Mead On Wine

© 1996 JDM Enterprises
All Rights Reserved
Vol. H No. 36


by Jerry D. Mead

My tasting notebook is overflowing! And since there's some really good stuff in there, I'll dispense with the small talk and get to the reviews. And for you bargain shoppers, lots of "Best Buys" and special values.

There's a really special limited production winery in the Livermore Valley called Murietta's Well, where winemaker Sergio Traverso is partner/winemaker. The Chilean-born Traverso has a lot of experience with Livermore fruit, having been winemaker at Concannon Vineyards for a number of years. Traverso also made wine at Sterling Vineyards and Domaine Chandon, both in Napa Valley.

Murietta's Well 1994 "Livermore" Zinfandel ($18) Scheduled for a Sept. 15 release, Mead On Wine readers have a chance to reserve some of the 1000-plus cases before they sell out. The backbone of this wine is a 100 year old, dry-farmed, head-pruned vineyard with a very low yield of very intense fruit. There is a portion of younger fruit from other vineyards in this vintage. Big raspberry nose with loads of berry fruit and just a hint of spice in the background. Very delicious claret-weight wine. Rating: 94/84

Murietta's Well 1993 "Livermore" Zinfandel ($16) There were only 800 cases to begin with and the winery is long sold out. I mention it only because it is so spectacular and because there may be some bottles lurking on some retailer's shelf. It's 100 percent the old vines wine, with a wonderful ripe plum fruit and a round, silky, supple, voluptuous mouthfeel and very long after-flavors. Buy all you can find. Rating: 98/90

Murietta's Well 1993 "Vendimia" Red ($28) Basically a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties, plus a smidgen of old vines Zinfandel. A combination of berry, cassis and black cherry fruit, with very smoky oak, some eucalyptus notes and very firm (but not tough or harsh) tannins. It has a lean Bordeaux-style structure, which is typical of red wines grown in Livermore's gravelly soil. Rating: 92/84

(Almost impossible to find is the 1991 vintage of the same wine. It is spectacular should you find a bottle lingering somewhere.)

Murietta's Well 1992 "Vendimia" White ($22) Not many wineries can afford to hold a white wine this long before release. This very great white wine deserves it. A blend of 54 percent Semillon, 44 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 2 percent Muscat Canelli, it saw tons of mostly new French oak and it shows in the overt but not overpowering rich vanillin notes. Ripe figs (think fresh fig, not fig jam), melons and flinty-mineral complexity. Rating: 96/84

For nearest retailer contact the winery: Murietta's Well, 3008 Mines Rd., Livermore, CA 94550 (510) 449-9229.

Lance Cutler used to be the winemaker at Gundlach-Bundschu and is now writing a column, books and producing videos, as well as making a bit of wine under his own label. Alas! He made the mistake of many beginning producers (though Cutler is no beginner himself), the package isn't nearly as good as the wine. The label looks like a store brand's and the glass isn't anything special. It looks like a $6 bottle.

The Cutler Cellars 1990 "Satyre" ($20) Very limited. If the package was half as attractive as the contents, there wouldn't be any left. A blend of 50 percent Cabernet, 45 percent Merlot and 5 percent Cabernet Franc, it is rich, ripe, supple and sensuous. Cassis and black cherry fruit and so velvety round in the mouth that you can serve it to your most special guests (or hog it all for yourself if you're the selfish type). A good wine for restaurants to serve by the glass so people don't have too look at the label. Rating: 96/88

Mazzocco 1994 "River Lane-Sonoma" Chardonnay ($15) Ripe melon and tropical fruit flavors. Nice touch of not overpowering oak vanillin. Good food companion. Rating: 89/85

Mazzocco 1994 "Sonoma" Zinfandel ($15) Ripe plum and berry flavors. Round and easy to drink; medium bodied; fruit is its long suit; not especially complex. Rating: 87/84

Mazzocco 1992 "Matrix" ($28) This Dry Creek proprietary red is 63 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 15 percent Malbec, 10 percent Cabernet Franc, 8 percent Petite Verdot and 4 percent Merlot. Really big, extractive, black cherry and cassis fruit, and firm structure for the long haul. Enjoyable now, but it's a keeper. Will benefit by as much as ten years cellaring. Rating: 92/84

And we'll end today's session with a couple of really good value reds that have fairly broad distribution.

Pepperwood Grove 1994 "California" Zinfandel ($8) Big, ripe fruit style with flavors leaning to boysenberry with a little pepper spice in the background. Medium-bodied and very drinkable, it's a great hamburger or barbecue wine. Rating: 84/90


Pepperwood Grove 1994 "California" Cabernet Franc ($8) What most people expect when they buy a Merlot, but all too often don't get. By that I mean it is a lighter, delicate (but not wimpy) style of red wine, with plenty of fruit and almost zero astringency. Raspberry and violet aroma and flavor. You may want to make this your personal house wine, which means case purchases are in order. Rating: 86/92

For further information contact: Pepperwood Grove, P.O. Box 1607, Sonoma, CA 95473 (707) 996-8463.

Any wines I didn't provide an address or phone for, feel free to call my office at (800) 845-9463 and I, or one of my staff, will help you track down the producer or importer.

Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates quality; second number rates value. For a reprint explaining the scoring system in depth and a pocket scoring guide, send $1 to: Mead's 100 Points, P.O. Box 1598, Carson City, NV 89702-1598.


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Latest Update: September 30, 1996