The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2017

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december 2017  /  the tasting panel  /  69 Z. Alexander Brown 2015 Uncaged Proprietary Red Blend, North Coast ($20) Spiced blueberry liqueur accents the heady and ripe perfume on the nose for this blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Silky with dry, grainy tannins: A touch of lilac lends flavor and added fragrance, while a backdrop of cedar, white pepper, and licorice keeps it grounded. Acidity is balanced with oak and a juicy finish. 93 DELICATO FAMILY VINEYARDS Castoro Cellars 2015 Zinfusion Reserve Zinfandel, Paso Robles ($20) As a Double Gold winner in our sister company's San Francisco International Wine Competition this year, this vibrant estate-grown Paso Robles Zinfandel is an exciting feature in our reviews. The competition honored it with a score of 96. Bursting with perfumes of blue flowers and mocha-blueberry, espresso- covered dark chocolate wraps around graphite and expres- sive black fruit. Loveblock 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($22) While the perfume that lingers out of the glass shows in classic aromas of gooseberry and white grapefruit, this alluring white is more lyrical and less edgy than most New Zealand Sauv Blancs. Additional scents and flavors of white flowers and honeyed pineapple are melodious in a lean body—thanks to a great acidity. Lemongrass offers a nice ride to the finish. 92 Benessere Vineyards 2016 Pinot Grigio, Napa Valley ($25) White grapefruit and zingy spiced lemon are perfect first impressions for this white that could be mistaken for an Italian version of the varietal. With added minerality along with peach and jasmine notes, this is a feather in Benessere's cap for producing such a fluent wine. Anise leans in on the finish for more depth. 92 Ancient Peaks Winery 2015 Renegade, Santa Margarita Ranch AVA, Paso Robles ($26) From the sustainably-farmed estate in the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region, this flagship label is enjoying a terrific vintage. The blend of 55% Syrah, 27% Zinfandel, 13% Petite Sirah, and 5% Petit Verdot mirrors the rugged terrain on which the grapes are grown. With aromas of plum brandy, cassis, and jammy blackberry, bold flavors echo the nose. Chalky tannins are relieved by a juicy—yet meaty—quality, morphing the texture to more of a silky feel. Tilled soil, violets, and white pepper lead the charge to the finish. 93 Murrieta's Well Estate Vineyard 2016 Dry Rosé, Livermore Valley ($30) A blend of 55% Grenache and 45% Counoise, this exquisite Rhône-style rosé is available on-premise only. It's produced from fruit off the Hayes Ranch vineyard at the winery estate in Livermore, where elevation ranges from 560–860 feet. Winemaker Robbie Meyer asserts that "blending is the most exciting part of winemaking." Tasting notes include aromas of strawberry and ripe watermelon. On the palate, pink flowers, white pepper, cherry, and lanolin combine for layers of flavors with a dry finish. 94 Sokol Blosser 2014 Orchard Block Dundee Hills Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon ($70) From a six-acre site on the Sokol Blosser estate formerly planted to plum trees, this block is planted to a single clone of Dijon clone 777 in the area's notable clay loam Jory soil. Aromas of peach blossom, Italian herbs, and plum are wonderfully fragrant. Juicy, fresh strawberry dotted with white pepper adds a perk to a savory middle of forest floor. The wine is lithe and silky. Aged 17 months in 100% French oak and 12 months in bottle before release. 95 Robert Mondavi Winery 2014 To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($173) From the most coveted blocks within To Kalon—the treasured vineyard of Robert Mondavi that was the location of his winery home since 1966—this is the fourth vintage of the To Kalon–designated Reserve. Like a classic rock 'n' roll tune from that era, this wine ranks among the most revered and will continue to be memorable for decades. Among the top five songs of 1966 were "Cherish" by The Association and "Soul and Inspiration" by The Righteous Brothers, which are appropriately a good fit for describing To Kalon Vineyard. From its aromas of dark cherry and vanilla spice to its deeply- expressive notes of graphite, leather, plum, and earth, the velvet drapes across the palate from start to finish. 98 CONSTELLATION BRANDS Baracchi Winery 2012 Ardito, Toscana IGT, Italy ($55) A lush and smooth 50-50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. A hint of formaggio and cherry skins, with chewy tannins. The fruit is fresh, ripe, and tart with acidity, and the finish is lengthy. 93

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