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Staff Favorites - Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith
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Tom Smith


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2017 John Duval "Entity" Shiraz Barossa Valley South Australia
Review Date: 08-20-2019
This is it. This is the big one. This is the breakthrough Shiraz of the year. John Duval spent nearly 30 years as a master winemaker crafting Penfolds Grange, Australia’s most heralded Shiraz that can easily cost upwards of $800. Striking out on his own to craft the wines at John Duval, the 2017 Entity clearly puts this mastery on display. The concentration and minerality on the nose wavers between warm, detailed fruit and more mineral, graphite driven aspects that remind me of bordeaux like Leoville Barton, with a fruit expression that has seemingly endless depth. Black raspberry, black cherry and whifs of spice tinged smoke are all at play here. The palate has fiery dynamics, velvety tannins, and a bright whip of acidity that pushes down the palate. All in all this is stunning in its complexity, balance, and focus. It may be awhile before I see anything that even comes close to the value here. It’s no wonder that James Halliday named this No.1 on his list of best Australian Shiraz this year.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
JH 99

2014 Leeuwin "Art Series" Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 08-20-2019
Leeuwin continues to produce one of the best Australian Cabernets year after year. The 2014 Leeuwin Art Series Cab is the most elegant rendition of this wine I have had to date. Filled with soft aromas of subtle mint, faint touches of nutmeg, along with whifs of cinnamon, and vanilla. On the palate, the wine is broad and full. Bright acid pushes cassis, blackberry, and black cherry elements to the forefront. In the background there is plenty of minerality that gives the flavor palate definition. This is so well balanced and nuanced. Every minute this wine is in my glass it is getting better. So many complex elements of when you look at it closely, but an equally delicious drinking experience that anyone will love.

2015 Leeuwin Estate "Prelude" Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 08-13-2019
It’s not often you can find a benchmark Cabernet producer whose wines keep getting better and better, yet still has a price like this. Year after year Leeuwin’s Prelude Cabernet continues to be one of the best values in Cabernet, not just from Margaret River, but from anywhere. The nose on this is incredibly masculine. Full of black fruit, charcoal and cassis. After 5 minutes in my glass, the wine just blooms into spicy black cherry, mint and graphite. The way this wine opens and evolves in the glass over a short time is nothing short of remarkable. On the palate, there’s more blackberry, black raspberry and cassis notes. The tannin profile here is just perfect: it hits you right at the mid palate, and just dissolves through the finish. Incredibly well balanced with a great mix of both fruit and earth, this wine is absolutely captivating.

2016 Azelia Langhe Nebbiolo
Review Date: 08-13-2019
What a reminder of how delicious and beautiful Nebbiolo can be. Spicy and peppery on nose with beautiful floral elements amid touches of tobacco leaf. It’s not often I describe red wines as ethereal, but this one certainly fits the bill, all while still being accessible. On the palate, it's more fruit driven with forward tannin and acid drive. I would gladly drink this any day of the week.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
RP 91

2015 Carmel Road "South Crest" Panorama Vineyard Monterey Pinot Noir
Review Date: 08-13-2019
Plenty of bright, cherry fruit along with dried herbs and clove on the nose. The palate shows mixed red and black fruit; a sort of mixed blend of strawberries, black cherry and cranberry along with the most interesting component of this wine: a touch of orange zest. This immediately calls to mind top class wines from the Santa Lucia Highlands that almost always have this characteristic. This wine is all warm yummy goodness. The fruit is rich, the tannin is soft, and the fruit is forward. Super Tasty.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2018 Skouras Moscofilero Péloponnèse Greece
Review Date: 08-13-2019
Clear as glass, this shows melon, mint, and faint creamy notes along with more forward touches of stone fruit. The body of this wine is medium weight with just a subtle hint of sweetness. The acid here is fierce, but I don’t mind it all--actually, I think it’s perfect. This wine is so in my wheelhouse its crazy. I want this with cheese. I want this with pizza. I want this with everything.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
W&S 92 RP 90

2015 Kir-Yianni "Ramnista" Naoussa Greece
Review Date: 08-13-2019
As sold as I am on Greek white, we see a lot less Greek reds day to day around here.. Enter: Ramnista. The aromas in this wine absolutely suck you in. There are elements of dark fruits, plum intermingling with mushroom and other earthy components. You smell the wine in the glass and there’s something about it that says, “hold on, this is going to be intense”. Explosive on the palate components of sarsaparilla, and mocha framed by bright acidity, and rigid, rustic tannin. This is an excellent example of Greek red at its best. Ultimately, this is a really compelling wine that is true to its place, and shows it off in the best light. Lamb shank anyone?

2016 DeLille "Chaleur Blanc" Columbia Valley White Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 08-06-2019
I'm a sucker for good Bordeaux blanc. The brilliance, the complexity, the richness and the power all collide into a perfect storm for me. And typically, I tend to be a little skeptical of domestic white wines that parade themselves as Bordeaux blanc. With the Delille Chaleur Blanc, not the case. Minerality, passion fruit, and savory undertones are all in force here, along with beautiful build and release. It's a touch more fruited, but every bit better for it. I could drink this over and over and over.

2016 Craggy Range "Te Kahu" Bordeaux Blend Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay
Review Date: 08-04-2019
This a wine that is surprising, exciting, and exceptional, year after year after year. I am thrilled to see that people are starting to take notice of this wine for what it is and giving it the credit it deserves. For a New World Cabernet-based blend, it definitely skews more Bordeaux than Napa. Blackfruits, cassis and spice give this an incredibly attractive nose, that hides deeper elements of iron, sage and savory. A dense and concentrated element of fruit is present on the palate, with more acidity than you would generally expect, but in away that is totally welcoming. The tannin structure is likewise big, ensuring that you can stash this away for years and watch it improve--a pretty tall order for a Hawke’s Bay Bordeaux Blend. But with a quick decant and a little air in the glass the tannin soften beautifully and the fruit opens up, and you are left with a staggeringly delicious wine.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
DC 97 JS 93

2016 Xanadu Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 07-31-2019
Since 1962, the Melbourne Wine Show reviews thousands of wines submitted from across Australia, and after several rounds of eliminations, awards the Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy to the best wine in the competition. In 2018, this was that wine. Named for the Melbourne wine legend who helped revolutionize fine wine in Australia, these wines typically sell out across the country overnight after winning. I’m so thrilled we were able to secure an allocation of this incredibly sought-after wine. As for the wine itself, there is a level of focus and intensity that is, by far, the best I have ever tasted from Xanadu, and possibly Margaret River. There is mint, smoke, cassis, black fruits, and graphite, seamlessly interwoven into a gorgeous, full, and complex palate. Slightly more fruit-forward, this is a big, powerful Cabernet with racy acidity that perfectly supports the fruit. The tannin is fine, giving structure while allowing the wine to be open and drinking beautifully now. What a stunning achievement. This is a Margaret River Cabernet for the record books.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2015 Château de Montfaucon "Baron Louis" Lirac
Review Date: 07-30-2019
The Montfaucon Cotes-du-Rhone was one of the first wines I truly fell in love with at K&L. The value is tremendous and Montfaucon quickly became one of my favorite producers. A few years later I had the opportunity to try several vintages of the Baron Louis going back to 2005. Oh my god. It turned me into an absolute believer. This is one of those rare wines that drinks beautifully on release, and can age beautifully as well. The 2015, already a phenomenal year for Southern Rhone, shows a smoky, black-fruited and richly aromatic nose. The fruit here is open and full, without begin over-the-top opulent, full of blackberry and brambly goodness. Accessible and yet age-able, bold and yet balanced, this is a serious wine that deserves attention.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2016 La Massa "La Massa" Toscana
Review Date: 07-30-2019
I have customers coming into the store all the time looking for a great wine to take to dinner with their boss or in-laws, and need a wine that’s both extremely impressive, but at a great price point. Enter La Massa. This wine is a bullseye every, single time. Full bodied and bold, while well-balanced and full of black cherry fruit and fine tannin structure, this is one of the most consistent, hits-above-its-price-point wines in our Italian selection. You know you’re onto something good when those customers come back into the store a week later raving about how everyone at the table loved it.

2006 Jonata "Todos" Central Coast Red Blend
Review Date: 07-25-2019
Unmistakably from Santa Ynez. A little bloody on the nose, this wine presents both savory aromas along with mixed red and black fruit. On the palate, it’s intensely structured. Super different. There are so many fine details in the construction of this wine: the vertical structure of tannin, the ever-present and yet almost unnoticeable acidity, the huge dynamic palate that hits you in broad waves. This is a forceful and powerful red--one without a hint of over-extraction or fruit-bombiness. Excellent wine.
Price: $54.99 Add To Cart
JD 94 ST 90

2018 Massican "Annia" Napa Valley White Blend
Review Date: 07-25-2019
Right off the bat there are powerful aromatics of lemon and jasmine. Bright and zippy, full of intriguing textural elements. This wine would be killer with food, especially cheeses. Plenty of Meyer lemon and grapefruit on the palate with just a sly edge of sweetness on the finish. I love how different, and yet still delicious this wine is. A style of wine I seek out regularly, but rarely see coming out of California.
Price: $29.95 Add To Cart
WE 97

2016 Château de L'Ou "Secret de Schistes" Côtes Catalanes
Review Date: 07-24-2019
Wow. The quality of this wine is apparent the moment the wine hits the glass. Dark, different, intriguing. There are definitely some Cornas-like things going on here: that sort of sour plum, black pepper and mineral drive. The fruit expression is a little more pure than what I’ve had from this producer in the past, it feels like the oak is just a touch more restrained. On the palate this is classic big Syrah. Rich and decadent fruit, with soft, smoothed tannins. This should be on anyone’s radar who love producers like Saxum or Booker. The wine is clean, modern, incredibly concentrated and powerful.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
JD 95 RP 91

2017 Château de L'Ou "Compartir" Cotes du Roussillon Villages Rouge
Review Date: 07-24-2019
Château de L’ou continues to set the bar on power reds from Roussillon. Full of incredibly deep, dark, at times nearly black fruit, there is a ton of richness to this wine. This wine with an incredible amount of force and power, encased in a thick, velvety exterior. What’s most unique is that despite the amped up level of fruit, there is a significant mineral portion somewhere between graphite and iron that gives it dimensionality and compelling character. Fans of richer, more modern-styled Châteauneuf-du-Pape take note: This will knock your socks off at ½ the price.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
JD 96

2018 Villa Maria "Taylor's Pass" Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Review Date: 07-24-2019
Perched on a sequence of terraces above the Awatere river, Taylor’s Pass Vineyard is an exceptional site for Sauvignon Blanc, sheltered from cooler easterly winds and planted on gravelly soils. The 2018 is one of the most strikingly aromatic Sauvignon Blancs I have ever had. Ripe Papaya and guava notes abound among hints of white pepper. There’s aromatic richness here that is flat-out off the charts. The palate follows up equally with big fruit and well balanced acidity. Elderflower liqueur, preserved pineapple, and a breathtaking mineral finish. What makes this wine truly stand out is not that it tastes different from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, it's that it manages to turn the volume up to 11 while maintaining balance. Possibly the best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve had this year?

2018 TWR (Te Whare Ra) Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Review Date: 07-21-2019
There is not a single producer in the store that I value more than Te Whare Ra. In the ocean of bulk wines coming out of Marlborough, Jason and Anna Flowerday continue to produce wines at a small scale that possess incredible finesse, balance, and remarkable quality, vintage after vintage. The nose here is soft and fragrant. Elements of papaya, whiteflowers, and guava with just a hint of savory displays a sense of elegance. On the palate, there's more density, weight and power where citrus, lemongrass, and hints of stone fruit come through in waves. Beautifully bright and incredibly well balanced, the 2018 may be the best Sauvignon Blanc they have produced to date. I would argue that the TWR Sauvignon Blanc represents not just the height of quality wine production in Marlborough, but among the Sauvignon Blanc produced all over the world.

2016 Greywacke Pinot Noir Marlborough
Review Date: 07-17-2019
Another outstanding wine from Kevin Judd. The nose here is dark, smokey, and full of black fruits that remind me of other cool climate Pinot Noir regions. On the palate, this wine is an absolute powerhouse of fruit and texture. With mouthcoating weight and searing intensity, it is exceptionally structured, delivering powerful fruit with tannins that start soft and punch right through at the finish. An unbelievable value at this price.

2014 Greywacke Chardonnay Marlborough
Review Date: 07-17-2019
For the most part, Marlborough Chardonnay has flown under the radar. Sauvignon Blanc has continued overshadow other varieties, making up nearly 90% of all the wine produced in Marlborough last year. Yet, there have been a handful of small producers quietly handcrafting beautiful Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from select sites along the cooler Southern Valleys. Enter Kevin Judd. The 25 year winemaking veteran from Cloudy Bay has been producing masterful Chardonnay since 2009. The 2014 is his best to date. On the nose, there is a sense of flinty minerality, with citrus blossoms and stone fruit that is full of tension and purity. The Palate is racy and elegant with elements of buttercream and lemon curd. Superbly compelling, full of power and rich fruit, the quality here is absolutely exceptional.

2016 Sidewood Estate Pinot Noir Adelaide Hills South Australia
Review Date: 07-16-2019
The moment this wine hit my glass I knew I was going to love it. Soft, pale red and bursting with aromatics, it has a light touch has a great center of fruit on the palate. The acid is nice and bright, and all together I thought it was great Pinot Noir, from an unexpected place: the Adelaide Hills. Then I saw the price and my jaw just about fell on the floor. I immediately bought everything that was available--which wasn't much. No way you're going to find a better Pinot Noir than this at $15. Get this one while it lasts.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
SK 92

2015 Keller Estate "La Cruz Vineyard" Sonoma Coast Chardonnay
Review Date: 07-11-2019
A stunning deal on this Chardonnay. Big, rich, and full of brioche notes, peach, and lychee. This is a stand-out big fruit chardonnay with great depth and weight, and will deliver for anyone looking for big Chardonnay at a killer price.
Price: Hidden View Price
WE 94

2017 Domaine du Somail "Vin de Plume" Minervois
Review Date: 07-10-2019
You really don’t find wines that push the envelope on breadth and power like this anywhere near $15. Meaty as all hell. There’s iron, blood and brambles all within a cloak of deep, black fruit.. Despite its dark character, beneath there is a rawness, a freshness, almost wild aspect to this Minervois. There’s plenty of big fruit on the palate that are offset with very well integrated tannin. The acidity brightens up the fruit and brings it into balance. Incredibly compelling, totally delicious, an easy pick for a tasty and distinctive from one of France’s best offbeat wine regions.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
RP 92

2018 Tenuta Sant'Antonio "Scaia" Rosato Veneto
Review Date: 07-10-2019
I found this wine to be an absolute killer deal for rose. The aroma is soft and full of stonefruit notes of apricot along with dried herbs. The taste of this wine moves towards melon on the palate, with a beautiful savory character that makes this wine feel a little classier than its price would suggest. The real showstopper here is the weight and body of this wine. Texturally, it’s gorgeous. It has concentration and density, while staying nimble and energetic with a good clean finish.. This was such a pleasant surprise. One of my favorite under-$15 roses.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart
VN 91

2015 Rodney Strong "Reserve" Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-03-2019
There is a ton of dark, black cherries on the nose of this wine. At moments, nearly reminiscent of cherry cordial, this is a big, rich and velvety Cabernet. The palate the tannin is softened, with just a hint of tannin and plenty of sweet fruit. This is all about soft, delicious, decadent fruit character. Really nice wine.
Price: $39.95 Add To Cart
DC 97

2015 Beaulieu Vineyard Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 07-03-2019
When I had the chance to taste the 2015 BV Rutherford, my nostalgia went into high gear. This is old school Napa Cabernet: fragrant, structured, and bright. The nose is incredibly aromatic, with softer elements of vanilla and spice above medium red fruit, and a totally welcomed hint of bell pepper. Medium weight on the palate, this is really the polar opposite of a fruit bomb with a palate that expresses graphite, tobacco leaves and cassis. The tannic structure really stretches across the palate here. This is proper Napa Cabernet that tastes way more expensive than it is and harkens back to a more balanced, beautiful style of Napa Valley.

2017 Seabold Cellars "Olson Vineyard" Monterey Chardonnay
Review Date: 07-03-2019
I really love the fruit from Olson vineyard, and have had the pleasure of working with fruit from this vineyard during my time in wine production. There’s a level of intensity and distinctiveness that is racy, even thrilling and is at a whole different level than most of the vineyards in Monterey County outside of Santa Lucia. Here, the Seabold shows soft aromas with elements of honeysuckle and meyer lemon. On the palate it is intense and powerful. Tons of linear acid and drive. The zippiness almost has some Chablis-like elements, but with a rounder core of fruit on the center and a big lime note.This is a guns ablazing Chardonnay that would be phenomenal with food. And with a nice, crisp clean finish this is a perfect wine chilled for a summer day.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 94

2018 Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Review Date: 07-02-2019
Part of Simon’s brilliant craft is his ability to build beautiful blends from multiple vineyard sources within Marlborough, each with their own subclimates and flavor profiles. The end result is a masterful blend that balances complexity, brightness, and gorgeous fruit character. The 2018 Astrolabe has an elegant nose with notes of honey comb, lemon blossoms, and subtle hints of passion fruit and flint. On the palate, you’ll find plenty of lime, stone fruits and minerality. There is just a touch more weight on the body of this wine than a typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and along with its bright snap of acidity, this is a serious wine that shows how good the best of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc can truly be.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
BC 95

Nicolas Maillart "Platine" Brut Champagne
Review Date: 06-27-2019
An absolutely stunner of a Champagne. Full fruited, pure, clean citrus with hints of white cherry. On the palate, this is full of energy and vigor and clear fruit expression. Another unbelievable value in the line-up of gorgeous grower producer Champagnes. This is going into my regular rotation of Friday night Champagne.

2017 Torbreck "Woodcutter's" Shiraz Barossa Valley South Australia
Review Date: 06-05-2019
When you think of Australian icons, there are a few names that come to mind: Penfolds. Henschke. Torbreck. The Woodcutter’s Shiraz is a pristinely executed wine that brings the obsessive attention to detail in the vineyard and thoughtfulness in the winery you would expect from a globally recognized producer. What I really love about this wine is its undeniable varietal character--there’s black pepper, charcoal, gamey elements. It might be going a bit too far to call this smoked meat in a glass--but not that far. On the palate, its extremely well balanced. You have excellent, moderate acidity that doesn’t take over the palate, but still provides lift and structure to the wine. There’s a slight element of rich sweetness of fruit that brings weight and texture, and a sizzling spicy character that nearly makes you reach for a glass of water. Even with its benchmark status, this is a phenomenal value at this price.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 WS 93

2017 The Pinot Project California Pinot Noir
Review Date: 06-05-2019
This is an absolute rare gem in the world of under $15 Pinot Noir. In fact, there probably should not even been a category for great Pinot Noir under $15, if not for this. At its core, it is a fairly serious Pinot Noir masquerading as a simple table wine. For me, it’s all about that burst of black fruit on the nose, whifs of brambly tannin, and warm strawberry/bing cherry fruit on the palate. This has a lot of elements going on that liken it to much, much more expensive wines. Such a savvy buy.
Price: $11.95 Add To Cart
JS 91 WE 90

2017 Domaine Lafage "Cuvée Centenaire" Côtes du Roussillon Blanc
Review Date: 06-05-2019
There is something that is undeniably wonderful about the wines of Lafage. Easy to drink, outright delicious, and quality that blows away everything in its price point away. Take the 2017 Centenaire for instance: lovely aromatics of melon, stone fruit and mild citrus tones--the palate is full with big fruit and nimble acidity that keeps you coming back to the glass again and again. Every little corner and detail of this wine is reigned in and perfected. This is an effortlessly joyful glass of wine.

2018 Tania & Vincent Carême "Terre Brulée" Chenin Blanc Swartland
Review Date: 05-14-2019
A beautiful nose of citrus and whiteflowers, incredibly delicate brightened by a hint of grapefruit. Bright on the palate with razor sharp acidity and mellow weight. There is plenty of drive and verve, making this a brilliant little Chenin Blanc that's has South African texture and fruit, but with nuances reminiscent of the Loire. An absolutely insane quality for price.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2017 Cantina Andrian Pinot Grigio
Review Date: 05-08-2019
A lovely nose that’s soft and inviting. Very aromatic, the notes of melon and honeysuckle simply pour out of the glass. On the palate, there is a generous amount of fruit--this wine is so friendly and welcoming. Offering way more than its price point, this is a delicious Pinot Grigio that everyone will love.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
JS 93

2017 Terra Santa Ile de Beauté Blanc Corsica
Review Date: 05-08-2019
Light, spry with zippy bits of white pepper, the nose here is dead-on for a Mediterranean White. The texture here is almost like spring water--refreshing, light, and incredibly clean. Yet there is also an undeniable minerality: wet stones laced with citrus elements and lemon zest. This is absolutely perfect for a scorching hot day. What a perfect little gem of a wine.
Price: $9.99 Add To Cart
WS 90

2016 Gran Moraine Yamhill Carlton Pinot Noir
Review Date: 05-08-2019
I love the perfume on this wine. There is no mistaking that this is gorgeous Oregon Pinot Noir. Plush and feminine, it has a captivating elegance. Softer acidity and mild tannin structure make this an absolute pleasure to drink. For me, the fruit expression is all pristine strawberry. It feels like walking through a strawberry patch on a clear, blue day. What a lovely, pretty and incredibly enjoyable Pinot Noir.
Price: Hidden View Price
JS 95

2016 Titus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 05-08-2019
Breaking into the $40 Napa Cabernet field can be a tough prospect. After tasting the 2016 Titus, it’s clear that there’s a new leader in the pack. There are spice, cedar and black fruits aromas on a deeply satisfying nose. On its richly textured palate, there are savory elements, black fruits and dry herbs. The tannin structure is absolutely off the charts. This is one of those wines that leaves your head spinning like, “How did they do just that?”. There’s plenty of backbone here, but it hits all the different parts of your palate at just the right levels and just the right times. This wine showcases a stunning display of winemaking skill.

2018 A.A. Badenhorst "Secateurs" Chenin Blanc Swartland
Review Date: 05-08-2019
The Secateurs wines have been on our radar for awhile. These wines have huge quality for the price and the Chenin in particular. But in 2018, they really hit it out of the park. With cool conditions at harvest, winemakers have the room to pick their grapes at absolute peak ripeness without rushing. The result is astounding. On the nose it is floral and spicy: white flowers, citrus and lychee. On the palate, this wine is brimming with the flavors of apricot, with lemon curd, soft tropical notes. A crisp snap of acidity, gives it a refreshing bite that is perfect for warmer weather. This is versatile food wine, and would be absolutely killer on a summer evening with Halibut with fresh herbs.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
W&S 94 VN 90

2016 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough
Review Date: 05-07-2019
The 2016 is an phenomenal achievement by Ata Rangi, a stunning wine that has every bit of upfront beauty and defined power that you'd expect from one of New Zealand's top producers. This is a unique expression of Pinot Noir that does not fit the California or Burgundy mold, and yet has such impeccable quality it might make you topple out of your chair. The nose is incredibly elegant: there are dark fruits with a distinctive underlying perfume among hints of anise and cedar. On the palate, you will discover wet stone, black cherry, herbs and mocha. All within a beautifully balanced package of bright acidity and soften tannin. The power and concentration of this wine ensures that cellaring for a few years will pay in dividends, but I founded it totally approachable now. I adore top-tier wines that manage to surpass even my high expectations; Ata Rangi's exceptionally balanced, and wonderfully complex 2016 absolutely managed to do so. A thrilling wine.

2015 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon Margaret River Western Australia
Review Date: 04-29-2019
Vasse Felix is an absolute benchmark Australian Cabernet. In 1967, cardiologist Tom Cullity was the first person to plant vines in what would soon become one of the most recognized regions for Australian Cabernet: Margaret River. The 2015 Vasse Felix could not be more of a classic expression of Cabernet from their estate property. There’s a beautiful hint of mint on the nose, along with richer layers of dark fruit and anise notes. On the palate, this is a mouth-coating Cabernet, full of rich fruit along with well-integrated spice and vanilla notes that carry through to the finish. There’s plenty of acid here as well that serves to lift the fruit--managing to keep the deep core of fruit while invigorating the palate. Full-bodied, yet still elegant and bright, this is a killer deal that won’t last long.

2016 Farnetella Chianti Colli Senesi
Review Date: 04-25-2019
I think it’s fair to say that as far as my palate is concerned, I often struggle with the ruggedness and lack of polish I find in most Chanti. And at under $15? Forget about it. I’ll pass. But every once in a while you hit a wine that totally defies your expectations and makes you reconsider looking the other way when you pass them in the hall. The Farnetella Chianti Colli is that wine for me. In the scribbled tasting notes I have for this wine you’ll see “really charming”, “ super friendly”, and “totally delicious”. It’s got a great nose that made me immediately recall Rosso di Montalcino. On the palate, bright cherry fruit, strawberry for days, and brambly with nicely structured tannin. Up front and incredibly tasty, I think this actually blows up the under $15 Italian red category. I dare you not to like this wine.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart
JS 91

2016 Lava Cap Estate El Dorado County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 02-26-2019
There’s something really special Amador County wines. It is a great place for small, family wineries that are pushing for quality and still making affordable wines. This Lava Camp is a great example. Grown way up at 2700 feet, you’ll find the hallmark richness you’d expect from Amador County, but a little bit of cool climate character too: bright acid and lively red fruits. Small and honest producer, quality-driven, sense of place, and great price: this wine checks off everything in my book.
Price: $19.95 Add To Cart
WE 93

2017 Tensley Santa Barbara County Syrah
Review Date: 02-25-2019
This is an absolute go-to Syrah that is a classic example of exceptional Central Coast Syrah. There is plenty of richness here. It expresses blue fruit and black fruit core, with fragrant notes of violets and smoke. And despite its power, it manages to keep its balance intact. There is a seamless quality to this wine from the front palate that carries all the way through to its resonating finish. This is a wine that screams for tri-tip; a big-fruit Syrah that punches well above its price.
Price: $23.95 Add To Cart
JD 93 WS 93

2016 Aquinas North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 02-19-2019
I can be a little jaded when it comes to California cabernet values. There’s typically a crowded playing field between $10 and $15, which are all sourced from dubious origins, and taste of oak chips and dull, boring fruit. With that said, I was pleasantly surprised by the Aquinas Cabernet. It exceptionally walks the line between earthy and fruit, slightly savory and fruity. Plenty of density with black cherry, and blackberry, and a nice subtle tannin structure that brings balance to the glass, while keeping the wine upfront an enjoyable. I found myself going back to the glass again and again, finding new things and becoming totally entranced by this wonderful cabernet. This is an absolutely solid find that I thought we were retailing for a much higher price. At $15? It's an absolute steal.
Price: $14.95 Add To Cart
WE 91

2014 Site Wines "Stolpman Vineyard" Roussanne Santa Barbara County
Review Date: 02-12-2019
Site continues to produce my favorite domestic Roussanne. Mellow and full of characteristic honey tones, this is a soft, wide-shouldered white with plenty of papaya and tropical fruit notes. A different and distinctive take on Roussanne that fans of Rhone Wines are sure to love.

2014 Site Wines "Larner Vineyard" Grenache Ballard Canyon Santa Barbara
Review Date: 02-12-2019
The 20% Syrah here is key. It’s whole-cluster and provides not only depth and darkness to this Grenache, but texture, tannin, and a beautiful, reductive meaty quality. The grenache on the other hand has richness, levity and brightness. The balance between these two distinctive elements is absolutely phenomenal. Mouth coating and delicious this is a wonderfully dark and broody take on grenache, full of rich black fruits offset by smoked bacon and a hint of sweetness. More than anything, this reminds of the wines Paso Robles cult producer Saxum, which if you can get them, usually go for at least three times the price. This was my favorite of the recent offerings from Site, and sits at the top of my list for domestic grenache.

2014 Site Wines "Larner Vineyard" Red Blend Ballard Canyon Santa Barbara
Review Date: 02-12-2019
The quality on these wines is absolutely crazy; it's hard to believe that they keep getting better with every vintage--but they do. The 2014 Larner is a total stunner: dark, and meaty, hints of smoke and leather above a solid core of dark fruits: boysenberry, blackberry and caramelized cherry. For a big wine, the balance on this is just seamless. Despite nearly 70% of the blend being Syrah, the striking similarity to top shelf, modern styled Châteauneuf-du-pape is undeniable. This is a breakthrough wine that deserves serious attention.

2015 Deovlet "Sanford & Benedict Vineyard" Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-30-2019
For me, Sanford and Benedict is without a doubt an American Grand Cru Pinot Noir Vineyard. What has been really inspiring over the past several years is their growing commitment to sell fruit to smaller and up-and-coming producers. It has elevated the wines coming out of the Santa Rita Hills across the board. Deovlet is one of those smaller producers that has used the fruit from this vineyard to craft absolutely stunning wines. The Deovlet Sanford and Benedict displays incredible aromas of beautiful, elegant fruit. It gently walks the line between feminine floral tones and more masculine savory elements. The palate is layered with savory notes, iron, and black fruit. Yet the body and texture of the wine ethereal and soft. A complex and intriguing wine that deserves a place at the table of any serious Pinot Noir lover.

2016 Leviathan California Red Blend
Review Date: 01-28-2019
For anyone who loves red blends, the Leviathan is the most consistent, high quality, knock-it-out-of-the-park wine in the store. I first discovered this wine back in 2006, and was gobsmacked at the level of rich, bold fruit that this wine delivers. It has continued to perform well every year since, but the 2016 was a particular stand out. Ripe notes of black cherry, blackberry, and mocha along with hints of smoke and spice, this is one of those wines that you can’t stop drinking. A head-turning wine that stands out from the crowd at its price point, it’s definitely earned its high praise.
Price: $39.95 Add To Cart
RP 94 VN 92

Dérot-Delugny "Cuvée Fondateurs" Brut
Review Date: 01-09-2019
This is the champagne for champagne drinkers who have had everything. Beautifully elegant aromas of anjou pear and a dusting of lemon zest that pull you into the glass. On the palate, it is delicately textured with a totally unique umami note that I had yet to experience until this bottle came along. It delivers in balance, quality, while being totally unique. This champagne has had the staff running to buy bottles for ourselves. Loved it.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart

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