2012 Dry Creek Vineyard, Clarksburg, Chenin Blanc:
In the mid-1970s Chenin Blanc was more popular than Chardonnay. But as it fell out of fashion Dry Creek Vineyards never gave up on it. They’ve been producing a Clarksburg Chenin for decades, and the current vintage is a great example of why this variety should be better appreciated. In an era where Pinot Grigio is popular, Chenin should be flying off the shelves. Dry Creek’s 2010 vintage displays freshly mown grass and apples on the nose, with flavors of honeydew melon rind and white peaches, vibrant minerality and a crisp finish. With just 12.5% alcohol, it carries a smidge of residual sugar, but is balanced to give a dry impression on the palate. $12.00. 92 points.
2012 Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County, Fumé Blanc:
Stainless steel fermented, no oak ageing. Expansive honeydew melon aroma and palate with a grapefruit edge, bright acidity and medium body. 90 points.
2012 Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County, Sauvignon Blanc:
Gooseberry nose, lemon-lime flavors, silky on the mid-palate, sharp on the finish. While I far prefer the Fumé, this is also a worthy Sauvignon Blanc. 88 points.
2012 Bonterra, Mendocino County, Organic Chardonnay:
Winemaker Robert Blue has made his reputation on producing subtle, balanced wines. Nothing flashy, just correct. This 2012 iteration offers bright pear, papaya and honey aromas. Add a little pineapple, lemon and a hint of vanilla on the silky palate. The finish lingers for minutes. 91 points.
2011 Stoller Family Estate, Dundee Hills, Oregon Pinot Noir:
A lush, ripe Pinot without excessive alcohol (it’s just 12.7%), the 2011 Stoller offers up cherry and blueberry aromas, while on the palate it displays a silky texture, with supple tannins and vibrant acidity. Raspberry undertones come in on the mid-palate, with pleasant spicy notes picking up the finish. Very, very elegant, as well as affordable at $25.00. 89 points
2011 Bonterra, Mendocino County, organic Zinfandel:
A big dense mouthful of a wine, with concentrated stewed prune and blackberry fruit, accented by black pepper and toast. Medium tannin. Warm, grippy finish. 87 points.
2011 Dry Creek Vineyard, Sonoma County, Heritage Vines Zinfandel:
16% Petite Sirah. A thoroughly delicious wine with concentrated fresh fruit flavors. Blackberry dominates the nose, along with subtle earthy notes. On the palate blackberry and blueberry flavors are supported by supple tannins. The jammy finish is almost over-the-top, and the alcohol could be toned down a bit. As a result I suspect that it may get a little funky with a decade of cellaring. However, few will be able to resist drinking it in its youth, particularly with such fare as grilled steak or moussaka. In this context I give it 89 points. $19.00
2008 Deerfield Ranch, Sonoma Valley, Cabernet Franc:
Cranberry-cherry nose is followed by flavors of blueberry and plum with a hint of dark chocolate and a touch of leather. Full bodied, with smooth tannins, tight structure and a long complex finish with mineral notes.210 cases produced. $58.00. 90 points
2011 Engarde, Ghielmetti Vineyard, Livermore Valley, Cabernet Franc:
Raspberry with a touch of blueberry, vibrant and fruity, if ultimately simple. Yet it has an elegant mouth feel with silky texture, fully integrated tannins and crisp acidity. There’s a pleasant floral note in the lengthy finish. Drink now. 25 cases produced. $48.00. 90 points.
2008 Cliff Creek Cellars, Sam’s Valley Vineyard, Southern Oregon, Cabernet Franc:
There was a bit of musty mushroom character in the nose, which I suspect was a bit of corkiness in the bottle I sampled. Nonetheless, it was a well-made wine with a tart blackberry core and peripheral notes of dried herbs and earth. Crisp acidity, chalky tannins, good structure and balance. Good value. 185 cases produced. $28.00. 88 points.