Herzog Wine Cellars’ latest releases – August 2022

Like much of my posts I am a bit behind, I received these wines in June 2022 and sadly, it took until this week to post them. The truth is that the notes are written quickly, but the delay is caused by the amount of time spent writing the post, with all the metadata in and around the post and the images.

In case you missed the last Herzog Wine Cellars post – please check that out here, the story and background around Herzog Wine Cellars is truly imperative to better appreciate what they have accomplished these many years! One large change since the last post would be the hiring of David Galzignato as Director of Winemaking and Operations. Joe Hurliman is now Winemaker Emeritus. As always I have incredible respect and appreciation for what both Joseph Herzog and Joe Hurliman have done for Herzog Wine Cellars. Their vision, drive, and continued passion for improving the wines and the winery are truly incredible and one that we should all aspire to learn from.

In shortened story form Herzog Wine Cellars is a fascinating story. It started with Eugene Herzog immigrating to the US from Czechoslovakia in 1948 after the war and after communism took over his winery. He worked for a small winery in NY, and by 1958 he became the majority owner of it. In deference to his grandfather, they called it Royal Wines, as he was given the title Baron in Czechoslovakia. By 1985, the family decided that they needed a California presence, and so they hired the famous Wine Maker Peter Stern, to build their initial footprint in the world of high-end wines. After that, they moved to Santa Maria, hired Joe Hurliman, and leased space from Coast Wine Services (CWS), all the while knowing that they needed a place that they could call home. In the end, Joe went looking for a plot of land, that was as close to a Jewish Community as possible (for the Kosher Wine managers) and landed on Oxnard. Not a classic place to house a winery, but one that is close to the highways to truck in the grapes and one close enough to a Jewish Community to allow for full-time Jewish supervision. The winery opened in 2005, and three years later it started hosting the International Food and Wine Festival. In my last post about this year’s KFWE I threw down a gauntlet, I wonder if anyone read/saw it, I think it is time for Herzog Wine Cellars to bring back IFWF, in the summer for a throwback! Time is ticking – the ball is in your court guys!

Now to the wines. The 2017 vintage was tough, it was tough for all of Cali, it was a bad vintage. The 2018 vintage was far better, but still not as good as the 2016 or 2014 vintages. We were all interested in the full 2019 vintage to see if Herzog could break the odd-year curse that has hung over them since the nice 2013 vintage. I guess I will have to say, the answer is maybe. There are clear QPR WINNER wines, but they do not shine as bright as in the even years of 2014, 2016, or 2018. They are riper and less focused, and while they show minerality, it feels/seems secondary to the larger picture.

Generally, when we look at Herzog, and their success for a year, we use the big three, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Warnecke Vineyard, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Clone Six. However, there is also the burgeoning Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon, and of course the lovely Edna Valley and Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noirs, from both Eagle’s Landing and the Reserve line. There are the second-level wines from the Variations collection, which also weigh in a bit on a successful year for Herzog, IMHO, but the main wines drive the success ratio the most.

Still, Herzog is never resting on their laurels, in the past they were driving hard with a yearly Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, to add to the Cabernet Sauvignon rotation. However, in 2016, they paused the Single Vineyard Program. The good news is that starting in 2021 the Single Vineyard program is back online! After that, they started sourcing Stag’s Leap fruit in 2018 and then expanded the Special Edition line with Oakville and Rutherford.

One final statement around two wines in the lineup. One is Choreograph, it is a wine that has been around for a long time, started in 2016, the earlier name Camouflage started in 2014. It is a serious sleeper in the Mevushal Lineage line. In the first few years, the wine tasted like the makeup of the wine a hodgepodge of grapes, one of the classic issues with large field blends. The larger the number of fruit the harder it is for them to all get together and make the wine work. However, in 2020 and 2021, whatever Herzog is doing, they have been hitting a home run for the price. This is the absolute PERFECT BBQ wine, IMHO. Mevushal, served cool, with meat, chicken, or even fish, all will work if grilled or smoked, just a perfect wine with great acidity and balance.

The other sleeper is the Lake County Cabernet Sauvignon. Napa is either at max or close to the max price, at least for now, though everything was high, price-wise in 2021 and the Napa fruit prices may max out in 2022. They are not pretty! Many a winery has dropped serious money into Lake County, look at Andy Beckstoffer, AKA, Mr. Tokalon. He bought into Lake County in 1997 and continues to invest. This line has been showing great promise from the start and every year the wine improves or keeps the previous vintage’s quality. Bravo! It is not at the quality yet of Alexander Valley Cabernet, but it quickly making its way into that quality level.

Finally, this is more of a PSA, please cool your red wines in the fridge, for say thirty minutes before enjoying them, if they are at, what we call room temperature. If the room is at 75 degrees Farenheight, 20 to 30 minutes in the refrigerator will help to bring the red wine temperature down to what it should be enjoyed at, which is 60 degrees, or so.

There will be no 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag’s Leap, but interestingly, there will be a 2020 vintage, as it was picked just before the fires. There will also be a bit of 2020 Alexander Valley and Rutherford. Overall, 2019 turned out to be the best odd-numbered year in a long time, and while it does not rise to the quality of 2014/2016/2018 it is a solid showing for a not-so-good vintage.

The wine notes listed below shows seven wines that garnered the QPR (Quality to Price) WINNER score. That is a lovely list of wines the majority of them are 2020 or 2021 wines. There are two 2019 QPR WINNER wines, and they are the ususal suspects, the Alexander Valley and the Warnecke Vineyard.

I will keep this short, so my many thanks to Joseph Herzog, David Whittemore, Joe Hurliman, and Alicia Wilbur for answering my many emails and calls. Be well all of you! The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here and the explanation for QPR scores can be found here:

2021 Herzog Sauvignon Blanc, Lineage, Lake County, CA (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
The nose of this wine is more restrained than other Sauvignon Blanc out there, it is less ripe, it is dirtier, with mineral, floral notes, violet, rose, lemon, lime, yellow plum, and dryer sheet notes. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is fun, refreshing, tart, acidic, and enjoyable, with green notes, lemon, lime, wet grass, mint, lemongrass, saline, hints of passion fruit, and otherwise, green notes, herbs, spices, flint, and rich mineral. The finish is long, green, spicy, and flinty, with saline, smoke, roasted herb, grass, and hay. BRAVO! Drink now. (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

2021 Herzog Choreograph, Lineage, Clarksburg, CA (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the second vintage of Choreograph that has shined, a nice balanced and well-made wine. The nose of this wine is very reminiscent of 2020. This wine is a field blend of many varietals and I can feel a fair amount of Zinfandel on it, along with Mourvedre, but not sure what else. The nose of this wine is ripe but controlled with acidity, with expressive blue fruit, black and red as well, along with some candy, hints of floral notes, toast, and roasted tarragon. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is ripe but again controlled, very fruity, with good balance, showing boysenberry, Zinberry, pomegranate, apricot, with nice acidity to balance it out, soft tannin, nice mineral, smoke, and lovely sweet spices. The finish is long, ripe, and balanced, with roasted herb, smoked meat, cinnamon, vanilla, more red and blue fruit, and nice smoking tobacco with a chocolate background. Bravo! With time the wine opens further and reminds me of the original One-Two Punch! Drink until 2026. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variations, American Oak, North Coast, CA (M) – Score: 91 (QPR: WINNER)
This is the best Herzog Variations with American Oak that I remember, a good expression of what American Oak can bring, not too much oak, not too much vanilla and sweet dill, this is a nice balance. The nose of this wine shows nice fruit, balance, a bit of oak, sweet dill, smoke, black and red fruit, nice loam, licorice, milky dark chocolate, and iron/mineral. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is well balanced, with wonderful acidity, nice fruit, with a good fruit focus, showing bright and tart raspberry, blackberry, plum, boysenberry, sweet oak, sweet dill, chocolate, nice foliage, green notes, and mouth-draping and elegant tannin. The finish is long, ripe, balanced, green, tart, and milky, with good licorice, tobacco, charcoal, and nice smoke. Drink until 2027. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Variations, French Oak, North Coast, CA (M) – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
Tasting the American Oak next to the French Oak really makes the French Oak shine, with clearly less oak, almost none to talk of, less “oak” spice, and more balanced fruit, density, and smoke. BRAVO! The nose of this wine is lovely, right out of the bottle, this wine pops, with great tart/bright fruit, intense mineral, red and black fruit, graphite, smoke, earth, loam, and lovely sweet spices. The mouth of this full-bodied wine has lovely balancing acidity, layers of dense and extracted fruit, with a mouth-searing tannin, blackberry, plum, cassis, boysenberry, dark raspberry, nice dark chocolate, smoke, loam, sweet spices, spicy oak, and cloves. The finish is long, spicy, green, herbal, ripe, and balanced, with dark chocolate, cacao, sweet spices, cloves, cinnamon, sweet herbs, and lovely graphite. Bravo! Drink until 2030. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

2020 Herzog Pinot Noir, Special Reserve, Santa Rita Hills, CA – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is lithe, the 2020 vintage seems lighter, and lither than previous vintages, with dark cherry, cherry cola, roasted herb, sweet oak, rosemary, smoked tobacco leaves, and rosehip.
The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is balanced, with good acidity, and good fruit focus, but lithe with dark cherry, raspberry, sweet oak, nice tannin, sweet Oolong tea, sweet spices, and loam.
The finish is long, green, and spicy, with more oak, sweet spices, cloves, roasted herb, and tobacco. Drink until 2027. (tasted May 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14%)

2019 Herzog Quartet, Special Reserve, California (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Sirah, 21% Zinfandel, & 12% Merlot. The nose of this wine is screaming Zin and PS, there was a Recanati wine called PSZ, anyway, the blue and black fruit are taking over, along with heat, candied strawberry, bright balancing fruit, milk chocolate, candied dark cherry, and fruity lifesavers. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is well balanced but it is ripe, scary ripe, but with good acidity, still, the fruit is too ripe for me, with intense and mouth-searing tannin, blackberry, candied cherry, strawberry, boysenberry, and dark raspberry, all coming at once with a density and ripeness that scares me. The finish is long, ripe, and searing, with as much finesse as a Michael Tyson punch, this thing is a brute, with more Liqueur and jammy fruit, followed by heat, smoke, and milk chocolate. Drink until 2027. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

2018 Herzog Meritage, Tasting Room Reserve, California (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
This wine is a blend of 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Malbec, and 22% Merlot. The nose of this wine is ripe, with black and blue fruit, showing cacao, sweet oak, sweet dill, milk chocolate, smoke, loam, sweet mint and herbs, and hot chocolate. The mouth of this medium-bodied wine is missing some acidity, sadly, with too much oak, milk chocolate, nice mouth-draping tannin, and too much sweet dill, blackberry, plum, cassis, raspberry, dark cherry, and ripe fruit. The finish is long, ripe, and green with too much oak, smoke, sweet dill, and searing tannin and fruit. Drink by 2027. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)

2018 Herzog Malbec, Winery Reserve, Paso Robles, CA (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: EVEN)
The nose of this wine is screaming Malbec, toasted wood, sweet oak, sweet coffee grinds, sweet blue and black fruit, intense sweet tobacco, wild vanilla, roasted animal, and more smoke. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, but well balanced, with a bit too much oak for my liking, still, nice, with loads of sweet oak, sweet dill, smoke, toast, blackberry, boysenberry, nice balancing acidity, tart red plum, more vanilla, sweet notes of coconut, and almost ripe unctuous fruit. The finish is long, ripe, tart, oaky, smoky, and more oak, yeah, the oak, sweet tobacco, and boysenberry is all that lingers. Drink by 2027. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 13.5%)

2020 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Lake County, CA (M) – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
Another Herzog WINNER from lake County, this is starting to be a consistent QPR WINNER, even a bit more consistent than Alexander Valley, AKA Sonoma Valley, very interesting, IMHO! So very interesting to see how two California wines from the same vintage but in different regions are acting differently. Bravo! The nose of this wine is lovely with dense fruit, elegance, smoke, rich loam, dirt, black and red fruit, dark cherry, herbs, sweet spices, and lovely minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is lovely, layered, spicy, tart, acidic, with great fruit focus, nice fruity but controlled mouthfeel, with tart plum, ripe blackberry, sweet oak, lovely plush and dense mouthfeel, sweet smoke, hints of hickory, baked raspberry pie, and sweet spices galore, Lovely! The finish is long, tart, bright, ripe, balanced, and smoky, with intense sweet spices, cinnamon, smoke, cloves, cumin, rich loam, graphite, pencil shavings, and more smoke. Bravo! Drink until 2031. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Reserve, Alexander Valley, CA (M) – Score: 92 (QPR: WINNER)
This wine is riper than the 2018 yet it may well be the best odd-year vintage in some time. The nose of this wine is ripe with black and red fruit, smoke, licorice, sweet oak, roasted herbs, and spices. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is ripe, extracted, and rich, with lovely blackberry, blueberry, candied raspberry, dark plum, intense acid, mouth-draping tannin, rich loam, smoke, and nice graphite. What saves the wine is the minerality and acidity, while the ripeness concerns me. The finish is long, ripe, fruity, and very dark, with good tannin, fruit, nice acidity, milk chocolate, tobacco, mint, and more roasted herbs. Drink from 2025 until 2032. (tasted Feb and May 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Chalk Hill, Special Edition, Sonoma County, CA (M) – Score: 92.5 (QPR: WINNER)
If it is hot in your area, PLEASE chill your red wines, these big reds need to be cooled down! Twenty to twenty-five min in the fridge will do the trick! The nose of this wine is hopping, right from the start the wine is lovely, big, bold, black, earthy, dirty, and mineral-driven, with lovely green notes, loads of licorice, smoke, toast, hints of oak, tar, red, black, and blue fruit, and lovely loam, lovely! The mouth of this full-bodied wine is lovely, rich, ripe, layered, concentrated, and nicely extracted, with great acidity, lovely and almost elegant mouth-draping tannin (right now a bit too astringent), with intense tannin, blackberry, cassis, blueberry, dark raspberry, plum, loam, roasted herbs, sweet oak, sweet spices, and lovely minerality, Bravo! The finish is long, spicy, green, ripe, balanced, and bold, with lovely fruit, not jammy and fat, really fun, with more tar, sweet spices, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and some great earth. Drink from 2027 until 2035. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone Six, Chalk Hill, Special Edition, Sonoma County, CA – Score: 93.5 (QPR: GOOD)
If it is hot in your area, please chill your red wines, these big reds need to be cooled down! Twenty to twenty-five min in the fridge will do the trick! The nose of this wine is slow to open, but once it does, it shows ripe, but well balanced, riper than the Special Edition, with more blue fruit, and more refined as well, showing more cedar box than oak, with sweet tobacco, blue and black fruit, nice smoke, Star Anise, and lovely minerality. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is a blockbuster, incredibly dense, extracted, concentrated, yet equally elegant, with lovely sweet oak, sweet basil, bay leaf, roasted mint, anise, rich smoke, blackberry, plum, dark raspberry, juicy boysenberry, scraping minerality, graphite, and elegant mouth draping tannin that is a bit astringent at this moment. The finish is long, dark, and balanced, with great acidity, minerality, graphite, smoke, green notes, sweet tobacco, leather, and smoke. Drink from 2026 until 2036. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Oakville, Napa Valley, CA (M) – Score: 90 (QPR: POOR)
If it is hot in your area, please chill your red wines, these big reds need to be cooled down! Twenty to twenty-five min in the fridge will do the trick! The nose of this wine is ripe, and while it has bright fruit, it is a bit too ripe at the start, with big, bold, ripe, and jammy black and blue fruit, inky notes, smoke, and some minerality. Right now, the nose is a jammy fruit bomb. With time, the nose calms to show much the same, but with far less heat and less of a fruit bomb. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is a bit too ripe for me, it has some acidity, but nearly enough, with intense blackberry, ripe and jammy boysenberry, candied plum, mouth-draping tannin, sweet oak, vanilla, more sweet notes, sweet spices, and some minerality. The finish is long, ripe, jammy, and fruity, with leather, sweet spices, and some graphite. Right now, this wine is ripe, time will tell. Drink from 2025 until 2033. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 14.5%)

2019 Herzog Cabernet Sauvignon, Special Edition, Rutherford District, Napa Valley, CA (M) – Score: 88 (QPR: POOR)
If it is hot in your area, please chill your red wines, these big reds need to be cooled down! Twenty to twenty-five min in the fridge will do the trick! The nose of this wine is ripe, riper than the Oakville, this smells more like plum liqueur, black and blue fruit, jammy and candied, just too far for me to appreciate. The mouth of this full-bodied wine is equally ripe, and this has even less acidity than the Oakville, with candied plum, almost sugar-coated blackberry, too jammy, ripe, and unbalanced for me, dense jammy boysenberry, intense tannin, Star anise, and some minerality. The finish is even riper, with more clawing fruit, not enough acid to help, just too much for me. Drink from 2025 until 2030. (tasted June 2022) (in San Jose, CA) (ABV = 15%)

Posted on August 2, 2022, in Kosher Red Wine, Kosher White Wine, Kosher Wine, Wine, Wine Tasting and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’ve always wondered this about your QPR ratings: Why don’t you list the price you are using
    for the bottle? Knowing what price you base the QPR rating on would be helpful to us readers when we go shopping. Thanks.

    • I use the street price that I find on both onlinekosherwine.com and kosherwine.com. One can always find better prices or worse prices at local stores.

  2. David-

    Did you notice subtle hints of smoke taint in any of the 2020 wines?

  1. Pingback: Another round of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) Hits and Misses, Seven QPR WINNERS – August 2022 | Wine Musings Blog

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