Showing posts with label Viognier wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Viognier wine. Show all posts

Monday, December 7, 2020

California Viognier Blend

Windsor Vineyards was founded by Rodney Strong in 1959.  Today they are based in Santa Rosa, California.  It seems that personalized labeling is a big part of what Windsor does.  The winery's website provides endless urging to select a custom label.  Strong originated the specialty when he put his best customers' names on the bottles they bought.  It's still a thing for Windsor today.

These days, the Windsor Viognier has a California appellation, with no indication of where the Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Muscat grapes for the blend were grown.  Alcohol is quite low, just 12% abv.  The wine retails for $16, but customized labels are extra.

This wine shows a light golden hue in the glass.  It gives off a nose of honeysuckle, lemon and apricot, with a palate that is just as sweet.  The acidity is fresh, but not ripping, and the finish of Meyer lemon lasts a good while.  It's a great wine to put on the holiday table - pairs well with turkey, ham and stuffing. 


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Friday, January 31, 2020

White Wines For Winter: Côtes du Rhône Blanc

White wines are not just for summers and salads.  There are rich, full-bodied whites which are bold and warming.  They also pair beautifully with winter dishes - root vegetables, stews and herbs like fennel go particularly well with a nice, well balanced Chardonnay, for example.  I find that whites aged in oak serve me better in the winter than unoaked wines.  In fact, oak makes a white wine feels like Christmas to me.  I prefer an easy touch on the wood, however. 

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve 2018

The Perrin family heads up a French winemaking company which includes the noted Château de Beaucastel of the Rhône Valley.  The grapes for this wine were picked from vines growing between the Ouvèze and Aigues rivers.  Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier fruit was vinified in stainless steel - no oak at all - to an alcohol level of 13% abv and it retails for about $12.

This white Rhône blend shows the Viognier best, all floral and citrusy.  The tart apple notes of the Grenache Blanc play off of the savory aspect of the Roussanne and Marsanne.  The palate is mineral-laden, with citrus, peach and pear appearing.  Nice acidity, too.  These are some great grapes, and they do not disappoint. 


Thursday, November 21, 2019

SBC Dessert Wine, From Santa Ynez Valley

This bottle of dessert wine had been lying about for a couple of years, since Denise and our friend Guido landed at the Casa Dumetz tasting room in Los Alamos.  I had tried it back then, liked it, but never got around to popping the cork on the one we brought home.

Sonja Magdevski is a self-described journalist-turned-winemaker, although that journey has spanned her years.  She told me in 2017 that she started with a small patch of grapevines, before having a revelation.  While trying to put some blends together a couple of years ago, Magdevski says she discovered that she was trying to do something the fruit "didn't want to do."  She then realized that "you can't control nature."  She decided to concentrate on varietal wines, often single-vineyard efforts that showcase the diversity of Santa Barbara County's various climates and terroirs.

Magdevski says she sources such a small amount of grapes that "the fruit has to be great."  As for working in an area which sports at least 50 different grape varieties, she said "I can't even name 50 grapes."  She produces a very limited amount of wine – most of which is sold through their tasting room in Los Alamos.

The 2013 Casa Dumetz Late Harvest Viognier is from her ground, grapes, grit line.  It was made from grapes grown in the Estelle Vineyard in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley.  Put simply, the wine rocks.  It is sweet, but not cloying, with earthy apricot and floral elements.  Its nose shows a full blast of stone fruit, draped in a cloak of sweet oak spice.  The palate is rich and honeyed, the mouthfeel smooth and viscous, the acidity lively and ready for pairing with sweet or savory foods.  Alcohol tips at 14.3% abv and, if memory serves, the small bottle cost about $30, but it is almost certainly no longer available.


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Friday, October 19, 2018

Kosher Viognier From Israel

The Covenant wine label grew because two Napa Valley vintners wondered why they couldn't make a great kosher wine in the homeland of the Jewish people.  Turns out, they could.

Co-owners Jeff Morgan and Leslie Rudd were inspired by the many Israeli wineries and the terroir of the Galilee and Golan Heights. The landscape reportedly reminded them of both California and France's Rhône Valley.  Unfortunately, Mr. Rudd passed away this past May after a battle with cancer at the age of 76.

Covenant started out as a California wine, made in the cellars of Herzog Winery.  It was in 2013 that Morgan and Rudd decided to more fully embrace their Jewish roots and expand to Israel.  Neither had been an observant Jew when they got started in the winemaking business.

The winery explains kosher wine by saying that "all wine is kosher. But because kosher wine is also a beverage used to sanctify the Sabbath and other holidays, it can only be handled in the cellar by Sabbath-observant Jews."  The Covenant wines fit the bill.  They are produced under rabbinical oversight.

Viognier is one of the premiere white grapes of France's Rhone Valley, and it is also at home in the hills of the northern Galilee.  This wine is sourced solely from the Manara Vineyard.  It is made in a lighter style, and shows just light spice notes and restrained alcohol at 13.6% abv.

The 2017 Covenant Israel Blue C Viognier's pretty nose shows floral and mineral notes, with a lovely blast of mango and tangerine in the middle.  The acidity is bright and fresh, but not strong enough to rip one's taste buds out by the roots.  It's a weighty wine, with flavors staying along the mineral and citrus backbone.  The finish is medium and pleasant.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Wine Country: Maryland

Black Ankle owners Sarah O'Herron and Ed Boyce credit - or blame - their entry into winemaking on "one taste-test too many." The winery is named after the road on which the vineyard sits in Frederick County, Maryland, in the North Central Piedmont region. It may have originated from the muddy boots walkers got when traversing the road that was a dirt trail long after other roads had been improved. It also may date back to Native American lore. They like the "wine stomping" images that spring to mind.

Sustainability is a watchword at Black Ankle. They even built their winery and tasting room from "straw, clay, stone and wood that we found on the farm." Sounds like a structure on which all three "little pigs" could have collaborated.

The 2015 Black Ankle Viognier was purchased at a local wine shop in Baltimore’s Fells Point neighborhood, where we stayed on a recent vacation. It blends 75% Viognier and 25% Grüner Veltliner in a mix that I don't think I've encountered before. The vines grown in what the winery calls "decomposing slate with quartzite veins." It retails for $32, although I got mine several dollars cheaper. Alcohol is at 13.5% abv.

Pale yellow in the glass, this Maryland Viognier has a delightful nose of peaches and lemons. The palate shows a savory sense with both wonderful acidity and a full mouthfeel. White wines are enjoyable enough when the weather is perfect, but when things are hot and humid there’s an even higher appreciation achieved.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Santa Barbara's L.A. Road Trip: Rhône Varieties

Living in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is "our" wine region. A mere two hours north of L.A., Santa Barbara wine country offers nearly 200 wineries producing truly world class wines. We take a lot of road trips up there to visit Santa Barbara Vintners, so it was nice of them to return the favor and come down here.

Santa Barbara County is home to the only transverse mountain range in North America, where the wind from the Pacific Ocean is channeled right across the Santa Barbara County Appellation.  The sub-appellations - Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills, Ballard Canyon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara and Los Olivos District are distinct and varied. The region is also home to an unrivaled growing season with the aforementioned coastal influences giving great grapes a place to thrive.  Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and more are found in Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara Vintners brought their best to Los Angeles for four days in May. Instead of overwhelming us with close to 50 different varieties at one tasting, each day was broken down into a specific wine theme for more focus. Monday was given to Chardonnay, Tuesday Pinot Noir, Wednesday featured Rhone varieties and Thursday gave us the Bordeaux grapes.


Wednesday, May 18 - RHONE VARIETALS


Doug Margerum stole the show this time. His 2015 Margerum Riviera Rosé, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara county, are a Grenache blend, bone dry and beautiful with big cherry notes. The 2014 Margerum M5 Santa Barbara County shows ripe red fruit with an herbal quality running underneath. Margerum served it chilled and showed how great this wine would be for summer BBQs.

At the Core table, Becky Corey poured for me. She poured when I visited the tasting room, too. I don’t know if husband Dave is avoiding me, or what. Their wines are riddled with lovely floral, lavender and clove notes. The 2008 Core Mister Moreved is 94% Mourvèdre and 6% Grenache from Santa Barbara County.  It’s smooth, dark and musky.

The Fess Parker table is always a great stop. The 2013 Fess Parker Viognier, Santa Barbara County shows some fantastic earthy tones. The 2012 Fess Parker Rodney’s Vineyard Syrah, Santa Barbara County is smokey, earthy.

Ross Rankin's Imagine Wines have a non-vintage Melange that is awesome, full of spice and red fruit. The 2007 Imagine Winged Paradise Mountain Syrah, Santa Barbara County got a one-word explanation in my notes: "Silky!"

Jaffurs Wine Cellars' Craig Jaffurs poured his 2015 Viognier Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley, displaying grapefruit and flowers. The 2013 Jaffurs Syrah Santa Barbara County is elegant.

The Central Coast Group Project is headed up by Scott Sampler and he has produced a very pretty 2012 Santa Barbara County GSM and a 2012 Names Syrah from White Hawk Vineyard. He produces his wine at a collective in Buellton, the Buellton Bodegas.

Andrew Murray again has scored with his Esperance GSM. It is extremely elegant.

The 2013 Foxen Syrah shows a funky nose, and a palate that is excellent and very smooth.


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Monday, November 23, 2015

Lodi Wines: Outside The Box For Thanksgiving

Pairing wine and food is easy, but many people feel they don’t have adequate skills to select the perfect wine for a holiday feast. It can be as simple as “drink what you like,” or as difficult as you care to make it. Wine is an expansive topic, and it will take up all your extra time if you let research get just a little bit out of control.

For those who don’t have the time - or inclination - to become heavily invested in wine and food pairing minutiae for the holidays, the nice folks at the  Lodi Winegrape Commission put together a virtual tasting experience which examined a few “outside the box” wines for Thanksgiving. The social media event took place on the BrandLive platform, and I was invited to participate.

The tasting session was hosted by Stuart Spencer, owner and winemaker at St. Amant Winery and Program Manager at the Lodi Winegrape Commission, and featured Layne Montgomery, winemaker at m2 Wines,  Susan Tipton, owner and winemaker at Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards and Adam Mettler, general manager/winemaker at Michael David Winery.

The wines tasted were:

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Viognier 2014
Michael David Winery Symphony 2014
m2 Wines Alicante Bouschet 2013
Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2013

These wines are available from the respective wineries, and also as a set from the Lodi Winegrape Commission’s online store. There is a special price of $80 for all four wines when purchased from LodiWine. The recipes for the pairing suggestions are also available there.



Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards Viognier 2014, paired with Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque

Susan Tipton fell in love a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and from that point on, she was a white wine fan. Her Acquiesce Winery produces only white wines and rosés of the Mokelumne River appellation.  Her wines are all about the grapes - handpicked and whole-cluster pressed - with no influence of oak to alter what nature has given.  The '14 Acquiesce Viognier retails for $23, carries an alcohol number of 13.5% abv and comes bottled under cork. The cuttings from which her vines started are from Tablas Creek, which originated in the vineyards of Château de Beaucastel, in the Rhône Valley. By the way, you may find it hard to throw away or recycle Tipton's pretty, French bottles.

During the virtual tasting event, @MsPullThatCork referenced the soup recipe which was paired with this wine. "We made the bisque," she tweeted. "Great roasted squash, spice, creamy flavors and texture." @Fiery01Red loved the "surprisingly vibrant acidity w/a grape that tends to be low in acidity. Very nice Viognier!" @ThisMyHappiness summed it up with, "Elegant #wine!" Couldn’t agree more.

The Acquiesce ‘14 is one nice Viognier. This is Susan Tipton's calling card. Mellow yellow gold in the glass, the wine gives a beautiful nose of apples and lemons with a floral accent. The palate is as refreshing as you would want a wine to be. Citrus-y apples, a nice savory streak and a strident acidity are a complete joy.

The roasted butternut squash bisque recommended by Lodi Winegrowers is a great match, and so is my wife’s rustic potato, carrot and cabbage soup. Peel and eat shrimp would be fantastic, as would a Cobb salad.




Michael David Winery Symphony 2014, paired with Peach Cobbler and French Vanilla Ice Cream

A true California grape, Symphony was created by UC Davis viticulturist Dr. Harold Olmo. He began the 35-year process of crossing Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris in 1948. The grape was made available commercially in 1981, patented in '83. It registers a low 11% abv on the alcohol scale - Mettler says it is closer to 10% - and carries a retail sticker price of $15.

The '14 Michael David Symphony is frizzante in the glass, showing some fine bubbles around the rim. The golden color looks nice, while the nose gives up some muted apricot and lanolin notes. There is a savory aroma that cuts right down the middle. On the palate, things get kinda sweet, with apples and lemons - but the acidity is fresh and zippy. The finish brings to mind a margarita, go figure. Layne Montgomery quipped during the event that the wine "smells like Thanksgiving in a glass."

You can pair this with spicy dishes - maybe chicken enchiladas or pork in a chipotle sauce. Thai and Chinese food will also serve it well. I would like it with an anchovy Caesar salad. LodiWine likes it with peach cobbler and French vanilla ice cream.



m2 Wines Alicante Bouschet St. Jenise’s Vineyard, 2013, paired with Marinated and Smoked Paprika Grilled Pork Tenderloin

With its roots in France, the Alicante Bouschet grape was widely planted in California in the early 20th century. Winemakers loved the deep pigmentation and used it to add color to wines that appeared too thin. After Prohibition fell, the grape became less popular and it is now a novelty item in just a few California vineyards. Varietal examples that do not limit Alicante Bouschet to the status of a blending grape are pretty rare.

Montgomery explained that "the vines are only six to eight years old, but the wine drinks a lot older." On social media, @camron94 gushed, "Alicante is truly a beautiful and interesting wine that is underutilized as a stand alone varietal." Couldn’t have said it better myself. On the panel, Tipton likened the wine to "a Pinot Noir on steroids." It also reminds her of Sangiovese.

The back label indicates, "this is not a wine for the faint of heart." Robust and meaty, the wine shows only moderate alcohol, 13.7% abv and sells for $26. When asked what he tells his customers to pair with this wine, Montgomery showed his entertainer roots with a fast comeback, "Another bottle!" That’s a pretty good suggestion, too.

The '13 m2 Alicante Bouschet St. Jenise's Vineyard is as dark as dark gets. The inky indigo color does, indeed, look like it means business. On the nose, you get aromas of cassis and a fistful of spice - clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and anise play into the profile. The palate shows monstrous black fruit - blackberry and plum - with plenty of spices getting plenty of play. The spicy character lasts into the finish and stays awhile.

If a rib roast is on your holiday table, this should be, too. It will pair with lamb just as nicely. The Lodi Wine folk say they like it with a smoked paprika pork chop, and now I want some of that.



Mettler Family Vineyards Petite Sirah 2013, paired with Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs on Creamy Yukon Gold Parsnip Potatoes

Back in the 19th century, French botanist François Durif had a home nursery of different grape varieties, including Peloursin and Syrah. Those two vines cross-pollinated, resulting in a grape that was named Durif, which we know today as Petite Sirah. The US government recognizes the two names as synonymous, although the grapes are technically different. In fact, it is noted that the majority of Petite Sirah plantings in California are actually Durif. It was revealed during the tasting session that the Lodi appellation is the number one producer of Petite Sirah in California.

On Twitter, @wineandgoodfood chirped, "The @MettlerWines Petite Sirah is super rich and ripe," while Montgomery threw out another one-liner:  "If purple had a flavor. this would be it." @winebratsf got all eclectic on us: "It tastes like an AC/DC velvet blanket wall hanging." Kudos, by the way, for the descriptor of the evening.

Six generations of Lodi winegrowers can all be proud of this varietal wine. The ‘13 Mettler Petite Sirah shows very dark color and very dark aromas. Black and blue fruit gets help from a savory streak full of leather, tobacco and black olives. That savory feel carries over onto the palate, which is as dark as the color and smells have advertised. This is a beautiful and complex example of Petite Sirah, sometimes fancy, sometimes rustic. It’s an elegant wine masquerading as a roughneck. It hits 15.5% abv and retails for $25.

This wine will pair well with the short ribs suggested, as it will with any type of beef dish. I would love it with a beef stew on a wintry day.



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Friday, September 11, 2015

Blended White Wine Perfect With Spicy Dish

Blended wines are fun. When you know what the grape is, there's no guesswork - unless you want to guess whether your Pinot was juiced with a bit of Syrah. In a blend, especially when the grapes used are not telegraphed on the front label, you have the enjoyment of ruminating while trying to figure out what they are. If you don't think that's fun, you probably are not reading a wine article in the first place.

Cornerstone Cellars managing partner Craig Camp thinks they are fun, too - to make, not just to drink. He can appreciate a varietal wine as well as anybody, but "when you start out to make a blend, he writes, "the only rules are your emotions. What is it about the wine world you want to touch?" In the case of Cornerstone's White Rocks!, they decided to reach out and touch a lot of sweet, ripe fruit.

The 2014 White Rocks! by Cornerstone features - spoiler alert - Orange Muscat and Viognier in the blend. With those grapes in play, we would normally expect a sweet ride, and that is what we get. Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc also appear in a wine that keeps alcohol moderate, at 12.5% abv, and price low, at $15.

Yellow gold and aromatic, the 2014 White Rocks! by Cornerstone shows a nose full of little white flowers, nectarines, apples and citrus. The palate is just as lovely, just as fruity. Sweet peaches, nectarines, oranges and a shade of tropical fruit make for a festive feel, while a gentle acidity allows plenty of space for spicy food pairings.

Camp likes the explosive fruitiness of White Rocks! paired with Thai, Vietnamese, Korean and all variations of Chinese cuisine. "A good old American BBQ is not bad either," he adds. I loved it with smoked cheddar. It's a great sipping wine, too.


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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SBC Tasting Room: Tres Hermanas

We made a trip out of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County wine country recently. My wife and I, along with our good and dear friend Guido love this two-hour trip. The stop in Camarillo to have a bagel and coffee is mandatory and the Trader Joe’s on Milpas provides our picnic lunch. Usually it’s a loaf of bread, some cheese, avocados and olives. This short series will describe some of the wines we sampled in the various tasting rooms we visited.

A cattle ranch provided the beginning of Tres Hermanas Vineyard & Winery in 2001 when Marvin and Paulette Teixeira planted a small vineyard there. The name translates from Spanish as “Three Sisters,” and stands for their three daughters.

We arrived to an empty parking lot, a little unusual for a Saturday afternoon in wine country. A cow lowed in distance - the only sound around - as we looked up at the threatening sky. We couldn’t help but note that the winegrowers would love a little rain, but the wine sellers must be saying, “Did it have to come on Saturday?”

Tres Hermanas Winemaker Mark Horvath is a longtime fixture in Santa Barbara County wine. He will host a private tasting by appointment, but you are welcome to stop by the tasting room anytime. It is a little remote but easily accessible along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.

I was tasting only white wines on this trip, and Tres Hermanas has quite a few good ones.

Cuvée Sadie 2009 $26 - This 60/40 blend of Viognier and Chardonnay has a great savory nose and wonderful acidity. Oak spice is well-handled and the nutty finish really is a pleasant memory after the sip..

Dos Blanc 2009 $28 - A blend of Sauvignon Blanc (55&) and Chenin Blanc, this wine has a very funky and aromatic nose. On the palate, savory almond and tropical fruit is joined by a fantastic acidity. Mango sticks around on the finish.

Pinot Gris 2009 $19 - This is a pretty damn awesome Pinot Gris. To me, it is reminiscent of some of the best examples of northern Italian Pinot Grigio. A savory dark nose with hints of nutmeg rolls out the red carpet for the completely earthy palate. Did I say great acidity? Oh, yes. Great acidity.

Cuvée Haleigh 2009 $18 - Bright aromatics mark this Riesling, which has some petrol notes coming through on the nose and palate, the age starting to show nicely.

Fume Blanc 2009 $28 - A fully oaked Sauvignon Blanc, this one shows savory nuts on the nose along with the herbal sense. Tastes of tropical fruit and a beautiful salinity are helped along by a very nice acidity. It was a great day for acidity.

Malvasia Bianca 2009 $19 - Honey flowers and an herbal green element decorate the nose, with sweet pear juice competing for attention. The palate is sweet and nutty with a floral finish.

Muscat Canelli 2011 $19 - Savory candy and exotic flowers are quite expressive on the nose, and a nice sweet palate laden with peach and touch of candy reveals the 1.5% residual sugar.


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Friday, June 19, 2015

SBC Tasting Room: Andrew Murray Vineyards

We made a trip out of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County wine country recently. My wife and I, along with our good and dear friend Guido love this trip. We pass the roughly two hours in the car by making our own little version of the Algonquin Round Table. Bon mots and witticisms are the rule. The stop in Camarillo to have a bagel and coffee is mandatory and the Trader Joe’s on Milpas provides our picnic lunch. Usually it’s a loaf of bread, some cheese, avocados and olives.

This short series describes some of the wines we sampled in the various tasting rooms we visited.

Andrew Murray Vineyards is now located the property formerly known as Curtis Winery, at the Los Olivos end of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. Winemaker Andrew Murray leased the estate and the winemaking facility from the Firestone family in an effort to grow his line. He also continues to make a limited selection of wines under the Curtis label. Murray still has his longtime tasting room location on Grand Avenue in Los Olivos, but his newly remodeled tasting room at the Foxen Canyon location is simply a delightful wine country stop.

Both tasting rooms offer the Rhone Zone Flight for $15 and the Los Olivos room also has a Current Flight for $12. Sweets fans will want to look into the Chocolate Flight, which features a pairing with Truffles for $20. Group tastings and privately hosted tours are also available.

I was celebrating spring and anticipating summer on this visit, so I tried two whites and a rosé at the winery.

The Andrew Murray Vineyards 2014 Viognier is quite pale in the glass, showing honeysuckle and citrus on the nose. The palate is just great, with a lemon custard flavor and an excellent acidity. The grapes for this wine are from the Santa Maria Valley. $25

AMV’s 2013 Enchanté White Blend is a half and half blend of Roussane and Grenache Blanc. As expected with those two white Rhône grapes, there are aromas of wet rocks, nuts and apricots. Acidity is again outstanding and the palate displays beautiful Meyer lemon which travels seamlessly into a long, nutty finish. The wine is aged half in steel and half in neutral French oak barrels. Murray promises it will “age gracefully for years.” $25

Murray’s Espérance Rosé 2014 has a beautiful salmon color, and is light and delicate. The strawberry nose delights, as do the cherry-strawberry fruit flavors. It's a great dry rosé, made from nearly 100% Cinsault grapes grown on the Curtis estate. Aged in steel, the wine is crisp, dry and completely refreshing. $20



Wednesday, June 17, 2015

SBC Tasting Room: Koehler Winery

We made a trip out of Los Angeles to Santa Barbara County wine country recently. My wife and I, along with our good and dear friend Guido love this trip. We pass the roughly two hours in the car by making our own little version of the Algonquin Round Table. Bon mots and witticisms are the rule. And one of them would stop me here to note that a bon mot IS a witticism. Touché. The stop in Camarillo to have a bagel and coffee is mandatory and the Trader Joe’s on Milpas provides our picnic lunch. Usually it’s a loaf of bread, some cheese, avocados and olives.

This short series will describe some of the wines we sampled in the various tasting rooms we visited.

Koehler Winery is just north of Los Olivos, at the very beginning of the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail. This route winds through the hilly terrain from Los Olivos all the way to Santa Maria. There are around 18 wineries through this stretch, so it makes sense to divide it up over two or more visits You can start from Los Olivos on one visit, then go up the 101 to Santa Maria and head back down on the next.

Ten different grape varieties are grown on the 100-acre Koehler estate. Winemaker Colin Murphy and vineyard manager Felipe Hernandez work together to ensure grape quality and make the best wine possible.

Koehler’s rustic tasting room is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. Two tasting menus are offered, one featuring limited production wines for $15, and the other showing estate selections for $10. The tasting includes a complimentary Koehler Winery logo glass. Tastings for groups of eight or more require reservations.

 Tasting Room Manager Dan Zurliene can help you reserve a group tasting.

I was tasting only whites and rosés on this trip, in preparation for summertime, and I thank the tasting room staff for accommodating me.

Koehler’s 2013 Savignon Blanc is a stainless steel delight. The nose is aromatic with herbs and fruit, while the palate shows wonderful tangerine and lemon notes amid the minerals. It is a clean and brisk wine with great acidity and it sells for $19.

Their 2011 Grenache Blanc comes from what they call their “one-acre patch of paradise.” As expected with the variety, the nose offers savory notes with great fruit and acidity. There is a nutty quality, and the finish is decorated with salinity. $24 retail.

More great savory notes come in the Koehler Viognier 2012. A slightly floral nose gets a nice peach element, too. Melons and peaches are on the palate, and the fabulous salinity noticed in the Grenache Blanc makes an appearance, for a delightful nutty, salty experience. The wine sells for $25.

The Koehler Chardonnay 2012 is a 50/50 mix of oak and steel aging. It spent six months getting older and more nuanced. The nose shows those oak notes just right, with the savory aspect of Koehler’s fruit in play once again. There is a very nice level of acidity and lots of savory notes in the flavor profile. The impact of the oak on the palate is pitch-perfect, while tropical fruit and lemon peel last into the finish. The $24 price tag seems a bargain. 

Guido loved this wine and paused to ask why are there so many bad Chardonnays. I have seen before how boring it is for someone on the peripheral of the wine world to suddenly be given what is charitably known as "too much information." I gave the short answer, "That’s a good question!"

The ‘14 vintage of Koehler’s Rosé of Grenache is the third vintage of this saignée pinkie. The salmon tint is gorgeous, as are the lovely cherry and herb aromas. The palate displays beautiful strawberry and cherry tones while a fantastic acidity keeps this far away from cloying sweetness. Retail is $22.

Blends are always interesting to me, and Koehler’s 2012 Quartette White is a doozy. The grapes include 37% Riesling, 28% Chardonnay, 28% Sauvignon Blanc and 7% Viognier. The nose is wonderfully funky - like a Grenache Blanc - while the palate follows suit, more savory and nutty than fruity. Again, an outstanding acidity makes the wine a refresher. Retail price: $30.

Wrapping up the tasting on the sweet end, the 2012 Riesling actually shows only one percent residual sugar. Light fruit on the nose is met with that Koehler salinity and the savory nutty notes appear on the palate as well, cloaking the beautiful peach and pear fruit. There is great acidity in this wine. It’s very good, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was not a Riesling.



Friday, March 20, 2015

Wine Country Virginia: DuCard Vineyards

During the effort of trying to taste wine produced in all fifty states, some states bear another visit - and another.  DuCard Vineyards is our third sampling of Virginia wine in Now And Zin's Wine Country series.  The Old Dominion state was one of the first in the series, and one of the more recent.

DuCard owner Scott Elliff says he started out innocently enough, growing grapes for sale to a neighborhood vintner.  On the winery's website, Elliff remembers, "We initially sold our grapes to a winery up the road, and wines that included our grapes won a number of awards, including the Virginia Governor’s Cup as the best wine in the state and the Best Wine in the East (out of 1,400 entries) in another competition."

Elliff avoided the proverbial ton of bricks and put two and two together quickly.  "We decided to begin bottling a small amount of wine under our own label, exclusively for friends and neighbors and a small but growing email list of “fans and followers.”  The value of his decision was realized when his wines sold out in his first three vintages.

Not only is DuCard a source of great wine, they are also a leader in Virginia's green business community.  DuCard was Virginia's first solar powered winery, and was awarded the Virginia Green Travel Star designation for its environmentally sound and socially conscious practices.

The winery composts grape waste for use in fields and gardens, uses reclaimed hardwoods from barns and other Appalachian sources for flooring and tasting room bar, employs organic alternatives to  chemical sprays whenever possible and recycles wine bottle corks for use in their flooring.

The label on DuCard's 2013 Signature Viognier reveals that grapes from the estate are whole-cluster pressed, then barrel-fermented and aged in neutral oak.  Alcohol tips the meter at 13.7% abv and the retail sticker of $26 per bottle may price the wine out of some "everyday wine" budgets, but there's always the weekend.

The wine's very pale, golden color is not too inviting - but don't stop after a glance.  The nose send showers of vanilla peaches out in a cloud of soft oak and floral scents.  On the palate, rich peach and pear mix with a slight taste of orange peel.  The acidity is striking, and a citrus note clings to the lengthy and delicious finish.  If all it had going for it were the acidity and the citrus angle, the DuCard Signature Viognier would be worth purchasing.  With all its other attributes, it should be in every wine rack in Virginia - and beyond.

Pair the DuCard Viognier with all the seafood you love - scallops, crab cakes and oysters come to mind - or a nice Gouda cheese plate with apple slices.  And, if you can't wait for lunch, have it with a late breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked bacon.


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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Celebrity Wine: Fergie And Dad Make Wine

Ferguson Crest is a six-acre estate winery in the quaint town of Solvang, California.  That’s in Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley, where a lot of good wine is made.  Vintner Pat Ferguson and his daughter, Fergie Duhamel, founded the winery in 2006.  Pardon me if I divert from standard journalistic style and refer to Duhamel using the name by which she is more well-known: Fergie.

She has had quite a life so far.  The girl from Hacienda Heights was, according to Wikipedia, a cheerleader, straight-A student, spelling bee champion, and a Girl Scout.  She acted and did voiceover, then took to the stage as a singer, achieving huge fame with the Black Eyed Peas and as a solo artist.  She even has a line of perfume.  And now, with her dad, she’s in the wine business.

Besides having a strong affection for Fergie’s work, I love her for exempting me from sniffing at her “celebrity wine.”  She seems to have a genuine interest in wine, no doubt through her father’s love of it.  The publicity sheet tells me that Ferguson always had a keen interest in learning about different grape varieties and how terroir and climate affected the resulting wine.  He would hold blind wine tasting competitions at his dinner parties for family and friends, the perfect litmus test for determining one’s grape nerd status.  Anyway, I think it’s great when a rich, young celebrity helps dad realize a dream.

Winemaker and Syrah specialist Joey Tensley was brought on board in 2009 and gives his award-winning touch to the estate Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, and “Fergalicious,” a red blend of Syrah, Grenache, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The boutique winery turns out limited-production wines - their 2012 Viognier amounted to only 210 cases.  It’s a 100% varietal wine that hits 14.5% abv on the alcohol scale and rings up at $27.50 on the cash register.  No new oak was used in aging and the grapes were whole cluster pressed.

My first impression: "Damn, this is good Viognier."  I know a little Viognier "never killed nobody," but this is "Beautiful Dangerous."  Tinted gold in the glass, it's a great looking wine.  The nose gives forth some nice pear, apple and honeysuckle scents, with a little herbal essence sneaking up, late in the sniff.  But wait, as they say on the two-minute-long commercials.  There's more.  The taste is truly amazing, and I don't often say that - or even think that - about Viognier.  Super-ripe peaches, nectarines and pears are offset by a wonderful green note.  It's "Glamorous," not "Clumsy."  It's a big wine, and not just due to a substantial alcohol content.  It feels big in the mouth and drinks big going down, with plenty of acidity.  If you are "not a white wine person," you should try this one.


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Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer White Wines: Acquiesce Winery Viognier, Lodi

Another virtual wine tasting event took hold of Twitter for an hour recently, and a large contingent of Lodites took to their favorite social media platform to swirl, sip and spill the beans about the amazing white wines of the Lodi AVA.  The comments put forth by the participants can be found under the hashtag #LodiLive, while full details of the event and the Twitter stream is found here.

Lodi makes about 24% of the wine produced in California.  On Twitter, @BrixChix_xan says “75 wine grapes are grown in Lodi and Lodi is leading producer of chardonnay, pinot grigio and Sauv Blanc in state of CA.”  @Lodi_Wine tells us that “Lodi grows some 20-30 different white wine grapes.”  @LusciousLushes chimes in, “There are some GORGEOUS whites in Lodi, Particularly Rhone & Iberian styles.”  @50StatesOfWine recommends, “ if you like the whites and reds of @Lodi-Wine, check out the rosés, amazing!”  @WineJulia agrees, “Yes, Lodi is NOT just red wine country. #lodisummerwhites.”  @CharlesComm informed us that “Of 300+ Lodi farmers, roughly 50-75 are at least 3rd generation winegrape growers.”

Under the guiding hands of Susan Tipton, Acquiesce Winery produces only white wines and rosés of the Mokelumne River appellation.  Her wines are all about the grapes - handpicked and whole-cluster pressed - with no influence of oak to alter what nature has given.  The Acquiesce Viognier 2013 retails for $23, carries an alcohol number of 12.1% abv and comes bottled under cork.  By the way, you may find it hard to throw away or recycle Tipton's pretty, French bottles.

Twitter user @MsPullThatCork noted during the tasting event - with tongue in cheek - that “Sue Tipton is new to Lodi, only 14 years ago!”  On the wine, @norcalwines tweeted, “Intense, pretty nose: peach skin, honeysuckle, green tea.”  From @dvinewinetime we hear of  “sweet pineapple; peach & rose petals. lemon; grapefruit & honey.”  @pullthatcork loved the Viognier's “ huge orange blossom flavor,” while @cellarmistress found the “Tangerine flavor very prevalent! Very Summertime-like!”

A nice healthy glow shows in the beautiful clear bottle.  Aromas of ripe yellow peaches and apricots mix with a floral note to produce an absolutely lovely nose.  Nice minerals - and plenty of them - are set off in a citrus orange peel scent.  The palate shows a bit more of the citrus - mandarin orange and lemon zest - with a fresh acidity that refreshes but doesn't overwhelm.  The whole cluster pressing of the grapes shows nicely in the slight herbal element.  The wine finishes with a lemon zing.


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Friday, May 16, 2014

Casey Flat Ranch Viognier

The spring releases from California winery Casey Flat Ranch - located in the mountains of California’s Capay Valley in Yolo County - were featured in a virtual tasting event recently.  PR firm Charles Communications staged the Twitter tasting, which was also on a live video stream archived here.  Casey Flat Ranch Managing Partner Alison Garrett and winemaker Laura Barrett hosted, while those who joined in sipped and commented on four CFR wines.

The vineyards of this historic longhorn cattle ranch are nestled 2,000 feet high in the Vaca mountains, overlooking the Capay Valley - the AVA was formed in 2002 - to the east and bordering Napa county to the west.  I am told that the high elevation produces terroir-driven  wines, “serious, elegant wines, packed with fresh fruit and stunning minerality.”

The Capay Valley was settled in the 1850s, and vines were planted in the next decade.  The grapes at Casey Flat Ranch were planted much more recently, in 2002 and 2008.  Soil conditions at 2,000 feet on the ranch range from rocky to sandy, with a sandstone base.  Temperatures are similar to northern St. Helena, with a swing of 40 degrees between daytime and night - suitable for Bordeaux and Rhône varieties.

Casey Flat Ranch utilizes sustainable vineyard practices and is home to a variety of wildlife, including 200 Texas Longhorn cattle. 

The 2013 Casey Flat Ranch Capay Valley Viognier is a 100% varietal wine.  The vintage featured an early and warm summer, which resulted in one of the ranch's earliest harvests.  220 cases were made, and the wine sells for $20.

Winemaker Barrett says, "Casey Flat Ranch has just one acre of Viognier, which originally planted as a blending component.  The resulting delicate and fragrant wine was to delicious to blend away."

This Viognier is beautiful.  A fragrant nose begins with a floral scent and opens up into apricots masquerading as canteloupes.  A touch of spice weaves in and out playfully.  On the palate, peach flavor takes a cue from tangerines and a mixture of spices.  Ripping acidity is completely fresh and a strong current of minerals runs through the flavor profile.  

This is a great spring/summer wine, but I mention that only because of the calendar.  I think it would fit just as well in place of a Riesling on the Thanksgiving table or unchilled with the Christmas ham..




Monday, May 12, 2014

Virtual Wine Tasting: Casey Flat Ranch

The spring releases from California winery Casey Flat Ranch - located in the mountains of California’s Capay Valley in Yolo County - were featured in a virtual tasting event recently.  PR firm Charles Communications staged the Twitter tasting, which you can search on Twitter at this hashtag: #CFRBrandLive.  The event was also on a live video stream - archived here.  Casey Flat Ranch Managing Partner Alison Garrett and winemaker Laura Barrett hosted, while those who joined in sipped and commented on four CFR wines:  the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Syrah Rosé, the 2012 Viognier and the 2011 CFR Estate Red Blend.

The vineyards of this historic longhorn cattle ranch are nestled 2,000 feet high in the Vaca mountains, overlooking the Capay Valley in Yolo County.  The AVA - with Napa County bordering on the west - was formed in 2002.  I am told that the high elevation produces terroir-driven  wines, “serious, elegant wines, packed with fresh fruit and stunning minerality.”   The wines will be covered individually on Now And Zin in the coming weeks.

The Capay Valley was settled in the 1850s, and vines were planted in the next decade.  The grapes at Casey Flat Ranch were planted much more recently, in 2002 and 2008.  Soil conditions at 2,000 feet on the ranch range from rocky to sandy, with a sandstone base.  Temperatures are similar to northern St. Helena, with a swing of 40 degrees between daytime and night - suitable for Bordeaux and Rhône varieties.

Casey Flat Ranch utilizes sustainable vineyard practices and is home to a variety of wildlife, including 200 Texas Longhorn cattle.

Twitter users who participated in the tasting event did their homework before logging on.  @wineandgoodfood found that “Viognier, Syrah, Cabernet, Cab Franc, and Tempranillo are among the grapes that dominate the Capay Valley AVA.”   @WineJulia commented that  “Casey Flat Ranch is totally off the grid! Solar powered - very cool”  @MsPullThatCork let us know that  “Sustainable farming practices a high priority at CFR. They're solar powered! “  After the event, @winethropology summed it up for us all: “Terrific line-up tonight - Informed consumers should definitely keep eyes peeled for this emerging wine”

Those in the Twitter-verse really enjoyed the Sauvignon Blanc.  From @WINEormous: “really love the nose on the 2013 Casey Flat Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. Tons of peaches. Great price point - $18”  @martindredmond said,: “Loving the Casey Flat Ranch Sauvignon Blanc. Made with Musque clone. Aromatic, Crisp, refreshing!”  @Luscious_Lushes agreed.  “I love the Musque clone. It gives it such a roundness and floral quality that i love,” adding later,  “Ok madly in love with this SB. It has all of the juicy acidity but none of the bite. crisp granny smith apples. REFRESHING.”  @WineJulia tweeted,: “What a gorgeous tropical nose on the SavBlanc. Pineapple, limes, grapefruit!”  And @winethropology was similarly blown away.  “Seriously, this Sauv Blanc is insanely captivating. Wow.”

Those tweeting their thoughts on the 2012 Casey Flat Ranch Viognier commented quite favorably.  @WineUpdate: “Nice to have a Viognier w/out too heavy a texture. Well-balanced and elegant.”  @cliffordbrown3: “Viognier - peaches, ripe apples, baking spices, white flowers, orange zest, minerals and melon.”  @wineandgoodfood: “Love that the Viognier is aged in both neutral oak and stainless steel...gives it a nice texture!”  @WineJulia: “Casey Flat Ranch wines are mainly bone dry. Love this peachy, orange blossomy Viognier.”  @vinogger: “Love the texture & acidity on the Viognier and that its stainless & neutral oak well done”  @winethropology: “Viognier $20 Breaking my belief that NorCal viognier is a fool's errand. This has got guts and grace.”  @MsPullThatCork: “Viognier is delicately floral with stone fruit flavors. Yum!

On Twitter, the 2013 Casey Flat Ranch Rosé garnered some pink love.  @WINEormous: “Gorgeous pale rose color. Bone dry.”  @WineUpdate: “deeply stylish: Sweet cherry, cranberry, mineral, spice. Savory and giving.”   @Luscious_Lushes: “full of blood orange and rosehips. Juicy wild strawberry, hisbiscus zing. loving the spicy notes. Perfect for Thai.”  @cliffordbrown3: “strawberries, spice, cherries, minerals and orange blossoms.”  @MsPullThatCork: “made from 100% Syrah, no skin contact! All stainless. ‘Ballet slipper pink’ in color. Delicate berry flavors, juicy acidity. “  @BigNoseWino: “super strawberry spicy nose w/ nice acidity that slaps the back of your throat on the finish.”  @WineJulia: “made in a classic style & harvested for making rose'. No skin contact w/ gorgeous color!”

Tweeters who were tasting at home chimed in with lots of favorable notes on the Casey Flat Ranch Estate Red Blend.  @cliffordbrown3: “blackberries, dried herbs, cassis, minerals, cedar, tobacco and dried violets. I need a piece of juicy meat, hot off the grill to go with the CFR Estate Red.”  @Luscious_Lushes: “Red Wine blend, kitchen sink - deep, dark, brooding. Coffee -- 75% new French oak. Black cherry, blackberry notes - anise. ohh yes, Earl grey tea in there.”  @WineUpdate: “Spice cake, plum, blackberry-balsamic, peppercorn, black tea. Balanced oak. Excellent!”  @BigNoseWino: “big herbal, berry bomb nose w/ a savory mid palate & lightly acidic, tannin finish.”  @WineJulia: “$35 is an outstanding price for this red blend. It's lush and beautiful!”


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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Virtual Wine Tasting: Casey Flat Ranch

Virtual wine tasting events are popping up more and more often on Twitter.  Maybe a virtual wine tasting event has been held on Facebook, but it probably spiralled into a gun control rant within ten comments.  Twitter is where one can usually find a virtual tasting event that stays on topic - for the most part.

This evening (Wednesday April 30, 2014) at 5:00 p.m. PT, the fine folks at San Francisco publicity house Charles Communication are set to host another virtual tasting event, this time featuring wines from Casey Flat Ranch, located in the mountains of California’s Capay Valley AVA in Yolo County - as opposed to YOLO county.

The vineyards of this historic longhorn cattle ranch are nestled 2,000 feet high in the Vaca mountains, overlooking the Capay Valley to the east and bordering Napa county to the west.  I am told that the high elevation produces terroir-driven  wines, “serious, elegant wines, packed with fresh fruit and stunning minerality.”  I can’t wait until we find out for ourselves.

Hosting the virtual tasting event will be Casey Flat Ranch Managing Partner Alison Garrett and winemaker Laura Barrett.  Four Casey Flat Ranch wines will be tasted and tweeted about:  the 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, the 2013 Syrah Rosé, the 2012 Viognier and the 2011 CFR Estate Red Blend.

If you are new to the virtual wine tasting scene, here’s how you do it.  First, sign into your Twitter account.  The tweets can be searched by hashtag - #CFRBrandLive - so be sure to use that when you jump in with comments.  If you can get a bottle of one or more of the wines, that’s great.  Even if you can’t, join in and learn a bit about Casey Flat Ranch and their wines.

You can also access the live stream of the event by using this link.  Once you click on the link, you’ll see a box on the right hand side that says ‘Questions from the Audience.’  Fill in your name and location and type up your comment or question, which will be viewed by all who are following along.

We’ll look for you in the hashtag.  You can use the rocking chairs, but please clean up your Twitter shavings.



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