Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon

Wikipedia says an “estancia is a large, private plot of land used for farming or cattle-raising. Estancias in the southern South American grasslands, the pampas, have historically been estates used to raise livestock, such as cattle or sheep. In Puerto Rico, an estancia was a farm growing frutos menores, that is, crops for local sale and consumption; the equivalent of a truck farm in the United States. In some areas of Spanish America, especially Argentina, they are large rural complexes with similarities to what in the United States is called a ranch.”

So much for the definition. In my opinion Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the greatest California wine values you can find. I’ve been drinking it for over thirty years, and it is consistently delicious and reliable. And I buy it by the case; the most recent one cost $84. Yep, that’s $7 a bottle, folks. Although harder to find, it’s available in a four-bottle-equivalent box for about $30 as well.

Estancia began in 1986 when Agustin Huneeus bought vineyards in the Monterey town of Soledad for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In 1999, he bought additional acres in the warmer Paso Robles 73 miles to the southeast for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, and other red Bordeaux varietals.

Huneeus started his long career in the city where he was born, Santiago, Chile. He entered the Chilean wine business in 1960 as chief executive officer of Concha y Toro. Although a small winery when he took the reins, Concha y Toro grew under his leadership to become Chile’s largest winery. In 1971, Huneeus reluctantly abandoned Chile due to the unsettled and difficult political climate of the time.

Salvador Allende Gossens became president of Chile in 1970. He was a Marxist physician and member of Chile’s Socialist Party, who headed the “Popular Unity” coalition of the Socialist, Communist, Radical, and Social-Democratic parties. Sadly, the nation’s economy suffered under Allende, and by early 1973 it had been battered by prolonged strikes by a variety of workers. A military coup finally overthrew Allende in September of 1973. As the armed forces bombarded the presidential palace, Allende committed suicide. The new government, led by General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte, hardly an improvement, was marked by human rights violations, the abolishment of civil liberties, and the erasure of the Allende administration’s agrarian and economic reforms. The junta jailed, tortured, and executed thousands of Chileans.

Safely in New York, Huneeus headed Seagram’s worldwide wine operations, which included fourteen wineries in nine countries, including Paul Masson in the United States. After leaving Seagram, he founded Noble Vineyard in California’s Central Valley in 1977 and later acquired Concannon Vineyard in the Livermore Valley.

In 1985, Huneeus became partner and acting president of Franciscan Estates, where he oversaw Franciscan, Estancia, Mount Veeder, and Veramonte Winery in Chile. In 1999, he left that position and created Huneeus Wines, a company dedicated to fine wine properties. Huneeus is also the proprietor of Quintessa, one of the Napa Valley’s most highly-regarded wineries.

The winemakerMonica Belavic

Monica Belavic has over 15 years of winemaking experience in California’s Central Coast. “At Estancia, I am able to continue my love affair with this region and experiment with many different varietals that this area is so keen to grow. I also have access to some of the most incredible vineyards and grapes in the area.” She has a BS in Food Science and Agriculture Business from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Paso Robles AVA: Keyes Canyon Vineyard

This vineyard features hot days and cool nights, a half-dozen types of meager soils, (including sandy clay loam), and stressed vines that yield tiny grape clusters with high skin-to-juice ratios that create deeply concentrated wines with intense flavors. This benchland vineyard is the source of Estancia’s Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Merlot and Zinfandel.

The winery sources Pinot Noir, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc from two other vineyards, Stonewall Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA and Pinnacles Vineyard in the Monterey County AVA.

Estancia Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Tasting this wine critically was a challenge for me, since like I said, I’ve consumed a lot of it over the decades and knew exactly what to expect.  But, here goes: After fermentation, this 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Paso Robles appellation spent nine months in French and American oak barrels; 35% new. It is dark ruby crimson in the glass, with a bit of transparency. The nose offers up aromas of dark fruit, especially black cherry.  These continue on the tongue, with classic flavors of blackberry, black currant, and cassis, plus a hint of cocoa.  The acids and tannins are in good balance, and there is not an excess of either.

Top of page:

Adega Northwest Winery

When most of us think of a winery, what usually comes to mind is the romantic stereotype of a rustic but exquisite barn situated halfway up a mountain in the western U. S. overlooking a bucolic valley below; a fabulous hundred-years old chateau surrounded by ancient vines somewhere in France; or perhaps even a charming azienda agricola in Italy with a view of Roman ruins. But that’s not the only way to do it.  Adega Northwest of Portland, Oregon, is very much an urban winery.  There are vineyards, of course, you just won’t see them if you pay the winery a visit (by appointment only).  And because they are not tied to an estate, Adega Northwest can and does draw on sources throughout the region.

It doesn’t get much more urban than this.


Bradford Cowin began by working in the restaurant industry. He pursued and completed a wine certification from the International Sommelier Guild, and has worked as a sommelier in New York City, Colorado, Washington D.C., Seattle, and now Portland, Oregon.

In 2007 he decided to focus on making wine instead of just serving it. He started as a cellar hand (aka a cellar rat) at R. Stuart & Co. in McMinnville Oregon, followed by working Malbec-focused vintages at Bodegas Renacer in Mendoza, Argentina, where he was also exposed to Italian Amarone-style winemaking techniques through work with renowned winemaker Alberto Antonini.

Once back in the U.S., he toiled at the famous Williams Selyem, Andrew Rich Vintner, and Long Shadows Winery. His time at Long Shadows proved to be an important turning point in his pursuit of full-time winemaking. In 2011, under the mentorship of Gilles Nicault, Long Shadow’s Director of Winemaking and Viticulture, Cowin purchased his first Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from the Weinbau Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope of Washington State (from which he continues to source fruit to this day) and was given space at Long Shadows to produce it. This was the beginning of his first winery, Script Cellars, formed with fellow sommelier Frederick Armstrong and wine enthusiasts Ken and Cheri Hick of Portland, Oregon.

Script Cellars’ Exordium 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon won the Platinum Medal and Best Red at the Northwest Food & Wine Festival, and received 91 points from Wine Enthusiast (for people that care about such things). Production increased from 100 cases to 500 cases within three years. Dramatic, but still quite modest.

Although he continues to make wine for the Script Cellars label (in Adega’s Portland facility), by 2014 Cowin was ready to try something new. Adega is Portugese for wine cellar, and  pays homage to his grandfather specifically, and the family’s Portuguese ancestry in general. Cowin teamed with his mother, Tana Mendes Bidwell, to establish the new operation. The aim was to  create hand-crafted wines in the Pacific Northwest influenced by the wines of Europe, especially Bordeaux and Rhone in France. They were later joined by investor and real estate mogul Darren Harris.  Cowin had this to say about opening an urban winery, “I’ve always been more of a city kid, having lived in large cities most of my life. For me it is more appealing to operate out of a facility where I prefer to live. We aren’t really much different than any other winery our size. I like being able to offer high quality wine to the general consumer without having them go out of their way for it.”

The winery currently produces Alvarinho (aka Albarino), Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Grenache, Mataro (aka Mourvedre), Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Souzao, and Graciano.


I mentioned that Adega, not being tied to an estate, can draw from many vineyards.  And do they ever.  These are their 12 current sources.

Destiny Ridge Vineyard Columbia Valley, Paterson, Washington

This 267-acre site, the only one actually owned by Adega, is located high on the bluffs overlooking the  Columbia River, in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA in southeastern Washington, and is part of the larger Columbia Valley AVA. Elevation in this area ranges from 200 feet above sea level in the south to 1,800 feet above sea level at the northern boundary. Destiny Ridge itself sits at 850 feet. Strong winds arrive from the west via the Columbia River Gorge, reducing the likelihood of rot and fungal diseases taking hold, and keeping frost at bay. The quick-draining soil includes clay, limestone, schist (medium sized mineral rocks), and gravel, along with sandy top soils.  It is exclusively planted to Cabernet Sauvignon.

Delfino Vineyard, Umpqua Valley, Roseburg. Oregon 

This 18-acre site is similar climatically to Spain’s Ribera del Duero, with a mix of rocky soil types. There are seven grape varieties under cultivation here: Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Müller Thurgau, Merlot, Dolcetto, and Tempranillo (for which Umpqua is becoming increasingly well known).

Double Canyon Vineyard, Horse Heaven Hills, Prosser, Washington

Located between Yakima Valley and the Columbia River, the 90-acre Double Canyon Vineyard has a dry desert landscape. The weather is influenced by close proximity to the Columbia River, which creates sweeping winds and other distinctive weather patterns that protect the vines from extreme temperatures, fungal disease, and pests.  The soil is sandy, quick-draining loam. The vineyard is planted primarily to Bordeaux varietals and Syrah.

dutchman vineyard, yakima valley, Grandview, Washington

Dutchman Vineyard was planted in 1991. It is located in a very cool region in the Yakima Valley. Adega Northwest has been sourcing Alvarinho, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Riesling from here since 2017.

Firethorn Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Echo, Oregon

Firethorn was originally developed between 2006 and 2008 by famed NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe under the name Flying B Vineyard. Jay and Kim Bales purchased the vineyard in 2010 and have done the farming ever since. The vineyard sits on basalt cliffs that support a layer of granite and basalt silt deposited as the Missoula floods receded at the end of the last ice age. The top layer of soil is wind-driven loess (a silt-sized sediment that is formed by the accumulation of wind-blown dust). It is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Muscat.

french creek Vineyard, yakima valley, prosser, Washington

French Creek was established in 1981 with the planting of nine acres of Wente Clone Chardonnay. The vineyard is on a south-facing slope above the Yakima River, and lies at the edge of a canyon that allows for great air drainage, crucial for mitigating frost damage. The soils are mainly silt loam with weathered and unweathered basalt bedrock. Plantings are primarily Chardonnay, 28-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre.  Adega NW has been sourcing  Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from here since 2018.

Gamache Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Basin City, Washington

Planted by brothers Bob and Roger Gamache in 1980, this 180-acre vineyard sits up on the white bluffs overlooking Basin City to the east in the Columbia Valley AVA. The soil is primarily Warden sandy loam, with a little Kennewick sandy loam, as well as, in the northern part of the site, caliche (a hardened natural cement of calcium carbonate) about 12 inches down. The property is planted to Riesling, Chardonnay, Roussanne, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Malbec.

Kamiak Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Pasco, Washington

Established in the mid-1980s by Jeff Gordon of Gordon Estate Winery, the 100-acre Kamiak Vineyard is south-facing, and is perched 620 feet above sea-level along the Snake River. The vineyard has excellent air drainage and benefits from the river’s moderating influence. It has a unique volcanic soil breakdown that includes basalt, sandy loam, clay loam. and gravelly loam. It is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer, with a few small lots set aside for Tempranillo and Malbec.

Red heaven Vineyard, red mountain, Benton city, Washington

The many varieties planted here include Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah (aka Durif), Tinta Cão, Souzão (aka Vinhão), Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo (aka Valdepeñas), Counoise, Grenache, Mourvèdre (aka Mataro), Syrah, Merlot, Zinfandel, and Barbera. Adega Northwest has been sourcing Rhone and Portuguese varieties from Red Heaven since 2017.

Two Blonds, Yakima Valley, Zillah, Washington

This is the estate vineyard of Andrew Will Winery. Two Blonds, named for proprietor Chris Camarda’s late wife, Annie, who was a 6’2” blond, and Melody, the also-blond wife of vineyard partner Bill Fleckenstein, it was planted in 2000 with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. The soils of the 30 planted acres are silty loams.

Upland Vineyard, Snipes Mountain, Columbia Valley, sunnyside, Washington

Farming wine grapes since 1968, four generations of the Newhouse family have helped maintain the Upland legacy, which started over 100 years ago. Originally planted by William B. Bridgman in 1917, Snipes Mountain is widely considered the birth place of Washington wine. Today that original vineyard is still bearing fruit, and the vines’ longevity is a testament to the favorable weather conditions there. With an elevation that ranges from 750 to 1300 feet, the fecund Upland is able to grow over 35 varieties of wine grapes. (To be clear, Upland is in Washington, and on Snipes Mountain, but the snow-covered promontory in the background is Oregon’s Mt. Hood, seen looking to the southwest.)

Weinbau Vineyard, Wahluke Slope, Washington

With views of the Rattlesnake Mountains to the south and the Saddle Mountains to the north, Weinbau Vineyard slopes gently south, with elevations ranging from 710 to 950 feet. It is a relatively warm site, with excellent air drainage, and the soil is dominated by Kennewick silt loam. This 460-acre property was originally planted to Riesling, Chardonnay, and Gewurztraminer in 1981.  Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Malbec, Mourvedre, Merlot, Carmenere, Grenache, and Cabernet Franc were added in subsequent years.


Adega Northwest normally produces between 2,000 and 2,500 cases annually. Unfortunately, this year COVID-19 has forced a retrenchment back to 1,500. Although Adega Northwest’s production of each selection is quite limited, and therefor harder to find, they are very reasonably priced and are worth seeking out.

Interestingly, Adega, as well as another producer I have recently encountered, doesn’t use a foil at the top of the bottle.  Cowin shared, “Foil doesn’t do much other than being for aesthetics. I prefer the natural look of the cork. It also makes it easier to tell if there is a cork malfunction or a storage issue. On my single vineyard wines I do wax just the very top of the cork. However, you can still see all the sides of the cork in bottle.”

The cellar image on the labels was inspired by a picture of a classic Portuguese Adega from an original design by Cowin.

Adega Northwest Double Canyon Vineyard Syrah 2016

This 100% Syrah was fermented in stainless steel, followed by 22 months of barrel aging in 500-liter puncheons made of 100% French oak, 30% of which were new. A semi-transparent dark purple, it opens with aromas of dark fruit, mostly wild blueberries and mountain blackberries, and a hint of camphor (which receeds after the bottle has been open an hour or so).  The lean palate follows with muted fruit, especially tart cherry, with some leather thrown in.  It all wraps up with a medium-length finish. ABV is 14.6%, and 135 cases were made.

Adega Northwest Tempranillo 2015

Sourced from the Delfino vineyard, this wine is 10% Syrah and  90% Tempranillo. The latter is an important red-wine grape in Spain, and two Spanish clones of Tempranillo were used: Tinto del Pais (Rioja Clone) and Tinto del Toro (Toro Clone). It was fermented in stainless steel, followed by 20 months of barrel aging in 100% French oak. It is dark purple, with a nose of dark fruits plus black olive and leather. The full-bodied palate features flavors of tart cherry, cocoa, tobacco, and earth. There is lively but unobtrusive acidity, and a relatively short but dry finish. ABV is 13.8%, and 100 cases were produced.

Adega Northwest Weinbau Vineyard | Block 10 Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

This wine is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It was fermented in stainless steel and then saw 21 months in French oak barrels, 40% of which were new. It is dark purple, but a bit more transparent than is common for Cabernet Sauvignon.  The nose is classic Cabernet, with big aromas of blackberry, blueberry, and cassis. These continue on the palate, supported by cedar notes, bracing tannins, and good acidity.  It all wraps up in a nice long finish. The ABV comes in at 14.6%, and 125 cases were made.

Adega Northwest Eremita White Blend 2018

The fruit for this blend of 70% Marsanne and 30% Roussanne came from the Dutchman vineyard. After barrel fermentation, it underwent full malolactic fermentation and aging, all in neutral  French oak.  The wine pours a hazy medium yellow. The nose is predominantly grapefruit (with hints of orange marmalade and apricot), and this dominates on the round and creamy palate as well, supported by Seville orange.  There is plenty of zippy acidity.  The ABV is 13.3% and 150 cases were made.

Adega Northwest Alvarinho 2018

The type of low-yielding, thick-skinned grapes from which this wine was made originally hailed from Portugal’s Vinho Verde. It is also cultivated in Spain’s Galicia region, where it is known as Albarino.  Adega NW sourced the fruit from the Dutchman vineyard. The wine is all Alvarinho, which underwent a cool, extended fermentation in stainless steel. It spent further stabilization (but perhaps not enough; see note below) and aging in stainless steel as well.  It is a medium yellow in the glass, with a hint of pink.  The nose offers up honeydew, cantaloupe, and peach. The palate features a full, creamy mouthfeel, with flavors of those same melons, joined by Seville oranges.  It’s all backed up up by plenty of racy acidity.  The ABV is 13.5%, and 250 cases were produced, and although still quite modest, it’s a relatively high number for Adega NW.

Note: when I finished my sample bottle after 24 hours in the refrigerator, some tartrate sediment had precipitated out. While this doesn’t impact the quality of a wine, it is an inconvenience, and you should consider decanting through a filter before serving, just in case.

Adega Northwest Chardonnay 2018

This 100% Chardonnay was sourced from the French Creek vineyard. It underwent barrel fermentation, followed by partial malolactic fermentation and aging, all in in neutral French oak.  It is crystal-clear, medium-pale straw in color. It is mildly aromatic, with scents of honeysuckle and brioche. The creamy palate features Meyer lemon and grapefruit, balanced by harmonious acidity and hints of vanilla and oak.  It closes with a medium-length finish. The ABV is 14.5% and 100 cases were made.

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Until Yellow Tail precipitated the boom in “critter wines” in 2000, it can be argued that Penfolds was just about synonymous with Australian wine in the U.S.  The label is ubiquitous here, in both grocery stores and fine wine shops. Prices range from about $12 per bottle for the Koonunga Hill Shiraz-Cabernet, to $850 for the legendary Grange, and everything in between.  (That $850 is doubly amazing, because just five or six years ago Grange was “only” about $200.) The selections are mostly reds plus a few whites and even a tawny Port.

Founders Dr Christopher and Mary Penfold immigrated to Australia from England in 1844, bringing their own French vine cuttings. Not long after, their fledgling vineyard was officially established as the Penfolds wine company at the 500-acre Magill Estate in Adelaide.

The Penfolds were believers in the medicinal benefits of wine, and they planned to concoct a wine tonic for the treatment of anemia.  Initially, they produced fortified wines in the style of sherry and port for Dr Penfold’s patients. The operation enjoyed early growth, and since Dr Penfold was focused on his medical practice, much of the running of the winery was delegated to Mary Penfold, including the cultivation of the vines and wine blending. On Christopher’s death in 1870, Mary assumed total responsibility for the winery. According to one historical account, by that time the business had “grown to over 60 acres with several different grape varieties including Grenache, Vverdelho, Mataro (aka Mourvedre), Frontignac and Pedro Ximenez,” and the estate was “producing both sweet and dry red and white table wines with a growing market in the eastern Australian colonies of Victoria and New South Wales.” Clarets and Rieslings were especially popular.

During her tenure, Mary engaged in experimentation, explored new methods of wine production, looked into ways of combating diseases like phylloxera, and engaged a cellar master by the name of Joseph Gillard.

Penfolds was producing a
third of all South Australia’s wine by the time Mary Penfold retired in 1884. The company passed to her daughter Georgina and son-in-law Thomas Hyland.   By 1907, Penfolds had become South Australia’s largest winery (It is still big, but it no longer holds that position.) Eventually, the business was passed onto their two sons and two daughters. The company became public in 1962, and  the Penfold family retained a controlling interest until 1976.

In 1948, Max Schubert
became the company’s first Chief Winemaker. A loyal company man and true innovator, Schubert would propel Penfolds onto the global stage with his creation of Penfolds Grange.  (That’s a story for another time, if I can ever get my hands on a bottle.  Hey, Penfolds!  A little help here?)

In 1959, while Schubert was perfecting his Grange experiment in secret, Penfolds’ tradition of ‘bin wines’ began. The first, a Shiraz with grapes from the company’s own Barossa Valley vineyards, was simply named after the storage area of the cellars where it was aged. And so Kalimna Bin 28 became the first official Penfolds Bin number wine.

In 1988, after four decades of Grange’s  success and growth into a wine world icon, Schubert was named Decanter magazine’s Man of the Year, and on the 50th anniversary of its creation, Penfolds Grange was given a heritage listing in South Australia.

In 1976, control of Penfolds was acquired by Tooth and Co., a brewer based in New South Wales, which in 1982 became part of the Adelaide Steamship Company Group. In 1990, SA Brewing purchased Adelaide Steamship’s wineries. Later, SA Brewing was divided into three separate entities: the wine assets were named Southcorp Wine.

Southcorp Wines became a part of the Foster’s Group in 2005. In 2011, Fosters was split into two separate companies; the wine side became Treasury Wine Estates, headquartered in Melbourne and Penfolds current owner. The chief winemaker since 2002 has been Peter Gago.








Magill Estate
5.34 hectares / 13.2 acres
Shiraz (known as Syrah in other parts of the world

Barossa Valley
153 hectares / 380 acres planted
Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro (aka Mourvèdre), and Sangiovese
Koonunga Hill
93 hectares / 230 acres
Shiraz ,Cabernet Sauvignon
130 hectares / 320 acres planted
Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mataro
33 hectares / 82 acres
Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon

Eden Valley
High Eden
66.42 hectares / 164.1 acres
Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc
69.56 hectares / 171.9 acres
McLaren Vale
141 hectares / 350 acres
Shiraz, Grenache, and Cabernet Sauvignon
50 hectares / 120 acres
Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz

Penfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2018

Although somewhat deceptively named for a specific Barossa vineyard, this wine is sourced from various South Australian sites.  After fermentation, it was aged for 12 months in American oak.  An impenetrable dark purple in the glass, it has a nose of dark stone fruits, especially plums, and eucalyptus.  The palate is the same, plus cocoa and some bracing tannins.  The finish is long and very dry. ABV is 14.5%.

Top of page:

Maritana Vineyards

Patz & Hall was founded in 1988 when two Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards employees, assistant winemaker James Hall and national sales manager Donald Patz, decided to strike out on their own. Their ambition was to apply traditional (i.e. French) winemaking techniques to fruit from elite, small vineyards, specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The winery went on to great success.

Patz left Patz & Hall in 2017 to establish the Donald Patz Wine Group.  The project oversees three distinct labels:  Terminum produces Mendocino County Marsanne/Roussanne and Syrah, Secret Door Winery, exclusively makes Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, and Maritana Vinyards focuses on Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Patz shared, “Deep in my heart this is the best and most satisfying thing – making and sharing/selling wine. It’s been a centerpiece for my professional career for more than three decades and honestly, I could not imagine not being involved. I realized that working with the Patz & Hall model was not the end of all things for me. I wanted a chance to rethink, refocus, and renew my vision for wines under my control.

Since Maritana is a small, personal project, Patz needed to find a production partner.  A fortuitous lunch with Adam Lee of Siduri Winery, who specializes in Pinot Noir, led to Patz selecting Lee’s Sugarloaf Crush near Santa Rosa as the base for Maritana’s 2017 and 2018 selections.  A “crush” is minimally a mechanical device consisting of paddles and rollers that break grapes and extract the juice.   As a crush service provider, Sugarloaf goes beyond that to offer processing, fermentation, tank and barrel storage, bottling, and a tasting room.

Drawing on his long experience in the wine business, for his latest venture Patz was particularly attracted to the Russian River Valley, source of his favorite wines.  The Russian River Valley AVA accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. The appellation was granted AVA status in 1983 and enlarged in 2005. The area lies between Sebastopol and Santa Rosa in the south, and Forestville and Healdsburg in the north. The valley has a characteristically cool climate, heavily affected by fog that drifts in through the Petaluma Gap from the Pacific Ocean.

The complex geography of the valley was shaped millions of years ago by collisions between the North American and Pacific tectonic plates and eruptions by volcanic vents that deposited volcanic ash over layers of eroded bedrock. This created a sandy loam known as “Goldridge soil.” Near Sebastopol, there is a different soil that is more clay based, known as “Sebastopol soil,” which retains less water than Goldridge soil does. Both types have been shown to work well with Pinot Noir plantings. A third soil type, found close to the river, is predominately alluvial sediment and makes up the benchland regions of the river.

Viticulture in the Russian River region dates back to the 19th century when immigrants from Mediterranean countries descended on the region and began planting vines. While most vineyards were “gardens” for personal family consumption, some commercial producers sprung up as well, and by the start of the 20th century there were nearly 200 wineries operating. Predictably, Prohibition induced a precipitous mid-century decline, but the region had largely rebounded by the time AVA status was conferred.

Patz created the name “Maritana” out of whole cloth;  since Sonoma is defined by an ocean on one side and mountains on the other, he came up with:
Ocean ~ MARItime
Mountains ~ MonTANA
MARI-TANA, ergo Maritana.
Easy, huh?

Maritana Chardonnay “La Rivière” 2018

Patz decided on a program of once-used barrels to make up the majority of the barrels used for all the Maritana Chardonnays.  Specifically for this La Rivière, the mix is 90% once-used barrels and 10% new barrels from Burgundy. According to Patz, “This blend of used [and] new barrels, retains the brighter, fresher notes of the Russian River Valley fruitiness and compliments the mineral, floral components of the grapes very precisely.”

The fruit came from three sources, with at least five clones of Chardonnay in the blend. The vineyards included Dutton Ranch, some fruit from Martinelli, and others from the Lynmar Estate.

La Rivière, aka “The River,” was entirely indigenous-yeast fermented in barrel, and aged on the primary fermentation lees throughout its time in barrel. It pours a pale yellow, with aromas of mango and honeysuckle.  The smooth, full palate features lemon, quince, lemon curd, and a touch of caramel. There is plenty of acidity, and those used barrels make for subtle tannins. The ABV is 14.5%, and 2000 cases were produced.

Maritana Pinot Noir “Le Russe” 2018

Le Russe, aka “The Russian,” is a blend of several sites and clones within the appellation, including Martaella Vineyard, one of the Martinelli sites called River Road Vineyard, Jenkins Ranch, Moonshine Ranch, and a little Pinot Noir from an old Russian Hill site. Fermentation was one-half whole cluster. Said Patz, “The purpose of using [some] whole cluster for the Pinot Noir wines was to bring out that beautiful aromatic side of Pinot Noir.” After primary fermentation, for aging the wine was placed into small French oak barrels, 50 to 80% new, depending on the vineyard source.

It has a transparent, medium-purple color. The nose offers juicy aromas of plums and strawberries. The full-bodied mouthfeel carries flavors of tart cherry, cola, and vanilla.  These are supported by forward tannins and very good acidity. The ABV is 14.5%, and 1400 cases were produced.

Top of page:

Broadbent “Rainwater” Madeira

Ports, Sherries, Marsalas, and Madeiras are all beverages that fall under the broad category of fortified wines.  During fermentation, the wine is “fortified” with brandy or neutral grain spirits.  Originally, this was done to preserve and stabilize the wine for shipment, usually to England.  It is now done to create sweet wine; the addition of the alcohol kills the fermentation yeasts, retaining any residual sugar.

A true Madeira such as this one comes from Portugal’s Madeira island, about 400 miles due west of Morocco in northern Africa.  The small island has an oceanic, tropically-influenced climate and volcanic soil. Because of high heat and humidity, fungal diseases and botrytis (also known as grey mold) are constant hazards. To combat them, Madeira vineyards are often planted in low trellises known as latada that raise the canopy off the ground. The wine is cultivated in terraced steps of red and basaltic bedrock called poios.

Madeira’s unique flavor comes from two elements that would ruin other wines: heat and oxidation. During the era when the earliest Madeiras were shipped, it was discovered that aeration of the sloshing barrels in the warm hold of the ship made for delightful wine.  (The Kelt line of cognacs get the same treatment even today.)  As for Madeira, the process is emulated through the estufagem process, whereby the wine is placed in hot rooms or heated tanks (estufas) and slowly baked for a minimum of 90 days.  Depending on when they are dosed with alcohol, Madeiras can range from quite dry to very sweet.

There are four distinct styles of Madeira. The pale, golden Sercial is the driest and lightest.  Verdelho is sweeter and stronger, and Boal is fuller and sweeter still.  Malmsey is the richest, darkest, and sweetest of all.

Although the history of Madeira goes as far back as the 18th century, Broadbent has been producing wines in Portugal for just over 20 years. In the mid-1990s Michael Broadbent, Director of Christie’s auction house, prolific wine author, and Madeira expert, partnered with Justino’s Madeira Wines, S.A. to create the Broadbent line.  Justino’s was formed as a limited company in 1953, although it had been in existence since 1870 in Madeira as a private family company, when it was known as “Justino Henriques.”


Bartholomew BroadbentBroadbent is now helmed by Michael’s son Bartholomew. He was raised in the English wine trade in a formal apprenticeship to his father.  The Broadbent line includes Port from the Douro, Madeiras and Vinho Verde from Portugal, and a Gruner Veltliner made in Austria.

He is credited as being responsible for the growth of Port consumption in North America during the mid 1980s. He was responsible for the re-introduction of Madeira to America in 1989, and instrumental in its growth since then.

He currently lives in Virginia, where he is also involved in the distribution of Virginia wines, now available in over 30 states.

Broadbent Rainwater Madeira

“Rainwater” is a soft, medium dry variant of Verdelho.  According to legend, early shipments of Madeira were left on the island’s beaches to await pickup prior to shipment.  During that time, the barrels absorbed water during rain showers. This diluted the alcohol and created a less potent wine.

This is one of six Madeiras under the Broadbent label.  (There are 11 others branded as Justino’s produced by the house.) The fruit is 98% Tinta Negra, and 2% other regional red varieties. Aged in oak casks for at least three years, this wine is dark orange in color, with a nose of dried dates, figs, and orange peel. There are fresh citrus and caramel flavors on the full-bodied, satiny palate backed up with a zoomy acidity.  It is indeed medium dry. It can be served as an apéritif or as an after-dinner drink. The ABV is 19% and 20,000 cases were produced.

Top of page:

Secret Door Cabernet Sauvignon

Patz & Hall was founded in 1988 when two Flora Springs Winery and Vineyards employees, assistant winemaker James Hall and national sales manager Donald Patz, decided to strike out on their own. Their ambition was to apply traditional (i.e. French) winemaking techniques to fruit from elite, small vineyards in Napa Valley specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  The winery went on to great success.

Patz left Patz & Hall in 2017 to establish the Donald Patz Wine Group with his wife and business partner Jung Min Lee.  The project oversees three distinct labels: Maritana Vinyards focuses on Russian River Valley Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Terminum produces Mendocino County Marsanne/Roussanne and Syrah; and Secret Door Winery, owned by Mrs. Lee, exclusively makes Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.

Jung Min Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, to a prominent family. She received a degree in Music from Kyung Hee University where she specialized in playing the oboe. She moved with her young son to the U.S. in 1993. While living in Virginia, she found it easier to acquire the wines of Bordeaux rather than those of California, and developed an appreciation and palate for them. In 2010, she met Donald during a trip to Napa Valley, and they began their personal journey together.  Before they were married in 2014, he promised her that if she joined him in Napa he would create a Cabernet Sauvignon for her.  And a winery as well, as it turned out.

Secret Door’s first wine was a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon  made from juice purchased in barrel from a winery that shall remain anonymous.  That producer originally intended it as their primary $300/bottle wine. They mysteriously abandoned that plan, but not because the wine lacked quality. Secret Door acquired the wine and finished it.  Further details behind the wine have to (by NDA contract) remain secret. To Patz and Mrs. Lee this seemed like the perfect way to start a winery called Secret Door.


Secret Door primarily sources fruit from two grower-owned vineyards.

Hirondelle Vineyard, Stags Leap District, Napa Valley

Designated in 1989, Stags Leap District is the smallest AVA within the Napa Valley.  It lies along the  famous Silverado Trail and includes some hillside sites, but primarily covers flat or gently rolling territory. The AVA’s name comes from an outcropping of red rocks at the area’s eastern end where a stag supposedly escaped his pursuers by leaping across the treacherous gap. The climate is appreciably cooler than further up valley in either Rutherford or St. Helena. The vineyard takes its name from the French word for the swallow. The birds are a sign of good luck, and swallows return each spring to build their nests there. The portion of the vineyard allocated to Secret Door is a three-acre block planted in 1996, and was recently converted to organic farming.

Sage Ridge Vineyard, Napa Valley

This vineyard is perched high on the hills above Lake Hennessey to the east of St. Helena. It was planted in 1998. The land here is a unique mixture of well- to excessively-drained sedimentary and metamorphic soils underlain by a bedrock of Franciscan complex. Silty clay loams with varying depths, mixtures of gravels, and fractured rock undulate among the steep slopes. The vineyard is a series of small plots that run along the ridge lines, and is owned by Judy Jordan of J Winery fame. The Secret Door parcel is a little over one acre planted to a selection of Cabernet Sauvignon taken from the legendary Martha’s Vineyard.

J-M-L Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

J-M-L is Second Door’s second label, and is intentionally different from their two single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons.

Although long involved with sales and marketing, Donald Patz drew on his degree in biology and over thirty years of experience in the wine business to assume the duties of winemaker at Secret Door.  His winemaking process is the same as that for those flagship wines. Although they begin the same, Patz looks for differences in the barrels of each wine  early on in their development. For the 2018, he selected barrels from Secret Door’s Hirondelle Vineyard and the third-party Edcora Vineyard on Atlas Peak in roughly equal quantities.  There were a few gallons of Sage Ridge Vineyard topping wine added as well to create the blend, one intended to mature more rapidly and to be drinkable on release.

Like all of Secret Door’s offerings, this is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was aged in 100% new French oak from Bordeaux coopers for 18 months. It is an opaque dark red in the glass. The nose displays subdued aromas of dark berries and truffles.  Perhaps not surprisingly, given Mrs. Lee’s fascination with Bordeaux, the palate is very much in the European style, with lean recessive fruit, including blackcurrant and blueberry, plus some graphite. This is complemented by black-tea tannins and a medium finish with a hint of bitterness. The ABV is 14% and 600 cases were made.

Top of page:

Oregon’s Brooks Wines

The Brooks Winery of Amity, Oregon in the Willamette Valley was founded in 1998 by Jimi Brooks, a native of Portland and son of a pediatrician.  The winery’s production is focused on Pinot Noir and Riesling, and includes about 20 selections of each in any given year.  Brooks also dabbles in Tempranillo, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Melon de Bourgogne (aka Muscadet),  Gewurztraminer, and Viognier, all sourced from nearby vineyards.

All of the Pinot Noirs are destemmed and cold soaked; all of the whites go straight to press. In the winery, small lot fermenters are used and the components are kept separate until right before blending. For all Pinot Noirs, all estate fruit, and most whites, fermentation is driven by only the yeasts naturally occurring on the grapes, and the coolest fermentation temperatures possible are adhered to. Finally, the reds are finished in French oak, while the whites are all made in stainless steel.

The free-spirited Jimi Brooks began his career by spending eight years throughout Europe, particularly Beaujolais, learning his craft in the vineyards and wineries there. After that sojourn, he returned to Oregon committed to a life in wine, based on his own intuition as well as holistic and biodynamic farming practices, still a relative novelty just over twenty years ago. He continued to hone his skills with winemaking stints at Maysara and WillaKenzie Estate wineries before establishing Brooks Wines.

In 2008 the winery purchased the estate vineyard it had been working since 2002.  Plantings include Pinot Noir and Riesling vines that are now over 35 years old, and contribute about 30% of Brooks’ fruit. Official biodynamic certification from Demeter was obtained in 2012.  This was followed by the opening of an entirely new winemaking facility and tasting room in 2014, which overlooks the Cascade Range and Willamette Valley.

Brooks Wines’ motto is Peace/Bread/Land/Wine.


It may seem rose-colored, but Brooks genuinely believes in kindness, inclusivity, caring, community, and social responsibility as guiding principles.


Brooks features a number of culinary experiences from cooking classes to wine and food pairing classes.. Their organic garden supplies herbs, vegetables, and cut flowers. Their eggs come from chickens on the property which are fed organically. Anything that doesn’t come directly from the grounds is sourced locally.


Careful stewardship of the estate vineyard is achieved by
• Utilizing a rock garden to diffuse rain water.
• Encouraging botanical species diversity
• Protecting predator habitats
• Applying balanced crop nutrition
• Rotating cover crops
• Not using synthetic chemicals to control pests or diseases
• Utilizing mechanical weed control


Riesling is the bedrock at Brooks, and they claim to produce more of it than any other winery in America.

A bittersweet success

Behind all of this accomplishment lurks sadness and tragedy. Founder Jimi Brooks suddenly died in 2004 just before harvest at the age of 38 from the rupture of an aortic aneurysm (an abnormal bulge that occurs in the wall of the major blood vessel  that carries blood from the heart to the body). Winemakers from all over the Willamette Valley, many of them competitors, volunteered to help the Brooks family cope with his untimely death and keep the winery open. The following year the winery was bequeathed to Jimi’s son, Pascal, who was eight when his father died and became the youngest winery owner in the world.

Once the future of the operation was assured, two key figures emerged. Brooks’ friend and assistant winemaker Chris Williams ascended to full-time winemaker. Brooks’ sister, Janie Brooks Heuck, reluctantly became head of winery operations.  It’s quite the commitment; she lives in California with her husband and two children and is constantly commuting between the two states.  It is a commitment that has paid off, though.  Under her supervision the business has grown by 400%.

L to R: Pascal Brooks, Janie Brooks Heuck, and Chris Williams

Heuck had always had been close to her brother. “We were a year and a half a part. As adults and parents, our conversation centered around our children and his business,” Heuck said. “It’s not so much that the winery brings back memories for me, but I [continue to] learn about new stories and memories that would have been Jimi’s.”

She believes the wines are a vehicle for conveying an important message about life, about living in the moment and to the fullest, about keeping the big picture in mind. “I feel like through the wines and the experiences that people are having,” she said, “the connections and the conversations and the sharing of the Brooks story, and having it remind people of how important every day is and every moment is. I just don’t ever want that to stop. The more lives we can touch and the more times the story is told and the more it brings perspective to people, that’s the gift from this whole situation.”

If you have access to Amazon Video, the film American Wine Story profiles Jimi Brooks and a number of other winery owners drawn to the business based on sheer passion.

Brooks Wines’ distinctive logo is an ouroboros (or uroboros).  It is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail to assure its future existence. Originating in ancient Egyptian iconography, the ouroboros entered western tradition via Greek magic and mysticism. Heuck shared, “We like to talk about it symbolizing the circle of life, continuation. My brother got it as a tattoo on his left shoulder in the early ’90s. It meant so much to him that he decided to make it his wine label.”

Although Pascal remains emotionally invested in the winery and his father’s legacy, he is at the beginning of his life journey and feels the need to find his own way. Now 24 years old, Pascal is living in Paris after graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 2018 with a double major in creative writing and sustainable agriculture, an interesting pairing for sure. He has been working as a wine steward there and also doing urban rooftop farming. Following in his father’s footsteps, in 2019 he worked harvest at Domaine Dechamps, and currently is involved at Domaine Ostertag in Alsace. (Read more about a pivotal part of Jimi Brooks’ time in France here.)

Brooks Ara Riesling 2018

Brooks has staked their reputation on Riesling, so they better know what to do with it.  Happily, this expression doesn’t disappoint.  Indeed, it’s one of the most interesting Rieslings I’ve ever had.  Ara (the Altar), is a constellation. In ancient Greek mythology, Ara was the altar where the gods first made offerings and formed an alliance before defeating the Titans. This was one of the very first Rieslings Jimi Brooks made after starting his winery, and the name reflects his passion and interests in mythology and astrology.

The wine is 100% Riesling, half from the Brooks estate vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA and half from the Yamhill vineyard in the Yamhill-Carlton AVA. It is a bright lemon yellow in the glass, with aromas of lemon curd and orange blossom.  The lemon theme continues on the palate, with the addition of nectarines, Sweetarts, and apples, but the wine is definitely dry.  The flavors are well-supported by tingly acidity.   ABV is 14% and just 325 cases were produced.

Brooks Janus Pinot Noir 2016

Brooks considers this their flagship Pinot Noir, and was Jimi Brooks’ first Pinot release.  Janus was the two-faced Roman god who looked both to the past and future, a reference now to the winery’s timeline being divided by Jimi Brooks’ premature death.

This 100% Pinot Noir was sourced from 60% Brooks Estate and the remainder from seven other sites around Willamette Valley. After fermentation, it saw 18 months in French oak barrels. It is a medium purple in the glass, with a nose of rich plum, vanilla, and rose.  The palate features tart cherry, ligonberry, and black tea on the medium finish, all supported by lively acidity and balanced tannins. The ABV is 13.8% and 1000 cases were made.

Top of page: