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Sonoma coast


VINEYARD Sonoma Coast AVA, Wildcat Mountain vineyard

WINEMAKER Scott Rich, Talisman’s founder. He has wine-geek cred as a research enologist for Robert Mondavi and a deep knowledge of making Pinot Noir from his tenure at Carneros Creek and Etude, and since 1993, for Talisman.

HARVEST & CELLAR NOTES The 2016 harvest in Sonoma had a few early hiccups but was a largely uneventful harvest year, which is a good thing, resulting in balanced wines. Talisman is completely obsessed with Pinot Noir, making very small amounts of single-vineyard Pinot Noirs, allowing the individual terroir to shine through. And Wildcat Mountain is a favorite for making Pinots: It’s one of the highest points in the AVA, with rocky volcanic soil and exposure to fog, which the grape loves. This juice was aged for 19 months in 54 percent new French oak, sourced from five different coopers to add layers of complexity.

TASTING NOTES This wine noses like a Burgundy, but on the palate, it’s a pure Sonoma Pinot Noir, with a balance of bright-red fruit and mineral notes as well as some surprisingly spicy notes of jalapeño. Cedar, black tea and balsamic flavors add to the rich layers that keep evolving from sip to sip. It’s a perfect food-pairing wine but also a beautiful sipper on its own.



VINEYARD Napa Valley’s Oakville AVA, Kaley Elizabeth Vineyard

WINEMAKER Jeff Ames, who has made multiple 100-point wines for Tor, including the 2017 Black Magic, which was a Robb Report Best of the Best winner in 2021. He has also made wines for Schrader and Tayson Pierce.

HARVEST & CELLAR NOTES Wine critic James Suckling called 2017 a “traumatic” vintage for Northern California after the devastating Tubbs Fire that roared through the region during harvest. It took a bite out of Rudius’s vineyards, but not before Ames brought in the fruit from this west-facing hillside plot in eastern Oakville, just above the Silverado Trail, where the vines are three decades old. The heat wave preceded the blaze sped up the ripening, so these grapes (98 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 2 percent Cab Franc) were already fermenting by the time the first flames licked the valley. Not every vintner made a red in 2017, but for those who did, the wines are lean and elegant, and the Rudius Kaley Elizabeth is an exceptional example. Aged for 22 months in mostly new French oak, this wine has already spent a year in bottle, softening some of the tannins, and it will continue to age with grace, becoming even more sumptuous after a 3-to-18-year rest in your cellar.

TASTING NOTES We could sit around and sniff this wine all night long: Its bouquet is so intoxicating, with irresistible whiffs of roasting game bird mixed in with savory herbs and rich red fruit—black cherries, cassis and elderberry—that give it an opulent, classically Oakville profile. Accents of warm, Middle Eastern spices and crushed slate are bound by those lengthy hillside tannins, carrying the wine to a long, compelling finish.



VINEYARD Napa Valley’s Mt. Veeder AVA, Wildcat Vineyard

WINEMAKER Greg Brickey learned the ropes at Patz & Hall and Rudd before joining Conn Creek in Rutherford, where he assisted Mike McGrath in creating blends for Auction Napa Valley and Premiere Napa Valley. He made the first Majuscule wines from Mt. Veeder in 2009 as a side project.  

HARVEST & CELLAR NOTES Winemakers are comparing the 2018 vintage to the standout 2012s because of the ideal long, slow growing season, and after one sip of this wine, you’ll understand. Wildcat Vineyard sits at an elevation of 1,800 feet, which stresses the vines and concentrates the Mt. Veeder berries. The vines were planted in the 1990s, so they have some age on them, producing rich, intense grapes with soft tannins. The wine spent 18 months in a 50/50 mix of new and once-used French oak barrels.

TASTING NOTES The lively and intense nose leads with a hint of fresh violets and dark fruits. On the palate, flavors of blackberries and black currant are highlighted by subtle cranberry. With a full-bodied mouthfeel and moderate tannins, the flavors evolve to reveal a subtle spice component with dark chocolate, pepper, licorice and cedar. The wine shows elegance and a fine balance between acid and fruit but is still tightly wound, so give it some time in a decanter to reveal a few more layers before pouring. That same quality ensures it will age well over the next 10 to 15 years.