Lyric 2012 Pinot Noir – Santa Barbara, CA

img_8557I’m not a fan of the California wine makers who try to make every red grape they produce into an in-your-face, high alchohol, meaty, power-hungry Cabernet Sauvignon. And I find it particularly off-putting when they do this to Pinot Noir, which is such a delicate varietal.

That being noted, this Pinot from Etude is perhaps the one exception. First things first, do not buy this wine if you are hoping to drink what is supposed to be a Pinot Noir. It is much more full-bodied and lucious than a Pinot, but it stops before over-reaching into Cabernet territory. It has a spicy earthiness that tastes more like a Zinfandel to me, but maintains its softness like a Pinot should.

I am quite partial to the wines of Santa Barbara, so I’m not surprised that this Pinot in disguise hits the mark for me. Overall verdict = impressive.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Lyric 2012 Pinot Noir
  • Winery: Etude
  • Region: Santa Barbara 
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: Pinot Noir
  • Price: $14-$20
  • Where to Buy: N/A

Hafner 2005 Chardonnay – Alexander Valley, California

img_3402I received this estate-bottled wine as a gift. The vineyard is in the family of a work colleague. I’m not a big chardonnay fan, but have to admit this was a nice, balanced wine. The nose has interesting notes of pineapple and vanilla with a faint slate mineral note. A straw color typical of the varietal, the wine was quite balanced in spite of that initial pineapple cake advertisement. I’m not sure how much this goes for by the bottle or where to find it, but I’d say a chardonnay lover should be willing to spring for it at $45 and below.


  • Rating: Everyday Whites
  • Name: 2005 Chardonnay
  • Winery: Hafner
  • Region: Alexander Valley, California
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: Chardonnay
  • Price: N/A
  • Where to Buy: N/A

Redemption Zin 2012 – Sonoma County, California

My favorite of the Alexander Valley series that used to be sold in a three pack of Temptation, Sin, and Redemption. I’ve only found Redemption on a couple of occasions. Nice tannin structure, with a wild berry opening with green eucalyptus on the nose. A nice white peppery finish plays well against that tannin in the back of the mouth (pepper on the tongue and tannin on the roof). It’s a very solid Zinfandel, if you enjoy the aggressive spice, which I do. Price ranges $18-20 as found at the Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom and the Dean & Delucca in Georgetown. Definitely worth it.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Redemption Zin 2012
  • Winery: Alexander Valley Vineyards
  • Region: Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County, California 
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: Zinfandel
  • Price: $18-$20
  • Where to Buy: Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom and Dean & Delucca in Georgetown, Washington DC

Rapsodie du Soleil 2012 – Santa Ynez Valley, CA

IMG_258860% Syrah 35% Grenache 5% Viognier. Simply a gorgeous wine. I was a bit apprehensive that it may not have traveled well from the August 2014 trip through Santa Ynez, but was reminded why I bought it with the first sip. I opened this with friends over some P’tit Basque cheese and marinated steak and it actually went better than the Cab. Juicy and luscious, with a spacious quality that I’m guessing is caused by the white varietal being added to the two reds. Berries, pencil tip, black and white pepper, pomegranate, and seasoned wood (and I don’t mean from barrels, I mean like an old barn). Highly recommend. Available from Sunstone Winery on their website for $45.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Rapsodie du Soleil 2012
  • Winery: Sunstone Winery
  • Region: Santa Ynez Valley, California 
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: 60% Syrah 35% Grenache 5% Viognier
  • Price: $45
  • Where to Buy: Sunstone Winery

Epiphany Grenache Blanc 2012 – Santa Barbara, CA

IMG_2591Crisp nose of flint and minerals, faint rubber and grass. Hits the tongue with great acid and the mouth-feel of slippery honey. Does not overpower the palate with fruit; you know you’re drinking a wine (not eating a fruit basket) and one that’s lovely and rewarding. Flavors of stone, greens, citrus, and untanned leather.

This bottle was purchased during a driving trip through Santa Ynez wine country in August of 2014, where the reds caught most of our attention. Utterly perfect with white peaches, tomato, and arugula salad with olive oil. It didn’t play as perfectly with the St. Angel triple cream cheese. This wine is interesting and will turn heads, though probably not blow minds. Can be purchased directly from Epiphany Cellars for $25.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Epiphany Grenache Blanc 2012
  • Winery: Epiphany Cellars
  • Region: Camp Four Vineyard, Santa Barbara, CA
  • Country: USA
  • Varietals: Grenache Blanc
  • Price: $25
  • Where to Buy: Epiphany Cellars