Ushering out the Decade with Stellar Holiday Samples

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It’s crazy that 2019 has passed in a flash and a new year/decade has begun.  Why not usher in a new decade with a round-up article of a few favorite samples over the holidays?  Due to the weather, there is always a rush of samples shipped when the weather breaks in Texas, so it’s good the holiday season provides a reason to try these samples with friends and I certainly rose to the challenge.  Today, I’m covering 53 out of the 75 wines sampled.





Champagne Delamotte NV Brut Rosé – this is a blend of 80 percent Pinot Noir and 20 percent Chardonnay.  I tasted notes of cherry, strawberry, brioche, citrus and this champagne had a great minerality.



Champagne Drappier Carte d’Or NV — this is another elegant way to celebrate a new decade.  This is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay and 10% Meunier.  I tasted stone fruit, apple, cherry, citrus, hazelnuts and toasted bread.






2018 Dry Creek Fume Blanc – this Fume Blanc is an explosion of flavors.  I tasted citrus, stone fruit, pineapple, white flowers and grass.  It’s refreshing, mineral and well-balanced.



2018 Bowman Cellars Chardonnay – this small production Russian River Valley Chardonnay is a rich and buttery version with nuttiness and notes of pear, apple and fig.




2015 Cambria Wines Katherine’s Vineyard Chardonnay – I tasted notes of stone fruit, citrus, tropical fruits, apple and a bit of oak.



2016 Balletto Vineyards Chardonnay – this wine stood up to the cold Fall weather with notes of apple, citrus, stone fruit, floral notes and a bit of earthiness.



2017 The Paring Chardonnay – I was excited to try wines from Winemaker Matt Dees, who is known as one of the top winemakers in California and makes the wines for Jonata, The Hilt as well as The Paring.

I tasted notes of citrus, green apple, almond and a captivating spice.



2015 Marco Felluga Molamatta Collio Bianco — this is a blend of Pinot Bianco, Tocai Friulano, and Ribolla Gialla.  I tasted pear, brioche, apple and stone.



Courtesy of Spectral Vineyards


2017 Spectral Cellars Lone Star Riesling – this was my hero white wine tasted for this column.  We opened it on Thanksgiving, and it was such a fabulous match with our dinner.  I couldn’t stop smelling, swirling and sipping.  This Dry Riesling was inspired by Grosses Gewächs from Germany and is made in a Pfalz-German style.  I tasted notes of lemon, lime, green apple, grapefruit and an intense minerality.



2018 Chehalem INOX Unoaked Chardonnay – this wine is stainless steel fermented and is very fresh in style. I tasted lychee, lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange. It’s very Old World in style.


Tasting Winter Whites


I also was sent a package of Winter Whites that have greater acidity and are richer in body and style designed to stand up to richer winter Weather and food.  These wines all stood up to the challenge.



2017 Domaine Matrot Bourgogne Blanc – this Burgundy (100% Chardonnay and unoaked) has notes of stone fruit, citrus, white flowers and spice.



2018 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Blanc – made by the renowned Famille Perrin family, producers of Château de Beaucastel, this wine is a blend of Rhône varietals including Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Viognier.  I tasted notes of peach, apple, white flowers, almond and apricot.



2017 Tablas Creek Esprit de Tablas Blanc – this is a blend of five Rhone varietals (68% Roussanne, 17% Grenache Blanc, 7% Picpoul Blanc, 4% Picardan and 4% Clairette Blanche) grown on the estate, which originally came from cuttings from Château de Beaucastel.  I have been a big fan of this wine for a long time and it delivered again.  I tasted apples, citrus, lychee, apple pie, honeysuckle and stone fruit.




2018 Umani Ronchi Vellodoro Pecorino – this wine is produced by Umani Ronchi in the Abruzzo region of Italy.  This was a nice acidic wine with notes of lime, apple, pear and lime.







2016 Collio Russiz Superiore Cabernet Franc – I tasted red and black fruit with notes of green pepper with a nice herbalness.




2015 Jordan Winery Cabernet Alexander Valley – this is a milestone year for Jordan with Former Winemaker Rob Davis, who has moved to a new position as Winegrower after 43 years, and Maggie Kruse, the former assistant winemaker for the last 10 years, has been promoted as winemaker.   This is also the first year that Jordan switched to French oak barrels from American oak.

This is a special Jordan.  It almost was Bordeaux in style.  I tasted black cherry, black fruit, vanilla, clove and cassis.



2016 Provenance Vineyards Red Blend Deadeye – this is a blend of 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Malbec and 0.5% Petit Verdot.  I liked how this wine kept changing in the glass. I tasted black fruit, cinnamon, spice, licorice and balsamic.



2016 Concannon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – I tasted notes of cherry, plum, vanilla, cocoa and spice.  Great expression of cab from Paso Robles.



2016 Newton Cabernet Sauvignon – I tasted red and black fruit, herbs, cedar, Asian spice and mocha.  It was delicious.



2016 Silverado Vineyards Geo Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of great floral notes with blue and black fruit, chocolate and spice.  It was complex and kept opening in the glass.



2017 Flora Springs All Hallows’ Eve Cabernet Franc – this is a special allocation for Wine Club members that features an unique label from comic book illustrator and graphic novelist Steve Ellis featuring an eerie label.  That’s where the spookiness stops and you are treated to a complex and elegant wine with notes of blackberry, black cherry, Asian spice and hot cocoa.



2016 Flora Springs Holiday Blend (Gingerbread Estate) – this is also an exclusive wine club offering and is inspired by Nat Komes’ memory of decorating gingerbread houses with his grandmother, Flora.  The bottle is etched and hand-painted.  This Bordeaux blend has notes of rich black fruits, Christmas spices, herbal notes and vanilla.  It’s rich and perfect for the season.



2016 Cameron Hughes Lot 663 Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley – For those not familiar with the Cameron Hughes business model, he is a négociant or wine trader.  That means he doesn’t own vineyards or a winery but makes deals with source wineries to bring wines to consumers (with brands you probably know) that remain undisclosed at a good price.

The Lot 663 Cabernet comes from a well-known producer (and they don’t say who) surrounded by Grgich Hills Estate, Alpha Omega, and Hewitt.  I tasted notes of mint, cassis, olive tapenade, blackberry, black cherry and chocolate.



2016 Cameron Hughes Lot 660 Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain – this one needed a little time in the glass, but then opened up.  Red Mountain is one of the top AVAs in Washington with only about 1500 acres planted.  I tasted notes of red and black fruit with black pepper, coffee, earth and herbs.



2013 Westerly Red Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara – I was advised to decant both of the Westerly wines for at least an hour and the effort paid off.  This wine was coming into its own with red and black fruit, baking spice, violet, chocolate, caramel and spice.  It was a gorgeous medley of flavors in the glass.

2015 Westerly Cabernet Sauvignon Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara — this was an inky, rich and deep Cabernet with lots of black fruit, licorice, chocolate, anise, spice and floral notes.



2016 Clos Du Val Hirondelle Vineyard Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – It’s soft, smooth and “velvet in a glass” is how I’d describe it.  It comes from four top blocks of the Hirondelle Estate Vineyard. The wine has notes of black currant, graphite, chocolate, blueberry, dried herbs and mocha.



2016 Clos Du Val Estate Cabernet Franc — I tasted herbs, blueberry, black fruit, chocolate, caramel, eucalyptus and spice.



2016 Clos Du Val Three Graces – the wine is named Three Graces, but what happens when they come together is just heavenly. The Three Graces refer to the blend of 54 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 45 percent Cabernet Franc and 1 percent Petit Verdot. So much happens with this wine.  It’s rich, complex and elegant. I tasted notes of black pepper, graphite, blackberry, cassis, tobacco, mocha and cedar.  And this is a baby – the aging potential here is off the charts.



2017 Gary Farrell Pinot Noir – In my experience, Gary Farrell has always made elegant wines and this one is no exception.  The red fruit is dominant in this Pinot with mushroom, pepper, earth, herbs and cherry cola.




2016 Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley – the “Six Ridges” Cabernet celebrates the character of Sonoma County’s best wine regions and the mountain ridges that border the vineyards with unique terroirs.

This wine was rich and complex, I tasted chocolate, black fruit, Asian spice, mocha, caramel and spice.

2016 Kenwood Vineyards Six Ridges Pinot Noir – this Pinot had layers of depth with notes of red and black fruit, earth, coffee, cola, a little wet earth and pepper.  Excellent wine!



2017 Spectral Gamay Noir – this wine was styled in a similar style to Cru Beaujolais from the region of Morgon and it is delicious.  This Gamay from Oregon is a sourced from vineyard properties chosen specifically for their very different, yet complimentary, climates.

I tasted plum, strawberry, dried cranberry, and baking spice.  It’s a wine that would benefit with age, but you can drink it today.

2017 Spectral Cabernet Franc — this wine was made in an Old World Loire Valley style and is a blend of two vineyards located in the Walla Walla AVA of Oregon.  I am pretty sure this was my first Cabernet Franc from this region, and it didn’t disappoint.  I tasted black fruit, red plum, pencil lead, spice and floral notes.



2016 The Paring Red – this is a blend of 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot, 20 percent Cabernet France and 10 percent Petit Verdot.  It’s a well-priced and very drinkable red with notes of chocolate, red fruit, earth, spice and cigar.



2017 The Paring Pinot Noir – I really liked the depth of this Pinot.  I tasted lots of black and red fruit, spice, earth and a nice herbal balance.



2017 A+D Anthony & Dominic Pinot Noir – notes of plum, black cherry, blackberry, oak and spice.  I wouldn’t say this is a classic Pinot style, but it’s a nice drinking red.



2015 McIntyre Vineyards Merlot – this is a juicy Merlot with notes of blackberry pie, cranberry, cassis, violet and licorice.

2017 Trapiche Broquel Malbec – this wine is a consistently good expression of Malbec.  I tasted notes of chocolate, red and black fruit, oak, earth, leather and floral notes.


2015 Messina Hof 40th Anniversary Heritage Anniversary Blend – this is a blend of eight different varietals from the Texas High Plains.  I tasted red cherry, oak, leather, cassis and cranberry.





Cockburn’s Fine Ruby Port – this is the younger version of the Cockburn’s port that is aged for three years.  It’s fruity with notes of raspberry and cherry.  It’s a great match with cheese or chocolate.


Comparing Terroir in One Common Place


In the last sample round up, I talked about my comparison of two different terroirs using the same varietal in Paso Robles.  That exercise continued with trying Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.  This exercise illustrated that you can never stereotype a grape or region — while a wine may be labeled with a specific grape, there still can be a night and day difference.



2017 J. Wilkes Cabernet Sauvignon – this was rich and dark.  I tasted notes of blackberry pie, plum, cassis, expresso, violet and vanilla.

2016 Écluse Cabernet Sauvignon– this was also a concentrated wine, but different fruit shone through. I tasted notes of chocolate covered cherries, licorice cassis and cocoa.



2017 Brochelle Vineyards Zinfandel – this was a juicy Zinfandel with notes of black cherry, oak, vanilla, plum and spice.

2015 Steinbeck Zinfandel —  this wine had notes of berry, white pepper, plum and oak. It was a bit more tannic than the other but opened in the glass with time.


Snooth Ribera y Rueda Tasting


Due to a miscommunication and scheduling contact, I wasn’t able to attend the Snooth tasting that pitted the Ribera and Rueda regions side-by-side with the bloggers and writers that love them.  Click here if you’d like to hear what happened during the tasting.

The sister regions of Rueda and Ribera del Duero are located on high plateaus along the Duero River in the Castilla y León region in North Central Spain.

We tried three wines for #teamrueda:



2018 Marques de Riscal Verdejo – this is a classic Verdejo with notes of tropical fruit, lemon, lime, herb, pineapple and peach notes.

2016 Menade Verdejo – this wine had a little more complexity with notes of citrus, stone fruit, herbs and a nice minerality.

2017 Shaya Verdejo – another different expression of Verdejo with notes of baking spice, jasmine, stone fruit and a touch of honey.


Wines for Alicante Bouschet


Portuguese wines have come onto the wine scene and commanded attention for good reason.  Alentejo is a sunny region in south central Portugal that is located in one of those areas that has been overlooked for some time but is beginning to garner international attention.  The region has over 250 indigenous varieties.  I had the chance to try five Alicante Bouschet wines and was impressed by the diversity:



2013 Mouchão Tinto – this needed some decanting to appreciate, but I tasted red and black fruit, spice, tobacco, pepper, eucalyptus and oak.



2016 Herdade Do Rocim Alicante Bouschet – lots of black and blue fruit, spice, cocoa and leather.



2013 Esporão Vinha Das Palmeiras Alicante Bouschet – this single variety wine had notes of black fruit, chocolate, spice and mocha.  It was more complex and incredibly interesting in the glass.



2012 Dona Maria Grande Reserva – this wine had a great character and intensity with notes of baking spice, black cherry, cassis, vanilla, licorice and spice.



2016 Herdade Dos Grous Moon Harvested – another powerful expression with notes of plum, violet, black cherry, roses and spice.

As we enter 2020, I wish you a wonderful year with lots of diversity in the wines you try and can’t wait to hear about your favorites.

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