Category Archives: Wine Reviews

Stags Leap District extraordinary Cabernet

House of Cab Stag's Leap District

Stags Leap District winemaking history goes back to mid-1880’s with the establishment of Occidental Winery off Silverado Trail. Today is home to Regusci Winery. The Phylloxera outbreak and Prohibition killed the booming wine industry in the region. By 1961 pioneer Nathan Fey planted the first Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the in Stags Leap District. From 70 acres jumped to over 34,000 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in California today. In 1973 the Judgment of Paris exposed Stags Leap wines to stardom. In a blind tasting, nine renown French wine judges choose the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon over well known French producers as Mouton-Rothschild and Haut Brion.

Vertical Blind Tasting
Stags Leap District Winegrowers  celebrated House of Cab Library Blind Tasting event at Jardinière Restaurant in San Francisco. What a treat to try Cabernet Sauvignon (1991 to 2010) in a blind side by side tasting, from this unique winemaking region. The tasting experience demonstrated the longevity and the sense of place of these exceptional Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines revealed a great balanced between acid, fruit, and tannins. Great fruit character, pleasant spiciness, wood nuances, velvety texture and a long finish.

From the blind library tasting some of my favorites are, 1992 Clos Du Val, 2007 Terlato Family Vineyards, 1995 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, 2005 Isley Vineyards, 2008 Baldacci Black Label and 2008 Quijote SLD.

Pictures by Edgar Solis Photo

Walk Around Tasting
At the walk around tasting, the participating wineries shared a variety of wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Petit Syrah.

A unique chance to talk to vintners and winemakers about how they grow and craft their wines. From Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, Director of Vineyards Operations, Kirk Grace shared how they achieved green certification on their 142 acres of Estate vineyards by adhering to sustainable practices. “At Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars we put quality vs. quantity. Numbers are significant, but growing quality grapes and making exceptional wines is all about being in tune with the vines and down on the dirt”.

Kirk Grace, Director of Vineyards Operations For Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Kirk Grace, Director of Vineyards Operations For Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, shared his thoughts about the 2016 harvest. “Bud break was early in Napa Valley this year and a cold season. We didn’t achieve the normal high temperature in July and August, which allowed for a prolonged hang time of the fruit. Overall, high-quality grapes in our vineyards. The grapes ripened evenly with lower than normal yield, but tasty berries. An interesting fact for this harvest is that the grapes from the cooler areas like Coombsville ripened at the same rate than the warmer areas like St. Helena.”

Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Marcus Notaro, Winemaker for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge, shared the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap District, the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, and 2014 Carneros, Napa Chardonnay. All well balanced outstanding wines. Michael has 25 harvests under his belt, he joined Pine Ridge back in 2009, he came aboard with hi expectations of showcasing the 200 acres estate vineyards, 12 properties within five Napa Valley appellations. He enjoys creating wines that are unique to their terroir, as well as combining the various qualities of several vineyards into a harmonious blend.

Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge Vineyards
Michael Beaulac, Winemaker for Pine Ridge Vineyards

Pictures By Edgar Solis Photo

Overall, The House of Cab Stags Leap District tasting event showed that top quality grapes treated with respect produced formidable wines for every taste. I share my experience with some favorite wines bellow.

  • 1992 Clos Du Val Stag’s Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon: Still going strong, with aromas of ripe red fruit, vanilla, allspice, leather and hints of rose petals. On the palate, feels luscious with an elegant texture and flavors or ripe dark berries, dark cherries, brown spices and touch of sweetness and green tea. Suggested retail price $70.

  • 2015 Stag’s Leap Winery Viognier: Bright acidity with ripe stone fruit, honeysuckle and kiwi. This Viognier finished clean with hints of passion fruit and guava. Suggested retail price $32.

  • 2011 Quixote Petite Syrah: This wine shows Star Anise, ripe plum, dark berries and coffee bean aromas. On the palate, this Petite Syrah feels full body with substantial but smooth tannins. Suggested retail price $80.

Emotional Connection with Grüner Veltliner #winePW

This month’s Wine Pairing Weekend explores Grüner Veltliner; in the glass and at the table!

Though, this article is about Grüner Veltliner wine, it is also about how wine makes you feel and what, when, where or who it reminds you too. It is said that wine aromas can provoke an emotion or trigger a memory. Why is that? There are studies about the relationship between aromas and memories, and others about the sensations and perceptions you experience when smelling wine aromas. Though I will not delve into the science behind it, I will like to cite a quote from the “Making sense of wine: Cognitive Psychology’s contribution to understanding wine tasting and wine tasters,” by Wendy V. Parr, an Oenology and Wine Sensory Science Researcher from the Department of Wine, Food & Molecular Biosciences, Lincoln University in New Zealand:

“Wine is as cerebral as it is sensual. Experiencing wine is not just a physical experience but also a cognitive and emotional experience. The sensory input associated with wine tasting is subjected to cognitive processing from the moment of perception.”

I found this quote to be really exceptional, and in my personal experience, it is absolutely true.

What that has to do with Grüner Veltliner? Grüner is the first wine that helped me to recognize that emotional connection!

Back when we lived in Atlanta, we gathered frequently with good friends and wine enthusiasts, and with time the group evolved and became a Wine Club. Every month or so, we all gathered at a friend’s house to enjoy good food and wine pairings. Everybody judged the pairing, bestowed a prize and talked about the wine and food pairings they liked the most. It was a lot of fun! There is no better way to enjoy wine than with good food and great friends!

In one of those occasions a dear friend of ours, Maureen, brought a Caramelized Onion and Pear Tart to pair with an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. For me, it was the first time tasting a wine made from the Austrian grape and having a sweet/savory pear tart. I was impressed by this pairing! Few years after that event, sadly, our beautiful and vibrant friend, died tragically. Among the many memories of her, we have that night when we had so much fun about discovering this pairing and talking about making the tart. Now every single time I have a Grüner Veltliner, it evokes that emotional connection with her and brings me back to that moment in time.

Maureen and Kari
On the left, our friend Maureen with Kari (Atlanta)

While attending the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, Martin Redwood (Enofylz Wine Blog) and Michelle Williams (Rockin Red Blog) talked to me about the upcoming Grüner Veltliner Wine Pairing Weekend. I immediately thought about that pairing! I thought “Why not? What a better way to remember our friend Maureen?

Since I couldn’t find her original recipe, I searched for a similar recipe. All recipes include a soft cheese. So, with the help of Wine Folly’s “Grüner Veltliner Wine – Taste and Food Pairing Guide” and the book “What to Drink with What you Eat” I think I narrowed it down to two type of cheeses that will go perfectly with the Grüner Veltliner: camembert and brie. I selected three wines to pair with the Caramelized Onion and Pear Tart, two organic wines from Austria and a Sustainable wine from Edna Valley in California.

About the Grüner Veltliner grape

Grüner Veltliner is the most important autochthonous grape variety in Austria. According to Austrian Wine Marketing Board, this white variety alone accounts for almost one-third of Austria’s vineyards with 13,518 hectares. Today, the variety is widely planted especially in Niederösterreich and northern Burgenland. As an origin-typical DAC (“Districtus Austriae Controllatus”) wine, this variety holds special rank in several wine-growing regions.

Grüner most remarkable characteristic is its vibrant acidity and peppery taste in our mouth. That acidity makes Grüners great wine food companions. Many times Grüner’s compatibility with food is compared to that of dry Rieslings. So if you are a fan of dry Rieslings, and you have never tasted Grüners, there is a great chance you will like Grüner Veltliner wines. They also have a very attractive price point, usually between $10 and $20. Alcohol percentage ranges between 11% and 13%.

About the wines

Zocker Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 1

Wine: 2014 Zocker
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Edna Valley, California
Winery:  Paragon Vineyard
Alcohol: 13.5%
Retail Value: $17.99
Additional Information: Estate Grown, SIP Certified (Sustainable in Practice)
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has aromas of pear, citrus, and hints of petrol and minerality. On the palate, the wine is crisp, with medium body, grapefruit undertones, and tart apple finish.

BioKult Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 2

Wine: 2015 BioKult
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich – Qualitätswein, Austria
Alcohol: 11.5%
Retail Value: $14.99
Additional Information: Made with organic grapes, NON-GMOand biodynamic farming
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has notes of green apples, honey, citrus, floral, and fruit forward. On the palate, the wine has a light body, and it is crisp and tart, with notes of white pepper, grass and ends with a textured finish. The wine opens with time, becoming very approachable.

Pratsch Grüner Veltliner

Wine Number 3

Wine: 2014 Pratsch
Grape: 100% Grüner Veltliner
Origen: Niederösterreich, Austria
Alcohol: 12%
Retail Value: $14.99
Additional Information: Made with organic grapes
Tasting Notes: On the nose, it has grassy, lemongrass, floral and citrus notes. On the palate, it has green apples, honey, grapefruit, tart with a mouthwatering and lingering finish. This wine has a nice acidity to compliment rich dishes.

About the pairing

The recipe I chose to follow, and I believe closely resembles our friend’s recipe, is from “Dalia cooks.” The recipe is “Caramelized Onion And Pear Tart,” and it has onions, Bosc pears, Camembert cheese, and thyme. I highly recommend this recipe to pair with any Grüner Veltliner wines. The richness and saltiness of the Camembert cheese contrast with the sweetness of the caramelized onions and pears. The lovely acidity of Grüner Veltliners is an incredible pairing for the tart. However, out of the three wines tasted for this pairing event, the 2014 Pratsch Grüner Veltliner paired the best with the tart. I have to admit that it also is the one that mostly remind me of my first experience with Grüner, and brings me closer to my memory of our friend Maureen! This wine is outstanding, alone to sip on a hot summer afternoon or with along food. This is a great value wine for $14.99. I will definitely buy this wine again.

This tasting has reaffirmed my memory of our friend. Cheers Maureen!!

Check out what my fellow #WinePW bloggers have discovered during their exploration of Grüner Veltliner in the glass and at the table:

  • Michelle of Rockin Red Blog  tells us Why You Should be Drinking Grüner Veltliner.
  • Jill of L’Occassion recommends we Go Ahead and Say It: Grüner Veltliner
  • Camilla, Culinary Adventures with Camilla is dishing- Herbs, Bitter Greens, and Halibut Cheeks with Grüner Veltliner
  • Sarah of Curious Cuisinere tempts us with Backhendl (Austrian Fried Chicken) and Grüner Veltliner
  • Nancy of Pull that Cork will be offering Grüner Veltliner: A Pair of Pear(ings) for #winePW
  • Lori of Dracaena Wines will be sending A Message in a Bottle From Austria
  • David of Cooking Chat presents a healthy Kale and Tempeh Curry with Grüner
  • Jeff of FoodWineClick asks the question Is Grüner Veltliner Your Next Pizza Wine?
  • Lauren of The Swirling Dervish proclaims Gruner Veltliner: A Lot Easier to Drink than It is to Say
  • Cindy of Grape Experiences recommends we Wine and Dine: Gruner Veltliner and Salmon Teriyaki with Garlic Baby Potatoes.
  • Jade of Tasting Pour serves up Shrimp and Corn Soup with Gruner Veltlner #winepw
  • Wendy of A Day In The Life On The Farm presents Germany collides with Asia for #WinePW
  • Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog will be offering A Taste of Grüner Veltliner; Old World and New World #winePW

Discover Clarksburg Wine Country

Clarksburg Wine Country

Clarksburg Wine Country, established in 1987, represents forty-six growers, twelve wineries, and forty-eight associate members. This passionate group of grape growers and winemakers is devoted to growing quality grapes following sustainable practices. They are creating awareness of the unique sense of place on the wines, characterized by the maritime influence of the Sacramento Delta.

Old Sugar Mill

As part of the International Food Bloggers Conference, we attended the Excursion to Old Sugar Mill, Clarksburg. Five wineries, Clarksburg Wine Company, Due Vigne Winery, Elevation Ten, Three Wine Company and Muddy Boot Wines; shared their wines paired with lunch. Over 35 bloggers participated in this event, from the 300 plus writers that took part in the 3-day conference.

We enjoyed ten delightful dishes from Chef Chris and Chef Jackson – Jackson Catering, paired with wines from the five sponsor wineries. On a fun speed tasting, each vintner sat down at every table for few minutes to present two wines and share their story with us. Great opportunity to learn about the Clarksburg AVA, a lesser known wine region of California with over seven thousand acres planted to thirty-five grape varieties. The most regarded grape varieties are Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah, and Sauvignon Blanc; Chenin Blanc showed a notable sense of origin. The vintners presented well-crafted wines that paired appropriately with Jackson Catering culinary creations.

Agriculture in Clarksburg goes back to the first settlers in the 1850’s. Most of the original families that started growing grapes in the late 1880’s are still present, among them Bogle and Heringer. Also, Peter Marks, proprietor of Six Hands, is the great grandson of Joseph Machado, who grew grapes and made wine in Clarksburg in the 1890’s.

Among the many well-made wines that we tasted, we shared our thoughts on some favorites:

2013 Clarksburg Wine Company Chenin Blanc

  • 2013 Clarksburg Wine Company Chenin Blanc: (100% Chenin Blanc) Intense aromas of lily of the valley, honeydew, stone fruit and hints of honey and wet river stones. On the palate, this wine feels medium-bodied, moderate acidity and has a slightly oily texture. Pleasant flavors of green apple, citrus, guava, passion fruit and mineral notes. Have fun with this Chenin Blanc paired with grilled trout, scallops, shrimp, chicken, turkey and your favorite pasta dish with a light sauce. Suggested retail price, $18.

2015 Muddy Boot Chenin Blanc

  • 2015 Muddy Boot Chenin Blanc: (100% Chenin Blanc) This wine is playful on the nose, with aromas of ripe peach, freshly squeezed Meyer lemon and pineapple. On the palate, this Chenin Blanc feels bright and refreshing with pleasant acidity. Enjoy flavors of ripe watermelon, tangerine, quince with hints of Asian pear and Marcona almonds. Be adventurous, try this wine with medium spiced Thai Noddle dishes, Indian cuisine or your favorite white fish grilled on a cedar plank. Suggested retail price, a steal at $13.

2015 Three Wine Company Old Vines Rosé

  • 2015 Three Wine Company Old Vines Rosé:(A blend of 41.6% Zinfandel, 24.5% Mataro, and 33.9% Carignane) A refreshing Rosé with vivid aromas and flavors of ripe strawberry, watermelon, pomegranate and hints of tamarind. A youthful wine with bright acidity that you can enjoy with an ample variety of cuisines. A great companion for Caribbean Cuisine, jerk chicken from Jamaica, “mofongo” or “pińon” from Puerto Rico, “mangú” from The Dominican Republic or “picadillo” with rice and black beans from Cuba. Suggested retail price, $18.

2014 Elevation Ten Reserve Chardonnay

  • 2014 Elevation Ten Reserve Chardonnay: This elegant 100% Chardonnay has gentle aromas of freshly baked apple pie, lemon, toasted marshmallow and hazelnuts. On the palate, this wine feels medium-bodied with a creamy texture. Intense flavors of caramel, ripe pear, kiwi and hints of vanilla. This wine will be the perfect companion for a pasta dish with chicken, lobster or pork with a creamy sauce with a touch of fresh herbs. Suggested retail price, $34.

2014 Due Vigne Barbera La Collina 115

  • 2014 Due Vigne Barbera La Collina 115: This Barbera shows aromas of black cherries, ripe plum and lavender; finishing with earthy notes. On the mouth, this wine feels medium-bodied with smooth tannins and medium to high acidity. This Barbera shows flavors of ripe cherries, figs, baking spices and hints of mushroom. This wine will be a perfect choice to have with pizza, pasta with red meat sauce, grilled hamburgers and mushroom risotto. Suggested retail price, $40.

Photography by Edgar Solis Photo

 

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

 

Savoring the 2015 Alpha Estate Malagouzia

Photo by Edgar Solis

The 2015 Alpha Estate Malagouzia is an outstanding Greek white wine. Delightful white from North-Western Macedonia, Greece arrived as a sample. Intense aromas of ripe honeydew melon, figs, and geranium, with hints of lemon, jasmine tea, and sweet spices. On the palate, this wine felt refreshing and loaded with flavors of ripe Anjou pear, soursop, lychee, passion fruit and hints of citrus. The bouquet on this wine reminds me of a slightly oaked Sauvignon Blanc, but it deceives you on the taste buds with a unique character and exciting flavors. This exceptional white wine is an excellent choice to have with your favorite salad, white fish, shellfish or chicken with a creamy/citrus sauce. A well balanced white wine that will pair well with many Asian cuisine dishes (Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese). We enjoyed this wine with Spaghetti “al Limone” (lemon sauce and parmesan cheese), and tender squid fillet. Suggested retail price, $22.

Alpha Estate, is located in the Amyndeon region, in North-West Greece. It is the dream come true of entrepreneurs Makis
Mavridis and Angelos Iatridis. Angelos is the winemaker, educated in Bordeaux, with winemaking training in Bordeaux, Alsace, Rhone, Champagne. He has extensive experience making world renown Greek wines. Alpha Estate vineyard, conceived in 1994 and established in 1997, completed its first stage of the buildings and mechanical installations by 2005. The winery continues evolving and improving on viticultural practices and winemaking techniques. The vine growing follows sustainable practices and put emphasis on quality vs. quantity. The estate has cutting edge underground facilities, separate cellars for barrique and bottles under controlled temperature for optimal aging conditions.

The 214-acre vineyard is adjacent to the production facility, at harvest time this guarantee minimal time from picking the grapes to the start of fermentation on the tanks. The property offers optimal soil conditions for growing grapes, low fertility, sand and sand-clay and exceptional drainage. The climate provides optimal temperature fluctuations between day and night, with constant northwest winds that contribute to the good health and longevity of the vineyard. The combination of cold winters with generous rain and snow falls in contrast with dry summers, creates optimal growing conditions.

The implementation of unified vinification practices, the hard work of the winery team members and the respect for the ecosystem around the vineyard allows for the terroir to shine through and           express itself into unique wines.

Grgich Hills Estate Winery Story

Enjoying Wente Vineyards wines

Courtesy of Wente Vineyards
Courtesy of Wente Vineyards

Wente Vineyards has a couple of firsts over its shoulders; the first winery established in Livermore Valley in 1883, by Carl H. Wente and first winery to bottle a varietally-labeled Chardonnay. Mr. James Concannon also founded Concannon Vineyard in Livermore in 1883. Currently, the Wente family keeps its tradition of wine-growing and winemaking celebrating its 5th generation in the wine industry. “Wente Vineyards is the oldest, continuously operated, family-owned winery in America”. The family continues to work hard and maintains its legacy as a leader in the wine industry including its excellence in hospitality wine experiences.

Other than Chardonnay, Wente produces Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Zinfandel, sparkling, rose and Cabernet Sauvignon; among others. Recently we were able to taste several current vintages of various Wente Vineyards wines.
  • 2013 Louis Mel Sauvignon Blanc: This refreshing stainless steel fermented and aged 100% Sauvignon Blanc, shows tropical fruit aromas, passion fruit and guava. On the palate, this wine feels fresh with pleasant acidity and flavors of pineapple and lemon grass. An excellent wine to enjoy with shellfish, white fish, crustaceans, and your favorite salad. Suggested retail price, $15.
  • 2014 Morning Fog Chardonnay: (98% Chardonnay, 2% Gewürztraminer) This Chardonnay was Fermented in 25% new French oak barrels, 25% used American oak barrels and 50% in stainless steel tanks. Complex well structured Chardonnay that offers aromas of apple caramel, fresh baked brioche, pear, vanilla and notes of oak. On the palate, this Chardonnay feels slightly creamy with flavors of ripe apple, caramel, pineapple and hints of baking spices. This Chardonnay will be an amazing companion for chicken on a mushroom sauce, pork loin with roasted vegetables and popcorn. Suggested retail price, $15.
  • 2012 Riva Ranch Single Vineyard Pinot Noir: The fruit for this wine comes from a Wente family vineyard in Arroyo Seco, Monterey. The vines benefit from gravelly-loam soils, abundant in shale and limestone; responsible for the earthy and mineral notes on the wine. This Pinot Noir offers powerful aromas of strawberry, raspberry and bing cherry with a trace of earth and oak. On the palate, this wine gives you pleasant acidity and silky texture from the gentle tannins, with flavors of ripe cherry pomegranate, vanilla, and toast. An excellent wine to have with your favorite pork dish roasted chicken or turkey and fresh pasta with a meat sauce. Suggested retail price, $30.
  • 2013 Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon: (77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Sirah, 7% Merlot and 6% Petit Verdot) This Cabernet blend exhibits aromas of violet, red currants and a touch of leather and cocoa bean. Pleasing palate of ripe plum, figs and ripe cherry and a hint of brown spices. Vigorous tannins up front, finishing smooth and fruit forward. Enjoy a glass of this wine with your favorite cut of red meat, roasted duck or a dark/salty piece of chocolate. Suggested retail price, $30.

Wente Vineyards offers high-quality wines made with the combined experience of five generations of winemaking traditions. An exceptional quality/price ratio on these well-crafted wines.

Anna De Codorníu exceptional value Cava

Anna De Codorníu history of winemaking goes back to 1551, with a family of grape growers and winemakers headed by Jaume Codorníu. In 1659, the marriage between Anna Codorníu and Miguel Raventós, joined forever two major winemaking families and served as the bedrock for the Codorniú brand. By 1872, Josep Raventós produced the first bottles of quality sparkling wine in Spain. Josep expended time in the Champagne region and learned from their winemaking techniques. He applied the traditional method to the local grapes, Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada; creating an exceptional sparkling wine with an identity of its own. A real pioneer in the Spanish Cava industry.

By 1983 Codorníu included Chardonnay grapes on his sparkling, giving birth to Anna De Codorníu. By 2007, the Brut Rosé was introduced with the use of Pinot Noir grapes. By 2011, the Blanc de Noirs made 100% Pinot Noir grapes join the family of quality sparkling wines. 2014 marks the launch of Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs and Anna Rose Brut. These last addition to the Codorníu family of sparkling wines are suited to celebrate any occasion or just to enjoy every day with your favorite dish. For $15 a bottle these well crafted Cava make for excellent value wines.

  • Anna Codorníu Blanc de Blancs Brut: (70% Chardonnay, 15% Parellada 15% Xarel·lo and Macabeo) The Chardonnay grapes come from estate vineyards located in Lleida, the Parellada, Xarel·lo and Macabeo come from various vineyards in Penedès. This sparkling shows vibrant yellow color with hues of yellow-green, with a constant flow of fine beads. On the aroma, you can enjoy Meyer lemon, passion fruit and fresh toasted bread and hints of floral. On the palate, this sparkler displays pleasant acidity, creamy texture, and refreshing finish. This wine shows flavors of tangerine, green apples and caramel and a touch of mineral water. A great value for $15.
  • Anna Codorníu Brut Rosé: (70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay) Both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes come from estate vineyards located in Lleida, The Cava DOC with the most continental climate. This elegant bubbly displays a pale cherry color with raspberry overtones, with a steady stream of fine beads. On the nose, Loganberry, strawberry, and golden apples. One the palate you can enjoy a good balance between red fruit and acidity, finishing light and refreshing. Suggested retail price, $15.

Both wines are food friendly, enjoy them with salads, white fish, fresh oysters, popcorn, fried chicken, smoked salmon, or your favorite charcuterie and cheese plate. Salud!

Parducci Family Cellars True Grit

 

Courtesy of Parducci Family Cellars

Parducci Family Cellars is a pillar in Mendocino winemaking history, the first winery established in 1932 by patriarch Adolph Parducci. By mid-1940s brothers, John and George took over the operation of the winery from their father, Adolph. During the 1950s, 60s, 70s and 80s the winery flourished into a Mendocino recognizable name-brand. By mid-1990s Parduccis relationship with The Teachers Management Investment Group, which became the majority owner of the winery in 1976, was deteriorated. John tried unsuccessfully to buy back his family company and by 1996 he was out, and the company sold.

In 2004, A joint venture between local Mendocino entrepreneur Paul Dolan and the Thornhill family from Texas gave new life to Parducci Family Cellars. Today Mr. Dolan is not longer a partner on the winery, but three generations of the Thornhill family are giving new life to the property. Tim Thornhill, Chief Operating Officer, along with brother Tom and father Tommy are working hard to take this landmark winery back to its roots. Tim’s background as A landscape designer, arborist and horticulturist expert made a statement on the property. Since the Thornhill family took over the estate, quality and production improved, while reducing consumption of natural resources. A smelly retention pond is now a thriving habitat for frogs, ducks and herons. The winery can recycle 100% of the water usage using 20% of the power, also equipped with an extensive array of solar panels. A real sustainable wine growing operation.

The True Grit line up of wines are a true expression of the grape variety and the land where they grow. Each wine on the brand has a suggested retail price of $30, making for an exceptional price/quality ratio.

  • 2013 Reserve Chardonnay: (97% Chardonnay, 2.5 Viognier and .5% Muscat). Cooperage: 20% Barrel-fermented in new oak, 80% stainless steel tank fermentation. Aged in 25% new American oak, 35% new French oak and 40% stainless steel barrels. This elegant Chardonnay shows a nice balance between fruit, acidity, and wood. Green apple, lemon and caramel on the aromas. Lovely dance of ripe pears, pineapple and caramelized apples on the palate. We enjoyed this wine paired with a homemade mac & cheese (Monterrey jack, Colby, Fontina and farmers cheeses, with bacon and seafood mix (shrimps, scallops, and calamari). A spicy touch of red chili pepper flakes and sprinkled with a crust of Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • 2012 Reserve Red: (Predominantly Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah). Cooperage: Aged 29 months, 40% new French oak, 60% Seasoned oak barrels. This approachable red blend shows aromas of ripe plum, vanilla, and hints of spiced rum. On the palate, this wine feels well structured, with pleasant tannins and acidity. Displays flavors of ripe blackberries, plum, baking spices and notes of wood. We enjoyed this wine with thick pork chops seared in the pan and finished in the oven; seasoned with a rub of kosher salt, black pepper, paprika, onion powder, and garlic. We also had a side of roasted fingerling potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • 2013 Reserve Petite Sirah: (99% Petite Sirah, .5% Syrah and .5% Grenache). Cooperage: Aged 16 months, 14% new American Oak, 18% seasoned American and French oak. This wine has a very expressive bouquet of ripe raspberries, violets, sweet vanilla and notes of coffee bean. On the palate, this well-crated wine feels silky with flavors of ripe dark fruit, black pepper and sautéed mushrooms. This Petite Sirah has pleasant acidity with a deep finish of ripe fruit and toffee flavors and smooth tannins. We enjoyed this wine with a Neapolitan-style pizza topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and fennel.
  • 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon: (99.75% Cabernet Sauvignon and .25% Petite Verdot). Cooperage: Aged 16 months, 15% new French oak, 7% new American Oak and 73% neutral barrels. This robust Cabernet Sauvignon shows aromas of dark berries, red currants, toasted wood and hints of eucalyptus and wet slate. On the palate, this wine feels a bit chewy and well-balanced with bold flavors of dark plums, ripe fig, dark berries, and notes of earth. This CabSav is rugged but promising, a bit young but it will develop a softer finish in a couple of years. We enjoyed this wine paired with a top round bison steak, seared on the pan and finished in the oven; seasoned with Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, coriander, cumin and fennel seeds with sauteed onions on top. We topped the dining experience up with as side of “tostones” (fried green plantains). Delicious wine and food pairing!

Courtesy of Parducci Family Cellars and Edgar Solís

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, www.palmbay.com.