10. Wallis Family Estate Little Sister (Napa Valley, Diamond Mountain) - The vineyards for this project on Diamond Mountain were planted in 1997. They consist of 13 acres planted to five different clones of Cabernet Sauvignon, and small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Initially the fruit was sold, first to David Ramey and then to Lokoya, before the family decided to start making their own wine in 2006. The renowned Thomas Rivers Brown came on board as winemaker in 2008.
Very dark ruby color; tart black fruit, herbs, savory nose tasty, tart black fruit, coffee, herbs palate; medium-plus finish (97.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2.5% Petit Verdot). 92+ points
11. Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Estate (San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains) - Ridge is the great Bordeaux variety producer in the Santa Cruz Mountains that also makes age worthy and highly acclaimed Zinfandels primarily from vineyards in Northern Sonoma. Their flagship Bordeaux blend offering, the Monte Bello, is a little too pricey for this list, but their estate red, which is usually a Cabernet Sauvignon dominated blend, is a relative bargain in a classic style.
Dark red violet color; deep cassis, red plum nose; with a touch of menthol lift; tasty, poised, cassis, tart plum palate with depth; medium-plus finish (58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot). 92+ points
12. Robert Keenan Winery Mernet Reserve (Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District) - Robert Keenan originally purchased the property on Spring Mountain in 1974 and planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Their first vintage was 1977. Robert’s son Michael now serves as President, with Nils Venge serving as consulting winemaker and Randy Kewell as assistant winemaker. The winery is well known for its single Bordeaux varietal bottling—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. The Mernet Reserve is a 50/50 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon blend.
Very dark red violet color; plush, ripe berry, black raspberry, blackberry, vanilla oak, chocolate nose; tasty, plush, berry, mulberry, blackberry, chocolate palate; medium-plus finish (50/50 Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon). 92+ points
13. Vinoce Proprietary Red (Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder) - Vinoce is owned by Brian and Lori Nuss, who grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot on Mt. Veeder hillside slopes. They planted their vineyard in 1990. Brian serves as the winemaker. Their Mount Veeder Estate Proprietary Red is a blend of their three red Bordeaux varieties.
Very dark red violet color; rich, intriguing, deep berry, ripe currant nose with a touch of menthol; tasty, poised, tart currant, tart berry, light menthol palate; medium-plus finish. 92+ points
14. Robert Sinskey Vineyards Marcien (Napa/Sonoma, Carneros) - Rob Sinskey studied for a degree in design, but a call over 25 years ago from his grape grower father got him involved in the business, which now includes 200 acres of vineyards in the Carneros and Stags Leap Districts of Napa and Sonoma. The winemaker is Jeff Virnig. The Marcien is a Right Bank inspired wine from grapes grown in their cool climate Carneros vineyards.
Appealing tart currant, olive and black fruit nose; tasty, Bordeaux-like tart black fruit, tart currant palate; medium-plus finish (blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon). 92+ points
15. Rockpile Winery (Mauritson) Buck Pasture Rockpile Ridge Vineyards (Sonoma County, Rockpile) - The Mauritson family has been growing grapes in Dry Creek Valley since 1868. S.P. Hallengren, was a pioneer grape grower in the Rockpile region, where he first planted vines in 1884. He shipped all his wine back to his native Sweden. The family’s Rockpile homestead and ranch grew to 4,000 acres by the early 1960s when all but 700 ridgetop acres were taken by the Army Corps of Engineers to develop Lake Sonoma. The family currently manages 310 vineyard acres in the Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Rockpile appellations. Clay Mauritson got the family into making wine when he returned after graduating the University of Oregon in 1997. He has made a variety of delicious Zinfandels and Petite Sirah. The Bordeaux blend, called the Buck Pasture, is the family’s most expensive wine, at $50 a bottle.
Dark maroon color; captivating, rich black fruit, berry, violets nose; tight, rich, tart berry, violets, tart mulberry, pencil lead palate with firm, sweet tannins; medium-plus finish (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 15% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec). 92+ points
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