Dan The Wine Man – Picks from The Big Middle

This is Season 1, Chapter 4 of Dan The Wine Man, a feature written for The Napa Valley Register and other media outlets. My angle is that I include guidance on how to find the wines I recommend. It’s 4 wines each time. Hope you like it and buy my picks!

Picks from “The Big Middle”

Welcome back, wine lovers.

Hello again, winers. I’m back to reinforce the fact that very good, interesting and reasonably priced local wines are easy for you to acquire.

I’ve lived and worked with wine in Napa Valley since 1992 and I know the luxury side of wine along with the glamorous dinners and globetrotting wine adventures. Luxury lifestyle pairs with luxury wine like rib-eye and Cabernet, right? That’s all great for the one percenters, but it leaves a big gap before you reach the oceans of mediocre sub-$10, mass-marketed wines, floor-stacked at the supermarket.

I’m here today, like I am every other Friday in The Register, to recommend four wines in that big middle. The prices of today’s four picks, two from Napa and two from Sonoma, range from $22 to $32. The largest production of these four is 170 cases. They’re delicious, honest representations of the grape and the people who make them.

You can easily have any of these wines in a matter of days-possibly this weekend. Not only that, you may very well meet the owner and winemaker when you pick them up! Give it a whirl and let me know how it goes.

A lovely spectrum of wines here, from dry light rosé to a husky red blend.

Rose All Day Dan Dawson

Pestoni Family Rosé, “Estate” Rutherford, Napa Valley 2018, $25 and a Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor Great Value. Drier-the-better is rosé fashion of the times, with Provence rosé wines leading the charge. The Pestoni “Estate” rosé is Provence-like in color, flavors and dryness yet it is made nothing like it. It is Sangiovese and Merlot, two grapes not grown in Provence, grown around the Pestoni Family winery and tasting room on Highway 29. It’s saignée, meaning it’s light-colored juice drained off of red wine before the grape skins release their pigments. Saignée rosés are usually red-hued and relatively dark, and that’s what’s crazy about the Pestoni. Its peach-skin color and peppery strawberry/orange flavor and crispy tang are a pleasant, tasty surprise. My complete tasting notes.

You can order at and choose the pick-up option. Here’s what I’m thinking: Visit Pestoni, enjoy a tasting and give the rosé a try. They have amazing picnic grounds for their customers and club members. A rosé-themed picnic at Pestoni sounds good to me anytime of the year.


Cellar Collections Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2017. At $22, it’s a Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor Great Value. Cellar Collections is an under-the-radar wine shop on West Imola Avenue across from River Park Shopping Center. You’ve probably driven by it a thousand times and may not have noticed it. Well, notice it next time, and stop by when you have a few minutes to spare. Walk in and you think it’s a dentist’s office before owner Stephen Goldberg leads you to the case stacks in his back rooms.

Cellar Collections Pinot Noir is $50-ish per bottle quality level Pinot that Goldberg bought for a song, labeled it and sell for $22. Fruit’s from Reuling Vineyard,” north of Sebastopol and 10 miles from the Pacific. The wine delivers the goods: dark red cherry and raspberry flavors, brown spices and a little vanilla from the barrel. It’s rich and full-bodied compared to most any other $22 California Pinot Noir. If you like Pinot Noir as your house wine, this is a good candidate. Stop by Cellar Collections and pick one up. You’ll probably come back for more. My complete tasting notes.

Lunar Ridge Syrah, Coombsville, Napa Valley 2016 $32. A Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor Great Value. Bless the Napa Valley vintners who grow Syrah, and double-blessings to Lunar Ridge, who dedicate their home vineyard to it. You can see their vines on Coombsville Road at Third Avenue – look for the Lunar Ridge sign. More grape sellers than winemakers, Lunar Ridge made 75 cases of their 2016 Syrah. The wine is a seductive son of a gun. Concentrated blueberries, smoky spices, robust and smooth. Speaking of smoky flavors, it’s a love connection with smoked meats, hearty vegetables and beans. My complete tasting notes.

Lunar Ridge has a unique system to take orders. At you fill out a form with your order: 1, 6 or 12 bottles. Ray Joske of Lunar Ridge will follow up with an invoice and arrange free pick-up or shipment (Ray offers free shipping on case purchases.)

Merisi Red Wine, Sonoma County 2016 $28. A Dan Dawson’s Wine Advisor Awesome Value. The best value of my four picks today, Merisi Red Wine is 95% Petite Sirah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. As you expect from Petite Sirah, the Merisi is a powerhouse red that leads with the dark berry fruits and backs it up with spice and dried French herbs. Super-concentrated but not drying…supple tannins in wine-speak. For similar flavors, feel and satisfaction, this wine competes with Napa Cabernets priced 2 or 3 times higher. My complete tasting notes.

You can order at and choose free local pick-up. Owners Mandy and Nick Donovan (Mandy is the winemaker) live in Napa, so pick-up in Napa will be a breeze.


Wine Tip

This tasting was on October 11, 2019. Great time. It’s an ongoing series so follow the Southside link for upcoming events.
Bubbles anyone? You better believe it! I’ll be at Southside Century’s Inaugural Wine Tasting Social on Friday, Oct. 11, from 5 to 7 p.m.. The theme is Sparkling Wine, and Southside will pour six of them. Local favorites Schramsberg and Domaine Carneros are on the menu as well as Spanish Cava, bubbles from the French Alps and a dandy Pet-Nat sparkling from San Luis Obispo County. Guest pourers and I will tell you all about Pet-Nat if you’d like. The tasting is $15, and the Southside Chefs have conjured up a bubbles-friendly popcorn to accompany. It will be available along with the rest of the dinner menu during and after the tasting. Hope to see you there.

I’m Dan Dawson, a Napa Valley wine writer, wine consumer advocate and recovering wine merchant. You can read more of my wine recommendations at Contact me through my website with questions and comments.



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