Avaia Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
$75 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $63)

Avaia Cellars was founded by Jon Roleder, a serial entrepreneur who has always had a passion for wine and a dream of making his own wine.

Jon started his entrepreneurship ventures at a young age, learning woodworking from his father, then becoming a janitor at age 12 in a church where his father was a pastor. In college, he started a janitorial business that grew to over 20 employees. Later, he owned a furniture manufacturing business that made cedar chests, and then a company that made massage tables. Eventually pivoting toward the wine business, he started Modern Cooperage, a Northern California company that makes stainless steel wine barrels with customizable wooden staves in the interior.

Somewhere in the middle of all his ventures, he purchased land in Napa with the goal of eventually moving there and making wine. Although his plans were delayed for a few years, Jon eventually decided the time was right. His first runs making wine in his steel barrels were primarily designed to be a proof of concept for the new barrel system he designed. Jon really was passionate about being hands-on with the winemaking so he could fine-tune the barrel through a winemaker’s eyes – 2018 being the “a-ha” vintage where he felt he had achieved a level to meet or exceed the quality of the best French coopers in traditional barrique. Jon believes his barrel system preserves freshness and purity of fruit that can be masked in traditional barrels and methods. Make no mistake, this is a big California Cab just begging for you to open it alongside a beautiful steak. Only 2 Barrels Produced.

Destemmed then Hand Sorted
Barrel Fermented in Modern Cooperage Barrel System equivalent to 60% New French Oak
Medium stir (“batonnage nouveau”) once weekly in MC barrel for 2 months.
Staves removed at 18 months, total time in barrel 3 years, bottled 10/21.
Winemaker: Jon Roleder
Alcohol: 14.6% abv

Outpost Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
$114 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $103)

Outpost was established in 1998 with the vision of producing wines that are a living, breathing embodiment of this magical place. Truly one of the world’s great Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel growing regions, the unique terroir of the Outpost vineyards – the hard, rocky red soil, high altitude, gentle cooling breezes, and sunny western exposure – produces fruit of incredible intensity and richness, with a distinctive spice you simply cannot find anywhere else.

Outpost Estate Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the very best vineyard blocks located between 1,800 and 2,200 feet in elevation. The guiding principle of the winemaking program is to realize the full potential of these unique pieces of land, to create a living history of vintages with immense character and a true sense of place. Outpost grapes are harvested late in the season – by hand, at dawn – to preserve the full intensity and distinctive spicy character of the mountain fruit. Grapes from each block within the vineyard are fermented separately so that our winemaking team can be very selective about the lots that comprise the final blend. Wines are neither fined or filtered allowing for the full expression of the vintages’ potential.

The 2018 Outpost Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is augmented with complementary lots from the famed True Vineyard. It immediately intoxicates the senses with layered aromas of jasmine flowers, blackberry pie, elderberry syrup, and bay laurel, but the depth of flavor and length of finish are what belie this wine’s greatness. Imagine a mix of umami flavors with dark plums, savory thyme, and Baker’s chocolate, layered with ample chalky tannin. It has everything one might want in a Howell Mountain Cabernet, balancing hedonism and restraint.

Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Ageing: 19 months in 80% new French oak barrels
Winemaker: John Giannini
Consulting winemaker: Thomas Rivers-Brown

Foggy Bottom Chardonnay 2018

Sonoma Coast
$20 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $18)

Foggy Bottom Chardonnay is produced by Easkoot Cellars, a very small boutique wine producer with roots in Marin and Sonoma. Easkoot took their name from a sailor who made his final landfall in Marin County and later became the surveyor to first stake out the winery’s vineyards. Easkoot selected uniquely cool and foggy sites for their vineyards, which gives unique character to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir produced under the Easkoot and Foggy Bottom labels.

The 2018 Foggy Bottom Chardonnay is “sourced from the Sonoma Coast where grapes grown in Goldridge sandy loam soil are cooled by nearby Pacific breezes and evening fog. Whole cluster pressed, with blocked fermentation and only 10% new oak. The result is a fresh, crisp foggy-styled Chardonnay. While this delicious wine does provide just a hint of buttery popcorn notes, it is not by any stretch of the imagination a wooden “mallet to the palate”, and these flavors integrate well with its fresh, floral, tropical fruit notes and truly lovely acidity.”

Chardonnay – perhaps more so than many other wine varieties – often evokes love-it-or-hate-it feelings in wine drinkers. People often love specific styles, either oaky and buttery, or unoaked and crisp, but it seems rarely something in between. We find the Foggy Bottom to be one of those more middle-of-the-road examples, with just hints of oak and butter, but not completely devoid of either. Likewise, it’s not overpowering with those traditional big California Chardonnay characteristics, so this wine can be a real crowd-pleaser with a little something for everyone.

You may smell and taste apples, pears, and citrus and perhaps a bit of minerality, like the smell of wet rocks or gravel in this wine. You could even pick up some other non-fruit flavors and aromas, such as hay, mushrooms, or nuts. But, most importantly, taste, experience, and decide what the wine smells and tastes like to you. Everyone senses wine differently, and that’s part of the fun of new wine discovery.

We suggest pairing a lightly oaked chardonnay such as this with oysters, sushi, light fish, or even chicken or pork tenderloin. Cheers!

Todd Wheeler – February 2022

Phamus Wines White Blend 2019

Napa Valley
$40 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $36)

This month we’re featuring another of the under-the-radar wines we love to discover and share with our club members.

The name of the brand is Phamus. When said with an accent, it sounds like the word famous. Founder Chris Klein feels that his wife has always been his strongest supporter and proponent, and as a tribute, he dedicated it all to her. Her maiden name was Pham and now, she is “Phamus” for it. His wines are hand-crafted masterpieces of pride and joy.

Chris is a Napa Valley native, having grown up in St. Helena. His family has been in Napa Valley since 1963 and involved in the wine industry for many years. An aunt worked for Grgich Hills, and his parents founded Allora Vineyards in 1997. Chris started enjoying wine at a young age and learned all aspects of winery operations from his siblings and parents. Chris learned winemaking from Allora’s winemaker at the time, Ruidy Zuidema. Now, Chris oversees winemaking for Phamus Wines with Rudy as his consulting winemaker.

Chris picked and crushed the first “Phamus” grapes in 2016 and launched Phamus. In 2020, he also branched out to launch a line of beers. And last, but not least, Phamus Spirits will be arriving soon. As a very small producer in Napa Valley, Phamus Wines produces only 150 to 200 cases each year in small batches of only one or two barrels at a time.

The 2019 Phamus White Blend is a crisp Sauvignon Blanc blend. You may notice flavors of crisp green apples with hints of passion fruit and hibiscus. Perfectly balanced with bright acidity and aromas of cut grass.

We find that crisp sauvignon blanc pairs well with lighter meats or fish dishes including pork, turkey, chicken, crab, or halibut. Excellent cheese pairings include goat cheese, burrata, or feta. I always recommend enjoying a crisp white wine such as this with Asian foods like Thai or Vietnamese. The crispness of the wine enhances and elevates the flavors and spices. Enjoy!

Todd Wheeler – February 2022

Drive Syrah Canihan Vineyard 2019

Sonoma Coast
$36 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $32.50)

In 2015, John Musto and Tom Young met at Santa Rosa Junior College’s “Wine Studies” program studying Viticulture and Enology. That fall, they made a barrel of zinfandel from Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley in Tom’s garage. That first wine would go on to win a Silver Medal in the Sonoma County Harvest Fair and a passion was born! Making an arrangement with vineyard owner Pete Lewis, Tom and John exchanged vineyard management for grapes and production space in Pete’s garage. The garage used to restore vintage racing cars inspired the name “Drive Wines”. The wines they made in the garage would go on to win multiple gold and silver medals in amateur competitions.

After several harvests together, John and Tom launched Drive as a professional wine business. In 2017, they produced a Zinfandel from Puccioni Ranch in Dry Creek Valley and in 2018 a Rosé of Zinfandel from Comstock Vineyard, also in Dry Creek Valley. The wines were released in the spring of 2019 and would go on to win Double Gold and Gold medals among the best wines of California. From humble beginnings, through hard work and persistence, the Drive story continues to evolve.

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Canihan Vineyard, a certified organic, dry-farmed vineyard located in the Sonoma Coast AVA. Direct, daily influence from the Pacific Ocean defines the region, making it ideal for cool-climate Syrah. Grapes were harvested at night, crushed the following morning.

The Syrah was co-fermented with Viognier to add floral aromas and whole-clusters to produce a lighter, brighter wine. Aged for 15 months in French oak barrels. Beautiful violet color; aromas of blueberry and cassis; notes of black currant and strawberry. Great acid and a long finish.

98% Syrah, 2% Viognier. Only 8 barrels were produced.