Turley Wine Cellars was founded in 1993 by Larry Turley and specializes in small lots of Zinfandel and Petite Sirah from some of California’s most historic and treasured vineyards.
Duarte Vineyard is in Contra Costa County surrounded by housing developments. The vines date back to the 1800′s and I can only hope that this historic site does not ripped out to build McMansions.
The wine checks in at 15% ABV. Violet in color. Blueberries and white pepper on the nose. Lush palate of raspberry, blackberry and cranberry. The finish is seamless. I bought too much ’04 Turley (if such a thing is possible). I was worried that the wines would not age well, but recent bottles have left me with little doubt that these wines show beautifully beyond the first few years of bottle age.
My rating: 92 points.
Turley wines are available via the mailing list and periodically at retail. Along with other wineries like Carlisle and Bedrock, Turley is at the forefront of the California Zinfandel revolution. This winery never ceases to amaze me. Highly recommended.
The May installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on California Chardonnay from some of my favorite producers. As I mentioned in the first installment, the purpose of this series is to provide insight into specific wines or producers you may currently have in your cellar.
This installment of Pick My Next Bottle is special as I plan on opening the winning bottle on March 23rd, International Chardonnay Day. I will publish a bottle note some time the following week.
The Chardonnays are all from wineries in the Russian River Valley that are most widely known for their world class Pinot Noirs:
Williams Selyem Winery began when Ed Selyem and Burt Williams started making wine as a hobby in 1979 in Forestville, California. Their first commercial release was in 1981, and in less than two decades they created a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Although their Pinot Noir receives the most acclaim one should not overlook their Zinfandel and Chardonnay lineup.
Rochioli is one of the true pioneers in Russian River Valley, with a winemaking history dating back to the the late 1950′s. Although best known for their world class Pinot Noir, Rochioli also produces remarkable Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Dehlinger Winery is located in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County and was founded in 1975 by Tom and Carole Dehlinger. Eva Dehlinger took over winemaking duties in 2007. Known for their Pinot Noir, Dehlinger also makes Chardonnay, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
2004 Williams Selyem Chardonnay Allen Vineyard – The impressive 2004 Chardonnay Allen Vineyard reveals deep, concentrated, honeyed flavors along with notions of pineapples, white currants, and smoky oak, superb richness, and a pure, dense character. It is best consumed over the next 3-4 years. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.
2005 J. Rochioli Chardonnay South River Vineyard – Aromas of honeysuckle, lemon oil, and white peach along with superb minerality are found in the 2005 Chardonnay South River Vineyard. With fabulous texture, a flinty character, and great generosity, richness, purity, and length, it should drink well for 5-7 years. Kudos to Tom Rochioli, one of the wine world’s great guys who, without any fanfare, continues to turn out world-class wines of extraordinary aromatic and flavor dimensions. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.
2005 Dehlinger Estate Chardonnay – Perhaps the finest Chardonnay Tom Dehlinger has ever made, the style of the 2005 Chardonnay Estate is mid-way between a grand cru Chablis and a ripe, full-bodied, fruit-laden California Chardonnay. Beautiful lemon blossom, nectarine, crushed rock, and white currant notes soar from the glass of this full-bodied effort. Displaying a gorgeous texture along with a pure, long, intense personality, the oak component is pushed to the background, and the wine’s intense minerality and fruit are beautifully balanced. This stunner should drink well for 4-5 years. 93 points from the Wine Advocate.
Which California Chardonnay should I open?
2004 Williams Selyem Chardonnay Allen Vineyard (44%, 20 Votes)
2005 Rochioli Chardonnay South River Vineyard (31%, 14 Votes)
2005 Dehlinger Estate Chardonnay (25%, 11 Votes)
Total Voters: 45
Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, let me know if you have any suggestions for the June installment of Pick My Next Bottle.
Leonetti Cellar was founded in 1977 by Gary and Nancy Figgins. Leonetti, along with Quilceda Creek and Woodward Canyon put premium Washington Cabernet Sauvignon on the radar of wine consumers across the United States. Leonetti also produces one of the very best domestic Merlots.
Leonetti is near and dear to me as a wine consumer, and I’ve been on their mailing list for 15 years. Vintages like the ’92 Merlot and ’98 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon are included among my most memorable wines.
Fruit from Leonetti Estate, Mill Creek Upland, Seven Hills and Pepper Bridge Vineyards. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 2% Carmenere. 14.4% ABV. Still a brilliant purple in color. Heady aromas of black cherry, black licorice and spice. Cassis, cocoa, leather, raspberries, plums, currants and cherries on the palate. Richly textured with great acidity. Properly cellared bottles will drink well for at least another decade.
My rating: 94 points.
Leonetti has a full mailing list but the wine is readily available at retail in late-March. The winery has done an exceptional job at holding the line on prices and you should be able to find bottles right around $85.
Many wine collectors, myself included, have the romantic notion of buying a case of wine from their child’s birth year to give them upon their 21st birthday. I’m not going to get into the wisdom of giving a 21 year old first growth Bordeaux, but I do like the thought of having some fun bottles on hand to open at birthday dinners, graduations, weddings, etc. Last year I put together a list for a 2009 “Birth Year” case, and thought I’d continue the tradition.
Collectors with children born in 2010 have a wealth of options as quality was high in most regions including Napa, Bordeaux and Chateauneuf du Pape. With high quality though comes high prices, so for this birth year case I am lifting the bottle price ceiling from $100 to $150.
My main criteria for inclusion is the likelihood of the wine to age gracefully over 20 years or more. For this particular case, I’m not going to include more than two wines from a single region. Most of these 2010 bottles listed are available at retail right now.
In 1979, Joyce Black and Jerre Sears purchased a one-of-a-kind property at the top of Howell Mountain. In 1997, Joyce and Jerre began producing very small quantities of estate-bottled Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel for their new Black Sears label, a few hundred cases per vintage. For twelve years, winemaker Ted Lemon called the Black Sears winery home, producing both the Black Sears wines and his own Littorai Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But in 2007 Ted fulfilled a lifelong dream and built his own winery in Sebastopol.
Soon thereafter, Joyce and Jerre learned that their friends and neighbors down Summit Lake Drive at Outpost needed some additional capacity. Winemaker Thomas Brown was taking on more projects, and Outpost’s facility was running out of room for them all. Moreover, Thomas needed open-top tanks so he could make Pinot and Chardonnay for his own Rivers Marie label. Thomas and cellar-master Andrew Jones now inhabit the Black Sears winery, where they craft wines for their own label, Rivers Marie, Schrader and others.
The 37 year old vines for the 2009 Zinfandel are on an east-facing plot at the absolute top of Howell Mountain. 15.6% ABV. The wine cherry red in color. Lighter in color than I would have expected for a four year old Zinfandel. Red fruits and white pepper on the nose. Cherries, peppercorns, figs and bramble fruits on the palate. Rich and sweet but not jammy. Modest tannins. The wines from this vineyard have a track record of aging extremely well but I would be inclined to drink this over the next 2-4 years.
My rating: 93 points.
The fact that this bottle was shared with my brother and his wife on a warm Spring night in Phoenix made it all the more better!
The Black Sears Zinfandel priced around $50 and is only available via the mailing list. The 2011 version will be released in the Spring of 2014.
Williams Selyem Winery began when Ed Selyem and Burt Williams started making wine as a hobby in 1979 in Forestville, California. Their first commercial release was in 1981, and in less than two decades they created a cult-status winery of international acclaim. Setting a new standard for Pinot Noir winemaking, they put Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley at the forefront of the best Pinot Noir regions in the world.
Today, John and Kathe Dyson, who purchased the winery from Burt and Ed in 1998, work with winemaker Bob Cabral to carry on the passion for Pinot Noir without compromise.
Williams Selyem gets the vast majority of their publicity for their Pinot Noirs. In recent years though, I have begun to think their Zinfandels rival the best of the Pinot Noir lineup. The Zins are sourced from exceptional old vine vineyards like Papera, Forchini and Bacigalupi.
The Bacigalupi family has been farming grapes in the heart of the Russian River Valley for over 50 years. Located off the famed Westside Road just west of the town of Healdsburg, the Bacigalupi vineyard has become known for consistently producing world class Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Zinfandel.
The wine is a light ruby red, almost rust in color. 15.2% ABV. Jammy aromatics of blueberries and strawberries. Licorice, pepper, briar and plums on the palate. Elegant and balanced with soft tannins. Textbook “claret style” Zinfandel. Beautiful wine.
Note to self…buy more Zinfandel from Williams Selyem.
My rating: 93 points.
Williams Selyem can periodically be found at retail, but the mailing list is highly recommended. Current vintages of the Williams Selyem Zinfandels run $55 off the mailing list.
When I first started collecting wine I paid so much attention to vintage charts and rankings. I would buy sparingly from mediocre vintages like ’89 Napa Cabernets but I would back the truck up for a vintage like 1990. Nowadays I find myself paying far less attention to vintages and far more attention to producers.
What changed my mind? I realized, in some respects, vintage rankings are completely useless.
For instance, many publications rate broad categories such as California Pinot Noir. There is a huge difference between the Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast, not to mention other appellations including Anderson Valley, Mendocino and even areas like Paso Robles, that it does the consumer no good to read sweeping generalizations about an entire vintage. I know many collectors who passed on 2008 California Pinot Noir because of wildfires in the Anderson Valley, and to a lesser extent the Sonoma Coast. In actuality, most producers outside of the immediate area were not impacted by smoke taint whatsoever. I’m happy to have plenty of ’08s in the cellar from producers like Rochioli and Dehlinger.
A second issue I have with vintage charts is that they overlook the fact that supposedly “underwhelming” vintages can in fact produce some stellar wines. 2004 and 2006 Chateauneuf du Pape have always been overshadowed by the outstanding 2005 vintage. Both ’04 and ’06 rated a respectable 90 points, which only seems low when compared to the ’05′s 95 points. That being said, I have recently had some stunning ’04 CdP including Barroche Pure and Clos St. Jean Deus Ex Machina. If you skipped ’04 based on vintage rating alone you’re missing out on some great bottles that can still be found at very fair prices.
Finally, it’s common for the vintages with flashier, fruitier wines tend to get the high scores. It is becoming apparent that the 2010 vintage in Napa produced some outstanding, ripe Cabernets. But I know many collectors who are actually looking forward to the greener (and certain to be lower rated) 2011 vintage because the wines will likely be more old world in style. Think back to the high scoring ’97 Napa Cabernets vis a vis the lower scoring ’98′s. In retrospect many now prefer the ’98′s.
So for me, having been at this for nearly 25 years, my focus has shifted to the producer more so than the vintage. I will still sit out vintages that are a complete wipeout like ’02 CdP. Other than that, I will happily buy favorite producers, even in lesser vintages, with the expectation that quality is high and the bottles will be fairly priced.
Chateau Rayas is one of the most famous estates in Chateauneuf du Pape, in France’s southern Rhone Valley. Founded in the late 19th century by Albert Reynaud, a lawyer and notary from Avignon, the estate is today run Emmanuel Reynaud, the fourth generation of the family to take control of the 56-acre estate with its 37 acres of vineyards. About three-quarters of the estate’s wines are reds and are comprised mostly of Grenache. The Reynaud family also owns and operates Chateau de Fonsalette and Chateau des Tours, both producers of Rhone Valley wines.
Robert M. Parker Jr. has called Chateau Rayas “one of the mythical names of France” because of its outstanding Chateauneuf du Papes.
I recently had the chance to connect with good friend and fellow wine blogger Adam Japko. We went to dinner at Canlis, without question one of Seattle’s finest restaurants. Adam had the generous foresight to send a bottle of 2005 Rayas in advance.
The wine was surprisingly light red in color. I was expecting something darker and more brooding as that has been my experience recently with other 05 CdP’s. The nose on the wine was phenomenal. Slightly funky at first, it blew off to reveal bacon fat, minerals and flowers. The palate had layers upon layers of blood, iron, kirsch, plum, game, band-aid, asian spices and cherries. This wine is the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove. Elegant but at the same time powerful. Silky, lush, breathtaking and beguiling. The finish is long and plush. The wine should age gracefully for at least another 20 years. My rating: 97 points.
Argiano dates back to the 16th century. The nearly 120 acres of vineyards are planted to Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah. The wines, both Brunello di Montalcino and super Tuscans, have routinely received outstanding scores. In 1992 Argiano was acquired by the Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano.
The ’99 Solengo is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese and Syrah. 13% ABV. Violet in color. Dried cherries and wet asphalt on the nose. The palate features cherries, leather, rose petals, tar, tobacco, plums, peppers, cedar and menthol. Classically structured with a touch of acidity. This wine will show well over the next 3-5 years. My rating: 93 points.
I brought several bottles of this wine back from Italy after visiting the Cinque Terra in 2001 and it will always have a special place in my cellar. Current vintages can be found for around $75 and are well worth the hunt.
Efeste, pronounced like the letters “F-S-T” strung together, was named after the last names of founders Helen & Dan Ferrelli, Patrick Smith, and Kevin & Angela Taylor. Efeste is located in the Warehouse District of Woodinville, Washington. Peter Devison took over full-time winemaking duties when Brennon Leighton left to work with Charles Smith in 2012.
My wife Lisa is a member of the wine club, so this past Saturday we made a trip to the winery for the semi-annual wine club party and pickup. They may be located in the Warehouse District, but their winery is big, warm and welcoming. The winery has a working kitchen complete with a wood fired pizza oven. Throughout the release they served a variety of delicious thin crust, artisan pizzas.
The wines poured included the 2011 Evergreen Riesling, ’12 Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, ’12 Feral Sauvignon Blanc, ’10 Final Final, ’10 Big Papa and ’10 Tough Guy. The quality was high across the board. Below are notes on my favorite white and red.
2011 Evergreen Riesling – The fruit is sourced from Evergreen Vineyard. Without question one of the more exciting sites for white wines in the state of Washington. Flowers and petrol on the nose. Lemons, flint and minerals on the palate. Bright acidity. $20 at the winery. My rating: 90 points.
2010 Tough Guy – Predominantly Merlot with fruit sourced from Klipsun Vineyard. Opaque purple in color. Cherries and mineral on the nose. Currants and anise on the palate. Incredibly rich and sweet fruit. Super supple and sexy. This wine is amazing now but should age well for a decade. One of the better Washington Merlots in recent memory. $55 at the winery. My rating: 94 points.
After tasting through the new releases we had the opportunity to do a little barrel tasting with Peter Devison. The highlights were the ’12 Stonetree Vineyard Mourvedre which will be a component of the Emmy, the ’12 Boushey Syrah which will make up the Jolie Bouche Syrah and the ’12 Klipsun Merlot which will go into the Tough Guy. Honestly though, every sample was super.
Efeste is firing on all cylinders. The whites, including those mentioned above and their two chardonnays are some of the best in the state. The winery has been doing memorable Syrahs for many years and, with the Tough Guy, they’ve taken their Bordeaux style wines to the next level as well.
There’s a lot to like at Efeste. I encourage you to buy a bottle of any of these wines and let me know what you think.