Live Blogging: Grassini Wines Sauvignon Blanc

Grassini Winery is located in downtown Santa Barbara, and is a family owned winery with very limited production of 2500 cases, of entirely estate owned and produced wines.  It is a family owned and operated winery, that is running sustainably, and are using solar power as well as reclaiming all waste water.  Keeping in mind that sustainability is also about the community, they have kept the same vineyard team since inception, and they are gifted several rows to make their own wine.

The Sauvignon Blanc is a classic style of crisp, citrus driven dry white wine, with lemon zest, lime, grapefruit and floral notes.

Live Blogging: Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc

Ferrari Carano is a bastion of Sonoma County, and king of Dry Creek Valley.  With a focus on white wines, this Fume Blanc is the driest style of Sauvignon Blanc, that was “invented” or coined, by Robert Mondavi in the 70s.


Aged in 35% older French oak and neutral oak for the remainder, this luscious white is full of melon, lime zest, and citrus notes layered over tropical aromas.

Live Blogging: Buttonwood Farm Sauvignon Blanc

Buttonwood Farm is located on 39 acres, about 7 miles from Buellton in the Santa Ynez Valley.  The 2013 Zingy Sauvignon Blanc is meant to be a fun, zippy wine.

Full of grapefruit, green apple, and tropical fruits, this $20 bottle is sure to be a crowd pleaser, especially with oysters.

Live Blogging: Rios de Chile Sauvignon Blanc

From Chile, located in the Central Valley, this Sauvignon Blanc is Distinctly Chile.  With a rich stone fruit aroma, it is a combination of flavor profiles from New Zealand and the riper areas of California.

Lime zest, nectarines, lemons, with an almost candied finish.  There is a touch of brineness from the coastal influence, which rounds out the finish.  The acid is well balanced and a great low priced white to enjoy all sumer long.


Fresh and lively, this is a great budging keeping at $9, for hot summer days.

Speed tasting 11: Going back back back to Cali Cali

Ok normally i would NEVER ever ever say Cali. But, Biggie Big is calling my name, and since we’re in Virginia sweating our asses off, I thought it was appropriate as we taste the 2010 Sivas Sonoma Sav Blanc.

This is a VERY grassy and green pepper wine.  It is 68% Sonoma Valley and the rest of the fruit comes from Russian River; it is 100% stainless steel fermented and is aged on the lees.  For $14 it could be a great summer quaffer, but it’s too grassy for me.

Speed tasting 2! Decibel New Zealand

Hawkes Bay New Zealand

Decibel Cellears 2009 Sav Blanc winemaker started in the music industry.

100% sustainable vineyards. All wine exported out of NZ by 2012 will have to be sustainable vineyards and winemaking practices!  That’s pretty cool.

Grassy classic NZ savvy.  But the flavors belie – it’s much calmer than a normal NZ sav blanc.  Nicely rounded, a touch of gooseberry, very nice acidity not overdone.  Nice river rock, chalk in there.  100% stainless fermented but lees are stirred and it gives a nice roundness to the pallate.

1000 cases, $16 a bottle. Total winner!  I’d buy it!  Lovely lemony fruit flavors in here.

D is for Dry!


Ok so Dry Creek is a region, but I wanted to be sure that everyone knew about passport.  Technically, it’s also a wine, so I’ll also tell you about Dry Lands Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

First, the Passport to Dry Creek
is coming up in April.  46 wineries open their doors wide, and showcase their best wines and hospitality.  Passport is a unique event, since there are limited ticket sales, and all of the wineries have amazing themes, food, and wines to share.  There will be themes galore including Alice in Wonderland, Western, Mardi Gras, Circus, and Belly Dancing. Most wineries feature live entertainment!

Tickets for the weekend are $120, and Sunday only tickets are $70.  While it seems spendy, the exclusivity of the event coupled with the small wineries that are open just fro the event make for an amazing weekend.  I went last year, and was delighted by the event.  this is a great alternative to the larger Wine Road events, as it is more limited and there are fewer crowds.  I hope I’ll see you there!

Next up is the 2009 Drylands Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.  We are having a touch of false spring here in the Bay Area, and it’s nice to have a crisp white to put me in the mood.  The wine smells of gooseberries and 7-up, and has ripe citrus flavors, and lime zest.  There is a touch of New Zealand grassiness, but it is very subtle.  I am really enjoying this wine, and at $16-19, it’s a great priced summer sipper.  I hope you go out and enjoy this as well!  STRONG BUY

I love Dry Creek, and I would pay any amount of money to enjoy my time there.  The wine however, was graciously provided by my friends at Benson Marketing.  Thanks!


The Benziger Blogger Follies!

Benziger Family Vineyards sits inside an eruption cauldron, part of Sonoma Mountain, in Glen Ellen.  One beautiful early fall day, they took on a group of bloggers and showed us the VIP treatment and gave us a nice education and tasting lesson behind the scenes.

Here at Benziger, the practice of biodynamics builds up the biological capital every year.  Building a closed ecosystem, the winery has created its own terroir through the careful management of the land, and the balance of nature and farming.  Eliminating the use of synthetic chemicals and starting more natural methods like crop rotation, composting, and natural insect and pest control changed the ecosystem.

We started our day taking a tram tour around the property, where we had several stops where Mike Benziger, Kathy Benziger, and


Next, we wandered down to the insectary, where Colby explained how the introduction of beneficial insects helps keep the farm in balance.  While in the insectary, we sipped on some 2008 Estate Sauvignon Blanc Paradiso de Maria, Sonoma Mountain while a Praying Mantis came to sit atop our bottle.  I tasted lemons, cream, grapefruit, with a whiff of petrol on the nose, as well as chalk and hay.  It had a great acidify and was lively with granny smith apple flavors.  500 cases of this wine were produces from a one acre block that was dry farmed with minimal intervention.  The wine was fermented on native yeast, which I always enjoy because I think it provides such a unique factor to every barrel.  It was fermented in 100% stainless steel barrels sur lie and was delicious!

After the gardens, we moved on to the compost pile.  Yes, the compost pile.  Unfortunately, i didnt’ have any wine with me at the time, but luckily enough, it did NOT smell like my kitchen bucket.  Mike Benziger explained to us that there are no magic tricks when making great wine.  Benziger vines havfe very deep root growth on the property, which in part is caused by a change in the irrigation strategy.  Deep roots allow for more stability int he vines.  According to Mike, biodynamics is the best fine tuning system for nature, to make the best wine.  The compost piles are actually kept separate for each block, and they are put back on the land where they came from.  This adds to the closed ecosystem and prevents any cross contamination from occurring.

Mike Benziger

Mike Benziger

Our next stop was the water treatment facility, which is a series of ponds that are aerated at the back of the property.  This is a man made wetland, which acts as a natural filter and helps to recycles and resue 2-4 million gallons (yes kids that’s a LOT of water!) annually.

Before we moved in to the cave to taste smoe with, we stopped by the crushpad to see their new sorting table. As it was in the middle of crush, we saw the line in action.  this new vibrating sorting table allows the workers to sort out the duds, so they are only having to pull out the obviosuly flawed items.  The stems and unripened berries are shaken off the table automatically.

At this point I was getting pretty thirsty so I was excited to go in to cave to meet Rodrigo Soto, the newest member of the team, and the winemaker for the Signaterra line.  He is also the force behidn the new sustainableity program called Farmign for Flavors, which Rodrigo envisions as a single philosphi[phy of growing for all Benziger growers.  This program allows a Benziger farming philosphphy to permiate all their growing family members, and produce wine of consistant quality in a sustainable way.

Inside the cave, we were met by Rodrigo, where we tasted some of the new Signaterra lineup.  Signaterra is the new flagship line from Benziger, whose mision it is to make the best wines possible from vineyards that are fully managed by Benziger.  These wines are built to reflect each property, which are farmed with different philosphies, depending on the land, but inclde organic practices, biodynamics and sustainable growing.

We started with the Signaterra Shore Farm Savignon Blanc. This RRV wine was grassy and green on the nose, witkh lemon grass.  I tasted grapefruit, grass, meyer lemon, and a touch of honeysuckle with floral notes.  It was zesty with a slight spritz of lime., gren apple and gree pear.  We also tasted the 2007 Pinot Noir, Bella Luna Vineyard.  This has  spicy plum, black cherry and Dr. Pepper on the nose, followed by black cherry, figs, bleu and black fruit and dark rich vanilla on the palate.  It was a BIG pinot and i really enjoyed it.  On the long finish, I tasetd nutmeg,and white pepper.  I have reviewed this wine previously at the all pinto event, and it’s fun to see both the similariites and differences in my impressions.

As we moved in to the beautiful special events room, we stopped to sip the Tribute, 3 Blocks and de Coelo pinots but I will need to decypher my notes to tell you about those.  My suggestion is, go see for yourself!  Kathy, Mike, Colby, Rodrigo and Jessica outdid themselves.  On this, my 2nd visit this year, and 2nd visit in over 10 years, I remain impressed and delighted by the wines.

Head up to Glen Ellen, enjoy a tour and a bottle!

Wine, tour, and lunch were provided by Benziger.  No bloggers were hurt in the writing of this article, except maybe David H’s pride by this lovely Brokeback Vineyards pose.  Cheers!




Playing with balls…


Second labels are hot right now.  They are one way for a winery, who might be struggling with the economy, to use some of their juice and develop a lower price point wine.  or they might just be a way for the winemakers to have a little fun with their wine.

Pétanque wines are made by Michel-Schlumberger, a leader in California premium wines, specifically for enjoying BBQ season, picnics, and Pétanque, the French game of lawn bowling.  recently, I had the chance to attend their opening party at Michel-Schlumberger, where the wines were being poured, the balls were being thrown, and band was swinging.  for $25, we got to eat the yummy food, dance with the Brother Cat Band, and drink all the wine we could!  In fact, Judd kept coming around to refill our glasses.  Probably to keep us, the riff-raff out of the rest of the crowd  😉

At the party, I was able to taste the line up of affordable, easy drinking quaffers that are value priced between $12.95 and $16.95  At these prices, you can enjoy a bottle every night!  part of the fun of these wines, is that we were outside in the garden, drinking from tumblers instead of glasses, and playing with balls as we drank and danced all afternoon long.  What a fun day!

First, I tasted the 2007 Sav Blanc.  On a warm spring day in Dry Creek, this hit the spot.  The grapes for this citrus driven white were from Paso Robles, and it was aged in stainless steel  It’s a nicely balanced low alcohol wine at 13.^%.

Next, even though I generally run screaming from Chardonnay, I had to give this one a try.  Most because my friend Judd was pouring it, but hey, what the hell  this is actually an unoaked chard, which made me smile.  I am not a huge chardy fan, and this was was decent, even if it wasn’t my favorite.

My favorite of the lineup, and the one I drank all afternoon over and over, was the 2006 Syrah.  It was a big soft syrah, that came from right there in Dry Creek Valley.  It was very easy to drink and I did.  A lot!  I wasn’t really taking notes, but I just remember this was a fantastic BBQ wine.

Next, came the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  This came from the Sierra Foothills, and I was surprised about that since I don’t generally associated that area with Cab.  It was ok, but not really my cup of tea.  I found it too woody.

The moral of this story is, if you find a winery that makes a second label, and you really enjoy their first, give it a shot!  There are great values out there and you might just have some fun trying them!  I’m big on the budget wines, and while I appreciate a special bottle and drink lots of that too, I love that there are tasting treats out there that are prime priced for a party.