We look back on our first year at DdV

Hard to believe we’ve gotten through our first year here at DdV. Fittingly, we started in April of 2012 by covering the Radio-Coteau spring open house and finished the same way with their fall open house. During that time, we scored 86 wines from top of the line premium to mid priced value wonders to tasty everyday supermarket finds. We also attended a myriad of wonderful tasting events and sampled more than a fair share of wine country cuisine.

We now present our top 5 in several categories covered in 2012. Enjoy!

Best New Releases in 2012 and our Wine of The Year

Wine of The Year – 2009 Joseph Phelps Insignia


DdV: 98
Price: $200.00
Blend: 89% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Petit Verdot and 4% Merlot
Source: Napa Valley, California

We had the Insignia for the first time at their release party last spring. There are few wines this jaded taster can truly call life altering but this is one of them. This was the highest scoring wine from us all year and after revisiting several times it seems almost more impressive. Here’s our tasting notes from the Insignia Release Party.

Everything a true Napa Bordeaux style blend should be.  Rich, elegant, and yes even glamorous (there I said it).  French roast coffee and dark blackberry greet you on the nose with more dark berry, dark cherry, cassis, and plum coming through on the mid palate.  Nice graphite and hints of mineral on the very very long finish.  Exceptional balance and big ripe tannins will only get better with age.  This is a top cellar candidate yet really shines now in 2012.

Here are our other favorites, all amazing!

2. Robert Craig 2009 Spring Mountain Cabernet / 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet (tie)

DdV: 97/97
Price: $70.00
Blend: Spring: 100% Cab. Howell: 98% Cab., 2% Petit Verdot
Source: Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain, California

2009 Spring Mountain

Sourced from the The Crowley Vineyard at 2,000 feet, this rich expression of mountain Cabernet exhibits a robust dark purple color and a nose of dark huckleberry, mountain flowers, and deep plum. More dark mountain berry and plum on the mid palate await with a long finish of brambly tannins and bright stone.  Lush and creamy mouth feel make this a true joy to drink now while young but will certainly gain more complex flavors and finesse after spending time in the cellar. Decant.

2009 Howell Mountain

The Cab is nothing short of stunning – dark cherry, mineral, and even a slight floral note on the nose with big bold dark cherry and berry throughout.  Finishes long with hints of mineral, italian roast coffee and just a pinch of pepper and spice.  Great balance and complexity and will do very well in the cellar.

3. Outpost Winery – 2009 Howell Mountain Cabernet

DdV: 97-98
Price: $65.00
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Source: Howell Mountain

A brilliant mountain masterpiece!  If you’re looking for a perfect example of Howell Mountain terroir then this is it.  This is a big, bold, fruit forward wine but is wonderfully complex and nuanced.  Lush flavors explode out of the glass with plenty of dark huckleberry, plum, currant, and a host of other dark mountain berries (pick one or all here).  Plenty of berry, plum, and a slight hint of floral vanilla on the nose and a long finish with hints of bright stone and subtle spice make this a truly classic Cabernet. The price point is a testament to their dedication and appreciation of their customers. This is arguably among the best values in premium Cabernet for this vintage.  Very highly recommended. This will do wonderfully in the cellar but is very good now. Decant.

4. Rodney Strong 2008 Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon

DdV: 96
Price: $75.00
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Source: Alexander Valley – Sonoma County

This is my first experience with the Rockaway and most certainly will not be my last.  This 2008 effort is an instant classic for me and reminds me of the Napa mountain wines I love so much.  Big, bold, complex but approachable now. Big dark mountain berries and an elegant touch of oak on the nose gives way to more dark berry, plum, cassis, and hints of coffee and spice.  Finish is very long with some chocolate, graphite, cedar and brambly mountain tannins. For me, this wine is great now but may be a bit hot for some while young.  This will really open up in the cellar for a year or two.  This is one of my favorites of the 08 vintage and is highly recommended.  Decant.

5. Luna Vineyards – 2007 North Fork Cabernet Sauvignon

DdV: 96
Price: $60.00
Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
Source: Howell Mountain – North Fork Vineyard

Another very fine effort from winemaker Tom Peterson.  Dark cherry and hints of cedar greet on the nose with lush dark berry on the mid palate finishing good and long with a wonderful balance.  This wine is complex now but will gain more nuance as it ages.  A huge new favorite for us. This will make grilled steak sing. Decant.

Our Favorite Wine Events of 2012

We were very fortunate to be invited to a myriad of terrific wine events this year. Here are our top 5. Click on each name to read our reviews of the events.

1. Joseph Phelps Insignia Release Party

2. Howell Mountain Benefit

3. Mount Veeder Appellation Tasting

4. Howell Mountain Harvest Celebration

5. Atlas Peak Harvest Celebration

Supermarket Finds of the Year

Our final top 5 list is reserved for our supermarket finds. Judging by web stats, this is the most popular recurring feature here at DdV. It seems we’re not the only ones looking for tasty everyday drinking bargains. Without further ado, here’s our favorite 5 for 2012:

Supermarket Find of the Year


La Vieille Ferme Cotes du Ventoux – Récolte Rouge

DdV: 87
Price: 750 ML : $7.99 – $8.99 (super markets) / 1.5 L : as low as $9.99 (Costco) Blend: 50% Grenache with Carignan and Syrah
Source: AOC Ventoux – Provence, France

This wasn’t the highest scoring supermarket find but at $9.99 for a 1.5 L bottle and for its food friendliness the La Vielle Ferme stands atop the mountain this year.

A very tasty Rhone style red at an amazing price.  I mean a magnum for $9.99 amazing! This is another wine that is consistently excellent year after year.  Sourced from vineyards on the slopes of Mont Ventoux in Southern France, this medium bodied red shows lush dark cherry, berry, currant, spice, and light pepper with a refreshing mineral note on the finish. This wine is very versatile and will pair with grill, roasts, pasta, and pizza.  This is easy to spot as it has a hen and a rooster on the label.

2. Luna Vineyards – 2010 Pinot Grigio

DdV: 90
Price: $11.00
Blend: 92% Pinot Grigio 8% Albarino
Source: 100% Napa Valley

The 2010 Pinot Grigio has changed in it’s makeup from 2009 as they have now added a small amount of Albarino to the mix.  Albarino is a white wine varietal typically grown in Spain and Portugal and is known for it’s lush mouth feel and apricot and peach notes that is very similar to Viognier.  This addition gives this wine a different but equally fine result as the 2009 we raved about a few months ago.  Similar apricot and wysteria blossom on the nose gives way to zesty lemon, more apricot, and tangy peach on the finish.  A bright, light, refreshing wine with a soft lush mouth feel.  Although the price is up a buck or two from last year, still a fantastic value. Try this with some prosciutto and melon.  Fantastic!

3. Joel Gott – Unoaked Chardonay 2011

DdV: 90
Price: $11.00
Blend: 100% Chardonnay
Source: Various California

A bright refreshing Chard offering here.  The vanilla and honeysuckle on the nose gets you ready for some oak on the draw but you will find none.  Nothing but bright key lime, apple, and stone fruit with crisp acidity and a clean finish.  This is a fantastic summer sipper and will work well with a myriad of Chard worthy food.  Great value!

4. Pacific Rim – 2009 Dry Riesling

DdV: 90
Price: $10
Blend: 100% Riesling
Source: Columbia Valley, Washington

If you love your Chinese takeout as much as we do, finding a good wine to pair with it is always a bit of an adventure.  Well folks, the adventure can be as simple as navigating the wine section of your local supermarket and grabbing this very good, very versatile dry Riesling from Washington State’s Pacific Rim.

This wine is lush yet is crisp and dry.  Refreshing citrus and floral notes are the highlights with a subtle yet sparkling mineral finish.  The versatility of this wine can not be overstated.  The lower 13.5% alcohol level makes this work wonders with lemon chicken or sweet & sour pork yet can also hold its own with spicy Mongolian beef or kung pao chicken.  Spicy Thai, Vietnamese, or Korean fare is also right at home here.  Even a Chicago style hot dog will pair great with this wine.

I’ve found this wine on sale for as little as $8 and another plus is the consistency.  I found the 2007, 2008, and 2009 equally great.  This wine has more than enough character to drink all by itself.  Great on a hot day.  I’ve also used it in my favorite oven roasted vegetable recipe.

5. Chateau St. Jean – 2009 Merlot

DdV: 89
Price: $8.99
Blend: n/a
Source:  Sonoma

Easily at the top of the Super Market Find food chain.  Terrific everyday wine and the best of the Merlot’s in this class.  Black cherry, plum, and blackberry flavors abound mid palate with a hint of cloves and cedar on a smooth long finish.  Great with grill or with roasted fare.  Consistent year after year.