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2000 Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain – Bottle Notes

Dunn Vineyards is located east of St. Helena in the town of Angwin on Howell Mountain. The Winery was established in 1979, with the first harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In 1981, the first release consisted of 660 cases of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Howell Mountain vineyards. In 1982, Dunn released a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Dunn is one of the iconic producers of Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa Valley. Randy Dunn, to his credit, has held steadfast in how he produces and prices his wines. The wines are exceptionally long-lived and are truly a throwback to a different era in Napa Valley. Recent favorable press from Antonio Galloni, formerly of the Wine Advocate, has put a well-deserved spotlight back on the winery.

2000 was by all accounts a difficult vintage in the Napa Valley and with that in mind I only decanted the wine for 30 minutes.

Blood red in color with some fading at the edge of the glass. 13.6% ABV. Dried red fruits, leather and graphite on the nose. Medium body. Tight and bruising on the palate. Flavors of cherries, currants, pencil and cassis. Drying, coarse tannins on a medium length finish. The word rustic comes to mind. Dunn always seems to walk a tightrope of tanns and fruit. In this case I think the tannins may ultimately outlive the fruit. Underwhelming if you are a fan of Dunn Howell Mountain from classic years like ’91 and ’94 but not bad considering the vintage. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 90 points.

Current vintages of Dunn Howell Mountain should cost around $85. The wine is readily available at retail and a great value at the price point.

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Force Majeure Spring 2015 Release Party

Previously known as Grand Rêve, Force Majeure was founded in 2004 by Paul McBride. Force Majeure pairs some of Washington’s highly acclaimed winemakers with fruit from one of Washington’s highly acclaimed vineyards, Ciel du Cheval. The winemakers contributing to the Collaboration Series is a Who’s Who of Washington winemakers including Ben Smith, Carolyn Lakewold, Chris Gorman, James Mantone, Mark McNeilly, Mike McMorran and Ross Mickel.

Force Majeure recently announced the hiring of Todd Alexander, formerly of Bryant Family Vineyards, as the winemaker for the Force Majeure Estate wines and Helen Keplinger of Keplinger Wines as the Consulting Enologist. Force Majeure Vineyard is located in the Red Mountain AVA and is currently planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Mourvedre, Syrah, Grenache and Viognier.

Force Majeure does two release parties per year. The Release Party this past Saturday was the second time I have had the opportunity to visit Force Majeure’s new winery. The winery, located near the Woodinville Warehouse District, is a huge step up from the previous facility.

The following wines were poured at the release party:

  • 2013 Collaboration Series Viognier
  • 2012 Collaboration Series III
  • 2012 Collaboration Series VI
  • 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Estate Syrah

I did not take detailed notes but the highlights were the CS III and the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Since the winery was founded the CS III has been my favorite wine and the ’12 version was no exception. Think rich, plush black and blue fruits intermixed with minerals and an amazing floral characteristic and you are on the right track. The Estate Cabernet is all about creme de cassis, red fruits and graphite with amazing concentration, texture and balance. If you need scores I would put both wines were in the 94-96 point range. Lastly, if you purchased the Viognier, save a bottle for Thanksgiving dinner. You can thank me later.

I also had the opportunity to try barrel samples of the 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The Cabernet shows tons of red fruit and graphite shrouded by a wall of silky tannins. The Syrah was dark, smoky and brooding with  loads of potential.

Paul McBride previously told me the plan is to move towards 75% Estate wines with just a few Collaboration Series wines per year, as mailing list only.

Force Majeure is one of the most exciting wineries in Washington. If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to sign up for their mailing list.

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2007 Carlisle Zinfandel Carlisle Vineyard – Bottle Notes

Carlisle Winery & Vineyards was founded in 1998 by Mike and Kendall Officer. Their passion is clear: Small lots of Zinfandel and Syrah from exceptional, historic vineyards.

Carlisle vineyard was planted in 1927 by Alcide Pelletti on the eastern bench of the Laguna de Santa Rosa flood plain. Both sides of the Laguna were popular for settlement by Italians immigrants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. As was typical in the early 1900’s Carlisle Vineyard is a field blend consisting of predominantly Zinfandel with a sprinkling of Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, Grand Noir de la Calmette, Tempranillo, Peloursin, and others.

Deep red in color. 14.8% ABV. Red fruits, flower and briar on the nose. Full bodies with juicy acidity. Raspberry compote, boysenberry, cherry and white pepper on the palate. Refreshing Zinfandel with a mouth watering finish. As good as I have come to expect from the Estate Vineyard. Drink over the next year or two.

My rating: 93 points.

Current vintages of the various Carlisle wines are available via the mailing list, which is exceptionally long. Several retail outlets in California stock Carlisle, but you need to check with them at the time the winery releases their wines in the Spring and Fall.

I’ve wrote about Carlisle previously in Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5 and The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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The Week in Zinfandel (4/13/15)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2012 Rivers-Marie Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – Bottle Notes

Thomas Rivers Brown and his wife Genevieve Marie Walsh have quickly made Rivers-Marie one of California’s most sought after Pinot Noir labels. The winery was founded in 2002 and the first release was the Rivers-Marie Summa Vineyard Pinot Noir. Rivers-Marie now produces 7 different Pinot Noirs along with three single vineyard Cabernets a Thieriot Vineyard Chardonnay and this Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. In addition to making his own wine, Thomas serves as a consultant for a number of wineries including Schrader, Outpost and Black Sears.

Golden in color. 14.2% ABV. Pear, lemon curd and vanilla on the nose. Rich, creamy and plush. Creme brulee, vanilla bean, pear and apple on the palate. The finish just goes on and on. Drink over the next several years.

My rating: 92 points.

At $25 this wine is one of the very best values in California Chardonnay. I think there are many wineries out there who wish they could deliver a wine like this using Sonoma Coast grapes at such a compelling price.

Rivers-Marie wines are only available via their mailing list. The 2014 version of this wine will be released next Spring.

I’ve blogged about Rivers-Marie previously in The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings and also recently reviewed the 2013 version of this wine.

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Zinfandel of the Month – 2013 Cedarville Vineyard

Zinfandel of the Month is a regular feature on Zinfandel Chronicles. Keep in mind that although the Zinfandel of the Month might be an older bottle, the current vintage will be one you can find at retail or via the mailing list.

The April Zinfandel of the Month is the 2013 Cedarville Vineyard.

Cedarville Vineyard was founded by Jonathan Lach and Susan Marks in 2000. Cedarville Vineyard is located in the Gold Rush era town of Fair Play and is situated within the Fair Play, El Dorado, and Sierra Foothills AVAs. The winery produces many wines including a Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Petite Sirah and Syrah.

Light crimson in color. 14.7% ABV. Red fruits, citrus and lilacs on the nose. Light body and medium acidity. Sour cherry, iron, pepper and a hint of grapefruit on the palate. Very restrained. Unique wine that grows on you with time in the glass. Drink over the next 2-3 years.

My rating: 88 points.

The Zinfandel is available at the winery for $25. Cedarville Vineyard is open by appointment and is a great stop on any visit to the Sierra Foothills.

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2002 Rochioli Pinot Noir West Block Vineyard – Bottle Notes

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.

Rochioli recently published a detailed map of the Estate Vineyard that is required viewing for fans of the winery.

The grapes for this wine come from a 1.5 acre parcel of Rochioli Vineyard that was planted in 1969. Some of the oldest Pinot vines in California.

Crimson in color with some bricking at the edge of the glass. 14.2% ABV. Gorgeous nose of black fruits, baking spice, cloves and minerals. Light in body with perfect acidity. Black cherry, cranberry, sassafras and spice on the palate. The finish is seamless, plush and incredibly long. Great showing from the top wine in the Rochioli portfolio. It’s only April but this may be the best domestic Pinot Noir I drink this year. This wine still has some life left in it. Drink over the next 1-3 years.

My rating: 95 points.

The current version is $110 off the mailing list.

At present time (and for the foreseeable future) buying from Rochioli via the mailing list is not an option. The Estate wines do show up at retail periodically, and the winery’s Russian River Valley tasting room is still open for public tasting. They may only be pouring a couple of wines, but it’s a great opportunity to buy a bottle for a picnic on their lovely patio and a few more to bring home for the cellar.

I’ve blogged about Rochioli previously in the Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings, Reflections on Two Days in the Russian River Valley and the Fab 5 of Mailing Lists.

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The Week in Zinfandel (4/6/15)

Welcome to the latest installment of The Week in Zinfandel. If I missed your post or story please send me a link and I will be sure to include it next week. Cheers!

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2006 Kosta Browne Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch

Kosta Browne began as a dream shared by Dan Kosta and Michael Browne. In the summer of 1997, while working at John Ash & Co. restaurant in Santa Rosa, California, Dan and Michael decided to pool their tips and venture into winemaking. Fifteen years later, Kosta Browne is one of the most sought after Pinot Noirs in all of California. At present time they produce three appellation Pinot Noirs, eight single vineyard Pinot Noirs and a Chardonnay.

Keefer Ranch is located in the Green Valley appellation in the southwestern corner of the Russian River Valley.

Light red in color. 14.7% ABV. Black fruits, baking spice and rose petals on the nose. Light body with medium acidity. Mouth coating and voluptuous in a manner in which I have come to expect from this producer. Black cherry, brown sugar and black tea on the palate. Lacks the hedonistic fruit that Kosta Brown so often delivers but delicious nonetheless. Drink in the near term.

My rating: 91 points.

The 2013 version will be released this Fall. As I mentioned in the Fab 5 of Mailing Lists, Kosta Browne is one of hardest lists to crack. Maybe so, but you’ve got nothing to lose by putting your name on the waiting list. Good luck!

Kosta Browne fared well in last year’s version of The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

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2006 Cayuse Camaspelo – Bottle Notes

Cayuse was founded in 1997 by Christophe Baron, a native of France who grew up in family of winemakers in Champagne. Baron studied viticulture in Burgundy and Champagne, and had ambitions to make Pinot Noir in Oregon. However, on a visit to Walla Walla he found property that he believed would be perfect for growing grapes and decided to purchase the land.

67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc.

Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Red fruits, mint and a healthy dose of leather on the nose. Medium body with stronger than expected acidity. Cherries, crème de cassis, plums and graphite on the palate. Silky, fine grained tannins on an exceptional finish. Great showing from one of the under appreciated wines in the Cayuse lineup. Drink over the next 2-4 years.  

My rating: 94 points.

Camaspelo seems to get better each and every year and always shows well at the Cayuse Release Party. The current vintage was released at $75 per bottle.

The waiting list for the Cayuse mailing list is huge and you need to be well-connected to get a bottle via retail. Either way, current vintages are worth the hunt!

I’ve wrote about Cayuse previously in The Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings and Winery Mailing Lists: The Fab 5.

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