Hall Winery T Bar T Ranch Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Hall Napa Valley T Bar T Ranch Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blancby Jacob

Wine is always a welcome gift, it gives us the opportunity to try something new and to learn more about wines that entice our family and friends.
A bottle of the 2010 Hall Winery T Bar T Ranch Alexander Valley Sauvignon Blanc came as a gift from my brother after his trip to Napa Valley last year. Hall is winery that I have heard a lot about from other friends, but never had the chance to try.
The $30 wine is a light straw color in the glass and smells great, with a bright floral and citrus (lemon) nose. It is a complex Sauvignon Blanc that almost tastes as if it was aged for a short time in oak barrels, as it has a combination of citrus and light oak. Unlike many New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s, it does not have the grass flavor that so often comes with the grape. Hall has done a great job of mellowing the wine.
If you have the chance to try it, go for it—the 2012 is still available! It is excellent. (Rating: Very Good)

Cameron Hughes Lot 291 Lodi Zinfandel 2010

by Jacob

Several years ago, I had the chance to review a sample box of Cameron Hughes wines from TastingRoom.com. Overall, those tastings were a positive experience and made me want to try more of Cameron Hughes’ wines. Cameron Hughes is an interesting winery. Instead of owning vineyards or sourcing fruit from the same places year after year, the Cameron Hughes winery locates the best available grapes and makes them into wine labeled by lot. As the winery explains:

The Lot Series of wines preserves the ultra-premium quality of the original Lot by bottling it unadulterated and never “back-blended.” Each Lot is numbered to maintain the integrity of the original wine. While each Lot varies in case quantities and price, it always delivers exceptional value.

Recently, I had the chance to buy some Cameron Hughes wine from Woot.com for about $10 bottle, including shipping. The first bottle I opened was the 2010 Cameron Hughes Lot 291 Lodi Zinfandel. The wine is bottled with a cork and has a nose of bright dark cherry with just a hint of spice. The wine is young and has almost no tannins and is jammy in the glass with more dark cherry flavor and a peppery finish (typical of zinfandel). At a little less than $10 a bottle and available at Costco, Safeway and other merchants, this is a wine to search out (15% alcohol). (Rating **** 1/2).


Gann Family Cellars Alexander Valley Merlot 2005

In 2004, following the premiere of the movie Sideways, Merlot experienced a decline in sales and status when Paul Giamatti’s character Miles disparaged the ordering and drinking of Merlot. As one of the noble grapes, however, Merlot should not be so quickly dismissed because it can produce classic and easily aged wines. In my experience, the aging of Merlot can be achieved for expensive French Right-bank Bordeaux as well as less expensive American bottles. In fact, in the past, I reviewed a Francis Ford Coppola 2001 Diamond Series Merlot that was given to me as a gift. I found that aging the wine gave it a supple quality that is not present in younger versions of Coppola’s Merlot.

During a special promotion from the wine flash-sale site Lot 18, I ordered two bottles of the 2005 Gann Family Cellars Alexander Valley Merlot (13.9% alcohol). This is not a winery that I was familiar with, but I Googled them and found that the price Lot 18 was offering was a good deal and I decided it give it a try.

Upon opening the bottle, the first thing that I noticed is that there was a little sediment on the cork and that the wine smelled great in the bottle.  Because of the sediment, I poured very slowly to ensure that very little sediment was deposited in my glass. A deep garnet color in the glass, the wine had a nose of ripe pit fruit (think plum) and berries (certainly light strawberry, but also a little blackberry). On first taste, the wine was quite bright with mixed berries, black plum, medium tannis, and in classic Merlot fashion, pepper (although the pepper here was very, very light).

On the second day, the wine was still quite enjoyable, but not nearly as bright or as fruity.  On both days, the bottle paired wonderfully with dark chocolate! Purchased from Lot 18, 2 bottles cost $29.99.  (Rating ****1/2)


Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka

A grapefruit flavored vodka? We were, honestly, skeptical. We should have known better: it’s Charbay, and Charbay produces no dreck.

Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka is delicious. We feared that the spirit would be drown in a cloying, artificial flavor. Instead, we got a lovely soft vodka that has just enough grapefruit in it to thrill the mouth. Very well done. (Rating ****1/2)
See if our retailer can sell you Charbay by clicking here. Then type “Charbay” in the search engine and click the magnifying glass image.


Trefethen Double T Napa Valley Red Wine 2007

by Jacob

Lately, California wine makers seem to be producing more and more blended red wines. Perhaps it is an attempt to create Bordeaux or Rhone style wines to capitalize on the popularity of French wine.  In other instances, it appears that California wine makers are attempting to express “terroir” and highlight place in their offerings.  Blending red wine is one of accomplishing that, as the wine maker can show off a particular vineyard with a field blend or a vintage by blending various grapes to make an expressive wine.

For several years, Trefethen Family Vineyards has produced a blended red wine under the label Double T Napa Valley Red. In explaining the wine, Trefethen says:

Many of the vines producing the grapes for this wine are trained on a quadrilateral cordon trellis, commonly known as “Double T.”  The vine is pruned and trained so that its branches, or cordons, form four arms resembling two Ts, hence the name.  Double T also refers to the two Trefethens, owners John and Janet, who created the Tempting Taste of this fine red wine, which you may find yourself Tasting Twice.

In 2007, the wine was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlto, Cabernt Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It has a very dark cherry and spice nose that produces a dark (think inky) colored wine that is high in tannis on the first sip. With flavors of pit fruit (mostly plums), some raspberry, and hints of cocoa.  Over time this $25 wine opens up nicely and seems to be a candidate for a bit more time in the cellar before opening.  (Rating ****)