2012 Edmeades Petite Sirah, Mendocino County

Imagine the aroma of blueberry muffins baking in the oven while your favorite French roast coffee is brewing on a counter nearby. That’s what you’ll experience when you pour this wine in a glass and give it a good airing. Swirl some more, and still more notes emerge — toasty oak… vanilla… just-picked dark berries… a hint of white pepper. Petite Sirah is an under-the-radar variety that’s worth getting to know — especially when it’s crafted by a talented winemaker like Ben Salazar (who, prior to going to viticultural school, worked at one of our favorite restaurants on Earth: the Rutherford Grill).

MSRP: $35 (April 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 90

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2012 Edmeades’ Folly, Mendocino County

Edmeades is known primarily for Zinfandel, and Zin is the dominant grape in this four-variety cuvee that also includes Petite Sirah, Syrah and Merlot. It’s named after the founder of Edmeades, Dr. Donald Edmeades, a cardiologist who had an optometrist’s vision to plant winegrapes in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley before anyone else. This blend pays homage to the doctor, and provides an abundance of berry fruit flavor, joined by anise, plum and mild black pepper notes. Whereas the Edmeades Zins are best savored solo, this wine is nicely balanced and food friendly, a perfect companion to barbecued meats or a pepperoni pizza.

MSRP: $26 (April 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 89

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2012 Patz & Hall Chardonnay, Zio Tony Ranch, Russian River Valley

In the glass, the wine sports a straw color with obvious particulate matter and density, evidence of the long sur lie aging and non-filtered bottling style employed by winemaker James Hall. In the nose, smoky butter toffee cloaks the opulent scents of green apple, sweet lemon and fleshy tropical fruits, all kissed with clove spice and vanilla cream. Rich and expansive on the palate, with a juicy acidity that refreshes the senses and begs for the next sip. There’s nary a hole in this lush yet balanced wine — all the way through to the lingering finish. Sure, you could enjoy this wine now with dishes like lobster thermodor, but it is going to be difficult holding on to that last glass for dinner once you take that first dip.

MSRP: $65 (April 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 93

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2012 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir, Burnside Vineyard, Russian River Valley

Who says a California Pinot Noir can’t be light and ladylike? Sporting a translucent rose coral color that lightens at the rim, and a 13.2% alcohol level more reminiscent of Burgundy, this charmer offers up scents of rose perfume, red cherry, red berry, orange oil, sweet tobacco leaf, woodspice and vanilla cream. A supple palate impression leads to youthful, soft tannins at the back and a lingering after-flavor of spiced milk chocolate. Already drinking well, this wine will provide pleasure for a decade or more.

MSRP: $75 (April 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 93

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2012 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir, Chenoweth Ranch, Russian River Valley

Unlike many high-alcohol Pinot Noirs from California, which often smell and taste like Syrah, this bottling stays true to the varietal profile and typical lightness on the palate. It is a clear, translucent ruby red in color, and bright floral and fruit perfumes rise from the glass — spiced cherry cordial, carnation, rose petal and briary berry, along with a note of mocha. With air, a cedar note emerges. And despite its hefty 14.8% alcohol level, there is no sense of heat in the mouth or the finish. This wine would be a perfect match with rare roast duck breast in a cherry reduction sauce.

MSRP: $60 (April 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 92

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2012 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir, Hyde Vineyard, Carneros

This wine has a clear, translucent ruby red hue, and aromas of dark cherry, cranberry jelly, rich loam, menthol, orange and woodspice. Lithe in the mouth, showing great balance. The tannins are fine grained and silky. With aeration, a note of brown sugar emerges. This is a consummate food wine, changing like a chameleon to pair well with a wide variety of foods. There are 44 distinct blocks of grapevines planted in the Hyde Vineyard, and the grapes for this wine came from two of those blocks.

MSRP: $70 (April 2015)

Wine Lines rating: 91

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2013 La Crema Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

Translucent red coral in color that lightens at the rim. Aromas of sweet red cherries jump from the glass and are joined by additional scents of green tea, sweet orange, and a dash of baking spices. True to the varietal, there is a light, uplifted touch in the mouth, while the fruit and tea flavors take on a darker edge. The youthful tannic grip is fine and unobtrusive, and the spiced fruit flavors linger at the finish. This is a refined red that stands out from the pack at this pricepoint.
MSRP: $25 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 90

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2013 La Crema Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast

Vivid straw in color. Layered scents of sweet lemon, vanilla, white peach, buttery shortbread, and spice prove seductive. In the mouth, the wine has a medium-full body, with palate-coating buttered apple and woodspice carrying all the way to the finish. Nicely balanced, eminently drinkable – this is a white that provides pleasure from first sip to the last.
MSRP: $23 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 90

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2012 Sea Smoke Chardonnay ‘Streamside,’ Santa Rita Hills

The color is a deep straw shade. Despite the obvious weight of the wine, the aromas are delicate at first, evoking comparisons to Grand Cru Burgundy. Wisps of smoke and butter give way to perfumed flowers, white nectarine, and lemon curd. Most vintages of this wine express a saline minerality – the 2012 shows more wet river stone. The wine is full and palate-coating, with tremendous length through to the finish, where the buttered stone fruit lingers on and on.
I initially tried this wine last year, right after bottling and prior to its release. At that time, it was closed down and not forthcoming. I had questions about whether the wine would evolve. Now, nine months later, that question is answered – this is now a delicious debutante ready for her coming-out ball. Savor her now for her youthfulness, but be assured that she will continue to blossom over the next five to six years.
MSRP: $60 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 92

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Dinner With A Friend

By Glen Frederiksen

One of my favorite parts of the world wine community is the camaraderie that we all share with one another. I know of no other special interest group that reaches out to make new friends as easily as those who profess a passion for wine.

Over the years, this has taken me around the world. I have met up with fellow wine travelers and enjoyed countless get-togethers of food and wine throughout Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Closer to home, I have traveled to cities across the United States and Canada, often staying a few nights with people whom I have met through the many online forums for the wine-obsessed. Likewise, I have hosted quite a few visiting wine lovers in my home. Good times, all.

This week, a wine friend from Toronto, Canada found his way to Las Vegas, so of course we had to get together for a glass bottle or three while he was in town. Actually, we (over)did it three nights in a row. Such is the way of those who follow the Wine Muse.

Our first night was dinner at the appropriately named restaurant Marche Bacchus. I have written about my many besotted nights there in the past (follow this link). Owners Jeff and Rhonda Wyatt are first ballot inductees into the Wine Friendliest Restaurants Hall of Fame. The wine shop, at the front of their sprawling French bistro establishment, is the best in Las Vegas, carrying all kinds of cult wines that are usually only obtainable from the winery direct for those on a mailing list.

I won’t bore you with the bite-by-bite of the dinners we enjoyed – the food was, as always, exceptional. I know why you are reading this – to hear about the wine we had. So let’s get to it. Two of the wines were purchased at the restaurant, the other two were brought by us.

2007 Ammonite Brut Champagne, Grand Cru Le Mesnil-sur-Oger
Selection Greg Linn. Winemaker Pierre Gonet has fashioned a winner. The mousse is fine and persistent. In the nose, toasted bread leads to full, oily lemon scents. This follows through in the mouth, where a rich, creamy impression carries through to a long, mouth-watering afterflavor. With only 300 cases made, this is a rare bottling to make it to our neck of the woods and I, for one, am glad it did.
Marche Bacchus Price: $115 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 92

2012 Peter Michael Chardonnay ‘Ma Belle-Fille,’ Knight’s Valley
Here is another wine you rarely see at a retail wine store. Deep straw in color. This white is already well-knit together, showing aromas and flavors of clove, clarified butter, toast, cashew, ripe stone fruit, citrus oil, and a sense of liquid minerality. On the label, the alcohol is listed as 15.6%, but there is no trace of heat – just a warm, happy feeling after every sip.
Marche Bacchus Price: $115 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 94

1996 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Vineyard, Napa Valley
This was my friend’s contribution to the evening’s festivities. After replanting in the early 1990s, the 1996 Heitz Martha’s was the first release in five years. If you expected this to be youngish, light, and less complex due to the replanting, think again. This is classic Heitz Martha’s, in full maturity. A deep opaque ruby color in the glass. A mélange of aromas waft from the glass, including cedar, mushrooms, eucalyptus/mint, and ample lush black currant and berry fruit. I remember tasting this on release and wondering if it would blossom with time. Wonder no more.
Current Market Price: $135 (April 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 93

1998 d’Arenberg Shiraz ‘The Dead Arm,’ McLaren Vale
This was my contribution for the evening. From one of the most venerable estates in Australia, this is their top-of-the-line Shiraz bottling. In the glass, it was an opaque black/ruby color. Tremendous scents of mushrooms, cedar, currant, and dark chocolate seduce the nose. On first sip, it expands on the palate, showing both power and finesse. Want to fool your French snob wino friends? Throw this ringer into the mix and see which First Growth they think it is!
Wine Auction Price: $63 (February 2015)
Wine Lines rating: 95

The side-by-side of the two older reds was educational, as they could have been twins. A reminder that, in fine older reds, the secondary and tertiary aromas and flavors all funnel down to a similar profile.

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