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Tate Wines Team Up With Saddle Creek Wine Society

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What do you get when one combines a world class Napa wine maker, an extremely talented Executive Chef, a dynamic owner/marketer and a setting on a beautiful golf course? An absolutely marvelous time!!


David Tate the wine maker and owner of Tate Wines (also GM and wine maker at award winning Barnett Vineyards), provided the wines last evening at Saddle Creek Golf Resort. Add the bubbling, effervescent and eloquent speaking partner in Tate Wines, his wife, Suzanne Tate and you have 32 captivated attendees sitting lakeside enjoying many wonderful wines.


*2015 TATE Spring Street Chardonnay
-Brie cheese with jalapeños and apricot sauce (so unique)
-Shrimp, Grilled Peach, Macadamia nuts, Spinach with Sweet Citrus Vinaigrette
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*2014 TATE Spring Street, St Helena Cabernet Sauvignon
-Spiced Duck, Pork Belly Collards, Pomegranate Reduction
-Lemon-mint Sorbet and Lemonchello Martini
*2014 Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
-Teres Major Fillet, Parsnip Puree, Blackberry Gastrigue, Baby Chard Leaves
*2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
-Cabernet Cake, Vanilla Mousse, Black Pepper, Chocolate Bacon, Black Currents, Chocolate
Demi-glaze (a wildly successful treat!)
Chef Nigel, the Executive Chef at Saddle Creek Resort, provided a gourmet meal fit for kings & queens. Actually it was for Saddle Creek Wine Society in the community. The various dishes served were pieces of edible art. His creativity and wildly unique desert was off the charts!!
Add to the above quality of individuals and talents, a setting overlooking the ninth green over a lake and glowing fire pit on a lovely warm evening made this wine maker’s dinner truly memorable.


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Kola Farms

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Literally walking out of a Japanese Restaurant at lunch in Murphy, California, I happened upon a “soft opening” of a winery called Kola Farms. Having tasted many wines in Calaveras County without “much happiness” I was reluctant to enter, yet I was still curious. 20170913_131330
Firstly, it was indeed a soft opening, but already a handful of folks were sipping the wines. The goal and objective of Kola Farms is to specialize in premium and limited production wines from Calaveras, Amador and El Dorado Counties. They were featuring Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Grenache Rose, Barbera and Syrah varietals. I was stunned and shocked at the high quality of the wines tasted.

I started out skeptical but still inquisitive why a new winery would open up on the crowded Main Street in Murphy’s’. The first tasting was the Sauvignon Blanc which absolutely was shockingly great upon the reception of the nose and lots of soft citrus but still crisp on the palate.

The other two wines received the same ravening from this writer: The Barbera and Syrah. The Barbera had a rarely found complexity of soft tannins, wood and layering of a classic Barbera.
The Syrah was equally strong in quality with chocolate hints and a smooth but not a syrupy jammy quality.

One last comment on the Manager of the wine room, Lacy. She is knowledgeable, friendly and eager to answer any questions thrown her way.

The end goal of the wine tasting experience will be food, an indoor/outdoor downstairs porch and food/groceries being availability in the Kola Farms General Story. They still have work to do, but if the soft opening was any indicator of their longer terms goals, this is one solid addition to the crowded Main Street wineries – perhaps becoming one of the best!

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Pietro’s & LangeTwins, A Perfect Team

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Lodi just keeps getter better and better! I know a few folks are skeptical of this statement, as was I initially, but having some of the freshest and most authentic Italian foods and wines west of Milan, you too will becoming an advocate. Jim and Annette Murdaca served some of their best dishes, perfected with decades of experience and authenticity, even compared to the “well known Italian cities of NY & SF”. Add two of LangeTwins best wines, their Centennial Zinfandel and Midnight Reserve (Bordeaux Blend), and your palette is saturated with characteristics that are “heaven sent”.

This is the second food/wine pairing with Pietro’s and LangeTwins this year! The food from a fig enhanced “pizza” followed by Gnocchi con Piselli (pesto sauce & pine nuts—the gnocchi was as soft as a cloud) to the Fettuccini Piedmontese (pancetta, onion, garlic, peas, olive oil and an almost deadly black pepper) launches one into the Antipasti dish of Italian salami, cheeses and olives. Then to the Bruschetta (grilled Ciabatta with the freshest tomatoes, garlic, basil and olive oil) it is hard to determine which to savor first!

These were all tried with LangeTwins Sauvignon Blanc (light citrus and floral nose) and their Midnight Reserve a true Bordeaux with ripe berries and a hind of chocolate. The Midnight Reserve was just recently stockpiled in the wine cellar!

Then on to the main meal of NY Steak sliced and topped with fresh corti olive oil, sea salt, parsley and balsamic vinegar reduction. Both the LangeTwins 2011 Zinfandel (traditional not sweet) and 2013 Midnight Reserve paired like a long term love affair. The catch of the day was the Mediterranean sea bass, Branzino in Italian. It has a limited window and the flavor is buttery and mouthwatering.

Dessert was a “chocolate concoction topped with a pinwheel of fresh peaches” —- one slice was enough to burst the waist line!

Should you find yourself in Lodi, better yet, plan a visit to Lodi and treat yourself to the best one-two gastronomical punches you can imagine at Pietro’s and LangeTwins.

A special thanks to Mark & Candy Strubbe for the invitation.


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Ayrael Vieux

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The name is a “play on words” as they had a Border collie named Ayrael when they first bought the property. The dog was so entrenched in the grounds that it was originally named Ayrael Farms. Later they changed to it using the French word Vieux (view) to make it Ayrael Vieux (pronounced aerial view).


What you cannot see from the sky is an extremely lovely manicured vineyard of 1 ½ acres producing the grapes for all their wines— a very limited amount of approximately 400 cases. Bob Eisenman believes this size is optimal for producing handcrafted and artisan wines. This seems also to fit with his other passion the Bob Eisenman Jazz Group which has a few “gigs” coming up this summer.


The tasting room is warm, rustic and definitely a country theme. They are located in Douglas Flat just off Hwy 4. Ollie the vineyard dog (and on the back of the bottles) will most likely greet you upon entering the vineyard. Don’t be fooled, the grounds are like a well-groomed garden! Here you are invited to sit and enjoy your purchase or taste indoors at “the counter”.


The wine which stood out the afternoon of our tasting and conversation were the 2014 Montepulciano and 2010 Zinfandel. First the Montepulciano was smooth with dark berries and brought you back to memories of Italy in an instant! This was definitely one of the better wines I have tasted in Calaveras County. Only 38 cases were produced.

The second wine which stood out was their 2010 Zinfandel which only 149 cases produced. Raspberry, blackberry and rose petal were the dominate aromas and it produced a full initial and lasting impression on the palate. It was more a classical Zin than many “fruit booms” from the foothills.


Both of these wines are now residing in my cellar—nice job Bob!


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Jeff Runquist Wines

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The winemaker/owner can be called a man of “many vineyards”. Jeff’s career history is via Paul Masson Sherry Cellars (Madera) as an intern while studying enology at UC Davis. Upon graduating, he worked at Montevia (Amador) and was subsequently promoted to winemaker in 1982. He then spent 3 years at the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery, followed by J. Lohr winery in San Jose. Then in 1996-1997 made wine at Sycamore Creek Winery (Morgan Hill) followed by 12 years at McManis Family Vineyard (Ripon).  With this history, Jeff and his wife Margie, opened their winery in 2011, Jeff Runquist Wines in Amador.


During his sojourn, Jeff understood the “terroir” of each vineyard and decided to arrange contracts with no less than six wines from the Sierra Foothills, three from the Napa Valley, and two from Paso Robles. With this diversity in vineyards he has been able to produce a portfolio of a wide range of wines. I believe this provides Jeff a challenge with each varietal. The offerings are numerous but highlighted by Tempranillo, Cab Franc, Barbara, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel “Z”, etc.  He has conquered all them as evidenced by 28 Gold Medals and 80 Silver Medals in 2012 alone! And his awards have continued.



His varietal offerings are impressive. The two which stood out were the 2015 Mataró (which will be released shortly) and the 2015 Petite Sirah. His Mataró or Mourvèdre a Rhône varietal, was exceptional with blueberry, blackberry fruit with a ting of black pepper and a hint of smoke. The tannins were medium. This particular vintage will last in your cellar, as it will in mine once released!


The next wine was his Petite Sirah. This wine was almost perfect with a high viscosity, bold fruit forward aromas and high tannins (but not too harsh). Coupled with the mild acidity, this will enhance just about any bold entre presented with this wine. An excellent job! This one is aging in my cellar!

Again experience, melded with various vineyards in multiply AVA’s, Jeff has managed to produce a real gem in Amador.


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Alyris Vineyards

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What does a CEO of a gold mining operation and one of the top winemakers in Napa have in common? They both are extracting a rare commodity from the earth. Ewan Downie, CEO of Premier Gold Mines LTD, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada purposes to finding and exploring land to find buried gold. Rudy Zuidema, is a vineyard manager, viticulturist and superb winemaker, is taking what the earth and terroir offer and converting this into “liquid gold”.  Nothing shows this remarkable partnership like their 2014 Audition Chardonnay which won Double Gold at the 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.


Up on the backside of Mount George, to the northeast of Napa, at 1200 foot elevation is the Alyris Vineyard which produces a wonderful, hearty and smooth Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Zinfandel and Chardonnay are sourced from the Carneros region.  One of the keys to all their wines is the “cave aging process” for all their wines. The Cabernet in 100% French oak is aged 22 months in 60% new oak. The Chardonnay is aged 10 months in 100% French oak in new barrels and the Zin cave aged 17 months in French and Hungarian oak with 40% being new.


This “mining adventure” has struck three great finds. The Zinfandel, is a smooth peppery Napa Valley style Zinfandel. This wine is a must for those liking Zin’s and a great treat for those wanting a more traditional non-fruit bomb Zinfandel. As Wine Enthusiastic in their 92 point rating stated “Peppery, brambly, integrated and balanced, this impressively layered and complex 100% varietal wine highlights the grape’s ability to be fruity, spicy and soft all at the same time.” Only 140 cases were produced.


The Chardonnay is from Carneros region and is in the old world style.  Alyris winemakers’ notes are spot on as it possess “Aromas of white nectarine, cereal grains, and honeysuckle are the greeting to this wine. Core flavors of peach, ripe fig, and fresh lavender are held together with a rich and smooth structure that lasts through the finish of minerals, nutmeg and allspice.” This is one of my favorite “non-buttery Chardonnays in Burgundian style. The secondary malolactic fermentation is held at around 30%. Only 170 cases were produced.



The Cabernet Sauvignon is a delightfully smooth with lingering tannins. It is 100% Cabernet with no melding or manipulation of adding other varietals. Rudy describes it in the winemakers’ notes as “The 2013 vintage is expected to be one of Napa’s best, with impressive wines displaying excellent structure and having substantial longevity. The 2013 Audition cabernet is dense and concentrated with cassis, violets, and dark chocolate notes on the nose. The firm tannins are kept juicy with rich black currant, Bing cherry, and toasty brown sugar. The finish is long and fresh with rose pedal, pipe tobacco, and a lint of wet forest floor all wrapped in an envelope of creamy French oak.”  Only 160 cases were produced.

All three wine varietals are tucked away today in my cellar. If you want to find “liquid gold”, look no further and simply shout out “Eureka” (Latin for I found it!) at Alyris Vineyards.


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Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards

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Lange Twins Winery strikes twice in one night! Not the “twins” but their wines coupled with Pietro’s Trattoria excellent culinary presentation. Last Friday, Randy Lange, partnered with Pietro’s Trattoria (closed for remodeling) to do an Italian night in the barrel room at the winery. An event that rated 5 stars for so many reasons: decorations, music, appetizers, barrel tasting, real Italian food, great wine pairings, people, etc. So together, a sixth generation wine producer, coupled with a third generation restaurateur (Pete Murdaca), made a magnificent evening. Pete Murdaca is a phenomenal chef and only 28 years old!  His parents, Jim and Annette, have raised a gastronomical prodigy.


I have attached a couple of pictures of the atmosphere to get your mouth watering when Pietro’s reopens in June! The wines selected (Randy/Pete) were paired so nicely with the meal. The two highlights for the food/wine pairing were:

Cavatelli Alla Vaccinara, Oxtail ragu with Cavatelli Pasta. This was paired with Lange Twins 2014 Nero D’Avola. This hearty wine as stated on the menu “opens with an earthy and rustic aromas, a hint of dark fruit is also present. On the palate the dark fruit comes across as black cherry which carries through to the finish”. These two paired like a Taoist “Yin and Yang” philosophy with equal yet opposing forces that complement and complete each other.

20170324_194614 Bistecca Silna, charred Ribeye with fingerling potatoes in a Balsamic reduction. This single barrel Teroldego with its strong aromas of “cherry and blueberry on the palate, give way to the palate melding with flavors of chocolate, blackberry and sweet tones of vanilla spice”.  These two paired like a Monet painting of spring flowers—intense, inviting and dynamic.


Both wines are straight out winners as well as were the two courses of food!

Should you get a chance to visit Lange Twins Family Winery or partake in a meal at Pietro’s Trattoria when they re-open, you will walk away with cases of wine and a glow on your face after consuming the food.


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