Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES November 9th

Premium California

By John Szabo, MS with notes from Michael Godel, David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

The Vintages bi-weekly release themes are of course planned many months in advance, so there would be no way of knowing this “Premium California” focus would correspond with yet another round of devastating wildfires in the state, especially in northern California. The so-called Kincade Fire, the largest fire yet recorded in Sonoma County, started Oct. 23 northeast of Geyserville at John Kincade Road and (prophetically-named) Burned Mountain Road. It has consumed some 80,000 acres, including over 400 destroyed or damaged structures. By the time this report goes to press, the California fire officials expect to have the blaze fully contained.

But the story could have been much worse. The main damage was sustained in a non-residential, rural area of northeastern Sonoma County, comprised mainly of grass and brushland. According to the California Wine Institute, “the vast majority of Sonoma County vineyards and wineries are intact. Vineyards are serving as firebreaks due to their high moisture content, helping to save structures and homes, although there have been some individual losses.”

Furthermore, the 2019 winegrape harvest will be largely unaffected. “Wineries in the North Coast and around the state are finished or were in the homestretch of the harvest prior to the fires. The 2019 California growing season presented vintners with wine grapes of high quality and a large harvest just slightly smaller than 2018.”

But damage was done, and the best way to contribute to recovery is to pump some money back into California. And the smart, win-win way for wine lovers is to buy California wine. The November 9th release offers plenty of opportunity to do just that, with a parade of top notch, premium-priced wines on offer. The range is one of the best I can remember; little shelf space was reserved for more speculative mid-priced wines. You’ll find trusted, classic names like Kistler, Shafer, Dominus, Mondavi and Cliff Lede, among others, who all performed superbly with their efforts from the string of vintages from ’14 to ’17 represented in this release. And when contemplating the hefty price tags, remember the wildfire relief efforts. It’s a good cause.

For others seeking less thrillingly-priced wines, we’ve also picked out some smart buys from around the world featuring, unintentionally, the southern hemisphere, with a nod to Ontario and the South of France. Oh, and there’s one really sharp value California cabernet as well.

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Buyers Guide November 9th: Premium California White

Kistler Sonoma Mountain Chardonnay 2017, Sonoma County USA ($114.95)
John Szabo – Kistler’s latest Sonoma Mountain chardonnay is a lovely, ripe, seamless wine, of a very high degree of sophistication. Enjoy now or hold until 2027+.
Michael Godel Kistler’s Sonoma Mountain is just about as deep and brooding as it gets for chardonnay which indicates a high level chain of extract and tannin. Thankfully the fully ripened and extracted fruit can withstand the onslaught of intensity. As might we, were we find the right food to match the tension. Rich seafood is so obvious but clearly the right way to go.  …


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I hope these selections prove comforting as the bite of autumn enters the picture. We will be back with more recommendations next week from beyond VINTAGES.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.
John’s Top Picks
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommeliers Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview