Carmenere, Chile, Chilean Wine, Sample, Wine

An Accidental Carménère

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Amador County, La Mesa Vineyards, Shenandoah Valley, Wine, Wine Tasting

A Tasting Room with a View: La Mesa Vineyards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

Flagship Wines from Flora Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flora Springs Soliloquy 2020

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

(SRP $50)

Flora Springs Trilogy 2019 

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

(SRP $85)

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

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

A Taste of Alentejo with Herdade do Esporão

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whites

Colheita Branco 2020 (SRP $18)

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

Reserva Branco 2020 (SRP $20)

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

Reds

Colheita Tinto 2018 (SRP $18)

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

Reserva Reserva Tinto 2018 (SRP $25)

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

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

Felicidades! 

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

Bubbles from Argentina!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Amador County, Iron Hub Winery, Semillon, Sierra Foothills, Wine

An Amazing Find: Iron Hub Sémillon 2018

It’s no secret that we are big fans of Amador County wines. Located in the Sierra Foothills AVA, about an hour east of Sacramento, Amador County is home to more than 40 wineries. While we haven’t yet visited them all, that is a goal we hope to eventually achieve! Of those we have visited, one of our favorites is Iron Hub Winery. Their striking tasting room is perched atop a hill with sweeping views of the valley and distant Sierra Nevada mountains. Seated tastings on their patio are some of the most relaxing and enjoyable we have experienced. 

Iron Hub Winery was established by Tom and Beth Jones. Tom was the founding winemaker at Lava Cap Winery, in neighboring El Dorado County, In his almost 30 years there, Tom helped Lava Cap to become an award winning, locally renowned winery. In 2014, Tom and Beth purchased the property that would become Iron Hub Winery, and with their son, Spencer, began a new chapter with a winery of their own. 

The name Iron Hub came about when Tom, on a rejuvenating excursion in the mountains of Northern California, discovered an antique wagon wheel hub. Amador County has a rich, Gold Rush history, and many settlers arrived via wagon. The wagon wheel hub was hand-forged iron, a lost art in today’s frenetic world. Thus, the name Iron Hub was born, because, well they say it best on their website

The iron hub exemplifies the artistry and beauty of hand-forged tooling of days past. Tom and Beth named their new boutique winery on Steiner Road “Iron Hub” to reflect their joy of discovery and craftsmanship.

Of course, history and a beautiful tasting room don’t mean much, unless the wine is good. Let us assure you, Iron Hub Winery wines are good. Very, very good! We always come home with several bottles when we visit. One recent visit introduced us to what has become an Iron Hub favorite: their Sémillon 2018. We purchased multiple bottles, and are down to our last. 

Sémillon may be an unfamiliar grape variety to some. Sémillon is native to Bordeaux, France, and is best known as the grape used to craft the luxurious dessert wine, Sauternes. It is also used as a blending grape, playing second fiddle to Sauvignon Blanc in White Bordeaux wines. 100% varietal Sémillon has been relatively rare, but is becoming more common, at least in Amador County! We know of several wineries here that produce 100% Sémillon wines. The Iron Hub Sémillon 2018 is one of our favorites, an opinion shared by those wine-loving friends who have been fortunate to taste it with us. 

Exquisite and refreshing. Golden color. Aromas of honeysuckle and pear. On the palate, zippy acidity and flavors of pear, peach, honeydew melon, and apricot. Medium finish. 

This is a wine that is delightful to sip on it’s own, but also has the backbone and structure to pair with a variety of seafood or poultry dishes. And as one might expect, 2018 is sold out, but we look forward to other vintages! If you make it to Amador County, be sure to stop in at Iron Hub Winery. If you’re lucky, they’ll have some Sémillon in stock, and you can experience this amazing find, too!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
BoaVentura de Caires Winery, BoaVentura Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Livermore Valley, Wine

Our Wine of the Week: BoaVentura de Caires Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Blue Label 2012

One of the most magical things about wine its its ability to evoke memories and transport you to times and places far away. So it is with this week’s Wine of the Week. Three and a half years ago, we were invited to the Livermore Valley Barrel Tasting Weekend. For two days in March 2018, we visited several wineries and tasted lots of wine. (You can read about our adventures in the two-part series here and here.) One of the wineries we discovered on day one was BoaVentura de Caires Winery, or simply BoaVentura Vineyards. BoaVentura specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon, and it shows. As we reported more than three years ago, their wines stack up against Napa Cabernets at more than 3X the price! The day of our visit, we purchased this week’s Wine of the Week, the BoaVentura de Caires Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Blue Label 2012.

Does it surprise you that Livermore should produce such outstanding Cabernet Sauvignon? Well, it shouldn’t. During our research prior to our 2018 visit, we learned (and wrote) that Livermore Valley was instrumental in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon’s success. In fact, some 80% of Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in California can be traced back to clones developed at Concannon winery in Livermore in the 1960’s. And these clones can be traced back to the Concannon Mother Vine, imported from Château Margaux in Bordeaux, France, in 1893. So it makes sense that the wineries in the Livermore Valley would produce world class Cabernet Sauvignon. 

BoaVentura Vineyards was inspired by owner and winemaker Brett Caires’ grandfather, BoaVentura Baptiste de Caires, who had a passion for good wine. BoaVentura immigrated from the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1915, and settled in Oakland, California, not far from Livermore. Family meals always featured wine, and Brett soon developed his own passion. In 1999, he and wife Monique bought five acres of land in the Livermore Valley, and a dream became reality. 

The BoaVentura de Caires Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Blue Label 2012 is made from 100% estate fruit, all hand-picked by family and friends, as are the grapes for all of BoaVentura’s wines. BoaVentura produces five different Cabernet wines, color coded from Green Label to Maroon Label. The Blue Label is near the top of their lineup at number four. Don’t let that scare you, though. We paid just $59 for the 2012 vintage, and on their website, the price for the (sadly sold out) 2016 vintage is only $40! Not exactly daily drinker wine prices, but for a wine this good, we made an exception on a Tuesday night, to pair with our steak dinner.

Deep, opaque ruby color. On the nose Black cherry, black currant, and blackberry with hints of bell pepper and eucalyptus. On the palate, blackberry, black cherry, cassis, stewed plum, boysenberry, and blueberry, with vanilla and white pepper notes. Full body with smooth tannins and still-puckery acidity. Lively and fresh, drinking well now, yet with several more years of potential.

We are way overdue for another visit to the Livermore Valley. And though there are plenty of other wineries there that we haven’t yet visited, we’ll definitely be paying a return visit to BoaVentura de Caires Winery when we go.

What was your wine of the week?

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Argatia Winery, Assyrtiko, Greece, Greek Wine, Haroula, Malagouzia, Wine of the Week

Our Wine of the Week: Argatia Winery Haroula 2016

Two years ago this week, we were on our honeymoon in Greece, so it seems appropriate that our Wine of the Week is a Greek wine. During our 12 days in Greece, we visited four different wineries; two on Santorini, and two on Crete. If you haven’t tried Greek wine, you really must. We have encountered few wine regions that showcase the unique, local terroir than those in Greece. A word of caution, however. Greek wine production is still relatively small, or should we say, boutique. Most of the bottles you find in mega-mart wine stores are mass produced and not the best quality. To find the best Greek wines, check a local, independent wine shop, or head over to the Internet. Sites such as Uncorked Greeks, Diamond Wine Importers, and Wine.com carry a wide range of high quality Greek wines that we wholeheartedly recommend. We found our Wine of the Week, the Argatia Winery Haroula 2016, at Uncorked Greeks. 

Argatia Winery was founded in 2000 by Panagiotis Georgiadis and Dr. Haroula Spinthiropoulou. The name Argatia is derived from the concept of “cooperation for the achievement of a common purpose”, which is very important in Greek agriculture. The founders combined their knowledge of science with their love of wine to create high quality wines from indigenous Greek grapes. The winery is located in the town of Rodohori, in the Naoussa region of the northeastern Greek mainland. 

The Haroula 2016 is a white blend of two native grapes; 60% Malagouzia and 40% Assyrtiko. You may be familiar with Assyrtiko, which is arguably the most famous Greek white wine grape and the signature grape of Santorini. These two grapes combine in this wine as proof that sometimes, when opposites get together, they can create a magical partnership. Assyrtiko is known for its acidity and minerality, while Malagouzia (also spelled Malagousia) offers aromatics and a balanced, citrus and peach fruit profile. The blend of the two results in a wine of finesse and character, that’s just darn good! 

Argatia Winery Haroula 2016

Deep golden color. The aromas take us back to Greece: pear, citrus, and saline. On the palate, ripe pear, apricot, lemon zest, and citrus, with minerals on the finish. Medium-minus body with fresh acidity. Delicious with grilled fish tacos.

One of the things we love about Greek wine is that even their whites are age-worthy. Did you catch that this was a 2016? Not too many five year old whites from the U.S. are worth drinking, but this wine is in its prime! 

Be sure to check out some good Greek wine, and let us know what you think. 

What was your wine of the week? 

Yamas! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Monterey County, Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands, Wine, Wine of the Week, Wine Pairing

Our Wine of the Week: McIntyre Pinot Noir 2018

As the world slowly reopens, our commitment to support local is stronger than ever. Many of our local restaurants remained open for take-out and delivery, and helped sustain us throughout lockdown. One of our favorite locally-owned, independent restaurants is RANGE Kitchen & Tap. We wrote about RANGE back in 2018, not long after they opened, and the quality, service, and hospitality has only gotten better since then. 

We recently paid RANGE a visit for dinner, and happened upon this week’s Wine of the Week. Along with their regular menu, RANGE always has at least two specials: a Fresh Catch and a Game of the Week. On this particular day, the Fresh Catch was Pan Seared Scallops served over a bed of Mushroom Risotto, and the Game was Duck Breast with an Orange Glaze served with Braised Red Cabbage, Bacon Lardon, and Confit Bintje Potatoes. (Kent had to look it up afterward because he stopped listening after “Duck Breast!”) Robyn has had the Scallops before, and knowing how delicious they are, didn’t hesitate to order them again. 

With our decisions made on our entrees, the next challenge was wine pairing. Usually, finding a single bottle that will pair with both light seafood and a rich duck dish can be a real conundrum. However, in this case, the Mushroom Risotto served with the Scallops made the decision a bit easier. Perusing the wine list, Kent’s eyes fixed on the McIntyre Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands 2018. Our server concurred, and commented that of all the Pinot Noirs on the menu, this was her favorite with duck. Say no more.   

Chef Kevin never disappoints, and as expected, the food was exquisite (you’ll have to imagine the Scallops and Risotto since we somehow managed to forget to take a picture) and the wine pairing was perfect with both entrees. 

Deep garnet color. On the nose, smoky raspberry, bold red fruit and cherry, and plum notes. These carry to the palate, with flavors of raspberry, bing cherry, tobacco, leather, smoked meat, and baking spice. Integrated tannins, with smooth, medium acidity, medium body, and a long finish of ripe red fruit and black pepper.

McIntyre’s 60 acre Estate Vineyard was planted in 1973, making it one of the oldest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards in Santa Lucia Highlands. It is also one of the first vineyards in the region to be Sustainability In Practice (SIP) certified. As a smaller production winery, McIntyre wines are available at select restaurants and wine shops. If you come across them, try them! 

What was your wine of the week?

Cheers!

  • Text and photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds
Argentina, Domaine Bousquet, Samples, Tupungato, Virtual Tasting, Wine

Domaine Bousquet: Taking Winemaking to New Heights

We wrote about Domaine Bousquet not long ago, when we received a sample of their Gaia Rosé 2020. In that post, we wrote a little about the history of the Bousquet family and the creation of Domaine Bousquet in the Gualtallary Valley, high in the mountains in Argentina, and the fantastic wine. So naturally, we were honored when we were invited to a virtual tasting including discussions with Anne Bousquet, current proprietor of the winery, and Franco Bastias, the winery’s chief agronomist. (What’s an agronomist? An expert in the science of soil management and crop production. Now you know, too.) Of course, to be a virtual “tasting”, one must have wines to taste. We were pleased to receive as samples, six bottles of Domaine Bousquet wine.

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

In their presentation, entitled “Dishing the Dirt”, Anne and Franco discussed what makes the terroir of Domaine Bousquet so unique. Spoiler alert: The subtitle is “The secret is in the soil.” Anne started us off with some history of the land, family, and winery. 

In 1997, Anne’s father Jean Bousquet, moved from Carcassonne, in Languedoc, France, to the Gualtallary Valley, and purchased a plot of land that had never been cultivated. In this arid region, the driest wine growing region in the world, first things must come first, so in 1998, Jean Bousquet dug a 495 foot deep well for irrigation. Meanwhile, in 2002 as vineyards were taking shape, Anne and her husband, Labid Al Ameri, started to invest in the winery, while maintaining their non-wine-industry careers in Boston. The first vintage was released in 2005, and Labid joined full time in the sales department. By 2008, Anne was on board and she and her family relocated to Argentina. Jean retired in 2011, and Anne and Labid, and Anne’s brother, bought Domain Bousquet and assumed day to day operations. In the years since, production has increased, and in 2020, they sold approximately 7 million bottles of wine. 

Domaine Bousquet is planted to 618 acres of vines, all of which are organic. In fact, they received their organic certification in 2005, the same year as their first vintage was released. With Domaine Bousquet coming out of the gate as certified organic, they raised the bar for other growers in the region, from whom Domaine Bousquet would buy grapes, and many of them have achieved organic certification as well. In addition to organic, Domaine Bousquet has also achieved certifications as vegan and sustainable.

As good as organic, vegan, and sustainable is, Domaine Bousquet doesn’t stop there. They have launched a “360° Sustainability Commitment”. This includes supporting the community and the people who live in and around the town. This is a three-prong commitment: environmental, social, and economic. We’ve covered the environmental part. On the social and economic sides, Domaine Bousquet is certified “Fair for Life.” This certification is part of a fair trade and corporate responsibility commitment for global change for the better and helping others. As part of this, the winery supports several children’s homes in the area, and has donated more than $113,000 to help those in the community experiencing economic hardship and social exclusion. Those are some causes we can get behind and gladly support by purchasing Domaine Bousquet wines! 

Next, we met Franco. Franco’s energy and enthusiasm were immediately evident, and infectious. He gave us some geography lessons, then, in video segments, took us deep into the soil. Literally. 

The Uco Valley is comprised of three departments: Tupungato in the north, Tunuyan in the middle, and San Carlos in the south. Domaine Bousquet is located in Tupungato. This area of the valley was originally settled by Jesuit missionaries in the 17th century. By the early 1900’s, orchards, vineyards, and other crops were planted. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s, however, that the wine world started to take notice, as local producers started attracting attention to the region. 

The soils in Tupungato vary from rocky to sandy and silt, which flowed down from the Andes mountains. At these elevations, and with the harsh winters there, diurnal temperature swings of up to 59°F can occur, resulting in fresh, fruity wines. One of the other distinctive conditions are calcareous soils, containing concentrations of calcium deposits, which add to the unique character of the wines. 

In the video segments, Franco showed us cross sections of the soil conditions in soil pits, which are dug several feet deep directly adjacent to rows of vines. This was fascinating to see, as each of the wines featured have different soil conditions. As Franco walked us through the various soil pits, we tasted along with the wines. Isn’t that what it’s all about? 

Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Pale straw color. On the nose, apricot, peach, and pineapple. On the palate, pineapple, citrus, peach, and pear. Bracing acidity, yet very smooth with a soft finish. 

Domaine Bousquet Reserve Chardonnay 2019

A very unique and enjoyable Chardonnay. Golden color. Nose of pear, peach, and tropical fruit /mango. On the palate, a tropical paradise: pineapple, mango, with citrus, pear, and just a hint of butter. Creamy mouthfeel, with balanced, vibrant acidity. Medium plus body, with a citrus finish. 

Domaine Bousquet Reserve Pinot Noir 2019

Bright ruby color. Cherry, raspberry preserves, and white pepper on the nose. On the palate, juicy fruit flavors of raspberry, strawberry, and red cherry, with cedar, and spice. Light-to-medium body, soft tannins, bright acidity, and a medium red fruit finish. 

Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Deep garnet color with a ruby rim. Lots of classic Cab Sauv characteristics. Nose of blackberry, cassis, and black cherry. On the palate, black cherry, plum, black currant, blackberry, and cedar. Medium-plus body, integrated tannins, medium acidity, and a long finish of red fruit, baking spice, and pepper. Fresh & clean so the fruit really shines. 

Domaine Bousquet Gaia Cabernet Franc 2018

Inky garnet color. Funky, earthy nose, with red cherry and boysenberry. On the palate, ripe, juicy blackberry, boysenberry, blueberry, and hints of bell pepper and baking spice. Big, full body, with ripe tannins, medium acidity, and a long finish of dark fruit and black pepper and minerals. 

Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec 2018

Wow! Very soft and smooth. Deep purple with a garnet rim. Black cherry, plum, and blackberry on the nose. On the palate, ripe blackberry, black cherry, blueberry, and Marionberry, with hints of cedar, cocoa, and baking spice. Rich, full body with velvety tannins, medium acidity, and a long finish of black fruit and chocolate.

All of the wines are very well structured and balanced. With minimal oak influence, each wine allows the fruit to take center stage and shine. In the days following the virtual tasting, we enjoyed finishing the bottles with our meals. All are very food friendly, yet able to stand on their own as evening sippers. Did we mention value? The SRP for these wines is shocking; they all drink well above their price point! 

  • Domaine Bousquet Sauvignon Blanc 2021 / SRP $13
  • Domaine Bousquet Reserve Chardonnay 2019 / SRP $18
  • Domaine Bousquet Reserve Pinot Noir 2019 / SRP $18
  • Domaine Bousquet Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 / SRP $13
  • Domaine Bousquet Gaia Cabernet Franc 2018 / SRP $20
  • Domaine Bousquet Gran Malbec 2018 / SRP $25

We are very impressed with the wines that Domaine Bousquet is producing, and their commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. We definitely recommend you seek out these wines and enjoy them for yourself. 

Cheers!

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