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2017 Three Sweetwater Ranch Albarino
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2017 Three Sweetwater Ranch Albarino

Three Sweetwater Ranch Albarino

The grape of Rias Baixas in the Galicia region of Northwestern Spain, Albariño makes for a varietal wine that is aromatic, refreshing, and decidedly food friendly. With demand growing from consumers looking for an alternative to Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, California wine producers are learning they have the terroir to oblige them. Sourced from the Sweetwater Ranch in the hills east of King City in Monterey County, this is a slightly sweet wine with lovely aromatics, luscious flavors of honeyed apple and citrus, and a crisp, mineral finish. Because a heat spike near harvest time raised the sugar levels in the fruit, the wine was made with some residual sweetness so that acidity could be maintained and alcohol kept at a reasonable 12%. So enjoy this wine as an aperitif or with shrimp scampi, spicy foods and light cheeses.

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¥2,900
2018 Gordian Knot Elieo Vineyard Albariño
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2018 Gordian Knot Elieo Vineyard Albariño

Slowly…. too slowly in our opinion…. producers and consumers of California wine are discovering Albariño, the green-skinned grape of Galicia in northeastern Spain. Remarkably little Albariño is grown in Sonoma County, but the cool-but-sunny Russian River AVA seems to offer primo conditions for growing this unique variety. Here’s what late-adopters are missing: a wine that’s dry but brimming with fresh peach and zesty citrus, that’s light on its feet yet pleasantly plump, and that offers mouthwatering acidity and minerality as an essential part of the deal. Gordian Knott’s Albariño delivers on all our expectations, proving that Albariño has a natural home in the Russian River Valley. Enjoy sipping this wine on its own or pair it seafood, shellfish, poultry, white pasta dishes and, of course, paella.

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¥3,400
2017 Blacksmith Carneros Reserve Chardonnay
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2017 Blacksmith Carneros Reserve Chardonnay

Another high value effort from Blacksmith! But here we have a fine Chardonnay produced from a small vineyard on the Sonoma side of Carneros. The cool climate of the district endowed this wine with pure fruit, verve, structure and fresh acidity. Matt Smith’s low-impact, craft approach to winemaking produced a wine that is plump and rich, complex and well-balanced. A peer among the great Carneros Chardonnays, but so affordable it’s in a class of its own. 

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¥3,900
NV Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blancs Sonoma County
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NV Piper Sonoma Blanc de Blancs Sonoma County

Most Champagne is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with some other varieties, such as Pinot Meunier and Pinot Blanc, allowed as well. Somewhat less common are the styles called Blanc de Noirs - the “white of blacks” - and the Blanc de Blancs - the white Champagne made exclusively from white grapes. Piper Sonoma follows these traditions, fashioning its Blanc de Blancs from a blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Blanc. This is an elegant wine, bright and fresh with lovely mineral notes, green apple and citrus flavors. A perfect match for oysters or sashimi, shellfish or even spring rolls and fried calamari. 

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¥4,000
2014 Gordian Knot
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2014 Gordian Knot "The Buzz" Seaton Vineyard Zinfandel

If it's a buzz you are after, this dark, juicy, spicy, massive and powerful (15.9% abv!) Zin will oblige! However, “The Buzz” is really named for Buzz Seaton, the second-generation grape grower and proprietor of Seaton Family Vineyards, who is well-known for his charm and humor. The vineyard block that is exclusively farmed for Gordian Knot features head-trained, dry-farmed vines planted over 70 years ago. Focusing their energy on their deep roots in a struggle for moisture and nutrients, the vines produce grapes with intense flavors for complex, powerful wine. No question, this is iconic Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, multi-layered and toothsome, with loads of chewy, juicy black fruit wrapped in spice and toasty smoke. This (again, massive!) wine shows a beautiful, full mouth-feel with a nice balance of heft and finesse. Enjoy with all your grilled favorites or even spicy Arabiata or puttanesca pastas.

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¥4,400
2014 Gordian Knot Porky’s Patch Zinfandel
2018 Six Cloves Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay
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2018 Six Cloves Linda Vista Vineyard Chardonnay

In the northwestern part of the City of Napa, where track homes begin to modulate into small farms and orchards, you’ll find the Linda Vista Vineyard. This is Oak Knoll, a cool sub AVA of the Napa Valley where Chardonnay vines thrive. Indeed, even the Chardonnay that won the infamous Paris Tasting for Chateau Montelena came from another vineyard nearby. Linda Vista is farmed by Steve Matthiasson, a grape grower and winemaker and well-known proponent of viticultural methods that produce fruit with higher levels of acidity for making wines with less alcohol and greater balance. Sonoe Hirabayashi has made a delightful Chardonnay with the Linda Vista fruit. Brisk and refreshing, it bursts with citrus, apple and lemon curd; the pure, varietal character is further emphasized through judicious use of oak that softened the wine without masking the flavors. 

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¥5,800
2017 Trefethen Napa Valley Cabernet Franc
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2017 Trefethen Napa Valley Cabernet Franc

After many years of selling Trefethen’s wines, Hotei is pleased to offer one of Trefethen’s “small-lot” specials, the 2017 Cabernet Franc, which charms with dark fruit and floral earthy notes. With a few well-known exceptions (famously, Chateau Cheval-Blanc), Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux and Napa Valley is more of a blender, softening and adding aromatic liveliness to the robust Cabernet Sauvignon, than a star that’s bottled on its own. As an early ripener, Cabernet Franc does best in cooler climates, like Chinon in the Loire region of France…. or Oak Knoll in the Napa Valley. According to the winery, the 2017 Cabernet Franc is “ideal for rustic and earthy dishes which feature flavors of rosemary, mint or sage…. and pairs particularly well with ham, pork or veal in stone fruit sauces.” Customers looking for a versatile red with somewhat lower alcohol (13.7%) than the typical Napa Cab should give this a try. 

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¥6,100
2017 Stack House Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
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2017 Stack House Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

One thing everybody seems to agree on: Stack House Cabernet Sauvignon delivers heaps of value! This blend of 86% Cab, 8% Merlot and 6% Cab Franc is dark purple, intense and full-bodied, and layered with dark fruit, floral and smokey flavors and aromas. Vibrant acidity and big, chewy tannins give it massive structure and a long finish. Predominantly sourced from mountain vineyards, it combines fruit from Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, Diamond Mountain, Atlas Peak, and Mount Veeder with a bit of Oak Knoll and Knight’s Valley as well. Ageworthy? YES! If you can keep your hands off!

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¥6,300
2018 Six Cloves Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
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2018 Six Cloves Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Sonoe Hirabayashi fell in love with Pinot Noir not in Burgundy, but in Martinborough, New Zealand, where the windy, maritime climate produces Pinot Noir with vibrant flavors and acidity. In California, Hirabayashi sources Pinot Noir fruit from the newly-established Petaluma Gap AVA, where summer afternoons and evenings are cooled by ocean winds and fogs, providing the conditions for Pinot Noir fruit to develop acids and flavors that are similarly vibrant and intense. Fermenting the fruit on 25% whole clusters, Hirabayashi has produced a well-balanced and delicious wine with nuances of bright red and black fruit flavors and savory and earthy notes. 

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¥6,500
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