Stoller Vineyards

Stoller VineyardsOn the Trail to Oregon

Dayton, Oregon, in the Dundee Hills AVA and 25 miles southwest of Portland, is home to Stoller Vineyards. Oregon started to become generally known for their wines, particularly Pinot Noir, only about 30 years ago. Stoller is even newer, bringing in their first wine in 2001.

In 1993, Bill Stoller purchased from a cousin the turkey farm where he had been raised as a boy. He knew that the rocky terrain, low-yield soils, and steep hillsides of the property that made general agriculture a difficult and frustrating endeavor would be perfectly suited to grape vines.

He started with 10 acres each of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which have now expanded to over 225 acres under cultivation. (Stoller was not a winemaking novice, however. He was already a partner in Chehalem Winery in nearby Newberg, Oregon.)

In addition to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the vineyards are home to Pinot Gris, Riesling, Tempranillo, Syrah, and Pinot Blanc.

Stoller is committed to sustainable farming practices, employing such innovations as a water reservoir that collects runoff from the winter rains, a solar-powered weather station, and a spring-fed irrigation system that minimizes drip. Stoller is currently working with Oregon State University to study the effects of different cover crop regimes on soil health, vine vigor, and wine quality.

Stoller Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2008

This all-Chardonnay wine offers an excellent balance of bright fruit and acidity. It was barrel fermented and aged in French oak, but since only 30% was new, the wood is present but not dominant. The finishing 100% malolactic fermentation imparted softness and smoothness.

On the nose, aromas of almonds, lemon zest, and brioche are evident. The dry, silky palate features citrus (especially lemon), minerals, and spice.

Serve this Chardonnay with Grilled Lemon Chicken, Crispy Salmon with Spiced Lentils, or Swordfish with Mango and Avocado Salsa.

Stoller Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2007

This Stoller Pinot Noir was sourced from their oldest vineyard plantings, at the end of a cool growing season. The wine spent 10 months aging in 60% new / 40% neutral oak.

The wine presents aromas of oak, spice, and vanilla. The taste is well-balanced, with good acidity, medium tannins, and flavors of tart plum, wild strawberry, and raspberry.

This Pinot Noir will go well with Baked Tuna with Tomatoes, Capers and Black Olives, Coq au Vin with Autumn Vegetables (try making the chicken with white wine, though), and Lamb Chops with Prune Chutney.

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WALT Wines

WALT WinesWALT Wines, owned by Kathryn Hall and Craig Hall, is dedicated to the production of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from the Pacific Coast, spanning nearly 1000 miles and including Sta. Rita Hills, Sonoma County, Anderson Valley, Napa Valley, and the Willamette Valley. They strive to source top fruit from the most distinctive vineyards; practice precise, non-interventionist winemaking; and focus on limited production. The goal is to allow the wines to naturally and honestly express the character of the sites where the wines are grown.

WALT Wines are named after Kathryn Hall’s parents, Bob and Dolores Walt. They were dedicated wine-grape growers who produced six different varietals that were sold to several well-known wineries. For the Walts, growing grapes was the satisfaction of a hard day’s work and the feeling of peace walking through the vineyard before sunset. Kathryn Hall managed the vineyard operations herself from 1982 until 1992.

In 2010 WALT expanded from grape farming to wine production. Today, the winemaking team is led by Vice President, Winemaking Steve Leveque (who also crafts the HALL Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon wines), and Winemaker Megan Gunderson Paredes. who work in a state-of-the-art winemaking facility aided by a passionate winery staff, and strong vineyard partners.

WALT’s methodology includes: night harvesting; hand sorting every berry; whole cluster pressing of Chardonnay; native yeast fermentation; barrel aging on lees to create more texture, richness, and complexity; and weekly batonnage and topping during the decidedly long malolactic fermentation. The wines are neither fined nor filtered. This can result in a bit of haze, but it is in keeping with the idea that the wine was made with the least intervention and with the highest-quality intentions. By sourcing fruit from quality growers and by utilizing the state-of-the-art winemaking facilities at HALL Wines, they strive to make the best wine possible, while keeping extremely limited production levels.

WALT’s estate vineyard, Bob’s Ranch, was purchased by the Halls in 2014 and is located in the heart of the Petaluma Wind Gap on highway 116 just south of Sebastapol.

WALT Bob’s Ranch Chardonnay 2017

This is primarily Wente clone, which produces mostly small berries, limiting production. There are thirty different blocks at Bobs’ Ranch, with roughly a third planted to Chardonnay.

This wine opens with bright aromas of lemon, apricot, and mango. The palate features an unctious mouthfeel, with flavors of tart citrus and a hint of butter. A near-perfect balance of acidity and creaminess. Super OTW.

Match this wine with grilled Chilean sea bass with citrus-Anaheim salsa; baked monkfish fillets with fines herbes bread crust; or scallops St. Jacques.

WALT Bob’s Ranch Pinot Noir 2017

Cherry cola and black tea express on the nose. Cherry flavors predominate, abetted by dark fruits mingled with raspberry and cinnamon. This is supported by excellent mouthfeel, vibrant minerality, medium acidity, and just a hint of tannins.

Consider serving with balsamic-glazed salmon; chicken with cherry-wine sauce; or Cornish game hens with raspberry gravy.

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Benziger Family Winery

Benziger Family WineryBeyond the Pale

In the early 1980s, the Benziger family (not to be confused with Beringer, although they often are) migrated west from White Plains, N.Y., and started a winery on Sonoma Mountain. Winemaker Joe Benziger learned his craft by making large production wines for the Glen Ellen brand, but eventually decided that his future lay with a series of small, artisan wines, sustainably produced.

Depending on location, every Benziger vineyard is certified sustainable, organic, or biodynamic, using the most up-to-date green farming practices. But, just what does that mean? Green, sustainable, and organic are words that are often used rather casually. At Benziger, they try to be more precise.

Their third-party certified-sustainable vineyard program emphasizes environmentally-sound growing methods, such as biodiversity, soil revitalization, and integrated pest management. Their growers are required to participate in sustainable farming.

Organic grape growing avoids the use of synthetic chemicals and uses natural methods like crop rotation, tillage, and natural composts to maintain soil health, as well as natural methods to control weeds, insects, and other pests. The winery itself is certified organic, too. Organic is an evolutionary step up from sustainable. After that, many Benziger growers move on from certified organic to certified biodynamic.

Animals and beneficial gardens play an important part in biodynamic farming techniques. Benziger relies on sheep for the removal of overgrown cover crop, and they replace the need for mowing, disking, and spraying herbicides; they aerate the soil while continuously depositing nutrient-rich fertilizer throughout the vineyard.

Olive trees also support the health of the estate. Olives often grow well in the same climates and soils as wine grapes, and Benziger has been offering an Estate Biodynamic Olive Oil for a number of years.

Benziger North Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2014

This very pale-yellow sipper is made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc grapes harvested from the North Coast appellation of Sonoma County. It opens with hints of melon on the nose. There is a subtle sweetness in the taste, suggesting peaches. The acidity comes on reminiscent of Key lime. It ends with a bit of bubbly on the finish.

Pair this easy-going wine with tabbouleh, braised swordfish in white wine, or grilled shrimp in a Catalan almond sauce.

Benziger Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2014

This selection looks more like cherry Kool-Aid than wine, but it’s wine, for sure. The understated nose features raspberry and sweet earth. The taste is cherry, alright, but this time of the tart variety. There is a medium finish with restrained tannins.

This easy-to-drink Pinot would go nicely with steam-poached salmon, Spanish chicken with sweet peppers, or Andalusian braised lamb shanks with honey.

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WALT Wines

WALT Clos Pepe Pinot NoirWALT Clos Pepe Pinot Noir 2014

WALT (a Kathryn Hall brand) sources grapes from Santa Barbara to Sonoma; Clos Pepe, an estate vineyard, is located in the Santa Rita Hills in the Central Coast region. This bottling is 100% Pinot Noir, and was barrel aged for 10 months. The dark red color is paired with a nose of strawberries, cherries, and cranberries. The smooth flavor features red berry, cocoa, and black pepper, with supporting warm oak and firm tannins. Although this wine is medium-bodied, it has a surprisingly long finish.

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Byron Wines

Byron WinesThe Poetry of Byron

Fill the goblet again! for I never before
Felt the glow which now gladdens my heart to its core;
Let us drink!—who would not?—since, through life’s varied round,
In the goblet alone no deception is found.
—Lord Byron (1788-1824), English poet

Designated in 1981, the Santa Maria Valley AVA is located in the northernmost part of Santa Barbara County, just east of Santa Maria city. The east–west orientation of the wide, open valley means cool winds and fog flow in freely from the Pacific Ocean, settling most noticeably in lower-lying areas. This cool maritime influence lengthens the growing season (among the longest in the world), and contributes to the eventual sugar/acid balance in Santa Maria Valley’s wines.

The first Santa Barbara County vineyard established in the 20th century was planted in 1964 by Uriel Nielson; it has been Byron Winery’s estate vineyard for over 30 years. 18 miles inland from the Pacific, this historic benchland vineyard serves as a model for Santa Barbara’s viticultural experimentation and sustainable farming methods (It is California Sustainable Winegrowing Certified).

Nielson was largely replanted in 1991, and it has since been enhanced with considerable investment. A new 4,000-barrel-capacity winery has been built, and in 2014, Byron returned to its focus on single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, presenting this unusual opportunity to review two very different wines from the same vineyard.

Nielson Vineyard Chardonnay 2014

This light-golden-hued wine hails from the original “Wente” clone, which at Byron was planted in 1964 and again in 1999. The harvest was fermented in barrel with full malolactic fermentation, and then aged in the same barrels (French oak, 54% new) for 15 months. The resulting wine features aromas of butter and mango. The palate is full-bodied and has a rich mouthfeel, with hints of apricot, lemon, grapefruit, and minerals.

Try this Chardonnay with roasted halibut with romesco and pine nut butter; Dungeness crab salad with mango vinaigrette; or seared sea scallops with coconut risotto.

Nielson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2014

Three Pinot clones were used for this wine. They came from the east end of the property, which is very sandy with outcroppings of shale and limestone. The fruit was aged in 35% new French oak.

This expression of the ever-obstinate pinot noir is rich ruby-hued in the glass, with mouth-watering aromas of dark fruits, brown spice, smoke, and dried thyme Those scents carry on to the the flavor, especially wild blackberry. The whole shebang is supported by good acidity and astringent tannins.

Serve this wine with seared Muscovy duck breast with saffron risotto; sausage-stuffed calamari; or smoked pork tenderloin with vanilla jus.

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Cuvaison Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Cuvaison Chardonnay and Pinot NoirMean, Green,
Winemaking Machine

Established in 1969, Cuvaison (French for maceration, the period of time grape juice spends in contact with the skins and seeds) is an estate vineyard and winery that produces primarily Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, both grown exclusively in the Carneros AVA on the northern end of both Sonoma and Napa. When the winery was founded, the Carneros region was little known for grape growing, and much of the acreage was pastureland. But, the area’s cool bay breezes and frequent fog are ideal for wine, and it is now home to thirty-one wineries and an equal number of growers.

Cuvaison is certified sustainable under the Napa Green designation, meaning they have been recognized for their work in reducing the impact on the environment. The winery is 85% solar powered; they have invested in a water recirculation/conservation program (quite critical as California often suffers from severe drought); and they started a cork recycling program where wine club members and neighboring wineries bring their popped corks to be ground for repurposing.

Steve Rogstad, yet another graduate of UC Davis’ viticulture and enology program, has been winemaker since 2002. While working on a six-month post-graduate internship in Beaujolais, Steve discovered that, “Working with just one varietal and tasting fifty different wines from one region, I really started to understand the concept of terroir. It made an impression that lasts to this day.” The experience also taught Rogstad how to isolate and work with small wine lots, a practice that is at the core of his winemaking philosophy. In addition to Cuvaison, Rogstad has worked at such well-known wineries as La Crema, Saintsbury, Rombauer, Spring Mountain, and Clos Pegase.

Cuvaison Estate Chardonnay 2012

This Chardonnay is over half of Cuvaison’s yearly production, so a lot is riding on what’s in the bottle. 20% of this Chard saw new French oak for eight months. There was about 60% malolactic conversion, but it is not overly buttery or lacking in varietal characteristics. It presents a pale yellow in the glass, understating the fulsomeness to come. On the nose, you are greeted with aromas of honeysuckle, honeydew melon, and sweet citrus. These continue on the well-balanced palate, plus the addition of crisp stone fruit such as white peach, apricot, and nectarine.This is supported by a nice lemon/lime acidity.

Enjoy this wine with Smoked Shellfish Quesadillas with Fresh Corn Salsa, Cool Honeydew-Mint Soup, or Shrimp Kabobs with Lemons and Bay Leaves.

Cuvaison Estate Pinot Noir 2013

This Pinot Noir is classically transparent ruby in the glass. It features a light, silky mouthfeel, and the nose offers subtle hints of grass, green herbs, and berries. The palate bursts with raspberry, strawberry, fresh cherry, and cola. These flavors are complemented with balanced acidity and round, understated tannins.

This wine would pair nicely with Tomato and Onion Tart, Summer Vegetable Calzone, or Nut-Crusted Trout with Romesco Sauce.

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Migration Sonoma Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Migration Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Duckhorn Portfolio is the umbrella corporation of an expanding wine mini-empire. First came the flagship Duckhorn Vineyards, established in 1976 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn to pioneer and feature premium Napa Merlot. (Duckhorn has a “second growth” label named Decoy, as well.) Next came Paraduxx in 1994, specializing in Zinfandel-based blends. This was followed by Goldeneye, which began making Pinot Noir in 1996.

Duckhorn’s newest label is Migration,  established in 2001 in the Anderson Valley. Migration focused first on Pinot Noir. Shaped by the valley’s cool nights, fog-shrouded mornings and mild, sunny afternoons, this inaugural release established Migration’s stylistic identity, producing wines with abundant fruit and bright acidity.

In 2008, Migration produced its first Chardonnay using fruit from vineyard sources in the Russian River Valley. This wine is the first Chardonnay in Duckhorn’s 30-year history. In preparing for the Chardonnay production, Migration saw the potential for Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, and made its first Russian River Valley Pinot Noir in 2008 as well.

Migration was initially guided by young rising-star winemaker Neil Bernardi. A native of northern California, Bernardi studied at the University of California, Davis, the academic epicenter of California viticulture. After taking degrees in Italian and enology, Bernardi set off for New Zealand and found work with Saint Clair Estate, Cape Campbell, and Kim Crawford there. Once back in the States, he became assistant cellarmaster at Quintessa in Saint Helena, California, and then moved on to Littorai in Sonoma in 2007. He joined the Duckhorn family as enologist at Goldeneye. Bernardi became Migration’s winemaker in 2009. He has stated, “Traditionally the character of a particular wine is connected to a specific place. Migration offers a different paradigm. We are starting with a clearly defined style and exploring how that style can be expressed in different regions.” Following his success at Migration, Neil is now Vice President & General Manager – Kosta Browne, Canvasback.

In 2014, Migration acquired the Running Creek Vineyard, located in the heart of the Russian River Valley. This Estate vineyard features 70 acres of Pinot Noir vines and 20 acres of Chardonnay.

In 2017, following her tenure as the winemaker for Decoy, Dana Epperson became the winemaker for Migration, where she has established a reputation for a style of winemaking that seamlessly balances vibrancy and finesse.

Migration Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2017
Migration Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2017

Although starting in the Russian River Valley in the inland Santa Rosa area, Migration has continued to expand their sources, heading towards vineyards near the coast for these selections.

There was plenty of rain in Sonoma in the winter and spring of 2017, followed by a warm summer.  A major heat spike occurred just as this fruit was coming to ripeness, requiring fast-paced hand-picking at night.

The 100% Chardonnay matured for 10 months in 100% French oak barrels, 35% new and 65% neutral oak.  It also saw 75% malolactic fermentation.

Pale gold in the glass, this wine has a dominant nose of lemon, with trailing aromas of apple and pear.  The citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit continue on the palate, abetted by hints of vanilla and baking spice. Quite good acidity.

The Pinot Noir is 100% varietal, and matured for 10 months in 100% French oak,  35% new and 65% neutral. Sourced from six vineyards in the Green Valley, Russian River Valle,y and Petaluma Gap. A blend of more than 80 small lots of wine that winemaker Epperson has to work with. Excellent quality and value considering the huge production of 23,000 cases.

One is greeted by a bright, festive red color, with cherry and blueberry aromas.  The taste is of tart cherry, cranberry, and subtle oak. The wine is quite dry, silky,  and supported by a backbone of well-balanced tannins. It ends with a medium-length finish.

For a look at another Migration Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, click over to:

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Terlato Wine’s Tangley Oaks

Terlato Wine's Tangley OaksNégociant [nay-goh-SYAHN] is the French word for “dealer” or “merchant,” and is used in wine circles to denote an individual or company that negotiates, sells, and ships wine as a wholesaler. Traditionally, négociants have often handled all aspects of wine production except the actual farming, including purchasing grapes, making the wine, blending, bottling, and shipping. In some transactions, there is another intermediary: a courtier or “wine broker,” who helps establish the price paid by a négociant to a small producer. Some of the better known French négociants are Barton & Guestier, Calvet, Cordier, Moueix, and Sichel.

Predominately, négociants have been European, but they do exist in the New World (although you will rarely hear the French word used). One such firm is Terlato Wines, of Lake Bluff, Illinois, which rose from humble beginnings to become a powerhouse in the arena of international wine growing, production, and sales.

In 1938, Anthony Paterno, who would become Tony Terlato’s father-in-law, opened a grocery store on the corner of Grand and Western in Chicago. Nearly twenty years later, Tony Terlato and his father, Salvatore, founded Terlato’s Leading Liquor Marts. In 1958, Terlato and Paterno established Pacific Wine Company, importing and selling wines from California and Europe. By 1995, the business had expanded significantly by forming partnerships with leading wine producers from around the world, enabling the Terlato family to purchase Tangley Oaks, the former Philip D. Armour III mansion in Lake Bluff as their company’s headquarters, where 75 people are employed. The Tudor-Gothic estate, which resembles a European wine château, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Tangley Oaks Chardonnay 2014

Which explains how a winery in California can be officially located 2100 miles away in Illinois! This is a nicely lemon-hued wine; a mixture of barrel and tank fermentation was employed, after which the wine was aged in barrel for six months. It features aromas of fresh tropical fruit and notes of vanilla; the palate is full-bodied, with pear, nectarine, and a hint of honey, with grapefruit on the finish.

Enjoy this now with Japanese Mero Sea Bass in Carrot Coriander Sauce, Blue Corn-crusted Red Snapper with Warm Tomato Relish, or Smoked Salmon and Brie Pizza.

Tangley Oaks Pinot Noir 2013

Tangly Oaks offers two Pinots; this one hails from California’s North Coast AVA, and was sourced from Napa Carneros, Sonoma, and Mendocino. The wine was aged for nine months in French oak barrels. This ruby-red wine exhibits aromas suggestive of raspberries and strawberries, with hints of pine forest and earth. The lush mouthfeel is complemented by flavors of plum and red fruit, and is balanced by bright acidity and soft tannins.

Uncork this good value with Grilled Chicken with Fresno Chile and Plum Sauce, Pan Roasted Pork Tenderloin filled with Sun-dried Cranberries, or Grilled Tuna Stacked with Heirloom Tomato and Crispy Eggplant.

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Sanford Winery

Sanford Winery
I Cook with Wine; Sometimes I Even Add It to the Food

If you’re a film buff as well as a wine fancier, you may remember Lompoc [correctly pronounced Lom-poke], California, as the locale of W.C. Field’s The Bank Dick (although the movie was entirely shot on the studio’s back lot). Lompoc can be translated as “Land of Many Lakes,” and is also known today as the Valley of Flowers, as this rich area is the nation’s most prolific flower-seed producing region.

Lompoc is also home to Sanford Winery, the first such operation in Santa Barbara wine country, established in 1971. From the very beginning, Sanford has sourced its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from the Santa Rita Hills, which was designated an AVA in 2001. The area owes its magic to an unusual east-west mountain valley that runs from the vineyards to the Pacific Ocean. This passage allows a meteorological ebb-and-flow of air temperature between the mountains and the sea that is ideal for cool-climate varietals.

The winery itself is located at Rancho La Rinconada. It was completed in 2001 and was inspired by traditional California mission architecture. The walls are constructed of adobe blocks handmade on site. The insulating quality of this material makes it ideal for a winery. With adobe walls thirty inches thick, there is no need for either heating or air conditioning. The cellar interior is 55º to 65º year-round with no energy use.

The winery uses a unique and gentle system to move wine through the facility: a gravity racking system. Four 3600-gallon wine tanks are positioned on hydraulic lifts. The winery crew can move a 14-ton tank of wine below ground or 20 feet in the air. The crew then uses gravity to move wine from tank to barrel (or bottling) without disruptive pumping and agitation of the wine.

Sanford Winery Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay 2010

This wine was exclusively sourced from Sanford’s two estate vineyards and was fermented in both 60-gallon French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.
The color is pale gold, with a delicate, ambiguous nose. This makes the intensity of this racy wine on the palate all the more surprising; plenty of bright citrus and pineapple notes supported by “just enough” oak, a bit of floral character, and a dollop of acidity.

I suggest you pair this Chard with Chicken Breast with Artichokes and Mustard Sauce, Smoked Turkey and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwiches, or Seared Scallops with Fiery Fruit Salsa.

Sanford Winery Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Nior 2010

Like the Chardonnay, this wine was exclusively sourced from Sanford’s two estate vineyards. It was then fermented in open-top stainless steel tanks, and finished in French oak barrels for 10 months.

The wine is ruby in the glass, with a nose of tart cherry and orange rind. The dominant cherry notes continue on to the palate; they are complemented by bright acidity and delicate tannins. In keeping with this wine’s subtlety, the body is light and the finish is rather short.

Serve this wine with Sauteed Duck Breast with Pinot Noir Sauce (just don’t squander this Pinot Noir on the sauce), or Salmon en Papillote.

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River’s Edge and Hinman from Oregon

River’s Edge and Silvan Ridge | Hinman from OregonRiver’s Edge Winery is located in the northern-most part of the Umpqua Valley. River’s Edge, founded in 1998, specializes in the production of cool weather varieties such as pinot noir and gewürztraminer. The ocean is only 36 miles away from the winery, and morning fog frequently shrouds the vineyards even in the summer, reflecting the strong marine influence on the climate.

Their two estate vineyards, Black Oak and Elkton, are the primary sources for the wines. These two vineyards were planted in 1972 and are among the oldest in the state.

The River’s Edge wine making style emphasizes a low-tech, hands-on approach utilizing small batch fermentation, exclusively barrel aging, and bottling without fining.

River’s Edge Pinot Gris 2007

Let me announce my bias up front: I’m not that big a fan of Pinot Gris (pee-no gree) and Pinot Grigio (pee-no gree-joe). They are often watery and lacking a distinct character. Not so this one from River’s Edge.

This pinot gris was vinified in the traditional Alsatian manner in older oak barrels, with seven months of aging. The resulting wine has the pale yellow color, citrus/lemon flavor, and ripe pear bouquet typical of this varietal. The boldness of the flavors make it unique, with plenty of structure.

Enjoy this wine with grilled whole red snapper, broiled halibut steaks with tarragon butter, or raw oysters.


Doyle Hinman and David Smith opened Hinman Vineyards in 1979. By 1988, the winery had become Oregon’s top selling winery. In 1993, Hinman started releasing their premium line of reserve wines under the Silvan Ridge label, relegating Hinman to second-tier status.

Silvan Ridge | Hinman Vineyards produces approximately 25,000 cases of wine annually, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Muscat, Syrah, Grenache Rosé, Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot, and Riesling.

The Hinman winemaking style strives to express classic European technique, while applying new-world innovation.

The fruit for this pinot noir was sourced from the Willamette Valley, which begins just south of Eugene and runs north to Portland. It is Oregon’s coolest growing region and the source for most of the state’s wine grapes. Vineyards are typically located on bench-land hillsides at the western edge of the valley.

Hinman Vineyards Pinot Noir 2007

The color of this pinot noir is like that of cherry juice, and while color is not necessarily a predictor of taste or complexity, this time it’s fairly accurate. This is a simple, fruity wine, with plenty of cherry and berry on the palate. A tad on the sweet side, but with enough acidity to keep things in balance.

Pair this wine with salmon gravlax, risotto with artichokes, or pan-fried soft shell crabs.

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Leaping Lizard Pinot Noir from Sonoma and Willow Crest Viognier from Washington

Leaping Lizard Pinot Noir from Sonoma and Willow Crest Viognier from Washington“This weekend is not about me. It is about you. I’m gonna show you a good time. We’re gonna drink a lot of good wine. We’re gonna play some golf. We’re gonna eat some great food and enjoy the scenery and we are going to send you off in style, mon frere.” And so Miles and Jack set off on their most excellent adventure in Sideways, the 2004 film that by some accounts was single-handedly responsible for a 10% increase in sales of pinot noir.

Leaping Lizard Pinot Noir 2005

This pinot noir hails from the cool and foggy Russian River Valley in Sonoma County, California. The Russian River has long been home to winemakers serious about pinot noir, and Leaping Lizard joined their ranks in 1996.

The winemaker is Harry Parducci Jr. He is yet another quality winemaker to come from a family better known for its jug wines, as some Gallos and Martinis are as well.

This wine is a lovely garnet color. There’s plenty of fruit, dominated by bright cherry and rich strawberry. It’s quite well balanced, though, and definitely dry with good supporting tannins and just a hint of oak.

Planked salmon is a classic pairing with pinot noir. (Yes, reds can be quite delicious with fish, especially richer species such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish.) Roast turkey or duck, fruit-glazed pork chops, and grilled barbeque ribs would work well also.

And now for something completely different: we head north to Washington state, and Willow Crest winery’s Yakima-grown viognier (vee-ohn-yay).

This varietal originated in the Rhone area of France, and continues to be extensively cultivated there. In the ‘90s, California’s so-called Rhone Rangers helped to bring it to attention here in the States.

Like Leaping Lizard, Willow Crest is a relative new-comer. After growing grapes for other winemakers in the Yakima Valley for more than a decade, David Minick realized a long-time dream of producing his own wine when he opened Willow Crest in 1995. Most of Minick’s 185 acres of grapes are sold to other winemakers, but he now also retains a small amount of his annual harvest to craft about 3,000 cases of premium wines in his own style, primarily pinot gris and syrah.

Willow Crest Viognier 2005

Viogniers can range from the highly floral and fragrant to a lighter, more balanced aperitif-style, such as this one. It offers delicate aromas of citrus and pear, with a palate that adds melon and apple to the flavor mix. The wine should be only slightly chilled; otherwise its nuances will be masked. Like most viogniers, this is a limited-production wine.

Excellent with white seafood of all kinds. Try it with scallops, whitefish, or sole in a light butter sauce, or pair it with appetizers.

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

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

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

Clos Pegase Pinot Noir Mitsuko’s Vineyard 2016

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

Salmon Souffle 2019

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

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

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.

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

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Migration Wines Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

Migration WinesDuckhorn Portfolio is the umbrella corporation of an expanding wine mini-empire. First came the flagship Duckhorn Vineyards, established in 1976 by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn to pioneer and feature premium Napa Merlot. (Duckhorn has a “second growth” label named Decoy, as well.) Next came Paraduxx in 1994, specializing in Zinfandel-based blends. This was followed by Goldeneye, which began making Pinot Noir in 1996.  Migration was established in 2001 to focus first on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Unlike the estate-centered efforts of the other labels, Migration is dedicated to going beyond its Anderson Valley origins and exploring Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from many of California’s cool-climate appellations, including the Russian River Valley.

Migration was initially guided by young rising-star winemaker Neil Bernardi. A native of northern California, Bernardi studied at the University of California, Davis, the academic epicenter of California viticulture.

After taking degrees in Italian and enology, Bernardi set off for New Zealand and found work with three famous wineries there, including Kim Crawford. Once back in the States, he became assistant cellarmaster at Quintessa, and then joined the Duckhorn family as enologist at Goldeneye. Bernardi became Migration’s winemaker in 2009. He has stated, “Traditionally the character of a particular wine is connected to a specific place. Migration offers a different paradigm. We are starting with a clearly defined style and exploring how that style can be expressed in different regions.” Following his success at Migration, Neil is now Vice President & General Manager – Kosta Browne, Canvasback.

in 2017, following her tenure as the winemaker for Decoy, Dana Epperson became  the winemaker for Migration, where she has established a reputation for a style of winemaking that seamlessly balances vibrancy and finesse.

Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2008

This first-ever Migration Chardonnay is 100% Chardonnay, sourced from Green Valley, an especially cool region of the Russian River Valley, and three other vineyards. It matured for 10 months in 100% French oak barrels.

The wine introduces itself with a light gold color and lemony nose. The palate features citrus, stone fruit, custard, and a hint of licorice, supported by good acidity and subtle oak. This unique and harmonious combination is both zippy and mellow.

Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2007

The dry winter and cool summer of 2007 in Anderson Valley was particularly suited to Pinot Noir, allowing the grapes to ripen super-slowly and evenly.

This Pinot Noir is 100% varietal, and matured for 16 months in 100% French oak. This deep-garnet, medium-bodied wine opens on the nose with blackberry and strawberry notes. The palate is dry, silky, and dominated by tart dark cherry, and supported by a backbone of oak, blackberry, and well-balanced tannins. It ends with a medium-length finish.

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Mossback Winery

Mossback Chardonnay and Pinot NoirFrom Russian River with Love

The Russian River AVA sits in the center of northern California’s Sonoma County, and is characterized by a generally cool climate, with sunny days bracketed by fog early and late. This encourages the slow-ripening of fruit, particularly suitable for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc, like these selections from Mossback Winery.

John Giguiere, with his wife Lane and brother Karl, started R.H. Phillips Winery in 1983 on land that was part of their family farm in the Dunnigan Hills of northwestern Yolo County, 30 miles east of the more-famous Napa. Over the course of 20 years, the Giguieres grew R.H. Phillips from a family winery of 10 acres and a few cases into a publicly-owned behemoth producing 900,000 cases of wine on 2500 acres, including the best-selling Toasted Head and EXP as well as R.H. Phillips.

When John and Lane left the company in 2005 to return to more-personalized winemaking, they were joined by Dan Cederquiest to found Crew Wine Company, which produces a variety of wines, including Matchbook.

Mossback is an old-fashioned term for farmer, and is an homage from the Crew trio to the farmers on which they rely to supply the fruit for their Russian River offerings.

Russian River Valley Chardonnay2009

The impression of this wine is as understated as its pale yellow color would suggest. Made in the style of a French Chablis, the wine is 80% cold fermented in stainless steel to retain acidity and as much of the character of the fruit as possible.

The delicate nose presents citrus notes, and the taste features green apples, baked honey, and a hint of melon. 1,093 cases were bottled of this 100% Chardonnay.

This food-friendly wine would pair nicely with Grilled Scallops Wrapped in Proscuitto, Grilled Salmon Burgers, or Hoisin Honey-Glazed Chicken.

Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2009

This elegant Pinot Noir is 97% Pinot Noir with 3% Syrah added for additional structure. The fruit was sourced from three well-regarded Russian River Valley vineyards. After fermentation, the juice was aged in French oak for nine months.

In the glass, the color is a pleasing cherry red. There is almost no nose, but don’t be discouraged by that. On the palate, the fruit displays plenty of tart cherry and strawberry, supported by a bit of cream and vanilla. There is a medium finish, with no bitterness or aftertaste.

Enjoy this Pinot with Grilled Turkey Burgers with Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce, Salmon Fillets with Sesame Crust, or Vegetarian Shish Kabobs.

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Landmark Winery

Landmark WineryA Landmark Opinion

Since its founding in 1974 by Damaris Deere Ford, great-great granddaughter of John Deere, Landmark Vineyards has called Sonoma County home. Originally located in Windsor, California, in 1989 Landmark moved to the heart of Sonoma valley to escape the encroaching urbanization to the north.

In 1991, Landmark decided to focus primarily on Chardonnay. This effort was reinforced in 1993 when they retained the highly-regarded winemaker and consulting enologist Helen Turley, who has also worked for wineries such as Pahlmeyer, Bryant Family Vineyard, Colgin, and Blankiet. Turley is credited for being one of the first people in the early 1990s to see Sonoma’s potential for world-class wines, particularly Chardonnay. The work came together nicely in 1997, when Landmark’s 1995 Overlook Chardonnay landed a spot on the Wine Spectator’s Top 100 List, the first of seven such appearances.

Landmark sources its Chardonnay fruit from a variety of growers in Sonoma valley, allowing them to take advantage of a dozen microclimates and growing conditions. Landmark also maintains a modest 11-acre organically-farmed estate vineyard, planted to traditional Chateauneuf du Pape varietals—Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Counoise, and Viognier.

Overlook Chardonnay 2010

After harvest and pressing, the juice for this wine is racked into French oak barrels. There, indigenous yeasts carry out the primary fermentation. This traditional practice allows a medley of yeast species to each contribute its own unique flavor components to the wine. Next comes a second malo-lactic fermentation. The wine then spends eight to ten months in barrel sur lees, after which it is finally blended.

In the glass, this wine is a pale gold tinged with green. The nose offers aromas of grapefruit and preserved lemon. The citrus theme continues on the palate, abetted by good acidity and just enough oak to temper and mellow the flavors.
Serve this up with Chicken Breasts with Artichokes and Mustard Sauce, or Sea Bass with Gingered Broth.

Grand Detour Pinot Noir 2010

This Pinot Noir shows that Landmark has a way with reds as well as whites. Grand Detour is sourced from five vineyards in the cool-climate Sonoma Coast appellation. The climate of this region allows the wine to mature at a leisurely pace to improve structure and develop tannins.

This wine is medium brick in color, with a nose of wild strawberries and plums. The taste follows through with plum and other stone fruits. There is plenty of body (especially for a pinot noir) supported by tart tannins.

Salmon en Papillote would be a classic pairing with this wine. Also consider Veal Scallopine with Lemon and Capers or Roasted Pork Loin with Apricot-Armagnac Compote.

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