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2016 YoungInglewood Cabernet Franc

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The Winery
Still the best label on any wine bottle and one of the top ten Cabernet Franc’s coming out of Napa Valley. The label is so simple with no wording but speaks volumes regarding their wine. He a tightrope walker balancing on a rope (hard to see in the picture) with the balancing pole. Here is a definition and use of a balancing pole: “An increased moment of inertia helps withstand external sources of torque, such as sudden gusts of wind. The heavy weights allow the tightrope walker to exert torque by simply rotating the pole slightly, which moves his/her center of mass the other way, helping re-center him- or herself directly over the tightrope”. So now think of the tightrope walker as the winemaker striving to balance a vintage of wine with fruit and acidity, sweetness and dryness, smooth finish and quality tannins, etc. One powerful “little figure” with no wording, provides the insight and vision of the Young Family in their quest in making excellent wine. Jim, Jacky and Scott Young have a keen insight on how to produce excellent wines year after year.


The Wine
The 2016 Young Inglewood Estate Cabernet Franc has a deep and dark brick red color and with a ting of Royal Purple. It has a medium viscosity on the eyes. On the nose you get blueberry, cherry, cranberry and a hint of plum and lavender. Also on the nose, you can get a waffle of red licorice, sage and sweet pipe tobacco. On the palate, raspberries, caramel, vanilla and new soft leather. This wine has the key benchmark of mild pyrazine with herbal and vegetal aromas of red bell pepper and peppercorns. This just adds some classical complexity to the wine. Medium acidity and sweetness but tannins that stir up the senses to be awakened but not be overpowered. The finish is like the tightrope walker, making it to the other side with confidence and completing the task assigned successfully. No wonder why their Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and blends, have made my list of the yearly Best Wines! The grapes were hand sorted and the wine spent 21 months in neutral French oak. Only 24 cases of Cabernet Franc were produced. Current list price is $110.


The Food Pairing
Tonight’s meal was a shish kabob barbequed filet mignon, red & orange bell peppers, purple onions and Portobello mushrooms. Two filet mignon were cubed and placed in a closed metal basket and layered with each of the ingredients sliced or slivered. The flavors of the vegetables over low heat on the BBQ waffled into the lightly seasoned meat. The peppers provided a complementary flavor profile to the wine. Served over a bed of cauliflower rice and accompanied with a fresh garden salad.





Small Wineries and COVID-19 – How You Can Help!

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The COVID-19 is something between Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and living in Toffler’s Future Shock for most of us today. That said being sheltered in place (SIP) or self-quarantined the human spirit is being squashed. Why? We are social beings with a sense of purpose with family, friends and community. We are all cut off and the resulting isolation is unsettling. Even of historical magnitudes and pervasiveness not seen since World War II affecting literally everyone, we will get through this with unwavering enthusiasm and hope, nonetheless a bit scarred but not beaten.


I am writing this today to bring attention to the fact that many small artisan and handcrafted wineries unfortunately may not be as fortunate. They are often single person, husband/wife and family operations of less than five individuals. They have invested their family monies to provide some unique and quality wines for our enjoyment. The financial impact of not holding tastings may strangle the life blood out of a few. Some small wineries have wine clubs and a solid local following. Some have just “opened their doors”. Nevertheless, all are going to be hurting financially shortly as the impact of their marketing and sales is squashed by having the tasting rooms closed.


I just went thru the last four months of these small wineries that I have written about and would encourage you to call the wineries (most are open but not for tastings) and place an order. This will help them immensely as you are helping them make a car payment, mortgage or put food on the table. I personally believe this is money well spent verses picking up a bottle of wine at the supermarket. Even if for one or two bottles the impact will be felt. The larger wineries will be fine in the long run, but these smaller boutique wineries may be pushed to the brink of extinction.


Do yourself a favor and pick up a wonderful bottle(s) of wine and support your neighbors in the wine business. All these wineries are in California. Many more can be found on my website or blog dating back more than four months. I have listed only a few of the varietals they make and clicking the website will give you a complete listing as well as their phone number.


Zuidema Wine Company – Grenache
Stringer Cellars – Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon
Mountain Tides – Petite Sirah
Cuda Ridge Wines – Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot
Cellar 13 – Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon
YoungInglewood – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, blends
Gossamer Cellars – Unique red & white wines (Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, etc.)
Acquiesce – Roussanne, Picpoul, Bourboulenc
Lavender Ridge – Roussanne, Rhone varietals

Prie Vineyard – Barbera, Dornfelder
Tenbrink Winery – Petite Sirah, Chardonnay
Tolenas Vineyards – Gamay, Rose, blends
Casino Mine Ranch – Vermentino, Tempranillo, Mourvedre
Hunter Glenn Wines – Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Syrah
Bodega Del Sur Winery – Tempranillo, Spanish varietals
Arroyo Cellars – Chardonnay, Zinfandel
3 Steves – Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere –
Allegorie & Val du Vino – Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Blends
Dusty Nabor Wines – Syrah, Grenache, Viognier
Dracaena Wines – Cabernet Franc, Rose
Jazz Cellars – Syrah, Sangiovese, Roussanne/Marsanne
Laura Michael – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel
Vinoce – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Detert Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Shale Canyon Winery – Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo
Tate Wine – Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Frog’s Tooth Winery – Chardonnay, Syrah, Petite Sirah
Porch Wines – Sauvignon Blanc, GSM

Wood Family Vineyards – Malbec, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon

McKahn Family Cellars – Syrah, Grenache, Viognier

Steven Kent Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, blends




2016 Zuidema Grenache – Spicy Elegance!

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2016 Zuidema Grenache from Napa Valley. This is his third release of Grenache which combines delicate finesse with the subtle power of Grenache. Rudy describes it as “the aromas are made up of white pepper, bright rhubarb, strawberry and blood orange peel. The bright acidity in the mid palate bursts with mixed berries, holiday spice and layers of anise and tarragon”. Even the finish gives a hint of the Old World with it being “rustic and not perfectly polished”. At a recent tasting with friends, most agreeing with the color being ruby to brick red, with cranberry fruit, having a spicy oak flavoring, yet showing the minerality of dry farming. Paired with stir-fried Udon noodles with Teriyaki chicken and broccoli. See more details on a previous story on Zuidema Wines at:





2017 Stringer Cellars Chardonnay

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Tonight a 2017 Stringer Chardonnay from Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara area. A single Vineyard designated wine. Paired with shrimp, two different pork sausages (pineapple & cheese) and fettuccine with mushrooms and broccoli. 20% new French oak barrels for 12 months and then 5 months in stainless steel. The wine is a golden straw color on the eyes with a medium viscosity. On the nose and palate, a strong bent of a citrus element of meyer lemon and green apple. The finish presents a pear tinge and a smooth finish. Retail price of $35. #chardonnaywine #stringerwines #stringerwinery #centralcoastwines





2016 Wente Winemaker’s Studio Selection – Pinot Noir From Monterey County

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Pulled a 2016 Wente Winemakers Studio Pinot Noir Selection last night. The grapes come from Arroyo Seco (just inland from Big Sur) in Monterey County. This wine incorporates four distinct clone varietals: 40% Clone 777, 26% Clone Pommard, 18% Clone A, 16% Clone 115 . This wine has multi-levels of aromatics of white pepper, raspberries and Bing cherries. On the palate it burst with red fruit of strawberries, clove to raspberry jam. An unique flavor of slightly burned sugar similar to crème brulée was present. Then a tinge of sweetness lingers on the finish with velvety tannins. #winemakersstudio #wente #pinotnoir #pinotnoirwines #wentevineyards


See previous story on Wente Winemakers Studio:





Mountain Tides Wine Company – The Same and Different

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Why this title? Simple, Mountain Tides Wine Company is all about one single varietal, Petite Sirah. While at the same time, they source their grapes from a variety of organically grown vineyard locations and thus the same (Petite Sirah) and different (from various AVA’s). What is exciting to see is how each terroir changes the end product be it from Contra Costa County to Sonoma Valley to Lodi to the Sierra foothills. Each terroir provides has a distinct color, aroma and tastes.


Scott Kirkpatrick and Allison Watkins make up the husband/wife ownership of Mountain Tides Wine Company. Having met in 2014 and married in 2016, they took their combined artistic passions as winemaker (Scott) and photographer (Allison) to handle the complete winery process. They both shared a love of Petite Sirah and wanted to showcase the wine varietal and its change in different places, climates and soils. They further extended not only the varietal but how the varietal is presented in a rose, whole & partial cluster soaks, etc. The stated goal is to let the grapes speak for the terrain from which it grows and its unique personality.


I recently had the privilege of tasting four of their wines with each representing unique, small artisan vineyards to produce divergent wines all being Petite Sirah. The first wine to be enjoyed was their 2018 Clements Hills Rosé of Petite Sirah. Clement Hills AVA is located in the southeasterly portion of the larger Lodi AVA. The soils range from loamy to clay and just below the topsoil, are both granite and volcanic rock. On the eyes this coloration was light, unique and alluring. On the nose and palate, the wine gave strong hints of strawberry and honeydew. With high acidity, this is both a refreshing patio wine or compliments a tremendous number of dishes. We paired this with a chicken & cheese dish, multi-grain rice and medley of asparagus and mushrooms. This energetic and lively wine danced like an Argentina tango rhythmically in the mouth with the meal in perfect synchronization.

The second wine tasted was the 2018 California Petite Sirah. Here a more traditional red coloration was evidenced but still not a dark inky black. On the nose aromas of fruit punch and jam made this an easy sipping wine. Add whole cluster soaking for a tinge of spice, this produced a long lasting finish with some “earthy qualities”.

The third wine was the 2018 Contra Costa Petite Sirah. This wine came from four vineyards all located in Contra Costa County. The wine was light, soft and clear for a Petite Sirah. On the nose and palate Scott stated “red fruit, blackberries and sweet spices like clove and cardamom” filled the senses. Strawberry, blackberry and raspberry were the red/dark fruits of distinction combined with a tartness or soft bitterness to counterbalance the fruit. The wine was paired with a simple spiced BBQed beef burger, French fried potatoes and a garden salad. Again, the seared burger and wine made an extraordinary partnership.

Mountain Tides Fall Release 2019

The fourth wine tasted was the 2018 Palmero Family Vineyard Petite Sirah. The Palmero Family Vineyard is located on a rocky swale in the Borden Ranch sub AVA of Lodi. This is the most intensely dark wine Mountain Tides have produced to date. An intense royal purple coloration with layers of opulence. Those layers include blackberries, black plums, violets and floral characteristics. 50% whole cluster soaks provide just a hint of spiciness, but overall the velvety smoothness was dominant in the finish. This wine will standup to a variety of meats and dishes.

In just a few short years, Scott & Allison have embarked on a “road less traveled” but yet rewarding with various high ratings/scores on the wines, a loyal wine club and Petite Sirah lovers clamoring for more! Can’t wait for their newest release………





2017 Cuda Ridge Wines – A New Discovery

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Had the opportunity just before the “stay home quarantine” to sample a few of Cuda Ridge wines. This new discovery was shocking on various levels. First Larry Dino was “unknown” by me but has been a knowledgeable and standout winemaker for years in Livermore Valley. Secondly, he makes some incredible award winning wines. Thirdly and greatly appreciated, is his sense of humor which was contagious, amusing and had just the right amount of an edge to keep one on their toes!!



So let’s talk about one wine in particular, his 2017 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc. This is part of his Bordeaux Collection. He has two other “wine labels” called the Black Label and Reserve Collection. His Bordeaux Collection as imagined has besides Cabernet Franc, the other key varietals of Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In our conversation, he mentioned he will be coming out with a Carmenere to help round out his portfolio of Bordeaux varietals soon.


This 2017 Cabernet Franc showed some “old world characteristics” as well as unique Livermore Valley traits. The coloring of this wine was so dark and alluring with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, blueberry, cherry and a hint of plum and floral notes abounded. On the palate, the naturally higher acidity was milder for a Cabernet Franc as well as the tannins subdued as expected. In the mouth, the blueberries and dark cherry were prominent along with a modicum of your typical bell pepper, black pepper and sage qualities. Soft leather, a dry rockiness and sweet pipe tobacco lingered to make the finish long lasting and inquisitive. I can only imagine what this will evolve like given some more years in the bottle.


Larry’s awards are numerous for all his wines, but specifically his Cabernet Franc over the years has won the following distinctions:
• 2017 Wine Enthusiast 91 points; Silver Medal at 2020 SF Chronicle Wine Competition
• 2016 Wine Enthusiast 90 points: Silver Medal at 2019 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and Silver Medal at TVC Uncorked
• 2014 Best Livermore Cabernet Franc; Silver Medal 2017 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and 90 point from Wine Enthusiast
• And many more awards going back to 2008 including more Silver Medals, high ratings from Wine Enthusiast and a Gold Medal from SF Chronicle Wine Competition.


While only having a short time with Larry Dino this one afternoon, the wine sampled were extraordinarily mouthwatering and left a lasting impression. Especially noteworthy were his Malbec, Petit Verdot and his Cabernet Sauvignon (2020 Gold Medal at SF Chronicle). As I appreciated the opportunity to finally meet him, I promised to return soon to appreciate his full arsenal of award winning wines.


It was my loss for not having met Larry Dino and Cuda Ridge years ago, but will make up for it going forward.