Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Viña Morandé, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Viña Morandé Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020

At long last, our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is drawing to a close. It has been a long, hot summer here in NorCal, but we persevered with the help of these crisp, refreshing white wines. It’s been fun reaching into the wine chiller and randomly grabbing one of the bottles. Sadly, this time when we opened the door, there was only one Chilean Sauvignon Blanc left. The final wine for this series is the Viña Morandé Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

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

Pablo Morandé is a visionary, and reputed to be the first to plant grapes in the Casablanca Valley in the 1980s. He founded Viña Morandé in 1996 to further his vision for the future, and showcase the varied and diverse terroirs of Chile. Among other innovations, Viña Morandé launched a high-density planting program, with up to 10,000 vines per hectare. High-density planting allows growers to take better advantage of soil moisture and solar energy. In addition, Viña Morandé utilizes concrete eggs for fermentation, and large, oak foudres for aging. The result is high-quality wines that highlight the diversity of the Chilean terroirs.

With that, on the Autumnal Equinox marking the end of summer, we introduce the final wine in our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

Viña Morandé Gran Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Pale straw color. Nose of citrus and tropical fruit. On the palate, lemon zest, quince, pineapple, mango, white grapefruit, and notes of straw and hay. Light body with tart acidity and a medium finish.

We hope you have enjoyed following along on the journey through our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. If you have the chance to try this wine, or any of the others in this series, please leave a comment to let us know how you liked them.


  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Casas del Bosque, Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Casas del Bosque La Cantera Sauvignon Blanc 2020

At long last, we are moving out of 100°+ temperatures, and can see autumn on the horizon. There’s even rain in the forecast for today! But we still have a few more days of summer, so our journey continues! The penultimate wine in our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is the Casas del Bosque La Cantera Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

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

Casas del Bosque is located in Las Dichas, on the extreme west of the Casablanca Valley. The winery was founded in 1993 by the Cúneo family. The estate takes it name from the ancient pine forests, olive trees, and small adobe houses in the area. Casas del Bosque roughly translates to “Forest Houses.”

Casas del Bosque has 89 hectares under vine, planted with cool climate varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. They also source Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere from vineyards in Maipo, Colchagua and Cachapoal.

In addition to their passion for crafting fine wines, Casas del Bosque also promotes the region through wine tourism. They offer a wide range of tasting and tour options, including a harvest experience and bicycle tours, and also operate three restaurants, ranging from vineyard-centric casual, to gastronomic fine cuisine.

The western location of the vineyards are the coolest in the Casablanca Valley, which help promote excellent conditions for crisp Sauvignon Blanc wines. The name, La Cantera, is derived from an old granite quarry and the red clay soils in the area. The vines are planted in these rich soils, providing fresh minerality and structure.

Casas del Bosque La Cantera Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Soft golden color. Aromas of pineapple, citrus, and straw. On the palate, lemon lime, pineapple, quince, fresh cut grass, and a healthy dose of cat pee. The wine is light bodied, with vibrant acidity, yet a surprisingly soft, smooth mouthfeel. Long, citrus and tropical fruit finish. Perfect pairing with fish tacos.

Another fantastic Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy the waning days of summer. We hope you have the opportunity to try this wine. If you do, please let us know how you liked it by leaving a comment.


  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Matetic Vineyards, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020

We’ve made it past Labor Day Weekend in the United States, the unofficial end of summer. Yet it seems Mother Nature didn’t get the memo this year! We’ve just survived a record-setting heatwave in Northern California, with temperatures in the 110° to 115° range this past week. Thank goodness for dry, crisp, refreshing white wines. Remember, summer doesn’t actually end until September 22! As we continue our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, we cracked and enjoyed the Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020.

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

Matetic Vineyards has it roots in Eastern Europe. The patriarch of the family business, Jorge Matetic-Celtinja emigrated to Chile in 1892, from a town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire that is now Rijeka, Croatia. He settled near the southern tip of Chile, in Punta Arenas. Fast-forward more than 100 years to 1999, when Jorge’s descendants planted vines in the Rosario Valley, in Casablanca, becoming pioneers in cool-climate viticulture in the region. The EQ line of wines was born with the first harvest in 2001. Grape varieties in that year included Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah.

The Matetic family wasted no time in embracing organic and biodynamic farming practices, beginning that transition the very next year, in 2002. Certification was achieved in 2004.

The winery itself opened in 2003 and features a beautiful blend of modern architecture with the use of natural wood and stone from the nearby region. Environmentally friendly with gravity flow, the winery continues the sustainable tradition. Matetic Vineyards also built a boutique hotel, La Casona, which opened in 2004, and ushered in a commitment to wine tourism in the area.

The vineyards for this Sauvignon Blanc are planted just 3 ½ miles from the coast, in granite-rich soils. Cool mornings and sunny afternoons contribute to ideal growing conditions, resulting in fresh, crisp wines. As always, the proof is in the bottle!

Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020

Golden straw color. The nose is pineapple and citrus. On the palate, flavors of pineapple, lemon, lime, and quince, with notes of mango, passion fruit, and grass. Light body with zesty acidity, yet quite easy drinking. Great with seafood and also nice sipping on its own.

The Matetic Vineyards EQ Coastal Sauvignon Blanc 2020 is a fantastic representation of the unique terroir that Chile has to offer. We thoroughly enjoyed this wine, and are confident that you will, too! If you try it, please let us know in the comments what you think of it.


  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Sauvignon Blanc, Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, Viña Koyle, Wine

Summer of Chilean SB: Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Our Summer of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc rolls on! We may never grow tired of these tasty, racy wines, and are ever grateful for them on what has been a summer for the record books with more than 35 days over 100°! Next up on our journey is the Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021.

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

The people at Koyle Family Vineyards sound like our kind of people. Their tag-line on their home page is “A Great Family – Wine Runs Through our Veins”. Koyle Family Vineyards history spans six generations, beginning with Don Francisco Undurraga Vicuña in 1885. It was he who imported vines from France and Germany and plant them in Chile. The original winery was named Viña Undurraga, in 1903, became the first Chilean winery to export wines to the United States.

The Koyle Family Vineyards name was born in 2006, after Alfonso Undurraga and his son Cristóbal began planting grapes on the rocky slopes of the Andes Mountains, in Alto Colchagua. Three years later, in 2009, Koyle Family Vineyards began the process of becoming biodynamic and working with the International Demeter Biodynamic Federation. Their mission is to create wines that respect their origin and highlight the terroir of the region.

The Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021 is an exceptional wine that certainly expresses the character of the Chilean region. The grapes are from vineyards located just five miles from the sea, in granite soils rich in quartz and clay. The wine is sur-lie aged for four months to soften the natural, sharp acidity.  

Viña Koyle Costa La Flor Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Golden straw color. On the nose, citrus, tropical fruit, and cat pee. On the palate, flavors of big notes of quince, with lemon zest, pineapple, pear, white peach, grass, and minerals. Dry with tart acidity and a medium finish.

If you like a zesty, racy, puckery Sauvignon Blanc, this is the wine for you! It was super refreshing as we tried to cool down from another scorcher. If you try it, please let us know what you think by leaving a comment.


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


  • 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!


  • 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!


  • 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:

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.


  • 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.


  • By Kent Reynolds and 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. 


  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds (except where noted and credited.)