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July 2008

July 28, 2008

2005 Kuleto Estate Syrah

Kuleto Estate
2005 Syrah
Napa Valley, California

Entrepreneur Pat Kuleto, arguably the most influential Northern California restaurant designer of the 1990s (Boulevard, Farallon), employed his much-lauded attention to detail to create his wine estate in 1992. Designing vineyards as he would a dining room, Kuleto created an estate in which the vines follow the contours of the property’s natural landscape (unlike most vineyards which orient vines in a central direction). The result is a lineup of small production, single-source wines with the distinctive character of their unusual landscape. The quintessential California boutique winery, Kuleto produces less than 8,000 cases of wine annually. In addition to Syrah, Kuleto’s wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel and Sangiovese, as well as a Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir available only to wine club members. Kuleto’s Syrah is planted in fractured shale, one of three soil types found on the estate. Highly extracted from mature Napa Valley fruit, it is one of those pen ink purple Syrahs with flavors equal in intensity to the wine’s remarkable color. Ripe with currant and blackberry flavors, the powerful fruit almost overshadows the Syrah’s more interesting smoke, licorice and spice notes. While the majority of the wine’s flavor tends to be up front, the finish lingers with good length and evolving caramel flavor. Pair with chargrilled steak, bacon-wrapped figs or a summer ratatouille.

Rating: 13.5/20
Price: $45

Other Syrahs we have tasted
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July 21, 2008

Quady Winery's Deviation

Quady Winery

Andrew Quady is respected around the world as the “dessert wine guy.” As founder of Quady Winery, his influence on the sweet wine niche traces back to 1975. That was the year he created his first port, made with Zinfandel from Amador County, California. Quady set the bar for affordable, American dessert wines in the 1980s with his Orange Muscat, called Essensia, and his Black Muscat, named Elysium. His newest creation, Deviation, is possibly his most unique. The wine, an Orange Muscat, is infused with damiana, a Latin American herb noted as an aphrodisiac, as well as scented geranium, to produce Quady’s proprietary “love potion.” Whether or not they improve the wine’s romantic potential, the added aromatics bring delicious complexity to both Deviation’s aromas and flavors. The geranium adds floral notes to the wine’s peach aromas, and the damiana adds a delicious, mint-like herbaciousness to the palate. Most wines infused with botanicals are served as aperitifs, but Deviation is pure dessert. (Thus, the name, which stands for the wine’s deviation from traditional after-dinner wines as well as a symbolic nod to all the unexpected twists in winemaking—and in life). Deviation shines paired with lemon cheesecake, blood orange sorbet or dark chocolate torte.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $25

Other Dessert/Sweet Wines we have tasted
Check out our guide to California
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July 14, 2008

Sculpterra Winery's 2006 Maquette

Sculpterra Winery
2006 Maquette
Paso Robles, California

Founded in 2006 by wine lover and art aficionado Dr. Warren Frankel, Sculpterra Winery’s focus is on not only producing classic Central California wines, but also promoting the art of sculpture through their sculpture garden. In addition, the winery has an altruistic element. A portion of the proceeds from each bottle goes to “His Healing Hands,” a medical missionary program close to Frankel’s heart. Maquette is the winery’s red blend, a unique mix of 63 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 25 percent Merlot and twelve percent Petite Sirah. One of those highly extracted Paso reds, it is an excellent choice for an upscale, summer barbecue. A little hot at 16.3 percent alcohol, Maquette offers bold, ripe raspberries, and Bing and tart cherries on the palate. But the wine’s best feature is its finish, with velvety tannin, a dash of black pepper, whiff of smoke and just a hint of espresso. An expertly blended and, despite the alcohol, easy drinking wine, we recommend pairing it with marinated, grilled steak, chops and smoky ribs. Uncork it now, or cellar it for a special occasion, as it has a structure that should allow the wine to hold up for several years. An impressive first effort from an emerging winery, we look forward to what Sculpterra’s future efforts will bring to the Paso Robles region.

Rating: 12.5/20
Price: $40

Other Red Blends we have tasted
Check out our guide to California
For more information, visit

July 7, 2008

Domaine Salliès 2007 Viognier

Domaine Salliès
2007 Viognier
Vin de Pays d'Oc, France

Domaine Salliès has been in the Gau family for more than a century, and specializes in Vin de Pays d’Oc, which are southern France-produced country wines that eschew many of the requirements of the appellation d’origine contrôlée. The Salliès estate, located only 25 miles from the Mediterranean Sea among the hills of the Languedoc, is on the site of an ancient wetland. Though the land was drained under Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century, the vineyards are purposefully flooded at the end of each winter. This ancestral technique allows the vines to be grown on their own rootstocks and not attached to the American variety that is common to many French vines. The method helped prevent the vineyards from falling victim to phylloxera in the beginning of the 20th century. Another benefit of flooding is that it makes the soil colder and causes the vines to grow more slowly, allowing vines to ripen without imbuing its grapes with an excess of alcohol. Domaine Salliès' varietal production includes Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé de Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Marselan, Syrah and Viognier. The 2007 Viognier is a bargain at just $11. “It’s a veritable fruit salad!” exclaimed one fan, as he took in the aromas of pineapple, lychee and apricot, and tasted the fruit-forward, straw-colored wine. The refreshing Viognier can be enjoyed on its own, and pairs well with fish.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $11

Other Viogniers we have tasted
Check out our guide to France
For more information, visit



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