
There is 14% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier in this softly salmon-colored wine. Having spent just three years on lees in the bottle, fruit dominates on the nose and palate: strawberry, red cherry, raspberry, citrus and yellow apple. I could see it with anything from cold chicken to an onion tart or a salmon-skin handroll. Highly Recommended.

Domaine Chandon Sparkling Red, $30
This unusually dark, bold and richly-fruited sparkling wine is made from Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. It offers loads of black cherry and blackberry with accents of spice. Serve it at your big holiday meal alongside the baked ham and turkey. Or, if you’ll be going the Chinese restaurant route, pair this wine with the Peking duck. Recommended.

Domaine Chandon Reserve Chardonnay Brut, $30
This Domaine Chandon’s Reserve wine is 97% Chardonnay and 3% Pinot Noir. Most of the wine comes from their Mt. Veeder estate vineyard. It’s a dry wine with flavors of toast, green apple, pear, and cinnamon and more on the crisp palate. The Reserve Chardonnay Brut will be at its best with seafood and creamy cheeses. Highly Recommended.

Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut, $40
Etoile is what Domaine Chandon calls their top-end sparkling wines. The Brut is non-vintage and the winemaker has a free hand with vineyard and varietal selection too. It always spends at least five years aging sur lie in bottle. The current release is 48% Chardonnay, 46% Pinot Noir and 6% Pinot Meunier. The long aging time is expressed clearly on nose and palate with flavors of cookie dough, toast, almond, honey and Christmas spice. Acidity is moderated by the aging, but the wine will still cut through light cream sauces on chicken breast or white fish. I’d drink it on it’s own though to fully enjoy it’s complexity. Highly Recommended.

Domaine Chandon Etoile Rosé, $50
The Etoile Rosé is made by adding a few drams of still Pinot Noir during final blending. This gives the wine a pretty pink color, despite the blend actually having 1% less Pinot Noir than the Etoile Brut. The Rosé also gains body and red fruit accents that play nicely with the Christmas spice. The wine has enough power and fruit to work with duck or pork. I’d like to try it with stuffed quail. Highly Recommended.

Domaine Chandon Etoile Tete de Cuvée 2001, $100
Unlike Domaine Chandon’s other Etoile wines, their Tete de Cuvée is a vintage wine. The 2001 is dominated by Pinot Noir (66% with 33% Chardonnay and 1% Pinot Meunier). It aged on lees in bottle for more than seven years. It’s loaded with marzipan, red fruit, dried citrus peel, five spice, and more. It will be a conversation piece by itself, but also try it with firm white cheeses, baked ham or a tender veal chop. Highly Recommended+.

Gloria Ferrer

Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, $20
The Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut is blended from Carneros fruit harvested from more than 40 different vineyards. Greater than 90% of this wine is Pinot Noir, but it’s character still leans heavily toward green apple, citrus and pear. It’s a solid, all-around sparkling wine that is fine on it’s own or served with a range of light fare including poultry, shellfish, and cheese. It’s excellent with California rolls. Recommended.

Gloria Ferrer VA de VI, $22
Gloria Ferrer VA de VI differs from traditional Champagne-style sparkling wines in that there is Muscat blended in with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This wine is sweeter than the others in this article, but not cloyingly so. And the Muscat gives this wine lovely floral and peach accents to go with the ripe fruit flavors which include apple, red cherry, and sweet lemon. Serve this wine for dessert alone or with creamy items such as cannoli or creme brulée. Highly Recommended.

2006 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs, $28
The 2006 Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs is a full but lively, all-Chardonnay sparkling wine with aromas and flavors of lemon-lime and green apple. Friendly accents of warm bread, vanilla and yogurt add character. This is a good choice for most white seafood whether cooked or raw at the sushi bar. It will also be fine with creamy cheeses. Highly recommended.

2007 Gloria Ferrer Brut Rosé, $42
The percentage of Pinot Noir in this wine is almost identical to that of the Sonoma Brut, but in this case 25% of the Pinot Noir gets a couple days of cold maceration. This results in the shimmering copper color, but also flavors of fresh red berries and watermelon along with the citrus. This is a good wine for tapas-style appetizers including mild sausage, grilled shrimp, and fried potatoes with aioli. Also try it at breakfast with lox and bagels. Highly Recommended.

Gloria Ferrer 2000 Carneros Cuvée, $50
This tete de cuvée from Gloria Ferrer is a knock-out. It spent 10 years sur lie in bottle developing rich aromas, flavors and texture. It has all of the yeast-derived notes you could want from toasted brioche to marzipan, but is still loaded with fruit: baked apple and pear, lemon tart and more. Enjoy this wine by itself or with decadent New Year’s Eve fare such as caviar on blinis and a shellfish tableau. Very Highly Recommended.

Mumm Napa Valley

Mumm Napa “Brut Prestige,” $22
Mumm Napa Valley’s “entry level” sparkling wine is 45% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir with the balance made up by Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris. It’s fruit-centric with medium-sized bubbles and aromas of lemon and apples. The palate is refreshing with flavors of green apple and lemon/lime culminating in a clean, pleasingly tart finish. Mumm Napa’s Brut Prestige is like a Swiss army knife. Keep one on hand and you’re ready for just about any occasion, though the wine is too dry to work with desserts. Recommended.

DVX_png3Mumm Napa Brut Rosé, $24
A pretty wine with plenty of small, fast bubbles and the pale color of poached salmon, the Mumm Napa Brut Rosé nose offers raspberry, strawberry, sweet cream and light touches of toast and earth. In the mouth it’s medium-bodied with pleasant mousse and flavors of toast, raspberry, red apple and dusty strawberry. This is a very enjoyable sparkler well-suited to drinking on it’s own or being paired with light, savory appetizers or main courses of salmon, chicken, turkey or ham. Highly Recommended.

Mumm Napa Cuvée M, $22
The Cuvée M is a mouth-filling sparkling wine with aromas and flavors of toast, pear, apple, citrus, cream and baking spice. It’s a good choice for people who prefer some softness in their sparkling wines. The rich body and noticeable sweetness give it a lot of pairing flexibility. Match it in the morning with a breakfast blintz, a mildly spicy Thai coconut curry at lunch, King Crab or lobster for dinner, popcorn with your movie, and cannoli for dessert. Recommended+.

2007 Mumm Napa Blanc de Blancs, $36
Steady streams of small bubbles rise quickly through this pale wine which has a delicate nose of lemon pith and yeast. On the palate are lively acidity and laser-like flavors of lemon and green apple candy with a hint of toast. Try it with toro at the sushi bar or filet of sole in a light cream or butter sauce at your favorite French restaurant. A few years in your cellar will soften the wine slightly while allowing more complexity to emerge. Highly Recommended.

Mumm Napa Brut Reserve, $36
Mumm Napa’s Brut Reserve is a round, tasty wine that leads with toast and spice. The creamy palate adds baked apple and pear. If you can resist drinking it all before the food arrives, the wine’s body and its sturdier flavors will allow it to hold up a wide variety of seafood but also heavy white meats such as pork chops. Highly Recommended.

Mumm Napa 2003 DVX, $60
Mumm Napa’s tete de cuvée is DVX, named after their founding winemaker Guy Deveaux. It’s always a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It spends roughly six years aging on lees in the bottle. Everything about this wine speaks to its high quality, from the tiny bubbles to the creamy mousse and rich autolytic flavors. There are toast, yellow apple, strawberry and cream on the nose. The palate has heft for a dry sparkling wine, but also very good acidity along with flavors of biscuit, lemon, brie cheese and strawberry. The finish is long and racy with lingering green apple and citrus. Pair it with a special evening. Highly Recommended+.

Mumm Napa Santana Brut, $45
This wine differs from many wines with celebrity tie-ins in two significant ways. First, Carlos Santana genuinely has a hand in making the product. He collaborates in selecting the dosage to arrive at a wine that is to his palate. Second, it’s really good wine. As a bonus, some proceeds from sales of the wine go to his charitable Milagro Foundation. The Santana Brut is at the sweet end of the brut spectrum, giving it creamy approachability and flexibility when it comes to food. The complex nose and palate include flavors of green and red apple, cherry, vanilla and fresh-baked bread. This will be a good choice for slightly spicy foods. Also try it with ceviche. Highly Recommended.

Mumm Napa Brut Reserve Rosé, $36
The first ever release of a Brut Reserve Rosé from Mumm Napa is a pretty, salmon-colored wine made the same way as the best sparkling rosé from Champagne. A small portion of still Pinot Noir wine, made from grapes that are allowed to ripen longer than they would for typical sparkling, is added during final blending. This boosts both color and intensity of fresh red fruit flavors. The wine has ample acidity but also a roundness and body that will make it a good partner for duck. Look for flavors of strawberry, red apple, raspberry and toast. Highly Recommended.

Roederer Estate

Roederer Estate Brut, ~ $20
Roederer Estate Brut is very consistent from year to year and it’s character clearly reflects the winemaking style. The wine is always around 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir, undergoes little, if any, malolactic fermentation and about two years of bottle aging on lees and is quite dry. The result is a precise and palate-cleansing wine taut flavors of green apple, pear and tart stonefruit with traces of spice and toasted nuts. It’s at its best with food though it’s also appropriate as a crisp aperitif. that has both protein and creaminess, such as soft, creamy cheese or poached fish or chicken breast with a buttery sauce. Highly Recommended.

Roederer Estate Brut Rosé, ~ $20
The Roederer Estate Brut Rosé is made similarly to the non-rosé Brut with no-malolactic fermentation, two years on lees, and a dryish dosage. But, this wine is 60% Pinot Noir, a small portion of which is red wine added just before secondary fermentation. This gives the wine a very pretty coppery color and fine notes of red fruit. However, it’s still a more austere wine than many sparkling rosés. Serve it with appetizers such as chicken liver pate, stuffed mushrooms or mild white cheeses. For main courses, consider a juicy roast chicken or poached salmon. Highly Recommended.

Roederer Estate L’Ermitage 2002, ~ $40
Roederer Estate’s tete de cuvée see extended bottle age on the lees for complexity and softening, but the dosage is also made from still wine of the vintage that has been barrel-aged for five years. It is a complex and elegant wine with aspects of baked apple, pie crust, fresh bread and a light dusting of vanilla and spice. Roederer Estate L’Ermitage is excellent on its own or with moderately light savory dishes such as game hen, roast turkey breast or grilled swordfish. Highly Recommended+.


2007 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, $36
The 2007 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs is light and fresh with a strong core of acidity carrying flavors of lemon rind, green apple with a hint of cream. Serve it with roasted dungeness crab or soft French cheeses. Highly Recommended

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley & 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve

A few nights ago, I was planning to watch Bottle Shock which I'd never seen before. But, before popping in the DVD, I wanted to pop the cork on some Napa Valley Chardonnay to set the mood. I found two wines in the cellar that I thought would do the trick.

The first wine was the 2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley. A recent release, the wine had been sent to me by the winery for review. The second wine I grabbed was the 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley Reserve. I had purchased that wine myself last year.

Napa Cellars is trying to deliver the type and quality of wines for which Napa Valley is famous while staying at accessible prices. The 2008 Napa Cellars Chardonnay Napa Valley sells for $24. That's clearly over today's $10 and $20 sweet spots but is quite a bit less than many Napa Valley wines.

Tasted: 13 High-End 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Wines

I attended the “Best of 2008 California Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting” at KL Wines in Redwood City on Friday. It wasn't a controlled, lab-like environment, but the overall tasting conditions were good and certainly sufficient for gaining reliable quick impressions of the wines.

dominusAll of the wines were good. Some were truly outstanding. Every wine showed typical characteristics of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon including some type of black fruit, chocolate and oak flavors. Retail prices ranged from $74.99 up to $249.99.

Despite their similarities, there were many distinctive nuances on the nose and palate. The most striking differentiators were texture and perceived levels of alcohol. Tannins were prominent in all of the wines but ranged from silky powder to chalk to grainy. Stated alcohol levels ranged from 14.1% up to 15.1%, but I believe some vintners made thorough use of the 1.5% fudge factor allowed by TTB regulations.

My overall impressions of the 2008 vintage in Napa Valley have not changed from other recent tastings. Upon my first sampling of 2008’s early in the year, many wines were brash and robustly structured. They didn’t show a lot of nuance. However, within the past four months or so, most have resolved enough of their tannins to allow many more flavors to blossom. Most of those I’ve tasted can be enjoyed now, but all will reward time in the cellar.

The following wines are listed in their tasting order, which was set by K & L.

2008 Ramey “Pededgral” Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville
A bold wine with plenty of black currant, black cherry and oak flavors complemented by spice and touches of dried coconut and dark chocolate powder. It is full-bodied with fine powdery tannins. Drink now through 2021. 15% alcohol, $149.99. Highly Recommended.

2008 Quintessa Napa Valley
Pale pigmented legs foreshadow this wine’s relatively disciplined black cherry and chocolate nose. Flavors of oak and cherry are framed by lightly drying medium-plus tannins. The palate starts out round but sharpens leading to a somewhat tart finish. Drink now through 2020. 14.2% alcohol, $129.00. Recommended.

2008 Altamura Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
Relatively closed on the nose with hints of eucalyptus herb and sour cherry. In contrast, the palate is round with sweet cherry and chocolate flavors and medium-plus grainy tannins. Warming finish. 14.8% alcohol, $74.99. Drink now through 2016. Recommended.

2008 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford
Full-bodied and distinctive with aromas of tobacco, oak and black cherry. A powerful wine with plenty of chalky tannins balanced by deep flavors of black cherry, chocolate, oak and spice. 14.9% alcohol, $175.00. Drink now through 2024. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 Opus One Napa Valley
Very dark ruby in the glass, the 2008 Opus One has bold aromas of deeply toasted oak, black cherry and dusty earth plus an interesting note of peppery leather. The palate shows good balance between alcohol, depth of fruit and acidity. The chalky, drying tannins stick out slightly but will fall into step after two or three years in the cellar. The very attractive flavors include black cherry, powdery dark chocolate, dusty wood and coconut. 14.5% alcohol, $199.00. Best from 2013 through 2026. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 BV Georges de Latour Napa Valley
Reticent aromas of oak, cherry and chocolate. Flavors echo the nose but have greater intensity while adding cocoa nib and charred wood. Medium-plus body with very drying light-grained tannins. Of all the wines at the tasting, this one struck me as the one most in need to cellar time. 15.1% alcohol, $79.99. Best from 2016 to 20201. Highly Recommended.

2008 Phillip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
The 2008 Togni offers considerable complexity and ripeness. Baked black cherry, tobacco, raisin, blackberry, carob and earthy spice are found on the nose and in the palate. The wine is full-bodied with chalky, grainy tannins and considerable warmth. Alcohol not declared, $84.99. Drink now through 2026. Highly Recommended.

2008 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer To-Kalon, Napa Valley
The 2008 Paul Hobbs with fruit from the acclaimed Beckstoffer To-Kalon vineyard is a powerhouse. The nose is sweet oak, coconut, vanilla, red cherry and black currant. The palate follows through on those flavors while rich, powdery tannins provide structure and carry the wine on to a very long finish. Warming. 14.9% alcohol, $249.99. Best 2014 through 2030. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain
O’Shaughnessy’s 2008 effort is a Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon that does not demand extensive cellar time or decanting. Charming blackberry, dark spice and sweet oak aromas are followed by delightfully balanced acidity, intensity of fruit, alcohol and structure on the full-bodied palate. The tannins are powdery and, like the wine overall, graceful. A thoroughly yummy wine and easily the day’s best value. 14.8% alcohol, $74.99. Now through 2028. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 Cliff Lede “Poetry” Cabernet Sauvignon Stag’s Leap District
The 2008 Poetry from Cliff Lede is opaque ruby with black currant and blackberry set against a background of oak. It’s full-bodied with robust chalky tannins. The attack is nice with black fruit, woody spice and oak. Barrel notes strengthen into the long, warming finish. 14.9%, $144.99. Now through 2020. Highly Recommended.

2008 Merryvale “Profile” Napa Valley
An engaging nose of gamey spice, roast beef and black fruit. The full-bodied palate features integrated black fruit flavors, carried by tannins that evolve slowly from velvet to chalk. A delicious wine now that will be even better with a little time to unwind. 14.8% alcohol, $139.99. Best 2013 through 2019. Very Highly Recommended.

2008 Dominus Napa Valley
A tremendous wine. The 2008 Dominus is more immediately accessible than some recent vintages I’ve tasted upon release, yet is built to last. The nose is classic Cabernet Sauvignon with black currant, currant leaf, spice and fig. The palate achieves nearly perfect balance. Rich, powdery tannins offer rough silk texture and flavors that match the nose but persist through a very long finish. 14.1% alcohol, $179.00. Drink now through 2031+. Highest Recommendation.

2008 Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley
Deeply-colored ruby in the glass with a striking nose of dark chocolate, toasted brown spice, oak and blackberry. The full-bodied palate reveals black fruit, dark chocolate, cedar and spice on chalky tannins. A rich and textured wine of great balance with an extremely long finish. 14.% alcohol, $159.99. Drink now through 2026. Very Highly Recommended.


Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

The Winning Wines from the San Francisco International Wine Competition

The San Francisco International Wine Competition was held at San Francisco's Hotel Nikko, June 17th, 18th and 19th. The winning wines were announced today.

All judging was done blind. All wines were submitted for judging by the wineries. Any commercial wine was eligible to enter.


4,184 wines tasted

1,200 wineries represented (including 392 new winery participants)
20 U.S. states were represented
29 countries had entries
48 judges (all wine industry professionals)
153 Double Gold awards
290 Gold medals
1,102 Silver medals
1,549 Bronze medals

"Best in Show" awards

Best in Show Sparkling: Raza 2011 Torrontes, Famatina Valley, $10
Best in Show Dry White Wine: Turk 2009 Gruner Veltliner, Kremstal, $20
Best in Show Red Wine: Lynmar Estate Winery 2009 Pinot Noir, Quail Hill Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $60
Best in Show Sweet White Wine: V. Sattui Winery 2009 Late Harvest Riesling, Napa Valley, $31
Best in Show Fortified Wine: Pocas Junior 1976 Colheita Port, Douro Valley, $80

Special Awards

"Portfolio of the Year"
Constellation Wines U.S. was recognized for excellence across a spectrum of brands.

Andre Tchelistcheff "Winemaker of the Year" award
Winemaker Bob Iantosca, Gloria Ferrer Winery, Sonoma, California

The Tasting Panel Magazine "Winery of the Year" award
The Hogue Cellars of Prosser, Washington.

"Best of Varietal" (22 different categories)

Best Dry Sparkling: Gruet Winery NV Extra Dry, Methode Champenoise, Rio Grande Valley, $14 
Best Sparkling Rose: Castello Banfi 2010 Brachetto di Acqui, Rosa Regale, DOCG, Piedmont, $23
Best Sauvignon Blanc: Vinarstvi Libal 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Moravia, $12
Best Chardonnay: Fritz Winery 2009 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, $25
Best Pinot Gris: Quails' Gate Estate Winery 2010 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, $23
Best Torrontes: Alta Vista 2010 Classic Torrontes, Mendoza, $11
Best Other White: Tabor Hill Winery 2010 Dry Traminette, Lake Michigan Shore, $14
Best Riesling: The Hogue Cellars 2009 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $11
Best Muscat: Yellow Tail 2011 Moscato, South Eastern, $8
Best Icewine: Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estates 2009 Riesling Ice Wine, Gold Series, Okanagan Valley, $62
Best Madeira: Justino 1998 Colheita Madeira, Estreito de Camara de Lobos, $20
Best Syrah / Shiraz: Zonte's Footstep 2009 Shiraz, Lake Doctor Vineyard, Langhorne Creek, $16
Best Cabernet Sauvignon: Hughes Wellman 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $50
Best Merlot: Cakebread Cellars 2008 Merlot, Napa Valley, $54
Best Malbec: Martin Ranch Winery 2009 Malbec, Dos Ninas Vineyards, Santa Clara Valley, $29
Best Premium Bordeaux Blend: Grey Wolf Cellars 2008 Premium Bordeaux Blend, Booker Vineyard, Lineage, Paso Robles, $36
Best Barbera: Helwig Vineyards 2009 Barbera, Shenandoah Valley, $25
Best Grenache: Almquist Family Vintners 2008 Grenache, Northridge Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, $25
Best Tempranillo: Hearst Ranch Winery 2009 Tempranillo "Chileano", Paso Robles, $30
Best Zinfandel: Sobon Estate 2008 Zinfandel, Lubenko Vineyard, Fiddletown, $22
Best Rhone Blend: Troublemaker NV Blend 2, Paso Robles, $18
Best Sake: Momokawa Pearl Junmai Ginjo Nigori Genshu Sake, Oregon, $12  

"Best of Nation" awards

Alta Vista, Argentina, importer Buena Cepa Wines
Taylors /  Wakefield  Wines, Australia, importer American Wine Distributors
Turk, Austria, importer Niche Import Co.
Panizzon, Brazil; Katarzyna Estate, Bulgaria, importer Imperial Brands
Inniskillin, Canada, importer Constellation Wines U.S.
Hacienda Araucano, Chile, importer Winesellers, Ltd.
Ilocki Podrumi, Croatia
Vinarstvi Libal, Czech Republic
Perrier-Jouet Champagne, France, importer Pernod Ricard USA
Castello Banfi, Italy, importer Banfi Vintners
Okunomatsu, Japan, importer Pacific International Liquor
Santo Tomas, Mexico, importer Torrey Wine
Saint Clair Family Estate, New Zealand
Pocas Junior, Portugal, importer HGC Imports;
Waka Waka, South Africa;
Torre de Gazate, Spain
Terra, Turkey

San Francisco International Wine Competition Judges

Anthony Dias Blue • President, Blue Lifestyle; Editor-in-Chief, The Tasting Panel
, Executive Director of the SF Int'l Wine and SF World Spirits Competitions, L.A.
Jeff Anderson • Wine Director, Gary Danko Restaurant, San Francisco
Brian Baker • VP Sales & Marketing, Chateau Montelena, Sonoma
Steve Bell • Northern California Regional Manager, Charles Krug Winery, San Francisco
Gary Blackwell • Retailer / Wine Buyer, Blackwell's Wines & Spirits, San Francisco
William Bloxsom-Carter • Executive Chef, Food & Beverage Director, Playboy Mansion West, L.A.
Mark Bowery • Wine & Spirits Consultant, Mark Bowery Consulting, Mendocino
Ronald Brown • Editor & Publisher, The Japan Wine Challenge Magazine, Tokyo
Katie Ballou Calhoun • President, Calhoun & Company Communications, San Francisco
Rebecca Chapa • Wine Consultant & Educator, Tannin Management, San Francisco
Kimberly Charles • Owner, Charles Communications Associates, San Francisco
Scott Clemens • Editor/Publisher,, Moss Beach
Katherine Cole • Wine Columnist, The Oregonian + Mix, Portland
Jerry Cooper • Retailer / Wine & Spirits Buyer, Swirl on Castro, San Francisco
Janet Dyer • Partner, JAM Wines, San Francisco
Ziggy Eschliman • Wine Gal, Countess of Cocktails, Wine Country Radio, Santa Rosa
Michael Feil • GM / Wine & Spirits Buyer, Westchester Country Club, New York
Scott Greenberg • Wine Columnist, Radio Reporter, The Vine Guy, Washington, D.C.
Michael Hantman • Wine Consultant, President, Wine Phone, Healdsburg
Jim Harré • Wine Consultant & International Wine Judge, New Zealand
Steven Izzo • Wine and Beverage Director, Waterbar, San Francisco
Mendel Kohn • Sales, Vinifera Wine Marketing, San Francisco
Ellen Landis • Sommelier, Wine Writer, Consultant, Half Moon Bay
Ann Littlefield • International Marketing & Sales, Littlefield Wine & Spirits Marketing, Napa
Charles F. Mara • President, The Mara Wine Group, New York
Drake McCarthy • Western Regional Manager, Europvin USA, Oakland
Tim McDonald • President, Wine Spoken Here, Napa
Jim McMahon • Wine Writer, Author, & Consultant, Australia
Bill McNabb • Wine Editor, Piedmont Post, Piedmont
Nick Ponomareff • Wine Writer, California Grapevine, California
Kate Radburnd • Wine Consultant, New Zealand Air, New Zealand
Jane Rate • Sommelier, Genoa Restaurant, Portland
Robert Silverstein • Wine Director, Venice Beach Wines, L.A.
Ronald Siragusa • Wine Director, Kuleto's Italian Restaurant & Bar Norcini, San Francisco
George Skorka • Wine Consultant, Skorka Wine Consulting, Los Angeles
Jeffery K. Stivers • General Manager, Wine & Spirits Director, Xandros Restaurant, L.A.
James Trezise • President, New York Wine & Grape Foundation, New York
Tim Teichgraeber • Freelance Wine Writer, San Francisco
Dr. Valery Uhl • Director & Chief Judge, North of the Gate Wine Competition, Petaluma
Kevin M. Vogt, MS • Wine & Spirits Director, Emeril's, Las Vegas
Gregory S. Walter • Editor & Publisher,, Sonoma
Ronald Washam • Sommelier, Les Mars Hotel, Sonoma
Gerald Weisl • Retailer & Wine Buyer, Weimax Wines & Spirits, Burlingame
Rosina Tinari Wilson • E-Source for Wine, Food, & Fun, San Rafael
Deborah Parker Wong • Editor Northern California, Tasting Panel Magazine, San Francisco
Wilfred Wong • Cellarmaster, Beverages & More !, California
Debbie Zachareas • Retailer / Wine Director, Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, San Francisco

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