2012 Murphy-Goode ‘Reserve’ Zinfandel, Alexander Valley

This wine defines one version of the term “big Zin,” as its menthol and licorice root notes overwhelm any fruit impressions on the nose. In the mouth, however, some dark fruit flavors emerge, along with a palate-coating quality that makes it a fine companion to food — perhaps Mu-shu duck with plum sauce.

MSRP: $40 (June 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 88

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2012 Murphy-Goode ‘Snake Eyes’ Zinfandel

The aroma of this opaque purple black wine may fool you. It’s packed with impressions of brown sugar, baking spices, prunes and raisins — almost like a raisin pie. You then may be expecting a drinking experience like that offered by a well-aged Port, or perhaps an Italian Amarone. But in the mouth, the wine is much smoother than you’d imagine, especially given its 15.6% alcohol level. If you’re a fan of those aforementioned Amarones, give it a try — perhaps with an equally palate-challenging dish such as a kangaroo or ostrich curry.

MSRP: $35 (June 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 87

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2012 Murphy-Goode ‘Liar’s Dice’ Zinfandel, Sonoma County

Translucent light garnet in hue, this amalgam of Sonoma County Zinfandel vineyard fruit showcases notes of raspberry, sweet red cherry, and hints of black pepper, menthol and sweet milk chocolate. There’s a sense of hotness in the finish, so rather tban using this as a sipping wine, pair it with barbecued or smoked meats.

MSRP: $21 (June 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 87

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2013 On Point Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

Among winemakers who procure grapes from other than estate vines, two of the most coveted sources in the Sonoma Coast AVA are the Sangiacomo and Gap’s Crown vineyards. They provided all of the fruit for the 2013 On Point Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a wine defined by its sweet fruit flavors — red cherry and assorted berries. Nearly translucent light garnet in hue, the wine also shows off warm baking spices (cinnamon, vanilla, brown sugar), along with hints of menthol and earth. It’s light upon entry, but has a juicy acidity that lingers and makes it extremely food friendly.

MSRP: $36 (June 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 90

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2013 On Point ‘Christinna’s Cuvee’ Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

This is a young Pinot Noir that is quite approachable now — which is the point of the On Point label from the folks at Fulcrum Wines. As winemaker David Rossi explains, “Every barrel of wine is really a distinct ecosphere… Some barrels are darker, and have pronounced tannins and very complex structures. These become Fulcrum wines. Others are incredibly vibrant, with silky tannins and the immediately alluring personality that defines On Point.” Indeed, the 2013 On Point Pinot Noir is a vibrant translucent light garnet color, evoking impressions of menthol, clove, vanilla, cherry cola, black cherry and a hint of raspberry. The baking spices expand in the mouth, where the sleek and feminine personality of the wine engages, leading to a finish that shows just a hint of earth. A little bit of grip in the back end bodes well for mid-term aging, but why wait? This gem is ready to enjoy now.

MSRP: $36 (June 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 90

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2012 Kendall-Jackson Jackson Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

Opaque purple/black in the glass. Scents of herbs and tobacco infuse the rich core of blackberry, black currant, and cassis aromas and flavors. The black fruit thickens and coats the mouth, while a juicy acidity keeps it fresh and youthful. Silky tannins make this a pleasure to drink now. Small dollops of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot add to the complexity and approachability.
MSRP: $36 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 91

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2013 Kendall-Jackson Jackson Estate Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley

A translucent light crimson color in the glass. Vivid aromas of sandalwood, black cherry, orange, and a tart note of blueberry define the cool-climate Anderson Valley fruit. What the nose promises it delivers on the palate, where the wine picks up an additional earthy note of sweet licorice root. Delightful to drink now, this red should provide pleasure over the next six to eight years. Enjoy with a classic pairing of duck breast served with a cherry or orange reduction sauce.
MSRP: $30 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 90

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2013 Kendall-Jackson Jackson Estate Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley

The wine displays a golden straw color in the glass. Smoked butter and vanilla cream complement the honeyed stone fruit and fleshy tropical fruit aromas and flavors. It enters the mouth full and viscous, then becomes more refined and lady-like after mid-palate. For three decades, the hillsides and benchlands in the Santa Maria Valley have produced Chardonnays with this signature profile, and this 2013 bottling is a classic expression of the terroir and the grape clones.
MSRP: $28 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 91

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NV Cockburn’s Special Reserve, Portugal

In 2015, Cockburn’s will be celebrating 200 years of distinguished winemaking and proud history of innovative vineyard practices. To celebrate this momentous occasion, bottles of Cockburn’s port released this year will have a commemorative seal on the label.
This year’s iteration of the Special Reserve is a user-friendly winner. It sports an opaque, dusty garnet color, with orange glints towards the rim. Heady scents of alcohol quickly lead to overtly sweet raisins, cola, salted plums, candied cherries, black licorice, cashew nuts, and clove spice. It’s light in the mouth for port, with honeyed red fruit flavors and licorice. It is oh-so-smooth and ready to savor now. Serve after dinner with a plate of sharp cheeses, dried fruits, and roasted nuts.
MSRP: $19 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 90

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Pahrump Valley Winery Comes of Age

By Glen Frederiksen

I have been following the progress of Pahrump Valley Winery since its inception a quarter century ago in 1990. At that time, a few acres were planted to an obscure grape called Symphony, a white grape with floral aromatics that reminded me of Riesling and Gewurztraminer rolled up into one. It could produce delicious wines, from bone dry to dessert style.

Unfortunately for the winery, the wild horses and other animals that roamed the surrounding sparse landscape also found the grapes and vines delicious, and quickly ate them down to the roots, trampling the vineyard.

The name of the grape lives on today in the wonderful bistro connected to the winery, called Symphony’s.

In the first decade, most wine made at Pahrump Valley Winery was produced from grape juice purchased in other states (like California) and then fermented and finished at the winery. To be charitable, many of these wines were of the lowest commercial grade, some barely palatable.

Hard times came, and the winery went on the block for sale in 2003. Enter Bill and Gretchen Loken.

Residents of Scottsdale, Arizona, they were looking for a change. A winery sounded like the perfect challenge. Far from being wine connoisseurs or insiders in the wine industry, they had to start from scratch. They learned all they could about wine, with Gretchen eventually attending the school of Enology at UC Davis and earning a certificate in winemaking.

With each successive vintage, the quality of the wines has improved. Many of the twenty or so bottlings done at the winery are made with premium grapes grown in California, Oregon, and Washington. But, more and more, the Lokens are seeking out grape sources locally, from vineyards in Nevada. In fact, over 25% of the wines they now produce are made with Nevada-grown grapes, and that percent is increasing with each new vintage.

They have several acres of vines on the property, mostly Zinfandel and Syrah, with smaller plantings of other varietals. They also purchase grapes from around the state, where microclimates have proven favorable to a number of grape varietals. Among the grape varietals they now purchase are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Barbera, Ruby Cabernet, Primitivo, Tempranillo, Cinsault, Mourvedre, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc, with Chardonnay and Malbec soon to be available.

On this occasion, I noticed something new in the current crop of releases. The wines of Pahrump Valley Winery are more refined, more balanced, with better fruit definition. These are delicious wines, ready to hold their own with the offerings from wineries in California, Oregon, Washington, and other recognized areas.

The best news is that the wines made from 100% Nevada-grown grapes are as good as those made from imported grapes. Nevada wine-making has come of age. This is reflected in the spate of awards that Pahrump Valley Winery has been garnering in commercial wine competititons. The Nevada Ridge line-up of wines, made from Nevada-grown grapes, has already earned 60 medals, including 12 Gold Medals and two Double Gold Medals.

While at the winery, I tasted a few of the wines currently available for purchase in the tasting room. Below are my palate impressions and on-the-fly ratings.

2013 Charleston Peak Pinot Grigio, California
Pale straw color in the glass. The delicate nose includes floral impressions, apple, citrus, and peach fruit, and a hint of sweetness. In the mouth, the off-dry sweet impression continues. The white is medium-bodied, rounded, and has a creamy afterflavor. A Value Vino.
MSRP: $15.95 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 88

2010 Charleston Peak Syrah ‘Reserve,’ Sierra Foothills, California
This red sports a bright ruby color. Initial notes of smoke and cocoa mix with ample aromas of black berry fruits. It is medium-full in body, picking up some black licorice towards the finish. Enjoy with lamb or smoked red meats.
MSRP: $23.95 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 88

2012 Nevada Ridge Silver State Red, Nevada
This is a blended red featuring several varietals, all grown in the state of Nevada. It has already been awarded two Gold Medals in wine competition.
In the glass, it is a nearly transparent, light ruby color. The nose delivers lush aromas of raspberry and sweet cherry fruit, along with a touch of oak. Light and bright, with a sense of refinement, this is a perfect red for your next BBQ, lunch, or buffet-style event.
MSRP: $25.95 (May 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 88

Pahrump Winery is open daily for wine tasting from 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM. And be sure to dine at the Symphony’s restaurant, open for lunch and dinner daily. Dinner reservations are recommended, especially on the weekend.

Pahrump Valley Winery
3810 Winery Road
Pahrump, NV 89048
email: pvwine@hotmail.com

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