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August 2009

August 3, 2009

B.R. Cohn 2008 Rosé

B.R. Cohn
2008 Rosé

San Luis Obispo County, California

Situated on a 90-acre farm in Sonoma Valley, this family-owned operation is about as well known for its olive oils as its wines. Proprietor Bruce Cohn (who is also the manager of the rock band The Doobie Brothers) began growing and selling his grapes in 1974, and it took another decade before he founded his own winery. Eventually, success required Cohn to move out of the original house on the property—his own home—to make way for a tasting room large enough to accommodate visitors. Today, B.R. Cohn winery produces an impressive roster of wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a Rosé. The 2008 Rosé offers summery aromas and flavors, with a peach, raspberry and honeysuckle nose preceding juicy peach and nectarine flavors. Simple on the palate with upfront sweetness, this pink wine finishes deliciously dry with a sophisticated, spicy note reminiscent of the great Rhône Rosés. We like this vino on its own as a thirst-quenching aperitif. Pair with a salad of salted peaches and heirloom tomatoes, grilled chicken or Asian-spiced shrimp.

Rating: 13.5/20

Other Rosés we have tasted
Check out our guide to California's Central Coast
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August 10, 2009

Tandem 2006 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay

2006 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay
Russian River Valley, CA

Tandem is the boutique winery of Greg La Follette, the man best known for putting Flowers Vineyard and Winery on the map. Tandem is well-regarded, not just for its owner's winemaking abilities but also for its excellent fruit, sourced from some of the finest vineyards in California’s Russian River Valley. These grape growing sites are integral to Tandem’s winemaking philosophy, which aims to reflect the region’s terroir in a wine's nose, flavor and mouthfeel. The winery focuses on single-vineyard Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs but also dabbles in Pinot Meunier, Zinfandel, Sangiovese and Syrah. The 2006 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay is crafted from grapes left on the vines for an extra-long ripening period in an attempt to develop a weighty, soft and oily mouthfeel. Aromas of toasty oak, tropical fruit and a faint, feral something hint at the wine’s full body. On the tongue, there is more toast and vanilla, along with Asian pear and a touch of tangy pineapple. It is a wine layered with flavor and texture that cries out for equally interesting food. Pair it with classic Burgundian dishes like escargot in garlic butter or free-range chicken with a Dijon sauce. It would also work well with less exotic dishes like pasta in a summer pesto, grilled turkey-apple sausage or a wedge of ripe, oozing brie on baguette.

Rating: 15/20
Price: $45

Other Chardonnays we have tasted
Check out our guide to Sonoma County
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August 17, 2009

Hahn SLH Estate 2006 Syrah

Hahn SLH Estate
2006 Syrah
Santa Lucia Highlands, CA

Hahn Family Wines is one of the best-known wineries in Monterey County, California, producing vino under not only the Hahn label but also Smith & Hook, Lucienne, and Cycles Gladiator names. The company’s collection of brands remains under the guidance of founder Nicolaus Hahn, who was instrumental in establishing the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. Among the wine group’s most recent projects is Hahn SLH Estate, a label highlighting Santa Lucia Highlands’ terroir through a Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Syrah. With its subtly tart berry flavors, smooth tannins and faint white pepper finish, the 2006 SLH Syrah is the kind of wine that makes people say, “I love Syrah.” Although it will never win awards for originality, nor rank among the world’s greatest, this wine is an absolute crowd pleaser. Take a bottle to your next barbecue and you will be the hit of the party. A fine pairing to grilled pork, rosemary chicken, pizza or even a summer fruit pie, the SLH Syrah is one of the friendliest Californian reds you’ll find for summertime sipping.

Rating: 13.5/20
Price: $27

Other Syrahs we have tasted
Check out our guide to California's Central Coast
For more information, visit

August 24, 2009

Brassfield Estate Winery 2005 Round Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel

Brassfield Estate Winery
2005 Round Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel
High Valley, CA

Brassfield Estate Winery is on the road less traveled. Located near Clear Lake, California—about 35 miles north of Calistoga—its vineyards are in the little-known High Valley region, a tiny appellation with elevations soaring 3,000 feet above sea level. The Brassfields first settled in the area in 1973 on what was then a cattle ranch. Now the family owns more than 350 acres of local vineyards. Thanks to the region’s range of altitudes and soil types, this 100-percent estate-grown winery is able to make a wide variety of wines. In addition to Zinfandel, Brassfield produces Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Petit Sirah, Pinot Grigio, Gewurztraminer and Riesling. Their 2005 Round Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel is an easy-drinking summer red that’s heavy on flavors and light on tannins. Distinctive aromas of black licorice precede a palate that displays hints of licorice with cooked raspberry, blueberry and prunes. There is delicious tart acidity up front, but the wine mellows out disappointingly toward the back of the tongue. It is almost saved by an alluring pepper note on the finish, but we would like to see a little more power. That being said, it is the sort of vino that would easily please a crowd, especially paired with a meal of hearty grilled meats. Or, try it with stir-fried beef in a mild soy glaze, a casual weekend pizza party or homemade calzones.

Rating: 13/20
Price: $22

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

August 31, 2009

Pali 2007 Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir

2007 Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast, CA

Pali Wine Company was founded by a group of twenty friends as a celebration of “the good life.” The winery focuses nearly exclusively on Pinot Noirs from locations throughout California and Oregon, and dabbles in producing a Grenache and Chardonnay as well. However, it is for Pinot that Pali’s known. While they purchase their grapes from growers, they do so carefully so that each of Pali’s wines represents a single vineyard, including ones from Willamette Valley, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara and Chalone. Their 2007 Thorn Ridge Ranch Pinot Noir (from Sonoma) is a dark, highly extracted and distinctly Californian expression. Both its aromas and flavors are complex, with layers of blackberry, tart currant, licorice, leather and clove. The only fault is a lack of up-front flavor; however, a lingering earthy finish almost entirely overshadows this flaw. Pair this red wine with rich fare like roast venison, wild boar and other game meats. For vegetarians, serve with grilled portobello mushrooms or scrambled eggs with pungent white truffle salt.

Rating: 15/20
Price: $60

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



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