Month: January 2020

2011 Shadybrook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – A Perfect Valentine’s Gift

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Opened up this 2011 Shadybrook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon last night and was blown away as to its transformation while “resting in the cellar”!! Obviously when purchased it was very good, but some six years laying down has made this wine a “top performer”. When it was originally released, winemaker Rudy Zuidema used descriptors as “lush, opulent and finely structure” to open his winemakers notes. This wine used a combination of Clones 337 and 7 of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Clone 7 per Rudy was “added density to the nose and palate with black fruit, mocha and a bit of chocolate”. The equal part of Clone 337 contributed “elegance and aromatics lure of the wine with notes of spice, red fruit and cedar”. 6% of Malbec was added to provide background flavors of Asian spices per Rudy.


This evening on the eyes, a very dark red with just a hint of purple on the edges. The viscosity was medium heavy giving a clue as to what to become. The bouquet on the nose raspberries was the predominant aroma and with mountain flowers. On the palate a cacophony of black fruit, chocolate, red fruit and gentle oak leaped about in the mouth. The finish was tiered and long lasting with a slight “soft and allusive” sweetness. The structure was strong and the tannins silky smooth with no obvious edges.


Just upon the first sip, I gave it the highest marks of 2020 wines tasted thus far. Having already tasted and rated in 2020 some 149 wines with only a handful making the Best List of 2020 using my rating system, this already stood out. Having recently tasted the 2016 Shadybrook Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a wine to buy for your cellar or to enjoy right away. Retail is $125 and what a nice gift for Valentines!



Other stories on Rudy Zuidema & Shadybrook Estate:





2015 Coquelicot Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve – Everything You Ever Wanted!

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It is not often you try a wine from a winery and it picks you up and slaps you alive like you have never been before! More on this shortly! That was almost the experience with the 2015 Coquelicot Cabernet Franc Reserve (pronounced ko-klee-ko). In French, it is the name of the bright red poppy flower that is everywhere in the French countryside.


Their winemaker Mike Roth, received his training back in North Carolina then moved to Napa Valley. There he enhanced his craft from some of the founding pillars of Napa Valley, Nils Venge (Saddleback Cellars) and Mike Grgich (Grgich Hills). He became enamored with biodynamic farming and after going back to Fresno State, ended up at Demetria, a biodynamic property in Los Olivos. After a few other wineries including his own, he was committed to a style of winemaking using indigenous yeast, little or no sulfur dioxide and handcrafting his wine with old fashion techniques. Today the results shine through in his clean, clear and drinkable wines.



Last week we had a dinner that was made with an Instant Pot, of beef short ribs. The ribs were cooked in a garlic and wine sauce, after marinating in Cabernet Sauvignon wine for 48 hours. Add a Yukon Gold potato and salad and you have a great meal, with the meat falling off the bone. Paired with the Coquelicot 2015 Cabernet Franc Reserve, the meat was beyond delicious.


The wine is made from 100% Cabernet Franc grapes using selected vineyards. A classic profile for this varietal, with dark Ruby coloring with purple hues, brilliant clarity and medium body. The nose was met with blackberry, cherry, plum, violets and a tinge of tobacco and vanilla. On the palate, when taken with a piece of the short ribs, the soft acid and tannins, encapsulated and broke down the meat to provide a delightful dance of ecstasy in the mouth. The finish, with the meat, provide a lasting and graceful completion of the wine experience. Kudo’s to both Mike Roth and Susan Kelly who prepared the meal. It was a like synchronized swimming exhibition with strength and finesse in perfect harmony.


This was a great pairing of both food and a wine of grandeur! The only thing I kept thinking is why didn’t they enter this in the California Wine and Wineries Cabernet Franc Wine Competition? It surely would have been a crowd favorite! Maybe this year? The bottle retails at $75 and is still a value.




2009 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

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Tonight pulled a 2009 Larkmead Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley bottle from the cellar. Having rested for almost 8 years this wine was exceptional. The meal this evening was a Bucatini pasta with a red meat sauce top with Parmesan and Asiago cheese. Accompanied with a simple broiled garlic French bread. Now Larkmead is not a “pasta wine” for sure, but it came up on the list to drink in 2020.


Robert Parker gave it 94 points in Wine Advocate in 2011. The wine is a dark ruby red with purple hues on the edges and medium-heavy viscosity. This wine is dense with blackberries, licorice and chocolate on the nose. In the mouth it burst with cherry and minerality from the Larkmead estate. The finish provided a sweet tobacco and plum characteristics which went on and on. This wine still had plenty of tannins, structure to go another 10 years!!

The wine uses 100% estate grown fruit and the breakdown is 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 8% Cabernet Franc. It was aged for 17 months in 60% months in medium toasted French oak barrels. It has been a favorite in our cellar for the last 15 years and will continue to be. Lots of history with Larkmead and their quality is the rival of wineries in Napa Valley. Today’s vintage goes for approximately $120 from the winery and I would never call this a “spaghetti/pasta wine”.



2017 Casino Mine Ranch Grenache Noir – A Saving Wine Pairing

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One of the hardest wines to pair, in my opinion, are with various Asian cuisines. Not only because it can are range from beef, chicken, vegetarian or fish, but the spices and sauces also have such a bandwidth. Last night with Udon noodles prepared with teriyaki stir-fried chicken, broccoli and mushrooms. This also included a fair amount of garlic and assorted spices. The suggested wine pairings  were: Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Grüner Veltliner or even Gewürztraminer. They also steered one towards a Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre (GSM) blend. The difficultly was I had none of these varietals in the cellar as I tend to have “meatier reds” or Chardonnays on hand.

The basic suggestion with Udon noodles was a light wine. I had remembers I had picked up a light Grenache Noir from a visit with Casino Mine Ranch last summer. This wine is made by Jessica Tarpy under tutelage of Andy Erickson of Napa Valley. Andy who today is one of the top 5 winemakers in Napa with a resume of making wines for Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate, Staglin Family Vineyards, and Mayacamas Vineyards. See a previous written story to find out how Andy got involved with a winery located in Shenandoah Valley in Amador County (Sierra foothills) at:


This 100% Grenache proved a superb pairing. The light and crisp purple coloring of the wine lead one in a different direction once in the mouth with lively fruit flavors of black cherry, bramble, cocoa, fresh ground coffee and wet stone minerality. The layers of depth and minerality which are not normally seen on what appeared to be a lighter wine. The Udon noodles danced in the mouth with wine and was “light enough” not to overpower the chicken. The upside was so good, I will re-order this wine with its remarkable pedigree as soon as possible, especially at $35!


Hunter Glenn –2017 Chardonnay & 2016 Syrah

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The pork chops were cooking and decided to try two different varietals for a food pairing. A bit different, but wanted see which paired better. Both were Hunter Glenn wines, one a 2017 Chardonnay and the other a 2016 Syrah.

To start out who is Hunter Glenn? It is a sister/brother duo of Caroline Shifflett and Jeffrey Shifflett, Jr. The name came about as Caroline’s middle name is Hunt and Jeffrey is Glenn. Changing the name to Hunter made more sense than “Hunt Glenn”!! The family has a long history in Napa Valley. It started in 1942 with the purchase of 120 acres in the foothills of the Mayacamas Range. Originally used for farming and later for cattle grazing, but in the late 1970’s they planted 60 acres of grapes. In 1981 the first Chardonnay was planted and from that point albeit with a few bumps in the road like Phylloxera, Pierce’s Disease and weather variables, they have endured to produce some outstanding wines over the last 30 years.

So the first wine to taste with the pork chop (and various side dishes) was the 2017 Chardonnay. First the wine was a light glistening, clear and bright straw color. On the nose Bartlett pears was the dominate trait with a floral note of jasmine. On the palate, the pear moved to the background and apples and a slight lemon citrus peaked with each sip. The wine was aged 9 months on 25% new French oak with 50% going through malolactic fermentation. The grapes so crisp, the secondary malolactic fermentation did not allow it to be “butter ball Chardonnay”. It added just the right dimension of roundness to this clean Chardonnay. The finish was mild and enjoyable. With a neutral white meat, the wine pairing was spot on! The grapes for this came from Russian River in Sonoma, the Starscape Vineyard. This is their only non-Napa wine produced.

Not to be content with only having to taste pork chops with Chardonnay, we moved on to Hunter Glenn Syrah. Perhaps a bit different, but believe one should always experiment with food and wine pairings. For this we took the simply prepared pork chop and coated it with apricot, mango and roasted chipotle sauce. This imparted the pork chop a spicy and a bit smoky characteristics. Now tasting the pork chop with the 2016 Hunter Glenn Syrah proved a most wonderful marriage. The deep dark coloring which had a cherry, smoky, coffee and blackberry quality with mild tannins help calm the heat of the chipotle. The Syrah is aged 21 months on 25% new French oak barrels. The sweet qualities of both the mango sauce and fruit qualities of the wine were contrasted with the gravely and earthiness of the Syrah. The finish on the wine was mostly dry and provided a full body on the palate.

So in the end, pork being a “neutral white meat” the wine paired with it appears to be more based on the seasoning of the pork and how it is prepared. Both wines worked extremely well, Hunter Glenn Chardonnay with no sauce and Hunter Glenn Syrah with the apricot, mango and roasted chipotle sauce.

Previously I had not tasted Hunter Glenn wines and will be looking forward to tasting their new release of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in the fall of 2020.




2016 Pasanau Ceps Nous – Intense Wine

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A bit different this evening with a blend from Priorat, Spain. This area is in the north-easterly side of Spain. Known for their big, bold and intense red wines, this shows its heritage and pedigree well. Located between Valencia and Barcelona, at between 500 to 2,400 elevation. Cellar Pasanau is at the base of Serra de Montscant (drawing on the bottle). Located about 25 miles inland from the Mediterranean coast line. The Pasanau Family has vineyards that date back 100 years. Yet keeping the family winery small with production being approximately 4,500 cases per year.

This wine immediate throws one back to Spain with its makeup of intense old vines of Garnacha. This grape produces a strong and concentrated fruit, with aromas of licorice and brandied cherries. A great wine with food lamb, beef, etc.  They have “rounded” it with Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), Mazuelo (19%), Merlot (6%) and Syrah (10%) for structure and a beautiful taste profile.

On the eyes it has a dark red ruby color with a medium heavy body. The aromas and tastes are complex and layered with blackberries, chocolate, tobacco and vanilla. This finishes off with the rugged minerality coming from the adjacent rocky mountains. Coupled with oak and cedar notes provide an extended enjoyable finish.

Priorat wines should always be in everyone’s cellar, if not for the pure enjoyment of the wine, but to remind you of yours travels to Spain. Cellar Pasanau transport you free of charge minus the purchase of the bottle of  wine! 




Coquelicot Estate Vineyard – 2018 Sauvignon Blanc

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Last night a 2018 Sauvignon Blanc. Coquelicot (pronounced ko-klee-ko) is the French word for the bright and often portrayed red poppy flower that populates the French countryside. Coquelicot Estate Vineyard is organically farmed in Santa Ynez Valley on 58 acres. They were recently awarded Certified Organic vineyard designation which takes five years to obtain.

(Painting by Claude Monet called Les Coquelicots’ from 1873)


The wine was a light straw color on the eyes with medium light viscosity. On the nose, lime and hint of green grass with a tinge of a floral bouquet. But once in the mouth an almost efflorescence and “bubbly” quality aroused the palate, something not normally found in a Sauvignon Blanc. That said, it was refreshing and invigorating. On the palate it was somewhere between a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (with strong citrus and exotic tropical passion fruit and pineapple) and an old world (very dry, crisp, clean and subtle fruit aromatics). The most prevalent key distinctive flavor was a soft lime and mild floral notes.


The food paired was phenomenal with an Instant-Pot salsa infused pull chicken to be used in “street tacos”. Added to the tacos were sharp cheddar cheese, onion, tomato slices and spicy salsa with cilantro. The pairing was exceptional with the coolness of the Sauvignon Blanc and the zesty and enveloping warmth of the “street tacos”. A most delicious and thirst-quenching Sauvignon Blanc. Retail price is $26.



Tenbrink 2016 Petite Sirah – Bold, Brawny and Yet Graceful

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Did a story on Tenbrink and Tolenas wines earlier this month but did not review their Tenbrink 2016 Petite Sirah. ( Steve Tenbrink gave me a bottle after I had purchased on the spot 6 bottles of their Chardonnay. I put it in the cellar waiting for the right time and food pairing.


Last night at our informal “Friday Wine & Dine” group dinner at Copper Valley Grille, consisting of good friends, fellow wine drinkers who all are Wine Society members, I ordered the Flat Iron Steak thinking this would be a solid pairing. The Flat Iron Steak was grilled medium rare, with whiskey peppercorn sauce, roasted baby red potatoes and spaghetti squash. The wine was opened up about one hour before the meal.

The wine was an intense deep red almost “black coloration” when being poured. It possessed a heavy body and viscosity. The senses were on overload on the first smell and taste with flavors of blueberry, cocoa, black pepper and a slight smell of sweet pipe tobacco. This was no ordinary Petite Sirah in the glass was the consensus of the group! The consumption of the wine with the steak proved excellent and exquisite. One of the folks at dinner had grilled pork tenderloin with fig glaze, bacon , onion compote and sweet corn puree and it even tasted better with a piece I was given! I have had the opportunity to try many, many Petite Sirah’s and this one received my highest praises and score. At the table we had another Petite Sirah but in comparison it was like a watered down version! The finish was exceptional with a long finish with bold fruits and flavors and strong tannins.

As an educational note, Petite Sirah is not a “smaller” version of Syrah as it is a wholly different varietal. The background on Petite Sirah is that it is the offspring of Syrah and Peloursin (a scarce and almost extinct grape).

Since it is getting to the end or football season, the analogy of this Petite Sirah reminds me of a 260 pound linebacker with brawn and strength, yet nimble like a Heisman Trophy running back with the ability to maneuver around the food and impart such wondrous fruit profiles. This wine became an instant legend from Suisun Valley and scored touchdowns with all the fans participating in dinner last night! This sells for $60 and is a gem.




Looking For a New Varietal? Try 2018 Prie Vineyard & Winery – 2018 Dornfelder

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The wine was paired with a tri-tip steak, potatoes and side garden salad. The food pairing recommendations for this wine are roast meats, game dishes (venison) and rich cheeses. When wooden barrels are introduced to Dornfelder it brings out the tannin and tends to minimize the fruitiness. It is mildly acidic and full body with a deep, deep coloring. This Prie 2018 Dornfelder went well with the tri-tip steak and flavors oozed out with the introduction of the meat. It provided wonderful flavor and acidity to compliment the dinner. After dinner with the second glass without food, it did not have the same appeal. I would definitely recommend this as a change up with steak or roast from the everyday Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or others, to explore alternative varietals. 
So what is Dornfelder?

Dornfelder is not a common household name for wine! Only 69 acres are planted in the California with 43 acres in San Joaquin County and 19 acres in Sacramento. That leave only 7 acres for the rest of the state. August Karl Herold (1902-1973) cross pollenated Helfensteiner and Heroldrebe (two German varietals) to make Dornfelder and was recognized by the authorities in German in 1979. He further went on to make Heggel and it was recognized in 1994 as a sister grape of Dornfelder. The grape name Dornfelder was in honor of Immanuel August Ludwig Dornfeld (1796-1869) who was a proponent and instrumental in creating the viticultural school in Weinsberg.

(Picture from Wikipedia)

As you can see this grape grows in small clusters with big dark colored grapes. Dornfelder is now the second most grown red grape varietal in Germany (who knew?). The typical flavor profile is dark on the eye, possess a velvety texture, slightly floral and definitely has dark fruit flavors (plum, blackberry, dark cherry) and is oaked. While typically dry to semi-dry, some can possess a sweetness. This 2018 Prie Dornfelder was aged 12 months in neutral French oak. It is 100% Dornfelder varietal and is from the Mokelumne River sub-AVA in Lodi. Currently it lists for $27.



Lineage Wine – A New Opulence

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Yesterday it was officially announced that Steven Kent Mirassou’s Lineage Wines and Steven Kent Winery have changed their tasting room experience. Two weeks ago I was given a “sneak preview” of these great changes. First, the Lineage tasting room is upstairs from the original tasting room, which was formerly the business offices.  It is now called the Lineage Tasting Salon. Upon entering the newly remodeled area, you will be greeted with a special sparkling wine using 100% Pinot Noir and three vintages of their highly acclaimed Lineage. Additionally, these wines will be paired with small artisan bites from Sabio On Main Restaurant in Pleasanton.


The tasting salon is opulent and radiates sophistication is in every detail.  The view overlooks the Home Ranch vineyard behind the previous Lineage tasting area. This area is now available on a reservation basis for Lineage Wine Club Members and can be rented for special  meetings. It definitely has a fall Tuscany look in the vineyards from above.


Additionally, the Steven Kent Winery tasting room, in the same location, has upgraded their arrangements to a sitting experience.


I have included below a previous story on Lineage from 2019 speaking on Stevens’ quest to make his Lineage a hallmark “Bordeaux style” wine from Livermore Valley. You can see from his 10th Year Retrospective how each vintage is handcrafted based upon Steven’s blending of the various varietals.



Previous story on Lineage:

Steven Kent Mirassou as a 6th generation family winemaker had to set new goals. He set as his pinnacle development to produce the best “Bordeaux style” wine California could produce. A lofty and perhaps extreme goal for one man in Livermore Valley. After many years as a successful winemaker at Steven Kent Winery, he decided to make 3 to 5 barrels a year of the absolute premier “Bordeaux style” wine. We just opened his 2008 vintage, which is the second of the Lineage release. This release entailed only five barrels. The blend which changes year to year based on flavor profiles, consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon 81%, Cabernet Franc 9%, Merlot 2%, Petit Verdot 5% and Malbec 3%. While blending is an “artistic” endeavor, Steven also is analytical in his pursuit of the perfect Bordeaux blend.
Here is Steven’s write up on why these varietals and clones were chosen. It is like an artist mixing paint colors for right shading and expression of a painting.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 30: Dark cherry and cassis flavors, fine-grained tannins and acidity. Less opulent but more age worthy than Clone 4.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 191: Cassis, coffee, and mocha flavors, angular, tannic structure and lengthy, persistent finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 4: Powerhouse rich, viscous flavors of dark fruit and chocolate with broad tannins.
Cabernet Franc: Not as “big” as CS but with more finesse and an aromatic palate of sandalwood and chocolate. Acidity is the watchword of this variety. Its acid-based red fruit flavors marry well with the darker more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon to enliven and length Lineage’s finish.
Petit Verdot: Contributes tannin, color, and grapey aromas and flavors of violet and black fruit. This variety helps to build density in the mid-palate of the wine.
Malbec: Adds fruit and tannin; quite different from Cabernet in its sauvage mix of dried berry and raspberry fruit notes. It signature aromatic note is obvious when the wine is young. As Lineage ages, the Malbec takes on a dried-fruit edge and nice acidity.
Merlot: Noble variety of Bordeaux’s Right Bank; as counterpoint to CS’s austere structure, Merlot is fleshy and opulent; ripe red/dark cherry flavor, a touch of herbal complexity which adds to Lineage’s rich mid-palate.”

The key take way on blending is that it is extremely selective and requires rigorous decision making of not only varietals, but the correct Clones of the varietals to get the flavor profile. Add another step of both winemaking and personal craftsmanship and abracadabra you have a gorgeous and refined Bordeaux blend called Lineage. I am sure Steven wished it was that simple, but this is the shortened version.

Two of many other detailed undertakings are his hand selection of French oak barrels (Taransaud, Le Grand and Francois Freres) and his constant monitoring of the development of the wine in the barrel. The 2008 Lineage was aged 28 months in barrel and released approximately 36 months after harvest.

The flavor profile and experience of this wine is truly remarkable. First on the eye you see a medium to medium dark red tint and medium viscosity wine. Very different than some of the bold Cabernet Sauvignon’s coming out of Napa Valley. Your first impression is perhaps this may be a “bit wimpy”. But hold on until you get your first whiff which reveals “black fruits, exotic woods and spice aromatics”. On the palate, you get all the above characteristics that Steven purposed in his selection of varietals and clones to produce a crescendo of semi-sweet mocha, dark cherry, dark roasted coffee, sweet tobacco, violets, black fruit, etc. You are a bit mesmerized in trying to dissect each essential trait in this wine drinking experience. But it is a wine to simple enjoy and savor the existential engagement and relationship of such a rare and eloquent treat.