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2010 Wren Hop Pinot Noir “Fire Messenger” Sonoma Coast

Fire-Messenger ColorREVWren Hop Vineyards is a small, Santa Rosa-based label operated by the father and son team of James McDonough and... James McDonough. The focus is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from top vineyards in the Russian River Valley AVA and Sonoma Coast AVA. These include the Sunchase, Gap’s Crown and Goldrock Ridge Vineyards as well as the Wren Hop estate vineyard. The wines are crafted by Russell Bevan, a very talented producer of expressive, sensual wines.

The 2010 Wren Hop Fire Messenger is dark ruby with a captivating nose of strawberry, Chinese five-spice, black raspberry, tangy herb and blood orange zest. On the lightly creamy palate are a touch of sweetness and very fine texture with terrifically long-lasting red fruit and spice. Enjoy now through 2017. Very Highly Recommended.

2010 Wren Hop Pinot Noir “Fire Messenger” Sonoma Coast

Rating: Very Highly Recommended

Drink: Now - 2017
Release Date: September, 2012

Closure: Cork
Production: 100 cases
Retail Price: $62.00

Winemaker: Russell Bevan

Origin: Gap’s Crown and Wren Hop Vineyards, Sonoma Coast AVA
Aging: 11 months, 100% new French oak
Alcohol: 14.6%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not recommended

Temperature: 57º - 61º F

Food Pairings: Seared duck breast

The wine above was purchased by a friend.

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

2011 Lucia Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

The Soberanes Vineyard is the newest planting (2008) from the Garys (Pisoni and Franscioni) in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. It’s a long, rectangular 35-acre plot running on a slope immediately to the southeast of the Garys‘ Vineyard. The southeast border of the Soberanes Vineyard abuts the much larger Tondre Grapefields. Gary Pisoni’s eldest son, Mark, is the vineyard manager.

The Soberanes vines have a different orientation than the Garys‘ and there are some clonal differences too. The vineyard includes three varieties: Syrah at the very highest elevation, Chardonnay at the lowest, Pinot Noir in between and with the most acreage. The fruit has quickly become popular with at least 20 producers doing vineyard-designate wines from one or more of the varieties. The Lucia label belongs to the Pisoni family and the younger of the two sons, Jeff, makes the wines.

The 2011 Lucia Soberanes Vineyard Pinot Noir is medium ruby in color, bright and crystal clear. The generous but graceful nose leads with dark flowers, followed by enticing wild cherry and a trace of dry herb. In the mouth its medium to medium-plus in body with moderate and extremely fine chalky tannins. There’s great focus and purity of fruit here with delicious red cherries, raspberry and spice. Drink now through 2019. Very Highly Recommended.

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2011 Lucia Pinot Noir Soberanes Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

Rating: Very Highly Recommended

Drink: now - 2019
Closure: Cork
Production: 215 cases
Retail Price: $50.00

Winemaker: Jeff Pisoni

Origin: Soberanes Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA
Fermentation: Native yeast
Aging: French oak
Alcohol: 14.1%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not required
Temperature: 56º - 60º F
Food Pairings: Roast Chicken Panzanella

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

2011 Roar Chardonnay Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands

The 38-acre Sierra Mar vineyard, owned by Gary Franscioni, was planted in 2007. It’s up in the hills in the southern third of the AVA and includes Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier and the Hyde-clone Chardonnay used in this Roar estate wine. For more information about the area see Spotlight on the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA.

Clear and day bright, despite being bottled unfined, the 2011 Roar Sierra Mar Chardonnay has a beautiful, effusive nose of fresh pear and apple with baking spice and a dusting of mineral. The palate is nearly full-bodied and intensely flavorful but supple and juicy. There is a strong core lightly-buttered pear. Apple, baking spice and a texture of very light chalk add interest. A pure and delicious Chardonnay. Drink now through 2018. Very Highly Recommended.

2011 Roar Chardonnay Sierra Mar Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
roar chardRating: Very Highly Recommended

Drink: now through 2018
Release Date:

Closure: Cork
Production: 264 cases
Retail Price: $45.00 (sold out at the winery)

Winemaker: Ed Kurtzman

Origin: Sierra Mar Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands AVA
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Fermentation: 100% ML
Aging: 14 months in French oak (45% new, 55% one-year)
Alcohol: 14.4%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not required

Temperature: 50º - 54º F

Food Pairings: Mahi Mahi with Hazelnut and Panko crust

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

2010 Frostwatch Chardonnay Bennett Valley Sonoma County

Frostwatch is a small, family owned-and operated vineyard in Bennett Valley. They produce Chardonnay, a white Bordeaux-varietal blend called Kismet (which I’ve reviewed previously), Pinot Noir and Merlot from that AVA. The Sonoma in the City tasting ended before I could taste the Chardonnay, but one of Frostwatch’s friendly neighbors made sure I left with a bottle to try at home. This review is based on that bottle

The 2010 Frostwatch Chardonnay is a little bit foggy in the glass because the wine is fined but not filtered. The elegant nose offers yellow apple, candle wax, pear, baking spice and a little wood. It’s also a wine of excellent tension and gentle complexity on the palate, nearly full-bodied and juicy with moderately drying talc-like texture. Flavors include apple, pear, baking spice, wood and a hint of cream. Medium-plus finish. A very enjoyable wine with or without food. Drink now through 2016. Highly Recommended.

2010 Frostwatch Chardonnay Bennett Valley Sonoma County

Rating: Highly Recommended

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

Closure: Cork
Production: 175 cases
Retail Price: $30.00

Winemaker: Brett Raven

Origin: Frostwatch estate vineyard, Bennett Valley AVA, Sonoma County
Fermentation: native yeast in Burgundian barrels for primary and malolactic fermentations
Aging: 17 months in French oak, 28% new
Alcohol: 14.1%

Service Recommendations

Decanting: Not required

Temperature: 50º - 54º F

Food Pairings: roast chicken, spaghetti alla carbonara

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

2007 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley

Stuart Smith founded Smith-Madrone Winery in 1971. He still operates it with his brother, Charles. Together they make small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling from steeply sloping, dry-farmed estate vineyards on Spring Mountain. The vineyards run from 1,300 to 2,000 feet above sea level.

The 2007 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon, the current release, is a streamlined and structured wine. It’s opaque in the glass and dark ruby-purple. Aromas of dry cedar and briary black fruit weave around each other in a light cloud of dusty earth and black spice. The palate is medium-plus in body, principally due to medium-plus tannins of fine powder and light chalk. The fruit is all business, properly ripe and flavorful but not effusive. Juicy acidity helps moderate the tannins and, together, they make this a good drink for the dinner table. Flavors include dusty black currant, redwood bark, dark spice, unsweetened chocolate and espresso. The finish is long and balanced between fruit, spice and powdery espresso tannins. If you know someone who insists that all Napa Cabernet Sauvignon taste alike or are too thick, sweet and/or fruity, give them a bottle of this mountain wine and dare them not to change their mind. Best from 2016 through 2023+. If you drink it now, do it with food or after some time in a decanter. Highly Recommended.

2007 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon Spring Mountain District Napa Valley
label cab07 lowrezRating: Highly Recommended

Drink: 2016 - 2023+
Closure: Cork
Production: 1,434 cases
Retail Price: $48.00

Winemaker: Charles Smith

Origin: Spring Mountain District AVA, Napa Valley
Blend: 97% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Merlot, 1% Cabernet Franc Aging: 22 months in new American oak barrels
Alcohol: 14.2%

Service Recommendations
Decanting: 2 hours+
Temperature: 58º - 64º F
Food Pairings: ribeye steak, braised lamb shank, osso buco

The wine above was provided as a sample for review.

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