Month: August 2016

Is this Bekaa Valley or Mendoza? A change to my “normal California wines & wineries”!

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It is Bekaa Valley in Lebanon with the snow-capped mountain range of Laqlouq in the background. Yet similarly striking as Mendoza with the Andes in the background (although the Andes being more striking!). This 75 mile long valley and 10 miles wide is notable for many wines with an average altitude of 1,000 feet.


A quick history lesson is important in understand this regions impact to wine throughout the world. First, ancient Phoenicians (now Lebanon) who inhabited the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, developed a maritime trading culture. Their influences in both winemaking and viticulture were considered the source of recorded wine history. Scholars attribute this area for making wine since 6,000 BC!! Many believe their dissemination of wine by trade routes influenced greatly the countries of Egypt, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.

Secondly the Lebanon varietals range from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cinsaut, Carignan, Grenache, Musar, Obeideh, Merwah, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Muscat. Combined the wineries of Lebanon produce approximately 600,000 cases of wine a year. Chateau Ksara Winery remains the largest, with 70% of all the country’s production.


This brings us to reviewing a bottle of Chateau Ksara. They are the country’s oldest winery, founded in 1857 by Jesuit Fathers for making sacramental wine.



Now let’s discuss their 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon made with 100% Cab Sauvignon grapes and aged 14 months in 50% new French oak casks. This produces a full body Cabernet with structure and surprisingly potential to lay down in the cellar for a few years. Strong tannins fill the upper palate. Color has a light purple hue. Key aromas and tastes are peppers and semi-sweet dark chocolate. Personally I would like a bit more fruit to be exposed.


The prophets speak in the Old Testament about God’s restoration of his people, the quote “I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely….They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon” (Hosea 14:1, 7). Now there is a visual for today’s world—restoration and being fragrant. What a welcomed picture. Pick up a bottle and see how it might change you!


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Confessions of a Wine Snob— Mea culpa, Livermore & Lodi AVA’s

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For forty years I have been collecting, tasting and drinking what are considered expensive wines. While I always looked for some “inexpensive wines”, which I found on occasion, I was generally disappointed and reinforced by belief that one was destined to pay $100 to $300 for quality wines. While recently attending the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference with a pre-event one day excursion to Livermore and three and an half days in Lodi I can only say — I was blind and now I see!!!

Livermore AVA


First in Livermore, I considered only a handful of wineries “worthy” to buy (Wood Family, 3 Steve’s, Mia Nipote, McKahn, McGrail) and only one to “age” in the cellar (Lineage & Premiere Series both by Steven Kent Mirassou). I was turned around by various delightful and solid performers in Livermore. Those that shined brightly were:

  • Darcie Kent Vineyards – 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Bent Creek Winery – 2013 Cabernet Franc
  • Page Mill Winery – 2013 Petite Sirah (Outstanding!)
  • Wente – Small Lot Eric’s Chardonnay
  • Concannon – 2013 Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Concannon – 2014 Assemblage Blanc
  • Murrieta’s Well – The Whip 2014
  • Murrieta’s Well – The Spur 2013
  • Los Positas Vineyards – 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (Excellent)
  • Los Positas Vineyards – 2013 Estate Tempranillo
  • Dante Robere – 2013 Estate Syrah (very good!)

None of the above will cost anywhere near $100 and most are in the $20-39 range.


Lodi AVA

The next stop was Lodi and yes I was “Stuck in Lodi again” for several days. Had been up and down both Hwy5 and 99 but never stopped thinking the best we could be served was “headache wine”. My preconceived notion was that it was going to be a “Zin fest” event. But it was a “good stuck”, as the wines opened up to taste and on occasion to drink, were spectacularly wonderful and way beyond Zin’s!  I had read that Wine Enthusiast Magazine named Lodi as Wine Region of the Year in 2015. However, what I did not know, were the following facts on Lodi:



  • Lodi’s wine grape acreage now tops 110,000 acres, the most in the U.S. Let’s put that in some perspective by looking at the totals planted in other major American wine regions that we all know about:
  • Lodi – 110,000 acres
  • Washington – 48,000 acres
  • Oregon – 27,390 acres
  • New York – 10,000 acres
  • Napa County – 45,000 acres
  • Sonoma County – 60,000 acres
  • Paso Robles – 26,000 acres
  • Santa Barbara County – 16,600 acres


  • Lodi was approved as an American Viticultural Area in 1986. Of Lodi’s 7 official sub-appellations, just over 40% are in the historic region surrounding the City of Lodi, the Mokelumne River AVA (first vineyards planted in 1852). Most of the growth over the past 25 years has taken place in the Jahant, Clements Hills, Borden Ranch, Alta Mesa, Sloughhouse and Cosumnes River appellations (all these AVAs, identified primarily by soil and topographic differentiations, approved in 2006).
  • Today over 100 Varietals are grown in Lodi. The range of vines are so broad. Here is a sample of those to be found:
    • Spanish VarietiesAlbariño, Verdejo, Graciano, Tempranillo, and Garnacha are just a few of the interesting Spanish varieties grown in Lodi soils. 
    • Portuguese Varieties Relatively obscure varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão, Souzão, Verdelho, and Tricadeira
    • German VarietiesKerner, Bacchus, Riesling, Dornfelder, Gewürztraminer, and Zweigelt
    • Italian Varieties— Barbera, Aglianco, Sangiovese, Teroldego, and Vermentino

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Some of the key wines tasted during the Event from Lodi that stood out as exceptional were:

·         Oak Ridge Winery, Old Soul Chardonnay (WOW!)

·         Peirano Estate Vineyards, 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel

·         Klinker Brick Winery, Farrah Syrah

·         Lange Twins Family Winery, 2014 Nero d’Avola (very good and unique)

·         Lange Twins Family Winery, 2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (excellent)

·         Lange Twins Family Winery, 2013 Caricature Old Vine Zinfandel

·         Heritage Oak, 2013 Charbono (a winner!)

·         Heritage Oak, 2013 Sangiovese

·         PRIE Vineyards, 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon


All of these wines are embarrassingly reasonably priced. While there were many more that were not tasted so many return trips await to be scheduled.

So again, one cannot judge a book by its cover, similarly, one cannot even phathom the immense diversity of varietals, quality of wines and “farm land hospitality” afforded by the winemakers of Lodi.

Mea Culpa to both Lodi and Livermore AVA’s from a turnarounded “wine snob”.



For more reading on Livermore and Lodi see:

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Wine Bloggers Conference — Lange Twins Family Winery & Vineyards

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At the conference it was a “blind draw” as to whom you would be with this late afternoon and evening for dinner in Lodi. I was “re-schooled” in value and quality in Lodi at Lange Twins Family Winery. Had never been to a single winery in the area. Being blown away with both quality and pricing is an under statement. We were hosted by Marissa and Kendra, cousins of the brothers who are twins– thus the name. I will be doing a complete story on them later, but here was the dinner w/wine pairings tonight. If this is Lodi hospitality, I want to be “stuck in Lodi” all the time!
Local Sloughhouse Corn & Endive Served with Seared Dry Scallops Topped with a Bacon Scallion Vinaigrette. Paired with their 2015 Lange Twins Exclusive Gewurztraminer
Slow Braised Short Rib with Roasted Mirepoix and Pan Jus Accompanied by a Potato Leek Latke. Paired with both a 2014 Lange Twins Nero d’Avola (new for them and very smooth!) and 2013 Lange Twins Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (excellent).
Tayberry Butter Crust Tart with Dark Chocolate Gelato Topped with Chocolate Nib Sauce. Paired with a 2013 Caricature Old Vine Zinfandel (one of their other labels).
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Wine Blogger Conference -2

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Breakfast of Champions??? Thursday morning at 8:15 am at Murrieta’s Well facing a Rose, The Whip and The Spur–a bit difficult to do a food/wine pairing with scrambled eggs and bacon but we managed. The fresh fruit was the saving grace!! Caroline Wente addressing the attendees at newly remodeled Murrieta’s Well facility.

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Wine Bloggers Conference -1

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The first 24 hours showed that Livermore Valley Wines absolutely  are ROCK SOLID!!
Todays lunch was provided by Sabio on Main featuring the following pictures with descriptions and wines. Pairings by Chef were remarkable.
First Picture: Mixed lettuces, Gala Apples, Whatcom Blue, Candied Hazelnuts, Banyuls Vinaigrette paired with 2014 rose “Angela’s Cuvee”, Page Mill Winery, Livermore
Second Picture: Seared King Salmon, Zuckerman Potatoes, Blue Lake Beans, Deviled Egg, Black Olive Soil, Sunol Tomotaoes paired with 2014 Assemblage Blanc, Concannon Vineyard
Third Picture: Grill Currant and Pine Nut Lamb Sausages, Eggplant Caponata, Calabrian Chili Yogurt pair with a REMARKABLE 2013 Tempranillo, Las Positas Vineyards
Fourth Picture: Stone Fruit Hand Pie, Sweet Woodruff Ice Cream, Peanut Crumble paired with 2007 Cabernet Royale, Cedar Mountain
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La Folia Winery

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One size doesn’t fit all is a perfect theme for La Folia Winery in Murphys. Not just because they sell hats at their tasting room (and I mean a lot of hats), their wine is for those who particularly like Italian wines.


In a rather impromptu meeting with Katie Anderson hostess at the tasting room, she explained their wines were for those who enjoyed Italian varietals. Katie was “filling in” this day, but provided a lot of background and stories of the winery which were very helpful and insightful. Thus their offering included Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Zinfandel, Barbera, Dolcetto, Primitivo and “The Madness” (a red blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Graciano and 25% Sangiovese. Actually La Folia translates as “the madness”. Winemaker Ryan Teeter came to name the winery while he was sipping his Zinfandel listening to Corelli’s La Folia. He believes this composition best explains the nuances and the ebb & flow of his wine on the palate. Ryan sources his grapes from El Dorado, Calaveras and Amador counties.


Two wines that especially exemplified this provocative sonata were 2012 Zinfandel varietal and the 2012 “The Madness” Blend. First the 2012 Zinfandel left “blackberries, cocoa powder and blueberry jam” on the palate. It was not a big Amador fruit bomb, definitely more refined with characteristics found in good Italian Zinfandel wines.

The second wine was the 2012 “The Madness” Red Wine Blend. Here again, with the mix of Cab Sauvignon, Graciano and Sangiovese, a distinct relative of the “Super Tuscan’s could be tasted in the mouth – similar to the musical notes, some smooth with easy transitions and yet some strong notes punctuating contrast to keep one aware of the various taste bud receptors in the palate.

To hear Corelli’s La Folia music click on the link:


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