Christian Moueix and the Dominus Estate Release One of Napa Valley’s Most Iconic 2016 Wines…

It all started in the late 1960s, while studying at the university of California at Davis, Christian Moueix discovered his love for the Napa Valley and its expressive wines. In 1981, he discovered the historic Napanook Vineyard, a 42 hectare site which provided fruit for some of the finest Napa wines from the 1940s and 1950s. In 1982, Moueix entered into a partnership to develop the vineyard and in 1995, became its sole owner.

In the 2016 growing season, rainy days were spread out evenly over the course of a warmer than average winter. November 2015 to March 2016 saw 31.2 inches total rainfall (78cm). With soil water reserves full, the vines grew quickly with dense canopies. Flowering (9th May) and veraison (21st July) unfolded in warm and dry conditions and one heat spike of 39°C was recorded on 26th July. Ripening slowed down in August because of cooler temperatures and late morning fog. Leaf plucking and higher temperatures in September helped the fruit to ripen consistently.

I last visited California in March 2017 and already then the excitement surrounding the 2016 vintage was palpable. Another drought vintage that yielded exceptional quality with power and balance. Along with other iconic Napa producers like Ridge, Diamond Creek, Spottswoode and Stags Leap Winery, the Dominus Estate forms a powerful cornerstone of a small sought after group of more classically orientated producers who’s final outlook and philosophy always tips a hat to the old world and Bordeaux in particular.

Dominos Napanook Proprietary Red 2016, Napa Valley

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc. Exotically spicy nose with layers of cherry spice, cinnamon, sweet cedar, blueberry and green peppercorn spice with a faint touch of orange liquor. Palate shows opulent fleshy weight, loose knit saline acids and a piquant, spicy, bramble berry finish. Plenty of intensity and power with accessible opulence. Drink now to 2030+.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Dominus Proprietary Red 2016, Napa Valley

84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc. This is the 33rd vintage of Dominus. Deep dark beauty packed full of graphite spice, minerality, spicy black berry and sappy black plum intensity. Plush, creamy and textural, this shows plenty of regal sweet tannin focus with fine grained grip and a long blueberry and bramble berry confit finish. This fine vintage trades on massive concentration, opulent weight and a tight classical gravelly mineral finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Three Sticks Release their New Benchmark Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016…

This week in late September was all about Californian wine in London with the Collectable California Tasting at the US Embassy showcasing some incredible wines from Harlan to Scarecrow, Ovid to Silver Oak. However great the Californian reds are, one thing these US producers are masters of is the production of really interesting premium Chardonnay.

One of my favourite whites on show was the exceptional 2016 new release Three Sticks Chardonnay. Owned by proprietor William S. Price III, the Durell Vineyard forms part of this producers flagship vineyard holdings and has been the source of iconic Sonoma Chardonnay for several decades.

Grown on rocky ancient river bed and red volcanic clay soils, this vineyard site has been recognised for its ability to produce exceptional Chardonnay grapes that show wonderful fruit intensity along with impressive harmony while simultaneously expressing the minerality inherent in this site’s terroir.

Three Sticks Durell Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Sonoma Coast, 14.5 Abv.

A delicious bright enticing lemon yellow, this wine has a lofty complex bouquet of pithy white citrus, leesy lemon cream biscuits, dried herbs, gingerbread and a pronounced crushed gravel minerality. Full, round, intense and glycerol in the mouth with the silky, fleshy lemon pastille fruit concentration punctuated by piquant, zippy fresh acids and sweet grapefruit confit and vanilla pod oak complexity. The pedigree of the Durell Vineyard fruit is clear for all to see. Classically cool climate Californian in style, this is a truly flavour packed expression of premium Sonoma coast Chardonnay.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silver Oak Cellars Delivers Once Again With Their 2014 Cabernet Sauvignons…

Silver Oak Cellars is an iconic family-owned Californian winery dedicated to producing truly premium Cabernet Sauvignon. Silver Oak was established in 1972 by Ray Duncan and Justin Meyer and is currently operated by Ray’s sons David Duncan, who serves as the President and CEO, and his brother, Tim Duncan, who serves as Executive Vice President. 

Silver Oak has two wineries… one in Oakville in the centre of Napa Valley and one in Geyserville in the Alexander Valley. The Duncan Family also established Twomey Cellars back in 1999, named after Ray Duncan’s mother, where they produce Pinot Noir, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. Twomey has its own wineries in Calistoga and Healdsburg. 

After an amenable spring, drought conditions prevailed throughout the year leading to an early harvest in California, making this one of the main signatures of the 2014 growing season in Napa Valley. The best 2014s are fragrant, aromatically expressive, opulent and accessible wines that retain structural delineation, freshness and finesse. While 2014 yielded quite different red expressions to 2013, the wines show excellent medium to long term ageing potential.

Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 14 Abv.

The wine that started it all back in 1972, the Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 has a delicate but complex sweet fruited nose with strata of wet tobacco, sweet leaf, black plum and a subtle macerated fruit cake opulence. The palate is majestic and very classy, finely poised, elegant but also self assured. The concentration is notable yet the structure seamless, almost weightless – zero gravity finesse! After the block buster 2013 Alexander Valley, we definitely have another full throttle lift off here as well. A truly grand gentlemanly expression of age worthy Californian Cabernet.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Silver Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, 14.2 Abv.

A legendary wine from an iconic wine region, this 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet shows a rather exotic piquant expression but with archetypal Cabernet notes of cassis reduction, saline oyster shell, sweet black cherry and an alluring cinnamon, vanilla pod oak spice. Full bodied and imposing, this wine is powerful yet finely symmetrical and super toned with beautifully precise sweet tannins, sweet tobacco hints and a long, concentrated creamy depth. Very fine harmony and finesse, this is a deceptively accessible Napa Valley cuvée but one with plenty of heart, soul and extract for the long term. It could even evolve into a real Californian classic.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

#LifeisaCabernet

Ridge Vineyards Prepares For An Iconic Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016 Release…

Ridge produced its first Chardonnay in 1962 from mature vines planted in the late 1940s on the Monte Bello estate vineyard. Production has never exceeded ten barrels, and Monte Bello Chardonnay was sold principally at the winery cellar door. Several great vintages, among them the 1973, ‘74, ‘79, and ‘84, showed that the cool climate and fractured limestone sub-soils were well suited to this varietal.

By 1985, the old vines were producing less then a half-ton per acre and were pulled out. The younger vines, planted in the 1970s, provide the majority of grapes today. Initially these newer plantings were on the “lower” vineyard, not yet farmed as part of the Monte Bello estate, so the wine was called “Santa Cruz Mountains” but these vines have long since been included in Monte Bello. Since 2009 the wine has been designated Ridge Estate Chardonnay. In years when differences among the multiple lots are sufficient to warrant a separate bottling, Ridge produce a limited amount of Monte Bello Chardonnay as well.

From a superb vintage, the Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2016, now sold out ex-cellar, garnered some massive scores from US wine critics on release further helping to build the expectations for the premium Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016, due for release in August/September 2019.

Tasting with Eric Baugher from Ridge Vineyards in London.

Winter 2015/16 was long and cold and for a second year, crop size was reduced by Spring rains at bloom. Cool weather in August slowed ripening and stretched the Chardonnay harvest out to mid-September 2016.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Chardonnay 2016, Santa Cruz Mountains, 14.4 Abv.

Deadly serious expression of Chardonnay from this famed vineyard. Nose is ultra complex and mineral with smokey yellow citrus fruits, hints of struck match reduction and a alluring yellow grapefruit and pear purée note. The palate shows such wonderful balance and harmony, piercing white citrus pastille fruit intensity, crushed limestone minerality and pithy lemon grass spice leading to the most memorable, seductive fresh finish punctuated with delicious saline nuances. Another profound Burgundian Chardonnay expression from Ridge Vineyards that is unquestionably a drop dead gorgeous wine to rival any Grand Cru white from the Cote d’Or.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ramey Wine Cellars & Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Masterclass with David Ramey and Jim Clendenen…

As one of the most important quality white wine categories globally, Chardonnay can also be one of the most controversial and divisive varieties for a multitude of reasons. From topics like Premox in White Burgundy to prices of White Burgundy, to whether anyone other than the Chablisienne should even contemplate trying to produce premium unoaked Chardonnay or not, much of the dialogue seems to pivot on the divide between what Burgundy and France produces and then what everyone else does.

But what the big New World versus Burgundy Blind Chardonnay Challenge taste off revealed… (link below)

https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2018/06/18/the-great-blind-chardonnay-challenge-2018-new-world-chardonnay-giving-burgundy-a-run-for-its-money/

… was that some New World countries are certainly producing some incredibly profound premium quality Chardonnay in styles that can easily challenge the greats of the Côte d’Or. Among the best of these are probably New Zealand, Australia and of course California (with South Africa still narrowly off the pace of the top runners but improving incredibly quickly).

The evolution in Californian Chardonnay has certainly been profound with top quality producers favouring freshness, elegance, focus, acidity and structure over stereotypical aspects of fruit sweetness, heavy oak and higher alcohols. Certainly none of the later traits were present when Californian wine legends David Ramey and Jim Clendenen rolled into London to present a joint Chardonnay masterclass with a selection of their older vintages.

Ramey Wine Cellars Chardonnay Flight:

Ramey Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, 14.5 Abv.

Around 30% new oak, crystalline and bright fruited showing piercing lemon cordial, yellow grapefruit zest and pineapple pastille with the most subtle, integrated kiss of vanilla oak spice. Lush and concentrated, this beauty show piercing lemon confit intensity, wonderful breadth and power but packed with the most delicious harmony and complexity. Very impressive.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ramey Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2010, 14.5 Abv.

Lovely Burgundian nose of pithy limestone, wet chalk, pineapple pastille, lemon rock candy and creamy butterscotch. Lovely fleshy weight, super relaxed balance texture, green apple zip, vanilla pod spice and finely punctuated with bright lemony acids and flinty, chalky mineral frame. A very attractive proposition at the moment, but no rush.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ramey Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2007, 14.5 Abv.

From a cooler, leaner, pithy vintage, this archive release is a tantalising wine that offers hints of tertiary honied complexity but also retains youthful lemon and lime pithy freshness. Lovey lemon cordial, lemon crumble, buttered pastries sprinkled with grapefruit marmalade. Intense core structure, vibrant acids, smokey pithy oak spice and a delicious greengage, smoky truffle tinged finish. Really profound and a consistently very solid performer.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

David Ramey in full flow…

Ramey Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay 2005, 14.5 Abv.

About 2/3rd aged in new oak, after sitting in the glass for over 30 minutes, this 2005 remains aromatically restrained, positively shy. A few rigorous swirls coax out notes of lemon confit, shiitake mushrooms, earthy bruised yellow orchard fruits and dusty, chalky mineral pithy yellow grapefruit. Full, intense and mouth coating, there is wonderful concentration that is accentuated by softer acids, a fleshy glycerol texture and spicy vanilla pod limestone mineral finish. Very harmonious offering drinking impressively now.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Flight:

Au Bon Climate Bien Nacido Hillside Chardonnay 2015, 13.5 Abv.

Youthful opulence with some exuberance but still aromatically primary revealing green apple, banana bon bons, yellow rock candy, quince and green pear purée. The palate is more Burgundian with the most delicious lemon cordial, apple sweets, honeydew melon and subtle creamy oak spice. This is a baby that will benefit from at least another 2 years in the cellar to open its shoulders.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Au Bon Climate Bien Nacido Hillside Chardonnay 2010, 13.5 Abv.

Super tight, mineral and restrained, this is a surprisingly mineral, taut effort that plays its cards very close to its chest. Hints of green lime peel, limestone and wet chalk follow to an incredible tart, fresh, limey pastille and lemon cordial palate brimming with energy, vibrancy, concentration and character. Incredibly youthful, this is a real eye-opener. Wow!

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Au Bon Climate Bien Nacido Hillside Chardonnay 2007, 13.5 Abv.

Complex nose of old lemons, bruised yellow orchard fruits and honied apple purée. Very savoury, more evolved with an oxidative complexity, honied lemons, butterscotch, toffee apple and sweet lemon cordial. Oxidative lift starts to blow off leaving a beautifully nuanced food friendly expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Au Bon Climate Bien Nacido Hillside Chardonnay 2005, 13.5 Abv.

Super complex expression, with lovely waxy apple purée, wet chalk, sour plum, wet chalk, greengage, and lovely honied green citrus. Plenty of flinty, earthy complexity, wonderfully fleshy and full, great palate breadth, finishing with real punch and intensity, concentration and depth. Lovely food wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Ramey Wine Cellars and Au Bon Climat are distributed to trade in the UK by Fields, Morris & Verdin.

Diamond Creek’s New 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Releases On Fire Yet Again…

Al Brounstein created Diamond Creek in 1968 with his purchase of 31 hectares in the Diamond Creek canyon. It’s a good thing the land was bought by Al because the previous owner at the time was considering turning the entire site into another golf course.

Now one of Napa’s foremost Cabernet Sauvignon focused estates, Diamond Creek continues to produce wines of exceptional character and definition and whose promise with age is simply breath-taking. The three single vineyards – Volcanic Hill, Gravelly Meadow and Red Rock Terrace – are simply revered by connoisseurs the world over. 

These three distinctly different vineyards are tucked away in a sprawling hillside canyon surrounded by dense forest on the secluded Diamond Mountain. It really is a remarkable place. Even more remarkable considering that the visionary Al Brounstein had no idea what lay beneath the dense woodland when he happened to make room for vines in the late 1960s.

Tasting in London with Diamond Creek’s Phil Ross.

According to Phil Ross, the 2016 wines resemble the 2013 reds with a normal Spring then a warm June / July leading to a cooler August and September with fruit picked in nearly October, which is normal for Diamond Creek, but late for Napa Valley. The results as usual are exceptional.

Diamond Creek Red rock Terrace 2016, Napa Valley, 14.5

Red iron soils yield a rich, opulent expressive nose of blueberry, black plum, mulberry, cassis and salty black liquorice. There are also lovely exotic top notes of cinnamon and clove and vanilla wood spice. Super suave and opulent, the texture is velvety and elegant as usual for this vineyard with impressive finesse and delicacy. Flavours are seamless, focused and oh so pure, finishing with a very long, cassis and blueberry pie concentration.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow 2016, Napa Valley, 14.5 Abv.

Gravelly sandy based soils with the lowest yields. Shows the intensity and focus of black cassis fruit and dark blueberry fruits but with a pronounced chassis of dusty graphite and crushed gravel minerality complimented by vanilla wood spice and cherry kirsch liquor notes. Beautifully polished, seamless structure with very fine grained powdery dry tannins adding persistence and shape and a fine frame on which the concentrated blue and black berry fruits can coat and caress. More mid palate weight and tension than Red Rock Terrace and a touch more muscle, power and depth. Very impressive release.

(Wine Safari Score: 97+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Diamond Creek Volcanic Hill 2016, Napa Valley, 14.5 Abv.

Grown on course ashy volcanic sandy soils, this wine is big, bold and processes tremendous power with dense, plush, opulent grandeur loaded with lashings of blue and black berry fruit, black cherry kirsch, caramelised black currants and sweet salty black liquorice. Less perfumed fragrance and aromatic nuances than the other two cuvees, but on the palate, this is wine impressively full and textured, fleshy and broad with hints of stewed plum, sun dried black cherries, caramelised black currants and the sweetest, plushest, round powdery tannins. Delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Exploring the Incredible New Californian Releases from the Highly Talented Paul Lato…

Paul Lato was born in Poland. He worked as a certified sommelier in one of Toronto’s most exclusive restaurants and only visited California for the first time in the early 1990s.  Jim Clendenen, the owner of ABC Winery and Clendenen Wines, was influential in finally getting Paul to pack up and move to California to take up a job at Bien Nacido Vineyards. But it was really only after a rave review after a chance encounter between Robert Parker and “the Polish sommelier making wine” that Paul’s stardom was truly sealed. 

Paul was recently in London to launch his famously sought after new releases of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah which are unsurprisingly highly allocated and difficult to secure. After reviewing a large selection of Paul’s incredible 2015 whites and reds, there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to taste the new 2016 releases. The intensity, purity and freshness Paul manages to capture both in his whites and his reds is truly impressive.

These are definitely wines to seek out and find a home for in your cellar. They are not necessarily cheap, but then wines of this quality and precision never are, wherever they are produced. Paul’s wines were certainly some of the most exciting wines I tasted in 2017 and his new vintages look certain to continue his phenomenal run of form.

Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2011, 14.5 Abv.

Opulent, hedonistic style showing evolved aromatics of stewed quince, honied waxy lemons, stem ginger, pear purée and apple spice. The palate is very creamy, supple and plush, spreading across the mouth with great concentration and intensity. Very youthful but absolutely delicious and great integrity.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2015, 13.9 Abv.

Rich opulent nose brimming with lemon confit, intense white citrus pith and tangerine peel. Incredibly finely integrated oak melting into a creamy, textural palate of pineapple and lemon pastille with a tender kiss of salted caramel. Wow. 

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Le Souvenir Sierra Madre Chardonnay 2016, 14.3 Abv.

Riper, youthful green melon fruits mingle with lemon blossom, notes of sweet Seville oranges and white citrus. Despite a higher Abv than the 2015, there plenty of is tension, glycerol texture and a lovely youthful woodspice finish. 

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato East of Eden Pisoni Vineyard Chardonnay 2011, 14.5 Abv.

This last bottle of Paul’s first vintage of the Pisoni Vineyard Chardonnay. Lovely exotic aromatics of apple pastille fruits, lemon bon bons and fresh buttered white toast. Palate is full and rich, plush and textured, showing excellent youthful crystalline purity, bright yellow citrus and the most delicious brioche and lemon biscuit finish. Very classy.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato East of Eden Pisoni Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, 14.3 Abv.

Very fine, floral, pin point aromatics with incredible purity and focus. White citrus, yellow citrus pastille and custard cream pastries. Palate shows impressive tension and vibrancy, energy and freshness all wrapped in a wave of intense concentration. Great length and power but with an incredible fruit ~ minerality equilibrium.

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The skin contact Batana Malvasia Bianca 2016 from Paul Lato – one of the most exciting whites I tasted from anywhere in 2018!

Paul Lato Batana Larner Vineyard Malvasia Bianca 2016, 13.5 Abv.

Lifted exotic aromatic nose of pithy pear, baked apples, tangerine peel, marmalade, stem ginger and resinous sappy spice. Taut and fresh, mouth-wateringly vibrant and bright, brimming with cherry skin pith, crunchy quince, green apple and passion fruit sorbet. Profound purity, intensity and complexity. One of the most impressive wines I have tasted in a very long time.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Lancelot Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008, 14.8 Abv.

Cool, dark, earthy broody nose of forest floor, sous bois and earthy red forest berries. 10 years old and beautifully youthful, showing a subtle lick of oak and savoury notes of peaches, red currant, loganberry and red plums. Fine minerality and complexity. Delicious now.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Suertes Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009, Santa Maria Valley, 14.8 Abv.

Earthy red foresty nose with hedgerow spice, sappy red plum, pomegranate and blood oranges. Very plush and concentrated, piercing intensity and a long, fruit driven finish with crazy complexity, textural breadth and mineral nuance.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Suertes Solomon Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, Santa Maria Valley, 14.1 Abv.

Lifted perfumed nose of bramble berry, pomegranate, gun flint, graphite and black cherry spice. Beautifully fresh and pure, vibrant and intense with crystalline sappy red forest fruits, spice orange peel and macerated blood orange and graphite finish. Wow. Really beautiful, harmonious wine with artisanal character.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Atticus John Sebastiano Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016, 14.2 Abv.

Beautifully fragrant nose with a more piquant note. Plenty of cherry blossom, rose petals, lavender and sweet lilac depth that intermingles with sour red cherry, red apple and pomegranate spice. Palate is pithy and sleek, textured and spicy with classical Pinot Noir elegance, vibrantly fresh acids and a long, harmonious finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Cinematique Syrah Larner Vineyard Syrah 2008, 15 Abv.

Lovely deep, broody, savoury nose with almost Priorat style depth, bramble berry fruits, sweet red currant, freshly sliced bresaola and stewed earthy plums. There is a subtle kiss of oak, creamy foresty depth, a lovely smoky intricacy and a sweet toasty coffee bean finish.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Il Padrino Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah 2009, 15 Abv.

A wonderfully complex nose filled with wood smoke, charcoal embers, spicy black currant, cured meats and savoury graphite spice. Palate is cool and fleshy, piquant and exotic with black berry confit, coffee bean, espresso and a long, sappy, meaty, black olive finish. Drinking very well now.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Paul Lato Il Padrino Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah 2014, 15.4 Abv

Darker, more taut mineral aromatics speak of this cooler Syrah vineyard. Quite saline and mineral with cassis, black berry, graphite and sea breeze nuances. Beautifully pure and creamy, textured and mineral, embroidered by bright acids and a real energy. Very impressive expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Lunch with Paul Lato and his wines at new 1 Star Michelin restaurant Hide by Ollie Dabbous.

Paul Lato with Hide Restaurant and Hedonism Wines owner Yevgeny Chichvarkin.

Allocations available in the UK through importer Tiger Vines.