Wine of the Week; 2010 Stage Left Cellars Go Getter

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 2010 Stage Left Cellars Go Getter

The Winery

Stage Left Cellars is an urban winery located in Oakland, California not too far from Jack London Square. By urban winery I mean their winemaking facilities are located in an urban setting, rather than in a rural setting near the vineyard.

The winery is owned and operated by Melinda Doty and her husband, Rich Williams who is the winemaker.   Melinda and Rich both had corporate gigs before they decided to exit “Stage Left” and pursue their dream of opening a winery.  Like so many winemakers, they were making wine in their garage before taking the plunge into commercial winemaking.  Their first commercial effort was the 2004 “Day Job” a blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre.

Stage Left is focused primarily on Rhone varietals and Rhone blends.  They source their grapes from throughout California and Oregon. Case production is about 1,200/year

Stage Left is open the first Saturday of each month, and by appointment.  The tasting fee is $5.  Stage Left was voted the “Best San Fransisco” area winery for 2011 on the ABC 7 “A” List.  I highly recommend visiting.  You’ll enjoy the wine and they’re great hosts!

The Wine

The fruit for this wine was sourced from vineyards throughout California. The Viognier is from Alder Springs (Mendocino), the Roussanne is from Catie’s Corner (Russian River Valley), and the Grenache Blanc hails from the Russell Family (Paso Robles). The grapes were fermented separately, and were even allowed to sit on skins for a short period of time,  That add a bit of tannins to the structure, which not only should enhance ageability.

sl go getter 2

My tasting notes follow:

Aromatic honeysuckle, tropical, pineapple citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied with a great mouthfeel, and crisp acidity accompanied by white peach, honey, and citrus flavors. Long finish.

Rating: A-

This wine was great at the table thanks to its crisp acidity. We enjoyed it with a variety of tapas from Rumbo al Sur, including Shrimp and Scallop Enchiladas, Mussels Moqueca, and even Chile Rellenos, for Mothers Day.

The Wine Geek Stuff:

  • Alcohol: 14.1% alcohol.
  • Closure: Cork.
  • AVA: > California
  • Varietal(s): 57% Viognier, 29% Grenache Blanc, 14% Roussanne
  • Retail: $34 (It was on sale the day I purchased for $26)
  • Cases produced: 290
  • Ageability: Drink now, or hold for 3-5 years

Other Related Posts:

Wine purchased for review

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 Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting- The Best of Rhone Rosés

I attended, as media guest, the 16th annual “Celebration of American Rhone Wines” in San Francisco, at Fort Mason Center last weekend.  Rhone Rangers is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the Rhone varietal wines produced in the U.S.

The two-day event featured a Winemaker Dinner on Friday catered by The Girl and The Fig. The dinner also featured the presentation of a Lifetime Achievement Award to Randall Grahm, the “Original Rhone Deranger”,and founder of Bonny Doon Vineyard.  On Saturday was the Grand Tasting and Seminars.  The Grand Tasting was a  great opportunity to taste about 500 of the best American Rhone wines from close to 100 Rhone Rangers member wineries (For a list of participating wineries-click here).

RR Fort Mason Shot

If there ever was a time the vinous cliché “So many wines, so little time” is true, it’s at a huge event like this. After my experience at last years Rhone Rangers SF Tasting, I wanted to narrow my focus a bit.  I decided to limit my tasting to Rosé!

I adore Rosé, and those made from Rhone grape varieties are my favorite! Besides it would give me a chance to get an early start on the first Rosé from the fabulous 2012 vintage.  When I looked at the mostly excellent event program, there were 30 wineries listed under “Rosé”.

Well the early start turned out to be a mixed bag. That’s because a few wineries who’d intended to have their Rosé ready, decided they weren’t ready for primetime.  Likewise,  a couple of my perennial favorite Rosé producers Bonny Doon, and Quivira, Rosé was not yet bottled ( one producer shared with me that they’d bottled their wine two days before the event, and another pour his Rosé from a sample bottle). I think the unofficial start of Rosé season is April.  Nonetheless I tasted some great wines and if the quality of the wines I tasted is any indication, 2012 should be a great season for Rosé!

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

2012-04-24-RoseWines

The many shades of Rosé…Photo Credit: goo.gl/iKJXT

My recommendations and complete tasting notes follow (in alphabetic order within each category):

Highly Recommend (90+ pts)

Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting: Best of the Rhone Rosés

Sebastian Donoso; Winemaker for Campovida

  • 2012 Campovida Grenache Trails End - California, North Coast, Mendocino County - Coral color with lifted red fruit, citrus, spice and rose petal aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, dry and fresh with cherry, raspberry, melon, citrus and spice flavors. Long finish (91 pts.) – $34
  • 2012 Curtis Heritage Rosé - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County - Light pink color with pretty cherry, sweet citrus, and hint of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and dry with medium acidity. It shows slightly tart raspberry, citrus, mineral and spice flavors. Medium plus finish. Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Cinsault (90 pts.) – $23
  • 2012 Lagier Meredith Syrah Rosé - California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Medium pink color with intriguing, aromatic red berry, violet, and spice aromas. On the palate, it between dry and off-dry, and medium-bodied with great acidity. It shows black cherry, black raspberry, and cantaloupe flavors. Long finish. Blend of Syrah, Zinfandel and Mondeuse. (92 pts.) – $20
  • 2012 L’Aventure Estate Rosé - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Salmon color with aromatic raspberry, citrus, melon, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, dry, and fresh with a great mouth feel. It shows raspberry, tangerine, melon flavors underscored with an appealing mineral undertone. Long finish. (92 pts.) – $25
margerum rose

Doug Margerum of Margerum Wine Company

  • 2012 Margerum Grenache Riviera - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County - Salmon pink color with appealing aromatic red berry, melon, and stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, fresh, and elegant with raspberry, strawberry, melon and spice flavors. Long finish. (91 pts.) – $18
  • 2012 Tablas Creek Dianthus - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Cranberry red color with tight red fruit, and dried rose aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and dry with wonderful acidity, and cherry, red plum, and spiced watermelon, and mineral flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of 60% Mourvedre, 25% Grenache, 15% Counoise (90 pts.) – $27
  • 2012 Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles - Pink color with enticing strawberry, stone-fruit,and spice aromas. On the palate, it medium-bodied, fresh and smooth with a great mouthfeel. It’s dry on entry, but closer to off-dry on the back palate with strawberry, watermelon, spice and mineral flavors. Medium + finish. Blend of 75% Grenache, 20% Mourvedre, 5% Counoise (90 pts.) – $20

Recommended (86-89pts)

  • 2012 Acquiesce Grenache Rosé - California, Central Valley, Lodi
    Light red color with ripe cherry, floral and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and off-dry with medium acidity. It shows ripe cherry, strawberry, and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. (88 pts.) - $18
  • 2012 Anaba Sonoma Valley - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley - Medium pink color with dark red fruit, spice and a hint of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s light-medium-bodied with Medium plus acidity. It shows tart cherry, red currant and spice flavors. Medium finish. Blend of 56% Grenache and 44% Syrah (87 pts.) - $22
  • 2011 Bella Grace - California, Sierra Foothills, Amador County
    Pink color with aromatic cherry, strawberry and a bit of floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, off-dry and smooth with medium-acidity. It shows cherry, strawberry, spice and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. 60% Grenache, 40% Mourvedre (89 pts.) - $22
  • 2012 Broken Earth Diablo Rosado - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Medium pink color with aromatic cherry, raspberry, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s between between dry and off-dry for me with medium acidity, and delightfully intense strawberry, cherry, and spice flavors. Medium finish. Blend of 80% Syrah and 20% that was co-fermented (89 pts.) - $18
  • 2011 Cline Cellars Mourvedre Rosé - California, San Francisco Bay, Contra Costa County - Deep pink color with cherry, and strawberry aromas. On the palate, it is medium-bodied, and dry with medium(-) acidity. It shows easy cherry, and strawberry flavors. Short medium finish. Nice value (86 pts.) - $12
  • 2012 David Girard Vineyards El Dorado - California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado - Light pink color with spiced cherry and raspberry aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied with medium(-) acidity. It shows strawberry, raspberry, mineral and a kiss of citrus flavors. Medium finish (86 pts.) – $22
  • 2012 Hagafen Rosé of Syrah Don Ernesto - California, Napa Valley
    Strawberry red color with earthy dark red fruits, and a hint of stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and dry with medium(-) acidity. It shows dark cherry and red current flavors. Medium finish (87 pts.) – $18
  • 2012 Halter Ranch Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedere Halter Ranch Vineyard – West Side - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles - Deep pink color with melon, red fruit and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and dry with wonderful acidity. It shows cherry, melon, mineral and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Picpoul (89 pts.) – $18
  • 2012 Holly’s Hill Grenache Rosé - California, Sierra Foothills, El Dorado County - Pink color with cherry, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and dry with medium acidity. It shows cherry, pomegranate, and spice flavors. Medium finish. (87 pts.) – $18
  • 2012 Meyer Family Syrah - California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands
    Pinkish red color with faint cherry, and raspberry fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry, medium-bodied with medium(-) acidity. It shows raspberry, tart cherry, and orange rind flavors. Medium+ finish (86 pts.) – $18
  • 2010 Paradise View Rosé Soleil - California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast - Pink color with strawberry, cherry, and melon aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, dry, and fresh with cherry, cantalouple, and watermelon flavors. Medium finish. (88 pts.) – $24
  • 2012 Peterson Vin Gris Donna Bella Bradford Mountain Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley - Vibrant light red color with raspberry, cherry, and a kiss of melon aromas . On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied with raspberry, cherry, melon and spice flavors. Blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignane (88 pts.) – $16
  • 2012 Peterson Rosé Bradford Mountain Vineyard - California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley - Salmon pink color with wild strawberry, cherry and a hint of citrus aromas. On the palate it’s light-medium bodied with strawberry, cherry, mineral flavors. Medium finish. Blend of Grenache, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. (88 pts.) – $21
  • 2012 Qupé Grenache Sawyer Lindquist Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Edna Valley - Light salmon pink color with strawberry, watermelon, mineral and a hint of stone fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s dry, fresh and medium-bodied with tart strawberry, cherry, watermelon and spice flavors. Medium+ finish. (88 pts.) – $22
  • 2012 Tercero Mourvedre Rosé - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County - Slightly cloudy darkish pink color with slightly earthy, dark fruit, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, fresh and dry with an ample mouth feel. It shows vibrant black cherry, plum and spice flavors (unlabeled sample from bottle) Looking forward to the finished version! (89 pts.) - $18
  • 2012 Unti Vineyards Rosé - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Pretty salmon pink color with raspberry, citrus peel and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, dry,fresh, and slightly tart with raspberry, watermelon, spice, and a kiss of citrus flavors. Long finish (89 pts.) – $22
  • 2010 Venteux Vineyards Mourvedre - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles - Light crimson color with earthy dark red fruit and anise aromas. On the palate, it between light and medium-bodied, dry with good acidity, and ripe strawberry, dark cherry, and spice flavors. Medium + finish. (88 pts.) – $28
  • 2012 Viña Robles Roseum Huerhuero - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles - Coral color with cherry, pomegranate, and a touch of brown sugar aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied with medium plus acidity, and a smooth mouth feel. It shows cherry, pomegrante and a kiss of spice aromas. Medium long finish. 100% Syrah (89 pts.) – $13
  • 2012 Zaca Mesa Z Gris - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley
    Light pink color with raspberry, tangerine, watermelon, and mineral aromas. On the palate, it’s between light and medium-bodied, dry and fresh with raspberry, melon, tangerine, and a bit of mineral flavors. Medium finish. (87 pts.) – $16

Other

  • 2012 Clos Saron Tickled Pink - California, Sierra Foothills
    Salmon pink color with faint red fruit aromas. On the palate, it’s light-bodied, and dry and tart with medium (-) acidity. It shows tart cherry. Short finish. Blend of 50% Syrah/50% Tempranillo (85 pts.) - $25
  • 2012 Pomar Junction Vineyard Syrah Rosé - California, Central Coast, Paso Robles - Pink color with cherry and mineral aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with medium acidity cherry, pomegrante, and spice flavors. Medium finish (85 pts.)$18

Taster’s Choice

After tasting through the 28 Rosés from the wineries listed event program guide, it was time for “Taster’s Choice”…Yup..it’s just what it should like.  I’m off “the clock”, and on to whatever I strikes my fancy.  After all this is gathering of the best Rhone wines America has to offer, and I wasn’t about to leave without tasting some white and red wines too!  I didn’t have as much time as I’d like, but the following wines stood out for me…

  • 2011 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley - Pale golden color with aromatic stone-fruit, mineral, and spiced honey aromas. On the palate, it’s approaching medium-bodied, crisp and dry with white peach, pear, mineral and a bit of citrus flavors. Medium-long finish. (91 pts.) – $24
Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting: Best of the Rhone Rosés

2009 Tercero Watch Hill Grenache

  • 2010 Lagier Meredith Syrah - California, Napa Valley, Mt. Veeder
    Deep garnet color with lifted mixed black and blue fruits, pepper, and dried herb aromas. On the palate, it’s ample, fresh, well-balanced and elegant with blackberry, blueberry, and spice flavors. Long finish.(92 pts.) – $48
  • 2010 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles - Carmine color with black raspberry, plum, smoked meat, and pepper aromas. On the palate, it’s ample with an intense supple mouthfeel. It shows black raspberry, plum, and a kiss of bittersweet chocolate flavors. Long finish. Blend of 45% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 21% Syrah, 4% Counoise (92 pts.) – $55
  • 2009 Tercero Grenache Watch Hill Vineyard - California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County - Garnet color with beautifully aromatic mixed berry, and spice aromas. On the palate, it’s medium/full-bodied, fresh, focused with fruity, but not jammy, cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and spice flavors. Long finish. (91 pts.)

You can’t come to an event like this and not have some food (albeit in my case, after, a few hours of wine tasting).  I had a little snacky-snack from The Girl and The Fig which was downright delicious, and left me envious of those who had a chance to partake of the dinner they served on Friday.

Note to self: Must go to The Girl and The Fig next time I’m in Sonoma!

The pièce de résistance on my Rhone Rangers experience was a couple of scoops of ice cream served up Three Twins Ice Cream.  One was Dad’s Cardamom, the other was Sea Salted Caramel…Daaaaaum it was all that! 

My takeaways from the event?

  • The state of the American Rhone Rosé is strong – more great choices than ever!
  • The prices seem to be creeping up on Rosé.  Though I prefer not to spend more than $20 for a Rose, I have from time to time for something I felt was special. But Rosé mostly falls into the “weeknight” category for me all year round. The median price for the Rosé I tasted was a tad over $20.
  • It was great to be able to purchase wines on the spot from some producers. In fact I ended up buying a couple of bottles of the Margerum Rosé.
  • The event seemed less crowded than last year, a good thing in my book, but if attendance was down, that’s a shame…

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

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Wine Of The Week: 2009 Lone Madrone Points West White

The 2009 Lone Madrone Points West White is my Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for August 26th-August 31st.

Lone Madrone Winery

The Winery

Lone Madrone is located in Paso Robles.  It was founded in 1996. It co-located with Kenneth Volk Vineyards, and the oh so cool Fat Cat Farms where they been growing organic herbs for 20 years (they have over 30 kinds of basil).  All that goodness make for a great stop if you’re in Paso, though Lone Madrone was the star of the show for me.

I discovered Lone Madrone earlier this year.  While at Tablas Creek, I asked for recommendations for other wineries in the area.  Our tasting room attendant recommended Lone Madrone, and told us it was owned by Neil Collins, the wine maker at Tablas Creek.  The way she put it is that Neil can make wines at Lone Madrone he can’t make at Tablas Creek.  Since Tablas Creek is one of my favorite wineries I decided to stop by on the last day of our Central Coast wine tasting trip.  I was impressed by the winery and the wines (we purchased a half-case).  I highly recommend the winery…especially if Rhône blends are your thing!

Here’s a bit Neil’s of bio from the Lone Madrone website…

Neil has been working in the wine industry for 21 years, spending time at Wild Horse Winery and then Adelaida where he became winemaker alongside the notorious Mr. Munch. In 1997 he moved his family to the vineyards of Chateauneuf-du-pape in southern France where he spent a year learning the cellars and vineyards of the famed Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the oldest and most highly regarded estates in France. Neil returned to Paso Robles to take up the new role of winemaker and vineyard manager at Tablas Creek Vineyards, the California property of Château de Beaucastel. Since that time, great success has been achieved by Tablas Creek, success in which Neil’s hand has been significant. Neil’s experience in French winemaking complemented his earlier training as a French chef in hometown of Bristol, England.

Lone Madrone definitely does some interesting wines.  For example, they produce a Grenache Blanc/Albariño blend called “La Mezcla”, a stainless-fermented Zinfandel built to be served chilled, a Tannat, a couple of Italian varietals – Nebbiolo, and Barbera, and wine that needs a better name, “Barfandel” – a blend of Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and Barbera. They make cider too!

The Wine

The 2009 Lone Madrone Points West White is a blend of the four of the five white Rhône varietals Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Picpoul Blanc (For a great description of the principal white Rhone varietals by clicking here).  The combination of Roussanne, Viognier, and Marsanne isn’t that unusual for a white Rhone blend, but in my experience, adding Picpoul Blanc to the blend is.  And it added a bracing acidity to this wine that makes balances out the fruit, and makes this a very food friendly wine.

Lone Madrone Points West White

2009 Lone Madrone Points West White

My tasting note follows:

Golden yellow color with aromatic stone-fruit, honey, floral and mineral aromas. On the palate its rich, full-bodied fairly viscous with ripe white peach, honey, melon and slight mineral flavors that are underscored by nervy acidity. Medium+ finish.  

Recommendation: This was a very good wine.  It would be a great match with spicy Indo-Paki, or Asian Cuisine, or seafood.  I enjoyed with steamed Mussels and a Spinach Salad.

Details: 

Alcohol: 15.4%

Closure: Cork

AVA:  > CaliforniaCentral CoastPaso Robles

Varietal(s): 42% Roussanne, 27% Viognier, 22% Picpoul Blanc, 9% Marsanne

Production: Unknown

Suggested Retail: $30 USD

Wine Of The Week – 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T-Block Hudson Vineyard

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for July 28-Aug 4 is the 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T Block Hudson Vineyard.

The Winery

I previously did a post on the winery entitled Bedrock Wine Co: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together back in January, wherein I focused on the sources of Bedrock’s grapes.   Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock.  You can check out his full bio here, but suffice it to say he’s been making wine since he was “knee-high to a bug”.  Here’s what the “About” section of the Bedrock website says about the winery…

Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop. Fruit from only the most excellent vineyard sites is hand pitch-forked into the destemmer, fermented in open top redwood and stainless vats using only native yeasts, and are manually basket pressed by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson into the sexiest oak from the coldest French forests.

In terms of the wine making process itself at Bedrock, it’s surprisingly Ole Skool (or as Morgan might put it “Cro-magnum”).  Grapes are pitch-forked into a small Zambelli destemmer, the punch-downs are manual, after fermentation the wines are basket pressed in an Italian press that is manually operated.   It’s a very manual and time-consuming process, but I can vouch for the results.  Peterson is making some spectacular wines!

The Wine

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Hudson Ranch Vineyard.  According to the Hudson Vineyard website…

Hudson Vineyards produces 10 different varietals of fruit, all of exceptional quality in the distinct Los Carneros AVA of Napa, California. With 160 acres planted, we sell fruit to over 30 wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma Counties. Of particular note are those wines that receive vineyard designation status. While Hudson Vineyards sells grapes to over 30 wineries, only a handful of producers have vineyard designation status.

This is not only a vineyard designate wine,  the grapes are from a specific “block” within the vineyard  which takes the concept of  terroir to the next level of varietal distinctiveness.

The wine was fermented on native yeast with 33% whole clusters.

 

My tasting notes follow:

Inky opaque purple color with very aromatic meaty, smoky, white pepper, dark fruit and violet aromas. On the palate, it medium-bodied, and round with a velvety texture, and beautifully balanced cassis, black raspberry, dark chocolate, and spice flavors. Long finish 92pts

 

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Details:  14.8% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: Napa Carneros.

Varietal(s): 96% Syrah, 4% Viognier.

Production: 160 cases

Suggested Retail: $39 USD

In a Wine Rut? Try these wines!

Admit it. You know there is a whole wide world of wine out there, but you still cling to a handful of favorites. Right?! I know it’s comfy, but you can do better! It’s time get out of your Cab, Chardonnay, Pinot wine rut, and discover some new favorites! With that spirit of adventure in mind, here’s a list of rut-busting wines to try. I’ll profile the grape from which the wine is made, and offer a recommendation of a fine example of each. There’s something for everyone with six white wine, and six red wines!

Cabernet Sauvignon grape cluster, shown by DNA...

Cabernet Sauvignon grape cluster, shown by DNA studies to be a cross of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon blanc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

White Wines

1. Marsanne

This is probably the finest grape variety you’ve never heard of. It makes a full-bodied, sometimes rustic wine with amazing complexity, and honey, peach, and sweet spice flavors. If you like Chardonnay, give this wine a try. It’s fabulous with cracked crab and other shellfish. Look for JC Cellars Stagecoach Vineyard Marsanne.

2. Viognier

I consider this grape to be a primary rival to Chardonnay. It produces a juicy, aromatic wine with exotic stone fruit , and spice flavors. If you like Gewürztraminer, give Viognier a try. I’ve enjoyed this wine with various Asian cuisines. Look for Yalumba Viognier Eden Valley.

3. Albariño

This grape, which is native to Spain, produces a juicy fragrant wine that reminds me of a cross between Viognier, and Sauvignon Blanc. It has that Viognier’s peachy flavors, along with fresh citrus flavors found in Sauvignon Blanc. It’s great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Pair with seafood, Asian fare, or tapas! I like the Martin Codax Albariño Rias Baixas Burgens.

4. Assyrtiko

This grape is native to Greece, where it is the specialty of the volcanic island of Santorini. Its lively acidity makes it a food friendly wine with citrus, pineapple, and mineral flavors. It would make a great alternative to dry French or Italian wine such as Pinot Grigio. It’s a natural match for a Feta Salad. Look for Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko.

5. Torrontés

This grape, which is Argentina’s only truly indigenous grape, produces a juicy fragrant wine with citrus pineapple and spice flavors. It is Argentina’s signature white variety. It’s a pretty food friendly wine that would be a great wine to bring along on a summer picnic. It pairs wonderfully with seafood, or try it with a pasta primavera or spicy Asian noodle, or curry dishes. Look for the Bodegas Colome Torrontés Estate.

6. Vermentino

This grape makes an increasingly popular juicy aromatic wine with citrus, stone fruit, and tropical fruit flavors. If you enjoy Sauvignon Blanc, and/or Pinot Grigio this one may change your mind! It pairs wonderfully with pesto, a specialty in Liguria, Italy. It would also be a good match with seafood, or Tuscan cuisine.  I recommend the Tablas Creek Vermentino.

Red Wines

7. Pinotage

This grape, which is the signature red variety of South Africa, was created in 1925 at Stellenbosch University. It a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, two French grapes, that thrive in South Africa. It shows the soft fruitiness of Pinot Noir, and the rustic characteristics of Cinsault. It produces a fruity, lively wine with soft tannins, and black fruit, spicy and many tasters report, banana flavors. While it’s home is South Africa it is also making inroads in New Zealand, Canada, Israel, Zimbabwe, California, North Carolina, and Virginia. This would make a nice change of pace if you enjoy Pinot Noir. Pair with game, ratatouille or hearty soups. Look for the Tukulu Pinotage.

8. Petite Sirah

This grape, which is also known as Durif, is considered an American Heritage grape. It produces a rich dense wine with blackberry flavors. If you like Zinfandel, give this wine a try. It’s a very good food wine. I’ve enjoyed with a wide variety of foods, but it great with steak, roasts, and grilled meats. Look for Ridge Petite Sirah Lytton Estate.

9. Mourvèdre (More-VEHD-ruh)

This grape originated in Spain where it is referred to as Mataro,or Monastrell. It makes rich dense red wines that are powerful, and tannic with earthy, savory black fruit and sweet spice flavors. It’s a good match for stews, roasts, and grilled meats. Look for the Quivira Mourvèdre.

10. Tannat

This is a grape, which is native to France, but now a specialty of Uruguay that produces makes robust; yet elegant wines with high levels of tannins, great aging potential, and dark berry, plum, and spice flavors. If you’re a fan of Cabernet Sauvignon, give Tannat a try. Owing to its high acidity it’s a bit more versatile than Cab. It would pair nicely with grilled meats. Look for the newly released Tablas Creek Tannat.

11. Teroldego (tah-RAWL-de-go)

This grape is native to Italy, but is also grown in California where does well in the Sierra Foothills region. It produces a ripe smooth wine that is dark and savory with dark berry, plum, and spice flavors. Its high acidity makes it food friendly. Try this with roast duck, Indian Cuisine, or your favorite red wine cheese. Look for the Urban Legend Teroldego.

12. Aglianico

This grape, which is native to Italy makes the great full-bodied, intense, tannic wine with berry, cherries, plums and spice flavors. Its high acidity makes it food friendly. Pair with hearty meats, tomato-based pasta dishes like lasagna, or lamb. Look for the Seghesio Family Aglianico.

With over 10,000 grape varieties, this list is by no means complete. There are a host of other possibilities from around the world from countries, like Hungary, Austria, and Croatia to name a few! Not sure where to start? Cozy up to your local wine shop clerk, ask your wino friends (yours truly included), or do a little research online at sites like Snooth.com, or Wine Access.com. Your effort will not be in vain. You’ll be rewarded with new, and exciting wine that’ll get you out of your wine rut!

This article was previously featured on 12 Most and is republished, by the author. 

Fall 2011 Ridge Wine Blogger Tasting – Lytton Estate Rhones And A Surprise!

Last Sunday Christopher Watkins, Tasting Room Manager for Ridge Vineyards hosted the Fall 2011 Wine Bloggers Tasting at Ridge, Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  An intimate group of wine bloggers, many of whom I followed and am a fan of, met in the barrel room.  It was great to put faces with names.  That made the experience that much more enjoyable!

We had the good fortune to sit down for the tasting at the same time as Zinfandel grapes were arriving, so Christopher lead on an impromptu tour of the crush pad, and winemaking facility.  The highlight of the tour for me was watching fruit being emptied from their bins, and being de-stemmed.  It was my first time seeing a de-stemmer in action – amazing!

Truck bed full of grape stems after going through the de-stemming machine...

We didn’t know what we were going to be tasting before we arrived.  The wines Christopher selected were small production library wines produced from Lytton Estate fruit.  And courtesy of my Wine Tasting Hero - Richard Jennings, there was also Ridge mystery wine!

To wet our whistles, and prepare our palates for a slice of Ridge library goodness to come, we were served a Chard.

  • 2008 Ridge Chardonnay Monte Bello - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light golden-yellow color with tropical fruit, pear, and hint of mineral aromas. On the palate medium bodied, creamy with well-integrated oak, and pear, pineapple, baking spice flavors. Medium finish. (89 pts.)
Our first flight of wines were a Grenache and a 50/50 Syrah-Grenache blend.
  • 2002 Ridge Grenache Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Ruby color. Tight nose with dark cherry, and earthy aromas. On the palate medium bodied, concentrated, with firm tannins, and good acidity with dark cherry, and spice flavors. Medium long finish 78% Grenache/13% Petite Sirah/9% Zinfandel (89 pts.)
  • 2003 Ridge Syrah/Grenache Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Light-medium ruby color with dark fruit, smoke, and spice aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, with ripe fruit, grippy tannins with blackberry, vanilla and spice flavors. Medium finish. 50% Syrah/50% Grenache (88 pts.)
Thereafter we were served (blind) the mystery wine brought by Richard Jennings of RJonWine.  The only hint we received was that it was a varietal Ridge no longer produces.  We were all asked to guess the varietal, and the vintage before the wine was unveiled. I actually guessed the varietal correctly initially, but over-thought it and changed my answer.  Doh!  I was way off on the vintage.  Double Doh!
  • 1990 Ridge Barbera Rancho Pequeno - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Light-medium ruby color some bricking with cherry, roasted meat, and earthy aromas. On the palate light bodied, balanced, and complex with cherry, cocoa, and vanilla flavors. Amazing fruit for 20+ year old Barbera. Medium finish (88 pts.)
After the lighter Grenache based wines and the Barbera,it was on to three flights of Syrah(wine blogging ain’t easy…but somebody’s gotta do it!;-)  The first flight was Syrah co-fermented with Viognier from the western parcel of the Lytton Vineyard.
  • 2003 Ridge Syrah Lytton West Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep garnet color with dark cherry, pepper, smoke and floral aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, with good balance, and vivid fruit with blackberry, pepper and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. Co-fermented with 9% Viognier. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep garnet color, and somewhat tight nose of dark fruit, dust, and toasty spices. On the palate medium + bodied, and well-integrated fine tannins with blackberry/plum, cocoa, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. 6% Viognier (90 pts.)
The next flight included Syrahs from 2000, 2001, and 2002 vintages.  The 2002 labeled “Syrah II” has an interesting story behind it.  There were two lots of Syrah that included Grenache in the assemblage.  Neither of the lots was deemed satisfactory, so it was decided to add Carignane to one lot, and Viognier to the other.  The lot with the Viognier was labeled Syrah II.  It would have been interesting to taste the two side by side, but I’ve noticed I prefer Syrah with Viognier blended in, so I didn’t miss it. Beside that enable us to stay with the Syrah/Viognier theme.


  • 2002 Ridge Syrah II Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Carmine color with dark fruit, black cherry, and floral aromas. On the palate medium bodied, moderately complex, and supple with black cherry, pepper and a bit of spice flavors. Medium long finish. 76% Syrah/22% Grenache/2% Viognier (90 pts.)
  • 2001 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color with smoked bacon, dark fruit aromas. On the palate medium bodied, with vibrant fruit and blackberry, cocoa, vanilla, and spice flavors. Medium finish. 1% Viognier (91 pts.)
  • 2000 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Carmine color with dark fruit, pepper, and leather aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, smooth, ample, and round with black cherry, cocoa, and touch of spice flavors. Long finish. 1% Viognier (92 pts.)
Christopher saved the best for last.  My wine of the day was the 1997 Lytton Estate Syrah.  Wow. As I write this, days later, I’m still reminiscing about the great aromatics of the ’97 (courtesy of the Viognier).  It’s a wine that revealed more nuances of aromas, and flavors as it had time to unfold in the glass.  I wish I could have spent more time with it . And for that matter, all the wines we tasted.


  • 1999 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color. Tight nose with dark fruit, earth, and spice aromas. On the palate, bold with good structure and black cherry, anise, earth, and touch of mineral flavors. Medium + finish. 92% Syrah/7% Grenache/1% Viognier
    (90 pts.)
  • 1997 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color. Aromatic with dark fruit, asian spice, cigar box, and floral aromas. On the palate, ample, refined, and smooth with black cherry, black plum, spice and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. My favorite of the day! 88% Syrah/12% Viognier (93 pts.)
It amazes me how long-lived Ridge wines are.  Then again, their wines are seemingly built to last.  The 1990 Barbera is Exhibit A was the 21-year-old Barbera, which is beyond my realm of experience.  For one, I can’t seem to hold on to wines I enjoy for that long and secondly, I don’t associate Barbera and long-term aging, as I would the other varietals we tasted, particularly Syrah.  I think it reflects great fruit in the hands of great winemakers committed to excellence.  And that, in a nutshell, is Ridge!  After my recent #Cabernet Day Monte Bello Tasting at Ridge, I must confess I’m getting a bit spoiled on fine wine!
A ginormous thanks  to Christopher, and Brandy Alexander for hosting and doing the stuff that made for a great tasting!

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” - Unknown

Thanksgiving, Wine and You!

Thanksgiving Dinner

We’ve decided to deep-fry our turkey for Thanksgiving this year. Initially I wondered if deep frying the turkey vs. roasting it one way or another would influence by decision about what wines to pair with the turkey.  My initial conclusion: only slightly because the deep-fried turkey tends to be more flavorful than a roast turkey in my experience. But then I realized I was over-thinking it.  There’s a tendency to do that, I think, with holiday meals because a) there are so many flavors involved, and b) wanting to please everyone with wine(s) selected.  Especially Thanksgiving, which can be perceived to be especially challenging, with the combination of sweet, savory, and spicy flavors.

Figuring out which wine(s) to serve with your Thanksgiving meal doesn’t have to be daunting, especially if you work with versatile wines. Here are my thoughts on the matter…

The first thought that comes to mind is to select a red and a white to keep those who are going to drink wine happy.  But indulge me for a moment. If I had to pick one wine to go with Thanksgiving dinner, it wouldn’t be a white or a red; it would be a dry rosé, and probably a dry sparking rosé at that. Dry rosés are very versatile, and can handle the diversity of flavor and “weight” profiles that are part and parcel of Thanksgiving fare. You add the effervescence of a sparkler to the mix and you’ve got the Swiss army knife of wines (See my blog about Rosés – “Everything is coming up Rosés for me” below)!

Now back to my original thought of having a mix of red and white wines. I recommend the following:

1.       Start with a sparkling wine. It’s a great aperitif to sip while waiting for the turkey to finish cooking, and it goes well with starters like appetizers, soup, and salad.  Beside it adds a celebratory note to Thanksgiving.

2.      For white wine, the safe bet is a dry, or off-dry Riesling. Rieslings play well with spicy, sweet or sweet dishes. It’s an aromatic grape that typically produces wines with almost perfumed aromas of flowers, and stone fruits (apples, pears, peaches, and apricot), and it’s high in acidity, which makes it a versatile pairing partner for your Thanksgiving meal.   Other good choices are Gewurztraminer, and Pinot Gris. Looking to expand you, and your guests wine palates? Try an Albarino, or Viognier.  While they lack the name recognition of Chardonnay, either will offer more versatile pairing power for your Thanksgiving meal than many Chardonnays.

3.      For red wine, the safe bet is a Pinot Noir, a traditional favorite red wine for Thanksgiving. Pinot Noir’s fruitiness, subtle earthy undertones, and acidity tend to show well with the traditional flavors of turkey and stuffing. Not a fan of Pinot Noir?, try a Beaujolais Nouveau a light fruity red wine made from the Gamay grape will pair well with turkey and all the fixings. Beaujolais Nouveau is released from France on the third Thursday of November, just in time to highlight your Thanksgiving feast!  Or even better try a Cru Beaujolais which is step up in quality.

4.      And remember about a wine to pair with dessert.  Madeira would work well with pumpkin/sweet potato pie, or pecan pie, while a port, would work with chocolate desserts.  Looking to shake it up a bit on the dessert wine front?  Try an ice wine, or late harvest Riesling, especially with cheesecake. Just remember the dessert wine should be sweeter than the dessert.

Of course, at the end of the day choosing a Thanksgiving wine is truly about what pleases you and yours. There are no hard and fast turkey pairing rules, but there are lots of options to experiment with.

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Do you know the way to Viognier?

The clarification process can bring out the cl...

Image via Wikipedia

We recently went to dinner at our favorite Thai restaurant.  We decided to take a bottle of 2008 Yalumba Viognier -Eden Valley South Australia ($14/bottle; 14.5% A.B.V).  It’s a wine I purchased from my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants six months ago.  It paired wonderfully with the Thai dishes we selected, Crab fried-rice, Pad Thai, and a moderately spicy dish called “The King and I”.

Have you tried Viognier ( pronounced Vee-on-yay)?  If you haven’t you’re in a a treat!  Viognier is a white wine grape that can be difficult to grow, but in loving hands, it produces wine that is  intensely aromatic with stone fruit, tropical fruit,   spice, and floral notes on the nose.  It can be made into dry, off-dry, and dessert style wines.  It’s made all around the world, including France, South America, Australia, and here in the US.  In California  the Rhone Rangers have been tireless advocates of Viognier along with other Rhone varietals.

While I’m not an “ABC” (Anything But Chardonnay) guy, and I do enjoy Chardonnay, I generally  find other white wine varietals more interesting.  Probably because I feel other white wine varietals like Riesling, and Gewurztraminer are more versatile with the foods I tend to eat. That’s definitely the case with Viognier.  It pairs better with the foods I enjoy.   Beside Asian food, Viognier should pair well with grilled seafood, and shellfish including lobster.  It would also pair well with foods served with fruit salsa.  Be sure to keep the wine chilled, otherwise it can taste too “warm” – out of balance.

Since I’m a red-wine drinker, probably 3-1 compared to white wine, I also find it interesting that Viognier is added to Syrahs for it’s aromatics.  Whenever I’ve had a Syrah that included Viognier, I’ve really enjoyed it.

As for the Yalumba Viognier we had last night I scored it 90 points – Here are my tasting notes: Very light straw colored, with a touch of green.  It has a wonderfully perfumed nose with stone-fruit, flowers, and a touch of spice.  The light color of the wine belies its elegance.  On the palate it was viscous,  medium-full bodied, round, and creamy with  nice acidity. I picked  up ripe pear, and pineapple with a hint of spice with a long finish.   Great QPR (Quality-Price Ratio) at $14.

Looking to find a Viognier locally here in Northern Cali?  Try Rosenblum Cellars Kathy’s Cuvee Viognier ($18).  It’s has more residual sugar than the Aussie Viognier.  It’s the first Viognier we tried, and it’s one of our favorites too!

Find your way to Viognier!