Month: May 2019

Boyle MacDonald Wines: A Blending of Two Wine Regions

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Kate Boyle and Craig MacDonald have combined two distinct areas to produce some spectacular wines from both the Napa Valley AVA and several of the Sierra Foothill counties & AVA. They have taken their family vineyard located on Mt George area of Napa Valley and produce stand alone Cabernet Sauvignon’s at Boyle MacDonald. Not content to simply be another “Napa winery”, they have also combined some of their favorite varietals from El Dorado, Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties to blend with their Napa Wines.


Kate Boyle, winemaker at Ayrael Vieux Winery (click to read a previous story), along with her husband have just recently opened a tasting room in Murphys, California. Located at 448-B Main Street on the 2nd floor. This newly renovated tasting room has some magnificent handmade tables. Additionally, besides their intimate indoor tasting room complete with “bar & cart trolley” and plenty of intimate seating, they have a relaxing outdoor roof patio.


They offer many wines so let me break this down to three simple categories. The first is their Blue Label series of wines. These include their Zinfandel (“balanced flavors of wild berry, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla”), Petite Sirah and younger released Cabernet. The Petite Sirah (“Dark ruby in color with notes of plum, blackberry and sage”) comes from El Dorado County and the Sangiovese, Zinfandel and Merlot from the Sierra Foothill Counties of Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties. The younger released Cabernet Sauvignon comes from their family estate in Napa with less time being bottle aged. Prices range from $22 to $36.



The second label is their Cock Au Vin series. Here they are currently offering two wines. The first being their Red Blend which consists of 61% Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Sangiovese and 18% Zinfandel, both from Calaveras County. The winemaker’s notes sum it up nicely “black cherry and tobacco notes round to an easy finish”. This is made for everyday enjoyment and can be served with just about any food. The second offering in the Cock Au Vin series, a Sierra foothills Rosé was just released in time for the beginning of the warm summer season. It is 73% Sangiovese, 17.5% Zinfandel and 7.5% Merlot. It is a dry Rosé, with fruit forward aromas of cherries, strawberries and soft citrus. This is a refreshing summer wine capable of serving on the patio, again and again. These wines range from $16 to $22.


The third label is the Premium Estate Wines. Starting with their 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Napa Valley Cabernet Franc). This wine is aged 30 months in the barrel. In addition they offer their 2012 and 2011 vintages. The 2011 is also aged in the bottle for 18 months! These wines are robust, with mouth watering flavorings of blackberries, licorice and lavender. They also have a 2015 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and Tuolumne blend called the Red Blend. Here they have taken 56% of the Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Sierra foothills Merlot and 10% Sierra foothills Zinfandel. These wines range from $28 to $60.


The fun fact remains that Kate likes to feature both the pure Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon varietal along with blending unique and quality produced Sierra foothills vineyard varietals like Zinfandel, Sangiovese, Petite Sirah and Merlot to make refreshing and layered wines! You will need to seek out Boyle MacDonald as they are “upstairs, around the corner” but you and your palate will be amply rewarded.





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1849 Wines: On the Cutting Edge or On an Edge That Cuts Both Ways?

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Perhaps the quote from Jerzy Kosinski sums up the response from viewing 1849 Wine bottles “The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke”. I posted this picture with a simple question to Millennials, Gen-X and Gen-Y wine buyers on various blogs, “Do these labels have an appeal to you?” The response and answers were strong, far reaching, positive, negative, insightful and curt to list a few of the responses. So yes it did evoke one of the strongest reactions on any post I have done!

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The label artwork was done by Los Angeles urban street artist, Saber. Each bottle has a name which encapsulates the spirit of the wine.

So let’s break this down in some digestible bites, starting with the reaction, the wine and a possible conclusion. So the reaction on the positive side were comments like:
• “I really don’t care about the label design if I buy wine for me, but sometimes it’s fun to give away something that looks different (given that the wine is good as well)” – Ace Rajchapuckdee
• “I’m a millennial, and I like the labels. There not what I personally would choose, but I do like them more than the fancy-French-words-in-script-on-white-paper labels that a lot of other wines use” – Seth Eli Barlow
• “I like them, although I’d prefer them just a tad more intelligible” – Mitul Kanji
• “They are cool, sure. Actually pretty awesome to keep after drinking. BUT. Enticing me to buy them because of the label…negative” – Anthony Morocco
• “I’m a Gen-Xer and I have personally purchased several of these bottles JUST because I love the labels. There’s absolutely no shame in my game. Sometimes I just like the labels….” Stacy Brooks
• “I’ve been seeing this label all over the place. It’s a cool design” – John Goins
So these folks (and many others) were noting some unique marketing / labeling characteristics of this wine. Notable was the easily recognized labels, liking the labels as artwork, standing out on the wine shelf, etc. To this end I think 1849 Wines hit the mark for marketing and brand recognition.
Now let’s look at the flip side of the comments, the negative:
• “Gen-X uph graffiti. No appeal.” – Eve Vuillemainroy
• “Maybe for some but not for me.” – anonymous
• “…..Message is a bit irreverent but let’s be fair…if the wine isn’t satisfying I wouldn’t buy again” –Barb Wilder
• “I personally don’t like it. I don’t get a sense of anything except vandalism. I like updated and modern labels with a sense of origin and history. This conveys very little.” – Andrew Sutalo
• “It looks artistic, but not enough to buy a bottle. If someone reliable told me this wine is worth buying, I would. Some young people would try such a “cool” wine maybe…..” – Gerhild Magerl
The overwhelming sentiment seemed to be judging the label as art. It comes down to individual taste in “art” as labels. Here 1849 Wines loses many with the label right away as being “graffiti or vandalism as art”.

The conclusion on the label: is that the message may have gotten distorted by the medium selected; it is well recognized on the wine shelf; it appeals to some and is repugnant to others; it is unique for wine labels, etc. So P.T. Barnum is reputed to have said, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”. A lot of people are talking about the label be it good or non-appealing.

But we haven’t talked yet about the wine!! So is this 1849 Wine’s strategy? To evoke all this response and forget about the contents? Are they hiding poor wine behind the unique label?

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So let’s talk about two wines which I objectively tasted and rated. First is the 2017 Chardonnay, called Au Jus from Monterey County. Wine Enthusiast rated it 89 and a Bronze Medal winner at San Francisco Chronicle 2018. It is an oaked Chardonnay, that is creamy and just the right amount of “butter”, with stone fruit. At $25, this is a worthy buy for a solid Chardonnay.


This Cabernet Sauvignon was paired with a pork belly appetizer at Saddle Creek’s Copper Grill. It is called Declaration. Robert Parker gave it 91 points. A dark purple wine with blackberries and blueberries on the nose and fruit forward on the palate with sweet chocolate hints. The finish was soft and round with hardly any tannins. A made to drink now Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine comes from various vineyards both on the valley floor and hillsides. I also wanted to show the backside as each bottle does provide a level of detail which is not immediately noticeable from the artistic front. At $80, the art work says Millennials, Gen-X and Gen-Y, but the price point says Baby boomers. A possible conflicting messages here but still an enjoyable and highly rated wine no matter your age.

So to sum up 1849 Wines: they are non-traditionalist for sure, they make very good wine and are not hiding the quality with art, but despite the art not appealing to some, they should be taken seriously. So whether you like the art which comes down to individual tastes (as with wine), the bottles do evoke a response. Be fair and let the wine evoke your real palate response no matter your demographic. They are rebels with a cause to provide very good wine with a different but highly recognized label.


Michael Kelly

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