Wednesday, December 10, 2008

SF Chronicle Top 100 Wines

Jon Bonné and his team of taster's top picks are out. These are some of my favorites that made the list. What are yours?

NV Domaine Carneros Cuvee de la Pompadour Carneros Brut Rosé ($36) Though the Domaine Carneros wines can sometimes feel a tad subdued, veteran winemaker Eileen Crane seems to have brought a bit more edge to the winery's fine rosé, which gives it lovely vibrancy. Clean notes of strawberry and peach are highlighted by a chalky mineral tone. Lifted acidity and the weight of 58 percent Pinot Noir fruit yields a wine with significant depth and versatility.

2006 Alma Rosa El Jabali Vineyard Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay ($30) Richard Sanford shows his longtime talents with this lavish, ripe single-vineyard Chardonnay. Limpid, orange-driven aromas presage honeyed fig and citrus, with a bit of dry wood presence and a pleasing touch of sweetness on the palate, matched by firm, minerally bite. Balanced, well-defined Chardonnay from a parcel Sanford has farmed since 1983.

2006 Varner Spring Ridge Vineyard Home Block Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay ($39) Twin brothers Bob and Jim Varner harness their dry-farmed Portola Valley parcels to make some of the most taut, expressive Chardonnay in the country. This release from the original block is serious and tightly wound. White blossom, citrus and golden apple, bolstered by pitch-perfect acidity, wrap around a firm mineral core, giving it tons of aging potential.

2006 Domaine Drouhin Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($45) Combine a solid, ripe growing season with Veronique Drouhin's Burgundian winemaking talents and you get a taut, perfumed wine, with darker fruit notes than some - blue plum, blueberry - a minerally edge and a touch of that quintessential barnyard depth. Generous, grippy, seamless Pinot.

And a big Hooraaah, to a great friend of mine, Jeff.
2005 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard Branciforte Creek Vineyard Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir ($32) Winemaker Jeff Emery originally apprenticed under founder Ken Burnap, whose pioneering work helped establish the area for Pinot. This bottling's profile is downright aggressive - the tannic grip isn't shy - but gorgeous aromas of pine needle, mint, gray mineral and vibrant red fruit help round out the minerally texture and lifted acidity. By no means the most approachable Pinot, but raw and complex in its expression.

2005 La Sirena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($150) As plush and refined as Heidi Peterson Barrett's Amuse Bouche wines have been lately (and as much as we want to cheer for Merlot), it's still hard to outpace her latest release of La Sirena, which showcases her talents with a pitch-perfect Cabernet vintage. Big, sweet blackberry, rolled tobacco and a bit of roasted almond start things off, with high, taut tones of currants, a chamomile hint and those bold, silken tannins that Barrett finesses to perfection.

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