Month: January 2020

The 34th Annual Wine Tasting “First Taste of the Year” in Copperopolis

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This annual “First Taste of the Year” event was just held on Saturday January 11th, 2020 at the Armory on Main Street, in Copperopolis, California. It was sponsored by the Copperopolis Community Center a volunteer staffed organization that restores and preserves the two publicly owned historical buildings in town. 2020 marks the 34th Annual wine tasting event and coincides with the 160th anniversary of Copperopolis. The two buildings are the historical brick Congregational Church and the Armory. Both buildings were constructed during the copper rush in the mid 1800’s, the Armory in 1863 and the church in 1865. Copperopolis was the center of the “Copper Rush” (after the gold rush). These are two of the four buildings in town on the National Register of Historic Places: Copperopolis Armory and the Congregational Church. From 1860’s to the time the mines closed in 1945, 72,598,883 pounds of copper were mined in Copperopolis and the copper used in the Civil War, WWI and WWII for ammunition.

With advance purchase the cost of $20/pp which included a commemorative wine glass, hors d’ Oeuvres, a raffle and of course many wines to enjoy. Wineries consisted of Gossamer Cellars, Black Sheep Winery, Twisted Oak, Frog’s Tooth, Stevenot, Inner Sanctum Cellars, Brice Station, Jessie’s Grove Vineyard and Indian Rock. Also this year featured Indigeny Reserve, a cider works and distillery out of Sonora. A hearty thank you for the local wineries supporting this event in Copperopolis.


The Board consists of Linda Beck, Joel Schwartz, Sigrid Kehr, Marlys Hanson, Belva Bristol, Marti Kennedy, Carolyn Lipnick and Shawn Connolly all did an outstanding job getting winery participation. They netted after expense $1120 from the event with approximately 140 people attending. A big thank you to the Board for preserving our local history.



Here are four previous written stories on specific winery participants this year:
Jessie’s Grove -1.

Inner Sanctum –

Frog’s Tooth –

Gossamer –



The Wine Industry – Chaos or Time to Take Stock?

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The title should not be too alarming if you have been following the trends in the wine industry. Various forces are at work causing the industry to squirm and re-think their traditional methods of going to market. To recap those key forces and outside agencies playing havoc for the wine industry are:
#1 – Sales are down
#2 – Grape supply is at an all-time high (more supply than demand)
#3 – Contracts by wineries to wine growers are being cancelled
#4 – Millennials and Gen-X and Gen-Y wine consumption is not meeting expectations
#5 – Wine industry is losing ground to “health conscious next gen’s”
#6 – Packaging challenges from “form” and “portion size”
Topic #1 – Sales are down for the first time in 25 years according to IWSR, wine consumption dropped .9%. Sales have plummeted from a little over 14.5 million cases (Sept 2017) to about 13.2 million cases (Sept 2019). Varietals that are losing market share are Chardonnay, red blends, Pinot Grigio, Merlot, Pinot Noir, white blends, Moscato and white Zin. Those wine varietals showing good growth (5% or more) are Rose and Prosecco (significantly lower price points than many of the varietals). Those varietals which show moderate to low growth (less than 5%) are Cabernet Sauvignon (1%), Sparkling (2.5%) and Sauvignon Blanc (2.5%). The varietals which are showing moderate percentage of growth include some of the highest ASP’s like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sparkling. Also, tasting room visitors are significantly down in Napa and up in Sonoma, Oregon, Washington and overall in the nation. Napa Valley should take heed.


Topic #2 – Grape supply is at an all-time high (more supply than demand). The California Bulk Wine Inventory is skyrocketing to shocking heights! For Cabernet Sauvignon in November 2019 the estimate is just under 7 million gallons and the January 2020 estimate is just under 9 million gallons. One year prior it was 5 million gallons. This while sales are going down, will only exasperate the glut.


Topic #3 – Contracts by wineries to wine growers are being cancelled. In the last 18 months, wineries cancelled orders in Oregon. They are having little luck in finding homes for grapes recently harvested. Call it inventory management, but several wineries are blaming “smoke taint”. The reality is that a surplus of wine juice exists throughout the west with weakening demand. Stories are circulating in the Central Valley, Mendocino County and Sierra foothills of California of grapes not being picked due to supply/demand market being out of balance. It will only be a short time before this reaches Napa and Sonoma Valleys’.


Topic #4 – Millennials and Gen-X and Gen-Y wine consumption is not meeting prior expectations or similar ramp as Baby Boomers. Gen-Z (21-22 year olds) showed a moderate growth from 2018 to 2019 and now stand at 2.1% of the total wine being consumed. Millennials (23-38) after four years of relatively flat consumption at 16%, showed an uptick to 17% in 2019. Gen-X (39-54) are flat at 34.6% from 2018 to 2019. And of course the Baby Boomers (headed towards retirement) dropped to 40.1% in 2019 from 41% in 2018. The last market segment is the Mature (74+) and they dropped from 7% to 5.9%. The last two categories can be attributed to a combination of disposal income and health issues (not taking alcohol with medications).


Topic #5 – Wine industry is losing ground to “health conscious next gen’s”. In a survey by The Harris Poll on why younger consumers are reducing their consumption (first week of January 2020), the number one reason was they were opting for a healthier lifestyle (32% responses). The next was they lost interest in drinking alcohol in general (24% responses). The other two major categories around health, the response was 18% and 17%. Down the list was lifestyle (not going out as much), consuming other alcohol beverages and non-alcohol beverages. Down the list was at 10% response was more interest in Cannabis. So if the wine industry wants to garner more market share of the next generations, they will have to put forth either medical facts on a healthy person consuming moderate amounts of wine or separating them and their dollars from other alcohol beverages or non-alcohol beverages.


Topic #6 – Packaging challenges from both “form” and “portion size”. The next generations are already showing a distain with their purchasing power of large format wine consumptions. Growth rates for the standard 750ml bottle has shrunk -2%, the 1.5L bottle -6% and the 4 & 5L at -2%. The biggest growth uptick is in the 375ml at over 21%. This most likely ties into the healthier lifestyle with having only a glass each between two people. While the “can wine” industry shows some great promise in portability of wine, they have yet to showcase quality wine as the Baby Boomers have been accustomed to previously. In this regard, while so many positives of transportation, shipping costs, etc., loom large and inviting, the can wine industry may not be cultivating the desired results of bringing forth the next level of wine aficionados with quality wine. It appears to be a quick grab for the next generations’ dollars with twinkling lights (packaging) without substance.


Perhaps the most shocking statistic is that while the wine industry (especially in California) is in the crosshairs of chaos and threatening internal and external pressures, wineries are content with the status quo. 55% of all wineries have no one analyzing their DTC customer base. Add to this another 27% only employing part time help in analyzing their business, which means approximately 82% of the wineries are “flying blind” into a generational or culture abyss. Have we not learned anything by having someone on watch?


These are just a few of my opinions while listening to Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the Wine Industry Report for the last three years, reading articles daily from various wine professionals & writers and from first-hand experience of over 40 years. The time is now for the wine industry strap their “big boy business pants on” and to first understand their customer base, explore ways of confronting the issues and take action sooner than later.



Michael Kelly

Dracaena Wines – A David verses Goliath Story

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Picture by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

While perhaps not as dramatic as the Biblical allegory found in 1 Samuel 17, Dracaena deserves a lot of respect. To make this analogy more intriguing, let me digress about David and Goliath to get a recap. It is the story about the king Saul who ruled the people of Israelites and was told to find a new king. The Philistines and Israelites had assembled to do battle in the Valley of Elah. The Philistines had many giant men living in their land, but the largest and strongest was named Goliath. Goliath, challenged the Israelites fighters to send out their “best man” to decide the outcome by a single combat. The winner will have the opposing peoples subservient to them. David asked the men in the army who was going to stand up to Goliath. David then volunteered to fight the “meanest Philistine”. David who was a boy at this time, tended primarily to his father’s sheep and was not a warrior. His only fighting was to keep animals from harming the flock. So as David, a boy/man of great faith stood up to Goliath and with a single stone in a sling shot was able to knock out and subsequently kill Goliath. David went on to be a great king of Israel, wrote many of the Psalms and reigned for 40 years.


Now that we have the background established, I believe the story of Dracaena is analogous to the story being a small winery competing with various winery giants. Firstly, a bit on Michael and Lori Budd who fell “into love with Cabernet Franc”. While today still working full time jobs, they are planning their future in the wine business down the road. They purchased property in Arroyo Grande, near Pismo Beach, and use a custom crush house to produce their wine. Their grapes come from The Plummer Vineyard in Paso Robles. Mike and Lori’s backgrounds are primarily in Food Science and originally met back on the East Coast while working. Lori who has since continued her education as a WSET II with distinction, is a regular blogger, an award winner writer and podcaster on a variety of wine subjects. Both Michael and Lori are co-founders of International Cabernet Franc Day, December 4th.


Their name Dracaena (pronounced druh-see-nuh) is a bit longer story, but suffice it to say, it started off as a memory of their beloved Weimaraner, which they had named Draco. You can read the complete story on their website. Draco’s hand drawn image appears on all their bottles.


So getting back to their wines, Dracaena is a very small producer of wines. Today they offer three wines: their Classic Cabernet Franc $34, a Reserve Cabernet Franc $45 and Rose of Syrah, unfortunately sold out, but the 2019 will be released mid-March for Club Members and in April for the public. In 2019 they produced 325 cases and are expected to produce 375 cases in 2020. Now you can see the analogy of the “boy verses Goliath” story! If it were only the production quantity, that would be one thing. However their outstanding and remarkable quality is what has captivated the wine drinking aficionados around the United States. Here is a brief recap of their awards:
*2013 Classic Cab Franc – Silver in SF Chronicle 91 Wine Enthusiast

*2014 Classic Cab Franc – Silver in SF Chronicle 90 Wine Enthusiast

*2015 Classic Cab Franc (they did not make the Reserve in ’15) Double Gold in SF Chronicle.

*2016 Classic Cab Franc and 2016 Cab Franc Reserve received a Gold medal in the SF Chronicle 91 Wine Enthusiast


*2017 Cab Franc Reserve (releasing to public on Feb 1 – currently only available to club members) received the Double Gold this past week from SF Chronicle Wine Competition.


*2016 Dracaena Reserve Cab Franc – Double Gold Medal Winner at the 2019 California Wines & Wineries Cabernet Franc Competition, Best of Class and Best of Show by Professional Judges. They also received a Gold by the People’s Choice Judges.

*2016 Dracaena Reserve Cab Franc – Silver Medal Winner at the 2019 Central Coast Wine Competition.
Some of the comments on their wines:
“Broad red-cherry aromas meet with more tart plum skins and carnation buds on the nose of this bottling. The palate also shows red cherry as well as vanilla-cookie and pencil shaving flavors, framed by grippy tannins and bright acid.”- Wine Enthusiast


2015 Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc Paso Robles: “medium+ ruby; medium+ developing aromas of black cherry, red plum, blackberry, black raspberry, blackcurrant leaf, dried thyme, lavender, cloves, nutmeg, chocolate, and vanilla; medium acidity, medium+ tannins, medium+ body and flavor intensity of slightly preserved black plum, blackberry, red cherry, red currant, dried thyme, fennel, white pepper, chocolate, cinnamon, and vanilla; spicy finish; really nice earthy wine.” – Rockinredblog
These and several other awards showcase their noteworthy achievement by a boutique and handcrafted small winery. So back to the analogy of David and Goliath. Michael & Lori reminded me of this epic battle as a small winery coming into existence against many formidable competitors in producing fine Cabernet Franc’s around the state of California. The traits learned by watching Dracaena Wines make such an impact are simple and noteworthy of any business and living:


Fear Not – they jumped into an arena with many stronger players and yet have prevailed to achieve some of the highest awards in the industry. Goliath by all accounts was a professional warrior, mean and scary. They took on the challenge and are looking forward, not backwards


Belief in Your Quest – they went after a desire to make a top quality wine. They capitalized on their existing training in biology and food science and augmented their education to hone in on skills. They had the faith in their goal as did David in taking on Goliath.


Size is Relative – Just as in David & Goliath, an exceptionally small winery can have a major impact in the market place. This is not just the “size” but also their work ethic. Don’t underestimate anyone at face value only!


I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I have enjoyed getting to know Michael & Lori and their excellent wines!





Coquelicot Estate Vineyard 2018 Chenin Blanc – A Gem from Santa Ynez Valley

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A new winery for me, but what a delightful and refreshing 2018 Chenin Blanc this evening. This Chenin Blanc is everything you could ask for and more. 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 award Certified Organic designation which takes five years to obtain.


The wine is a glistening light gold color on the eyes with medium viscosity. On the nose honeysuckle with a floral bouquet. But once in the mouth an explosion of apple, pear, honeydew melon and a hint of lime envelopes the palate. The finish is medium with a mild minerality and a delicate kiss of sweetness to balance the acidity of this fine wine. This wine will be released in February to Wine Club Members and then the general public.


Tonight this was paired with a stir-fried Teriyaki chicken and Udon noodles. A perfect mouthwatering combination!






Tenbrink Vineyards and Tolenas Winery – A Family Story

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Tenbrink Vineyards owners Linda and Steve Tenbrink came to Suisun (pronounced Sue-Soon) Valley in 1982 and established a home and made a living as farmers. Arriving with no experience, they now have about 60 acres in walnuts, heirloom tomatoes and various fruit trees. In 2006, they embarked in yet another venture into unchartered waters to make wine. Fortunately, with their friend and winemaker Abe Schoener acting as a mentor, they launch Tenbrink Vineyards. Years later, their daughter Lisa Tenbrink (and now Lisa Tenbrink Howard) and her husband Cliff launch in 2015 Tolenas Winery.

The name Tolenas has a significant history. The “upper valley” area where some of the vineyards are located was once part of the original Rancho Tolenas, part of the Mexican Land Grant incorporating a good portion of Napa and Sonoma Counties. A historical marker near their homestead denotes this information.


On a nice January 2020 winter day (about 65 degrees) we sat on the lawn in the front yard discussing their history and winemaking mantra. Both Tenbrink and Tolenas hold fast to make the wine as “natural” as possible with no chemical additives. This requires intense detail to the weather, the vineyards, the production and maturation of the wine once in the barrel. That said, the results speak loudly as to their success.


I very specifically only tasted a handful of wines this wonderful and bright sunny day. The first wine tasted was Tolenas Eclipse (a white Pinot Noir). This wine was light refreshing and perfect for a sunny day with a full mouthfeel. Whole clusters are gently pressed to extract the juice with very minimal skin contact to provide a lush creamy runoff as you can visibly see. This wine takes on the name from their 2017 vintage when they were picking the Pinot Noir grapes during an eclipse. This wine was a Gold Medal winner at the 2019 International Women’s Wine Competition. This is an exceptional wine and was unfortunately sold out!! $35 retail price.


Up next was Tenbrink 2018 Assyrtiko. This is one of the few locations in the USA where this is planted. Most of Assyrtiko is from the Greek island of Santorini (see a story Assyrtiko at:
It was this story that caught Lisa’s attention and reached out to me that her father (Tenbrink) was making Assyrtiko in Suisun Valley. This wine had many of the key ingredients of a classical acidic Assyrtiko with zero residual sugar and yet a “soft sweetness” on the palate. It is an excellent wine with fresh white fish. Sorry but I enjoyed it so much, I actually didn’t take a picture of it! Only 40 cases were produced. $28 retail price.


Staying with the whites, the next wine was the Tolenas 2018 Sauvignon Blanc. This zippy wine consisted of citrus notes of lime & lemon, honeydew and peach characteristics. On the nose and in the mouth, it reminded me of a more classical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with its brightness. $25 retail price.


Perhaps the surprise wine of the tasting was the 2018 Tenbrink Chardonnay. Knowing full well of the San Francisco Bay fog streaming up into Suisun Valley, this wine was an immediate hit. I rated it on the nose alone. I can’t recall giving a “score” to wine before only on the nose! The pale straw coloring provided an array of honeysuckle, pear and apple on nose and later on the palate. It had a touch of citrus on the finish was clearly going to be a winner! With the score I wrote down, I did not change it once tasting it. For sure it will be in my List of Top Wines of 2020. To show my support for this wine, I immediately purchased six bottles. $28 retail price.


Two more wines were on the lineup today, both being reds. First was Tenbrink Tempranillo. A dark and lush deep purple wine on the eyes. The fourth most planted varietal in the world today. The darker fruit notes, cherries, tobacco and a hint soft leather were abundant. This was a “new world” Tempranillo as some of the classical earthiness was not present, but this is still an enjoyable wine especially with a softer and rounded feel. I really enjoyed the simple and understated label showing a spade and no name or varietal mentioned on the front of the bottle. This represents Steve’s roots being a farmer and hand caring for each of the vines. $36 retail price.

The last wine for the afternoon was the Tolenas 2019 Gamay Nouveau. Not a wine I normally have around and it has been years since my last Gamay tasting. This wine from the picture is bright, clear with a garnet coloring. And only being 12% alcohol, this is a great alternative as a warm summer patio wine served chilled. The weather while tasting this wine was truly cooperative in making this tasting a refreshing experience. $25 retail price.


In conclusion, the key takeaways from this family winery tasting experience, were many elements such as: personally a new undiscovered and underappreciated wine area, a rich history, diverse wines, geographical differences within the Suisun Valley (lower to upper), the quality of the wines across the spectrum, and least by not last, the warmth and genuineness of the Tenbrink clan (Steve, Cliff & Lisa). Confirmed with Lisa, they can ship to all states that allow out of state wine shipments.




3 Steves Winery – Winners Once Again!

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The smiling faces of Steve Zigant and Steve Burman receiving their awards says it all. Having just won Best of Show at California Wines and Wineries Cabernet Franc Wine Competition from the People’s Choice Judges, 3 Steve’s is on a roll. They also won both Best of Class and a Gold & Silver medal from the Professional Judges. This is for their Cienega Valley, Dry Farmed Cabernet Franc from San Benito County.


In addition they won a Gold and Silver medals for their 2016 Livermore, Sachau Vineyard Cabernet Franc!

How 3 Steves Winery started was three friends (Steve Burman, Steve Melander and Steve Zigant), all in the wine business, wanted to own their own winery. They insisted on meticulously working their own vineyard as well as bringing fruit back to their winery. Thus their tagline “3 Friends Striving to Make the Perfect Wine”. They opened the property in 2013 after a few years producing wine at a custom crush operation.


They can now add these awards to their ever growing list of award winning wines:


*2011 Cienega Valley Ancient Vine Zinfandel – 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Best of Red Wine of Show. Our biggest accomplishment to date, this is the largest US wine competition in the world and this wine was voted Best Red Wine (Sweepstakes Award) over 5300 other wines.

*2012 Sauvignon Blanc – 2013 Tri Valley Conservancy Uncorked Wine Competition, Best White Wine of Show

*2014 Sauvignon Blanc – 2015 Tri Valley Conservancy Uncorked Competition Best Sauvignon Blanc of Show

*2011 Cabernet Franc – Affairs of the Vine 2013 Cab Shootout Second Place Best Wine of Show

*2012 Livermore Valley Merlot – 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Best of Class.
*2013 Cabernet Franc – 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Double Gold.
*2013 Cabernet Sauvignon – 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Gold.
*2012 Sauvignon Blanc – 2013 Tri Valley Conservancy Uncorked Wine Competition, Gold Medal
*2015 Livermore Valley Chardonnay – 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Gold.

*2013 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Silver.
*2014 Livermore Valley Merlot – 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Silver.
*2014 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – 2017 San Francisco Chronicle Bronze.
*2013 Zinfandel – 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Silver.
*2013 Three Brunettes Blend – 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Bronze.
*2013 Three Blondes Blend – 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Bronze.
*2013 Three Cabs Blend – 2016 San Francisco Chronicle Bronze.
*2012 Cabernet Sauvignon – 2015 Tri Valley Conservancy Uncorked Competition Silver Medal.
*2012 Livermore Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Silver.
*2012 Cienega Valley Cabernet Franc – – 2015 San Francisco Chronicle Silver.
*2012 Chardonnay – 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Silver Medal.
*2011 Cabernet Franc- 2014 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Silver Medal.
*2010 Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel – 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Silver Medal
*2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – 2013 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Silver Medal
*2009 Zinfandel – 2012 Best of the Bay Zin Challenge Competition, Silver Medal
*2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 Best of the Bay Wine Competition, Bronze Medal
*2009 Zinfandel – 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Silver Medal
*2009 Chardonnay – 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Bronze Medal
*2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Bronze Medal
*2007 Cabernet Franc – 2011 Best of the Bay Wine Competition, Bronze Medal
Both Steve Burman and Steve Zigant believe this is one of their best wines produced to date. The peppery and spicy Cabernet Franc is worthy of your cellar!
Check out these previous published stories on 3 Steves Winery.


Congratulations to all 3 Steves!!




Trefethen Family Vineyards – Right in Front of Me!!

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You know the saying “if it was snake, it would have bitten you” when you don’t see something right in front of you. That is exactly the way I felt after spending some four and a half hours with John and Janet Trefethen. How this day came about was through a bid for a Prostate Cancer Research charity, in memory of Derric DesMarteau who lost his life to prostate cancer in August, 2009. This event is sponsored by Hooked on Driving owners David and Brynne Ray, local friends, neighbors and fellow wine aficionados.

We met at Trefethen Winery and proceeded on a fascinating tour of the winery. It started out in the gardens describing the historical context of the building. The Trefethen family just recently celebrated their 50th year in Napa producing wine. One of the many things learned this day, was that approximately 600 acres are planted and they have not from the beginning purchased grapes “off the property”. This means that they have had complete control of the vineyard management with recorded data from the inception.

During the Napa 6.0 earthquake on August 25th at 3:20 am, the winery suffered some unbelievable damage. I have attached two pictures from the San Jose Mercury Newspaper showing the exterior damage.

The interior was damaged beyond recognition! After 33 months of renovation and construction, the building once again shows its historical significance proudly. They kept one of the post and the clock which broke during the earthquake as a reminder. Truly a phoenix project.





So today and back to wine, I have been involved in visiting, tasting and purchasing wine for over 40 years but had never visited this facility. What a revelation getting to understand the history, terroir and wines. We moved from the main tasting facility to the original family home for a private tasting. Here we enjoyed an opulent home to taste the wines.

(picture of John Trefethen, the original home and proof reader Susan Kelly).

The four wines selected were Chardonnay, a red blend, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Special food pairings were presented with each one to savor, enjoy and compliment the wine. Starting with the 2018 Harmony Chardonnay with 0% malolactic fermentation and barrel fermentation, it was light pale straw coloring, with distinct aromas of apple, pear and honeysuckle. The acidity was strong but flavorful and perfect with just about any fish. It was paired with petite Gem lettuce with tarragon Goddess dressing, parmesan & cured egg yolk. $26 is the retail price.


The second wine was the 2017 Dragon’s Tooth (red blend) comprised of 54% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. The story goes as the land was being developed, a large unplanted plot next to the long driveway to the winery, the family constructed a cardboard dragon popping in and out of the ground for some almost 500 yards. It ended in a rocky field, designating the dragon’s teeth (tooth). Today it is planted with various vines. This was such a wonderful blend of estate wines providing a refreshing mouth filling sensation. The dark fruit was countered by violet flavors and vanilla notes. It was accompanied by a truffle potato croquette with crispy leeks. $60 is the retail price.


The third wine enjoyed was the 2016 The Cowgirl and The Pilot. This is a reference that I later deduced was a description of John (a pilot) and Janet (a distinguished rodeo horse cutter). This is a 100% Merlot which is a stable of the Oak Knoll AVA. This wine provided soft and rounded flavors of dark blackberries and black cherries. A soft vanilla pipe tobacco was lingering in the background. This was paired with roasted mushroom tartlet with black garlic & wild arugula. Perhaps one of the best pairings this afternoon. The retail price is $90.


The final wine presented to us, was their crème de la crème, 2015 Halo. This comes from the hillside estate and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has its own style and characteristics as John stated from the beginning when he said the vineyards produce a lower alcohol levels and less intrusive that heavy oaked Cabernets from Napa Valley. This surely was spot on with cherry and raspberries. The nose with bright red fruits, this wine could be sipped by itself for evening. This was paired with a Cabernet braised beef short ribs and Spooner rice congee. Retail price is $220.
If this wasn’t enough time drinking elegant wines, having stimulating conversations and enjoying gourmet appetizers, we adjoined to Bottega Napa Valley restaurant in Yountville. Here we began a culinary feast of appetizers, entrees and wines at the Chef’s table. We started out with Hamachi sashimi with a pear placed on a solid Himalayan salt block. Next was Pasta Fritta Con Prosciutto, a crispy bread, served with thinly sliced prosciutto, Lambrusco poached pears, and espuma. The last appetizer was Gnocchi Di Ricotta Della Nonna, a bed of “ricotta “pillows” with old hen tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano.
For an entrée I had the Branzino Alla Griglia, a wood grilled whole Branzino with charred marinated eggplant and heirloom tomato panzanella salad. This was exquisite and refined.
And yes we had a few more wines to enhance the dining experience! This included the 2015 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs to start the meal. It was then followed by the 2018 Archineri Pietradolce Etna Bianco from Sicily (100% Carricante grapes) which paired wonderfully with the Hamachi and Bronzino. The first red wine of the evening was a 2016 Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia, which again was a superb pairing with the prosciutto and Gnocchi. This was a blend of Italy of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. And the last wine was a elegant 2016 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon for those having various meat dishes. I want to thank and compliment Janet Trefethen for selecting these wines which brought out and finished off a most delicious meal.

What a memorable afternoon and evening with two of the pioneers of Napa Valley. My apologies for not having stopped and savored your wines in the past! Mea culpa, mea culpa! Add to this our leaders of the band, David & Brynne Ray for arranging this visit and working diligently for early prostate cancer screenings.

In conclusion, two remarkable things stand out from the day. First, please be diligent about getting a prostate exam for early detection. Secondly, don’t make the mistake I did, just outside of Napa, off Highway 29, take a right turn to visit the hospitably, warm and lovely winery Trefethen Family Vineyards for a memorable experience.



2017 Foursight Pinot Noir, Pommard and Boontling – A Great Combination

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This is a bit redundant as I recently did a story on Foursight Sauvignon Blanc (3 Unique Features) and now writing about their Pinot Noir. First is that it comes from Boonville, California in the Anderson Valley AVA. This area is known for Pinot Noir and white wines. Mostly due to the topography and with warm inland areas and summer cooling in the late afternoon with fog rolling in from the Pacific Ocean. The elevation goes to almost 1700 feet in western Mendocino County. It is also consider one of the cooler AVA’s in California. Additionally only 558 acres of vineyards are planted out of 56,155 acres in the AVA or roughly only 1%.


The second most intriguing aspect of this North Central AVA, specifically Boonville, is their language called Boontling. It is a dying language or dialect known to have developed in the area. It is a mixture of English, Scottish, Gaelic, Irish and even Pomoan and Spanish. It was believed to have started in the 1800’s to talk behind each other backs and has strong sexual undertones. Less than 100 people today speak the language. Here are some key words and transliteration of a couple of phrases (G-rated):
buckey walter: n. a pay telephone {Combination of buckey (nickel) and “Walter.” A man named Walter Levi owned the first phone in the valley; as a result Walter Levi is a telephone. Early pay phone required only a nickel.}
kilockety: v. to travel by train. {Imitative of the sounds of metal wheels on rails.}
wess: v. to fib; to exaggerate. {A Boonter named Wes often “stretched” the truth, esp. in telling stories.}

fratty shams: n. Grapevines. {Combination of fratty (wine) and shams (brush).}

Carte de le Côte de Beaune et Haute Côtes de Beaune
Carte de le Côte de Beaune et Haute Côtes de Beaune


And thirdly for Boonville, and most importantly, it is the home of Foursight Wines. While only eleven and a half acres are planted in Pinot Noir it holds unique characteristics. This 2017 is 100% Pommard 05 vineyards and they use 43% new French oak barrels. Pommard wine is produced in Cote de Beaune of Burgundy. The AOC Pommard is only used for red wine and Pinot Noir the designated primary grape. This AOC was created in 1937. Pommard wines are unique and typically possess the most powerful and tannic of the regional wines. Especially in contrast to the lighter and rounded wines from neighboring regions. Why write so much about Pommard 05 clone from France? It is because this wine tastes and even feels like a “French throwback wine”. Only 125 cases were produced.


My notes while tasting it was that it provided both rustic and earthy notes, with a semi-sour rhubarb pie. Additionally, Bing cherries and cranberries waffled into the olfactory receptors. This is not your delicate “ballerina Pinot Noir wine” that I often describe. It is more akin to a bantam weight prize fighter. You will not get bruised by it nor think of it as elegant, but you will enjoy and recall the uniqueness of this wine for some time. I paired it with a Swiss cheese chicken and risotto. In retrospect, I think a strong veal or beef dish would be appropriate as this Pinot overwhelmed this dish. It has won the Best of Show Red award at the 2019 Mendocino County Fair Wine Competition. It also received a double gold medal, and best of class award! A nice award for a $54 bottle of “old country Pinot”. I have one more bottle of this and it will be introduced to some type of BBQed beef this spring. I can hardly wait!








2016 Lineage Wine – A Great Wine and Unusual Food Pairing

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Some days you want to enjoy one of the best wines available but your favorite local restaurant doesn’t offer a meal that pairs nicely with your wine. Sometimes the rules have to be broken and you enjoy the wine and food individually. Such was the case last night. The Ahi Poke, prepared in a butter lettuce cup, seaweed salad and wonton chips along with pan seared scallops with a lobster sauce had me at “Ahi”!


One of the best “Bordeaux style blends” coming out of California is Lineage. It has made my list of the Yearly Best Wines from California since it was introduced. The 2016 uses 59% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Each vintage changes based upon the availability of the best grapes and varietals. Sixty percent of new French oak barrels were used and aged 22 months. Only 2,826 bottles were produced. The recommended optimal drinking time is between 2024 and 2036. This was a “sneak preview” evening! In December for a holiday party we opened a 2009 and it was spot on.


This was the 10th anniversary release from Lineage. You can see that on the eye, it is a dark red color with medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose and palate, dark fruits abound. The structure with Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc allows the tannins to showcase the immense structure, complexity and layering of this wine. Add to this the roundness and cherry of Merlot and deep elegant coloring of Petit Verdot and you have a refined and marvelous wine. While young today, you can appreciate the how this wine will mature. This is for the serious collector with patience to lay down in their cellar. This wine sells for $160 but when it is truly ready for consumption it will be a $200+ wine to be enjoyed.


For more background on Lineage and Steven Kent Wines see a previous published article at: