Back…from Outer Space

Published on :

I know, it’s true.  I haven’t been around here for a while. But really, there is a reason, a good reason. Some of you may know that I’ve been actively pursuing my MBA for the last two years. But not just any MBA, an MBA with a focus in the wine industry.  You heart right – I’m studying to become a Mistress of Wine!  Wait. No.  Strike that… While I tried to balance writing here with my school obligations, and growing my consulting practice, I realized something had to go.  Sadly, I’ve been hiding under term papers and research projects and had little time for wine writing. But the light is at the end of the tunnel and I will be back with a bang – with more industry posts, more stories, and more wines (and spirits) for your entertainment. Thanks for sticking around and reading this post! In the meantime, keep following me on the Insta and stay tuned for some epic wine posts later in August!  

A Matter of Taste

Published on :

It’s cold here in the Bay Area, somewhat surprisingly after a bit of false Spring. What better to warm you up than Robert Parker Wine Advocate presents Matter of Taste San Francisco on Saturday, March 3rd?  With the theme “Right Bank Varieties and Global Sparkling.” I am really excited to use this tasting as a springboard to my trip to Bordeaux. This is an amazing opportunity to taste wines from all over the world, all in one place. There are currently well over 200 wines rated 90+ points being showcases, representing over 100 wineries. Taste around the world with Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain and naturally, our home turf of California. Monica Larner, Robert Parker review for Italy, as well as Lisa Perrotti-Brown, MW, Editor in Chief, and reviewer of Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Oregon & other California wines will be in attendance to host this amazing walkround tasting. If you’re a true hedonist, you can join us for the Master Classes led by Lisa and Monica which run concurrently with the Grand Walkabout. Lucky for you readers, you can get a $40 savings on a Grand Walkabout Tasting pass when you enter LUSHSF at checkout. In addition to this fantastic discount, you also get a year’s subscription to RobertParker.com!  Pretty sweet deal.  Tickets start at $180 for non members but wait til you see this lineup!  Click HERE for the participating wineries.   See you there!

Bordeaux for the everyday drinker – Cru Bourgeois du Médoc

Published on :

  In preparation for my trip to Bordeaux in March, I am wandering back through my sample closet and I came across this box of Cru Bourgeois from an online tasting last year.  Sadly, the wine didn’t arrive before the tasting, so I’ve been waiting for a god opportunity to work through them.  And here we are! Many, myself included, shied away from Bordeaux because it was imposing, expensive, and somewhat of an old man’s drink.  Anyone who has watched Downton Abbey can imagine Carson in his office, accounting for the bottles of Claret he carefully curated for every meal.  I used to be somewhat afraid of, and frankly didn’t care for, much of the Bordeaux that I have tried in the past – until I attended my first Bordeaux tasting. But, the big, bold, tannic Bordeaux of that event overshadow the delightfully affordable and approachable wines that the Bourgeois showcase.  The bourgeois, the merchants and craftsman of the region, thought to be inferior, slowly acquired some of the best land, while simultaneously being exempt from taxes for the sale of wines. In the original Bordeaux classification of 1855, which was as much as a popularity contest and legacy fraternity as anything else, many of the Cru Bourgeois producers were excluded.  Making Cru Bourgeois a lower class wine than Cru Classé, and yet still higher than the old Cru Artisan classes caused quite a stir; meanwhile, the quality of the Cru Bourgeois is widely regarded as a similar and sometimes higher quality level wine than the Cru Classé. First, let’s have a Bordeaux Primer: The Grapes (red) Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Franc Merlot Petite Verdot Malbec Carménère Left Bank (Médoc included) Cabernet Sauvignon (usually 70% or more) Cabernet Franc (~15%) Merlot (~15%) Right Bank Merlot is most common in Saint-Émillion and Pomerol The first Cru Bourgeois list was drafted in 1932, with 444 estates.  Further refinements and tiers were developed in 2003, creating a final list of 247 properties.  After a short period of being Banned in ‘Bama … or rather France, the term Cru Bourgeois was finally allowed back at court in 2010 in a very different form than originally intended.  In this modern iteration, there is one level of quality, awarded to specific wines rather than Châteaux, and particular attention is paid on production as well as the finished product.       Now you you’ve had your history lesson, it’s time to taste some of this wine! Chateau la Haye Saint Estephe 2014 Silky smooth Merlot based blend with a hint of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.  Muted forest fruits and berries with a touch of coffee, it finishes with black pepper and cocoa powder. Château Tour Castillon Medoc 2014 Voluptuous Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sav blend is a screaming value at only $21.  Rich cherries with a smoky finish, the tannins are still firm and this could age well for a few more years.  Merlot focused, it was probably the most fruit forward and plush, with blackberries, […]

The changing face of Prosecco

Published on :

When you think of Prosecco, most often, you probably think of the inexpensive fizz that is poured at brunch, with a bottomless mimosa, or as an everyday drink . I admit, I was no big fan of Prosecco before I experienced the journey I’m going to share with you.  Made in the bulk, or Charmat method, the bubbles tend to be large, the flavor is – to say the least- unique, and it tended to be a bit low brow.  Or so I thought. Enter #winestudio this year, when I was exposed to the changing face of Prosecco and the new DOCG:  Prosecco Superiore.  The Prosecco Superiore DOCG has elevated the art and style of Prosecco to be not only more competitive with other sparkling wines of the world, such as American sparkling wine and Champange, but also raised the standards of quality and taste within the category. There are three DOCGs for Prosecco, Conegliano Valdobbiandene Superiore which encompasses 15 communes, Conegliano Valdobbiandene Superiore Rive, in which wines must be made from a very specific commune or vineyard, and Valdobbiandene Superiore di Cartizze, which is about 107 hectares.  All of these DOCG areas are smaller, and technically a subset of the larger Prosecco DOC, which also includes the Prosecco DOC Treviso and Asolo Prosecco DOCG.  Confused yet?  Let’s just think of it as concentric circles, where the outer ring is Prosecco DOC, and the DOCGs are smaller, inner rings, where the DOCGs fit snuggly in the center side by side.  This handy graphic above from the Prosecco folks explains it much better: Located a short 50 kilometers from Venice, Conegliano Valdobbiandene is a steeply hilled area of 15 small commnues that was originally recognized as a DOC in 1969.  When, as Italy does, the communues and productions area rules were refined and revised in 2009, the area was upgraded to a DOCG, recognizing the highest quality wines. Having had the opportunity to taste through he portfolio of both Nino Franco, as well as the vast variety of several producers from Conegliano Valdobbiadene (more on that later), I am excited at the endless styles and improved quality this Italian sparkler has to offer. These wines were provided by the winery, PR agency, and #winestudio in consideration for participation in the weekly online tastings at #winestudio.   Some participants paid a fee to receive certain wines. Before we get in to the deails of Nino Franco, let’s review what makes Prosecco Prosecco.  By definition, is not Champagne.  While the term Champagne is often used like Coke for soda, or Kleenex for tissues, it is in fact a proprietary name based on the region and a few additional factors.  Prosecco is much the same.  The most obvious difference is that Prosecco is from Italy, but it is also produced from a particular white grape – glera.  Glera is a white grape that is thought to have originated in Slovenia.  Until 2009, Glera was referred to as Prosecco in that region of Italy, making for a somewhat confusing […]

Von Winning – Winning wines from Pfalz

Published on :

  This sample was provided by Wines of Germany for consideration. There is something magical in the wines of Germany.  From pinot blanc, to the hidden gems of pinot noir, there is something for everyone.  This rich white, from the Pfalz region of Germany, is from a compact yet importnat area meandering through some of the most fertile land in the area.  One of Germany’s largest and most important wine producing regions, it sits between the Rhine and the Haadt mountains in a compact 45 long by 15 miles wide. While only 40% of the wines from this region are red, pinot noir is becoming increasingly more important here.  Generally known for it’s table wine products (Landwin and Deutscher Wein), but the increase in pinot noir has made it a very popular region.  Given it’s proximity to Alsace, the varietals planted and the culture is very similar.  Pfalz has a warmer, dry climate, which gives rise to a richer, more concentrated wine style then it’s neighbors.  Additionally, the vineyards are clusted at hte base of the Weingut von Winning was founded in 1849 and is planted to 158 acres, focused on riesling.  They also product sevearl other varieties, and The Von Winning Weissburgunder II is a delicious oaky rendition of pinot blanc.  The pale gold color looks like it would be sprightly, but the rich peach and stone fruit shows off a touch of salinity at the finish.  Mouthwatering spice notes from the oak make me want to go back for more.  This would be a lovely wine with your holiday ham, or for those red wine drinkers who prefer a richer white. $30  

Zinfandel – America’s Heritage Grape

Published on :

Zinfandel has suffered something of a bad rap recently, with people thinking immediately either “white zin” or “jammy zin”.  The truth, of course, is that there is much more to America’s Heritage Grape than those two simple interpretations. With zinfandel grown all over California, as well as all over the world, it is one of the most diverse varieties in both grape and style.  From Primativo to Crljenak Kastelanski, the genetic make up is the same – but both terroir and winemaking style yield vastly different results. Here in California, the areas of Sonoma, Paso Robles, Lodi, and the Sierra Foothills are well known for their Zinfandel.  Today, I am reveing 4 different zinfandels that are perfect for your thaknsgivng talbel.   2015 Robert Biale Black Chicken Napa Valley   Bright red and red flowers on the nose.  Black cherry, baking spices leaping out of the glass.  The first sip surprises you with the acidity, and cranberry overwhelms . Rosehips and hibiscus dance around my mouth with juicy ripe strawberries on the mid palate.  It finishes with white pepper and chalk, and mouthwatering rhubarb.  There is nothing jammy about this zinfandel.  $25 2016 Trentadue La Storia Block 303 Another classic, La Storia has been making excellent zinfandel for years.  This block designate has the immediate sense of presence from warm Alexander Valley, with dried cherry, prune, and raisin on the nose.    Boysenberry jam and cherry compare on the palate are rich but not overly jammy.  There is still a hint of red current and a nice cranberry note that keeps the acid in balance . Finishes with a cloud of black pepper. Big and bold but not a bruiser.   $22   2015 Peachy Canyon Paso Robles Westside Softer and earthier on the nose, clear aromas of blackberry and bosenberry.  Jammy at first, but the inky dark color belies the spicybackground.  Coffee, roasted meats, the slightest hint of campfire, the classic blue and black fruit of Paso Robles come out to play.  With over a dozen differnet zinfandels on Peachy Canyon’s roster, this is a classic stewed fruit and raisey Paso example.  $22   Erostasia Reserve Old Vine Lodi Probably one of the most well known zinfandel regions, Lodi has been producing big, bold wines for over 100 years.  This classic example is perfect for a cold winter night, with stewed fruit, prune, and boysenberry jam layered in strong baking spices like nutmeg, the dark notes of smoked meat, and stewed fruit are accented by the 22 months in new oak, and you can taste the classic vanilla laying over the fruit.  This will stand up to hearty fare like chicken wings with blue cheese sauce and ore. These four wines are very different, and all very much zinfandel.  With such diversity, make sure you have a zinfandel on your table for your holiday celebration and enjoy America’s Heritage Grape! And don’t forget about the Zinfandel Experience here in San Francisco, January 18-20.  Celebrate all things zinfandel with 3 unique events, and taste […]

Fall Cognac Crawl – SF Version

Published on :

When I first began my spirit studies in earnest, I knew nothing about Cognac, save for the ancient bottle of Hennessy in my stash, inherited from one friends’ move or another. As time went on, and as I build my cocktail catalog, I learned about the diversity and deliciousness of the amber queen. Enter the marketing genius of the Cognac people, who worked with teams in New York and San Francisco to create a pop up cocktail tour, featuring inspired drinks made with cognac.   But first, a little lesson in Cognac.  Cognac is brandy, distilled in the Cognac region of France.  The prime grape source is Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano in Italian), but a small amount of Colombard and a smattering of lesser grape may also be used. The most important thing to understand about Cognac is the labeling system of classification as, while it does not denote quality, it gives you a clue as to how long it has been aged. V.S. (Very Special) is a blend in which the youngest brandy has been stored for at least two years V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) or Reserve is also a blend, but the youngest brandy has be aged for at least four years in a cask. XO (Extra Old) or Napoléon is a blend where the youngest brandy is aged for at least 6 years.  This is changing however, because in 2018, the XO needs to be aged at least 8 years. Hors d’âge (Beyond Age) really is the same as XO, but it’s a great marketing ploy to showcase the highest quality product offering, and gives the appearance of rarity and luxury. Here in San Francisco, our crawl included 5 well known craft cocktail bars, with 5 equally crafty cocktails – all different, all delicious, and all showcasing the flexibility of cognac brandy. First up, we met at Blackbird, a hidden gem in the no man’s land between the . Mission and the Castro, on the upper reaches of Market Street.  At Blackbird, we started our journey with the Carried Away, a refreshing concoction made with Rye Bread-Infused Cognac V.S., Cocchi Torino, Bonal, a splash of Benedictine and a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters – with just a hint of Absinthe to add something interesting.     Next, we wandered down the street to Elixir, one of my favorite whiskey bars in San Francisco.  With over 500 bottles lining the walls, it’s hard to focus on the task at hand, but owner H. has plans for us.   walking out the back door, through the pass through bathroom to what seemed like a speakeasy that never went out of style, we arrived at the Elixir classroom.  Here, H., an avid Cognac fan and educator, led us on a guided tasted of three distinct cognacs. Once we were clear on the foundation of our drink, the mixologists at Elixir treated us to the Elixir of Cognac, a frothy tropically inspired punch with XO Cognac, Crème de Cassis, pineapple gum syrup and lemon juice.  To add the creamy froth, a bit of […]

Cariñena of Aragon – A Queen of Spanish Wine

Published on :

While most people know of Rioja, and Cava, fewer people know of the secret delights of DOP Cariñena.  Cariñena is not only just a town, it’s a varital grape, an appellation, and a region.  Located in Aragón (yes, that Aragón), it sits just about halfway between Madrid and Barcelona in Spain’s northeast tip. It’s one of the oldest DOPs in Spain, earning that distinction in 1932. Of particular note, there is no other region that is named for it’s primary grape.  There is no Merlot, no Cabernet, and no Chardonnay region.  There isn’t even a Garnacha region, though much of Cariñena is planted with Grenache.  That is part of what makes Cariñena so special.  Another reason why wines from Cariñena are so district is the ancient vines – most averaging 40-100 years old. 2014 Corona D Aragon Special Selection – a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena, these 40 year old vines are planted between 500-700 meters.  The intensity of flavor from both the age and elevation is evident, and this rich red shows baking spice, prune, ripe blackberry, and campfire smoke.  Black cherries and dark raspberries peek through cinnamon sticks and a surprising acidity brightens the whole game. For those of you looking for a great red wine at a fantastic price, pick up some Cariñena!  Most bottle are between $10-15, and are a fantastic value that will let you travel to Spain in your wine glass.  At once bold but bright, these wines are to be savored and go well with red meat, rich sauces, or a cool fall evening. Enjoy! Thank you Gregory White PR for this eye opening bottle of yum!

The Americanization of Chardonnay

Published on :

Bit by bit, over the last 25 years, the great French houses have been quietly creeping in to the Americas.  From Canada, down to California, and on in to South America, prestigious and established french houses have added extensions in the new world. One such house is Domaine Joseph Drouhin, with it’s addition of Domaine Drouhin in Oregon.  The home estate, in the heart of Chablis is responsible for primarily Premier and Grand Crus, planted with the classic Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Domain Drouhin is also planted to these varietals, but is focused on the Oregon darling of Pinot Noir and while paying homage to it’s French roots, is very much Oregon. To see the unique approach to winemaking at both properties, I tasted two Chablis and one Oregon Chardonnay side by side.   The Joseph Drouhin Domaine in France was, like many great domaines of the region, assembled bit by bit, parcel by parcel.  Todya, there are over 73 hectares (182.5 acres) of vineyards in Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte Chalonnaise and Chablis.  The 2011 Joseph Drouhin Saint Véran comes from a property just north of Beaujolais, and is the newest appellation in the Mâconnais region.  With the rich limestone soil, it is a perfect place for Chardonnay.  Rich marzipan is followed by lemon curd, pineapple and ripe necterine, with a hint of mandarin orange and Golden Delicious apples.  Delightfully unoaked, this is a Chardonnay for everyone that hates Chardonnay, as it is unoaked and is aged in stainless steel for a bright freshness.  $20   The 2015 Joseph Drouhin Mâcon-Villages is a steal at under $15, it is similar to the Saint Véran and yet not at all the same.  Stone fruit, rich apple, and pomelo jump out of the glass.  Asian pear mixes with honeysuckle in this crisp, mineral driven wine.  Another stainless steel fermentation is a great representation at fresh, vibrant Chardonnay.   Moving across the pond to Oregon, Domaine Druhin Oregon was an early adopter in the 1980s.  The 2011 Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay comes from the Dundee Hills region of the Willamette Valley, and is 100% Dijon clones.   Hand picked and whole cluster pressed, this departs from the Chablis in that it was partially fermented in French oak barrels.  The rest is finished in stainless steel to maintain the vibrancy of the fruit, and blended with the barrel fermented lots.  With a rich, more tropical slant to the flavor profile, this is more akin to Burgundy than Chablis, and the rounded mouthfeel offers ripe apples and pear, with an intense floral note.  So if you’re looking for a New World wine with an old world twist, splurge on this $35 bottle!   (purchased at the property). Special thanks to Jospeh Drouhin and Creative Feed PR for providing the Joseph Drouhin samples and food for thought!

Alsace Wines – Beyond the aromatic whites

Published on :

Alsace is probably most well known for the aromatic whites – Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewertztraminer.  It is also well known for their sparkling wine, Cremant d’Alsace, amde in the classic champenoise method.  But, Alsace also produces some lovely Pinot Noir’s will excellent QPR. Tucked away in a corner of eastern France, Alsace has long been a disputed territory.  In the confluence of Germany, France, and Switzerland, the Alsatian culture is a fitting blend of these three.  Bouncing back in forth across the arbitrary borders that conflict cause, the Alsace region has maintained an independant mentality. When the AOC was created in 1962, wines were not required to be bottled in the region and there were no Grand Crus.  That quickly changed in the mid 1970s, and in 1976 the AOC of Crémant d’Alsace was created, to showcase the sparkling wines of the region, which had been produced since the 1900s.  Using the Méthode Champenoise (Champagne style, secondary fermentation in the bottle), these bubblies are made from the local aromatic whites of Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Auxerrois, as well as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  The rarest of Crémants is the rosé, make entirely of Pinot Noir. Sitting down to dinner on this evening, we were treated to the Jean-Baptiste Adam Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV.  This $20 sparkling wine comes from a producer that has been making wine for 400 years; with a 14th generation winemaker at the helm, the estate recently went biodynamic.  Aged in foudres and on the lees for 9 months, it is bursting with strawberries and bright citrus it is a delightful summer sipoper.   Other Crémants to enjoy: Allimant-Laugner Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé NV – this popular producer offers another history lesson as the Allimant and Laugner families have been making wine since 1724.  Now run by 10th generation winemaker Hubert Laugner, this mineral drive rosé comes from vineyards on the granite slopes of the Vosages.  It is zesty and driven by blood orange and red fruit, and is a great option for weekend brunch!  $18 Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Rose Brut – this budget busting $12 sparkler is a house staple.  Easy to drink, easy to find, grab it while you can!   Moving in to more undiscovered territory, we started to explore the Pinot Noirs of the region.  With 90% of the wines produced in this region being white, and 18% being Crémant, there is only a smattering of red wine available.  The vast majority of this red wine is Pinot Noir, used both for the illusive Crémant Rosé, as well as still wines.   2015 Rieflé Pinot Noir Bonheur Convivial – Another historical house, the grapes for this wine are grown on the limestone loess and were fermented on native yeast.  Aged in French oak for 10 months, the result is a low alcohol (13.5%) wine with floral notes wafting out of the glass, followed by bright cherry and dusty strawberry, Jolly Rancher notes and mouthwatering herbal notes. 2012 Hubert Meyer Pinot Noir Fut […]

Rodney Strong Rosé

Rosé Colored Glasses – Rodney Strong Rosé of Pinot Noir

Published on :

There is something about this time of year that is magical; cool foggy mornings and evenings are tempered with the mild warmth of daylight.  The days are a touch longer, and we can be languid in the sunshine of the late afternoon. This is rosé season.  Frankly, it’s always rosé season, but right now, in the promising first days of Spring, the wide rainbow of pale salmon, vibrant raspberry, and deep rose deliver a transitional beverage that is simply divine. Rose can be made from any varietal, but perhaps the most common is Pinot Noir.  In 2016, Sonoma County’s Rodney Strnog Vineyards, which has been going strong for over 25 yeras, released their first rosé, expressly made from Pinot Noir grapes (no saignée here!). While Russian River Valley can produce Pinot Nori that is a bit too bold for my liking, this rosé is, simply said, perfect.  Harvested at ~20 brix, the grapes kissed the skins for a mere nine hours as the whle clusters were pressed gently.  Slowly fermented in a temperature controlled cellar, the pale salmon pink has hints of orange hues and golden rays of sunlight. Unlike many rosés of Pinot Noir, the first note is not strawberry or raspberry, but rather a savory one.  Fresh green herbs meet jasmine and grilled peaches, while wild mountain strawberry dances on the tongue at the finish. An excellent late afternoon tipple on a warm day, especially sweet for the price of $25. Thanks to the cru at Rodney Strong for making this lovely wine, and sending me a sample!

Winesense, nonsense, Riesling sense!

Published on :

When I was studying for my Certified Specialist of Wine credential, one of the most challenging regions for me was Germany.  Not because of the wines specifically, as while there are some unusual varietals, most German wines are fairly well known, but for the simple reason that deciphering a German wine labels is an exercise in linguistics, frustration, and a pyramid that  would make Giza look simple. The Rise of Riesling One of the most classic German wines is Riesling.  Riesling is one of the most complex, diverse, and wondrous wines in the world, and I often want to say “taste the rainbow” when I think of Riesling.   From bone dry, to sticky sweet, oily and petrol driven, to chalk and shale, Riesling is produced in a wide variety of styles.  Understanding how to find the specific style you are looking for is part of the mystery and fascination of German wine.   Cracking the Code Varietal The grape variety is clearly marked, so that’s easy.  We have Riesling Must Weight Next, to determine the level of ripeness – or more technically the must weight of the harvested grapes (which really does not have any impact no sweetness of the finished wine), we look at the Prädikat level.  For example, a Riesling picked at it’s fullest potential ripeness, or just a hare’s breath past late harvest, is known as Spätlese.  If you’re looking for something that is picked below full ripeness, go for a Kabinett.  For the sweet sticky beauty of a dessert wine, you want a wine that is at least Auslese, which is late harvest, but true stickies are Beerenauslese or Trokenbeerenauslese.  Confusingly, Troken is also the word for “dry”. For this wine, it’s marked Spätlese, next to Riesling. Are you with me? How Sweet It Is Here we get to the tricky part.  Since you need to determine the level of sweetness separately from the must weight, you need to classify the taste of the sugar content, using Troken (dry) or Feinherb (off-dry). This wine is dry, or Trocken. The relatively new Riesling Scale can help us Americans with these things.  While some people disparage the International Riesling Foundation’s dumbing down of Riesling, at a simple level, it’s helpful. That said, remember that Riesling is a high acid grape.  Acid balances sweetness, so that even a Medium Sweet Riesling may not play that tune when you are drinking it with maple smoked salmon. Are You A Good Witch, or a Bad Witch? Now that we understand what the flavor profile might be in the glass, we need to look at where it is from.  The Qualitätswein (QbA) and Prädikatswein (QmP) designations denote quality wine and quality wine from a specific region, and table wine (Taflewein) and bulk wine (Landwein) are the lower brow everyday wines. This wine is Prädikatswein, a quality wine from a specific region The Mosel Right.  So really, there are many layers of classification but once you understand the basis for categorization, you can generally interpret what to expect from the wine. […]

How Green was my Valley

Published on :

Driving along highway 116 in western Sonoma County, you may have driven by the former River Road Vineyards, now the Rubin Family Wines complex – a sprawling, aging wood complex including a restaurant and bar patio, as you head towards Forestville. This area of the Russian River Valley has been home to some of the world’s best pint Nor producers for decades, and while River Road Vineyards had been experiencing somewhat of an identify crisis in the mid 2000s,  in 2011, the Rubin Family of Wines tok over the property. A particularly ideal place to grow Pinot Noir, the fog often lingers here beyond other area of Russian River, cooling down the vineyards and adding an earthy, acid driven profile to the wines. The Rubin Family of Wines is committed to producing exceptional wines. Sourced from both the River Road estate and other local sources, the Ron Rubin brand includes a Pinot Blanc and two Pinot Noirs, as well as a Chardonnay and Syrah. With specific attention paid to the vineyards and resulting wine, the dedicated winemaking team focuses on passion and precision. 2015 Ron Rubin Green Valley of Russian River Pinot Blanc Stainless steel fermented with a touch of neutral barrel blended in, this is a classic Pinot Blanc in style and weight.  Ripe pear, juicy peach, crisp golden apples bathing in honeysuckle fields.  Finishes with tart lime and bright acidity.  A refreshingly low alcohol wine, it comes in at only 13.5% abv.  The early harvest of 2015 came from Dutton Ranch’s Shop Block a mere 1.5 miles from the Rubin Estate, and since Pinot Blanc is unusual for Sonoma County, this was a rare treat (only 3.5 acres are planted in Green Valley). $30 2013 Ron Rubin Green Valley of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir A bold Russian River Pinot Noir with brown sugar, black cherry, and Dr. Pepper notes layering on top of chocolate mocha.  Rich but still fresh with earth and wet leaves.  I really wanted this wine to have more acid, but this is a crowd pleaser to be sure and would be popular at any gathering.  Also low in alcohol, and unusually so given the region and the flavors, this clocks in at 13.7%.  With a long and slow ripening season in Green Valley, the estate Pinot Noir is a mix of hand harvested clone 667, 115, 777 and Pommard.  The Pommard adds a richness to the wine, with a soft and round body with the 9 months of French Oak give it the spice and vanilla backbone. $40 Special thanks to Jo Diaz of Diaz Communications for the hookup!

On the Left Coast, we do things a little differently

Published on :

  Here on the Left Coast, we do things a little differently.  We may lean a little left, we may be innovative.  And we certainly approach wine with a creative verve. Left Coast Cellars has been making world class wines in the southern Willamette Valley of Oregon since 2003.  I was first introduced to Left Coast when I attended a conference in Oregon, and me Ivy Hover, DTC Manager and all around great gal. Committed to sustainability, Left Coast Cellars is certified.Salmon Safe, as well as LIVE and several other sustainably responsible certifications.  With a wide variety of both Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and other Oregon classics, the estate sits in the Van Duzer corridor, making it an idea place to grow these grapes.  The cooler fog and breezes from the Pacific Ocean cool down the 9 vineyards and make it a magical spot. The Field of Dreams vineyard was planted in 2007, with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay.  Here, the rebel Pinot Meunier that I tasted was born. Left Coast Cellars Pinot Meunier is typically used in their sparkling wine, which is also common in Champagne, but they make a small amount of still Pinot Meunier and I was lucky enough taste it.  Intensely earthy, with violets and cigar box flavors, this mutation of the Pinot Noir grape is simply stunning.  For those wine lovers who don’t like Pinot Noir, seek out still Pinot Meunier.  The richness and complex earthy spice will make your tongue dance with joy. One of the crowd pleasers is the budget friendly 2014 Left Coast Cellars Cali’s Cuvee Pinot Noir.  Bottled under screw cap, this 100% Pinot Noir is bright, youthful and fun – and is a drink now style that will please even the pickiest pinot drinker.  With tell tale Oregon brightness, the fuller boded blackberry, plum and bing cherry flavors float above the forest floor and spruce flavors that are so often a part of the Wädenswil clone that makes up part of the blend.  $24 Stay tuned for more Left Coast Cellars reviews!  Special thanks to Ivy for sending this yummy juice.          

Tastemakers: El Dorado’s Founding Families

Published on :

In the late 1970s, a group of upstart winemakers and like minded wine lovers, left the confines of traditional winemaking geography, and headed up to the hills.  While winemaking was just coming in to the golden era in Napa Valley during this time period, a few renegades decided that it was time to head to someplace more wild, more unknown, more…diverse. With a long history of agriculture, El Dorado wine business started with the Gold Rush, when immigrants sought land to plant their native grapes.  When Prohibition came, acreage shrank from some 2,300 planted acres in 1900, and vineyards made way for pears and other tree fruit.  When the fruit industry suffered from a pest infestation int he late 1950s, UC Davis moved in and used the area for experimental vineyards.  The commercial wine industry was born out of this, and in the late 1970s, the founding fathers began a tradition that is still strong today. Madroña Vineyards – in 1973, Dick & Leslie Bush fell in love with the beauty and surroundings of Placerville.  Taking a huge leap of faith, as there were no other commercial vineyards and wineries to lean on or learn from, the Bush’s planted their vineyard, which was – at the time – the highest in California. With the vineyard becoming a family project, the Bush’s involved their children and their parents, while Dick’s engineering background helped layout the vineyard and build their future home.  Today, the winery has evolved to include Paul & Maggie Bush, who make the wines and manage the vineyards, as well as Maggie’s role managing the winery operations.  Additionally, David & Sheila Bush purchased some nearby land, the Sumu-Kaw parcel. At Madrona, wine is the family business.  There is a careful focus on artisanal winemaking, sustainable care of the land, and family.  At the winery in Camino, the elevation is perfect for growing the wide variety of grapes that make the Rhône and Bordeaux focused wines.  At 3,000 feet, there are three vineyards that make up the family business.  Madrona, Enye, and Sumu-Kaw.  Each site is unique and has distinct terroir, and with over 26 varietals planted, what might seems as “anything goes” at first, is actually carefully selected for it’s blending potential and sum of the parts. Tasting the wines, I was particularly enthralled by the amazing Cabernet Franc. Paul Bush has a particular passion for this grape, and it shines through in the glass.  His particular verve for balance and expression of terroir is clean in the two different expressions of Cab Franc.  In fact, he made 4 variations of Cab Franc, each one with a specific tweak and unique element.  We were able to taste the very special Grain par Grain (berry by berry) version, and if you are a Cab Franc lover, get yet to Madrona Vineyards! – 2011 Grain par Grain Cabernet Franc – whole berry maceration for 20 days in new French oak puncheons, hand turned and then punched down twice a day.  Aged for 20 months in 3 year […]