2008 Treasure Hunter Wines Helen’s Helm

2007 Graeser Cabernet Franc Estate Grown

2004 Bodegas AAlto Ribera delDuero AAlto



2008 Treasure Hunter Wines Helen’s Helm – $17.52

Treasure Hunter is a “négociant’ label.  The “winery” doesn’t own any vineyards or even a winery.  They buy excess wine from other wineries and either bottle it as is or do some blending and then bottle the finished product.  In most cases Treasure Hunter wines are identical to another, much more expensive, wine in the market place.  During the recent “economic downturn” when a lot of wineries were cutting back on their production, Treasure Hunter was the recipients of some great juice that they sold at killer prices.


My Tasting Note

This is a deep, dark maroon color.  The very nice nose has blackberries, minerals, baking spices, charred meat, vanilla, cherries, dark bittersweet chocolate, and some earthiness.  This has a fairly full body, fairly solid tannins, and very good acidity.  On the palate a loads of juicy berries, tart cherries, and minerals hit first with nice spice and a meaty element coming in on the back end.  The finish is long and lingering with some dark chocolate joining the spice and berries.  This is a very impressive wine that drinks several notches above its price point.  (93 pts)

2008 Treasure Hunter Wines Helen's Helm




2007 Graeser Cabernet Franc Estate Grown – $33.33

There’s a story behind this bottle of wine.  This is (was) a very small winery on Diamond Mountain in Calistoga.  We had visited the winery several times and enjoyed their wines, especially the Cabernet Franc.  I received an e-mail in January 2010 offering this wine at a nice discount on a case purchase.  The wine wasn’t bottles yet, but was to be bottled in early May and shipped as soon as possible after that time.  Mid May rolled around, and I sent them an e-mail asking if the wine would ship before it got too hot and didn’t receive a response.  I e-mailed and called the winery several times over the next few months with no response.  In September or October, their phone was disconnected and e-mails started bouncing.  A Google search confirmed my worst fears, the winery had entered into bankruptcy.


Over the next two years, I continued attempting to track down anyone associated with the winery or whoever purchased their “assets”.


Finally in late 2012, I heard back from the former owner, he had finally checked the old e-mail accounts.  After several phone calls and dozens of e-mails, he agreed he owed me my case of wine.  All of the wine at the winery had been seized, but he had been able to slip a few cases out.  He sent me a case from this “private stash”.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a medium ruby red color.  The classic nose has cedar, cassis, tobacco, well worn leather, dried herbs, baking spices, a touch of cherry and some earthiness.  This has medium body, moderate tannins, and very bright acidity.  On the palate the cassis and spicy oak jump to the forefront with dried herbs and some earthiness in the background.  The finish has decent length with cherries and dried herbs coming into the picture.  This lacks a bit of the richness of some earlier vintages and the acidity is fairly prominent at this point in the wine’s development.  Maybe another year or two may help integrate the acidity, but this will never live up to their stunning 1992 and 2002 vintages.  This will appeal more to those with an old world palate than those expecting a big and rich California wine.  (89 pts)

2007 Graeser Cabernet Franc Estate Grown




We paired the Cabernet Franc with a lighter dinner on the deck since it was a very nice but slightly cool evening.  We made an herb rubbed pork tenderloin with a creamy tarragon sauce that gets a bit of a kick from grainy Dijon mustard.  We also made one of my favorite Summer sides dishes, a salad made from fresh corn and lima beans.  Maybe not a classic pairing, but it worked very nicely on this occasion.  If you would like either recipe, leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail to cliff@CliffsWinePicks.com.

Pork Tenderloin and Corn-Lima Bean salad




2004 Bodegas AAlto Ribera del Duero AAlto – $31.67

I have several “friends” who had the great fortune of spending the last week touring parts of Spain on someone else’s dime.  After seeing their pictures, reading their tweets and Facebook posts, and checking out their blogs, I’m in the mood for something from Spain.  I don’t think they visited the Ribera del Duero region, but I wanted something big and burly to go with grilled rib-eyes, so this was the winner.


I’ve enjoyed this wine many times over the years.  I have a few older vintages in the cellar, but since I have a nice stash of this vintage, I decided it was time to check in to see how it is coming along.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep maroon, dark color.  The stunning nose has blackberry liqueur, melted licorice, warm baking spices, cedar, dark bittersweet chocolate, some earthy underbrush, and a nice floral note.  This has medium to full body, fairly solid tannins, and good acidity.  On the palate the wine is rich and plush with spicy berries, dark chocolate, and some earthiness.  The finish is long and loaded with spicy fruit and dark chocolate.  This tastes outstanding today, but may get even better with some additional cellar time.  (94 pts)

2004 Bodegas AAlto Ribera del Duero AAlto





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Notes – I use the “official” Cellar Tracker name for the wines.  I use Cellar Tracker to help manage and organize my cellar.  I highly recommend checking it out at www.cellartracker.com.  Loading you existing cellar is a lot less intimidating than it would first appear.  There is a good chance 99% of your wine is already in the system, so you generally only need to enter part of the wine’s name and the system will find it for you.



Prices noted are the prices I paid at the time of purchase.  I don’t shop around to find the best prices, but my local store is usually VERY competitive.  I generally get case discounts, and since I work there part time, I get a 5% discount.  Wines purchased direct from a winery do not include any shipping charges.  None of the prices include the sales tax.



All wines that were sent to me free of charge to sample will be noted and I will show suggested prices when available.