Trivento Malbec Reserve 2015

W Trivento Malbec 2015Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina

100% malbec

13.5% alcohol

Opened 29 Oct 2017

els 8.9/10

Decanter 95

Guia Descorchados 90

Bodega Trivento, the Three Winds Winery, sources its Malbec grapes from the Andean alluvial and colluvium soils of Lujan de Cuyo and Uco Valley, south of Mendoza, Argentina. The vineyards are at an altitude of approximately 3400 feet, soaking up 250 days per year of intense sun, in the dry, thin air; temperatures ranging in the summer growing season from highs of 95 degrees Fahrenheit during the days to 55 degrees at night. The semi-arid climate sparingly doles out less than 1.5 inches of rain per month during the growing season, forcing the growers to add drip irrigation to  assuage the vines thirst.

This inexpensive wine has a wonderful, clear, ruby-red color begging you to further investigate its aromas of cherry and strawberries, its soft tannins, and velvety, favorable finish. Chocolates and pasta will pair well with this Malbec.  Remember to decant and aerate the wine for an hour or two, it will help immensely.

$8.99 wine.com.

Vina Real Crianza 2012

W Vina RealOther Red Blends from Rioja, Spain

90% tempranillo

10% garnacha, graciano and mazuela

13.2% alcohol by volume

els 9.0/10

Guia Penin 93

Wine Advocate 92

Compañía Vinícola del Norte del España, CVNE, a family winery and vineyard, was founded in 1879 in the small town of Haro within the wine growing region of Rioja, Spain. The town is renowned for the annual Haro Wine Festival, celebrated on the 29th of June, in honor of the town’s patron saint, San Pedro.  The event is inaugurated each year, with a possibly, somber and sober mass at the Hermitage of San Felices de Bilibio, followed by wine drinking competitions, and drenching thine neighbor with buckets of red wine, producing a population of lovely, glowing, lavender hued, inebriated participants. Songkran take note.

Today the company includes 4 wineries including Vina Real in Laguardia, established in 1920s, near the provincial seat of the Rioja wine district, Logrono; producing some of first oak barrel aged wine in the region.

The vineyards are grown on calcareous soils in the Rioja Alavesa wine sub-region at a few hundred feet above sea level, south of the Cantabrian Mountains, enjoying a calm, continental climate of moderate days in the low 70s, and nights dipping into the low 60s with 2 to 4 inches of rain during the growing season, although 2012 was very dry.

The wine has a clear to brilliant, garnet to ruby-red coloring; a bouquet of blackberries, cherries, plums, and earth. A wonderfully balanced, medium bodied wine with a very nice finish.

An outstanding wine.

$13.99 wine.com

Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

W Tahbilk 2013Cabernet Sauvignon from Central Victoria, Australia
100% cabernet sauvignon
14.0% alcohol by volume

els 8.9/10

Australian Wine Companion 94

Wine Spectator 90

Tahbilk established itself in 1860, as the first winery in the Goulburn Valley of Central Victoria, Australia and is one of the oldest wineries in Australia. Reginald Purbrick purchased the winery in 1925 and 5 generations of family have been making wines there ever since.

The vineyards are situated less than 500 feet above sea level but the temperatures are cool nights of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit with the days hovering in the low 80s during the growing season. Rain is sufficient at about 1.5 to 2.5 inches per month. The soils are sandy.

Tahbilk cabernet sauvignon is produced from about 70 acres of old vines planted in 1949.

The wine is a brilliant ruby-red with a great fragrance of black cherry and plum.  Mild herbal and spice hints add to its sensual aroma. The tannins are smooth and easy, producing a balanced but a long and intense finish. A good wine.

$19.99 wine.com

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2013

W Kaiken Malbec 2013Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina
100% malbec
14.5% alcohol by volume

els 8.7/10

James Suckling 93

Wine Spectator 90

The Kaiken Winery, named after the gregarious caiquen goose, is located a few miles southwest of Mendoza, Argentina on a medial position of an alluvial fan born from sediment disgorged from the towering Andes to the west, and a few stones throw north of the spirited, flowing braids of the Rio Mendoza.

The malbec grapes are harvested from 3 vineyards north and south of Mendoza, ranging from 950-1250 meters above sea level, rendering thirsty, hot days and dry, cool nights, partnering with the sandy, loamy soils in providing temperament and complexion to the impending wines.

With a clear ruby-red color the wine exudes a black cherry and plum bouquet with a mild vanilla sweetness coming later. This malbec is smooth all around; pleasant and mellow tannins with a simple and balanced finish. On a better day I might rate this wine 9.0/10 but it just doesn’t manifest the pizzazz, personally, to push it to that level.

The 2013 vintage is very difficult to find but there is a similarly rated 2015 Kaiken Ultra Malbec available for $18.99 wine.com.

Tercos Bonarda 2015

W Tercos Bonarda 2015Bonarda from Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Cuyo Region, Argentina

100% bonarda

13.9% alcohol by volume

Purchased: 12 July 2017 – $19.99

Opened: 8 September 2017

els:  9.0/10

James Suckling:  93

Insider: 92

Natalie Maclean:  90

Wine Align: 86

Wine Enthusiast: 82

Argentina is the world’s 6th largest producer of wine by volume, just behind the US and ahead of Australia. It produces about 6% of the world’s total wine. The country has in excess of 500,000 acres planted in grapes. Red grapes account for about 55% of the total grown in the country with rose and whites accounting for the rest.  The country grows more than 100 varietals of grapes but the 6 main ones make up almost half of the total acreage planted. Four varietals account for 79% of all red grapes planted and 42% of the total for all red, white, and rose grapes: Malbec 36% total/20% red, Bonarda 17%/9%, Cabernet Sauvignon 14%/7%, and Syrah 11%/6%.  Two varietals account for 35% of all white grapes planted or 7% of the total of all grapes: Torrontes Riojano 20% white/4% total and Chardonnay 15%/3%. Argentina has 4 main wine-producing regions: Atlantic, Cuyo, North, and Patagonia. Cuyo is the largest and most important wine-producing, macroeconomic region in central Argentina and includes the wine sub-regions of La Rioja, Mendoza, and San Juan; with Mendoza being the largest of the 3 by area, population, GDP, and wine production.

Argentina was the first South American country attempting to grow vines, beginning in Mendoza in the early 1800s.   The initial plantings came from the Bordeaux region of France, including the ubiquitous Malbec.  Eventually, Mendoza was producing world-class Malbec wines, on par or superior to those produced in France, mainly due to its high elevations in the foothills of the Andes, well-drained soils, and lots and lots of hot sunshine. Today the country produces 75% of the world’s Malbec.  The country’s 2nd most planted grape, on 47,000 acres, is Bonarda, aka Douce Noir, Corbeau, and Charbono accounting for almost all of the world’s total acreage.

Cuyo Region, in the western Andes foothills of central Argentina is the country’s main wine-producing area that includes the provinces of San Juan, San Luis, Mendoza, and La Rioja. The region covers a 450 miles, north to south, from the village of San Blas de los Sauces in the north to the small city of General Alvear in the south. The region accounts for almost 80% of country’s wine production. The area is one of the driest wine-producing areas of the world requiring some form of irrigation for the all the vineyards.

The Mendoza region, lapping up onto the eastern foothills of the youthful Andes, is the largest wine-producing area in all of Argentina, accounting for 65-75% of the country’s total. A third of the country’s vineyards are dedicated to Malbec with Mendoza also producing the lion’s share of that variety. The region’s vineyards range from 1600-5600′ above sea level. The Mendoza wine region is partitioned into another 5 sub-areas: Central Oasis, East Mendoza, North Mendoza, South Mendoza, and Uco Valley.

The Uco Valley, striking in a north-south direction, just east and parallel to the Andes Mountains, is 45 miles long and about 15 miles wide on average. The northern edge of valley is situated at the small town of San Jose and the southern limit is anchored by the tiny village of El Cepillo. The valley is crossed by the braided Tunuyan and Tupungato Rivers, sourced from the snow packs high in the Andes Mountains. There are over 60,000 acres of vineyards ranging from 2800-5600′ above sea level in the sub-region. The main varietals grown are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Malbec accounts for almost 45% of all acreage planted. Soils throughout the Uco Valley are alluvial and consist of a rocky, clayey sub-soil overlain by a stony, sandy surface. The soils are immature, infertile, and well-drained; perfect for growing grapes. The dry valley sits in the rain shadow of the mountains requiring irrigation for the vineyards. Growing season temperatures range from 50-85°F with rainfall averages of 1-3.75″ per month.

Tupungato is located in the northern third of the Uco Valley, in the shadow of the Tupungato volcano and about 40 miles south of Mendoza. About a third of the acreage is devoted to vineyards with Malbec and Chardonnay the undisputed kings of the area. The soils are immature, stony and well-drained. Growing season temperatures range from 50-85°F with rainfall ranging from 0.5-1.33″ per month.

Bonarda, also known as Douce Noir, Corbeau, and Charbono, is the country’s 2nd most planted grape.  It is planted on more than 47,000 acres which is more than 99% of the world-wide total. The grape is thought to have originated in northern Italy along the Po River valley 3000 years ago, first planted by the Etruscans and brought to Argentina by Italian immigrants. It is a thick-skinned, medium-sized blueish-black grape producing a deep red wine high in tannins.  It has aromas of black fruit, plums, and anise. A full-bodied wine with great structure and long aging potential.

Ricardo Santos, owner of the Norton Winery, was the first producer in Argentina to export Malbec wines to the US in 1972. Santos sold this winery in 1989 and purchased vineyards around Mendoza, Maipu and Russell. The Ricardo Santos Bodega and Vineyards, today run by Ricardo’s sons, Patricio and Pedro Santos, has its winery located just south of Mendoza in Russell, Maipu. The winery was built in 2005 and has a capacity 700,000 liters or 185,000 gallons per year.  Its air-conditioned cellars accommodate 300 oak barrels. The winery produces 5 reds and 1 white under two labels:  Ricardo Santos and Tercos.

Tercos was developed by Pedro and Patricio Santos. The wine’s iconic, humorous and possibly triple entendre wine label of 4-donkeys in 3-piece suits is suggestive of a play on the word stubborn, the literal Spanish to English translation of Tercos, insinuating the difficulty of producing a superb wine from the local dry and poor volcanic-alluvial soils, and finally, they may be donkeys, but they dress up rather nicely.

The Bonarda grape is grown at their Finca La Pitonisa vineyard, or in English, the Witch Estate, which is in the evening shadows of the inactive Andean stratovolcano Tupungato towering another 17,799′ over the 3600′ above sea level vineyards. The volcano contributes to the silica rich, sandy loams of vineyard soils, containing various amounts of aluminum, calcium, sodium, magnesium, zinc and iron which augment the flavors and body of this wine. The vines were planted between 1977 and 1990 placing them mostly into the old vine category of lower yield but concentrated grapes. The grapes for the 2015 vintage were harvested in the 3rd week of April.

The grapes were picked, crushed and fermented in stainless steel tanks for 23 days at 77°F.  In December the wine was transferred to 15,000 3/4 liter bottles.

This is a satisfying wine with a pleasing, dark ruby-red to violet color. The aroma is easy with berries, plums and raisins in the forefront with a hint of cloves and spice. The taste is very smooth all around and the balanced finish lasts well into your next sip.

Bonarda compliments so many dishes and entrees, but I usually take a simple path and prepare a plate of thinly sliced sausages such as hard salami and summer sausage with some mild cheddar. Toss in a handful of salted cashews and seedless grapes and you’re all set. Bon appetit.

An outstanding wine at a great price. Drink this year but it’s likely good until 2025. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$12.99 wine.com

Arnoux et Fils Vacqueyras Seigneur de Lauris 2012

W Vacqueyras 2012Rhone Red Blends from Vacqueyras AOC, Rhone Valley, France

70% grenache

30% syrah

14.0% alcohol

Purchased:  12 July 2017 – $19.99

Opened:  29 August 2017

els:  9.0/10

Vinous:  93

Stephan Tanzer: 93-91

The Wine Advocate:  90

 

Cellar Tracker:  88

Gilbert and Gaillard:  87

France is the 2nd largest producer of wine in the world, just behind Italy and  ahead of Spain, representing about 21% of the global wine market.  The country is responsible for creating some of the most recognizable old world wines on the planet, from the bubbly Champagnes in the cool north to world-class Bordeaux along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers to the GSMs in the warm Mediterranean south. There are 17 major wine-producing regions in the country along with another 28 smaller areas, all growing 96 varieties of predominate grapes with Merlot and Grenache the most common. Reds account for almost 70% of the 2 million plus acres planted in vines, with whites accounting for the remainder. As with the other major European wine producers, France’s vineyard acreage has been shrinking over the last couple of decades due to less demand from their home population and increased market pressures from new world producers.

The Rhone Valley wine region of southern France, extending 155 miles along  both sides of the north-south river, situated between the Massif Central to the west and the Alps to the east, produces some of the truly great red blends in the world. The wineries in this valley have practiced and perfected their craft since the Greeks came to Massilia (modern Marseille) and planted their vines in the 4th century BC. The Romans, knowing a good thing when they see it, defended Massilia from the Gaul’s in the second century BC, protecting and expanding the Rhone wine trade throughout the Mediterranean. The wines, especially from the right bank of the Rhone, have been the favorites of kings and popes since the Latin and Greek Churches parted company in 1054. In the 14th century the Latin Popes set up residency on the right bank of the Rhone at Avignon and controlled the area until the 18th century, all the while extending and perfecting the local vineyards.  In the 20th century, Rhone wineries were instrumental in codifying French laws, AOCs, to regulate the type and quality of wines produced.

Today the Rhone Valley is France’s second largest wine-producing region of over 5300 growers and producers spread over 250 communes, containing 28 appellations, and growing 27 varieties of grapes. Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre red grapes are the most common by acreage planted. In 2016 the region produced 80 million gallons and sold 372 million bottles of wine, produced from 175,000 acres of vines. More than 80% of the wine produced is red. A little less than a third of that wine is exported, mainly to the UK, Belgium, and the US.

Vacqueyras AOC, located at the foot of  Dentelles de Montmirail, is 14 miles east of the Rhone, 8-9 miles east of Orange, and 60 miles north-northwest of Marseille. The AOC sits along the left-bank of the Ouveze River, a tributary of the Rhone. Vacqueyras’ history goes back to the Romans in the 2nd century BC with first written proof of wine making recorded in the 15th century AD tax rolls. In 1937, Vacqueyras was added to the Cotes du Rhone area. In 1955, it became a Cotes du Rhone Village. In 1967, it became a named Cotes du Rhone village. Finally, in 1990, it obtained its AOC status. The area has 3500 acres of planted vines with red grapes comprising 97% of all grapes grown. Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre account for 90% of all vines planted. The area produced 12,000 gallons of wine in 2016. The soils are generally alluvial and glacial, sandy-clay with pebbles. The area enjoys a Mediterranean climate with growing season temperatures ranging from 50-80°F and rainfall ranging from 2.0-2.75″ per month.

Grenache grapes likely originated in Aragon in north central Spain. It is the 7th most commonly grown grape in the world, planted on about 455,000 acres and producing about 4% of all harvested grapes. France is the largest grower of this grape followed by Spain and is the most common grape grown in the Rhone valley. The grape is used to produce single varietals and blends. A dark-blueish, large, thick-skinned grape that produces medium to full-bodied wines high in alcohol but with medium acidity and tannins.  It is high in dark fruit and spice flavors that mellow with age.

Syrah grapes were originally thought to have originated in Persia or Syria but recent DNA analyses has shown its roots to be in Savoy, a region at the junction of France, Switzerland, and Italy, and the Ardeche region on the eastern edge of the Rhone Valley.  The grape is the 6th most grown grape in the world, planted on about 460,000 acres and producing a little more than 4% of all harvested grapes. France is the largest producer of this grape and is used to produce single varietals and blends. A small to medium-sized grape, deep purple in color, producing full-bodied wines high in alcohol and acidity with medium tannins. The wines have flavors of red and black fruits, and spice.  The wine ages well, developing aromas of leather and licorice over time.

In 1717, the Count Francois de Castellanne, de Lauris, de Vassadel, de Gerard, Chevalier marquis of Ampuis, de Lagneroux, Vacqueyras, gave Pierre Bovis, an ancestor of the Arnoux family a vineyard. Fortunately he didn’t make Pierre name the vineyard after him. Today the estate is run by Marc and Jean-Francois. Arnoux et Fils’ winery, on the right bank of the Rhone River produces it blends from low yield vineyards as prescribed by AOC rules.

The family has 100 acres of vineyards at the foot of the Dentelles de Montmirail, loosely translated as lacy, adorable mountains. These mountains formed from late Mesozoic to present day tectonic uplift, causing the nearly vertical placement of the originally horizontal, Late Jurassic-Oxfordian fine-grained basinal carbonates. The carbonates are the source of the poor argillaceous, limestone soil mixed with round stones  of the winery’s vineyards. The vines are more than 50 years-old. As stated above the vineyards enjoy a Mediterranean climate with growing season temperatures ranging from 50-80°F and rainfall ranging from 2.0-2.75″ per month, with the vines and soil being kept cool and dry by the strong mistral winds coming out of the northwest.

The grapes were hand-picked, partially de-stemmed, and spent 15 days fermenting in vats. The wine is then aged 18 to 24 months in oak barrels, 2/3 new and 1/3 used.  The wine is partially aged in the winery’s underground cellar for 12 to 18 months.

This wine has beautiful clear garnet hues which just beg you to enjoy outside on a Willie Nelson “Uncloudy Day“. Powerful aromas meet your nose with hints of raspberry, currant, black cherry, and prunes.  Whispers of mushrooms and cloves add to this delightful fragrance of liquid comfort. The tannins are smooth and easy, providing a nice balanced finish now and for years to come.

Enjoy while nibbling on some small chunks of pungent goat cheese or make a meal of it and grill up a rib-eye. Smother your steak with a red wine, peppercorn sauce.  Start with a tablespoon of butter, the real stuff, 2-3 tablespoons of finely chopped onions, a tablespoon of crushed peppercorns, a sloppy tablespoon of cognac (optional), a half cup of red wine, a cup of beef stock, and a quarter cup of heavy cream. Cook the butter, onions, and peppercorns over medium heat until the onions are soft, less than 10 minutes. Add in the cognac and reduce to nothing. Add the wine and the beef stock, bringing to a boil, reducing everything by 2/3. Add in the cream and allow to thicken.  Salt to taste and serve over a hot, juicy steak.

An outstanding wine at an ok price. Drink this year but likely good until 2022-2027. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

$19.99 Wine.com

Martin Ray Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2015

W Martin Ray 2015Pinot Noir from Los Carneros and Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, North Coast, California, US

100% pinot noir

13.8% alcohol

Purchased:  2 July 2017 – $18.99

Open: 15 July 2017

els:  9.1/10

James Suckling:  95

Cellar Tracker: 87

The US, when first discovered by the Vikings, was covered in vines and they named the area Vineland. Unfortunately the early settlers discovered that those vines produced a terrible wine. The effort to find a suitable vine for the US began in earnest in the 1600s with the introduction of the Mission grape to Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico and Vitis vinifera to Virginia.  America’s first commercial winery was not established until 1798, finding its home in Kentucky.  Today the US is the 4th largest producer of wine in the world, behind Spain and ahead of Argentina, accounting for 8% of the world’s wine production. There are 89 regions in the country planting 129 prime varieties of grape. The country has almost 8000 wineries that produced 800 million gallons of wine in 2016.

The California wine industry was initially established by Spanish in the 18th century, planting the Mexican sourced “black grape” around their Catholic missions to be used for religious ceremonies and enjoying Californian sunsets.  The “black grape” or the Mission grape, was originally brought to the new world buy Hernan Cortes in the 16th century. It did nothing of note for the Aztecs but it dominated the state’s industry for almost 200 years.

California is far and away the largest grower and producer of wine in the country accounting for about 85% of US production.  The state still ranks as the 4th largest producer in the world just behind France, Italy, and Spain; without including the rest of country. There are over 600,000 acres of vines, 5900 growers and just shy of 4700 wineries in the state producing 285 million cases of wine in 2016. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most common wine varieties, accounting for about 90,000 and 85,000 acres planted, respectively. In 2016 the state had about 44,600 acres planted in Pinot Noir grapes.

The state has 5 main growing regions: Central Coast, Inland Valleys, North Coast, Sierra Foothills, and South Coast.  Within these 5 regions are upwards to 200 AVAs.  The AVAs  are defined by geography only; counties are automatically classified as an AVA without further registration with the federal government.  85% of the grapes used on an AVA that’s smaller than a county, must be grown there but there are no restrictions on what grapes or amounts that can be used. If it is a county labeled AVA only 75% of the grapes need to come from that area.

The North Coast region, just north of San Francisco, includes the counties of Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Solano. The area stretches 100 miles, north to south, and about 50 miles east to west. From Clear Lake on the eastern boundary to the Pacific Ocean on the western edge, the area includes the valleys just north of the San Francisco Bay to the North Coast Mountains in the northern part of the region. The North Coast contains almost half of all the state’s wineries spread over 3 million acres with more than 130,000 acres dedicated to vineyards within 50 smaller AVAs. The predominate grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

Sonoma County wine history dates back to the early 1800s when a Catholic priest established a vineyard around the San Francisco Solano Mission which is now in the city of Sonoma. By the early 1920s the county boasted 20,000 acres of vines and 250 plus wineries. Prohibition knocked Sonoma’s wine industry down to a shadow of its former glory and it took almost 60 years for the county to recover from that social experiment.

Sonoma County has a rich, heterogeneous geography of mountains and valleys that present a profusion of soils and climates that make the French landscape look like vanilla pudding.  The area’s soils are heavily influenced by volcanism along the county’s eastern boundary in the Mayacamas Mountains.  The volcanoes include the Plio-Pleistocene aged Mount St. Helena and Hood Mountain which, among others, spiked the surrounding soils with ash and other wine-loving volcanic ejecta. The climate of the area is a product of its proximity to the Pacific Ocean which has endowed the area with foggy mornings, warm days, not too hot, and cool nights.

Sonoma County is the North Coast’s largest AVA, about 50 miles on a side, containing more than third of North Coast region’s grape acreage, along with 1800 growers, and 400 wineries. The county grows 66 varieties of grapes on 60,000 acres but just 7 of these account for about 90% of all the wine produced.  Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon are the top 3 grapes grown. The area produces about 6% of California’s total wine production versus 4% for Napa.

The county is further subdivided into 3 large AVAs loosely based on geography: Northern Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, and Sonoma Valley with each of these containing an additional 15 distinct AVAs within their borders. These include:  Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Carneros Sonoma, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Fort Ross-Seaview, Fountaingrove District, Green Valley, Knights Valley, Moon Mountain District, Petuluma Gap, Pine Mountain – Cloverdale Peak, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Mountain. Petuluma Gap was granted AVA status in 2018.

The Los Carneros AVA straddles Sonoma and Napa Counties along the north coast of San Pablo Bay, 25-30 miles north of San Francisco.  Vineyards date back to the 1830s and the first winery opened in the 1870s. There are approximately 9000 acres planted in vine and 45 wineries in the AVA.  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are the most common varieties planted. The soils are primarily clay with poor drainage and low to moderate fertility.  The growing season temperatures range from the low 50s to the low 80s with rainfall ranging from 0.0-2.0″ per month. The area is the windiest and coolest of all Napa and Sonoma Country AVAs.

The Russian River Valley AVA is located in Sonoma County along the southern bank of the Russian River as it turns west towards the Pacific Ocean. The city of Santa Rosa defines AVAs southern boundary and the city is about 50 miles northwest of San Francisco. There are 10,000 acres of vines planted in the valley with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir comprising 42% and 29% of all grapes harvested, respectively.  The climate is cool, known for its early morning fogs coming up the river.  Temperatures can change significantly in 24 hours with a 35-40°F drop at night being common. Rainfall averages 2-4″ per month except July and August when rains are very rare.  The soils are typically sand-rich or clay-rich loams.

Pinot Noir, native to the Burgundy region of France, is a cool climate, thin-skinned, fussy grape. It is a popular drinking wine, ranking as number 10 in the world by acreage. France and the US are the largest growers of the vine, each with about 75,000 acres under cultivation out of 215,000 acres worldwide. The grape produces a garnet to ruby colored wine with low tannins and medium-body.  The low tannins generally mean it does not age well but that property can be quite unpredictable. Young wines have aromas of cherries and raspberry but older wines tend to acquire more earthy smells.

Martin Ray produced iconic wines in the Santa Cruz Mountain area from 1943 to 1972.  Courtney Benham, recognizing the dedication and art that Ray brought to his wines and their intrinsic value, purchased the Martini and Prati winery and the Martin Ray brand in 1990 and has been producing artisanal wines ever since. In 2003 he moved the winery to the cool marine climate of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California, 50 miles northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge. Notable, for no earthly reason, the winery is about 6 miles west of the Charles M. Schulz Museum. The winery has roughly 12 acres of rather newly planted, 2011 Pinot Noir vines.

The grapes for this Martin Ray Pinot Noir are predominately sourced from Martin Ray’s neighbor’s vineyards; with their permission of course, the Ricioli and Foppian Vineyards being the main suppliers. These vineyards are along the Russian River and experience a growing season temperature range of 47-85°F with rains bringing 2-4″ per month. July and August are very dry though.  The soils are sand-rich loams. 2015 was a warm, dry (drought) year with almost no rain.  The grapes ripened early with low yields but excellent quality.

The different vineyard’s grapes were fermented separately in open top vessels. They were aged in new and used French oak barrels for 11 months.

The wine has a brilliant ruby-red color with aromas of raspberry, plum and earthy mushroom. A smooth medium to full-bodied, delicious tongue treatment leading to a satisfying balanced finish.  An outstanding wine which I would grade just a few notches below James Suckling’s rating but I may quibble.

Snoopy may have wanted a root beer but Linus would have preferred sipping this Pinot along with some dried salmon, Jarlsberg cheese and salty crackers.

An outstanding wine at a reasonable price. Drink this year but likely good until 2020-2022. Decant and aerate for one hour, or more, before drinking.

24.99 Total Wine

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