Hartford Family Winery Hartford Court Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2018, Sonoma County, California

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A lighter shade of yellow in the glass with pretty hefty legs belying the 14.2% alcohol. The nose has creamy citrus, like a mousse, plus a hint of butter and coconut. The palate is very rounded with lush flavors of nectarines, clementines, lemon zest and peach. It’s like a tropical fruit salad with buttery popcorn as a side. I taste layers with this wine, which shows some nice complexity. The acidity is relatively mild giving a full mouthfeel. The finish is mid length and adds some papaya to the mix. Delicious stuff, really. 92 points worth. Seriously, and at $21- it’s a steal. This one will be featured in another blog post early next year, and if I could give it 6 stars I would. Drink till 2025. I am pairing it with Shrimp Scampi and salad. Salut….

Phifer Pavitt Date Night Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Napa Valley, California

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A very pale shade of gold in the glass with a nose of citrus, tropical fruit and telltale cat pee. The palate is delicious, somewhat unique and not overly tart. Grapefruit and gooseberry notes make way for candied ginger and baked yellow apple. It is really an interesting mix, layered with a medium weight body. There is a sprite nature to the mid palate and the finish is short to medium length in duration. I really am enjoying this wine and will pair it with clams with edamame spaghetti in a garlic and olive sauce. Drink this 90 point wine till 2024. For $30 it gets 3 stars from me. Salut….

Daryl Rex Groom D.R.G. Pinot Noir 2019, Russian River Valley, California

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This Pinot is a dark shade of purple and is quite a bit more opaque than expected. The nose gives me dark cherries, boysenberry, clove and cola. Very intricate. The palate is quite unique- cherry cola meets rhubarb and cranberry. I sense a cascade of acidity as my mouth starts to water but there’s a modicum of dryness from lithe tannins that hit towards the mid palate. The dark red fruit theme continues and I get a nice finish with some extras- Rooibos tea, spices and more of that cherry cola thing. It is a really tasty wine that has been extracted very well, not overdone with nice oak integration. The length of the finish is really great and the tannins stick with me for quite a while. Light-to-medium bodied, it has a nice mouthfeel. Drink this 91 point wine till 2027. I am preparing Sous Vide chicken and Swiss chard to pair. For $19 it’s an awesome deal that gets 5 stars from me. Salut….

G.D. Vajra Albe 2016, Barolo DOCG, Italy

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I asked the group to decant this Nebbiolo for several hours before we met for tasting #15. I did not want to fight with a tannic beast and felt it best to go against my norm and give it a chance to soften. As expected from this varietal it was see-through with nice legs and showing a touch of bricking already. On the nose we got truffle, pepper, chocolate, dried cherry, tobacco, earth and it smelled ‘dry’. On the palate it was kinda blah. Tart cherry, tobacco and not much else going on. It was very disappointing from the hype generated by the reviews. I was hoping for a rich, beefy wine that would show off the grape but was let down. Overall I will go with 89 points and 2 stars for this $34 wine. Drink till 2028. Salut….

Michael David Winery Earthquake Petite Sirah 2017, Lodi, California

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Turns out his was the Wine of the Night at tasting #15. It is inky purple and opaque AF. Initially the members noted a dusty smell- which led on to black pepper, herbs, tobacco, dried fruits, cigar, prunes, blackberry jam and was considered ‘leathery’. On the palate it was very rich and full bodied with prunes, blackberry compote, cracked black pepper, dark chocolate, coffee beans, raisins and tobacco. I thought it was delicious and worthy of a juicy Filet. It was not very tannic at all, inconsistent with the varietal, but I was not complaining. It gets 92 points from me and 5 stars for sure at it only runs $20. Buy it by the case and drink till 2026. Salut….

Patricia Green Cellars Freedom Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018, Willamette Valley, Oregon

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Next up at the virtual tasting #15 was this Pinot Noir from Oregon. Claret in color and 50% opaque, it was a little denser than most Pinots. The nose was lush with cherry, boysenberry, cedar, Cherry Coke, cotton candy, spice and fruitcake. On the palate it was a bit of a letdown. Chocolate, mulling spices, cherry and tons of cedar (overoaked?) were noted by the panel. There was a hint of greeness for me that cost a point or two. It seemed like the winemaker was trying too hard, extracting too much and missing the point of the svelte nature of this varietal. It’s about finesse for me, this was more of a young bull in the china shop that had austere edges to him. Good tannic structure was noted that led to a long finish with some astringency hanging on for quite a while. I will re-visit this one again, hoping it softens a touch and sheds its muscular grip. For now this $30 bottle gets 90 points and 3 stars from me. Drink till 2028. Salut….

Agro de Bazan Gran Bazan Etiqueta Ambar 2018, Rias Baixas, Spain

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We kicked off the 15th Virtual wine tasting with this Albarino. The group had many descriptors for this rather complex white that was tasted at room temperature and then chilled. The golden color of the wine was very inviting. On the nose we got honeysuckle, floral notes, golden raisins, lemon, stone fruit, and Mandarin oranges! The palate consisted of muted pear, peach and lemon. One of the members stated that the acidity was similar to a grapefruit- sorta sweet yet biting. The chilled version actually performed better by most accounts. There was more lemon on the nose- it smelled like Spring or Summer. Flowery notes with beeswax (honeysuckle carryover) were part of a sharper, crisper nose. The palate had what seemed like more acidity, was more focused and had a hint of caramel in addition to the citrus we mentioned. I gave them 12 and 14 points on the VWTC scale and would go with 91 regular points. For $17 you should stock up for a warm summer with this 5 star beaut. Drink till 2025. Salut….

Stangeland Pinot Noir Vermeer Vineyard 2018, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon

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This Pinot shows a pale shade of purple in the glass and is totally see-through. The nose is bright and lively with red cherry notes, baking spices and orange peel. The palate is delicious with a hint of strawberry coulis alongside cherries jubilee and cranberries. It is a slightly tart affair but there lurks some very lithe tannins. The mid palate is very light weight with more red fruits and spices. The finish is long and very focused on cherry and cranberry- the tart kind. I can sense the astringency of the tannins long after the wine has subsided- a rare thing for me and Pinot Noir. That will bode this wine well in the cellar. I really like it for it’s delicacy, finesse and core of red fruit. It is going to pair nicely with my roast duck l’orange with sautéed leeks. 91 points from me make this $45 bottle a 4 star effort. Drink till 2028. Salut….

Grand National Blinkers Vranec 2018, North Macedonia

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I am always on the lookout for something new, like this Vranec. It’s a species native to Montenegro known as the Black Wine. It is inky purple and opaque with a nose of chocolate, blackberry and spice box. The palate is very tasty, slightly sour and has a modicum of tannins. Black fruit coupled with pomegranate give it an interesting mix of dark and red fruit profiles. The mid palate has a hint of vanilla and that chocolate note reappears alongside some drying leather. The tannins kick it up a notch towards the back end and my gums are starting to feel the grit. Acidity is nicely balancing and the finish is of decent length with more black fruits. Overall an interesting introduction to a new varietal for me that gets 88 points. I would drink till 2026 with some hearty stews, perhaps even Eggplant Parm. At $20 it is a 3 star effort that deserves a look. Salut….

Apeloko Pinotage 2018, South Africa

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Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. It was cultivated in 1925 in South Africa, where it is the signature grape. This one is bright purple in the glass and is 75% opaque. The nose has black cherry, red licorice and a hint of Hoisin. The palate is textbook- tar, black cherry, blackberry and a medicinal hint. The tannins are very prominent right off the bat, coating my gums with dry grit. The mid palate offers additional flavors of mocha, espresso and more black fruit. The finish is appealing with a shot of acidity that rights the ship, bringing the tannins back in line. The flavor profile changes somewhat to a more red-fruit driven one, think sour cherries but with a minerality. The finish is decent in length and the tannic structure of this wine asks for a fatty cut of meat. My pairing is going to be Braised Lamb Shanks with sautéed Swiss chard and boiled carrots. 88 points for this wine that will drink till 2026. At $23, it gets 3 stars from me. Salut….