Tag Archives: Wine

Movie Night with Harken Chardonnay

You really have to respect someone who stands on principle. Someone who knows what they like, and what they want. And when they can’t find it, they make it themselves. So it is with Harken Winery and their 2019 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. The folks at Harken were missing the big, buttery Chardonnays that were so popular a few years ago. But since many wineries have moved away from that style, and many consumers favoring the lighter, more fruit forward style of lightly-oaked or unoaked, big, buttery Chardonnay has become a little harder to find. So Harken decided…well, we’ll let them tell it themselves. From their website:

“We created Harken Chardonnay because we missed that rich, oaky taste of Chardonnays gone by. At some point, someone decided that those great toasty notes and buttery finish went out of style. We think that’s crazy. So we brought it back. Honoring the days when things were done right – including the art of winemaking.”

A while back, we received an offer to sample this wine. While we’re not generally big, oaky, buttery Chardonnay fans, we agreed to give it a try. The suggestion in the media release and accompanying sample pack was to enjoy Harken 2019 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay on a Movie Night! 

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

In the middle of a pandemic, with Shelter-in-Place still safety precautions still prevalent, an at-home movie night sounded like a great way to relax and enjoy some wine. (Though some movie theaters have opened, you won’t find us in one for some time to come.) 

The sample package was cleverly and expertly presented. When the box arrived, it was big enough for two bottles. Instead, as we excitedly unpacked the box, what we found was this:

Inside the movie-reel themed tin, they had provided me the only other thing we’d need: popcorn!

It’s been a busy summer, despite the restrictions and limitations of COVID-19. As you may recall from a previous post, or maybe from our Instagram feed, in the midst of all the crazy, we moved. Finally settled into our new home, we logged into Netflix to enjoy our Movie Night. 

Spoiler Alert: The wine was quite good! Though not our preferred style, it is a well made, balanced wine. Here’s our official Vivino tasting notes:

As advertised. Old school, full throttle, oaky, buttery, California Chardonnay. Rich golden color. On the nose, butter, oak, toast, pear, and apple. On the palate, more butter, caramel, toasted marshmallow, butterscotch, Bartlett pear, yellow apple, and hints of pineapple and citrus. Full body, creamy mouthfeel, medium acidity, and medium finish. Not exactly my style, but nicely balanced and a classic representation of buttery Chardonnay.

If you or someone you know enjoys the big, bold, full-bodied, unapologetically oaky, buttery style of Chardonnay, be sure to grab some Harken 2019 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (SRP $15). Pop some popcorn, log into Netflix or your favorite movie delivery option, settle in on the couch, and enjoy your own butter-based movie night. 

As an added bonus, now through September 30, 2020, you can enter to win one year’s worth of movies or a free movie credit. Harken Wines has partnered with FandangoNOW for this sweepstakes. No purchase necessary. Be sure to enter here for your chance to win!

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Book Review: What Varietal is That?

Who else has the COVID blues? I’m sure some have it worse than I do. My symptoms are a general melancholy, restlessness, and boredom. One would think that with all the extra time on my hands with shelter-in-place, I’d have more time to devote to this blog, and my social media platforms. However, contributing to my COVID blues is the inability to get out and explore, which results in a lack of content and creativity. How many times can you post a picture of a bottle of wine in the same dining room or boring backyard?   

Fortunately, not long ago I received an email from Darby Higgs, offering me a complimentary copy of his new book, What Varietal is That?  (Also fortunately, we recently moved – yes, mid-COVID – and our new house has a much nicer, park-like backyard, perfect for relaxing with a book and a glass of wine.)

The following book was provided by the author as a media sample for review. All reviews, descriptions, and opinions are my own. I received no additional compensation.

img_1603-1

What Varietal is That? is an informative and educational book detailing 86 major wine grapes from around the world. It’s a fairly short read, only 127 pages in all, but those pages pack a punch! Darby’s subtitle for the book is “A Beginner’s Guide to the Most Important Wine Grape Varieties”, but don’t let that fool you, or dissuade you if you don’t consider yourself a “beginner.” There are a lot of varieties listed that I’d never heard of! And I’m a proud member of the Wine Century Club, with well over 140 different varieties under my belt…or more accurately, in my belly!  

After a brief introduction, in which he takes on one of the most controversial topics in wine: “varietal” versus “variety”, along with some history and a dabbling into science, Darby gets to the heart of the matter. Starting with white grapes, the author details the country of origin, typical aromas and flavors, and food pairings, along with a description of the wines produced and the history of each grape. Conveniently organized in alphabetical order, the book is a worthwhile reference for wine students of any level. 

What Varietal is That? is available in digital format at Smashwords for just $6.99. You can also order a paper copy from Amazon

If you like What Varietal is That?, and enjoy Australian wines, check out Darby’s other book, Rare Ozzies: A Hundred Rare Australian Wine Varieties. In this one, Darby outlines 100 grapes used in Australian wine production. 

Check these books out and dive right in. You may learn a few things, like I did, and they’ll help you through the rest of the COVID blues summer. 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds 

A Very Good Omen

When the Shelter-in-Place orders first rolled out, there was a lot of tension and anxiety around what it all means, what we will do during quarantine, and how long it will last. There was also uncertainty about supplies, not only how to get them, but whether there would even be the products we need. Would life resemble any form of normalcy?

Only a few days into the lockdown, we received a very good omen. Actually, two Omens and an Oro Bello. While we get the occasional sample of wine, we normally receive an email offering the sample. This time, the wine just arrived unannounced! Looks like we’re going to be just fine.

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

Omen and Oro Bello wines are produced and distributed by Atlas Wine Company. With headquarters in Napa, Atlas Wine Company is building a portfolio of wines that are sustainable, approachable, and ready to drink; no long-term cellaring required, though they would hold up well if you laid them down. They source grapes from “hidden gem” vineyards. These vineyards are located in regions that are perhaps less well known, but are up and coming, and producing excellent fruit. Places like Calaveras County in the Sierra Foothills, Paso Robles, Madera, and Rouge Valley, Oregon. Grapes from these areas come at a much lower cost than say, Napa, which allows Atlas Wine Company to produce wines that are affordable.

The real test of any wine, of course, is opening the bottle! All of the wines we received proved to be exceptional, and quite food friendly. The Omen line is comprised of red wines, while Oro Bello is whites and rosé.

img_1352

Omen Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 ($40)

This is a single vineyard wine, from the Rorick Heritage Vineyard in Calaveras County. Since Calaveras County has not yet received it’s own (well deserved) AVA designation, this wine is labeled with the Sierra Foothills AVA.

Inky purple color in the glass. Aromas of rube blackberry, black currant, and clove. On the palate, rich and full bodied with flavors of blackberry, blueberry, cassis, plum, and black cherry, with clove, baking spice, leather, and tobacco. Bright acidity makes it quite food friendly; we enjoyed it with grilled rib eye steak. Long finish of black fruit and black pepper.

img_1408

Omen Wines Red Blend 2018 ($20)

Another Sierra Foothills AVA wine, this is one tasty blend.

A juicy blend of 63% Zinfandel, 21% Syrah, 8% Barbera, and 8% Petite Sirah. Inky purple color. On the nose there are aromas of ripe blackberry, cherry, and fresh black pepper. Flavors of Marionberry pie, black cherry, dark plum, blueberry, and smoky, spicy notes. Rich, full bodied, with soft tannins and medium acidity. Long, spicy finish. The label says “Pairs great with burgers.” And, boy, they’re not wrong!

 

img_1367

Oro Bello Chardonnay 2018 ($35)

Another single vineyard delight, this wine hails from the Fallenleaf Vineyard in the Sonoma Coast. After press, the wine was transferred to neutral French Oak barrels to mature. This is the style of Chardonnay we really enjoy, with little to no oak influence.

Golden straw color. Wonderful citrus and tropical nose, with pineapple and lemon-lime notes, and the slightest hint of butterscotch. On the palate, fresh and clean, with pear, apple, pineapple, and citrus, with slight butter and butterscotch flavors. Medium body and lively acidity. Paired with grilled salmon with lemons, a very complementary pairing.

img_1366

Omen and Oro Bello wines are available for purchase online at their respective websites. We definitely recommend giving them a try. As a special thank you, through the rest of 2020, readers and followers of Appetite for Wine can receive 15% off when you use the coupon code: APPETITE15! Just go to https://store.atlaswineco.com/#/ and enter the coupon code at checkout!

In addition to the samples we received, the Omen line also includes a non-single vineyard California Cabernet Sauvignon  and an Oregon Pinot Noir. The Oro Bello line offers a non-single vineyard Chardonnay, a Russian River AVA Rosé of Pinot Noir, and a couple of canned wines; a Blanc de Blancs, and a newly released Light Chardonnay, with lower ABV and fewer calories. Whether you chose red, white, or rosé, still or sparkling, it’s never wrong to seek out a good omen! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Some Music with your Wine

In these days of Shelter in Place, we’ve all had to adapt. “Virtual” is the new normal, and “Zoom” has become a verb. It’s not all bad, though. We’ve connected, or reconnected, with friends and family across the country we haven’t seen in years.

The wine world has had to make adjustments, too. With physical wineries and tasting rooms closed for the foreseeable future, winemakers have had to get creative. Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) is the new normal for wineries and merchants. With many offering discounts, free shipping, and other incentives, online sales have skyrocketed. Wine shopping has become so easy, delivered directly to your door (where allowed), we believe the increase in DTC sales will continue long after the Shelter in Places orders have been lifted. 

Many wineries have also pivoted to digital, and are offering virtual tasting experiences. These are a fun way to enjoy your favorite wine from the comfort of your home, while learning about the wine, winery, production, and more. Often hosted by the winemakers themselves, virtual tastings are informative and entertaining. All the ones we’ve attended have been live-streamed, so they are not interactive, other than through typed comments. 

We’ve also hosted Zoom or Skype tastings with friends. We all order the same wine, then taste together virtually and talk about the wine, among other things. 

But what’s missing in all this? Music.

We miss the winery experience; sidling up to the tasting bar, sipping samples while chatting with the tasting room staff and other guests, and enjoying the ambiance and vibe. Often, we’ll grab a glass of wine and a chair on the patio, and ease in while enjoying some live music. All the makings of a relaxing afternoon in wine country. 

If you miss winery music as much as we do, we have good news! Justin Brown is a winery musician in the Napa Valley area. He recently released a new EP album, The Bigger Picture. Now you can enjoy some winery music with your virtual tastings!

img_1356

Justin recently reached out, and provided us with complimentary copies of his newest releases. Yes, plural. In addition to The Bigger Picture, he also released an acoustic set, The Bigger Picture Acoustic. 

img_1357

With smooth, soulful vocals, and toe-tapping instrumentals, The Bigger Picture transports you to that winery patio, and brightens your entire day! 

img_1355

 

 

img_1359

Justin Brown’s musical career started at the age of 15, when he taught himself to play the guitar. In 2013, he recorded his first album, Musings of the Soul. In that same year, he moved from New Jersey to the San Francisco Bay area. Since then, he has become a successful part of the Napa and Sonoma winery music scene. 

If you want to add some smooth jazz ambiance to your next virtual wine tasting, or just want to enjoy some really good music, click this link to go to Justin’s website and purchase one or both of his new EPs. Both are available for download, or you can order physical CDs for delivery. While you’re there, you can also download Musings of the Soul. Justin is actually offering Musings of the Soul downloads for free, but there is an option to enter a purchase price at checkout. Please consider this option to help Justin out during these difficult and uncertain times. 

cover

Now, pop that cork, pour a glass, log into the virtual call platform of choice with your family and friends, fire up some Justin Brown smooth jazz, and enjoy some music with your wine. 

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Two Very Old World Cabernets

I don’t know about you, but when I think of “Old World” wines, I think of wines from Italy, France, Spain, or other Western European countries. Yet, Eastern European wines are starting to make a mark on the map, and for good reason. Often made from indigenous grapes, that are, pardon the pun, quite foreign to the American palate, and also very difficult to pronounce (Crljenak Kaštelanski, anyone?*), these wines are delicious, food friendly, and unique. More rustic in character than even Western European wines, they are a departure from the big, ripe, juicy wines to which many Americans are accustomed. They are also much more wallet-friendly! But these wines are not always and only made from indigenous grapes. We recently received samples of two Eastern European Cabernet Sauvignon wines, one from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one from Croatia. 

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

Vinarija Citluk Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Not your big, Napa Cab, but in a good way. Light ruby/brick color. Aromas of raspberry, red cherry, and spice. On the palate, flavors of raspberry, cherry, red currant, cigar box, and pencil shavings. Medium body, approachable yet edgy tannins, and medium acidity. Paired with a grilled filet steak, it really drew out the fruit flavors and tamed the tannins. The finish is long, with red fruit and white pepper. (Est. Price $13-15 USD)

Vina Frankovic Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Here comes another delicious Cabernet at a fraction of the price of Napa. Deep purple color. On the nose, blackberry, blueberry, and cherry. On the palate, big, bursting cherry, with an Old World style earthy funk, followed by blueberry, black plum, blackberry, and black currant. Juicy, full, and rich, there is ample acidity and medium tannins. Layers of complexity as the wine settles in; black fruit, açaí, oak, smoke, tobacco, and white pepper. Medium body, very food friendly, and a long finish. Outstanding QPR! (Vivino average price $11.91 USD)

These samples came to us from our good friends at Topochines Vino. While these particular wines are not currently in their inventory, they have plenty of other fantastic wines from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and several other regions; even a few Oregon and Lodi wines! Check out their online store, get out of your comfort zone, and try something new. You’ll likely find a new favorite.

* Love California Zinfandel? Crljenak Kaštelanski is the indigenous Croatian grape recently determined to be genetically identical to Zinfandel. That’s right. Zinfandel originated not in Italy (Primitivo) as was previously thought, but across the Adriatic in Croatia.  

Cheers!

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Wine Clubs to the Rescue

Wine clubs have been around for awhile, in various iterations. From winery-based clubs in which members receive a shipment of pre-selected bottles, at a prescribed frequency, to online retailer clubs, where members can order however many bottles they want, from a broad selection, as often as they want. One of the main attractions that wine clubs share, is home deliver (in most states.)

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and shelter-in-place orders becoming the norm, wine clubs are more vital and relevant than ever before. Beyond winery versus retail, there are many other variations from one club to the next. Some retail clubs are more of a mail order wine shop, with recognizable, major brands. Others offer club-exclusive wines that you can’t get at Total Wine & More or your neighborhood shop. With all the options out there, how can you know which club is right for you?

ConsumersAdvocate Logo

As luck would have it, the folks at ConsumersAdvocate.org did the research for you. With more than 200 hours of research (that’s a lot of wine drinking time!), they looked at 20 online wine clubs, and narrowed it down to four recommended choices. Click here to check out the results. Be sure to read the whole article for great information on incorporating wine into a healthy lifestyle, wine making, packaging, and pricing. 

wine-club-gift-guide-image-of-bottles_1890

Even after the COVID-19 is nothing more than an horrific memory, I believe online wine sales will continue to be strong, and a safe, convenient way to shop for your favorite beverage.

Stay safe, everyone, and remember to SIP while you Shelter IPlace.

Cheers! 

The End of Waste Foundation: Working to Increase Glass Recycling for our Planet

There is little doubt that climate change is real, and is happening. Whether it is human-caused, human-exacerbated, or simply the natural ebb and flow of Planet Earth, or some combination of all of these, I do not know. That debate is best left to the scientists who are studying the phenomenon, and the politicians who are responsible for crafting (hopefully) thoughtful legislation to deal with it.

Nevertheless, I feel it is important to do my part; to be a good steward of the only planet we have to call home. Part of this is by participating in as many recycling programs as possible. Back when recycling first entered the social consciousness – for me it was in the late 1980’s – recycling was a royal pain in the a   more difficult and complicated endeavor, which required consumer participation to manually sort one’s own trash. In my community, we had a black, regular can for general refuse, a blue can for paper, cardboard, cans, and other recyclable metals, a green can for lawn clippings, tree trimmings, and other organic waste, and a small, red bin for glass. On trash day, the streets would be lined by this rainbow of colorful receptacles. Even though I wasn’t a wine drinker in those days, I did use glass jars and other recyclable glass, and often wondered why glass only warranted a small bin, compared to the big boys like cardboard and cans.

In recent years, it has become easier and more convenient to recycle, depending on where one lives. I now live in Roseville, a community in Northern California that has the first “sorting” program I had heard of. Instead of relying on the consumer to sort their waste into three or four separate bins, like many communities, our waste management service allows us to deposit all solid waste (except green waste) into one bin. This is then taken to a facility where the waste is sorted and recyclables separated out for processing. What a great way to passively feel like I’m contributing to saving Planet Earth.

But am I? What really happens to those recyclables once they are dumped into that big truck every week? Do they really separate out the recyclables? Is recycling even profitable, and sustainable, especially for glass? 

While not in the forefront of my mind always, but certainly when rolling the solid waste bin to the curb every week, those questions persisted. So it was a pleasant surprise when, a few weeks ago, I received an email from Nikolas Zilenski, of the End of Waste Foundation, inquiring if I’d be interested in featuring the Foundation’s work and progress in a blog article. 

Screenshot 2020-02-19 at 6.21.15 PM - Edited

Image credit: End of Waste Foundation website.

As I began researching for this post, I was disheartened. My concerns are real. The End of Waste Foundation (EOWF) has determined that nearly six million tons of glass goes unrecycled in the United States each year. But there is hope.

EOWF has created a sustainable packaging certification program, designed to increase glass recycling in the U.S., including tracking and monitoring recycling rates in participating communities. Known as the Recycling Traceability System™, the program receives recycling data from Material Recycling Facilities (MFRs) and issues a certificate of validation to verify the data. Participating businesses receive a Sustainable Packaging Certificate or Recycling Certificate to offset their carbon footprint.

In my correspondence with Nikolas, I shared my concerns and frustration: 

“Your website indicates this step, the recycling, is actually not happening as much as the average consumer (me) thinks it is. Can you shed some insight into this, and why it is happening? I really think most of us believe we are doing the right thing by either sorting, or living in a community that does it for us. Are we being duped?

Nikolas shared that statistical data is often hard to come by. However, he is diligent in his research, and provided the following statement: 

“For around 30 years, China has been California’s go to solution for its recycling woes. We essentially built an economic system based on sending recyclables to China. But in 2018, China enacted the National Sword Policy, which placed strict standards on contamination levels of material sent to the country for recycling. Thus, the whole system is no longer economically viable for material recovery facilities.

This has opened up huge weak spots in the waste and recycling industry. With glass in particular, much of the loss occurs from sorting, processing and hauling.

In California, and wine in specific, there is an additional barrier to making sure that it’s being recycled as it’s one of the products that’s exempt from bottle deposit laws. Even with single stream recycling, contamination poses a hurdle for bottles being processed for re-use.

The goal here at End of Waste Foundation is to increase glass recycling rates and provide proof that recycling is actually happening with our partnerships. Transparency into the waste and recycling industry is one of the cornerstones that we’re built upon. Through our own independent research, we’ve found that around 40% of product manufacturers don’t trust the waste and recycling industry, and we want to change that.

We believe creating circular economies within the glass industry is the best way to handle two problematic fronts: environmental and economic. We believe our system benefits product manufacturers, local waste and recycling facilities, and most importantly, the environment and the local communities that live in them.”

EOWF Circular Economy

Image credit: End of Waste Foundation website.

Still in relative infancy, EOWF’s program already has proven results. In Colorado, they partnered with Rocky Mountain Bottling Company and Momentum Recycling in June, 2019. Since then, more than 2,600 tons of glass has been diverted from landfills

FP PR Momentum 0285

Photo credit: End of Waste Foundation website.

In July, 2019, Sonoma County winery Truett Hurst joined the cause. As a biodynamic winery, CEO Paul Dolan has been concerned about studies that have shown that glass can account for up to 60% of a winery’s carbon footprint. He was interested in learning ways his winery, and the wine industry in general, can become more sustainable. Dolan hopes that by leading the way, more winemakers and winery owners will get on board. 

Truett Hurst

Photo credit: End of Waste Foundation website.

For more information, please follow the links to the stories above. 

You may be thinking, sure, EOWF is partnering with businesses to increase recycling and reduce their carbon footprint, but what can I do as an individual? Glad you asked. Individuals, families, and small business owners can get involved through financial contributions and raising awareness in their own communities.

Personally, I am encouraged by the efforts of EOWF and their partners. In fact, I am more inclined to purchase products from producers such as Rocky Mountain Bottling Company and Truett Hurst. By the way, Truett Hurst makes amazing wine, so I encourage you to support the cause and buy some of their wine today! 

img_1194

Saving our planet, one bottle at a time.

Individually, we can only do so much. But by joining together and supporting this cause, we can effect positive change for future generations. 

And that’s something I can drink to!

Cheers! 

Book Review: Sipping Away – 30 Years of Unique Wine Experiences

We all have our own, individual wine stories. Stories of how we got on this wild journey into wine. That first, really memorable taste, the evolution of our palates, and other influential moments along the way. These stories are often fun to share and compare, when socializing with fellow wine lovers. David Klein compiled his story into a book: Sipping Away: 30 Years of Unique Wine Experiences.

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

img_0961

Sipping Away is David Klein’s 30+ year wine story. His story starts out like many others of the day; memories of gallon jugs of Carlo Rossi wine on the table, alongside lovingly home-cooked meals, and surrounded by family eager to enjoy the meal.

The son of an Italian mother and Jewish father, David grew up in Queens, New York. He shares early memories of those food oriented holidays, filled with delicious dishes prepared from family recipes handed down from generation to generation. 

David’s father, Howard, worked on Wall Street as a stockbroker. That is, until the firm’s funds were embezzled, and Howard was out of work. He learned about a neighborhood liquor store that was for sale. Howard knew nothing about liquor stores, but was willing to give it a try. Soon, David began working in the store while attending Chiropractic College. It was there that David’s wine journey began in earnest. 

Sipping Away is a tale of discovery, blossoming passion, friendship, and sophistocation. David shares his tales of wine groups and tasting parties. Some members of his group have been with David for more than 30 years. He also shares tips for finding relative bargains from top growth producers, and what to do in a restaurant if you receive a faulty bottle. David presents all this information in an entertaining, engaging style, though stories of his own experiences. 

Want to learn more about David’s wine journey? At just 132 pages, Sipping Away is a great read for a quiet weekend, or on a cross-country flight. Sipping Away is available on Amazon.com. Check it out. I bet you’ll learn a thing or two. I know I did! 

Cheers!  

  • By Kent Reynolds

Winning Big at Casino Mine Ranch

We have been big fans of Amador County wines for a long time. Awhile back, we connected on Instagram (@appetite_for_wine) with @casinomineranch, a relative newcomer in the wine landscape of the Sierra Foothills. During our early online chatter, we expressed an interest in visiting. We learned that visits to Casino Mine Ranch are by appointment only. Alas, our frequent trips to the area are often spontaneous, so, embarrassingly, we went several months without scheduling a visit. 

Thankfully, that negligence came to an end earlier this month. We were planning a trip to Amador County wine country, and Kent remembered Casino Mine Ranch. After a quick DM on Instagram, Chief of Staff Mackenzie Cecchi confirmed our reservation. 

It was a lovely November day when we arrived at Casino Mine Ranch. Rather spring-like weather, in fact. (Sorry, not sorry to our East Coast family and friends.) Up a winding, nondescript driveway (even with GPS, we missed it and had to turn around), past Lola’s vineyard, until we saw Casey’s tree fort, and we knew we had arrived.  

Mackenzie greeted us as we entered the house. Yes, house. Casino Mine Ranch’s current location is the owners’ second home. Mackenzie said they are in the planning stages of a tasting room down the road near some other tasting rooms, but for now, welcome to this beautiful home! 

Mackenzie poured us our first taste. There would be eight total during the hour-long tour and tasting. The 2017 Vermentino. Simply stellar! Plenty of pineapple and citrus, with bracing acidity. Just the way we like it. If the Vermentino was any indication, we were in for a very special, and tasty hour. (Spoiler alert: the Vermentino was definitely an indication!) 

All of the wines in Casino Mine Ranch’s portfolio are 100% estate fruit. The ranch is 60 acres, but currently there are only 14 acres under vine. However, they are planning to plant more vineyards so they can increase production.

The second tasting on the tour was the 2017 Grenache Blanc. Mackenzie said the 2016 wasn’t quite what they’d hoped for, and asked our opinion of the 2017. Ironically, Kent had taken a wine survey just the day before, and had to respond in the negative to the question: have you tasted a Grenache Blanc in the past six months. Timing, people. Timing is everything! And so is this Grenache Blanc. Straw color, aged in 30% new French oak, with flavors of apricot and peach, with hints of butter and caramel. Exquisite. 

img_0857

As we moved outside, and prepared to enter the mine, Mackenzie provided a history lesson. Casino Ranch Mine was founded in 1936 by Simone Shaw. Simone was born in Belgium, and with her family escaped the 1914 German invasion. Her father had a mining operation in Alaska, where Simone spent time in her younger days. Always stylish and worldly, Simone caught the eye of many a suitor. The family eventually moved to New York City, where Simone met Sam Shaw, Jr., hotelier and art patron. It was a match made in heaven, and the two were soon married. 

As socialites, the Shaws spent time in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Paris. Somehow, they found their way to what was then the middle of nowhere…Amador County. (Let’s be real, Amador County may not be the middle of nowhere today, but it’s only just outside the border! We love it that way.) Simone bought the property, with the intention of mining for gold. Always the realist, she felt that striking it rich in gold mining was a gamble, hence the name: Casino Mine Ranch. 

Simone’s instincts were right. Nothing more than a modicum of gold was discovered in their mine. However, what they did find was as precious as gold in the remote Sierra Foothills: water. Under the lava caps on the property were reserves of water. The Shaw’s excavated and dammed the springs, and even today they are used for irrigation on the ranch. 

Into the mine we went. The water was located only a few yards beyond the entrance, so the tour does not go deep into the mine. Here, we tasted the 2018 Rosé, a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre. Another exquisite wine. Three-for-three! Pale pink color, with flavors of strawberry and raspberry. Bone dry and zesty. 

From the mine, we went back through the house, and downstairs to a beautiful cellar room. Here we tasted the 2017 Grenache Noir; 100% Grenache, aged in 30% new French oak. This wine recently received a score of 90 points from Wine Spectator magazine. A luscious, spicy wine, with bold red fruit and licorice notes. There was an ashtray on the counter, crafted from a bear claw. (Not the pastry, but an actual claw from an actual bear!) Mackenzie said legend has it, that Simone herself shot that bear! 

Venturing outside through the back of the house, we made our way to the pool house. Pool house? Pool house. Not too many wineries have a pool and a pool house! But this was just the beginning. The two-story pool house is a home unto itself, complete with kitchen and entertainment. Upstairs there is a full-scale shuffleboard table, and down the spiral staircase to the lower level, you will find a pinball machine, video arcade game, and an air hockey table. In case you were wondering, as we were, the answer is yes. At wine club events, members have the opportunity to use these games! 

Back outside and down a grassy hill, Mackenzie continued the family tale. Shortly after World War II, Sam passed away. Sam’s brother, Hollis Shaw, came to stay on the property to help the widow with the ranch. Hollis initially lived in one of the small mining shacks on the property. However, after some time, he moved into the main house. Not long after, Simone and Hollis were married. 

During the 1960’s and 70’s, Simone’s grand-nephews, Rich, Jim, and Steve Marryman, would come to the ranch for visits. They were intrigued by their aunt, living in such a remote area but still being so glamorous, serving the children their meals off fine china, and dressing for dinner. In 1999, Rich Merryman bought Casino MIne Ranch. 

In 2011, Rich called brother Jim to tell him he is going to plant a vineyard on the property and wanted to make wine. Jim thought Rich was crazy, though he eventually joined the venture. They hired winemaker Andy Erickson, and in 2015, produced their first vintage. 

Mackenzie escorted us to a large, metal building at the bottom of the hill. She referred to it as the “midlife crisis building.” This, she said, was to be the Casino Mine Ranch winery production facility. However, their winemaking team is in Napa, and they didn’t want to have to come all the way out, almost to the border of nowhere, to produce the wine. With construction started, what is one to do with a massive building that now has no purpose? Turn it into an NBA regulation basketball court, of course! 

Several NBA stars have visited the ranch to play on the court. In addition, college flags adorned the back wall. These are the alma mater of wine club members. Joining the club earns one the right to display their school’s flag. Guests on tour are invited to go downstairs onto the court to shoot some hoops, but we decided to stay topside and just watch. 

Back up the hill to the house, and onto the patio with breathtaking views, where we enjoyed the rest of the wines. Next on the list was the 2017 Mourvèdre. Another 100% varietal wine, this medium bodied red has spicy red fruit, raspberry, cherry, and cranberry, with baking spice and a long finish. 

The 2016 Simone, obviously named in honor Great Aunt Simone, is a blend of 52% Grenache and 48% Mourvèdre. This is a big, powerhouse of a wine, with red fruit and spice on the nose, and flavors of raspberry, bing cherry, baking spice, and mineral notes. Big, chewy tannins and bright acidity lead to a very long finish. 

Next was the 2016 Tempranillo, one of only two non-Rhône style wines in the portfolio. This wine pours inky purple, and has flavors of blueberry, spice, and a bit of raspberry. The tannins are very soft and smooth, balanced with medium acidity. 

The final wine on the tour was the 2016 Marcel. Wait, we sense another story here. Marcel Tiquet moved to Casino Mine Ranch after World War II. He was just 19 years old at the time. Marcel and his wife didn’t intend on staying long, but raised their family there and they loved the place so much, they just never moved away. Making a life here, Marcel became the heart and soul of Casino Mine Ranch. Sadly, Marcel passed away in September 2018, at the age of 93. 

The wine in his honor is 80% Tempranillo and 20% Teroldego. Here is another big, bold red wine, worthy of such a man as Marcel. Inky purple color, with aromas and flavors of blueberry, raspberry, baking spice, and white pepper on the finish. Big, firm, chewy tannins mingle with medium acidity, leading to a long finish. This is a wine that wants a rib-eye or grilled lamb. 

Alas, the tour was over. Nevertheless, we were so impressed with the wines, the story, and the property, that we decided to join the wine club. So, as they say…we’ll be back! 

If you’d like to visit Casino Mine Ranch, and you know you do, you’ll need to make a reservation. You can do this on their website. They are open for guests Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, with appointment times at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. When you go, tell them Robyn and Kent sent you! 

Cheers! 

  • By Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds

Review: Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé

The holidays are once again upon us, and just like last year, we have a tasty and festive sparkling wine for you. Last year we reviewed the Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut, and gave it our hearty recommendation. This year, we received a media sample of the Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé. 

Lucien Albrecht_NV_Brute Rose_Bottle Shot

Photo credit Lucien Albrecht Grand Vin d’Alsace

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

As you may recall from our previous review, Crémant refers to a sparkling wine, made in France in the méthode tranditionalle (the way Champagne is made), that is not made in the Champagne region. Crémant sparkling wines are often of comparable quality, but much more affordable than their more famous cousin. 

Lucien Albrecht is a name synonymous with Alsace wine. The Lucien Albrecht story dates back hundreds of years. Over the generations, the Albrecht family has been among the pioneers of innovation and advancement in Alsace winemaking. Albrecht believes in respecting nature and the grapes to produce wines of distinction, showcasing the unique terroir.  

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes. The whole clusters are crushed, and the free run juice is fermented and bottled. After the second fermentation in the bottle, the wine is aged on the lees for 14-16 months. The result is a wine that is dry and crisp, with a creamy texture and long finish. At just $23 SRP, this is a terrific value and worthy of any holiday table. 

img_0683

 

We have been big fans of Lucien Albrecht wines, both still and sparkling, for a long time. Confident of a satisfying experience, we popped our bottle and were immediately impressed with the quality. We were definitely not disappointed! Here’s what we thought of it. 

img_0686

Pale salmon color. Bountiful, vigorous bubbles that fade in a few minutes, though still ample throughout. Aromas and flavors of raspberry, strawberry, rose petal, hints of orange blossom.  Dry with bright acidity. Long finish. Great with fish and shrimp tacos, and will complement a variety of traditional holiday favorites. 

Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé is widely available at your favorite retailer. Next time you’re in, grab a bottle, put it on ice, and impress your holiday guests with your exquisite taste. 

Cheers!

  • Except where noted, all text, photos, and video by Kent Reynolds and Robyn Raphael-Reynolds