- The Underground Wine Letter - http://www.undergroundwineletter.com -


Approaching the end of the year-101

I am always looking for new and different wines. These range from obscure “Under the Radar” wines to the latest Burgundy vintage and other wines tasted from barrel. Around the year end holidays is always a time to relax and enjoy life. That includes time with family and friends and food and wine.  So as we are about to move into the last month of 2011, here are some Distinctive New Wines that are worthy of your attention (listed in alphabetical order): 2011, 2010, and 2009 Beaujolais; 2010 Calera Chardonnay; Recent Releases Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; 2010 Domaine Paul Pernot White Burgundies; 2009 La Follette Pinot Noir; 2006  Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve; 2009 Quivira Mouvèdre;  2009 Ridge Vineyards Historic Vineyard Bottlings; Recent Releases Robert Mondavi Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir; and 2008 Sicilian Red Wines.

BEAUJOLAIS –  2011 Nouveau, the first of the 2010s, and a few new 2009s

Beaujolais sign

Beaujolais has been blessed again in 2011. The region had nearly ideal weather conditions with warm weather from the spring and low rainfall during the summer. The harvest began on the 24th of August, three weeks earlier than 2010. This places it amongst the earliest harvests in several decades. The ripeness is compared to 2009, but with lower acidity. The recently arrived Nouveau bottlings give a glimpse of what it to come next year when the Cru Beaujolais start to arrive. Each year the Nouveau bottlings are released around the world on the third Thursday in November. So what we have now is an abundance of really good Beaujolais with lots more still to arrive. (To read my initial article on Beaujolais and notes on some 2009s click here [1]and to read subsequent notes on more 2009s as well as some older vintages look at Distinctive New Wines for 4 different reviews from October 2010 to October 2011) 

2011 Nouveau


2011 Domaine Dupeuble Père et Fils Beaujolais Nouveau.
This is a text book example of Beaujolais Nouveau with loads of fresh supple fruit. It has a deep color and a great floral perfume with lots of berry fruit and and a faint hint of orange. It is lush and rounded with lots of raspberry and cherry fruit and hints of orange zest. Very pure and with a nice underlying crispness, with a nice chill this is simply irresistible! DRINK NOW – Outstanding.  $17.50 Best Buy  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA3-yellow-stars



The 2010 Beaujolais seem to compare with the 2009s in much the same way as the 2010 Red Burgundies compare with the 2009s. In both instances (to see my first note on the 2010 Burgundy vintage click here [2] ),  the 2010s are not as rich and full, but they are very pure and crisp with gorgeous fruit. The best 2009 Cru Beaujolais will undoubtedly repay aging, although they can be consumed young as well. The 2010s, on the other hand, are probably best drunk relatively young even though the best of them undoubtedly will age beautifully as well. So with this as a background, following are notes on some of the early arriving 2010s. Give them a try. Make your comparisons between the 2010 and 2009 vintages. I think you will find many wines to your liking. Bon Degustation!


2010 Cedric Vincent Beaujolais Pouilly Le Monial Vieilles Vignes.
With a deep color and a lovely perfume hinting of raspberry and cherry with a fain floral nuance, this is a bright, crisp Beaujolais. It has lovely fruit with a faint floral tinge and a nice crisp finish. Drink this soon for the fruit – Highly Recommended Plus.   $21  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA 2-n-half-yellow-stars

2010 Chateau de Raousset Chiroubles.
This is a lovely Chiroubles with great charm and early appeal. It has a dark color and a deep perfume of cherry fruit with a floral nuance. It is very elegant with floral tinged cherry fruit and is very pure and crisp. This is irresistibly delicious now – Outstanding.   $17.59  Best Buy   Selected by Jean-Marie de Champs, Beaune, France,  Imported by The Wine House Limited, San Francisco, CA3-yellow-stars

2010 Chateau Thevin Brouilly.
This Brouilly has a dark color and a lovely floral perfume hinting of blackberry and cherry. It is very pure and loaded with berry, cherry fruit and is bright, crisp and really delicious – Outstanding.  $23  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA3-yellow-stars

2010 Chateau Thevin Cotes de Brouilly.
Very similar to the Brouilly in the sense of the very pure crisp fruit, this Cotes de Brouilly has a slightly different fruit profile. It has a deep color and a lovely perfume of raspberry and cherry with lots of flavor and finesse – Outstanding.   $24   Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA 3-yellow-stars

2010 Domaine Chignard Fleurie Les Moriers.
With a deep color this Fleurie has a lovely floral perfume and lots of supple floral tinged fruit. It is rounded and elegant with balanced fruit flavors showing just a faint floral nuance. This is a lovely wine to drink now – Highly Recommended Plus.  $26   Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA2-n-half-yellow-stars

2010 Domaine de la Voute des Crozes Nicole Chanrion Cote-de-Brouilly.
This is a charming Cote-de-Brouilly with a lot of style and finesse. It has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with a spice tinged raspberry nuance. The wine has very pure fruit and is elegant and quite lush yet with a nice crispness – Outstanding.  $21  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA3-yellow-stars

2010 Domaine Bernard Diochon Moulin-a-Vent Cuvée Vieilles Vignes.
This is consistently one of the best wines from the great Moulin-a-Vent appellation whose wines are known for richness and longevity. This 2010 is stunning. It has a dark color and a deep brooding perfume of plums and blackberries with a faint underlying floral note and a tinge of spice. The wine is rich and round with layers of plum and blackberry fruit. Despite the lush palate impression this is a Cru Beaujolais with great structure and depth and should age effortlessly for a very long time – Outstanding Plus.  $24 Best Buy  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA 3-n-half-yellow-stars


2010 Domaine Dupeuble Père et Fils Beaujolais.
This Beaujolais has a nice color and a lovely floral tinged berry perfume. It is crisp and very pure and finesseful with bright cherry fruit and a nice finish. This is lovely to drink now – Highly Recommended.  $15  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA2-yellow-stars

2010 Guy Breton Morgon Vieilles Vignes.
Guy Breton is one of the great gang of five producers of Morgon. This 2010 is especially elegant and finesseful yet with lots of flavor. It has a very nice color and a floral berry tinged perfume. There is lots of raspberry and cherry fruit rendered in a very harmonious and balanced style. While it will undoubtedly keep for some time, it is so delicious today that it is hard to resist – Outstanding.  $32   Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA 3-yellow-stars

2010 Guy Breton Regnie.
This is a Cru Beaujolais with great charm and purity. It has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of berries and cherries. There is a lot of fruit on the palate wrapped in a lush texture with a gorgeous underlying crispness. This is another beautiful 2010 with lots of early appeal – Outstanding.  $30  Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA 3-yellow-stars


(To see the first article on 2009 Beaujolais with an explanation of Beaujolais, a description of the vintage, background on the producers, and the first 2009 tasting notes click here [1] .  To see four subsequent articles featuring more 2009 Beaujolais tasting notes please see Distinctive New Wines from 10/10 to 10/11.) There are still many 2009 Beaujolais available. If you missed them or did not buy enough, it’s not too late. Look back over my articles over the past year for specific recommendations. I continue to recommend them as some of the best red wine values on the planet. My current advice is buy them while you can for the Holidays and for enjoyment over many years to come. As I said from the very beginning (see link above), 2009 is a great vintage for Beaujolais. In fact, it is one of the best ever. And, the prices are really reasonable. So what are you waiting for? Stock up now before they disappear.

2009 Chateau de Basty Regnie.
This is delicious Beaujolais and a great value. It has a deep color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of blackberry and plum. It has loads of fruit again showing hints of blackberry and plum with a slight floral nuance. There is also a touch of boysenberry which renders a nice complexity. Elegant, supple, and rounded this is a gorgeous Beaujolais to drink now and over the next few years – Outstanding.  $15.99  Best Buy   Selected by Jean-Marie de Champs, Beaune, France,  Imported by The Wine House Limited, San Francisco, CA 3-yellow-stars

2009 Domaine Pierre Savoye Morgon Cote du Py Tradition.
Dark in color this Beaujolais has a gorgeous floral perfume with cherry accents and a very faint spice. It has gorgeous cherry fruit with a floral and plum undertone and is very pure and refined with depth and lots of flavor. It is lush, but also very bright. This a really stunning Beaujolais with great style and finesse – Outstanding Plus.   $18.99  Best Buy  Selected by Jean-Marie de Champs, Beaune, France, Imported by The Wine House limited, San Francisco, CA 3-n-half-yellow-stars

Calera – 2010 Chardonnay Mt. Harlan


I recently did a featured article on Calera including notes on wines from barrel and bottle including a few older wines (To read the entire article click here [3]).    This estate 2010 Chardonnay was recently released. The vintage produced 1,612 bottles. Typically the six acre vineyard which is planted in limestone soil yields only about 2 tons of fruit per acre. The Mount Harlan estate Chardonnays have seductive early appeal, but also have the ability to age for an extended period (a 1999 tasted earlier this year was gorgeous and is reviewed in the above mentioned article). This 2010 is a stunner and a Best Buy!


2010 Calera Chardonnay Mt. Harlan.
The wine is light yellow gold in color and has a gorgeous perfume of apricot and peach with floral nuances and hints of spice and citrus. It is rich, round, supple, and lush with a myriad of fruit flavors showing hints of apricot, peach, mango, pineapple, honey and citrus. Underlying the intense fruit is a nice crispness and a faint tinge of spice. This Chardonnay has intensity and a purity that represents an essence of the grape without being heavy or overpowering. It is a great example of a California Chardonnay that is not a wannabe White Burgundy. Bravo – Outstanding Plus.    $30  Best Buy 3-n-half-yellow-stars

Domaine Drouhin

Background and History

Domaine Drouhin winery

The beginning of this Oregon Domaine dedicated to producing great new world Pinot Noir and Chardonnay traces its origins to the founding of the great Burgundian négociant and producer Maison Joseph Drouhin in 1880. (For background click here [4]) We then fast forward to 1961 when the then head of Maison Joseph Drouhin, Robert Drouhin, was visiting the West Coast of the U.S. on a promotional trip. This was before the real push to wine expansion in California which began a few years later and well before much of anything, wine wise, was happening in Oregon. But, after visiting both places it was Robert’s impression that Oregon, and not California, would be the best place to grow Pinot Noir. It should also be noted that some of the best places to grow Pinot Noir in California – Santa Cruz, Sonoma, Monterey (Chalone), San Benito (Mount Harlan/Calera) Mendocino, and Santa Barbara were nearly nonexistent then except for Martin Ray in Santa Cruz. (To read about the history of Martin Ray and then Mount Eden click here [5].)

By the late 70s things started to pick up for Oregon producers when at a tasting in Paris an Oregon Pinot Noir (Eyrie Vineyards) bested a group of Burgundies. (This was the follow-up to the famous “Judgment of Paris” tasting in 1976 when a Napa Valley Cabernet and Chardonnay bested Bordeaux and White Burgundies in a blind tasting). That was interesting because, at about the same time, my friend and West Coast Editor of the old Underground, Ed Lazarus, and I, were invited to come to Oregon and each bring a great Burgundy to taste against Oregon Pinot Noirs. Despite my protestations that Oregon Pinot Noir should not have to be Burgundy to be great, Myron Redford, the founder of Amity Vineyards, insisted that we should make the comparison. At that time, he and a lot of the Oregon producers seemed to think that Oregon was making wines to compete with Burgundy. And, they were anxious to prove it. So we accepted the challenge and went to Oregon with our two Burgundies in hand. The objective was not to try to pick “winners,” but to see if we could tell the difference. And, to the great surprise of all the growers who were there and presented their wines in the blind tasting, Ed and I had no difficulty identifying the Burgundies. The Oregon producers were dismayed. But, I once again advised them that their goal should not to try to make a wine that would be identical or better than Burgundy. But, to make a Pinot Noir that would stand beside the great red wines of the world on its own merits. (That, for what it is worth, continues to be my position today.)

A year after the Paris tasting, Robert Drouhin sponsored a blind tasting in Burgundy with Oregon Pinot Noirs matched against Grand Cru wines from Drouhin. A Drouhin wine was voted the best by a slim margin, but the real surprise was that an Oregon Pinot Noir (1975 Eyrie Vineyards South Block) was second by such a narrow margin. That undoubtedly opened a few more eyes and laid more credibility to Robert’s earlier thesis about Oregon Pinot Noir.

Veronique Drouhin

But it was not until several years later that something actually began to happen with regard to Drouhin establishing a presence in Oregon to make Pinot Noir. It was 1986 and Robert’s daughter Veronique had just graduated from the University of Dijon with an advanced degree in enology. She wanted expand her experience by working in Oregon and apprenticed at several wineries. This prompted Robert to inquire about purchasing land in Oregon and in 1987 he and Veronique came to Oregon to examine a 225 acre site. The decision was made to buy the property and the deal closed by the end of the year. In 1988 Veronique made wine in a rented space from purchased grapes and the first plantings were made. The next year saw more planting and the new winery was completed in time for the 1989 crush. In 1991 the first wines from the 1988 vintage were released. In 1992 the Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Laurene was made. The wine was the first wine made from 100% estate grown fruit and was named for Veronique’s first daughter who was also born in 1992. This wine is produced in limited quantities every year from a selection of different lots of wine. In 1996 the Domaine Drouhin Oregon Chardonnay was introduced. Over the years plantings have increased to the point where production now totals about 3000 cases per year. It is named for Veronique’s son Arthur. In 1999, and released in 2002, the 1999 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir Cuvée Louise made its debut. Named for Veronique’s youngest daughter, only just over 60 cases were made in 1999. From the 2000 vintage forward Veronique selects 8 of the best barrels (about 200 cases) for this special cuvée.


Today the fourth generation of Drouhins work in Oregon and Beaune. Veronique has made all the wine at Domaine Oregon since the very beginning. Frederic is the General manager of Maison Joseph Drouhin www.drouhin.com [6] . Laurent is a regional commercial director and Philippe manages the estates in Burgundy and Oregon. And, as for the future, Robert has said, I would like to think that one day, people will taste Oregon wines and particularly our wines and will say it is really true to the classic Burgundian Pinot Noir. Not a Cote de Beaune, not a Cote de Nuits, but uniquely Oregon.” Amen! This echoes my sentiments exactly. To learn more about Domaine Drouhin and their wine club (DDO Direct) go to www.domainedrouhin.com [7]

Tasting Notes

Below are tasting notes on three of the most recent releases from Domaine Drouhin.

2009 Domaine Drouhin Chardonnay Arthur Drouhin Family Estate Dundee Hills, Oregon.
Under 3,000 cases of this wine were produced. It is a lovely finesseful Chardonnay with a light yellow color showing a faint golden tinge and a lovely floral tinged perfume with hints of peach, pear, and citrus. It is balanced and harmonious with great fruit and style. The flavors hint of peach and citrus with a very faint underlying floral spiciness and the finish is clean and crisp. This is a Chardonnay that should age gracefully, but is a pleasure to drink now as well – Outstanding.   $30  Best Buy3-yellow-stars


2009 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Oregon.
This is a very elegantly structured Pinot Noir. It has a very nice color and a lovely berry perfume with a floral nuance and a tinge of spice. The wine has lots of supple fruit and is balanced and flavorful with a nice finish. It should age well for several years and yet can be enjoyed now for its fruit and marvelous balance – Highly Recommended Plus.   $402-n-half-yellow-stars

2008 Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir Laurene Drouhin Family Estate Dundee Hills Oregon.
It is amazing how much progress has been made at this Domaine in its short history. This 2008 Estate Pinot Noir is a prime example. The wine has a deep color and a gorgeous perfume with a myriad of fruits and a kiss of spice and a very faint smokiness. The fruit is very expressive on the palate and the wine is supple and lush yet with structure and depth. Just now showing a tinge of the complex flavors to come the real key here is flavor and balance. It’s all there. All it needs is time. Bravo – Outstanding Plus.   $653-n-half-yellow-stars


Domaine Paul Pernot et Ses Fils – 2010 White Burgundy

Paul Pernot

I have visited this Domaine several times and have purchased and enjoyed the wines for many years. To me, it is one of the great “Under the Radar” White Burgundies. It never seems to get the recognition of some other producers, but consistently this Domaine makes really fine wines. The 2010 White Burgundy vintage promises to be at least in the league of the 2008 and probably better. Undoubtedly, there will be many fabulous 2010s. These two 2010 wines from Paul Pernot are the first to arrive. Later, the Paul Pernot Premier Crus and Grand Crus will arrive. Try these two and watch for the others. These are wines to buy!

2010 Domaine Paul Pernot et ses fils Bourgogne.
This is a delicious Bourgogne. It is right up there with the gorgeous Bourgogne’s of Domaine Leflaive and Coche-Dury. Light yellow in color the wine has a lovely perfume that is faintly floral with citrus, pear, and mineral tinges. It is very pure and elegant with lovely fruit balanced by a citrus, mineral tinged crispness. Elegant with finesse and flavor this is a value in White Burgundy – Outstanding.  $24.49   Best Buy      Shipped by Jean-Marie de Champs, Beaune, France. Imported by The Wine House Limited, San Francisco, CA.    3-yellow-stars [8]

DSC_5216 [9]

2010 Domaine Paul Pernot et ses fils Puligny Montrachet.
Again, this is a stunningly delicious village wine. It has a light yellow color and a lovely floral perfume with hints of pear, peach, citrus and a faint mineral nuance. It has wonderful fruit with subtle flavors of peach, pear, and citrus back by a tinge of citrus, spice, and minerality. Elegant and balanced, but with nice richness and a long finish, this is very special – Outstanding.    $ 54.99    Shipped by Jean-Marie de Champs, Beaune, France. Imported by The Wine House Limited, San Francisco, CA.      3-yellow-stars

La Follette

Background and History

la Follette wines

La Folette is a new winery that is the life long ambition of Greg La Follette. Greg obtained degrees in Plant Biology and Chemistry as well as Food Science in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He became interested in the wine making of Burgundy and sought to apply new production techniques in California. Inspired by such legendary winemakers as the late Dick Graf of Chalone Vineyards (click here [10] to read about the great 1978 Chalone Pinot Noir), he began at Beaulieu Vineyards as research viticulturist and enologist for the late famed winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff. He traveled to other areas and worked for several other wineries until joining Flowers Vineyards and Winery in 1996 as head wine maker and general manager. In 2001 he set out consulting on vineyard and winery projects around the world and founded Tandem wines. A few years ago, he partnered with Pete Knight, proprietor of Quivira Vineyards and Winery. Tandem was renamed La Follette with Greg as the winemaker.

These 2009s are sourced from vineyards where Greg has had associations with the growers for many years. This is the second vintage for wines from these vineyards under the La Follette label. They are new world Pinot Noir in every repect and show impressive depth and balance even with alcohols as high as 15.5%. They are so lush and appealing now that I would venture that most will be consumed very soon. Yet, I believe the wines have the ability to age and gain complexity over time. Vamos a ver. At this point, no one really knows. But, for now let me just say that the wines are stunning. Production is very small and I would encourage you to seek out these wines and go to the website www.lafollettewines.com [11] . On their website you can join the Vigneron Club to buy wines and get discounts. Also, there is a lot of very interesting background information and a blog that has updated postings that are very insightful, interesting, and well written. As an example, there is a 21 question interview with Greg conducted by the assistant winemaker, Simone Sequeira. (To read the interview click here [12]) Also, included in the interview is a really funny joke which I am repeating below:

“SS: What’s your favorite wine joke?
: How many winemakers does it take to screw in a light bulb?
: I don’t know. How many?
: Well this one has three answers: 1) None, winemakers screw in hot tubs. 2) Just one, but the winery has to revolve around him. Or 3) One cellarman, cause we all know they’re the ones that do the work.”

But, all joking aside, I believe you really should take a look at the website and try these wines.


2009 La Follette Pinot Noir Manchester Ridge Vineyard Mendocino Ridge. ( To read more about this vineyard click here [13].) With a deep color this Pinot Noir has a gorgeous perfume of intense fruit with floral, mineral and spice nuances. The wine has great depth and flavor with a myriad of fruits accented by spice, minerals, and a very faint smokiness. This is a really stunning beautifully crafted Pinot Noir with balance and structure. Only 494 cases of this wine were made. It is one to buy– Outstanding Plus.    $49.99   Best Buy  3-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 La Follette Pinot Noir Sangiacomo Vineyard Sonoma Coast. (To read more about this vineyard click here [14].) This vintage produced 480 cases and despite the alcohol at 15.5% the wine is balanced with impressive texture and fruit. It has a deep color and a lovely perfume with spicy floral tinged fruit and a faint tinge of earth. Rich, supple and round with heaps of fruit and underlying hints of spice and mineral this is a real mouthful. Yet despite the intensity it retains a sense of harmony – Outstanding.      $39.99    Best Buy3-yellow-stars

2009 La Follette Pinot Noir Van Der Kamp Vineyard Sonoma Mountain. ( To read more about this vineyard click here [15].) There were 429 cases of this wine produced. It has a deep color and a lovely perfume with floral note and spice tinged berry fruit. It is supple and rounded with gorgeous fruit and flavor and is balanced with wonderful texture and richness – Outstanding.   $39.99  Best Buy  3-yellow-stars

Mt. Veeder Winery

In 1965 Mt. Veeder Winery’s vineyards were first planted. In 1973 the winery produced its first wine. The property consists of 80 acres, but because of the rugged terrain only 35 acres are planted. In the 1970s, I visited the winery several times and met with the founders and owners, Michael and Arlene Bernstein. During this time I purchased many of the early wines. I loved the wines from the beginning and I still have some old Mt. Veeder wines from the 1970s in my cellar. They are marvelous today. In the hallway of my cellar the bottles are close to a pen and ink drawing of the Mt. Veeder Winery Vineyards drawn by Arlene Bernstein in 1975 which is shown below.


Vines in the Mt. Veeder area were first planted in the early 1860s. Cabernets from the Mount Veeder area have been thought by many to have the potential to be some of the finest wines from Napa. The late home winemaker, Norm Mini, who made wines from Mt.Veeder and Eisele Vineyard in Calistoga, was one of those who believed in the potential of Mt. Veeder. (I will have an article soon on Norm Mini and his wines including tastings a many different bottlings from the 1970s that were conducted in recent years. Stay tuned!)

To read an interview with Michael Bernstein on the history of the vineyards and winery and to get more information about Mt.Veeder wines from the Mt. Veeder Wine Growers website go to www.mtveederwines.com [16] . And to get more information about Mt. Veeder Winery and their wine club go to www.mtveeder.com [17] .

This is the first recent release that I have tasted from Mt.Veeder in some time. It is a wine of complexity and breed, but it needs time to show its full potential. My old wines from Mt. Veeder that are now 30-40 years of age show the aging potential of these wines, but patience is required.

2006 Mt. Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Mt. Veeder Napa Valley.
Dark in color this Cabernet Sauvignon is blended with 7% Malbec, 4% Petit Verdot, 2% Merlot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. The wine has a deep cedary spice tinged cassis perfume and lots of rich concentrated fruit flavors with cedar and spice complexities. Underneath there is a lot of structure and tannin. This is a wine that needs time. Production was 3,490 cases  Highly Recommended/Outstanding Potential.  $80 2-parentheses-stars


Quivira was founded in 1981 by Holly and Henry Wendt. In 2006 it was purchased by Pete and Terry Knight with a focus on making world class wines using organic farming and incorporating modern and traditional winemaking techniques. Today the estate has 93 acres of vines planted to Zinfandel, Mouvèdre, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Grenache, as well as a small amount of rare varities. (To read more about the history and background of Quivira click here [18].)


I recently reviewed their 2009 Zinfandel which was Outstanding. (To read that review click here [19].)

This Mouvèdre is also Outstanding. This winery is on a roll. ( To learn more about Quivira and their wine club “Queue” click here [18].)

2009 Quivira Vineyard and Winery Mouvèdre Wine Creek Ranch Dry Creek Valley/Sonoma Coast.
Only 294 cases of this Mouvèdre were produced and is a made in a blend with 12% Grenache. It is a gorgeous wine with a dark color and a deep perfume showing a myriad of spice tinged black fruits. The wine is lush and intensely fruit with a touch of cedar, vanilla and spice. There is wonderful balance with underlying structure and a complex nuance of exotic plum followed by a long finish. This Mouvèdre should enjoy a long life ahead – Outstanding.   $32  3-yellow-stars


Ridge Vineyards

First Bottlings Of The Historic Vineyards Series

As I said in my earlier article on Ridge Vineyards (to read the entire article click here [20]), Ridge has the longest history of producing the best Cabernets of anyone in California. It has a long history that dates back to 1865 when the first vines were planted on Monte Bello ridge.

montebello map

Ridge Monte Bello is a blend of classic Bordeaux varietals sourced from old vineyards. In 2009 Ridge decided for the first time to make small quantities of wine from each of the old vine vineyards on Monte Bello Ridge. There are four historic vineyards, but Rousten Vineyard was replanted in 2008. The other three Klein, Perrone, and Torres have older vines from which the 2009 bottlings were produced. The location of each of these vineyards on Monte Bello Ridge is shown in the following illustration.


Below are my tasting notes on these unique and fabulous wines. They are in very limited supply and available only from the winery to wine club members. They are delicious now, but without question, additional time will produce something even greater. And, the historic significance of these wines is a real statement to the legacy and reputation of Ridge Vineyards.


2009 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Klein Vineyard Monte Bello Ridge.
This is a delicious Cabernet with a very inviting young profile. The production totaled only 200 cases. It is dark in color and has a deep, complex perfume of cassis, lavender, spice and a faint exotic fruit nuance. The wine has great fruit, structure, depth, and balance. The fruit is very pure with an exotic tinge and a faint hint of cedar and there is a lot of intensity and a long finish – Outstanding Plus.   $55    3-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 Ridge Vineyards Cabernet Franc Perrone Vineyard Monte Bello Ridge.
I reviewed this wine last year out of barrel. I said then that “…it very well could evolve as a classic representation of this underrated varietal.” (To see that note click here) [20]. Now bottled it is every bit as great as I had thought earlier. Only 108 cases were produced. The wine is dark in color with a stunning perfume of plum, cassis, and blackberry with just a kiss of vanilla and spice. Balanced with great fruit showing cassis and blackberry with subtle hints of spice, this is a wine with depth and backbone. The underlying structure, balance, and intense fruit argues for a wine that will age and become even more profound over time – Outstanding Plus.     $55       3-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 Ridge Vineyards Merlot Torres Vineyard Monte Bello Ridge.

Only 195 cases were produced, but what a great Merlot! This wine is dark in color and has a stunningly deep perfume of mulberry, with tinges of coconut and exotic fruit. It has great intensity with layers of fruit and is supple and rounded with great balance. The fruit is very pure with a faint kiss of spice and chocolate and a faint exotic nuance. Absolutely delicious now, but with time it should prove to be a bench mark for great California Merlot – Extraordinary. $55 4-yellow-stars




Robert Mondavi Winery

mondavi winery photo

The late Robert Mondavi founded this winery in 1966. It has had a history that is quite incredible. In the forefront of the great California wine boom, there have been ups and downs, successes and controversies. I have followed it from the beginning and I know a lot of the history very well. But the fact is, that Robert Mondavi was tireless and driven. He built a world renowned brand and was a leader in promoting Napa Valley, Napa Valley wines, food and wine, the arts, and a life style incorporating all of these things. You can visit the website www.robertmondavi.com [21] for more information on his history, the history of the winery, and the Robert Mondavi Spotlight Wine Club.

I have not tasted many wines from here in recent years, but recently I had an opportunity to taste three new releases. My notes are below.

2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Napa Valley.
Some 50% of the fruit in this blend comes from the cool climate Carneros vineyard. It is a very nice wine with a light yellow color showing a faint golden hue and a floral vanilla tinged perfume. It is balanced and finesseful with floral citrus nuances and a nice crisp finish – Recommended Plus.    $20  1-n-half-yellow-stars

2009 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.
About 30% of the fruit in this wine comes from the To-Kalon Vineyard. The wine is dark in color and has a perfumed nose of cassis with faint hints of vanilla and cedar. It has very nice flavors and depth and is rounded and supple with a nice dollop of cassis fruit with a faint cedary spice undertone – Highly Recommended.   $28 2-yellow-stars

2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Pinot Noir Carneros Napa Valley.
This is a very nice fruity Pinot Noir from the cool climate Carneros vineyards. It is dark in color with a lovely berry floral tinged perfume showing a faint underlying smokiness. It is soft, round, balanced and very tasty with lovely berry fruit and a faint floral nuance – Highly Recommended.   $27 2-yellow-stars

Sicilian Red Wines


The Padova family has tended the vines at this estate located at the Southern tip of Sicily for almost a century. In the 1993 they bottled their own wine for the first time and shortly thereafter Massimo Padova, along with his sister, wife, and a cousin took over the estate, Using organic farming techniques and a blend of old and new winemaking practices, today the wines represent a “new” style of “old” Sicilian wine. And the combination is all to the good. Consider, for instance, that Riofavara was the first to use the indigenous yeast from the ancient Nero d’Avola grape. The Nero d’ Avola grape is often compared with new world Shiraz. These 2008s are real values and true “Under The Radar” wines. The wines are imported by Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant, Berkeley, CA

2008 Riovafara Nero d’Avola Sciave Eloro.
This wine is named Sciave which is the local nickname for Saverio, the name of Massimo’s grand father. So I guess we should thank Grandpa for this wine. It is gorgeous. With a dark color the wine has a deep perfume of plums and black cherries with hints of cedar and spice and a faint smokiness. It is supple and flavorful with great intensity and balance. The flavors are complex with plum, cassis, and cedar as well as a touch of mint. This is simply a stunning young wine that few have ever encountered. So go ahead. Be adventuresome. Bethe first on your block to try this – Outstanding Plus.   $29  Best Buy 3-n-half-yellow-stars


2008 Riovafara Nero d’Avola Spaccaforno Eloro.
This wine is named Spaccaforno which if the former name of the commune of Ispica where the estate is located. Although, these two wines are from the same vintage they come from different vineyards and are made in a slightly different way. The result is a different flavor profile with this bottling showing more forward fruit and a bit less complexity. Nonetheless, it is delicious and a real value. The color is dark and the wine has a deep perfume of blackberries and cherries with just a tinge of cedar. It is soft, supple, lush, and rounded with lot of flavors. Balanced, with a nice underlying structure and a lovely finish, this is very appealing now – Outstanding.   $20  Best Buy3-yellow-stars