Luke Donald Wine

Luke Donald WineThe Donald

No, this month’s wines aren’t associated with Donald Trump (a teetotaler, by the way), but rather, English professional golfer Luke Donald. The Luke Donald Wine Collection is the result of a collaboration between Donald and Bill Terlato, head of the behemoth wine distribution operation, Terlato Wines International.

Terlato first met Donald when the golfer was a student at Northwestern University. Terlato took lessons from Donald’s coach, Pat Goss, who initially suggested the two get together. Along with an interest in golf, the two men shared an interest in sports cars and ultimately, wine.

Golfer-endorsed wines are a growing trend, and already include such players as Ernie Els, Nick Faldo, David Frost, Cristie Kerr, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Arnold Palmer. In 2006, Terlato approached Donald with the idea of creating a pair of wines for him under the Luke Donald label. He was adamant, however, that he didn’t want merely a celebrity endorser. Terlato wanted someone who would be involved in the development of the product. The wines that resulted from this partnership are serious wines, rather than a vanity effort (and are priced accordingly).

Chardonnay 2010

This 100% Chardonnay is sourced from vineyards in the Carnaros AVA, which lies at the northern end of San Pablo Bay (the northern section of San Francisco Bay).

The wine is pale yellow in the glass. On entry, it offers a full mouthfeel. That buttery sensation continues to develop on the palate, followed by just the right amount of acidity.

For this wine’s flavor profile, Donald looked to the white Burgundies of France. The flavor is predominantly of tart citrus fruits; the wood (25% new French oak, 75% used French oak) is there, but is nicely balanced.

Enjoy this wine with Summer Vegetable Stir-fry with Couscous, Braised Greek Chicken and Artichokes, or Almond-crusted Sole with Leek-and-lemon Cream.

Claret 2009

Befitting Donald’s background, this red wine blend is a Claret. Although “claret” has no legal definition, it is generally a term used by the English when referring to certain red wines of Bordeaux with a light, refreshing style.

This easy-drinking red blend (mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, 100% Napa Valley) is transparent ruby in color. The taste features wild black berries and subtle spice notes. This is supported by well-integrated tannins.

This Claret would go well with Chicken Simmered with Cream and Onions, Roast Duck with Cherries, or Braised Ham with Mushroom Stuffing.

These wines are limited production, each limited to less than 1000 cases, but are well worth seeking out.


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Cline Cellars

Cline CellarsYes, We Have No Cabernet

As you enter Sonoma county from the south on California 121, one of the first wineries you encounter is Cline Cellars, and there could hardly be a better introduction to the Carneros AVA.

Even as a young teenager, Fred Cline learned to make wine from his grandfather, Valeriano Jacuzzi (yes, he of the hydrotherapy tub, as well as many other innovations). With a $9000 inheritance from Valeriano, in 1981 Cline founded the eponymous Cline Cellars in Oakley, California.

The winery was relocated to its current location in 1991. The property is the original site of the Mission San Francisco de Solano, the 21st and final of the historic California missions. Although the mission was moved in 1823, the Cline tasting room is located in a rustic 1850s farmhouse that is original to the property, surrounded by spring-fed ponds and thousands of rose bushes. The vineyards also reflect this history, with vines ranging from 80 to 120 years old.
Cline is one of the first of the pioneering Rhone Rangers, a group dedicated to wines from the grapes of the Côtes du Rhône in France (ironic for a boy with an Italian grandfather, no?)

Cline also has been a pioneer in sustainable farming. It is the second-largest completely solar-powered winery in California. Natural cover crops are used to nourish the soils, sheep and goats roam freely as they graze on weeds, and compost teas are used as fertilizer. “We’d be considered ‘organic’ if we wanted to follow the rules of the government,“ said Cline. “We are actually more sustainable [than the law calls for] by not following their organic rules.“ He calls his methods “beyond organic.”

Viognier 2017

Ah, Viognier [vee-oh-NYAY], such an elusive and underappreciated wine. The grapes are finicky to grow, and once vinified exhibit a wide range of floral qualities, some more delightful than others.

This expression is pale reddish-golden in the glass, with a BAM! nose of honeysuckle. This is followed on the palate by the expected flavor of peach, as well as mango and sour orange. This unoaked wine tastes dry, but has a surprising, slightly sweet finish. To enjoy its nuance, do not overchill.

Drink this tipple with braised tuna in white wine, oven-braised halibut steaks, or Provençal seafood with aioli.

Heritage Zinfandel 2015

The provenance of this Zin are the 100-year-old Big Break, Live Oak, and Bridgehead vines in Oakley, which are dry-farmed in deep, sandy soil. It is crystal ruby in the glass. Flavors of cola, blueberry, and coffee greet you on the tongue. There is just a hint of Zinfandel’s characteristic pepper. The body has a nice satin quality, supported by nicely balanced medium tannins and acidity. An eminently drinkable wine.

Enjoy this red with braised pork with sweet and hot peppers, Niçoise chicken with tomatoes and black olives, or lamb with artichokes.

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Portugese Red Table Wine

Portugese Red Table WineIn the 1970s, Portugese rosés such as Lancers and Mateus were the height of sophistication to many young wine drinkers: “It’s imported, and comes in a fun bottle!” With age comes wisdom, and these wines were eventually abandoned for the justifiably famous fortified wines of Portugal, Port and Madeira, produced by many ancient and famous houses.

Much less well-known is Portugal’s status as a producer of both red and white table wine, ranking in the world’s top ten in production.  With a population of just 10 million, but top five in per capita consumption, much of that wine is sipped by the thirsty Portuguese.

Continue reading “Portugese Red Table Wine”

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay

Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon and ChardonnayAn American in Paris

Steven Spurrier is an Englishman who once owned a wine shop in Paris that catered to the English-speaking expatriate community. In 1976, in order to drum up interest in his business, he hit upon the idea of holding a blind tasting pitting ten of France’s and California’s best producers against one another. He was able to enlist nine esteemed French wine experts as judges, among them Odette Kahn, editor of the influential Revue du Vin de France; and Christian Vannequé, sommelier of the three-star Parisian restaurant La Tour d’Argent. The French wines included the 1970 Haut-Brion, the 1970 Mouton Rothschild, and the 1973 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles.

The famous tasting, held May 24, 1976, at Paris’ InterContinental Hotel, has come to be known as The Judgement of Paris. Neither Spurrier, a Francophile to the core, nor anyone else expected the upstart Yanks to really put up a fight against the French heavyweights. However, when the votes were tallied, the judges were shocked to discover they had awarded the top prize for the red to the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, and top prize for the white to Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, both from Napa Valley. It was the shock heard ‘round the world, and legitimized California as a world-class wine-making region.

George M. Taber, the Time magazine correspondent present at the time, details the event in Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine. The story was also dramatized in the 2008 film Bottle Shock.

Thirty years later, in May of 2006, as a celebration of the original Judgement, the same wines were retasted to gauge their aging potential. The French were confident that here the weak Californians would stumble. Instead, mon dieu, they placed first through fifth. Boo Ya!

Chateau Montelena has seen three cycles of family stewardship. The first began in 1882 when the winery was founded by Alfred L. Tubbs, a European immigrant and San Fransciso entrepreneur. The original property was 254 acres of rugged, well drained, stony, and loose land just two miles north of Calistoga at the base of Mount Saint Helena. (Montelena is a contracted form of Mount Saint Helena.) By 1896 Tubbs’ winery was the seventh largest in the Napa Valley.

The Tubbs family sold the winery in 1958, at which time the Chateau and its overgrown grounds passed into the hands of Yort and Jeanie Frank, who were looking for a peaceful spot to retire. The setting inspired Frank to excavate a lake and add landscaping to reflect the Chinese gardens of his homeland.

The modern renaissance of Chateau Montelena started under the leadership of Jim Barrett, who purchased the winery in 1972. The vineyard was cleared and replanted, and the winery was renovated and outfitted with modern winemaking equipment, complemented by the highest-quality grapes from the Napa Valley. In 1972 wines were made for the first time, and shortly thereafter Chateau Montelena stunned the wine world with its win at the 1976 Paris Tasting. The winery continues today with Jim Barrett at the helm.

Napa Valley Chardonnay 2008

This Chardonnay started by being harvested at night in order to preserve delicate flavors and aromas. The wine is brilliantly clear with a golden-straw color. The nose suggests pear and tropical passion fruit. On the palate, there are flavors of juicy peach, citrus notes of pink grapefruit, honey tangerine, and starfruit, conveyed by an appealing softness. The mid-palate features an understated, nutty, oak tone which segues into an interesting long and spicy finish. The wine was aged for 10 months in 100% French barrels, 11% of which were new.

Serve this legendary wine with Morroccan Lemon Chicken, Sea Bass with Gingered Broth, Risotto with Scallops, or, if your dinner guests are French, Crow.

Napa Valley Cabernet 2006

Although famous for their Chardonnay, Montelena makes a number of reds as well, including this Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend is 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, and 4% Cabernet Franc.

Dark ruby in color, this wine offers rich, complex aromas of ripe dark cherry, plum, cinnamon, and tobacco, with top notes of earth and forest floor. In the mouth, this wine makes a full soft round entry, after which the acid builds nicely, supporting the dominant flavor of black currant, plus licorice and spice. Plenty of fine-grain tannin completes the mouthfeel. Nice notes of toasted oak round out the tremendous long finish. This is a very well-balanced wine that will age for ten to twelve years, if you have the patience.

Pair this Cabernet with Tenderloin of Beef with Blue Cheese, Cider-Braised Pork Medallions, or Broiled Lamb Chops.

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Clos Pegase Pinot Noir Mitsuko’s Vineyard 2016 and a Salmon Souffle

Clos Pegase Pinot Noir Mitsuko’s Vineyard 2016A Christmas Souffle

There are few things as elegant, or as easy to make, as a souffle.  My stepdaughter and her partner dropped by for Christmas, and he mentioned that, even though he is 45, he had never had a savory souffle, much less made one.  I assured him it was really simple, so I whipped up one with salmon.  The recipe is below if you want to make one as well.  But first, the wine.

Clos Pegase Pinot Noir Mitsuko’s Vineyard 2016

This wine pours a jewel-like ruby red into the glass.   The nose greets you with aromas of vanilla and ripe red cherries.   Those cherries come forward on the palate, along with hints of cinnamon and clove.  There is harmonious balance between the oak, acid, and tannins.  It’s all rounded out by a nice medium finish.  it paired quite nicely with:

Salmon Souffle 2019

I first learned to make souffles from The New York Times Cookbook by Craig Claiborne, and that was the starting place for this one.

3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl flour
4 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 C milk or half and half
4 eggs, separated
Salt and  dry mustard to taste
2 Tbl teriyaki sauce
14 oz. can salmon

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.

1.  Melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the mushrooms until lightly browned.
3.  Stir in the flour and blend with a wire whisk.  Meanwhile, drain the salmon into a 1 cup measure.  Add enough milk to come to 1 cup.  Bring the milk to a boil, and add all at once to the butter-flour mixture (aka a roux), stirring with the whisk until thickened and smooth.  Let cool.
3.  Beat in, one at at time, the four egg yolks.  Season with salt, mustard, and teriyaki sauce.
4. Flake the salmon, and blend well into the white sauce and egg mixture.
5.  Using a rotary beater or an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they stand in peaks.  Do not over beat.  Fold the whites gently into the salmon mixture with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, being careful not to overblend.
6.  Pour into a 1-1/2 quart souffle dish, which may be greased or ungreased.  Place in oven and bake thirty to forty minutes.  Serve with Hollandaise sauce.

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Dry Creek Vineyard

Dry Creek VineyardUp On Dry Creek

Dry Creek Vineyard founder David Stare arrived in Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma, California, in 1972, opening the first winery there since Prohibition. Years of neglect of the valley’s acreage had convinced locals that Dry Creek was no longer suitable for grape growing.

But Stare was undeterred. He had decided to fashion his wines by following the traditions, standards, and styles of the Loire Valley in France after extensive travels and tastings in the region.

In short order, Stare had overturned the conventional wisdom. The winery debuted with a characteristic Fumé Blanc (made with the Sauvignon Blanc grape), which met with immediate success and remains Dry Creek’s signature wine.

Dry Creek has since extensively diversified into reds as well as other whites, championing Zinfandel and Bordeaux blending techniques.

Dry Creek Fumé Blanc 2007

This refreshing unoaked Fumé Blanc is pefect for when the weather turns nice. The dominant citrus notes are joined by green melon and just a hint of grass. Mineral and spice notes also emerge and linger to the very last.

Dry Creek Merlot 2005

This nicely balanced Merlot features flavors of ripe blackberry and currant, supported by a hint of vanilla. There is just enough oak and tannins to restrain the fruit and give it structure. The wine finishes relatively soft and with moderate length. The merlot in this Bordeaux-like blend is augmented by smaller quantities of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and malbec.

For a look at Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay:

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A Pinot Blanc and a Montepulciano

Wine by Joe
Pinot Blanc 2005

Joe Dobbes is a native of Oregon, born in the Willamette Valley. Dobbes has been making wine for others in Oregon for over twenty years, and in 2003 he started Wine by Joe as a consulting and crushing company. In 2004, Joe expanded it into a complete winery, and he added the title of winemaker. He has since passed that to Travis Procter, Director of Winemaking Operations.

The 214-acre vineyard, in the Eola Hills / Amity AVA, gets cool coastal breezes from the Pacific ocean, 45 miles to the west. Pinot Blanc was planted in 1989 under previous owners.

If you like your whites subtle and unassuming, this one’s for you. The color in the glass is pale, almost to the point of colorless. The taste features hints of pears, peaches, and a bit of smokiness (no wood, though), supported by a crisp talc-flinty acidity. The finish is short.

Feature this wine at brunch with sea bass and roasted bell pepper, baked cod with tarragon, or almond-crusted sole.

Barba Colle Morino Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2005

The Fratelli [Brothers] Barba winery, completed in 1991, is in Scerne di Pineto, at the foot of the Colle Morino hills. This relatively young winery prides itself on using the latest technology and equipment, especially after a major renovation in 2005.

This Montepulciano is nicely rustic. It was fermented for about ten days in conical oak vats, and then aged in the winery’s air-conditioned cellars.
The fruit is there (primarily stone fruits like cherry and plum), but in the old world, slightly under ripe, style. Structure comes from a robust punch of tannins, particularly evident after an hour and a half or so of breathing. The initial taste is surprisingly “hot,” even with a respectable alcohol level of 13%.
During summer, scrape off that grill and pair this Montepulciano with black pepper / ancho beef filets, barbequed porterhouse steaks, beer-simmered bratwurst with grilled onions and ‘kraut, or lamb chops with fresh thyme and grilled lemons.

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Charles Krug Winery

Charles Krug Winery
Click here for tasting notes.

After stints as a teacher, political activist, newspaper editor, U.S. Treasury employee, and inventor, in 1861 the restless German immigrant Charles Krug established the very first commercial winery in Napa Valley.

Krug was not only a pioneer, but was innovative and inspirational as well. He became the major local winery figure of his era. He introduced the cider press for winemaking (no more foot stomping!), and carefully selected rootstocks, varietals, and vineyards, a novel approach to winemaking at the time.

Upon Krug’s death in 1892, James Moffitt became proprietor of the winery, and succeeded in keeping it open during the dark days of Prohibition. In 1943, Robert Mondavi persuaded his parents, Cesare and Rosa, to purchase the winery from Moffitt for $75,000. Robert Mondavi developed his wine career there, until he founded his own winery in 1966 and went on to become one of the greatest legends in all of California’s wine industry.

Cesare rejuvinated the winery, and reestablished it as one of Napa’s premier producers. Following Cesare’s death in 1959, Rosa ran the winery until 1976 when it was inherited by Peter Mondavi, Sr.

Innovation continued under Peter, who introduced vintage dating, cold fermentation, cold filtration, and fermentation in small French oak barrels. He was active in the affairs of the winery nearly up until his death in 2016 at the age of 101.  The operation continues under the guidance of his sons Mark and Peter Jr.

Carneros Chardonnay 2010

The color of this 100% chardonnay in the glass is bright yellow with a hint of green. The nose features aromas of tropical fruit, particularly lime, and fermenting bread dough. On the palate, the citrus and peach flavors are balanced with a lively acidity. There is a surprisingly creamy mouthfeel, complemented by a lingering finish. Fermentation was 70% stainless steel and 30% barrel, so the oak is present but not overbearing.

Please your guests and yourself by serving this wine with Chicken ala Kiev, Sea Bass Stuffed with Crabmeat, or Scallops Sauteed in Garlic Butter.

Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

This cabernet sauvignon favors elegance and finesse over power. The dark purple color is more transparent than inky. Black cherry dominates the nose. The taste displays the same dark fruit, abetted with cocoa and hints of tobacco and vanilla. The supple tannins help to support a relatively long finish. The blend includes 84% cabernet sauvignon, 10% merlot, 4% petit verdot, and 2% cabernet franc. Fermentation was for 20 months in French and American oak.

Enjoy this wine with Steak Diane, Ragout of Lamb, Herb-stuffed Pork Chops with Wine Sauce, or just with some honest bread and artisanal cheeses.

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Graham’s Quinta Dos Malvedos 2009 Vintage Port

Graham’s Quinta Dos Malvedos 2009 Vintage PortoIn the Douro valley of Portugal, home of true Port wines, only the finest years are declared as Vintages, the best of the best. The last declared vintage was 2017.  (Remarkably, this followed the declared 2016.  Back to back declarations are qute rare.)

However, the grapes grow every year, of course, and the foremost houses still have a high-quality product to offer even in non-declared years. This is usually released as a single quinta [Portugese literally for farm, but understood as vineyard or estate] bottling. These wines also receive a vintage designation, rather than being used for more anonymous blended ports.

Graham’s Quinta dos Malvedos is just such a product, a ruby port expressing Graham’s finest efforts of 2009. This wine has seen two years in barrel, and although I’m sure it will age well, I suggest drinking it now. The wine is delightfully approachable, with none of the aggressive characteristics so often seen in a young Vintage Port.

The alcohol, tannins, and fruit are nicely balanced, with the palate displaying the classic port flavors of cassis and blackberries.

Enjoy this wine either as an aperitif or with dessert (blue cheese and walnuts are traditional, but chocolate mousse would be delicious as well). And, please forgo fussy liqueur glasses or port “pipes;” a white wine glass will do just fine.

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Justin Vineyards and Winery

Justin Vineyards and WineryJustin Time

Justin Vineyards and Winery is located in Paso Robles in California’s Central Coast region. William Randolph Hearst’s famous “castle,” San Simeon, is due west over the Sierra Madre mountains.

Justin was founded in 1981 by Justin Baldwin when he planted the 160-acre property with the major grapes of Bordeaux, and the emphasis on Bordeaux-style blends and single varietals remains to this day. In addition to the estate vineyard, Justin sources grapes from thirteen affiliated growers in the area.

The winery’s three prime areas of focus are: a “left bank” Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, named Isosceles, Justin’s flagship and most well-known offering; Justification, its “right bank” Merlot and Cabernet Franc cousin; and varietal bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. They also produce limited amounts of Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Port, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Viognier.

For these varietals, each year Justin commissions a different artist to execute the art portion of the label. The winery buildings and their surrounding vineyards are always the subject matter, the idea being that the artists’ interpretation of the winery is like the winemaker’s interpretation of the vineyard’s grapes.

In addition to the tasting room, there is also an inn and restaurant on the property.

Sauvignon Blanc 2010

This unoaked wine spent five and a half months in stainless steel before bottling. It is almost colorless, with hints of pale straw and delicate green.
The nose offers aromas of fresh peach, citrus notes dominated by ruby grapefruit, and a hint of coconut.

On the palate the wine is dry, with bright acidity, and some of the peach flavor carries over from the nose. The body has very good structure for a sauvignon blanc.

Pair this wine with Rosemary-Lemon Chicken, Crab and Shrimp Etouffee, or Broiled Scallops.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

After a balanced growing season and unchallenging harvest, Justin’s ‘09 Cabernet was matured for 16 months in French and American oak, 33% of it new.

In the glass, this wine is a not-quite opaque ruby red. It features aromas of black fruits, with a vanilla note from the oak. Surprisingly, there were almost no legs.

Its taste offers up red and black cherries and red currents, although the fruit is somewhat recessive, and is reflective of Justin’s preference for an old-world style, rather than what one might usually expect from the Central Coast. The wine is nicely tannic, with a medium finish.

This food-friendly wine would work well with Yankee Pot Roast, Creole Pork Chops, or Chicken Cacciatore.

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Sosie Wines Syrah Vivio Vineyard Bennett Valley Sonoma 2016

Sosie Winery Syrah

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it’s a maxim Sosie Wines lives by. “Sosie” [so-zee] is French for twin or doppelganger, and as it says right on the bottle, “We are inspired by the wines of France. So we employ an Old World approach to wine growing that favors restraint over ripeness, finesse over flamboyance. Our aim is to craft wines that show a kinship with France’s benchmark regions. Wines that are their sosie.”

Sosie Wines also pays homage to the French tradition of location, or terroir, believing that the vineyard site is perhaps the most important component of a bottle of wine.

Sosie Wines co-owner Regina (no last name, apparently) was introduced to wine at an early age, one of the first being Chateauneuf du Pape. “I remember the shape of those bottles and the crossed-keys of the papal crest. It was a symbol you could trust, my mom used to say. I never forgot that, and as a young adult one of the first places I had to visit in France was Chateauneuf. To this day I still love those wines.”

On a quest to cement that fascination, in 2006 she and partner Scott took a trip to the Loire in western France, and then in 2008 they spent 10 days traveling the Côte de Nuits, walking the vineyards and tasting the wines. In 2016 they visited both northern and southern Rhone, working their way down from Côte-Rôtie to St. Joseph

Following their travels, Regina and Scott founded their winery on the belief that their wines should stand for something. That they would not just have a style, but a purpose. They wanted their products to be food-friendly, with lower alcohol levels, higher acidity, and made in small batches with minimal intervention and just a bit of oak.

The couple are hands-on vintners. They prowl the vineyards throughout the growing season and are at the sorting table when the fruit comes in. They taste the berries, check the sugars and acids, and call the pick. They supervise every aspect of their barrels – the cooper, the forest, and the toast level. But they can’t do it all, of course. They get plenty of help from winemaker Kieran Robinson. Kieran had worked previously at Domaine Pierre Gaillard in France (of course), and had the deep appreciation for French viticulture and winemaking they were looking for.


At just above 800 ft, this is one of the highest vineyards in Sonoma’s Bennett Valley. Sosie grows Syrah as well as Roussanne on the mineral-rich, volcanic soil here.  The area, near Petaluma Gap, has a strong marine influence, as cool air pours in from three separate directions and settles into the valley’s bowl, which in the summer months turns to heavy fog. Even so, the days can get quite hot, with temperature swings of 40° to 50° F from daytime highs to nighttime lows. This can mean the fruit is very late ripening due to the extended “hang time” on the vines..  The property is sustainably farmed.

Sosie Wines Syrah 2016

In addition to the Syrah, there is 7% Rousanne in the bottle. It was aged for 20 months in 50% new oak. The nose features aromas of berries, tart cherries, with a hint of plum and menthol. The restrained plum continues on the palate, with some cocoa and, frankly, booming tannins. No worries, though. Decant Sosie Wines Syrah for an hour or two before drinking, and those tannins settle down nicely.

Give this Syrah a try with roast duck with cherries, beef braised in red wine, or pork chops with mustard, cream, and tomato sauce.

Only five barrels (that’s 1500 bottles) of this wine were produced, so get a bottle while you can.

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Amapola Creek Winery

Born in San Francisco and raised in Santa Rosa, Richard Arrowood started his winemaking career in 1965 at Korbel Champagne Cellars, after earning a degree in organic chemistry at California State University, Sacramento, and completing graduate work in enology at California State University, Fresno.

From Korbel he moved on, first to United Vintners, then Sonoma Vineyards, and in 1974 was chosen by the founders of Chateau St. Jean Winery to become their first employee and winemaker.

Arrowood Winery opened in 1986 while he was still at Chateau St. Jean, and for the first three years his wife Alis ran the winery as Richard fulfilled his obligations at Chateau St. Jean. In April 1990 Richard joined Alis to devote himself full-time to Arrowood Winery.

The peripatetic Arrowood then moved on once again; he opened his newest winery, Amapola Creek, in June, 2010. The 120-acre ranch (purchased in 2001) that is home to Amapola Creek is situated on the western slope of the Mayacamas Mountains, which rise between and separate the Sonoma and Napa valleys. Although Alis envisioned the site as the place for a peaceful retirement, Richard had other ideas, and immediately set about selecting the best 20 acres of the property for use as the foundation for Amapola Creek Winery.

Arrowood claims he’s “saved the best for last.” Perhaps he’s right; after making quality wine for over 45 years, he says his quest now is to make his greatest wines ever.

In early December 2019, Richard Arrowood announced his retirement.

Amapola Zinfandel 2007

The grapes for this Zinfandel were sourced from ‘ancient’ 115-year old vines of Sonoma’s historic Monte Rosso vineyard. This high-elevation site features mineral-rich volcanic soils and cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay.

The gnarly old vines made for a truly distinctive Zinfandel. It is dark plum in color, befitting its nicely balanced flavors of dark stone fruits, black cherry, and blackberry. The taste is supported by supple tannins and good acid, as well as just a hint of sweetness. And, there is no pepper on the palate, which is just the way I like my Zins.

Serve this wine with Sweet Potatoes Topped With Black Bean Chili, Grilled Spareribs with Cherry Cola Glaze, or Apricot Glazed Chicken.

Amapola Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

The organically-farmed estate vineyard for this Cabernet borders the one from which comes the Zinfandel, so the soils and climate are nearly identical.

This is just the second Cabernet released by Amapola. The grapes were hand-picked, and pressed after fermentation. The wine was then aged for 26 months in new and seasoned French and American oak. It is neither fined nor filtered.

This elegant wine shows excellent harmony and structure. The taste features ripe blackberry, plum, and currant. The fruit is offset by a pleasing dustiness, and supported by restrained tannins.

This wine would pair nicely with Rib Roast with Thyme-Mustard Jus, Pork Sauté with Apples and Calvados Cream Sauce, or Herb Roasted Turkey with Shallot Pan Gravy.

Here’s another look at Amapola Creek:

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Carmel Winery Private Collection

Carmel Winery Private Selection

The first mention of wine in the Bible appears in Genesis, chapter 9, verse 20, “And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard.” The story goes on to recount some unpleasantness after Noah overimbibes, but there is no reason to go into that here. The point is, wine is as old as history itself, with some of its earliest beginnings in the Middle East. Indeed, references to wine appear hundreds of times in Scripture, through both the Old and New Testaments.

Wine production flourished in the eastern Mediterranean until the rise of Islamic prohibitionists suppressed it in the 8th century. However, there has been a modern renaissance in Turkey, Cyprus, and Lebanon, as well as Israel, from which these Carmel Winery Private Collection wines come.

Sweet red kiddush wines, consumed on the Shabbat (the Jewish day of rest) and other Jewish holidays, were for years the standard output of the original cooperative wineries of Carmel at Rishon le Zion and Zichron Yaacov in the coastal regions of Samaria and Samson, a gift to Israel from French wine magnate Baron Edmond de Rothschild, owner of the famous Chateau Lafite in Bordeaux. They still control just under half of all grapes in the most traditional wine-growing areas.

Starting in the 1980s with the introduction of technology and expertise from California, Israeli wines began to move from primarily sacramental use to products intended to compete on the international stage.

Carmel Winery, one of the first and largest winemakers in Israel, was founded in 1882 by the aforementioned Baron Rothschild. It sits on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, about 14 miles south of Haifa. The Zichron Yaakov wine cellars were built in 1890, and are still active to this day. Carmel Winery works with 108 families of wine growers to nurture some 3,500 acres of vineyards in Israel from the Galilee and the Golan Heights in the North, to the Negev in the South. Carmel uses state-of-the-art technology to produce an array of wines from entry-level offerings to premium bottlings.

This new Private Collection series showcases the country’s most prized growing regions and Carmel Winery’s 137 years of winemaking expertise.

The 2018 Winemakers Blend is an easy-drinking mix of 50% Cabernet and 50% Merlot, made by Carmel’s Chief Winemaker Yiftach Peretz. It has fragrant aromas of blueberry and vanilla on the nose. The taste features suggestions of plums with hints of spices and cocoa abetted by soft tannins. The finish is relatively short.

The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps predictably, is much like the Winemakers Blend. It has rich aromas of blackberry and chocolate, with a similar flavor profile. The well-balanced tannins are more prominent, and the finish rather longer.

The 2018 Shiraz is deep purple in the glass, with a medium-bodied palate of dark stone fruit, a hint of green pepper, and good supporting tannins. It offers the longest finish of this trio.

All three of these Carmel Winery expressions are worthy of your consideration, but the Shiraz was the standout for me.

These wines are “kosher for Passover” and “mevushal.” Both certifications require handling and processes unique to these types of wine.

Kosher wine is grape wine produced according to Jewish dietary law (kashrut). To be considered kosher, Sabbath-observant Jews must supervise and sometimes handle the entire winemaking process, from the time the grapes are crushed until the wine is bottled. Any ingredients used, including finings, must be kosher as well. Wine that is described as “kosher for Passover” must have been kept free from contact with chametz, such as grain, bread, and dough.

Mevushal is a subclass of kosher wine that can be handled by non-Jewish or non-observant waiters, and is consequently frequently used in kosher restaurants and by kosher caterers. To be classified as mevushal, kosher wine is cooked or boiled, after which it will keep the status of kosher wine even if subsequently touched by a non-Jew.

The process of fully boiling a wine can greatly alter the tannins and flavors. Therefore, much care is taken to satisfy the legal requirements while exposing the wine to as little heat as necessary.  Surprisingly, there is significant disagreement as to the precise temperature a wine must reach to be considered mevushal, ranging from 165°F (74°C) to 194°F (90°C). Heating at the minimum required temperature reduces some of the damage done to the wine, but still has a substantial effect on quality and aging potential.

Alternatively, flash pasteurization rapidly heats the wine to the desired temperature and immediately chills it back to room temperature. This process is said to have much less impact on flavor, at least compared to actual cooking or boiling.  I assume Carmel Winery uses the flash pasteurization method to achieve mevushal status, as none of these wines display any obvious damage from overheating.

Regardless of the heating method, to ensure the kosher status of the wine it must be overseen by a Jewish authority who supervises the kashrut status of the producer. Generally, this supervisor will physically tip the fruit into the crush and operate the equipment. Once the wine emerges from the process, it can be handled in the normal fashion.

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Two from Down Under

Linchpin McLaren Vale ShirazLinchpin McLaren Vale Shiraz 2004

This award-winning Shiraz hails from McLaren Vale on Australia’s southern coast. The complex soil types here combine with the St. Vincent’s Gulf breezes to make for ideal vineyard conditions.

Winemaker Matt Rechner believes the best way to make excellent wine is through simple processes and minimal handling for maximum flavor extraction. Here the grapes were harvested from low-yield vineyards, then spent 20 months in French and American oak. The concentrated fruit, supported by notes of chocolate and blackberry, certainly comes through in this relatively high-alcohol (15.2%) Shiraz. It has a lush, velvet-like mouth feel and well-balanced oak tannins.

Serve with lamb stew accented by eggplant, saffron, and raisins, or shepherd’s pie.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc 2006

Kim Crawford is perhaps New Zealand’s most famous wine maker. After 20 years as an independent, three years ago he sold out to an American holding company. However, he was allowed to pursue boutique bottlings, and we have one of those here.

This Sauvignon Blanc dodges the grassiness which so often mars this varietal when it originates in New Zealand. Instead there is a tart, refreshing, distinct grapefruit nose and taste. Completely dry, with a bit of flint on the finish. Delicious.

Pair this wine with lobster tacos, seafood paella, or parmesan-dijon chicken drumsticks.

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Hook and Ladder Winery

Hook and Ladder WineryC’mon Baby, Light My Fire

Looking toward his eventual retirement, in 1970 San Francisco firefighter Cecil De Loach bought 24 acres of old-vine Zinfandel in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County. For six years De Loach worked the acreage part time, selling grapes to other producers, as neophyte winemakers often do. In 1976 De Loach released his first wine, 1,000 cases of a vintage 1975 Zinfandel, and in so doing became one of the first Russian River wineries.

After a 16-year career, De Loach retired from the San Francisco Fire Department in 1982. But this allowed him to work the winery full time, and over the next two decades he grew production to 250,000 cases annually. Not only was he one of Sonoma county’s wine pioneers, during this time he was also extremely active as a promoter and advocate of Sonoma wines.

Unhappily, De Loach ran into financial difficulties in the late 1990s, and filed for bankruptcy in 2003. (The De Loach label continues, however, having been purchased by the Boisset family of Burgundy, France.)

He could have called it quits at that point, but De Loach postponed his retirement yet again. In 2004 he founded Hook & Ladder Winery, the name an obvious nod to his first career as a firefighter, having been a tillerman steering the rear wheels of a hook and ladder fire truck. (He was forced to leave his eponymous label behind because a non-compete agreement prevents his own name from ever again appearing on a wine bottle, a testament to his stature in the Sonoma wine industry.)

Still in the Russian River Valley today, De Loach now works 375 acres in the cool climate there, with his wife, son, grandson, and granddaughter all employed at Hook & Ladder.

Hook & Ladder “The Tillerman” 2005

A single-vineyard blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, and 17% Sangiovese. Plenty of ripe fruits, with a supporting cast of cassis, spice, cedar, and leather. A somewhat short finish. After decanting for an hour, serve with pork satay and peanut dipping sauce, or prime rib paired with madeira sauce.

Hook & Ladder Chardonnay 2006

This wine is a very light yellow-green, pale almost to the point of being colorless. Fermented in a combination of stainless steel and seasoned French oak barrels to retain its crisp acidity. The tart citrus flavors are balanced with just a hint of oak from the not-new barrels. (Oaky, buttery chardonnays are on the wane, I for one am sorry to report.) This chard features bright but delicate aromas of just-ripe apple, pear, and mango. Good now, but should be more appealing in warmer weather. Would contrast nicely with richer seafood such as truffled lobster risotto or rosemary-roasted salmon.

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