2016 Beringer Chardonnay Luminus Oak Knoll District



Beringer is an historic vineyard that has been producing wines in Napa Valley since 1869 and maintains a large portfolio of wines. This is a single vineyard Chardonnay from their “Distinction Series” of wines.


2016 Chardonnay “Luminus” Oak Knoll DistrictDark gold in color, ripe melon and pineapple on the nose, not as juicy as it looks, tight lemon/lime notes on the fruit with coconut and glycerin on the finish . 



2016 Juggernaut Pinot Noir Russian River Valley


Juggernaut Wine Company is a division of Bogle Vineyards which is a family owned and operated winery that produces drinkable budget friendly wines. Their Juggernaut brand focuses on small production wines.

I’ve never had a wine from this brand before and even before tasting the wine I was impressed by the cool label and hefty bottle.


2016 Juggernaut Pinot Noir Russian River Valley: Clear, medium to light red in color, cola, cinnamon, red licorice and some earth notes on the nose, juicy red fruit with moderate to low tannins. Easy drinking. Going back to the bottle the next day I was getting pencil shavings on the nose. 



2017 J Vineyards Chardonnay Russian River Valley



J Vineyards and Winery is located in Sonoma County, California.

I’m not a big fan of the old style California Chardonnay that are buttery, fruit forward with loads of tropical fruit notes. There is still that style of wine to be had if you want it but many wine makers are moving away from long oak aging in their wines. This wine had a nice balance of delicious fruit and acidity to make it interesting. 

 2017 Chardonnay Russian River Valley: Medium gold with greenish tints, honey, saffron and cantaloupe on the nose, medium fruit with lemon curd and cinnamon on the finish and good acidity. Very drinkable. 



More Barrel Tastings And A Sit-Down Tasting


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The Barrel Festival in Sonoma was a three-day event. Since over 100 wineries were participating, I decided to spend each day in one of the sub appellations of Sonoma. Friday afternoon was spent in Russian River Valley, Saturday afternoon in Dry Creek Valley and Sunday afternoon in Alexander Valley with a stop in the town of Healdsburg which is pretty much the center of the Sonoma wine region and has many tasting rooms.

In addition to barrel tastings I was able to attend a sit down tasting at the Ramey Cellars tasting room and a tasting at the Stonestreet tasting room both in downtown Healdsburg.


Ramey Wine Cellars

2010 Chardonnay “Ritchie Vineyards” RRV: Medium gold, slightly cloudy, big honeyed nose, thick and chewy, moderate acids.

2015 Chardonnay “Ritchie Vineyards” RRV: Medium gold, closed nose of honey with green herbs, tropical fruit notes and lime custard on the fruit.

2015 Chardonnay “Rochioli Vineyard” RRV: Medium gold, tropical fruit, toast and earth on the nose, tighter than Ritchie with tropical fruit on notes, clean finish.

2015 Chardonnay Estate “Westside Farms” RRV: Clear medium gold with green tints, big peach nose with lime notes on the finish.

2016 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley: Clear medium purple, plummy nose, raspberry jam on the moderate fruit, tight with some heat at the end.

2014 Syrah “Rodgers Creek Vineyard”: With 10% Viognier, dark red with a perfume of crushed fruit and black pepper on the nose, chewy, spicy with firm tannins.

2015 “Template” Napa Valley: Merlot focused blend, medium to dark red with a perfume of pencil shavings and crushed black fruit, silky dark fruit ending with firm tannins. Only 139 cases made.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Annum” Napa Valley: This is their “winemaker’s wine”, dark red with dusty green notes on the nose, juicy and plummy with firm tannins on the long finish.


Stonestreet Estate Vineyards High altitude grown wines

2015 Estate Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc: Medium gold, toasty, oily nose, moderate oily fruit and acids, mouth-watering.

2015 Chardonnay “Broken Road”: Medium gold with a greenish tint, toasty nose, moderate tropical fruit and acids, toast notes on the nose.

2016 Chardonnay “Red Point”: Light yellow with greenish tints, tight, toasty tropical fruit on the finish.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon “Bear Point Vineyard”: Dark purple, black olives, bell pepper and pencil shavings on the nose, tight and concentrated with black olive notes on the fruit.

2014 Red Blend “Ridge Walk Mountains”: Dark red to black, dark chocolate on the nose, firm silky red fruit, balance, long finish.


Barrel Tastings

Alexander Valley Vineyards: 2017 Estate Pinot Noir, 2014 Sin Zin, 2013 Cyrus Bordeaux Blend.

Acorn Winery: 2015 Cabernet Franc Alegria Vineyard, 2015 Syrah Axiom, 2014 Zinfandel Heritage Vines.

Christopher Creek Winery: 2018 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi, 2018 Pinot Noir Estate, 2016 Pinot Noir Love Vineyard.

David Coffaro Winery: 2018 Zinfandel, 2018 Estate Cuvee, 2018 Terre Melange.

Merriam Vineyards: 2017 Malbec Lower Pond, 2017 Cabernet Franc Windacre, 2017 Right Bank Bordeaux Blend, 2017 Miktos Bordeaux Blend.

Porter Creek Vineyards: 2018 Chardonnay RRV, 2018 Pinot Noir Fiona Hill Vineyard, 2018 Carignane Old Vine.

Soda Rock Winery: 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Twisted Rail, 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon The General, 2018 Primitivo Los Amigos.

Viszlay Vineyards: 2018 Chardonnay, 2017 Pinot Noir.


Wine Advocate Matter Of Taste


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This past Saturday, Robert  Parker’s Wine Advocate magazine hosted the Matter of Taste wine event which was called a “no-holds barred tasting experience”.  The reviewers of the wine magazine picked 180+ of their favorite iconic wines of the world and was one stop on a multi-city and multi-national event with a walkabout tasting of 90+ point wines.

The event was held at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel located at 80 Columbus Circle on the Southwest corner of Central Park in Manhattan. With a sweeping view of Central Park, it was a perfect venue to spend the afternoon drinking some serious juice.

Some of what I enjoyed:


New World

2011 Kistler Vineyards Chardonnay “Trenton Roadhouse” (Sonoma Coast). Gold in color, honey, tropical fruit on the nose with tropical fruit notes on the finish.

2011 Kistler Vineyards Chardonnay “Vine Hill” (Sonoma Coast). Dark gold, toasty honey on the nose with tart, lemon-lime fruit.

2014 Signorello Estate Chardonnay “Hope’s Cuvée” (Napa Valley). Medium gold, white flowers and tropical fruit on the nose, moderate juicy with mango, papaya notes on the firm, balanced finish.


2005 Abreu Vineyards “Madrona Ranch” (Napa Valley). A Bordeaux blend, dark red with toasty, mint and slate on the nose, tight and concentrated with good grip on the long finish.

2012 Abreu Vineyards “Madrona Ranch” (Napa Valley). A Bordeaux blend, inky black, mint notes on the nose, juicy, still closed.

2012 Abreu Vineyards “Thorevilos” (Napa Valley). Inky black with dusty, smoky, black fruit on the nose, ripe and juicy with good balance.

2011 Bond “Pluribus”. (Napa Valley). Dark purple, dried herbs on the nose, silky and juicy with moderate tannin and acids at the end.

2013 Donelan Family Wines Syrah “Obsidian Vineyard”. (Knights Valley). Dark red to black with crushed red fruit on the nose, juicy red berries on the fruit.

2012 Donelan Family Wines Syrah “Walker Vine Hill”. (Russian River Valley). Black in color, crushed red fruit and roasted meat on the nose, chewy and dense with mint notes on the balanced finish.

2005 Calera Pinot Noir “Mills” (Mt. Harlan). Medium brick, nose of warm earth and cinnamon, tight with black licorice on the firm finish,.

2012 Calera Pinot Noir “Mills” (Mt. Harlan). Medium purple with fresh rosemary on the nose, red licorice on the moderate fruit, firm acids on the finish.

2013 Lail Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “Blueprint” (Napa Valley). Black in color, crushed slate on the nose, juicy crushed blueberry on the balanced finish.

2013 Lail Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon “J. Daniel Cuvée” (Napa Valley). Inky black, mint, crushed blueberry and black fruit on the nose, juicy and minty on the fruit.

2005 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon “Diamond Mt.” (Napa Valley). Inky black, dark, sweet crushed fruit on the nose, tar and graphite notes on the silky and juicy fruit.

2007 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon “Mount Veeder” (Napa Valley). Dark red to black, black cherry, violets and cigar box on the nose, silky, dusty, black rocks on the fruit, silky tannin, delicious fuzzy mouth feel.

2012 Lokoya Cabernet Sauvignon “Mount Veeder” (Napa Valley). Dark red to black, floral violets on the nose, silky red fruit followed by herbs with lip smacking tannin, tasty.

2012 Paul Hobbs Cabernet Sauvignon “Nathan Coombs Estate” (Napa Valley). Dark red to black, cooked toasty fruit on the nose, dense, minty with crisp acids.

2012 Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “Padrone” (Napa Valley). Dark red, purple robe, sweet crushed red berry and graphite on the nose, juicy red berry fruit, structure a bit short.

2005 Vérité  Cabernet Sauvignon “La Joie” (Sonoma County). Dark red to black, big nose of violet, cigar box, concentrated, medium fruit, tight with graphite notes with good acidity.

2012 Vérité Cabernet Sauvignon “La Joie” (Sonoma Coast). Inky black, purple robe, roasted meat and crushed dark berries on the nose, slate notes on the lip-smacking finish, nice balance.

2010 Henschke Shiraz “Hill of Grace”. (Australia). Dark red to black, juicy with very ripe fruit.

2012 Henschke Shiraz “Mount Edelstone” (Australia). Decanted, dark red to black, crushed black berries on the nose, juicy with crushed rock notes on the firm fruit, green herbs on the finish.


Old World

2009 Chateau Branaire-Ducru (St. Julien). Dark red to black, crushed dark berries and violets on the nose, tight, concentrated with silky tannin on the finish.

2005 Chateau Gazin (Pomerol). Dark red to black, perfume of dried herbs and crushed rocks, tight, dense, concentrated, firm and balanced.

2010 Chateau Haut-Bailly (Pessac-Leognan). Dark red with a delicate  perfume of violets, silky fruit followed by big tannin and acids.

2009 Chateau La Fleur Petrus (Pomerol). Dark red with dusty black  fruit and roast meat on the nose, dense with smoky crushed dark berries and rocks on the fruit, great balance.

2002 Chateau Leoville Barton (St. Julien). Medium amber with graphite and cigar box on the nose, tobacco notes on the nice, balanced finish.

2010 Chateau Leoville Poyferre (St. Julien). Dark purple, sweet red flowers on the nose, dense, silky with firm acids on the finish.

2008 Chateau Pichon Baron (Paulliac). Dark red, graphite on the nose, dusty, moderate fruit with nice tannins at the end.

2009 Chateau Pichon Baron (Paulliac). Dark red to black, graphite on the nose, slate notes on the moderate fruit, firm acids.

2009 Chateau Pontet-Canet (Paulliac). Dark purple with a brick robe, pretty nose of floral graphite and cigar box with silky graphite fruit, dusty tannins on the long finish, firm but balanced.

2012 M. Chapoutier “Ermitage Pavillon” (Rhone). Dark purple, roasted meat on the nose, crushed stone and dried herbs on the fruit.


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Last day of the California wine tour was spent in Sonoma. Beautiful clear, sunny, dry day as has been for the week. After the obligatory lunch at In-n-Out, I concentrated my touring to the Southern part Sonoma mostly in the Green Valley sub appellation.

Taft Street Winery. A “garagistes” small production winery using sourced fruit.

2014 Pinot Gris. Very light copper-colored, big grapefruit notes on the nose with crisp, vanilla oak on the finish.

2014 Chardonnay “Reserve” Chardonnay. 173 cases made, medium yellow, honeydew on the nose, ripe tropical fruit, tangerine and oak on the finish.

2013 Syrah. Dark purple with a sweet perfume of violets and rosemary, starts juicy and tightens at the end, pickle juice notes at the finish.

Marimar Estate. Owned by the Torres wine family of Spain, the winery, built to look like a Catalan Farmhouse and is perched on top of a hill with a great view overlooking the surrounding vines. Organic and unfiltered wines.

2014 Chardonnay “Acero”. Gold in color, tropical fruit notes on the nose with full and rich tropical fruit on the finish.

2013 Chardonnay “La Masia”. Light gold, crushed peaches on the nose with moderate green vegetable on the nose and lime notes on the firm finish.

2013 Pinot Noir “La Masia”. Unfiltered, medium brick, cloudy with crushed red fruit on the nose, red cherry cola on the fruit.

2012 Pinot Noir “Mas Cavalls”. Dark red to black with crushed black fruit on toasted oak on the nose, plums and dark leather on the fruit. A big Pinot.

2012 Red Blend “Don Miguel Vineyard”. Only 60 cases made, an equal blend of Syrah and Tempranillo, inky purple with dried herbs and black licorice on the nose, chunky with silky tannin and nice acidity on the finish.

Lynmar Estate. Slick, modern winery with a spectacular view from the outdoor patio.

2012 Chardonnay “Russian River Valley”. Deep gold with honey and spicy vanilla on the nose, mouth coating glycerin a nd dried flowers and honey on the long finish. Very yummy.

2012 Chardonnay “Quail Hill”. The nose more closed than the RRV Chard, dried herbs and lime on the nose, restrained on the balanced finish. Nice Chard as well.

2012 Pinot Noir “Russian River Valley”. Medium purple with warm black cherry cola on the nose, juicy, red cherry fruit.

2012 Pinot Noir “Quail Hill”. Cloudy dark red with warm smoky black cherry and dark leather on the nose, deep and concentrated with silky tannin, great balance and long finish of leather and black cherry. Very tasty.

Merry Edwards Winery: Easy going tasting room.

2012 Chardonnay “Olivet Lane”. Gold with dark flowers and honey on the nose, lemon custard on the full fruit with tart lime on the finish.

2012 Pinot Noir “Klopp Vineyard”. Dark purple, barnyard and black licorice on the nose, concentrated with bitter black cherry on the finish, some heat.

2013 Pinot Noir “Klopp Vineyard”. Dark purple, pretty perfume of floral black licorice, darkly concentrated with bitter cherry on the finish. Tasty.

2012 Pinot Noir “Olivet Lane”. Dark purple, warm black fruit and some coconut on the nose, concentrated and chunky, silky tannin.

Woodenhead Winery: Small, off the radar winery with the tasting room on a hill overlooking the vines.

2014 French Colombard. Unusual to see this varietal bottled on its own, light yellow, barnyard on the nose, medium body with nice acidity and earth notes on the finish.

2012 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley. Unfiltered, light red with red cherry on the nose, medium body with green herb on the tight, moderate to long finish.

2008 Zinfandel “Martinelli Road”. From 130 year old vines, cloudy dark purple, strawberry jam on the fruit, dusty, minty jammy fruit, black licorice on the finish.

Martinelli Winery: Old school winery from a family farming in the valley since the 1880’s.

2012 Pinot Noir “Three Sisters Vineyard”. Light brick with a big red cherry cola nose, spicy nutmeg on the fruit, good acidity.

2013 Pinot Noir “Moonshine Ranch Vineyard”. Light purple, closed nose, bright plummy dirt and red leather on the fruit with firm tannin and acidity on the finish.

2007 Syrah “Lolita Ranch Vineyard”. Inky purple, green asparagus and petroleum on the nose, dense, concentrated, very firm.

2012 Zinfandel “Vellutini Ranch Vineyard. Light purple with green herbs on the nose, jammy and tight. 17.3% alcohol but didn’t feel it on the finish.

Paso Robles Highway 46

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Second day of tasting in Paso Robles. Decided to focus at wineries along highway 46 which runs East to West as highway 101 runs North to South. I assumed visiting wine country in the Autumn would be full of cool, crisp days in the countryside. Not in Paso this week, today the temperature made it to 97º (36º for you foreigners) in the afternoon and that’s hot. Did begin the day visiting the Warbird and exotic car Museum in the East side of 46 where I began wine tasting and headed Westbound for the day and finally ending at some tasting rooms in tow.

Eberle Winery: First stop on the highway, the “godfather” of the Paso wine industry.

2014 Viognier “Mill Road Vineyard” Yellow with earth and honeysuckle on the nose, earth notes on the full and balanced finish.

2013 Sangiovese Dark brick, spicy black vanilla and cherry on the nose, dusty tannin on the moderate to long finish.

2013 Syrah “Steinbech Vineyard” From the 2nd oldest syrah vines in North American so I’ve been told, dark purple with a big perfume of toasty crushed black berries, chunky with big tannins at the end.

Peachy Canyon: Family owned winery on highway 46.

2012 “Especial” Low production of three zin lots,  dark purple, cooked vegetable on the nose, starts out juicy, tightens up with cola flavors and moderate tannin and acid at the end.

2011 “Para Siempre” All five Bordeaux grapes, dark red, green bell pepper on the nose, tight, concentrated with dill notes on the moderate to long finish.

2012 “Vortex” Zinfandel A blend of four single vineyard zinfandel, dark purple with crushed red berry and mint on the nose, dusty, dark chocolate on the finish.

Caliza Winery:

2013 “Sidekick” 140 cases mad, mostly Roussanne, deep gold with a stinky nose with full, rich fruit and some sweet notes on the finish.

2012 Primitivo Estate wine, dark purple with a big nose of cooked vegetable, chewy and chunky, big fruit, juicy, dark plums and nicely balanced.

2012 Syrah Estate wine, dark red to black, warm graphite on the nose, thick, concentrated and chewy, good balance.

Four Lanterns Winery: From the Willow Creak AVA, about 750 cases total produced.

2014 “Apricity” Picpoul Blanc, light yellow, dried herbs on the nose with tart lime notes on the finish.

2013 “Shadow” Grenache/Syrah blend, dark red to black, red leather on the nose, slky red leather on the fruit and green herbs, nice balance.

2013 “Firelight” Syrah, decanted, dark red to black, nose of crushed black fruit and mint, silky red fruit and nice balance.

Tooth & Nail Winery: Low key winery, big castle with a moat.

2013 Stasis Viognier Murmer Vineyard Light gold to greenish tint, white flowers on the nose with full tropical fruit flavors with some peachy notes on the finish.

2012 Stasis Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley Big old school Chard, vanilla oak, buttery finish.

After touring the wineries I usually head back to town to end the day at the urban wine trail. Usually the wines aren’t impressive. While wandering around I stumbled on a couple of off the radar tasting rooms that would be worth a visit if you are in the town of Paso.

Paso Under Ground: A small sign on the sidewalk directs you to walk through a clothing shop with a back room with a terrace with four tables staffed with small, independent producers pouring their wine. I stopped at Copia Winery which had the owner/winemaker as well as the owner of the back room Michael Dewiit pouring his wines. At 200-300 cases total production from the Willow Creek AVA for the year, these wines are extremely limited.

2014 “The Reason” 100% Viognier, yellow with a greenish tint, some green vegetable notes on the nose, rich fruit with good acidity and green apple notes on the finish.

2014 “The Answer” GSM blend, black in color with green, black fruit on the nose, thick and chunky, mint notes with good acidity on the finish.

2013 “The Blend” Another GSM blend, black with a purple robe, crushed green, red berry on the nose, big and juicy with moderate tannins and acids on the finish.

Another sign on the sidewalk pointed you to an entrance in an alley for Taste in the Alley. Small, brick-lined room that’s actually a wine shop but they will open any wine they have for a glass. I had a glass of the 2010 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir.