Staff Favorites - Gary Norton

Gary Norton

Reviews

  
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2014 Jax "Estate" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 01-19-2017
Truth be told, fifty bucks is becoming the entry level price for an estate cab coming out of Napa these days. We are reaching an era of skyrocketing prices - some producers are doubling the rates for their 2015 releases. Literally. Less than 1000 cases of Jax's estate Cabernet was produced this year and our share will likely evaporate soon. It's a big, fruit-driven wine that is immediately accessible and will continue to be for the next 5-9 years.
Price: $49.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2014 Jax "Y3" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-19-2017
Certainly the most delicate and finesse driven wine I've had from Jax and for twenty five bucks it's a steal. The wine possesses tremendous drive, balanced acidity, pure fruit and minerality. It's dominantly red fruited, showing notes of fresh strawberries, Ranier Cherries, dried rose petals and earth before leading into a gentle tannin on the finish. There's a serious shortage of high quality, drinkable, sub-thirty dollar Russian River Pinot Noirs on the market right now. This wine, ladies and gents, is worth every penny and more. Drink now through 2023.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
WE 94

Cain "Cuvée NV12" Napa Valley Bordeaux Blend
Review Date: 01-19-2017
Cain's non-vintage "NV" offerings are some of the Valley's best value reds. If you are a fan of old-world styled, hearty red wines that carry a bit of a funky, bretty edge than this wine is a must try. Unfortunately, this type of wine is a dying breed in California as most wineries are shifting towards the production of bigger, rounder and flashier reds. The NV12 is a blend of 2012 and 2011 (59% & 41%, respectively) and consists of 50% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec. For those rustic wine lovers out there, this one's for you!
Price: $35.99 Add To Cart

2014 Jax "Y3 Taureau" Napa Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 01-19-2017
We discovered this production earlier last year and since that time a number of it's offerings have been very well received by the press. This particular blend is comprised of 45% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 10% Zinfandel. It's an extractive style, very reminiscent of Bedrock. The wine is dense and full bodied, showing notes of dried violets and black fruits on the nose. The palate comes together with more dark flowers, black berries, black currant and cassis. This wine offers tons of fruit and finishes quite dry. It's a great wine and a steal for the money.
Drink from 2017 to 2017
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2013 Pahlmeyer Napa Valley Merlot
Review Date: 01-13-2017
It's a dense, seductive expression of Merlot, showing opulent notes of blackberry preserve, black currant, mocha, coffee and baking spices. Winemaker Kale Anderson (previously of Colgin Cellars, Terra Valentine Winery and Cliff Lede Vineyards) makes incredibly attractive and textured new-world Bordeaux blends as well as individual expressions of those varietals. Most domestic Merlots at this price point are built for your cellar and very closed down in their youth. Thankfully for us, this bottle is most certainly an exception. Pull the cork tonight or lay this bottle down for 5-8 years. Your choice.

2013 Hess Collection "19 Block Mountain Cuvée" Mount Veeder Red Blend
Review Date: 01-11-2017
Before finding out what the varietal breakdown of this wine was my early call was a blend dominated by Zin. To my dismay, it's roughly 60% Malbec, 31% Cab and a few dollops of Petit Verdot and Syrah making up the balance of the blend. It's an inky wine with great fruit extraction and vigor, showing notes of dark plum, black currant, blackberry preserve, pie crust and a supple tannin on the finish. One heck of a wine for $27, which is tough to find these days, especially with a designation such as Mount Veeder attached to it.
Price: $26.99 Add To Cart
RP 93

2014 Gary Farrell "Russian River Selection" Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-11-2017
2014 has, thus far, been an incredibly strong vintage for white varietals on the West Coast. Yet for some reason I've been mildly underwhelmed by a couple Chardonnays produced in the Russian River lately. Thankfully things changed in that realm shortly after I tasted the latest release from Gary Farrell. It's quite linear and driven, with notes of Satsuma orange flesh, stone fruits and a pronounced notes of minerals on the finish.
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart
WE 95 WS 90

2015 Averaen (Banshee) Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 01-11-2017
Six months ago if someone told me I could buy a twenty dollar Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley that was produced from vineyards such as Meredith Mitchell and Eola Springs, I'd probably take offense to it. No one likes to be lied to! Alas, it's actually available. Made by our buddy Adam Smith (formerly of Bethel Heights & Shea - currently of Eisold Smith), this new project from the folks at Banshee Wine Company is an absolute knock out. Dark fruits, dried violets and a spicy finish. This is one of my top value choices of 2017.
Drink from 2017 to 2017
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart
VN 91

2014 Château de la Negly "La Côte" La Clape
Review Date: 01-10-2017
It's a lot of wine for twelve bucks, that's for sure. The carbonic maceration is clear, offering a ton of vibrancy and acid drive, while concurrently lending flavors of blue berries, red raspberry, and dried violets on the palate. You can comfortably pair this value driven red with a variety of dishes ranging from roasted poultry to seared duck to spicy sezchuan. I'd be completely satisfied if I paid upwards of thirty dollars for this bottle.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart

2014 Hess Collection Napa Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-10-2017
This year we have already enjoyed a tremendous run on value-driven Domestic Chardonnays. Well ladies and gents, the 2014 Hess Collection NV Chardonnay is another hit. Notes of butter, yellow nectarine and baking spices are front and center here. It's a richer, plusher style of Chardonnay, seeing roughly 20% new wood and going through partial malo. Another great wine from one of the best vintages for Domestic Chardonnay in recent memory.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart

2014 Domaine Drouhin "Arthur" Dundee Hills Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-10-2017
Loads of clove, cinnamon and baked apple on the nose of this young Chardonnay. The palate is racier than expected. While 2014 is a very lush, hot vintage, DDO's house style is consistently balanced in terms of acidity and ripeness. The wine is produced entirely from estate fruit (Dijon clones) and is fermented in both tank and barrel. This Chardonnay is always a show stopper in my eyes, and frankly, it's cheap considering the name and quality behind it.

2015 Charles Smith "Kung Fu Girl" Columbia Valley Riesling
Review Date: 01-10-2017
Tuesday night takeout has never met a better dinner companion. Whether it be Thai, Chinese or Sushi, this wine delivers the goods. Fresh acidity, notes of green apple, citrus flesh and a gentle minerality on the finish. For ten bucks I'm not looking for a life-changer, I'm looking for something to crack open and enjoy without any fuss. There's a reason we sell this stuff by the case!

2014 Mayacamas Mt. Veeder Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-06-2017
Green apple, racy lemon, yellow nectarine with a flash of vanilla and wet stone on the finish. This is an age-worthy, linear style of Chardonnay similar stylistically to Heitz Cellars'. It's steely and crisp, having spent time in neutral wood and stainless steel after fermentation. There's a reason Mayacamas has been in business for 125 years and it's because of bottlings such as this.
Price: $47.99 Add To Cart
VN 96 JS 94

2015 D'Arce, Côtes de Castillon
Review Date: 01-05-2017
It's certainly a more modern iteration from Bordeaux, but full of pretty red fruit and blueberry notes. The palate is lush and soft with a lot of fruit up front; it then moves into licorice, dark currant and dried herbs. The finish is elegant with touch of grip on the back end. Great little weeknight sipper.

2014 Olema Sonoma County Chardonnay
Review Date: 01-04-2017
Iv'e always been tremendously impressed with the pound for pound value that Olema (and Amici Cellars) offers on a consistent basis. This year's offering is a luscious and heavy expression of Sonoma County Chardonnay. It's brimming with notes of candied pineapple, Meyer lemon, satusuma oranges, marzipan and baking spices. For fifteen bucks it doesn't get better than this.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart
JS 91

2014 The Calling Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-30-2016
We all know that famous sports broadcaster Jim Nance has a velvety voice. Before now you may not have known that Jim Nance also has a velvety Pinot Noir from the Russian River named The Calling. It's lush and dark fruited, showing intense notes black cherry, mocha, Olallieberry preserve and ground glove on the palate. The finish is seamless and lengthy. Great wine.
Price: Hidden View Price
WE 91

2014 Moulin de la Gardette "Tradition" Gigondas
Review Date: 12-28-2016
Moulin De La Gardette is about as consistent as consistent gets. And yes, the 2014 release is another knockout. For twenty-five bucks you've got a wine that's going to be stellar tonight when you pull the cork and even better if you decide to lay it down for a few years. The aromatics of this wine are superb as well - cranberry, raspberry, Herbes de Provence and a distinct minerality that is largely unfound in wines at this price point. The aforementioned characteristics carry onto the palate with the addition of a snappy tannin on the finish.
Drink from 2016 to 2016
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart
VN 90 - 92

2014 Lemelson "Thea's Selection" Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-27-2016
This Willamette Valley Pinot Noir is full of ripe red berry fruit, Bing cherry, rose water and baking spices. It's lush, round and full on the palate, while offering plenty of acid drive and structure on the finish. At $28, this bottle is quite versatile, you can drink it tonight with a nice pork chop, or lay it down for a few years to see how it develops. I say do a little of both...
Drink from 2016 to 2016
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart
JS 93 WS 92

2013 Black Stallion Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 12-27-2016
Black Stallion Winery has only been around since 2007 and has already developed a reputation for producing some of Napa's best value driven wines. The 2013 Napa cab is forward and plummy, showing notes of blackberry preserve, mocha, cedar and baking spices. This is a short term hold; no need to cellar this wine. Just pull the cork and enjoy!

2013 Love & Squalor Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 12-06-2016
We picked up this wine last year and everyone, staff and customers alike, fell in love with it. This year's bottling carries an attractive nose of wild strawberry, Bing cherry, red raspberry and Mandarin orange zest coupled with an herbacious undertone that continues onto the palate. This vintage has already received high acclaim from the press and as a result we expect it to move quickly. If you're an Oregon Pinot Noir fan and want to try this wine, I suggest picking up a few before they're gone.

2013 Sinor-LaVallee San Luis Obispo County Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-30-2016
The Sinor LaVallee SLO County Chardonnay expresses richer tropical fruit notes such as Autalfo mangos and yellow pineapple plus the addition of torched marshmallow, crème brûlée, and baking spice. It's a lush and heavy wine with enough acid to keep it balanced. A phenomenal wine from the quaint little coastal town of Avila Beach, California.
Price: $21.99 Add To Cart
WE 93 VN 90

2013 Sarah's Vineyard Central Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-29-2016
Great value in Central Coast reds. Luscious notes of ripe black berry, dark cherry, dried herbs and sweet pipe tobacco. This is a wonderful Pinot Noir to pair with holiday dinners featuring pork tenderloin or a delicately prepared crown roast of lamb.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
WE 93

2013 Chardenet "Coteau Blanc" Carneros Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-29-2016
Classic Carneros expression of Chardonnay; aromatics of tropical fruit, green pineapple and lemon that lead into continued notes of green papaya and pineapple plus the inclusion of brioche and baking spices on the back-end. Great wine for the price. Drink now through 2020.

2015 Tablas Creek "Patelin de Tablas" Paso Robles Rhône Blanc
Review Date: 11-16-2016
This is, without question, the best Domestic White Rhone blend available right now. The Patelin de Tablas line has always been my go-to call when I'm forced to order wine from a restaurant list as they are always insanely good for the money (even with the restaurant's criminal mark-up) and pair very well with an array of foods. They're always bright and super clean. Great bargain for one of California's most interesting producers.

2014 Louis M. Martini Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-15-2016
An age-worthy domestic Cab for less than fifteen bucks? Yes, it exists. This is an incredibly serious wine at a price point that is laughably low. Black fruit, licorice, blackcurrant, green bell pepper, baking spices. Toss in a well integrated, powdery tannin on the back end just for good measure. Dump this bottle into a decanter and don't tell your dinner guests how much you paid for the bottle, they'll be remarkably impressed by your generosity.
Price: $13.99 Add To Cart
RP 90

Sean Thackrey "Pleiades XXIV Old Vines" California Red Blend
Review Date: 11-15-2016
An ever changing, non-vintage, multi-varietal blend of head scratching deliciousness. This year's release shows a nose of red berries, Campari, black cherry and dried violets. The body is a shave thinner than it's been in previous vintages, but still has solid weight and texture. I love the fact that this wine is perennially inconsistent in both varietal breakdown and flavor profiles, yet year after year it's fantastic. Thackrey is known for taking the road less traveled and this is a prime example of the payoff for doing so.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2015 Au Bon Climat/K&L Wine Merchants "Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 11-10-2016
Another classic expression of Bien Nacido Pinot Noir. Wild strawberries, salted herbs, blood orange peel and baking spice on the finish. One more knockout from ABC and a terrific addition to K&L's line of co-branded wines.
Drink from 2016 to 2016
Price: $29.99 Add To Cart

2012 Honorío Rubio "Lías Finas" Blanco Rioja
Review Date: 11-09-2016
Remember the '05 Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia we had last year? Well this is it's twin brother who no one ever told you existed. Classic funky, petrol-ish, waxy, chamomile scents with notes of toasted oats, lemon and green apple on the palate. This is an awesomely nerdy wine that you should endeavor into.
Price: $27.99 Add To Cart

2009 Miguel Merino "Vitola" Reserva Rioja
Review Date: 11-09-2016
This is the perfect transition wine for those fond of American wines who are looking to try something new or are simply tired of paying a premium for wines with a Napa Valley designation. It's full bodied, rich and dark fruited. The wine has been aged for at least three years with at least one in barrel. A top quality, progressive style of Rioja.
Price: $19.99 Add To Cart

2012 Miguel Merino "Viñas Jovenes" Crianza Rioja
Review Date: 11-09-2016
Not only has Miguel Merino figured out how to make his Crianzas taste like Gran Riservas, but he's learned how to make wine produced from young vines taste like their from old vines. How the heck did he do it? I don't know. But this bottle of wine drinks way above it's price point. Notes of dark fruit, dark berry and dusty bramble notes enter and darker, richer tones of mocha, chocolate and baking spices round out the finish. Fair warning, if this is your first experience with a Crianza, compare it to learning how to drive in a Ferrari.
Price: $14.99 Add To Cart

2014 Ancient Peaks/K&L Wine Merchants Paso Robles Zinfandel
Review Date: 11-08-2016
Gobs of black plum, dark cherry fruit and a plush, spicy finish. Oh, all for less than twenty five bucks? Count me in. Pair this wine with your next round of grilled tri-tip or ribs. This co-branded Zin is easily my top value-red coming out of the Paso Robles.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2012 Au Bon Climat "Historic Vineyards Collection-Bien Nacido Vineyard" Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 11-08-2016
This stuff is absolutely entrancing. Notes of yellow nectarines, apricots and pineapple just soar out of the glass and swirl into some richer pastry notes on the finish. One more home run from our buddy Jim Clendenon at ABC. This is an absolute game-changer for less than thirty bucks.

2013 Provenance Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-08-2016
I can't say I have ever seen a wine with the Beckstoffer name associated with it and priced under a hundred bucks (let alone $35). It simply doesn't happen. As to the wine itself, it's fantastic - dark fruited, plush and accessible, with that classic Rutherford dust to round out the finish. There's a reason we went all-in on this one.
Price: $34.99 Add To Cart
RP 94

2014 Forman "Château la Grande Roche" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-02-2016
Year after year I'm impressed by Forman's "Chateau La Grande Roche" Cabernet. I often find myself underwhelmed by second labels and understand why they didn't make the cut for a classified bottling. Not this one. It's structured and grippy, with notes of graphite, tobacco and black fruits. Drink this guy in a few years or give it an hour in a decanter. Great buy.
Price: $44.99 Add To Cart

2012 Kathryn Kennedy "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 11-01-2016
I don't always agree with the press, but this wine is worth every point (97 WE) it received earlier this year. It's high-toned and elegant, showing notes of strawberry rhubarb pie, pink peppercorns, bramble fruit and a dash of graphite and cedar on the back. I was a bit scared when I saw 14.6% printed on the label, but the wine isn't hot or flabby in the slightest. Another phenomenal wine from one of Santa Cruz's best.
Price: $99.99 Add To Cart
WE 97

2015 Domaine de Biéville (Louis Moreau) Chablis
Review Date: 10-28-2016
This is a classically styled old vine Chablis -- super clean and linear, showing notes of citrus fruit and chalky minerality throughout. An easy drinking wine that's perfect for the upcoming holiday season.
Price: $16.99 Add To Cart

Del Bac "Dorado" K&L Exclusive Single Barrel Mesquite Smoked Malt Whiskey (750ml)
Review Date: 10-21-2016
This stuff is really, really, really interesting. It's a visceral spirit that takes me back to backyard BBQs back in Wisconsin. Aromas of mesquite barbecue sauce, blistered peppers, torched marshmallows and vanilla emanate from the glass of this Southwestern single malt. This is a must-have for any whiskey geek such as myself.
Price: $64.99 Add To Cart

2014 Concannon Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-18-2016
I've always known about Concannon's history as the first American producer to bottle Petite Sirah under it's varietal name but I associated it more with the fact that was sold a twice in the eighties and again in the early nineties. I honestly figured the quality of their wines had diminished after changing hands so many times. Well, I stand corrected. Concannon's Paso Robles Cab is rich and structured, showing notes of white pepper, blueberry pie and boysenberry preserve. It's a plush and approachable cab at less than thirteen bucks. Doesn't get much better than this.
Price: $12.99 Add To Cart
WE 91

2015 Kalinda Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 10-18-2016
Finally! We were able to put together a smokin' deal to get some juice from the Willamette Valley bottled under the name of our in-house label. Made by our friends over at Chehalem, this particular bottling is less linear and acid-driven than their generally Burgundian, racy house-style. Notes of ripe raspberry, bright cranberry and lush red fruit kick around on the palate and taper down into baking spices and subtle earth notes on the finish. Barely edging out the North Coast Pinot Noir we released earlier this year, this is Kalinda's best red wine made to date.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

2014 Center of Effort "Effort" Edna Valley Chardonnay
Review Date: 10-14-2016
The 2014 Center of Effort EV Chardonnay is one of a few show-stoppers that I have tried recently. I've tasted it twice now (in line-ups of other domestic Chardonnays in the $10 to $30 range) and have been astounded by the purity and fruit quality of the wine. Without knowing otherwise, I'd price the bottle at upwards of thirty or forty bucks, but it costs less than twenty! This wine is a rock star within a wildly impacted and competitive category. My suggestion: come grab a few before they're gone.
Price: $17.99 Add To Cart
WE 93 RP 90

2013 Brassfield "Eruption - Volcano Ridge Vineyard" High Valley Red Blend
Review Date: 10-14-2016
A blend consisting of 38% Malbec, 36% Syrah, 16% Mourvèdre and 10% Petite Sirah, this is a very serious wine for sixteen dollars. Dark fruit, dark berries, solid fruit depth without any indication of jamminess. It's full-bodied and has a well-integrated, dusty tannin structure on the finish. Need I say more?
Price: $15.99 Add To Cart
WE 92

Michel Arnould Verzenay "Reserve" Brut Champagne (1.5L)
Review Date: 10-03-2016
This is a fantastic non-vintage bottling from Michel Arnould. The blend consists of a heavy dose of Pinot Noir (75%) and the rest Chardonnay, which creates a wonderfully delicate and floral nose that leads into heaps of red fruit and red berries. The finish is clean and citric. A truly special bottle of bubbles.
Price: $69.99 Add To Cart

2012 Hidden Ridge "55% Slope" Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon
Review Date: 10-01-2016
This is one heck of a wine for less than a hundred bucks. It's currently expressing notes of cassis, dark fruit, fresh salsa, dried herbs and licorice. I'd pick up a few of these for now and a few more for the future. It's pretty wound up right now and needs at least an hour of air time if you're going to open it tonight, but I'm substantially certain this wine can withstand a decade or more in your cellar.
Top Value!

2013 Melville "Estate" Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-21-2016
Red fruited and herbaceous, this year's estate bottling has plenty of structure and depth to offer. Notes of wild strawberry, dried cranberry and traces of dried rose petals on the finish. Melville parted ways with their head winemaker Greg Brewer (of Brewer-Clifton & La Voix) at the end of 2015 so there's only a few more vintages with his legacy attached to it.

2013 Mount Eden "Estate" Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay
Review Date: 09-15-2016
Mount Eden has released yet another lovely Chardonnay. Surprised? Well you shouldn't be. The latest vintage is a little bigger and flashy than it has been in the past, yet it still retains great acidity and focus. Aromas of green pineapple and fresh Bosc pear pour out of the glass. On the palate, yellow nectarine, more pineapple, and Meyer lemon. Another home run by our friends over at Mount Eden.
Price: $59.99 Add To Cart
WE 95 VN 93

2014 Melville "Estate" Sta. Rita Hills Syrah
Review Date: 09-15-2016
It's a robust, hearty Syrah packed with notes of smoked bacon, coppa, tapenade, capers, black plum, and baking spices. Smoked red meat and cured pork take center stage here, with black fruits and white pepper coming in for support. This could be from St. Joseph and priced at $60+ if I didn't know better. But I do, and it's from Melville, and criminally under-priced at $30 each.
Price: Hidden View Price
RP 95

2013 Walter Hansel "Cahill Lane" Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-09-2016
Soft berry fruit, dried rose hip and baking spices to cap it off. This year is more "Burgundian" in style than some of Hansel's previous vintages. In my opinion it's one of the best pound-for-pound Pinot Noirs in the category right now. 2013 was an awesome vintage - as evidenced by this wine - in the Russian River AVA and the surrounding territories. Sip or sit on this bottle. Your choice. For the patient connoisseur I'm confident that this wine will continue to develop for the next 8 to 12 years.
Price: $38.99 Add To Cart
RP 93 VN 93

2015 Eric Cottat Sancerre Rosé
Review Date: 09-09-2016
Focused and linear, Eric Cottat's Sancerre Rose is my go-to wine when I'm enjoying a roasted or braised poultry dish. Zippy mineral notes, red fruit and citrus zest are front and center here. Great value in Sancerre.
Price: $11.99 Add To Cart

2015 Boekenhoutskloof "The Wolftrap" Red Blend Western Cape
Review Date: 09-08-2016
It's forward, approachable, and darn delicious for under ten bucks. A blend of Mourvedre, Syrah and a tad Viognier (for some added lift), the wine shows notes of ripe cherry, game, dried cranberry and a hint of baking spice. I always keep a few bottles of the Wolftrap at my place for nights that I want a glass of good wine but don't want to break into anything too pricey.
Price: $8.99 Add To Cart

2013 Roth Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Review Date: 09-08-2016
Bright, full and luscious, this is a classic Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir that shows notes of dark berries, ripe red cherry, baking spices and soft, integrated tannins on the finish. My go-to crowd-pleaser for work events, weddings and parties. Great value.
Price: $24.99 Add To Cart

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