Federal Wine & Spirits

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This Week's Tasting

West Coast Grace
August 17, 2022

New winemakers have been quietly revolutionizing how many West Coast wines, especially reds, are being made. Our friend, wine educator George Staikos will conduct the tasting.


Wine Tasters

Federal WineLine

Wednesday, August 17, 5 - 6:30

West Coast Grace

New-Style wines for New American Cuisine



West Coast Grace 

New-Style wines for New American Cuisine

Our friend, wine educator George Staikos will conduct the tasting.

New winemakers have been quietly revolutionizing how many West Coast wines, especially reds, are being made.

Some artisans are reimagining traditionally big and bulky cabernets, syrahs, and the like as modern wines that tread the runway graceful and flowing, clad in silk rather than a barrel. They tune their wines to marry the lighter, more incisive dishes many of us are eating now.

Some call this style burgundian. If that means nuanced and precise, even graceful, so be it. 

Can cabernet and Syrah deliver pleasure in this guise? This tasting will tell you they can. 

Samsara is the Buddhist term for the natural cycle of life. The winery knows the right way to make pinot and chardonnay from selected micro-sites in the cool Sta. Rita Hills above Santa Barbara. Their wines seek to show the distinctive natural elements at play in each vineyard, expressed through low intervention winemaking. They have a Zen sense of the right extraction for wines of weightless finesse with very concentrated flavors. All their wines are perfectly poised.

Rasa Vineyards in Washington’s Columbia Valley make equally beautiful wines from a classically Latinate perspective. They named their sensuously complex four-grape red blend (cabernet, syrah, tempranillo, touriga)  Occam’s Razor (in logic, the simplest explanation.) The wine is a paradox, how one that displays a swirlingly complex succession of flavors can bear such a simple price of $21.

Likewise, naming their cabernet franc QED Choice function does not begin to convey the impeccably etched sensuality of the wine. Even the best Franc reds of the Loire or South Africa do not begin to approach this wine in sheer finesse. 

I have been a fan of Sonoma Mountain’s Laurel Glen Cabernet since its first vintage in the 80s. It had been an excellently defined wine with a power that was sometimes rustic when young. Napa Valley veteran Bettina Sichel, also of the famous Bordeaux family, purchased the estate in 2011 and reimagined the wine. It is still precise but now shows a forward delicacy that makes it one of the most succulent Sonoma Cabs I have tasted. Counterpoint is their more approachable wine, softened with a bit of premium old-vin Merlot.

There is so little of one other red that it will not be at the tasting. I do not remember tasting a so finely nuanced a Syrah as the Rasa Veritas Sequitur. As if Monet made Syrah, it traces the truth of its grape in a New World parallel to a Rayas style and precision. It is extraordinary.



2019 Samsara ChardonnayOrganic; Aroma: Rather rich, very dense soft, relatively rich, very heady; Mouth: Rich creamy, rather fat rich, concentrated, a green apple note, long sweet finish; Very Good - Excellent 48 Case, 41


2018 Samsara Pinot Noir; Color: Medium dark; Aroma: Soft rasher spicy, clean, lifted rounded fruit, soft perfume reserved; Mouth: Savory, delicate, finely wrought, elegant, pretty nicely lifted, clean & precise; Very Good - Excellent40; Case, 34

2015 Samsara Pinot Noir Rancho La Vina; Color: medium dark; Aroma: Clean rather pretty, richly fruited, plump, delicate with richness; Mouth: Very pure dark current elevated, sweetly rich but weightless, poised; Excellent 66; Case, 56

2018 Rasa Occam’s Razor; Color: Medium dark black; Aroma: Soft rather heady, reserved; Mouth: Sweetly intense, complex and herbal, a nutty quality, sweetness on the finish, very long; Very Good Plus 26.99; Case, 22.99

2018 Rasa QED Choice Function; Color: medium dark; Aroma: Fresh, lightly fresh, very pretty lifted, in a lifted style very pretty, light & lifted; Mouth: Very pretty, sift textured nicely rounded, delicate very pretty & nuanced, a ballerina of a Cab Franc; Excellent 45; Case, 38.25

2018 Laurel Glen CounterpointOrganic; Aroma: Very fine reserved, clean, heady, slightly minty, fresh, clean; Mouth: Very pretty, rounded, fresh, juicy, very pretty, less extracted, succulent, long, precise; Very Good - Excellent 59; Case, 49

2015 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon - Organic; Color: Very dark; Aroma: Dense some well-integrated opal, rounded fruit, pretty; Mouth: Smooth texture, herbal, very precise, nutty, very pretty delicate, long, a lightly crafted, elegant rendition of cabernet; Excellent 89; Case, 76

Not in the tasting but available in very limited quantity

2016 Rasa Syrah Veritas Sequitur; Aroma: Heady sweet rather delicate, very pretty, very modulated, soft white bacon, lovely; Mouth: Absolutely lovely, smooth, a vin du reve, poised and beautiful, an Impressionist Syrah; Outstanding 129; Case 110


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           - Len Rothenberg




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