Category Archives: Faces of Wine Country

About the people that makes wine country possible

With Steven Kent tasting Livermore best

Steven Kent Mirassou is the six generation of winemaking in his family; we shared a pleasant early afternoon tasting wines at Steven Kent Winery, Livermore Valley, CA.

Steven, What is the history of winemaking in your family?
“The Mirassou family history of grape growing and winemaking goes back to 1854. We are America’s oldest winemaking family. We came up to Livermore in 1988; My father sold his share of the family business back to his cousins. He started a new brand Ivan Tamas in association with Ivan Tamas Fuezy, where Steven Kent was a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon program”.

“In 1996, I joined my father and Steven Kent became our brand. Steven Kent is our first, and middle name, Mirassou as a brand sold to Gallo in 2003. I am the only one in the family still making wine as a brand, 160 years of family wine history fell into my shoulders. I never thought I was going to be involved in the winemaking industry. I went to the East coast where I did a literature major and graduate school, with the goal to go to study law and write the great American novel”.

How did you learn about the winemaking business?
I moved back to California in 1992. I learned about winemaking from my father, and hands on as I went along. For the past ten years, I have been responsible for winemaking with the help of my team”.

How do you describe your winemaking style?
“Beauty, elegance, and complexity. It is not about the intense amount of tannins, is more about the depth of fruit and structure. I try to be faithful to the fruit, Is about the wines I love to drink. We grow about 90% of the fruit for our wines and source about 10% from various growers”.

 What was your plan for the Steven Kent brand when you started this project with your dad?
When we have begun back in 1996, my dad and I, we though in one wine; Cabernet Sauvignon. Our feeling was then, and I feel even more strongly now, that Livermore Valley can compete with any wine region growing up Cabernet Sauvignon and any of the Bordeaux varieties; given the temperature, the diurnal temperature range, the elevation, the variety of soils and the history of the valley. Our Livermore Cabernet Sauvignon is our biggest production, about 1,000 cases. We have about 40 acres planted with Cabernet, four different clones”.

What is your vision for the wine?
“I am seeking to make the most beautiful wine in the world. For me, beauty is about, purity, balance, complexity and elegance. It is not about high tannins or high PH. I am trying to make wines that are emotionally compelling. I want to make you feel something when you drink my wines: that they are alive, have great depth, and you want to keep going back to them”.

We were pleased with the quality of Steven Kent wines. We had the opportunity to take some wines home and tried with home cooked meals. Among some of our favorites are:

2013  Steven Kent “Lola” Sauvignon Blanc. This single vineyard 100% Sauvignon Blanc is showing delightful ripe stone fruit aromas and flavors. This wine shows Citrus zest and hints of lavender and lemongrass in the nose. On the palate, you enjoy pleasant acidity, and refreshing flavors of tangerine, nectarine and a hint of spice. This Sauvignon Blanc does not go through malolactic fermentation, 10% of the wine aged in new Acacia wood barrels, the rest in stainless steel. Lola will be the perfect companion for your favorite seafood pasta dish, any salad with vinaigrette dressing or chicken dish. We enjoyed it with slightly sauté “langoustine” over linguine parsley pasta with a creamy Sauvignon Blanc baby clams sauce on top. Suggested retail price, $24.

2013 "Lola" Sauvignon Blanc "langoustine" over linguine parsley pasta


2011 Steven KentCabernet Franc: 2011 was a cold year with an extended ripening period, you can’t tell by the defined red and dark berry aromas and flavors. Rose petal, fresh lavender and dark cherries aromas. Bright acidity on the palate with ripe blackberries, plum, and savory herbal notes. This well-balanced Cabernet Franc feels rich and round with an elegant fruit finish that lingers. We got a kick out of this wine paired with Pappardelle pasta topped with chorizo raggu and a side of eggplant pure. Suggested retail price, $48.

Steven Kent 2011 Cabernet Franc Pappardelle pasta

2010 Steven Kent Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon: An elegant well balanced Cabernet Sauvignon that shows delightful aromas of violets, blackberries, and licorice, with hints of cardamon and smoke. On the palate, you enjoy flavors of ripe blueberries, dark currant, sweet vanilla and notes of mint and black pepper. Pleasant restrained tannins and the long finish, with a hint of dark chocolate and ripe figs. We savored this exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a bison ribeye steak seasoned with Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, onion, and garlic granules. A tasty side of oven roasted Brussel sprouts and roasted young potatoes with bacon, seasoned with black pepper and salt, sprinkled with freshly chopped parsley. This Cabernet Sauvignon is robust but elegant; will pair well with your favorite lean cut of red meat. Suggested retail price, $65.

2010 Steven Kent Home Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon bison ribeye steak


Surrender to Acquiesce Rhone varietals


Acquiesce means “to surrender, to become quiet.” Sue Tipton, winemaker extraordinaire for Acquiesce Winery, has made that her winemaking “motto.” She submits to the nature of the vineyard and let its true character shine.

We are fortunate enough to know Sue and her husband, Rodney, for close to four years now. Our first experience with Acquiesce wines was the tasting of the 2010 Belle Blanc; so crisp, aromatic and mouthwatering. You know now a good wine through your nose, but you fell in love when your taste buds wake up to such mouthwatering feeling, acidity, and hypnotic presence. Her wines are crisp, aromatic, enticing and seductive. The pleasant wine acidity makes them extremely food-friendly, and their aromas invite you to sit back, relax and enjoy.

We recently asked Sue a series of question for this articles, and as a gracious, as she is and always willing to please her friends and customers she replied back to all of them. Hopefully, through our questions, you’ll get to know the motivation behind such outstanding white wines from Lodi, CA.

Sue, what is your winemaking mantra? What do you seek from your vines that make your wines so distinctive? “World class wine at all costs. Meaning our wines will stand with any in the world arena, and I focus on the grapes in the vineyard, the hand picking, several sortings, gentle pressing, cold fermentation and countless hours in the vineyard and cellar. Attention to quality and detail is the difference”.

That she is now in her seventh vintage and has such a loyal following is a testament to her winemaking mantra and business success. As soon as you get to meet her, you understand why her philosophy transpires into her winemaking. Self-thought and resilient, she brings to the business presence and charisma like no other.

Sue and her husband Rodney moved to Lodi in 2000. Then, in 2003 they acquired their home and twelve acres of Zinfandel grapes in Acampo, north of Lodi, CA, where her career began as a home winemaker.

 I understand your first plantings were used for home winemaking. What prompted you to become a Winery owner? “It’s a love story. We purchased our home and twelve acres of Zinfandel grapes on an 18-acre property. I started making red wine with the Zinfandel grapes but was always wanting to make a lovely rosé with the grapes. I quickly realized that making white and rosé wines were entirely different that making the reds. When I tried a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine for the first time in 2005, I fell in love . . . What was this wine? Why haven’t I tried it before? Can these grapes be grown here? 

 My research showed that only 7% of the grapes grown in Châteauneuf-du-Pape were white, and they export to 50 different countries. So when you find a nice white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it is pretty expensive. When we visited the area, we noticed the white wines on the tasting room menus were more expensive than the reds. I asked a winemaker why that was, and he said, “You should know they are harder to make!”

 Lodi’s climate is similar to that of the Southern Rhone region of France where they have been growing for hundreds of years. We are a few degrees warmer during the day during the growing season summer and slightly more than a few degrees cooler at night. The grapes want to and can, reach full ripeness here because our weather stays pretty dry through harvest. In France, they must sometimes pick the grapes early due to the weather and then need to put them through malolactic fermentation to soften the acidity.

 I proceeded to plant Grenache Blanc in 2008. We were thrilled with the result and wanted to plant the others. You might say this was a hobby out of control. At some point, I made the decision to “go professional” and continue my journey with the whites”.

Self-tough vine growers, Sue and Rodney, have learned grape growing by living on the property for 13 years now. They see the effects of too much water, not enough sun, too much sun, etc. They also work with a second-generation vineyard manager who was raised in Lodi and knows how to grow premium wine grapes. Sue credits his knowledge as the key to doing what they do.

“We wake up every morning and see a different vineyard . . . it is a beautiful way to live’”.                             Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery                                                                                                                  

Except Grenache Noir for the Rosé wine, why planting white grapes only? “I honestly feel that Lodi is perfect for these whites. I wanted to focus on the whites and give them their due, to make the best whites I could. I think sometimes the whites are “second class citizens” in the tasting room because the reds usually command a higher price. I wanted to focus on them because they’re sexy too and give them the spotlight they deserve”.

And sexy they are! Just look at the bottle that she chose to showcase her wines!

“I got to choose what bottle I’d like since I’m the owner, winemaker, designer, and buyer! The bottle expresses the feminine, beauty, uniqueness, classic and French. It’s pretty expensive, but I love it, and we sacrifice for love don’t we?”                         Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery

In a sassy business decision, in 2014 they decided to take all the Zinfandel vines out and plant all to Rhone varietals. To date, they have 10.25 acres of Grenache Noir, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul Blanc and Clairette Blanc. Presently, they produce a Picpoul Blanc, Grenache Blanc, Belle Blanc (blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, and Viognier), Grenache Rosé (from Grenache Noir), Viognier, and Roussanne. Acquiesce total annual production is now 1,500 cases but soon hope to grow to 3,500 cases with the recent 2015 plantings.

Sue credits Acquiesce success and loyal following to her passion for the wines, the focus on quality, the terroir and the way the wines pair with food. She is one of the 18% female winemakers in California. Out of curiosity, I asked Sue what percentage of Acquiesce wine club members are women, and as no surprise, she replies that about 60% of the wine club members are females. She adds, “Women love to support other women who are making strides in a male-dominated world.”

About Sue’s passion: “Early on, I was told by some well-meaning winemakers that I’d never survive without a red wine in my lineup . . . I told them if I can’t sell the wine, I’ll drink it. Wine lovers can tell when you are passionate, focused and driven”.            Sue Tipton, Acquiesce Winery

How’s been the Acquiesce 2016 vintage so far? “Looks like a great year! We’ve had some refreshing rain for the young vines early in the year, and they have responded accordingly. The crop size is good, a bit more than last year. The berries are nice and small, the grape bunches are evenly spaced, and the fruit is tasting great!!”

Visitors to the one-hundred-year-old converted barn tasting room get to write in the “Before I die” blackboard when visiting.

What have you learned from your wines as you look forward to future vintages and what motives you to continue with wine making? What motivated your “Before I Die Board” at the winery?I’ve learned that everything counts. There is no room for shortcuts. Nature loves her variables, so it is critical that we strive for ideal – world class wines. You only get one chance every year to learn, grow and improve your skills. The challenge of hopefully having only 20 harvests left in my lifetime makes me pay relentlessly close attention! I’m very excited about the new varietals Bourboulenc and Clairette Blanc and anticipating some remarkable blends using these in conjunction with the established varietals. This coincides with the “Before I Die Board” . . . I want to make better wine every year Before I Die! It’s a fun and interactive way to create discussion with your guests. It’s a way to reflect on what is important in your life and what isn’t”.

Undoubtfully, Acquiesce wines are exquisite and reasonably priced. As I said before, they have a loyal following and every year they sell out. Wine Club members are guaranteed the precious wine nectar and thus been in the Wine Club has a unique advantage. Want to be part of the action? Better get on the waiting list! If your palette is thirsty for crisp, high acidity, food-friendly, unoaked, true to nature, delicious white Rhone varietals and a beautiful Rosé of Grenache, look no further and surrender to Acquiesce!

Photos by Edgar Solis & Julie Santiago

New Tasting Salon and Atelier by JCB

Photo, Julie Santiago

JCB by Jean-Charles Boisset opened it’s the new Tasting Salon and Atelier in the town of Yountville, the heart of Napa Valley, in February 2016. The new local is all about fabulous wines and a luxurious lifestyle. The adjoin Atelier by JCB is all about the most enticing high-end gourmet foods from around the world; all wrapped in extravagant and surrealist décor.

The Tasting Salon encompasses the unique JCB approach that unites exclusive Napa Valley and French wines, luxury, and style that evokes surrealism. The JCB collection of Napa Valley wines are featured in three distinctive flights: the Premium Collection, the JCB Touch Interactive tasting at the digital touch table, and The Surrealist flight. It includes a first-of-its-kind interactive wine tasting experience at a digital touch table created exclusively for the tasting salon by Ideum. It offers, as well, wines preserved and served from Napa Technology wines stations, an electronic wine serving station. It is a vibrant, luxurious and uniquely designed tasting room that reflects and embraces the art of living elegantly, with retail pieces curated by Proprietor Jean-Charles Boisset.

The JCB Tasting Salon features a retail boutique that showcases the finest luxury goods from around the world, including JCB’s custom-designed jewelry collection, candles, and perfumes. Also, includes a collection of luxury goods from Lalique (crystal), Baccarat (crystal), Christofle (silver), Bernardaud (porcelain), to name a few, and books from Taschen, Assouline, Rizzoli, Abrams and Chronicle Books.

Inside the JCB Tasting Salon, you will also find the “Surrealist Boutique,” featuring Jean-Charles’s personally designed jewelry and Surrealist wines. The Surrealist Boutique includes an intimate tasting experience, inspired by the jewelry-adorned Surrealist wine, in a private lounge where wine tasting occurs atop a glass bar that showcases the JCB collection of jewelry. The Surrealist wine and the vessel in which the elixir is held is a piece of art and the inspiration for the Surrealist Boutique at the JCB Tasting Salon.

Boisset also launched into the world of gastronomy with the unveiling of Atelier by JCB, a gourmet “epicerie,” adjoining the JCB Tasting Salon, where offers a curated assortment of gourmet delicacies sourced locally from Napa and Sonoma alongside the best international producers from France, Italy, Spain and more. It offers salts, peppers and spices, mustards, honey, olive oil and vinegar from Boisset’s winery estates, smoked salmon, caviar, anchovies, truffles, Foie gras, terrines, charcuterie, more than 120 cheeses, chocolate, specialty teas and coffees. The Atelier by JCB is heaven for the Epicurious in all of us! Who can resist splurge and bring home some Pata Negra Iberico Chorizo, truffle honey, Pinot Noir Mustard, Foie gras, caviar, or a fabulous cheese like Taleggio, Mt. Tam, Tome de Savoie or Rabiola Lombardia? The Atelier even offers the signature Poilâne bread loaf from the famous Poilâne Bakery, flown from Paris every Thursday!

The location of the Tasting Salon and Atelier by JCB couldn’t be more fitting. In the heart of Napa Valley, the Town of Yountville is home to some of the best restaurant and hotels in California Wine Country, and the perfect backdrop to showcase JCB wine collection, specialty products, and luxury goods.

The JCB Tasting Salon and Atelier by JCB are open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. at 6505 Washington St, Yountville, CA. For more information regarding wines, reservations and membership opportunities visit their website.



Grgich Hills Estate Winery Story

Wine tasting with Pepe Galante

Señor Pepe Galante
Señor Pepe Galante, Courtesy of Bodegas Salentein

A fun learning experience, to share some wonderful wines and delightful food with Señor Pepe Galante from Bodegas Salentein. A privilege to have such an intimate experience with a humble man that is considered the father of winemaking in Argentina. We had the opportunity to chat over dinner with Pepe and Matías Bauza, Senior Brand & PR Manager for Bodegas Salentein. We met at Torc Restaurant in downtown Napa after their three-day visit to San Francisco and Napa.

Pepe is celebrating his fortieth year making wine in Argentina. Before joining Bodegas Salentein as Leading Winemaker in 2010, Galante was in charge of winemaking for Catena Zapata Group for over 30 years while working close with various international wine consultants. Pepe’s wine origins have roots in Mendoza “Both my father and grandfather grew grapes and made wine. I remember sharing conversations and sipping wine with both of them and enjoying my grandma’s cooking over Sunday dinner from early age.”

Pepe educated us about the origins of winemaking in Argentina. The first widely grown grapes were the “Uva Criolla”, Mission Grape and Italian Varietals. Later on The Malbec grape from France came trough Chile, becoming the iconic grape from Argentina. Pepe shared with us, “I made my first wine at 24 years old, I attended the Enology School at the Universidad Juan Agustin Maza (UJAM). Here I had the fortune to meet a great professor, Francisco Oreglia.”

Professor Oreglia was a great mentor for Pepe and many others in Argentina wine country. Oreglia is the author of the first books to focus specifically on winemaking in Argentina. Pepe said: “Professor Francisco Oreglia was the inspiration for many young winemakers in Argentina. He produced the first manual of Argentinian enology in the 1970s and is still in use today. “Pepe considers him an innovator that introduced the new techniques in wine making to Argentina.

“Before the 1990s, no one in Argentina was investing in new oak barrels, wineries kept using 40 years old barrels over and over, resulting in poor quality wines with limited longevity and maderized and oxidized flavors. 90% of the wines In Argentina were consumed locally with no much interest in exportation. In the early 1990s, the wine industry in Argentina adopted new grape growing and wine making techniques. Thanks to the new drip irrigation techniques from Israel now vines were growing in areas impossible before.” Pepe shared with us. After modernization, Argentinas wine industry caught the attention of European markets. French and Dutch companies took notice on the great potential for quality Argentinian wines and invested  in the rapidly growing wine industry.

Pepe Galante learned from the new studies on barrel aging that compared French vs. American oak and barrel charring techniques; conducted by pioneer  Robert Mondavi . “Today is hard to differentiate between quality American and French oak, French is rich in tannins and impart silky texture to the wine. American oak gives more of the light coconut, and caramel aromas and flavors, contrary to French oak you can cut the staves with the help of a mechanic saw .”

At Bodegas Salentein Pepe Galante keeps with his Philosophy, “You can make the wine on the vine, you can imagine the wine by tasting the grapes as you go. You need to allow the fruit to shine; the oak is a gentle compliment to the wine without overpowering the fruit. I like the Burgundian Cooperages and use the same barrel toast in my Malbec that is as delicate fruit as Pinot Noir.” Since Pepe allowed for a longer aging in the barrel, the toast can’t be too intense. He gets pleasant acidity, great structure, and complex character. “The micro-oxygenation gets the maximum fruit expression.”

Bodegas Salentein located in Valle del Uco, part of the world known Mendoza region. The Property consists of 5,000 acres with 1,700 acres planted to vines, divided into three different estates. The estates “fincas” range in elevations from 3,445 to 5,577 feet. These vineyards grow at a range of elevations among the highest in the world. They benefit from pristine water, snowcaps run-off, which translates to lower pH grapes, higher acidity, high pigment in the wine and longevity. The region’s thermal variation from day to night is 29 degrees F. The Estate encompassed five different microclimates that allow for the cultivation of Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

While enjoying Pepe and Matías conversation we tried four Salentein wine selections with the exquisite dishes from Torc restaurant.

  • 2014 Killka Collection Torrontes: Intense floral aroma with Meyer lemon, ripe pear.  Pleasant acidity, and very refreshing palate of tangerine, pear and hints of minerality. Suggested retail price, $15.
  • 2012 Salentein Single Vineyard Plot No.2 Chardonnay: Well structured Chardonnay, it goes trough malolactic fermentation. Aromas of Brioche, Crème fraîche, green apples and citric. On the palate, it feels very creamy with flavors of ripe pear, caramel and lemon tart with hints of oak. Suggested retail price, $50.
  • 2013 Kilka Collection Malbec: Aromas of ripe dark berries, black cherries, and violets. On the palate, this wine feels balanced between fruit, wood, and acidity. Pleasant tannins with flavors of ripe plums, figs and dark blackberries and hints of cola. Easy to drink and food friendly Malbec. Suggested retail price, $15.
  • 2012 Salentein Single Vineyard Plot no.21 Malbec: Well crafted 100% Malbec with deep aromas of dark currants, blackberry, vanilla and hints of cedar and coffee bean. On the palate, it feels velvety and smooth with flavors of rich dark fruit, cinnamon and ripe figs with notes of dark chocolate and fresh ground black pepper. Delicious dark fruit flavor lingers on the finish. Suggested retail price, $55.

From Torc’s Chef, we started with Ed George’s tomato salad, burrata cheese, basil, melba toast, tomato vinaigrette. Peekytoe crab cocktail, horseradish pannacotta, spicy tomato syrup, Meyer lemon and Hudson Ranch fig salad, panache, osborne prolific, black mission, sylvetta, pecorino Toscano. The 2014 Kilka Torrontes paired well with the tomato burrata and fig salad. The 2012 Chardonnay was delicious with the crab cocktail.

We followed with wild herb ravioli, chanterelle mushroom, curry leaves, brown butter, pecorino Toscano, and house made strozzapreti, blue beauty tomato, piccolo fino basil, fresh summer truffle. We enjoyed these dishes equally great with the 2012 Chardonnay and the 2013 Kilka Collection Malbec.

For entree we savored, Alaskan halibut, saffron potato, doux des landes pepper, verbena, piperade sauce. Heritage porchetta, squash blossom, huitlacoche corn ragoût, pearl drop onion and Schmitz Ranch beef short rib, white grits, summer beans, fennel-tomato relish Silverado strawberries. The Halibut was the perfect dish for the 2012 Chardonnay while the porchetta and the short rib were delightful with the 2012 Salentein Malbec.

The wines of Salentein are imported to the U.S. by Palm Bay International,

Santiago Achával: exceptional Malbec

Santiago Achaval, Owner and Winemaker of Achaval Ferrer Photo: Edgar Solís

This past September we had the pleasure of sharing a vertical tasting with Santiago Achával winemaker for Achával Ferrer, a premium producer of Malbec located in Mendoza, Argentina. Santiago shared a presentation of few of his wines at Piperade Restaurant in San Francisco. We tasted the 2000, 2006, 2009 and 2012 Finca Altamira Malbec and the 2012 Finca Bella Vista Malbec, all of them single vineyard Malbec estate wines. He shared the history of his winery and their grape-growing and winemaking philosophy.

The winery started back in 1988 when Italian and Argentine friends joined forces to realize their dream. Their goal was to create exceptional wines that truly express where the vines grow. Their estate vineyards are located between 2,400 and 3,400 feet, in the province of Mendoza. The Mendoza wine region, experiences wide temperature fluctuations, has a peculiar soil composition and gets its water supply from a pristine Andes Mountains snowmelt. The Malbec old vines struggle to produce concentrated berries, creating wines of complexity and sound structure with minimal intervention.

Santiago shared with us how they achieved premium wines with exceptional aromas and flavors. “At Achával Ferrer, everything we do respects the vineyard and our winemaking philosophy. They say great terroir can make great wines, so our duty is to respect it. The pillars of our philosophy stem from a fundamental belief in the richness of our providers–the vines”. Talking about his wine-making style, Santiago said, “I like to think I do not have a style of making wine. I let the vines and fruit talk to me, if I need to define a style it will be lazy. I do not fine or filter; I allowed the wine to live long.”

Santiago told us that they dropped a big amount of fruit to control the yield and concentrate the flavors and get a lower ph in the wine. He acknowledged that an important factor on the quality of the fruit is the purity of the sunlight at high altitude. He compares the wine with Egyptian 600 thread count cotton, “the higher the thread count newer the oak.” Santiago experimented with different oak regiments on his wine, but he still prefers French oak the best.

  • Old Ungrafted vines: Century-old vines deliver exceptional expressions of terroir
  • Low Yield: Purposefully Low production yields a fruit that is concentrated, complex and vibrant.
  • Low Intervention Winemaking: With the greatest respect for our vineyards, we allow our grapes to speak by themselves.
  • New Old World Wine: Taking the best of both worlds, Achával-Ferrer is a combination of both concepts. New world fruit-Old world winemaking.

All the wines that we tasted showed great structure, aromas and flavors. It is always great to be able to taste the wine along with food. Piperade offered us Serrano ham with Arrels olive oil, a four cheese selection, tomato tartlet with basil and balsamic vinegar, and a New York strip steak with Romesco sauce. All the five wines complemented the food, and both complemented each other nicely. I am sharing the tasting experience on both of the 2012 vintages.


  • 2012 Achával-Ferrer Altamira (100% Malbec from vines planted in 1925). This wine shows a dark ruby color with predominant aromas of dark fruit (plum, blackberry, cherry), licorice, dried rose petal and notes of coffee bean. On the palate tannins feel smooth with pleasant acidity and flavors of ripe plum and nutmeg with hints of dark chocolate. Well-structured wine with complex aromas and flavors and a long, expressive finish. Great with pork, lamb and red meat dishes. Suggested retail price, $139.
  • 2012 Achával-Ferrer Bella Vista (100% Malbec from vines planted in 1908). This Malbec has a vibrant ruby color with aromas of dark berries, dark cherry pie, ripe raspberry, violets with subtle notes of mineral and earth. On the palate, tannins feel firm and silky with flavors of dark plum, baking spices and notes of cola and green peppers. A delicious well-balanced red wine, great with a heavier dish but just nice to enjoy by itself. Suggested retail price, $139.

Photos by: Edgar Solís

Don Melchor vertical tasting with Winemaker Enrique Tirado

Enrique Tirado Santelices, Winemaker/Technical Director, Don Melchor (EdgarSolís)

A very intimate tasting adventure, a delight for your senses, at Piperade Restaurant in San Francisco. Enrique Tirado, Winemaker for Don Melchor Cabernet (Concha y Toro Winery) shared four vintages of this well crafted wine from Chile.

The lunch tasting event started with a brief presentation on the history of The Concha y Toro winery by Italo Jofre. Concha y Toro started in 1883 when local politician and businessman Don Melchor Concha y Toro brought vitis vinifera grapevines from the Bordeaux region to plant at Pirque in the Maipo Valley. He also contracted renown French enologist Monsieur Labouchere to craft his wines.

Over 130 years, Concha y Toro had grown to be Chile’s first global wine brand. After acquiring the Puente Alto vineyard in the 1960s, Concha y Toro management lead by chairman Eduardo Guilisasti Tagle realized the great potential of this property to produce extraordinary wines. With the help of French winemaking expert Emile Peynaud and his partner Jacques Boissenot, the new project took shape with the first release of Don Melchor wine in 1987.

Winemaker Enrique Tirado has been the winemaker for the Don Melchor project since 1997, after a successful career with Concha y Toro since 1993. “For me, Don Melchor is an ongoing quest to get the truest possible expression from every plant in the vineyard to attain beauty in the equilibrium from each Puente Alto terroir harvest, It’s my true obsession.” Tirado shared with us.

Piperade offered and amazing three course lunch menu with 3 choices each. It was great to taste all four vintages, 1989, 1993, 2006 and 2009 of Don Melchor wine with the appetizer and entrée selections.

  • Don Melchor 1989: (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) This wine shows ripe red fruit, red currants, toasty oak and sweet vanilla aromas with hints of leather and eucalyptus. On the palate, this wine offers a silky texture, proof of beautiful aging, with dark cherry, plum, toffee and sweet herbs notes finishing with elegant tannins. This beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon was a great companion for the calamari “a la plancha” with fennel, olives, capers and lemon. The nice touch of heat in the sauce of the calamari was a great marriage with the sweet herbal notes and mellow tannins on the wine. The roasted rack of lamb, merguez (sausage), fennel, breadcrumb, pecan, cumin and date relish paired very well with the wine. The flavors on the dish brought the best wine qualities while the aromas and flavors of the wine enhanced the food. Suggested retail price $94.
  • Don Melchor 1993: (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) Beautiful aromas of cherries, ripe plum, baking spices and cocoa powder. On the palate, playful tannins leads to complex flavors of red fruit, dark ripe fruit, mint and dark chocolate notes. This is an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon that shows great balance of fruit, acid and tannins after 20 years of graceful aging. The wine was very enjoyable with the calamari appetizer but lost a bit of its beautiful flavors against the bold lamb roast. Suggested retail price $100.
  • Don Melchor 2006: (96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc) Expressive aromas of red berries, cherries, cranberry and dark berries up-front with notes of dry herbs and tobacco. Well crafted Cabernet Sauvignon with complex aroma and flavors, great balance and robust tannins. In the mouth, this wine express flavors of dark berries, plum, tart red fruit with hints of tobacco, coffee beans and eucalyptus. This well structured wine is capable of aging nicely. This particular vintage takes over the flavors of the calamari, but it’s a perfect pairing for the roasted rack of lamb, intensifying its taste. The lamb dish also elevates the complexity of the wine. Suggested retail price $80.
  • Don Melchor 2009: (96% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Cabernet Franc) This vigorous red wine shows ripe dark fruit, baking spices, cocoa powder and dark currants aromas with hints of tobacco, red flowers and oak. This well balanced Cabernet shows clean flavors of blackberry, plum, cinnamon, nutmeg, toasted hazelnuts with hints of fresh mint and dark chocolate. Beautiful fruit forward long finish with soft and persistent tannins. The flavors of the wine clashed with the calamari first, but soon brought out the spiciness of the sauce. This Cabernet emphasized the fennel flavor on the lamb roast dish. Both the wine and the lamb roast complemented each other nicely. Suggested retail price $125.

Amelia Morán Ceja – Ceja Vineyards

Photo by Edgar Solis

If you ever have the good fortune of meeting Amelia Morán-Ceja you will immediately sense her passion, charisma and spontaneity. Though small in stature, she is big in personality.

She is the President and Owner of the family owned Ceja Vineyards, nestled in the heart of Carneros, Napa. The family is well-known for being sustainable Napa and Sonoma wine grape growers, and highly regarded producers of premium wines.

Her contributions to the wine industry were recognized in 2005, when the California Legislature named her Women of the Year. She is unarguably the best promoter of pairing wine with Mexican food. As an avid chef, she is continuously coming up with delicious Mexican recipes that pair great with their wines, many of which can be found on Ceja Vineyard’s web Site and YouTube. Amelia is proud to say “From the beginning, we decided that we were going to make wine our way. Not wines for scores or credits. First article wrote about us was after year and half we started making wine. We paired wines with Mexican foods, and that changed the industry right away. Nobody had done that before.”

From humble origins, she started in the wine business picking grapes at the age of twelve, and through the years she has become, not just the President of the first Napa Valley Mexican-American Winery, but the first Mexican-American women leading a wine company.

Her passion for the wine industry and the Latino community has won Amelia many prestigious awards, for embracing her culture and her leadership in wine marketing practices. Today, Amelia is one of the most recognized faces in Wine Country.

Photos by: Edgar Solis Photo