California Selections:
New Releases From Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and Napa


Frei Brothers 2006 Syrah Reserve Russian River Valley ($20) 87-88

This is a dark ruby purple Syrah offering aromas of black fruit and sweet oak. It is soft and velvety on the attack and offers ripe sweet black fruit flavors with a touch of black pepper on the palate. An easy drinking Syrah for food or by the glass.

Fire Station Red 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma Coast ($17) 87-88

Fire Station Red was conceived by wine entrepreneur, John Drady, who is also a Sonoma County volunteer fireman---in his spare time. It is a salute to all volunteer fire fighters everywhere, Drady notes on the label. The wine has an opaque ruby color and offers aromas of black cherry, chocolate and cassis with attractive vanilla notes on the nose. On the palate it is soft and lush with ripe spicy black fruit and a touch of smoky oak. It finishes firm with long-lasting flavors and big tannic grip. Enjoy this everyday wine with your favorite grilled meats.

Jordan 2006 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($30) 90

Golden straw in color, the Jordan Chardonnay offers nutty aromas, with a hint of mint. The palate offers nice acidity and leanness with more ripe citrus than tropical fruit. Made from hand picked grapes and fermented in 48% new oak. Spends two months sur lies and five months in barrel.

Miro TcholakovMiro Cellars

The owner of this winery is Miro Tcholakov, who is also lead winemaker at Trentadue Winery. He studied enology at the Higher Institute of Agriculture in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, and first came to America as part of a Future Farmers of America exchange program. He is known especially as one of California’s foremost producers of Petite Sirah.

Miro Cellars 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon aCure eState Vyds. Alexander Valley 90

Dark ruby in color with black currant and black cherry fruit aromas and flavors on the palate along with some vanilla notes. Rich and meaty in character with good acidity and round firm tannins on the lingering fruity finish.

Miro Cellars 2007 Cuvée Sasha High Valley ($18) 89

Medium ruby. A blend of 44% Grenache, 36% Syrah and 20% Mourvedre offering ripe red and black fruit aromas and a soft attack of dark berry fruit flavors and light toasty oak on the palate. Overall, good acidity and balance with lingering red cherry fruit flavors on the finish.

Miro Cellars 2006 Petite Sirah Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma ($30) 91

Opaque ruby purple. Ripe black fruit flavors with notes of espresso. Soft attack of highly concentrated black berry fruit flavors with spicy fruit and round tannins on a rich lingering finish. Produced from dry farmed and head pruned vines.


is a family owned winery established in 1927 by John Pedroncelli, Sr., and today is managed by his descendents. John Pedroncelli is senior winemaker today, assisted by Montse Reece who did her enology training at Rovira I Viorgili University in Tarragona, Spain. Pedroncelli practices sustainable agriculture, including not using synthetic pesticides on its Home Ranch vineyards.

Pedroncelli, 2008 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Valley, East Side Vineyards ($12) 89

The Sauvignon Blanc has a pale hue and light hay aromas. There’s brisk acidity on the palate with flavors of apple and pear and a hint of lime. Finishes crisply.

Pedronchelli 2008 Chardonnay Vintage Selection Dry Creek Valley ($12) 88

Pale yellow in color with leafy aromas of rosemary and other herbs. On the nicely balanced palate there are flavors of tart apple and melon with a light toast note and good acidity. Crisp and refreshing.

Pedroncelli, 2008 Dry Rosé of Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ($10) 87

Dark rose-colored hue. This off-dry, tasty rose shows high acidity, a creamy mouth feel, and light fruit flavors of strawberry and cherry.

Ridgeline Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley ($40) 89

Dark ruby. Essence of sweet vanilla and black fruit nose with a creosote note. Very soft, somewhat lush attack with flavors of vanilla-chocolate and notes of dark fruit. Finishes nicely with persistent flavors and ripe tannins. Not a lot of Cabernet character here, but the wine is flashy and has a certain attraction.


Evelyn and Leo Trentadue purchased an old vineyard in Sonoma County and in 1962 began planting new vineyards. Today they have some of Sonoma’s oldest vineyards. They have long had a collaborative relationship with Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards. Miro Tcholakov has been lead winemaker since 1999.

Trentadue 2005 La Storia Cuveé 32 Alexander Valley ($32) 93

An intriguing blend of 50% Sangiovese, 35% Merlot, 8% Montepulcicano, and 7% Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 20 months in 40% new oak. Exhibits a dark ruby color, black cherry, and spicy plum aromas, and light black cherry fruit flavors,with toasty oak on the palate. Medium weight with good acidity and balance and a delicious lingering finish. 

Trentadue 2005 La Storia Meritage Alexander Valley ($32) 89

A dark ruby Bordeaux blend that is Pomerol in style. Displays a dark ruby garnet color and ripe red and black plum fruit aromas on the nose. The palate reveals a soft attack of concentrated dark currant and red berry fruit flavors with leather, cocao and vanilla. Big shouldered but well-balanced.

Trentadue 2005 La Storia Zinfandel Alexander Valley ($28) 89

Dark ruby. A blend of 78% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah and 4% Carignane. Dark spicy fruit with high extract, weighty and concentrated with earthy black fruit flavors and light vanilla notes on the palate. Lingering, tannic grip on the finish. Big and brawny with 15.2% alcohol.


Bridlewood Winery 2008 Viognier Reserve ($24) 92

This is one crisp, delicious, beautiful Viognier. It has a fruit forward nose of fresh white peach and gardenias and ripe, creamy peach fruit on the palate. Finishes very long.

Bridlewood Winery 2005 Syrah Santa Ynez ($40) 91

This delicious Syrah is sourced from Gallo's Bridlewood Estate Winery in Santa Ynez. Dark ruby in color, it offers aromas of ripe blackberries, cedar, and clove. The attack is soft and velvety, and the palate shows ripe black fruit and cracked black pepper. The wine is medium weight with elegance and balance and a persistent finish. A really wonderful wine!


Robert Mondavi Winery 2006 Pinot Noir Reserve Carneros ($60) 91

Medium-light garnet ruby in color showing a light red cherry nose with touches of cola, leather and earthy spice. Medium weight palate with noticeable vanilla, toasty oak, and dark red fruit flavors. Finishes long with high acidity and lingering vanilla cherry coke flavors.


Dancing Bull

is a value-oriented line of wines produced from grapes sourced from multiple California AVAs. Owned by E.J. Gallo, Dancing Bull is a relatively new venture—just six years old—but has already been well-received by consumers looking for good wines at reasonable prices.

Dancing Bull 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon California ($12) 86

The medium dark ruby Cabernet Sauvignon reveals light black fruit aromas and flavors of licorice and a touch of cedar. It has a medium weight palate, rounded firm tannins and a short finish. An easy drinking everyday wine for food. 

Dancing Bull 2007 Chardonnay California ($12) 88

Dancing Bull offers an attractive low budget Chardonnay filled with fresh fruit aromas and flavors. The aromas are moderately fruity and the palate soft and mouth filling with stone fruit and tropical fruit flavor which are nicely balanced and long on the finish. Great value. 

Dancing Bull 2007 Sauvignon Blanc California ($12) 87

This is a fresh fruit rich Sauvignon Blanc offering aromas of tropical fruit and melon. On the palate it displays crisp citrus flavors with good balance and a lovely tart finish. 

Dancing Bull 2006 Zinfandel California ($12) 86

This Zinfandel displays a medium dark ruby color with spicy black and red fruit aromas. It offers a soft attack with light black cherry fruit flavors on the palate, high acidity and gripping tannins on the finish. 

Red Tree 2008 Pinot Grigio, California ($10) 87

A very light style Pinot Grigo with light tropical fruit aromas and flavors. Needs to be served well chilled.

Don Winkler, Editor - September 2009