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  • 2010 La Rochelle Chardonnay Dutton Ranch Morelli Lane Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (2/17/2013)
    A well made, balanced, chardonnay that marries the styles of California and the richer Burgundies.

    40% new French oak, 18 months sur lees.
    Only 120 cases made.

    Color is a golden yellow.
    Layered nose of rich brioche, tropical fruit, hint of citrus. A touch of oak at first that is gone second day.
    On the palate it surprises you - its not at all a CA butterbomb, the acidity is quite bright in the mouth
    and enhances the rich texture, bringing it into balance and very food friendly.
    The front palate is pineapple, green apple. The mid palate brings together the weight, acidity and minerality, while
    the finish is long, thanks to the great acidity, that leaves the mouth watering with citrus lingering on the tongue.

    A chardonnay that I think is better with some air (considering decanting, or using a Soiree) - the acidity is more pronounced. Definitely should served at proper cellar temp of 56-59 degrees, NOT Fridge temp of 38-42.

    A well made Chardonnay. Has the acidity to cellar for some years, and will improve even further with some cellaring if patient, but highly drinkable now as well. and enough with the chardonnay hate already. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (2/17/2013)
    One of the hardest things to do when reviewing wine is to take your personal preferences and beliefs out of the equation, and evalaute it for what it is, amongst similar, peer, wines.

    This is one of those wines, for my personal palate. I will be upfront and say that I struggle with Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) Pinot Noir style. Quite popular in the market, SLH Pinot is bigger, more brooding, darker fruit, higher alcohol...I think of it as the 'butch' side of feminine Pinot Noir. So in that backdrop, I compare this wine.

    Pinot Noir was only first produced in SLH starting in 2001.

    Generous use of French oak: 40% new, 60% second year. 31 months in barrel.
    Since the winemaker is experienced and talented, SLH must need a strong oak program,
    as those #s can rival some cabs.

    Color: Dark in color, more than you expect for Pinot but inline with SLH
    Nose: Toasty oak, black cherry, dark raspberry
    On The Palate: Full bodied but not overpowering. Bolder dark berry fruit, but not syrupy or lush.
    Good structure but not excessively tannic. The finish is clean, with a hint of vanilla.

    This is a well made Pinot, big but not hot, at 15.2% Alc., the sign of a well balanced wine.

    Another year in the bottle should reward patience with more oak integration with the fruit, if you are the cellaring type.
    At $38, 381 cases only, its a quality, Pinot Noir at a fair price, and more balanced than most SLH Pinot Noir I have had.

    If you are a bigger red drinking venturing into Pinot Noir land, or just like your Pinot a bit less girly and with more oomph, this wine is for you. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Steven Kent Petit Verdot Ghielmetti - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley (2/17/2013)
    I have to admit, when this tasting came to the Petit Verdot, I was hesitant.
    Petit Verdot is predominately as a blending grape for Bordeaux wines (also not my fave, especially new world style,)
    Its a grape, that not handled correctly, is extremely tannic, chalky, and difficult.

    But, carefully minded, and worked with...

    Steven has produced a great representation of Petit Verdot that will please newer world palates, but an elegant, sultry (if this exists for PV) side of Petit Verdot, a geek can appreciate.

    Interesting development that after testing & trials, the American oak performed the best save one barrel of 5 that was Hungarian.
    Only 100 cases produced.

    The color, (normal for PV) is inky black purple, not a ray of light passes through.
    Nose of violets, blackberry, dark cocoa powder, and vanilla
    On the palate: mocha, dark chocolate, ripe blackberry, a hint of sweet oak vanillans.

    A plush (not lush) wine that almost begs a fireplace over food.

    Think of Merlot, in fishnets and a fur.
    I could re-think Bordeaux after all.... (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Steven Kent Cabernet Sauvignon Home Ranch Vineyard - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley (2/17/2013)
    It makes me happy when the Cabernet is the lowest in alcohol of 4 reds & a white, from a winery. :)
    Cab is a flagship variety for Steven Kent, and it shows clearly in this wine.
    Oak is 24 months and 100 new French & American, which I was fearful, but is well balanced.

    Vibrant, dark purple in color.
    Aromatic nose of plum, leather, rich dark fruits, dried herbal note.
    Plum, blackberry, cassis, slightly drying tannins on finish. Great acidity
    that will help this wine gracefully. It should drink beautifully with a few more years as
    the modest oak integrates and the acid rounds off the edges.

    14.2% alc (91 pts.)
  • 2009 La Rochelle Pinot Noir Donum Estate Vineyard - USA, California, Napa / Sonoma, Carneros (2/17/2013)
    This wine was quite the talk of the tasting because of its interesting, herbaceous nose.
    Steven was quick to point out there are no Eucalyptus trees nearby, it a phenomenon of vintage.
    And by no means bad.

    Only 115 cases of this Pinot Noir, in the "Grand Cru" family were made.
    Donum Estate fruit is sold only to La Rochelle, the rest used by Donum themselves.

    40% new, 60% 2nd year, French oak, aged 19 months in barrel.

    Color is a light, clear, purple
    Nose: by 2nd day its more open, but the pepperminty tone never goes away, it does less dominate
    the red fruit, rhubarb and pomegranate that were more masked at first opening.
    On the Palate: its quite bright red cherry, tart raspberry, and spice, that have a pleasing finish, from the good acidity.

    Slightly bigger at 14.6% alc, but a reflection in part of the vintage , and most importantly, balanced.

    Drinkable now, acid & structure that will reward patience as well.

    (91 pts.)
  • 2011 Steven Kent Lola Ghielmetti Vineyard - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Livermore Valley (2/18/2013)
    I fell in love with this wine at first sip. For those seeking an escape from the popular NZ style, this is a good stop.

    To be fair, 1/3 of this wine is Semillon, the other 2/3 being Sauv Blanc.
    7 months in stainless, no ML.

    The outstanding attribute is its bright acidity, but that isn't uni-dimensional.

    Color is a light, pale, yellow
    Nose of tangerine, pink grapefruit, lime zest, sea breeze
    A bit more texture in the mouth would enhance this wine & its brightness, but its very enjoyable.
    A blend of lime, orange, tangerine, that doesn't quite sear the mouth, but is an excellent
    palate cleanser, and a great way to end a flight! Nice salinity mid palate, lingering finish.

    The tech sheet says can age 1-2 years, but drink young. Interesting, as it certainly has the acid to bottle age,
    and still I believe, benefit.
    Nonetheless - a perfect summer wine! (89 pts.)


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