Chicken alla Joe

Gene & Georgetti is a legendary old-school Chicago steakhouse, founded in 1941, and still with us during the plague, happily. On November 1, 1987, the Chicago Tribune‘s food critic at the time, William Rice (excellent name for a food writer, no?), published this baked chicken recipe. Like Spicy Grilled Tuna, I have made this recipe many times. Unlike that one, however, I have modified
it extensively. And about ten years ago, I realized I almost always made this in January. So, now I must make it in January. Sometimes late, like January 31, 2020, and sometimes early, like January 1, 2021.  (Photo: Nancy Young)

Chicken alla Joe is named for the man who invented it. Gene & Georgetti retains servers for years, if not decades. One of them was Joe Pacini, a native of Tuscany, who worked tables beside the bar in the restaurant`s front room. He had a regular customer, Morris Krumhorn, who liked spicy food. He would order broiled chicken and ask Pacini to have the chef, Mario Navarro, put red pepper on it. “One night I went to the chef and told him, ‘My customer is complaining that the chicken you make is not spicy enough,'” Pacini recalled.  Chef Mario responded, “What can I do?” and Joe says, “He really likes it hot. Let’s put some hot pepperoncini with the chicken and green pepper and hot red pepper.” After serving the dish, Joe returned to the kitchen and said to Mario, “Mr. Krumhorn is a happy customer. He asks what you call this dish?” Mario answered, “It was your idea, not mine. I call it Chicken alla Joe.”

Chicken alla Joe

Serves 6 to 8

3-1/4 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, or a mix of thighs and breasts, skin removed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried red-pepper flakes
9 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into broad strips or chunks, about 12 each
16 oz. jar of pepperoncini, drained, rinsed and left whole (but pierced once, so you don’t get a mouthful of vinegar when you bite into one)
3 – 4 russet potatoes, sliced into spears
2  lemons, cut in half

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a zip-lock bag, mix the salt, pepper, oregano, red-pepper flakes, and 3 Tbls oil together. Add chicken, seal bag, and toss until coated.
  3. In a large bowl, add the remaining 3 Tbls oil, salt and pepper to taste, potatoes, and bell peppers, and toss with your hands to evenly coat.
  4. Add 3 Tbls oil to an 18″ x 12″ roasting pan and coat the bottom. Add the chicken pieces (just the thighs for now if you are using breasts also) and potatoes. Place pan in the oven and cook until the chicken pieces begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven. Turn chicken pieces (add breasts now if using) and add bell-pepper strips or chunks and pepperoncini. Return to oven and cook until chicken is tender and pepper strips are soft, an additional 20 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from oven. Squeeze juice from lemon halves over the chicken pieces, then transfer them, the peppers, and pepperoncini to warm serving plates. Spoon pan juices over each portion.

Serve with a green vegetable such as spinach, and an Italian red wine, perhaps Dolcetto.

You can read William Rice’s original column and recipe here: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1987-11-01-8703230187-story.html

And if you are ever in Chicago, you can try Chicken alla Joe at Gene & Georgetti itself, where the dish remains quite popular to this day. https://geneandgeorgetti.com/

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Lobo Wines

Yet another white-collar professional turned winery owner, Randy Wulff was an attorney for 20 years. After graduating from the Honors College at the University of Oregon and Hastings College of the Law, he worked as a successful trial lawyer and mediator at a law firm in  San Francisco. “Even when I was one of the chief mediators during the World Trade Center property damage claims hearings arising from the tragedy of 9/11 that lasted for more than two and a half years, my wife Krys and I had always dreamed of being in the wine business,” Wulff reminisced.

Krys Wulff got her undergraduate degree at the University of San Francisco, and a Masters at Mills College in Oakland, California. She worked as an optical industry consultant for over 25 years while also raising two sons. She has devoted her energies to several philanthropic, educational, and advocacy organizations, including the Piedmont League of Women Voters, the East Bay Junior League, and EdSource, an independent, non-partisan organization that works to engage Californians on key education challenges with the goal of enhancing learning success.

Randy grew up with Krys in California’s Central Valley. “We were high school sweethearts and have been married for over 48 years,” shared Randy. “She is the heart and soul of Lobo Wines, and our success is directly related to her efforts. I can’t think of anything better than sharing our success with the person I love the most.”

As is not unusual for well-heeled San Francisco residents, the Wulffs eventually purchased a second home, in Napa Valley. “We were living in the East Bay and Napa Valley was only an hour’s drive away. Whenever we arrived there, it was like living in another world,” Randy recalled. They soon planted Chardonnay on the property, which is located in the Oak Knoll district. “When the first usable fruit came in, we sold the grapes to Randy Lewis, and he produced a wine that notched incredibly high scores. I thought to myself, this is easy, and we decided to really delve into the wine industry.”

Continuing to expand their efforts as grape growers, a few years later the Wulffs acquired a much larger vineyard about a mile from the first one, where they made substantial improvements to drainage and vine care. In 2007, they acquired a 42-acre property on Atlas Peak, on the eastern ridge of the Napa Valley. With that commitment, the couple established a winery of their own that same year, naming it Lobo Wines. Lobo is Spanish for ‘wolf,’ a play on their last name, of course. The first vintage yielded just 25 cases, but production has gradually increased to around 1,500 cases.

“We want to grow Lobo Wines carefully,” Randy explained. “Our goal is probably around 5,000 cases, and we want everything to be home grown. At this point, we crush some 100 tons of fruit, but we sell around 70 percent to other wineries. Over time, we will sell less and produce more.”

Sadly, the horrendous Atlas Peak fire of 2017 devastated the Lobo winery and the Wulffs’ home site. Undeterred, they immediately set about to rebuild the winery and residence, a project that is ongoing.

The Winemakers

Victoria Coleman
Coleman, a Seattle native, began her winemaking apprenticeship at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars as a production assistant in 1998. While there, she enrolled in a winemaking class at Napa Valley College. As part of that course, she crushed a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon in a drum with her feet in the time-honored manner. The experience of hands-on winemaking fueled her desire to learn everything she could about it.

She began working with Mario Bazán at Bazán Cellars in 2004 as the winery’s founding winemaker. To further her formal education, she enrolled at the University of California, Davis, (incubator for thousands of winemakers) in the fall of 2006 and graduated in June 2008. She was exposed to classic, Old World winemaking immediately thereafter while working alongside Erick Tourbier at Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux. Starting in January 2010, she gained further international experience as winemaker at Jade Valley Winery near Xian, China. She returned to Napa Valley in 2015 and began work at Lobo Wines, where her products include both the Napa Valley and Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and a proprietary blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah named “Howl.”

Randy Lewis
Lewis came to winemaking via a circuitous route. A native of Atlanta, Georgia, he was a race car driver for more than two decades, first as a Formula Three driver in Europe, where he discovered the wines there and what life as a winemaker could be like. He then raced in America in Formula 5000, Can Am, and finally Indy Cars from 1983 to 1991, competing in five Indy 500s. After retiring as a driver, he helped a friend set up a winery in Napa Valley, and then,
with his wife Debbie, he established his own winery in Napa in 1992.

Lobo Chardonnay 2017

Made by Randy Lewis at Lewis Cellars, this 100% Chardonnay is sourced from fruit grown at  the Lobo Wulff estate vineyard in Oak Knoll.   It is lemon yellow in the glass, and features aromas of lemon, honeysuckle, and melon. The mouthfeel is rich and smooth, and offers flavors of lemon, grapefruit, and more melon.  There is good acidity, restrained oak, and a bit of vanilla on the medium finish.  ABV is 14.7% and 150 cases were produced.

Lobo Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

This wine, made by Victoria Coleman, was chosen by Great Britain’s Decanter magazine in 2019 as the Top Cabernet Sauvignon in California over 197 other competitors.  It was made from 100% estate grown fruit in the Atlas Peak appellation of Napa Valley, on a rocky, volcanic hillside at 1,350 feet elevation. This is a blend of 98% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Merlot,  and 1% Petit Verdot (allegedly for “balance and complexity,” although I can’t imagine how much of that such a small percentage could contribute.)  On the nose, this Cabernet Sauvignon offers aromas of dark fruit and hints of vanilla. There are ripe plum, black currant, and blackberry on the palate.  These harmonize with medium, satiny tannins, nicely integrated acidity, and hint of black tea at the end.  ABV is 14.4%.

lobowines.com

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Maroon Wines Napa Valley Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Like not a few winery owners of his generation, Paul Maroon came to the industry after a long successful career elsewhere.  Of Lebanese descent, he was born in 1947 in Pennsylvania, where his father owned a produce business.  His first exposure to wine came when he started as a teenager helping his uncle make wine. “It was terrible,” Maroon laughed years later.

Maroon graduated from college back east, and then migrated to California to pursue his MBA.  After that, he started selling medical supplies, including pacemakers. He worked closely with hospitals and doctors, and ultimately started his own company, specializing in new types of medical devices.

In the late 1990s, he felt wine and his ancestral agricultural roots pulling him more strongly than ever, and he moved up from the San Jose Bay area to the Napa Valley.  There he purchased the 37 acres that would become Maroon’s permanent home, in what is now part of the prestigious Coombsville Appellation in the Napa Valley AVA. Today, about 17 acres of this land is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, which produce Maroon’s estate wines.

For the first ten years, Maroon was a grower only.  He sold his Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to Joseph Phelps, among others, for their famous (and now quite expensive) Insignia blend. During that time, he became friends with Chris Corley, who is the second-generation winemaker for Monticello Winery.  With assistance from Corley, Maroon made about two barrels of wine for himself, and eventually realized the quality that the fruit of his vineyard could achieve as a single-varietal, single-vineyard wine.  He ended the Phelps contract, and the first commercial vintage of 500 cases of Maroon wines was produced in 2009 with Corley as winemaker. His philosophy is to introduce as little winemaking manipulation or intervention as possible from the vineyard to the bottle, and to focus on 100% varietal wines (no blending).

A staunch advocate of the wine industry, Maroon helped form the Save the Family Farms initiative, which aims to preserve Napa Valley’s small family vineyards so they can continue to thrive and be passed on to future generations.  He was also active in the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Knights of the Vine.   Paul Maroon died in late 2019, but his widow Renée is committed to continuing the operation of the winery.

Maroon was a firm believer in terroir-driven wines. “Everyone in the business knows that it is the earth and the combination of drainage and minerals that make the difference,” he was once quoted as saying. “We at Maroon Vineyard are blessed to have everything we need in one particular place.”

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Planted at an altitude of between 200 and 600 feet, Maroon’s estate vineyard in Coombsville is located in a bowl-shaped depression topped by Mt George, an extinct volcano. The grapes benefit from slower and more even ripening due to the location in the southern end of Napa Valley. Here, the fog burns off later in the day and frosts are less likely to occur.  The land is composed of rocky volcanic soil and rich gravely loams, which provide both easy drainage and water access for the vines.  A next-door neighbor was Robert Craig of Robert Craig Winery.  Craig was Maroon’s friend and mentor, and he always insisted that Craig be given a great deal of credit for the successes of Maroon Wines.

Maroon’s total current production hovers around 10,000 cases of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, with small lots of Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Malbec, and Sauvignon Blanc.  “This level is perfect for us, for here we can control all aspects of the wine from the beginning to the end,” Maroon often said. “If we were much bigger, this probably wouldn’t be the case.”

Maroon Napa Valley Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Fruit for this Special Reserve 100% Cabernet Sauvignon originated in Maroon’s estate vineyard in the Coombsville Appellation of the Napa Valley AVA. It was aged for 24 months in all new French oak.

This wine is violet/black in color. Aromas of leather and blackberry join with dark chocolate, vanilla and a hint of espresso on the palate. The lingering finish features creamy oak tones and bracing tannins.  ABV is 14.4% and 476 cases were produced.

www.maroonwines.com

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Brian Carter Cellars

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“I came into the field Brian Carterof wine [at a young age], not because my parents were wine drinkers, but because I was given a microscope when I was 12 years old. I heard about these things called yeast, and I wanted to see what they looked like under a microscope. I was told if you want to look at yeast you have to start a fermentation. So I picked some blackberries, fermented the wine, took a sample, and brought out my microscope — and there they were — the little yeast. I’ve been having those yeast work for me ever since.”  — Brian Carter

A charming tale of a precocious young scientist, no?  There was just one small problem: before he got to actually inspect the yeast, during a robust fermentation that first blackberry wine exploded in his mother’s kitchen.  “There was a big stain on the ceiling for a couple of years, until it finally got painted,” Carter admitted.  History hasn’t recorded whether that chore fell to Carter or someone else.

Born in New Mexico, Carter grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, where his father was a professor at Oregon State University.  Those initial studies with his microscope led to him taking an undergraduate degree in microbiology from that same Oregon State.  While there, he also took an independent study course on winemaking that involved visiting some of the Willamette Valley’s first wineries.  “It was during that time, I decided I had to become a winemaker,” he shared.

The next stop, as it is for many winemakers, was the University of California at Davis.  After completing his studies there, he spent 1978 at Mount Eden Vineyard in Saratoga, California and 1979 and ’80 at the legendary Chateau Montelena in Calistoga, California.  That was followed by eight years toiling for the now-gone Paul Thomas Winery in Sunnyvale, Washington.  During that tenure, Carter made fruit wines (which he didn’t enjoy doing) and classic European varietals (which he did enjoy) under the Paul Thomas label.  Carter’s 1983 Cabernet Sauvignon beat a 1983 Chateau Lafite-Rothschild  at a 1986 blind tasting at Windows on the World restaurant in New York City.

That early move to Washington was decisive, as Carter would go on to become one of the leading lights of the state’s nascent wine industry.  When he started at Paul Thomas, there were only 16 wineries; today there are over 1,000.

In 1988, Carter left Paul Thomas to become a consultant. He helped launch a number of wineries including Silver Lake, McCrea and Camaraderie. He was the first winemaker for Hedges Cellars. And he partnered with Harry Alhadaf to start Apex in 1990.  “At that time, I was really focused on becoming a better winemaker and learning as much as I could about grape growing at our estate vineyards,” said Carter, who lived near Apex for eight years so he could be hands-on in the vineyards.

By 1997 it was finally time to start making wines under his own name, and he established Brian Carter Cellars in Woodinville, Washington.  He released his first wines in 2000 with a production of just 80 cases.  At Brian Carter Cellars, he has exclusively focused on classic European-style blends, taking inspiration from France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.  Indeed, the vanity license plate on his Prius reads “BLENDS.”  “I still love what I do,” he said. “I’m a very lucky guy.”

Carter’s modest tasting room, about 150 miles northwest of the vineyards themselves.

Accolades (some of them, anyway)

Carter is the only three-time winner of Grand Prize at the (now defunct) Pacific Northwest Enological Society (aka Seattle Enological Society) Competition.  Carter was twice touted as “Winemaker of the Year” by Seattle Magazine. He was the Honored Vintner at the 2007 Auction of Washington Wines, and he received the prestigious Industry Service Award from the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers.   In 2015, Wine Press Northwest selected Brian Carter Cellars as its Washington Winery of the Year,  In 2018, the Northwest Wine Summit named Brian Carter Cellars as the Winery of Distinction.

The Vineyards

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With his forty years of experience in Washington, Carter knows exactly what vineyards to draw on to help him achieve his vision of wines with balance, dimension, and depth.  These are the eleven most important vineyards and growers from which Brian Carter Cellars currently sources grapes.

Columbia Valley AVA

Stillwater Creek Vineyard  Here, the Alberg family grows Syrah and Mourvedre.

Horse Heaven Hills AVA

Chandler Reach Vineyard  Len Parris grows Merlot and Cabernet Franc with good concentration, balance, and color.

Red Mountain AVA

E & E Shaw Vineyard  Ed and Eve Shaw grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot here. Similar to Klipsun, the wines made from these grapes have a lot of structure and are often a bit more fruit forward.

Klipsun Vineyard  This vineyard, farmed by David and Trisha Gelles, provides Cabernet Sauvignon. These grapes provide the strength and ability to age the blends.

Rattlesnake Hills AVA

Dineen Vineyard  Patrick Dineen farms Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Roussanne on this moderate to warm site that features low yields that can make wine with balance and concentration.

Snipes Mountain AVA

Upland Vineyard  Viognier, Tempranillo, Graciano, Touriga Nacional, Souzao, and Tinto Cao are sourced from this vineyard, overseen by the Newhouse family.

Yakima Valley AVA

Boushey Vineyard  Growers Dick and Luanne Boushey provide Sangiovese, Grenache, and Cinsault.

Lonesome Spring Ranch  Colin Morrell grows Grenache, Sangiovese, Touriga Nacional, Mourvedre, and Petit Verdot that make wines with lively fruit, moderate structure, and good color.

Olsen Vineyard  The Olsen family provides Viognier, Roussanne, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, and Counoise.

Solstice Vineyard  Owned by Jim and Carla Willard, this vineyard is Carter’s coolest site.  He has been buying the Willard’s grapes for over 25 years.

Wahluke Slope AVA

Stone Tree Vineyard  Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah are sourced from this  property, worked by Mark Wheeler and Tedd Wildman.

The Wines

Carter asserts that he didn’t set out to be a blender, but rather, the approach came from his knowledge of science and agriculture, and one that grew into a true passion.  In fact, ” A Passion for the Art of Blending” is a trademark of the winery.  He noted, “I find the blending process to be the most artistic part of the winemaking process, and the most fun!” In 2006, Carter released his full line of blended wines, and Brian Carter Cellars became the first winery in Washington dedicated exclusively to producing blends.  Carter enjoys giving his selections whimsical names, which are explained below.

Brian Carter Cellars Oriana 2018

Oriana is a given name, primarily of a female, that is widespread in Europe.  Or, according to the label, Latin for “golden lady.”

This white wine is composed of 49% Viognier (Dineen, Solstice, Olsen), 41% Rousanne (Olsen), and 10% Riesling (Solstice).  A third of the blend was barrel fermented in neutral French oak barrels,  and two-thirds in stainless steel.  Both were kept on the lees and stirred monthly for six months to increase mouth feel and aromatic complexity. No malolactic fermentation (MLF) was conducted.

Oriana pours a pale straw color into the glass.  You are greeted with aromas of grapefruit and honeysuckle.  The silky-smooth mouthfeel carry these onto the palate, along with tangerine and pear.  There is pleasant acidity, and it all ends with a touch of lemon pith bitterness.  The ABV is 13.6%, and 808 cases were produced.

Brian Carter Cellars Byzance 2014

Byzance, aka Byzantium or Byzantion, was an ancient Greek city in classical antiquity that became known as Constantinople in late antiquity and Istanbul today.  Or, the label on the bottle says Byance is French for “luxurious.”  Two translations on the interwebs came up with De Luxe and Luxeux instead.  I don’t speak French, so I will leave it up to you to decide.

Inspired by the reds of France’s southern Rhône Valley, this wine is composed of 54% Grenache (Lonesome Spring), 24% Syrah (Stone Tree), 15% Mourvedre (Stone Tree), 4% Counoise (Olsen), and 3% Cinsault (Boushey).  Both of the latter are often used in French blends.

The blend spent 22 months in large ( 500L) French oak barrels, of which 20% were new and 80% were neutral (used).  It is a semi-transparent garnet, with medium aromas of dark fruit.  The palate features blackberries, dark cherries, and a hint of herbes de Provence, complemented by plenty of acidity and tannins, but all is in excellent balance.  It wraps up with a medium finish.  The ABV is 14.5%, and 316 cases were produced.

Brian Carter Cellars Corrida 2016

Corrida is Spanish, meaning a bullfight.  Ole!

Made of 66% Tempranillo (Stone Tree, Upland), 21% Graciano (Upland), 8% Garnacha (Lonesome Spring), and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon (Stone Tree), this wine was inspired by the noble wines of Spain, and especially those of Rioja, where Tempranillo reigns supreme.   After fermentation, it was aged for 22 months in a mixture of French, Russian and American oaks; 30% new and 70% neutral (used).  It is opaque dark purple in the glass, and opens will a full nose of blackberry and cherry.  These continue on the silky-smooth palate, abetted by cedar, some dust, good acidity, and well-integrated tannins.  It ends in a nice long finish.  ABV is 14.1%, and Carter made 316 cases.

Brian Carter Cellars Le Coursier2014

In French, Le Coursier is “The Steed,” or the messenger that rides one.  The mix of 58% Merlot (Stone Tree, Solstice, E&E Shaw), 18% Cabernet Sauvignon (Solstice, Stone Tree), 12% Cabernet Franc (Solstice), 8% Malbec (Olsen, Stone Tree), and  4% Petit Verdot (Stone Tree) was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak, 40% new & 60% used.   This wine is a semi-transparent but quite dark garnet.  The nose presents dust and recessive fruit, especially blackberry and plum.  This is the leanest, most “European” of the red blends here, with flavors of blackberry and dark cherry.  ABV is 14.3%, and 432 cases were produced.

Brian Carter Cellars Tuttorosso 2016

Tuttorosso is Italian for “all red.”  This “Super Tuscan” style red is composed of  68% Sangiovese (Lonesome Spring, Solstice), 17% Cabernet Sauvignon (Solstice), and 15% Syrah (Solstice).  It spent 24 months in French (80%) and European oak (20%) barrels, of which 20%were new and 80% were neutral (used), before bottling.

This dark purple wine starts with juicy aromatics, particularly cherry and cranberry.  These continue on the palate, with the addition of blackberry and grippy tannins.  ABV is 14.3% and 448cases were made.

Brian Carter Cellars Opulento 2014

Opulento is Spanish and Portugese for opulent.

I’ll admit right up front that I have been a big fan of Port for years.  Carter can’t accurately label this dessert wine as Port, since it comes from Washington instead of Portugal, of course (although plenty of less scrupulous producers do).  Even so, he uses the traditional varietals: 57% Touriga Nacional (Upland, Lonesome Spring), 29% Souzao (Upland, Lonesome Spring), 9% Tinto Cão (Upland), and 5% Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo, Lonesome Spring).  Aging was 20 months in French and American barriques,  15% new and 85% neutral.  This treat pours an inky dark purple in the glass.  The surprisingly subtle nose features currants and dark cherries.  That subtlety disappears on the palate, however, with big flavors of chocolate and plums.  The finish is pleasantly sweet rather than cloying, with nice balancing acidity.  ABV is 19% (fortified with 190 proof Washington brandy), and 842 cases were produced.

https://www.briancartercellars.com/

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(Not Too) Spicy Grilled Tuna Steaks with Salad Greens

If you don’t like fish, this is the fish recipe for you.  If you do like fish, especially  tuna, this is definitely the recipe for you.  It was published by the great Pierre Franey (1921 – 1996) in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune in August of 1992.  It may well be the greatest tuna recipe ever written.  (Yes, Rob, even better than canned-tuna noodle casserole.)  I have made it many times over the years, something I rarely do.  Hell, I almost never make anything more than once.

Photo: Nancy Young

Spicy Grilled Tuna Steaks

Serves 4

1/4 cup sesame seeds (toasted is better, but not necessary)
1 Tbls curry powder
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp anise seeds
Salt to taste
4 tuna steaks, about 1″ thick, 1-1/2 lbs. total, the fresher the better
olive oil

    1.  Preheat a grill, or oven broiler.  Mix sesame seeds, curry powder, black pepper, anise seeds, and salt in a small bowl.
    2.  Lightly oil tuna with olive oil.  Sprinkle  steaks evenly on both sides with sesame mixture, and press down so mixture adheres well to steaks.  Cover and let stand for 15 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
    3.  Meanwhile, prepare Mixed Salad, below.
    4.  Place steaks on hot grill or under broiler for two minutes per side for rare.  (For greater doneness, you can cook a little longer, particularly if you are grilling outside in the winter, but otherwise I don’t recommend it.  Trust me on this.)

Mixed Salad with Vinaigrette

6 cups mixed salad greens (readily available preboxed, for convenience)
2 Tbls each: Dijon mustard and red wine vinegar
2 tsp minced garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
8 Tbls olive oil

    1. Wash and dry greens thoroughly in a salad spinner.  If large, tear leaves with your hands; if you buy them in a bag or box they will probably be small enough that you can leave them whole.
    2.  Put mustard, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Stir well.  Add oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly until well blended.  Adjust vinegar to taste (I like my dressing with a little more zip).
    3. Add greens and toss well with vinaigrette.

To serve, place dressed mixed green salad in center of plate.  Cut tuna into  slices on the bias and place slices on top of greens.

Since the grill is already on, if you’d like more food, this goes really well with mixed vegetable kabobs (zucchini, onion, red bell pepper, mushroom, etc).  Double the vinaigrette, and use half to marinate the veggies.  They will need about five minutes per side to cook, so start them before the tuna.  Alternatively, a side of plain white rice would work, also.

Serve with one of these Pinot Noirs.  Yes, a red, not a white.  Unless it is a sparkler.

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Juslyn Vineyards Perry’s Blend

Perry and Carolyn Butler emigrated from England to California sometime during the mid-1980s. Butler was a trained  chef in England, and dabbled with his wife in the emerging high-tech business there as well. It was their growing interest in technology that drew them to Silicon Valley.  Once there, they  purchased Global Dynamics, a struggling IT company that provided IT staffing for American Airlines in San Francisco’s Bay Area.

Once their company was well-established, the Butler’s were able to indulge in weekend trips to nearby Napa Valley. It was there that they soon developed a passion for wine and the wine country lifestyle that Napa Valley offered.

In 1997, the couple sold their quite profitable IT business and relocated to Spring Mountain. They bought a picturesque 42-acre property that was once a small parcel of the 540 acres that California wine pioneer Charles Krug originally acquired as the dowry of Caroline Bale, who he married in 1860.  The Butlers set about having a villa and gardens built, along with a winery facility, which Butler named Juslyn, for daughter Justine and wife Carolyn.

The vineyard on the property was replanted to a field blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon plus small amounts of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, reflecting the English preference for those Bordeaux blends they call Claret.

Early on, the Butlers became friends with legendary wine critic Robert Parker, who utilized their villa for many of his Napa Valley wine tasting and rating sessions. Parker was a big fan of Juslyn Vineyards’ early wines, and  awarded them high ratings on several occasions.  I’m sure having access to the villa didn’t influence his assessments in any way.

Without any real experience in the wine industry, the Butlers have relied on the work of their grape and wine specialists.

For the vines, Juslyn takes advice from the Renteria Vineyard management team, led by Salvador and Oscar Renteria. This father-son duo has produced grapes for many prestigious Napa Valley wineries.

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The winemaker is Angelina Mondavi.  She began her career at the age of 10 by assisting the lab manager at Charles Krug.  (She had an in.  Her grandfather Peter Mondavi (who was Robert Mondavi’s brother) owned the place.)  After graduating from Villanova University, majoring in chemistry, she worked lab and harvest positions in Napa Valley and Barossa Valley. While in Australia, she earned a Master’s Degree in Oenology from the University of Adelaide.  Following graduation, she gained experience with stints at Pine Ridge Vineyards and One True Vine where she was responsible for Hundred Acre, Cherry Pie, and Layer Cake to name a few.

Juslyn’s estate vineyard consists of some eight acres on rocky hillside soils with excellent drainage, where the vines are now over 20 years old.  The winery is able to annually extract some three tons of fruit per acre.

Juslyn Vineyards Perry’s Blend 2016

The name “Perry’s Blend” (the wine was originally called Proprietary Red) was conferred by Robert Parker during one of his tasting sessions, and the Butlers took to the designation.

Perry’s is a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 7% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, entirely from the Juslyn Spring Mountain Estate.  The wine was aged for 24 months in French oak, 85% of which was new.

It is a fairly transparent but nonetheless dark purple  The nose offers plenty of dark fruit aromas with a bit of cedar.  These continue on the palate, especially black cherry, black currant, and black raspberry, with the addition of cocoa.  There is medium acidity, paired with zoomin’ and boomin’ tannins.  To be clear, I like my reds young, and I’m not afraid of tannins.  But to temper those here, the wine should be decanted for a couple of hours.  And really, another three to five years of bottle aging would be worthwhile.  If you have the patience, the wine should drink well at least through 2030.  As another reviewer noted, “An odd but awesome juxtaposition of a young California Cab mated with a first production old-world Bordeaux.”   ABV is 14.5% and 480 cases were produced.

https://juslynvineyards.com/

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Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

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.

In 1981 Arrowood met Alis Demers at the first California Wine Experience in San Francisco. They started dating and were married in 1985. They soon began plans for building Arrowood Vineyards & Winery, which opened later that same year.  For the first three years, Alis ran the winery while Arrowood fulfilled his ongoing obligations as executive vice president/winemaster at Chateau St. Jean. In April 1990 he joined Alis to devote himself full-time to Arrowood Winery.

Robert Mondavi Corp. purchased Arrowood in 2000.  Constellation Brands purchased Mondavi in 2004 and subsequently sold Arrowood in 2005 to the Legacy Estate Group, which filed for bankruptcy just a year later, in 2006.  At that point, Arrowood Vineyards, along with Legacy’s two other operations, Freemark Abbey and Byron Vineyard and Winery, were sold to Kendall Jackson.

The peripatetic Arrowood moved on in 2010; he opened his newest winery, Amapola Creek, in June of that year. 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.

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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.

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In early December 2019, Richard Arrowood announced his retirement.

https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/northbay/sonomacounty/10427340-181/richard-arrowood-sonoma-wine-business

Amapola Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

The organically-farmed estate vineyard for this Cabernet is a high-elevation site featuring mineral-rich volcanic soils and cooling breezes from San Pablo Bay. The grapes were hand-picked and pressed.  After fermentation the wine was aged for 24 months in new and seasoned French and American oak. It is neither fined nor filtered.

This release marks Arrowood’s 50th vintage.  It is composed of 93% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Petit Verdot.  The wine is is classic deep garnet-purple in color, and gives up somewhat closed notes of blackberries, black plums, and cassis with touches of pencil shavings, and cedar chest. The palate is full-bodied, and continues with blackberries and  black cherry.  It has a solid frame of firm, grippy tannins, and finishes long with a minted lift.

https://www.amapolacreek.com/

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Brutocao Cellars

Irv Bliss’ early years as a farmer were occupied with growing pears, prunes, walnuts, and a large family garden just outside of Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, California. Although successful, for years Bliss nursed the vision of planting a vineyard in Mendocino, which he believed to be one of the best places around to grow grapes. In 1943, he purchased a plot of land in southern Mendocino County, and immediately planted the vineyard of his dreams. In the early days, in addition to growing grapes on the property, Bliss farmed figs and raised sheep and cattle. At some point in the 1970s, all 100 acres of the land was converted to grape production, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel.

When Leonard met Martha

In 1910, the Brutocao (pronounced brew’ tuh coe) family emigrated from Treviso, Italy (a small town near Venice), at first settling in Canada. Son Leonard Brutocao was born in 1935 in Fort Erie, Canada and, after the family moved to the U.S., was raised in Covina, Calif.  He met Irv Bliss’ daughter Martha while attending the University of California, Berkeley. After Leonard and Martha married, the families joined forces, and continued to farm grapes which they sold to well-known Sonoma and Napa wineries. Irv and Leonard worked together for over 35 years until Irv’s retirement in 1969, at which point the new ownership was split between Lenonard and Lenonard’s brother Albert (who co-founded with Leonard the Brutoco Engineering and Construction company in southern California which  the Brutocao clan also owned and continued to operate, as well as a number of other entrepreneurial ventures).

For several years, most of the family’s grapes were sold to local area wineries, including Beringer and Mondavi.  Leonard and Albert were interested in more than just farming however, and saw the potential for producing a handcrafted Mendocino wine. Acting on this vision, the Brutocao family released their first wine with the 1980 vintage. Shortly thereafter, they chose as their symbol of family tradition and quality a version of the Lion of St. Mark, the lion on top of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Venice, Italy,  (But they flipped the way it faces, for whatever reason.)
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In 1991, the original winery was built, and the first estate vintage was produced. Around the same time, Leonard’s three sons, David, Len Jr., and Steve, joined the family business. (Forth son Dan and daughter Renee Ortiz also share ownership of the winery, but have limited involvement.)  David is Director of Winemaking Operations, and works side by side with Brutocao winemaker Hoss Milone to produce their estate wines. Len Jr., as Director of Vineyard Operations, oversees the cultivation of the land from new plantings to grape harvest.  Following the death of his father in 2010, Steve assumed the role of CEO  after many years of experience in wine marketing and sales.

Brutocao outgrew the first winery by 2003, when a new facility was built, and it was expanded in 2009. The original building has now become an onsite wine storage warehouse.  The more visitor-friendly tasting room is about a mile and a half due west, in Hopland, California.
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The Legacy Continues

The Brutocao operation is now in its fourth generation. Ryan, Director of Custom Label Sales, is tasked with distribution as well as coordinating with Brutocao’s non-profit partner, Wine to Water.  Kevin, a jack of all trades, does a bit of everything, from pouring wines in the Hopland tasting room to managing the winery’s online presence. He also creates many of the designs for marketing materials.

The Winemaker

Hoss Milone became the winemaker for Brutocao in 2009 after spending 18 years toiling for Ferrari-Carano.  Hoss is a fourth-generation winemaker who grew up in his family’s vineyards, and watched his grandfather and father produce their own Mendocino wines. Milone is also a trained cooper, aka barrel maker.  At some point it was discovered that Milone’s grandfather tilled the land for Irv Bliss in the original vineyard. Quite a coincidence.

The Vineyards

The Bliss Vineyard, also known as the Home Ranch, is the original property purchased in 1943 by Irv Bliss. The vineyard is 400 acres, with 177 acres planted to Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Sangiovese, Barbera, and Dolcetto.

The Feliz Vineyard was purchased in 1994. It is 583 acres in size, with 114 acres planted to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, Barbera, Zinfandel, and Pinot Noir.

The 251-acre Contento Vineyard was purchased in 1997, but not planted until 1999. 90 acres are now under vine, growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Primitivo*. Contento is the site of an old cattle ranch, where purebred Brangus cattle were raised. Some of the ranch was used for research and development of new tractor equipment, resulting in very well-worked soils.  Contento is also the site of an abandoned gold mine.

Brutocao Chardonnay 2019

Made by Brutocao since the mid-1980s, this  pale-straw colored Chardonnay comes entirely from Bliss Vineyard, the original property purchased by Irv Bliss in 1943.  The wine was 100% barrel fermented and sur lies aged for nine months in French oak, 30% of which was new.   Some of the grapes were “whole cluster pressed” for maximum flavor extraction.  It underwent 100% malolactic fermentation, which in this case lead to citrus rather than the more typical buttery notes.

The wine opens with aromas of honeysuckle, pear, and mango.  These  evolve into a full-bodied palate of tropical fruit with just a hint of butterscotch on the finish.  Serve moderately chilled at about 60° F.  ABV is 13.5%, and  3000 cases were produced.

Brutocao Quadriga Red Blend 2017

A quadriga is a chariot pulled by four horses, harnessed side by side, and is an ancient Italian symbol of triumph. This selection, on offer since the early 2000s,  is a proprietary blend of 43% Primitivo*, 31% Sangiovese, 19% Barbera, 6% Dolcetto, and a 1% topping of Syrah, which is reminiscent of traditional Italian field blends.  “Field blending” is the custom of planting different grape varieties together in the same vineyard, harvesting them all together, co-fermenting, and making a wine from the mixture. However, Milone was careful to point out that Brutocao’s varietals are kept separate in their vineyards, and he makes individual wines from each of the grape types before he begins the blending process.  This offers him much greater control over the flavor profile of the wine than the traditional field blend approach would.  The fruit was sourced from the Bliss, Feliz, and Contento vineyards.  After fermentation, it was aged for 18 months in 90% French oak and 10% American oak, of which 25% was new.

This wine is a totally transparent medium purple, but is more boisterous than its color suggests.  The nose features aromas of red berries and cinnamon stick.  These continue on the palate, with additional flavors of blueberries and caramel, complemented by a rich, smooth mouthfeel.  Decant for an hour or two before serving.  The ABV is 14.5%, and 500 cases were made.

www.brutocaocellars.com/

www.goldmedalwineclub.com

*There is ongoing debate about whether or not Primitivo and Zinfandel are the same grape.   However, it is agreed that at the least they both share a Croatian forebear.  Primitivo is mostly planted in Italy, while Zinfandel is almost exclusively American.  Winemaker Hoss Milone insists that Brutocao’s Primitivo can be sourced back to mother vines in Italy.  He also believes Primitivo prefers French oak aging, while Zinfandel is more suited to American oak.

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Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

HISTORY

There is a long-extinct volcano that is part of the Mayacamas Mountains called Mt. Veeder, named for a Dutch Presbyterian pastor, Peter Veeder, who lived in Napa during the Civil War era and enjoyed hiking on the mountain, where the Douglas firs and Knobcone pines reminded him of the forests of home.

Winemaking on Mount Veeder was first recorded in 1864 when Captain Stelham Wing presented the first Mount Veeder bottling at the Napa County Fair, a wine hailing from today’s Wing Canyon Vineyard.

Commercial scale production arrived on Mount Veeder in 1900 when Theodore Geir, a colorful and flamboyant German-born Oakland liquor dealer, bought the property that would later become the Christian Brothers’ Mont La Salle Winery (today’s Hess Collection Winery). By that time, there were some 20 vineyards and six wineries on the slopes of Mount Veeder.

The Modern Era

The modern post-Prohibition era began with the planting of the Mayacamas Vineyards in 1951 and the Bernstein Vineyards in 1965. Once the site of an old prune farm, San Francisco attorney Mike Bernstein and his wife, Arlene, purchased the property in 1963 to use as a weekend retreat, and planted a few vines two years later in the most casual way possible. A farmhand who lived on the property gave the Bernsteins a bundle of cast-off grapevine cuttings. As legend has it, Bernstein stuck the unrooted cuttings into the ground and promptly ignored them. Miraculously, of the 60 cuttings planted, 58 lived. In 1969, the Bernsteins purchased another farm a half mile up the road, which was turned into a five-acre vineyard planted to the classic Bordeaux grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Next came an actual winery, which produced 375 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1973. By 1977, Mount. Veeder’s other Bordeaux varietals were ready for blending with the winery’s Cabernet; the 1977 Mount Veeder Cabernet was the first California Cabernet to be composed of a blend of all the classic Bordeaux grape varieties.  The Bernsteins were also the first in the state to produce a Meritage-style wine using all five grapes, like the great chateaux of Bordeaux

In 1982, the Bernsteins sold the operation to  Henry and Lisille Matheson, formerly of Miami, Florida, where Matheson’s family was very active in real estate. (His great-grandfather once owned the entire island of Key Biscayne!) A year earlier in 1981, the winery had retained a new winemaker, Peter Franus, who had worked previously at Chalone and Chateau St. Jean.

Unfortunately, Matheson was more adept at real estate than winemaking, and in 1989 the winery was sold again, this time to Agustin Huneeus of Franciscan Estate Selections, which owns Franciscan Oakville Estate, Estancia, and an estate in Chile known as Veramonte.  Huneeus and his team immediately set about making many improvements, such as retrellising the vineyards, providing drip irrigation so that the vines would not be over-watered, and installing a computerized press for the grapes. Changes were made in teh winemaking style to soften the aggressively tannic nature of the Mount Veeder fruit, and new barrels were brought into the winery.  Darice Spinelli became winemaker in 1993 after working for three years under Greg Upton, the senior winemaker who oversaw all the Franciscan Estates properties.

At the time of the sale Mount Veeder had about forty acres planted to vine, and Huneeus increased that by another fifty acres (called the North Ranch).  Production now centers on  four Cabernet Sauvignons, and two red blends. Total annual output is about 12,500 cases.

The whole operation is rather secretive.  Janet Myers is the current winemaker, but Mount Veeder provides no biographical information on her.  There is no tasting room (they used to pour at Franciscan, but that tasting room is permanently closed), and although the winery is now located in Rutherford, Calif., no address is available.

The Mount Veeder district was granted AVA status in 1990.  The boundaries of this appellation include 25 sq mi (64.7 sq  km) with 1,000 acres (400 ha) planted on thin volcanic soil. Many vineyards are found on the steep mountain face some as steep as 30°. The steepness of the angle gives the vineyards benefits of more direct sunlight and better drainage.

Philosophy

The philosophy at Mount Veeder Winery is that each  wine has its own way of expressing the mountain soil from which it was born. Mount Veeder asserts that great wines are a reflection of their terroir—the combination of soil, topography, microclimate, and people—and  that excellent grapes handled with minimal processing have the potential to produce the greatest wines.

The Vineyards

“The mountain is unforgiving, but only an environment this demanding offers the potential to cultivate such exceptional fruit. My mission is to be a true steward of this land, and to have that care come through in every glass of wine.”  — Matt Ashby, Vineyard Manager

Resembling a giant staircase, Mount Veeder’s vines are planted on wide terraces of earth cut into steep slopes. At elevations of 1,000 to 1,600 feet, the microclimate is very different from the Napa Valley floor. Above the fog bank, exposed to the gentle morning sun and protected from the afternoon heat by the surrounding mountains, grapes on these vines ripen slowly and evenly.

Mount Veeder Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

This Cabernet is classic deep ruby in color.  A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Merlot, 3% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot, it spent 20 months in French oak barrels. The nose is moderately aromatic, offering up ripe berries and black cherries, complemented by hints of cedar and dried sage.  The well-structured palate presents black cherry, leather, cassis, plum puree, and a bit of dust and cocoa.  It’s all supported with snappy tannins and just the right amount of acid.  ABV is 14.5% and 60,000 cases were produced.

https://www.mtveeder.com/

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Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Chuck Hope and his wife Marlyn came to Paso Robles (which roughly means “passageway of oaks”) in California’s Central Coast in 1978 to farm, and eventually to start what would become Hope Family Wines. This early arrival put them on the forefront of the Central Coast becoming a world-class viticultural region. Initially, the Hopes planted apples and grapes in this then sparsely-populated area. Seeing the property’s potential for grape growing, Hope eventually replanted the apple orchards with grapes. Vine density was increased, and each vine was pruned to limit yield for better-quality fruit.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Hope family grew grapes for various wine producers. In the 1980s, the Wagner family, owners of Napa Valley’s Caymus Vineyards, turned to the Hope family to source Cabernet Sauvignon fruit for their Liberty School label. Thus began a long-lasting partnership between the two families.

Since that beginning, in Paso Robles specifically and throughout the region generally, Hope Family Wines has built long-standing relationships with over 50 growers. They coordinate with farmers to carefully limit crop yields to ensure concentrated flavors.

In 1995, the Hopes acquired Liberty School from the Wagners. In 1996, they launched Treana Winery with Chris Phelps serving as winemaker.

At about this same time, while studying fruit science at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, the Hope’s son Austin spent some time working in Napa Valley under Caymus winemaker Chuck Wagner. This opportunity solidified his decision to pursue winemaking for his family. He became the head winemaker in 1998, and has held the position ever since. Since taking the lead as president and winemaker, Hope has helped Hope Family Wines grow from producing around 20,000 cases per year to over 300,000 cases per year. Austin’s wife Celeste, a professional photographer, produces all winery-related photography.

Hope shared, “At Hope Family Wines, we believe that it is our job to demystify wine and make it approachable. As a beverage that often accompanies food, we need to get away from the rules and intimidation, and trust our individual preferences. I am excited to see the wine industry becoming more dynamic and approachable as younger generations embrace education through online sources that are right at our fingertips.”

In 2000, the family started a limited-production label, Austin Hope (surprise!), focused exclusively on Rhone varietals grown on the family’s estate vineyard, based on the calcareous loam, marine sediment, and dense clay soil  of the Templeton Gap, which has the coolest microclimate in Paso Robles. It closely matches the climate of the Rhône Valley in France, as well as Napa’s acclaimed Rutherford district. The winery’s now-mature vineyards produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Mourvedre, and Grenache.

In 2008, the winery introduced Candor Wines, a multi-vintage label focusing on Zinfandel and Merlot wines with fruit sourced from family-owned vineyards in Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, and Lodi. It introduced its second multi-vintage blend, named Troublemaker, in 2010.

The winery.

The tasting room.

Hope Family Wines is committed to sustainable growing practices that promote vine health, improve wine quality, and ensure that growers remain profitable. Spraying is only done when necessary, and never after August first. The number of tractor passes is kept to a minimum, protecting the integrity of the root structures and avoiding compacting the soil. The winery works actively to promote best practices in the vineyards of the growers they partner with. They use the self-assessment tools put together by the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers to gauge progress and identify areas for improvement over time.

Austin Hope Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

The 2017 is just the third iteration of this wine, and is 100% sourced from Paso Robles.  This luxurious wine is inky purple in the glass.  There is a super-rich nose with an abundance of dark fruit, such as blueberry, black currant, and hints of cherry.  The full-bodied palate is full of lush fruit, especially blackberry, supported by vanilla and subtle oak.  The polished tannins and fresh acidity are just right, and in excellent balance.  It all wraps up in a nice long smooth finish.  ABV is 15%.

https://www.hopefamilywines.com/

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