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Forget Napa, Head for Sonoma

Napa Valley is noted for its abundance of wineries, wine tastings, warm/hot climate (even in winter), lavish restaurants, and compact access to literally dozens of wineries—currently numbered at over 700. But, with notoriety also comes popularity. Let’s face it—in the summer and fall, Napa is a zoo of tourists and locals. The two main thoroughfares, St. Helena Highway (Route 29) and the Silverado Highway, are usually jammed with vehicles, as are the tasting rooms.
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2007 Bouchaine Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir – Napa Valley

Relatively dark in color, not quite opaque. Flavors are overwhelmingly tart red fruit, barely ripe cherries, wild strawberries, and lots of rhubarb. Sweet wood is there, but barely perceptible behind the tartness. Finish is mid-length, tannins slightly drying. A rich food match might pair well, so try it with a well-sauced duck.

Palate Press Wine of the Week- 2005 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon

A big, jammy wine, but balanced with a good streak of acid and very fine, firm tannins. Most of all, it is still very young, with many years of cellar improvement ahead of it. File this future tasting note away and test me in 10 years- blackberry and plums take a back seat to complex mature flavors of lavender, cigar box, a mix of leafy spices, marjoram, sage, and rosemary, and the meaty, crisp, smoky flavor of the well-done end of a nice prime rib.
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2006 Shafer Relentless – Napa Valley

This deeply opaque Syrah blend spent 30 months in very tightly grained new French oak. It is already terrific and has years ahead of it. Tannins are very sweet. Flavors comes in waves, with tremendous depth. Blackberries are the lead dark fruit among several, along with the meaty/smoky flavors of the crisp end of a prime rib, including the rub of leafy spices like sage and rosemary. Excellent, and very highly recommended.
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2008 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay – Napa Valley

This is a well-balanced and luxurious Chardonnay. It is made with 25% in stainless steel and 75% in new medium-toast French Oak. It does not undergo malolactic fermentation. The wine was rich and creamy but clean, with good acids and without the distinct dark toast that seems trendy in Napa Chardonnay. Flavors were several different types of apples, from fresh green apples to slightly baked Pink Ladies, pears, and a touch of citrus. The finish was long.