Arrowood Vineyards

Me and My Arrowood

This eponymous winery was founded by Richard and Alis Arrowood, the culmination of what up until then had been twenty-one years of winemaking.

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

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

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

Arrowood is located just ouside of Glen Ellen, California, in Sonoma County, and sources all of its grapes from the county’s diverse viticultural areas, such as Russian River Valley, Alexander and Dry Creek Valleys, and Sonoma-Carneros. Sonoma has some of the most varied and complex terroir in the world, with soils that include marine deposits, clay, loam, and volcanic rock.This unusual variety allows a skilled winemaker to match the grape variety he is working with to the most appropiate soil.

Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon

Sourced primarily from organic or sustainably-farmed vineyards on the western slopes of the Mayacama Mountain Range, this deep, dense Cabernet opens on the nose with vanilla, earth, and toast. The flavor is intense but wonderfully balanced, featuring plum, cassis, currant, and a hint of unsweetened cocoa, all supported by nicely integrated tannins. The wine is certainly drinkable now in its youthful exuberance, and should cellar well for ten more years, also. Pair this excellent Cabernet with Beef Tenderloin with Bordelaise Sauce, Steak Diane, or Pork Chops with Onion Marmalade. If you can afford it, buy it by the case.

Sonoma County Chardonnay

This Chardonnay is another balanced and harmonious wine, with an elegant structure and body. The color is quite pale, but the mouthfeel is pleasingly unctious. The taste is crisp and fresh, with notes of apple, peach, and just a hint of sweetness. There is plenty of oak, too, from nine months in French barrels; sadly, this is becoming ever less common. Serve this with Seared Salmon with Balsamic Glaze, Mussels with Garlic and White Wine, or Paprika Chicken.

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Simi Wines from Alexander Valley

Although Napa Valley is considered by many to be California’s preeminent winemaking region, Sonoma County just to the north offers many pleasures as well, particularly the wines from Alexander Valley, which is one of my personal favorites.

The Simi brothers immigrated from Tuscany, Italy, to California during the Gold Rush of 1876. They soon discovered the rolling hills of Sonoma County near San Francisco, which reminded them of home. In 1881 they established their winemaking operations in Healdsburg, where they completed construction of Simi’s first stone cellar in 1890. The winery has been in continuous operation ever since, giving it the distinction as California’s oldest.

Early success led to doubling the size of the winery by 1904, and it continued to grow until the disaster of Prohibition in 1920. Forbidden to sell their wine, Simi continued to make and store wine for the 15 years that Prohibition lasted. (They were able to sell “sacramental” wine during this time, which provided a much-needed income to barely keep the winery in operation.)
With Repeal in 1933, Simi was ready with a large supply of perfectly cellared wine to sell, and with their survival we are able to enjoy their products today.

Simi Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

If you are a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, the Simi Alexander Valley is an excellent choice for everyday drinking (the $26 list price is often discounted).
Simi sources the grapes for this wine from the nearly 600 acres they own devoted to red wine production. The diverse soils of these vineyards are a result of eons of geologic activity, including a catastrophic landslide which changed the course of the Russian River.

The color is the usual dense, dark red purple. The nose offers blackberry, cassis, and plum. It serves up ripe black cherry and blackberry on the tongue. This Cabernet is medium-bodied, with moderate tannins and a touch of vanilla and oak for structure. The wine shows good legs, and the 13.5% alcohol level is right in line with current winemaking style.

Enjoy this Cabernet Sauvignon with grilled skirt steak sandwiches on rye with horseradish mayonnaise, roast prime rib au poivre, and grilled Tuscan pork rib roast with rosemary coating and red bell pepper relish.

Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay 2007

This very pale gold Chardonnay features nicely balanced notes of lemon and citrus paired with a crisp, lively acidity. The nose is ripe melon and slight white peach. The fruit flavors are supported by an unassuming oak floor.
Pair this creamy smooth wine with richer foods such as baked salmon filled with mascarpone spinach, baked cod with tarragon butter, or pork sauté with caramelized pears.

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Two Unusual Wines from Italy, and One of My Original Pizza Recipes

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like a Big Pizza Pie, That’s Amore.

So sang famous Italian-American crooner Dean Martin. “When the world seems to shine / Like you’ve had too much wine / That’s amore.” In this post  we’re going to have just enough of two somewhat unusual wines from Italy.

Elena Walch Gewurztraminer 2006

Geewurzawhat? Gewurztraminer [guh-VURTZ-trah-mean-er] is a white wine most commonly associated with Germany. The name is derived from gewürz (spice) + traminer, (variety of grape), from tramin (Termeno, Italy), where this white-wine grape is thought to have originated over 1000 years ago, although not widely planted there now. This is a wine that’s best drunk fairly young—even vintage Gewürztraminers rarely age well past five years.

Elena Walch is a former architect who became a wine producer in 1985 after marrying into one of the oldest established wine families in Alto Adige. Her two estates, totaling 67 acres, lie on the southern slopes of the Alps, where during the summer the central valleys become filled with warm, Mediterranean air. Under her care, the vineyards have been transformed with low-yielding but high quality-clones of both international and local grape varieties.

Her Gewürztraminer is just a tad more than slightly sweet, with a dry finish on the back of the tongue that has a hint of bitterness. The color is an attractive golden yellow. The nose is characteristically aromatic and flowery.
Serve lightly chilled as a full-flavoured aperitif and with a range of dishes, including savory first courses and grilled fish.

Boschis Dolcetto de Dogliani 2005

Traveling 290 miles southwest from Alto Adige across the top of Italy’s “boot” will bring you to Dogliani, where Dolcetto [dole-CHET-oh] may have originated and was harvested as early as 1593.

The Francesco Boschis estate started making and bottling wine in 1968, while previously grapes were sold to other producers in the area. Dolcetto is the main varietal planted, commanding a dominant 80% of the winery’s production. (Unfortunately, an extensive Internet search yielded no more information on this shy estate.)

This Dolcetto is what Boschis terms an ‘autumn wine,’ but I think it is more suitable to late spring or early summer. Although the color is inky dark, the body is remarkably light (rather too much so for my taste in reds) and refreshing with black cherry overtones. One taster detected a touch of brettanomyces, which is a yeast that grows on grapes and in wine. Some say this gives the wine’s fruit flavors a degree of gaminess; others say a degree of wet cardboard. Neither sounds appealing to me, but happily I didn’t taste the ‘bret.’

This wine will pair nicely with all things Italiano: a nice antipasto platter, pasta, grilled fish, and of course, pizza.

If you need a pizza recipe, here’s one of my originals you might want to try:


Start dough at 4p for dinner between 8p and 9p
1 cup warm water
2 tsp instant-rise yeast
3-1/4 C bread flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil (EV not necessary)
2 to 3 tbs dried oregano or Italian herb
mix (optional)
Combine ingredients and knead by hand for 10 minutes or machine
for 2 minutes. Coat dough ball in a thin film of olive oil, cover in plastic wrap and let rise in warm place.


28 oz. can tomato puree
1 tbs dried parsley
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram (optional)
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
10 cloves minced fresh garlic, lightly sauteed in the olive oil above
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice, or a combination
1-/1/2 tsp salt
Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl. Makes about 6 cups, more than you will need. Freeze the remainder for the next pizza.


About an hour before service, turn the oven up as high as it will go.
Twenty to thirty minutes before service, roll dough out to 16” circle. [Or divide dough if you want to make two smaller pizzas.] Place on pizza screen if available, being careful not to press the dough into the mesh.

Half of large white onion, minced
As many garlic cloves as you like, minced
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
12 oz. Italian sausage, hot or mild
4 – 6 oz. pepperoni, casing removed, sliced thin
1 bell pepper, green (more authentic) or red (more flavorful), diced
1 can sliced pitted black olives, or 3/4 cup brined black olives if you want to kick it up a notch.
1/2 to 1 lb grated mozzarella or fontina

Add 2 tbs olive oil to large skillet. Over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, and pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, leaving as much oil in pan as possible. Add sausage and saute until browned, breaking up into coarse chunks.
Brush dough with olive oil. Cover evenly with all ingredients except mushrooms. Ladle on enough sauce to generously cover. Distribute
mushrooms on top of sauce.
Bake in oven until crust nicely browns, about 10

Serves 4 to 6.

The dough for this recipe was derived from James McNair’s excellent New Pizza Don’t be discouraged by the one-star reviews, they are bogus, imho.  One dweeb complained that McNair didn’t cover such arcane techniques as cold fermentation.  Geez.  If you want a cold ferment, use room temperature water and let the dough rise in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  But, you’re not going to have pizza tonight, and you won’t taste the subtleties a cold ferment brings to dough under all those toppings.

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Philipponnat Brut Royal Reserve Champagne NV

NV Philipponnat Brut Royal Reserve ChampagneTiny Bubbles

Tiny Bubbles was, of course, the late Don Ho’s signature tune. So much so that he sang it twice at each concert, once at the beginning and again at the end.

Champagne is also closely associated with Mother’s Day buffets, whether enjoyed alone in the glass or as an essential ingredient of Mimosas.

But you don’t have to take your mother to brunch (but perhaps you should) or host a tiki party to enjoy Champagne or another sparkling wine. (Although incorrectly used as a generic term for all sparkling wines, Champagne comes only from the Champagne region of France.) Too often reserved for special occasions, sparklers deserve to be sampled more often. They make excellent aperitifs, and pair well with a wide range of foods; fish obviously (try them with sushi), spicy Thai dishes, and fruits and desserts, to name a few.

Philipponnat Brut Royal Reserve NV

This wine is composed mainly of Pinot Noir blended with Chardonnay and a bit of Pinot Meunier. It is made in the traditional method: a second fermentation occurs in the bottle after the addition of the “liqueur de tirage” (natural fermenting agents and a small quantity of cane sugar). Wines from previous years are incorporated (up to 20%) to maintain the house style.

This wine features plenty of effervescence, so there is a caldron of those tiny bubbles in the glass. It features an appealing light honey color. It is quite dry, which allows the pleasant yeastiness to come through. The nicely balanced acidity lends structure, but leaves a hint of bitterness on the finish.

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Byington Alliage Cabernet and Field of Dreams Moscato

Sweet Dreams Are
Made of These

In this post, I’m reviewing two distinctly different wines: Byington Alliage Cabernet and Field of Dreams Moscato

Byington Alliage Cabernet 2002

This Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon comes from an Iowa farmboy who amassed enough wealth as a northern California industrialist that he was able to realize his dream of becoming a winery owner.

Along with the primary grape, it features 11% Cabernet Franc and 9% Syrah, both of which enhance its structure. There is also a very slight sweetness reminiscent of cassis and raisins, as well as a hint of licorice. The lingering and pronounced tannins will appeal to some, while others will want to hold this wine in the cellar for three or four years to allow the tannins to soften. The inky density and good legs suggest such patience will be rewarded. Let this wine breathe for 30 minutes or so before pouring. Then, serve with mildly seasoned pork or chicken.

Field of Dreams Moscato 2006

Although made in the Italian Asti style, this Moscato actually comes from Australia’s Barossa Valley. It is one of the few varietals that, when turned to wine, tastes as fresh as the grape from which it is made.

Yes, it is sweet, but not cloying. And although there are tiny bubbles in the glass, there is no fizz. If you like Coke or Pepsi with dinner, you could pair it with the entree, but I’d save it for dessert, especially fresh fruit or delicate cookies.

With an alcohol content of only 8%, it would even be welcome at weekend brunch with waffles or pancakes, instead of the more traditional champagne.

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