Araujo and Bevan highlight this week’s tastings.

2013 Araujo ‘Altagracia Estate’

Cabernet Sauvignon  |  Napa Valley

AltagraciaWine Spectrum 96: At first, the nose reveals rose petal notes with a hint of peony, then it opens up with blackcurrant, dark cherry aromas and a pinch of licorice. The mouthfeel is unctuous and succulent with a savory black fruit sustained by tight tannins and a finish on blond tobacco notes.

This may be the finest Altagracia to date, deeper and more concentrated than 2012, with a darker character and a great aging potential. It is, in essence, the more approachable little brother of the Eisele Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  2013 will likely be remembered as one of the greatest vintages in the history of the Napa Valley, and it is also one with particular significance for the estate, as the first vintage “from berry to bottle” under the Pinault family ownership. 

Robert Parker 93:  As for the 2013 Proprietary Red Altagracia, the blend is slightly different, at 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec. One of the finest Altagracias I’ve tasted to date, the color is saturated ruby/purple, much darker than the 2012 and the wine slightly less fragrant and more coiled tight. Yet, it is also more concentrated and promising. The wine is a heck of a second wine but does require some patience. For now, deep, rich blackcurrant and blackberry fruit with floral notes (white flowers?), medium to full body and sweet tannin are all present in this relatively larger-scaled Altagracia than we’ve seen in the past (14.8% alcohol). The finish is long, still youthful and certainly approachable, but this wine will be better with 2-4 years bottle age and should keep for at least two decades.

2014 Bevan Cellars ‘Ritchie Vineyard’

Chardonnay  |  Russian River Valley 

Bevan logoWine Spectrum 95, Robert Parker 95: His 2014 Chardonnay Ritchie Vineyard is 100% from this famous vineyard source for Chardonnay, planted with the old Wente clone. There are 250 cases of this wine, which is aged in three-fourths François Frères cooperage and the remainder in Remond. Light golden with a greenish hue, the wine reveals honeyed apricot, white peach, wet pebbles and floral notes. It is rich, full-bodied, loaded with minerality and extremely pure, with the oak well-concealed. This should drink well for 4-5 years, if not longer.

The 2014 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay is our most texturally decadent Chardonnay to date. It has an amazing mid-palate texture that lingers on and on. The flavors are pure Ritchie, stone fruits, minerality and a kiss of freshly caramelized Crème Brulee. With each sip, it gains power and length. While I enjoy drinking this wine so much now, I think it will really hit its stride in another year. The power of this vineyard makes it age worthy and there are so many layers that will develop with time, there is no rush to drink it right off the bat.

2012 Saxon Brown ‘Durell Vineyard’

Chardonnay  |  Sonoma Coast

Saxon Brown DurellWine Spectrum 95:  The 2012 Durell Vineyard Chardonnay is a beautiful, bright Chardonnay, showing the vineyard’s signature fruit intensity and minerality. It opens with notes of mango, pineapple, golden apple and alpine strawberry, complexed by subtle hazelnut, almond crème, and wet stone. The flavors coalesce on the generous and well-balanced palate, with the richer elements lingering on the long, creamy finish.  Enjoy upon release or cellar for up to 5-7 years.  Only 105 cases produced!

Wine Spectator 94: Ultra-rich and concentrated, with a tight beam of honey-laced apricot, fig and honeydew notes that offer power, persistence, and depth, gliding along gracefully, turning elegant and nuanced. Drink now. 105 cases made. –JL

2012 Arns ‘Estate’

Cabernet Sauvignon  |  Napa Valley

imgresWine Spectrum 95: We are very excited to announce that the 2012 Vintage marks the 20th Anniversary of ARNS Estate Grown Cabernet. It is difficult to believe 20 years has passed. Our wine quality is the results of paying careful attention to the health of our vines and we have an uncompromising wine making style. Only the very best grapes are used while the inferior ones are dropped to the ground. This approach produces consistently excellent wine.

Our wines are very elegant with a deep, dark purple color. You can taste the fleshy and refined tannins in the mouth covered by juicy fruit tones of black cherry, licorice, chocolate, and cedar.  2012 is a fantastic year for  production  so there is a little more to offer. For the best tasting experience, decant and enjoy.

ARNS WINERY is located on the hillside east of the historic City of St. Helena, CA, in the heart of the Napa Valley. The 160-acre parcel sits at an elevation of 800 feet above the valley floor and below the Howell Mountain Appellation. The soil for the ten-acre all-Cabernet vineyard is Red Aiken Loam, which was planted in the mid-to-late 1960’s. The wines represent selections from ten different blocks, with clones from Bordeaux and the Napa Valley. The vines consist of up to 2,900 plants/acre trained in a vertical shoot positioning. Made by Sandi Belcher.

2012 Furthermore ‘Rosella’s Vineyard’

Pinot Noir  |  Santa Lucia Highlands

Furthermore Rosellas F609Wine Spectrum 95: Located east of Monterey Bay, this vineyard has foggy mornings, breezy afternoons and a long drawn out growing season. The vineyard is farmed by SLH legend Gary Franscioni, whose family has been farming the Salinas Valley for over one hundred years. Our 2012 Rosella’s has a velvety raspberry palate with a hint of blood orange and alluring floral aromas. 81 hand crafted cases.

2013 August West ‘Rosella’s Vineyard’

Pinot Noir  |  Santa Lucia Highlands

page1image10872Wine Spectrum 94+: With the fragrance of the memorable 2005 Rosella’s and the ripeness of the 2008, this vintage of Rosella’s is one of our favorites yet. 

We expect the drinking window of the 2013 Rosella’s Pinot Noir to best between 2016 and 2025.Up and down the California coast, 2013 was a tremendous year for Pinot Noir. Our 12th vintage of making Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot was indeed a special one in terms of quality. This was the second season of drought conditions, but miraculously, the vines came through with another solid crop of perfect fruit, similar to 2012.  The 2013 Rosella’s Pinot is a blend of two clones, Dijon 113 and the Pisoni selection. We produce the 113 using a technique called whole cluster fermentation where the clusters are not de-stemmed. It’s a very traditional method of producing Pinot. The stems add their own flavors and some tannin to the wine. We blend this right before bottling with the fully de-stemmed Pisoni selection, and the result is a complex assemblage of two distinct aspects of Rosella’s.

August West is a partnership formed in 2003 between winegrower Gary Franscioni, business man Howard Graham, and winemaker Ed Kurtzman. The name is from a Grateful Dead song, Wharfrat, in which August West is down and out and drinks a lot of “Burgundy.”

2014 RAEN ‘Royal St. Robert’

Pinot Noir  |  Sonoma Coast

page1image7688Wine Spectrum 94: Fresh cut wild strawberries fill the bowl with sweet resin, white tea, thyme, forest floor and rose petals. The texture is rich, complex with silky fine-grained tannins leading to a long sumptuous finish.  Sold Out at the winery. Royal St. Robert Cuvee is named in the honor of our grandfather who taught us to be committed to excellence. This bottling is a selection of our finest barrels to represent this world-class site in wine. The cuvee comes 100% from a cool hillside vineyard just northwest of Freestone on the Sonoma Coast.

Founded in 2013 by Carlo & Dante Mondavi – grandson of Robert and sons of Tim & Marcia of Continuum Estate, RAEN stands for Research in Agriculture and Enology Naturally.  Their goal is to make Pinot Noir that can sit alongside the finest in the world.

2013 Freeman

Pinot Noir  |  Russian River Valley

imgresWine Spectrum 94: The 2013 Freeman Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has a dark garnet color with a nose of marinated cherries, roof tar, and sous bois. The palate is firm and closed at first, but after some aeration, it reveals an abundance of earthy, dark fruit and ripe, Russian River Valley Pinot character. It has almost Barolo-like characteristics on the first impression, including firm tannin on the palate. The drinking window for this 2013 Freeman Russian River Valley Pinot Noir should be between late

2011 Cedro do Noval

Red Wine  |  Vinho Regional Duriense Portugal

imgresWine Spectrum 93+, James Suckling 92:  A bright, floral red on the nose with violets and dark berries. Full-bodied, soft and silky with fresh mushroom, gunmetal, meat and dark chocolate. So attractive and moreish. 20% syrah with key Douro grape types such as touriga nacional. Drink now.

One of the oldest port houses, Quinta do Noval is also arguably the greatest. It is unique among top port houses in that most of its ports are made from estate-grown fruit and, notably, all of the vintage Noval wines are from the single Quinta do Noval vineyard. And it is difficult to discuss Noval with mentioning Nacional, the legendary vintage port made from a 6-acre parcel of ungrafted vines, and the most collectible and sought-after port in the world. In the early 1990s, Noval changed ownership for only the second time in its three-hundred year history and began a massive program of improvements while re-committing to the traditional, and best, methods of port production.

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