Monthly Archives: July 2011

44 bottles of wine on the wall, 44 bottles of wine…

The 2½ years that Your West Coast Oenophile has devoted (so far) to creating Sostevinobile occasionally encounters moments that make my inexorable efforts seem all worthwhile, though, to be perfectly honest, attending an event like Taste of Oakville several weeks back, offers little relevance to the Wine-by-the-Glass program I am building (let’s see, if I can pour five glasses from a bottle of $400 Cabernet, that rounds out roughly to $80/glass—assuming I do not intend to make one single cent of profit). Still, depending on how we evolve, our Reserve Wine list and our retail sales will happily embrace each and every wine these über-premium labels allot us.

It would probably be hyperbolic for me to make the assertion that being afforded the opportunity to spend a glorious afternoon amid the hallowed chambers of the Robert Mondavi Winery, sipping what is inarguably the pinnacle of Napa Valley viticulture, seemed tantamount to ascending to heaven. On the other hand, having Zhang Ziyi serve me almost eighty indescribably wondrous Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeaux varietals, and Meritage blends would come pretty close to my definition of sheer, unadulterated ecstasy.

44) It seemed only fit to begin this afternoon with the 2007 Opus One from the autonomous joint venture of the same name that was founded by Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild (of the two Premier Cru vineyards that bear his name). Though these two departed titans obviously no longer manage this venture, Rothschild’s daughter, the Baroness Philippine, has striven to ensure that Opus One not be enveloped by the corporate ownership that acquired Mondavi in 2004. The result? This vintage of the first true cult wine remains as near-flawless as ever.
43) A quick Internet survey shows bottles of the 2007 Harlan Estate selling for $895 or better. Can a wine really be worth such an exorbitant price? Given the perfect scores it received not only from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate but also the secret Sostevinobile talley sheet I never let anyone view, this flagship bottling from Meadowood’s Bill Harlan could very well be.
42) Joining Opus One and Harlan in this august circle was the 2008 Collina Dalla Valle from Dalla Valle Vineyards. A breathtakingly beautiful wine, it was juxtaposed against a library sample of the 1994 Maya, Dalla Valle’s acclaimed Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend that proved stunningly equal, 17 years after bottling, to its younger cousin.
41) T
here is a sense of prestige and accomplishment in owning a Porsche—unless you happen to own a Lamborghini first. Similarly, the next tier of wines poured at this tasting could have easily headline nearly any other event. A metaphoric Turbo S Cabriolet, Futo Wines offered an astounding find, pouring their 2008 Futo Estate, a multilayered Cabernet Sauvignon blend underpinned by Cabernet Franc.
40) Another 530 Hp wine, the 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon Tierra Rioja unveiled from its library, presaged an auspicious evolution for the yet-unreleased 2008 vintage they also featured here. I would also note that the winery’s name, meaning “red earth” could not be more befitting the velvety crimson hue of this wine.
39) I can’t keep pace with the various permutations with “Oakville” incorporated in the name of estates that produce wine in this AVA, the most specific being Oakville East Exposure. Their exquisite 2008 Core Stone presented a balanced, textured blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot.
38) I tend to believe that the length of one’s name denotes to an inherent depth or quality. Vine Cliff Winery would probably be concordant with this notion, especially as it pertains to their delightful 2007 Private Stock 16 Rows Cabernet Sauvignon, a label that could not be more precise, unless they identified each individual bud.
37) An interesting winery I had not encountered previously, Spoto, brought out a decidedly mixed selection of Bordeaux style wines, leaving me with a profound preference for its 2007 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon over the other selections in the vertical tasting they poured, as well as over their Meritage blend, the 2008 Cuveé Arianna.
36) Next to Spoto, the renowned Screaming Eagle allotted fractional sips of their Cabernet, the 2008 Screaming Eagle. Make no mistake, this still is a profound wine, but at a minimum of $1500/bottle, I expected not simply to be floored but blown across the room. Allora, this is what inevitably happens when dedicated founders sell their winery—the Jeannie is out of the bottle.
35) Admittedly, I (as do most folks) can sometimes be swayed by attachments or predilections; it has been well documented throughout the years I have been penning the Sostevinobile blog that, in the 1980s, I often made the trek to the real estate offices of Phillips & Harris, Land Broker spurred by an infatuation I never found the temerity to verbalize. Similarly, I concede to having a pronounced affinity for wineries that resonate with my background or feature other commonalities.
I nonetheless am not averse to criticizing places that my predisposition might lend to me
favoring, nor have I been daunted from praising the efforts of wineries even if it might raise contention about my objectivity. Case in point, my effusive praise of late for
Gargiulo holds no correlation to our shared ties to Hotchkiss but highlights the strides they have made with the Aprile, its Oakville Sangiovese. Here, they even surpassed that effort with their 2008 OVX Cabernet Sauvignon, the fourth bottling of this special estate wine.
34) Had I discovered the website for Hoopes before I had sampled their wine, I am certain I would have found myself just as biased toward their Cabs. In a realm where compelling readers to scroll through a page for content is generally verboten, Hoopes’ home page features a 750 ml bottle of their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon amplified to 333⅓%—a 40″ image! The wine itself drinks like a bottling that could easily command similar inflation to $200, despite its relative diminutive $60 retail price. I easily enjoyed it as much as the bold statement its pictorial depiction implies.
In my own efforts to reduce scrolling by my readership, I need now to bring this post to an abrupt halt, knowing full well that the ensuing installment will pick up with yet another eleven amazing finds from this luxuriant gathering.

66 bottles of wine on the wall, 66 bottles of wine…

I really hadn’t planned to attend both days of the San Francisco Vintners Market, but for a variety of reasons, it became a logistics impossibility for Your West Coast Oenophile
to cover the numerous discoveries Sostevinobile had slated in one fell swoop. So here’s the A-Z of what I found, with a few other letters interspersed.

66) I admit to liking the motto for Aurielle Vineyards immensely: Art and Science in Divine Proportion. Which proportion of their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from Howell Mountain and which from Mt. Veeder isn’t specified, but the 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, ½% Merlot, and ½% Petit Verdot winemaker Chad Alexander blended made for a striking release of this 303-case production.

65) People with iPhones or iPads are well aware of Apple’s efforts to purge the world of Flash. Steve Jobs’ quarrel with Adobe stems from the point they switched allegiance and began focusing their software to be compatible with Microsoft. I won’t belabor the point with historical references to how the Apple/Adobe duumvirate ushered in the era of PostScript that eradicated the archaic dot-matrix printouts and displays of the 1980s nor to the utter elegance of the fully-integrated version of Illustrator 5 that Adobe developed for Jobs’ NeXT Computer. The real problem (from my standpoint) was that this ill-begotten alliance caused Adobe to eviscerate its User Manuals to accommodate the inferior functionality of the Windows platform.

A true tech geek will recognize this precursor to Mac OSX!

Confession: I lied my way into my first full-fledged graphics production contract by convincing the design director I knew all the ins & outs of Photoshop, then taught myself the entire program over the course of a weekend, methodically reading Adobe’s guidebook and working through their tutorial exercises. Some 20 years later, daily interaction with this program has made terms like monochromatic contrast and greyscale second nature. Greyscale Wines derives its name from the aforementioned photographic principle, but its select vintages manifest none of the legerdemain to which an advanced Photoshop user often resorts. Rather, winemaker Kian Takavoli handcrafted their 2008 Cuvée Blanc from Sauvignon Blanc, transparently rounded with Marsanne to create its distinctive crispness.

64) Penché is a French term, loosely translated as leaning, bending, or tilting—or, as Photoshop users would say, skewing. Fittingly, this premium Napa winemaker’s label articulates to form a parallelogram instead of the traditional rectangle, but there was nothing askew about its Meritage, the 2007 Argent Proprietary Red, a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend combining the five Bordelaise varietals from four distinct vineyards. Mon Dieu!

63) Despite listing its contacts near the San Francisco waterfront, Promenade offers a wine label wedding multiple Napa appellations that border Silverado Trail. Its lyrically named Meritage, the 2007 La Joyeuse Harmonie, consonantly blends Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville Merlot, and Pope Valley Cabernet Franc in an augmented triad—all that is missing its eponymous soundtrack.

62) Je ne comprends pasI’m
haven’t been able to decipher the schema by which Jean-Charles Boisset
selects the numerical designation for his releases, but the 2006 No. 7 from JCB constitutes a well-rounded Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that straddles the twin viticultural hp,es (California, France) for this new father of twin girls.

61) I was undeterred by the name for Pulgas Ranch, the Portuguese and Spanish word for fleas. An inveterate punster like myself might say I now have an itching for their 2007 Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard, but that would be straining the metaphor.

60) The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon made an impressive statement for Knights Bridge,
a winery whose operations straddle both Sonoma and Napa Counties, with
its estate vineyard located in the heart of the Knights Valley AVA.

59) Readers who recall the Ginkgo Girl from a few dozen installations here should know that Bolen Family Estates has no correlation to the erstwhile Bolan. This Oak Knoll winery produced an exceptional 2007 Merlot that, simply put, does not quit and leave you.

58) I might be curious to try the Lady of the Lake Sparkling Pear Wine Mt. Konocti Growers Winery produces one of these days, but for now I am content to have sampled the signature 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from their Lake County cooperative.

57) I’ve actually found a winery in California that produces Rkatsiteli, the signature grape of the Republic of Georgia (when I finally make my way to Avanguardia in Nevada City, I promise an entire post devoted to their esoteric wines). While Victor Eristavi proudly flaunts his Georgian roots, the wines he crafts on Treasure Island remain decidedly Californian. Still, there is a touch of Old World mastery quite evident in his 2009 Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley.

56) At the terminus of the English alphabet, Calistoga’s Zahtila Vineyards is another red wine-only venture producing Cabernet and Zin. The most impressive of the four wines I sampled was the homegrown 2007 Oat Hill Estate Zinfandel, an appropriate tribute to owner Laura Zahtila’s zeal and intensity.

I may have exhausted my allotted space for this entry, but I will complete my review of my four final discoveries in the next undectet of this series.

77 bottles of wine on the wall, 77 bottles of wine…

In a previous posting for Sostevinobile, Your West Coast Oenophile assayed the attendance factor at a number of industry events in San Francisco, including the most recent incarnation of the San Francisco Vintners Market. This is an admirable undertaking by promoters Cornelius Geary and Bridget Raymond, and, of course, it is up to them to determine the efficacy of this formula, but I would be remiss in not noting the many splendid labels I did encounter for the first time here.

77) There is something that borders on hazardous these days when you select a name that Google insists is a misspelling. Eric Hall’s Loopking Wines defies even the simplest Internet search, yet there was something more than compelling about the trio of Cabernets he poured. Nonetheless, the sole Merlot in his inventory of Bordelaise varietals, his 2007 Reserve Merlot Lake Cynthia Vineyard, stood out for its sumptuousness.

76) Up from Malibu, Ray Schofield seemed to enjoy adopting the role of eleutherarch for the conspiracy he billed as Cloak & Dagger Wines. Indeed, I found his 2008 Assassin, a Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from Howell Mountain’s Ink Grade Vineyard a clandestine pleasure, and look forward to the wines he neglected to stash sub rosa, especially his Sangiovese (aka the 2009 Illuminatus).

75) Tomarí Cellars is a boutique producer from Napa. Owner Tom Alfaz has enlisted an impressive roster of winemakers to consult with his winemaking and an equally impressive list of vineyards he has contract for both his Cabernet Sauvignon and his Pinot. His 2008 Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard proved a prodigious first effort, even for this can-do-no-wrong grape field.

74) I spent too many years in the advertising world not to recognize the computer-generated, quasi-Latin Lorem Ipsum gibberish that populates the web pages for Bracey Vineyards as a placeholder. But twelve years of formal Latin education does allow me readily to translate their motto Arduis Saepe, Metū Nunquam as “often through difficulty, never by fear.” And while their site may be underdeveloped, their wines showed a distinct maturity, as exemplified by the 2007 Howell Mountain Beatty Ranch Old Vine Zinfandel (as an aside, I’d be willing to wager that Bracey is the only winery that lists their owner’s Harvard alumni e-mail as their point of contact).

73) Peter Hartman’s SoMa Cellars heralds from San Francisco, where he bottled his first vintage at Crushpad, when their custom crush facility was located in the South of Market District (before they relocated to Premier Pacific’s facilities in Napa (before they relocated to Sonoma’s underutilized Sebastiani plant)). Despite this ongoing conundrum, SoMa has managed to release a highly impressive debut wine, and one can only hope that when SoMa does manage to find a less peripatetic home, it will continue to produce wine as elegant as the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley.

72) Another discovery was de Tomas Wines from St. Helena. Despite its Napa location, its 2007 Red Wine blended Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah from Sonoma County. Here, coincidentally, was a wine where Sostevinobile whole-heartedly concurred with my friend Alyssa Rapp of Bottlenotes in our approval.

71) In that category of wineries with which I would have sworn I had previously sampled, Maldonado’s presence here reprieved me for all the time I may have bypassed their table. With a wide portfolio of wines to sample, I found their signature Chardonnays most intriguing, but particularly cottoned to their 2008 Late Harvest White, a well-balanced Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend.

70) Idle Cellars is a maverick endeavor by three veterans of Deerfield Ranch. With four notable varietals under their belt, the standout, for me, from this Glen Ellen project was a textured 2008 Sangiovese.
69) Even among those wineries devoted exclusively to Iberian varietals, it is rare to find multiple bottlings of the same varietal; Metate Hill out of Murphys contrasted a pair of beautifully-crafted Albariños, with my overt favoritism going to the barrel-aged 2008 Albariño Barrica over its stainless steel sibling.

68) Also impressing with a Spanish-style wine, James & Janis Judd offered an exquisite 2008 Tempranillo from J&J Cellars, another of their several San Francisco-based labels.

67) Crosby Roamann is an ultra-boutique specialist, handcrafting lots of under 100 cases of whatever they see fit each year. I needn’t go out on a limb to praise their 2009 Out on a Limb, a truly compelling rendition of Sauvignon Blanc.

And in keeping with my efforts at small production, I am putting this entry to rest with one of the leanest word counts the Sostevinobile blog has ever produced! But there were too many striking discoveries at this event, and so my review will spill over into my next installment.

88 bottles of wine on the wall, 88 bottles of wine…

The foot of Bonneau Road rests just at the point where Hwy. 116 diverges from Hwy. 121 in Sonoma. Your West Coast Oenophile had a luncheon meeting to discuss Sostevinobile with John Bambury at the quaint, rustic delicatessen/wine bar that serves as home to Bonneau Wines, but, in one of those rare occurrences that happen once every fifteen years or so, I actually arrived ahead of schedule. Given the choice of trying to boost my ranking on Angry Birds (I currently stand at #5,893 out of 5,0444,923 iPhone players) or sampling some wines while I waited, I opted for the obvious and strolled across the parking lot to the tasting room Anaba had built last year.

88) I hadn’t visited this winery since they had constructed this nicely appointed cottage, but was pleased to let Anaba Tasting Manager Shelly Dougherty take me through a wide swath of their lineup, including a number of traditional and not-so-traditional Rhône blends winemaker John Sweaney calls Coriol (both white and red). The clincher here, though, was the enticing non-vintage White Aero Port, a fortified Viognier that begged to be wrapped in a recyclable brown paper bag. Naturally, I had to introduce the tasting room crew to the concept of White Port & Lemon Juice, with promises, later fulfilled, of visiting their booth at San Francisco Vintners Market with a couple of pre-squeezed plastic lemons to whip up said concoction.

87) Strolling back to Bonneau, John and I feasted in their patio garden on fresh turkey sandwiches, washed down with an exemplary bottle of his 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a perfect complement for our luncheon, our conversation, and the sunny afternoon before I headed out to visit with Richard Arrowood at his Amapola Creek.

86) Readers here know I could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon sampling my way through Amapola Creek, but I have known Richard and his winemaking going on thirty years now, from his time at Château St. Jean when it was solely focused on white wines. Today’s visit consisted merely of a social call, and I had but a few moments to catch up with him before heading halfway up the mountain to Petroni Vineyards on the western slope of the Mayacamas. The steep climb led to a semi-secluded estate on Cavedale Road where—could this be true?—an Irish flag demarcated the foot of the driveway.
To the considerable relief of both my departed grandmothers, the flag turned out to be the genuine Italian tricolore after all, with the red so weather-worn, it appeared to be orange. Inside the estate, however, the tones and hues were decidedly Tuscan, with wines as authentic to match. With Lorenzo vacationing in Italy, his Events Manager, Elizabeth Garneau, took me through a selection of his current releases, culminating in the extraordinary 2005 Brunello di Sonoma, a wine as close to a Brunello di Montalcino as can be found, vinted from his estate-grown Sangiovese Grosso. These same grapes were also use to craft his intoxicating Grappa di Lorenzo, a bottling that underscores my wish that all grape derivatives could be covered by a beer & wine license!
85) Several weeks before, Lorenzo had introduced me to John Vicini, a fellow Toscano making wine in Sonoma with his wife and son at the cleverly-named Trecini. I took the occasion of another Sostevinobile financial swing to visit with Cathy and David in their downtown Santa Rosa tasting room. While these wines offered no nod to Vicini’s Italian roots, they still exemplified the tradition of meticulous winemaking and viticultural practices that have long distinguished small family wineries in Sonoma. And, in keeping with the quality and character of the AVA in which they produce, the 2008 Pinot Noir Russian River Valley deftly held its own with every superb rendition of this particular vintage I have tasted.

84) Trecini also struck a highly concordant note with another can’t-miss bottling, their 2007 Rockpile Zinfandel, which proved an utterly delightful, fully capable of standing out on its own merits, even without the prodding of such accolades as its Gold Medal in the 2010 Finger Lakes International Competition.

 The newly remodeled Tasting Room for Medlock Ames in Alexander Valley could easily meet LEED standards and artfully reflects both the winery’s organic principles and environmental dedication.

83) I looped through Alexander Valley, an AVA I hadn’t really explored in quite some time, despite regularly sampling the preponderance of their wines. Somehow, over the past several years, I had missed out on Sausal at the various festivals it had poured—an oversight I was determined to rectify. Despite an easy trek up Hwy. 128, I found myself alone in their tasting room and so was able to sample through their entire available lineup, aided by the undivided guidance of Tasting Room Manager Angela Romano. Their stellar selection of Zins reaffirmed my regret at not visiting their table during ZAP, particularly the 2007 Century Vine Zinfandel.

82) The Demostene family that owns Sausal pays homage to its Italian roots with an estate grown Sangiovese and a number of proprietary Sangiovese blends. I found myself particularly fond of the 2005 Sogno di Famiglia, a miscuglio of Sangiovese, Zinfandel, and Carignane.

81) On my way to Sausal, I had espied my friend David Jefferson’s White Oak Vineyards. Before heading up to Alexander Valley I had had a lively debate with David Vicini over the virtues of Pinotage; coincidentally, David Jefferson bottles a Pinotage, but under the Lions Drift label from his Silkbush Vineyard in South Africa, the country where this varietal originated! Here in Sonoma, I sampled my way through his locally-produced wines, delighting in White Oak’s new release, the 2008 Alexander Valley Zinfandel.

80) White Oak produces a pair of reserve Meritages, inornately designated by the AVA from where they herald. While there was much to admire in the Napa Valley blend, the 2005 Alexander Valley Reserve combining estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot truly stood out.

79) I was scheduled to visit a unique solar installation on the west side of Healdsburg, but could not pass by the new Medlock Ames tasting room & country store without dropping in. This mindful restoration of the century old Alexander Valley Bar and Store purveys wine and food items throughout the day, then opens as a cocktail den at Happy Hour—a magnet for weary workers toiling in the vineyards and a tranquil escape for visitors to the Valley. Some other day, I will return and try their Setenta y Cinco, a highball of Bellringer Gin infused with fresh picked mint, lime, and orange bitters, topped with J Cuvée 20 or indulge in the Nocino Manhattan, a twist on the classic cocktail blending Buck Bourbon, Carpano Antica and Nocino Walnut Liqueur. I was perfectly content to sample their 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, yet another proof of how this particular varietal transforms itself when produced organically.

78) It is always wonderful to find a Merlot that harkens back to my early days on the professional wine circuit, before this then-underserved varietal exploded with a profusion of mediocre bottlings and overladen vines. Here, Medlock Ames shone brightly with a 2006 Merlot just beginning to peak with layers of intensity.

I tried to tour Jordan before my aforementioned meeting with George Doubleday II, but even with the electric fences gone and the surveillance cameras removed, one still needs a set appointment to taste through their wines. No matter—as readers here know, Sostevinobile is never one to give up quite so easily.

99 bottles of wine on the wall,* 99 bottles of wine…

Your West Coast Oenophile has remained deluged with responsibilities for keeping the vision of Sostevinobile alive, and yet I owe acknowledgments to so many whose wines I have enjoyed these past few months. So, in no particular order or with any attempt to rank them, here’s a list of the many memorable vintages I’ve sampled:

99) I visited with Ray D’Argenzio, who is developing a cluster of artisan wineries and food purveyors in an enclave he calls Santa Rosa Vintners Square. As we compared our common roots from Avellino to California via grandparents who had settled in Glen Cove, NY, I sampled what is arguably the first bottling of “raisin wine” in California, the 2007 D’Amarone. Classic Amarone is produced from a blend of semi-desiccated Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes, but I am unaware of any successful plantings of these varietals stateside. Ray’s interpretation came from a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah—grapes that are no strangers to late harvest bottlings, but he is striving ultimately to bottle a replica of the authentic constituency. Perhaps even with a hand-blown, twisted bottle neck?

98) From next generation winemaker, daughter Breanna, came a highly impressive debut effort, the 2008 Sant’Angelo Sangiovese, vinted from fruit grown in Amador County.

97) I had come to the Vintners Square, following a most promising meeting with Silicon Valley Bank, to meet with Matthew Trulli of MJ Lords. His first allure had been the promise of sampling only the third pure varietal bottling of the “sixth Bordeaux red” I have found in California, though several wineries do blend this grape into their Meritages. The signature grape of the emerging Chilean wine industry, Matthew’s yet-to-be-released 2009 Carménère, clearly showed an ability to give the South Americans a run for their money.

96) Another signature varietal rarely cultivated here, Matthew’s 2009 Montepulciano (to disambiguate, the Abruzzese varietal, not the Tuscan vino nobile derived from Sangiovese) amply displayed the kind of complexity I have come to expect from this burgeoning viticultural talent.

95) Matthew shares his space with Krutz Family Cellars, a decidedly understated venture that left a deep first impression. Owner/winemaker Patrick Krutz showcased his take on yet another South American standard with his 2007 Napa Valley Malbec.

94) Not many fledgling operations can presuppose to charge $195 for a 1.5L bottle of anything, but, without question, Patrick’s 2007 Stagecoach Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon rose to the occasion—and then some.

93) A third suite mate, Sheldon Wines, moved here from the Sebastopol caboose where I had originally met with them last year. Here Dylan’s 2009 Graciano continued to rise in my estimation from the exceptional previous vintage that I had tasted.

92) I have long felt the same ambivalence towards Viansa as I have about the Punahou Kid. On a philosophical level—at least in what they purport to champion—I am vocally in accord; what they actually have accomplished or delivered, however, has been a far cry from what I am able to bring myself to endorse. But while the neophyte in the Oval Office combats our economic miasma by committing our scant resources to yet a third theater of overseas combat, Sonoma’s Italian varietal pioneers have taken stock in their disparate œnological forays and revamped with a focus on quality, while still retaining a pronounced fidelity to their founding mission.

Under the stewardship of independent owner Lloyd Davis, Viansa has realigned, jettisoning a number of varietals that failed to gain traction, increasing their portfolio of more traditional wines like Chardonnay and Syrah, along with Bordelaise varietals Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon, while still fortifying the array of Italian wines on which founder Sam Sebastiani had originally focused. Perhaps no wine better exemplified this transition than the 2009 Arneis, a crisp, delectable rendition of a varietal that had hovered near mediocrity in its earliest vintages here.

91) Just as astounding was the risorgimento of Viansa’s 2009 Reserve Vernaccia, one of the most delightful Italian whites to be produced in California.

90) Not all Sangiovese is created equal, and few on this side of the Atlantic realize that there are multiple variants to this grape. The Sangiovese Grosso used in Barolo is, as one might infer, a bold, powerful strain of this varietal; here, Viansa showed the subtle intensity of its somewhat overshadowed brethren, with their 2005 Piccolo Sangiovese, again an exceptional expression that reaffirmed the appropriateness of transplanting the Italian family of grapes along the West Coast.

89) I made my way through virtually all of Viansa’s lineup before I tried their thoroughly splendid dessert wine, the 2009 Tocai Friulano. Some winemakers seek to restrain the sweetness of this grape; here, the unfettered expression created an extraordinary wine that could complement the finale of any repast.

I took my leave of Lloyd and his gracious tasting staff, not before collecting a bottle from his hand-picked Signature Series for further evaluation, to head north for more tastings, meetings, and the inexorable pursuit of the wherewithal to make Sostevinobile a prominent presence on the viticultural scene.

*this actually should have read “deposited in the blue recycling bin,” but there wasn’t headline space to fit it.