(2017) Monterey, just south of San Francisco and on the Pacific Coast, is perhaps best known for its world famous aquarium rather than wine, but this is a terrific Pinot showing a fine understanding of the variety. Aged in French oak, only part new barrels, for around six months, it has a pale/medium cherry colour and alluring nose, crammed with cherry, vanilla and hints of Sandalwood and cocoa. In the mouth the spice and the briary character is wonderfully rich, but there's a flood of creamy fruit too. Five spice and cocoa emerge again on the finish, enlivened by a touch of ripe peach, then good acidity and fine tannins to round out a sumptuous picture. Watch the video for more information and food-matching ideas.
(2017) Cellared by me since around 1998 or so, the first vintage of this joint project between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild was in 1979, the blend here being 89% Cabernet Sauvignon with 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Merlot, aged for 17 months in new French oak. It has a glorious fragrance still, a compote of red and black berries swirling with smoke, cedar and graphite, a finely honed touch of wild, gamy character well into the background. On the palate it is medium bodied, a pristine freshness with taut acidity and pure, fine-grained tannins, that wash of ripe but elegant fruit layered on top. This is drinking beautifully, but with no sign of any fading it surely has a decade ahead of it.
(2016) Zinfandel appears on the shelves as cheap 'blush' wines, but it has a far more noble heritage than that, producing some excellent, if large-scaled, red wines in Calfifornia. This from old vines and aged in oak for 10 months is opulent and creamy, the nose having real brightness with notes of pomegranate and cherry, as well as a creamy, chocolaty spice. In the mouth it is big, generous and deeply fruity, loads of sweet fruit married to plush oak, but there is spice and a cherry lift to the acidity. Crowd-pleasing stuff of it's bold style. Watch the video for more information and food-matching suggestions.
(2016) Acero is Spanish for steel, and reflects the fact that this Chardonnay is made in steel tanks and sees no oak. From the organically farmed Don Miguel vineyard, it has an an immediate creaminess and touch of almond and honey to the ripe stone fruit aromas. The palate brims with sweet creamy apple and peach, verging on tropical with its mid-palate sweetness before the fine, white fruit acidity and touch of weight and texture gives the finish savouriness and a bit of gravitas. Delicious.
(2016) Another organic and biodynamic wine from the Russian River, barrel fermented and aged (40% new, French oak from Alliers), this has Marimar's signature refinement and composure, the sheen of oak carefully handled, still allowing plenty of expressive citrus and nutty apple fruit, just hinting at the tropical. On the palate good fruit sweetness immediately, then the creamy, vanilla oak fills in, but so does a gentle acidity into an easy-drinking, balanced finish.
(2016) From the Doña Margarita vineyard on the Sonoma Coast, maturation was in French oak, 36% new. Fine, soft ruby and earthy colour, plemty of plum and spices, a tobacco and clove spice with chocolate tones too. In the mouth it is full and generous, suede-like texture and ripe chocolaty tannins against the pert acidity, but a fine truffly Pinot sweet earthiness propels it into the finish. This should cellar well, but is delicious now. Note, price is per bottle when purchased as a six-bottle case.
(2016) Nice to find a wine with 6 years of age already, and it does show maturity in the fading rim of the garnet colour. Sweet forest floor earthiness and density, a touch of something like menthol and clove, and a nice gamy maturity. In the mouth plenty to chew over in a wine with a bit of liquorice at its core, but there is good fruit here and a nicely mellow, autumnal feel to the fruit. For drinking now (and it is reduced from £29.95) but delivering a whole lot of Pinot pleasure in a fairly robust style.
(2016) What a superb, aromatic and perfumed Pinot this is from the Don Miguel Vineyard in the Russian River. Farmed biodynamically, the vineyard is mostly planted with the Swan Pinot clone, with 30% Pommard, and 10% Dijon clones. This wine is aged in French oak, 40% of which is new. The nose really is gorgeous, framing seductive berries, violet and sweet exotic spice with some earth and woodland truffle notes, before a palate that ripples with cherry and sweet red fruit, an undertow of spice and chocolate, and smooth as silk tannins against the pretty acidity. Terrific and will probably age well for a decade.
(2016) What a triumph this is for Marimar Torres, who experimented with different appellations to grow Albariño before settling on the Russian River. Grown organically and planted at high density, the wine is made in steel and does not go through malolactic fermentation. It has an expressive, authentic and beguiling nose where the most delicate fresh pear and peach marries with gentle floral hints, and a touch of Chablis-like flint. On the palate the 14% alcohol is unbotrusive, but instead gives fat and texture to the ripe pear fruit of the palate before a streak of ripe, lime-like acidity. A terrific Albariño by any standards. Only the 2012/13 are in stock in the UK at time of review.
(2016) A Bordeaux blend, based on 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, this is classic Napa Cab with a little dustiness and solid, ripe black fruit edged with violet and cedary spice. I really like the juiciness of the palate - the fruit is slick and sweet, but there's a big, earthy tannin framework, mouth-watering acidity and plenty of spice and savoury density. Quite long, and well balanced. Not in the UK, but sells for around $80 - $100 in the US.