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

Our Wine of the Week: Bela Ribera del Duero 2017

We head back to Spain this week for our Wine of the Week. This time we are exploring Ribera del Duero. Though red wines from Ribera del Duero feature the same Tempranillo grape as the arguably more famous Rioja region, there are subtle differences between the wines from the two regions. Ribera del Duero is at a higher elevation, cooler climate, and receives less rainfall than Rioja. As a result, the grapes tend to be smaller, with thicker skins and a more concentrated flavor. With less stringent rules on aging, Ribera del Duero wines can be fresher and lighter, and less acidic, with bright fruit flavors. 

In our previous Wine of the Week from Spain, we reviewed Asúa Rioja Crianza 2016, part of the CVNE family of wines in Rioja. This week’s wine is a CVNE offspring, from Bela wines. Bela strives to emulate CVNE’s commitment to quality in Ribera del Duero. The official spec sheet explains the three stars on the Bela label represent the three children of CVNE’s founder, Sofia, Áurea, and Ramón. Sofia was known as Bela.     

 

In the United States, Bela Ribera del Duero is distributed by Arano USA. Their website shares a few historical details about Bela. The winery was built in 1999, and the 74 hectare vineyard planted in 2002. The Bela Ribera del Duero 2017 is 100% estate hand harvested Tempranillo. After fermentation, the wine spent six months in new French and American oak barrels, followed by one year in neutral oak. The care and attention to detail in the wine making process shows clearly in the resulting wine. 

Deep garnet color. Aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, vanilla, and baking spice. On the palate, blackberry, blueberry, cassis, plum, vanilla, and black pepper. Medium body with smooth tannins and fresh acidity. Soft and delicious, great with flank steak.

Next time you’re looking for a quality Spanish Tempranillo, give Ribera del Duero a try. The Bela Ribera del Duero 2017 is a shining example of what this region can produce. 

Cheers! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Domaine Bousquet Gaia Rosé 2020

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. 

(That’s hot! We were only out there long enough to snap these pics!)

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. 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Rahpael-Reynolds
  • Photo credit: Robyn Rahpael-Reynolds

Welcome to the Neighborhood: Tasting Through the Russian River Valley with Gary Farrell Wines

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. 

Image credit: Russian River Valley Winegrowers website

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 Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay – Laguna Ridge
  • 2017 Rochioli Vineyard Chardonnay – Middle Reach
  • 2017 Bacigalupi Vineyard Pinot Noir – Middle Reach
  • 2017 Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir – Green Valley
  • 2017 McDonald Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir – Sebastopol Hills
  • 2017 Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir – Santa Rosa Plains
Ready to taste!
(Behind the scenes at Appetite for Wine: yes, those are yoga blocks!)
That’s a lot of corks for 11 am!
Why are those glasses empty?

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. 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Robert Hall Paso Red 2018

As many people already know, Paso Robles is trending in the wine world. Many consider it the next up-and-coming wine region; an underrated hidden gem. Despite all this, we regrettably have not explored the wines of Paso Robles much, and have never been wine tasting there. There are many good wineries in Paso Robles, and our friends who have been have given us dozens of recommendations. As happens every so often…so often it can seem a little creepy…we had been discussing Paso Robles with some friends not long ago, and the very next day we received an email offering us a sample of Robert Hall Paso Red 2018, from Paso Robles. After tasting the wine, our resolve to get to Paso, and soon, was dramatically intensified.

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

Robert Hall was a successful businessman in St. Paul, Minnesota. After developing a taste for wine, he made his way west and founded his namesake winery in the heart of Paso Robles wine country. From the beginning, winemaker Don Brady has been leading production of a portfolio that now includes more than a dozen wines. 

The Robert Hall Paso Red 2018 is a multi-award winning blend of grapes from all 11 sub-AVAs in the Paso Robles region. It is a wine that truly captures the essence of Paso Robles. Petite Sirah (43%), Syrah (21%),and Zinfandel (19%) drive the blend, supported by Petit Verdot (10%), and splashes of Grenache and Mourvedre filling it out. Sounds pretty good to us!

A rich, big, bold red blend. Vibrant deep purple color. The nose is filled with ripe black fruit: blackberry, boysenberry, and Marionberry, with smoky notes. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, plum, tobacco, baking spice, and black pepper. Full bodied, with fine, smooth tannins and ample acidity. The finish is long with black fruit and spice. Excellent with baby back ribs.

Truth be told, we’ve found a lot of California Red Blends to be on the jammy side. When we tasted the Robert Hall Paso Red 2018 with our ribs, we thought it would be a bit jammy without food. Yet this wine is so well structured it holds up after dinner as a very nice sipper. Beware: this big wine sports an ABV of 15.5%! But why would you drink a big, bold red like this without food anyway? The food enhances the wine, and the wine enhances the food. Yin. Yang. 

Did we mention the value quotient? Robert Hall Paso Red 2018 retails for just $20! You really need this wine in your life. It’s available at select retailers, or online at the Robert Hall Winery website. Try this, or any of the wines, and let us know what you think.

Cheers! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred: Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Our Wine of the Week: Chateau Haut-Rian Bordeaux Blanc 2019

In the world of wine, few words hold such mystique and reverence as Bordeaux. Classy, elegant, and refined are some of the terms we think of when imagining Bordeaux. Known for its bold, often pricy red blends based on Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Bordeaux is one of the most recognized names in wine. 

Yet not everything in Bordeaux is pricy, nor is everything red. Our wine of the week is a light, crisp, tasty white blend: Chateau Haut-Rian Bordeaux Blanc 2019. This wine is a blend of 60% Sémillon and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, and is juicy and refreshing. It’s also affordably priced at just $10.99 at wine.com.

Chateau Haut-Rian is a family-owned winery with 85 hectares of vineyards, located along the Garonne River. Their white grapes are grown in the Entre-Deux-Mers region, about 12 miles inland from the river. The clay-limestone soil in the area is ideal for growing Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Chateau Haut-Rian is committed to sustainable farming practices, and has earned the distinction of being Terra Vitis, Haute Valeur Environnementale, and Bee Friendly Certified.

So how’s the wine? We opened this to enjoy with a light meal of baked Sea Bass and green salad. We were duly impressed and look forward to trying some of Chateau Haut-Rian’s other wines.

Medium golden color. Aromas of citrus, pear, and apple. On the palate, flavors of lemon lime, grapefruit, pear, green apple, and minerals. Light body with bracing acidity that dances on the tongue. Zesty finish. Paired with sea bass, a perfect match.

What was your wine of the week?

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred:  Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Diora La Belle Fête 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir

Spring is upon us, and summer soon to follow, with warmer, sunny days, and the anticipation of backyard barbecues and lazy afternoons lounging poolside. As COVID restrictions continue to loosen, and we move beyond the dark days of pandemic lockdowns, we look forward to celebrating with friends and family. Not long ago, we received a sample wine that will be the perfect bottle to open for these parties: Diora La Belle Fête 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir.

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

La Belle Fête translates from French to “the beautiful party”, and what a beautiful party it will be with friends and family gathering to enjoy each others’ company, sharing stories and food, and of course tasty and refreshing wines like Diora La Belle Fête 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir. 

Diora winery is located in the San Bernabe AVA, in Monterey County. A lesser known region, San Bernabe AVA is made up of a single vineyard, planted to about 5,000 acres under vine, consisting of 21 different varieties of wine grapes. The soil composition is dominated by sandy loam, which drains water quickly, forcing the vines to dig deep to find sustaining water. The soil also cools rapidly in the evenings, helping to create wines with crisp acidity. 

The name Diora is inspired by the golden hills of the nearby Santa Lucia mountain range. The name is derived from the French term “d’Or”, which is translated to “golden.” Using the estate fruit from the family owned San Bernabe vineyard, winemaker James Ewart crafts wines of elegance and distinction. 

The Diora La Belle Fête 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir is made from 83.1% Pinot Noir, with a few friends joining the party to complement and enhance the host: 7.9% Grenache, 3.2% Chardonnay, and 5.8% Other Aromatics. The majority of the blend was fermented in stainless steel, but a small portion fermented in neutral oak to add just a hint of creaminess. The result? Read on! 

An exquisite, elegant Rosé of Pinot Noir. Pale pink color. Aromas of raspberry and strawberry. On the palate, red cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and a hint of watermelon. Dry, light bodied, with bright acidity. The finish carries the red fruit, with the addition of some orange zest and rose petal. Delicious.

With a retail price of $19.99, Diora La Belle Fête 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir is affordable elegance you will definitely want to share with others at your own Beautiful Party. You won’t find Diora wines in your big box retailer, but they are worth seeking out. You can search on the Diora winery website for the restaurants and small retailers carrying the label, or purchase online through the Delicato Family Wines Tasting Room site. Either way, your party will be even more beautiful with a few bottles of Diora La Belle Fête 2020 Rosé of Pinot Noir.

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred: Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Our Wine of the Week: Vriniotis Winery IAMA White 2018

As the days grow longer and warmer, our thoughts turn to crisp, refreshing, white wines. Who are we kidding? We enjoy white wines all year round! But the onset of spring brings a sense of newness, hope, and anticipation. We look forward to shorts and t-shirts, summer vacations, and afternoons on the patio with friends and a good glass of chilled white wine. 

Wine can also evoke memories, and this week’s Wine of the Week did just that. Though we did not visit Vriniotis Winery during our Big Fat Greek Honeymoon, we did fall in love with Greek wine, and every bottle we open brings us back to that trip. Keeping with the theme of warmer weather, summertime also reminds us of the warm days on the Greek islands, and our time at the beach on the Aegean Sea. 

We picked up this bottle of Vriniotis Winery White 2018 from Uncorked Greeks. Vriniotis Winery has become one of our favorite producers of Greek wine, and Uncorked Greeks carries a wide selection of their wines. The White 2018 is a blend of two indigenous Greek grapes, Malagouzia and the more widely known Assyrtiko. Malagouzia was nearly extinct until 1983, when winemaker Evangelos Gerovassiliou planted the variety in his vineyard at Epanomi. The grape is often blended with the lighter Assyrtiko to provide body.

 Vriniotis Winery is located in the town of Gialtra, on the island of Evia (also known as Euboea), overlooking the North Eviokos Gulf, about three hours north of Athens. They are a family owned winery, with 100 acres under vine, and absolutely stunning views. Check out their gallery on their website! We need to go there! Until then, we can enjoy the wines at home. 

Outstanding Greek white blend. Golden color. Aromas of pear, citrus, floral notes, and the saline nose we appreciate about Greek wines. On the palate, citrus, green apple, pear, and tropical fruit, with that saline and minerals. Medium body with fresh acidity. Perfect with garlic shrimp or any other seafood dish.

We look forward to the day when travel restrictions have eased, and we can once again move about the planet. We have many new places we want to visit, but Greece is definitely on our return-visit list!

What was your Wine of the Week?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred: Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Salengo Grenache 2018 – A Winemaker’s Dream

Sometimes, the search for fine wine is like an expedition; studying wine reviews like they were scouting reports, patiently stalking the aisles of the wine shop, asking the advice of the local guide (wine shop staff), and occasionally checking in with your fellow hunters to see how they’ve done. 

Other times, it lands on your doorstep, unannounced and unexpected. So it was when the UPS driver left a distinctive, single-wine-bottle-sized package on the porch a few weeks ago. Upon opening, we discovered a bottle of Salengo Grenache 2018, with its beautiful watercolor art label, and a note indicating the wine was sent at the request of friend and wine broker, Bill Tobey.

We’d never heard of Salengo, but fortunately the box also included a spec sheet, and bio of winemaker Nicole Salengo. In addition, we reached out to Nicole via email, and she was gracious enough to answer a few questions and fill in some additional detail. 

The Salengo Grenache 2018 is from Yolo County. Wine lovers may be familiar with wines from Clarksburg…a designated AVA also in Yolo County. Yolo County is in the Sacramento Valley, just west of Sacramento. Its bordering counties include Solano to the south, and Napa and Lake Counties to the west, all known for quality grape and wine production. The fruit for the Salengo Grenache 2018 comes from the Coble Ranch in Winters. 

Nicole Salengo is the winemaker at Berryessa Gap winery in Winters. She has nearly 20 years of wine industry experience, including time in Napa and New Zealand. With the release of the Salengo Grenache 2018, Nicole is realizing her long-term dream of having her own label. 

The first thing we noticed when we looked at the bottle was the very light color of the wine, noticeable even through the green glass. We are big fans of Grenache, and have had many Grenache wines from numerous regions, but had never seen one this light in color. During our initial email exchange, Nicole said her goal was to model the wine in a Châteauneuf-du-Pape style; light and elegant, yet complex, and with lower alcohol.

In Nicole’s bio, and on the back label on the bottle, there is reference to Nicole’s origins from New England. We were intrigued by this, partly because Robyn is from Boston, and partly because one doesn’t often think of New England heritage when discussing wine. So after we tasted the wine (more on that in a minute), we reached out to Nicole again with some follow-up questions. In reply, she said she was born in Vermont and graduated from high school and college in upstate New York. Not Boston, but cose enough! 

Beyond that, Nicole responded to our other questions…(warning: wine review spoiler alert!)

AfW: What brought you from New England to Northern California? Other than the weather, of course.

NS: You said it…the weather! I don’t like being cold!

I would call it ‘opportunity’. I’ve always been driven and when I was 8, I told my mom I wanted to move to California. I wanted to go to college here but that didn’t work out so I moved here after college. I had an aunt and uncle living in Davis and they offered to let me come stay with them. So the same year I graduated from college, I had $1,000 and a suitcase (almost like a dollar and a dream) and got on the plane to Sacramento. The rest is history. Once I was here, I worked in a lab and eventually quit to work in a wine shop. That’s where I learned about wine, and then was hired at my first winery. I went back to school at UC Davis for the Winemaking Certificate.

AfW: Your wine is exceptionally light and elegant. What was your process? Length of skin contact, stainless vs oak, oak selection and aging? 

NS: Thank you. I try to allow for the variety and place where it’s grown express itself. Grenache is like Pinot Noir in that you can have a lighter expression or a darker, heavier expression. It also has a tendency like Zinfandel to creep up in sugar content once it’s in the fermenter (something I want to avoid). So I wanted to pick it earlier than other red varieties to maintain the acid profile and a lower alcohol level. Other things that I think contributed to the lightness and elegance of this wine are the way it was farmed and the area it was farmed in. 2018 was a year with a large crop so we had more fruit. So all of the energy of the vine was distributed among more grapes resulting in lighter color. In addition, the grapes are from the Coble Ranch Vineyard in Winters (owned and farmed by Berryessa Gap) where it has a warm, Mediterranean climate. Warm weather creates less anthocyanins (color compounds) and can result in lighter-colored wines. Both of these factors contribute to how light and elegant the wine turned out.

I visited the South of France (Châteauneuf du Pape) when I first was starting this project and had the most amazing 100% Grenache: light in color and body with nuanced complexities that really made you think about the wine and every sip was a different experience. My Grenache is modeled after that beautiful wine I tasted out of the barrel in France. I remember thinking that it was the perfect wine. And it liked that it wasn’t showy, it was just being itself, something I strive to do in life. In other words, the wine really spoke to me and created inspiration. The grapes in that French wine were grown on similar soils that give it a nice minerality, so that’s what is creating much of the texture (rather than the skins or barrel) of the wine. The Salengo Grenache was aged in old, neutral barrels so I think that also contributes to the lightness of the wine as well and allows for the fruit to be accentuated. Also the light color: as a young red wine ages, it reacts with the oxygen getting into the wine through the oak staves in the barrel and the wood tannin which can help to stabilize color. This wine was aged in very old barrels, that kept the color light too.

The juice was on the skins for about two weeks, just enough time to ferment but not get any over-extraction. We performed manual punch-downs twice a day, pressed it and aged it for 18 months in neutral oak, as mentioned. The wine really blossomed as it was aging and it was so exciting to taste it along the way to see it open up and release all of these yummy flavors.

AfW: How long have you been making wine? Where did you start, history? 

NS: This year will be my 17th harvest. It’s basically been a process of elimination and me trying to prove people wrong and find a career that keeps my attention. I’m hard-headed and have a good palate which has a lot to do with why I’m making wine. It’s been a lot of hard work, and sometimes I try too hard and have too high of expectations and it makes me discouraged but it’s a fabulous combination of art, science, tradition with possibility of great things in the future. That is why I’m a winemaker.

The whole story is I worked at a Belgium-style brewery in college which started to develop my palate. I always had an interest in science, particularly chemistry and geology. I was made wine buyer at a wine shop which expanded my palate significantly when I was an age where I couldn’t afford fine wines. Then, I was hired at a start-up winery and discovered my love for making wine. I fell in love with it the first day of my first harvest. I went back to school, got promoted to assistant winemaking positions, did harvests in Napa and New Zealand and was hired as head winemaker at Berryessa Gap in 2013. I’ve now worked with over 50 varieties and have fulfilled my dream of having my own label. It’s a very fun industry to be a part of.

AfW: What is your wine story? That first bottle that got you hooked? 

NS: The wine I referenced earlier has been a part of my inspiration to want to make wine.  This is going back to my early twenties when I was a wine buyer. It was a bottle of 1995 Chateau Rayas, Pignon. That wine is 100% Grenache like mine and it’s the same winery I referenced above where I serendipitously saw the small rusty sign while in the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 2016. I was by myself and didn’t speak French but after an afternoon of waiting, I had a tour with the winemaker Emmanuel Reynaud and tasted the 2015 Pignon from barrel.

I also recall tasting some really amazing Pinot Noirs from Willamette that really moved me early on. Then some Tempranillos form the Ribera del Duero that were really amazing. There are lots of great wines out there and I just love the ones that take you to a place. There are times when I taste a wine and I almost feel transported to that region where it was grown and made, those are the very special ones for me, the ones that take you on a mini-vacation and get your imagination going. You know a truly great wine when you taste it, so I just keep tasting.

So it turns out that New England isn’t the only bond we have with Nicole. Kent’s start in wine was with a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir; from St. Innocent. Turns out Nicole knows St. Innocent, too, and loves their wines. It’s always good to make new wine-friends!

So what about the wine? Very impressive! It’s a wine that gets better with each sip. Honestly, it’s a wine for wine geeks, like us, but not for everybody. We have a number of wine friends who favor jammy fruit bombs. Salengo Grenache 2018 is not that wine. It is a sophisticated wine with layers of complexity. Here’s our review: 

Very pale ruby color, with an almost tawny port rim. The nose is unique, with subtle raspberry and red cherry notes, with dusty, earthy notes. On the palate, raspberry and cherry, cherry cola, and licorice notes, with hints of smoked meat and black pepper. Tannins are soft and smooth. Bright acidity, excellent balance, and a medium finish of red fruit and a bit of licorice. We paired with brats, which complemented nicely and drew out even more earthiness. This is a very sophisticated wine that grows on you the more it opens up! 

Are you ready to try an out-of-the box Greneache? You can find Salengo Grenache 2018 online at the Berryessa Gap Winery website. Of course, if you’re in NorCal, please stop by the winery and give it a try. Tell Nicole that Kent and Robyn sent you! 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred: Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Our Wine of the Week: Silverado Vineyards Vineburg Chardonnay 2019

It’s good to have good neighbors. Our neighbors helped us get through the COVID-19 pandemic, by joining with us in our front yards for socially distanced happy hours, and sharing the bounty of backyard gardens. It’s even better, though, to have good neighbors who work at a winery, especially when that winery is one of Napa’s internationally recognized producers! 

We have that neighbor, and he works at Silverado Vineyards. So naturally, when Adam and his wife Kim attend our socially distanced happy hours, there’s always some Silverado wine. In addition, Adam is always appreciative when we bring his family tomatoes, peaches, peach cobbler, peach pie (yes, we have two prolific peach trees in our backyard), and lemons, lemon bars, and lemon pound cake. (Yup, a high-yielding lemon tree, too.) So appreciative is he, that when we deliver the goods, Adam invariably and generously reciprocates with a bottle of…you guessed it…Silverado Vineyerds wine. During a recent exchange, we came home with a bottle of Silverado Vineyards Vineburg Chardonnay 2019

Silverado Vineyards is a family-owned winery, established in 1981 by Ron and Diane Miller, and Diane’s mother, Lillian Disney. Yes, that Disney. Walt Disney was Diane’s father. As one might expect, Silverado Vineyards is located on the Silverado Trail, on the eastern side of the Napa Valley, in the Stags Leap District. For years before founding the winery, the family had sold their grapes to other wineries in the area. As the winery grew in production and reputation, the family acquired additional vineyards, including the Vineburg Vineyard in 2000.   

We are pretty particular with Chardonnay. We are not fans of the big, butterball, in-your-face oaky style. We prefer unoaked or lightly oaked Chardonnay. Silverado Vineyards Vineburg Chardonnay is just that, lightly oaked, and the 2019 vintage is outstanding. It’s a Chardonnay for the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) crowd, and just the thing to pair with roasted lemon-garlic chicken!

Pale straw color. The nose is subtle, with pear, yellow apple. and citrus. On the palate, Bartlett pear, apple, lemon lime, and hints of tropical fruit. Medium body and acidity, with fresh tree fruit and just a hint of toast on the finish.

Thank you, Adam! 

What was your wine of the week?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photo cred: Robyn Raphael-Reynolds