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2010 Moone-Tsai Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

The exotic-sounding Moone-Tsai is a collaboration of Napa Valley business veterans (Mike Moone, Mary Ann Tsai and Larry Tsai) and star winemaker Philippe Melka. The flagship wine is Cor-Leonis, a luxurious low-production, three-AVA Cabernet Sauvignon. They also offer a Howell Mountain blend of Merlot and Cabernet, two Chardonnay (one Napa and one Sonoma Coast), plus the Napa Valley Cabernet reviewed here.

Both Cor Leonis and the “Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon” use a good measure of Coombsville fruit. However, the balance of Cor Leonis comes from Pritchard Hill and Oakville (To Kalon) whereas the Napa Valley’s other AVAs are St. Helena and Howell Mountain. The 2010 Cor Leonis, which lists at $185, is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

My only previous experience with Moone-Tsai was at Napa Valley Premiere in 2013. Their smooth, rich and flavorful, yet balanced, auction lot was among my favorites that year. So, when I saw this bottle of Moone-Tsai on a wine list the other day, I eagerly bought it to try.

It is a youthful wine with opaque ruby coloring and a nose of black currant and gently toasty oak. The nearly full-bodied palate is more expressive, cocoa and star anise complementing the black currant and oak. The fine-grained tannins need neither food nor decanting though, given a bite of steak, they become softer and chalky. The flavors are quite linear now, the finish warm and lengthy. I tasted this Cabernet again after giving it 18 hours of air and found it unchanged. This wine has the structure to age and few years in the cellar will bring even greater harmony and complexity. Best 2016 through 2022. Highly Recommended

2010 Moone-Tsai Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
moone tsai cabernetRating: Highly Recommended

Drink: Best 2016 through 2022
Closure: Cork
Production: 1350 cases
Release Date: September 16, 2013
Retail Price: $85.00

Winemaker: Philippe Melka
Blend: 83% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Merlot
Origin: Coombsville, St. Helena and Howell Mountain
Aging: 26 months in French oak, 56% new
Alcohol: 15.1%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: not required

Temperature: 60º - 64º F

Food Pairing: Braised beef cheeks

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014 NorCal Wine. Photograph by Suzanne Becker Bronk. All rights reserved.

2009 Hawk and Horse Cabernet Sauvignon

The Hawk and Horse wines come from a sloping, 18-acre estate vineyard that reaches up to 2,200 feet in Lake County's Red Hills AVA. The deep red, volcanic soil is peppered with silicon-based crystals known as "Lake County Diamonds" or "moon tears" The vineyard is certified organic and biodynamic. It's part of a much larger ranch that's also home to adorably shaggy Scottish Highland Cattle.

The Red Hills Lake County AVA was established in 2004. It's warm, sunny days lead to good ripeness in Bordeaux and Rhone varieties. The high altitude, breezes and cool nights maintain reasonable acidity levels and keep sugars from getting too high. In addition to the handful of locally based wineries, several large companies own extensive vineyards in Red Hills, including Beckstoffer, Beringer and Kendall-Jackson.

2009-hawk and horse cab bottleFresh out of the bottle, the 2009 Hawk and Horse Cabernet Sauvignon is tight and firm with light-grained tannins. Extensive decanting allows the wine to blossom. Powerful aromas of tart black cherry, briary blackberry, dark spice and sweet oak emerge from the deep ruby wine. With decanting, body moves from medium+ to full and the tannins get pleasingly thick but softer. Flavors included salty mineral, black fruit, oak and moist cedar forest. For early consumption, decanting is essential. I was happiest after 18 hours. Drink now through 2025. Highly Recommended+

2009 Hawk and Horse Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills Lake County AVA
Rating: Highly Recommended+

Drink: now through 2025
Closure: Cork
Production: 1350 cases
Retail Price: $65.00

Winemakers: Richard Peterson and Tracey Hawkins
Origin: Hawk & Horse Estate vineyard, Red Hills Lake County AVA
Aging: 23 months in French oak, 100% new
Alcohol: 14.8%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: 3 to 24 hours

Temperature: 60º - 64º F

Food Pairing: Well-marbled steak

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

 

Four from Falcone Family Vineyards

After many years of making wine together and separately at prominent wineries, Helen and John Falcone launched their own project, Falcone Family Vineyards, in 2002. Their eight-acre vineyard, about seven miles east of Templeton, features Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. That area is on the eastern edge of the Templeton Gap which funnels cool ocean air across the southern Paso Robles AVA and leads to some of the region’s best wines. At “Falcone Corner” there’s plenty of warmth and sun for ripening red Rhone and Bordeaux varieties, but the low-vigor rootstock the Falcones chose ensures concentrated, structured wine.

The winemaking is a husband-wife collaboration, but Helen also handles all the sales and marketing, since John is more than full-time at Gainey Vineyards in Santa Ynez as general manager and director of winemaking. Prior to joining Gainey, John, and Helen, worked for more than a decade at Rusack Vineyards in Ballard Canyon. Before that, John had been winemaker at Atlas Peak Vineyards and Helen was assistant winemaker at Chimney Rock, both in Napa Valley.

 JohnHelen
Helen and John Falcone

The 2012 Falcone Family Vineyards Chardonnay opens with attractive aromas of wild flowers and a bin of mixed mixed apples. The lightly creamy palate has a pleasing, silky mouthfeel with tangy acidity that builds into the finish. Pretty, soft-voiced flavors of butter-poached apple, baking spice and tart pear gently command your attention. Drink now through 2016. Recommended+

2012 Falcone Family Vineyards Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
Rating: Recommended+

Drink: now through 2016
Release Date: September 1, 2013

Closure: Cork
Production: 315 cases
Retail Price: $30.00

Winemaker: John and Helen Falcone
Blend: 100% Chardonnay, clone 15

Origin: Sierra Madre Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
Aging: 9 months in French oak, 21% new
Alcohol: 14.2%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not recommended

Temperature: 52º - 58º F

Food Pairing: Squash blossom risotto

 

The 2011 Falcone Family Vineyards Syrah is deep but translucent ruby in the glass and brims with aromas of dark plum, licorice, white pepper, dark chocolate and black cherry. It's loaded with flavor in the mouth, rich and full-bodied but framed by acidity and lightly chalky tannins. Flavors include licorice, briary blackberry, dark spice and garrigue. Alcohol is well-balanced and the finish lingering. Drink now through 2021. Highly Recommended

2011 Falcone Family Vineyards Syrah, Paso Robles
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2021
Release Date: October 1, 2013

Closure: Cork
Production: 356 cases
Retail Price: $30.00

Winemaker: John and Helen Falcone
Blend: 94% Syrah, 6% Petite Sirah

Origin: Syrah, Falcone Family Vineyard; Petite Sirah, Viña Robles - all Paso Robles
Aging: 14 months in French oak, 37% new
Alcohol: 14.5%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Decant or let breathe in glass

Temperature: 58º - 64º F

Food Pairing: Braised short ribs

 

The 2010 Falcone Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mia’s Vineyard, Paso Robles is deeply colored and teems with aromas of rich, ripe black currant, black spices, tobacco and dark chocolate. The palate is nearly full-bodied and opens with creaminess that gradually gives way to tannins of fine powder and chalk. Intense flavors of cherry, black currant, dark spice and oak marry with the tannins, making each sip succulent, mouth-coasting and long-lasting. Drink now through 2023. Highly Recommended

2010 Falcone Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mia's Vineyard, Paso Robles
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2021
Release Date: July 1, 2013

Closure: Cork
Production: 69 cases
Retail Price: $50.00

Winemaker: John and Helen Falcone
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Origin: A unique of Falcone Family Vineyard, Paso Robles
Aging: 30 months in French oak, 75% new
Alcohol: 14.2%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Decant or let breathe in glass

Temperature: 58º - 64º F

Food Pairing: Baby back ribs with a savory dry rub

 

The Falcone Family Vineyards Annate IV is a multi-vintage, multi-variety blend. It includes Syrah from 2010 and 2011, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah from 2010, plus a bit of the Annate III which was itself a blend of vintages and varieties. It’s dark ruby in the glass with black raspberry, red cherry liqueur and spicy dried tobacco on the nose. The palate is concentrated and filled with tangy, spicy red cherry and black berry fruit. It’s very nearly full-bodied in the mouth and that creaminess coupled with plenty of fine, powdery and chalky tannins carry the flavors on and on. This is an engaging wine now but will be even better with a few years in the cellar. Drink 2017 through 2023. Highly Recommended+

Falcone Family Vineyards Annate IV, Paso Robles
Rating: Highly Recommended+

Drink: 2017 through 2023
Release Date: October 15, 2012

Closure: Cork
Production: 49 cases
Retail Price: $65.00

Winemaker: John and Helen Falcone
Blend: 49% 2010 Syrah, 37% 2010 Petite Sirah, 8% 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% 2011 Sirah and 1% Annate III

Origin: Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon, Falcone Family Vineyard; Petite Sirah, Huer Huero (Viña Robles) - all Paso Robles
Aging: 22 months in French oak, 60% new
Alcohol: 14.6%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Decant 30+ minutes

Temperature: 58º - 64º F

Food Pairing: Wood-fired filet mignon with forest mushrooms

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014 NorCal Wine. Photo courtesy of Falcone Family Vineyards. All rights reserved.

2010 Skinner Vineyards Estate Mourvedre, El Dorado

The potential for great wine growing in the Sierra Foothills is massive, particularly for Rhone varieties. In recent years, quality in the bottle has started delivering on that. Skinner Vineyards and Winery is one of the leaders in that respect.

Winemaker Chris Pittenger has consulted with them since their beginning in 2007 and been full-time on-site since 2010. Pittenger’s experience includes stints at Aussie Rhone-specialist Torbreck, Napa old-vine house Robert Biale and four years at Marcassin with Helen Turley and John Wetlaufer. He’s well-equipped to take advantage of Skinner’s prototypical El Dorado vineyards.

The Stoney Creek Vineyard sits at 2,700 feet in the Fair Play AVA. Vine roots dive deeply into the well-drained, sandy soil of decomposed granite. Sun is plentiful throughout the growing season but that high-altitude keeps temperatures moderate with cool breezes coming up from the delta and cold air dropping from the soaring mountains at night.

The White Oak Vineyard, located near the site of the original Skinner Winery founded in 1861, is less extreme but no less representative of the foothills. Still lofty at 1,400 feet, it also benefits from all-day sun, moderated warmth and cold night air. The soils are a little more fertile, stone-studded alluvium of red volcanic, eroded granite, etc. But it’s shallow earth on a bed of nearly solid granite which means good drainage because the water runs downhill like rain falling on a sloping driveway.

These conditions are ideal for Rhone reds, like the Mourvedre, that need plenty of phenolic ripeness to be palatable but lose complexity and charm at high alcohol levels. Skinner’s got the right grapes in the right sites and combines that with careful viticulture and talented winemaking. The results are excellent and, because the region is still under-the-radar, even limited-release wines can be had at reasonable prices.

The 2010 Skinner Estate Mourvedre is dark, savory deliciousness in the glass. Complex and intense on the nose, aromas of black pepper, sweet smoke, game, white pepper, grilled cherry and brown spice are easy to discern. The palate is dry and nearly full-bodied. Tannic structure is moderate and fine-grained, easily matched by juiciness. Flavor intensity is high as well: grilled plum and dark berries, sprinkled with dark spice. Good length. This wine is sold out at the winery, but there are a handful of bottles here and perhaps elsewhere at retail. Best now through 2018. Highly Recommended

12Mourvedre2010 Skinner Vineyards Estate Mourvedre, El Dorado
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2018
Release Date: Spring, 2013

Closure: Cork
Production: 73 cases
Retail Price: $25.00 and up

Winemaker: Chris Pittenger
Blend: 83% Mourvedre, 17% Syrah

Origin: two Skinner Estate Vineyards (Stoney Creek & White Oak), El Dorado
Aging: 11 months in French oak barriques and hogsheads, 33% new
Alcohol: 14.9%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not required

Temperature: 60º - 64º F

Food Pairing: Grilled lamb chops or braised lamb shank

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

2012 Masut Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

Bobby Fetzer managed the vineyards and bought grapes for his family’s Fetzer Vineyards,[1] founded in 1968, until the business was sold to Brown-Forman in 1992. Four years later, he bought 1,500 acres of rugged land adjacent to his old “home ranch.” The following year, he and his sons, Jake and Ben, began planting Pinot Noir on the new site which he named “Masút Ranch.” [Masút means “dark, rich earth” in the language of the Pomo, a local indigenous people.]

Bobby died in a rafting accident back in 2006, but Ben and Jake moved forward with his dream and tradition of responsible agriculture. They built a winery in one of their dad’s old redwood barns, constructed from reclaimed timber. They tend all the vines by hand. The ranch is home to a wide range of native flora and fauna. And, when he’s not busy with grapes and wine, Ben also wrangles the organic Black Angus cattle on his family’s ranch in Covelo.

The original 23-acre Masut was divided into 13 blocks with a total of 20,506 vines. Three Dijon clones (113, 115 and 777) are represented. Now there are an additional ten acres (5 blocks) with a little UCD 23 Pinot, but mostly Sangiovese. The vineyard has been certified organic from the first planting. 2009 was the first vintage for their estate Pinot Noir.

This particular pocket of land in the Russian River headlands is unique. It receives cool ocean breezes but the sloping vineyard faces away from the searing setting sun. Pinot Noir isn’t a recommended variety in the neighboring Redwood Valley AVA which is too warm. Masút Ranch, though, could be considered cool climate and resulting Pinot Noir wines are graceful, hence the well-merited Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA proposal.

The 2012 Masut Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir shows aromas of black cherry, tangy red cherry and pie spice. It’s medium-bodied on the palate which opens with a slightly creamy texture and flavors of elegant brown spice and macerated cherry. Moving toward the finish, lightly grainy tannins appear along with saline minerality. The 2012 Masút Estate is a very enjoyable Pinot Noir: balanced, supple and easy-to-drink. Best now through 2018. Highly Recommended

12-estate 22012 Masút Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino County
Rating: Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2018

Closure: Cork
Retail Price: $40.00

Winemaker: Ben & Jake Fetzer
Blend: Pinot Noir (Dijon clones: 115 - 73%, 777 - 18% and 113 - 9%)

Origin: Masút Estate Vineyard, Mendocino County (Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA pending), certified organic
Fermentation: Whole berry, destemmed, open top fermenters for 14 - 18 days
Aging: 10 months in French oak, 33% new
Alcohol: 13.9%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not recommended

Temperature: 54º - 58º F

Interpreting my wine ratings

 

Disclosures: The FTC has tightened its guidelines with respect to online ads, reviews, blogs, etc. in response to people who are passing paid ads off as personal recommendations or who accept samples of expensive hard goods in exchange for reviews. My lengthy disclosure here is meant to address those guidelines.

The review above reflects my personal experience with the product. It is not a paid ad, nor do I accept ads or compensation for reviews from wine producers. Reviews may cover products that I have purchased, received as samples, or tried under other circumstances I consider to be good tasting conditions. Receiving a product as a sample does not obligate me to review it positively (or at all) and I do not consider samples to be compensation or “free wine.” I have purchased plenty of wine over the years and have more of that than I can drink. Samples are opened for review purposes, not added to my personal cellar or taken to restaurants.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook 

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.


  1. Concha y Toro purchased Fetzer Vineyards from Brown-Forman for about $238 million in early 2011.  ↩