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May 2009

May 26, 2009

Prager 2006 Sweet Claire Late Harvest Riesling

2006 Sweet Claire Late Harvest Riesling


Jim Prager founded Prager Winery & Port Works in 1979, when Napa was still a little, sleepy town. Prager is one of Napa Valley’s smallest commercial operations, producing only 3,600 cases of wine annually, and is best known for introducing Port-style wines to the region. The company’s production features multiple styles of fortified wines, including a white Port, a tawny and even a Port-style variation made from Petite Sirah. The winery also offers one dry and one sweet non-fortified wine, a Petite Sirah and the Sweet Claire Late Harvest Riesling. Their 2006 Sweet Claire is a medium-bodied after-dinner drink, exuding slightly musky aromas with white grape and apricot notes. On the palate, the Riesling lacks the kind of acidity that we like to see helping balance out the sweetness of a late harvest. However, in terms of flavor, the wine is lovely with citrus and stone fruit hints from the tip of the tongue to the (slightly short) finish. Pair it with a cheese course or simple, not overly sweet desserts like vanilla bread pudding and almond biscotti.

Rating: 13.5/20

Other Dessert & Sweet Wines we have tasted
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May 18, 2009

Pfendler Vineyards 2007 Estate Pinot Noir

Pfendler Vineyards
2007 Estate Pinot Noir

Sonoma Coast, California

In the Formula 1 division of motorsport racing, the brand new Brawn GP team is a sensation this year, beating the establishment (Ferrari, McLaren-Mercedes and Renault). Their secret is the base components: a couple of visionaries, a decent driver and a masterful engineer. Similarly, there’s a new entry in the wine business, Pfendler Vineyards, that’s also a winner. In their 2007 debut vintage—just released—we see a great wine program arising. What are the components, you may ask? Well, take a couple of visionaries, a decent terroir and a masterful winemaker—you got it. We had the pleasure to spend some time with proprietor Kimberly Pfendler, who has the determination to build on her late husband Peter’s vision of exploiting land in the Petaluma Gap to create a superior wine. Although planted in 1992 with Bordeaux varietals, the vineyards have been grafted exclusively with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The nineteen acres have yielded 500 cases: 350 for the red and 150 for the white, and production is expected to double for the 2008 release when we will see the addition of a Rose. “My goals are to continue to grow the finest-quality grapes for our wines, to further Peter’s legacy of wildlife and land conservation, and to foster in our son, Nicholas, a love of our vineyard, our ranch, and to use his father’s words, ‘this big, green, beautiful Earth,’” says Kimberly. Winemaker Greg Bjornstad (Flowers, Tandem, Newton, Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and he has his own label, too), who is involved during the growing season, has a meticulous approach to vineyard management and picking order but lets the harvested berries express themselves fully thereafter. The grapes are destemmed and hand sorted, undergo a seven day whole berry cold soak followed by an eight-month sur lees aging, then are tucked away for eleven months in new French oak (half). All this makes a lot of sense and comes together rather well with fish from a different coast: take a Tasmanian salmon, for example.

Rating: 15/20

Other Pinot Noirs we have tasted
Check out our guide to Sonoma County
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May 11, 2009

Eberle 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles, California

Gary Eberle, a Paso Robles wine country pioneer who helped to found the appellation in 1980, is the owner of the namesake Eberle Winery, which first opened its doors to the public in 1983. Eberle fell in love with wine while working on a doctorate in zoology at Louisiana State University, promptly switching gears to enroll in the winemaking program at University of California, Davis. Today, his boutique winery splits its focus between Rhône varietals—including Syrah and Viognier—and the Golden State’s popular varietals, such as Chardonnay, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is dense and complex, exhibiting aromas of blackcurrant, cranberry and toasted oak with a hint of cedar and leather. On the palate, its flavors comprise cassis and raspberry juice with lingering vanilla on the finish. Great acidity, in combination with a backbone of fine-grain tannins, makes this Cab a keeper with a cellaring potential of ten to fifteen years. A wine this big and burly cries out for a thick barbecued steak, but would also pair well with a more refined meal of seared duck breast in blackcurrant sauce. Or, to keep it truly simple, serve the Cabernet beside a wedge of world-class blue cheese, like the Roaring Forties from Australia.

Rating: 15/20

Other Cabernet Sauvignons we have tasted
Check out our guide to Paso Robles
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May 4, 2009

Flora Springs' 2005 St. Helena Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Flora Springs
2005 St. Helena Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

St. Helena, California

Napa Valley’s Flora Springs Winery & Vineyard began more than 30 years ago as a retirement project for founders Jerry and Flora Komes, and has since become a full-scale enterprise for their son John and daughter Julie Garvey (and their respective families). Over three generations, the family-owned business expanded from its original single vineyard to encompass eight unique properties throughout Napa Valley’s appellations, allowing Flora Springs to sell approximately 70 percent of their fruit to other wineries. With the remaining grapes, Flora Springs produces world-class Cabernet Sauvignons, including in their repertoire Chardonnay, Merlot and proprietary wines, such as the Trilogy and Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc. An excellent example of their single-vineyard Cabs is the deep purple-colored 2005 St. Helena Rennie Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, which is named after the founders of the original winery site in 1885. Consisting completely of the varietal and comprising only 500 cases, this full-bodied Cabernet features dense blackberry, black cherry, licorice and cedar flavors, in addition to its firm minerality and soft tannins. The wine would benefit from aging until 2012 to 2020, and pairs well with venison or roast duck.

Rating: 16.5/20

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



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