On July 30th, I had the opportunity to visit three wineries on Long Island before attending a family 50th birthday bash that evening. Getting back to the Long Island Wine Country was a treat and I wish I had a whole weekend instead of just three hours to cover some wines. In all, there are fifty-six wineries to choose from. I was able to choose three and cover many of their wines in the time I spent at each winery. I landed in Port Jefferson, NY via a ferry from Bridgeport, CT. The family and I first enjoyed a nice brunch at “Toast” in Port Jefferson before we made our way out to Long Island Wine Country. It is about an hour drive out to the first wineries on the North Fork if you have good traffic. We did! One piece of advice before planning your trip is to select your wineries in advance. I did this and it really helped. I chose three wineries that were close to each other. This meant I had more time for covering wines and less driving time. I also went with wineries that I was familiar with. This made it easier for me to set up appointments and keep on schedule. Long Island wineries sometimes host private parties and weddings. One of the wineries on my initial list was closed on the 30th for a private party. I had to pivot and adjust. I’m glad I did my homework earlier in the week versus just showing up to find out they were closed.
The big question: Where did I end up visiting? My first stop was at the Roanoke Vineyards Wine Bar in Mattituck. I tasted thru six wines and recommended two of them. My favorite was their 2015 “Infinite Possibility.” I scored this $20 white blend 90 points. It is a blend of 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 40% Pinot Blanc and 10% Chardonnay. I found it to be slightly acidic and mouthwatering with tasty mineral-infused lime flavors along with notes of Anjou pear and a touch of lychee. This is a terrific summer wine and would pair nicely with grilled swordfish. My second favorite from Roanoke was their 2014 “Red Blend” for $20. This blend was made with 58% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Franc, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Petit Verdot. It was a slightly acidic and juicy with blackberry flavors along with notes of old oak and hints of black olive and black pepper. It is a perfect mushroom burger wine.
We next moved onto Macari Vineyards where I was set up with a tasting with Gibson Campbell. Gibson was extremely knowledgeable with regards to the winery and all the wines he was presenting. We started with two white wines that I was impressed with. The first was the 2015 “Katherine’s Field” Sauvignon Blanc. I awarded this wine 90 points. It is light-bodied and fresh with tasty mild mineral-infused lime flavors along with notes of Anjou pear and some hints faint pineapple. It finishes off-dry and its very refreshing. I would pair it with grilled sea scallops. Next up was a kitchen sink blend of white grapes. The 2014 “Dos Aguas” is made from 49% Viognier, 18% Tocai Friulano, 17% Chardonnay, 16% Riesling, 12% Pinot Gris, 10% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Gewurztraminer. Wow! All in all, this wine was quite interesting. It was light-bodied and very easy to enjoy. We detected some tasty mild peach and green apple flavors with hints of minerality and tangerine. This wine would pair nicely with sushi.
I finished with my favorite wine of the trip! The 2012 “Block E” Dessert Wine is Excellent! I rated this wine 94 points and for $32 per 375 ml bottle, it is a steal. The secret is out! Hurry, only 243 cases of this gem were made. This wonderful wine is made from 45% Chardonnay, 26% Riesling, 18% Viognier, 9% Pinot Gris and 2% Sauvignon Blanc. It is full-bodied, balanced, and concentrated. I loved its delicious ripe pear flavors with notes of apricot and honey. I also detected a hint of candied ginger. I could drink a whole bottle easily. Another option is to pour it over your favorite vanilla bean ice cream. It’s fantastic!
Our last stop, was at Lieb Cellars. In addition to the Lieb brand, I also tried wines from their Bridge Lane portfolio. I started with a wine that I covered before and recommended. The Bridge Lane 2014 “White Blend” for $16. This wine is a very good value and a very good every day wine. It is made from 35% Chardonnay, 26% Pinot Blanc, 20% Riesling, 15% Sauvignon Blanc and 4% White Pinot Noir. I have consistently rated this wine 88 points. It is light-bodied, slightly acidic, and fresh. I really enjoyed its green apple flavors with notes of lemon verbena, lime, and gentle minerality. It finishes dry and lingers nicely. I would serve it with linguini and clams. Staying with the whites, I also enjoyed the Lieb Cellars 2014 “Reserve” Pinot Blanc for $20. This offering was light-bodied, balanced, and easy going. I found its flavor profile to be a mineral-infused green apple with hints of light lemon-lime. This wine was dry and refreshing and a perfect match for the manchego cheese we were also enjoying on this warm summer day.
In closing, it was great to get back to Long Island. I wish I could have tried more wines and visited more wineries. My overall impression is that Long Island is still better at producing more high quality white wines vs. red wines. It is a region on the rise and the wines keep getting better. I look forward to covering more wines from this region in the future. If you get the chance, you should visit for sure! The Long Island Wine Council has a very good website covering the region. Take some time and visit the region the next time you are in the New York City area. Cheers! – Ken
With summer in full swing, I thought it would be a good time to provide a comprehensive list of recommended dry Rose. Dry Rose is one of, if not the fastest growing category in wine. Theresa is quickly starting to appreciate this category and she is becoming a big fan as well. Below is a list of our favorite Rose that we covered this spring and summer. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
We start the list off with our 91 pointers. The 2015 Navarro Rose from Mendocino for $18 is a terrific blend of 86% “Old Vine” Grenache and 14% Carignane. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic, round and mouthwatering. I loved its bright tangerine flavors with notes of mild minerality and strawberry. I also detected a hint of mango mixed in as well. It finishes dry and its tasty fruit flavors linger and last for quite some time. This Rose is easily quaffed on a hot summer day. I would serve it with Emeril’s pan roasted squab with a cherry balsamic sauce.
The other 91 pointer comes to us from Sancerre. The 2015 Le Roi des Pierres Rose is made from 100% Pinot Noir. It is a little pricey at $28, but it is very good and worth it. It opens with an attractive strawberry bouquet with a hint of red cherry. I found it to be medium bodied and very nicely balanced. There are no edges at all. Our mini-tasting group really liked its very tasty mild mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of watermelon and hints of Maraschino cherry. It finishes dry and fades away nicely. This Rose is very food friendly and will be a crowd pleaser. I would pair it with shrimp cocktail.
Next up we have four 90 pointers that are worthy of your attention. We will start with a great value offering from the Finger Lakes. The Kelby James Russell 2015 “Dry Rose” is made from 100% Cabernet Franc. At $16 per bottle, it is a steal. This offering is medium bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and nicely coats your mouth. It displays mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of peach and a hint of tangerine and ginger. This Rose is food friendly and will not last very long. Share with friends at a cookout along with some grilled weisswurst. It’s a wine club exclusive. So you could join or you could call the winery and beg for some.
Our next option is readily available and hails from Oregon. The 2015 Sokol Blosser “Rose of Pinot Noir” from Dundee Hills goes for about $22 per bottle. This “organic” coral colored wine opens with mild orange and strawberry like bouquet with hints of wet stone. It is medium to full bodied, creamy and smooth. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused mild strawberry with notes of tangerine and a hint of nectarine. This rich dry Rose like the others will pair nicely with food. I would serve it cool with a salmon burger.
The 2015 Castello di Amorosa “Gioia” Rose for $26 presents a different twist. It is made from 100% Sangiovese. As a result it is much darker than the other offerings. I described its colored as dark strawberry. It is medium bodied and nicely balanced, but at the same time fully coats you mouth. Its flavor profile is richer than most of the Rose in this report. Those flavors are a blend of Maraschino cherry and ripe red raspberry. I also picked up a touch of strawberry and gentle watermelon in the background. This is a perfect Rose for red drinkers looking for something a little lighter in the summer, but not too light.
Our last 90 pointer is the 2014 Wente “Small Lot” Pinot Noir Rose for $35. This wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and very easy to enjoy. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused mild strawberry with notes of faint red raspberry. It finishes dry, clean and refreshing. This crowd pleasing Rose would be perfect with sharp cheese served slightly chilled by the pool on a hot summer day.
Our 89 point list is consists of nine very good offerings that are all worthy of your consideration. We will start with one of the best values in the whole list. The 2015 Anew Rose from the Columbia Valley in Washington State is a steal at $12. This wine is a blend of 63% Syrah, 24% Grenache and 13% Sangiovese. It is medium bodied, balanced and round in the mouth. Theresa and I really liked it mineral infused watermelon flavors with notes of strawberry and some hints of tangerine. It finishes dry and its flavors and refreshing acidity linger and last for a while. This Rose is a perfect choice for a summer picnic on a hot day. We would serve it grilled Thumann’s deli dogs.
Our next offering hails from South Africa. The 2015 DMZ Cabernet Rose for $12 is a real value. It is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. It it offers a lot more body and fruit than your typical Provencal Rose. Its bouquet leads you to believe it will pack a punch, and it does. On the palate, it is interesting with the blood oranges flavors alongside candied pink grapefruit and tart strawberries. This is a Rose that could be paired with seared red meats, especially wild game.
Another good values is the 2015 Chateau de Sours “La Fleur d’Amelie” Rose from Bordeaux. This wine only cost $15 per bottle. It is made from mostly Merlot with a little Cabernet Franc and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. I found this wine to be nicely balanced and very easy to enjoy. Its flavor profile is mild strawberry and with some gentle minerality and a touch of green apple. While not overly complex, this wine is refreshing and a pleasant summer quaffer. I would serve it at the beach with sharp cheese and crackers.
Another offering from France to consider is the 2015 Domaine de Nizas from Languedoc for $17. This wine is made from traditional Rhone grapes. (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre) This wine is medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering with mineral infused blood orange flavors. We also detected with hints of strawberry and touch of ginger. This dry Rose is also perfect for summer. It is best served slightly chilled at the beach with fried clam strips.
Ghost Hill Cellars 2015 “Pinot Noir Rose” (Yamhill-Carlton, Oregon) $20 (89)
This Rose from Oregon was well received by all that tried it. It is balanced and approachable. It displays mild mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of mild nectarine and a hint of tangerine. Try with shrimp scampi.
Sidebar 2015 Rose “Russian River Valley” (California) $21 (89)
This Syrah based Rose is slightly acidic and easy to drink. Its flavor profile is a mild mineral infused light clementine with hints of white pepper and strawberry. Serve slightly chilled with Kerrygold Dubliner cheese.
Chateau d’Esclans 2015 Rose “Whispering Angel” (Cotes de Provence, FR) $22 (89)
This popular Rose from Provence is balanced, easy going, and has no hard edges. I enjoyed its tasty mild tangerine and strawberry flavors with nicely integrated gentle minerality and a touch of lime. Its food friendly.
Lazy Creek Vineyards 2015 “Rose of Pinot Noir” (Anderson Valley, CA) $22 (89)
This Rose is made from 100% Pinot Noir. Its slightly acidic, gentle and a bit tingly. It displays mild mineral infused watermelon flavors with hints of white pepper, nectarine and strawberry. Serve with cold Gazpacho.
Tres Sabores 2014 Rose “Ingrid and Julia” (Napa Valley, CA) $25 (89)
This “organic” Rose is made mostly from Zin with a little Petite Sirah. It is slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It has a different flavor profile of mineral infused tangerine along with gentle apricot and a hint of lime. Try with pan fried sea bass.
Villa Wolf 2015 “Pinot Noir Rose” (Pfalz, Germany) $12 (88)
This great value from Germany is light bodied, slightly acidic, fresh and a touch effervescent. It displays flavors of mild mineral infused gentle tangerine with hints of red cherry and faint pink grapefruit. It is very refreshing.
Kanonkop 2015 “Kadette Pinotage Rose” (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $13 (88)
This good value Rose from South Africa is made with Pinotage. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. It flavors are a tasty mild red cherry and faint strawberry with notes of mild minerality and a touch of watermelon, Slim Jim and vanilla cream towards the end. Try with a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich.
Mouton Cadet 2015 Rose “le Rose de Mouton Cadet” (Bordeaux, France) $15 (88)
This Rose from Mouton Cadet was friendly and pleasant. Karen and Stuart tasted strawberry and gooseberry flavors with nicely integrated minerality. They would pair it with shellfish, particularly oysters on the half shell.
Domaine Houchart 2015 Rose “Cotes de Provence” (France) $15 (88)
This classic Rhone grape blend from Cotes de Provence is a good value. It displays mineral infused strawberry flavors with a hint of peach. This is a very nice refreshing everyday Rose to have on a hot summer day.
Martin Ray 2015 “Rose of Pinot Noir” (Russian River Valley, CA) $20 (88)
This dark pink colored Rose Martin Ray is medium bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. Its flavor profile is a gentle mineral and wild strawberry blend with hints of faint tangerine. It is a nice summer quaffer. I would enjoy it at the beach with some bacon cheddar cheese spread and stone wheat thins.
For a complete listing of all of our recommended Rose. Check out our KWG Rose page. We will also be adding new ones throughout the summer. Be sure to comment on your favorites and we will post them to share with our readers.
Cheers – Ken
As you kick-off the summer season, it’s time for a refreshing getaway. The weather is heating up as the sun comes out to play, and what better way to beat the heat than a rejuvenating wine country getaway? Summer’s wine county itinerary presents us with spectacular wineries and regions across the country. Full of breathtaking scenes, rustic atmospheres, nature expeditions, resort living, and beachfront relaxation, this list is your guide to summer 2016. Whether to commemorate a birthday or anniversary, or simply a celebration of life, these destinations are the perfect host. Explore!
The Cliffs Resort – Pismo Beach, CA
Placed on scenic Highway 1 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Cliffs Resort sits on the beach and provides a full-service stay with first-class amenities. As a neighbor to California’s finest beaches, championship golf courses, gourmet dining, farmland, fisheries, and the famous Hearst Castle, travelers never run out of activities and picturesque terrain. Located in the heart of California’s Central Coast wine country, Cliffs Resort is near to more than 200 world-class wineries, with panoramic views of their coastal surroundings.
Traverse City Wine Tourism – Traverse City, MI
Named one of National Geographic’s 2012 “Ten Best Summer Trips”, Traverse City resides on the edge of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. Its striking characteristics include miles of sandy beaches, sparkling blue waters, and glacier-carved lakes and hills. In the area is the stunning Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, once voted “Most Beautiful Place in America”, making the Traverse Bay a top choice for those who enjoy sailing, boating, beachcombing and kayaking, along with an engaging wine experience.
SeaVenture Beach Hotel – Pismo Beach, CA
This casual yet elegant beachfront retreat offers rooms with featherbeds, fireplaces, and many with private balcony hot tubs, right at the southernmost point of Pismo Beach and three blocks from downtown. Its ideal location is walking distance from tasting rooms and wine bars as well as gourmet restaurants. One can dine at the breathtaking third-floor restaurant where ocean views can be observed. This centrally located yet private destination is an ideal spot for beach weddings and meetings, and those seeking even more privacy may find themselves in the separate three-bedroom Beach House.
Wine & Roses – Lodi, CA
Serving as the ultimate wine country retreat, Wine & Roses Hotel, Restaurant, and Spa resides on in charming Lodi, California. Its owners, Lodi natives Kathryn and Russ Munson, created an authentic destination for true wine enthusiasts. The outstanding seven-acre property offers serenity, beauty, and an intimate, luxurious atmosphere in the heart of Lodi Wine Country while being a place for those eager to discover Lodi and its sublime wines.
Nottingham Cellars – Livermore, CA
Possessing many distinct microclimates, The Livermore Valley supports an outstanding array of wine grapes, and is home to the unique, family-run Nottingham Cellars. This winery sources fruit from the region’s “best thought-out” vineyards, maximizing varieties’ potential. Nottingham Cellars’ enviable reputation originally comes from its limited-production single vineyard Cabernet and Bordeaux blends. Nottingham continues the reputation through its utilization of the region’s diversity, now producing their wine under three distinct brand names, while maintaining the region’s rich winegrowing history. Added to the portfolio is the Vasco Urbano label run by Collin Cranor who was recognized by Wine Enthusiast as “one of Livermore’s most promising young winemakers”, and son of owners Diane and Jeff Cranor.
Loudon County – Loudon County, VA
With an untouched countryside, Loudon County’s rolling landscape provides the perfect place to retreat for golfers, hikers, rock climbers, cyclists, and birdwatchers. Its winding roads that lead past elegant estates and beautiful horse farms exemplify Loudon County’s proud equestrian legacy, including many race tracks, riding trails, shows, and equestrian-related museums. Loudon County is ideal for those looking for a charming and well-rounded destination, family farms, dozens of tasting rooms, as well as art exhibits, concerts, and theatre.
Pepper Bridge Winery – Walla Walla, WA
With a tasting room overlooking Pepper Bridge Vineyard and the distant Blue Mountains, Pepper Bridge Winery is recognized for elegant, balanced wines handcrafted from grapes grown in its three Walla Walla estate vineyards. Of special interest to environmentally conscious wine-tasters, Pepper Bridge Winery was the first gravity flow winery and first certified sustainable winery in the state of Washington. Its enchanting wraparound deck appeal to those looking to enjoy their favorite wine while observing the awe-inspiring surrounding landscape. Pepper Bridge’s second tasting room, located in Woodinville, provides Seattle-area wine lovers a taste of Walla Walla and hosts many private events.
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa – San Luis Obispo, CA
A health and wellness sanctuary for more than 100 years, this Resort & Spa resides atop natural mineral springs, and offers 72 guest rooms and suites. Committed to wellbeing, the captivating landscaped grounds feature an award-winning spa and treatment center, an on-site yoga dome offering yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, and meditation classes. This enticing and relaxed resort also hosts a restaurant featuring spontaneous garden cuisine inspired by the on-site Chef’s Garden, and serves as a starting point for hiking and biking trails that lead to the ocean and charming Avalia Beach.
ArborBrook Vineyards – Newberg, Oregon
Originally built more than a century ago, this astonishing red barn was discovered in 1999 by Mary and Dave Hansen and became home to ArborBrook Vineyards. Located in the southern flank of Yamhill County’s Chehalem Mountain range, the beautifully charming barn now serves as a spacious tasting room and cold storage wine room, with space for the horses out back. Since Dave planted their first block of grapes 17 years ago, ArborBrook has become a desirable destination for its sophisticatedly rustic ambience, gorgeous barn and scenery, and its excellent wines that continually earn high acclaim.
Apple Farm’s Wine Country Inn – San Luis Obispo, CA
Located in the midst of three acres of landscaped grounds, the charming Apple Farm Inn offers 104 individually decorated guest rooms, each with its own fireplace. Apple Farm’s grounds provide a place for exploration, with an old mill, a two-story gift shop, a relaxing massage center, and a legendary restaurant and bakery open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The summer months are the perfect time to plan your getaway as the inn hosts a multitude of lawn activities and winemaker dinners.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
As May rolls around, we begin to look forward to summer and the warm weather and adventures that await. It’s time to take advantage of that nice weather and plan those summer wine country getaways you’ve been waiting for! Our latest list of great wine destinations offers top-notch wineries, touring services, and hotels to aid you in planning an outstanding and unique wine county vacation. With Mother’s Day approaching on May 8th, consider gifting her a fun wine tasting excursion. Also, the International Chardonnay Symposium and National Wine Day occur in May, making it the perfect month to embark on a tour of wine country. No matter the occasion, the destinations listed below guarantee priceless summer memories with family and friends full of great wine, food, and fun!
J. Lohr – Paso Robles, CA
Jerry Lohr founded J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines in 1974 and ever since, the winery has continued to prove why they are one of North America’s most successful family wineries. A visit to their Paso Robles tasting room, conveniently located halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, will provide you with access to flavorful wines and stylish event facilities. Enjoy a glass of one of their award-winning wines from the wrap-around veranda and take in the amazing vineyard views.
Ledson Winery & Hotel – Sonoma, CA
Have an unforgettable Sonoma wine country experience by visiting the iconic Ledson Winery & Hotel. Visitors can tour the illustrious Ledson Winery castle, stay at the vintage-style boutique hotel and visit one of the tasting rooms. Guests at Ledson Winery & Vineyards are offered a complete tasting experience and can choose from a variety of tasting options. They are welcome to drop in for a general tasting at one of the three separate tasting rooms, or they can plan ahead and make a reservation for a personal tasting hosted in a private tasting suite with one of Steve Ledson’s knowledgeable winemaker’s assistants. No matter your selection, the staff at Ledson will render an experience like no other!
Beau Wine Tours – Napa Valley and Sonoma, CA
Beau Wine Tours is the perfect service to take you on your next Sonoma or Napa Valley wine country adventure. The tours are led by guides able to provide guests with knowledge regarding local Wine Country history, geography, and winemaking practices. They have a variety of vehicles and are able to accommodate tours for 2-200 people. Whether you take one of their tours or indulge in a private chauffeured ride, Beau Wine Tours and their exceptional drivers and tour guides will provide you an unforgettable experience!
Pismo Beach, CA
Pismo Beach is the perfect summer destination for any wine lover. Travel to Pismo Beach to experience a unique getaway full of waves and wine, with more than 20 wineries and tasting rooms located within 15 minutes of downtown. Or take a short drive to tour and taste at one of the more than a dozen Edna and Arroyo Grande Valley wineries. On top of visiting wineries, visitors to Pismo Beach can surf, walk the boardwalk and pier, golf, cycle, explore museums, and much more!
Anaba Wines – Sonoma, CA
Anaba Wines is named after the anabatic winds that flow through the vineyard’s 16-acre estate where their elegant and classic wines come from. Anaba wines continue to receive recognition for their excellence. They also receive major recognition for their green initiatives, including their utilization of wind energy in the production of their wines. Visit the century-old farmhouse tasting room or their patio overlooking the vineyard to sample their exceptional wines this summer.
Castello di Amorosa – Napa Valley, CA
Dario Sattui built the must-see destination that is Castello di Amorosa in order to honor his Italian heritage and showcase his exceptional wines. The winery sits within the walls of a medieval-style castle and features a drawbridge, moat, dungeon, and a 12,000-square-foot wine barrel room. Guests can take a tour of the castle, that also includes a barrel tasting experience, or participate in the Royal Food and Wine Pairing featuring authentic Italian food.
Trione Vineyards & Winery – Sonoma, CA
Through the decades and three generations, The Trione family has been honored with awards for their contributions to the Sonoma County Wine Industry with their dedication to bringing in quality fruit and crafting small lots of premium wine. Trione’s state-of-the-art winemaking facility and tasting room was built alongside Sonoma County’s historic Old Stone Building–dating back to 1908. Unwind at the bocce courts that host amazing views of the Alexander Valley, or attend one of their many food and wine events.
Inn at the Tides – Sonoma, CA
Enhance a trip to Sonoma wine country by staying at the Inn at the Tides. Set along the isolated Sonoma coastline, the Inn provides the ideal sanctuary for rejuvenation and relaxation. Enjoy a day at the spa or swimming pool and compliment it with a decadent dinner at one of their dinning outlets. The Tides Wharf Restaurant will evoke a sense a familiarity, even for first time-diners. This is because the restaurant was featured in the famed Alfred Hithcock movie, The Birds. Or for a more wine focused dining experience, the Bay View Restaurant hosts monthly winemaker dinners featuring many top Sonoma and Napa Valley vintners serving four-course wine and food pairings. The Inn at the Tides is truly a Sonoma sanctuary!
Silvan Ridge Winery – Willamette Valley, OR
Silvan Ridge Winery offers a multitude of fun events to check out this upcoming summer, including: dinners, outdoor movies and a Friday night concert series featuring live music and wood-fired oven pizzas. Their tasting room is located just 12 miles from downtown Eugene, Oregon, where they offer an impressive tasting menu and gorgeous views of the sunset. May is recognized as Oregon Wine Month and thus is the perfect excuse to take a trip to Silvan Ridge Winery and experience impressive Willamette Valley wines.
Andis Wines – Sierra Foothills, CA
From first glance, Andis Wines impresses guests with its stunning architecture. They remain a leader in the green movement with their dedication to the environment; even offering electric vehicle charging stations. Andis Wines seeks out the best vineyards of the Sierra Foothills region in order to create delicious and elegant wines through traditional and innovative winemaking techniques. The expansive tasting room, open daily 11am-4:30pm, offers amazing views of Amador wine country and picnic areas where guests can relax and enjoy their favorite Andis wine.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
We hope everyone is ready to leave winter behind and leap into spring as there is a lot to celebrate! With March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and much more, March offers a little something for everyone. Just as spring is all about new life and new growth, we’ve got 10 new wine country locales for you to explore this month. Whether you’re gathering with friends, looking for an escape, or finding the perfect red to compliment your birdie on the 17th hole– we’ve got you covered.
Heitz Wine Cellars (Napa Valley)
Heitz Wine Cellars is a pleasant and peaceful wine country experience. The tasting room is housed in a grey, stone building off the St. Helena Highway. Inside, the simple but spacious tasting room features a stone fireplace and couches for guests to enjoy their world-class wines. Outside, set against lush flower beds, the shady vine-covered patio offers expansive vineyard views. The impeccable wines, knowledgeable staff and beautiful grounds combine for a tasting experience reminiscent of the older days of Napa. Visit Heitz Wine Cellars for a fun, informative tasting in a splendid setting.
Fountaingrove Hotel & Conference Center (Sonoma County)
Located in historic Santa Rosa in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, the Fountaingrove Inn Hotel & Conference Center combines hospitable luxury with the relaxed, genuine Sonoma County atmosphere. The Steakhouse @ Equus offers premium meats with a modern twist – perfect for food-lovers. Whether you’re enjoying the hotel’s restaurant and amenities, visiting one of the many nearby wineries or exploring the boutiques in downtown Santa Rosa, the Fountaingrove Inn is the perfect home away from home in Sonoma Wine Country.
Silverado Resort and Spa (Napa Valley)
Whether you’re looking for an active getaway or a calm escape, the captivating Silverado Resort & Spa has it all. Blending history and modernity, the plantation-style mansion serves as an icon for the property that was built in the 1870s by Civil War General John Franklin Miller. Besides the PGA Tournament golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pool, bocce and bicycle rentals, there are hiking trails and Napa Valley’s 400- plus wineries nearby. Or perhaps you’re looking to treat yourself at The Spa at Silverado which offers a menu of massage, skin care, and body treatments.
Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa Valley)
Named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 75 Best Wineries to Visit in California, Pine Ridge Vineyards is a pleasure for foodies and wine-lovers alike. The educational tours end with a seated, hosted wine and cheese pairing in the Cabernet Caves. Or choose to experience the 5×5 tasting including five estate wines paired with chef prepared delicacies are both incredible experiences, especially for those visiting the Napa Valley. Whether you’re in the caves or the comfortable patio overlooking the gardens, Pine Ridge Vineyards is a scenic tasting experience that will delight all of your senses this spring.
Hope Family Wines (Paso Robles)
With a newly-renovated lounge-style tasting room that feels bold yet comfortable, Hope Family Wines embodies the spirit of Austin Hope’s fearless innovation. The Treana Tasting Cellar features Treana wines as well as Austin’s Rhone style wines bottled under the Austin Hope label. The unique tasting room, diverse wines, and impressive scenery are excellent for those who want to start their spring with a new wine experience.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards (Sonoma Valley)
Nothing says “spring” quite like sparkling wine! This year, wine enthusiasts around the globe are raising their glasses to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Carneros’ first Sparkling wine house. With 335 acres under vine, Gloria Ferrer’s two estate vineyards produce some of the world’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. On the Vista Terrace guests can enjoy table service and picturesque views of the Sonoma Valley landscape where flowers bloom year round.
Bennett Lane Winery (Napa Valley)
Only 13-years-old, Bennett Lane Winery is already known for producing top-tier Cabernet Sauvignon and an incredible 36 90+ point wines. What makes Bennett Lane truly stand out is their reputation as one of the friendliest, most welcoming wineries in the Napa Valley. Sit out on the lawn as the weather warms up and enjoy the spectacular views of Mount St. Helena. Or if you’re looking for a new adventure this March, take one of their hot air balloon tours and see the Napa Valley from above!
Madrone Vineyards Estate (Sonoma County)
Set two miles west of downtown Sonoma, Madrone Vineyards Estate mixes rustic warmth with modern style. The stone tasting room set in the middle of the vineyards features large wooden doors and a comfortable back patio perfect for sitting out with one of their exceptional small-lot, single-vineyard wines. Wine and cheese pairings prepared by local artisan purveyors are available daily in the tasting room. In addition, Winery Chef, Stephanie Gagne, prepares small bites of seasonal dishes paired with wines for the winery’s Sonoma Small Bites program, offered Thursday through Saturday afternoons. This family-friendly property is stunning any time of the year, but we especially like it in spring when the grounds are a rich green.
Oak Farm Vineyards (Lodi)
Named for a 400-year-old oak tree, Oak Farm Vineyards resides on one of the oldest properties in the Central Valley. But while the property itself is historic, Oak Farm Vineyards is a breath of fresh air. The new tasting room features floor-to-ceiling windows and brick fireplace, and a cozy terrace where you can sip wines while enjoying the stunning Lodi scenery. This vision of the Panella family is a place for those who truly appreciate the celebration of family, friends, and great wine! Their passion shines through every bottle – bring a picnic and spend a spring afternoon getting to know their balanced, delightful wines.
Moshin Vineyards (Sonoma County)
Known for outstanding customer service and fun yet informative tastings, Moshin Vineyards is a Russian River appellation standout. Pinot Noir is their flagship wine, but they also have Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah and something for your sweet tooth as well! Winery events range from dinners to art shows and movie nights, making each visit a unique and enjoyable experience.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
We hope you have had a great start to the New Year. Are you sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? We are keeping up on our resolution to bring you even more incredible wine country locales. After the holidays it seems like everyone begins to look forward to Spring, but we are bringing you 10 new ways to love these winter months when the tasting rooms are less crowded and the low winter sun brings out the warm colors of wine country landscapes. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up and February is the month of love, these venues are hand-selected to help inspire love throughout the month — be it with friends, family, romantic partners, or yourself!
Grgich Hills Estate
Located on Napa’s historic St. Helena Highway, Grgich Hills Estate is a stunning combination of lush grounds and balanced, elegant wines. Since starting Grgich Hills, Mike Grgich has continued receiving international awards for his estate grown wines, and he has been recognized for being a leader in natural winegrowing and sustainability. As Mike Grgich often says, “From our vineyard to your glass, naturally!” Take one of the captivating walking tours or enjoy a seated tasting.
Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards
In Latin, the name Materra is a rough translation for Mother Earth. It’s quite a fitting name for wines from the 50-acre vineyard in Napa’s esteemed Oak Knoll district. Each Materra wine is a perfect expression of the land, the grapes, and the passion the Cunat family has invested in each bottle. With a commitment to treat every guest like family, tastings are a warm and personal experience.
Michael David Winery
Recently named Winery of the Year at the 2016 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, Michael David Winery has been producing premium quality wines for 6 generations from the heart of the Lodi region. Built in 1972 around the family’s original roadside fruit stand, the winery building features a cafe serving farm-style breakfasts and lunch, a bakery with famous pies and gourmet cookies, and a tasting room where Michael David wines are proudly poured. Plus, the pet-friendly grounds ensure that no friends get left out this Valentine’s Day.
Wine & Roses
Set on a 7-acre estate with towering trees, flowers, and herb gardens, Wine & Roses is a breath-taking escape located in the famous Lodi wine region. Whether you’re treating yourself or your partner, Wine & Roses is a relaxing retreat like no other. Beat the winter blues by sipping wine and spending the day at the award-winning spa. The restaurant serves locally-inspired flavors and features live music throughout the week. Special “Romance Month” packages are offered throughout February for the couple looking for a romantic escape.
Formerly the McMinnville Power Generation Building, this genuine wine cellar has a great industrial feel and large, spacious tasting room. Founded just two years ago, and already known for their friendly and knowledgeable staff and outstanding Pinot, Elizabeth Chambers Cellars is a welcome addition to the McMinnville wine district of Oregon. With the winery and cellars in the same building, guests can watch the winemaker at work while they sample the flavors. Try a flight and sip the elegant wines out on the delightful patio, weather permitting.
Traverse City, MI
Set at the edge of Lake Michigan’s beautiful Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City is known for its miles of sandy beaches and the Caribbean color of its waters. Traverse City is perfect for adventurous vacationers who enjoy hiking, skiing, or snowmobiling. For the more laid-back wanderer, spas offer massages with warmed Lake Michigan stones. The tasting rooms are less busy during the winter months and, if Mother Nature cooperates, you might catch a glimpse of winemakers pressing grapes for ice wine – a high-end dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine.
Wente Winemakers Studio
Why not create your own special blend during the month of love? From the nation’s oldest continuously-operated family winery comes the engaging Winemaker’s Studio, a hands-on tasting experience. Blend, bottle, cork, and label you own wine. Learn how to identify specific aromas or simply discover your perfect wine and cheese pairing! With an experience that “changes as often as the vines,” each visit promises to be completely unique.
Bodega Bay Lodge
Just a short walk from Doran Beach, Bodega Bay Lodge in Sonoma is perfect for a beach getaway. Each room has a king-size bed, wood-burning fire place, and a private balcony with scenic views of the Sonoma Coast. Morning fog creates a surreal atmosphere before burning off to reveal the striking coast line. At dusk you can watch the sunset from the infinity-edge spa or the heated pool. The cozy fireside bar and Duck Club restaurant serve dishes made with ingredients from local family farms that are sure to delight. Taste the local wines and explore outdoor activities during the day and retreat to the calm, quiet coast by night.
One of the most beautiful and iconic wineries in Napa, for the past 30 years, Peju has been blending art and industry as beautifully as they blend their wines. Wander through the gardens and enjoy the sculptures, koi pond, and towering sycamore trees. Tastings are held in the famous Peju tower – one of the tallest, most unique buildings in Napa. Peju offers a wine experience unlike any other as guests sample current release wines in a presentation-style setting.
From snow-packed mountains to relaxing hot springs, Southwest Idaho is a wonderful winter escape. For the adventurous, the snow-packed peaks are perfect for everything from skiing to tubing and snowshoeing. At the end of an invigorating outdoor adventure it’s easy to stop into a tasting room or two. Wine touring can be a great all-day adventure of its own. With 35 wineries set against spectacular Southwest Idaho scenery, this region has it all!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
When looking back on 2015 it is clear we have shared some great wineries offering unique flavors, sought after views, and incredible architecture. We hope that you were able to enjoy some of these great venues and the many high-quality products they offer. The new year presents a great opportunity to step into a world of excitement and explore some award- winning wine destinations. Below we have listed 10 noteworthy establishments we know you will love. Enjoy!
Patz & Hall
Patz & Hall is defined by its excellent Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that have drawn national attention and even earned the winery the title as one of the top 100 wineries in the world according to by a major wine publication. In 2014, the doors opened to the new home for Patz & Hall – Sonoma House at Patz & Hall in the heart of Sonoma County wine country. The stunning building is set on an idyllic property surrounded by vineyards and mountains. Inside, there are numerous inviting spots for intimate tasting experiences, while outside, a gorgeous patio awaits.
In 1875 the Palace Hotel opened its doors in San Francisco for the first time with a luxurious ambiance that has continued to impress thousands of guests for over a century. Today, The Palace Hotel continues to maintain its luxurious standard by highlighting the original architecture and authentic elements while pairing them with classically inspired, modern décor. Recent renovations capture stunning city views and provide guests elegant accommodations. Hotel services and amenities include: three different on-site restaurants, a beautiful indoor heated pool with a view, state of the art fitness center, and much more!
Heathman Kirkland Resort
One of the main reasons that guests are so drawn into the Heathman Hotel is the fact that it is merely steps away from the azure waters of Lake Washington. It’s a peaceful oasis amid the bustle of suburban Kirkland on the outskirts of Seattle. The upscale boutique hotel exudes elegance and warmth, pampering guests with special services and amenities. After a day out on the town, guests can return for dinner at the hotel’s renowned restaurant, Trellis, a wine country inspired eatery that features true farm-to-table cuisine on its seasonal menu prepared by executive Chef, Brian Scheehser.
Founded in 1968, Napa Cellars crafts wine that expresses the characteristics that have become widely recognized as the classic, Napa Valley style: ripe, rich, and balanced. The inviting tasting room sits alongside St. Helena Highway, surrounded by picturesque Oakville vineyards and is open daily to all. Many guests bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy on the patio after their tasting. Guests are also encouraged to stay awhile so they can thoroughly absorb the friendly vibe and the very special sense of place that’s the heart and soul of the Napa Valley.
Skillful craftsmanship and distinct microclimates are two important reasons that Nottingham Cellars is a name that is synonymous with premium quality, Livermore Valley wine. Vintage after vintage, Nottingham Cellars wines receive top awards, high acclaim, and many 90-plus scores from the world’s top critics. It’s evident that this passionate family-owned and-operated winery will be decisive in writing the next chapter in the history of Livermore Valley wine. So don’t miss the opportunity to visit the tasting room and experience it for yourself!
In 1984 Jim and Suzie Gullet purchased their first vineyard parcel with a unique idea that turned a lot of heads from many of the neighboring wineries. In an area that was essentially a sea of zinfandel, the Gullet’s decided their property was a perfect environment for the Sangiovese grape. Today, Vino Noceto is a renowned Sangiovese specialist, producing eight different premium Sangiovese wines as well as an array of Italian and foothill varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Zinfandel, and Moscato. Visitors can enjoy a variety of tasting options from the country inspired tasting room in the vineyard’s picturesque big red barn.
Icicle Village Resort
Because of its ideal proximity to the Cascade Mountains and the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, WA, Icicle Village Resort is the perfect all-season destination for guests seeking quality family time, outdoor adventure, romance, or a bit of everything! Regardless of the season, there are many amenities to enjoy including: a seasonal outdoor sport court and a sports bar with a 75-inch television screen that can be enjoyed all-year-round. The onsite activity center can schedule fun activities for its youngest guests so that the adults can enjoy some of the luxurious spa and salon services at the Alpine Spa including: facials, therapeutic massages, body treatments, manicures and pedicures, and much more.
At Beringer Vineyards there is 130 years of rich history for visitors to explore. As Napa’s oldest functioning winery, it’s no surprise that Beringer is the only winery to win Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year for both a red and a white wine. Beringer hosts several tasting experiences including the Cave Legacy tour; wine and food pairings, an exclusive tasting of the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from different vintages, and tastings in many unique spots like the Old Winery: the mansion’s ornate reserve tasting bar, and the wraparound porch of the Rhine House. Beringer is truly a one-of-a-kind destination that you must experience for yourself.
Mettler Family Vineyards
Throughout eight generations in the grape growing industry, Mettler Family Vineyards has cultivated an unrivaled kinship with the earth. The Mettlers have chosen to run their farm as both sustainable and Certified Organic. Their wines stand up in both domestic and international competitions and the tasting room is a “must-see” nestled in the middle of 25 acres of vineyards.
Cheers – Ken
As we approach New Year’s Eve we always like to share our favorite Sparkling Wines and Champagnes that we discovered this fall. Below is a list of the winners that Nicolay (Chief Bubblehead), our Tasting Panel, and I found this fall. That said, we will start with my two favorite sparklers that I came across.
The 2011 Schramsberg “Blanc de Noirs” for $41 seems to excel each year. The 2011 opens with lots of small bubbles and a mild pear bouquet with a hint of orange and bread dough. Our mini-tasting group found it to be light bodied, fresh and elegant. We loved its mineral infused lemon flavors with hints of bread dough and faint strawberry. It is very food friendly and we suggested serving it with grilled swordfish skewers.
Another terrific discovery that I found this summer at the Blogger’s conference in the Finger Lakes was the 2009 Hermann Wiemer “Blanc de Blanc” for $45. This 92 point gem is light bodied, slightly acidic and fresh. I really liked its tasty apple flavors with notes of lemon and gentle minerality. This sparkler would pair perfectly with oysters. Note: This bubbly is only available via the website or at the winery and they didn’t make much of it. So hurry up an place an order.
Our last 92 pointer and our top Champagne is the non-vintage Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines Brut Blanc de Blancs” for $70. It is always one of Nicolay’s favorites and it is as classic as Champagne can get. It displays exciting notes of brioche, roasted cashews, and creme brulee on the palate. It finishes with bright acidity and long lasting flavors. Another gem to consider with oysters.
Our first two 91 pointers are values when compared to the other high scoring offerings. The first is the non-vintage Ferrari “Brut” for $25. Nicolay fell this if there was ever a true substitute for Champagne, this offering is as close as it gets in terms of style. It displays fruits like Golden Delicious, Asian pear, and Bartlett pear along with deeper tones like creme brulee and caramel as well. Its finish is long, yeasty and bright!
Our second very good value is the non-vintage Schramsberg “Mirabelle Brut Rose.” Nicolay thought this one was as good as the “Estate Brut Rose” that the Panel recommended. (See below) The main difference is this offering is $29 while the “Estate Brut Rose” is $44. The Mirabelle’s flavor profile is huckleberry, cassis, pomegranate, and dragon fruit along with hints of mint, ginger, and toast towards the end. Nicolay gave it an A+, especially at this price point. That said, the 2012 Schramsberg “Brut Rose” is no slouch. I challenge readers to try these two side by side and tell us which one you liked better. In both cases, you clearly will not be disappointed. According to the panel, the big brother is full bodied, pleasantly acidity, and approachable. We all liked its tasty mild red raspberry and strawberry flavors with notes of minerality and hints of plum, watermelon and toast. As you can see both of these Rose’s from Schramsburg are quite complex. The panel suggested pairing this one with fresh sliced salmon or a lobster casserole.
We close our 91 pointers with two Champagnes. The first is the very consistent non-vintage Charles Heidsieck “Brut Reserve” for $65. This sparkler always finishes near the top of our tastings. The current blend is light bodied, elegant and smooth. The panel really enjoyed its mild mineral infused green apple flavors with hints of lemon verbena, pineapple and toasty oak. This bubbly finishes dry and fades away nicely. You can pair it with smoked Gouda.
Next up is the non-vintage Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines Brut Rose” Champagne for $65. This most Pinot Meunier blend is full bodied, slightly acidic, round and totally fills your mouth. The panel was impressed with its mineral infused mild pink grapefruit flavors with notes of watermelon, tangerine and cranberry. This beauty shows nice length as it fades away. This panel suggested pairing this food friendly Champagne with dried fruit stuffed game bird or Stuart’s cranberry apple crisp.
Our next cluster of recommendations is our 90 point wines. There are ten of these. We will start with a great value Cava that Nicolay discovered. It is a non-vintage Cava from Finca Hispana. Their “Brut Imperial Reserva” for $15 is an extraordinary value. It delivers upfront notes of apples, peaches, and Bartlett pears. The mid-palate is rounded out by tropical flavors like pineapples, mangos, and papaya while the finish has the standard brioche found in well-made sparklers. The finish was one of the longest Nicolay covered.
Our next few 90 pointers is a block of three from Gloria Ferrer. Nicolay feels the Gloria Ferrer portfolio is an unsung hero in the domestic sparkling wine scene. They regularly produce high-class wines for half the price of the big boys out of Champagne. These three all cost $22 per bottle. So each one is a very good value. The non-vintage “Sonoma Brut” is made mostly from Pinot Noir. It displays plenty of upfront fruit. You will find caramel, white peaches, wet stone, pear flavors along with hints of toasted bread. The non-vintage “Blanc de Blancs” opens up with notes of blood orange, kumquats, pink guavas, honeyed citrus fruit, and hints of lychee fruit. From the front of the palate to the finish, this sparkler leaves nothing at the table. It finishes medium to long, while displaying ripe citrus fruits. The last one was Nicolay’s favorite of these three. The non-vintage “Blanc de Noirs” has a nose that reminded him of a fresh summer fruit salad. Watermelon, honeydew melon, fresh cut strawberries, and raspberries that jump from the glass. On the palate, you will find raspberry creme brulee flavors on the mid-palate and it finishes with a Meyer lemon. Try them all this New Year’s Eve and vote for your favorite.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2008 “Chateau Frank Brut” (Finger Lakes, NY) $25 (90)
This Sparkler from the Finger Lakes won over the Tasting Panel. It is medium bodied with a nice blend of acidity and fruit. They enjoyed its mild mineral infused gentle tart lemon flavors with notes of tangerine and a hint of Pink Lady apples. The panel suggested pairing this with steamed mussels.
Schramsberg NV “Mirabelle Brut” (California) $27 (90)
Although this isn’t quite the same as the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Rose, and Blanc de Noirs it is a very good substitute. It has notes of toasted bread with butter and fig jam. In addition, there are notes of dried grapes, candied dates, and the slightest hint of aged cheddar.
Huguet 2008 “Gran Reserva Cava” (Cataluna, Spain) $29 (90)
This nice sparkler was a crowd pleaser with the Panel. It displays tiny bubbles and a fragrant bread dough, green apple, and wet stone bouquet. The panel found it to be creamy and approachable. They really liked its tasty mineral infused green apple with hints of lime, strawberry, saline, and ginger. The suggested pairing spring rolls and sushi.
Schramsberg 2012 “Blanc de Blanc” (North Coast, CA) $39 (90)
This Schramsberg sparkler once again performed very well for the tasting panel. It is medium bodied, easy going and fresh. The flavor profile is lemon with notes of mild minerality and green apple. We also detected hints of bread dough and strawberry. The panel suggested pairing this very good sparkler with grilled lime shrimp or a baked scallop casserole.
Gloria Ferrar 2007 “Royal Cuvee” (Carneros, California) $40 (90)
This Sparkler from Carneros opens with an appealing Granny Smith apple, Anjou pear and wet stone bouquet with a hint of wild rose. The panel found it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic, and brisk with mineral infused mild lemon flavors. They also picked up some hints of caramel, tangerine and almond. The panel’s pairing this sparkler with Coquille St. Jacques or grilled tuna.
Mumm Napa 2008 “DVX” (Napa Valley, California) $60 (90)
This sparkler displayed very fine bubbles along with a mild lemon and wet stone bouquet with hints of bread toast and faint grapefruit. It was more full bodied than most. It was also pleasantly acidic, elegant and fresh. Its mineral infused tangerine flavors with notes of bread dough with hints of grapefruit, Granny Smith apples, and lime were well received. It was food friendly received several food suggestions, like broiled scallops, cherrystones, or lobster bisque.
Lucien Albrecht NV “Cremant d’Alsace Rose” (Alsace, FR) $17 (89)
A nice sun kissed pink color, this Rose opens with pink guava, watermelon, fresh raspberry, and hints of mint. The palate is fresh and vibrant, displaying notes of eucalyptus, hints of cinnamon, Asian apples, and washed strawberries. The finish is medium in length, but very clean.
Chateau Frank NV “Celebre Cremant” (Finger Lakes, NY) $21 (89)
This sparkler is made from 100% Riesling. It is light bodied, balanced and fresh. I liked its tasty lemon flavors with hints of nicely integrated minerality. I would serve this good value sparkler as an opening aperitif with quiche Lorraine appetizers.
Chateau Frank 2009 “Blanc de Blancs” (Finger Lakes, NY) $30 (89)
This is another great example of what Dr. Konstantin Frank has been able to do with his vineyards on the Finger Lakes. Airing on the lighter side, this sparkler open ups with lime zest, pears, granny smith apples, and cantaloupe. Its flavors are granny smith apple, watermelon, and strawberries with bright acidity and a hint of toast on the finish.
Chateau Frank 2009 “Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut” (Finger Lakes) $35 (89)
This sparkler from the Finger Lakes is relaxed and mellowed allowing the wine to show through. Medium sized bubbles give this sparkler a needed boost in body but without compromising flavors. Ripe, pink guava, hints of lychee fruit, and fig jam on toast show through on the palate.
We hope you enjoy these Sparklers and Champagnes as much as we did. For a complete listing of all of our recommended Champagnes and Sparkers check out our website via this link. Happy New Year!! Cheers! Ken
Each fall we go thru our higher end red submission with the idea that we would post the winners before Christmas. Well this fall we got to all of the older vintages and most of the 2012’s. We will tackle the 2013 vintage in the early part of the New Year. Below you will find a comprehensive list of the wines that scored between 95 and 92 points. You will also find that there are several types of wines on the list. You will also be pleased to know that some of these wines are below our typical $50 and up price point for this list. So what were our winners?
This year, our top two wines were awarded 95 points. Both are top notch wines, but both cost a pretty penny. That said the 2012 Alpha Omega “ERA” Cabernet Sauvignon for $200 was the top scoring wine and clear winner in our big blind tasting. This beauty is full bodied, nicely balanced, rich, smooth and refined. The panel loved its very tasty black currant flavors with notes of oak and black cherry. We also detected some hints of minerality and blueberry in this complex blend. The panel suggested slowly sipping this gem with a filet mignon while enjoying a very special dinner.
Our second 95 point winner is the 2011 Shafer “Hillside Select” Cabernet Sauvignon for $250. It is an unbelievable wine given the vintage. It was by far the best 2011 California Cabernet that I covered. Bravo! It is medium bodied, balanced, and very smooth with some delicious blueberry and black cherry flavors. I also detected hints of black currant and nicely integrated gentle oak. This is a spectacular wine to try if you can afford it. It is a true masterpiece given the vintage.
This fall we came up with seven 94 point wines. In our system, 94 points is considered Excellent. We open the list with four grapes you might not predict. A Syrah, two Pinots and a Sangiovese. So our first 94 pointer is a Washington State Syrah. The 2012 Gramercy Cellars “The Deuce” for $52 is impressive. It is full bodied, balanced, and rich with delicious blackberry and blueberry flavors with notes of oak and black olive. Everyone that tried this wine a Del Frisco’s loved it.
The next 2 wines are two Excellent Pinot Noirs. We open with the 2012 Foretell “Fort Ross-Seaview” Pinot for $75. It is medium bodied, rich, and savory. I really liked its very tasty and complex plum and ripe black raspberry flavors with notes of nicely integrated gentle oak, minerality, blueberry and black pepper. It is a very food friendly Pinot and will be a huge hit with your friends. Another great Pinot is the 2012 Goldeneye “Gowen Creek” Pinot Noir for $82. It is full bodied, super smooth, and nicely coats your mouth. I loved its delicious gentle cherry-cola flavors with nicely integrated mild vanilla oak and hints of blueberry and spice. I would pair this gem with a filet mignon at an anniversary dinner.
It is not often, that I get to cover great Italian wines, but I did get the chance to cover the 2011 Isole e Olena “Cepparello” this year. It costs $90 per bottle and is worth every penny. I found it to be medium bodied, balanced, lush and fruit forward. It displays delicious ripe black cherry flavors with integrated old oak and minerality. This is a very refined red wine and would be perfect to cuddle up by the fireplace with sharp cheddar cheese this winter.
Our final three 94 pointers are big boys from the Napa Valley. We will start with the 2012 “Annum” Cabernet Sauvignon from Ramey for $100. This excellent Cab was very well received by our mini-group. It is full bodied, balanced and fruit forward. We really liked its complex blend of boysenberry and black raspberry flavors with notes spice, blueberry, black licorice, minerality, mocha and faint oak. It is very food friendly and would pair well with filet mignon.
This very dark ruby Merlot based blend from Blackbird is another Excellent wine. Their 2012 Illustration is made from 64% Merlot and 34% Cab Franc and & 2% Cab. The finished blend is a delicious black cherry and black currant flavored wine with beautifully integrated refined minerality, mild oak and a hint of black raspberry. This offering would be a perfect match with a dry-aged ribeye.
Our last Excellent 94 point wine is the 2012 Robert Mondavi “To Kalon Vineyard Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon” for $155. This gem from Mondavi rocked the panel and finished in second place in our big blind tasting. It is full bodied, very well balanced, and smooth. The panel loved its terrific black cherry and black currant flavors with wonderfully integrated mild minerality, dark chocolate, and oak. It closes with dry and refined tannins that sail away and are very lengthy. The panel suggested pairing this beauty with Emeril’s Steak Diane.
As we get into of 93 and 92 point Very Good plus wines, we also get a chance to offer you some wines under the $50 mark. Our first grouping of these wines is our 93 pointers. We have eight of these very nice wines to suggest. We will give a quick teaser on these wines.
Zuccardi 2012 Bonarda “Emma” (Mendoza, Argentina) $38 (93)
This pitch black Bonarda is terrific. It is full bodied, balanced, rich and silky. I really loved its tasty blueberry and gentle oak blend with notes of mild blackberry. This big and rich wine is very hedonistic. Fan of this style of wine are going to love it. Perfect for the fireplace this winter.
Valentin Bianchi 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon “Enzo Bianchi” (Mendoza, Argentina) $55 (93)
This full bodied Cabernet from Argentina is impressive. Its flavor profile is a ripe blackberry and juicy blueberry blend with notes of nicely integrated minerality and hints of black plum and faint oak. It finishes with dry tannins and its flavors that stick around for a while. Perfect with a ribeye steak.
Dutton Goldfield 2013 Pinot Noir “Azaya Ranch” (Marin County, CA) $58 (93)
This Pinot Noir from Dutton Goldfield is fabulous. It is nicely balanced and really smooth. I loved its tasty mild red raspberry flavors with notes of plum and strawberry. Its flavors are nicely prolonged. An exceptionally food friendly Pinot. Pair it with pork tenderloin with plum chutney.
Talley 2013 Pinot Noir “Rincon” (Arroyo Grande, CA) $64 (93)
Talley made some terrific Pinot’s in the 2013 vintage! I found the Rincon to be refined and elegant. I loved its tasty mild strawberry flavors with hints of red plum and faint oak. It finishes with dry fine tannins and flavors that drift away nicely. Pair this finesse Pinot with wiener schnitzel.
Pax 2012 Syrah “Castelli-Knight Ranch” (Russian River, CA) $70 (93)
This Syrah from Pax really impressed our mini-tasting group. It definitely improves with a great deal with aeration. It is full bodied and smooth with concentrated blackberry and oak flavors. Also displays hints of dark chocolate, black currant, and espresso. Perfect fireplace wine.
E. Guigal 2011 “Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde” (France) $80 (93)
This Cote Rotie from Guigal is showing very well right now. It is medium bodied, balanced and very fruit forward. It displays ripe black raspberry flavors with a streak of minerality throughout. Some old oak and black plum as well. Pair with a New York strip steak
Caymus 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Special Selection” (Napa Valley, CA) $160 (93)
This Cabernet Sauvignon finished in 3rd place in our recent big blind tasting of High End Reds. It is full bodied, rich and smooth with concentrated black cherry and black raspberry flavors with notes of dark chocolate and hints of blueberry. Pair with roast duck by the fireplace.
Krupp Brothers 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “M5 Stagecoach Vineyard” (Napa) $165 (93)
Another top Cab from the recent blind tasting. It finished in 4th place. It’s full bodied, well balanced, and fruit forward. The panel loved its delicious cherry and cassis flavors with nicely integrated fine minerality and gentle vanilla oak. Dry moderate dusty tannins build up and linger.
We close with a very respectable list of twenty 92 points winners. Some of our best values are in the first few wines listed below.
Talley Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir “Estate” (Arroyo Grande, CA) $36 (92)
A great value Pinot. Balanced and juicy. Tasty mild red plum flavors with notes of cherry-cola, blueberry and gentle vanilla oak. A very food friendly wine. Pair with pork tenderloin.
Robert Foley 2013 US Red “The Griffin” (CA) $38 (92)
A perfect winter fruit bomb. It displays tasty concentrated black cherry and black currant flavors with nicely integrated minerality and oak along with hints of blueberry. Long finish.
John Duval 2013 “Plexus” (Barossa Valley, Australia) $40 (92)
Aussie blend of mostly Shiraz is full bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and fruit forward. It displays a tasty blend of blackberry, boysenberry and gentle oak. It’s a pretty complex wine.
Carol Shelton 2012 Petite Sirah “Rocky Reserve” (Rockpile, CA) $40 (92)
I love Petite Sirah. This is a very good one. Full bodied, balanced, juicy and rich. Tasty blueberry and plum flavors with hints of nicely integrated minerality and oak. Sticky tannins that linger.
Vincent Girardin 2011 Pinot Noir “Les Vieilles Vignes Volnay” (Burgundy, FR) $45 (92)
This Pinot Noir from Burgundy is very good. Nicely balanced, elegant and super smooth. Beautiful tasty mild red raspberry and plum flavors with nicely integrated subtle oak. Yum!
Quinta do Vallado 2010 “Touriga Nacional” (Douro, Portugal) $55 (92)
This Touriga Nacional from Portugal is showing very well now and it would pair perfectly with a filet mignon. Balanced and very smooth with delicious mild plum and mild mineral flavors.
Carol Shelton 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Rockpile Reserve” (Rockpile, CA) $50 (92)
Another gem from Carol Shelton. It is medium bodied and balanced. It is a very food friendly Cab. It improves with a little aeration. Decant it for a bit and serve it with a NY strip steak.
Spring Valley 2012 “Uriah” (Walla Walla, WA) $50 (92)
Mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc. A Washington State winner every year. Medium bodied, balanced and approachable. Very elegant and food friendly. Pair this wine with a filet mignon.
E. Guigal 2010 Fr Rhone “Chateauneuf du Pape” (Rhone Valley, FR) $59 (92)
This CDP really coats your mouth and its tannins are present up front along with the fruit. This big boy is larger and life. Cellar or decant it for 2 hours and serve with a marbled cowboy ribeye.
Cenyth 2010 US Red “Sonoma County” (CA) $60 (92)
A very nice Merlot based wine. Full bodied, fruit forward and juicy. Displays tasty red plum flavors with mild red raspberry, minerality, old oak, red cherry and strawberry licorice.
Cakebread 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” (CA) $65 (92)
A very nice Napa Cab that is fairly priced. Full bodied, balanced, smooth and fruit forward. Tasty black raspberry flavors with notes of minerality and oak. Hints of black cherry and blueberry.
Mt. Brave 2012 Merlot “Mt. Veeder” (CA) $75 (92)
This is a big boy Merlot! Full bodied, rich and fruit forward. Shows off very tasty concentrated black cherry and dark chocolate flavors with hints of blueberry, vanilla oak, and coffee.
St. Supery 2012 US Red “Elu” (Napa Valley, CA) $75 (92)
Cabernet cased blend. Full bodied and fruit forward with extracted plum and black raspberry flavors. Nicely integrated minerality along with some oak. Pair with roast duck.
Shafer 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five” (Stags Leap, CA) $80 (92)
Another impressive Shafer wine. Its medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. Flavor profile is a tasty mild black cherry with notes of cedar and gentle plum along with a hint of boysenberry.
Shafer 2012 Syrah “Relentless” (Napa Valley, CA) $85 (92)
Shafer’s Syrah based blend. It is full bodied and tamer than previous versions. It is smooth and easy going. Black raspberry and smoked meat flavors with notes of blackberry and oak.
PreVail 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Back Forty” (Alexander Valley, CA) $90 (92)
The panel found this Cab to be full bodied, balanced and smooth. They really like its black currant jam and black cherry flavors with hints of blackberry, chocolate and toasty oak.
Darioush 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Signature” (Napa Valley, CA) $95 (92)
Another winning Cab that the Panel discovered. It’s full bodied and smooth with very tasty blueberry and mild oak flavors. Hints of nicely integrated minerality, black cherry and menthol.
Blackbird Vineyards 2012 “Contrarian” (Napa Valley, CA) $125 (92)
This Cab Franc based blend is very good. It is rich and a little juicy. It displays extracted black cherry flavors with some black licorice, spice, and chocolate covered strawberries.
Rocca 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Tesorina” (Napa Valley, CA) $160 (92)
This complex Cab finished in 5th place in our recent big blind tasting. The panel loved its fruit forward ripe blueberry and black cherry flavors with nicely integrated minerality and vanilla oak.
Ramey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Pedregal Vineyard” (Oakville, CA) $200 (92)
This Cab from Ramey is medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. Its flavor profile is mild strawberry and cherry blend with notes of mild minerality, chocolate and gentle oak.
We hope you can find one or two of these gems. I am certain you will enjoy these exquisite wines, as much as we did. Each and every one of them is a treat. They would make a perfect Christmas gift. I know I would love them. Merry Christmas to all!
Cheers – Ken
Most Recent 10 Posts
- A Brief Visit To Long Island Wine Country
- Dry Rose Is Making A Splash This Summer
- Summer Wine Destinations
- Magnificent May Wine Destinations
- April’s All About Wine
- Spring into Wine Country
- So Many Ways to Love Winter
- 10 Award Winning Wine Destinations
- Our Top New Year’s Eve Sparkling Wine and Champagne Recommendations
- High End Red Winners For Last Half of 2015