The Best of North Coast Rhone Wines

I attended the North Coast (California) Chapter of the  Rhone Rangers (“NCRR”) tasting last month.  The tasting was held in Oakland, at Campovida’s Taste of Place Oakland.

With the Rhone Rangers riding into the Bay Area next week, April 5-6 for the 17th Annual Rhone Rangers San Francisco Bay Area Weekend Celebration of American RhonesI thought I’d share some of my favorites from the NCRR tasting.

The NCRR, a regional chapter of the Rhone Rangers, is dedicated to the education and promotion of Rhone varietals and Rhone blends to local trade, media, and consumers, and of the wineries in Napa, Sonoma, Lake & Mendocino counties as a top California region in the production of outstanding Rhone varietal grapes and wines. In other words…sure Paso’s got the big rep for Rhone, but we get our Rhone on here in Nor Cal too! 


Source: (click to enlarge)

The NCRR puts on smaller, more focused events which provide the opportunity for more engagement with the wineries (more often than not it’s the owner/winemaker behind the tables pouring).  Most of the NCRR member wineries are are small, family run operations, making very small lot of wine.

I loved the smaller scale and more intimate feel of this event, which was also well organized.  And the price was definitely right at $20 ( I attended as a media guest).  And what’s a wine event without some food?  There was also delicious paella from Nora – Paella and Spanish Catering available for sale!

NCRR Paella

There were 12 wineries pouring at the event.  Half the wineries were from East Bay and are part of the East Bay Vintners Alliance, a guest sponsor of the event.  All attendees received a clipboard with up-to-date, detailed information about the wines being poured, which was quite helpful.  I tasted 45 wines.

My favorite wines (rated 90 points, or higher) from the tasting were:

  •  2006 Arrowood Syrah Saralee’s Vineyard
The Best of North Coast Rhone Rangers

Arrowood Wines

  • 2011 Carica Wines Grenache, Eaglepoint Ranch
  • 2012 Campovida Roussanne Bonofiglio Vineyards
  • 2012 Campovida Campo di Blanca Riserva
  • 2009 Cornerstone Cellars Syrah Stepping Stone
  • 2011 Cornerstone Cellars Syrah Stepping Stone
  • 2011 Eric Kent Wine Cellars Grenache The Barrel Climber
  • 2010 JC Cellars Syrah Rockpile Vineyard
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars Petite Sirah
  • 2010 Stage Left Cellars The ExPat
  • 2011 Stark Viognier Damiano Vineyard

Christian and Jen Stark

  • 2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard
  • 2012 Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc Saralee’s Vineyard
  • 2011 Two Shepherds Pastoral Rouge
  • 2011 Two Shepherds Syrah | Mourvedre
  • 2010 Urban Legend Grenache
photo 1 (11)

Two Shepherds “All-Stars” line-up

Part of what I really enjoy about events like this is that I get to try new to me producers.  Such was the case with Arrowood Vineyards and Winery, Eric Kent Cellars, and Stark Wine Co.  I also discovered that Urban Legend, a winery that I know for their fine Italian grape varietal wines like Barbera, and Teroldego has expanded their repertoire to include Rhone grape varieties. A very pleasant surprise indeed!

Urban Legend Owner/ Winemaker – Steve Shaffer

All attendees were asked to vote for their favorite wines of the day.  My favorite red was the 2011 Two Shepherds Pastoral Rouge. My favorite white was the 2012 Campovida Campo di Blanca – a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier.

Be sure to check out the Rhone Rangers 17th Annual Rhone Rangers celebration next weekend.  It’s a great chance to tasted over 400 wines (Glad I had a wee bit of a head start at the NCRR tasting!) from more than 100 wineries, including Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, White Blends, Rosés, Syrah, Grenache, Red Blends and some Petite Sirah too!  The Grand Tasting will be at a new location, the world-class Craneway Pavillion, Fort Point Richmond.

Hope to see you at the big Rhone Rangers event next week!

Related posts you might enjoy:


Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

East Bay Wine And Food Events For August 10th-12th

One of the reasons I love living is the Bay Area is its proximity to so many great wine regions – Sonoma, Napa, Santa Cruz Mountains to name a few.  But I also dig that I don’t have to get in the car and drive for 60-90 minutes to get to some great wineries, and wine events.  There are lots of urban wineries in the East Bay, and the Livermore Valley wine region is only about a 20 minute drive for me.

I was doing some planning for my birthday next weekend, August 10th-12th, and noticed there is a trio of great East Bay wine and food events on tap.

Friday – August 10th

Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda is going to be the place to be.  On Friday evening from 5-9P, they are hosting Rock Wall Food Truck Frenzy (click here to find out more and buy tickets).  Besides some great wines, Rockwall is a great venue for events.  Check out what they say…

Rock Wall is located in a 40,000 sq. ft. airplane hangar on the former Alameda Naval Airbase and our winery and tasting room boasts spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline.

Some of the Bay Area’s best food trucks will be on hand to dish some great gourmet street food.  A DJ will be dropping the beats, and of course there are the great Rockwall wines served by the glass! I’ve been to a couple of these.  You will NOT leave hungry, and they’re big fun!

Saturday – August 11th

Rock Wall is the place to be again on Saturday for ZAP Grill-O-Rama, the quintessential Zinfandel and BBQ-a-palooza! (click here to find out more and buy tickets) hosted by The Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (“ZAP”).

Image courtesy of ZAP – Zinfandel Producers & Advocates

This is the “Big Dog” of the three events!  According to ZAP…

Attendees will discover the distinct flavors of Zinfandel from up and down California including the Bay Area, Lodi, Napa, Paso Robles, Sierra Foothills, and Sonoma: this is an opportunity to taste and compare 30 different Zinfandels from 9 growing regions. 4 savvy chefs—Chef Tyler Stone, Chef John Ledbetter of Bocanova, Chef Dawn Wofford of Sonoma Smokehouse and Chef Sophina Uong of Pican—will fire up the grills to create tantalizing tastes served alongside the wines. A “People’s Choice” award will be chosen by the attendees.

The weather forecast for next weekend is looking great, so look for the hangar doors to be open, with those fantabulous views in full-effect at Rock Wall!  Of the 30 or so wineries on hand a few of my East Bay favorites, Dashe Cellars, JC Cellars and of course Rock Wall will be pouring their Zins.  Hit me up in the comments if you’d like my recommendations from Lodi, Napa, and Paso…

Sunday – August 12th

And last, but not least there’s the Nile Canyon Railway Livermore Valley Wine Tasting Special (click here to find out more and buy tickets). It’s Livermore Valley’s version of the Napa Wine Train.  You’ll learn about the historic Niles Canyon Railway, which has been rolling through Niles Canyon since 1869, and taste Livermore Valley wines paired with hors d’oeuvres.

It’s going to be a great weekend for wine and food events in the East Bay! Check ’em out!

2012 Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting Recap

As a media guest, I attended the 15th annual “Celebration of American Rhone Wines” in San Francisco last weekend.  It was my first Rhone Rangers tasting.  Rhone Rangers is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the Rhone varietal wines produced in the U.S.  It was a huge, but well-organized two-day event.  Saturday featured educational seminars (including one called “Wine & Swine, A Pairing of American Rhone Wines And Bacon”  complete with a “Baconologist”!) and a fund raising winemaker dinner/auction. And Sunday, which I attended, featured more seminars and the Grand Tasting.

By my count, there were 114 wineries and 500 or so wines available for tasting!  With that many  wineries/wines I knew I needed a plan to maximize the 3 hours I set aside for the event.  I decided to only taste “GSM” (predominately composed of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre) blends, with 30 minutes at the end for what I call “taster’s choice” (more on that later).  When I attend an event like this, in addition to focusing on a single varietal or style of wine,  I try to further narrow my focus by tasting wines from wineries that are new to me.  That meant I was going to have to skip favorites like Bonny Doon, Core, Frick, Quivira, and Tercero.  That’s always a challenge for me because my vinous conscious seems to constantly whisper in my ear… “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”.  Thus the “tasters choice” where I allow myself to a.) taste wines from some of my favorite wineries, and b.) the option of not writing tasting notes.

That was the plan.  But as Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf  once said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.  Well at least mine didn’t!  Not for this year anyway.  I quickly realized that “Red Blend” per the program, didn’t necessarily translate into GSMs. That’s not a bad thing, I love the diversity of style here in California as opposed to the more constrained Rhône models.  But, as a result, I vastly underestimated how many “Red Blend” wines were available.  I got through the A-L wineries (the wineries were organized in alphabetical order) when I realized I only had 30 or so minutes left for my “taster’s choice”.  Oh well, I did taste about four dozen very good to excellent wines. That’s a great day in my book…and there’s always next year!

On to the wines I sniffed, sipped and  (mostly) spit!

My favorite wines (rated 90 points or higher) were:

  • 2008 Calcareous Trés Violet
  • 2007 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Vertigo
  • 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Le Thief
  • 2007 Hearthstone Vineyards and Winery Lodestone
  • 2009 Inspiration Vineyards Syrah
  • 2009 Jada Vineyard Hell’s Kitchen
  • 2009 JC Cellars Misc. Stuff
  • 2009 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem
  • 2009 Justin Vineyards & Winery Savant
  • 2011 Lagier Meredith Syrah Rosé
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Syrah
  • 2010 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The Globetrotter
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The ExPat
  • 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas
  • 2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel

My complete tasting notes  and ratings follow:

  • 2010 Adelaida Version White – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Tropical fruit, peach, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied with tropical fruit, peach, and slight mineral flavors. Medium finish (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Adelaida Version Red – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Berry, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied smooth with dark cherry, raspberry flavors. Medium finish (88 pts.)

Maggie Tillman - Alta Colina

  • 2009 Alta Colina GSM – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Red fruit and oak aromas with ripe raspberry and cherry flavors. Smooth with a medium long finish (89 pts.)
  • 2009 AmByth Estate Adamo – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy,floral red berry aromas. On the palate, light-bodied with tart raspberry, cherry flavors. Blend of Grenache (59%), Mourvèdre (17%), Syrah (13%), and Counoise (11% (87 pts.)
  • 2009 AmByth Estate ReVera – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark red fruit, garrigue aromas. Light-bodied with tart dark cherry, and spice flavors. Blend of Mourvedre (57%), Grenache (22%), Syrah (11%), and Counoise (10%) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 AmByth Estate Maiestas – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark fruit, and slight floral aromas. Light-bodied with tart dark cherry blackberry flavors. Blend of Syrah (45%), Mourvedre (20%), Counoise (20%), and Grenache  (15%) (86 pts.)
  • 2011 Anglim Rosé – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Red fruit, and citrus aromas. Light-bodied, dry and well balanced with raspberry citrus flavors.  100% Syrah. (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Beckmen Vineyards Cuvée Le Bec – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Dark red fruit and herbs de provence aromas. Light-bodied with fruity slightly tart raspberry, dark cherry, and spice flavors (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Calcareous Trés Violet – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Pretty dark red fruit, violet, and baking spice aromas. Medium-bodied with black cherry, raspberry flavors. Blend of Syrah (42%), Mourvedre (29%), and Grenache (29%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Caliza Winery Cohort – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fresh blackberry, plum with a hint of musky aromas. Medium bodied with slightly tart blackberry, raspberry and hint of mocha flavors. Blend of Syrah (55%), Petite Sirah, (20%), Primitivo (20%) and Grenache (5%) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Caliza Winery Azimuth – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Dark fruit, cinnamon/clove and oak aromas. Medium bodied, young with blackberry, cocoa, and cinnamon/clove flavors. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Clos Saron Out of the Blue – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Red fruit, raisiny plum, and slight floral aromas. Light-bodied with good acidity, and tart cherry, plum flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre and Syrah. (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Clos Saron Holy Moly – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Smoky, raisiny cherry aromas. Raisiny tart baked cherry flavors. Blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (87 pts.)
  • 2006 Clos Saron Syrah La Cuvée Mysterieuse – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Baked red fruits and slight oak aroma. Light-medium bodied with tart cherry flavors. Blend of Syrah and Merlot (86 pts.)
  • 2008 Cosa Obra Proprietor’s Blend – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Black currant, earthy, spicy aromas . Medium-bodied with blackberry and spice flavors. (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Cosa Obra Proprietor’s Blend – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Tight dark fruit and spice aromas. Medium-bodied and a bit tannic with blackberry, black cherry and spice flavors. Needs some time. (88 pts.)
  • 2008 Crystal Basin Cellars Victorie – Grand Reserve – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado
    Dark red fruit with slight floral aromas. Light-bodied with black cherry, blackberry flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (33%), Syrah (34%) and Grenache (33%). (86 pts.)
  • 2007 Curtis Reserve – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Smokey dark red fruit, clove and floral aromas. Medium-bodied with red currant, black cherry and spice flavors. A blend of Grenache (50%), Syrah (25%) and Mourvèdre (25%) (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Curtis Heritage Cuvée – USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Dark red fruit and slight resinous aromas. Light-bodied with tart cherry, raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (39%), Mourvèdre (26%), Cinsault (19%) and Syrah (16%) (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Domaine de la Terre Rouge Tête-à-Tête – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Spicy red and black fruits, and oak aromas. Light-bodied with cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre & Grenache Very good value at $18 (87 pts.)
  • 2008 Domaine de la Terre Rouge L’Autre – USA, California, Sierra Foothills
    Cherry, raspberry, and vanillin oak aromas. Approaching medium-bodied with black cherry, and vanilla flavors (88 pts.)

Edward Sellers of the eponymous winery

  • 2007 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Vertigo – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Smokey, baking spice, dark red fruit aromas. Medium-bodied, velvety with silky tannins, and dark cherry, raspberry, and vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Grenache (71%), Mourvèdre (16%), and Syrah(13%) (90 pts.)
  • 2008 Edward Sellers Vineyards and Wines Le Thief – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy cinnamon black fruits, and slightly musky aromas. Medium-bodied with black cherry, blackberry, and vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Syrah (56%), Mourvèdre (26%),Grenache (12%),and Cinsault (6%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Folin Cellars Misceo – USA, Oregon, Southern Oregon, Rogue Valley
    Low-key red currant, cherry, and cedarwood aromas. Medium-bodied, and smooth with cherry, and red currant flavors. Blend of Syrah (50%), Mourvèdre (37%), and Grenache (13%) (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Hahn Winery GSM – USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County
    Berry and spice aromas. Light-bodied, and smooth with blackberry, and raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (62%), Syrah (34%), and Mourvèdre (4%) (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Hearthstone Vineyards and Winery Slipstone Rhone – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fruity cherry ,and spice aromas. Approaching medium-bodied with fruit-forward cherry, and raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (65%), and Syrah(35%) (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Hearthstone Vineyards and Winery Lodestone – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Plum, cherry and dried herb aromas. Medium-bodied with dark cherry, plum, blackberry flavors. Blend of Syrah (50%), Grenache (33%), Mourvèdre (17%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Holly’s Hill Patriarche – USA, California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County
    Red fruit, with a touch of garrigue aromas. Medium-bodied with cherry, plum and vanilla flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (60%), Syrah (23%), Grenache (14%), and Counoise (3%) (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Inspiration Vineyards Syrah – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Fragrant red fruit, and floral aromas. Medium-full bodied with dark cherry, mocha, and vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Syrah (93%), Viognier (7%) (90 pts.)

Josh Messina pouring Jada wines

  • 2009 Jada Vineyard Hell’s Kitchen – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fragrant red fruits, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied, fruit-forward, and smooth with raspberry, cherry, mocha and vanilla flavors. Blend of Syrah (32%), Grenache (31%), Mourvèdre (23%), and Tannat (14%) (92 pts.)
  • 2009 JC Cellars Misc. Stuff – USA, California
    Black and red berry, and spice aromas. Medium-bodied, and supple with vibrant black cherry, raspberry, vanilla spice flavors. Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Jemrose Gloria’s Gem – USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley
    Red fruit, white pepper, and cedarwood aromas. Medium-bodied with nicely balanced dark cherry, and black currant flavors. Blend of Syrah (65%), and Merlot (35%) (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Justin Vineyards & Winery Savant – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy black and red fruit aromas hint of licorice aromas. Medium-bodied, and smooth with spicy black cherry, and cassis flavors. Blend of Syrah (65%), and Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Kukkula Sisu – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Fruity red fruity, mocha, and a hint of musky/meaty aromas. Medium-full bodied with mixed black and red berry espresso flavors. Blend of Syrah(51%),Grenache (27%), and Mourvèdre (22%)(89 pts.)
  • 2011 Lagier Meredith Syrah Rosé – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Pretty berry and melon aromas. Approaching medium-bodied, well-balanced and dry with cherry, raspberry flavors.100% Syrah (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Lagier Meredith Syrah – USA, California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Dark red fruit, and pepper aromas. Medium-bodied with intense black cherry, raspberry, espresso flavors. (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Ridge Carignane Buchignani Ranch – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Black cherry, raspberry and slight floral smoky aromas. Full-bodied, robust, round with well-integrated tannins and black cherry, raspberry, and vanilla flavors. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars Syrah Alder Springs – USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino
    Dark red fruit, sweet spice, and floral aromas. Medium bodied and nicely balanced with raspberry, strawberry, and a touch of mineral flavors. 100% Syrah. 13.7 % Alcohol (89 pts.)
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The Globetrotter – USA, California
    Red fruit, dried herbs, and slight earthy aromas. Medium-bodied, fruit, but balanced with ripe cherry and black raspberry flavors. Blend of Grenache (48%), Syrah (40%), and Mourvèdre (12%)(90 pts.)
  • 2009 Stage Left Cellars The ExPat – USA, California, Central Coast
    Dark red fruit, spice, and cedarwood aromas. Medium-bodied, balanced with vibrant dark cherry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Blend of Syrah(50%), Petite Sirah (33%), and Grenache (17%)(90 pts.)
  • 2011 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Tropical fruit, white peach, and floral aromas. Medium-bodied, and creamy with good acidity and peach and hint of mineral flavors. Blend of Grenache Blanc (45%), Viognier (34%), Roussanne (18%), and Marsanne (3%) 13.5% Alcohol (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Côtes de Tablas Blanc – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Pretty floral and stone fruit aromas. Medium-bodied, and balance with white peach, and vanilla flavors. Blend of Viognier (54%), Grenache Blanc (30%), Marsanne (8%), and Roussanne (8%) 13.5% Alcohol (89 pts.)
  • 2011 Tablas Creek Rosé – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Watermelon and red fruit aromas. Approaching medium-bodied, and dry with cherry, strawberry and citrus on the back palate flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (58%), Grenache (30%), and Counoise (12%) 14.5% Alcohol (89 pts.)
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Sweet dark fruits, tobacco, and spice. Medium bodied and supple with black cherry, plum and spice flavors. Blend of 39% Syrah/36% Grenache/22% (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel – USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Intense dark red fruit, violet and spice aromas. Medium-full bodied, and well-balanced with vibrant dark red cherry, spice, and mineral flavors. Blend of Mourvèdre (40%), Syrah(28%),Grenache (27%), and Counoise (5%) (92 pts.)

My takeaways from the event?

  • Paso Robles, as a region is still kickin’ ass and taking names when it comes to Rhone!
  • There’s definitely a trend toward lower alcohol wines
  • Um…I’ll need a better plan (and more time) next year!
  • The state of Rhones in California? – Fantastic and seemingly getting better!

All in all, it was a great event!  It’s circled in red on my calendar for next year!

Recap of 6th Annual Dark & Delicious – The Petite Sirah Event Of The Year!

I attended the 6th annual Dark & Delicious (“D&D”) last Friday.  D&D is an excellent opportunity to take a walk on the “dark side” for  Petite Sirah (“P.S” – a.k.a. “Pet”.)and food lovers.  The event is put on by an advocacy group of P.S. winegrowers, and producers knowns as P.S. I Love You.  This year’s event featured 58 wineries, and 36 food companies.  Petite Sirah tends not to be top of mind when it comes to red wine (or actually in the case of P.S., mostly inky purple-black wine) but for those of us who love P.S. this is the event of the year.

Here’s a quick 411 on P.S.

  • Created by François Durif, it is the love child of a noble grape, Syrah, and an obscure peasant grape Peloursin in 1880
  • 90% of the world’s P.S. vineyards are in California
  • Produces big, masculine, typically ink-colored wines that tend to be tannic with moderate to high-acidity
  • Sometimes referred to as Durif

P.S. I Love You Does Sound Better Than Durif I Love You!

It was a great night of wine and food.  And for the first time I came across a winery that referred to one of their P.S. as Durif – Berryessa Gap. My favorite wines were Aver Family Vineyards (2008 Blessings), ClayhouseBerryessa Gap (2006 Rocky Ridge Collection Tradition), Robert Biale, Rosenblum, and Stage Left Cellars (2006 Russell Family P.S),  along with Ondonata, and Ridge Vineyards, newcomers to the event.  I attended the event last year, and there seemed to be a bit more diversity of style this year.  I tasted more exemplars of P.S. showing more restraint and balance, than last year.  Petite Sirah can be an overly exuberant, jammy wine.  Perhaps that’s why I saw more chocolate vendors than I have at any other wine event.  And that style has plenty of fans, but I welcomed the change of pace.

Paella Struesel

In addition to the great P.S.  there was plenty of food.  I was impressed by diversity of food.  There were dishes like, Paella strudel, Sous-Vide Pork Belly with Umeboshi Plum Sauce with Micro Greens, and my dish of the night Bhel Puri, an “Indian Street Food” of puffed rice, garbanzo flour noodles, wheat crisps, Russet potatoes, Jazz apples, Sweet onion, Zante currants, mint cilantro chutney, tamarind chutney, and blackberry chutney which was just fabulous with Petite Sirah.

Er…I had one or three too many of these…Amazing!

After tasting sampling the P.S. with a variety of foods, I gave it try with chocolate.  Cabernet, Merlot, and Zinfandel, the varietals most often paired with chocolate has something to worry about.  I generally prefer dessert wines with my chocolate, ,and P.S. with my meal, but for fans of dry red wines P.S. works quite well too.  That lead to my favorite chocolate and P.S. pairing of the night – Bacon Salted Caramel (made with Zoe’s Meats applewood smoked bacon, organic sugar and an English dark cane syrup dipped in 72% E. Guittard chocolate and finished with applewood smoked salt) from Nosh This and two Petite Sirahs from Stage Left Cellars.

It was a great event.  Dark & Delicious will continue to be circled in red on my calendar of “must attend” wine events.  It’s a purple-teeth stained great wine and food event!

September Is California Wine Month

Governor Jerry Brown has proclaimed September 2011 as California Wine Month.  There are some interesting stats in the proclamation.

“Our state’s wineries create jobs for 330,000 Californians and revenue from retail sales of $18.4 billion, including $1.14 billion in exports sales to 122 countries…and bring an estimated 20.7 million tourist…each year”

This post from NorCal Wine Blog entitled “How Big is the California Wine Industry”  gives those stats some interesting context;

Those numbers sound pretty good. But, in the abstract, it’s hard to really understand their significance. I’ve tried to put the numbers into perspective by comparing them to others.

Compare retail sales of $18.4 billion to:

  • The entire GDP of Paraguay: $18.5 billion
  • 2010 U.S. movie box office revenue: $10.6 billion

Compare 330,000 jobs to:

  • The total combined employees of AdobeAmazonAppleeBayGoogleIntelMicrosoft andYahoo!: 326,500
  • The population of St. Louis, Missouri: 319,294

Compare 20.7 million tourists to:

  • The combined populations of New York state (19.4 million) and New Hampshire (1.3 million)
  • The combined populations of Belgium (10.9 million) and Sweden (9.4 million)
  • Total 2007 visitors to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Florida: 17 million
  • Total 2010 attendance for NFL games: 16.4 million
  • Total airline passengers served by San Francisco International Airport: 18.5 million

The proclamation has been an annual event the last seven years, generally timed to coincide with the start of the grape harvest season (2011 will mostly be an exception due to all the cool weather we’ve had this year).  There will various special events, tastings, tours, etc. throughout the month (Click here for a list of events).  And what better way to start the month than #Cabernet Day on September 1st.  After all, it was Cabernet (1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars) that put California on the wine map at the legendary Judgment of Paris in 1976!

Sonoma in the City Recap…

Last week, I attended an amazing event called Sonoma in the City (“SITC”) hosted by the Sonoma County Vintners Association (“SCV”), and Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, for the benefit Share Our Strength.   I’m a huge fan of Sonoma County, and SITC is the largest tasting of Sonoma County wines outside of the county.  It was a superbly organized event with comprehensive representation of the 12 appellations within Sonoma.

The event was held at the Westin St. Francis Hotel.  Inside the Grand Ballroom of the hotel, the wineries were grouped by major appellations (Dry Creek, Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley,etc.) which was nice because the appellations tend to dominated by certain varieties of grapes which are better suited for particular locations.  Looking for Pinot and Chard? Head over to the Russian River Valley area of the ballroom.  If you’re a fan of Cabs and Zin, then stroll on over to the Dry Creek area.  But, before you even entered the Grand Ballroom, in the foyer, there was a themed tasting area where you could explore the influence the diverse terroir of Sonoma on different styles of wine.  For example, there was a table for “Powerful Pinot” that showcased the difference between Pinot from a warm weather site, compared to a cool weather site. My favorite “theme” though was one that featured one vineyard, the Dutton-Ranch Manzana Vineyard.  It was interesting for me to see how the same grapes, from the same vineyard, and same vintage taste so different when made into wine by  different wine makers.   It was a chance to experience, at some level, how a winemaker’s choices manifest themselves in the taste and texture of a wine.

I had mixed feelings about the event.  On one hand, I was excited about attending the event because it was a chance to taste wines I’ve always wanted to taste, and to try some wines from producers unfamiliar to me.  On the other hand,  SITC is an enormous event, by my count 123 wineries, and probably 400 wines to available for tasting. In 3 hours!  So the sheer scale of the event created some anxiety for me because I was trying to figure out how I was going to maximize the opportunity.  I decided to spend an hour sampling whites, and the rest of the time with reds.  I also decided to minimize sampling wine from producers I’ve previously enjoyed (Dashe Cellars, Everett Ridge/Esterlina, Freestone, Hanna, Quivira, Sausal, and Seghesio).  Still, I ended up sampling about 100 wines from 47 different producers!

Favorites I heartily recommend follow (which includes links to the wines on Cellar Tracker where you may get details about  the wines such as ratings, tasting notes, and cost, etc.):

A sample of great food served...unfortunately I was too busy tasting to try!



2008  Fort Ross Fort Ross Vineyard

2009 Landmark Chardonnay Damaris Reserve

2008 Robert Young Alexander Valley Chardonnay

2009 Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay

2009 Roessler Big Bend Chardonnay

Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Kunde Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Magnolia Lane 

2010 Roth Sauvignon Blanc

Other Whites

2010 Joseph Swan Gewürztraminer Saralee’s Vineyard

A packed Grand Ballroom at the Westin St. Francis


Pinot Noir

2007 Ceja Vineyards Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast

2009 Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir Fox Den

2007 Fort Ross Pinot Noir, Fort Ross Vineyard

2007 Fort Ross Symposium Pinot Noir

2008 Kosta Browne Winery Pinot Noir, Gap’s Crown

2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Ewald Vineyard

2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Van der Kamp Vineyard

Cabernet Sauvignon

2008 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander’s Crown Vineyard

1992 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley (from magnum)

2007 Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley

2007 Stonestreet Cabernet Sauvignon, Christopher’s Alexander Mountain Estate


2008 Dashe Old Vine Zinfandel Todd Brothers Ranch 


NV. J Brut Rose

My wine-stained tasting journal...


SITC, though a bit overwhelming for me, was the best wine event I’ve been to so far, especially when I consider the breadth, depth, and quality of wines offered!  I always enjoy discovering new (at least to me) producers – in this case, Fort Ross, Kunde, Landmark, and Stonestreet are now on my radar screen.  Likewise, when it comes to Kosta Browne, and Siduri Pinots, it exciting to know I can “believe the hype” !

Still, I know I missed other amazing wines…Oh well there’s always next year!!

Rosé Smack Down – 10 Rosés; 1 Winner

At the most recent Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club it was Dry Rosé Night.  It seems that Rosé is making a comeback, especially here in the US where the very mention of “pink” wines conjures up nightmares of sickly sweet White Zinfandels that seem more like soda than wine. No, these were dry Rosés – the kind that are so versatile with a variety of foods and are the ideal choice for when the weather turns warm, and you can’t make up you mind whether you want a white wine, or red wine.  Look to a chilled glass of refreshing food friendly Rosé!

We blind tasted a diverse group of Rosés from France, California and Italy (Spain was conspicuously missing). Not only were the Rosés from various countries, but they were from diverse locations within France, and California, along with being made from diverse grape varietals, including Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Pinot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Primitivo (labeled as Zinfandel to appeal to American consumers).  The wines were a wine array of colors from very light salmon to strawberry red.  The wines we tasted (along with information about the where the wines were from, the grapes used to make the wine, alcohol content, and price) were as follows:

2009 Chateau Rol Valentin Bordeaux Rose – France>Bordeaux; Blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet France; 13.5% abv – $7

2010 Domaine de la Fouquette – France>Provence; Blend of Grenache (60%), Cinsault (30%), and Rolle (5%); 12% abv$ – $17

2010 La Grenouile Rougante -California>Napa Valley; Blend of Zinfandel (61%), and Valdiguie (39%); 12.2% abv – $15

2010 Josefina Rose  – California>Central Coast>Paso Robles; Syrah; 12.7% abv – $5

2009 Bonterra Rose – California>North Coast>Mendocino Blend of Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Carignane and just a little Grenache (Double Gold Winner 2011 SF Chronicle Competition – Dry Rose <1% residual sugar); 13.4% abv – $16

2009 F&E Ogio Zinfandel Rose – Italy>Puglia. 100% Primitivo; 12.5% abv – $5

2010 Chateau Bas – France>Provence. Blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah; 12.5% abv – $11

2009 – Toad Hollow Eye of the Toad – California>Sonoma County. Pinot Noir; 11% abv – $12

2008 Marquis de Goulaine Rosé D’Anjou La Roseraie – France>Loire Valley>Anjou-Saumur; 11% abv – $8

2009 Cellier du Rhone Rosé  – France>Provence; Grenache; 13.4% abv – $5

I made Brown rice paella for the tasting (Which I modified by substituting the same amount of fresh chorizo for dry-cured chorizo in Step #3, along with substituting about 1.5 lb of a seafood mix of shrimp, calamari, and scallops for the pound of shrimp the recipes calls for, and I also used home-made chicken broth rather than store-bought)

Brown Rice Paella with Chicken, Chorizo, Shrimp, Calamari, Scallops and Mussels

Along with the paella (which I’m pleased to report was a hit;-), we also enjoyed, spicy chicken wings, BBQ chicken wings, grilled chicken, fried calamari, home-made hummus, artichoke and jalapeno dip, fruit salad, and sundry cheese and crackers.  And as advertised, the dry Rosés paired nicely with the wide variety of food.


The Winner...2010 Domaine de la Fouquette-Cuvee Rosee d'Aurore

For more pictures of our wonderful evening of wine, foods, and fellowship with friends, old and new, click here (Photos courtesy of Gigi Yulo Redmond, and Jojo Ong)

Highlights from my first Passport to Dry Creek Valley

It was a beautiful wine, food, and fun-filled weekend for the 22nd Annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley (“Passport”) with fabulous weather (in fact we were told by Jack Florence of Florence Ranch, who has been growing Dry Creek Valley for 35 years, that it has never rained Passport weekend)! 

As expected, our original plan to go to ten wineries over Saturday and Sunday ( Amista,  Mauritson, Mazzocco, Michel-Schlumberger, Ridge, Alderbrook Frick, Mounts, Seghesio, Unti) morphed into visiting 15 of the 46 wineries ( we also went to Dutcher Crossing, Bella Vineyard and Wine Caves, Armida, Dry Creek Vineyards, and Quivira).  I tasted 75 wines over the two days, the vast majority of which were very good to excellent, had some great food, and enjoyed the entertainment offered.  My Top 10 most memorable of the wines were:

Ginormous corkscrew at Bella


2005 Ridge Grenache (88% Grenache, 6% Petite Sirah, 6% Zinfandel) – Aromas: Dusty cherries; Palate: cherries, spice.  Balanced with a medium finish – 88pts

2007 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel (71% Zinfandel, 22% Petite Sirah, and 7% Carignane) – Aromas: Wonderful aromatics of dark fruit, spice, vanilla and a bit of pepper;  Palate: Blackberries and raspberries with good balance, and long finish – 91 pts

2008 Quivira MourvèdreAromas: Plums, blackberries cloves, and touch bacon Palate: Plums, blackberries, vanilla and cloves w/medium finish – 88 pts

2008 Quivira Elusive (34% Syrah, 32% Grenache, 28% Mourvedre, 6% Petite Sirah) – Aromas: Dark fruit and black cherries  Palate:  Dark fruit and strawberries, with good balance and finish- 89 pts

2007 Seghesio Home Ranch Petite Sirah;  Aromas: Spicy blueberries, and a bit of oak Palate: black raspberries, vanilla, and mineral. Fine-grained tannins provide that little bit of “grip” I like. Fruity, but not overly so. Young, but tasty! – 88 pts

2oo8 Seghesio San Lorenzo Zinfandel (84% Zinfandel, 12% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignane, 1% Alicante and 1% Grand Noir); Aromas: Dark fruit, spice Palate: blackberries, cocoa, and spice. Good balance with a lengthy finish. Paired with Seafood Gumbo – Off the Chain!  90 pts

2008 Mauritson Rockpile “Buck Pasture” Red Wine (45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 18% Merlot, 13% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot); Aromas: Cherries, black currant and vanilla;  Palate: Cherries, black currant, mocha;  surprisingly excellent paired with Chocolate Caramel Tartlets with dark chocolate shell, maldon sea salt caramel – 89 pts


2009 Quivira Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc (88% Sauvignon Blanc, 12% Sauvignon Musque – S/S fermented); Aromas: Melon and citrus Palate: Melon, citrus and subtle fig. Good balance and a decent finishThis one wasn’t citrus-ey and grassy as were most we tasted. Very nice effort! – 87 pts

2008 Frick Grenache Blanc, Owl Hill Vineyard; Aromas: Peach and stone fruit, Palate: Peaches with subtle vanilla flavor, great mouth feel! Superbly paired with “Green Goddess Seafood Nachos” from (Click here for photos of food pairings at Frick) made with Dungeness crab, shrimp & lobster cream cheese, Green Goddess dressing on a green avocado chip! –  88 pts

2008 Dutcher Crossing Stuhlmuller Vineyard Chardonnay;  Aromas: Buttery with a touch of tropical aromas  Palate: Buttery apple and vanilla; Nice job of integrating buttery flavor and texture without oak being overwhelming – 88 pts

And that was just the wine!  As I mentioned in my previous post, Passport is about wine, food, and entertainment. Other categories of highlights for me include:

  • “Winery I could have stayed all day”;  Seghesio – hands down!  Wonderful wines, food, and best entertainment of the event for me.  It was a taste of ‘Nawlins in Cali with ample servings of Tasso Shrimp Fettuccini, Seafood Gumbo with Andouille Sausage, Cajan BBQ Ribs, and Beignets, and serving hot music laid down by Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic!  Seghesio is the reason we went to fewer wineries on Sunday, than Saturday!

Andre Thierry & Zydeco Magic performing at Seghesio

  • “Put your money where you mouth is”;  We purchased wines from Quivira, Frick and Bella
  • “See you again next year”;  Seghesio, Quivira, Frick, Mauritson, and Ridge
  • “Best Wine and Food Pairings”; Frick, Mauritson, Seghesio, and Quivira
  • “Most unusual wine”; Was a good 20 year old Cab  from Michel-Schlumberger – still a bit tannic after all these years!

We had a great time and will be back next year, as they say in the South, “Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”  😉

In Vino Veritas!

My First Passport to Dry Creek Valley

Vineyards in the California wine region of the...

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Our first big wine event of 2011 is Passport to Dry Creek Valley (“Passport”) the forthcoming weekend – April 30th, and May 1st.  This is our first Passport. According to the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley (“WDCV”) the association putting on the event…

Passport to Dry Creek Valley™ is an annual event showcasing the wineries, vineyards and exceptional beauty of Dry Creek Valley. There are 60+ wineries and 150 growers in the Dry Creek Valley, producing a variety of wines to please any palate. Wineries up and down Dry Creek Valley celebrate the magic of their valley with wine, food, entertainment and the hospitality for which Dry Creek Valley is famous. Many wineries offer either live music or entertainment…

I think what makes this event special is the combination of wine, food, and entertainment.  This year there are 46 participating wineries, each with various activities.  The event is from 11 am to 4:30 pm daily, so it would be virtually impossible to go to all 46 wineries over a two day period (unless you decided to sprint from winery to winery and stayed at each winery for less than 15 minutes) Besides, with an event like this with wine, food pairing, and entertainment, I think it’s best to take one’s time, and enjoy it, and running from place to place  wouldn’t be that enjoyable for us.  We’re talking quality here, not quantity!

The initial plan is to hit 5 wineries a day, and I was looking for diversity in varietals being poured, favorite foods, entertainment, and also mostly wanted to visit wineries we haven’t been too before (with a few favorites we’ve enjoyed before)  Of course, no plan survives battle. I expect as the day unfolds, we’ll roll with the punches and see what happens! So which wineries did I pick? Without further ado, here’s the hit list:

Amista – All American Diner theme; Chef John Franchetti of Rosso serving up Truffled Sausage Sliders and Mac & Cheese with arugula and prosciutto.

Mauritson – Acclaimed Chef Charlie Palmer is enough for me, but on top of that barrel tasting and single-vineyard Rockpile wines!

Mazzocco – Our starting point; Cuban theme with big band salsa beat of Orquesta Borinquen, and Cuban foods paired with their wines.

Michel-Schlumberger – Great property with “Take Me Out To the Benchlands” theme.  Live music with Carlos Herrera Band.

Ridge – World-class Zins, and single vineyard Rhone blends paired with Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs Sliders!

Alderbrook – Caribbean theme; Pigs and Pinot, and Zins in the Tiki Lounge. And how can you go wrong with a tropical music and a Conga line?!

Frick – Pouring unique Rhone varietals such as Grenache Blanc, Cinsault, Counoise, along with Grenache.

Mounts – Middle Easter theme; Persian food paired with Petite Sirah, Zin, and Malbec. Oh and belly dancing!

Seghesio – Cajun theme, including Zydeco music; Cajun BBQ Ribs, Seafood Gumbo, Tasso Shrimp Fettuccini paired with great Zins and Italian varietals.

Unti – Live music with a Saskatoon guitarist; wines include highly regarded Rosé, Rhone, and Italian varietals.

In addition to these wineries, I’ve also got my eye on Quivira, Talty (may have to swing by here just for the Zinfandel Cherry Chipotle Lamb tacos!). I’ll let you know how it goes!

In Vino Veritas!

Paso Wine Man Redux

Another great video from the Paso Robles Wine Alliance, featuring Paso Wine Man!  Makes me want to go to Paso!  This one is promoting the Paso Robles Wine Festival

Related Video:

Paso Robles Zinfandel Man