2021 Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard

Price:$49

Style:

Fruity | New World

Rating:

Excellent
Type Red, Table, Dry
Country U.S.
Region California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County, Colson Canyon
Variety Syrah
Farming Organic (not certified)
Alcohol 15%
Drink Date 2023 – 2045
Published January 2024
2021 Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard
Rating: Excellent
Character

Very Good

Excellent

WOW
Fruit, Earth & Oak Aromas & Flavors Pleasing Fruit and/ or earth aromas and taste The varietal character of the grape really gets your attention Stops you in your tracks
Complexity On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth & oak spectrum More elements are in play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra , all in tune
Finish Some duration, a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
Primary Flavors
  • Cassis
  • Black Current
  • Rasberry
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • Grilled Meat
  • Vanilla
Structure

Acid

Low
Medium
High

Body

Light
Medium
Full

Tannin

Low
Medium
High

Style

Old World
Contemporary
New World
About this Wine

A dense ruby-purple and highly aromatic, this wine has a deep, concentrated core of dark fruits, cracked pepper, smoked meat and a touch of vanilla on the finish. The palate is full-bodied with medium-grained tannins and builds to a long perfumed finish. Despite the concentration of dark fruits, the wine has a bracing line of acidity and maintains freshness throughout. This is a wine that can be enjoyed now for its lifted aromatics and primary fruit or aged for one or two decades to reveal its more earthy notes.

Tensley’s Colson Canyon Vineyard

Santa Barbara County is one of the most southerly cool-climate wine regions in the Northern Hemisphere, and Colson Canyon, at an elevation of 1,400 feet above sea level, experiences warm, windy days with very cool nights. This combination helps grapes mature fully and develop ripe flavors, all while maintaining natural acidity that brings freshness and balance. 2021, one of the coolest vintages in a decade, was near-idyllic, with dry conditions leading to concentration while a cool, clear fall offered long picking windows with ripe fruit and mature tannins. The Tensley Syrah Colson Canyon Vineyard benefited in all ways from these conditions.

Joey Tensley, Owner, Winemaker

A young Joey Tensley was inspired to make wine at age 12 while on a tour of a French winery during a soccer tournament. He’s been making wine since the early 1990s and winning awards for his Syrahs since 2001.

Tasting rooms can be found in two locations: near the winery, in Los Olivos; and in Los Angeles, opened in 2023.



2019 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera

Price:$99

Style:

Savory | Old World

Rating:

Excellent

Type Red, Table, Dry
Country Italy
Region Piedmont, Barolo, Novello, Ravera
Variety Nebbiolo
Farming Certified Organic, Sustainable
Alcohol 14%
Drink Date 2025 – 2045
Published January 2024

2019 G.D. Vajra Barolo Ravera

Rating: Excellent
Character

Very Good

Excellent

WOW
Fruit, Earth & Oak Aromas & Flavors Pleasing Fruit and/ or earth aromas and taste The varietal character of the grape really gets your attention Stops you in your tracks
Complexity On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth & oak spectrum More elements are in play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra , all in tune
Finish Some duration, a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
Primary Flavors
  • Cherry
  • Rasberry
  • Alpine Mint
  • Orange Zest
Structure

Acid

Low
Medium
High

Body

Light
Medium
Full

Tannin

Low
Medium
High

Style

Old World
Contemporary
New World
About this Wine

A shimmering dark ruby color, this wine is captured by Giuseppe Vaira, who’s family produces this wine, describing it as “crisp like the sound of a Telecaster, straight and electric.” Intense red fruit aromas waft from the glass, backed by alpine mint and hints of citrus zest. On the palate, the wine offers a soft texture at first, then with time expands to deliver concentrated dark fruits, rose petals, crushed stone, and salinity, with very chiseled tannins trailing away on the palate. This wine is still young and tightly wound – it will reward another several years’ time in the bottle and age for at least a couple of decades. If you want to enjoy it sooner, decant and give it time to open up.

2019 was a textbook year in Barolo, marked by early bud break, late flowering, and a slow, progressive ripening of the grapes, leading to balanced phenolic ripening and great acidic spine. Great care goes into making this wine. The grapes are sorted manually three times at harvest: first, directly while still on the vine; second, as whole clusters on the sorting table; and finally, as single berries.

G.D. Vajra’s Ravera vineyard

G.D. Vajra makes many wines throughout the Langhe, many single-vineyard wines, and Ravera is considered their “feisty” Barolo, with a firm tannic structure. Ravera is broadly acknowledged as the most desirable vineyard in Comune di Novello, with a complex mix of Tortonian marls, sandstone, and clays from the Serravallian period, formed when an ancient seabed that collected runoff from the Alps was tossed vertically by tectonic action. Its elevation, within sight of the snow-capped Alps, brings cooler temperatures and diurnal shifts that preserve bracing acidity in the maturing grapes.

The family has been farming grapes in Barolo for almost 100 years and was one of the first in all of Piedmont to adopt organic farming techniques almost 50 years ago. Vineyards are nurtured and soil is preserved using grassing and spontaneous cover crops, with added effort focused on monitoring and improving biodiversity of flora and fauna in the vineyards, fields, and forests of their properties.

2020 Clos i Terrasses Clos Erasmus

Price:$289

Style:

Silky | New World

Rating:

WOW!

Type Red, Table, Dry
Country Spain
Region Catalonia, Priorat
Variety Grenache, Syrah
Farming Certified Organic, Biodynamic
Alcohol 15.5%
Drink Date 2023 – 2045
Published January 2024

Rating: WOW
Character

Very Good

Excellent

WOW
Fruit, Earth & Oak Aromas & Flavors Pleasing Fruit and/ or earth aromas and taste The varietal character of the grape really gets your attention Stops you in your tracks
Complexity On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth & oak spectrum More elements are in play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra , all in tune
Finish Some duration, a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
Primary Flavors
  • Cassis
  • Black Cherry
  • Black Plum
  • Blood Orange
Structure

Acid

Low
Medium
High

Body

Light
Medium
Full

Tannin

Low
Medium
High

Style

Old World
Contemporary
New World
About this Wine

A panoply of dark fruit aromas draw you deeply into the glass, with sweet bacon and orange peel deep on the nose. It’s easy to get lost in contemplation, as if the vines of this wine’s deep-driving roots are pulling you into the soul of Priorat. Take a sip, and the wine leaps onto your palate – muscular yet poised like Baryshnikov taking the stage at the Met, commanding, then remarkably covering every corner of the palate with deep layers of flavor before trailing off to a very long – and always perfectly poised – multilayered finish. The wine, though beautiful now, developed depth over the course of the tasting, suggesting it will benefit from a few years of aging – if you can wait. 

Clos i Terrasses Clos ErasmusAn older vine in Escales, Daphne Glorian’s first vineyard.

This is Grenache, with a “strong backbone” as it can only come from Priorat and its black schist “licorella” soils. Vineyard sources for Clos Erasmus are Escales, Aubages and Socarrats, each with its own soils and microclimate and contributing its own distinctive characteristics to the wine. Daphne Glorian is the winemaker, and such is her familiarity with her vineyards that she knows “give or take 5%” which grapes will go into the wine. Ester Nin manages viticulture. Grapes are hand harvested, with fermentation in a combination of oak vats, concrete egg and clay amphorae. Aging is 20 months in 228L French oak barrels (2/3 new) and clay amphorae. 

Clos i Terrasses Clos ErasmusClos Erasmus barrels resting in the cellar.

Daphne Glorian, the proprietor, was among the first wave of winemakers to come to Priorat in the 1980s with the vision of revitalizing the then-defunct wine region. New World wines were the rage, and winemakers here found fame with bold extracted wines and often the use of international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. Daphne has maintained her focus on Grenache, believing that it is the grape that finds its best and fullest expression in Priorat. As the style pendulum has swung from New World extraction to more contemporary balance, Daphne said she has shortened maceration times slightly over the years to enhance freshness. In the case of the 2020 Erasmus, she also blended a small lot that normally goes to the Laurel bottling, adding freshness as well as the note of orange blossom that marks this vintage. Three thousand and two hundred bottles were produced, 40% of them allocated to the U.S. This wine is, in every way, worth seeking out.

Clos i Terrasses Clos ErasmusWalter with Daphne Glorian at her home/tasting room in Gratallops.

Priorat is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa (DOQ in Catalan), the highest qualification level accorded by Spanish wine regulation, along with Rioja DOCa. Though only an hour’s drive from the Mediterranean coast, Priorat is mountainous and remote, with a rich wine history beginning with the founding of the Carthusian Monastery of Scala Dei in 1194.

Clos i Terrasses Clos ErasmusCellars Scala Dei, Escaladei, Tarragona, Spain

2020 Fattoria Le Pupille Morellino di Scansano Riserva

Price:$27

Style:

Savory | New World

Rating:

Very Good

Type Red, Table, Dry
Country Italy
Region Tuscany, Morellino di Scansano
Variety Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon
Alcohol 14%
Drink Date 2023 – 2030
Published December 2023

Rating: Very Good
Character

Very Good

Excellent

WOW
Fruit, Earth & Oak Aromas & Flavors Pleasing Fruit and/ or earth aromas and taste The varietal character of the grape really gets your attention Stops you in your tracks
Complexity On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth & oak spectrum More elements are in play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra , all in tune
Finish Some duration, a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
Primary Flavors
  • Jammy Black Fruits
  • Garrigue
  • Tobacco
  • Mint
  • Blood Orange
Structure

Acid

Low
Medium
High

Body

Light
Medium
Full

Tannin

Low
Medium
High

Style

Old World
Contemporary
New World
About this Wine

On the nose, this wine delivers deep notes of blackberry and blueberry jam, black currant, and Mediterranean herbs, along with notes of tobacco, blood orange and black pepper. On the palate, this wine has a medium-plus body with good freshness and fine integrated tannins. Citrus notes follow the deep fruit flavors on the extended palate. This is a great effort, delivering ripe fruits yet maintaining freshness from what was a hot vintage. This wine will pair well with food, especially more rustic meat or pasta dishes. 

DAOU Mountain and Vineyards

The Morellino di Scansano Riserva has been a consistent outperformer over the years, winning wide critical acclaim for the quality it delivers in an under-$30 price point. The winery owner, Elisabetta Geppetti, is recognized as a trailblazer in this area of coastal Tuscany, and her flagship wine, Saffredi, stands every bit the equal to many other great Super Tuscan wines.

2021 DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Discovery

Price:$22

Style:

Bold | New World

Rating:

Very Good

Type Red, Table, Dry
Country USA
Region California, Central Coast, San Luis Obispo County, Paso Robles
Variety Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Franc
Alcohol 14.5%
Drink Date 2022 – 2028
Published June 2023

2021 DAOU Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles Discovery bottle

Rating: Very Good
Character

Very Good

Excellent

WOW
Fruit, Earth & Oak Aromas & Flavors Pleasing Fruit and/ or earth aromas and taste The varietal character of the grape really gets your attention Stops you in your tracks
Complexity On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth & oak spectrum More elements are in play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra , all in tune
Finish Some duration, a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
Primary Flavors
  • Black Raspberry
  • Blueberry
  • Currant
  • Baking Spices
Structure

Acid

Low
Medium
High

Body

Light
Medium
Full

Tannin

Low
Medium
High

Style

Old World
Contemporary
New World
About this Wine

This is a very generous bold red wine at this price point – a great bargain in California Cabernet. Deep ruby-purple, the nose offers dark cherry and blackberry aromas supplemented by chocolate, tobacco leaf, sandalwood, and sage. The palate offers black raspberry, cherry preserves, currants ,and herbs, and it maintains nice balance throughout the lingering finish. Labeled Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a Bordeaux blend of 80.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11.5% Petit Verdot, 7.8% Merlot, and .3% Cabernet Franc, which spends 10 months in 50% new French oak. It is widely available; look for the 2021 vintage still on shelves.

DAOU Mountain and VineyardsDAOU Mountain

Established in 2007 by brothers Georges and Daniel DAOU – their back story is remarkable in and of itself – DAOU Vineyards was just sold to Treasury Wine Estates for a price reported to be close to $1 billion. It will be interesting to see how Treasury manages this estate, which André Tchelistcheff, the “father of modern California winemaking,” called “a jewel of ecological elements.”

2022 Tyler Santa Barbara County Chardonnay

Price:$27

Style:

Creamy | Contemporary

Rating:

Very Good

Type White, Table, Dry
Country USA
Region California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
Variety Chardonnay
Alcohol 13%
Drink Date 2023 – 2026
Published November 2023

Tyler Santa Barbara County Chardonnay wine

Rating: Very Good
Character

Very Good

Excellent

WOW
Fruit, Earth & Oak Aromas & Flavors Pleasing Fruit and/ or earth aromas and taste The varietal character of the grape really gets your attention Stops you in your tracks
Complexity On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth & oak spectrum More elements are in play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra , all in tune
Finish Some duration, a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
Primary Flavors
  • Apple
  • Poached Pear
  • Toasted Almond
  • Mineral
Structure

Acid

Low
Medium
High

Body

Light
Medium
Full

Tannin

Low
Medium
Full

Style

Old World
Contemporary
New World
About this Wine

A lovely nose of orchard fruits expands on the palate, revealing bright citrus, a distinct minerality, and notes of toasted almond on the lingering finish. This is a dynamic great-quality wine that you’ll almost never find at this price. It leans Old World in style (not unlike a white Burgundy from the Mâconnais) due to its cool climate while coaxing out bright fruit flavors from Santa Barbara County’s long growing season and more-southern solar exposure. What a wonderful sense of place this wine delivers. Its bright acidity pairs well with food.

Grapes are sourced from various locations, including Kick On Ranch in Los Alamos and younger vines from the storied Sanford & Benedict and La Rinconada vineyards in Sta. Rita Hills. Grapes are whole-cluster pressed then aged in 20% new French oak in a combination of 228-liter barrels and 500-liter puncheons. There’s full malolactic fermentation with lighter lees remaining in barrel for 11 months, no doubt providing the toasty almond notes.

Tyler’s Mae Estate vineyardTyler’s Mae Estate vineyards, looking south to the Sta. Rita Hills, on a cool, wet spring day

Tasted over the last three vintages, this wine shows wonderful consistent quality, especially at its price point. It’s a great entry to the wines of Tyler, which include a number of single-vineyard bottlings, including from storied Bien Nacido, Sanford & Benedict, La Rinconada, and now their own Mae Estate, which debuted in 2019.

How We Rate Wines

About 80% of wines are not expert rated. For the remaining 20%, ratings are everything. There is a clear and direct correlation between scores and pricing. The general rule of thumb is that the higher the score, the higher the price, but some great deals exist (high rating with a reasonable price), and we love finding them. So just as “wines love a slope,” the wine industry loves high ratings. Winemakers and retailers make more money, experts who assign higher ratings get preferred access, more prominent press and more subscribers. The incentives to rate high are many, and the incentives to maintain rating integrity are few. Some experts have maintained integrity in their rating scale, assigning scores that correspond more closely with what we assess to be the quality of the wines we taste. But they are few, diminishing and becoming ever harder to find. You have to comb through a lot of scores that reflect “rating inflation.” And as with the economy, once it takes hold, it’s hard to get rid of.

So we’d like to define how we rate wines. And really, we’re only interested in wines that we’d enjoy and that we think our subscribers will enjoy. We have no interest in cluttering your inbox with information on wines that are less than very good, so you won’t hear about those. We like to think we set a high bar. So whether we spend $20 or $200, we expect the wines we drink to deliver good fruit, complexity of flavors and a lasting finish

Here’s How We Rate Wines:
Walter On Wine Rating System
Character Not Recommended Very Good
Excellent
WOW
Fruit Insufficient Varietal Character Pleasing Fruit Aromas & Taste The Varietal Character Of The Fruit Really Gets Your Attention Stops You In Your Tracks
Complexity Insufficient Complexity Of Fruit &/Or Secondary Aromas & Flavors On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth and wood spectrum More elements are at play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Elements are not in harmony; something is too prominent Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra, all in tune
Finish Short or thin finish Some duration; a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
wine bottle

Wine styles, and tastes, vary. So we’ll help you understand what type of taster you are. Your “taster type” will indicate which grape varietals you will most likely enjoy. It may also help indicate whether you prefer “Old World” or “New World” styles. (Old World: grapes picked earlier, higher acid, more earthy, lower alcohol, likely more aromatic, oak, if used at all, is subtle; New World: grapes picked when more ripe, lower acid, higher fruit and alcohol/less earthy, oak, if used, is more noticeable. For more info, see “Old World – New World” in the Education tab of our website.)

As a result, in addition to our quality rating, we’ll profile key elements of the structure of the wine so that you are more likely to know if it is closer to YOUR preference type. In addition to the rating, wines will be profiled as follows:

Wine Structure & Style
Aspect Element Description
On The Palate Acid Low, Medium, High?
Body Light, Medium, Full?
Tannin Low, Medium, High?
Resulting Style Old World/New World Intensity and balance of fruit, earth, wood, acid and tannin
wine rating

It is our intention, by doing this, to give our subscribers a quicker, rounder picture of the wine so that they may assess whether it is one they are interested in and if they will want to read a more full description of its qualities. Combine this with your “Taster Type” profile, and Walter on Wine should be leading you to a better wine experience with fewer dead-end detours.
Cheers!

2022 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc

Price:$22

Style:

Crisp | New World

Rating:

Excellent

Type White, Table, Dry
Country New Zealand
Region Marlborough
Variety Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol 13.5%
Drink Date 2023 – 2024
Published September 2023

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc wine

Rating: Excellent
Character

Very Good

Excellent

WOW
Fruit, Earth & Oak Aromas & Flavors Pleasing Fruit and/ or earth aromas and taste The varietal character of the grape really gets your attention Stops you in your tracks
Complexity On the nose and palate, multiple sensory elements across the fruit, earth & oak spectrum More elements are in play, at more sensory-stimulating levels; a sense of place Each time you smell, each time you taste, you sense new, deeper elements
Balance Harmonious; not dominated by one element, like jammy fruit or oak The harmony holds as intensity builds A full chorus or orchestra , all in tune
Finish Some duration, a pleasant reminder Duration up to 20 seconds Duration exceeds 20 seconds
Primary Flavors
  • Ripe Pineapple
  • Lime
  • Elderflower
  • Citrus
Structure

Acid

Low
Medium
High

Body

Light
Medium
Full

Tannin

Light
Medium
Full

Style

Old World
Contemporary
New World
About this Wine

Calling all lovers of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc! This wine from Greywacke knocks it out of the park. The aromas you’d expect from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – tropical passion fruit, guava, pear, and white peach – leap from the glass. It’s a generous yet crisp wine on the palate, showing ripe pineapple with a zesty lime zing layered with elderflower and citrus and a long, mineral-driven and herbaceous finish. Complex and wonderfully balanced, this wine delights in every way. Pair it with goat cheese, fish, or light meats like chicken or pork, especially with herbed sauces or with Asian cuisine. The winemaker, Kevin Judd, is renowned for his winemaking, which he honed for 25 years at Cloudy Bay, where he helped define the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc style and put it on the global wine map. At Greywacke, Judd sources the best fruit from Marlborough’s Southern Valley and the Wairau Plains. Harvested during cool and often cold nights, the grapes are pressed lightly to yield the highest-quality juice. Individual vineyard batches are fermented separately until he assembles the final blend.

Sauvignon Blanc vineyardSauvignon Blanc vineyard in Marlborough, sourced by Kevin Judd at Greywacke PHOTO ©KEVIN JUDD

If you read the caption for the photo above, you’ll note that Kevin Judd is credited. What started for him as a hobby has flourished into two books of photographs: The Colour of Wine, and The Landscape of New Zealand Wine. Judd notes that both winemaking and photography require a deft application of art and science. He ruminates that while his wine will not be drinkable in 50 years, his photography will still be available. No doubt his wine legacy will also endure.