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!
In 1990, winemaker Jean Bousquet went on vacation to Argentina. A third-generation winemaker from Carcassonne, in southern France, Bousquet immediately fell in love with the Gualtallary Valley, in Mendoza. Though no vineyards existed there at the time, he recognized the winemaking potential in the region. The Gualtallary Valley is in the high mountains, with elevations reaching over 5,200 feet, an altitude many thought too high to grow grapes, but Bousquet felt differently. In 1997, he bought land and planted his first vineyard. In 2002, Bousquet’s daughter, Anne, and her husband, Labid Al Ameri, visited the area and saw the vision, as well. They joined Jean in the project, and in 2009 moved to Argentina full time, assuming ownership of the Domaine Bousquet winery in 2011.
We’ve known of Domaine Bousquet for some time, and have enjoyed many of their wines. So when we received an invitation to sample their debut vintage of a Rosé of Pinot Noir, we jumped at the chance.
The following wine was provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
Domaine Bousquet is fully organic and sustainable, with 240 hectares (nearly 600 acres) under vine. At 4,000 feet elevation, these are cool climate vineyards, perfect for producing quality, balanced wines.
The Gaia line of wines is named for the Greek goddess of Earth, the family inspiration for the Domaine Bousquet. The Rosé of Pinot Noir 2020 is made from 100% estate grown Pinot Noir. The family history, now four generations of winemaking, blends Old World tradition with the New World terroir to produce a stunning and elegant Rosé.
Pale salmon color. On the nose, subdued aromas of peach, nectarine, and watermelon. On the palate, soft tannins and bright acidity and medium body, with flavors of white peach, nectarine, watermelon, strawberry, orange zest, and floral notes. Very refreshing on a hot (106F) afternoon. (SRP $20)
We thoroughly enjoyed the Gaia Rosé of Pinot Noir 2020, and will continue to seek out and enjoy wines from the Domaine Bousquet collection.
Most wine lovers are familiar with the notion of appellations; designated wine regions identified by geography and legal protection. In the United States, appellations are known as American Viticulture Areas, or AVAs. Within an appellation or AVA, there can be sub-regions that, though perhaps not legally identified, can present climate and growing conditions which contribute to a unique terroir. One notable and well known AVA in Northern California is the Russian River Valley AVA. We recently learned that the Russian River Valley Winegrowers (RRVW) has defined six smaller sub-regions which they call Neighborhoods. How did we come by this newfound knowledge? Well, we were invited to a virtual tasting of single-vineyard wines from Gary Farrell Winery, exploring each of the Russian River Valley Neighborhoods.
The following wines were provided as media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
The event featured Gary Farrell Winery winemaker Theresa Heredia, who led us through history, geography lessons, and of course, tasting seven wines from the Gary Farrell Winery portfolio; three Chardonnays and four Pinot Noirs. As Theresa explained, although the wines are from the same respective grapes, grown in the same AVA, each neighborhood produces decidedly different wines with unique characteristics.
Gary Farrell started in the wine business in the late 1970’s, originally working with local wineries. In 1982, he produced the first wine under his eponymous wine label. Since then, Gary Farrell Winery has grown in reputation and prestige and is now one of the most notable small-lot producers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley. Though Gary Farrell sold the winery in 2004, the current owners are maintaining his legacy and standard of excellence.
Theresa Heredia started with Gary Farrell Winery in 2012. At that time, she brought with her a decade (now nearly two decades) of experience in cool-climate, small-lot Chardonnay and Pinot Noir production. Early in her career, she worked at Domaine de Montille, in Burgundy, France, where she gained an appreciation for the Burdunidan style of winemaking. Friendly and inviting, Theresa was an amazing host for our tasting.
In keeping with the Burgundian style, Theresa said that each of the wines in the tasting are terroir-driven, and aged in light-toast French oak barrels. The use of light toast oak is deliberate, since heavier toasts can mask the nuances of the wine itself. Theresa also mentioned, to our surprise, that the Russian River Valley AVA has more soil types than are found in all of France!
During a brief history lesson, Theresa shared her screen, and showed us the six Russian River Valley Neighborhoods on the RRVW website. This is an interactive site that allows you to explore each of the neighborhoods and see which characteristics define each one. Theresa mentioned that only one neighborhood, Green Valley, is a designated Sub-AVA within the Russian River Valley AVA. There are currently no plans to apply for AVA status for any of the other neighborhoods.
The seven wines we tasted, and the respective neighborhoods from which they hail, were, in order of tasting:
2017 Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay – Santa Rosa Plains
2017 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir – Santa Rosa Plains
The virtual tasting was packed with information; much more than can comfortably fit into a blog post anyone would actually read. Though it exceeded the allotted hour, it went much too fast. Since the tasting was at 11 a.m. Pacific, we sipped and spit, and re-corked the bottles, and then enjoyed them for the rest of the week! Here are our impressions of each wine:
2017 Olivet Lane Vineyard Chardonnay
Light and crisp, yet still exhibiting light buttery, toasty notes. Golden color. Aromas of apple, pear, and citrus. On the palate, apples, pear, pineapple, and floral notes. Medium body with bright acidity – more than most Cali Chards – nicely balanced. Full, lush, mildly creamy mouthfeel leading to a crisp finish of citrus and some light toast.
2017 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay
A classic but restrained California Chardonnay. Golden color with fresh pineapple the first aromas on the nose, followed by citrus and butter notes. On the palate, green apple, pear, pineapple and tropical notes, as well as citrus. Soft, creamy mouthfeel balanced with medium acidity. The finish has tropical fruit and just a hint of butter.
2017 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay
A more classic California Chardonnay, though in Gary Farrell style, subtle and elegant. On the nose, pineapple, pear, and citrus, with a whiff of butter. Surprisingly crisp acidity on the palate, with pear, apple, lemon curd, and butter, with a light toast note in the finish.
2017 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir
Exquisite and our favorite of the tasting. The nose opens with cherry, raspberry, and cedar, with earthy notes. On the palate, the cherry leads the charge with raspberry, violet, cedar, and mushroom supporting. Medium body and acidity, with a long finish of red fruit and black tea.
2017 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir
Beautiful Pinot Noir. The nose opens with black cherry and blueberry, with some earthy notes. On the palate, lush cherry, raspberry, and blueberry fruit mingles with mushroom, earthy notes, and a general funk that I’ve come to appreciate in a well structured PN. Medium body and acidity lead to a pleasing finish of red fruit, black tea, and smoke.
2017 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir
Quite interesting with herbal and vegetal notes up front, including bay leaf and eucalyptus, with red fruit following. On the palate, cranberry, pomegranate, and raspberry with the bay leaf enhancing the fruit. Medium body with bright, lively acidity. Long fresh finish.
2017 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir
Nice, fruit driven Pinot. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, and cranberry. On the palate, these red fruit flavors continue, joined by blueberry, cedar, and bay leaf. Soft and velvety, with bright acidity and a long finish of red fruit and rose petal.
We heartily recommend any and all of these wines, and we look forward to venturing out to the Russian River Valley to explore the neighborhoods in person.
We close on a somber note. We were sad to learn this week, as we prepared this post, that earlier this month, Gary Farrell Winery oenologist, Mark Osbourne, was killed after being struck by a motorist while riding his bicycle. Even more tragically, the motorist is accused of driving under the influence. Our hearts and prayers go out to the Gary Farrell Winery family.
Paso Robles has come into its own as a wine region. It wasn’t too many years ago that hardly anybody had heard of this area. Now, the wines from “Paso” have gained notoriety and prestige. Recently, we were offered samples of some small batch, boutique red wines from De Angelis Wines. Naturally, we said YES!
The De Angelis Wines story began in 1999, when owners Jerry and Marsha De Angelis planted a small vineyard on their property. It started as a private venture, just to make wines to enjoy with family and friends. As their winemaking skill improved, a neighbor, who had a 30 acre vineyard, asked them to become his winemakers. So in 2004, Jerry and Marsha found themselves employed as full time winemakers.
In 2006, Jerry and Marsha participated in establishing, designing, and building a co-op winery. Once it opened, they were recruited as the chief winemakers, making wines for several growers. During that same year, they decided to launch their own brand, and De Angelis Wines, the label, was born. Even with all their success, Jerry and Marsha remain committed to hand-crafting very small lots each year. They have slowly increased production over the years, but will never make more than 1,200 cases per year.
The De Angelis Wines portfolio includes some whites; Chardonnay and Viognier, but is predominantly red. We received samples of their 2007 Pinot Noir, San Luis Obispo County, 2009 Syrah, Santa Barbara County, 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, San Luis Obispo County, and the 2012 Elena Catherine, San Luis Obispo County, a red blend.
The Elena Catherine is homage to the family matriarch, to celebrate her 100th birthday! Here’s how Jerry and Marsha tell the story on the website:
“Who is Elena Catherine? Elena is our Mom, and this wine was developed for her 100th birthday. (She passed away at 102 Years old!) We wanted a wine that reflects the feisty, peppery, Italian Mom that she was! The 2012 Elena Catherine is a 13.6% alcohol wine blend containing 50% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Syrah. All of these wines are Estate fruit harvested from the Dry Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, CA.”
The following wines were provided as a media samples for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
2007 Pinot Noir
Brick red color. The nose is bursting with bright cherry notes, with raspberry and smoke present, also. We decanted for several hours, as suggested by a colleague. Upon pouring, there are flavors of black cherry, and ripe raspberry, with clove, baking spice, and earth. Hints of mushroom and forest floor round out the complex profile of this wine. Soft tannins and bright, lively acidity. Rich flavors and medium body, with a bold finish of red fruit, smoke, and spice. Paired well with grilled pork sausage.
Inky nearly black color. Aromas of blueberry, blackberry, and black plum, with hints of oak. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, with vanilla, tobacco, smoke, cedar, and oak, with baking spice and black pepper on the finish. Big, bold, and full bodied with chewy tannins and medium acidity. Long finish of black fruit and spice, with tertiary notes of worn leather, earth, and smoke. Drinking well now, and will continue to soften and improve for at least another 5 years. This wine would pair well with game and savory dishes.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon
Rich, inky purple color, with a brick rim. On the nose there is ripe blackberry, black cherry and plum, and clove. The aromas are rich, full, and inviting. Taking a sip, flavors of blackberry, black cherry, big cassis, and chocolate, with baking spice, tobacco smoke, and black pepper. The tannins are big, but soft, and soften even more with air. There is medium acidity. The finish is long with blackberry and mocha notes. Pick your meat; beef, lamb, pork…this one goes with all.
2012 Elena Catherine Red Blend
Deep, brick red color. Aromas of ripe raspberry, cherry, and blackberry. On the palate, bright blueberry, cherry, blackberry, cassis, cedar, and tobacco. Huge tannins! Even after an hour in the decanter, but balanced and approachable. This wine deserves a slab of Prime Rib now, and could lay down for 10 more years. Medium acidity and a long, long finish of black and red fruit, cedar, and white pepper.
De Angelis Wines has discontinued online sales, but if these beauties sound like your kind of wine, drop Jerry and Marsha an email. As long as you are in a state to which they can ship, they’ll hook you up!
According to Google Translate, the French word Sosie is translated to English as Doppelganger. As you may know, a doppelganger is a look-alike; a body double; a twin.
Sosie Wines founders, Scott MacFiggen and Regina Bustamonte, have appreciated good wine and food for years. Regina recalls her grandmother mixing a bit of wine with some fizzy water for the kids during Sunday lunches. Scott’s grandfather owned a farm in Upstate New York. It was there that Scott learned how amazing farm-fresh produce tastes. These early experiences provided the inspiration for Sosie wines.
As adults, Scott and Regina traveled to France and became enamoured with the French countryside, the wines, and the Old World traditions that make the wines so great. So when they decided to launch their own wine brand, Scott and Regina wanted to bridge the gap between New World vineyards and Old World style wines.
Sosie Wines uses a minimal intervention winemaking style. They want the fruit to speak for itself, using native fermentation, and letting the natural aromas, flavors, and acidity shine through. Made in very small batches, with lower alcohol and higher acidity, in the Old World style, these wines are food friendly, with deep, complex character.
They were so committed to creating French-inspired, Old World-style wines, they chose their name, Sosie, as an indication that their wines are look-alikes to their French counterparts. They even designed their logo as a marriage of French and Californian influences: the California grizzly bear, featured on the state flag, with a proud French rooster standing upon the bear’s back.
Credit: Sosie Wines
We recently received two bottles of Sosie wines as media samples for review; their 2015 Roussanne, Vivio Vineyards, Bennett Valley, Sonoma County, and the 2015 Pinot Noir, Spring Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Coast.
The following wines were provided as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are our own. We received no additional compensation.
Roussanne is a white grape from the Rhone Valley in France. It is traditionally blended with Marsanne, to make tasty Rhone white wines. A 100% Roussanne is relatively uncommon.
I’m not gonna lie, when I (Kent) saw the Roussanne, I was skeptical. I’ve only had a couple of 100% Roussanne wines before, and neither one impressed. Both had a distinct “funky” smell and taste, almost metallic or chemical in nature. The first bottle I tried, I returned and got a replacement. The replacement bottle tasted the same. I tried a different producer, and while it was slightly better, it still ranks as one of fewer than 10 wines I’ve ever poured down the drain. So, you can see why I was skeptical. I really thought that the day I found a Roussanne I liked, would be the day that pigs fly!
Well, that skepticism was blown away with the Sosie Roussanne. Hold on to your hats because that might be a Berkshire flying overhead! On initial pour, it did have just a momentary, slight funkiness (making Kent nervous), but that faded within seconds, leaving a clean, bright, fruity, and delicious wine that most definitely impressed! Here are our tasting notes:
The first 100% Roussanne we’ve actually enjoyed! Golden color in the glass. Initial aromas are ripe apricot and nectarine. As it open up, there is some floral and herbal notes. On the palate, flavors of pear, honeysuckle, apricot, and some black tea notes. Medium body with a soft mouthfeel and bright acidity. Paired with turkey-stuffed grilled bell peppers, an amazing combination.
Only four barrels produced. Now that’s small batch! SRP: $38.00
We’re kinda particular about our Pinot Noir. Many these days are overripe, overly extracted, and just too heavy. Almost like they’re trying to make it taste like Cabernet Sauvignon. We think Pinot Noir is meant to be balanced and elegant. The Sosie Pinot Noir is exactly that! Reminiscent of a Burgundian wine, as would be expected from a wine crafted in the Old World style, this wine has fresh fruit, balanced with earthy notes, smooth tannins, and soft acidity.
An exquisite, elegant Pinot Noir. Brick red color. On the palate, there are aromas of raspberry, clove, and tobacco smoke, with hints of earth. On the palate, flavors of raspberry, dark cherry, baking spice, smoke, and forest floor. Velvety smooth tannins with bright, perfect for food pairing. Long finish of red fruit, earth, and smoke. Paired with grilled marinated pork chop and Brussels sprouts with pancetta, it was a match made in heaven!
Five barrels produced. SRP: $43.00
Sosie also produces a Syrah, a Rosé of Syrah, and a Cabernet Franc. I have no doubt that all are outstanding, and we hope to try them all! Sosie wines are available for purchase on their website. They care enough about your satisfaction, that they only ship when weather conditions warrant.
Give Sosie wines a try. Let us know, in the comments, how you enjoyed them.
Here is a fantastic article by Michelle Williams, of the Rockin’ Red Blog. Like her, my Thanksgiving table will feature a variety of wines, though not all from Oregon. We will enjoy Pinot Noir, Beaujolais Nouveau, Chardonnay, Dry Riesling, and of course, Bubbles!
Let me know what you’ll be serving with your dinner.
May you have a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving day! Cheers!
Thanksgiving is almost upon us. It is a day that centers around possibly the most important meal of the year. It is also a complicated meal featuring a wide variety of textures, spices, and flavors. A daunting meal to prepare, much less pair with wine. Some try to go the dangerous one wine route. I like to have multiple wines on the table to make the most of each component of the meal. In my latest article for The Daily Meal I share how four high quality wines from Willamette Valley will meet all your Thanksgiving meal needs.
For excellent wines at great values, head south. For interesting takes on your favorite varietals, head south. To expand your understanding of terroir and its influence on wine, head south. Wines from South America, specifically Chile and Argentina, define all these statements. I recently had the opportunity to experience three outstanding South American wines: Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2014, Montes Twins Red Blend 2014, and KAIKEN Terroir Series Torrontés 2016.
For many years, right or wrong, Chile had the reputation of creating bulk wines of inferior quality. In 1988, Aurelio Montes, Sr. and Douglas Murray set out to challenge that notion, when they founded Viña Montes. These two pioneers believed that the unique conditions and terroir in Chile could produce world-class wines. Their first project was a Bordeaux-style red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. In 1998, the first vintage of Montes Alpha M was released. Subsequent lines, including Folly and Purple Angel, followed, with great success and popularity. Over the past 29 years, additional labels were introduced, at various price points, including Montes Limited Selection, the Classic Series, Cherub Rose, and the Montes Twins.
Those familiar with the Montes name will recognize the iconic angel on the label. That angel was inspired by Douglas Murray, who developed an abiding faith in angels after surviving two different near-fatal auto accidents. Montes adopted the angel icon to symbolize their commitment to be a positive force and influence. In keeping with that mission, Montes is a leader in environmental sustainability. Since 2009, Montes has implemented strategies to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 30%, and use of fertilizers by 50%. Sheep now help with weed control, and the winery has begun covering water reservoirs with geomembranes that reduce water leakage from two gallons per second to zero!
The Montes family of wines has certainly succeeded in breaking the mold and improving the quality and reputation of Chilean wines. So it follows that Aurelio Montes, Sr., would seek to expand his influence beyond the Chilean borders. In 2001, Montes, Sr., founded KAIKEN Winery on the other side of the Andes mountains, in Mendoza, Argentina. The Kaiken is a near-extinct bird, native to the region, known for soaring over the high, mountain peaks. Now run by son, Aurelio Montes, Jr., KAIKEN’s logo features a representation of “birds in flight” travelling over the Andes mountains. In keeping with the environmental commitment at Montes, in 2011 KAIKEN started managing its vineyards with biodynamic principles. They are pursuing a goal of being 100% biodynamic by the end of this year (2017.)
Seeking to take Argentinian wines beyond just Malbec, the KAIKEN wine portfolio includes four labels: Mai, Ultra, Terroir Series, and Reserve. Malbec is featured in the Mai line, and is represented in others, but the Ultra, Terroir Series, and Reserve lines include reds composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Bonarda, along with Malbec. White wines are produced from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the more Argentine-associated Torrontés.
So how do they taste? Well, here’s what I thought of them:
Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2014
100% Pinot Noir from the Acongagua Coast, aged 6-7 months in French Oak and Stainless Steel barrels.
This is a complex, well-balanced Pinot Noir. Ruby red color with a slightly brick rim. On the nose there are aromas of soft earth and ripe raspberry. The complexity is evident from the initial sniff. On the palate, soft, supple tannins and light acidity dance on the tongue with earthy influences mingling with raspberry, cherry, plum, and red currant flavors. Medium body, with a lingering finish of red fruit and a hint of cola at the end.
I find some Pinot Noir to be too earthy, with the soil and mushroom flavors overpowering the fruit. The Montes Pinot Noir has just the right amount of earthiness, that enhances the fruit and makes this a very enjoyable wine. Paired with grilled salmon, it was truly delightful. It would also go nicely with other foods, including pork or mushroom risotto.
Average Price: $13 (Wine Searcher)
Montes Twins Red Blend 2014
35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 25% Carmenère, 10% Tempranillo, from the Colchagua Valley. 50% of the wine was aged for 10 months in first, second, and third-use French Oak barrels.
Very impressive red blend. Deep purple color in the glass. On the nose, aromas of Black Cherry, Raspberry, Blackberry, and a hint of soft vanilla. After several swirls and minutes to open up, the palate offers juicy flavors of Blackberry, Black Currant, Black Cherry, and Dark Chocolate, with soft oak and vanilla influences. Rich and full-bodied, with a complex character and soft, velvety tannins and fresh acidity, the wine finishes with a flourish of dark berry, chocolate, and hints of licorice and spice. This is an intriguing, sexy wine that pairs well with anything from the grill: beef, lamb, pork…we had it with grilled Sweet Italian Sausages and the pairing was spectacular!
Average Price: $12 (Wine Searcher)
KAIKEN Terroir Series Torrontés 2016
100% Torrontés from Salta, Argentina. Fermented and aged 6 months on the lees.
Pale golden color in the glass. There are aromas of lemon-lime and citrus, with a hint of elderflower. On the palate, there are flavors of lemon and lime, with grapefruit, quince, and mandarin. There is bright, lively acidity, but the wine has a soft, smooth mouthfeel – evidence of aging on the lees. On the finish, the citrus notes continue, and some pear joins the party.
This is a delightfully refreshing wine, especially on the blistering hot day we tasted it. It paired magically with grilled Mahi-Mahi tacos, taking our simple, mid-week meal to a whole new level.
Average Price: $13 (Wine Searcher)
Delicious, food-friendly, and budget-friendly, I highly recommend that you seek out and try these wines. They are widely distributed and available, so you won’t even have to go to South America to find them!
Disclaimer: These wines were submitted to me as samples for review. I received no other compensation or incentive. Technical information was provided with the samples. All opinions and descriptions are my own.
Blame it on the rain. Northern California has been slammed with a series of winter storms, the likes of which we haven’t seen in a years. As much as we need the rain, we’re Californians, and we really miss our sunshine! Or maybe it’s the recent political climate in our country. Nuf said about that. Perhaps most obviously, it could be the life changes I’m going through that, among other things, have caused a change in my wine-drinking habits. The Big D means that most nights, if I’m drinking, I’m drinking solo. A bottle of wine that nicely serves two people in an evening now lasts me 2-3 days; even four days on occasion! Whatever the cause, I’ve been drinking less wine recently, and have also been suffering from a bout of writer’s block.
Don’t cry for me, however. I’ve been active and busy, going to Meetup events, meeting lots of amazing people, and making new friends in the process. Quite frankly, thinks are looking up, and I feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back! With that in mind, I thought I’d piece together a few thoughts – blog ideas from the past few weeks that never got off the ground.
Blues Bars, Beer, and Whiskey
One of the Meetup groups I joined is all about the Blues. They meet several times per week at various bars in the area to listen to Blues bands, dance, and have an all-around good time! Interestingly, I was never much of a Blues fan before. However, I’ve learned that this is because I’d only ever listened to the Blues on the radio. Now I know that Blues is a dish best served HOT! Live Blues is amazing! Where do you find the best Blues? Dive bars. Bars that sell beer by the tanker truck, whiskey, and basic (really basic; 2-3 ingredient) cocktails. These are not establishments that have a well-developed wine program. Who are we kidding? Most don’t have a wine program at all! So this has enabled me to get my beer groove on and explore the wide and wonderful world of brewski! Local craft beer, nationally known brands, and yes, even the occasional, ubiquitous Bud Light. There’s no risk (that I can foresee) of me dividing my loyalty and becoming a beer blogger, but there is a lot of great beer out there, and some pretty amazing people who drink it!
On nights when beer doesn’t appeal, I’ve also become better acquainted to the delights of brown liquor. Whiskey is another pleasing libation that pairs well with live Blues. At a more upscale cocktail bar, I’m generally inclined to order an Old Fashioned (which, ahem, I’ve been drinking since long before Mad Men, so no, I’m not just following a trend!) or a Manhattan. At a dive, Jamie and Ginger is my go-to. (Worried about dirty lines feeding your bartender’s soda gun? Most places don’t run ginger ale through the gun, so you get a freshly opened can from the fridge. Smart, huh?)
Of course, if Blues isn’t your thing, there is plenty of variety in the live music scene in most towns and cities. I hope I’ve inspired some of you to get up, get out, and go listen to some live music!
The Old Sugar Mill: Port, Wine, and Chocolate Lovers
Those of you who are longsuffering dedicated readers of my little corner of the Interwebs may recall my post about The Old Sugar Mill. (<– That’s a link, if you want to pause here to get caught up.) The Old Sugar Mill a wine lover’s fantasy destination, currently housing 13 winery tasting rooms in one location! Last weekend was their annual Port, Wine, and Chocolate Lovers’ Weekend. It’s an amazing event that I’ve missed in prior years. Admission gets you tastes at nearly all of the wineries, plus chocolate samples, live music, and access to some of the region’s best gourmet food trucks! This year I attended with a friend I met through another Meetup group. It was a blast! I was having so much fun; I forgot to take pictures – except this one.
I’ve also been attending a few house parties, which is a great way to meet and mingle. One I recently attended was wine themed. Being a wine guy, I naturally grabbed a nice bottle from my cellar. By no small coincidence, it was from one of my favorite wineries at The Old Sugar Mill. The Merlo Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012 was a huge hit! It was the first bottle to run dry, of the 20 or more available at the party. Not pricy by Pinot Noir standards, it retails for $27, but Ray Merlo is a strong advocate for wine education, and a firm believer in the notion that if people can’t afford it, they can’t enjoy it. I’ve had comparable Pinot in the $35-45 range.
Here’s my review:
Rich, earthy Pinot Noir, in the classic NorCal style. Purple color with a ruby rim. Aromas of ripe plums and spice. Flavors of ripe plum, blueberry, cherry, and earth with a lingering finish of dark fruit and soft earth tones.
4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)
What surprised me about the event was the number of bottom shelf bottles that appeared on the wine table. While they will remain nameless, I am familiar with most of the labels I saw and know them to be “meh” wines in the sub-$5 range. Now, I understand that not everybody is a wine geek like me, and maybe the wine they brought is the wine they drink regularly. Still, when I’m bringing a bottle to an event, I like to step it up and bring something special. Maybe that’s just me.
National Drink Wine Day
Finally, if you were anywhere within 10 miles of Social Media, or your favorite wine geek, you know that yesterday was National Drink Wine Day. I’m still not sure why someone decided we need a special day to celebrate drinking wine, but who am I to question? Always one to follow the rules, I made my way, with a wine-loving friend, to my favorite local wine bar where we enjoyed some good wine and great conversation. You just gotta love holidays!
The wine was flowing at Thanksgiving this year! My son and I were invited to spend the day with the family of his friend, Edward. With about 20 people in attendance, we blended in and had a great time. In addition to the four wines I brought, which I review below, several other people brought several bottles to share. Those included Frei Brothers Cabernet Sauvignon, Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Talbott Pinot Noir, and William Hill Chardonnay. There were others, too, but I didn’t get a chance to make a note of which they were. In addition, a bottle of Dalmore 12-year Highland Scotch appeared on the bar. It would have been rude of me to not have a dram or two, right? It was absolutely delicious!
Photo Credit: totalwine.com
Dinner was a feast! There were two turkeys; one smoked, and one traditional; a honey-glazed ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, two green salads, and rolls. Dessert was equally varied and delicious!
Let the feast begin!
Of the wines I brought, three were from NakedWines.com. The fourth was the just-released 2016 Beaujolais Nouveau from Georges DeBouef. With varying levels of wine-tasting experience represented, from “I’m here for the Scotch, but I enjoy a glass of wine once in a while, too” to a wine industry professional, all the wines were big hits. The hands-down favorite, with it’s soft, easy-drinking, fruit-forward profile, was the Beaujolais Nouveau. In fact, that bottle was empty long before dinner was served!
These wines were all excellent companions to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. With Christmas just around the corner, if you are having similar cuisine, I can wholeheartedly recommend each of these for that meal as well!
Georges DeBouef Beaujolais Nouveau 2016
The hands-down favorite around the Thanksgiving table. A party in a glass! Bright purple color, bursting with juicy fruit flavors; boysenberry, cherry, plum, blueberry, and raspberry. Soft tannins and bright acidity made this a light, fun quaff before and during the meal.
4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)
$8.97 at Total Wine & More
Scott Kelley Oregon Pinot Noir 2015
Classic Oregon Pinot. Ruby color. On the nose there is raspberry, fresh plum, and soft smoke. Flavors of ripe raspberry, cherry, and strawberry mingle with soft oak. Tannins are soft and super smooth, with balanced acid, leading to long finish. Pinot Noir just the way I like it!
A well balanced Sonoma Chardonnay. Straw color in the glass. Aromas of apple and butter. On the palate, flavors of fresh apple and pear, with some caramel at the end. Medium body, very soft smooth with light acidity and perfect balance of oak and fruit.
In my continuing periodic series, Wines Scantily Clad, today’s review is the Ceja Vineyards Vino de Casa 2010.
As you may know, I am a member of NakedWines.com, a crowd-funded winery offering excellent wines at excusive, member prices. Wines Scantily Clad are wines that are not NakedWines.com wines, but are produced by NakedWines.com winemakers. These are often private labels, or part of a family venture, as is today’s selection. While not Naked Wines, they are almost Naked, thus, Scantily Clad.
The NakedWines.com connection is Dalia Ceja. Her “La Tapatia” line of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines are popular favorites among Angels, and sell out quickly. Dalia’s family came to Napa Valley in the 1960’s as farm workers, and later established the first Mexican-American owned winery in Napa County. (Read their inspiring story here.) When she isn’t making her own wines for NakedWines.com, Dalia is the Brand Marketing Manager for Ceja Vineyards.
When I found the Ceja Vineyards Vino de Casa, my first reaction was, “Interesting. A blend of one of the most delicate red grapes with one of the boldest. I’ve got to try this!” Vino de Casa is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Syrah, all from Napa Valley.
From the website:
Aromas of bright cherries, dark fruit, spice and ripe plum. The palate is medium-bodied and showcases hints of black currant and tobacco while ending in a supple finish. Flavors of cedar infused with blueberry abound. This is the perfect “everyday” wine.
Here’s my review:
A blend of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Syrah. The color is a deep Ruby in the glass. Aromas of Bing cherry, plum, and oak greet the nose. First sip, oh so smooth! Raspberry, cranberry, cherry, and vanilla on the palate with soft cedar and blueberry on the finish. A creamy mouthfeel and light acidity make this a truly delightful wine. Delicious on its own, but magical paired with a spice crusted pork steak!