Onward “Hawkeye Ranch” Carignane 2016

Redwood Valley, Mendocino, California
$30 (Wine Club Reorder – $26)

Note: Photo borrowed from 2014 vintage

The first time I met Faith Armstrong she was letting me use her guest house shower after treating me to a tasty home cooked meal with her 4 children. When I first moved to Napa my plumbing was out for a week, so my roommate introduced me to her good friend Faith, who not only opened up her home to me but made me feel welcomed. She’s a genuine, caring person and I think that exudes in her winemaking.

Onward is focused on single vineyard, site-driven wines. They have a strong commitment to the environment and have searched carefully to find vineyard sites that provide excellent fruit quality as well as sustainable, if not organic, farming techniques by the grower. Hawkeye Ranch is located in Mendocino County, specifically in Redwood Valley, owned by 5th generation family farmers and is a Certified Organic vineyard. The vines are 80 years old and dry farmed, meaning they produce tiny, dense little berries for a flavor packed wine.

“My style is about letting the vines speak. They are the art, I am the canvas, my job is to give them a chance to share their beauty in each and every vintage.” –Faith Armstrong

Carignane is known for its great value and food friendliness. It’s a medium-bodied red most commonly grown in Southern France, and is prized for its red fruit flavors and its rich and smooth mouthfeel with much lighter tannins and bitterness than Cabernet.

This is the perfect wine to open on a night when you need something easy to sip on with your cheese and charcuterie board. It has a beautiful minerality to it and is bursting with red fruits like cranberry and pomegranate, and floral notes like hibiscus (fun fact: Hibiscus flowers don’t actually have a scent, so when referred to in tasting notes it’s more commonly the Hibiscus concentrate used in tea which smells like pomegranate juice). You might also find some nice spice like cinnamon and anise or umami flavors of smoked meats that will pair nicely with cured meats like Bresaola and Coppa.

Taylor Morgan – February 2021

Emerson Brown Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Napa Valley, California $48
(Wine Club Reorder – $42)

Emerson Brown originated during the harvest of 2005 when Keith Emerson and Brian Brown came together taking advantage of the excessively large crop that year. They were able to do a little horse-trading with growers who had too much fruit and get great prices on great grapes. As such, Emerson Brown was born and they have since made Napa Valley their playground, making a Napa Cab and a single vineyard Cab each year.

Keith is a Boston native with more than 20 vintages under his belt. He is one of the few winemakers who excels at crafting both Bordeaux and Burgundian varieties. Since 2005, he has focused his attention on his position as Director of Winemaking for Napa’s Vineyard 29. Brian earned his viticulture and enology degree from UC Davis and began working harvests with Iron Horse in 2001. As enologist of Trefethen Vineyards, he learned to make balanced vineyard driven wines that express fruit qualities over winemaker manipulations.

The Emerson Brown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a deep reddish purple and has aromas of kirsch, sassafras, currants, and tobacco leaf. The palate has a nice velvety viscosity and round powdery tannins. The mouthfeel is complimented by fresh acidity reminiscent of ripe raspberries. The finish is long and lingering with flavors of dried cherries, fennel bulb, vanilla wafers, and a touch of mocha. Scoring 92 points “this wine is textbook Napa chocolatey fruit, herbes de Provence, and spice aromatics as well as medium to full body, ripe sweet tannins, and terrific balance, It’s ideal for drinking over the coming decade.” – Jeb Dunnuck.

Superbowl Sunday is slowly approaching and for me that means snacks on snacks. Beef Jerky is the ultimate pairing with this cabernet. The chewiness of the jerky holds up to the tannin structure of the cab. The gaminess compliments the currants. Another game day pleasure is corn chips. Cheddar cheese corn chips pair well with the wine’s delicious cherry and currant flavors. Sour cream flavored chips also really make this cabernet sing on the palate. Bold intense flavors like cheddar and spice beg for a robust wine.

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – February 2021

Sherwin Family Vineyards “Cellar Scraps” Cabernet Blend #14

Napa Valley, California

$79 (Wine Club Reorder – $70)

To our longtime reserve club members: you might recognize this wine. Years ago we featured their Estate Cabernet in your club. The “Cellar Scraps” is a blend of that Estate Cabernet and Petite Sirah, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from both 2016 and 2017. They have found a delicious way of making great wine out of their “scraps” – and at an amazing price too!

Located atop Spring Mountain right next to Pride Mountain Vineyards, Sherwin Family started making wine and growing grapes in 1996. Steve Sherwin was a builder and developer in the Bay area for over 30 years before taking advice from a friend to purchase some land in Napa and grow grapes. His 5th generation grape growing buddy assured him that, although farming is a lot of hard work, it was not nearly as stressful as building and developing. They released their first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1999 and have since brought their son and daughter into the family business.

Matt and his sister Lindsey grew up in the family vineyard and naturally fell into their roles as assistant winemaker and event manager. I had the pleasure of meeting Matt at their estate last year where I learned about their story and toured their vineyard. Right now, they are working to rebuild their winery that sadly burned in the recent 2020 Glass Fire. They have a ways to go but with that builder and developer background I believe they will rebuild and be better than ever.

Fun fact: Sherwin Family Vineyards is the only company in the United States that can place the American flag on a bottle of alcohol. This came about shortly after September 11, 2001, when they were asked to participate in an international wine auction benefiting the families of employees of Windows on the World restaurant that was lost in the disaster. They still feature the American flag on their Commemorative Etched large format bottles in honor of 9/11.

Taylor Morgan – January 2021

Montagu “Sage Ridge Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Napa Valley, California

$150, (Wine Club Reorder – $99)

Montagu Wines was founded by Weston Eidson in 2012, who learned from mentor Russell Bevan, whose track record boasts several 90-100 point wines. Montagu Wines is a tribute to the winemaker’s great-grandfather John, the second Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and a British automotive pioneer responsible for early automotive legislation. He was also the first person to drive an automobile to Parliament, gave the future Edward VII his first car ride, and served as the model for the iconic Rolls-Royce hood ornament known as the Spirit of Ecstasy. Eidson tries to capture his great-grandfather’s spirit and zest for life in each bottle of wine he makes.

John’s son, and Weston’s great-uncle Edward, the third Lord Montagu, continued his father’s legacy by founding Britain’s National Motor Museum. He was also a wine lover, producing his own from his vineyard in Southern England. It turns out that Napa makes better wines.

For as long as he can remember, Weston Eidson has possessed an entrepreneurial spirit and an appreciation for fine wine’s ability to enhance any celebration or family get-together. Weston has developed a conviction for making wine that is richly layered, complex, and balanced.

The 2017 “Sage Ridge Vineyard” Montagu Cabernet Sauvignon comes to us from the Sage Ridge mountain site in Rutherford, Napa Valley. Sage Ridge is a mountain site behind Pritchard Hill. It has incredible volcanic moonpowder-like soil and a sun drenched Mediterranean climate and landscape which allows the grapes to ripen to incredible density, texture and extraction. This Cabernet Sauvignon from a specific block in the Pritchard Hill area, high-elevation vineyard, is rich in gravelly dust, mineral, and texture. The inaugural vintage of this wine, shows length, breadth, and complexity. We are seeing notes of dried herb, sage, and leather saddle.

A side of cheesy polenta will help show off this wonderful Cabernet Sauvignon. Make sure to use an aged cheddar or gouda (harder cheeses) to mix into the polenta. The age on the cheese will help highlight the earthy notes of the wine making it the perfect pair.

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – January 2021

Lichen Estate Pinot Gris 2018

Anderson Valley, California

$25 (Wine Club Reorder – $22)

Breggo’s back, baby! Well, sort of. If you don’t know Breggo, back in 2006 it was home of the “Finest Pinot Gris of the New World” and was the “Best New Winery in 2008.” Winemaker and owners Douglas and Ana Lucia Stewart took an offer they couldn’t refuse and sold the Breggo name in 2009 but kept their land. For 5 years they planned and prepared their soils to grow even better organic grapes. Then, in 2014, Lichen Estate was ready for their first release.

Doug and Ana Lucia named their farm “Lichen Estate” in honor of its beauty and grace and the green lichen on the oaks studding the property. One might call Lichen Estate “The Pinot People” because they only make Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, both still and sparkling wines.

Lichen Estate is 203 acres overlooking Highway 128 in Anderson Valley. The vineyard comprises 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Gris vines on southeast facing slopes. Lichen Estate farms 100% organically. We’ve fallen in love with Lichen’s 2016 Sparkling Brut Rose as well as a past wine club favorite, the 2017 White Pinot Noir, and are excited to share the newest release with you, the 2018 Pinot Gris.

The 2018 Pinot Gris offers Lichen’s richest take yet on this dazzling aromatic varietal. Opulent and ripe fruit abounds, yet the wine remains jazzy and refreshing. Clocking in at 13.7% alcohol, it strays from more restrained prior vintages but has been a crowd-pleaser in the tasting room and a new favorite among the staff. This is not your typical Pinot Gris. It is riper and fuller than most of its lighter, quaffable cousins and shows the significant fruity presence of a rather more serious look at the variety. It exhibits a good palatal weight with plenty of peachy, mineral-tinged fruit running its length. Slight residual sugar accentuates its inherent juiciness and its careful balance ages well for a few years.

This wine is the perfect pair for your sushi dinner. Delicate fish deserves a delicate wine that will cleanse the palate, and Pinot Gris does exactly that. It also goes well with fried dishes and cuts the oil, it will also complement any rolls served with tempura-fried ingredients like shrimp or yams. 

Jennie Kaplan Woodson – January 2021