Wine recommendations

·         E5 ($20). This is another version in Dave Phinney's "Locations" portfolio. The concept he created was to blend grapes across a broad region, such as an entire country or state. "E" is for Espana and is a blend of garnacha, tempranillo, monastrell and carinena from five Spanish regions. It has copious plum and black cherry flavors with hints of vanilla.

·         Provenance Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($49). Using all of the Bordeaux grape varieties, this quaffable blend has ripe blackberry and cassis flavors with hints of chocolate and spice.

·         Clos du Val Napa Valley Estate Chardonnay 2016 ($32). Barrel fermented, this gorgeous chardonnay from the Carneros region has a lot of complexity and textural luxury. Peach aromas with apple and stone-fruit flavors, plus hints of spice and vanilla.

Canvasback Red Mountain Grand Passage Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($80). We couldn't believe the depth and endless layers of flavors in this concentrated, unblended cabernet sauvignon from Washington state's Red Mountain. Sampled in a flight of premium cabs, it soared.

·         Sonoma-Loeb Dutton Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2016 ($45). This Sonoma producer is making very good chardonnay and pinot noir wines these days. We liked this single-vineyard pinot for its smooth, ripe black cherry flavors with hints of espresso and anise.     

·         Stoller Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2016 ($30).  From the Willamette Valley, this perennial favorite of ours has great balance with luscious strawberry and cherry fruit flavors, dash of spice and an earthy finish.

·         Inman Family OGV Estate Pinot Noir 2015 ($73). We just love the wines from Kathy Inman because they are so well balanced. Even this reserve from Olivet Grange Vineyard isn't overblown with extracted, bold fruit like so many pinots. Instead, it is refined with red berry notes, that umami character and hints of pomegranate and herbs. Very long finish with a dash of mineral.

 

  • J Vineyards & Winery Russian River Valley Cuvee 20 ($38).  This delicious sparkling wine has a beautiful label and a vibrant character. Mostly chardonnay, it shows off delicate apple and almond notes. 

  • Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2014 ($38). We loved this deliciously vibrant but serious Tuscan wine. It is a tantalizing blend of 85 percent prugnolo gentile, 15 percent colorino, canaiolo and merlot. It's a wine to put against meat, but also a wine that can easily last a decade. We also were impressed with the Poliziano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano "Asinone" for $60 that is almost entirely sangiovese. It is incredibly intense and complex – a sangiovese for the ages. 

  • Rutherford Ranch Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($50). Winemaker Jay Turnipseed says the next chapter for Rutherford Ranch is to step up the premium wines and this is a good start. With fruit from Oak Knolls, the wine is well balanced with omen of longevity. Forward black cherry and cassis fruit with hints of chocolate and vanilla. 

  • Goldeneye Confluence Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2015 ($84). More elegant and refined than the Gowan Creek pinot noir, the Confluence Vineyard broadcasts wide red berry aromas and fresh strawberry and cherry fruit flavors 

  • Ravenswood Big River Zinfandel 2015 ($40). One of several single-vineyard zinfandels from this top zin producer, Big River has a supple mouthfeel and juicy blackberry and plum fruit flavors. Ravenswood is a leader in complex, chewy zins that can match up with the most daunting dishes. 

·         Le Vigne Winery Sangiovese Estate Paso Robles 2014 ($37). This is a deep rich sangiovese with a complex fruit mélange of plum, cherry, and blackberries. Some spice notes along with a bit of oak complete the very appealing package.                                                                                 

·         J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon Hilltop Paso Robles 2014 ($35). J. Lohr is a quality producer of red wines from Paso Robles. Classic cassis and black cherry notes with just a hint of oak make this a great package.                                                                        

·         St. Supery Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2015 ($45). Effusive blast of cherry aroma with pure delicious cherry fruit flavors in the mouth with a touch of oak. A classic pure fruit driven California cabernet sauvignon.                                                                                                        

SPECIAL ROSES

  • Beronia Rioja Rose 2017 ($13). Floral aromas and bright strawberry, peach flavors abound in this blend of garnacha, tempranillo and viura. More creamy in texture than most roses. 

  • Protea South Africa Rose 2017 ($18).  An excellent Provence-esque rose from the coastal region of South African, this unique wine is a blen d of mourvedre, syrah, cinsault and grenache. Bright cherry and strawberry flavors with a dash of citrus. 

  • Julia's Dazzle Rosé of Pinot Gris 2017 ($20). This is the first rosé made from pinot gris grapes that we've tasted. Surprisingly, it's good. The bottle is worth the price of the wine itself. From the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in Washington state, it has strawberry and melon notes. 

  • Cashmere California Rosé 2017 ($12). From the Cline Family Cellars, this is an unusual blend of zinfandel and primitivo from Contra Costa. Watermelon aromas and fresh strawberry flavors. 

  • Belleruche Cotes du Rhone Rosé ($15). A deep blend of grenache, syrah and cinsault, this bright and bold  rosé has easy strawberry flavors and balanced acidity.

  • Murietta's Well Dry Rose 2016 ($30). A Provence blend of grenache and counoise grapes, this spirited rose has rich red berry and melon flavors and balanced acidity. 

  • Decoy Rose California 2017 ($20). This interesting blend of syrah, vermentino, carignan and pinot noir has fresh grapefruit and strawberry notes with a hint of mineral. 

OTHER WINES

·         Catalina Sounds Pinot Noir 2015 ($19).  It's clear to see why this region is becoming as known for its pinot noirs as its sauvignon blanc. This value wine has elegance, simplicity and long-lasting cherry and raspberry flavors. 

·         Sonoma-Loeb Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 ($30). From one of the most-desired vineyards in Carneros, this oaky chardonnay surpasses its price point. Generous citrus aromas are followed by richly textured tropical fruit flavors and abundant, oak-inspired flavors of vanilla and clove. This chardonnay is for those who like their chardonnays buttery and oaky. 

·         Landmark Vineyards Grand Detour Pinot Noir 2016 ($35). Black cherry and raspberry flavors with an earthy feel and hints of leather and tobacco. 

·         Goldeneye Confluence Vineyard Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2015 ($84). This complex single-vineyard pinot noir broadcasts wide red berry aromas and fresh strawberry and cherry fruit flavors. 

·         Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Pinot Noir California 2016 ($17). While not overly complex this pinot noir delivers a very appealing quaffable red wine with pleasant cherry and spice notes in a rich, round package.    

·         Pfendler Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 ($38). This was an easy winner in a tasting flight of a half-dozen chardonnays we recently tasted. Well balanced with lush lemon curd, green apple and sweet vanillin oak. 

·         Aaron Petite Sirah Paso Robles 2014 ($48). This is a massively intense red wine that that will fill your mouth with wonderful berry and spice flavors. Known around the world as durif, petite sirah is the result of a chance crossing of the peloursin and syrah grapes in France. Today it has found a home in California, where it even has a fan club “P.S. I Love You” that advocates for the grapes recognition. Try this full-throttle 15.6-percent alcohol wine if you want to see what petite sirah can produce.                     

·         Provenance Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($26). Delicious grapefruit and pineapple flavors with a kiss of oak to give it more weight and dimension. Semillon and muscat are blended into the wine to round off the edges and add more layers of fruit. 

·         Montes Alpha Carmenere DO Colchaugua Valley Chile 2013 ($25). This excellent example of carmenere offers a lot of complexity and interest. The carmenere presents notes of luscious ripe plum, berry and violets, with a peppery finish. A lot of complexity and enjoyment in this wine.                         

·         Matua Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($12). Matua has come with an ingenious method to show on the bottle the proper serving temperature. Called "Chill Check,"a thermographic label changes color with temperature. A snowflake appears when it hits the ideal temperature. A Ta Moko symbol, a tattoo of the face or body, also darkens. The wine is classic New Zealand with pineapple, citrus and grass notes.

·         Rodney Strong Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($35). This easy-drinking cabernet, blended with a dash of malbec, is always reliable for the price. Deep color, ripe plum and blackberry flavors with hints of mocha and spice.

·          La Crema Arroyo Seco Chardonnay 2015 ($30). Exotic flavors of extracted papaya, apricot and tangerine make this a delicious quaff for seafood dinners or just sipping. 

·         Columbia Winery Red Blend 2015 ($14). This is a good value from Washington's Columbia Valley. Merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec combine to deliver a forward, soft mélange of berry fruit flavors and hints of vanilla and spice.

·         Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc Napa Valley 2015 ($31). This producer takes sauvignon blanc to a new level with a complex palate of layered tropic fruit and mineral flavors.

·         Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 ($78). Winemaker Christopher Tynan shows what Stags Leap vineyards can produce in both power and finesse. Generous red and black fruit character with a bit of cassis, leather and mineral. It's the classic iron fist in a velvet glove.

·         River Road Mills Cuvee Chardonnay 2016 ($30). From the Green Valley of Russian River Valley this complex chardonnay has elegance and richness with stone fruit flavors and a creamy, oaky finish.

·         Rodney Strong Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($35). This easy-drinking cabernet, blended with a dash of malbec, is always reliable for the price. Deep color, ripe plum and blackberry flavors with hints of mocha and spice.

·         La Crema Arroyo Seco Chardonnay 2015 ($30). Exotic flavors of extracted papaya, apricot and tangerine make this a delicious complement to seafood dinners or just sipping. 

·         Columbia Winery Red Blend 2015 ($14). This is a good value from Washington's Columbia Valley. Merlot, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec combine to deliver a forward, soft combination of berry fruit flavors and hints of vanilla and spice.

·         Ruca Malen Argentina Brut N/V ($28). We don’t often see sparkling wine from Argentina but after tasting this beauty maybe we should. Made in the traditional “method champenoise” perfected in the Champagne region of France, this 75 percent pinot noir, 25 percent chardonnay bubbly presents lovely pear and apple fruit notes with a bit of a brioche nose and flavor, and a long creamy finish.                                                                                                                               

·         Le Vigne Winery Sangiovese Estate Paso Robles 2014 ($37). This is a deep, rich sangiovese with a complex mélange of plum, cherry, and blackberries. Some spice notes along with a bit of oak complete the very appealing package. Drink with spicy barbecue or roasted meats.                                                                                                                         

 

·       Steele Writer's Block Cabernet Franc 2015 ($17).  This reasonably priced cabernet franc delivers a lot of fruit for the buck. Simple and medium-bodied, it is an easy drink with plum and raspberry notes. 

·       Bodega Classica Lopez de Haro Crianza 2015 ($15). Another good value, this Rioja tempranillo has enticing aromas of ripe dark cherry fruit, licorice and balsamic. Round and ripe dark berry flavors. 

·       Evodia Old Vine Garnacha ($9). We rave about this wine because of its value. Made from grenache grapes grown on 100-year-old vines in the Calatayud region of Spain, it evokes blackberry pie, plums and cherries. 

·       Proyecto Garnachas de Espana La Garnacha 2016 ($12). From the Moncayo region, this garnacha has cherry and wild berry notes with a dash of clove and tobacco. Round, delicious and medium bodied. 

·       Paraduxx Howell Mountain Napa Valley Red Wine 2014 ($80). Very dense and rich, this blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and zinfandel breaks the mold. Deep black cherry and ripe blackberry flavors with a dash of mocha. 

·       Binomio Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Riserva 2015 ($50). Binomio is an ancient clone of Montepulciano and produces small berries. Stefano Inama and Sabatino di Properzio restored a vineyard with these grapes to produce this extraordinary wine. Extracted, rich blackberry and strawberry flavors with a ripe tannins and long finish. 

·       Chateau des Cres Ricards Oenothera Languedoc 2015 ($25). From winemaker Jean-Claude Mas, this fabulous blend of syrah and grenache noir exudes luxury. It has spicy, mocha aromas and blackberry, currant flavors with a good dose of licorice on the finish. Full bodied. 

·       Clos du Val Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($30).  This not-so-simple sauvignon blanc has lots going for it: a generous and soft mouthfeel, balanced acidity, layered citrus and grapefruit flavors.

·       Godelia Godello-Dona Bianco 2015 ($17). We are always looking for unique wines and were delighted to discover this gem from the Bierzo appellation in Spain.  The godello and dona bianco old-vine grapes create a wine that has the rich texture of chardonnay but the crisp acidity and mineral qualities of sauvignon blanc. We tasted stone fruit and citrus.

·       Paraduxx Napa Valley Proprietary White 2016 ($32). The dominant grape in this racy white blend is viognier, which accounts for the wine's enticing aromas of apple and orange blossom. The rest of the blend – chardonnay, roussanne and marsanne – provide additional aromatics, texture and peach/pear flavors.

·       Frei Brothers Sonoma Reserve Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($27). A good value in the reserve cabernet category, this wine is blended with a bit of merlot and petite sirah to create a well-rounded, delicious wine with forward dark-fruit flavors and soft tannins.

 Perfusion Vineyard San Francisco Bay Pinot Noir 2014 ($40). You don't often see a wine from this AVA, located along the western side of Contra Costa County, but this micro-batch producer has a winner. Ripe, forward cherry and raspberry flavors with hints of vanilla and spice.

·         Herdade do Rocim Olho de Mocho Branco 2014 ($30).  This unique white wine from Portugual made from the native antao vaz grapes is a delicious mouthful. Round in the mouth with citrus aromas and pineapple flavors.

·         Star Lane Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($50).  Who wouldn't want to drink wine from a place called Happy Canyon? Relatively new as a Santa Barbara wine region, Happy Canyon is the source of this delicious, medium-bodied cabernet. Plum and dark berry fruit with dried herbal aromas.

·         Chateau Maucamps Haut Medoc 2009 ($28). This crus bourgeois from the Haut Medoc is pure pleasure. Honestly, it's been a long time since we have tasted something so delicious for a cru bourgeois. Made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot and petit verdot, it has effusive black currant aromas and extracted, juicy dark berry flavors.  It's drinking well now.

·         Olema Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($23). Well priced for what you get, this rich and tannic Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon has broad dark berry notes with hints of mocha and vanilla. It is an inexpensive wine to cellar for a few years.

·         Rodney Strong Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($40). Ripe and fruit forward flavors of blackberries and currants with oak-influenced hints of caramel, vanilla and spice.

·         Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2014 ($26). Using grapes from Monterey and Santa Barbara counties, the winemaker has created a well-rounded pinot noir with black cherry and strawberry flavors with a hint of sweet vanillin oak.