Month: June 2018

Ledson Winery – An Opulent Castle Only Overshadowed by the Wine

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(This picture by Ledson Winery)

The story begins in England in 1896 and is detailed out on the website . It is a tale of hard work, family ties and a desire to do more for the community. Steve Ledson’s history is both unique and common—unique with background and successful venture and common with family ties. His demeanor and casual manner bespeaks volumes. A couple of years ago, I had a friend come down from Oregon and had Assistant Winemaker Jerry Padilla conduct the private tasting. On the way out, Steve walked in with jeans and tee shirt having worked some aspect of the vineyard only to greet us, genuinely happy that our tasting went well.
The Castle is the official tasting room of Ledson and the architecture and construction alone are worth the visit! Ledson Winery is offers the largest premium wine portfolio of any family owned winery in the United States. Today their offering numbers more than 70 wines annually!

My dealings with Ledson Winery go back almost twenty years as a club member and writer. Steve Ledson and Jerry Padilla are a great team offering customers and visitors a unique perspective into the wine business – and yes they make GREAT wines!

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At a recent visit, summer of 2018, I was once again transformed into a “wine enchantment” of the Castle, hosted by Jerry Padilla. Jerry knew my palate / wine desires, so he prepared an assortment of wines for the afternoon along with a charcuterie plate. During the process, we discussed many aspects of the winery, wine education and tastes of wines. Jerry was extremely flexible and diverted some choices to new and interesting wines. All the wines tasted and enjoyed where fit for royalty and many earned a spot in the cellar.

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I am mentioning two wines in this article which is difficult with so many excellent choices. The first is the current 2016 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. In my Yearly Picks of the Exceptional Wines of 2016 (only 5 named), I listed Ledson’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc at $34. Most of the others were listed at $175. It was no mistake and again this vintage reconfirmed their rank at the end of 2018 once again.


For the red’s, my choice was not as simple with so many superb wines to select. The top contenders were: 2013 Alexander Valley “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon (Gold Medal 2017 Sunset International Wine Competition); 2013 Napa Valley “Stagecoach” Cabernet Sauvignon; 2014 Alexander Valley Reserve “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon; 2015 Sonoma Valley “Estate” Barbera; Howell Mountain “Old Vine” Zinfandel and the 2014 Sonoma Valley “Estate” Cepage (Bordeaux blend). The winner and our dinner wine that evening was the 2013 Napa Valley “Stagecoach Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon.


The winemakers’ notes best sum up this wine as a “powerful wine that boasts gorgeous deep purple hues and aromatics of blackberry, blackcurrant, and cherry. Boysenberry, blackberry, and amazingly rich chocolate blend on the palate with intensity, opulence, and voluptuous textures. Bold tannins intertwine with wild berries and an intriguing note of black olive on an irresistible finish”. Easy to see why this was chosen to accompany our evening meal.

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Over the years I have recommended to friends and visitors going to Sonoma to make a stop at Ledson Winery. Obviously from their current wine list, they do offer a bit of everything for the casual wine taster to the wine aficionados’, be it Millennials to Baby Boomers, you will find the wine that envelops your palate and is sized to your pocketbook.




Jazz Cellars

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The origin of the word “jazz” is a varied as the music being played today call jazz. Perhaps the best origin is from the slang “jasm” from around 1860 which meant “energy, vitality, and spirit”. That seems to capture the essential of music referred to as jazz. That is how the two owners of Jazz Cellars have composed their wines. On a recent visit based on a friend’s recommendation to visit Murphy’s, I ventured to taste two recommendations: their 2012 Rhapsody, a Marsanne/Roussanne blend and their 2012 Pinot Noir.

First a quick background on the two owners/composers of Jazz Cellars. Bob Smith and Joe Lazzara are both neighbors, musicians and high tech folks who shared a vision of producing great wine. They started and are still headquartered in Foster City. They use a well know facility in the Dogpatch area of San Francisco to create their master pieces. The tasting room is located in Murphy’s California in the lower Sierra Nevada Mountains.

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The unique aspect of Jazz Cellars is that they search and find the “right terroir” in order to produce award winning wines. At last count they had accumulated over 100 awards in a very short period of time, without a dedicated vineyard! No small feat.

So while in Murphy’s (Calaveras AVA), I stopped by to taste the wines. They are located 100 feet down a side alley off Main Street. The wines being served that day did not include any “Calaveras County” grapes which at first was an oddity being located in Murphy’s. This is when Jessica in the Tasting Room, provided some background on how they “go to market”. I sampled four of the five wines being offered that day and was continually impressed with each varietal.

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The first one I want to introduce you to is their 2012 Rhapsody which is a 50/50 Marsanne/Roussanne blend of exquisite tastes and aromas. The grapes come from the Russian River AVA and is a well-orchestrated duet of two wonderful Rhone varietals. In their words it “is highlighted by honey-melon and apricot notes with layers of almonds and hazelnuts…” It is a mouthful experience with notes of oak on the finish.

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The second wine was their 2012 Pinot Noir Lone Oak Vineyard, from the Santa Lucia Highlands on the Central Coast of California. It is bright and dark crimson that radiates in the glass and provides a full body and tasty, almost spicy finish on the palate. It has won a Gold Medal at the California State Fair 2017 with a rating of 95 points. It also won a Silver Medal at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition in 2016. Both wines should be sought out quickly!

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Several things I found while visiting the tasting room include weekly summer jazz on the patio from 2pm to 5 pm on Saturday’s. You can get the current schedule of performances on their website. I would also recommend tasting their 2012 Zinfandel Teldeschi Vineyard, from Sonoma, Dry Creek which produced a mouthwatering desire to keep consuming it! Dark purple with oak notes and Bing ripe cherry on the nose. This also receive a Gold Medal and is rated at 92 points.

So if you want to taste some of the best wines in the State of California and only want to drive to one location, a leisurely trip to the lower foothills will allow you to taste the regions of the Central Coast, Carneros, Sonoma and many other AVA’s. I can attest that their wines do embody “energy, vitality, and spirit”. After visiting the tasting room you too might boogie woogie your way home with a few bottles.


Per FTC disclosure, any wines purchased, were offered at industry discount.