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Finding Great Value & Quality In The Napa Valley

Finding Great Value & Quality In The Napa Valley


Finding Great Value & Quality In The Napa Valley

Finding Great Value & Quality In The Napa Valley

Finding Great Value & Quality In The Napa Valley


Author: Steve Roebuck  

Date: 8/17/2016  

Wineries in the Napa Valley seem to keep pushing their prices up higher and higher, making it hard to find wine at a good or even great value.  I remember when quality wines were considered expensive and their price point was just above a hundred dollars, and now many of them are over two hundred dollars a bottle.  It seems that wine is outpacing inflation as prices all over the world seem to continue to rise.      I’m not afraid to spend money; however, I try to make sure I’m getting the best bang for my buck.  Thus, finding value is always fun for me and I even get excited about it.  During my last trip to the Napa Valley I found the wines wonderful as always, but the prices seem to keep climbing up.  Thus there are a few wineries that are making fantastic wines that are still reasonably priced, if not underpriced.  I always get a kick out of finding wines that are better in quality than higher priced wines, so I felt compelled to highlight some of these hidden or lesser known wineries.         

Chappellet Vineyard & Winery   

1581 Sage Canyon Road,  St. Helena, California 94574 USA   Phone:   800-4-WINERY     

This winery is a little difficult to find but worth it!  Be sure to get directions when making your appointment and you will find yourself driving up a beautiful hillside filled with majestic old oak trees.  After making your way up to the top of Pritchard Hill you will find a wonderful setting and building that embraces its surroundings.  We were greeted by Diana Gerlach who has worked at the winery for over eight years and impressed us with her knowledge and history of the winery.  Diana took us on a wonderful tour of the winery and vineyards, while continuing to educate us and pouring us different wines along the way.  While walking through the vineyard we were excited to run into different family members of Chappellet, who were both warm and welcoming.  After having a lovely walk through the vineyards we found ourselves back in the winery tucked away in a private corner surrounded by wine barrels where we indulged in more beautiful wines.   

2014 Chappellet Chenin Blanc "Molly Chappellet"   

This Chenin Blanc displayed a bright and inviting bouquet of orange blossoms, pear, sweet pineapple, almonds, and other tropical fruits.  The wine was crisp on the palate with superb acidity and balance.  This wine had beautiful flavors of ripe pears, honey, pineapple, citrus, and soft minerals on the finish.  The wine was expressive and refreshing with layers of tropical fruit.    Highly Recommended!     Average Price $32      

2013 Chappellet Signature Chardonnay   

This is my style of chardonnay, as it had aromas of ripe apple, kiwi, lychee, apricot, lemon grass, and savory herbs.  The wine was rich on the palate with hints of citrus, apple, baking spices, and other beautiful lush fruit flavors.  This chardonnay reminded me of the balanced and structure you usually find in White Burgundy.    Highly Recommended!    Average Price $45      

2012 Chappellet Napa Valley Merlot   Blend:  80% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot  

This Right Bank Bordeaux style blend is absolutely wonderful!  The wine gives off a rich bouquet of black currants, cassis fruit, cherries, mocha, anise, herbs, and oak.  The wine is medium + in body with rounded tannins that give way to a palate blanked in hints of plum, cassis fruit, cherries,  leafy herbs, and soft spice.  The wine is complex with layers of concentrated fleshy fruits that are balanced with herbs and spice.  This wine is drinking great right now and should be extremely food friendly.    Highly Recommended!  Average Price $45   

2012 Chappellet Zinfandel   Blend:  96% Zinfandel, 4% Petite Sirah  

This wine is made from 44 year old zinfandel vines grown in the Mayacamas Range at 2,000 feet above the Napa Valley floor.  This wine is brilliantly concentrated with an expressive bouquet of blackberries jam, cherries, chocolate, white pepper, spice, oak.  The wine is medium to full-bodied with solid tannins that lead to a finish displaying hints of ripe figs, dark wild berries, brownie mix, spices, and earthy minerals.  This wine was a little closed on my first approach but opened up over time in the glass.  The wine is complex with bold but balanced dark fruit that harmonizes nicely with terroir notes.  This wine is quite youthful and still needs a few more years of cellaring.    Extremely Highly Recommended!  Average Price $40  

2013 Chappellet Napa Valley Las Piedras   

Blend:  46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 14% Malbec, 6% Petit Verdot  This deep dark purple wine had a beautiful bouquet of blackberries, plum, cassis fruit, burnt sugar, espresso, toasted oak, and spiced herbs.  The wine was medium to full-bodied with rounded tannins that gave way to a balanced palate coated in blueberries, blackberries, sage, espresso dust, cigar box, and other terroir notes.  This Left Bank Bordeaux styled wine is complex with a velvety rich palate, comprised of bold yet elegant fruit flavors that blend nicely with hints of dusty earthy minerals.  This wine is cellar worthy and will reward those whom have some patience.    Highly Recommended!     Average Price $60      

2009 Chappellet Signature Cabernet Sauvignon   Blend:  76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec, 9% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot  This ruby red wine had a fantastically expressive bouquet of black cherries, blackberries, cassis fruit, tobacco, sage, chocolate, and oak.  This medium + body wine had silky tannins that gave way to a luxuriously long finish that coated the palate with hints of dried cherries, supple blackberries, sweet dark wild berries, wet minerals, soft herbs and oak.  This is a brilliantly rustic yet sophisticated wine that exudes elegance.  The wine is complex with layers that harmoniously blend and balance beautifully together.   This wine is drinking great right now but should continue being wonderful for years to come, as it could easily be cellared for another 10 years.    Extremely Highly Recommended!    Average Price $75  

While concluding our tasting Alexa Chappellet Flagler made it a point to come join us after meeting us in the vineyard.  Alexa was warm and personable and extremely approachable.  She indulged us in some additional tastings of their beautiful Pinot Noir and showed off bottles with artwork composed by her and other family members.  This special time spent with Alexa and Diana made our experience a memorable one.  This winery is producing some fantastic wines that are of the highest quality!   

Hyde De Villaine Wines   588 Trancas Street,  Napa, California 94558 USA   Phone:   707-251-9121     

This winery has some interesting lineage that connects them to Burgundy, France.  If you are a Chardonnay fan then this is a must try winery, as their Chardonnay was the best I tasted in all of Napa on my visit.  That being said, there is no discounting their reds, as all of the wines are wonderfully made due to the talents of winemaker Stephane Vivier, whom hosted us with James Eyer.  This quaint property may not have the prominent ambiance of a big Napa winery; however, their wines are of the highest quality!   

2014 HDV De La Guerra Chardonnay   This beautiful wine had a fresh bouquet with aromas of crisp green apple, lemon blossoms, and wet river rocks.  The wine had good acidity and balance displaying a clean palate with bright fresh flavors.  This wine has a sophisticated structure with nice depth that leads to a long bright finish.     Recommended!    Average Price $45      

2014 HDV Chardonnay   

White flowers, peach, orange blossoms, honey, and soft minerals wafted from my glass giving this wine a beautiful bouquet.  This wine was medium to full body on the palate displaying balanced acidity.  The wine has excellent focus with hints of citrus, peach, and honey.  This wine has complex layers of fresh fruit flavors and a soft minerality.  This wine is incredibly well made and should continue to evolve nicely over the next few years.    Highly Recommended!  Average Price $65        

2014 HDV Comandante Chardonnay   This chardonnay was truly lovely!  Having the structure and sophistication you would expect from a Grand Cru White Burgundy this wine had a bouquet with aromas of citrus blossoms, green apple, river rock, honey, and flowers.  This wine is heavier on the palate than the 2014 HDV Chardonnay and more concentrated with elegant layers of fruit and minerals.  This chardonnay is just stunning with fresh acidity that balances perfectly with the richness and finesse of this wine.  Another incredibly well made wine that will continue to evolve nicely over the next few years.    Extremely Highly Recommended!    Average Price:  Call HDV      

2012 Californio Syrah   

Blend:  100% Syrah  

The wine had a deep dark garnet color with purple hues.  Wafting from my glass was a bold bouquet with aromas of blueberries, blackberries, cassis fruit, cherries, violets, smoldering tobacco leafs, and earthy minerals.  The wine was full bodied yet elegant with rounded tannins that gave way to a luxurious finish displaying hints of wild blue and black berries, plum, soft herbs, tobacco, and wet earthy minerals.  This wine is complex with layers of dark fruit and earth that harmonize beautifully together, and it displayed the sophistication you would expect from a Grand Cru Hermitage from Rhone.    Extremely Highly Recommended!    Average Price $75      

2012 Belle Cousine   

Blend:  70% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon  

This Right Bank Bordeaux style wine will not disappoint!  The wine has a deep opaque red color and an impressively concentrated bouquet with aromas of fleshy cherries, blackberries, currents, exotic spice, herbs, and oak.  This wine is medium to full body with ripe tannins that integrate harmoniously with a long luxurious finish displaying elegant red and black fruits, soft spice, crushed herbs, and earthy terroir notes.  This wine is in its infancy and will continue to evolve for those with the patience to cellar it, as it could easily be laid down for 10 more years.    Extremely Highly Recommended!     Average Price $75   

Romeo Vineyards & Cellars   

1224 Lincoln Ave,  Calistoga, California 94515 USA   Phone:   707-942-8239     

The tasting room for Romeo Vineyards & Cellars is located in downtown Calistoga, just behind the owners beautiful home.  This hidden gem has a beautiful patio with a majestic old redwood and cedar tree, which provides a nice shaded area for wine tasting outside.  Inside the tasting room you can often find Eugenia Romeo (the owner) whom is personable, warm, kind hearted, and just a wonderful person to talk with due to her plethora of information and knowledge about the Napa Valley.  I have made it a point to visit this winery several times, as the wines are consistently extremely good!   

2009 Romeo Vineyards & Cellars Sempre Vive “Old Vine” Cabernet Sauvignon   

Blend:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon  

It is extremely hard if not impossible to find cabernet sauvignon vines that made it through the 1990 when phylloxera hit the Napa Valley, as everyone replanted with phylloxera resistant root-stock.  This wine is truly special and always keeps me coming back to this winery.  The 2009 vintage has a lush bouquet giving off hints of cassis fruit, dark cherry, blackberry, vanilla, and minerals.  The wine was full body but exuded finesse and elegance as rounded tannins gave way to a long luxurious finish displaying notes of blackberries, dark cherries, caramel, herbs, oak, and dusty minerals.  The wine is complex with layers of rich dark fruit that harmonize with delicious earthy hints of terroir.  Drink now through 2029!    Extremely Highly Recommended!    Average Price $75      

2011 Romeo Vineyards & Cellars Sempre Vive “Old Vine” Cabernet Sauvignon   

Blend:  100% Cabernet Sauvignon  

This wine is made from vines that were planted over 40 years ago!  I believe this is one of the best wines in Napa for the 2011 vintage, as it has an amazing bouquet of black cherries, currents, cassis fruit, vanilla, oak, minerals, and forest floor.  The wine is robust yet sophisticated with rounded tannins that give way to a velvety palate displaying hints of cherries, blackberries, cocoa, caramel, cedar, and dusty earth.  This wine is complex and layered, displaying good depth and balance.  This wine is drinking beautifully right now but has the potential to be cellared for another 10 years effortlessly.    Extremely Highly Recommended!    Average Price $75     

The wines being made at Romeo Vineyards & Cellars are all of the highest quality.  I have yet to have a bad glass of wine at this winery, and feel these wines are only reasonably priced because they are so far under the radar.  These wines age beautifully and never disappoint!  As a founding partner of Wine In The Glass I’m always excited when I find wines made of the highest quality that are fantastically priced.

Kobrand TOUR d’ITALIA 2016

Finding Great Value & Quality In The Napa Valley

Kobrand TOUR d’ITALIA 2016


Author: Steve Roebuck

Date: 9/26/2016

The event was held at Carnevino Italian Steakhouse and was nothing short of brilliant.  We found ourselves in an intimate setting tasting spectacular wines with owners and other wine industry peers.  Represented were some of the best Italian wines being produced from Tuscany, Umbria, Sardinia, Sicily, Veneto, Piedmont, and other exciting wine regions of Italy.  There was a plethora of high quality wines being served, as I didn’t have a bad glass during the entire event.  Herein below I have highlighted a few wines that stood out and I highly recommend!

Tenuta San Guido released the first Super Tuscan “Sassicaia” in 1968, and was given the distinction of its own DOC, Bolgheri Sassicaia in 1994.  The Nicolo family has owned this property since 1942 and in the late 1960’s the family began transforming Tenuta San Guido into the world renowned winery it is today.

2013 Tenuta San Guido “Sassicaia” Bolgheri Sassicaia DOC

Location: Bolgheri, Italy 

Blend: 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc

When I first approached this wine it was closed and tightly wound; however, I went back to it about two hours later and it had opened up beautifully.  The wine had an expressive bouquet giving off black currants, black cherries, toasted herbs, and spice.  The wine had chewy tannins with a rich finish of dark fruits, herbs, spice, and earthy minerals.  This wine is powerful and layered with depth and complexity; thus, this vintage needs another 5 to 8 years of cellaring but could easily last a few decades.  (96 Points tasted September 2016)     

Tenuta di Biserno is a joint venture between Marchese Lodovico Antinori (creator of Ornellaia & Masseto) and his brother Marchese Piero Antinori.  Representing the brand was Sebastiano Rosa (Sales Representative) whom has an impressive background and graduated from UC Davis in 1990.  He worked at Chateau Lafite Rothschild in 1991 as a cellar assistant, and in 1992 he worked with winemaker Giacomo Tachis whom is considered to be the father of the Italian wine renaissance that sparked the first “Super Tuscan” released in 1968 by Sassicaia.

2013 Tenuta di Biserno “Il Pino di Biserno” Toscana IGT

Location:  Tuscany, Italy

Blend:  35% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot

This is a beautiful wine with intense red and dark fruit notes wafting from the glass giving off aromas of red cherries, blackberries, plum, mocha, leafy tobacco, and spice.   The wine had rounded tannins that gave way to a long luxurious finish displaying hints of wild red berries, blackberries, licorice, mocha, and spices.  This wine is beautifully balanced with complex layers of fruit that harmonize with soft herbs and spice.   This is a wine that needs to be cellared for a few more years but should blossom into something special.  (93 Points tasted September 2016)

2011 Tenuta di Biserno “Biserno” Toscana IGT

Location: Tuscany, Italy

Blend:  Cabernet Franc, with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot

This wine has beautiful aromas of dark ripe fruits with hints of cassis fruit, black currants, blackberries, toasted herbs, minerals, and other earth tones.   The wine is full bodied with chewy tannins that give way to a powerful but silky finish of seductively concentrated dark fruits that blend beautifully with herbs, spice, licorice, chocolate, and notes of forest floor.  This is a wine that is drinking great right now, but should continue evolving nicely for another 12 years.  If you enjoy bold old world wines that are focused and complex with depth and sophistication then this is a must try.  (95 Points tasted September  2016)

Tenuta Sette Ponti has been producing world class Super Tuscan Wines that I have been collecting personally and enjoying for years.  Tenuta Sette Ponti is in the heart of Chianti and the Moretti family has owned this property since the 50’s, and I had the pleasure of being introduced to Giovanna Moretti whom was at this prestigious event.  She was extremely approachable and just as lovely as the wines she had being served.

2014 Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo Toscana IGT

Location: Tuscany, Italy

Blend: 90% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot

This is always a fantastic value for its quality and is my favorite Super Tuscan wine in its price range.  The wine had a lovely bouquet giving off aromas of blueberries, currants, black cherries, exotic spice, and earthy minerals.  The wine was medium ++ in body with round structured tannins that gave way to a beautiful finish displaying hints of vibrant red and dark berry fruit, exotic spices, and powdered minerals.  This is a complex wine with layers that are balanced harmoniously and focus on wild berry fruits blended with dusty earth.  (91 Points tasted September 2016)

2014 Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno Toscana IGT

Location: Tuscany, Italy

Blend: 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot

This beautiful ruby red wine had an expressive bouquet of cherries, blackberries, plum, tobacco, spice box, and toasted oak.  The wine is full bodied with bold tannins that are integrated nicely and give way to a luxuriously concentrated palate displaying hints of blackberries, crushed cherries, sweet plum, spice, oak, and earthy terroir.  This wine is brilliantly structured with nice depth and complexity.  The wine needs a little more time cellaring but should reach its plateau of maturity in 2020 and should drink beautifully for years.  (95 Points tasted September 2016)

MASI Agricola is located in the Veneto wine region of Italy.  Here Mr. Amarone (Sandro Boscaini) is crafting wines to the traditional method of Appassimento, where grapes are laid out on bamboo racks to dry over the winter as they have been for centuries.  This estate is historic and once belonged to descendants of the legendary 14th Century poet Dante.

2007 MASI Agricola Campolongo di Torbe Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC

Location: Veneto, Italy

Blend: 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 5% Molinara

This is truly a special wine!  The wine was rich with floral aromas and notes of raspberries, cherry liquor, sweet plums, citrus, smoked herbs, saddle leather, and baking spices.  The wine is bold and voluptuous with depth and complex layers that blend harmoniously.  The wine is full bodied and hits the palate with intense yet sophisticated flavors of raspberry compote, crushed cherries, orange zest, graphite, and herbs.  This wine is drinking spectacularly right now but has the ability to age for another two decades.  (95 Points tasted September 2016)

Overall the Kobrand TOUR d’ITALIA 2016 event was a complete success and well done.  There were lots of wines that deserved recognition, but I only took a few notes on key wines that stuck out for me.  That being said, all the wines being represented in this event were of high quality.  This was a brilliant way to spend my afternoon and was absolutely enjoyed.

Articles & Liks

Ferraro's Italian Restaurant & The Wine of Castello Banfi

Ferraro's Italian Restaurant & The Wine of Castello Banfi

Ferraro's Italian Restaurant & The Wine of Castello Banfi


Author:  Vashti Roebuck

Date:  July 2016

Greeted with a smile from Mr. Luciano Castiello, he handed us a nice glass of Prosecco. From there we made our way into a beautifully appointed private room that was warm and inviting. The table was well appointed with fine glassware and as the first wine was being poured Mr. Luciano Castiello began to speak with passion and articulated in detail information about his family and their wines. Herein below are my tasting notes of both the food and the wine, as everything was thoroughly enjoyed.

2013 Poggio Alle Muro Rosso Di Montalcion D.O.C. paired with Carpaccio di Cervo  

Blend: 100% Sangiovese

The wine had a garnet color with a typical old world bouquet. The wine gave off hints of black cherry, blackberries, licorice, and toasted nuts. The wine was medium in body with smooth tannins that were like velvet on the palate and a finish giving off notes of cherries, leafy tobacco, hazelnut, and a touch of oak. The wine played nicely with the Carpaccio that was dressed with pine nuts and mushrooms; thus, this brilliantly enhanced the earthy terroir notes in the wine. Each sip of wine danced nicely with the earth tones of the pairing and showcased the fruit of the wine. This was an enjoyable pairing that was a great start to the event.

2011 Poggio Alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino DOCG paired with Seared Pork Belly and Lentils  

Blend: 100% Sangiovese

This wine had a deep dark garnet red color. The wine had a sexy bouquet with aromas of black cherries, blackberries, currants, plum, cedar, tobacco, and a touch of vanilla. The wine was medium + in body with ripe tannins on the finish that gave way to notes of plum, black raspberries, licorice, chocolate, and oak. The wine was nicely balanced with complex layers of fruit and earth tones. This wine was paired with a seared pork belly that was dressed in a sweet garlic sauce on-top of warm lentils. The rich pork melted in the mouth and when accompanied with the wine it elevated the culinary experience. The wine played nicely with this pairing as its complex layers of fruit and earth seamlessly and harmoniously found balance and with each sip and bite. This wine held-up to the richness of this dish and truly exposed the bold side to this elegantly sophisticate wine. A brilliant pairing that was completely satisfying.

2011 Cum Laude Toscana IGT paired with Porcini Mushroom Ravioli in Butter & Sage  

Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese, Syrah

This wine had a deep dark ruby purple color. The wine projected an intensely concentrated bouquet with hints of blackberries, cassis fruit, cherries, currents, plum, licorice, olive paste, wet herbs, and exotic spice. The wine was full bodied with supple tannins that gave way to a plush finish of complex yet balanced dark fruits and earthy terror. The wine had a dense core of blackberries, currents, plum, toasted tobacco, and soft exotic spice. This was paired with beautiful porcini mushroom raviolis that were lightly drizzled in butter sauce. The rich flavors of the ravioli brought out the earthy side of this bold wine; thus, together they elevated and complimented one-another brilliantly. This was my favorite wine of the event and I was amazed to find it so reasonably priced.

2013 ASKA Bolgheri Rosso DOC paired with Veal Sweetbread & Smokey Potato Sauce  

Blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc

This wine had a beautiful dark ruby red color. The wine had a typical old world bouquet with aromas of cherries, plum, licorice, tobacco, oak, and herbs. The wine was medium ++ in body with rounded tannins that ushered in a long finish displaying notes of crushed cherries, plums, currents, leafy tobacco, and softly spiced oak. This wine was paired with a veal sweetbread that was placed atop of a smoked potato sauce. The creaminess of this dish balanced nicely with this wine and elevated the culinary experience to a new level. This pairing brilliantly allowed the food and wine to play with one another, and truly displayed the advantage of old world wines when enjoying food.

This event was absolutely wonderful and was a fun showcasing of food and wine. Ferraro’s does these tastings from time to time and I highly recommend indulging yourself in the next one. This culinary experience was thoughtful and beautifully executed.


Ferraro's Italian Restaurant & The Wine of Castello Banfi

Ferraro's Italian Restaurant & The Wine of Castello Banfi


Author:  Steve Roebuck

Date:  August 2015  

There are an over welling amount of wineries throughout any of the wine regions in California, and Sonoma is no different.  Even an avid wine enthusiast can be intimidated when it comes to finding those special wineries or hidden gems as I like to call them.  A hidden gem is not necessarily a cheap or even unheard of wine, but rather a special wine that might be hard to find or come by.    

When looking for new shining stars within the wine world I often consider the winemakers and take notice if they have ventured off to start their own winery or just jumped ship to another estate.  A good example of this (outside of Sonoma) is when Mr. Philippe Bascaules whom had been involved in winemaking since 1990 at the prestigious First Growth Chateau Margaux winery in France moved to Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook winery in Napa.  Thus, a prestigious winemaker involved in making bottles of wine that can fetch prices north of one thousand dollars a bottle is now making wine for Inglenook, and started doing such in 2011.  This kind of move grabs my interest and deserves my attention.     

Brooks Note is a Sonoma winery that has caused me to take notice, as it checks off a number of my criteria points that makes me consider it to be a hidden gem.    Garry and Joanne Brooks planted their first vineyard in 2002 and began the long path of realizing their dream and having their own winery.  Garry Brooks left a prestigious career in the technology industry to peruse his interest and love of wine.  Along his new path of passion for wine he took the initiative to learn from others, and secured jobs working along the way for Ravenswood and even Kosta Browne.  Garry Brooks being drawn to Pinot Noir found himself spending two years working with Shane Finely and Michael Browne of Kosta Browne.  Here he working alongside Shane and Michael Browne and learned the intricacies and details involved with making great Pinot Noir.  A driving factor that makes me take notice of Garry Brooks is that he was part of the team that helped make the 2009 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir “Wine of the Year” in Wine Spectator’s 2011 list.  This alone is impressive but Garry Brooks found time along the way to go back to school and get his bachelor’s degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis.    

Thus, when I made a trip to Sonoma in June of this year I took the opportunity to visit Brooks Note and taste their wines.  Garry Brooks gave us a worm welcome with a chilled glass of his 2014 Rose of Pinot Noir.  This wine was crisp and refreshing with bright fruit flavors, and was a perfect start to our interdiction of what Garry Brooks was up to with respect to winemaking.  It didn’t take long before we were diving into his 2013 Weir Vineyard Pinot Noir and his 2013 Marin County Pinot Noir.  After tasting these wonderfully balanced and complex wines, we ventured into the barrel room to do some barrel tastings.  Here Garry Brooks took the time to explain the different Pinot Noir clones used throughout the Sonoma Valley, and indulged us with a barrel tasting of a Romanée-Conti clone that he uses to make his fine Pinot Noirs with.  The overall experience and plethora of knowledge Garry Brooks had made for a very enjoyable visit and wine tasting.  In my opinion Brooks Note is a hidden gem as the wines are an excellent value and of the finest quality.     

Pax Wine Cellars was a force to be reckoned with right out of the gate in 2000, but due to legal issues and a rift between the partners the winery came to an end.  This shining star quickly burnt out as it was dissolved in 2008 after a long drawn out legal battle.   However, Pax and Pam Mahle made a re-launch of these critically praised wines in 2014.    

Focusing on Syrah these wines are big and rich with complex bold flavors; yet, elegant and polished.  Pax and Pam Mahle source their grapes from cool climate areas in Sonoma County and Mendocino.   They believe in organic farming and a hands on approach encompassed with a philosophy of harvesting perfectly ripe grapes with balanced acids and sugars that require no additions from them in the winery.    

In the early days these wines quickly soured to prestige after Robert Parker Jr. scored them with high praise and even gave one vintage 100 points rating.  It seems that the early momentum this winery enjoyed has fizzled a bit after its legal issues; however, I refuse to dismiss them as they are still making and producing some wonderful wines.  Herein below are a few of my tasting notes of some of their wines.  

2005 Pax Kobler Family Vineyard Syrah   

Location: Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California  

Blend: 90% Syrah, 10% Viognier   

I decanted this bottle of wine to find a deep dark purple color. The wine was expressive with an incredible bouquet of blackberries, cassis fruit, chocolate, violets, and black licorice. The wine was full bodied with smooth rounded tannins that led to a luxurious finish displaying hints of blueberries, plum, blackberries, exotic spices, and wet gravel. This complex decadent wine is wonderfully balanced and is showing perfect harmony on the palate. This wine is in its plateau of maturity and is still drinking quite youthful. Highly Recommended!  Tasted:  October 2, 2014   

2005 Pax Walker Vine Hill Vineyard Syrah   

Location: Russian River Valley, Sonoma, California  

Blend: 100% Syrah   

The wine was a dark purple opaque color with hues of deep garnet. This sweet fruit forward bouquet had aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black currants, vanilla, olives, herbs, and soft pepper. The wine was full body with integrated tannins that led to a seductive powerful finish giving off notes of chocolate, intense ripe berry fruits, and a soft earthiness. This wine is sophisticated and displays harmonious balance between the fruit, spices, and earth tones. A bold wine that is smooth and drinking wonderfully right now; thus, this wine is in its plateau of maturity. Highly Recommended!  Tasted:  May 5, 2014   

2003 Pax Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard   

Location: Mendocino County, California  

Blend: 100% Syrah   

Being invited to an exciting Christmas Hot Shoe Party, we decided to bring this bottle of wine. At the event we pulled the cork and poured the wine right out of the bottle without decanting. In the glass you could see the wine was inky and had a dark purple color. On first approach I noticed the wine had a lush fruit forward bouquet with hints of blackberries, cassis fruit, espresso, plum and smooth chocolate. The wine was full in body with finely rounded tannins that gave way to an expressive finish with notes of wild berries, blackberry liqueur, milk chocolate, licorice, and soft spice. This wine was high in alcohol (16.3%) but did not drink hot like some Syrah. The wine was sophisticatedly polished and luxuriously elegant with complex layers and great depth. The wine is in its plateau of maturity and drinking spectacular right now. Highly Recommended!  Tasted:  December 14, 2014   

2003 Pax Syrah Cuvée Christine   

Location: Sonoma County, California  

Blend: 100% Syrah   

I pulled this bottle from my cellar, and decanted it to find it had a nice opaque black purple red color. The wine had fruit forward aromas, similar to what you would expect from an Australian Syrah. This wine had a bold bouquet with notes of blueberries, blackberries, violets, licorice, coffee, dark chocolate, and a splash of spice. The wine was full body with astringent tannins that dissipated by the second day, as I only had a glass the first night. On day two I pulled the decanter from my cellar and found that the tannins were now soft and rounded, and now led to a spectacular finish with hints of plum, mocha, red and black fruits, concentrated lush blue fruits, herbs, and a touch of earth. The wine is complex with a silky palate of balanced fruit and a long seductive finish. I later found that Robert Parker gave this wine 100 points, and taste the wine from a magnum bottle. Thus, I think the wine is excellent and will continue to evolve with some additional cellaring. The wine appears to be in its plateau of maturity now, but needs to be decanted several hours in advanced to allow the tannins to dissipate. Highly Recommended!  Tasted:  August 9, 2013  

I feel these are some of the best Syrah driven wines coming out of California, not just Sonoma.  These remarkable wines are not to be overlooked, as they are fantastically well made approachable complex wines.      

Flowers Vineyards and Winery is up on top of the soaring coastal ridge that border the Pacific Ocean, were some of its first vineyards were planted in 1991.  This location is at an elevation of 1,150 to 1,875 feet in the fog belt and maritime breezes, allowing the fruit to fully mature with depth and complex flavors.    

In 1989 Walt and Joan Flowers purchased 321 acres on the northern Sonoma Coast, and began the project of producing cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Eventfully this winery was acquired by the Huneeus family under their corporate umbrella of Huneeus Vintners.  It is important to point out that Huneeus Vintners also owns the prestigious Quintessa Vineyards in Rutherford, Napa Valley.  The agreement made was such that Walt and Joan Flowers would remain involved with the winery and this was appealing to the Huneeus family, as the wine being produced by this estate is nothing short of fantastic.  The wines being produced from this property are often found being shown at the Wine Spectator Grand Tasting events.  Herein below are some of my old tasting notes from trying their wines.  

2007 Flowers Perennial Red Wine   

Location: Sonoma Coast, California  

Blend: 74% Pinot Noir, 16% Syrah, 8% Pinot Meunier, 2% Chardonnay    

This interesting bottle of wine had a beautiful dark garnet color. The bouquet was laced with notes of raspberry, strawberry, cranberry, coffee, and minerals. The wine was medium in body with tangy tannins that led to a nice finish giving way to hints of blackberry, cola, plum, and earthy raspberries. This unusual blend is drinking wonderfully right now and is in its plateau of maturity. Worth checking out as it will intrigue your taste-buds.  Tasted:  May 31, 2013   

1998 Flowers  

Location:  Sonoma Coast, California 

Blend:   Pinot Noir   

This California Pinot Noir has aged beautifully. It was a light garnet color with hints of raspberry, ripe strawberry, and spice. This light to medium body wine had a nice long finish. The earth tones were balanced with the oak and red fruit. This wine is drinking wonderfully and could be at its prime.  Tasted:  March 7, 2011  

I am always amazed at how many wine enthusiasts I have met that have never heard of Flowers Vineyards and Winery.  This is a well-established winery that is deserving of our recognition; thus, I felt compelled to mention it as a hidden gem.    

Understand that there are about 60,000 acres of vineyards, and more than 400 wineries in the Sonoma County.  Thus, these three hidden gems are just the tip of what is out there waiting to be found.  I encourage you to venture forth and find those undervalued gems that will one day become big names in the wine world.  I always get a kick out of pulling something wonderful from my cellar that was virtually unknown when I first found it, but is now well established and know by wine drinkers and enthusiasts alike.   

 Find What You Like In Life And Drink It! – Wine In The Glass

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