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Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and we know you’ve been refreshing your Pinterest feed tirelessly, searching for the perfect recipes for this year’s menu. While we would never want to replace Grandma’s family secret, we have hand selected a few recipes that we think everyone around your table would be thankful for! We know wine pairings can be stressful and often the last thing on your never ending holiday to-do list, but this year, there’s nothing to whine about…we’ve done the work for you!

The Appetizer Course

Ancient Oak Cellars, Rosé of Pinot “Lucy,” Sonoma County 2012

Paired with: Charcuterie Board

Rosé is the perfect appetizer wine to kick start your Thanksgiving meal. It has a sweetness that compliments gamey meats, with enough acidity to balance the saltiness and cut through the fat. We recommend a charcuterie board to start your meal off with your favorite meats, or try ours: Prosciutto, Soppressata, & Coppa!

 About Ancient Oak Cellars

The story of Ancient Oak Cellars is an amazing tale of families working together and taking pride in their wines. Husband and wife, Ken & Melissa, decided to start making their own wine with the grapes that Ken’s grandfather planted 20 years ago. They live on the land, working closely with other families in managing Siebert Ranch, and helping with Pagnano & Berger Vineyards. These wines can be tasted at Corrick’s in downtown Santa Rosa!

The Side Dishes

kwg-brokenearth2012 Broken Earth Chardonnay

Paired with: Winter Squash Soup with Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The wine is dominated on the palate by citrus fruits with an elegant backdrop of new French oak. It has a complexity and balanced acidity that make it a great pairing wine for Thanksgiving. California Oaked Chardonnays pair beautifully with rich creamy soups and the sweetness of the butternut squash will bring out the vanilla oak notes in the wine.

About Broken Earth Winery

Broken Earth Winery is Certified California Sustainable and was one of the first wineries in California to operate on 100% solar power. In fact, it produces enough electricity to power 100 homes for a year! Aside from their deep commitment to the environment, they are also dedicated to producing high quality wines. Their five brands: Broken Earth, Shimmin Canyon, Pull, Quadrant, and SWN, each stand out with a unique style and appeal to a specific market, however, they are all beautifully structured and balanced representations of their special terroir.

2012 Sextant Wines Edna Valley Chardonnay

Paired with: Butternut Squash Risotto

This Chardonnay is fruit driven, highlighting tropical guavas, ripe apricots, and juicy nectarines, and is followed by a buttery sensation of cheesecake crust and marzipan. This warm and inviting wine will pair perfectly with the comfort of this butternut squash risotto, and will be a perfect addition to your Thanksgiving menu!

About Sextant Wines

Sextant Wines is located in the heart of Paso Robles, recently named Wine Enthusiast’s 2014 Wine Region of the Year. Their cooler climate vineyards are perfect for producing their delicious Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, but they are better known for their Zinfandel, Bordeaux blend, and GSMs. They involve a variety of old-world varieties from three distinct AVAs, expanding not only their portfolio of wines, but also that of the California Central Coast in general.

The Main Course

kwg-anabaAnaba Wines, 2011 Pinot Noir Las Brisas Vineyard

Paired with: Thanksgiving Pioneer-Style Herb Roasted Turkey

Pinot Noir is the classic wine pairing for a Thanksgiving meal, and we couldn’t agree more. The bright acidity and gentle tannins are essential for pairing with turkey, bringing out the juiciness of the meat and complimenting the green vegetables. The elegant flavor profile is versatile for a variety of side dishes, and the lighter body won’t over power the star of the show.

About Anaba Wines

Anaba Wines was named after the anabatic winds that blow through the vineyards, slowing down the ripening process ever so slightly, and allowing the fruit to develop to its full potential. The wind is an important part in the process, and after building a 45-foot turbine, Anaba Wines became the first winery in Northern California to use wind in wine production. Visit the renovated century old farmhouse to taste their exciting profile of wines. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Rhone varieties and Rhone blends are their most well known, but don’t forget to follow them with one of their delicious collection of dessert wines!

Mettler Family Vineyards 2012 Lodi Zinfandel

Paired with: Ina Garten’s Homeade Gravy

Rather than pair a wine to the simple flavors of turkey, choose a wine that can stand up to the wide array of flavors found across your Thanksgiving table. The richness and complexity of this California Zinfandel can stand up to the varying degrees of acidity within the meal, such as in your favorite cranberry sauce, while still complimenting your Grandma’s famous gravy recipe (or in this case, Ina Garten’s!)

 About Mettler Family Vineyards

The Mettler Family first began growing grapes in Germany in the 1770s and arrived in Lodi in the early 1800s. These eight generations of premium winegrowing has helped produce the high quality fruit used for their own label as well as for other respected wineries. Mettler Family Vineyards is both sustainable and certified organic, and their careful involvement in every step of the winemaking process helps set the standard for the quality of wine they produce. Amidst 25 acres of vineyards you can find their secluded tasting room, where guests can enjoy the picturesque landscape while tasting some delicious wine!

kwg-tarabella2011 Tara Bella Petite Syrah

Paired with: Charcoal Grilled Turkey with Fresh Herb Butter

Although Petite Syrah is not a typical pairing with turkey, it pairs beautifully with BBQ. Open up the space in your oven for your favorite side dishes by cooking your turkey out in the backyard this year.

About Tara Bella

Size doesn’t mean anything, and Tara Bella Winery is here to prove it! With only 6 acres, they have made a name for themselves by producing some of Sonoma’s best Cabernet Sauvignon, attaching at least one gold medal to nearly every vintage. Their wines are 100 percent estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, and 95 percent of all they produce is sold directly through their wine club. They have a solid following of Cabernet lovers who take occasional trips together, so visit their tasting room to find out why you should join in on the fun!

And…Things to Do, Places to See, Where to Stay this Holiday Season

Napa Valley Wine Train

kwg-napavalleywinetrainThe Napa Valley Wine Train offers a unique opportunity for experiencing the Napa Valley wine country. The train starts its journey at their very own train station and then makes the trip from Napa to St. Helena and back. Guests can choose between lunch and dinner, both prepared with the freshest of ingredients under the careful eye of Executive Chef Kelly MacDonald, in one of the three dining cars, and enjoy a first course or dessert in one of the lounge cars. Guests may then choose to do a VIP tour of one of the region’s many wineries, and then embark on a one-way trip, or choose to enjoy both lunch and dinner on the train, and spend the day admiring Napa’s beautiful landscape!

Historic Cary House

Nicknamed “The Jewel of Placerville,” this quaint hotel is located in the heart of Northern California wine country and is right on the way to Lake Tahoe. It was built in 1857 and has a rich history, including legendary guests such as Elvis Presley, Buffalo Bill, and Mark Twain. The 38 historic rooms and suites have been updated with modern amenities to make guests’ stays both confortable and rich with history!

Traverse City

kwg-traverseTraverse City is a hidden gem just waiting for you to discover all it has to offer. It is home to some of the best chefs in the world, being rated one of Bon Appetit’s Top 5 Food towns, and producing some amazing wines to compliment them as well. Sitting on the 45th parallel, the same as the Bordeaux region of France, Traverse City has a unique microclimate that helps produce outstanding wines, and was rated in the Top 10 Places to Taste Local Wines by USA Today. Traverse City sits on Grand Traverse Bay, and offers picturesque views of both the Leelanau and Old Mission Peninsulas, which are home to the Traverse City wine country. Whether it’s for the food, wine, or beautiful views, Traverse City should definitely be on your holiday bucket list!

Old Edna Townsite

The Old Edna Townsite is a century old building that has had a very colorful history, serving as a speakeasy, general mercantile, post office, and a dance hall throughout the years past. Today, it is home to the tasting room for Sextant Wines, and offers and enchanting experience for guests to take a stroll through history while enjoying some delicious food and wine. The Suite Edna also provides the special opportunity to stay overnight and fully experience the uniqueness of this unique landmark!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

I know what you’re thinking, Oktoberfest means beer. You suddenly feel the urge to throw on your favorite lederhosen & knock back a bucket-sized mug of sudsy Hefeweizen while shouting “Noch ein Bier, bitte!” Before you inevitably end up with those questionable Facebook photos Monday morning (Wow those suspenders looked a lot better after a few cold ones, didn’t they?) let Touring & Tasting switch up your usual Oktoberfest routine this year…with wine! Germany is also famous for delicious wines, and you can even find a special wine tent at the famous Oktoberfest celebration in Munich. We might not all get to make it out to Germany this year, but here are a few of our favorite wine country destinations to make this October worth celebrating. Prost!

tt-briancarterBrian Carter Cellars, Woodinville, WA
Calling all foodies: Brian Carter Cellars wines are extremely food friendly and are favorites of many of the top chefs in Woodinville as well as other chefs and sommeliers across the country. Tasting through their portfolio of wines is like taking a tour around the world, with delicious notes of famous wine regions in Bordeaux and Southern Rhone, France, Tuscany, Italy and even notes from Portugal and Spain. Each varietal is made separately in a small lot to fully enhance the complexities of each different grape, and then blended beautifully into the delicious final product you can taste in their tasting room today. Learn more about their winemaking process at their tasting room located in the heart of Woodinville Wine Country’s Hollywood District!

Le Boat: Various Regions, France
Have you always wanted to visit France, but never seemed to find the right opportunity to plan the trip? Well we’ve found your perfect moment, and Le Boat is ready to do all the planning for you! Le Boat offers a variety of self-guided canal boat vacations in their three hand-selected regions: Canal du Midi, Nivernais, and Loire Valley, each offering a unique gastronomic experience, incredible wines and beautiful countryside views to make your ‘tour de France’ unforgettable. Follow one of their many exciting itineraries or set sail on your own, whatever you decide, a vacation with Le Boat will be the one of a lifetime. Book your trip before November 30th to save up to 12% and to secure your choice in boat and dates!

tt-lecadeauLe Cadeau: Willamette Valley, OR
“Le Cadeau” means “the gift” and while you may assume after tasting their incredible wines that the name refers to the Pinot Noir, owners Tom and Deb assure their guests that the true gift is the opportunity to pursue their dream with the beautiful land they have been blessed with. They believe the vineyard itself is the single most important aspect of the winemaking process, and have dedicated themselves to upholding the highest farming standards. Guests can taste the quality of their delicious Pinot Noir and other varietals at their brand new tasting room in Dundee!

Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, Pismo Beach, CA
At Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa in Pismo Beach, every room is a suite! Every single one of their 62 one-bedroom suites have all the features of a home away from home, including a modern living room, gourmet kitchen and dining room. They also feature private laundry facilities, many include fireplaces and Jacuzzi bathtubs, and best of all they have a terrace or patio with an unbeatable view of the Pacific Ocean. If you can find a reason to leave your luxurious suite, you may choose to wade in the infinity-edged pool, visit the fitness center, or get a rejuvenating treatment at their amazing Spa. Dolphin Bay is the ideal spot for luxury and relaxation in Pismo Beach!

tt-santaluciaSanta Lucia Highlands, CA
Just 35 miles inland from Monterey is the famous wine region of Santa Lucia Highlands. It is an agricultural heartland, offering a rural wine country experience with a unique authenticity that will have visitors feeling proud of their travel decision.  Enjoy the winding drive through the beautiful valley where you’ll find fresh fruit and vegetable stands, citrus orchards, and cattle ranches, and pull over at one of the many small family run wineries to taste a glass of delicious wine poured by the winemakers themselves!

Lucas Winery: Lodi, CA
The Lucas Winery team prides itself on their commitment to the quality of their wines. Perfect clusters are handpicked from their certified organic vineyard, and individually hand-sorted to ensure the highest quality in every single grape that goes into their wine. After this meticulous routine, they enter the winemaking process which is 100 percent solar powered.  The patient process of Lucas Winery wines results in true star quality and admirable respect for the environment. Visit their winery for a unique adventure including helping punch grapes, or enjoy an intimate tour of their property!

tt-hopefamilyHope Family Wines: Paso Robles, CA
When thinking of Paso Robles wines, Hope Family Wines should be on your short list. Following his family tradition & passion for winemaking, Austin Hope has been making a name for the family business, as well as for the Paso Robles wine region as Chairman of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. Hope Family Wines has a rich history that fills the pages of every chapter of Paso Robles wine industry history, but also continues to pave the wave into innovation by embracing new technologies and non-traditional marketing methods. It is their vibrant history and hunger for constant improvement that will continue to keep Hope Family Wines at the top in Paso Robles!

Fess Parker Winery, Inn, and Spa: Santa Barbara County, CA
The winery itself is located along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, a winding road with stunning countryside views filled with cattle along the humble natural landscape. Tastings are available daily at the winery, where guests can taste the success of each current release, all of which have received 90 points or better in most of the major US wine publications. Just a short distance down the road in Los Olivos Is the Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, the perfect balance between the sophistication of a renowned luxury hotel, and the friendly and warm atmosphere of a small rustic inn. Guests are welcome to enjoy plenty of first class amenities, including spa services, a fitness room, and Petros, their highly acclaimed restaurant. Fess Parker has the perfect winery and wine country inn combination to make your next trip to Santa Barbara County unforgettable!

Timber Cove Inn: Sonoma, CA
If you’re looking for an intimate, private getaway this month, we’re sure you’ll find just what you’ve been imagining at Timber Cove Inn on the Sonoma coast. The Inn is located on a seemingly untouched cliff overlooking the jaw-dropping California coastline, just a short and beautiful drive from over a dozen commercial wineries. They have maintained their rustic charm while adding modern amenities, making it the perfect cozy hideaway for your next wine country visit to Sonoma!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

Dolphins, 49ers and Bears…oh my! Football season has officially arrived and Touring & Tasting is here to be your quarterback in the Wine Country game. We’ve made a list of all the destinations sure to make your next fall getaway a touchdown. So swap out your longneck for a nice glass of wine and let us help you bring home the win!

kwg-vigilanceEnd Zone: Vigilance Winery (Lake County, CA)
Vigilance Winery in Lower Lake, CA is the perfect place to visit this fall. The owners, the Shannon Family, have been at the forefront of sustainable farming practices, including raising over 1500 grass-fed lamb, which help maintain the property’s exquisite natural beauty. They offer a variety of wines for tasting, and encourage guests to walk or hike throughout their property, or sit on their deck and enjoy the gorgeous views. A visit to Vigilance is both relaxing and rewarding, and is the perfect destination to take your mind off things this fall!

10-Yard Line: Jamieson Ranch (Napa Valley, CA)
The cozy comfort of Jamieson Ranch’s mountain lodge atmosphere is just the retreat you need this autumn. Take a vineyard-to-bottle tour through their property, or enjoy a seated, paired menu from their intriguing new culinary program, Napa Comfort Food: Wood-Fired, Wine Friendly, which highlights the season’s freshest ingredients and produce grown just steps away from the kitchen in one of their organic gardens. Whether you’re drawn to the wine country for the five star food, delicious wines, or spectacular views, Jamieson Ranch is a must-see on your next visit through Napa Valley!

kwg-hyland20-Yard Line: Hyland Estates (Willamette Valley, OR)
As one of Oregon’s largest and oldest vineyards, it is no surprise that Hyland Estates has been able to withstand the test of time. Their Pinot Noir and Riesling are highly regarded by well-known wine critics, including consistent scores in the 90s. A visit to the brand new tasting room allows for a modern experience while tasting the wines that are still produced from the historic vineyards. Take a tour of the grounds, enjoy a relaxing picnic while soaking up the views, or indulge in a cheese pairing in the beautiful tasting room, whatever you decide, you’ll be glad you chose Hyland Estates for your fall getaway!

30-Yard Line: Rancho Caymus Inn (Napa Valley, CA)
Rancho Caymus Inn sits on what was once given to pioneer George C. Grant as Napa Valley’s first land grant. Today, this land is in the vibrant heart of the Napa Valley Wine County, giving hotel guests easy access and convenience to all that the valley has to offer (Bet you didn’t see that one coming, George). The inn has stayed true to its historical roots, featuring Spanish hacienda-style buildings, each named after a different pioneer. The rich history and stories that make this destination so unique are paired perfectly with the luxury of the first-class amenities. This quaint boutique inn is the perfect place to hide out and get some much-needed relaxation time this fall.

kwg-garre40-Yard Line: Garre Vineyard/Bella Rosa (Livermore, CA)
The Molinaro family has been staying true to their Italian roots with their delicious wines, amazing food, and deep family values since the winery’s opening. They are passing this love on to future couples and making wedding dreams come true at their new wedding venue called Bella Rosa. You will feel right at home when visiting their stunning property, and when you’re not too busy enjoying all the delicious food and wine (which you will be), play a game of bocce ball or relax in the cozy tasting room!

50-Yard Line: Bouchaine Vineyards (Napa Valley, CA)
As Napa Carneros’ most southern winery, Bouchaine Vineyards has a stunning landscape unique to the region. Visitors are invited to take a self-guided tour through the gently rolling hills amidst Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards, all while enjoying the surrounding views, which on a clear day showcase the San Francisco skyline. Their tasting room is a perfect place to wind down, and their friendly staff will make you feel right at home!

kwg-skinner40-Yard Line: Skinner Vineyards (Sierra Foothills, CA)
With a prestigious legacy to uphold, the Skinner family is making a portfolio of wines that their great-great-great grandfather, a Scottish miner, would be proud of. You may be choose to sit in the 360 degree tasting room over looking their rolling California landscape, but if you close your eyes, their delicious Rhone inspired wines will suddenly transport you into Southern France. Escape to Skinner Vineyards (or pretend you’re in Rhone) for French inspired wines, beautiful views, and delicious food—the perfect recipe for an unforgettable fall retreat!

30-Yard Line: Le Vigne (Paso Robles, CA)
It has been a year of change and big improvements for Le Vigne winery, and this fall we suggest you see for yourself how much they have grown! They’ve built a brand new, 360-degree tasting room where they’re pouring exciting new wines paired with delicious new culinary offerings, including the region’s largest selection of gourmet international cheeses. So grab a glass and some delectable bites and spend your day on a tour or enjoying a picnic through their many acres of brand new vineyards!

kwg-hahn20-Yard Line: Hahn Estates (Monterey County, CA)
If the Santa Lucia Highlands were a NFL team, Hahn Estates would undoubtedly be the captain. They spearheaded the effort to designate the Santa Lucia Highlands as an official appellation, and continue to lead the pack today with some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in the region. Chef Dyon Foster provides guests with an unforgettable culinary experience, showcasing fresh ingredients grown steps away from the dining room, and pairing perfectly with their famous wines. If you’re not too full from all the delicious food & wine (good luck with that), take an ATV tour and enjoy the panoramic views as you drive through the estate!

10-Yard Line: Heritage Oak (Lodi, CA)
Resting just steps away from a 20-acre Riparian woodland along the shore of Mokelumne River, Heritage Oak offers a unique wine tasting experience that screams “autumn.” The tasting room is pouring their exciting variety of delicious wines, all of which are grown on their beautiful property. If you manage to tackle the difficult task of choosing your favorite, bring a bottle down to the sandy beach on the riverbank, or reward yourself with it after a hike on one of the many trails through their property. If you’re ready for it to finally feel like fall, Heritage Oak is the perfect place for you!

TOUCHDOWN!
You’ve made it this far and now possess all the necessary skills and knowledge to bring home the win this fall. After visiting one of these unique wine country getaway destinations, we’re certain you’ll have a new favorite player in the wine country game. Football season is in full swing, and we have a feeling it’s going to be the best one yet.

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

To my dismay, very good Merlot offerings appear to be dwindling. The best ones seem to come from dedicated producers of higher end wines. We had a blind tasting in August and the number of winners is tiny when compared to wines made from other grapes. My fear is that winemakers are not necessarily putting in as much effort into Merlot, because their sales are off. I say, make great Merlot and they will come! The best options that I found over the course of the last year are listed below. As you will see, there still is some very nice Merlot out there, but not nearly as many as I would like.

Robert-Foley-2011-MerlotWe will start with the Merlot that is consistently near the top of our list. The 2011 Robert Foley Merlot from the Napa Valley comes in at $52. It is Excellent and worth every penny. I awarded this wine 94 points. This offering opens with a fragrant and inviting cherry-cola like bouquet with a hint of boysenberry. You will find it to be full-bodied, balanced, and smooth. I loved its delicious blueberry flavors with notes of nicely integrated oak and hints of black pepper and Dr. Pepper. It finishes dry and its flavors linger and are nicely prolonged. Robert Foley is clearly on top of his game with this Merlot. Find a great steak house and pair this wine with filet mignon.

This year we have two 93 pointers to tell you about. The first is a classic drink-now Merlot, the second one is for stashing away due to its youth. The drink-now entry is the 2009 Pedestal Merlot from the “Columbia Valley” in Washington State. This wine is $55 per bottle. You will find it opens with a very inviting blueberry bouquet. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, extremely well balanced, and smooth as silk. We loved its delicious blueberry and black licorice flavors with hints black pepper, nicely integrated old oak and a touch of minerality. It closed with dry and mild tannins, while its flavors were nicely prolonged. This terrific Merlot paired perfectly with our filet mignon steaks at Ruth Chris in Boston.

Plumpjack-2012-MerlotNext up is another top performer in this category. The 2012 Plumpjack Merlot from Napa Valley just missed being put on the top shelf. That said, it did achieve a 93 point score. It is a worthy contender and with some time it might even reach the Excellent status. This wine comes in at $56 per bottle. It is not your typical Merlot, as it is initially a bit on the intense side. You will find it to be full-bodied and very fruit forward at first. The flavor profile is initially a rich and concentrated blackberry. As it settles down and opens up, notes of boysenberry, blueberry and gentle minerality start to arrive. I also detected hints of black plum and oak as well. It finishes dry with minimal tannins that fade away nicely. This Merlot definitely benefits from aeration and could become a blockbuster with some cellar time. I would put it away for a year or two and pull it out when all your Robert Foley Merlot is gone.

There are two 92 point Merlots this year. The first one is another drink-now option. I would grab a few bottles and enjoy it before the end of the year. It is impressive! So what is this mystery Merlot? It is the 2009 Northstar “Columbia Valley” Merlot for $40. It is a bargain when compared to the big boys in front of it. There were 8,100 cases made, so several shops still have some on the shelves. You will find it to be full-bodied, very well balanced, and smooth. Its flavor profile is a very ripe blackberry with notes of black licorice. I also detected hints of oak, black currant, and gentle minerality. This wine went well with my ribeye at Smith and Wollensky. This is also that second 2009 vintage Washington based Merlot to appear in our top 5 offerings. Bravo to Washington State!

Shafer-2012-Merlot-blogOur next 92 pointer was just released. The 2012 Shafer Merlot form the Napa Valley is available for $50. This wine opens with a very inviting blueberry bouquet. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, nicely balanced, and smooth. I really liked its tasty blueberry flavors with notes of black plum. I also detected hints of oak, black licorice, and clove mixed in as well. I would pair this very nice Merlot with Theresa’s meatloaf.

Merriam-Vineyards-2010-Windacre-MerlotWe will start off our 91 pointers with the best value in this report. As a matter of fact, The 2010 Merriam Vineyards “Windacre” Merlot for $30 is a great deal. This “Windacre” Merlot is top notch and perhaps Merriam’s best Merlot that I can remember. The winemaker mixes in 25% Cabernet Sauvignon in this year’s wine which gives it very nice structure. The flavor profile is a tasty blueberry with nicely integrated mild oak and hints of blackberry and black pepper. It finishes dry and its medium dusty tannins are sticky and show very good length. This is a very good Merlot that I would also pair with Theresa’s Meatloaf. This one will disappear quickly given its price and that only 210 cases were made.

Our last 91 pointer comes from another high end Merlot producer. The 2011 Duckhorn “Three Palms Vineyard” Merlot costs $90 per bottle. You will find it to be medium-bodied, well balanced and quite smooth. It displays very pleasant black cherry flavors with hints of gentle oak, pomegranate, and a touch of black pepper. The finish is dry and its moderate tannins build up and linger for quite some time for a Merlot. I would decant this Merlot in the near term and serve it with a rib-eye steak with garlic mashed potatoes and steamed red beets.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2011 Merlot (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $25 (90)
This Merlot from Dry Creek was deemed one of the best value Merlots to come out of our big blind tasting. It is balanced and smooth. The panel really enjoyed its mild black cherry soda flavors with hints of cinnamon and faint plum. The panel suggested this would be a very good glass pour and a nice match with frutti di mare.

Merryvale-2012-Starmont-MerlotMerryvale 2012 Merlot “Starmont” (Carneros, CA) $27 (90)
This Merlot from Merryvale’s second label was one of your top performers in our 1st big blind tasting. It is medium-bodied, balanced, and smooth. The panel really liked its tasty black cherry flavors with notes of toasted oak and a touch of blueberry, plum and cola. It finishes with fine dry tannins that show decent length. The panel suggested pairing this very good Merlot with Moroccan lamb stew or filet mignon.

Reininger 2010 Merlot “Walla Walla” (Washington) $39 (90)
For our next Merlot, we return to the State of Washington. This wine is a classic, easy going Merlot. It’s nicely balanced and smooth. The flavor profile is a welcoming cherry and blueberry blend with hints of plum and vanilla oak. Its moderate tannins stick around, but don’t get in the way. Pair it with wild boar ragu over pappardelle.

Merryvale 2011 Merlot “Napa Valley” (California) $48 (90)
This big Merlot from Merryvale is a bit young and perhaps needs more time in the cellar and certainly gets better with some aeration. It is medium-bodied, balanced, bold and rich. Its flavor profile is mild black currant with a mixture of spice, oak, and gentle blackberry. The finish is pretty dry and its big tannins linger for quite some time. The panel suggested pairing this wine with Cajun tuna or fra diavalo.

Hunnicutt-2011-Napa-Valley-MerlotHunnicutt 2011 Merlot “Coombsville” (California) $48 (90)
This Merlot from Napa is medium-bodied, balanced, and easy to drink. Its flavor profile is ripe black raspberry with notes of currant, black pepper and a touch of oak. It finishes dry and its substantial tannins are big for a Merlot. I would swirl this wine a lot and serve with a well-marbled ribeye. Another option is to cellar it for about a year or two and see what develops.

Switchback 2010 Merlot “Peterson Family Vineyard” (Napa Valley, CA) $56 (90)
This Merlot from Napa Valley opens with a new leather and black cherry bouquet. It is medium-bodied, balanced, and savory. Its unique flavor profile is a mineral-infused black cherry with hints of oak, black licorice, and red currant. I found it to be food-friendly and I would pair it with beef bourguignon.

Our other Very Good Merlot recommendations:

Ferrari Carano 2011 Merlot “Sonoma County” (CA) $25 (89)
This Merlot is medium-bodied, balanced, and easy to drink. It features gentle black cherry flavors with notes of old vanilla oak and a touch of black currant and black pepper. Moderate sticky tannins are present. Pair with Italian Braciole.

Reininger 2010 Merlot “Helix Stillwater Creek Vineyard” (Columbia Valley, WA) $29 (89)
This second label from Reininger is smooth and easy going. It displays pleasant black cherry flavors with hints of coffee, spice, plum, and oak. The panel suggested pairing it with Hungarian goulash or barbecue burnt ends.

Thelema-2009-MerlotThelema 2009 Merlot “Stellenbosch” (South Africa) $29 (89)
This Merlot from South Africa was well received by the panel. It is balanced and approachable. Its flavor profile is a black plum and cherry-vanilla blend with hints of blueberry and cedar. Its moderate tannins are rather sticky. The panel suggested pairing this Merlot with beef brisket, lamb chops or a mushroom risotto.

Grgich Hills 2010 Merlot “Napa Valley” (California) $42 (89)
This Merlot was described by the panel as an interesting wine. It was balanced and smooth. The flavor profile was a unique strawberry rhubarb with notes of blackberry, cinnamon, and cedar with a hint of bacon. Try it with bacon burgers or Kansas City style burnt ends.

Columbia Crest 2010 Merlot “H3″ (Horse Heaven Hills, WA) $15 (88)
One of the best values on the lis, this Merlot is medium-bodied, balanced, and very easy to enjoy. I enjoyed its tasty oak-infused black raspberry flavors with a hint of blackberry and touch of red currant. It’s a nice everyday offering that would pair perfectly with a juicy burger.

Lamoreaux Landing 2010 Merlot “Block 137″ (Finger Lakes, NY) $17 (88)
This Merlot from the Finger Lakes got the nod from the tasting panel. It is medium-bodied, balanced, and easy going. The panle liked its mild tart red plum flavors with hints of spice and mild oak. It finishes dry with moderate tannins that are sticky. The panel thought it would be a good match for a sausage and peppers hero.

Oyster Bay 2013 Merlot “Hawkes Bay” (New Zealand) $15 (87)
This Merlot from New Zealand is a good value wine to consider for everyday consumption. It is nicely balanced and easy to drink. It displays gentle black plum flavors with a touch of oak and hint of black cherry. This friendly Merlot is a very nice glass pour or wedding option. I would enjoy it with juicy Angus burger sliders.

I encourage readers to support this noble grape and bring it back to the forefront of wine consumption. I also encourage winemakers to produce very good affordable Merlot for all readers to consume. If you find a Merlot gem in your travels, please post it in the comments section for our readers to discover.

Cheers – Ken

It’s been a long, hot summer this year and we know you’re as excited as we are for the weather to cool down and for fall to roll in. This fall, don’t restrict yourself to your usual wine destinations, try something new and visit one of these wine country hotspots Touring & Tasting has hand-selected for your autumn getaway. What better time to embrace change then with the color of the leaves? So trade in the flip-flops & grab your favorite comfy sweater, because it’s time to fall back in love with the wine country.

KWG-Meritage-BalboaThe Meritage Collection
For many, fall means curling up by the fire at home and watching a marathon of your favorite TV show. While few things are better than hiding out on the living room couch, visiting the Meritage Collection is one of them. Any of the four outstanding resorts is sure to top your Netflix night by offering a luxurious home-away-from-home experience in some of the best wine country regions California has to offer. The Meritage Resort & Spa is located in the heart of Napa Valley, providing convenient access to the best of the Napa Valley wine country. The top of the line amenities and lavish suites will make it hard to leave the property. The Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara provides the ultimate villa retreat with a secluded resort complete with it’s own private beach, four restaurants, tasting room, and many more luxurious amenities. Balboa Bay Resort is the only full-service waterfront hotel in Newport Beach, and the ocean views, heated pools, and exclusive wine tasting experiences are just a few reasons they should be your next fall getaway. Finally, there is Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa, a hacienda-style hotel that represents both elegance and the San Diego charm. Enjoy a wine education class, a unique tasting experience, or relax at their world famous spa. Whichever Meritage Collection destination you visit, you’ll surely fall in love with autumn in California wine country.

KWG-LoudounVisit Loudoun
Loudoun County, VA is the epitome of autumn. Its picturesque rolling countryside with fire red & orange leaves are straight out of the calendar photo hanging on your refrigerator door. This fall plan to enjoy all that DC’s beautiful wine country is about beyond the photos. Within the seven historical towns there are several family farms and dozens of tasting rooms to visit, each with its own charm and ties to our national history. Enjoy a stroll through the beautiful untouched landscape, or become a part of the longstanding equestrian history by horseback riding on one of the many beautiful riding trails. Loudoun County is the place to unwind this fall season, go see for yourself!

J. Lohr Winery
The beginning of fall means its time to ring in the holiday season and spend time with our family and loved ones. J. Lohr winery has been putting family first since it’s establishment in 1974, and has continued to do so for over four decades of successful winemaking. What better place to bring your loved ones this fall than to a winery that loves its family just as much as what is in each glass? Taste the vibrant fruit forward flavors that make J. Lohr one of the most successful family operated wineries in North America.

van Löben Sels
Kristina and Jim have put their skills together to successfully resurrect their family’s original label and pay homage to the van Loben Sels legacy. Kristina’s expertise in winemaking paired with Jim’s exceptional vineyard knowledge form a deadly duo that is quickly taking the Washington wine industry by storm. Even with only three vintages, they have received praise right out of the gate for their complex and layered Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Watch the seasons change over the Spokane River as you enjoy their tasting room in the historic Cliff House Estate in Spokane, WA.

KWG-CabPaso Robles CAB Collective
The Paso Robles CAB Collective is a non-profit group of the region’s leading wine-growers and producers with a deep dedication to creating high quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals that stand out on a global scale. The consistent climate and calcareous soils combined with the positive community farming spirit make Paso Robles the top destination for your next bold red wine tasting experience.

Buena Vista Winery
While every forty-niner was in search of gold during the mid 1800s, Agoston Haraszthy was in search of “purple-gold,” which every wine lover knows is easily the best form of currency. The purple-gold, or perfect terroir, was found in Sonoma, CA and Buena Vista Winery became the first premium winery, and thus launched the history of the California wine industry in 1857. Recently, their historic champagne cellars have been completely renovated and the famous wine caves have been re-opened to the public. This fall, visit the Historical California Landmark that is pouring delicious wines that have withstood the test of time.

KWG-WallaWallaTourism Walla Walla
One of Washington’s five appellations, Walla Walla, is quickly becoming one of the state’s most prestigious wine regions. As one of the most remote and small wine regions in Washington, it offers a wine experience that goes far beyond simply tasting what is in your glass. The small town charm of Walla Walla allows for a wine adventure full of chatting with the winemakers, vintners, and family owners who are eager to share their passion and love for wine. The quaint downtown streets of Walla Walla are filled with antique shops, cafes, delicious restaurants, and of course numerous tasting rooms that are pouring the world-renowned wines that the region is famous for. Get lost in the comfort of Walla Walla, and see what makes this wine country so special this fall.

Cathedral Ridge
The Columbia River Gorge is one of the most beautiful geographic regions in Oregon and is home to Cathedral Ridge Winery. The region has been shaped over time to create the stunning landscape that exists today, and the various microclimates that exist within it provide winemakers with the opportunity to produce a vast portfolio of complex varietals that keep wine lovers on their toes. Playing with well-known red flavors such as black cherries, blackberries, dark plums, and many more, Cathedral Ridge wines are elegant and distinctive amongst critics nationwide. They have tasting rooms in both Dundee and the Columbia Gorge, and each provides the perfect tasting spot for some bold reds this autumn!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

Summer is the best time to enjoy Sauvignon Blanc. It is one of the most refreshing wines that I cover. It is perfect choice for hot days. In this post, I will highlight be best Sauvignon Blancs that I have discovered so far this summer.

Merry-Edwards-2012-Sauvignon-BlancWe will start the post with a perennial favorite. The 2012 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc from the Russian River Valley for $32 is a terrific Sauvignon Blanc. The panel awarded this wine 92 points. It was the clear winner in our first big blind tasting. Readers will find it to be full bodied, balanced, creamy, and rich. Its flavor profile is a tasty green melon with notes of banana and lemon. It finishes dry and its flavors last for quite some time. The panel felt this stellar Sauvignon Blanc would pair well with wild mushroom and chicken ravioli smothered with a light cream sauce.

We have two 91 pointers this year. Both are from the 2013 vintage. Both are from New Zealand. The first is the 2013 Saint Clair “Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block” Sauvignon Blanc for $27. This impressive offering opens with a very fragrant ripe yellow grapefruit bouquet with a hint of lime. On the palate it is juicy and shows nice mouth-coating acidity. I really liked its ripe yellow grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and nectarine with a hint of lime. This is perfect wine to sip poolside. I would serve it with broiled scallops.

Cloudy-Bay-2013-Sauvignon-BlancNext up is the very well-known 2013 Cloudy Bay from Marlborough in New Zealand. This wine is a nice investment for lovers of the grape that truly enjoy the classic New Zealand style. They made 44,000 cases of it, so it should be easy to find. I found this wine to be light bodied, nicely acidic and mouthwatering. It displays very tasty ripe grapefruit flavors with notes mild minerality. I also detected hints of lime and green apple. It went well with my grilled trout at Legal Sea Foods.

Our list of 90 pointers includes a few really good values under $20. We will start with the 2013 Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. This $10 was my favorite wine from their lineup. It opens with a very attractive and classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc bouquet. It is light bodied and shows very nice balance between its acidity and fruit. It has a very nice mouth presence. I really enjoyed its tasty grapefruit flavors with hints of lime and pineapple. I felt this Sauvignon Blanc is a steal at $10. It would pair well with grilled swordfish with a tropical fruit salsa.

Our next very good value Sauvignon Blanc is the 2012 Murphy Goode “The Fume” for $14. 48,000 cases of this terrific wine were made. It was by far the best value offering from our big blind tasting. It is medium bodied, mouthwatering and a touch acidic. The panel enjoyed its tasty mineral infused pear flavors with notes of pineapple and green apple. The finish is pleasantly dry and brief. The panel could envision this with grilled swordfish, broiled scallops or brie cheese.

Saint-Clair-2013-Marlborough-Sauvignon-BlancLovers of this grape have fully embraced the classic New Zealand styled of Sauvignon Blanc. The 2013 Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough for $18 puts that style on display. It is crisp, acidic and mouthwatering while displaying tasty tart grapefruit flavors with notes minerality, gooseberry, and Anjou pear. It finishes dry and its flavors and lingering acidity are nicely prolonged. Enjoy this beauty on a hot summer day by the pool.

Our next 90 pointer hails from Stellenbosch in South Africa. The 2012 Thelema Sauvignon Blanc for $20 opens with a fragrant lime and grapefruit like bouquet. It is light bodied, nicely acidic and crisp. The flavor profile is a mineral infused gentle grapefruit with notes of lime and hints of quinine and white pepper. In the end it is dry and refreshing. This wine is a perfect pool wine for a hot summer day. A second glass is a must. I would serve it with bacon wrapped scallops or oysters.

The Merriam 2013 “Danielle” Sauvignon Blanc for $20 adds 6% Semillon to the mix. It is light bodied, balanced, juicy and fruit forward. I enjoyed its ripe yellow grapefruit flavors with hints of orange and a touch of minerality. I would pair this tasty offering with broiled sea scallops.

The 2013 Peju Sauvignon Blanc from “Napa Valley” for $22 is a very nice offering. It is light bodied, acidic and crisp. I really enjoyed its pleasant mineral infused mild grapefruit flavors with hints of tangerine, pineapple and dash of white pepper. It has a long and dry finish. It’s a perfect wine to pair with swordfish kabobs of the grill.

The 2013 Frogs Leap Sauvignon Blanc for $22 is our first and only organic grape offering. It is light bodied and nicely balanced between its acidity and fruit. I really enjoyed its tasty mild mineral infused Anjou pear flavors with hints of mild grapefruit and white pepper. I would pair it with swordfish skewers.

Cakebread-2013-Sauvignon-BlancCakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is consistently very good. Their 2013 vintage from Napa Valley is no exception. You will find it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and citrusy. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused mild grapefruit with notes of green apple. I also detected hints of white pepper and Anjou pear. Another very nice summer wine. This one would pair nicely with a grilled chicken, bacon and spinach flatbread pizza.

Alysian is mainly known for its Chards and Pinots. That said their 2012 “Floodgate Vineyard North Face” Sauvignon Blanc for $25 was very nice. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. I enjoyed its mild mineral infused grapefruit flavors with hints of lime and green pepper. It finishes dry and its flavors and mild acidity lingers long after the wine is gone. It would be perfect with grilled swordfish.

The 2013 Merryvale Sauvignon Blanc from the Napa Valley for $26 is a classy wine. You will find it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It displays tasty mild grapefruit flavors with nicely integrated minerality and nectarine. Like the Alysian, this Sauvignon Blanc would pair well with grilled swordfish but I would top it off with a citrus salsa.

Our last 90 pointer is from Sancerre. The 2012 Vincent Delaporte 2012 “Chivignol” for $28 was one of our top performers in our first big blind tasting. The panel found it to be light bodied and mouthwatering. They described the flavor profile as a tart green apple with notes of grapefruit and hints of lime. It finishes dry and refreshing. The panel suggested pairing this tasty Sancerre with linguini with steamed mussels and a garlic broth or rosemary chicken.

The remainder to the report is our Very Good Sauvignon Blanc selections that scored 89 points and below. You will find some of the best values in this grouping.

Dancing-Bull-2013-Sauvignon-Blanc2013 Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc “Winemaker’s Reserve” (California) $12 (89)
This California Sauvignon Blanc is a steal! It can be found online for under $10. The flavor profile is a mineral infused yellow grapefruit and green apple blend with notes of quinine and white pepper. It finishes dry and rather refreshing. I would serve it with bacon wrapped scallops or sesame chicken.

Kendall Jackson 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Avant” (California) $13 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc from KJ was a crowd pleaser. It light bodied, balanced and slightly crisp. We enjoyed its tasty and gentle grapefruit flavors with hints of minerality, green apple, lime, tangerine and a dash of white pepper. It is very friendly. I would pair it with scallops with spinach and orange-saffron sauce.

Ferrari Carano 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Sonoma County, CA) $14 (89)
This Fume Blanc opens with a very fragrant grapefruit and gooseberry bouquet with a hint of pineapple. It is light bodied, crisp and lively and mouthwatering. It displays tasty grapefruit flavors with notes of minerality and hints of pineapple and peach pit. This wine would pair well with swordfish kabobs.

Fire Road 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (New Zealand) $14 (89)
This is very good value wine. It is nicely acidic and mouthwatering. It displays tart and ripe yellow grapefruit flavors with notes minerality and hints of white pepper and tangerine. Pair with popcorn shrimp.

Bayten 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Constantia, South Africa) $15 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Bayten is medium bodied, acidic and lively. The flavor profile is tart grapefruit with notes of lime, minerality, tangerine and hints of white pepper. Serve slightly chilled at the beach.

Santa Barbara Winery 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Santa Ynez Valley” (CA) $16 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc is interesting because it has a little oak mixed in. It displays green melon and Anjou pear flavors with notes of minerality with a touch of light oak and mild pineapple. Pair with chicken piccata!

Dry-Creek-Vineyard-2013-Sauvignon-BlancDry Creek Vineyard 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Dry Creek Valley” (California) $18 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc is crisp, acidic and mouthwatering. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused yellow grapefruit with notes nectarine and Anjou pear. It finishes dry and refreshing. Pair with seared scallops.

Kim Crawford 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) $19 (89)
This popular Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is light bodied, slightly acidic, mouthwatering and lively. The flavor profile is a classic tart grapefruit with notes of minerality and lime. Serve as an opener with appetizers.

Handley 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Anderson Valley” (CA) $18 (89)
This wine opens with a very fragrant tropical fruit like bouquet. It displays pineapple and green apple flavors with notes of tart yellow grapefruit, peach pit and a hint of lime. Pair with coconut shrimp and mango sauce.

Atalon 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” (CA) $20 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc is light bodied, slightly acidic, delicate and easy to drink. The flavor profile is a mild pear with hints of melon and green apple. The panel suggested pairing with grilled rainbow trout or steamed mussels.

Amayna 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Leyda Valley” (Chile) $25 (89)
Our first Chilean Sauvignon Blanc is medium bodied, balanced and easy to drink. It displays mild mineral infused gentle tangerine flavors with hints of white pepper and faint lime. Pair well with broiled scallops.

Grgich Hills 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Napa Valley, CA) $30 (89)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Grgich is light bodied, tangy and crisp. I liked its tart yellow grapefruit flavors with notes of green apple and hints of pineapple and quinine. Serve on a hot summer day with swordfish skewers.

Joseph Phelps 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “St. Helena” (CA) $35 (89)
This Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc is light to medium bodied and slightly acidic. It displays apple flavors with hints of Nilla wafer and a touch of lemon and honey. The panel suggested serving with mushroom and shrimp risotto.

Starborough-2013-Sauvignon-BlancStarborough 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Marlborough” (New Zealand) $11 (88)
This is a very good value offering. It is light bodied and nicely balanced between its fruit and gentle acidity. You will find a nice blend of gooseberry and grapefruit with hints of minerality, white pepper and lime. Pair with Thai food.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Fume Blanc” (Dry Creek, CA) $14 (88)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Dry Creek is light bodied, acidic and crisp. Its flavor profile is tart grapefruit with notes of minerality and hints of lime and tangerine. This wine would pair well steamed mussels.

Cono Sur 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Reserva Especial” (Casablanca Valley, Chile) $15 (88)
This Sauvignon Blanc from Chile is for fans of wines that love green peppers. It is light bodied, crisp and acidic. It displays pleasant green pepper flavors with hints of peas and minerality. Pair with chicken cacciatore.

Oberon 2013 Sauvignon Blanc “Napa Valley” (CA) $18 (88)
Our last 88 pointer is light bodied, acidic and crisp. Its flavor profile is mineral infused lime with hints of gooseberry and green apple. It finishes dry and its acidity and flavors linger. A perfect chilled beach option.

Kendall Jackson 2012 Sauvignon Blanc “Vintner’s Reserve” (CA) $13 (87)
This 87 point Sauvignon Blanc is a good value wine. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and mouthwatering. It has mild mineral infused tangerine and lime flavors with hints of pineapple. A quaffer for a hot summer day!

I hope you enjoy these Sauvignon Blancs as much as we did.  Enjoy the rest of you summer and please share with the group your favorites!  Cheers – Ken

Getting tired of the same summer routine? Switch it up with some out-of-the-box adventures and activities that will take the “average” right out of your summer vocabulary. You may be trying to cool off from the hot weather, but don’t look any further than Touring & Tasting’s summer wine country bucket list to add some heat to your next getaway! How many things can you check off before the leaves turn brown and autumn rolls in?

Where to Lay your Head
Accommodations to Watch

1. Spend an entire day in a robe and slippers at Wine & Roses
The name says it all. Between wine and romance, this destination provides guests with an experience that is perfectly rustic and luxurious. The quiet and secluded setting makes the perfect retreat and escape from day to day life, all while still being located in the heart of the Lodi wine country, which is rich with activities and opportunities to spend your day. If you’d rather stay on property during your visit, the award-winning spa, luscious gardens, and delicious restaurant are sure to keep you busy!

2. Cook a homemade dinner and enjoy it by the fireplace at Villa Terra Nova
If you’re looking for a more private vacation destination, Villa Terra Nova in Sonoma County is the perfect place for you to hide out this summer. The luxurious villa and two-bedroom guesthouse can accommodate up to 12 people, and encompass everything you’ve imagined in a fairytale dream house. With 3 acres of enchanting gardens, stone fireplace, a professionally equipped kitchen, and spacious bathrooms, it is guaranteed to be the romantic getaway you’ve been waiting for, and will be your new home away from home in beautiful Sonoma wine country.

Where to Taste
Wineries to Watch

3. Have a picnic at Buttonwood Farm Winery
The owners of Buttonwood are dedicated to preserving and nurturing the land they have been blessed with, and their efforts in sustainable farming as well as maintaining high quality wines are everywhere. From the flowers on the table, to the fresh produce, to the wine in your glass, everything at Buttonwood property is fresh, organic, and grown right on property—try their peaches!

4. Taste a glass (or two) of delicious sparkling wines from Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards
For over 100 years, the Ferrers have been sticking to their Spanish roots and producing a portfolio of wines that any true veteran would be proud of. Although famous for their delicious Pinot Noirs, Gloria Ferrer Vineyards is also pouring other unique varietals. Gloria Ferrer sparkling wine is defined by their commitment to Pinot Noir with more than nine sparkling wines. Gloria Ferrer uses a gentle hand when carefully preserving each grape’s unique capacity for reflecting terroir with patience in the methode champenoise. This special care has awarded Gloria Ferrer more than 400 gold medals in the last five years.

Where to Explore
Places to Watch

5. Eat fresh seafood and explore the beach towns of San Luis Obispo County
With over 280 wineries and endless opportunities for exploration along the 80 miles of beautiful California coastline, having your cake and eating it too in San Luis Obispo County is more than possible. Spend the day soaking up the sun and friendly beach vibes in Pismo Beach or Avila Beach, or perhaps hop over to Morro Bay, your one stop destination for water sports and ocean-side adventure.

6. Go on a hike, then reward yourself with a glass of wine in Woodinville Wine Country
Just 30 minutes outside of the bustling Seattle city life, amazing Woodinville has been able to maintain its small town charm, making it the perfect oasis for your next summer vacation. Woodinville is home to over 100 tasting rooms and wineries, and encompasses all the Washington wine country has to offer. After a glass of wine, take a stroll down one of the many trails, relax by the river, enjoy the plentiful land flourishing in fresh produce and lavender, or sit back and listen to some live music. Whatever you decide, Woodinville is sure to meet all of your summer relaxation needs!

7. Watch the winemaking process in action while tasting in the Woodinville Warehouse District
If you find yourself in Woodinville wine country, this is a must-see destination. The old industrial area of Woodinville has been transformed into the new urban hot spot for avid wine-seekers, complete with 55 tasting rooms and a unique atmosphere that visitors can’t get enough of. Taste a flight right in the heart of all the madness of the wine making world, and get a front row seat to how that magical concoction made it into your glass as you watch the winemaking process from start to finish being completed right there in the same room!

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

The summer is an ideal time to pull out your dry Roses. I prefer to enjoy them at cellar temperature. (58 degrees) You might like them even chilled a bit more. Either way, the best ones are a terrific option to consider on a hot summer day. Dry Roses are also perfect for the lighter foods you are likely to enjoy near the pool or on the beach. I have covered several options for you to consider. Most are well priced and affordable. So we will start with a 92 pointer from Tablas Creek. The 2013 “Dianthus” for $27 is made from 57% Mourvedre, 28% Grenache and 15% Counoise. It definitely was the one of the best dry Roses that I have covered in a while. On the palate, you will find it to be medium bodied, very nicely balanced and super polished. The flavor profile is a tasty mild mineral infused clementine and gentle strawberry blend with a splash of pilsner beer in the background. It finishes dry and its flavors fade away nicely. You will find this to be a terrific summer quaffer and would pair nicely with a grilled mahi-mahi sandwich.

The next two Roses were awarded 91 points. We will start with the Donelan 2013 Rose for $20. This gem is made from 70% Grenache, 16% Pinot Noir and 14% Syrah. In addition to being a very classy wine, this offering also wins the best looking bottle award. This Rose is medium bodied, balanced and very elegant. It displays tasty mild strawberry and gentle red cherry flavors with hints of oak and watermelon. It finishes dry and gracefully drifts away. If you are looking for a Rose wine that will impress someone, look no further. This one will do the trick. Serve it with light foods.

The 2013 Benovia “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $24 is very good. It opens with a faint red cherry and strawberry bouquet. I found it to be nicely balanced and very smooth. The flavor profile is a tasty mild tangerine with hints of red raspberry. I also detected some gentle minerality and spice mixed in as well. This Rose is very food friendly and like the “Dianthus” would pair well with grilled mahi-mahi.

The next four Roses all scored 90 points. We will start with the 2013 Left Coast Cellars “Rose of Pinot Noir” for $18. This very affordable wine is salmon colored and opens with a fragrant and appealing strawberry bouquet with hints of red cherry and a whiff of pilsner beer. I found it to be light to medium bodied and smooth as silk. It was very easy to quaff. Its flavor profile was a mild strawberry and gentle cherry blend with hints of minerality. Pour it at the beach with friends or serve it with a flaky white fish.

The next 90 point winner is the 2013 J Vineyards “Vin Gris” for $20. This gem is light pink colored and opens with an inviting mild strawberry and gentle wet stone bouquet. This offering is medium bodied and displays nice gentle acidity. It has tasty mild mineral infused and gentle strawberry flavors with hints of watermelon. It finishes dry and its flavors fade away nicely. This Rose is very food friendly and would pair well with many foods. I would pair it with chicken satay.

Blackbird consistently makes very good wines. Their 2013 “Arriviste” Rose from the Napa Valley is no exception and as it was very easy to enjoy. It is made from 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot & 20% Cabernet Franc. It displays tasty strawberry and mild mineral flavors with faint hints of raspberry. I found it to be food friendly. It would pair very well with grilled rainbow trout.

Our last 90 pointer is from Cakebread Cellars. Their 2013 “Vin de Porche” for $25 is made from 86% Pinot Noir with 14% Syrah mixed in. This offering is medium bodied, slightly acidic, lush and really fills your mouth. I enjoyed its mineral infused sweet ripe strawberry flavors with hints of green apple. This dry rose is rather food friendly and would pair well with fried calamari or popcorn shrimp.

Our only 89 pointer is from Andrew Murray. It is a true quaffer. His 2013 “Esperance Rose” for $20 opens with a pleasant strawberry and mild wet stone bouquet. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. The flavor profile is a mild mineral infused red cherry with a hint of clementine. It finishes dry and very refreshing. I would serve it slightly chilled on very hot day. With food, I would choose broiled scallops.

The next set of Roses are our 88 pointers. These are all Very Good and some are really good values. We will do a quick description of each.

Charles Smith 2012 Rose “Charles & Charles” (Columbia Valley, WA) $12
This light pink dry rose is made mostly with Syrah. It is light bodied, balanced and savory. It displays mineral infused strawberry flavors with hints plum and Anjou pear. It’s dry and refreshing. Serve it chilled at the beach.

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2013 “Pinot Noir Dry Rose” (Finger Lakes, NY) $13
This Finger Lakes based Rose from Dr. Frank is made from Pinot Noir. It is slightly acidic and juicy. Its flavor profile is a tangy clementine and strawberry blend with notes of spice and nicely integrated minerality. I also picked up hints of maraschino cherry in the background. I would pair it with steamed mussels.

Las Rocas 2013 Rose “Calatayud” (Spain) $14
This dark pink Rose is made from 100% Grenache. It is light bodied, lively and crisp. Its flavor profile is a mild mineral infused strawberry with hints of red cherry and watermelon. It’s a perfect beach quaffer to be served chilled.

Kanonkop 2013 “Pinotage Rose” (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $15
This dark pink colored wine from South Africa is made from the Pinotage grape. It is medium bodied and easy going. It displays mild mineral infused gentle strawberry flavors with hints of red raspberry. Serve it slightly chilled with bacon wrapped scallops.

Navarro 2013 Rose “Mendocino” (California) $18
This light salmon colored wine is medium bodied and mouthwatering. It displays mineral infused strawberry flavors with hints of red apple and cherry. This is a very nice quaffer for your party on the beach this summer.

Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Rose “Petite Zin” (Dry Creek, CA) $19
This dark strawberry colored wine is made from Zinfandel and Petite Sirah and is very unique. It is slightly acidic and mouthwatering. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused red raspberry and red plum blend with hints of watermelon. This quaffer should be served slightly chilled with bacon wrapped grilled shrimp.

Isabel Mondavi 2013 “Deep Rose” (Napa Valley, California) $20
This Rose is made from mostly Cabernet. It is light to medium bodied, balanced, and easy to drink. I enjoyed its gentle orange and strawberry flavors. It is food friendly. Serve it slightly chilled and with grilled mahi-mahi.

Handley 2013 “Pinot Noir Rose” (Anderson Valley, CA) $22
This dark pink colored wine made from Pinot Noir is light bodied, slightly acidic and has a round mouthfeel. Its flavor profile is a mineral infused strawberry with notes of watermelon. Perfect for salmon kabobs.

The final two are affordable Good Value Roses. Both received 86 point scores.

Barefoot NV “Refresh Perfectly Pink” (California) $8
This light pink colored wine actually has bubbles. It is light to medium bodied, balanced and pleasant. It is slightly sweet with mild red raspberry flavors and hints of cherry and gentle minerality. It’s refreshing!

Artadi 2013 “Artazuri Rosado” (Navarra, Spain) $11
This dark pink colored wine is crisp and displays refreshing acidity. It displays mild mineral infused strawberry flavors with notes of watermelon and a hint of red cherry. It is dry and refreshing. Serve chilled on the beach.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in our busy schedules, and often times we find ourselves staring at the clock, wishing we had some superpower to fast-forward through the workday. While we may not be Superman, we do have wine, which is pretty close. Summer is the absolute perfect time to kick back, relax, and sip on a refreshing glass of your favorite wine. This summer, leave the front porch and try something new by visiting one of the many incredible wine country destinations California has to offer. Sifting through them can be challenging, we know, but Touring & Tasting is your one stop tour guide to showing you the best new relaxation spots this summer. If you’re feeling burnt-out from your exhausting daily routine, don’t wait another minute to plan your getaway! The weather isn’t the only thing heating up this time of year…here is our list of hot wine country finds!

Madera Wine Trail
Since the 1800’s Madera County has been one of the largest premium wine grape-producing counties in California, and over 200 years later, it remains one of California’s best-kept secrets. It’s combination of fertile soil, close proximity to Yosemite National Park, and countless opportunities for exploring in the nearby area make it an irresistible destination for your next summer getaway. While Madera County has typically been praised for their dessert and port wines, they’re no one hit wonder. Over the years, wineries have been gaining recognition and received awards for a variety of different wines. Wine is just the cherry on top to all that this stunning region has to offer. Find your inner adventurer as you hike through the famous trails in Yosemite, or perhaps through the scenic Sierra National Forest. Throw a line out at Bass Lake, or simply spend the day floating on the glassy water. Whatever you decide, it is sure to be an unforgettable summer adventure.

Skinner Vineyards
Skinner Vineyards is maintaining a 150-year family legacy by producing Rhone-inspired wines with a California twist. Their location in the Sierra Foothills allows for exciting experimentation with various elevations and soil types that produce unique and diverse wines, which are loved for their complexity. This summer, sip on one of these exciting wines as you enjoy the picturesque steep vineyard and mountainous landscape from the 360-degree views from the tasting room. Invite friends to share stories on the spacious outdoor patio, or plan your trip around one of the many food, wine. and music events they hold throughout the year!

Westerly Wines
Westerly Wines is located in the Santa Ynez Valley, and sources its fruit from both Crown Point Vineyard and Santa Rita Hills. Westerly Wines are both reflect and inspired by the diversity of Santa Barbara Country, and its winemaker is constantly striving for perfection and improvement, with the current intention of producing a single-vineyard 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Join winemaker Adam Henkel for a friendly and personal tour of the winery, taste the latest samples, and learn about the bright future ahead of Westerly Wines as you explore the beautiful property.

Bodega Bay Lodge
Just 30 minutes away from the bountiful wine regions of Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys, Bodega Bay Lodge is every wine lover’s perfect pairing to their summer weekend getaway. With eight acres of stunning oceanfront property, Bodega Bay Lodge has something to offer everyone. Treat yourself with a massage or facial during day at the spa, or blow off some steam in the state-of-the-art workout facility. Satisfy your cravings with a five star dining experience at The Duck Club restaurant, and savor in the coastal cuisine from which it got its fame as you admire the stunning ocean views. Wind-down after a long day in the luxurious rooms that will make any guest immediately feel at home.

Trinchero Napa Valley
Trinchero Napa Valley Winery has been producing fine small lot wines since 1948, and is known for its success in crafting single vineyard wines. The vineyards sites may be small, but the wines pack a big punch in flavor, each with its own unique taste and distinct terrior.  Winemaker Mario Montecelli carefully selects every detail and ingredient that makes his wines unique, and he is eager to share his exceptional wine knowledge with his visitors.  If you are looking for something more than a traditional tasting in the quaint remodeled farmhouse, join in on one of their daily seminars that offer in-depth and personal insight into Trinchero Winery, or enjoy a sit down tasting in the cellar room paired with cheeses that have been handpicked by culinary experts.

Michael David Winery
We’ve all been told not to judge a book by its cover, but with Michael David’s visually stimulating labels, this is hardly the case. Feel free to pick up one of their wines purely by the eye-catching appearance, because what’s inside will not let you down. Enjoy a glass of their well-known “7 Deadly Sins” blended from seven different Old Vine Zinfandel vineyards, or try one of their other non-traditional blends. Visitors are invited to picnic on the beautiful pet-friendly property, or they may choose to savor in the fresh ingredients served daily at their restaurant.  The names aren’t the only thing catching on at Michael David winery, plan your next summer weekend in Lodi and see for yourself!

Tri-Valley, CA
Located just 30 minutes outside of the bustling and vibrant San Francisco is the quiet oasis of Tri-Valley. It is composed of 5 cities, (Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon), each bringing something unique to the table while all still maintaining the same small town charm that Tri-Valley is known and loved for.  This beloved region stretches it’s way into the 50+ wineries of Livermore Valley, offering a personal tasting experience that visitors enjoy far beyond what is in their glass. Tri-Valley is anything but boring, providing a plethora of activities to choose from including 17 golf courses, beautiful hiking and cycling trails , horseback riding in Sunol, and so much more. Whether you want a quick escape from a stay in the city, or a whole weekend solely to enjoy it’s friendly vibes, Tri-Valley will instantly become your home away from home.

Charles Krug Winery
Charles Krug Winery is the oldest winery in Napa Valley. However, this winery has learned far more than just a few new tricks, using its experience and unbelievable property to evolve and grow with the ever-changing wine industry.  While maintaining their legacy with their well-known classically restrained wines and authenticity, they have put a modern twist to the family business with a newly remodeled winery, and a sustainable 3-acre culinary garden that services the Culinary Institute of America. Next time you are in Napa Valley, indulge yourself in the rich history while sipping of one of their classic wines in the Redwood Cellar Lounge. Or perhaps, take your wine to go and enjoy a picnic on property instead.

LangeTwins Family Winery
The LangeTwins, Randall and Brad Lange, are part of a long-running generation of farmers that have been practicing sustainable farming since the 1870’s. They have been recognized for their countless efforts towards protecting our ecosystem, and also for their delicious wines.  With the guidance and expertise of winemaker David Akiyosh, formerly of Robert Mondavi Winery, the LangeTwins Family Winery produces an impressive compilation of estate, reserve, and single-barrel wines. Visit the Press Room, LangeTwins Winery’s new sleek tasting room, for a private tour and tasting, but be sure to make an appointment in advance to ensure your chance to experience all they have to offer.

HammerSky Vineyards & Inn
HammerSky Vineyards & Inn is quite possibly the most enchanting stop off of the winding roads of Paso Robles. The century old farmhouse and barn brings a vintage and rustic feel that pairs beautifully with the modern tasting room that is serving some of the most innovative and intriguing blends found in the Paso Robles region. HammerSky is able to offer visitors more than the traditional winery experience by inviting them to stay the night on property in the charming farmhouse and barn. The remarkable landscape makes HammerSky the perfect location for a quite weekend getaway, and especially for intimate weddings and family gatherings. Whatever the occasion, HammerSky will take your breath away with its beauty and charm.

The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.

Cheers – Ken

As we approach summer, I’m starting to think more about grilling. When it comes to grilling, I think about Zin’s and barbecue sauce. Whether its ribs or steak tips, Zin goes great with both. We purposely cover Zins in the winter so we have them all reviewed and posted before grilling season.

Our top Zin comes from one of the famous “R’s” in Zinfandel. The 2011 Ravenswood “Barricia” Zinfandel from the Sonoma Valley is $35 a bottle. I awarded it 92 points. It is made from 75% Zinfandel along with 25% Petite Sirah. On the palate, I found this wine to be balanced, fruit forward and juicy. I really enjoyed its ripe boysenberry flavors with notes of blackberry. I also detected hints of vanilla, oak, wintergreen, and black cherry which really added to its complexity. It finishes dry and its fruit flavors and mild tannins linger for quite some time. Slowly cook up some beef brisket and enjoy!

Our next Zin was a new discovery for me at this year’s Boston Wine Expo. It is just becoming available nationwide and is a steal for just under $20.We gave the 2012 Upstream Zinfandel from Lodi, 91 points. This Zin is not your classic fruit bomb. Instead it is more like a rich blue fruited Syrah styled wine. We loved its very smooth and silky texture on the palate. It displays tasty blueberry flavors with hints of black cherry and a touch of oak and licorice. It finishes dry and its moderate tannins stick around and linger for quite some time. You can pair this Zin with a well-marbled ribeye steak off the grill.

The next three 91 pointers are more expensive, but worthy of your investment. We start with the 2011 Hunnicutt Zinfandel from the Napa Valley. It is 100% Zinfandel and it delivers a full bodied style that is fruit forward, lush and smooth. I really liked its tasty ripe blueberry flavors with notes of boysenberry jam and a touch of plum, pepper and mild oak towards the end. This is a really good drinking Zin. Enjoy it with a filet mignon.

Next up is the 2010 Bella “Rocky Ridge Vineyard” Zinfandel for $45. This pitch black colored gem opens with fragrant blackberry jam bouquet with hints of red currant, pomegranate, and oak. On the palate, it is medium bodied, slightly acidic and fruit forward. It displays a ripe blackberry flavors with hints of black currant, anise, and dried cranberry. This Zin would pair well with grilled salmon.

Our final 91 pointer is another entry from Ravenswood. Their 2011 “Old Hill” Zin from the Sonoma Valley is very good and will appeal to traditional Zin fans. It displays a classic style in that it is medium bodied, very juicy and fruit forward. The flavor profile is an oak infused blackberry with notes of black raspberry. I also detected some minerality, cola and plum. It finishes dry and its fruit flavors last for quite some time. I would pair beauty with barbecue bourbon steak tips off the grill.

Now we have six 90 pointers that I want to tell you about. We will start off with a wine that the tasting panel purchased in bulk after our first Big Blind tasting. The 2010 Murphy Goode “Liar’s Dice” Zinfandel for $21 was deemed the best value Zin by our panel. It opens with an inviting blackberry jam and black licorice like bouquet with hints of cherry-cola. The panel described it as medium bodied, slightly acidic and fruit forward with tasty red currant flavors. They also detected notes of oak, red plum, cinnamon and cherry-cola. This is a full blown fruit bomb styled Zin. The panel suggested pairing it with a king cut prime rib.

The next two offerings are both from Ravenswood. (They had a stellar year in 2011) The first is the 2011 “Big River” Zinfandel from the Alexander Valley. This wine is medium bodied, balanced and juicy with ripe red plum flavors with hints of black raspberry, peppermint, coffee, and milk chocolate. A very interesting combination indeed. The next Ravenswood Zin is their 2011 “Dickerson” from Napa Valley. This Zin is acidic and juicy with a flavor profile that is a blend of pomegranate and blackberry. I also detected hints of oak, minerality, and dried cranberry as well. The finish is dry and its fruit flavors linger for quite a while. I would pair both of these Zin’s with braised short ribs. They both cost $35 a bottle.

Peachy Canyon makes the list with their 2011 “Mustard Springs” Zinfandel for $38. This very good wine opens with a fragrant and attractive black cherry and boysenberry like bouquet. On the palate, it is medium bodied, balanced, and savory. The panel really liked its tasty blueberry and cherry vanilla flavors with hints of cinnamon, clove and plum. It finishes dry and its moderate tannins fade away nicely. The panel felt that this Zin would pair nicely with Colorado lamb chops.

Bella’s second entry was well received by the tasting panel. The 2010 Zinfandel “Lily Hill Estate” for $40 is full bodied, fruit forward, and juicy. They enjoyed its very tasty red plum flavors while also picking up notes of rhubarb and black cherry and a hint of cinnamon as well. A second glass is definitely in order declared one taster. They suggested pairing this tasty Zin with a wild boar Bolognese over penne or pan roasted duck breast.

Our final 90 pointer was from a new winery for me. The Dutcher’s Crossing 2012 Zin from the famous “Maple Vineyard” in the Dry Creek Valley was impressive. The panel was mostly impressed by its tasty blueberry flavors with hints of red berries and a dash of black pepper. They suggested pairing this food friendly Zin with filet mignon.

We will close this report with some quick hits on our Very Good 89 and 88 pointers.

Alexander Valley Vineyards 2011 Zinfandel “Sin Zin” (Alexander Valley, CA) $20 (89)
This Zin is balanced and very easy to drink. The flavor profile is blackberry with notes of black pepper, spice, oak, and blueberry. It finishes dry and its dusty tannins stick around for a little while. While this Zin is not overly complex, it is food friendly. We suggest pairing it with a mushroom burger with cheddar cheese.

Ravenswood 2011 Zinfandel “Teldeschi” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $35 (89)
This Zin is full bodied, acidic and energetic. The flavor profile is an unusual blend of blackberry and cola with hints of oak, pomegranate, and black pepper. The panel suggested pairing this Zin with short ribs.

Dashe 2010 Zinfandel “Todd Brothers Ranch” (Alexander Valley, CA) $35 (89)
This Zin is medium bodied, balanced, and easy going. Its flavor profile is a tasty mild blackberry with hints of black cherry, blueberry and oak. The panel suggested pairing this wine with a roast leg of lamb.

Ridge 2011 Zinfandel “Lytton Springs” (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $38 (89)
This Zin is medium bodied, slightly acidic, and mouthwatering. It displays mild red raspberry flavors with hints of spicy plum and pomegranate. I also detected a touch of oak in the background. This Zin blend is very food friendly. The panel suggested pairing it with slow cooked beef brisket or lamb stew.

Rancho Zabaco 2012 Zinfandel “Sonoma Heritage Vines” (Sonoma County, CA) $15 (88)
This Zin is likely one of the best deals in this report and likely the easiest wine to find. It is medium bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and very fruity. The flavor profile is a blend of ripe red plum with hints of cranberry, red currant and a touch of oak. It would be perfect for braised short ribs.

Edmeades 2011 Zinfandel “Mendocino” (CA) $20 (88)
This Zinfandel based blend from Mendocino is another good value option. It is medium bodied, acidic and approachable. The panel liked its gentle plum flavors with hints of cherry-cola and touch of oak. The panel unanimously thought this would be a perfect Zin to have with your favorite wood-grilled pizza.

Duckhorn 2012 Zinfandel “Decoy” (Sonoma Coast, CA) $20 (88)
This Zin from Duckhorn is medium bodied, balanced, approachable and fruit forward. Its flavor profile is a ripe red raspberry with hints of red plum and gentle oak. I would pair this fruity Zin with some slow cooked beef brisket.

Dashe 2011 Zinfandel “Dry Creek Valley” (CA) $24 (88)
This Zin is medium bodied, slightly acidic and juicy. The flavor profile is a gentle raspberry and tart cherry blend with hints of minerality and faint old oak. This Zinfandel would pair well with a barbecue bacon burger.

I hope you enjoy this group of Zinfandels as much as we did. I am sure these wines will enhance your grilling season and make your guests smile a lot at your summer outings. Please feel free to share your favorite Zins with the group.

Cheers – Ken

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