sauvignon blanc

3 New Releases from Paul Dolan Vineyards

Paul Dolan Vineyards


Have you ever had any wines from Mendocino County?  Until recently when I took San Francisco Wine School’s CWAS program I had not been exposed to a lot of wine from Mendocino.  At many retail wine outlets the selection from California consists mostly of Central Coast and Napa/Sonoma, with very little from Mendocino.  The area has a rich wine history and if you’re looking to expand your palate, this is the first place I would recommend you start.

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Mendocino County

paul dolan sauvignon blanc bottle

Vineyards:  100% Potter Valley, Mendocino County

Aging: 100% stainless steel fermented and aged

Alcohol: 13.5%

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

This wine is an almost perfect blend of the Californian and New Zealand styles of Sauvignon Blanc.  The nose has distinct lemongrass notes while the palate is a blend of kiwi and grapefruit.  This wine has a very solid backbone of acidity, and just enough ripeness to dial that acidity back a notch.  Suggested retail is $18.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 96 points

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir, Mendocino County

paul dolan pinot noir bottle

Vineyards:  100% Potter Valley, Mendocino County

Aging: 16 months in new and seasoned oak barrels (currently no additional information, I’ll update when I learn more)

Alcohol: 13.5%

Production: 2,000 cases

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

This wine has some nice notes of leather and red fruit on the nose.  The palate consists of crisp strawberry and cocoa.  This is a medium/light bodied wine with low tannins and a medium/low level of acidity.  Suggested retail is $30.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 88 points.

Paul Dolan Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel, Mendocino County

paul dolan zinfandel bottle

Vineyards: 100% Mendocino County

Aging: 16 months in new and seasoned oak barrels (currently no additional information I’ll update when I learn more)

Alcohol: 14.5%

Production: 4,000 cases

Certified Organic by C.C.O.F.

I really enjoyed this wine as it was a welcome departure from the overly ripe simplistic fruit bombs I’ve been running into lately.   Blackberry, black pepper, full bodied, medium/high tannins and medium acidity.  The wine evolved quite nicely over my 24 hour tasting period.  I recommend decanting for at least an hour or two on this wine as of right now (Oct 2014)  Suggested retail is $25.  Weekly Wine Journal rating 92 points.


I was pleasantly surprised by all three wines. Why?  I didn’t know what to expect, I had no pre conceived opinions of what these wines might be.  I know I’m supposed to do that with all wines, but if you put a $100 Napa Cabernet in front of me I can’t help it – I just know it’s going to be pretty good. More often than not, it is.   But with these wines I just didn’t know and now that I do, I have a new standard with which to measure all wines from the region.  The wines were interesting, a departure from the standard fare.  But not such a radical departure as to be weird and off putting.  Just enough to be interesting and delicious.

Another thing to note as that Paul Dolan Vineyards doesn’t seem to be making a big deal about their Certified Organic credentials by plastering it on the front label of the bottle.  The stewardship of the environment doesn’t just stop with being organic.  Special attention is paid to water reclamation and waste.  Tim Thornhill, chief operating officer and owner talks about changes he made at his other project, Parducci Wine Cellars in an upcoming PBS series titled Quest for Water.

Paul Dolan Vineyards website




New boutique online wine store hopes to make it big

A few weeks ago The Weekly Wine Journal sent out a tweet to wineries and wine makers offering to help get their word out.  For free!  The response was rather tepid, however there was one response that caught my attention.  @winepassionate responded to the effect, that although they are not a winery or wine maker, would I still be interested.

I’m glad I took the opportunity because it exposed me to some new wines while recharging my interest in social media! is a brand new boutique online wine store specializing in wines from Italy, Chile, Argentina and California.  They recently became the official reseller of Ducati wines.

The sample pack I received included a Chianti, a Malbec and a Sauvignon Blanc

ChiantiLa Moto, Chianti Riserva DOCG, 2006, Italy

Blend:  85% Sangiovese, 10% Canaiolo, 5% Cabernet

Alcohol: 12.5%

I couldn’t find too much detailed information on this wine, other than on the wine passionate website which states that this wine was aged for 2 years in oak with additional bottle aging.  I don’t know why but I was expecting a dry bitter Sangiovese.  I was pleasantly surprised by the supple fruitiness of this wine.  It paired with my home made marinara sauce quite well.  This is not a terribly complex wine, and as such it is quite food friendly.  This wine retails for about $20-$25.

wine reviewJuana de Sol 2010 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina

This wine was the most interesting of the three for me.  The wine itself was a very dark almost inky purple.  The nose on this wine had some nice elements of black fruit and spice.  The palate was the most interesting part, intermingled with a light black cherry and blackberry fruitiness was an olive like funky earthiness that I found very interesting.  There is a bit of heat on this wine that sears the nostrils, and at only 13.5% alcohol that is a bit surprising but not enough to be seriously off-putting.  This wine would pair very well with beef roasts and marinades. Wine Advocate gave this wine 88 points, which is in the range of 86-89 that I was thinking.  At about $15 retail this wine offers a decent value

Trile 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Valle Central, Chile

According to the back of this bottle, this 100% Sauv blanc was bottled very young.  The alcohol only weighs in at 12%.  I wasn’t expecting much from this wine, but was actually pleasantly surprised.  If you are tired of the New Zealand lemon grass monsters, and the California sugar monsters, this is the wine for you.  The nose is subdued, with hints of lemon.  The palate is very light, with touches of lemon grass and an interesting nuttiness.  As the wine warmed up to room temperature the lemon grass came through a little more, but not nearly as much as most.  This wine is a decent value at around $12 retail, think casual summer sipper.

Thanks to for reaching out, and cudos for their exceptional social media manners.

Sauvignon Blanc Shoot Out

Starborough | Washington Hills | Barefoot

Wine Blog

With Spring in full swing and summer just around the corner it’s time to start thinking about cool crisp and refreshing wines to quench our palates.  To this end I took a trip to my local grocery store’s wine department and somewhat randomly picked out a selection of Sauvignon Blanc to review for you

In picking the wines, I wanted to pick three wines, from different areas and at different price points, though staying under $15 as the Weekly Wine Journal’s budget is not as robust as you might think.

Starborough, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand.

The nose on this wine has hints of lime and lemon grass, not an incredibly aromatic nose.  On the palate the lime like acidity really pops, giving the wine a refreshing perk.  The lemon grass that Sauv Blancs from Marlborough are well known for made an appearance in the mid palate, and was quite nicely balanced, not over powering.   I enjoyed the tart crispness of this wine, a good straightforward, refreshing wine wine for a hot summer day.

Price: $11.99 | Alcohol 13% | 89 points Weekly Wine Journal

Washington Hills, 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, Washington State

This wine really surprised me right away.  The nose is amazing.  Big aromatics.  Ripe Melon intermingled with the interesting perfume of Lychee.  The palate features tropical fruits balanced with just enough acidity to keep it from being flabby.  This wine was my favorite of the group

Price $10.99 | Alcohol 13.8% | 93 points Weekly Wine Journal

Barefoot, Sauvignon Blanc, California.

Over the years many people have told me how much they have enjoyed the Barefoot wines.  They assured me they weren’t that bad.  So I decided I would give them a try.  Unfortunately they were all wrong. I found it difficult to detect a nose on this wine.  The palate was one dimensional.  It really just tasted like watered down kids apple juice, with an unpleasant hint of alcohol.

Price $ 5.99 | Alcohol % ? | 78 points Weekly Wine Journal

There you have it folks, 2 wines to enjoy and one to avoid.  Have you tried any of these wines? What kinds of wines do you enjoy when the weather heats up?

Brancott Estate | Marlborough

Brancott Estate, Marlborough New Zealand

2010 Sauvignon Blanc | 2010 Pinot Noir

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a private wine tasting for wine industry sales people and among the selection were two wines from New Zealand’s Brancott Estate.

Brancott estate wineBrancott Estate Wines started in 1934 as Montana Wines, but recently changed their name to Brancott Estate.  The Brancott vineyard was their flagship vineyard and so they thought it appropriate to make the change.

Brancott were among the first to plant pinot noir in the Marlborough region and also among the first to recognize that Sauvignon Blanc was going to be huge for New Zealand.

Speaking of the Sav-blanc, here’s the info:

The wine has a pleasantly ripe aroma and palate.  Tropical fruit intermingled with lemon grass spice.  And I mean exactly like dried lemon grass spice.  I actually have a bottle of this spice on hand to help people understand wine terminology.  The wine is straight forward, uncomplicated but not flabby or boring.   I think this is a pretty good deal at $10 to $15 retail depending on where you shop.

The pinot noir was interesting.  I am so much more used to the various flavor profiles of California pinots.  This one was quite a bit different.  Not as complex as some of the big names, but I think it’s quite a steal at $10 to $15 retail.

Aromas of cherries and strawberry with a fruit forward palate with the nice little added kick of cinnamon spice.  The big difference with the majority of California Pinots is that this wine had a decent funky earthy quality to it.

Weekly Wine Journal rating on both wines: 89 points

Wine review: Arizona Stronghold

I recently tasted these 4 wines from Arizona Stronghold at the famous Wrigley Mansion.  See my article on that event HERE.

“Tazi” 2008

The Blend: 52% Sauvignon Blanc, 21% Chardonnay, 19% Riesling and 8% Malvasia

Aging: Stainless steel and neutral oak

Production: 1,967 Cases

Alcohol: 13.7%

Price: $17.99

This was the first wine of the evening, and I think it is perfect for that purpose.  A good balance between the crispness of the Sauvignon Blanc and the sweetness of the Riesling.  It’s not to dry and not too sweet.

“Dayden” 2009

The Blend: Zinfandel, Grenache, Sangiovese, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc –no information on the exact percentages yet

Aging: Stainless Steel

Production: 872 Cases

Alcohol: 11.9%

Delicious!  That is my single tasting note.  Light, crisp and refreshing.  The fruit is predominantly Strawberry and Cherry with a hint of terroir vaguely French in nature.

“Mangus” 2008

The Blend: 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Sangiovese and 9% Merlot.

Aging: Neutral Oak

Production: 1,359 cases

Alcohol: 14.7%

Price: $19.99

Another interesting wine, I found it to be quite powerful.  If you like the bigger bolder reds this will be the wine for you.  The style is a lot more subtle than an Australian fruit bomb or a highly extracted Napa Cab.  A dry red wine, the fruit is predominantly cherry with earthy components and a strong backbone of acidity.

“Nachise” 2008

The Blend: 52% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 15% Petite Sirah and 6% Mourverdre

Aging: Neutral Oak

Production: 2,009 cases

Alcohol: 14.7%

Price: $19.99

This is a wine a could drink all night long, without having to switch to something else.  Why?  Great dark fruit, blackberry blue berry, very smooth fine tannins and a very interesting component that can only be described as Juniper and or pine.  The wine is French in nature, more specifically Rhone.  Once again, not a highly extracted fruit bomb, which is a welcome change for my palate.  Great supple mouthfeel and nice long lingering finish.  At 14.7% I would have expected more heat from the alcohol but I was pleasantly surprised, the heat is kept in check, and the alcohol provides plenty of lift for the aromatics.