Month: March 2017

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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Sherwin Family Vineyards

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Steve & Linda Sherwin purchased 30 acres on top of Spring Mountain in 1996. In late 1999, Sherwin Family Vineyards released its first wine. Shortly after September 11th, 2001, the infamous terrorist attacks, a wine auction was arranged in Lake Garda, Italy. The proceeds of the auction benefited the families of the Windows of the World employees who had been lost. Many wineries from Napa and Italy donated magnums of wine to the commemorative event.

Steve & Linda created a special designed bottle for the occasion, a hand etched, hand painted bottle feature the American flag with the words “In God We Trust” and “United We Stand”. On the back of the bottle it also stated it was created “in remembrance of those lost September 11th, 2001”. It along with the famous 1985 Sassacaia, were among the top lots in the entire auction. 20170227_131901

They wanted to donate more of these attractive bottles to raise additional money for the cause. But due to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms they needed label approval. A little know fact is that the Wine Institute told them that the “government would not approve the image of the American flag on alcohol or tobacco products”. Steve still sent a bottle along and to everyone’s amazement, it was stamped approved!


Since then the Sherwin Family Vineyards produces a limited number of the commemorative American flag bottles for various charitable events.  Thus how they received their motto – Home of the Patriotic Pour!

Now about the wines. Recently, visiting the hilltop winery, we tasted three wines: The Chardonnay, The Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and their irreverent “Cellar Scraps” (a blend). I want to focus on two of them. The 2015 Chardonnay is from Carneros region and had a distinct citrus flavor imparted to this bright and fresh Chardonnay. They only produced 250 cases but it a fine wine worthy of purchase.


The next wine was their 2013 Estate Cabernet that was 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc.  This wine was smooth with soft & round tannins to drink now or hold for 5 years. They produced 800 cases and the Spring Mountain fruit is robust and full. Wine Spectator rated it 94 points and it was at underrated in my opinion. They also produce their “Cellar Scraps” (worthy of tasting and anything but “left overs”!), a Rose and their 2013 Estate Cabernet Reserve.

The Home of the Patriotic Pour is a fascinating story and their heartfelt wines are even more enjoyable.


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Art and winemaking have many of the same traits or DNA. The land (terroir) combined with a specific year of heat, rain, fog, temperature variations provide an infinite palate in which the winemaker can formula a creative vintage. So like art and winemaking, exists a unique, colorful and highly energetic winery call THE GRADE Cellars in Calistoga. More about the creative angle later in the story.

The two Proprietor’s, Thomas Thornton and Brenda Mixson, combined with winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown to maximize their vineyard. Tom who is an architect and Brenda who is involved in commercial real estate financing, have managed to combine their right and left cerebral cortexes with just the right amount of analytic and creative percentages in their drive to produce an exquisite wine.

The Winfield Vineyard sits just above the top of northern Napa Valley’s floor in Calistoga. Their end product is a rarity, similar to precious art. Only two varietals are produced: a Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. They called themselves a producer of “handcrafted wines and know their customers on a first name basis”.

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Their now sold out 2013 Winfield Vineyard Cabernet received a 96 point from Antonio Galloni. They are about to release the 2014 Cabernet which only 550 cases were produced. They typically produce approximately 100 cases for their Reserve Cabernet. In tasting the 2014 Estate Cabernet, it possessed a dark and opulent deep red hue with round tannins and a lasting finish.  Robert Parker quote on it was that was “as dark as a moonless night”.


In addition, having a “barrel sample” of their 2015, it held the promise of an exceptional wine. It was made with heavy toasted 100% new French oak barrels. This is the one which got my peak my interest and caught my undivided attention. This is similar to watching the brushstrokes of a gifted artist, knowing the end result will be spectacular.

Tom, when preparing his wine lot for Premiere Napa Valley in 2016, was required to write about the wine to be auctioned. Here is where his creative side kicked in and submitted a sonnet or quatorzain (14 lines) to describe his offering and aligns with the 2014 vintage. In Tom’s words, The specific references include the location of Clone 337 in Block 5 in our estate vineyard, a severe drought requiring more frequent irrigations than usual, early seasonal maturation and harvest that required farming “workarounds”, our winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown who considers great wine to be made in the vineyard, and “Kingly Project” which is the name of our Reserve wine from that block.  That label’s name, as well as our other names, are borrowed from the writings of Robert Louis Stevenson who honeymooned in an abandoned mining bunkhouse above our vineyard and chronicled that experience in “The Silverado Squatters”. Apropos to my sonnet, he wrote that ‘wine is bottled poetry’.”


When you consider how the sunlight’s spent

O’er regal rows of three three seven’s leaves,

How into blue clay earth the rootstock weaves,

A season’s destiny is justly meant!


Consider droughts, too, our wells circumvent,

Nursing the ripeness each cluster achieves.

So dense and complex, the critic believes

Good farming allays what nature has sent!


Motionless while the stride of Mister Brown

Brushes against sprawled canopies, then gone,

Vines whisper sweetly, in sync and singly!


The twelve and thirteen are now cradled down.

Fourteen stands peerless, conclusions are drawn.

We bow to our earth’s project so kingly!


So in full circle, creativity in wine is limitless, yet specific in timeliness. I know you will enjoy THE GRADE Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon and it will be included in my wine room. Should you get a chance to meet with Tom or Brenda when is Calistoga, their personalities are as embracing as the wine.


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