Philip Togni Vineyards first planted their vines on Spring Mountain in 1981. The vineyard is run by Philip, his wife Birgitta and their daughter Lisa. Both Philip and Lisa have spent time in Bordeaux and Togni wines are California wines that Bordeaux lovers must have. California born with European sensibility. You read about Bryant, Screaming Eagle and Harlan, but Togni is a wine that belongs alongside the top wines of California. I’ve had several vintages of this wine and the 1990 and 1994 sit on the top of my list. K&L has many older vintages of the estate along with the current releases below. If you give these wines a try, it will put a smile on your face. 2003 Philip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon ($84.99) One of the better 2003 cabs that I’ve tried, this wine will need at least five years to really show its best. 92-94 points from Robert Parker. 2001 Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($54.99) The second label of the estate, this wine was just released and is drinking very well now with another ten years of cellaring possible. 90 points Stephan Tanzer. 2002 Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon ($47.99) There wasn’t a Philip Togni in the 2002 vintage. Everything went into the second label, and this wine shows it. 92 points fom Wine Spectator. See you in the City… —Mike Jordan
But that didn’t stop us! 80 wine fanatics braved the season’s biggest storm and gathered at the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay to celebrate Château Montelena’s wines with Bo and Heidi Barrett. True to form, each and every wine was stellar! We started the evening with the brilliant heir to the winner of the 1976 Paris Chardonnay challenge (showing the world that California’s Chardonnay can stand up with the best). The 2003 Ch. Montelena Napa Chardonnay ($29.99) was brilliant with character, avoiding the crutch of over oaking and malo. This bright and structured wine has deep density and richness offering ripe pear, green apple , hints of spice and white flowers. The wonderful acidity and beautiful structure bode well for ageing or drinking now (the 1999 was also showing wonderfully. Paired with a wild mushroom salad, it was gorgeous). This may be the best Chardonnay in California. The 2002 Ch. Montelena Napa Cabernet ($34.99) was also showing its brilliance with Rutherford-like dustiness to the explosive nose and an intense concentration of black cherry highlighted by wonderful sous-bois and anise. At an incredibly good price, this is a mini Estate that you can buy and drink today! This wine will age well for 5-10 years, if you can keep your hands off it, but I bet most of us will not be able to wait. The 1999 was showing just how well these wines do age. It was beginning to soften its core just a bit, and drank like liquid velvet. And ahhhh… the Estate, a wine I always collect. The Montelena Estate is my favorite California Cab because it gives everything, every time. Every wine since 1978 is still drinking beautifully. The evening’s ’94 and ’97 were showing the vintages’ softer supple and luxurious sides, and the ’95, ’96 and ’01 were showing a serious and unbeatably solid side. Bo seems to pull the best out of each vintage and bottle it as the Estate, but you have to be fast. These are always offered as pre-arrivals, and you must get them quickly, since I’m not the only unbridled fan. Lastly, don’t forget the 2002 Ch. MontelenaZinfandel ($24.99). Lush and heady have been used to describe this wine, I think it is just pleasure in a bottle. Lifted with a touch of viognier. Don’t deprive yourself of this experience. Hope to see you at the next dinner! —Shaun Green
This year, I resolve to drink more white wine! I’m not kidding. Non-Chard whites are seriously underrated in this country and have been an afterthought for yours truly for essentially most of my wine-drinking life. This is almost like a confession, but in truth, I feel like it’s a revelation. The true virtues of classy whites weren’t obvious to me for a long time and are admittedly hard to believe, yet there’s no denying anymore—white wine is more versatile than red, more refreshing than red, and the right ones can be as complex and age-worthy as most reds. My, oh my, it shocks me, an avowed “Big Cab” drinker for so long that I’m actually writing this now! Perhaps some are thinking, “Nope, not me, I’m still an eat-it-with-a-spoon, rocket fuel-strength red lover.” Fine. But if you’re looking for a unique and rewarding resolution this year, come join me in this one. Let’s look at a couple of special baby steps: 2004 Long Shadows Poet’s Leap Riesling Columbia Valley ($21.99) Riesling in many ways is the anti-Merlot. Everyone jokes how the masses love Merlot, but the connoisseurs turn their nose up, right? Well Riesling is the exact opposite. Ask any wine shop and they’ll tell you. Serious Riesling is a breath-taking experience. It produces some of the most dazzling, poetic and gracefully wines the world has to offer, plus its natural acidity make it a stunning food-pairing machine. But guess how many noses wrinkle when I suggest it for a meal? I know, I know, I was a nose-wrinkler too! Now take a step forward with me and try this one with fresh cracked crab and garlic butter, and see what happens! 2003 Spring Mountain Napa Sauvignon Blanc ($24.99) Don’t let the words “sauvignon blanc” mislead you. There is nothing light, tart or simple about this impressive wine. I don’t usually write a laundry list of fruit descriptors, but this one shot out of the gate and didn’t let up. Guava, fig, pineapple, grapefruit, meyer lemon and peach, all caressed with a touch of embracing yet refined Bordeaux-like creaminess. This is one of the all-around greatest and most glorious Sauvignon Blancs this state has to offer, period. Enjoy! —Martin Reyes
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