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The Weekly Dozen

For some reason, wine writers seldom review spirits, and spirits writers seldom review wine. Which is a bit odd, even though the production of both genres is different, the level of alcohol miles apart and the mixability of one is far greater in practice than the other.

But in the end, both wine and spirits are judged on the palate according to their taste, intent and utility. So beginning this week, this column will from time to time include spirits, here three relatively new releases of gin.

But please don’t forget the wines. There is in the mix a Napa Valley Cabernet worthy of attention, particularly considering its price.

NV “J” Russian River Valley Brut Rosé ($37). A delightful mouthful of textured, yet crisp, creamy, cherry-flavored bubbles.

2017 Avalon California Chardonnay ($10). Good for the price – lightly sweet, tightly wound flavors of apples and other stone fruits.

2017 Raeburn Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($17). Very floral and fragrant, with very intense, somewhat-extracted flavors of cloves, pears and apples – a big, juicy wine.

2017 Aperture Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc ($40). A delightful wine for those who also love classic Bordeaux blancs – beautiful floral aromas followed by entrancing flavors of peach skins, fresh apricots and a hint of bar bitters. The flavors linger on the palate.

2016 Talbott “Kali Hart” Monterey Pinot Noirs ($21). A little bit of fruit-forward sweetness, but its cola and root flavors are moderated by a lean, crisp finish.

2016 Flora Springs Napa Merlot ($26). Good, dark flavors of ripe cherries and cassis with lots of bitters around the edges.

2016 Charles Krug Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($34). To me this is an almost- perfect example of a classic Napa Cab, and one at a great price. It is rich and complex with dark cassis and Bing cherry flavors and subtle notes of the barrel, a little dark chocolate and cream, well-integrated tannins and a long aftertaste. It is just a tad “hot,” but let’s let that pass.

2017 Donnafugata “Sul Vulcano” Etna Rosso ($35). The winery has expanded from its vineyards and winery in western Sicily to the east side with this wine, which has powdery fragrances and lots of red fruit flavors with no savory tones. It has a crisp, lightly tannic finish.

2016 Aperture Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($70). The wine has lovely texture – smooth and voluptuous with savory undertones and pleasant tannins – but it appears sweet, although winemaker Jesse Katz assures me it isn’t. More likely the long maceration has given its fruit an extracted characteristic which causes it to seem sugary. Note that other reviewers have been quite happy with the wine.

McQueen & the Violet Fog Gin (about $36). From Brazil at 40 proof, this is a gin for drinkers whose favorite botanical is not juniper. Instead, it has a very clean, almost toiletry, scent, is smooth and soft (think vanilla ice cream) with flavors of baking spices. It actually all works very well as a bridge between neutral vodka and spicy gin.

Loch & Union American Dry Gin ($40). From Napa Valley, very clean flavors and textures that are somewhat assertive in a positive way. At 47.2 proof.

Loch & Union Barley Gin ($80). I love the taste and (almost) texture of grain on this one, which is well-blended with the juniper-based bots. A pleasant bite and long on the palate.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from

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