A #SundayFunday in Sonoma Valley

Last weekend my wife and I decided, spur of the moment, to head up Sonoma to go to the Fremont Diner and then do some wine tasting.


We got off to a later start than we hoped for.  When we arrived at the Fremont Diner we were told it would be a 90 minute wait for a table.  Given its popularity (deservedly so – the food is straight up delicious!) – not a surprise.

We opted to get our food to-go.  We ordered a couple of favorites: Shrimp & Grits, and an Oyster Po Boy.

We recalled that near-by Cline Cellar has a wonderful picnic area.  We called over to be sure it was OK to bring in outside food.  We were told “No problem”.

IMG_3914 IMG_3915We picked up a chilled bottle of their Farmhouse White Wine – a Sauvignon Blanc lead blend, and settled in for an impromptu picnic…


The wine was a perfect partner for our food!

After our picnic, we decided to hang out in Sonoma Valley rather than heading over Dry Creek Valley or Russian River Valley.  Beside, we haven’t done very much tasting in Sonoma Valley, so it was a chance to try some wineries we’d not visited before.

We didn’t have a plan beyond going to the Fremont Dinner to eat.  So we winged it (while we had a wonderful day , I recommend you do some planning via the very helpful Sonoma Valley website)

Our first stop was Tin Barn Vineyards.


Inside the tasting room at Tin Barn Vineyards

Tin Barn Vineyards produces single vineyard wines highlighting the true character of Sonoma County vineyard

IMG_3918 IMG_3920 IMG_3921 IMG_3922

All the wines were wonderful!  We picked up a bottle of their 2012 Sonoma Coast Coryelle Fields Syrah, and 2012 Ricci Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Our next stop was Schug… which was on my mind.  It a winery I’ve wanted to visit for years, but never did.  A day before, I learned that founder Walter Schug has passed in an article by Linda Murphy entitled Walter Schug – Sonoma’s Subtle Superstar


The estate vineyards at Schug

The tasting room has an old school feel to it, and we tasted some a couple of Schug’s very good Pinot Noirs, a Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and this lovely sparkling Pinot Noir..


We decided to check off another winery that has been on my list for years – Gundlach Bunschu Winery and Vineyards (“GunBun”)

The family has been in Sonoma since 1858!


It’s the oldest family-owned winery in California.  They offer daily tours and tasting.  We decided to do a $20 reserve tasting that included 4 wines of our choice and the 2012 Vintage Reserve ( 94pts WA)


The caves were closed when we arrived, but we plan to come back and do the cave tour…



A cool mural on the Gundlach Bundschu property

My favorite wine was their 2012 Vintage Reserve –  a Bordeaux Blend


After GunBun, we headed over to the Sonoma Plaza to do some window shopping, visit another winery, and maybe grab a treat before heading home.

After some window shopping, we visited Hawkes Wine.


Hawkes is not new to us.  We’ve visited their other location in Alexander Valley a few times.  We really enjoy their wines, so we were glad to see their tasting room in the plaza.

I thought all the wines were memorable….

IMG_3944 IMG_3946 IMG_3948

But the treat of the day was when they poured their 2006 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from magnum!


After Hawkes, we decided to grab a coffee, and for my wife, a cookie at Basque Boulangerie Cafe.

I was in the mood for some ice cream, so stopped at Sweet Scoops Homemade Ice Cream.


After trying several samples, i settled on “A-Lotta-Choco-Lotta”.  It’s some of the best chocolate ice cream, I’ve ever had!


It was a sweet ending  to an awesome day in Sonoma Valley! On our drive home we asked ourselves why we don’t visit the area more often.  We will…and I recommend you do too!


Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, InstagramVivino and Delectablefor all things wine. As 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 Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Zin-A-Palooza! Wine Tasting Club Blind Tastes Ten Zinfandels

The most recent gathering of the Pacific Pointe Wine Tasting Club (“PPWTC”) featured a Zin-A-Palooza!

The PPWTC started in 2010.  Initially, we met every couple of months, but by popular demand we meet every six weeks or so these days.  We typically have a non-scoring event or two each year (the most recent was a record party).

As with most groups, our wine tasting club consists of a “core” group of 10-12 wine lovers that is augmented by another 10-15 individuals depending on the theme.  The Zin-A-Palooza theme was complemented by an end of summer barbecue!

In addition to bringing a wine, each individual/couple is asked to bring an appetizer that will pair with the wines being tasted.  We begin each tasting with an hour or so of fellowship, eating, and wetting of our whistles.

150911_Zin Night

From time to time folks have been known to bring a special treat….

150911_98 David Cafaro Zin

It’s not everyday you get to drink a 17 year old Zinfandel. This one from Dry Creek Valley producer David Coffaro was a treat and held up quite well!

We typically taste no more than 10 bottles (though occasionally we’ve tasted more – I don’t recommend it.  I think 8 is a good number of bottles) Bottles chosen for tasting, as well as the tasting order are usually decided on a first come, first served basis.  Any late bottles are consumed either during “Happy Hour” or after the main tasting.

Here’s how our tasting went down:

  • Club members asked to bring a wine of their choice. There was no pre-set price limit or minimum for this tasting.  While I didn’t get prices for all the wines, I believe the wines ranged in price between $13 and about $45.
  • All wines are tasted blind
  • Tasters are required to score all wines
  • The wines are scored based on 4 criteria (aromabody, taste, and finish) – each on a scale of 1-5 (1-low; 5-high). Therefore minimum score = 4 points and maximum = 20 points
  • Both average and median scores are calculated.  The winner determined by highest average score.  The median score used as tie breaker, if necessary.

The Zin-A-Palooza Line Up – 10 Zins; One Winner!

We tasted 10 Zinfandels.  Lodi dominated the field with half  of the wines.  There were three from Sonoma, and two from Paso Robles. 

The wines were tasted in the following order:

  1. 2012 Kirkland Signature Zinfandel Old Vine – Sonoma County
  2. 2012 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel 7 Deadly Zins – Lodi
  3. 2013 Ridge Zinfandel Benito Dusi Ranch – Paso Robles
  4. 2012 Tobin James Zinfandel James Gang Reserve – Paso Robles
  5. 2011 JC Cellars Zinfandel Cassata – Sonoma County
  6. 2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard – Lodi
  7. 2009 Mantra Zinfandel – Sonoma County
  8. 2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Old Ghost – Lodi
  9. 2013 Cline Cellars ZinfandelCalifornia
  10. 2013 Criss Cross Wines Zinfandel Old VineLodi

We had 22 tasters that included a diverse range of experience with wine from newbies to wine-loving enthusiasts.  I think there were a few more wine-loving enthusiasts on this night.


The PPWTC Score Sheet

Individuals are asked to tally their scores and provide me with their totals for each wine. Half-points are allowed. I input the scores into an Excel spreadsheet I created.

150911_Tabulation of Scores

Yours truly, along with my assistant Joy Lin, furiously tabulating the scores before the natives got restless…

And the winner, with an average score of 13.6 was the: 

2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard!

IMG_3613 (1)

The runners-up in the order of finish (including average score) were: 

  • 2012 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Marisa Vineyard (13.4)/ Median score =14
  • 2013 Ridge Zinfandel Benito Dusi Ranch (13.4)/Median score = 13
  • 2012 Tobin James Zinfandel James Gang Reserve(12.9)
  • 2013 Cline Cellars Zinfandel (12.7)
  • 2011 JC Cellars Zinfandel Cassata (12.4)
  • 2012 Kirkland Signature Zinfandel Old Vine (12.2)
  • 2013 Criss Cross Wines Zinfandel Old Vine (12.1)
  • 2012 Michael-David Vineyards Zinfandel 7 Deadly Zins (11.4)
  • 2009 Mantra Zinfandel(10.4)

My top three wines were the Ridge Zinfandel Benito Dusi Ranch, JC Cellars Cassata and Klinker Brick  Old Vine Marisa Vineyard.

I very much enjoy blind tastings in the wine tasting club setting.  It can remove preconceptions about  wines while presenting the opportunity to rate wines in a peer group setting.

Ah, but where there is a blind tasting, there is virtually always a surprise. That is the nature of blind tasting; as capricious an endeavor if there ever was one.

The surprise for me this time is that there was no real surprise!  The top 3 wines (Klinker Brick and Ridge Vineyards) are perennial favorites among Zinfandel lovers.

I wasn’t surprised to see a Lodi Zin on the winner stand.  Lodi is a region on the rise. I’m excited about the wines coming out of the region.  And fruit from the Benito Dusi Ranch in Paso Robles, in the capable hands of Ridge is bound to be a favorite among Zinfandel lovers (the 2013 Ridge Benito Dusi Ranch is sold out).

The top three wines are all in the $30-40 range, so I’m always a little surprised when a $15 bottle of wine doesn’t topple a more expensive bottle.   But this time the lower priced bottles were in the middle of the pack.

I must say, I’m starting to notice a bit of a trend within our wine-tasting club.  When the club started 5 years ago, it was pretty common for the least expensive, most fruit-driven wines to emerge victorious in these blind tastings.  But as the members of our wine-tasting club palates evolve,  it seems more and more, that more moderately priced, well-crafted wines are emerging as winners in our blind tastings.


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 Blog.com. Copyright 2015 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Recap of 2015 Passport to Dry Creek Valley #DCVPassport

My wife, a friend of ours and I attended past weekend’s Passport to Dry Creek Valley. This was the 26th Annual Passport to Dry Creek Valley.  For the uninitiated, here’s a description of the event:

Passport to Dry Creek Valley® was introduced in 1990, by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley®, as a time every year when the winegrowing community could come together to celebrate the generations of farmers, vintners and families that are the roots of the Dry Creek Valley wine region. Over the 26 years since, the event has become a beloved tradition among wine lovers who enjoy a world-class tasting experience with a festive twist, all within the idyllic Dry Creek Valley.

This is our fourth consecutive year, and sixth overall Passport to Dry Creek Valley. It’s become an annual tradition.  We like it because it’s fun event, and you can’t beat the value when consider the wine, food and entertainment that’s offered.

Over one weekend, Passport guests are welcomed into 45+ wineries throughout Dry Creek Valley, each offering a unique pairing of premium wine, gourmet food and entertainment. Take a vineyard tour for a grape-to-glass look at Dry Creek Valley wine. Sample exclusive vintages, rarely available to taste. Meet winemakers and grapegrowers – the generations of people behind the wine and magical ‘Dry Creek Valley spirit’. Savor exquisite food and wine pairings from acclaimed chefs.  Delight in discovering each winery’s unique Passport “theme,” a tradition of the event. The possibilities are as varied as the wineries themselves and promise a fun, unforgettable weekend. Enjoy!  The event runs from 11:00 a.m. – 4:30p each day.

It turned out to be another gorgeous weekend in Dry Creek Valley.

I thought what I call the “Dry Creek Streak” was in jeopardy when it rained very early on Saturday morning (I’ve been told by many that it’s never rained during Passport ).  But sure enough, it cleared up by the time Passport started on Saturday and Sunday was even more beautiful!

Recap of 2015 Passport to Dry Creek Valley

As I sit here on the porch of a farm-house we rented for the weekend reflecting on what a fun weekend it was, my wife and our friend are “napping”.


Since I’ve got some time, here’s a recap of  the memorable wines, food and wine pairings and entertainment we experienced.


Since there are so many wineries, you need a plan (check out the participating wineries and/or the map of wineries).

We drove up Friday and finalized our plans while having dinner at the fabulous Chalkboard in Healdsburg, which has a thriving restaurant scene.

Our plan always includes a mix of favorites we visit every year (Seghesio, Rafanelli, Quivira, Kokomo, Papapietro Perry), plus wineries we’ve  either visited intermittently, or haven’t visited before.  The planning was made a bit easier this year, because there were a couple perennial favorites not participating this year for one reason or another – Unti (we dig the wines), and Stephen Walker ( the wines were good, but candidly we went for the last couple of years for the all you can eat oysters).

The Plan for Saturday was to visit:

We typically allow for an hour or so at each winery, so we plan to visit 5-6 wineries a day Then we see how it goes because as Helmuth Carl Bernard Graf von Moltke once said…

“No Battle Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy”

As it turned out things went better than planned on Saturday.  We visited the aforementioned wineries plus (thanks to “one stop shopping” at Family Wineries) the following wineries:


My favorite wines were:

  • 2012 Seghesio Pagani Ranch Zinfandel
  • 2012 Seghesio Marian’s Reserve
  • 2013 Ridge Geyserville
  • 2012 Ridge Lytton Springs
  • 2012 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2012 Mazzocco Warm Springs Ranch Zinfandel
  • 2014 Kokomo Grenache Rosé Pauline’s Vineyard
  • 2012 Papapietro Perry Pinot Noir Leras Family Vyd

My favorite food and wine pairings were:

  • Seghesio – 2013 Seghesio Barbera paired with Seghesio Panissi;Risotto alla Barbera w/Family Recipe Sausage, Cranberry Beans and Grano Padano Parmesan + 2011 Grenache 1942 Block paired with Linguine w/Wild Mushrooms, Hazelnut Cream Sauce, and Truffled Pecorino!
  • Mauritson – 2013 Mauritson Sauvignon Blanc paired with Mini Crab Cakes w/White Remoulade Sauce + 2013 Rockpile Zinfandel paired with Painted Hills Shredded Beef Sliders
  • Amphora – 2009 Bevill/Wolcott Vyd Petite Sirah paired with Chocolate Truffles with Gold Dust
  • Kokomo – 2012 Estate Malbec paired with Street tacos; Carnitas with mole sauce, roasted corn and chipotle aioli
  • Peterson – 2013 Geyserville Fire Dept 100 yr Anniversary Zinfandel paired with Firehouse Chili.

Other memorable moments:

There was wonderful live music at Seghesio, and Kokomo.  And Amphora offered a back to back tasting of their 2012 Aglianico and 2014 Aglianico (barrel sample). The 2012 was aged in oak, while the 2014 is being aged in an amphora (see photo above lower right corner).  Vintage variation aside, I found the difference between the two wine fascinating.  The 2014 showed more pronounced minerality and a texture I favored.  If you’re ever wondered about the difference between a wine aged in oak v concrete this was a wonderful opportunity to find out!

We didn’t visit any wineries we hadn’t been too before though.  We vowed to rectify that on Sunday!


The plan for Sunday included three wineries we hadn’t visited before (*):


My favorite wines were:

  • 2012 A. Rafanelli Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2013 Quivira Sauvignon Blanc Fig Tree
  • 2012 Quivira Zinfandel Reserve Dry Creek Valley
  • 2013 David Coffaro Lagrein
  • Cast Blanc de Noirs
  • 2013 Cast Estate Zinfandel
  • 2011 Sbragia Cabernet Sauvignon Andolsen Vineyard

My favorite food and wine pairings were:

  • A. Rafanelli –  2012 Cabernet Sauvginon paired with lamb pizza and beef brisket
  • Cast Estate – 2012 Estate Petite Sirah paired with pulled pork sliders
  • David Coffaro – 2014 Rose paired with Ahi Tuna Tartare
  • Kachina –  2013 Charbono paired with Yucatan Style Beans
  • Quivira – 2011 Syrah paired with Nonie’s Meatball Brochette with Heirloom Tomato Puree adn Vella Dry Jack Cheese
  • Sbragia – 2012 La Promesa Zinfandel paired Farro & Spicy Salami Salad

Other memorable moments:

The live Jazz of Christian Foley at Cast was wonderful and seemed to be a perfect pairing with their wines and the view from their patio. I could have stayed longer.  The Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin impersonators at Sbargia were very entertaining! were This is the second or third time we’ve finished Passport at Wilson.  DJ Fiznik Rick was rockin’ the house and it’s always a party with Wilson.  It’s become out favorite last stop for Passport.

Insider’s tip:  Unless you check in at A. Rafanelli, get there early. The line to get in is long. But the very hospitable staff comes out to pour wines while your waiting and the Italian Trio that entertains makes the wait bearable.  Once inside, the food totally makes it worth the wait!

We had a fantastic weekend at Passport to DCV!  It’s become an annual tradition for us!

Wine of the Week; 2011 Ridge Geyserville

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2011 Ridge Vineyards Geyserville.

The Winery

Ridge Vineyards  is a California winery with two estates, Monte Bello in Cupertino, and Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  They are best known for producing single-vineyard premium Bordeaux style Cabernet Sauvignon Blend (“Monte Bello”), Zinfandels, and Chardonnay.  Ridge was established by three engineers from nearby Stanford Research Institute (SRI).  They produced its first commercial wine in 1962 after purchasing the winery in 1960.

Great wines have always been determined by their site – by nature, not by man – Paul Draper

It wasn’t too long after that, that Ridge gained an international  rep when the  Ridge Monte Bello, under the direction of winemaker Paul Draper , took fifth place in the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976 against nine other French and California wines.  Here’s what’s really cool though, the 1976 Monte Bello unanimously took first place in The Judgment of Paris 30th Anniversary when it was tasted against the same wines thirty years later!

Ridge has four estate vineyards, Monte Bello (first commercial release was in 1962), Geyserville (first release 1966), Lytton Springs (first release 1972), and their newest property East Bench.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine comes from Ridge’s Geyserville vineyard located in the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.  It has is home to the oldest vines that Ridge farms. The “Old Patch” section of the vineyard contains vines that are more than 130 years of age.

Geyserville is a traditional field blend of zinfandel and its complementary varieties: carignane, petite sirah, and mataro (mourvedre). Each vintage is unique, distinct, extraordinary… yet they do have elements in common, including the blackest of blackberry fruit, ripe plum, rich cherry, and cedar. A remarkably consistent and elegant wine with exceptional layering, Geyserville’s unique flavor characteristics are often attributed to the relatively higher percentage of carignane, added to the petite sirah found in most of our other zinfandels. Among the most age-worthy of Ridge wines, Geyserville often drinks beautifully well beyond 10 years of age. – Ridge Vineyards

Click here to watch a video of winemaker Eric Baugher describe this vineyard.

Blend of 78% Zinfandel, 16% Carignane, 4% Petite Sirah, 1% Alicante Bouschet, and 1% Mataro; 14% alcohol; Retail – $38

My tasting notes follow:
Dark ruby color with lifted kirsch, bramble, lavender and spice aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and balanced with wonderful acidity and tart black cherry, black raspberry and mineral flavors with a long savory finish. Drink now or age for at least 10 years >>Find this wine<<
Rating: A: I adore field blends and this is one is among the best year in year out. And it’s one of the most food friendly Zins I’ve ever had.

Pair with: I went to a Ridge event last year where the 2006 vintage of this wine (drinking beautifully BTW) was paired with Kale, Sausage and Pecorino Pizza.  This would make a great Thanksgiving wine.  And for my vegan brethren consider pairing with Braised Seitan with Black Pepper Plum Sauce. 

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Related posts:


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 Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2011 Kokomo Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2011 Kokomo Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard.

From The Winery

Perched on 120 acres of prime Dry Creek Valley east benchland vineyards known as Timber Crest Farms, Kokomo Winery concentrates on small production, single-vineyard wines. Started in 2004 with the production of a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Kokomo Winery focuses their terroir-driven philosophy on Sonoma County and its distinct appellations. Owner and Winemaker Erik Miller named the winery after his hometown of Kokomo, IN, and decided on a Coastal Cypress Tree for the logo to signify his move out west. Joined by his best friend from Purdue, Josh Bartels, as Kokomo’s assistant winemaker, Erik partnered with legendary grower Randy Peters, who has over forty years of wine grape growing experience under his belt. The three have formed quite the successful alliance, as Kokomo Winery has now joined the elite boutique wineries of Sonoma County, gaining more 90+ ratings and Gold Medals with each anticipated release. 

I know them more for their Zinfandel and Rose than Pinot Noir.  However, I picked up a bottle of this Pinot Noir when I visited for Passport To Dry Creek in April because I really enjoyed it.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine was sourced from a vineyard is located where a former Gravenstein apple orchard stood, 10 miles from the Pacific Coast.  It is 100% Pinot Noir – the Pommard clone.  It was aged in 100% French Oak, 30% new.

The 2011 Vintage of this wine retails for $42. 13.8% alcohol

Wine of the Week; 2011 Kokomo Pinot Noir Gopher Hill Block Peters Vineyard

My tasting notes follow:

Garnet color with appealing rose petal, pomegranate,strawberry, damp earth and baking spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with wonderful acidity, supple tannins and strawberry, pomegranate, a bit of caramel and spice flavors with a lingering finish

Rating: A-:  This wine was such a treat!

Pair with: We paired with grilled salmon and a homemade tomato salad.  It was a fantastic pairing.

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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 Blog.com. Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

Wine of the Week; 2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Zinfandel

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  For this week, my Wine Of The Week is the 2009 JC Cellars Iron Hill Zinfandel.

The Winery

JC Cellars (“JCC”) is an award-winning urban winery located in Oakland, CA.  Jeff Cohn is the winemaker and president. His wife Alexandra Cohn is the CFO. The winery was founded in 1997.

JCC is best known for their single vineyard Zinfandels, and Rhone blends. Their impressive portfolio of wines includes white and red Rhône blends, Syrah, Petite Sirah, a few other “red blends” (most notably, the Imposter and Smoke and Mirrors) Pinot Noir, a Rosé, a newly release single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, and a dessert wine. Annual production is about 5000 cases.

Jeff has access to some prime fruit, including renowned vineyards such as Rockpile in Sonoma, Stagecoach in Napa, and Dusi in Paso Robles. And Jeff certainly knows how to make great fruit into great wine. JCC has earned boatloads of 90+ point wines from major wine publications like Wine Spectator, and the Wine Advocate.

I think it’s fair to say Jeff likes to “tinker”, or as the JC Cellars website put it… Jeff fuses his passion for classic French winemaking with New World innovation”He released his first Pinot Noir this summer, and sells a Viognier that is a collaboration with a French winery –  Domaine François Villard of Condrieu.  As if his gig at JC Cellars/Jeff Cohn Wines weren’t enough, Jeff is also a consulting winemaker.

The Wine

The fruit for this wine was sourced for the Iron Hill Vineyard in Sonoma Valley.  The vineyard is planted on volcanic rock,  with not much dirt to speak of, and a very large lavender patch right next to the vineyard.  It produces a Zinfandel that is distinctive and exotic that’s more in tune with Côte Rôtie in Northern Rhone than Sonoma.

 JC Cellars Iron Hill Zinfandel

My tasting notes follow:

Nearly opaque purple color with lifted lavender, leather, dark fruits, white pepper, and a bit of garrigue aromas. On the palate, it approaches full-bodied, and is fresh with a plush mouthfeel and layers of black raspberry, black cherry, blueberry, red currant and spice flavors. Medium long finish.  SRP-$35 |225 cases| 14.8% alcohol

Wine purchased for review

Rating: A-: An outstanding and exotic Zinfandel!  

Pair with: Brazilian Feijoada or Moroccan tajine

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 98-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 94-97/Outstanding
(A-) – 90-93/Excellent
(B+) – 86-89/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail

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 Blog.com. Copyright 2013 ENOFYLZ Wine Blog. All rights reserved.

2013 ZAP Zinfandel Festival Recap!

Last week I attended the 22nd Annual Zinfandel Festival.  It’s hosted by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (“ZAP”).  This was my second year attending this mother of all things Zinfandel event.

I attended two of the four events – Epicuria Food & Zin Pairings on Thursday, and the Grand Tasting on Saturday.


Epicuria, a “gourmet adventure”, is a walk around tasting offering samples of diverse culinary delights prepared by a cadre of restaurants and other food purveyors paired with Zinfandel.  What I appreciate about it is that it expands one’s perception of Zinfandel’s affinity for a variety of foods.  In other words, Zinfandel can be so much more than a BBQ, and burger wine!

Embark on a gourmet adventure as you explore the versatile flavors of Zinfandel at ZAP’s informal dine-around event. You have the opportunity to sample sophisticated and whimsical culinary creations from master chefs, perfectly paired with 50 top Zinfandel wines.

I came to the event hungry. Very hungry.  But I knew there would be plenty of food. Top notch food.  And plenty of Zinfandel! Top notch Zinfandel!  You would have had to roll me out of the Concourse Exhibition Center if I’d tried everything, even half of everything offered!

Zinfandel Festival - Epicuria crowd

The epicurean highlights for me were:

  • Harris’ signature steak tartare beautifully paired with Ridge Vineyards 2005 Lytton Springs, and 2007 Lytton Springs.
  • Smoked duck, apple compote, fennel crepe from Taste in Plymouth (fabulous restaurant – highly recommend) paired with 2010 Terra d’Oro Deaver Vineyard Zinfandel.
  • Spicy Thai curry pulled pork on candied jalapeno rafts garnished with cilantro and lime from Le Truc, paired with Rock Wall Wine Company 2010 Hendry Reserve.
  • Lamb merguez and wild boar sausage with mango chutney and sauerkraut from Rosamunde Sausage Grill.
  • Soleil’s African Cuisine; Moroccan Carmoula seafood with couscous Tanzanian coconut fish; plus beans stew (slow garbanzo, red beans in spiced coconut sauce).
  • Chicken croquette with chipotle paired with m2 2010 Old Vine, Soucie Vineyard
  • The little bit of carnivorous heaven on earth pictured below is a “lamb lollipop” courtesy of Ruth’s Chris Steak House.  I’ve never had one before, but let’s just say it was the most delicious, delectable, and delightful lamb that I have ever had the pleasure of consuming! It was paired with 2009 Bonneau Rockpile Zinfandel.

Zinfandel Festival Epicuria - lamb lollipop

Oh and for my sweet tooth, I capped off my Epicuria experience at Healdsburg Toffee Company which had a fabulous selection of sweet treats including chocolate drizzled candied cayenne pecans; cinnamon and nutmeg spice in milk chocolate, dark chocolate cherry bomb; and the peanut butter crisps pictured below:

Zinfandel Festival Epicuria -dessert

But the best of the bunch for me was the bacon-dipped chocolate bites! My sweet goodness!

Grand Tasting

ZAP’s Zinfest is very well-organized.  I especially appreciated the Tasting Program and Tasting Map.  In addition to tasting hundreds of Zinfandels and Zinfandel blends, Saturday activities also featured Winemaker Workshops, ZinKitchen Seminars, and new for 2013, a Terroir Tasting area.  One thing I did miss from last year was the Media Lounge – a quiet area set aside for media and trade folks lined with bottles almost every producer.  It was great to be able to adjourn to the Media Lounge  and taste at one’s own pace once the main floor got crowded mid-afternoon when the general public is admitted (there is a 4 hour window between 10 am-2 pm for media and trade). Once the general public is added to the mix, the event turns into a writhing sea of humanity.

Zinfandel Festival - ZAP barrels

And speaking of bodies of water…check out the young man on bucket brigade below emptying dump buckets from the ocean of Zinfandel!


The Grand Testing featured 193 wineries scheduled to participate (probably 400 wines).  Since it was impossible for me to taste all the wines, my strategy was to try 25 producers that were new to me. That strategy creates a dilemma for me.  That’s because on one hand, it means skipping some of my favorite perennial top-notch Zinfandel producers like Bedrock Wine Co.Black SearsCarlisleCarol SheltonDashe CellarsJC CellarsRidge VineyardsRobert BialeSeghesioTurley and Valdez Family.  On the other hand, I dig uncovering new gems.  Of course the “right” answer for me was do both.  I tasted wines from 25 new to me producers.  Then at the end of the day did my “taster’s choice” when I stop by some favorites to do a little tasting!

I ended up tasting 75 wines before tapping out mid-afternoon,and doing my “taster’ choice”.

My favorite new to me wines, which I rated “outstanding” – 90 points or higher were (in alphabetical order):

  • 2011 Brown Estate Vineyards Zinfandel Chiles Valley ($50)
  • 2011 Brown Estate Vineyards Zinfandel Napa Valley ($42)
  • 2010 Charter Oak Winery Guido Ragghianti Old World Field Blend ($58)
  • 2010 Charter Oak Old Vine Monte Rosso, Sonoma County ($48)
  • 2009 Grgich Hills Zinfandel Estate Grown ($35)
  • 2010 Klinker Brick Zinfandel Old Vine Old Ghost ($37)
  • 2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley ($40)
  • 2010 Limerick Lane Zinfandel Russian River Valley ($44)
  • 2010 Ottimino Zinfandel Biglieri Vineyard ($38)
  • 2009 Ottimino Zinfandel Rancho Bello ($30)
  • 2010 Puccioni Zinfandel ($29)
  • 2011 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi $35) (barrel sample)
  • 2009 Scott Harvey Vineyard 1869, Napa Valley ($45)
  • 2010 St. Anne’s Crossing Serracino, Dry Creek Valley ($50)
  • 2010 St. Anne’s Crossing Zinfandel King City ($36)
  • 2010 Storybrook Mountain Zinfandel Mayacamas Range ($36)
  • 2010 Talty Winery Zinfandel Dwight Family ($30)
  • 2009 Talty Winery Zinfandel Estate William Talty Vineyards ($38)
  • 2010 Three Wine Company Zinfandel Evangelho Vineyard ($32)
  • 2009 Vino Noceto Zinfandel OGP Grandpère Vineyard ($29)
  • 2009 Woodenhead Zinfandel Guido Venturi Vineyard ($34)
  • 2010 Woodenhead Zinfandel Leras Ranches Bertoli ($30)

In terms of my favorite perennial top-notch producers, I was only able to get to a few because it got to be too crowded.  The wines from that bunch that stood out for me were:

  • 2010 Black Sears Estate, Napa Valley
  • 2011 Carlisle Winery Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley ($45) 
  • 2010 Dashe Cellars Florence Vineyard, Dry Creek ($35)
  • 2011 Ridge Vineyards Primitvo (barrel sample)
  • 2010 Valdez Family St. Peter’s Church Zinfandel

Whenever I go to ZAP’s Zinfest, I’m reminded of my epiphany wine.  It was 1999 Lolonis Redwood Valley Zinfandel.  So my old friend Zinfandel…until our next reunion…I’ll drink of you often! Cheers!

Related post you might enjoy:

Wine of the Week; 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2005 Domaine Carneros Le Rêve

The Winery

Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 by Champagne Taittinger of France in partnership with Kobrand Corporation. It is located in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley, along with Gloria Ferrer. The Carneros terroir is ideally suited to producing Chardonnay,and Pinot Noir, typically the backbone of both Champagne, and California Sparkling wine.  That’s because Carneros offers cool nights, foggy mornings, and sunny, breezy days offering fruit of extraordinary elegance, complexity, and intensity.

Domaine Carneros is a beautiful Chateau that was built in 1988. The building was inspired by historic Chateau de la Marquetterie in Champagne France, which is the estate home of the Taittinger family.


The Wine

Domaine Carneros sources 95% of their fruit from organic estate vineyards, and all of their wines are labeled with the Carneros appellation.  Eileen Crane is CEO/Founding Winemaker.

This wine is a Blanc de Blancs,  which means the wine is produced from all white grapes. Le Rêve, which translates to “the dream” in French, is considered to be the tête du cuvee  (flagship wine) of the winery.  The wine is aged 6 years in Domaine Carneros’ cellars, carved into the hillside beneath the winery, before release.

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

2005 Domaine Carneros Le Reve

My tasting notes follow

Light straw color with persistent bead of tiny bubbles, with brioche baked pear, tropical fruit, and a touch of mineral aromas. On the palate it shows a soft creamy mousse, and is elegant, balanced, and complex with stone fruit, apple, tropical fruit, and mineral flavors. Long finish – 93pts.

Rating: Highly recommended!

Pair with: It makes a great apéritif, but is also fantastic with fresh oysters and other shellfish, crab cakes,  and ceviche.  Try with an aged Gouda or other hard cheeses. And it makes a delicious counterpoint with triple cream cheeses.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

Alcohol: 12% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: > CaliforniaNapa / SonomaCarneros

Varietal(s): 99%% Chardonnay, 1% Pinot Blanc

Cooperage: Aged on lees in the bottle for five and one-half years

Retail: $95

Cases produced: 4,450

Purchased for review

Related posts you might enjoy:

2006 Seghesio Omaggio-Wine Of The Week

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for August 12th-August 18th  is the 2006 Seghesio Omaggio

The Winery

Seghesio Family Vineyards is a Sonoma County winery located in Healdsburg.   It was founded in 1895 by Italian immigrants Edoardo and Angela Seghesio.   They purchased  a 4 acre vineyard and built a winery in 1902.   Today, Seghesio owns a collection of estate vineyards composed 160 acres located in Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Valley.   The winery is run by the 3rd and 4th generation Seghesio family members.  It was sold to Napa-based Crimson Wine Group last year.  CEO Peter Seghesio, and his cousin, winemaker Ted Seghesio , stayed on after the acquisition.  They produce approximately 100,000 cases annually.  They are best known for their Zinfandel, but they also produce Pinot Noir, and various Italian varietals including, Sangiovese, Arneis, Barbera, and Pinot Grigio.

I was introduced to Seghesio several years ago, when my wife and I were to Healdsburg a few times a year.   We purchased this wine in 2009.  Frankly, I’m surprised we were able to hold on to it for 3 years!

I must say that Seghesio puts on some great events. My wife and I attended the 2010 Chef’s Harvest event.  It was a great event where learned the about the versatility of Zinfandel with a variety of world cuisines.  And last year when we attended Passport to Dry Creek Valley, it was one of our favorite stop. If you’re in Healdsburg, you must drop in!

The Wine

“Omaggio,” is Italian for homage.  The wine is a tribute to the founders.  This “Super-Tuscan” blend was initially released in 1995 for Seghesio’s centennial harvest.  It’s been produced annually since, with the exception of the 2000 vintage.

This a flagship wine produced from their best blocks of estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese grapes grown on their Home Ranch Vineyard in Alexander Valley.  The grapes were hand-harvested, and each lot went through the “saignée” (pronounced “sonyay”) process, whereby some grape juice is bled off prior to fermentation.  The level of tannins and color is intensified in the remaining juice.  The wine is aged 18 months in French oak barrels, a third fo which are new.


My tasting notes follow:

Dark garnet color with dark fruit, anise, vanilla, cedarwood, and a hint of dark chocolate aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, well-balanced with very good acidity and black cherry, black currant, vanilla, and clove flavors. Medium-long finish. When I tasted at the winery a couple of years ago, it was a little hot, but it’s drinking very nicely now! – 90pts

Recommendation: This was an outstanding wine.  It’s definitely ready to drink now. Pair with Shepherd’s Pie, Veal Parmesan, Osso Buco, or a steak!


Alcohol: 15%

Closure: Cork

AVA:  CaliforniaSonoma CountySonoma Valley

Varietal(s): Cabernet Sauvignon (~60%) and Sangiovese (~40%).

Production: 500 cases

Suggested Retail: $60 USD

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!