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2010 A. Rafanelli Zinfandel – Bottle Notes

Alberto Rafanelli, an Italian immigrant, first founded A. Rafanelli Winery in the early 1900’s. It wasn’t until the early 70’s that Alberto’s son, Americo, came out with the present day label and started selling the wine commercially. David and Patty Rafanelli now run the winery and a 4th generation Rafanelli, their daughter Shelly, is the winemaker. The winery is perhaps best known for their Zinfandel but also produces Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with all the fruit sourced from their vineyard in Dry Creek Valley.

Garnet in color. 14.7% ABV. Fantastic nose of sweet red fruits, cracked black pepper and licorice. The aromas literally jump out of the glass. Light, fresh and elegant with perfect acidity. Strawberries, raspberry liqueur and boysenberries on the palate. The finish is long and sweet. Without question the best Rafanelli Zinfandel in recent memory. In a perfect spot right now. Drink over the next 1-2 years.

My rating: 94 points.

$42 at the winery.

I’ve previously posted on Rafanelli in What’s Your Price for Zin?

Rafanelli is very traditional in how they run the winery. If you want to join the mailing list you need to send them a letter. They do not correspond via email, but will likely answer the phone if you give them a call. The extra effort required to acquire the wine is worth it. The tasting room is open by appointment and is always worth a visit to try the new releases.

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New Releases from Lauren Ashton Cellars

Lauren Ashton Cellars was founded in 2009 by Kit Singh. A Dentist by profession, Kit’s passion for wine was fueled by trips to Napa, Sonoma and Europe’s best known wine regions. Kit enology background includes classes at UC Davis and Seattle Community College along with an internship at Delille Cellars.

The inspiration for the name of the winery was Kit’s two children, Ashley Lauren and Ashton Troy. The packaging for the wines is impressive. The black and white pictures on the labels are from buildings in Estonia where Singh’s partner, Riinu Rammal, is from.

I was fortunate enough to recently try the wineries new releases.

2014 Lauren Ashton Roussanne – Lightly straw colored. 13.5% ABV. Refreshing nose of lemon oil, honey and flowers. Light and delicate with medium acidity. Pears, lemon zest, green apple and spice on the palate. The finish is long and spicy. Delicious wine that will show it’s best paired with fish, chicken or pork off the grill. Drink over the next year or so. $25 at the winery and retail. My rating: 90 points.

2012 Lauren Ashton Cuvee Mirabelle – Crimson in color. 14.5% ABV. Equal parts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Not giving much on the nose yet but with time in the glass aromas of red fruits, black pepper and flowers emerge. Medium body with tons of acidity. Cherries, spice, iron and cocoa on the palate. The finish lingers for oh so long. The wine needs a little time in the cellar then can be drunk over the next 4-6 years. Lots of potential. $50 at the winery and retail. My rating: 92 points.

The Woodinville tasting room is open Thursday thru Sunday from 1pm to 5pm and is a worthwhile stop on your next winery excursion. The wines sampled above will be available in mid June.

These reviews were based on a samples provided by the winery.

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Pick My Next Bottle – 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

The May Installment of Pick My Next Bottle focuses on 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. 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. The winning bottle will be opened this Saturday and a Bottle Note will be published shortly thereafter.

1995 was one of the many exceptional vintages in the 1990’s. Everyone has their favorite but 1995 is right up there with ’91, ’94 and ’97 by most accounts. 21 years from vintage only the most age worthy wines are still showing well. I think it is high time to revisit some of my favorites.

The Contenders:

1995 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon –  The 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits an opaque blue/black/purple color, followed by sweet cassis aromas intermingled with scents of earth, spice, smoke, and grilled meats. This dense, powerful, muscular, concentrated wine provides an enormous mouthfeel. Wineries need more than luck to produce multi-dimensional wines with this concentration, ripeness, sweetness of fruit, and overall intensity and complexity. 94 points from the Wine Advocate.

1995 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon – The 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is similar in all respects to the Napa Valley, but somewhat heavier in the mouth, with an aggressive tannic bite, and more length. It possesses mineral-tinged blackberry and cassis fruit, massive body, and extraordinary purity and length. It should not be touched for 12-15 years. It will undoubtedly live through the first half of the next century. 96 points from the Wine Advocate.

1995 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – This is another winery where the 1995 may be as strong as the 1994. The color is an opaque purple. The wine is full-bodied and powerful, with classic notes of cassis intermixed with loamy soil scents, underbrush, and spice. There is massive body and elevated, but sweet tannin that is well-integrated with the wine’s other components, a blockbuster mid-palate, and a finish that lasts for 30+ seconds. Anticipated maturity: 2000-2025. Modern-day society seems to always be in search of new stars, but this winery has been a super hero for great California Cabernet Sauvignon for nearly 25 years! Montelena’s Estate Cabernet Sauvignons are equivalent to buying blue chip stock. They get better and better with age and as the vertical tastings I have attended so persuasively attest, they are still relatively young wines at 20 years of age! 94 points from the Wine Advocate.

Which 1995 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Should I Open?

  • 1995 Dunn Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (38%, 21 Votes)
  • 1995 Dalla Valle Cabernet Sauvignon (31%, 17 Votes)
  • 1995 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (31%, 17 Votes)

Total Voters: 55

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Thanks for voting! I’d love to see a comment below on why you picked one bottle over another. Also, please do let me know if you have any suggestions for the June installment of Pick My Next Bottle.

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The Week in Zinfandel (5/16/16)

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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2007 Carlisle Syrah Cardiac Hill – 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. Many of these vineyards are heritage sites planted by Italian immigrants and date back to the late 1800s . They have also recently added their first whites, two blends from historic, old-vine vineyards plus Sonoma County’s first ever Grüner Veltliner.

Cardiac Hill Vineyard, in the Bennett Valley, runs on a very steep hillside at an elevation ranging from 500 to 900 feet hence the peculiar but appropriate name.

Opaque purple in color. 14.2% ABV. Heady aromas of blue fruits, olive brine, barbecued meats and flowers. The palate belies the nose somewhat as the wine is less opulent than I expect from Carlisle. Elegant, savory and complex nonetheless. Flavors of blueberries, smoked meats and iron. Medium length on the finish. At nine years of age this Syrah has definitely taken on some secondary characteristics. Drink over the next year or so.

My rating: 90 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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2013 Turley Zinfandel Juvenile – Bottle Notes

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. Turley now makes 28 separate wines from 35 different vineyards, some with vines that date back to the late 1800’s. Tegan Passalacqua is the Director of Winemaking at Turley and has been instrumental in revitalizing the brand.

The vines that make up Juvenile range in age from about 6-25 years, and are sourced from 15 vineyards across California, including Hayne, Ueberroth, Pesenti, Salvador, and Vineyard 101.

Violet in color. 15.5% ABV. Brambly black and red fruits, plums and spice on the nose. Fresh and vibrant on the palate with juicy acidity. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry, cherry and black pepper. The finish is tremendous. One of the best values in CA Zinfandel. This wine delivers year in and year out. Drink over the next several years.

My rating: 91 points.

With all due respect to Carlisle and Bedrock, Turley is arguably the best Zinfandel producer in California. Exceptional vineyards sources throughout the state of California and no detail spared in the winemaking process. The wines are simply better than ever.

Turley wines are available via the mailing list and periodically at retail. Turley has tasting rooms in both Amador and Paso Robles. If you are not on the mailing list, this is an easy way to secure bottles. Both are not to be missed if you are in the area.

Turley was a big winner in The 2015 Zinfandel Chronicles Power Rankings.

The 2014 Juvenile was recently released to mailing list members and is not to be missed. You may very well find it at retail as well.

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2013 “Birth Year” Case Wine Recommendations

This is my 5th annual “Birth Year” case blog post. This post can serve as a guide for readers who had children born in the year of 2013 and want to set aside some wine for them to enjoy when they reach the age to appreciate said wines. My 2009 list , 2010 list2011 list and 2012 list were published around this time in the preceding years.

2013 was hit and miss around the globe. Napa Valley was the clear standout and I have stacked the list accordingly.

Per previous year lists I attempted to find bottles from a diverse number of regions that have the capacity to age under appropriate cellar conditions for upwards of 20 years. I have kept the bottle price ceiling at $150. This is no small task given escalating prices in regions like Napa Valley and the Northern Rhone. These wines should all be available at retail right now. None of these wines should be very hard to find. Happy hunting!

  1. 2013 Corison Cabernet Sauvignon – Region: Napa Valley, Score: 94 points from Antonio Galloni, Price: $90.
  2. 2013 Calon Segur – Region: Bordeaux, Score: 94 points from James Suckling, Price: $65.
  3. 2013 Doisy-Daene – Region: Sauternes, Score: 95 points from the Wine Advocate, Price: $50
  4. 2013 Auguste Clape Cornas – Region: Rhone, Score: 97 points from the Wine Advocate, Price: $120.
  5. 2013 Spottswoode Cabernet Sauvignon – Region: Napa Valley, Score: 96 points from the Wine Advocate, Price: $135.
  6. 2013 Turley Petite Sirah Library Vineyard – Region: Napa Valley, Score: 94 points from the Wine Advocate, Price: $50.
  7. 2013 Dominio de Pingus Flor de Pingus – Region: Spain, Score: 94 points from James Suckling, Price: $80.
  8. 2013 Clos des Papes – Region: Rhone, Score: 94 points from the Wine Spectator, Price: $80.
  9. 2013 Troplong Mondot – Region Bordeaux, Score: 94 points from the Wine Advocate: Price: $90.
  10. 2013 Antinori Tignanello – Region: Tuscany, Score: 97 points from James Suckling: Price: $85.
  11. 2013 Dönnhoff Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle Riesling Spätlese Nahe – Region: Germany, Score: 94 points from the Wine Advocate, Price: $65
  12. 2013 Pahlmeyer Proprietary Red – Region: Napa Valley, Score: 95 points from the Wine Adovocate, Price: $150.

If you have followed this series over the years then you may have noticed that wines like Spottswoode, Clape, Tignanello and Donhoff have made multiple appearances. Simply put these are fairly priced, world class wines that should age effortlessly for up to 20 years. The real beauty of this list is you should be able to source the wines without needing to belong to a mailing list. Look at reputable wine stores like Wine Exchange, JJ Buckley and K&L Wines.

Other wines to consider that will be more readily available later this year include Cabernets from Dunn and Chateau Montelena.

I’d love to hear about what wine you are setting aside for your children that were born in 2013.

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The Week in Zinfandel (5/9/16)

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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2013 Efeste Chardonnay Lola – Bottle Notes

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.

The Lola Chardonnay is sourced from Evergreen Vineyard

Gold in color. 14% ABV. Beautiful nose of stone fruits, honeysuckle and minerals. Rich and creamy with bright acidity. Peach, honey, lemon oil and creme brulee on the palate. The finish is long and succulent. Delicious Chardonnay. Drink over the next 2-4 years.

My rating: 92 points.

The 2013 Lola is available at retail and the winery for $35.

Efeste has one of the best white wine programs in the state of Washington and the red wines are also exceptional. The wines are readily available at retail, via the wine club and at the winery.

I’ve blogged about Efeste previously in The Great Whites of Washington.

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2013 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley – Bottle Notes

Limerick Lane Winery is in the Russian River Valley just south of the town of Healdsburg.The Del Fava family planted the oldest currently producing vineyard at Limerick Lane in 1910, a field blend consisting mostly of Zinfandel. In 1977, the Del Favas sold their thirty acre property to brothers Michael and Tom Collins. The two brothers began by selling some of the grapes to local wineries including De Loach, Ravenswood and Gary Farrell. In 1985, Limerick Lane Cellars was created. By 2009, Mike Collins was ready to sell and asked his neighbor Jake Bilbro if he would like to buy Limerick Lane and the Collins Vineyard. For two years Jake pitched nearly every bank in California before a local bank in Healdsburg finally agreed to give him the loan. Jake’s brother Scot is the current winemaker.

Bright crimson in color. 14.6% ABV. Super nose of black fruits, tar and black pepper. Loads of fruit on the palate with a creamy texture and juicy acidity. Flavors of blackberry, raspberry liqueur and pepper. The wine has a strong finish with subtle tannins. Drink over the next 4-6 years. Bodes well for some of the higher end Zins from Limerick Lane in this vintage.

My rating: 92 points.

I’ve been following Limerick Lane since the early 90’s. Consistently delicious Zins and the vineyard could not be in better hands right now. The mailing list here is highly recommended.

I blogged about Limerick Lane Vineyard previously in Top 10 Old Vine Zinfandel Vineyards.

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