By Rick Riozza

No surprises here!  Our desert is already enjoying the summer season.  And the wine aisles in my wine department are filling up with party folk as we speak.  You’d think they would be grabbing cold beers and hard seltzers—well, they are; but, our wine sales are continually breaking records.

Of course, the Sauv Blancs and the roses are flying out the door (watch your head!) but amazing as well are the sales of red blends and Pinot Noir.  One thing that can be said about Palm Springs and the surrounds, we bring out the very versatile in wine appreciation—no matter the heat!  Wine lovers of all sorts are learning to chill their reds a bit to match their light dinner fare, or, simply for a nice evening quaff.

We’ve got plenty of time to cover roses and refreshing white wines in this column for the summer.  But for right off, let me bring you up to speed on some delicious chill-able red wines for your consideration.


I thought it would be a good idea here, to actually revisit some of the tasty red wine brands that we enjoyed last year—but now it’s time to taste their new swinging vintages.

Last November, we met with Jesse Katz in our article:, where we introduced Aperture Cellars and tasted through his recent vintages.

And we wrote: “Many of you already know that Jesse was the young assistant winemaker at Screaming Eagle from 2008 to 2010. Talk about California Dreaming! Can you imagine so early in a career being accustomed to producing wines in –– vintages 2007, 2008 and 2009 –– sold to members on Screaming Eagle’s list for $850 a bottle, while the secondary market charged $2,000 to $3,000!

But that’s all quantitative stuff—much more importantly, is the qualitative aspect to Jesse’s winemaking philosophy. Early adventures to legendary vineyards gave Jesse Katz a profound respect for the creative art of viticulture. The story of Aperture Cellars began well over a decade ago, when Jesse Katz was growing up. His father—renowned photographer Andy Katz—brought him on visits to the most famous vineyards around the world, from the heart of Burgundy to the hills of Tuscany.

Aperture Cellars was founded in Sonoma in 2009 and is a collaborative project between Jesse and his father as a way to craft excellent wine from the unique, cool-climate vineyards found in the county’s Alexander Valley. Wanting to produce wines on par with the quality and refinement that are so integral to a Bordeaux, Jesse set roots in Healdsburg and Sonoma, believing it offers the best of both worlds: new world fruit and old world elegance.”

Recently released is the Aperture Cellars 2018 Bordeaux Red Blend ($55).  For you folks who are big red blend fans, this one is a treat for any al fresco summer dinner.  This 2018 blend is one of the most complex Bordeaux blends produced in California this year. Composed of one-third Cabernet Sauvignon, one-third Merlot and expertly balanced by the remaining blend of Malbec, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot. The nose offers vibrant berry scents with accents of charcuterie, mint chocolate, cigar wrapper, violets and pencil shaving aromas, and the palate is powerful but featherweight, silky and fresh with a very long, layered finish.

You will definitely impress your wine friends as you grill up some chicken, burgers, or other grilled cuts of meat.

Last summer we also reviewed a couple of Landmark Vineyards Pinot Noir.  Last year’s release was delicious, and as you read below, this year’s new vintages continue with stunning stuff!

Landmark Vineyards 2018 Overlook Pinot Noir ($27) The 2018 Overlook Pinot Noir represents another splendid blend from some of California’s best cool climate growing regions in Monterey, Santa Barbara and Sonoma Counties. The palate on this red is medium to full body with ripe red fruit of strawberry, raspberry and black cherry fruit with balanced spice and earth mixed with leather, dusty tobacco leaf and subtle oak on the mid-palate.  What a tasty chill-able red to enjoy the evening.

Landmark Vineyards 2018 Hop Kiln Estate Pinot Noir ($40). The fan base for this Hop Kiln Estate is well established; It’s one of the bucket-list pinots to experience. Harvested from a truly landmark vineyard, which is located on the coveted Westside Road in the Russian River Valley, this unique bottle also features the iconic and historical stone hop kilns which the California Heritage Society have named a historical landmark. Moderate plus bodied, with black cherry, ripe strawberry and toasted oak on entry, the mid palate shows savory cola and leather elements with nicely balanced acidity and tannins leading to a lingering finish showing black and red cherry with baking spice notes.

And remember last year, when we “zoomed-in” and met with the winemakers and cuisine managers over at the famed JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery? We were simply astonished with the quality of last year’s release of the world class JUSTIFICATION.

Well—we certainly didn’t have to have our arms twisted to taste the new JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery 2018 JUSTIFICATION ($60).  Here again, Old World meets the New with a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. This wine expresses the spirit of a few right bank French Bordeaux producers who highlight Cabernet Franc with its complex expression of herbs, red fruit and elegant structure, only with a Paso Robles twist of full, mature fruit.  And it chills up perfectly for an evening quaff.  Cheers!