Rietvallei Wine Estate

Rietvallei Wine EstateRosés Are Red, My Love…

…Cabernets are too. These two cabs come from the Rietvallei Wine Estate, located in the Robertson region of South Africa, outside of Johannesburg. This warm, low-rainfall area has excellent lime-rich soils, and is usually known for white wine, sherry, and brandy.

The Rietvallei Estate was founded in 1864 by the Burger family, and for many decades only produced red muscadel (also known as muscat), a sweet dessert wine. The estate’s house style was based on a recipe still to be found nailed behind the cellar door.

Today overseen by sixth generation winemaker Kobus Burger, Rietvallei began to expand its offerings a few years ago. A Chardonnay was first released in 1987, followed by a Sauvignon Blanc in 2001. The selections now include a number of other whites and reds as well.

Rietvallei Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

This easy-drinking cabernet will appeal most to those who like a lighter style of wine. Although the wine is very dark, the flavor is soft, more like a merlot than a cab. There is also a hint of sweetness as well as tartness. The aroma in the glass, or “nose,” is quite delicate. The finish is short, reflecting the low level of tannins. Enjoy this with a wide range of not too assertive foods, including fish and ‘burgers.

Rietvallei Juanita Rosé 2005

A fruity but quite dry rosé made from 100% cabernet sauvignon. A nice tart refreshing taste. Should pair well with any food where sauvignon blanc would be the more usual choice.


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Lot 25 Wine

Lot 25 Wine
Secret Agent, Man

Lot 205 is the undercover label of the well-regarded Cartlidge and Browne winery. Although they acknowledge their Rabid, Manzanita Canyon, and Stratford sub-brands, Lot 205 is their secret agent, for reasons known only to them (the price points of all of these labels are approximately the same).

The name is taken from C&B’s former street address in American Canyon at the southern end of Napa Valley. The fruit, however, is sourced from growers throughout California.

Winemaker Paul Moser leans toward the French style, with an emphasis on the correct expression of the grape variety; the predominance of fruit over oak; making the wines dry and food-friendly; keeping the alcohol levels in check; and offering good value in table wines meant for everyday consumption.

Lot 205 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

This wine is primarily Paso Robles Cabernet (82%) and Merlot (12%). The taste is fruit-forward, with dominant cherry supported by tobacco and mocha notes. It has a medium body and color, and is well-balanced by smooth, restrained tannins.

Partner this cab with jerk-rubbed chicken thighs, balsamic-marinated flank steak, and grilled lamb chops.

Lot 205 Chardonnay 2006

Although present, oak is a supporting player in this chardonnay, letting the apple, citrus, and pineapple come to the fore. It’s a bit sweeter than I expected, with a hint of butterscotch.


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Jack Nicklaus Cabernet Sauvignon and Private Reserve White

Jack Nicklaus Wine
Golden Bear Meets the Golden State

Even among non-players, two names in golf are widely recognized: Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, aka the Golden Bear. Nicklaus has been a wine collector for many years, but only recently decided to pursue the production of wines carrying his name, although he had been urged to do so for quite some time.

Since Nicklaus obviously knows a lot more about golf than making fine wine, after five years pondering and researching a possible wine project, he decided to partner with Terlato Wines International for support and assistance in his wine program. The Terlato family was a natural fit. Scion Bill Terlato is a member and former club champion at the Nicklaus-run Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Florida, and the Terlato empire includes extensive vineyard holdings in northern California. Nicklaus was particulary impressed by the Terlato-owned Chimney Rock and Rutherford Hill wineries in the heart of Napa Valley during an early visit as the joint venture was being established.

Nicklaus selected from barrel the wines for his signature label. They are crafted by the Terlato winemaking team, with day-to-day winemaking being handled by Marisa Taylor-Huffaker. The fruit is sourced primarily from vineyards in the famous Rutherford and Stags Leap District appellations of Napa.

 Private Reserve White 2011

This proprietary white blend is “based on sauvignon blanc,” with no further information available. It was barrel fermented, with a portion of the wine in French oak, and the balance fermented in stainless steel barriques.
It is pale gold, bordering on colorless. The nose features stone fruit, particularly peach, and green apple. The taste is surprisingly delicate, with a hint of grapefruit. The mouthfeel is nicely textured.

With only 541 cases made, distribution is limited, and, frankly, the price reflects exclusivity more than taste.

Pair this up with Clams Steamed in Sauvignon Blanc with Apples, Shallots, and Chervil, or Linguine with Halibut, Tomato-Basil Purée, Squash, and Garlic.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

This cabernet shows garnet in the glass, with a somewhat lighter density than one might expect. The nose features red fruit (i.e .cherry and raspberry), with hints of dark chocolate.

The taste follows through with suggestions of dark stone fruit, toasted spices, and cedar, although the fruit is rather recessive. The flavor is balanced by well-structured tannins which deliver a medium finish. If you normally prefer merlot, I suggest you give this medium-bodied cabernet sauvignon a try.

Serve this wine with Pizza with Pesto, Tomatoes, and Fresh Mozzarella, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Merlot and Molasses, or Fried Chicken with Buttermilk and Cornmeal Crust.


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Dakota Shy Cabernet Sauvignon

Dakota Shy Cabernet SauvignonThere’s Nothing Shy About
This Cabernet

Dakota Shy was founded by industry veterans Todd Newman and Tom Garrett in 2008, determined to ultimately create a world-class estate of their own. They began by sourcing Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from a range of vineyards throughout Napa Valley.

Dakota Shy purchased its estate in 2014. It dates back to the 1850s, when George Yount took possession via the Spanish Land Grant. Along side the vines, there are 1.2 acres of Italian and Spanish olives from which Dakota Shy presses their own oil.

In addition to the estate, Dakota Shy continues to source grapes from all over Napa Valley. These sites offer unique and varied characteristics that Dakota Shy relies on in the creation of their Cabernets.

This wine opens with notes of stone and spice on the nose. Flavors of grass, oak, dried cherry, cocoa and minerals follow. The medium body is supported by well integrated oak and tannin. If you don’t want to cellar it, decant for three to four hours before serving. Available only by allocation.


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Chimney Rock Winery

Chimney Rock
Like a Rock

The Stags Leap District AVA is in the very heart of Napa Valley. It runs from north to south for about three miles along the Silverado Trail, and its 1,350 [very prized] acres were first planted with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1961, for which it would soon become renowned. The name comes from an outcropping of red rocks at the area’s eastern boundary, where a stag supposedly escaped his pursuers by leaping across the treacherous gap.

The Stags Leap District’s reputation was assured in 1976, when the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellar’s S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon won the famous (some would say infamous) “Judgement of Paris” International Wine Competition, besting the likes of First Growths Mouton-Rothschild and Haut-Brion. This now-legendary growing region received AVA [American Viticultural Area] status in 1989.

Situated at the far southern end of Stags Leap, the Chimney Rock estate was started on a 180-acre parcel (which originally included a golf course, but that was turned over to vines long ago). Initially, 59 acres were planted with a combination of red and white grapes, and the first vintage of Chimney Rock estate wines was produced in 1989. In the mid-1990s, after a phylloxera infestation necessitated the replanting of the entire property, only red Bordeaux-variety grapes were used in recognition of the unique characteristics and potential of the Stags Leap District.

In 2004, the Terlato Family empire acquired sole ownership of Chimney Rock, and they have diligently worked to steadily improve this already excellent winery.

Chimney Rock Elevage Blanc 2008

Seeing the very pale straw color of this wine in the glass you might think, “well, this is a lightweight.” But, you would be wrong. There is much to like in this unusual blend of Sauvignon Blanc [70%] and the rarely used Sauvignon Gris [30%]. The nose shows aromas of mango, pineapple, and vanilla, and there is a hint of coconut on the finish. Even so, this wine is strictly dry, with a full, rich mouthfeel. The fruit is nicely balanced with the proper amount of acidity.

Pair Elevage Blanc with Quail Stuffed with Ricotta, Bacon, and Greens, or Soft-Shell Crabs with Vegetable Slaw.

Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

I strive to be coolly unbiased in this blog, but I have to be honest: this is one of my all-time favorite wines. The color is deep garnet red. The bouquet features black currant and vanilla. Although a classic Big Cab (with support from Merlot and Cabernet Franc), this wine is completely approachable. The dark fruit flavors are supported by smooth tannins and just the right amount of acidity for balance and liveliness. Aging was 18 months in 50/50 new/used French oak. 100% sourced from the Stags Leap District, this wine will easily cellar for ten years; ten days is more like it in mine. And although expensive, this Chimney Rock will easily compete with Cabernet Sauvignons costing twice as much.

Serve with Filets of Beef Stuffed with Roast Garlic and Herbs, or Goat Cheese-Stuffed Roasted Chicken.


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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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