Month: February 2020

2018 Dusty Nabor Grenache

Posted on

This Grenache from Santa Rita Hills, part of the Central California Coast AVA,  has a light and fresh strawberry character from this cool climate vineyard. Don’t be fooled by this almost transparent light red wine.  Dusty’s Grenache used neutral barrels and the finally blending spent seven months in concrete before bottling.



The refreshing profile was spot on with a mesquite BBQ chicken, fried asparagus, broccoli and mushrooms. A Yukon Gold potato along with the wine tempered the spicy chicken. Dusty Nabor Grenache retails for $33.





2011 Ovello Riserva Barbaresco

Posted on

While Ovello Riserva is from Barbaresco, in northwestern Italy, it is such a fine wine their story needs to be told. Barbaresco is known world wide for their Nebbiolo varietal wines. Often people do not distinguish the difference, one being a place and the other being a grape varietal. This small village has only a population of 650, which I learned from a previous visit.

Nebbiolo wines from this region hold strong tannins, high acidity and a distinct “old world” aroma. Nebbiolo wines tend to come out young with dark red juice and fade over time from a “brick orange” to violet color. The word nebbia (fog) where fog hides in the valleys and vineyards. Also this late harvested varietal can be done in foggy and winter weather conditions.


(picture of Monforte d’Alba in Piedmont area) 

Producttori del Barbaresco was founded in 1958. The village priest of Barbaresco determined the only way small properties owners could survive was to form a cooperative. It started out as nineteen small growers and today is fifty one. Each of the vineyards are listed on the back of the nine varietals of Barbaresco produced. For the Ovello 2011 Vintage, the vineyard are listed on the back of the bottle. For example the owners of the vineyards for this release are: Audasso, Cavallo, Cravanzola, Gonella, Grasso, Maffei, Odore, Rocca, Sarotto, Unio, Vacca and Varaldo. Italy and especially Piedmont, account for 99% of the worldwide production. The total cooperative produces 45,000 cases per year. The USA production is extremely limited and California’s production is only 145 acres per the latest Wine Institute report.


(hillside around Barbaresco with Nebbiolo vineyards)


Ovello typically get between 93-94 point ratings from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. Key for the Producttori del Barbaresco is that they age the wine 36 months in large oak barrels and then 12 months in the bottle before releasing as a Riserva after holding for 4 years. They will continue to develop in your cellar for up to 20 years.


Foods suggested to pair with Nebbiolo wines are fresh egg-pasta dishes, risotto, white and red meat, game, venison. So when the dinner menu called for Bucatini pasta with a red meat sauce, roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic vinegar, olive oil with seasonings and a garden salad with Blue cheese dressing, this wine was selected from the cellar.


On the eyes, a bright dark fruit but with a translucent ruby red wine on the rim with a medium body was present in the glass. On the nose, violet perfume notes along with intense floral and fruity aromas. On the palate, is where this wine burst out with red fruits, balsamic notes and a hint of anise. One of the distinct flavors picked up was dried cranberries and soft leather. The finish was long lasting and elegant with the balanced tannins and multi-layered structure.


Nebbiolo is a wine still under the radar for the general wine community. Pick up a bottle of Nebbiolo from Barbaresco and compare to some of the Nebbiolo’s being produced in California. You will enjoy the tasting adventure!





Roussanne or Chardonnay -Taste Challenge at Dinner

Posted on


We held a taste challenge as to which wine pair best with scallops, asparagus with mushrooms and assorted long grain rice. We served two wines which already made my “Best of 2020 Wine List”. The first was the 2018 Tenbrink Vineyards Chardonnay from Suisun Valley. The pale straw coloring provided an array of honeysuckle, pear and apple on nose and later on the palate with a medium and enjoyable finish. The retail is $28. To read more about Tenbrink Wines click a previous article:
The second wine was a Roussanne from Lavender Ridge Vineyards in Murphys, in the Sierra foothills. It was powerful with floral aromatics, with hints of peaches, pears and with a rich and silky smooth mouthful texture almost creamy. Roussanne most times is blended with the Marsanne varietal but in this case it was 100% Roussanne. This retails also for $28. Marsanne adds the fat, richness, oily textures and sweetness to the wines, while Roussanne brings more acidity, elegance and aromatic complexities to the wine. To read more about Lavender Ridge click on a previous article:

As we partook of the food, lots of discussion about the flavor profiles of each wine and how it brought out different characteristics in the mouth with the seafood. Since both wines were held in high esteem, the banter went on for a while. In the end it was a standoff as the table was deadlocked. So both wines were declared winners! The only thing to do is to rate it yourself! Kudo’s to both wineries for making excellent wine varietals and providing for an exquisite pairing with scallops.





Cellar 13 Winery – From Water to Wine??

Posted on

While not necessarily turning water into wine, Darin Winton came from the public water services for a local municipality and is now producing many award winning wines! Even before retiring, Darin got his start doing volunteer work at 3 Steves Winery on his vacation, since he enjoyed their wines in Livermore and even volunteered for two weeks in Chile during harvest. There he learned “old world” techniques in winemaking, especially for Carmenere. The fascination of harvesting by hand and using gravity to move wine around aroused his senses. In 2017, this winery where he was doing his training, allowed him to make a few small batches of wine with Livermore Valley fruit. He is indebted to 3 Steves Winery for allowing him to experience winemaking from the ground up and their subtle oversight and tutelage.


Just two years later in 2019, his 2017 Chardonnay won Double Gold at the San Francisco Wine Competition – a real accomplishment and validation for his new venture. One unique perspective Darin brings is his use of three yeasts in production and multi-malolactic fermentations. This provides a range of flavor profiles and aromas while drinking from cold, to cool to room temperature. Initially a lemon custard that was lean and with tight acidity appeared. When tasting his 2018, as it warmed, floral notes and oak appeared. His goal is to make a Chardonnay with enough acidity to age gracefully. It is unfiltered with a medium-heavy viscosity. The 2018 Chardonnay retails for $26.


Darin, as sole proprietor also makes four red wines. The first is another Double Gold winner from San Francisco Wine Competition in 2020, his 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon. Carving out a piece of the pie in an already crowded market, Darin’s focus is on the acidity and bringing lively full tannins to this wine. Yet the wine was smooth and velvety with a medium heavy viscosity. This Cabernet was an enjoyable sipping experience even without any food. Retail price is $39 which is a steal for a Double Gold winner!

On another evening we cooked an Instant pot Chuck Roast with roasted garlic potatoes and fresh garden salad. Tsogadu in the Cherokee language for the number 13 is a tribute to his uncle who is a famous American Indian artist. His artwork is featured on the back of the bottle (sorry no picture). Here Darin went for “Bordeaux style blend” wine using Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (34%) Cabernet Franc (6%). This also won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Wine Competition. It possessed on the eye, a deep radiant red. On the nose a sensory experience of all three varietals appeared in the glass. Retail price of $43.


This 2017 Merlot has yet to be released and is still settling down and the review will be forthcoming in another article. Price to be determined. He also has a 2016 Zinfandel released from Dry Creek area in Sonoma County and unfortunately I have not tasted it yet! Retail price is $33.

In 2017 Darin produced 180 cases and in 2019 production increased to 475 cases. Beyond 2020, Darin is looking at creating a wine club and in 2021 has plans to introduce a dry farmed Cabernet Franc from Cienega Valley and an Albarino that is grown in Livermore Valley. He is a man on mission to bring some extraordinary wines to market in a very short time!



2012 YoungInglewood Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Posted on


Opened one of our prized Napa Cabernet Sauvignon’s last night. It is from a small boutique winery in the southern edge of Saint Helena up against the western mountains in Napa Valley. YoungInglewood is a boutique family run winery, that has consistently produced deep and concentrated red wines. This 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon was aged 22 months in 100% French oak, with 60% being new barrels. Small modest amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Franc were also added. 300 cases were produced of this vintage. The current release is the 2016 with only 200 cases being produced. This was their first produced product at their winery. It is a mother/son team heading the wine making, Jacky and Scott Young, for this lush and extremely intense wine.


The Young’s, Jim & Jacky had some many years in France and have purposed to make wines that reflect the traditional roots and values, with a Napa Valley twist. I had written about YoungInglewood in a previous article in 2016 in more detail. You can click on this to read their story . I have been an admirer of the winery since their inception and have always stated their label of the tightrope walker represents one of the best labels – showing how the winemaker must balance so many facets of the production in order to arrive at the destination with a grand product. This includes vineyard management, canopy trimming, dropping fruit, harvesting at the precise moment to extract the perfect juice, formulating the right blend, keeping tannins and fruit in check, etc. All of this balance and finesse summed up in a tightrope walker!


On the eyes one can only anticipate what the dense dark red and purple juice will taste like. On the nose, aromas of black cherries, raspberry engulf the olfactory senses. On the palate, vanilla, dark chocolate, clove, licorice, plum with a hint of soft lingering pipe tobacco & leather conjoin to make an expression of wine so delicious and yet graceful. The finish is smooth, integral, long and the tannins are present yet controlled. The structure of this wine is excellent. When finished savoring each sip you are left in amazement and awe of experiencing this wine. It could easily go for another 3-4 years in the cellar.


This wine was paired with a seared BBQ’ed Ribeye steak served medium rare, fresh green beans sautéed in olive oil with light spices and a garden salad. With each bit of the steak and a sip of this Cabernet Sauvignon was a match made in Heaven. Even Dionysus would celebrate and be proud this wine!




2014 Zuidema Grenache & Diablo Chicken

Posted on


2014 Zuidema Grenache from Napa Valley. This was his inaugural release of Grenache which combines delicate finesse with the subtle power of Grenache. Rudy describes it as “the aromas are made up of white pepper, bright rhubarb, strawberry and blood orange peel. The bright acidity in the mid palate bursts with mixed berries, holiday spice and layers of anise and tarragon”. Even the finish gives a hint of the Old World with it being “rustic and not perfectly polished”. At a recent tasting with friends, most agreeing with the color being ruby to brick red, with cranberry fruit, having a spicy oak flavoring, yet showing the minerality of dry farming. See more details on a previous story on Zuidema Wines at:…/zuidema-wines-old…/
#grenache #zuidemawines #zuidema


I prepared a new dish called Diablo Chicken with chili peppers, corn, onions, sriracha, hot salsa, mushrooms and few spices over rice.







2015 Nickel & Nickel Stiling Vineyard Chardonnay-Making a Simple Meal Great!

Posted on


On the eye, a light golden straw/hay coloring with medium body. On the nose, floral notes and minerality. On the palate, pear, green apple, citrus and honeydew dance in the mouth. Acidity is managed well with a hint of vanilla and a touch of oak on the finish. This is a refined and perhaps elegant Chardonnay. Stiling Vineyard, located in the Russian River Valley was planted in 1988. The vineyard is famous for the Goldridge sandy loam soils and ten acres are planted in Chardonnay.

Paired with a simple fried chicken and a Yukon Gold potato, this made the meal delightful.