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Monterey County

Robert Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2015

Robert Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2015

A suffusion of smokey minerals, creme brûlée, toasted coconut flake, mandarin and grilled pineapple. Robert Talbott's 2015 Kali Hart Chardonnay is made from the winery's Sleepy Hollow estate vineyard, a hillside parcel that is relatively close to the Pacific Ocean—where cool maritime breezes lend a moderating effect. The effect of this microclimate on the palate is a spike of citrusy acidity, piercing through a creamy tropical fruit core. 14.5% ABV | Sample Talbott Vineyards 89 Points...

Ernest & Julio Gallo Signature Series Pinot Noir 2013

Gallo Signature Series Pinot Noir 2013

I prefer Gallo's Signature Series Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir with some age on it—the 2013 offers up a bouquet of that is more dark fruited than red. Blackberries at peak ripeness, a touch of black cherry, vanilla and cola precede a wine that is swathed in fine, velvety tannins. This is a richer, more somber expression of Pinot Noir, one that is lifted by a well-placed vein of acidity and an alluring wisp of pink peppercorn. 14.7% ABV | Sample Gallo Family Wines 9.0 Points...

Robert Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2014

Talbott Kali Hart Chardonnay 2014

An excellent value to be found in this estate grown, Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay. The site lies just thirteen miles from Carmel Bay, along the northern edge of the valley—planted in 1982, in Corton-Charlemagne Chardonnay clone vines, it's a wine that delivers subtle, layered flavors of smokey baked yellow apples, figs, and lemon torte strike a precise balance between ripeness and lifted acidity. The core is deliciously creamy, a sensation that gradually subsides to a minerally finish. 14.5% ABV | Sample Talbott Vineyards 89 Points...

Bridlewood Monterey County Pinot Noir 2014

Bridlewood Monterey County Pinot Noir 2014

A nice value with a distinctive underbrush and red cherry note I attribute to Monterey Pinot Noir, particularly the acidity and what it does in the mouth—a bright burst, even though this is a more delicate, fully translucent example from the region. In addition, wafting cherry blossoms, leaves crackling underfoot, instant coffee, a touch of warm spice. It's a wine that neatly conceals it's 14.6% ABV | Sample Bridlewood Estate Winery 8.7 Points    ...

Robert Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014

Talbott Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard 2014

The brawny side of Pinot Noir, Talbott’s Sleepy Hollow Vineyard is located in the Santa Lucia Highlands. There, Pommard and Dijon clones burrow deep into Chualar gravelly loam soil and sand, resulting in a wine with an equal measure of weight and acidity along with steeped raspberry, cherry, rose hip, underbrush , and spice notes. Bordering on opaque, with a core of cranberries and sour cherries, and taught acidity that crescendos with a burst of saline-edged minerality on the finish. Sample Talbott Vineyards 8.8 Points...

J Vineyards Pinot Noir Monterey, Sonoma, & Santa Barbara Counties 2015

J Vineyards Pinot Noir Monterey, Sonoma, & Santa Barbara Counties 2015

J Vineyards & Winery Pinot Noir is a blend of Pinot Noir from three AVAs: Monterey County, Santa Barbara County and Sonoma County. It's a big, voluptuous wine, not quite opaque and neatly inlaid with black cherry, roasted strawberry, warm brown spices, and decaying rose petal. Silky on entry, with well-integrated tannins—the acidity hits at the midpoint and glides to the close. It’s ever so slightly hot on the finish. 14.6% ABV | Sample J Vineyards 8.8 Points...

San Simeon Monterey Chardonnay 2014

San Simeon Monterey Chardonnay 2014

The frame is not as nimble as I might expect for a Monterey Chardonnay, which is generally a cooler climate AVA. The weight is in fact unctuous, fat, and even slightly oily, much like a light Sauternes—its legs cling to the sides of the glass. Aromatically, the primary expression is one of stone fruit, spice, and caramel. Thankfully, there is enough acidity to lend balance, and the flavors on the palate are decidedly apricot and white peach pit enlivened by a vibrant white grapefruit note at the close. 14.5% ABV | Sample San Antonio Winery  8.9 Points...

Windstream Sarmento Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2013

Windstream Sarmento Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2013

Windstream Sarmento Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2013" width="200" height="200" /></a>One of San Antonio Winery's brands, the Windstream Sarmento Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2013 shows considerable marine influence, given its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Glass-filling aromatics of rose petal and cinnamon bark. and dry leaves that crunch underfoot. The attack is bright and lean, with high-toned tart and seedy red forest berries, cranberries and astringent rose hips that terminate in a peppery finish. I was surprised to find the alcohol at 15.1%, it's deceptive. Sample San Antonio Winery 8.9 Points...

Arroyo Seco

Le P’tit Paysan L’Apiculteur Cedar Lane Vineyard Arroyo Seco Viognier 2013

From Ian Brand, the 2012 Le P'tit Paysan is 100% Viognier from Arroyo Seco. Penetrating aromas of honeysuckle, mandarin orange, and stone fruit. This is not a voluptuous Viognier, certainly the body and texture that are signature to the variety are there. This is Viognier stripped down to its core character, with a lean, coursing and nervy frame underneath. It's both surprising and breathtaking at the same time. The finish is lengthy, granitic and mouthwatering. This wine is all about contrast. Tasted November 2014. Le P'tit Paysan Wines 9.1 Points...

La Balena Cucina Toscana

La Balena Cucina Toscana & Foradori Fontanasanta

Dappled sunlight bathes La Balena’s patio in a warm and languid light, and, in spite of the fact that it’s mid-January here in Carmel, I’m regretting the jacket I’ve worn over my light cotton dress.  A nearby fountain with a salt-stained patina, seated in front of a hedge of flowering Bougainvillea, lends the atmosphere to a place that hardly requires further embellishment. We had with us, a chilled and golden-hued bottle of Foradori Fontanasanta Vigneti Delle Dolomiti Manzoni Bianco. My first encounter with this biodynamic producer would also be my first time sampling the aromatic Manzoni Bianco grape. A cross between Pinot Bianco and Riesling, Manzoni Bianco (or Incrocio Manzoni) is well-suited to the cooler climes of  the Veneto, Friuli, and Trentino-Alto Adige. All of these winegrowing regions are linked together by the rugged spine of Italy’s Limestone Alps, the Dolomites. Winemaker Elisabetta Foradori champions biodynamic methods of farming and uses a natural approach in the winery, including, as is evident here, extended maceration on the skins. 2012 is bursting with notes of unripened pear, alpine flowers, chamomile tea, dried herbs and a whiff of chalk dust. Medium-bodied, it boasts a lovely texture, fine intensity and saline-dusted mineral accents of granite and chalk....