Chilean Wine, Montes, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Montes Wines Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Montes Wines is one of the most recognizable names in Chilean wine production. Known for their stunning, bold red wines like Montes Alpha M and the Purple Angel, we were happy to learn they produce equally impressive white wines, too. As we continued our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, the Montes Wines Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021 was the next to be drawn from our cellar.

The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

We feel very fortunate to have received the samples of crisp refreshing Chilean Sauvignon Blanc wines, just in time for what has proven to be a particularly toasty summer. Here in NorCal in the greater Sacramento area, we have experienced a run of nearly 3 weeks of temperatures over 100°, many 105° or more! So, we have really been enjoying these wines to help cool off and relax in the evenings.

Montes Wines was established in 1987 by Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray, who had a vision of elevating Chilean wines on the world stage by producing wines far superior to what was available from Chile at the time. They brought in two more partners, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand, the next year. Their 1987 vintage Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon was the first of their wines to gain notoriety and worldwide acclaim. People started to take notice of Chile as a serious wine producing country.

Montes Wines are widely available at a variety of retailers and at various price points. We’ve enjoyed a number of their red wines in the past, but the Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021 was our first experience with one of their white wines. While we were sure it would be good, given the producer’s reputation for crafting fine wines, we were not expecting to be as blown away as we were!

Montes Limited Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Wow! This is good! We know Montes reds, but this is our first white. Pale straw color. Initial aromas of pineapple and cat pee (in a good way), followed by quince. On the palate, pineapple, white grapefruit, pear, lemon zest, and citrus, with saline and minerals. Light body with well balanced acidity and a crisp, clean finish.

This is a truly stunning wine, and we hope you have an opportunity to try some. If you enjoy and appreciate a finely made Sauvignon Blanc, you will not be disappointed!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Rahael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Maipo Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc

Summer of Chilean SB: Ventisquero Wine Estates Grey Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc continues with the Ventisquero Wine Estates Grey Sauvignon Blanc 2019. Once again, we randomly selected this bottle from the remaining samples and chilled it down nicely. It was another NorCal scorcher, so we wanted something cool and refreshing. The Grey Sauvignon Blanc did the trick!

More mature than most Sauvignon Blancs, at three years old, the Grey Sauvignon Blanc was still fresh and crisp, with zesty acidity and great flavor. Ventisquero Wine Estates has been producing wine since 1998, so they have some experience and expertise to produce such finely structured wines.

The Ventisquero Wine Estates winery is located in the coastal part of the Maipo Valley. The name, Ventisquero, translates roughly to “snowdrift”, and was chosen as homage to the region’s glaciers. The first vintage was released was 2001, and quickly gained global notoriety. Since that “dawn of the millennium” beginning, Ventisquero has continued to grow, purchasing more land for vineyards, and expanding operations. Today, they export 1.5 million cases of wine to countries all around the world.

100% of Ventisquero Wine Estates’ vineyards are certified “Sustainable Wine of Chile”, having undergone careful quality control to comply with strict environmental protection standards. Ventisquero Wine Estates was the first winery in Chile to achieve this 100% compliance for their vineyards. In addition to environmental concerns in the vineyard, the Sustainable Wine of Chile program evaluates the winery facility, and corporate social responsibility. Ventisquero’s certification confirms that they meet or exceed these standards as well.

Ventisquero Wine Estates produces wines under eight different labels. The flagship and namesake line, Ventisquero, includes the Grey Collection, which represents wines made from single vineyard blocks. This heightens the expression of the terroir from the individual vineyard, and demonstrates the skill of the winemaking team. In addition to the magnificent Sauvignon Blanc we describe below, the Ventisquero Grey Collection includes a number of wines from other grape varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a red blend called “GCM”, composed of Garnacha, Carinena (Carignane), and Mataro (Mourvedre). Each of the wines retails for a very affordable $25.

Ventisquero Wine Estates Grey Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Pale golden color. On the nose, notes of pineapple, lemon, and a wisp of cat pee. On the palate, tart green apple, pineapple, lemon-lime, white grapefruit, and straw, with hints of jalapeno pepper and saline. Bold, bright acidity leads to a crisp, refreshing finish.

We hope you have the opportunity to try this, or any of the other the Ventisquero Wine Estates wines. If you do, let us know in the comments how you like them!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Limari Valley, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Viña Tabalí Talinay Sauvignon Blanc 2021

To kick off our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, we started with a completely random choice. I closed my eyes, reached into the wine fridge, and grabbed one of the eight sample bottles we had received. It happened to be the Viña Tabalí Talinay Sauvignon Blanc 2021, and it turned out to be a great way to start. The day was 103°F so a cold, crisp white was perfect.

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

Viña Tabalí was founded in 2002 by Guillermo Luksic, in the Limarí Valley. His goal was, and is, to create high quality wines that reveal the terroir of the area, and transport those tasting the wines to the very vineyards where they were produced. Viña Tabalí quickly achieved international recognition and acclaim, and established a reputation for quality and innovation. A unique winery, Viña Tabalí has vineyards ranging from 12 kilometers from the ocean to mountain vineyards as high as 1,600 meters – the only winery in the region with vines from ocean to mountains in the same valley.

The Viña Tabalí Talinay line includes Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and our featured wine, Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards for these wines are on the coastal side of the valley, with cooler temperatures which helps contribute to crisp, refreshing wines. What a treat this was, and a fantastic way to start what looks to be a long, hot, tasty summer!

Viña Tabalí Talinay Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Pale straw color. The nose is tropical fruit and citrus. On the palate, peach, pineapple, lemon lime, grapefruit, saline, and minerals. Light body with well-balanced acidity and a clean, fresh finish. A truly delightful wine, paired well with baked Sea Bream, and equally nice sipping on its own.

We hope you have the opportunity to try this delightful Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. If you do, let us know in the comments, and tell us how you liked it.

Stay tuned for more of our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc in the coming weeks!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Napa Valley, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Samples, Sauvignon Blanc, St. Helena, Titus, Titus Vineyards, Wine, Zinfandel

A Visit to Titus Vineyards

The weather forecast was not promising; rain showers and mid-60’s. We had been invited to a private tasting and lunch, with vineyard and winery tour, at Titus Vineyards, hosted by Eric Titus, co-owner of this multi-generational family estate. Undeterred by the forecast, we packed our jackets and raincoats in the car and headed off the winery, located off Silverado Trail, in St. Helena. The sun was shining at home, but we expected to hit rain any minute along the way. Thankfully, they got it wrong. No rain on the drive, and when we arrived it was comfortable in the low 70’s.

This trip was offered as a complimentary media event. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

It turned out to be a spectacular day; mid-70’s with puffy, cotton ball clouds. It had rained heavily the previous day, so the vineyard tour was a no-go, but that did not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of all in attendance. Eric himself greeted us on the covered patio and quickly offered us a tasting of the just-released 2021 Sauvignon Blanc. As we sipped, Eric gave us some of the history of the Titus family and the vineyards.

Titus Vineyards is a 50-acre property, currently planted to 40 acres of vineyards. The land has been in the Titus family since the late 1960’s, though its history goes back much further, with an impressive roster of notable landowners, including General Mariano Vallejo, Dr. Edward Bale, and Charles Krug. When the Titus family acquired the property, the vineyards consisted of a wide range of grape varieties: Semillon, Zinfandel, Carignan, Berger, Pinot Noir, and even Concord. The Titus family replanted and now grows primarily Bordeaux varieties; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, and Sauvignon Blanc, while retaining some Zinfandel. To round out the Bordeaux noble grape portfolio, they source Malbec and Merlot from nearby vineyards.

Early in the life of Titus Vineyards, the family sold their grapes to nearby wineries. You may have heard of a few: Charles Krug, Beaulieu Vineyards, Cuvaison. Each of these famous wineries have produced their fine wines using Titus Vineyards fruit. Today, Titus Vineyards uses their grapes to craft distinctive Napa Valley wines in a balanced, Old-World style.

We found Eric Titus to be friendly, engaging, and generous. He and his brother, Phillip, grew up working (and playing) on the family farm. Philip pursued viticulture early on, studying at U.C. Davis and traveling to Bordeaux and Burgundy before starting his career in the Napa Valley. Eric, on the other hand, went a different direction, earning a doctorate degree in Biology, and working in marine science for a number of years. In 1997, Eric came to help with the harvest at the family farm. The business was growing, and in 2002, made the decision to return to Titus Vineyards full time, and is now General Manager and Vineyard Operations Manager.

Photo credit: https://www.titusvineyards.com/

In 2014, Titus Vineyards broke ground on their new, state-of-the-art winery facility. Elevated on a hill near the east end of the property, the striking edifice is a beautiful, modern merging of cutting-edge viticultural technology and art. Eric escorted us on a tour of the facility, pointing out the architectural design and striking view from the crush pad, though the fermentation room and tasting room, to the vineyards. (The photo does not do it justice!)

After the tour, we enjoyed a seated tasting and lunch, paired with the delicious wines from Titus Vineyards. With Eric as our guide, this was a most informative and educational tasting. The lunch, catered by Chef Michelle Mutrux, was divine! We provide here some drool-worthy photos, along with tasting notes on the wines.

Tasting notes:

Pre-meal, during the tour:

2021 Sauvignon Blanc

Blended with just a touch (5%) of Viognier, the wine is a pale straw color with aromas of tree fruit and stone fruit. On the palate, there is tropical fruit and citrus, with soft, floral, aromatic notes. Dry and crisp, with a pleasing finish. (SRP: $36)

2019 Malbec

Deep garnet color with a ruby rim. Bold black and red fruit on the nose with hints of clove. A swirl in the bowl stains the glass due to its inky color. On the palate, black cherry, ripe raspberry, smoke, coffee, and black pepper. Full bodied, with firm, mouth-drying tannins, and a long finish. (SRP: $55)

Seated tasting and lunch:

2019 Merlot

Fruit sourced from the Sugarloaf Ridge vineyard. Inky purple color with blueberry and black cherry on the nose. Flavors on the palate include bright red cherry, blueberry, blackberry, clove, and black pepper. Well balanced with soft tannins, bright acidity, and a long finish. (SRP: $52)

2019 Cabernet Franc

Deep garnet color with ruby rim. On the nose, black cherry, Marionberry, and just a whiff of bell pepper. The palate is blueberry, black cherry, blackberry, bell pepper/jalapeño, and baking spice. Full bodied with vibrant, bright acidity and firm, yet approachable tannins and a long finish. (This was our favorite of the tasting!) (SRP: $60)

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

Deep, opaque purple with a garnet rim. This has the classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas; blackberry, black cherry, cassis, and smoke. On the palate, the fruit is bright and balanced, and includes black cherry, blackberry, raspberry, cassis, and hints of dried herbs, with a bit of bell pepper, vanilla, tobacco, and black pepper on the finish. Smooth tannins with lively acidity. (SRP: $65)

2019 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Inky, almost black in color. On the nose, bright red fruit, cherry, blackberry, and anise. The wine hits the palate with a creamy, soft feel, like cherry cream, with black currant, blackberry, coffee, and mocha notes. Tannins a soft and smooth, balanced with medium acidity, leading to a long, spicy finish. (SRP: $115)

2018 Lot 1 Blend

A unique and fun blend of 45% Petite Sirah, 28% Malbec, 22% Petit Verdot, and 5% Zinfandel to soften and polish. Dark purple color with a garnet rim. Aromas of boysenberry, blackberry, and blueberry greet the nose. On the palate, this is a bid, bold wine with black fruit flavors, blackberry, black cherry, and currant, with chocolate and baking spice notes. Full body, with big tannins and bright acidity. (SRP: $89)

As we mentioned, Eric is quite generous, and as we enjoyed the lunch, conversation, and company, he brought out a couple of bonus bottles; the 2020 Zinfandel and the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. By this point, we were entering food coma mode, so tasting notes are sparse. Suffice it to say the Zinfandel was quite exquisite, and the 2014 Reserve Cab paired perfectly with the last few bites of the short rib.

We are grateful to have been invited to this one-of-a-kind event. We enjoyed meeting Eric Titus and learning more about Titus Vineyards. Though we’d heard of Titus Vineyards before, this was our first visit and tasting. Based on what we experienced, Titus Vineyards will be on our “return to in Napa” list. If you haven’t visited Titus Vineyards, you should make a point of doing so soon.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds, except where noted.
Carmenere, Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Wine

An Accidental Carménère

A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be offered some samples of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Six of them, to be precise, from two major Chilean regions, Colchagua Valley and Maipo Valley, for a head-to-head Chilean Cabernet throwdown! (Read all about it here.) As we awaited the shipment, we received an email from the PR Rep coordinating the samples. Seems there was a mix up at one of the wineries, and rather shipping their Cabernet Sauvignon, they sent their Carménère, and it ended up in the sample shipment of Cabernets. It was from the same producer as the Cabernet, but clearly not a contender for the highly anticipated Chilean Cabernet Competition. Apologies were followed with assurances that the missing Cabernet was on its way to the warehouse and would be shipped to us immediately upon arrival. Meanwhile, the remaining five Cabernets would just have to rest a little longer in the cellar before their fierce faceoff.

But what of the lonely Carménère? This poor bottle had done nothing wrong! It was the victim of a warehouse kerfuffle, and nothing more. Should it be returned to its warehouse purgatory, not knowing how long it might be before someone deliberately orders it? Thankfully, no. Our friendly PR Rep confirmed that as consolation for the mix up, is that we can keep and enjoy the bonus, accidental Carménère.

The following wine was provided as an accidental media sample. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.

To those who may be unfamiliar, Carménère is a red Bordeaux grape. It is often considered the overlooked sixth Bordeaux grape, less known that the powerhouse Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. Typically relegated to a very minor blending role in Bordeaux wines, Carménère has found a recent spotlight in Chile, where winemakers are crafting delicious, 100% varietal wines. If you are unfamiliar with Carménère, you really should get acquainted. Carménère wines are dark, rich and complex, bursting with fruit and spice. Plus, as with most Chilean wines, Carménère is also surprisingly affordable!

Our Accidental Carménère was the TerraNoble Carménère Gran Reserva 2018, from the Maule Valley. TerraNoble was established in 1993, under the leadership of Jorge Elgueta, with the mission of producing world class Merlot wines. However, the following year, it was discovered that what was believed to be Chilean Merlot was actually Carménère. Seems the leaves and clusters of the two varieties are very similar in size and shape, so the grape had been misidentified for decades. The TerraNoble team pivoted and has built a strong reputation for producing high quality, award winning Carménère wines. They are proud stewards of the land and soils, crafting wines that showcase the unique terroir of the region.

What a happy accident this turned out to be! When we opened the bottle, we were greeted with an exquisite wine, and an excellent pairing with Garlic and Rosemary Grilled Lamb Chops with Mediterranean Salad.

Deep ruby color with a garnet rim. On the nose, smoky raspberry, cherry, blueberry, and fresh oak. On the palate, juicy raspberry, red cherry, blackberry, and Planck pepper, with tobacco, vanilla, jalapeño, and vegetal notes of dried herbs. Medium-plus body with medium tannins and bright acidity. Long, spicy finish of red fruit and black pepper.

Nobody hopes for an accident. Yet we are happy to be the beneficiaries of this one. Our hope is that you have the opportunity to try a TerraNoble Carménère soon. You’ll be glad you did.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Cabernet Sauvignon, Chilean Wine, Colchagua Valley, Maipo Valley, Samples, Wine, Wine Blog

Chilean Cabernet Challenge – Colchagua vs Maipo

Chile has been building quite a reputation for quality wines in recent years, with Cabernet Sauvignon leading the charge. Cabernet Sauvignon is the leading grape grown in the country, accounting for more than 20% of all vineyards. Though Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards are planted many parts of the country, some 97% of vines are located in the Central Valley subregions of O’Higgins, Maule, and the Metropolitan Region. Within these large subregions, we discover smaller valleys and denominaciónes de origen (DOs) where the differences in soil and climate produce wines with distinct terroir.

We recently were honored to be included in a sampling of six Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon wines, with the focus on two of these DOs: Colchagua Valley and Maipo Valley. As suggested by our host, we approached this as a head-to-head challenge, akin to a championship sporting event – Team Colchagua Valley vs. Team Maipo Valley. Which team would prevail?

Image Credit: Creative Palate Communications

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

DO Colchagua Valley is situated in the O’Higgins subregion, and accounts for about two-thirds of the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards there. Located about 80 miles south of Santiago, the valley is carved from the Tinguinirica River, which flows from a volcanic crater. Elevations in this region range from approximately 2,000 feet at the volcano’s crater, to 360 feet at the coast. Soils range from gravelly, alluvial terraces to rich, clay deposits downriver. As one would imagine, temperatures vary also; cooler at high elevations, and warming toward the coast. These soil and climate conditions produce a range of profiles in the Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

Image Credit: Creative Palate Communications

DO Maipo Valley is in the Metropolitan subregion, and is one of the better-known Chilean wine regions, with a long history of production. The Maipo River begins at the Maipo volcano. As with Colchagua, there are dramatic elevation variations, from 2,500 feet at the volcano, to 600 feet near the coast. There are four distinct alluvial terraces in the Maipo Valley with different soil types, from thick gravel and sand to clay and loose, rocky soils. Again, temperature variations at different altitudes combine with the various soils to create unique terroirs, influencing the resulting wines.

Image Credit: Creative Palate Communications

Now that you know a bit about the regions, let’s get to the wines!

Colchagua Valley

Maquis Gran Reserva 2018

Brick red color. Cherry and raspberry on the nose. The palate is bright cherry, with raspberry, licorice, baking spice, and black pepper. Medium body, edgy tannins, and vibrant acidity. Long, spicy finish.

A very tasty wine, but neither of us would not have called Cab Sauv in blind tasting. (SRP $20)

Los Vascos Cromas Gran Reserva 2018

Deep ruby color in the glass. Nose of blackberry, black cherry, and plum. On the palate there are flavors of ripe blackberry, Marionberry, black currant, black cherry, leather, and a hint of chocolate. Full body with soft, luxurious tannins and nicely balanced acidity. Medium finish of soft black fruit. (SRP: $22)

TerraNoble Gran Reserva 2018

Ruby color with a garnet rim. The nose is quite lively with a bouquet of violet, raspberry, cherry, and spice. On the palate, equally delightful and incredibly smooth, with bright red cherry, raspberry, red currant, blueberry, violet, with hints of tobacco, chocolate, and baking spice. Medium body with satin soft tannins and acidity. Medium red fruit finish. (SRP $20)

Maipo Valley

Echeverria Limited Edition 2016

Garnet color. On the nose, blackberry, cherry, and cassis. Flavors of ripe raspberry, blackberry, cassis, and fig, with soft spice notes and a hint of milk chocolate. Medium plus body, with soft, almost milky tannins and medium acidity. Medium finish of spicy red fruit. (SRP $25)

Viña Aquitania Lázuli 2017

Brick red color fading to garnet at the rim. Aromas of red cherry, raspberry, and blackberry on the nose. These carry onto the palate, with the addition of plum, cassis, clove, and white pepper, with hints of chocolate. Medium body with velvety soft, milky tannins, and bright acidity. Long finish of black fruit and baking spice. (SRP $45)

Miguel Torres Reserva Especial Cordellera 2018

Dark garnet black color. The nose bursts with red cherry, raspberry, licorice, and spice. On the palate, black fruit; blackberry, black cherry, black plum, with ripe wild blueberry, cedar, tobacco, clove, and pepper, with fig, licorice, and raisin emerging on the finish. This wine continues to evolve the longer you ponder it. Full body with ultra-soft tannins, and bright acidity, leading to a long finish. (SRP $20)

This was a fun and interesting competition, with some rather surprising results. We knew going in that it was possible it could be a split decision, with one of us favoring Colchagua Valley and the other preferring Maipo Valley. We also took it a step further, with each of us selecting an MVP – our personal favorite wine from the tasting.

Though we enjoyed every wine from both regions – we can heartily recommend all of them – after much consideration and contemplation, our unanimous conclusion was that the winner, by a very slight margin, was…

The Colchagua Valley!

While the wines from Maipo Valley definitely win the prize for incredibly soft tannins and full, round mouthfeel, we felt the Colchagua Valley wines had a bit more interest and character.

The real surprise, however, was the individual MVP Award. There was one from each region! Robyn’s personal pick was from the winning team: the TerraNoble Gran Reserva 2018. For Kent, this one was a very close second. However, his personal MVP was the Miguel Torres Reserva Especial Cordellera 2018. You can tell from the tasting notes (that Kent wrote) that he was swooning over the layers of continually emerging complexity.

But at the end of the day, when you’re enjoying a really good bottle of wine with family and friends, isn’t everybody a winner? No matter your taste, preference, or profile, there is a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon for you. Next time you are in your wine shop, looking for a nice Cabernet to pair with your meal, or even just to sip, look to the south, and head for the Chilean wine section.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos, except where noted, by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Amador County, La Mesa Vineyards, Shenandoah Valley, Wine, Wine Tasting

A Tasting Room with a View: La Mesa Vineyards

It seems that as Amador County wine country receives more exposure and accolades, new wineries are popping up like spring wildflowers. We say this in a good way – since this means more variety and more opportunity to taste some fantastic wines from our favorite day-trip wine region. One such new winery is La Mesa Vineyards, with a recently opened tasting room perched atop a bluff overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, surrounded by its estate vineyards. We’d driven past La Mesa a number of times on our way to another winery where we are members, but with reservations required at most wineries during the pandemic, timing had not worked out to enable us to stop in. Until a warm, spring-like day in February a couple of weeks ago. 

Many visitors to Amador County may not have the opportunity to experience La Mesa, and that is a shame. Like many areas, the Shenandoah Valley has developed something of a “central” area along Shenandoah Road, where the more established, sometimes trendy “destination” wineries are located. Many visitors stop there, unaware of what awaits them around the next bend in the road. La Mesa is a couple of miles beyond that area; you have to keep driving to be rewarded with the stunning views, amazing hospitality, and delicious wines. 

Originally from Montreal, Quebec, vigniron Côme Laguë comes from a long lineage of agriculture; 10 generations to be specific. However, this enterprising French Canadian pursued a career in tech. Still, throughout the evolution of his career, he never lost the passion for wine that he had developed early on. He and his family often traveled through Amador county on their way to camp in the Sierras, and eventually he resolved to purchase land here. When the time came, he found just the right spot; a former walnut farm. As an added bonus, the property also had an established vineyard planted to Primitivo. Rather than rip out the vineyard, Côme decided to try his hand at winemaking. A neighbor helped with the first vintage, a single barrel of wine. That was all it took. Côme was hooked, and after a few more years at the craft, opened La Mesa Vineyards.

The tasting room at La Mesa is a modern, striking building, featuring sweeping views from the floor-to-ceiling glass walls, or the generous patio outside. Much of the wine is produced from estate fruit, with some sourced from nearby vineyards. The estate vineyards surround the tasting room, adding to the allure of tasting a wine that was produced from grapes that grew just yards away. 

It was surprisingly quiet when we pulled in; only a handful of other guests enjoying wine on the patio. As a result, we had the tasting room staff practically to ourselves. They continued to be quite attentive even as more people arrived and filled the patio tables. The standard tasting flight consists of five select wines, with an option of whites and rosés, or reds. You can also customize your flight. La Mesa produces a wide variety of whites, reds, rosés, and sparkling, so it can be hard to select just five. Fortunately, being wine tasting veterans, we knew the drill: We ordered one flight of the whites and rosés, and one of the reds, and shared them.

Our server particularly recommended the Chardonnay, which was included in the whites and rosés flight. She explained that Côme prefers to make his wines in a more Old World style, meaning his Chardonnay saw no oak, and no malolactic fermentation. It is made in the style of a Chablis which, as we don’t prefer the heavily oaked style, was music to our ears!  We enjoyed it so much, we bought a bottle to take home. 

We also were surprised by the Muscat Canelli, which was aromatic and refreshing, but not cloyingly sweet, as some can be. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the whites was the Barbera Blanc. Several years ago, Kent purchased a “White Barbera” from a different winery, and reminiscent of White Zinfandel, that one was sickenly, syrupy sweet. The La Mesa Barbera Blanc, however, was fresh, bright, and refreshing, with zesty acidity. This wine is made from the same Barbera grapes used in the traditional red wine, but the skins are removed immediately after press, so the wine derives none of the red color. We ended up bringing one of these home, too! 

All of the reds were excellent. The two standouts for us were the Primitivo and the Petite Sirah, which was also recommended by our server. The Primitivo was lively and vibrant, while the Petite Sirah was dark and brooding. Kent is rather particular about his Petite Sirah, and this one got the seal of approval. Despite the fact that we only needed to purchase two bottles to waive each of our $15 tasting fees, we left with a few more than that. 

In recent weeks, taking advantage of the unseasonably springlike weather, we’ve done a bit of wine tasting on day trips around our area. We’d begun to notice that at many of the small wineries we were visiting, we would like two or three of the wines, but others we didn’t care for at all. This was not the case at La Mesa. Each and every wine we tasted was tasty and high-quality, including the bonus pours of the Library Primitivo 2014, and La Notte, their fortified Port-style wine. 

We will definitely plan to stop in at La Mesa Vineyards again. If you are in the Amador area, do yourself a favor. Venture just a bit further up the road, around that bend, and up the hill to this wonderful tasting room with a view. 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds (except where noted and credited.)
Bordeaux-Style Blend, Flora Springs, Napa, Napa Valley, Samples, Sauvignon Blanc, Soliloquy, Trilogy, Wine

Flagship Wines from Flora Springs

Have you ever known about a winery of great repute, but not had the opportunity to visit or try their wines? Such was the case for us with Flora Springs Winery. We’d known of them for some time, seeing the name on Social Media, in advertising, and even on store shelves. Yet for whatever reason, despite knowing Flora Springs’ reputation as a high quality Napa wine producer, we’d never purchased or tasted the wines. That all came to an end, quite happily, when we received an invitation to sample and review the newest release Flora Springs’ two flagship wines: Trilogy and Soliloquy. 

Bonus! Read on to receive a coupon code for a 10% discount on your Flora Springs order, good through March 4, 2022!

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

The Flora Springs legacy began in the late 1800’s, when grapes were planted on what would later become the winery estate. The estate property has deep ties to Napa wine royalty. Originally built in 1885, the first winery on the property was the Charles Brockhoff Winery, which operated for more than 20 years, until Prohibition shut it down. Abandoned and in disrepair, the site considered a “Ghost Winery” saw new life in the 1930’s when Louis M. Martini purchased the property. Though Martini used the winery building mostly for storage, and not production, he lived in the estate house until his death in 1974. Finally, in 1977 Jerry and Flora Komes purchased the estate and resurrected the winery. Flora Springs Winery was established in 1978, and wine production resumed. That same year, their son John began fully renovating the stone winery building, completing the job in 1980. John and his wife, Carrie, now live at the property. 

The first vintage of the flagship red wine, Trilogy, was in 1984. The current release, the 2019, is the 35th anniversary vintage. A Bordeaux-style red blend, Trilogy started out as a three varietal blend, but has since evolved to include other Bordeaux grapes. The 2019 Trilogy is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petite Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc, and 7% Malbec. The wine aged for 18 months in 80% French and 20% American oak barrels. Well structured and age-worthy, the 2019 Trilogy is fantastic now (as you will read in a moment), but has cellar potential for at least 15 years. 

Soliloquy is Flora Springs’ flagship white wine. Named for the winery’s proprietary Sauvignon Blanc clone, which was certified in the late 1980s, the first vintage released was the 1989. The current release is the 2020 vintage. For those who recall, 2020 was another year of disastrous wildfires in Northern California’s wine regions, causing damage and smoke taint to many vines and hanging fruit. For this reason, the Soliloquy 2020 is one of the few wines of this vintage that Flora Springs will release. The 2020 is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Malvasia, which spend seven months in a combination of concrete egg tanks and French oak barrels. 

On to the tasting! With such history and reputation of quality, we could hardly wait to open these wines. Here is what we thought of them when the time was right. Of course, we went with the white wine, first!

Flora Springs Soliloquy 2020

Clear golden color. The nose is delightful, with stone fruit and citrus. On the palate, subtle pineapple and tropical fruit, with lemon lime, peach, and apricot. Surprisingly soft mouthfeel, with balanced, lively acidity. Medium finish of citrus fruit. An excellent wine for sipping on a warm (74F) winter’s day. Food pairing: seafood, light chicken dishes. 

(SRP $50)

Flora Springs Trilogy 2019 

Opaque, inky garnet, almost black. Aromas of ripe blackberry, black cherry, plum, and toasty oak. On the palate, big, juicy blackberry and cherry, with vanilla, caramel, and hints of leather and oak. Rich, full body. Tannins are soft and smooth, with medium acidity. This is a big, bold wine that wants a grilled steak or lamb chops. The finish is smooth, with ripe blackberry jam, plum, and milk chocolate notes.

(SRP $85)

For such luscious and delicious wines, you’ll want a special occasion to open them. A special offer wouldn’t hurt, either. 

As luck would have it there are two such special occasions coming up in the next few days:

  • Friday, February 18, 2022 is National Drink Wine Day! Wait, you thought everyday was national drink wine day? So did we. But why not celebrate anyway?
  • Saturday, February 26, 2022 is Open That Bottle Night. The event created by Wall Street Journal journalists, Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher, to encourage people to open bottles of wine they’ve been holding for an unspecified special occasion that may never come. 

What better reasons to buy and open some special bottles, like the Flora Springs Trilogy 2019 and Soliloquy 2020? Need more incentive?

Special Offer Time! Head over to the Flora Springs online wine shop and make your selections. Enter the coupon code CHEER55 at checkout to receive 10% off your order! Offer valid through March 4, 2022, so act fast! You will be very happy you did! 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Alentejo, Herdade do Esporão, Portugal, Samples, Wine

A Taste of Alentejo with Herdade do Esporão

Many travelers who plan a trip to Portugal think of Lisbon, the country’s capital and largest city. People who are familiar with Portuguese wine may think of Porto, home of the famous fortified wines, or Duoro, and it’s intense reds. All locales are magical in their own right, and everyone we know who has visited has raved about their experiences. They are definitely on our short list of destinations for our next European excursion. 

Yet as much as our friends loved visiting these well-known places, the one region in Portugal that all of them mentioned as “must-go” on their next trip is Alentejo. Intrepid wine explorers know Alentejo as a world-class wine region, producing stunning, high quality wines. However, wines of Alentejo are not as readily available, at least in our area, as other, better known Portuguese regions. (Vinho Verde, anybody?) In fact, a check of our local Total Wine & More store revealed just five wines from that region in their inventory, and only four in stock.

When we received an invitation for samples of four wines from Alentejo producer Herdade do Esporão, and to attend a virtual tasting with Esporão Group CEO João Roquette and winemaker Sandra Alves, we gladly accepted. With this blog, we hope to help promote the region and the wines, to foster interest and enthusiasm, and hopefully greater availability!

The samples and tasting were focused on Herdade do Esporão in Alentejo. Of interest, though, is that the Esporão Group has expanded beyond Alentejo, and has operations in other Portuguese regions. These include Quinta dos Murças in the Douro, Quinta do Ameal in Vinho Verde, and even the Sovina Craft Beer brewery in Porto. 

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

The Alentejo region is the largest in Portugal, and is located in the southern third of the country. Herdade do Esporão is centrally located in Alentejo, in the Reguengos de Monsaraz DOC subregion. Receiving an average of just 23 inches of rain per year, and boasting at least seven distinct soil profiles, the area is ideal for viticulture. The estate is planted to 37 grape varieties, most of which are indigenous. Some of the Touriga Nacional, Verdelho, and Semillon vines are more than 40 years old. 

During the virtual event, we first heard from João Roquette, who provided some history, and described the diversity and sustainability practices employed at Herdade do Esporão. Originally established in 1267, the boundaries of the estate remain essentially unchanged to this day. The estate’s 4,522 acres include 1,091 acres planted to vines, with olive trees, orchards, and vegetable gardens on other parts of the land. 

João Roquette’s relative, José Roquette, and his partner Joaquim Bandeira, purchased the estate in the 1973, shortly before the 1974 military coup overthrew the ruling dictatorship. The Roquette family moved to Brazil in the short term, but José returned in 1983 to begin wine production. The first vintage was a 1985 Esporão Reserva Red. Today, Herdade do Esporão wines are exported to some 50 countries. In the U.S., there are about 25 different wines available, including reds, whites, rosés and Port, ranging in price from $10 to $300.

Herdade do Esporão’s sustainability practices are four-fold: Environmental, Social, Cultural, and Personal. Their mindset is one of thinking about the next generation. On the Environmental front, Herdade do Esporão achieved Organic certification in 2019, following an 11 year process. Beyond the estate, they are helping 16 of their supply growers attain their own Organic certification. On the Social plane, Herdade do Esporão promotes employee equality, fair pay and benefits, and social activism. The estate provides everyone with transportation to and from work, hot, sit-down meals, health insurance, access to legal and mental health assistance, and the possibility of bonuses and advancement. Culturally, they sponsor experience centers, including a restaurant in Alentejo, and host a cultural ambassador program. Finally, Personal sustainability involves encouraging a slow forward lifestyle, encouraging a slower pace of life, taking the time to pay attention to details and perspective that is often overlooked in our fast-paced world. 

Winemaker Sandra Alves took the reins to talk about the sample wines, and walk us through the tasting. Sandra joined the Herdade do Esporão team in 2001, and took on the lead winemaking role just two years ago, in February 2020. Sandra’s early winemaking education was at the side of her grandfather, who made wine from backyard grapes. She pursued an education in Oenology and has received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Early in her career, Sandra was focused on producing white wines…in a country and region dominated by reds. Herdade do Esporão had faith and invested in the project, and as we can attest from the tasting, it has been a tasty success! 

Full disclosure, the Zoom call fell in the middle of a workday, and as such we opted to open and sample the wines over the weekend, a few days before the call. The experience was no less informative, and we were very impressed by the quality. Then, we enjoyed the bottles throughout the week, with the food pairings we suggest in our reviews, below. 

One of the topics of conversation during the call was the affordable price point of these wines. Like wines from many regions that are emerging on the global scale, the values in Alentejo are well worth searching out. 

Whites

Colheita Branco 2020 (SRP $18)

Golden color. Aromas citrus and tropical fruit. On the palate, lemon, pineapple, and Granny Smith apple. Bone dry with refreshing, zesty acidity. Pair this with grilled or pan-seared seafood. Delightful! 

Reserva Branco 2020 (SRP $20)

Golden straw color. On the nose, pear, yellow apple, and butter notes, indicative of the oak aging. Flavors of pineapple, lemon lime, pear, and apple, with hints of toast and butter. Full bodied, with a rich, creamy mouthfeel, and bright acidity. Very satisfying finish. Nice alternative to Chardonnay for pairing with roast chicken. 

Reds

Colheita Tinto 2018 (SRP $18)

Deep garnet color with a brick rim. Aromas of ripe black cherry and blackberry, with hints of clove. On the palate, bright Bing cherry, raspberry, and blackberry, with baking spice and white pepper. Medium-plus body. Chalky, gritty tannins with medium acidity and a long finish of red fruit and spice. Excellent with grilled pork dishes. 

Reserva Reserva Tinto 2018 (SRP $25)

Garnet color with a ruby rim. On the nose, toasty raspberry and cherry notes. Flavors of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis, with hints of nutmeg, clove, and other baking spice, and oak and cedar notes. Full body with firm tannins with balanced acidity and a long, tasty finish. Great with grilled beef or game. 

As we mentioned above, about 25 different Herdade do Esporão wines are available in the U.S., but here in our little corner of suburbia, they are not easy to find. If you happen to spot some in your local wine shop, or on a restaurant wine list, do yourself a favor and buy all you can! Oh, and did you catch earlier in the post, Herdade do Esporão has a restaurant in Alentejo. We started following the Esporão Group Instagram account, and the food shots are amazing! If you’ve been, or get to go on an upcoming trip, do leave a comment to let us know how it is! We’ll be making our reservation as soon as we book our Portuguese vacation! 

Felicidades! 

  • Text and photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Charmat, Domaine Bousquet, Samples, Sparkling Wine, Wine

Bubbles from Argentina!

With Christmas still six days away, there’s still time for you to head out to your local wine shop and grab some bubbles for the holiday. There are many regions and styles to choose from: if you want French, you can have Champagne from, well, Champagne, Crémant d’Alsace or Crémant de Bourgogne from (as the names imply) Alsace or Burgundy, respectively. Other options include Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain, or sparkling wine from most any region in the United States. Any or all of these are solid choices to add some sparkle to your holiday table.

But what about south of the equator? Allow us to introduce you to two delightful sparklers from Domaine Bousquet, in Argentina. 

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

We’ve written about Domaine Bousquet before, and have really come to appreciate the quality of their wines, and their commitment to environmental and social responsibility. (Go ahead, click the link and read about them. We’ll be here when you get back.) 

Like most of the wines from Domaine Bousquet, their quality far exceeds their price point, making high quality wine, including sparkling wine, affordable for pretty much anybody who drinks wine. 

The Domaine Bousquet sparkling wines are made using the charmat method. This is the same method used to produce prosecco. In the charmat method, the winemaker produces a still wine to completion, then adds a blend of sugar and yeast, known as the liqueur de tirage. The wine is then moved into a large, stainless steel pressure tank where the sugar and yeast interact to create a secondary fermentation. Since the wine is held under high pressure, the carbonation created by the secondary fermentation is forced into the wine, resulting in the bubbles we all know and love! 

Charmat sparkling wines are generally bottled and released directly after the second fermentation has ended, and are not aged. As a result, they tend to be lighter and fresher, with a more fruit-driven character. Perfect for food pairing and celebrating. 

Domaine Bousquet Charmant Brut (75% Chardonnay & 25% Pinot Noir) SRP: $13.00

A fresh, fruit forward sparkling. Golden color with vigorous, vibrant streams of bubbles. Nose of pear, apple, and citrus. Flavors of green apple, Asian pear, citrus, and minerals. Bone dry with crisp acidity and a clean finish. 

Domaine Bousquet Charmant Rosé (75% Pinot Noir & 25% Chardonnay) SRP: $13.00 

Salmon-peach color. The nose is fresh strawberry, raspberry, and cherry, driven by abundant tiny bubbles. On the palate, luscious strawberry, raspberry, peach, red cherry, and citrus. Dry with bright acidity and a zesty finish. 

We hope all our readers take some time this holiday season to appreciate and enjoy the joyful things and people in their lives. When you do, we encourage you to raise a toast to health and happiness, with a glass of Domaine Bousquet Charmat! 

Cheers!

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