Monthly Archives: July 2021

Our Wine of the Week: Firestone Red Wine 2016

So much about this post is divergent from our usual notions and stereotypes about wine. Red wine in the summer? Certainly. Do you not drink Rosé in the winter? Oh, you don’t? Well, that’s a topic for another post. Our Wine of the Week being a budget-friendly, mid-week wine? Well, this just proves that good wine doesn’t have to break the bank. But the most surprising thing for us, is that our Wine of the Week this week is a…*gasp*…Red Blend from California. (Spoiler Alert: Wine Snobbery Geekery ahead.)

Don’t misunderstand. Many of the great wines of the world are red blends. Bordeaux? Red blend. Super Tuscan? Also a red blend. Côtes du Rhône? We’ve made our point. Nevertheless, stereotypes exist for a reason. California Red Blends have a reputation of being cheap, flat, and sweet; mass produced for the masses. And many of them are. And a lot of people like them. They just aren’t a style we typically prefer. To be fair, the Firestone Red Wine 2016 is from the designated Paso Robles AVA, so it isn’t technically a “California” Red Blend.

(Side note, designations matter. If you see “California” on the label, it means the grapes came from somewhere, anywhere in the vast state. The name of a county on a label means at least 75% of the grapes must come from that county, and if the wine carries a designated AVA name, it means 85% or more of the grapes came from that AVA. Why does this matter? Some regions have better growing conditions for certain grape varieties, a suggestion that the wine will showcase the characteristics of the terrier of the region, and be an overall better wine. Another topic for another blog post. We now return you to our regularly scheduled Wine of the Week blog.) 

Firestone Vineyard was the first estate winery established in Santa Barbara County. In the 1970’s, before even Napa had established worldwide acclaim, Leonard Firestone saw potential in the Santa Ynez Valley. (In case you are wondering, yes, Leonard is the son of Harvey Firestone, of Firestone Tires fame.) With 325 acres under vine, and a commitment to sustainable farming, Firestone produces an enticing portfolio of wines. Their red varieties include Bordeaux and Rhone grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, while their whites vines are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.

The Firestone Red Wine 2016 is a classic Bordeaux-style wine, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We found it at wine.com (currently on sale for $14.99.) Here’s what we thought of it:

Yes, stemless. Don’t Judge.

A smooth and easy drinking red blend. Garnet color. Nose of cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and smoke. On the palate, ripe raspberries, cherry, fresh blackberry, cherry cola, tobacco, spice, and smoke. Medium body, with dry tannins and bright acidity. Medium finish.

In addition to wine.com, Firestone Vineyard wines are available through the Foley Food & Wine Society website. 

What was your Wine of the Week?

Cheers! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Ron Rubin Wines

Our appreciation for Russian River Valley wines has been on the rise lately. We’ve been exploring and drinking more wines from this region, and have been quite impressed with the quality and the distinct character of the wines, winemakers, and winery owners. So naturally, when we were offered samples of two bottles from Ron Rubin Winery, in the Russian River Valley, we gladly accepted. 

The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

The story of Ron Rubin Winery came to life in 2011, when Ron purchased a winery in the Green Valley neighborhood of the Russian River Valley. Ron got his start in the beverage industry at a young age, when as a child he would spend time in the warehouse of his family’s wholesale liquor company in Illinois. In 1971, Ron traveled to California to attend U.C. Davis to study viticulture and oenology. From this experience, and the exposure to the then-fledgling wine industry in California, Ron started to add California wines to the family portfolio. All this paved the way to his dream come true with the purchase of the Russian River Valley winery. 

After purchasing the winery, Ron renovated the facility and employed the ancient principles of Fung Shui. He converted the estate vineyards to sustainable farming practices. The winery is now SIP-certified and Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The estate is planted to 6.5 acres of Pinot Noir and 2.5 acres of Chardonnay. Certainly not enough for Ron Rubin’s dream, so he also sources grapes from five other growers in the neighborhood.  

Ron Rubin calls himself a “beverage guy” and his experience proves this. Beyond wine and spirits, Ron has also distributed sparkling water and tea. In fact, he owns the Republic of Tea brand, which his son manages. His desire in winemaking is to produce affordable, high quality wines so people can enjoy “beautiful experiences.” He has a reputation of being unpretentious and welcoming, and has no interest in making high priced, exclusive wines. He wants people to be able to enjoy his wines for any occasion.  

The wines we received were Pam’s UN-Oaked California Chardonnay 2020, and the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018. Pam is Ron Rubin’s wife and first love. Like us, Pam has always preferred her Chardonnay to be unoaked, so he made it that way for her. We approve.  

Ron Rubin Winery Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay 2020

Golden straw color. The nose is floral and pear/apple notes. On the palate, yellow apple, pear, and elderflower. Medium body with a creamy mouthfeel and medium-minus acidity. Just a hint of sweetness on the finish. Very easy drinking, a great summer sip, with a fresh finish. (SRP: $14.00)

Ron Rubin Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Brick red with an amber rim. The nose displays ripe red fruit and smoke. On the palate, black cherry, plum, raspberry, and some stewed plum notes, followed by tobacco smoke, cedar, and baking spice. Medium-minus body, soft tannins, bright acidity, and a long finish of red fruit, vanilla, and spice. A nice, budget-friendly Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. (SRP: $25.00)

Ron Rubin Winery wines are available directly from the Ron Rubin Winery website. In addition to the Ron Rubin Winery line, the winery also produces the River Road line of wines, available at Total Wine & More stores. Be sure to give them a try! 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Our Wine of the Week: Anoskeli Playa Dry Red Wine 2018

This past week we celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. So naturally, our Wine of the Week has to be a special bottle. Normally, we don’t pre-select our Wine of the Week; we decide which wine we enjoyed the most and write about that one. This week, however, we knew as soon as we pulled the bottle from the cellar and packed it for the drive to the Mendocino Coast that this would be the one. 

Some readers may recall that a few weeks after our wedding, we embarked on our Big Fat Greek Honeymoon. Of course, while in Greece, we visited some wineries on Santorini (Domaine Sigalis and GAI’A), and went on a guided wine tour on Crete. (If you go, check out Chania Wine Tours.)  It was on this tour in the hills above Chania, Crete, that we discovered this gem. By happenstance, one bottle managed to come home in our suitcase.

The Anoskeli Olive Mill & Winery started in 1983, and was named for the nearby town. The hillsides around Chania are covered in olive trees, and many of the families who live there make their own olive oil. So it was for the Mamidakis family. For three generations, they have produced olive oil privately. After establishing the family business, they purchased the town’s olive oil mill and eventually neighbors started to bring their olives for pressing. Soon, the family was producing Extra Virgin Olive Oil commercially.  (We tasted their award winning olive oil, too, and a can of that came home with us as well!) In 2009, the Mamidakis family built the winery facility and started producing Cretan wine.

Greece has hundreds of native grape varieties, but wine grapes from other countries, like France, thrive there, too. The Anoskeli Playa Dry Red Wine 2018 is a blend of 80% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Grenache Rouge. As with all the Greek wines we tasted on our honeymoon, and in the two years since, this wine displays a distinct sense of place; a terroir that takes us back with the first sip. A truly special bottle for our anniversary. 

Though the Anoskeli Playa Red would pair magnificently with a host of foods, we opted to open it and simply enjoy it while sitting on the balcony of our hotel room, overlooking the Northern California headlands, and the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. (Yes, purists, we forgot to pack wine glasses, so the hotel water glasses had to do.) The wine, the view, the company, and the occasion combined to make this a magical and memorable evening. 

Deep garnet with copper rim. Aromas of cherry and lightly stewed plum. On the palate, black cherry, blackberry, and stewed plum, with cedar, tobacco, vanilla, and baking spice notes. There is a certain terroir; chalk and saline; that speaks Crete. Medium body and tannins with bright acidity. Long finish of ripe red fruit.

We usually try to feature wines that are relatively widely available, but this bottle was just too good to not share. You can purchase directly from the winery, if you want to pay the shipping. Like many Greek wines, in Greece they are remarkably affordable. (Our notes indicate we paid €8 at the winery in 2019. The price on the website today is €14; about $16.50 USD; still a screaming deal!) However, international shipping is very expensive, so many of the best Greek wines stay in Greece. Still, if you get the chance, we definitely recommend you give this wine a try. You will not be disappointed. 

Yamas!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds