Blind: Talley Chard;Terlan Gewurz,Sauzet PM,Paul Lato,Brogan Cellars,Sea Smoke, Aubert Pinot Noir ++

Our Monday night dinner group enjoyed another fabulous dinner at Ca Dario Montecito drinking all wines blind except for a champagne. Pinot Noir from anywhere was the dedicated red wine theme and as usual, we all learned a lot and were challenged to ID some varietals, even our own brings.

First, this restaurant is absolutely fabulous. The owner/ chef devotes most of his time at this location one of three locally. He is quite talented and does things just a bit different than and it always turns out to be delicious and savory. The broad menu choices and various sauces and exotic seasonings allows us to select wines from all over and be able to pair just about any varietal successfully.

We started off with a champagne:

2002 POL ROGER EXTRA CUVEE de la RESERVE- from the stellar 2002 vintage that is showing beautifully now, this bottle had a gold color suggesting some age which was confirmed by the nose that was replete with advanced notes of caramel and butterscotch; I trudged on and was happy to discover some nice honeyed yellow apple once tasted as well as loads of richness and a creamy texture; for me, this was just on the edge of being a nice, mature bubbly that might be more advanced and less desirable in the next phase; our bottle was significantly chilled and that made it much more approachable as the everything was a bit suppressed initially.

And now for the 4 whites tasted blind. My notes reflect both blind and researched remarks:

2014 TALLEY ESTATE RESERVE CHARDONNAY ARROYO GRANDE VALLEY- it was pretty easy to detect Chardonnay here and most of us got it was new world and probably CA; I actually had it as a Russian River Valley; this was a lovely wine that pleased from the nose through the tail; following its medium youthful yellow color came aromas of pear and apple which continued on to be joined by white peach and lemon, all enhanced by an accent of oak spices; I kept looking for some underlying minerality that is so much more prevalent in white Burgundy, but found none and along with the oak influence, deducted new world; BTW, this had a pleasant nose and taste profile along with its feel good texture, all contributing to making this is a good wine that can benefit from more time.

2020 CANTINA TERLAN TRADITION GEWURZTRAMINER ALTO ADIGE- the color was a straw yellow and the nose said Riesling or Gewurz to me with its mineral laced tropical fruit which on the palate became tasty pineapple, guava and mango plus lemon, pear and banana; it was rich and medium to full bodied and so easy on the palate as well as pairing beautifully with the appetizers.

2018 L`ECOLE No 41 OLD VINES CHENIN BLANC YAKIMA VALLEY- 13.5% abv; 4,000 cases made; tasted blind, but I recognized the Chenin from recent samplings and knew it was my bring; following its pale yellow color came aromas of mineral and lemongrass accented tropical fruit joined by honeyed pear and apple once tasted; this has nice acidity and a soft and easy mouthfeel to add to the sensory pleasure.

An aside, I was gifted 3 bottles, 2016-2018, of this wine to taste and review This vintage carries the Yakima Valley labelled distinction, an AVA within the Columbia Valley, whereas the 2016 and 2017 indicate Columbia Valley although the fruit is sourced from vineyards located within the former. According to a note attached to the tech sheets I received, the winery chose this change “to align with other Heritage Line items”.

2007 ETTIENE SAUZET HAMEAU de BLAGNY PULIGNY- MONTRACHET 1er Cru- medium yellow color; aromas of mineral infused citrus says this is a white Burg to me and the more I visited it, the more I was convinced; the taste profile was enhanced by fresh, ripe lemon, lime and white peach fruit; it had wonderful balance and mouthfeel and a long, satisfying finish that sealed the deal, but it was its grace and charm that stood out throughout; my fav of the 4 as it was for most of the others.

We moved on to explore 5 Pinots blind:

2013 PAUL LATO “SUERTE” SOLOMAN HILLS VINEYARD SANTA MARIA VALLEY PINOT NOIR- this wine has been highly acclaimed by many of the wine reviewers and rightly so; it’s showing well now with promises to mature into an even better place; the color was a youthful, vibrant red purple; the nose included spiced and toasted berries which on the palate was discovered to be red cherry, red currant, black cherry and black raspberry; the burnt red cherry notes were most evident early on and to the back end; a nice wine from one who was mentored by good friend, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat before going out one his own.

2006 BROGAN CELLARS LIGENFELDER VINEYARD RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR- this was my bring and I did not recognize it even though I’d had it 2 nights before; of the 5, this one had the oldest color with a tad of bricking plus the most mature fruit and it really did not show all that much maturity when I decanted it from a magnum, drinking some and replacing the remainder in 2- 750 ml bottles; the nose and first taste offerings had some dried red currant, but in time, a mouthful of red cherry/ berry came in and it finished beautifully; even at the very end, a hit for dried prunes showed up and I`m wondering if I brought the same wine that seemed so much different and younger just 2 nights earlier.

2009 SEA SMOKE SOUTHING SANTA RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR- the 14.5% abv stated on the label is a much lesser content than those from the original winemaker who left in 2008; and the wines have been made in a different style since then, having slightly less extraction, less ripeness and consequently slightly less alcohol, and less new oak elevage; this is one of the 3 estates Pinot Noir heavy hitters in the lineup; Botella and Ten are the others; Southing gets it name for its south-facing hillside bluffs; so what about this wine? It was really good and my fav of the 5; it was super aromatic with fresh cut flowers, cherry tree blossoms and red cherries which continued on to be joined by flavorful blackberry and black cherry, finishing it off with a touch of talc; it had nice balance, great feel and seemed youthful and capable of giving lots of pleasure for years on.

2011 AUBERT UV-SL VINEYARD SONOAM COAST PINOT NOIR- this was named after their now deceased vineyard manager, Ulises Valdez Sr. (UV), and his home located on Stoetz Lane (SL); Mark Aubert and Ulises planted the vineyard 15 years ago; the color was a vibrant dark purple suggesting it was younger than actually the case; the serious nose and the taste had smoke and toasted, fresh red cherry fruit while being delivered in a silky, smooth medium that added a nice tactile treat; it was medium to full bodied and had a welcomed, long finish; my 2nd fav of this flight.

2010 HARTFORD COURT ARRENDELL VINEYARD HAILEY`S BLOCK GREN VALLEY OF RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY PINOT NOIR- Dijon clone, unfiltered, unfined, cool climate Pinot Noir; this came off young from the color through the taste profile and it was a good wine with lots of stuffing; vanilla, cola and oak spices provide accents to the nice red and dark fruit which predominantly consisted of black raspberry, red and black cherry and black currant; it had depth and complexity and a long, sustained, impressive finish; IMO, this actually needs more time that a decant may have helped.

Here’s another fabulous night with the gang and as with all blind tastings, we learned a lot while discovering some wines to add to our cellars and maybe to do more decanting.



As usual, vibrant notes Blake, thanks so much. Really pleased that the Sauzet was not oxed and that the Aubert showed so balanced. I had my first sample of an aged Sea Smoke a couple months ago when I tried the 2007 Ten

"2007 Sea Smoke Ten

Tim and Alissa brought this and the Dominus, much thanks. This is the oldest Sea Smoke I’ve tried in terms of ageing. The overarching word I am using with this wine is “elegant” and that’s not a word that has always come to mind before. Dark berries on the aromatics, with elements of cedar and maybe even cumin. It still has a strong presence dans la bouche, but without any cola or sarsparilla or ripe cherry fruit components—instead continues with small berry presentation. I like this a lot–maybe even a tiny bit more than the 08 Cristal, though they’re of course very different wines."

keep drinking well, my friend. And save the time period around the beginning of November—I hope to be through SB at that time as part of the big trip.


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Hey Mike,

Elegance was not a common find in those first few years of SS, but some have aged nicely and are a lot more approachable with less heat. Ten was always my fav of the 3 as I found it to be closer to being balanced then the others.

Fingers crossed on connecting in early November as I may go to Amsterdam for a month late October/ November.

Sea Smoke Pinots really improve with age. 10-15 years is a very good range, probably longer.

They don’t fit into the conventional profile of ageworthy pinot, but they really do reward it.



Thanks for posting these notes - and great seeing the two of you, albeit briefly, last weekend!

I love how the group, many of whom I know, drink such varied wines, and I truly appreciate your honest notes.

Great to see such a varied list of pinots, and seeing ‘love’ for all of them, regardless of style. It’s refreshing how open minded you are and how you realize that each wine can be pleasurable, even if it is not in your ‘normal’ wheelhouse.

There are lessons to be learned here for sure.



Always nice to see Sea Smoke notes.
I will try to keep my hands off the few I still have!

I love that about Blake. He approaches wines not uncritically, yet with an earnest effort to find things to enjoy and to appreciate. Some might find that to be contradictory, but I think Blake consistently shows it is not.

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Hey Larry,

Likewise re the greeting on the street.

The Monday night group is comprised of different folks from the other one you know. What’s different is, we allow every wine to be enjoyed over the course of the entire evening and follow its course and discuss it blind. It’s a whole lot easier to do when there is only 4 or 5 and a few wines as opposed to the onslaught the larger group gets and rarely does blind.

Larry, my philosophy in life is to see the good in everything and everyone, the half full if you will. And to learn the lessons from each and every experience. Most of the time, I can do that as it is becoming more habitual. I guess that gets reflected in the notes. Thanks for noticing.

Thanks Chris. Ditto my remarks to Larry above.

Looking forward to having you join the OC crew in a couple weeks, Blake.

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Me too. It’s always a treat to hang with you all. Very special folks.

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So which was the favorite of the red flight? It was not clear. Sea Smoke?

Really surprised that the Champagne offering was so small. You usually major in bubbles.


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Yes, the SS was the overall fav; Paul Lato was 2nd.

The champagne even came from a guest. I always took a bottle plus the theme wine until we decided to do all wines blind and I moved to bringing a white and red. I have to say, it feels like something is missing when I leave without a bubbly.