Jamieson Ranch: Napa Valley’s gateway winery

As you travel north and enter Napa Valley, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards sits at the gateway. It’s the winery further south than any other in Napa. Their estate is composed of more than 300 acres. From those vines and other fruit, they craft a portfolio of wines under several sub-labels but all part of the overall Jamieson Ranch umbrella. Considering their Napa Valley location and the quality of their general portfolio, there is a lot to like here for the money.

Even their flagship red, Double Lariat Cabernet, is a bargain compared to wines of similar quality from many of their neighbors. Here’s a look at four current releases that I recommend. It’s worth noting that a portion of the profits from the wines under the Light Horse label benefit the Light Horse Foundation. This organization was founded by the winery to help support at risk people, in particular those with autism.

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Spain’s Navarra region features wines packed with flavor & value

The Navarra region located in Northern Spain was for years known largely as a producer of Rosé wines, often made from Garnacha. Over time, that has changed. Today, Navarra features Reds, Whites and Rosés made from a myriad of varieties both local and international. I just tasted through some current release wines from Navarra and I found a lot to like. The wines I sampled offered tons of genuine flavors that are true to the grapes in play. Additionally, they also represent really good values that are well priced for everyday drinking. However, the quality and complexity of a couple selections make them appropriate for special occasions or gifting too.

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Bodegas Marco Real 2015 Marco Real Red Young Blend ($11)

This offering blends together Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. As the name indicates, this is a young, lightly aged wine. From the first whiff to the last sip, it’s loaded with fresh, eager red fruit flavors. Cherry and bits of strawberry appear on the nose. The palate is loaded with cherry, leather, raspberry and spices. Bits of mineral and pepper appear on the finish. Here’s a young, juicy wine that goes down easily and will pair with a wide array of foods. At around $10, it’s a really good value.

Bodegas Castillo De Monijardin 2013 Coupage Seleccion ($12)

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo make up this offering. Cherry, tobacco and black pepper notes emerge from the nose. The palate is filled with chewy red fruit flavors and wisps of earth. Leather, red raspberry and roasted espresso emerges on the firm finish. This would pair beautifully with pot roast or strong cheeses.

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2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Wine

Most of us have at least one wine lover on our holiday shopping list. With that in mind, I tasted through a ton of different wines to find some I could recommend in different price ranges. I also tried out some wine-related gift ideas and have a suggestion there too. Each of these wines is delicious and offers more value than the price would indicate. Of course, these also make great choices for your holiday table.

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Purple Heart 2014 Red Blend ($20)

This wine is predominately Merlot (80%) with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Petite Sirah (4%) and Petit Verdot (1%) blended in. It’s created in cooperation with the Purple Heart foundation, and each year, a donation is made to them. Dark fruits, violets and bakers spices light up the nose. The palate is bold and substantial with tons of black fruit flavors tinged by intermingling bits of red fruit. Wisps of roasted espresso, mocha and clove are all evident on the substantial finish. This is a delicious wine that helps a good cause.

Alcance 2014 Merlot ($22)

In addition to Merlot (90%), some Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) was blended in. All of the fruit is from the Maule region of Chile, an area where Bordeaux varieties thrive. Cherry, red plum and spices are present on the nose. The palate is stuffed with chewy red fruit flavors, a hint of sage and black pepper spice. These elements all continue on the finish. Supple tannins and firm acid provide structure to this mouthwatering Merlot.

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Paso’s Peachy Canyon closes in on 30 years

Since 1988, Peachy Canyon has been producing distinct wines from Paso Robles. As with many wineries that have been in Paso that long, Zinfandel stands at the core of what they do. Over the years, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhone varieties, and in a couple of cases, fine Pinot Noir have popped up and made a stand in Paso. However, Zinfandel remains the grape that many people think of and drink when they pop the cork on a bottle of Paso wine for the very first time.

That’s a good thing, too, because Paso Robles has a ton of producers growing and bottling distinct examples of Zinfandel. Some are single vineyard efforts, others Paso wide cuvees, and still more focus on a sub appellation. Peachy Canyon has their fair share of Zinfandels in a wide portfolio. Here’s a look at some current Zinfandel releases, as well as a couple of other fine wines from Peachy Canyon.

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Peachy Canyon 2014 Incredible Red ($14)

This is mostly Zinfandel (98%) with a splash of Petite Sirah (2%) blended in. If you’re looking for that everyday house red that provides lots of hedonistic drinking pleasure for a reasonable price, here’s a more than solid option. Black fruit aromas and Mexican vanilla bean are evident on the nose. The palate is full flavored, juicy and loaded with red and black fruit flavors. Boysenberry, bits of brown sugar and more are evident on the above average and somewhat lusty finish.

Peachy Canyon 2012 Cirque du Vin ($19)

This blend is comprised of Syrah (60%), Petite Sirah (28%), Zinfandel (5%), Merlot (3%), Malbec (2%) and Tannat (2%). Violet and plum aromas lead the nose. The palate is filled with bits of savory herb, dried cherry, raspberry and more. A touch of bacon fat leads the finish along with bits of toast and continued fruit flavors. This seamless blend will satisfy a crowd with varied tastes. The under-$20 price point makes it a no-brainer purchase.

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Oso Libre embraces sustainability in Paso Robles

The seeds of Oso Libre were planted in 1996 when Chris and Linda Behr purchased 90 acres of property. Over the next 11 years, they took what had been undeveloped land and turned it into a vineyard and cattle ranch. On their property, they utilize sustainable farming methods and also embrace renewable energies. Paso Robles has several distinct growing regions. Oso Libre sits in the Adelaida District, which is way out west in Paso, just 10 miles from the Pacific. Their property sits at an elevation of approximately 1,300 feet. I recently tasted through a selection of the family-owned winery’s offerings and found a lot to like. Everything I tasted was undoubtedly Paso – delicious, loaded with solid fruit, obvious curb appeal and reasonably priced for the quality in the bottle. Here’s a look at four wines to reach for at your next dinner.

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Oso Libre 2012 Osezno Zinfandel ($38)

All of the fruit came from the La Vista Vineyard in the Adelaida section of Paso Robles. It was aged over 20 months in a combination of new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (70%) oak. 860 cases were produced. The beautifully engaging nose is loaded with red jam fruit and wisps of vanilla bean. Oodles of fresh, vibrant red fruit and spice flavors dominate the juicy palate. Pepper, hints of cinnamon and continued red fruit flavors are evident on the above average finish. This fruit-driven Zin retains excellent balance and will pair well with a wider array of foods than most Zinfandels.

Oso Libre 2011 Querida Cabernet Sauvignon ($42)

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (90%), some Merlot (10%) was also blended in. All of the fruit came from the Abernathy Vineyard in Adelaida. It was aged over 14 months in new Hungarian (30%) and neutral French (30%) oak. 360 cases were produced. Paso is best known for Zinfandel and Rhone varieties. However, there is an increasing number of well-heeled Cabernet’s emerging, and this is one of them. Juicy black and red fruit aromas leap from the nose here along with bits of savory herbs. Raspberry and cherry flavors are evident on the palate, which has good depth. Bits of earth, spice and more appear on the solid finish. This Cabernet has racy acid and approachable tannins. Drink it over the next five years. Pair it with red meat for best results.

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