Month: December 2019

Arroyo Cellars 2016 Chardonnay

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A new winery in 2019- Arroyo Cellars located in Livermore, but getting grapes from a variety of sources from Dry Creek to Napa to Livermore. Will need to spend some time to understand their role in the market. This evening was a 2016 Chardonnay from Carneros AVA in Napa Valley which was bright and clear. More moderate between old world and new world as butter & sweetness is concerned. Minerality and a soft lemon citrus were the distinguishing traits. Solid mid length finish. An excellent stand alone Chardonnay. #arroyocellars #chardonnay #livermorewines #napachardonnay





2016 Garnacha de Fuego

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2016 Garnacha de Fuego paired this evening with garlic butter baked pork chops and cheese potaoes. This wine comes from the mountains of Spain around 3,000 feet elevation from Bodegas Breca in the Calatayud D.O. from the Aragón area. 100% Garnacha de Aragón, the oldest clone of Garnacha (Grenache) in the world. The vineyard is dry farmed and with an arid climate, produces an unique characteristics of raspberries & cherries and with a dry minerality/earthy finish. #grenacha #spanishwines #spanishwinelover







2015 Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Chardonnay

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On the eye, a light golden straw/hay coloring with medium body. On the nose, floral notes and minerality. On the palate, pear, green apple, citrus and honeydew dance in the mouth. Acidity is managed well with a hint of vanilla and a touch of oak on the finish. This is a refined and perhaps elegant Chardonnay. Stiling Vineyard, located in the Russian River Valley was planted in 1988. The vineyard is famous for the Goldridge sandy loam soils and ten acres planted in Chardonnay.

2011 Crocker & Starr Stone Place Cabernet Sauvignon

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Christmas Eve dinner of tri-tip, potato and salad. Paired with a 2011 Crocker & Starr Stone Place Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark purple and heavy viscosity on the eyes. Raspberries, tobacco and licorice on the palate. A great lasting finish with a faint vanilla and oak. Now on to watch Miracle on 34th Street. Merry Christmas! #crockerandstarr #cabernetsauvignon #pamstarr #napacabernetsauvignon #




Laura Michael 2015 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon

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Laura Michael 2015 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. From this quite boutique winery just outside downtown Calistoga heading east. A beautiful dark red on the eyes with a medium viscosity. Aromas of red fruits. On the palate, additional smooth French oak coat the mouth. The famous Rutherford dust is dominated each perfect sip. Laura over the years has always produced excellent and enjoyable wines which are stocked in the cellar. This one will be hard to keep long in the cellar! #lauramichaelwines #calistogawines #napacabernetsauvignon




Three Unique features of Foursight Wines, 2018 Sauvignon Blanc From Boonville, California

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First is that it comes from Boonville, California in the Anderson Valley AVA. This area is known for Pinot Noir and white wines. Mostly due to the topography and with warm inland areas and summer cooling in the late afternoon with fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean. The elevation goes to almost 1700 feet in western Mendocino County. It is also consider one of the cooler AVA’s in California. Additionally only 558 acres of vineyards are planted out of 56,155 acres in the AVA or roughly only 1%.

The second most intriguing aspect of this AVA, specifically Boonville, is their language called Boontling. It is a dying language or dialect known to have developed in the area. It is a mixture of English, Scottish, Gaelic, Irish and even Pomoan and Spanish. It was believed to have started in the 1800’s to talk behind each other backs and has strong sexual undertones. Less than 100 people today speak the language. Here are some key words and transliteration of a couple of phrases (G-rated):


buckey walter: n. A pay telephone {Combination of buckey (nickel) and “Walter.” A man named Walter Levi owned the first phone in the valley; as a result Walter Levi is a telephone. Early pay phone required only a nickel.}

kilockety: v. To travel by train. {Imitative of the sounds of metal wheels on rails.}

wess: v. To fib; to exaggerate. {A Boonter named Wes often “stretched” the truth, esp. in telling stories.}

fratty shams: n. Grapevines. {Combination of fratty (wine) and shams (brush).}


And thirdly for Boonville, and most importantly, it is the home of Foursight Wines. While only three acres are planted Sauvignon Blanc they must be carefully groomed in this cooler climate zone. This 2018 is 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes and they use both stainless steel and neutral French oak. It won a Gold Medal in the 2019 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Perhaps one of the more unique Sauvignon Blancs in California with a almost pale yellow clarity. Thinking it was initially going to be weak, it burst open with lime citrus, lemon custard and minerality. Yet in the background a soft pear and subtle apple concoction lingered.  The finish was strong and enjoyable. Paired with sautéed scallops, risotto and fresh garden salad made a wonderful meal. Additionally,  a seared Ahi steak was enjoyed with this wine the next evening.









Vinum Cellars 2013 Chenin Blanc – A Versatile Wine for All Tastes!

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Chenin Blanc has a long history with the first recording in a land-grant dating back to  845. Chenin Blanc originally from Loire Valley in France now can be found in many areas like the United States, Argentina and today South Africa, where 50% of worldwide vineyards are planted. In South Africa it is known as Steen, but also around the world goes by the names of Vouvray, Savennieres and others. 


Personally speaking, this was one of the first grape varietals I was exposed to and always enjoyed it as a refreshing wine. Today, with a further bit of education, I now understand that Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape ranging from cooler climates (providing more acidity) to warmer weather (giving more body) in general characteristics. Thriving with this range of terroir, Chenin Blanc can be sweet, dry, semi-sweet, and posses a light to medium heavy body.


This Vinum Cellars 2013 Chenin Blanc showed a pale straw yellow on the eyes and a medium viscosity. On the nose, aromatics of apple, honey dew and minerality appeared as the leaders on the senses. On the palate, jasmine, honey, lime citrus dominated in the mouth. The acidity was strong but not overpowering. Another unique characteristic especially of this wine, was the change over temperature. For every few degrees, you experienced an intriguing change of flavor profiles. The predominant flavor lead switched between lime, apple and lemon as well as honey, pear and minerality.  Surely not to be confused as a chameleon but a wine steeped in strong transitional variations over temperature.


Admittedly, before doing this story, I had not a single bottle of Chenin Blanc in the cellar. I do believe, next summer and spring it will show up as a nice alternative to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Roussanne, Picpoul and other refreshing white wines.









Best Wines Tasted in 2019 and My Personal Reccomendations

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In 2019 I was fortunate enough to taste and appreciate over 1600+ wines. I have listed the top 6% of those wines. I have broken it out by price point, those $50 and under and those $51 and up—-something for everyone! I believe whole heartily and stand by these picks, as I not only tasted each, but all of these wines are in my cellar.
No matter which category, each wine listed will enhance your tasting experience.
Only 29 wines are listed in the $51 and Above Group. And 21 wines made the $50 and Less Group. These wines represent some of best quality for California wines. Again most can be purchased at the winery only and are based upon availability.


Again this year based upon feedback are the Best Imported Wines. These wines are markedly above average, unique in specific characteristics and should be tried. Additionally most of these would only be sold at your local high end retail store. I have also provided the links to  The Wine Steward (a great importer) and Topochines Wines (focused on Croatian wines) and they would be happy to procure these for you.


On many of the higher end wines, I listed the pricing for their current release. as I had procured them years ago. Additionally, all pricing was checked via the winery website, phone calls to the winery or an average price on a web search.


During the years I have kept meticulous notes on each wine tasted and hope you enjoy these selections in the coming year. Wishing you a wonderful New Year and that 2020 be prosperous, meaningful and find you in good health.


Michael Kelly

Best California Wines $50 and less (Links in purple are stories on the wine or winery)

3 Steves 2014 Cabernet Franc, Cienega Valley $45
3 Steves 2016 Carmenere, $35
Acquiesce 2018 Ingenue $32
Acquiesce 2018 Picpoul $28
Allegorie 2015 Tempranillo, $32
Alyris 2015 Chardonnay Audition, $45
Black Sheep 2014 Censaut, $24
Chatom 2014 Malbec, $28

Crocker & Starr 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, $38
Dracaena Wines 2016 Cabernet Franc Reserve, $45
Gossamer Cellars 2014 Negroamaro, $28

Hanna 2016 Chardonnay, Russian River $29
Hoopes Vineyard 2015 Chardonnay, Genny’s Vineyard $50
Jazz Cellars 2014 Lone Oak Pinot Noir, $44
Jazz Cellars 2017 Rhapsody (Marsanne/Roussanne) $26
Jeff Renquist 2017 Charbono $27
Jeff Renquist 2018 Cabernet Franc $26
Jessie’s Grove Winery 2013 Ancient Vine Zinfandel $45
Jessie’s Grove Winery 2015 Carignane $32
Kenefick Ranch 2016 Cabernet Franc, Caitlin’s Select $50
Ketcham Vineyards 2017 Pinot Noir, $48
LangeTwins 2015 Midnight Reserve, blend, $40
LangeTwins 2016 Cabernet Franc $32
LangeTwins 2017 Petite Sirah $32
Las Positas 2015 Tempranillo, $48
Lavender Ridge 2017 Grenache, $28
Lavender Ridge 2017 Roussanne, $28
Ledson 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $34
McKahn Family Cellars 2016 Syrah $49
McKahn Family Cellars 2017 Grenache $36
Monticello Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Franc, $34
Paoletti Estate 2012 Nero d’ Avola, (current release $42)
Rapp Ranch 2016 Chardonnay, $40
Saddleback Cellars 2017 Pinot Blanc, $30

Shale Canyon 2014 Cabernet Franc, $30
Stevenot 2016 Barbera Gran Reserva, $34

Tate Wines 2013 Merlot, $50
Terminim 2017 “Cepages d’ Or” (Marsanne/Roussanne), $40
Wood Family Vineyards 2017 “Against the Grain”, $45
Wood Family Vineyards 2017 Cabernet Franc, $34
Wood Family Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay, $30
Zuidema 2016 Grenache, $42

Best California Wines $51 and up (Links in purple are stories on the wine or winery)

Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, $250
Alyris 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, $85
Arkenstone 2015 Cabernet Sauvginon Coliseum Block $175
Arkenstone 2016 Cabernet Sauvginon NVD, $90
Brecon 2016 Cabernet Franc, $62
Caymus 2008 Special Selection (current release $190)
Crocker & Starr 2010 & 2014 Cabernet Franc (current release $150)
Crocker & Starr 2016 Casili 7, Malbec blend, (current release $95)Detert 2016 Cabernet Franc East Block ($175)
2010 Gemstone Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $155)
Graciano 2014 Pinot Noir Estate, $6
Hanna 2016 Bismark Cabernet Sauvignon, $70
Hoopes 2016 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, $75
J. Davis 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $120)
Kelly Family Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (no relationship), $85
Kistler 2015 Chardonnay Les Noisetiers , (web $71)
Lail Blueprint 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, (current release $80)
Larkmead 2007 Cabernet Sauvingon, The Lark (current release $360)
Larkmead 2008 Solari, (current release $240)
Larkmead 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, LMV Salon (current release $180)
Larkmead 2010 Firebelle (current release $150)
Ledson 2016 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $94
Ledson 2017 Russian River Pinot Noir Reserve, $66
Lindstrom 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $130)
Lineage 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $160)
Maritana 2017 Dutton-Hansen Hill, Chardonnay, $90
Maritana 2017 Russian River “Rive La Riviere”, $55
Merriam 2013 Cabernet Franc, $68
Mira 2013 Cabernet Franc, $150
Nickel & Nickel 2010 Chardonnay, Stiling Vineyards (current $55)
Oakville East 2016 Cabernet Franc ($90)
O’Shaughnessy 2007 & 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Mt Veeder (current release $140)
O’Shaughnessy 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mtn (current release $100)
Outpost 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate (current release $95)
Outpost 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon True (current release $150)
Outpost 2014 Grenache (current release $55)
Peter Michael 2010 Ma Belle-Fille Chardonnay (current release $100)
Rapp Ranch 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, $60
Robert Mondavi 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (current release $175)
Rubicon 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $210)
Secret Door 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $170)
Shadybrook Estate 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $125)
Steven Kent 2007 & 2009 Premier Cabernet Sauvignon (current release $100)
Tate Wines 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Mt Veeder, (current release $75)
Tate Wines 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Jack’s Vineyard Howell Mtn, $125
Trespass 2011 Cabernet Franc (current release $110)
Vinoce 2015 Cabernet Franc, $75
William Harrison 2013 Cabernet Franc, $65
YoungInglewood 2013 & 2016 Cabernet Franc (current release $110)

Best Imported Wines of 2019 (prices not shown due to pending tariffs)
Alaya Tierra – Grenacha Tintorera, 2014
Arzuaga Reserva by Bodegas Arzuaga Navarro, 2012
Arzuaga Ribero del Duero Tempranillo, 2015
Casa Silva Carmenenere Los Lingues, 2011
Castillo di Bossi Berardo, Chianti Classico Riserva, 2013
Chene Bleu Abelard, 2008
Flower Assyrtiko, 2017
La Quercia Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo, 2009
Lucien Albrecht Pinot Blanc , 2015
Matua Sauvignon Blanc, 2017
Mendel Finca Remota Malbec, 2014
Pilltteri Estates Cabernet Franc Riserva Familia, 2012
Stina “For Inspiration” Plavac Mali, 2015 (Croatian)
Tomic Plavac Mali, 2011 (Croatian)


Steven Kent Winery, 2010 Premier Cabernet Sauvignon

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This represents Steven’s best Cabernet grapes in the vineyards he can assemble. It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and always a phenomenal wine. This evening with a steak we opened this beauty. On the eyes the purple hue beamed royalty and uniqueness with its coloring being crisp with clarity. It possessed a medium viscosity. On the nose, red fruit filled the olfactory senses coupled with medium oak tones. On the palate, this wine shined with hints cocoa, expresso and which provided a rich and dense fluid of cherries, vanilla and soft pipe tobacco. The tannins and structure were still strong enough after almost 10 years to provide an elegant and velvety feel, yet structured with a long lasting finish. Paired with a nicely marbled rib eye steak (plus salad and potato’s), provided a great host for this opulent Premier Cabernet Sauvignon by Steven Kent Winery.




2016 Rapp Ranch Chardonnay

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2016 Rapp Ranch Carneros Chardonnay by winemaker Rudy Zuidema. On the eye light colored straw & medium viscosity. On the nose & palate, pear, kiwifruit and butterscotch with a slight minerality finish. A perfect wine after a San Francisco classic win today👍🏈. Paired with winter time comfort food, tuna noodle casserole. #rappranch #rappranchwine #whitewine #chardonnay #napavalleychardonnay #