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Every once in awhile you taste a wine, taste it again, and then have to scratch your head at the price tag.  Could a wine this wonderful, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, really be just $50 retail?  Am I seeing that correctly?  The 2016 Priest Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon is an unfiltered beauty that really pushed be back in my chair!  Absolutely mouth-coating and full of delicious dark fruits, dark chocolate, whisps of dried spices and incredibly satisfying tannins that dance on the palate from beginning to end.  I'll be honest with you.   I spent minutes just swirling and smelling this wine, both at the beginning and throughout the tasting experience.  It's that good.  And remember, you could go to a restaurant and spend $12 - $16 for a glass of wine from a $20 bottle that is mediocre or you go visit the Priest Ranch Winery web site and purchase a few bottles of this Cabernet, knowing that you are getting more than your money's worth!  Highly recommended.


ABV:  14.8%

Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  $50.00

Drink The Bottles score:  94/100


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Drink the Bottles by Jeff Lawson - 2w ago

Admittedly, I am not a huge Cabernet Franc fan because historically most of it has left me wanting more, often wondering if all Cab Franc was lackluster or if I had just been unlucky.  After today, I am putting all of that behind me and all Cabernet Franc will be judged against this 2016 Coquerel Bennett's Vineyard Cabernet Franc.  Yes, you read that right.   This wine spoils you because it is a 100% varietal and made from a single vineyard - and it shows!   Incredible dark maroon color with lifting aromatics of very ripe blackberries, cassis, hints of barn wood and cherry show the same on the palate with very juicy tannins and a finish that is surely a fist clencher.   I know it was for me.  This wine would pair well with braised short ribs but if you truly love Cabernet Franc, I would recommend this wine with a good book or a lazy Sunday on the sofa.   It's truly a work of art and at only 96 cases you should grab this quickly!



ABV:  14.8%

Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  SOLD OUT

Drink The Bottles score:  96/100


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Spring is the most pleasant time of the year. Days start to get longer and warmer, and spending time outside suddenly feels very inviting. The green gets greener, the blue sky turns brighter and flowers blooming everywhere it all seems magical. Well, and it is, at least here in Portugal!
Porto is Portugal's second largest city and was elected Best European Destination 2017 and awarded as European Leading Destination 2018. Every year the city attracts thousands of tourists eager to discover the ancient downtown, the typical riverside with colorfully painted houses, to get lost in century old streets, to enjoy the Portuguese cuisine and, of course, to taste wine.
It´s great to be outdoors during the spring months. To take a walk along the lavish green Douro's landscape taking your time to relax or to sail the Douro River and breathe for a while. Moreover, if you are thinking that the perfect setting would include a Port Wine tasting and maybe some delicious food as well, we are going to make that happen.
Here is a list of the Top 4 Experiences you just can't skip this Spring.

Picnic in the Vineyards
Picnics are a fun thing to do. But when do you have the opportunity to do it right in middle of secular vineyards sightseeing the snake like Douro river in the background?
Some wine estates in Portugal are able to provide that unique experience perfect for everyone. Enjoy it with your family, friends or even in a romantic getaway. Some wineries sell the tour and picnic is included, so be ready to choose your spot in the vineyard and unveil what is inside your basket to celebrate the moment. Everything you are about to taste was carefully selected and the wine will be the perfect pairing. Only the best regional wine and delicacies (or in Portuguese: Petiscos) combined with some charming and distinctive details selected for you will be inside your basket. Immerse yourself in the magnificent scenery and enjoy each flavor and each minute.

The must go Port Wine Cellars Tour
  You don't need to go a specific winery or vineyard in the Douro Valley to taste the best Portuguese wines (though we strongly recommend you do!). If you're in Porto and haven't planned a trip to the Douro but find yourself in the mood for a Port wine tasting, there are plenty of choices, mainly on the other side of the Douro River, in Gaia.
In the cellars, you will learn more about the history of Port wine and the Douro region and discover its most iconic figures. Powerful women that controlled a so-called men world back in the 1800’s, piracy tales and Barons that had a doomed faith to drown in the Douro River and never to be seen again.
Each visit is different, featuring a tasting room, artesanal cheese or chocolate pairings, on-site sommeliers and much more. To become a real Port Wine connoisseur keep reading and download the free Guide to the Best Port Wine Cellars and book your tour in Portugal.

Cruising 2019 in Portugal  
Wine cruises can be relaxing, fun, romantic, you set the tone we provide all you need on board for the smoothest sailing either for a short escape of one or two hours or to spend the night on board.
The view is stunning and the wine, by the moment you already know how it is, unique and produced in the man-made slopes along the Douro river as far as the eyes can see.  A truly delight for those who need a moment out of the real world, a moment of indescribable beauty.
To set sail in Douro River you will be able to go on board of modern sailing boats or boats with a vintage feel to it accordingly to your preference. 
In addition, if you are visiting Algarve in the south of Portugal a Yacht cruise will take you along the immense bright blue of the Atlantic Ocean and you will be able to spot secret beaches hidden between the rocks.
Wine Tourism in Portugal has cruises that are able to suit your particular taste. Everything for the perfect spring day!


Cultural Tours - The Locals Choices
Yes, cultural tours can be exhausting, if the only thing you do is to walk around a town and visit platitudinous churches or museums. But what if this tour takes you only to the most beautiful European historic sites and shows you the true cultural heritage? A cultural richness that adds up some top quality wines and delicious petiscos. Yes, your cultural tour magically turns into a once in a lifetime experience. What about now? A Wine Tour in Porto with a River Cruise and Tour to The Port Wine Cellars, or a  Full-day Wine Tour in Alentejo?  Maybe you are more into a city feel, and if that is so: Wine and History Tour in Lisbon will be the most appropriate choice.

Adventure and sustainable tours
As a wine lover you know wine goes with any activity, mostly if you are on your Spring vacations. So, why not to mix it up with some adventure and nature experiences? OK, as long as the only thing you are driving is a Bike or a Kayak! And since spring is also the last chance you have to stay fit before summer, we have some excellent suggestions for you, that goes from an unique Wine and Golf Tour to Health and Wellness stays. In fact you can mix them and do it all during you stay. What about Bicycle Tours and Bird Watching,  Kayak and Bike Tours or get the adrenaline running in the 4x4 Wine Tour?
We have so many incredible experiences waiting for you in Portugal all year long.  Did you know that Portugal is the European country with more sun hours? Yes, it is true.  So now, it is time for you to see, taste, and feel for yourself.  Create your own unforgettable memories of 2019, here in Portugal.
For more suggestions, visit Wine Tourism in Portugal website and have a look at the list of all the experiences you can book in the Douro region.

Author:
Wine Tourism in Portugal is leading the path in making Wine Lovers discover what a great wine country Portugal is.
The only hub for booking the finest and most awarded wine places and wine experiences in Portugal.
Nowadays with more than 130k visits per month from travelers all around the world, Wine Tourism in Portugal is a key company and inevitable business partner for the wine related industry.


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This non-vintage 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery started out as an experiment in wine aging and Sandi Belcher and her team have hit a home run.  This wine is a fine example of smart blending, expert wine making and risk taking that paid off in a big way.  This wine has three separate vintages in a single bottle.  This wine is rooted in a gorgeous purple color and presents lung-filling aromas of ripe blackberries, chocolate, saddle leather and toasty cedar.  There's a great mid palate feel with this one and generous flavors of dark berries, cedar, dark chocolate, tar and spice box.  This is everything you want to see in a quality Cabernet Sauvignon and I think this is an experiment that went extremely well!  I love seeing winemakers step outside of the box and I think you'll love this too.  Only 200 cases were produced and at this price point, it won't last long.


ABV:  14.5%

Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  $65.00

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100

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This 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery is another fine example of a powerfully restrained, still young wine with tons of potential.   I "Drink The Bottles" when I get them, so unfortunately, sometimes I miss out what are probably the best years of many stellar wines.  I think that is the case here with the 2013 Estate Grown Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery.  This wine has a gorgeous, sexy black color and a depth that you can see and feel.  Layers of chocolate cake, tobacco leaf, spicy paprika, and cherry cola marry with ease on the nose and in the mouth.  I feel like this wine has so much more to offer and the flavors will explode out of the glass in the next 3-5 years.  But who can wait??  This is a wine that is very tasty now, but will probably bring tears of joy to your eyes if you hold onto it and save it for that special occasion or special someone in the not-so-near future.  With only 300 cases produced, you better grab this quickly!
ABV:  14.8%

Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  $90.00

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100


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2012 was a mixed year for many wine producers.  Some soared and some struggled.  Those who did soar rose way above the competition and this 2012 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon from Arns Winery is a fine example of wine made gorgeously and with style.   There is a big contrast in color from the 2011.  This was is very dark and inky, leaving behind a beautiful stamp on the cork.  I decanted this wine for about an hour but couldn't help myself to get lost in the aromas dark fruits, black licorice and damp, loam earthiness.  Solid mouthfeel and the aromas carry over to the same flavors, but add in some cocoa powder and hints of sweet berries on the finish for a mouth covering and memorable drinking experience.   Arns Winery wines are those that you want to take with you to a dinner party.  These are also great wines to share with folks who are not traditionally "wine people", but beware that those folks may think that all wines are this delicious!


ABV:  14.8%

Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  $90.00

Drink The Bottles score:  94/100


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It's really very difficult to pick a singular wine that sums up the best of the best for an entire year.  In some ways, it just doesn't seem fair to show your cards, point and say "This.  This is the one", but scores of folks clamor each year for every wine publication, including bloggers, to tell them "what a good wine is" that they would like.   That question always hurts my head.   Let me start by echoing my own sentiment and one that I always say....

Every wine listed on Drink The Bottles is worth your attention.   They are all worth your hard-earned money and they would not be here if I did not think you and your tribe would enjoy them.  It's that easy.  I taste hundreds of wines each year.   The ones on this blog are the ones that make it.  Some don't.  And that's ok.  You might still love those and hopefully you've fallen in love with a producer or varietal that is your jam.  

Before I get to "the" wine of the year, here are some very, VERY incredible honorable mentions in no particular order:


So, the downside of listing some of my favorite wines is fact that some feelings may get hurt.  That may cause some folks to delete my email address and not take my calls anymore.  I hope not.  Again, every single wine on this blog is a keeper.......or, make that a drinker.   

When I was trying to think about the 2018 Wine of the Year, I had to ask myself, "what in the heck does that mean"?  It comes down to this.  Is the wine readily available?  Is the wine memorable?  Is the wine affordable to most people who appreciate drinking with friends?   This wine was on my radar most of the year and I had no doubt at all that this was going to be the one.

(Drum roll please...............)

The Shepherd 2014 Estate Red

This beautiful wine is only $20 and for that price you need to do yourself a favor and pick up half a case....at least!   If you do nothing else today, check out my thoughts on this wine on the blog.

I am really looking forward to 2019 and sharing dozens of wonderful wines with all of you.  If you want to be part of the project, connect with me here on or Instagram.  Cheers!
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Man, this one is BIG!   I received this bottle of 2014 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Armillary Cabernet Sauvignon last week and let it rest a few days before tasting.   Tasted over two days, this initially tossed around aromas of plum, leather, cedar, menthol and a touch of sage again big, rich tannins and a lingering finish.  Despite the 15%+ alcohol content, this wasn't hot at all.  In fact, it was beautifully made and a real pleasure to drink.  I was lucky enough to have some of this to taste a second night with a chicken pasta dish that I make regularly and the pairing was spot on.  The wine was more Bing cherry, cocoa powder and tea leaves with saddle leather and neither the pasta or wine overpowered each other.  I absolutely adore a 100% Cabernet that is completely mouth-coating as this one and if you're looking for an amazing wine to share with friends, this is your huckleberry!


ABV:  15.3%

Napa Valley, California

Suggested retail price:  $125.00

Drink The Bottles score:  94/100

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I recently found out that someone I used to look up to the world of wine isn't who I thought he was.  He is an up and coming wine blogger who I followed on social media sites because his posts were entertaining, colorful and inviting.  And one day I felt I owed it to myself (and him) to visit his blog and I nearly puked.  I was so put off after reading a couple of entries that I couldn't decide what to do first - punch myself in the head for thinking this guy was something that he wasn't, or just walk away. 

I guess I should start by saying that as a wine blogger, you generally get one shot.  If you don't connect with a reader with your first article or wine review, they probably won't be back to read your work.  And everyone needs something different from a wine blogger.  Some people just want to know what they should drink.   These are generally the people who want to impress someone at a dinner party, because they typically show up with a half a case of Natural Light and some Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill "wine".   Don't get me wrong - we love these people.  They know very little about wine and it's great that they generally want to find something "good" or "tasty". 

But for most of the other readers, they want to be entertained.  They want to connect with a writer that thinks, talks and enjoys wine like they do.   If you're only interested in first growth Bordeaux wines, then you should find that wine writer.   If you don't want to spend more than $9 for a bottle of wine, I'm sure that wine blogger is out there too.  Find them.   Sparkling wines only?   There's a blog for that.   Wines for people that identify as gender neutral, are Vegan and are Crossfit instructors that drive a monster truck?    Ok, there may not be a blog specifically for that group, but chances are there is a blogger who matches that description.   Find them.   Connect with them.

So, let's go back to my blogging "friend" from the beginning of this article.  When I use quotes around the word friend, it's not because I don't care for the guy anymore, but we've never actually met in person.  We are in a circle of bloggers, a community of vino enthusiasts, connected by wines and vines.   Gosh, that was corny.  I digress.   So anyway, I go to this guy's blog (which will remain nameless) and read a few wine descriptions.   At first, I thought he was just screwing with his readers.  Here's a small excerpt from a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc:  ".....baby carriage rubber tires and wet diaper aromas, but not the offensive kind.  The wine is extraordinarily blue after decanting in a smoke free, deodorant and fragrant-free home for seven hours.   It's the most unusual thing I've put in my mouth since my cousin Robert kissed me when we were much younger."  

Get the hell out of here.   What?   Did I read that right?

Thinking this was surely an inside joke towards someone named Robert, I initially shrugged this off and continued reading.   I am a HUGE fan of Cabernet (aren't we all?) so frankly, I got pissed when I read this wine description from the same blogger.   In part, "......pencil shavings, black currant, red currant, barnyard scraps, licorice, vanilla, bees wax, nutmeg ice cream, coffee, leather and tobacco gently caress your face with the first whiff of Montana air."   Uh.................huh?   I don't know what the air in Montana has to do with the wine in the glass, but I'm pretty sure this guy is nuts.  I think he opened a Wine 101 book and started copying and writing descriptors for the major reds.  And these were just the FIRST aromas that he "discovered".  Shit.   How many more will there be when he actually puts the glass to his mouth?

So, long story short.   This guy has great pics and really does drink some fine wines, but his approach is all wrong.  He's a snob.   Or he wants to be a snob.  Even if you have WSET degrees and are a master sommelier at the finest New York City steakhouse, you can't talk to people like this.  Well, you can talk to people like this if they too are snobs and if misery loves company.  But the majority of the world want to engage and understand how a wine tastes and whether or not it is something they can cellar for years and years and bring out a little Johnny's Bah Mitzvah someday.


The greatest compliment a wine blogger can receive is kind words from a reader.  I recently received a couple of emails from wine industry folks, telling me that I was entertaining and they enjoyed my style of writing.  For a wine blogger, no matter how large or small, this is what it is all about.  It's about making a connection, developing a community of like-minded wine lovers.    And I've had a few people tell me how I sucked too.  There was this winemaker of a small, boutique winery in Missouri many years ago who had sent samples.   They were horrible.  All of them.   I didn't write about any of them and he attempted to lambaste me to as many people who would listen, which thankfully wasn't many.  Obviously, he and I didn't make a positive connection.

There are literally thousands of wine bloggers available to you via the internet and social media.  Each one with a different style, some with a different angle but all with the same passion.  Some will tell you about "The 1,348 wine terms you must know", some will tell you about Robert's kiss, and some will just tell you about the wine and why it is so damn good.  I personally only tell you about wines that I would serve on our back deck to friends.  If the wine sucks, you won't hear it from me. 

Find your wine tribe.  Connect with the writer.  Follow them on social media.  Become a friend.  Get to know them and it makes wine education and enjoyment so much more fun!


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Going back a bit on this one (the 2015 is currently available) with the 2013 d'Arenberg Grenache wine - The Custodian.  For between $15 - $20 you can get a ton of enjoyment with this solid wine that boasts aromas of black raspberry, plum, pepper and licorice.   It's a straight forward crowd pleaser that would really be an exception add-on to your thick, medium rare steak.  The finish is quick but memorable on this one and it would be hard for anyone to think otherwise.  I really enjoy d'Arenberg wines and this one should be on your radar.


ABV:  14.3%

McLaren Vale, South Australia

Suggested retail price:  $20.00

Drink The Bottles score:  90/100
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