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June 2008

June 30, 2008

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines' 2006 Fog's Reach Vineyard Pinot Noir

J. Lohr Vineyard & Wines
2006 Fog's Reach Vineyard Pinot Noir
Arroyo Seco, California

Jerry Lohr, the founder and owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, began business by planting 280 acres of wine grapes in 1972 and 1973, in the Arroyo Seco AVA of Monterey County. The eponymous winery has grown to include over 900 acres in Arroyo Seco with an additional 2,000 near Paso Robles. The Arroyo Seco vineyards, where J. Lohr grows Chardonnay, White Riesling, Pinot Blanc, and Valdiguié have among the longest growing seasons in California, and the winery recently started growing Pinot Noir there as well. 2006 marks the first vintage of the Fog's Reach Vineyard Pinot Noir, which resulted in the production of 2,750 cases. The fog helps cool the grapes, which are planted in the sandy loam soil of the windy region. Dark red and purple-hued, the Pinot Noir exhibits aromas of strawberry, cherry and rhubarb as well as toasted oak. On the palate, flavors include raspberry and cherry with oak spiciness and a long finish. Pair with grilled lamb, duck or veal.

Rating: 13/20
Price: $35

Other Pinot Noirs we have tasted
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June 23, 2008

2006 A Donkey and Goat Winery Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay

A Donkey and Goat Winery
2006 Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay
Chalone, California

The name “Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay 2006” evokes sophistication, and the wine lives up to the title. However, its maker’s moniker, “A Donkey and Goat Winery,” sounds anything but refined. Similarly, the grapes have an upscale pedigree, grown in Chalone, an exclusive AVA known for its terroir, on the border of Monterey and San Benito counties in the Gabilan Mountains, with less than 300 planted acres. But the winery is based in Berkeley, not known as a wine center. Wife and husband Tracey and Jared Brandt, the donkey and the goat, respectively, prematurely pluck some green berries to make ver jus, then blend that into the wine after the harvest to increase acidity and complexity. The result is a refreshing, crisp wine with good structure, an aroma of apples and a subtle taste of honey. This unfiltered Chardonnay has an elegant mouthfeel, and a lively aftertaste, without a hint of butter or oak. Released in spring of 2008, the 100 percent Chardonnay can be enjoyed with or without food, and is strong enough to stand up to spicy fare like Thai food. It is a shame only 96 cases were made, so it may be difficult to locate.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $40

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

June 16, 2008

Faust's 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley, California

Faust wine is a creation of Agustin Huneeus, a Chilean native and winemaker with over 40 years of experience in the industry. After successful stints with wine firms such as Seagram and Franciscan Estates, he and his wife formed the Quintessa Estate in Rutherford, Napa Valley, in 1989. During the early 1990s, Huneeus also founded Veramonte Winery in Chile’s Casablanca Valley. For Huneeus, a fine wine’s character is reflected in the origin of its grapes, a philosophy evident in the winemaker's latest addition to his portfolio: Faust Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine grapes for this label were selected from family vineyards in Rutherford and in Napa Valley’s soon-to-be-named Tulocay AVA in the eastern foothills south of Atlas Peak. Huneeus’ vineyards are tended to provide small yields of grapes with concentrated flavors. After crushing and cold maceration at Quintessa, the grapes for the Faust Cabernet Sauvignon are fermented in oak and stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged for eighteen months in French oak barrels. The Cab, which includes eighteen percent Merlot and three percent Cabernet Franc, exhibits red and black fruit on the nose along with notes of vanilla and toasted nuts. On the palate are dense flavors of plum, blueberry and dark cherry with hints of light cedar, herbs and tobacco.

Rating: 15/20
Price: $50

Other Cabernet Sauvignons we have tasted
Check out our guide to Napa Valley
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June 9, 2008

St. Urbans-Hof's 2007 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett

Weingut St. Urbans-Hof
2007 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett
Mosel, Germany

With vineyards on the gray, slate soil slopes by the Mosel and Saar Rivers, Weingut St. Urbans-Hof's production consists exclusively of Riesling. Nik Weis, grandson of the winery’s founder, grew up at the estate and is currently its owner and winemaker. Weis earned his degree in viticulture and oenology from Germany’s Geisenheim wine school and later worked at wineries in France, Chile and California. At St. Urbans-Hof, Weis strives to have his Rieslings exhibit the terroir of each vineyard through employing traditional methods of viticulture. One practice at the winery is to grow the vines on a single-post "heart-binding" trellis system where the canes are tied into heart shapes. Other methods include using organic fertilizers, reducing crop yields, thinning leaves and handpicking the grapes at the latest possible time. St. Urbans-Hof’s 2007 Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett is the result of the winery’s careful attention to terroir. This semi-sweet white wine displays complex fruit flavors with a smoky minerality infused by the vineyard’s slate soil. On the nose are floral notes reminiscent of woodruff, nutmeg and white pepper. Sip with chicken or spicy Mexican fare.

Rating: 15/20
Price: $16

Other Rieslings we have tasted
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June 2, 2008

2004 Joseph Phelps Vineyards Insignia

Joseph Phelps Vineyards
2004 Insignia
Napa Valley, California

Construction, not winemaking, was Joseph Phelps’ original choice of careers. Phelps, who grew up on a farm, later helped bring a small construction firm to national prominence. It was not until 1972 that Phelps decided to return to his farming roots by establishing his own winery among the redwoods outside of St. Helena, CA. Joseph Phelps Vineyards’ estates throughout Napa Valley and Sonoma County produce varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. While their famous Insignia brand, which has been released since 1978, was the first Bordeaux-style blend produced in California without the varietal on the label, the 2004 Insignia is the first of its label to use only estate-grown grapes. This red blend, which consists of 72 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 14 percent Merlot, 12 percent Petit Verdot and 2 percent Malbec, was aged for two years in new French oak barrels. With aromas of syrupy blackberry and blueberry greeting the nose, Insignia reveals velvety tannins, a round finish and flavors of cassis, incense, graphite, plums, blackberries and black currants. Enjoy the wine now or put it aside to be sipped sometime in the next several decades.

Rating: 17.5/20
Price: $200

Other Cabernet Sauvignons we have tasted
Check out our guide to California
For more information, visit



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