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CellarTracker Review: Lenora Winery 2005 Cabernet Franc

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Purchased at the winery on a day trip to Ramona Valley wineries in Oct 2012. Lenora Winery was our first stop, and this was my favorite wine that we tasted. I unfortunately cannot recommend much of what we tasted that day, but I think we all agreed on this one.

Cabernet Franc is usually blended with other Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot. This vintage of grapes (sourced from Santa Barbara County) warranted this wine to be bottled on its own (or as the primary varietal).

Opened to pair with a plate of whole wheat pasta, mushrooms, & marinara sauce. Wine pours a dark purple hue, nose was earthy, not getting much of a bouquet. Nice smooth mouthfeel, not too tannic. Flavors of berries, leather, and tobacco on the mid-palate. Finished smoothly, albeit with a bite of alcohol (perhaps due to the age of this bottling).

Overall, a very good wine for the value that had me refilling my glass. Another example of the many finds awaiting San Diegans who explore the wine regions in our own backyards.

Score: 88
14.8% ABV

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CellarTracker review: 2008 Dutton Estate (Russian River Valley, Dutton Ranch) Karmen Isabella Pinot Noir

This was a highly anticipated bottle to uncork, and did not disappoint. Lush strawberry notes and a hint of spice (cardamom, cloves?) on the nose. Drinks nice, slightly darker than other Pinots I’ve enjoyed lately, firm but silky tannins showing off a well-balanced and varietally correct Pinot Noir. I got some dense cherry pie on the mid-palate. Not the most fruit-forward Pinot, but not as subdued or earthy as some French burgundies either. I would buy this again, and heartily recommend a visit to this winery when in Russian River Valley (northern Sonoma county).

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CellarTracker review: 2009 Rancho Sisquoc Sylvaner

Sylvaner is an ancient varietal of white wine grape originating from central eastern Europe and mostly fpund within Germany nowadays. Rancho Sisquoc, a family-owned winery located in the rural eastern end of the Santa Maria Valley in Santa Barbara County, is the only producer of Sylvaner in California. I picked up some honey and floral notes on the bouquet, nice aroma on this one. I got some apricot on the mid-palate and a slight bit of citrus on the finish.
A bit off-dry upfront, but let it linger a bit to enjoy the crispness as it develops, with the crunch of a green apple. Pick this up if you can find it, I picked mine up at the winery, which is one of my most-recommended wineries in Santa Barbara County…great off-the-beaten-path scenery and standout wines that won’t bust your budget.

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Keepin’ it real on a Monday night: Cline Oakley Five Reds

Uncorked this inexpensive red blend for dinner tonight (veggie pizza & samosas from Trader Joe’s). Picked this up at Cline Cellars in the Carneros region just outside of the town of Sonoma (where I’ve been a wine club member since 2008), but the grapes all come from the Oakley area in Contra Costa County, where the Cline family has been producing wine grapes for years, including many of their near-famous old vine Zinfandels.

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This is probably the least expensive wine in their catalogue, an everyday table wine blended from Merlot, Syrah, Barbera, Petite Sirah, and Alicante Bouschet. The color is a deep dark red, owing much of its depth to the Alicante Bouschet, a grape varietal you don’t hear much about but was widely planted in this part of California during Prohibition years, when its tough skins and high wine yields made it a popular grape for exporting to the east coast (it was legal for each household to produce up to 200 gallons of wine per year for their own consumption).

I find this wine to be a very good buy for a table wine blend. It’s got notes of blackberries and plums, with a peppery finish and just a slight tannic bite. If you like a bold Syrah or medium-bodied Zinfandel you will probably like this wine for its value. Unlike a lot of inexpensive red blends out there, this one has very little vegetal character and the tannins are fairly balanced with the fruit, for some nice casual drinking. Under $10, find it at Cost Plus World Market.