New Release: Lot 892 2019 Sonoma County Pinot Noir

Virtually all great winegrowing regions are situated by water, which has a moderating effect on climatic extremes. This vintage comes from Carneros. Compared with Sonoma County’s other cool-climate AVAs, like the Sonoma Coast and Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, Carneros receives much less rainfall, and it’s farther from the Pacific Ocean. The moderating influence of San Pablo Bay, the northern portion of the greater San Francisco Bay, keeps Carneros cool and windy, but not too cold. Despite the broad agricultural vista it presents, the area’s dense, clay soils are not particularly deep but are made of wide, flat plains. This is a distinctive characteristic of Carneros; full of cool, foggy mornings and evenings, and sun all day across the relatively uniform landscape of gently rolling hills.

Medium ruby with garnet hues. A muscular, brawny Pinot sporting dusty red cherries, cola, brown spice aromas, and smoky clove. A rustic, lovely Pinot Noir overflowing with bright red-toned fruit, leather, and crushed stone minerals atop sinewy tannins. Nice lift with bright acidity and a fantastic long finish marked by crushed clove, black tea, and cedar.

Watch as Chris Lafleur, Sommeliers Creed for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 878 2019 Tuscany Chianti Classico

Ah, Tuscany—home to the Chianti Classico DOCG where towering cypress trees and olive-grove-lined roads wind through vine-covered hillsides, and where today’s release Lot 878 2019 Chianti Classico was sourced.

Chianti borders the Maremma, the Italian “Wild West,” which is home to cowboys herding longhorn cattle through vast stretches of undeveloped wilderness. It’s the place where Tuscan winemakers catch waves along the Tyrrhenian coastline between Livorno and San Vincenzo. They stop for Primi Piatti di Mare at quaint seaside restaurants before venturing an hour and a half back to their wine caves in those Tuscan hills—where DOCG red wines are made in tiny amounts by generational talents.

This region is where iconic triple-digit-priced Super Tuscans like Tignanello and Ornellaia have been created. It’s where Sangiovese grapes are harvested and transformed into gorgeous Chianti reds—just like Lot 878, which comes to us from a pioneering Tuscan family—vintners who over the years have supplied some of our best Italian reds for our Lot program. This is a Chianti Classico we’d put up against any $80+ bottle, and at only $16, it’s nothing short of a steal…

Medium ruby-garnet on the pour, this is a benchmark expression of Italian Chianti Classico. Lot 878 leads with a bowl of ripe cherries, hints of caramel and toffee, toasty oak, and earth. Impressively broad and juicy, with loads of ripe black cherry, then a host of savory black olive, cured meats, and fire-roasted Mediterranean herbs. The finish is long and punctuated by a crushed red granite rock minerality. We call this your everything wine because it’s one to enjoy alongside your best Sunday sauce, weeknight pasta, or brick oven pizza.

Watch as Zach Long, winemaker for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 886 2021 Alexander Valley Merlot

Fellow Merlot lovers – have you noticed any headlines in the wine magazines you frequent pointing out that producers of world-class Merlot are struggling to keep up with demand? After all, many Merlot vines were torn out in the early Aughts—thanks to one cult-classic movie, which shall not be named! But that’s all changing, and the wineries that held onto their precious Merlot, are reaping the rewards.

Lot 886 2021 Alexander Valley Merlot, comes from a well-known Merlot-focused vintner who has been featured on Wine Spectator’s Top 10 Values lists and “10 Commendable California Merlots.” The Russian River, which snakes its way through Alexander Valley, brings cool air with it during the warm growing months, allowing the natural acids in grapes to remain firm, which leads to a remarkable freshness, or brightness, in the wine – a fantastic AVA to grow Merlot. At nearly $40/bottle at the source winery’s tasting room, it can be yours today for only half at just $20.

Boasting a deep ruby color in the glass, Lot 886 is fabulously decadent and plush, revealing a wealth of flavors on the palate of ripe cherry, fragrant red currants, and spiced Santa Rosa plums. The finish is rich and velvety with lingering notes of black fruit, dried herbs, and baking spices. Enjoy a glass while prepping a roast chicken, another while whipping up a rich mushroom gravy, and depending on how long it takes for dinner to cook, maybe even crack open a second bottle.

Watch as Chris Lafleur, Sommeliers Creed for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 895 2019 Red Mountain Bordeaux

Adding to our Black Label series is Lot 895 2019 Red Mountain Bordeaux Blend! Another ride-or-die offering dressed to kill in our amazing, exclusive, and festive Black Label series.

Lot 895 similarly hails from the same elegantly rugged terroir of the Pacific Northwest as our last black label release the Lot 894 Merlot, but the grapes in this mix are sourced out of Red Mountain AVA. This mountainous region has plantings that started back in 1975, and is a well-known area for world-class Bordeaux varietals. Its soft sloping mountain range has nutrient-rich topsoil over sand, silt, and gravel. You can literally taste the elements in this Bordeaux blend that brings in richness and complexity from the varietals and the intensity & elegance from the terroir.

This mostly Malbec blend hits you with its distinct aromatic, floral violet, and lilac smells which envelope its rich, ripe black cherry, blackberry, and plum notes. Earthy vanilla, cloves, and hints of dill and chocolate waft onto your palette inside firm tannins and a lively acidity augmented by some denseness and richness of the Cabernet Sauvignon. Grippy, but unpretentious with savory layers of olive, currants, and passion fruit make this a stellar, well-rounded blend that can hold up against heavier fare like grilled meats and lasagna while still retaining a lightness that allows it to pair seamlessly with holiday stews, turkey, or charcuterie boards. Overall, this is a deep, earthy offering that embodies the spirit and quality of our Black Label series.

Watch as Katy Long, Director of International Wines for VWE walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 894 2020 Columbia Valley Merlot

Lot 894 was sourced from deep-pocketed producers in Washington State (there are only a few!) firmly established in the Yakima Valley. The vineyards and winery were planted/built to make world-class Merlot and other Bordelaise varietals. No expense was spared on any aspect of this wine program. This sumptuous Merlot comes from a $60+ bottle program, but drinks like a $90+ bottle and is an exceptional value at $22/bottle, $264/case. It’s a must-try.

The grapes in Lot 894 were grown in lean soils, with high-desert winds, and diurnal swings producing small berries with tougher skins. The result is more concentrated fruit and intense complexity. This particular Merlot is a powerful wine with all the structure and stuffing of Cabernet but made all the more compelling with the trademark supple mouthfeel.

Deep ruby in the glass, Cabernet-like. The bouquet is super pretty with ethereal, powdery florals combined with cherry truffle, and raspberry puree underpinned with sweet herbs. The pyrazines in this wine are so nuanced under the richness of dark fruit creating a mini symphony of delicate and rustic. Supple and seamless on entry, the ripe red and black fruits are robust but so well-balanced with just the right amount of acidity. The show-stopper is the mid-palate that reveals mineral-coated tannins unfurling in a blast of baking spice and licorice, purple jalapeño pepper, and black/red fruit. Just, wow! So beautifully crafted and incredibly expressive.

Watch as Chris Lafleur, Sommeliers Creed for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 808 2019 North Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Lot 808 comes to us from a Mount Veeder winery that’s been under the same family ownership for almost half a century, produced by a very skilled winemaker whose decades of experience led him to craft this expertly woven blend of different Cabernets from the best of Napa and nearby North Coast wine country. The wine is aged in 30% new French oak for 18 months before bottling, and delivers all the checkboxes you want: red/black fruit, superb cooperage, tannins, texture, and structure. Despite having all the pedigree and precision you’d expect from a winery that also produces Cab that sells for almost $200/bottle, this wine is available at a vastly superior QPR because it isn’t entirely comprised of Napa fruit – a supremely attractive bang-for-the-buck offer any way you slice it, and the very definition of “perfect weekday Cab.”

Deep ruby and beautifully extracted on the pour, the nose is a wonderful intersection of red berries, black cherry, and bramble fruit underpinned by new leather, fallen leaves, and eucalyptus. The entry is very expressive in its youth and terroir-driven, introducing tobacco, bell pepper, leather, and clay pot alongside medium acidity, framed by a multitude of medium well-integrated tannins. The finish showcases the cooperage in full – baking spices and vanilla uplift red fruit in long, dry waves.

Watch as Chris Lafleur, Sommeliers Creed for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 831 Mendoza Malbec

Argentina is home to some of the highest elevation vineyards on the planet, and it’s known that great wine was never made from easily grown grapes; the combination of being physically closer to the sun, benefitting from extreme drainage, and being planted to rough, relatively infertile soils makes for incredibly concentrated, deeply colored, flavorful grapes. Today’s release is a showcase of great wine having begun on these vines, then ushered into bottle by an incredibly talented winemaker at an unbeatable price for the quality.

Lot 831 comes to us from a certified organic and sustainable winery bolstered by a winemaker with global stints in California, Bordeaux, and South America. All estate-grown fruit is hand selected at optimal ripeness from vineyards beginning around 6,200 ft. and climbing up from there. After fermentation the wine is moved into second-pass French oak for a bit of aging before bottling. The result is an organic, concentrated Malbec that could easily pass muster with any Cab-loving aficionado with a steak in their future.

Beautifully dark in the glass, the nose is an elegant composite of black cherries and red plum backed by clay pot and chocolate. The entry explodes with red plum, black raisin, tobacco, and baking spices over medium acidity alongside plentiful, perfectly integrated small tannins. The finish is long, dry, and terroir-driven with further clay pot and tobacco transitioning to barrel-kissed vanilla and spice on the exit. If you’re looking for a “steak Malbec” that also acts as a cellar defender, look no further.

Watch as Chris Lafleur, Sommeliers Creed for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 832 2018 Ribera Del Duero Tempranillo

Found at the upper reaches of the Duero River (the Douro for you Portuguese readers), the high-elevation vineyards of Ribera del Duero are planted 2500 ft above sea level in sandy clay soils, developing under intensely hot summers and bitterly cold winters which combine to produce rich Tempranillo wines of exceptional quality matched by few peers. From this harsh climate, dark black cherry and blackberry-like fruit leads to dense, textured wines that pair wonderfully with red meats. Some of Spain’s most historically iconic and expensive wines call this region home.

Lot 832 comes to us from a top-notch producer in the riverside town of Aranda de Duero. Harvested from 20-40 year old vines, the grapes are cold fermented and macerated for two weeks before aging in French oak barrels, transforming into a pure expression of local terroir crafted by expert hands using techniques faithful to the traditions of one of Spain’s flagship DOs. This is an absolutely terrific introduction to Spanish Tempranillo for the newbies, and a sublime taste of the familiar to those already acquainted with some of Spain’s best.

Medium ruby with excellent legs, the nose is plush with cherry, fresh-sliced pastrami, dried figs, and cedar. The entry showcases an abundance of strong terroir – volcanic rocks and dried leaves hint towards dried blackberries and a sour cherry-like acidity amidst plentiful, perfectly integrated tannins. The finish is also terroir-driven and Old World as they come: dry with decent length, resonating with cherry before falling back to an ever-so-delicate tobacco and vanilla umami. A bit of aging on this bottle will reward the patient, as all the bones are here for an incredible wine four to five years out under proper cellar conditions.

Watch as Chris Lafleur, Sommeliers Creed for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 882 2019 Napa Valley Petite Sirah

When you find the right bottling, Petite Sirah is capable of reaching the same quality heights as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and even traditional Bordeaux blending grapes like Malbec and Cabernet Franc. Such is the case with our newest release Lot 882 2019 Napa Valley Petite Sirah.

The grape sprung to life when a Syrah vine was crossed with Peloursin in the late 1800s in Montpellier, France; however, Petite Sirah (known throughout France as the Durif grape) never really made a big splash in its home country. Instead, its small, intensely-flavored berries thrived in California.

And they have thrived under the careful attention of the source winery that gave us this positively delectable Petite Sirah bottling. Little wonder, the grape has been cherished by some of Napa’s Old Guard producers like Stags’ Leap Winery, which touted the merits and quality potential of the grape.

We think our Lot 882, from 2019 (a vintage described as “thrilling” and “stunning” by Vinous) proves that those bold Napa pioneers had the right idea. Despite the perfect growing season, the source winery exerted intense quality control, dropping clusters and further concentrating flavors in the tiny-berried older Petite Sirah vines growing in Calistoga and Pope Valley. They made just 400 cases.

Lot 882 is as delectable as the deep blue color band on the label. It exudes the same blue colors, tinged with purple in an explosion of candied violets and sumptuous blueberry compote. Ruby-purple robes of mixed berry fruit and strawberry preserves call to mind the freshest Bonne Maman compote of succulent blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, and brown sugar. With ample grip, and acidity for days, this juicy berry-laden red is wrapped in a blanket of Graham cracker pie crust spices and sweet cedar. Impossible not to love on its own, but next to a Wagyu beef burger, this is happiness in a glass.

Watch as Zach Long, winemaker for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.


New Release: Lot 782 2017 Tuscany Rebo

This obscure offering might be the first time you’re hearing of Rebo. That’s ok. Created in 1920, Rebo is a crossing of Merlot and Teroldego brought about via efforts to find alternatives to Merlot for regions where Merlot struggled to grow in Italy. The result was a wine with the best of both worlds; Teroldego’s intense coloring and tannic structure with Merlot’s velvety texture and overall goodness, quite literally, built to embrace the Italian soils.

Lot 782 comes to us from a long-established Tuscan estate with a knack for the local rarities and age-old natural vinification methods, complete with a well-travelled winemaker, trained in France and blessed with stints at some of the more well-known California houses before returning to their ancestral home in Tuscany. Mature fruit is hand harvested and immediately pressed before aging in French oak for a minimum of 12 months, resulting in an intensely fragrant, highly quaffable glass.

Intensely ruby on the pour, the nose hints at plums, cherries, and blackberries over a bit of earthy Tuscan terroir. The entry continues the darker fruit notes over medium acidity accented by soft, round tannins and a beautiful note of spice. The finish is all barrel maturation; further spices kissed by oak with an overtone of vanilla essence that makes for great length while still retaining a dry character. Excellent on its own, it’d be a welcome accompaniment to any bacon-based dish (or any pork preparation, come to think of it).

Watch as Chris Lafleur, Sommeliers Creed for Cameron Hughes walks us through a tasting.