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November 2008

November 24, 2008

Long Meadow Ranch Winery's 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Long Meadow Ranch Winery
2004 Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley, CA

As the name implies, Long Meadow is much more than a winery; it’s a ranch property that produces eggs, olive oil, vegetables and grass-fed beef for restaurants throughout the Napa Valley. A family-owned operation, Long Meadow uses environmentally friendly techniques to re-establish vineyards that were first planted on the site in the 1870s. Solar panels supply electricity to the farm’s 650 acres and biodiesel is used to run the ranch’s farming equipment. On the winery side, Long Meadow produces a Sauvignon Blanc, Sangiovese and Red Blend in addition to their well-known Cabernet Sauvignon. Fruit-forward in style, the 2004 Cabernet offers powerful black currant, tart cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors. Structurally, there is something missing on the mid-palate, but fine-grain tannins, black licorice and a touch of cedar on the finish round out the flavor profile with richness and complexity. Try it with hearty winter foods like Irish stew, steak frites or roast beef with a side of carrots in herb butter. However, be warned that the wine can be hard to obtain. Only 2,750 cases were produced and, because the wine tends to be popular with San Francisco Bay area chefs, much of the production goes straight into restaurant cellars.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $42

Other Cabernet Sauvignons we have tasted
Check out our guide to California
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November 17, 2008

Talbott Vineyards 2005 Diamond T Estate Chardonnay

Talbott Vineyards
2005 Diamond T Estate Chardonnay

Monterey County, CA

Talbott Vineyards is a family-owned winery in California’s idyllic Carmel Valley. The Talbott family originally moved to Carmel in the 1950s to start, oddly, a luxury necktie business. Yet their close proximity to the burgeoning wine industry inspired the family to turn their Diamond T Estate into a prosperous vineyard in 1982. Because of the property’s elevation at over 1,200 feet, and its close proximity to the ocean—the grapes benefit from a blanket of morning fog throughout most of the hot, summer months—it is perfectly situated to produce Chardonnay. Today Talbott produces several single-vineyard Chardonnays as well as Pinot Noirs from fruit throughout the Carmel region. Diamond T was the first cuvée the Talbott family created. The wine is made from low-yielding vines and is treated to fourteen months in the barrel, giving it that leesy, handcrafted quality of an American, boutique Chardonnay. The 2005 vintage offers nutty and yeasty aromas, and its flavors tend toward tropical fruits, including pineapple and guava. Though the wine’s oak aging slightly overpowers the fruit on the finish, it is also what gives the wine its weight and length. Serve it with the Thanksgiving turkey or a Christmas ham with all the trimmings.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $63

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

November 10, 2008

Stephanie's 2005 Merlot

2005 Merlot

Napa Valley, CA

In 1996, businessman Stanley Cheng and his wife Helen turned their love for the Napa Valley into big business. The pair purchased a 41-acre Napa property and spent several years producing Bordeaux varietals for some of the region’s big name wineries. Then in 2005, they went into the wine business for themselves with their first Cabernet Sauvignon (from the 2002 vintage). Cheng, the CEO of Meyer Corporation, which manufactures Circulon and Analon cookware, now produces multiple bottlings under the Hestan and Meyer labels. The winery’s most recent project is the Stephanie series, a line of premium wines from Bordeaux varietals. Included in the first release of the Stephanie wines is a 2005 Merlot. Handcrafted with attention to detail, the wine was aged in 75 percent new French oak, giving it the structure for at least ten years of cellaring potential. Although the oak somewhat overshadows the wine’s fruit profile, the black plum, currant and tart cranberry notes should begin to integrate with the oak over the next couple years of aging. A hint of coffee and bitter herbs on the finish gives the wine dimension. While it suffers slightly from the signs of the over-winemaking typical of boutique, Napa bottlings, this is an interesting wine, proving Stephanie is a series to watch over the coming years. Serve this seductive Merlot with smoked duck, roast beef or even a Thanksgiving feast.

Rating: 14/20
Price: $40

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

November 3, 2008

Goldeneye 2005 Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir

2005 Confluence Vineyard Pinot Noir

Anderson Valley, CA

Goldeneye, a boutique winery located in the migration path of the Goldeneye Duck, is named in celebration of these annual visitors. Likewise, the Californian winery was founded by Dan Duckhorn, which offers yet another explanation for the avian name. Duckhorn’s dream was to create a Pinot Noir equal to his famed Napa Valley Merlot. To do this, he purchased his Pinot vineyards in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley (a fair distance from his Napa stomping grounds), because of the region’s cool climate, coastal fog and clay soil—all of which are important conditions for nurturing the finicky Pinot Noir grape. Goldeneye’s 2005 Pinot Noir is a medium-bodied wine with a tart acidity reflective of the grapes’ cool growing climate. Aromas are of black plums and raspberries with a hint of cinnamon and a deliciously earthy, truffle-like note. Bright cranberry and raspberry dominate on the palate, with lingering caramel on the finish and a mere hint of clove that tickles the throat on the very end. Exhibiting tannins as plush as a velvet couch, Goldeneye’s 2005 vintage is one of the most approachable Anderson Valley Pinot Noirs that we have tried recently. Serve it with a classic Peking duck or try it with your favorite fall stew.

Rating: 14.5/20
Price: $75

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



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