Tres Sabores is a certified organic vineyard at the base of the Mayacamas mountains in western Rutherford. It bears no resemblance to stereotypical notions of a Napa winery. I stood at their small, outdoor tasting bar just the other day, sampling upcoming releases while snow-white baby lambs bounced happily through the bright yellow mustard flowers that serve as inter-row ground cover.
Zinfandel is the Tres Sabores Vineyard’s signature grape, delivering distinctive, balanced, food-friendly wines that are very different from the jammy, heavily-oaked Zins which are so common today. The nose here offers fresh cherries and berries, huckleberry, white nectarine and sweet herbs, with just a hint of vanilla. In the mouth, it’s dry and medium-bodied with moderate tannins, very fine and lightly grippy. Flavors include cherry, dark berries, cocoa, coconut and spice. 100% Zinfandel. French and American oak, mostly neutral. 500 cases. 90 points
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Aromas of dusty black fruit, dark chocolate and a scattering of dry leaves precedes a juicy palate of black cherry, blackberry, chocolate and warm dark spice. The medium-plus body and light-grained tannins mean the wine is suited to pairing with casual meals or drinking on its own. 50% Zinfandel, 35% Petite Sirah, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petite Verdot. Mostly French oak, some American, 40% new. 1,980 cases. 89 points
An elegant nose: blackcurrant and cocoa with a trace of bay leaf. Medium-plus-bodied in the mouth with blackcurrant, powdery mocha and dark chocolate, framed by medium-plus chalky and grainy tannins. Decant now or drink from 2015 to 2022. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 200 cases. 92 points
An opaque wine with black ruby color and blackberry, thick black plum and sweet dark spice. Full-bodied with generous tannins, juicy blackberry, licorice and sweet dark spice. Enjoy it this Fall with unctuous braised meat or hold it for 2 to 5 years. 200 cases. To be released end of March. 90 points
Jeff Keene brought a New Zealand accent to Cornerstone Cellars’ California operation in 2008, but also years of Napa Valley winemaking experience. He started at Havens Wine Cellars, where they focused on cool-climate Carneros wines and made America’s first varietally-labelled Albariño. Several years as assistant winemaker at Peter Franus Wine Company broadened his experience with both varieties and Napa Valley AVAs.
Made entirely from Syrah picked at 22.5 brix specifically for this rosé. The pretty, light-salmon color fits aromas of just-ripe wild strawberry and mineral with delicate floral and spice notes. Soft on the palate, owing to five months sur lie in neutral French oak, with medium-plus body, mouthwatering wild strawberries and persistent minerality. It will be just right with a light lunch by the pool. 89 points
Syrah from the Truchard Vineyard is combined with a 5% share of Carneros Merlot for an approachable, nuanced wine. Dark flowers are followed by a touch of black pepper, then earthy spice, mineral and dark fruit on the nose. The gentle palate is medium-plus in body, with tannins of chalky powder. Attractive flavors of licorice, dark and earthy spice, chocolate and dark fruit gradually give way to a mineral finish. 300 cases; Release date TBD. 90+ points
Jeff Keene loves to make Cabernet Franc, and it shows in this charming, balanced wine with aromas and flavors of red fruit, dusty earth, drying leaves, mocha and foresty spice. The palate is lightly creamy with moderate, powdery tannins and mid-palate richness enhanced by St. Helena AVA Merlot (8%). Drink through 2016. 500 cases; Release date TBD. 92 points
Yannick Rousseau was born in Gascony, in southwestern France. (His hometown is not far from the birthplace of the real-life d’Artagnan of The Three Musketeers fame.) Rousseau worked in Côtes de Gascogne and Madiran, and earned a Masters in Enology and Viticulture in Toulouse, before moving to Napa Valley some 15 years ago. There he was assistant winemaker at Newton Vineyards (St. Helena) under winemaker Luc Morlet and consultant Michel Rolland. Later he spent six years at the celebrated Chateau Potelle in Mount Veeder.
The best French Colombard I’ve ever had, it smells of citrus and white flowers on a Spring day. The palate is extremely well-balanced: slightly round on the attack with satisfying body but persistent acidity and a dusting of talc. (Despite its being a white grape, tannins are a hallmark of French Colombard.) Tangy flavors of grapefruit and tangelo predominate. 90 points
80% Stainless and 20% neutral barrel fermentation with native yeasts leave this wine without oak flavors, but with complexity and a gently creamy texture not found in un-oaked Chardonnay. The nose of yellow apples, apple blossoms and muted baking spice is subtle and pretty. It feels full-bodied in the mouth but fresh, because Rousseau didn’t allow any malolactic fermentation. The flavors are yellow apple, Meyer lemon and mineral. 91 points
This wine was barrel-fermented (25 percent new) with native yeast and then aged sur lie for 11 months. Malolactic fermentation was inhibited. The vineyard is at 1800 feet with a northeast facing, above the fog line, but cool. Spiced golden apples with white flowers and veiled lychee aromas are echoed by the palate. This wine is about finesse: full-body with silky minerality, restrained but friendly, balanced. 92 points
The AVA designation is misleading here since the Cavedale Vineyard sits at 2000 feet just over the ridge of Mount Veeder. The wine’s aromas and flavors resemble the vineyard—dusty and gravelly with scattered sage—but there are also dark plum, black cherry and some Christmas spice. Its medium-plus body with light-grained medium-plus tannins will please Cabernet fans. 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged 18 months in French oak, 50 percent new. Best from 2014. 90 points
Tallulah proprietor/winemaker Mike Drash was driven to Northern California from the American South by a love of wine and food. He entered the wine business as a cellar hand at DeLoach, moved on to J (both in the Russian River Valley), then Far Niente and Luna Vineyards of Napa Valley. In 2009, he discovered that the Tallulah wine brand was available for purchase. With a daughter named Tallulah and family ties to actress Tallulah Bankhead, he saw the opportunity as a sign and made the label his.
Opaque and ruby-black with aromas of dusty black fruit, mocha, game and dark spice. The palate is full-bodied with moderate fine, powdery tannins. Very attractive flavors of mocha, black fruit, game, toasted wood and dark spice. 91+ points
Gently aromatic with black cherry, vanilla and sweet spice. Nearly full-bodied with moderate lightly-chalky tannins. Ripe black plum, black cherry, oak, allspice and black pepper. 90 points
42-year old Oak Knoll District Chardonnay vines, native yeasts and limited malolactic fermentation are the basis of this extremely flavorful, well-balanced wine that will appeal to fans of Montrachet. Compelling aromas and flavors of yellow apple skin, mineral, dry cheese rind and delicate baking spice with a full-bodied palate. The mineral-laden finish is long and juicy. 93 points
This full-bodied Cabernet comes from a single undisclosed vineyard in Coombsville. Its nose is dark spice, cassis and dusty dry leaves. Slightly chalky chocolate ganache, black currant and spice make up the lengthy palate. 92 points
I tasted the barrel sample of this Napa Valley Premiere auction lot, the only red wine Bevan’s made thus far at Chateau Boswell. It will be released in September/October of this year to the buyer, Total Wine & More, which paid $625/bottle. It’s a deeply concentrated wine, opaque in the glass with aromas rising well above the rim. The palate is improbably thick and velvety yet nimble. Plenty of fine tannins are coated with loads of black currant, cherry, and dense chocolate. Elegance eschewed for unabashed seduction. 96+ points