It’s time for my quarterly sample posting and following tradition, there are several wines that merit a separate column prior to the larger post.  These are the wines that I shared with friends and neighbors where I found myself wishing I had used a Coravin or perhaps allocated an extra glass for myself. These are the wines that most often, but not always, merit a special occasion due to their price point or can be hard to find, so I wanted to talk about them today.

  • 2016 Palmaz Vineyard Louise Napa Valley Riesling – this is a delicious Riesling with notes of apricot, flowers, orange and a great minerality. Our group couldn’t stop drinking it and it went way too fast.

  • 2015 Palmaz Vineyard Amalia Napa Valley Chardonnay – this wine that was meant to celebrate Amalia Palmaz, the matriarch of the family who convinced her husband, Julio, who wanted to just produce Cabernet, that “a little white can be delightful.” She was correct.  Think warm apple pie and lemon rind.  This Old World style Chardonnay embraces you like a mom’s hug.

I had the chance to visit Palmaz A Winery of theWorld Wonder, back in 2010, where I was impressed with gravity-flow winemaking and toured the facility that is literally built into a mountain.  I remember trying the Chardonnay and it being good, but what I experienced with these two white wines was another experience. I have known Palmaz for their red wines, but wow, these two whites were delicious.

  • NV Champagne Bruno Paillard Première Cuvée – This is another annual favorite that I cheer every holiday season because it is a delicious champagne. This champagne is a blend of Pinot Noir (percentage), Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier.  I tasted notes of fresh baked brioche, honeydew melon, peach, almond, orange, and a minerality that makes you coming back for another sip.

I love that Bruno Paillard blends different crus, varieties and vineyards over 32 hectares in champagne (and 100 plots of different terroirs) to make his champagnes.  You taste in the glass one man’s mission to bring you the best of Champagne.

  • 2014 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon – with this wine, I literally drank history in a glass. In 1995, The Coppola Family brought back the historic Inglenook property, creating a Cabernet Sauvignon recreating the legacy of the estate that was world-renowned in 1941.  The 1941 vintage was produced by John Daniel, Jr. from vines brought to the Inglenook Estate from Bordeaux by the Founder Gustave Niebaum.

I tasted blackberry, cassis, smoke, earth and mocha.  It was rich, elegant and great today, but will be stellar with future bottle age.

  • NV Ridgeview Cavendish Brut – red fruit, citrus, melon, honey and baked bread. This was delicious with a long finish and nice complexity.  A perfect bubbly to go with food.

  • NV Ridgeview Blanc de Noirs Brut – notes of red apples, raspberry, freshly baked brioche and more depth than the Cavendish. Elegant and nuanced.

I’ve tried a few sparkling wines from England and I’ve been impressed with their quality.  Ridgeview Estate was founded by Christine and Michael Roberts in 1994.  The family is dedicated to creating world-class sparkling wines in the South Downs of England following traditional French sparkling wine methods.  Since the vineyard is only 88 miles North of Champagne with comparable geology and climates, there are many comparisons.

  • 2015 Don Melcor Cabernet – This is my third year to review the Don Melcor Cabernet. It continued to be an explosion of flavors and aromas.  Still powerful and elegant.  Notes of blackberry, coffee, cassis, currant, herbs, tobacco, chocolate and black cherry.  This is a delicious wine that shows Chile can make world-class wines.

Don Melcor was Chile’s first fine wine.  It was the vision of Eduardo Guilisasti, who in 1987 challenged the Concha y Toro winemaking team to produce a wine that would establish Chile as a center for world-class winemaking.  His son, Rafael, took that challenge seriously and flew to Bordeaux with Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon samples from the Puente Alto vineyard for a meeting with the “Father of Modern Winemaking”, Professor Emile Peynaud.

The stars aligned and Peyanaud recruited his business partner Jacques Boissenot to assist in the final blend.  Today, Jacques’ son, Eric, continues to work with Enrique Tirado, who is the winemaker for Don Melchor.

  • 2015 La Jota Howell Mountain Merlot – for those of you who don’t understand the complexity of Merlot, you have never tasted a Merlot from mountain fruit. And Howell Mountain Merlot is some of the best that Napa Valley has to offer.  This wine has notes of dark espresso, chocolate, blackberry, spice, and herbs. It is a blend of 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Petit Verdot.

La Jota Vineyard Co. was founded in 1898 by Frederick Hess, an immigrant from Switzerland, who established a German-language newspaper in San Francisco.  Hess purchased 327 acres of a Mexican land grant, Rancho La Jota, on Howell Mountain.  He planted vineyards, built the stone winery from rock on the property and used redwoods on the property to build his first fermentation tanks.  The winery was very successful until Prohibition.

After Prohibition, the ghost property was acquired in 1974 by former oilman Bill Smith who planted vines on the estate. Eight years later, in 1982, the revived La Jota winery was bonded. In 2005, Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke purchased the winery and today the 28 acre property produces small lots of mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

  • 2015 Crux Grenache – this was a blend of 90% Grenache, 5% Syrah and 5% Mourvèdre sourced from the Campbell McKinney Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. I tasted notes of strawberry, lavender, spice, cherry and earth. This was a unique and gorgeous wine.

  • 2016 Crux Grenache Blanc – a blend of 80% Grenache Blanc and 20% Viognier from Catie’s Corner Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, claimed to be the only Grenache Blanc in the AVA. An explosion of orange blossom, floral notes, apple and stone fruit with a great acidity.  I don’t how else to describe it as pretty, but with sass.

I knew nothing about Crux Winery until they shipped me the bottles.  They craft small lots of Rhone varietals – Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc and Viognier, but also Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley.  They are both grape growers and winemakers who farm sustainably and use grapes that they grow or from other select vineyard sites with the same environmental practices in the vineyards.

2016 Flora Springs Trilogy – this continued to impress.  Different than last year, but very impressive.  I got notes of black cherry, mocha, cassis, licorice, dark chocolate, vanilla, herbs, spice and elegance.  Velvet is a great descriptor for this wine.

The 2016 trilogy is the 32st release of its flagship wine.  Trilogy was first made in 1984 when the family selected the highest quality wine lots from estate vineyards from traditional Bordeaux varietals.  The 2016 is a blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec and 8% Petit Verdot. Most of the grapes were grown on the Komes family’s ranch which surrounds the Flora Springs Estate in St. Helena (though the vineyard straddles the St. Helena/Rutherford AVAs), though a small portion came from the family’s Crossroads Ranch in the Oakville AVA.