Tag Archives: 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

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

Firriato Wines: Showcasing what Sicily has to Offer

What comes to mind when you hear the words: “Italian WIne”? Our guess is that most people immediately think of regions like Chanti, Piemont, or Veneta, or grapes like Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, or Barbera. Some with broader wine experience may go to Barolo or Montepulciano; Dolcetto or Nero d’Avola. Yet not many, in our estimation, think of Sicily and the lesser-known grapes native to that volcanic island. We certainly didn’t. Until recently. 

Not long ago, we received an email inviting us to join a virtual tasting of wines from Firriato, a winery that has been making wine in Sicily since 1978. Always up for an adventure, we accepted the invitation. Alas, the day of the Zoom call, we were traveling and unable to attend, but our hosts graciously provided three samples nonetheless, and agreed to send us the presentation. 

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

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, located just off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot.” The island is home to Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. With frequent eruptions, including the current activity which has been ongoing since February, 2021, the volcano creates obvious challenges, but also opportunities for the residents of Sicily. The resulting volcanic soils on the island are perfect for viticulture and producing stunning wines. 

Vineyards on Sicily range in elevation from sea level on adjacent Favignana island, to 1,200 meters (nearly 4,000 feet) on Mount Etna. This provides varied growing conditions in terms of soil content and climate. There are 80 native grape varieties, with just 13 available to vinify according to Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) regulations. 

The name Firriato is derived from a western Sicilian term, used to define the area closest to the house. This is a well protected area, where the most valuable crops are planted. Firriato can be loosely compared to the French term “Clos”, meaning closed or walled. 

Firriato was established by Salvatore Di Gaetano, who recognized the opportunity to produce high-quality wine on the island. Today, the company has 470 hectares (approximately 1,160 acres) of vineyards, all of which are certified organic. The company portfolio includes seven estates, located in all three major growing regions in Sicily; Favignana Island, the hilly Trapani Countryside, and of course, Mount Etna. They produce a range of wines under nine different labels. 

Access to such diverse growing areas means Firriato can capitalize on the varied soil conditions. The soils on Favignana Island are composed of biocalcarenites (containing fossils) of the quaternary period, which impart saline and balsamic qualities to the wines. In the Trapani Countryside, red marlstones and calcareous-clay soil lends itself to elegant and full bodied wines. And as expected, Mount Etna has young sandy soils of basaltic origin, which produce bold, full bodied wines with mineral characteristics. 

In addition to the commitment to certified organic farming, Firriato was the first Zero Impact winery in Italy, achieving certification as carbon neutral. Their commitment to the environment does not stop there. As part of their progress toward attaining carbon neutral certification, they started planting trees, which they have continued to do to this day. In fact, Firriato has an “adopt-a-tree” program. Click here to learn more and participate in this initiative!  

The wines we received as samples are from the La Sabbie Dell’Etna line, which as the name implies, are from grapes grown on the slopes of Mount Etna. Here, Firriato has 84 hectares (approximately 207 acres) under vine, ranging in elevation from 550-900 meters (1,800-3,000 feet.) Even within Mount Etna’s range, there are 12 distinct sub-zones, each with varying soil conditions. Included in the vineyards are some certified pre-phylloxera vines, growing on native rootstocks more than 150 years old. 

Each of the wines presented are from native grapes. The most exciting aspect of that for us (especially Kent, who has a passion for obscure and lesser-known grapes) is that we hadn’t heard of any of these varieties before! All of the wines featured are available for purchase at winesfromitaly.com.

La Sabbie Dell’Etna Etna Bianco 

Grapes: Carricante and Cattarato 

Pale straw color. On the nose, lemon, grapefruit, pineapple, and saline. Flavors of pineapple, citrus, pear, and minerals. Soft mouthfeel (sir lie aged) with medium body and bright acidity. A delicious wine. 

La Sabbie Dell’Etna Etna Rosato 

Grape: Nerello Mascalese

Pale peach/salmon color. Muted aromas of peach and saline, with a hint of earth. The palate is more pronounced with flavors of peach, strawberry, watermelon, raspberry, and minerals. Light body and fresh acidity with a clean finish. 

La Sabbie Dell’Etna Etna Rosso

Grapes: Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio 

Surprising. Clear, light garnet color with brick rim. On the nose, raspberry, cherry, clove, and smoke. On the palate, it has a very light body, but big flavors of black cherry, plum, stewed prune, raspberry, tobacco, leather, and hints of licorice and minerals. Very soft, with mild tannins and smooth acidity. Great pizza wine.

As our next European adventure, we had already been planning to visit Italy. After experiencing these wonderful wines from Firriato, we will be sure to add a few days in Sicily to our itinerary so we can visit Firriato and other wineries on the island. 

If these wines intrigue you, go to winesfromitaly.com to purchase. We are confident you will enjoy them as much as we did.

Cheers! 

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

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

Our Wine of the Week: Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018

Every once in a while, you score a wine that absolutely exceeds expectations. Our Wine of the Week this week is one of those wines. A few weeks back, Wine.com was having one of their red wine sales. Always on the prowl for bargains, we checked it out and, among a few others we purchased, we snagged a couple bottles of Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018

We are big fans of Barbera, but typically prefer bottles from Amador County in the Sierra Foothills, where Barbera grows exceptionally well. Barbera is one of the few varieties that we generally favor richer, fruit-forward New World versions over Old World. Maybe we just hadn’t found the right ones, but many of the Italian Barberas we’ve had have been rather thin and lacking, with acidity approaching excessive. Well, the Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018 was about to blow that stereotype right out of the water!

Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta has more than 1,000 years of history in the Piedmont region of Italy. The Incisa family ancestors settled there in the 11th century. In the 13th century, local monks leased land from the Incisa family to cultivate grapes, and by the 19th century, the Marchese Leopoldo Incisa della Rocchetta had become known in the region for his viticulture and winemaking. He was an early pioneer in experimenting with Pinot Noir plantings in Piedmont. Members of the family have expanded to Tuscany, where Sangiovese is king, but the Piedmont estate is still owned and operated by members of the Incisa della Rocchetta family. In the 1990’s the Marchesa Barbara Incisa della Rocchetta inherited and purchased the estate and continues operations to this day, producing wines from local native grape varieties like Barbera, Grignolino, Moscato d’Asti and Arneis, while continuing production of international varieties such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.

With such prestigious and long-standing wine making history, how can you go wrong? You can’t. The Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018 is a stunning, breath-taking wine. It really changed our minds about Old World Barbera. We opened our first bottle with grilled pork loin and the experience was euphoric. Recently, we brought our second bottle to a friend’s house for a homemade pizza night. With seven hungry (and thirsty) adults in the house, suffice it to say we opened more than one bottle of good wine that night. But the one that stood out, head and shoulders above all others, by unanimous decision of all present, was our Wine of the Week, Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018. It’s just that good. 

Garnet color. Aromas of blackberry bramble, plum, and spice. On the palate, black cherry, blackberry, plum, vanilla, white pepper, and earthy notes. Bone dry with medium tannins and bright acidity, perfect for food pairing and great with grilled pork loin or pizza. Or both, why not?

The Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta Valmorena Barbera d’Asti 2018 is available from Wine.com. As of this writing, it is on sale (still or again, doesn’t matter!) for just $16.99. Many other wines from Marchesi Incisa della Rocchetta are also available and worth trying! 

What was your wine of the week? 

Cheers!

  • Text and photos by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

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

Appetite for…Lobstah Rolls

We love living in California. The Golden State has much to offer, from majestic coastal headlands and towering Redwood forests on the North Coast, to sandy beaches in SoCal; vibrant cities, quaint small towns, and world class skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains. And, of course, wine. Lots and lots of wine. Where we live in Northern California, we are about a 90 minute drive, or less, to Napa, Sonoma, Lodi, and the Sierra Foothills. What more could you ask for? 

Lobster. 

Sure, California has some amazing seafood. In the shellfish department, crabs, clams, mussels, and oysters are fresh, plentiful, and delicious. And for those in the know, we do have the California Spiny Lobster off the Central and Southern coast, but we’re talking about a big, meaty, melt-in-your-mouth East Coast lobster, drizzled with melted butter; a culinary nirvana experience. Those lobsters just don’t live off the California coast. Modern transportation does allow freshly caught lobster to make it to California restaurants within a few hours of being pulled from the chilly Atlantic waters, but somehow it’s just not the same.

So recently, when we spent a week visiting family at the Jersey Shore, we jumped at the opportunity to satisfy our lobster craving. Or, as they say back East…lobstah! 

Not long after our arrival, cousin Mike told us, in no uncertain terms, that before we left, we absolutely had to go out with them for lobstah rolls. Not just any lobstah rolls, Connecticut style lobstah rolls. Now we’ve had lobster rolls in California, but they have been Maine style. What’s the difference? Glad you asked.

Maine style lobster rolls are, as Mike explained it, cold lobster salad drenched in mayonnaise, and served on a cold roll. Connecticut style rolls, on the other hand, are far superior, in Mike’s opinion. Connecticut style lobster rolls come out of the kitchen hot. They are simply chunks of lobster, seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning, served on a toasted roll, with melted butter to drizzle over the top just before devouring. 

So after a grueling day of relaxing on the beach, playing corn hole, and watching the dolphins swim by, we cleaned up and headed to Bum Rogers Crabhouse, in the town of Seaside Park, New Jersey. There were seven in our party, and the look on the server’s face was priceless when Mike gave her our order: seven Connecticut style lobstah rolls. Before the rolls came out, we started with steamer clams, mussels, and Old Bay shrimp. It was a real seafood-palooza! 

At last, the lobstah rolls arrived. It was make it or break it time. Would the rolls live up to all the hype and anticipation? 

Behold! The Lobstah Roll!
Those are some very happy Lobstah smiles!

Culinary ecstasy! Mike, you have made believers of us. We are Connecticut style lobstah roll fans for life! If all we can get are Maine style in California, we’ll settle. But now we know to ask our server, and whenever we can, we like ‘em hot! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Rahpael-Reynolds
  • Photos by Robyn Raphael-Reynolds and Mike Connors

Review: Suisun Valley Petite Sirah

Can we talk? 

Let’s get this out of the way up front. Petite Sirah and Syrah are not the same grape. They’re not even spelled the same. However, they do have a few things in common. Both are native to the Rhone,in France. Both go by different names in different parts of the world, most notably, Australia, where Petite Sirah is known as Durif, and Syrah is called Shiraz. What’s more, in 1996, genetic testing determined the Syrah is actually one of the parent varieties of Petite Sirah, the other being the nearly extinct grape, Peloursin

Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about Petite Sirah from Suisun Valley. What? Where? Wait, you’ve never heard of Suisun Valley? You’re not alone. But you’ll be hearing that name more and more as this up and coming region makes its mark on the wine world. 

Suisun Valley is located in Solano County, California, which is adjacent to Napa County. Suisun Valley is just a 30 minute drive southeast of Napa, and shares a similar climate with Napa. However, the soils here are more welcoming to what has become Suisun Valley’s signature grape, (drum roll, please): Petite Sirah. 

As a lesser known region, Suisun Valley lacks the notoriety, traffic, crowds, and high prices of its northern neighbor. Instead, small family farms, many of them generations old, dot the landscape. Tasting rooms, too, are family owned and offer a casual and inviting tasting experience. Suisun is also very accessible, just off I-80 in Fairfield, California. (If you’ve been to Napa via I-80, you’ve driven through Fairfield.) There are currently 12 wineries in the valley, with just 3,000 acres under vine. Sounds delightful, no? 

We had the opportunity to sample the wines from five Suisun Valley producers. The Suisun Valley Wine Co-op assembled this sample pack of 2 oz. tasters to tantalize our taste buds and leave us longing for more. It worked.  

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

  1. Caymus-Suisun Grand Durif Petite Sirah 2018

Inky purple color. On the nose, blackberry, plum, and black pepper. These continue on the palate, with “cabinet spice”, cedar, and tobacco. Full body with vibrant acidity and medium tannins. Long finish with black fruit, tobacco, smoke, and spice. 

  1. Mangels Vineyard Reserve Petite Sirah 2018

Bright purple color with a ruby rim, Nose of boysenberry, blackberry, and black cherry. On the palate, bing cherry, raspberry, and blackberry. Chalky texture and tannins, soft acidity, and a long finish of black and red fruit.

  1. Tenbrink Vineyards Estate Grown Petite Sirah 2016

Deep purple with a ruby rim. Nose of blackberry, green pepper, and jalapeno. On the palate, blackberry and cherry, with a surprise guest: black olive. Full body, edgy tannins, and medium acidity. Nice, long finish.

  1. Suisun Creek Winery Estate Grown Petite Sirah 2017

Inky purple color, with ruby rim. Nose of blackberry, stewed prune, and boysenberry. On the palate, black cherry, plum, and blackberry. Smooth tannins, medium acidity, and as expected, a rich, full body. Pleasing, smooth finish. 

  1. Wooden Valley WInery Lanza Family Petite Sirah 2018

Deep purple color. The nose is vegetal, with notes of blackberry and bramble. On the palate, bright blackberry, Marionberry, black cherry, jalepeno, and our new friend, black olive. Full body with drying, grippy tannins, bright acidity, and a long, smooth finish.

We enjoyed each of these samples, and it was very interesting to experience the diversity of style and character, considering each sample was the same grape, from the same small region. We look forward to the opportunity to visit Suisun Valley to taste more of the wines coming from this emerging region.

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Our Wine of the Week: Firestone Red Wine 2016

So much about this post is divergent from our usual notions and stereotypes about wine. Red wine in the summer? Certainly. Do you not drink Rosé in the winter? Oh, you don’t? Well, that’s a topic for another post. Our Wine of the Week being a budget-friendly, mid-week wine? Well, this just proves that good wine doesn’t have to break the bank. But the most surprising thing for us, is that our Wine of the Week this week is a…*gasp*…Red Blend from California. (Spoiler Alert: Wine Snobbery Geekery ahead.)

Don’t misunderstand. Many of the great wines of the world are red blends. Bordeaux? Red blend. Super Tuscan? Also a red blend. Côtes du Rhône? We’ve made our point. Nevertheless, stereotypes exist for a reason. California Red Blends have a reputation of being cheap, flat, and sweet; mass produced for the masses. And many of them are. And a lot of people like them. They just aren’t a style we typically prefer. To be fair, the Firestone Red Wine 2016 is from the designated Paso Robles AVA, so it isn’t technically a “California” Red Blend.

(Side note, designations matter. If you see “California” on the label, it means the grapes came from somewhere, anywhere in the vast state. The name of a county on a label means at least 75% of the grapes must come from that county, and if the wine carries a designated AVA name, it means 85% or more of the grapes came from that AVA. Why does this matter? Some regions have better growing conditions for certain grape varieties, a suggestion that the wine will showcase the characteristics of the terrier of the region, and be an overall better wine. Another topic for another blog post. We now return you to our regularly scheduled Wine of the Week blog.) 

Firestone Vineyard was the first estate winery established in Santa Barbara County. In the 1970’s, before even Napa had established worldwide acclaim, Leonard Firestone saw potential in the Santa Ynez Valley. (In case you are wondering, yes, Leonard is the son of Harvey Firestone, of Firestone Tires fame.) With 325 acres under vine, and a commitment to sustainable farming, Firestone produces an enticing portfolio of wines. Their red varieties include Bordeaux and Rhone grapes; Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah, while their whites vines are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer.

The Firestone Red Wine 2016 is a classic Bordeaux-style wine, composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. We found it at wine.com (currently on sale for $14.99.) Here’s what we thought of it:

Yes, stemless. Don’t Judge.

A smooth and easy drinking red blend. Garnet color. Nose of cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and smoke. On the palate, ripe raspberries, cherry, fresh blackberry, cherry cola, tobacco, spice, and smoke. Medium body, with dry tannins and bright acidity. Medium finish.

In addition to wine.com, Firestone Vineyard wines are available through the Foley Food & Wine Society website. 

What was your Wine of the Week?

Cheers! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Ron Rubin Wines

Our appreciation for Russian River Valley wines has been on the rise lately. We’ve been exploring and drinking more wines from this region, and have been quite impressed with the quality and the distinct character of the wines, winemakers, and winery owners. So naturally, when we were offered samples of two bottles from Ron Rubin Winery, in the Russian River Valley, we gladly accepted. 

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

The story of Ron Rubin Winery came to life in 2011, when Ron purchased a winery in the Green Valley neighborhood of the Russian River Valley. Ron got his start in the beverage industry at a young age, when as a child he would spend time in the warehouse of his family’s wholesale liquor company in Illinois. In 1971, Ron traveled to California to attend U.C. Davis to study viticulture and oenology. From this experience, and the exposure to the then-fledgling wine industry in California, Ron started to add California wines to the family portfolio. All this paved the way to his dream come true with the purchase of the Russian River Valley winery. 

After purchasing the winery, Ron renovated the facility and employed the ancient principles of Fung Shui. He converted the estate vineyards to sustainable farming practices. The winery is now SIP-certified and Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. The estate is planted to 6.5 acres of Pinot Noir and 2.5 acres of Chardonnay. Certainly not enough for Ron Rubin’s dream, so he also sources grapes from five other growers in the neighborhood.  

Ron Rubin calls himself a “beverage guy” and his experience proves this. Beyond wine and spirits, Ron has also distributed sparkling water and tea. In fact, he owns the Republic of Tea brand, which his son manages. His desire in winemaking is to produce affordable, high quality wines so people can enjoy “beautiful experiences.” He has a reputation of being unpretentious and welcoming, and has no interest in making high priced, exclusive wines. He wants people to be able to enjoy his wines for any occasion.  

The wines we received were Pam’s UN-Oaked California Chardonnay 2020, and the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018. Pam is Ron Rubin’s wife and first love. Like us, Pam has always preferred her Chardonnay to be unoaked, so he made it that way for her. We approve.  

Ron Rubin Winery Pam’s Unoaked Chardonnay 2020

Golden straw color. The nose is floral and pear/apple notes. On the palate, yellow apple, pear, and elderflower. Medium body with a creamy mouthfeel and medium-minus acidity. Just a hint of sweetness on the finish. Very easy drinking, a great summer sip, with a fresh finish. (SRP: $14.00)

Ron Rubin Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2018

Brick red with an amber rim. The nose displays ripe red fruit and smoke. On the palate, black cherry, plum, raspberry, and some stewed plum notes, followed by tobacco smoke, cedar, and baking spice. Medium-minus body, soft tannins, bright acidity, and a long finish of red fruit, vanilla, and spice. A nice, budget-friendly Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. (SRP: $25.00)

Ron Rubin Winery wines are available directly from the Ron Rubin Winery website. In addition to the Ron Rubin Winery line, the winery also produces the River Road line of wines, available at Total Wine & More stores. Be sure to give them a try! 

Cheers!

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