The North American Report

Top North American Wines of 2015

We haven't published a newsletter in about a year and haven't printed one in two years... so what gives? We have always enjoyed the crazy busy holiday season as it's a great time to enjoy a glass of wine with the right meal, family and friends, as we reflect upon the year at hand and dream about the next one. It's a time of giving gifts and thanking folks for what they do and who they are. It's a time for us to highlight the best we have to offer-- it's our goal to make your holidays even better, to help accentuate this special time. So, we decided to publish this special holiday edition... We wish you and yours the merriest and happiest of holiday seasons and look forward to seeing you here in the shop or online. Cheers!

Top Cabernets Top Reds Top Whites

Top Cabernets of 2015


Winemaker Chris Carpenter is one of the more revered people in the Napa Valley. His deft hand has brought many incredibly delicious and high scoring wines to our store, including La Jota, Lokoya and Mt. Brave. But that being said, the Cardinale wine he makes has always been the flagship of this group, and he takes incredible care in creating this wine. Cardinale has consistently been at the upper echelon of wines for collectors, restaurants and high-end wine shops. This truly does show the incredible quality of the 2012 vintage and this monumental wine may perhaps be the best Cardinale Chris Carpenter has ever made! In fact, this beauty of a wine was scored at 98 points from Robert Parker!

ROBERT PARKER 98 POINTS - "Cardinale's 2012 Proprietary Red, the flagship wine from the Jackson Family, was looked after and put-together by winemaker Chris Carpenter from numerous vineyard sites traversing Napa Valley. The 2012’s final blend was 84% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Merlot with 94% new French oak used. Terroirists undoubtedly lament the fact that nine different vineyards and seven different appellations were utilized, but the resulting wine is prodigious. A dense purple color is accompanied by notes of graphite, blackberries, blackcurrants, roasted coffee, vanillin, baking spices and forest floor. With enormous complexity and richness as well as full-bodied power and voluptuousness, it is a wine of exceptional purity, intensity, and well-integrated acidity, alcohol, tannin and wood. This seamless, majestic Napa Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated 2012 should drink well for two decades."

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This wine is a "tale of two giants", so to speak. Tor Kenward spent 27 years as a senior  executive with Beringer, walking every corner of Napa and Sonoma, finding the best vineyards to help them create some of the top wines in the region. Two legends of the industry saw that Tor had a keen eye for quality grapes and strongly suggested that Tor make his own wine. Tor took their advice, and decided he would get only the best grapes, no matter what the cost. For this wine, Tor acquired grapes from the Beckstoffer family’s To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville. This is one of the “grand cru” Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyards in the Valley, whose fruit goes to other noteworthy producers such as Alpha Omega, Cliff Lede, Paul Hobbs, Realm and Schrader. From our first sip, we were smitten, and we bought every last case we could get! Earning 96 points from Robert Parker!

ROBERT PARKER 96 POINTS - "One of my highest ratings goes to the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard. Super sweet notes of white chocolate, crème de cassis, lead pencil shavings, licorice and cedarwood along with baking spices soar from the glass of this first-growth look-alike from Tor Kenward. Everyone who uses this fabulous vineyard seems to create something extra special. With superb intensity, a full-bodied mouthfeel and incredible purity, texture and depth, this classic from Napa should drink well for 20-25 years."

$149.95 750ml [270200] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Each year in February, the Napa Valley Vintners association host a wine auction called Premiere Napa Valley in which vintners showcase one-of-akind lots you can’t get anywhere else, with the lots ranging in size from 5-20 cases. It has become a “no holds barred” event the past few years with vintners showing up with their best barrels of the vintage. The wines are so good and unique; collectors / vendors from around the world show up in hopes of successfully bidding on a lot.

This particular lot from the 2010 vintage is produced by Newton Vineyards and is called "The Puzzle". An early pioneer of Spring Mountain, Newton Vineyard was one of the first Napa Valley wineries to raft unfiltered and naturally fermented wines, and The Puzzle offers the finest expression of their Spring Mountain estate. This Premiere Napa Valley lot features a special blend made from The Puzzle lots. Spread across the steep hillsides of Spring Mountain, the Newton vineyard estate is comprised of 112 vineyard blocks intertwined with the existing forested landscape. The individual character of each parcel results from the varying microclimates of the mountaintop’s contours and rugged terrain, providing their winemaker diverse components with which to create an interesting, complex wine. These lots are kept separate until winemaker Chris Millard artfully assembles these parcels, like pieces of a puzzle, into a multi-faceted blend.

Like many pieces to a puzzle that comprise the overall picture, this wine has many intricate nuances while maintaining an elegant, classic profile. Fresh off the cork aromatics pop from the glass, boasting a load of black fruit and plums, notes of minerality; crushed damp rocks, white pepper and violets are also apparent. Also very interesting were the distinct brown baking spices: cardamom, cinnamon and ground cumin. On the palate, the dark fruit from the aromatics pull through while also showing hints of red raspberries, anise and savory qualities. Overall, this is a medium-bodied wine with integrated, chewy tannins; acidity is just vibrant enough to make you wish you had some food without you actually needing food with it. Well-made, well-balanced, this 10 case lot will disappear faster than you could piece a puzzle together!

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WINE SPECTATOR 95 POINTS - "Amazingly pure, rich and complex, with tiers of dark berry, blackberry, wild berry, blueberry and boysenberry layered on top of black licorice and dusty, gravelly earth details, all well-centered. The finish sails on, with a mocha brownie aftertaste. Drink now through 2028. 3,500 cases made."

$91.95 750ml [200320] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


ROBERT PARKER 92 POINTS - "The star of the Mt Brave trio of new releases is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon. There are nearly 5,800 cases of this fairly priced Cabernet. Blueberry, licorice, beef blood, tobacco leaf and forest floor aromas soar from the glass of this ripe, full-bodied, opulent wine. A blend of 87.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5.5% Merlot and the rest tiny quantities of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, it was aged in 81% new French oak. The oak component is well-concealed behind the extravagant fruit. Drink it over the next 10-15 years."

$69.95 750ml [245510] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Proprietors Timm and Sharon Crull’s vineyards are in the Rutherford area of Napa Valley, a stone’s throw from such big names as Quintessa, Heitz, and Sloan, just to give you an idea of how great these vineyards are! While the majority of their Cabernet grapes go do such prestigious wineries as Nickel & Nickel and Duckhorn, they do keep a bit for themselves, what what they make is gorgeous!!!

Terraces believes it is their responsibility to build on a 130 year farming legacy. As stewards of the land, their mission is to improve the habitat for native species each year, while reducing the impact of growing premium wine grapes.
Awarded the Fish Friendly Farming certificate, they farm sustainably and work diligently to improve their environment each year. Their soils are well-drained, volcanic deposits, a rock formation called Rhyolite. Most of the vineyard blocks have a west exposure providing high radiant value. The warm summer days give way to cool nights with soft mountain breezes. The Terraces is comprised of 14 discreet vineyard blocks, each with different varieties, rootstock, terrain, aspect and microclimates.

The 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has great balance of power, ripe fruit, alcohol, and tannin. Deep purple/ruby color. Rich aromas of cassis, blackberry, and toasty oak. Palate is full bodied with nicely balanced but firm, structured tannins. Flavors of cassis, blackberry, cocoa, and baking spices continue with a rich, long finish. Drink now to 12-15 years.

$59.95 750ml [268960] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Aromas of black plum, blackberries, blackcherry, lilacs and graphite. This full-bodied 100% Cabernet is rich and beautifully balanced with flavors fully ripened black fruit, floral notes, and melted chocolate and leading to an explosive long finish. This is every thing you would expect from the winemaking team of Steve Matthiasson and Julien Fayard (Philippe Melka's previous director of winemaking at Lail, Gemstone, Vineyard 29 and more). Only 400 cases made!

$39.95 750ml [237250] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


ROBERT PARKER 92 POINTS - "The least expensive wine is the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Affinity, the estate Cabernet Sauvignon from the foothills just south of Stag’s Leap blended with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec. An absolutely stunning value in Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, the wine has an inky/purple color, a big sweet kiss of créme de cassis, spice box, mocha and assorted black fruits. It is full-bodied and ripe with low acidity and sweet tannins. This wine is showy and up front, but has enough stuffing to last 7-10 years or more."

$49.99 750ml [213570] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


The Sweetwater Ranch vineyard produces grapes with intense flavors and individuality that sets it apart from other Napa Cabernets. These grapes possess intense flavors and overall balance, which makes Sweetwater Ranch a beautifully bold Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep, dark purple in appearance. Lovely vanilla sandalwood notes with plum and wild cherry on the nose. Rich and mouth-filling with friendly flavors of plum and black fig fruit. Topped only by a luxurious finish of dark chocolate.

$33.00 750ml [236850] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Winery Notes - Our 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is intense with aromas of dark cherry and red plum. Notes of violet and blueberry jam come through on the mid-palate along with nuanced spice and licorice. The concentrated mouthfeel and soft tannins are a testament to this great vintage, coating the palate with a lingering red fruit finish.

$23.95 750ml [201590] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button
Top Cabernet Sauvignon Under $20


We had no idea that our own Rock Garden wines would be so well received. So first off, a BIG thank you to all our customers who keep coming back for more of our special finds! We keep searching for wines that over-deliver for the money, and we won’t hesitate to turn down wines that simply just won’t cut it! Fortunately, we’ve been in business for so long and made so many friendships and partnerships that some wineries will offer us wines for the Rock Garden labels that do just that....they over-deliver! For the past several years, Paso Robles has produced some of the best values in Cabernet Sauvignon, so it only made sense for us to look there! This comes from two different vineyards in Paso’s Westside. One vineyard has limestone soils that promote freshness and vibrancy in the wine, while the other has clay soils that give richness and that textbook "juicy" factor typical from the region. Aged in 30% new oak (a combination of French and American), this Cabernet has a dark garnet color, almost opaque, with a purple hue. Right off the bat this shows a nose of kirsch, blackberry, black cherry, violets and a hint of anise. Juicy on the palate, with blueberry, cherry, plum, crème de cassis, and red fruits hiding in the back ground, the wine’s velvety tannins give support to the lengthy, full-bodied finish.

$17.95 750ml [252530] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button
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Top Reds of 2015


Brothers Jan and Bart Krupp were told they were crazy for buying their property, littered with boulders and without water, for the purpose of planting a vineyard in the mountains above the Napa Valley. But in the end, they cleared out the boulders, hired a local who told them where to drill for the water, and the quality of their grapes was so stunning that wineries such as Caymus, Paul Hobbs, Pahlmeyer, and Robert Biale were buying their grapes, not to mention those people who told them they were crazy, too! Now, their Stagecoach Vineyard is one of the most prized properties in the Napa Valley! In addition to their prized Bordeaux varietals, it appears that Tempranillo also grows incredibly well up in those mountains, and from the first time we tasted this year’s Doctor bottling from the Krupps, we knew it was destined for the #1 slot on this list! A blend of 48% Tempranillo, 30% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec, the 2012 Doctor brims with captivating aromas of black raspberry, violets, toffee, white pepper, black cherry, cinnamon, sage, and clove. Lush cassis, blueberry, dark chocolate, rosemary, and caramelized oak flavors are supported by a fleshy mid palate, giving way to refined tannins and a round, full finish.

$89.95 750ml [270820] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


With 2012 and 2013 being outstanding back-to-back vintages in California, Pinot Noir is making a fantastic showing on this list! Greg Brewer and Steve Clifton are two of the best winemakers ever to come out of Santa Barbara County. Put these two in the same facility, let them run wild with their love of Burgundy, and you’ve got some of the hottest wines in California! Brewer-Clifton began working with the Machado family in 2008. Brewer-Clifton’s 15-acre parcel is located adjacent to Clos Pepe, and the site is marked by a gorgeous rolling terrain with sandy clay loam soils. The vineyard is tightly spaced with increased color and flavor within the grapes, and the vineyard is planted to "heritage clones" such as Pommard, Merry Edwards and Mount Eden.

WINE ADVOCATE 94 POINTS - "Even better, the 2012 Pinot Noir Machado has sappy, grippy texture to go with notions of rose petal, earth, underbrush and both blackberry and raspberry-styled fruit. Medium to full-bodied, rich, textured and beautifully balanced, I love the overall energetic vibe here, and it should evolve nicely for upward of a decade."

$64.98 750ml [206110] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


John Alban is regarded as one of the pioneers and visionaries for Rhône varietals in California’s Central Coast. He doesn’t just say, "I want to grow Syrah." He looks at the soils, the exposure of the land, and the microclimates, and pairs the proper rootstocks, clones, and trellising systems appropriately. Then, he takes it one step further, and produces his wines in a style that is in sync with the grapes provided by the vines. The results are tremendous wines that typically receive high scores and lofty praise and demand from both consumers and critics! Even today, wineries and vineyard managers up and down California look to him for his insight and know-how for top quality Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, and Roussanne. This year’s Patrina bottling has earned 94 POINTS from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate!

WINE ADVOCATE 94 POINTS - "One of the best entry-level wines out there is John’s 2012 Syrah Patrina, and it competes with many top cuvees. All Syrah in 2012 and showing the house style perfectly, it has a saturated inky color to go with a forward, sexy, meaty and full-bodied array of creme de cassis, licorice, chocolate and licorice. Showing how good 2012 was for this estate, it’s a rock-star wine to enjoy while you wait for his 2010s and 2011s to come around."

$52.95 750ml [276467] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


The 2013 Sascha Marie is (in the Eric Kent lineup, at least) a fuller-bodied, "swing for the fences" style of Pinot. This year’s blend is composed from a selection of their more dramatically flavored Sonoma Coast barrels – 92% hailing from two strikingly different sites in the Petaluma Gap. Historically, the Sascha Marie is tight as a drum upon release (their 2009 is only really beginning to shine right now!), but the 2013 may surprise us all by opening up a bit earlier than its predecessors. Given a year or two in bottle, it should really start to sing and then go perhaps another 5-6 years beyond if properly stored.

Fine, ripe tannins frame dense flavors of dusty black cherry, clove and cola, all providing a generous mouthful of rich, dark-fruited Pinot. This wine has some serious stuffing to it! And yet… as always, winemaker Kent Humphries works toward balance with great acidity and natural lift inherent in these cooler climate sites.

$49.95 750ml [218600] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


ANTONIO GALLONI 94 POINTS - "The 2012 Napanook is a big, intense wine, especially if given some time in the decanter. Rich red cherry, plum, smoke, licorice and spice meld together in an effortless, gracious Cabernet Sauvignon. The tannins are silky and polished, which gives the 2012 much of its early appeal, but there is so much density and pure concentration that a few years in bottle will only do it good. The 2012 is a fabulous Napanook. Frankly, the 2012 is as good or better than the top wines at many estates. Napanook remains one of the great values in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot."

ROBERT PARKER 92 POINTS - "The California outpost of Pomerol and St.-Emilion’s famed proprietor, Christian Moueix has been working at this iconic vineyard, Yountville’s Napanook, for over twenty years. Many decades ago this was the origin of some of the great Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignons.

The 2012 Napanook (a 3,000-case blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot) is one of the strongest second wines Moueix has produced to date. Made in a sexy, open-knit, opulent style very much in keeping with the vintage’s signature, it offers up luscious notes of bay leaf, lavender, red and blackcurrants, plum sauce, licorice and Christmas fruitcake. This is a gorgeous, opulent, medium to full-bodied 2012 that is already revealing considerable complexity. Drink it over the next 10-15 years."

$56.99 750ml [216200] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Ancestor is Halter Ranch’s Bordeaux-style reserve blend, it is their flagship wine (think along the lines of Joseph Phelps’ Insignia or Justin’s Isosceles), and an homage to the heart and soul of their property, the Ancestor Tree. This tree is one of the largest coast live oaks on record, and is nestled amongst the vines of block eleven. A blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot, grapes were destemmed and fermented in closed top fermentors, with open pump-overs two to three times daily for an average of 16 days, then aged for 18 months in French oak barrels.

The wine offers up complex aromas of blackberries, blueberries, currants, spice, and mocha. Elegant and rich, this wine has a silky, round mouth feel with seamlessly integrated tannins. Well-balanced, the 2012 Ancestor is an excellent food wine and pairs well with red meat, lamb and game. Enjoy now, or set aside for a special occasion as this wine will develop beautifully for years to come.

ANTONIO GALLONI'S VINOUS MEDIA 92 POINTS - "This sprawling, beautifully situated vineyard, which is literally an extension of Tablas Creek, has long shown the potential to make great wines, and that promise seems to finally be coming to fruition. Under the direction of winemaker Kevin Sass, who arrived here in 2011 after 11 years at Justin, the wines have become both more concentrated and more delineated, and that goes for the whites as well as the reds. The investment made in the vineyard and winery is plain to see and this is a property to watch closely over the coming years."

"Vivid purple. Smoke-tinged aromas of ripe blackberry and cherry-vanilla are lifted by suggestions of cracked pepper and mint. Round, sweet and expansive on the palate, offering concentrated dark fruit liqueur flavors that pick up a sexy floral quality as the wine opens with air. Brightens up on the long, penetrating finish, which is shaped by very smooth, slow-building tannins." 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Malbec, 22% Petit Verdot.

$43.95 750ml [228140] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


WINE ADVOCATE 91 POINTS - "The 2012 Pinot Noir is a beauty. Perfumed, up front and textured, it shows the vintage nicely with its spiced cherries, tar, crushed flowers and hints of licorice on the nose. Showing more floral notes with air, I love its overall purity and texture, and it should continue to drink nicely for another 3-4 years, if not longer."

Recognized as a WINE SPECTATOR - Magnificent 30 Pinot Noir producer, Chamisal was the first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley in 1973 and now contains 80 acres planted to 5 varieties and 25 clonal selections. The nearby Pacific ocean creates a long temperate growing season for exceptional hang time, which combines with the calcareous, clay-rich soil to produce fruit with exceptional intensity and complex flavors.

Each block of Pinot Noir was hand-picked at night, hand-sorted, then de-stemmed into small open-top fermenters, where they cold-soaked for several days before the native yeasts took hold and started fermentation. The cap was punched down by hand periodically throughout the process. After fermentation, the wine was aged for 14 months in 40% new French oak barrels. The estate Pinot Noir always showcases a wide range of clones within the vineyard, with this vintage capturing nine of the ten Pinot Noir clones planted on the property. The core of this vintage’s blend is Clone 115, which does particularly well in California, and Archery Summit 828 brought down from their sister winery in Oregon several years ago.

The nose flaunts intense aromas of black cherry and dark berry with hints of tangerine zest and savory spice, accented by the singular Chamisal Spice note that is a hallmark of their vineyard. On the palate, dense black fruit, firm acidity and rounded tannins come together seamlessly in this well-balanced and concentrated wine.

$29.95 750ml [210070] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


WINE SPECTATOR 93 POINTS - "Impeccably focused and distinctive, with floral cherry, mineral and fresh sage aromas and flavors that combine subtle power with lively acidity, offering notes of raspberry and spicy herb. Drink now through 2024. 2,522 cases made."

With the Seghesio family’s first planting of Zinfandel in Sonoma County in 1895, they always sought out vineyards which showcase Sonoma as the world’s premier appellation for Zinfandel. Rockpile, a narrow ridge some 1200 feet above Dry Creek Valley, is just one of those areas. Steep, well-drained hillsides with shallow, rocky topsoil provide for less vigorous vines, smaller berries and intensely flavored Zinfandel. Barrel-aged for 15 months in 85% French and 15% American oak (25% new), this displays captivating aromas of spice box and red fruit along with intense flavors of currant, candied apple and Zinfandel’s briary essence. This has the bookends of delicious wine, with a soft entry and focused acidity on the extremely long finish.

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Top Whites of 2015


Luc & Jodie Morlet earned our #2 Cab spot last year, but after tasting this Chardonnay, they have definitely earned the #1 spot on this list! Luc was the head winemaker for Peter Michael Winery and crafted their wines from the 2001-2005 vintages, where his wines earned up to 99 points! He has not skipped a beat with his own line of wines, and these may turn out to be even better! This Chardonnay comes from the Russian River Valley and benefits from ideal conditions for the Old Wente field selection of Chardonnay, renowned for its richness. The concentration originating from the petite size of the berries is enhanced by classical Burgundian wine-making techniques. This wine is dedicated to the Morlet’s daughter, Claire Morlet: "Ma Princesse." Even Robert Parker scored this wine at 96-98 points!

ROBERT PARKER 96-98 POINTS - "Run, don't walk – take your checkbook or credit card out and splurge for the Luc Morlet Wine Express...The 2013 Chardonnay Ma Princesse offers up scents of honeyed peach, poached pears, brioche, honeysuckle and caramelized citrus. Full-bodied with a Bâtard-Montrachet-like richness and intensity as well as background minerality, this profound white wine should drink well for 10+ years."

$89.95 750ml [245220] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Stonestreet's vineyards range in elevation from 400 to 2,400 feet, and stands as the one largest and most extensive mountain vineyards in the world. Towering high above the Alexander Valley in the Mayacamas Mountain Range, single vineyard blocks are aligned in every imaginable spot on the compass, with peaks, valleys, and ridges creating a broad spectrum of varied facings and elevations. High elevation sites with impoverished, rocky soils produce richly concentrated wines of character, so these vineyards help Stonestreet winemaker Graham Weerts to craft Chardonnays of impeccable precision, complexity, richness, and freshness. Of the 5,100 acres that make up the estate, only 900 are planted to grapes.

ROBERT PARKER 97 POINTS - "One of my favorites is the 2012 Chardonnay Upper Barn, which boasts remarkable intensity as well as lots of tropical fruit, a stony-like minerality, and a full-bodied, layered mouthfeel. This is a multi-dimensional, profound Chardonnay (as it often was when made by Helen Turley) from a vineyard planted with an Old Wente clone as well as the Hyde clone of Chardonnay. It should drink well for 5-6 years."

$64.95 750ml [266560] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Jeb Dunnuck from the Wine Advocate called this "One of the top Marsanne releases coming out of California…" and we couldn't agree more! Bob Tillman searched for several years for the site where he could plant a truly world-class vineyard. After the family moved to the Central Coast of California and tasted the wines coming out of Paso Robles, they knew they found the right region! In 2003, Bob found this beautiful hilltop property on Adelaida Road that would become Alta Colina. All the grapes on this property are organically farmed, and the fruit is so amazing that other Central Coast producers such as McPrice Myers, Sans Liege, and Paydirt get fruit from Alta Colina. Bob's Marsanne is absolutely amazing! Blended with a touch of Roussanne, this wine shows lovely poached pear and green apple aromatics with grilled bread and warm brown spice. Custardy lemon notes add a vibrant note to the nose. The palate is exceptionally integrated, where the fruit marries perfectly with the oak and rich, brulee-like flavors dominate. The plushness carries through to the smooth, toasty tones of the finish. This white wine will show continued development over the next several years.

WINE ADVOCATE 93 POINTS - "One of the top Marsanne releases coming out of California is the 2013 Marsanne Claudia Cuvee from Alta Colina. Incorporating 8% Roussanne it was barrel fermented and aged 17 months in 33% new French oak. It offers lots of apple skin, honeysuckle, crushed rock and some buttery nuances on the nose. This gives way to a medium to full-bodied, beautifully pure, concentrated, yet lively and fresh profile on the palate that keeps you coming back to the glass. Drink it over the coming 3-4 years, although I'm sure it will evolve nicely for longer."

$31.95 750ml [201120] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


ANTONIO GALLONI 94 POINTS - "The 2013 Chardonnay Top Cream is fabulous. Racy and enveloping to the core, the Top Cream shows the more voluptuous side of Sta. Rita Hills, which is quite a contrast to the more mineral driven style readers will find in Babcock's The Limit Chardonnay. Dried apricot, pear, spice and almond are some of the signatures, but above all else, the Top Cream is a wine built on texture and an incredible open, welcoming personality. This is a superb example of Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay."

Notes from Bryan Babcock - "Thirty years ago, my mom and dad planted the first vineyard on the 15 acre bench in the middle of our ranch. Its top soil is a 2 to 3 foot deep, grayish brown, gravelly loam that offers life to its vines on top of an ominously impervious layer of sandstone. It is a lean top soil in terms of fertility, and it definitely governs the vigor and morphology of the vines that grow in it. It is this layer of soil that I refer to as this vineyard's Top Cream. As a terroir it is ideal for growing the kind of Chardonnay that spreads its wings when put through a full-blown Burgundian style of winemaking. It is especially appropriate if one considers that the facets of a Burgundian style - the barrels, the malolactic fermentation, and the lees contact - synergize for the rendering of a Chardonnay that often smells and tastes, among other things, creamy. The trick to it all is to have the right Chardonnay grapes to begin with, and the trick to having the right grapes is to have the right soil. Indeed, the trick is in having the right TOP CREAM.

The presence of diatomaceous sandy loam from the heart of the Sta. Rita Hills in this year's Top Cream is just uncanny. My recommendation is to be patient and give the wine at least another 6 months in the bottle so that its tapioca pudding and mineral nose can fully meld with its succulent, creamy flavor. The only downside is that if you love it then, it will probably be gone. Answer, build some into a case. It's a good one!"

$44.95 750ml [202900] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button


Lieu Dit is a partnership of longtime friends Eric Railsback and Justin Willett. The two met in Santa Barbara while Eric was finishing college and Justin was just beginning his career in winemaking. The two were among a small group of young winemakers and restaurateurs in Santa Barbara unified by a common interest in wine and all its mysteries.

After countless bottles shared together and many trips to France, Railsback and Willett decided to found Lieu Dit in 2011 and focus it solely in the varieties indigenous to the Loire Valley, now grown in Santa Barbara County. The varied micro-climates and marine based soils of Santa Barbara County are ideally suited to this set of grapes. Lieu Dit centers on Sauvignon Blanc and more limited bottlings of Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Rose and produces around 2500 cases annually. Each vintage, the quest for purity, elegance, and balance in every wine is paramount.

A combination of both tank and barrel fermentations that are aged in neutral barrels. Eric and Justin source their fruit from three vineyards in Happy Canyon called Grassini, McGinley, and Star Lane. Varying soils of sand, shale and gravel at Star Lane and heavier clays with larger yellow and red chert, and serpentine rocks at both McGinley and Grassini.

ROBERT PARKER'S WINE ADVOCATE 91 POINTS - Starting off the three Sauvignon Blancs, and a blend from the two single vineyard, the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc is a smoking effort that's loaded with green citrus, lychee, mint and floral aromas and flavors. Medium-bodied, crisp, racy and balanced, it's an outstanding Sauvignon Blanc to drink over the coming couple of years.

$23.95 750ml [237410] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button

Top Chardonnay Under $20


II by Alpha Omega is the culmination of the two worlds, the Alpha and the Omega, the Old World and the New World. Winemakers Jean Hoefliger and Michel Rolland worked to create a wine that is not only opulent, fruit forward and generous, but also has the backbone of European acidity and elegance. A reflection of both worlds, II is a wine that is built to be approachable, both in taste and price, and consumed early.

This Chardonnay has a pale yet brilliant white gold color with touches of green. The nose displays intense green apple, pear, vanilla and white chocolate with minerality, bubble gum and jasmine mingled with fresh flavors of pear, apricot, honeysuckle and starfruit lingering on lemon and vanilla. Full-bodied, rich, and lucious, this is the quintessential wine for California Chardonnay lovers! Only 900 cases produced!

$19.95 750ml [200480] Hi-Time Wine Cellars add to cart button
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