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The Dozen - Return to Cienega

The first time I ventured into the Cienega Valley south of Hollister and one valley inland from the Salinas River was in the late 1970’s when I visited a small family winery named Enz. I bought a half-bottle of their 1975 Zinfandel, which I still have in my cellar and will get around to drinking one of these days.

The second visit was a couple of years later when I was flown by helicopter from San Francisco International to the old Almaden winery that sits across the San Andreas fault and has the scars to show it. I’ve not been back since.

But now I have a reason to go. Some of the best California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays I’ve tasted recently are being made there by Cory Waller at Christian Pillsbury’s Eden Rift winery – and I haven’t tasted their reserves yet.

There are four in today’s Dozen, and they are worth searching out.

2018 Beaulieu Vineyards Carneros Chardonnay ($22). Quite toasty with lots of apples, yet balanced with good minerality and a crisp close.

2017 Livio Felluga Collio Pinot Grigio ($25). Pleasant, but could use some zip.

2018 Eden Rift “Valliant” Central Coast Chardonnay ($26). Delicious. Apple flavors with floral accents, good body but lean in structure, crisp acidity and stony minerality. French in style.

2017 Sosie “Vivio” Bennett Valley Roussanne ($38). Complex – lovely floral and vanilla notes, nice touch of bitters at the edges and a savory finish.

2018 Eden Rift Cienega Valley Chardonnay ($43). Similar in flavors to the Central Coast, but more generous and not as structured, with a hint of creaminess and a lovely aftertaste. Which is better? It’s a lovely toss-up.

2017 Newton Unfiltered Napa Valley Chardonnay ($50). Very smooth and fruity up front, but quickly narrows into minerally and crisp finish. Enjoyable.

Endrizzi Masetto Prive Millesimato Trento Riserva Spumante ($66). Mellow apples and agave flavors with dried spices, some nice minerality, medium body and a crisp finish.

2018 Eden Rift “Valliant” Central Coast Pinot Noir ($26). Concentrated black raspberry fruit with a tangy finish – quite nice.

2017 Stags’ Leap Winery Napa Valley Petite Sirah ($37). A good, burly wine with concentrated dark fruit – but not “fruity” fruity – and good savory balance. Powerful, but not over-powering.

2018 Eden Rift Cienega Valley Pinot Noir ($51).  Same raspberry fruit and tangy notes as the Central Coast, but with a little more finesse. On the edge of being extracted, but delightfully not.

2017 Newton Unfiltered Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($56). An enjoyable lean and savory Cab with dark cherry fruit – a great alternative to fruit-forward Napa Cabernets.

2017 Newton “The Puzzle” Napa Valley Red Wine ($122). Quite nice – great blackberry fruitiness with good oak notes and some edginess around the perimeter.


Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com.

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