2008 Rhys Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard

2008 Big Basin Vineyards Odeon

2011 Klinker Brick Syrah Farráh

2008 Keplinger Lithic




2008 Rhys Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard – $59.00

I’ve been on the Rhys mailing list for a few years.  A lot of people knock the wines because they don’t taste great upon release.  Rhys wines require a few years in the cellar to smoothen out and open up.


This wine has 13.3% alcohol and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.


Winery history

At Rhys Vineyards we aspire to make great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from some of California’s most unique and expressive vineyards.  This pursuit has lead us to search the state for exciting rocky soils that exist within the mountainous, cool, Coastal climate zone.   Over the last 15 years we have developed seven estate vineyards, six in the Santa Cruz Mountains and one in Anderson Valley, each of which is capable of producing uniquely compelling, distinctive, soil driven wine.


More information on Rhys is available on their website.

My Tasting Note

The wine is a bright ruby red color.  The sensuous nose has cherries, strawberries, baking spices, minerals, wild flowers, raspberries, and a touch of cedar.  This is barely medium body with moderate tannins and good acidity.  Tart cherries and spice leads off on the palate with minerals, strawberries and a touch of spicy oak coming in later.  The finish has good length with bright fruit and oak driven spice carrying the load.  This is still on the young side but very tasty and food friendly.  (95 pts)

2008 Rhys Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard

2008 Rhys Pinot Noir Alpine Vineyard



2008 Big Basin Vineyards Odeon – $40.00

For the last few years I’ve felt Big Basin was one of the wineries to keep an eye on.  I think they are one big score away from popping onto most wine drinker’s radar.  Could they become the next Saxum?  In my opinion, the sky is the limit for this winery.


This is a blend of 57% Santa Cruz County Syrah and 43% Monterrey County Cabernet Sauvignon.


The wine has 15.5% alcohol and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.


Winery history

Big Basin Vineyards was founded in 1998 in the Santa Cruz Mountains next to Big Basin Redwoods State Park, with a new winery building completed in 2003.  Proprietor and wine maker Bradley Brown sources his wines from three Estate Vineyards – Rattlesnake Rock, Old Corral Block and Homestead Block.  All of the Estate vineyards are planted to Alban Selections on steep hillsides with mudstone and shale soils – 7 acres of Syrah, 2 acres of Grenache and 1 acre of Roussanne – and are farmed organically.  Additionally, Bradley works closely with Coastview Vineyard located at 2400 ft on a mountain top in the Gabilan Mountains overlooking the Salinas Valley and Monterey Bay (several miles due south of Mt. Harlan).  He has contracted with the vineyard to purchase Syrah planted in 1998 and to bud over certain sections of the vineyard to Pinot Noir and Grenache (in 2008) and plant a new block to an Alban selection of Syrah.  This vineyard is also farmed organically and managed according to Bradley’s direction.  Beginning in 2006, Big Basin started making Pinot Noir sourced from the Santa Cruz Mountains.  As of 2009, Big Basin is making three different single vineyard Pinots from the Santa Cruz Mountains (Alfaro Family, Lester Family and Woodruff Family Vineyards), plus the Pinot from Coastview Vineyard in the Gabilan Mountains.


Much more information is available on their website.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep purple color.  The stunning nose has cassis, charred meat, vanilla, dark chocolate, minerals, blueberries, and a touch of cedar.  This has a full body, moderate ripe tannins and decent acidity.  On the palate this is very big, rich and plush.  Though it pushes the ripeness to the top, it does not go over.  This is loaded with fruit and savory elements on the palate with a nice tannic backbone and just enough acidity to hold it all together.  The finish is impressively long and decadent.  I don’t think I’d want to stash this in the cellar for too long, but this will offer a lot of pleasure over the next few years.  (94 pts)

2008 Big Basin Vineyards Odeon

2008 Big Basin Vineyards Odeon



2011 Klinker Brick Syrah Farráh – $17.99

I grabbed a bottle of this after trying the winery’s Bricks & Mortar blend at an online tasting of Lodi wines.  If your opinion of wines from Lodi is based on some of the big, industrial, high volume wineries, take my advice and seek out something from one of the smaller, family owned producers.


This wine has 14.9% alcohol and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.


The Winery

The Felten Family own and manage fifteen individual vineyard blocks of “Old Vine” Zinfandel that range in age from 40 to 120 years old.  Each vineyard is planted in sandy loam soils in the Mokelumne River Appellation of Lodi and the Clements Foothills.


In the nineties, the family began to market their zinfandel in the bulk wine market, selling to a number of prestigious, benchmark producers of Zinfandel in Napa and Sonoma Counties.


In 2000, Steve and Lori produced their first vintage of Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel.  They continue to produce wine from all of the vineyard blocks, culling only the very best lots for bottling Klinker Brick Old Vine Zinfandel and designated vineyard wines.  They produced their first vintage of Farrah Syrah in 2001.  They have one goal…to produce world-class wine.


Much more information is available on the winery’s website by clicking here.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep ruby to purple color.  The very appealing nose has blackberries, raspberries, minerals, cocoa powder, white pepper, smoke, dried herbs, and a nice floral note.  This has medium body, moderate ripe tannins and decent acidity.  Lush berries and dried herbs coat the palate with cocoa and white pepper coming in on the back end.  The finish has very nice length with nice layers of fruit and savory elements.  Drinking nicely now, but not one to stash in the cellar.  The acidity is adequate for now but I’d be afraid of the wine losing its balance as the acidity drops in the aging process.  Drink over the next few years and be happy.  (90 pts)

2011 Klinker Brick Syrah Farráh

2011 Klinker Brick Syrah Farráh



2008 Keplinger Lithic – $40.00

This is another mailing list only wine that I was fortunate to join before they started getting high scores from the wine publications.  The “rock star” winemaker, Helen Keplinger.  I bought several bottles of this wine, but have been patient long enough, one gets popped tonight.


This wine is a blend of 46% Mourvedre, 40% Grenache and 14% Syrah from Amador County.


The wine has 14.8% alcohol by volume and the bottle is sealed with a natural cork.


Winery history (actually Winemaker background)

The culture of wine has been a part of my life since I can remember.  My dad had a wine cellar, which was the source of my childhood wine bottle collection – I also collected rocks, an early indication of my future as a winegrower.  Wine accompanied every gourmet dinner my mom prepared nightly; this combination of food and wine was an important part of our family evenings together.


I always had an intense curiosity for science, a huge appreciation of art, and a gravitation toward and revitalization in nature – all which dynamically come together in winemaking.  In 1998, I moved to California to attend the MS program in Enology at UCDavis.


Since UC Davis, I have worked with Heidi Barrett, Kathy Joseph, Michel Rolland, and David Abreu.  Since 2004, I have been the winemaker for some exciting projects, including Cellers Melis (Priorat), Kenzo Estate, Fort Ross, Sarocka, Scullly, Arrow & Branch, and Bryant Family Vineyards.  I am currently focused solely on Keplinger Wines.


I absolutely love what I do – I constantly strive to make great wines, respond to the curveballs of Mother Nature, and respect that each wine is a reflection not only of its origin, but the variables and characteristics of a particular vintage.


More information on the winery, their wines and access to the mailing list is available on their website by clicking here.


My Tasting Note

The wine is a deep, saturated ruby to purple color.  The nose is stunning and full of blackberries, black cherries, minerals, earthy underbrush, licorice, warm baking spices and roasted herbs.  This has medium to full body, fairly solid tannins and very good acidity.  On the palate this displays layer after layer of fruit, spice, minerals, and earthy elements.  The finish is extremely long, seeming to linger forever with perfect balance between the fruit and savory notes.  This is built to last but tastes great today.  A monumental wine showing the quality AmadorCounty is capable of producing.  (95 pts)

2008 Keplinger Lithic

2008 Keplinger Lithic



Connect with me

You can follow me on Twitter for more wine info, potential food pairings, and an occasional recipe or two.  Be warned, I’m also a sports fan and there are occasional Pittsburgh Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates tweets.  I attended the University of South Carolina, so during football season, there will also be some Gamecock posts.


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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.