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July 2009

July 27, 2009

Chalk Hill 2006 Merlot

Chalk Hill
2006 Merlot

Chalk Hill, California

Chalk Hill is among California’s most highly regarded wineries, and is located in a small Sonoma County appellation by the same name. Both the AVA and the family-owned winery are named after the region’s unusual layer of chalk-colored ash underlying the soil, which defines the local terroir. The diversity of climates and altitudes throughout Chalk Hill makes it suitable for growing a wide range of grapes, with the winery producing varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. The 2006 Merlot features surprising richness, thanks to a 20 percent addition of Malbec that also lends the wine a gorgeous inky plum color. We have to admit that, although well crafted, the Merlot is both a little ripe and high in alcohol content for our taste (at 15 percent). However, its complexity is undeniably impressive. Aromas and flavors consist of sweet blackberries, tart blackcurrants, fresh rose petals, bramble, eucalyptus, and a hint of mushroom and espresso toward the back of the palate. In addition, there is a smoky note that would make this red wine a nice pairing for barbecued steaks, pulled pork or cedar plank-grilled fish.

Rating: 13.5/20

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

July 20, 2009

Vina Robles 2007 Jardine Sauvignon Blanc

Vina Robles
2007 Jardine Sauvignon Blanc

Paso Robles, California

Vina Robles was founded in 1996 by Hans Nef, a Swiss restaurateur with a passion for Bordeaux and Rhône-style wines. Shortly after opening his winery for business, Nef found Matthias Gubler, an experienced winemaker (also from Switzerland) who first arrived in California as a winemaker’s apprentice. With a shared cultural history and zeal for wines that express a local terroir, the pair has built an award-winning Paso Robles estate. Currently, Vina Robles’ bottlings include a wide range of varietals suited to the appellation’s hot climate, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, a Rosé and several blends. Their 2007 Jardine Sauvignon Blanc is crafted from a small block of grapes in the winery’s Jardine vineyard. Full-bodied yet fresh, the Sauvignon Blanc’s aromas and flavors hint at the exotic with dried apricot, white peach, a touch of turmeric and anise. On the tongue, it is surprisingly silky in texture for a vino with such acidic zip. Suitable for a summer picnic, this white wine would be a welcome pairing to curried tuna or grilled vegetable sandwiches. The Sauvignon Blanc would also work well with a lovely mid-summer supper of cold roast chicken and a pasta salad, or with a plate of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses.

Rating: 14/20

Other Sauvignon Blancs we have tasted
Check out our guide to Paso Robles
For more information, visit

July 13, 2009

Dashe 2006 Todd Brothers Vineyard Zinfandel

2006 Todd Brothers Vineyard Zinfandel

Alexander Valley, California

When Michael Dashe and his wife Anne founded their winery in 1996, the goal was to combine the couple’s French and American winemaking experience. The result is an award-winning winery recognized for capturing the terroir of specific vineyard sites and regions. The Dashes are best known for their single-vineyard Zinfandels, although they do produce small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot as well. What makes Dashe Cellars stand out from the growing number of Zin producers is not only their dedication to terroir, but also their hands-on approach to winemaking. The 2006 Todd Brothers Vineyard Zinfandel offers typical cocoa and cola aromas, but unlike Zins made in hotter growing climates, its fruit aromas and flavors comprise blackcurrant and blackberry. The finish is long with dry, dusty tannins and hints of cigar and espresso. While a little high in alcohol for our taste (at 14.8 percent), it really isn’t unusually hot for a California Zinfandel. Interesting and complex for the price, pair the wine with a grilled steak, or if you’re feeling adventurous, serve with a flourless chocolate cake topped by fresh blackberries.

Rating: 14/20

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

July 6, 2009

Pietra Santa 2007 Amore Pinot Grigio

Pietra Santa
2007 Amore Pinot Grigio

Cienega Valley, California

Pietra Santa is a family-owned winery near California’s Monterey Coast, and while its current owners have only worked this land since 2005, the property’s winemaking history dates back to the 1850s, when the first vines were planted. The winery’s name loosely translates to “sacred stone,” a reference to the estate’s granite and limestone soil. In order to highlight this terroir, Pietra Santa primarily creates single-varietal, estate-grown wines, including Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Dolcetto and Pinot Grigio. Their 2007 Amore Pinot Grigio, containing 3 percent Gewürztraminer blended in, features a delightful bouquet of nectarines and orange blossoms with a hint of lemongrass. On the palate, the wine is bright and racy with prominent minerality and a clean finish. It leaves a bit to be desired in the complexity department, but compensates for it with a lovely freshness. This refreshing quality makes this Pinot Grigio a good choice for midsummer cocktails and pre-dinner drinks, or as a pairing with seafood in the raw, white pizza, or chicken with citrus butter.

Rating: 13.5/20

Other Pinot Grigio/Gris we have tasted
Check out our guide to Monterey Peninsula
For more information, visit




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