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March 2007

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March 5, 2007

2004 Blackbird Proprietary Red Wine
Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, California

In 1999, a walnut orchard in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley was transformed into a vineyard, and began providing several local winemakers with its product.  The land, often likened to the Pomerol region of Bordeaux, produced some outstanding fruit that found its way into many award-winning bottles, such as Dalla Valle’s 1999 Selene Merlot.  Michael Polenske purchased the vineyards in 2003 and decided to see if the magic would stick with a label of the vineyard’s own.  It did.  Blackbird’s inaugural bottling of only 100 cases was wildly praised by multiple sources, quickly becoming a cult favorite among wine aficionados. The Proprietary Red Wine—a blend of 95% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon—continues Blackbird’s tradition of excellence with its vibrant and elegant taste that will only improve with time. Aged 19 months in French Oak barrels, the wine features aromas of black cherry, mocha, and jammy fruit and pairs well with rack of lamb.

Rating: 16.5/20
Price: $80

Other Merlots we've tasted
Check out our guide to Napa Valley
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March 12, 2007

Iron Horse

2005 Iron Horse Vineyards Rued Clone Chardonnay
Sonoma County/Green Valley, California

Iron Horse’s precision farming philosophy has paid off with this bright and silky Chardonnay.  Utilizing modern GIS/GPS technology and CAD computer models, the cool and foggy Green Valley vineyard is separated by soil type, aspect and elevation into distinct blocks, which are then treated as individual vineyards.  Any decision relating to the end product, from pruning to irrigation, is made on a block-by-block basis with special consideration paid to the wine’s vintage.  The Rued Clone Chardonnay comes from Block “O”, a 5.83-acre, 1986 planting that parallels the winding oak tree-lined drive leading up towards the winery, known for its translucent golden fruit. Fermentation occurs in water-bent French oak barrels, which dials down the woody imprint characteristic of fire-bent barrels. The resulting distinctly floral wine features succulent flavors of lime-cream and makes an excellent companion to braised chicken or aged cheddar.

Rating: 15.5/20
Price: $35

Other Chardonnays we've tasted
Check out our guide to Sonoma County
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March 19, 2007

Justin Vineyards Isosceles Reserve

2004 Justin Vineyards Isosceles Reserve
Paso Robles, California

A visit to the Paso Robles wine country is not complete without a stop at the idyllic Justin Winery and possibly a meal at the JustInn, or even better: an overnight stay. With a killer tasting facility, it’s actually a must. Anyway, proprietor Justin Baldwin has long left the San Francisco banking business. He and his dynamic wife Deborah have built a leading operation on the Central Coast wine scene. With their Isosceles, in this case the Reserve, they have found their flagship product and their answer to Bordeaux. And with an alcohol content of 15.5%, it’s a robust answer. Despite its strength, this vino is well-balanced, has a gorgeous deep red color and a pleasant fragrance. Of course, it will simply get better with appropriate aging. Your mouth will fill with exquisite black cherry and cassis flavors at first, but then the subtle flavors of coffee, preserved cherries and hints of vanilla will reveal themselves. Perfect wood treatment, lengthy tannins and an assertive finish make this bottling a favorite for mid-winter sipping by the fireplace, or a great companion to medium rare skirt steak and pommes frites.

Rating: 15.5/20
Price: $95

Other Meritages we've tasted
Check out our guide to Paso Robles
Read our profile of Justin Winery
For more information, visit

March 27, 2007

2002 Taylor Family Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California

Jerry and Pat Taylor, along with their children Scott, Sandy and Mike, first planted a nine-acre vineyard in the signature volcanic soil of Stags Leap District on their hands and knees in 1980. After years of selling their top-quality fruit to the Pine Ridge winery, they decided to start producing and selling Chardonnay and Cabernet under their own name in 2002. Later that year, they handpicked the grapes that make up their very first reserve wine from the upper terraces of the vineyard, where the vines had to struggle the most to survive. Only 80 cases were released in the fall of 2006 under the watchful eye of winemaker Gustavo Brambila.  This balanced Cabernet with soft tannins and layers of leather, licorice, and tobacco can be enjoyed today, but will continue to evolve. Hints of vanilla remain from spending twenty months in new French oak barrels. Try it with grilled meats and rich cheeses.

Rating: 15.5/20
Price: $80

Other Cabernet Sauvignons we've tasted
Check out our guide to Napa Valley
For more information, visit



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