Month: March 2020

Small Wineries and COVID-19 – How You Can Help!

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The COVID-19 is something between Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and living in Toffler’s Future Shock for most of us today. That said being sheltered in place (SIP) or self-quarantined the human spirit is being squashed. Why? We are social beings with a sense of purpose with family, friends and community. We are all cut off and the resulting isolation is unsettling. Even of historical magnitudes and pervasiveness not seen since World War II affecting literally everyone, we will get through this with unwavering enthusiasm and hope, nonetheless a bit scarred but not beaten.


I am writing this today to bring attention to the fact that many small artisan and handcrafted wineries unfortunately may not be as fortunate. They are often single person, husband/wife and family operations of less than five individuals. They have invested their family monies to provide some unique and quality wines for our enjoyment. The financial impact of not holding tastings may strangle the life blood out of a few. Some small wineries have wine clubs and a solid local following. Some have just “opened their doors”. Nevertheless, all are going to be hurting financially shortly as the impact of their marketing and sales is squashed by having the tasting rooms closed.


I just went thru the last four months of these small wineries that I have written about and would encourage you to call the wineries (most are open but not for tastings) and place an order. This will help them immensely as you are helping them make a car payment, mortgage or put food on the table. I personally believe this is money well spent verses picking up a bottle of wine at the supermarket. Even if for one or two bottles the impact will be felt. The larger wineries will be fine in the long run, but these smaller boutique wineries may be pushed to the brink of extinction.


Do yourself a favor and pick up a wonderful bottle(s) of wine and support your neighbors in the wine business. All these wineries are in California. Many more can be found on my website or blog dating back more than four months. I have listed only a few of the varietals they make and clicking the website will give you a complete listing as well as their phone number.


Zuidema Wine Company – Grenache
Stringer Cellars – Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon
Mountain Tides – Petite Sirah
Cuda Ridge Wines – Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot
Cellar 13 – Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon
YoungInglewood – Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, blends
Gossamer Cellars – Unique red & white wines (Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, etc.)
Acquiesce – Roussanne, Picpoul, Bourboulenc
Lavender Ridge – Roussanne, Rhone varietals

Prie Vineyard – Barbera, Dornfelder
Tenbrink Winery – Petite Sirah, Chardonnay
Tolenas Vineyards – Gamay, Rose, blends
Casino Mine Ranch – Vermentino, Tempranillo, Mourvedre
Hunter Glenn Wines – Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Syrah
Bodega Del Sur Winery – Tempranillo, Spanish varietals
Arroyo Cellars – Chardonnay, Zinfandel
3 Steves – Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Carmenere –
Allegorie & Val du Vino – Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Blends
Dusty Nabor Wines – Syrah, Grenache, Viognier
Dracaena Wines – Cabernet Franc, Rose
Jazz Cellars – Syrah, Sangiovese, Roussanne/Marsanne
Laura Michael – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Zinfandel
Vinoce – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Detert Vineyards – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc
Shale Canyon Winery – Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Tempranillo
Tate Wine – Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Frog’s Tooth Winery – Chardonnay, Syrah, Petite Sirah
Porch Wines – Sauvignon Blanc, GSM

Wood Family Vineyards – Malbec, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon

McKahn Family Cellars – Syrah, Grenache, Viognier

Steven Kent Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, blends




2016 Zuidema Grenache – Spicy Elegance!

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2016 Zuidema Grenache from Napa Valley. This is his third 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. Paired with stir-fried Udon noodles with Teriyaki chicken and broccoli. See more details on a previous story on Zuidema Wines at:





2017 Stringer Cellars Chardonnay

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Tonight a 2017 Stringer Chardonnay from Santa Rita Hills in Santa Barbara area. A single Vineyard designated wine. Paired with shrimp, two different pork sausages (pineapple & cheese) and fettuccine with mushrooms and broccoli. 20% new French oak barrels for 12 months and then 5 months in stainless steel. The wine is a golden straw color on the eyes with a medium viscosity. On the nose and palate, a strong bent of a citrus element of meyer lemon and green apple. The finish presents a pear tinge and a smooth finish. Retail price of $35. #chardonnaywine #stringerwines #stringerwinery #centralcoastwines





2016 Wente Winemaker’s Studio Selection – Pinot Noir From Monterey County

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Pulled a 2016 Wente Winemakers Studio Pinot Noir Selection last night. The grapes come from Arroyo Seco (just inland from Big Sur) in Monterey County. This wine incorporates four distinct clone varietals: 40% Clone 777, 26% Clone Pommard, 18% Clone A, 16% Clone 115 . This wine has multi-levels of aromatics of white pepper, raspberries and Bing cherries. On the palate it burst with red fruit of strawberries, clove to raspberry jam. An unique flavor of slightly burned sugar similar to crème brulée was present. Then a tinge of sweetness lingers on the finish with velvety tannins. #winemakersstudio #wente #pinotnoir #pinotnoirwines #wentevineyards


See previous story on Wente Winemakers Studio:





Mountain Tides Wine Company – The Same and Different

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Why this title? Simple, Mountain Tides Wine Company is all about one single varietal, Petite Sirah. While at the same time, they source their grapes from a variety of organically grown vineyard locations and thus the same (Petite Sirah) and different (from various AVA’s). What is exciting to see is how each terroir changes the end product be it from Contra Costa County to Sonoma Valley to Lodi to the Sierra foothills. Each terroir provides has a distinct color, aroma and tastes.


Scott Kirkpatrick and Allison Watkins make up the husband/wife ownership of Mountain Tides Wine Company. Having met in 2014 and married in 2016, they took their combined artistic passions as winemaker (Scott) and photographer (Allison) to handle the complete winery process. They both shared a love of Petite Sirah and wanted to showcase the wine varietal and its change in different places, climates and soils. They further extended not only the varietal but how the varietal is presented in a rose, whole & partial cluster soaks, etc. The stated goal is to let the grapes speak for the terrain from which it grows and its unique personality.


I recently had the privilege of tasting four of their wines with each representing unique, small artisan vineyards to produce divergent wines all being Petite Sirah. The first wine to be enjoyed was their 2018 Clements Hills Rosé of Petite Sirah. Clement Hills AVA is located in the southeasterly portion of the larger Lodi AVA. The soils range from loamy to clay and just below the topsoil, are both granite and volcanic rock. On the eyes this coloration was light, unique and alluring. On the nose and palate, the wine gave strong hints of strawberry and honeydew. With high acidity, this is both a refreshing patio wine or compliments a tremendous number of dishes. We paired this with a chicken & cheese dish, multi-grain rice and medley of asparagus and mushrooms. This energetic and lively wine danced like an Argentina tango rhythmically in the mouth with the meal in perfect synchronization.

The second wine tasted was the 2018 California Petite Sirah. Here a more traditional red coloration was evidenced but still not a dark inky black. On the nose aromas of fruit punch and jam made this an easy sipping wine. Add whole cluster soaking for a tinge of spice, this produced a long lasting finish with some “earthy qualities”.

The third wine was the 2018 Contra Costa Petite Sirah. This wine came from four vineyards all located in Contra Costa County. The wine was light, soft and clear for a Petite Sirah. On the nose and palate Scott stated “red fruit, blackberries and sweet spices like clove and cardamom” filled the senses. Strawberry, blackberry and raspberry were the red/dark fruits of distinction combined with a tartness or soft bitterness to counterbalance the fruit. The wine was paired with a simple spiced BBQed beef burger, French fried potatoes and a garden salad. Again, the seared burger and wine made an extraordinary partnership.

Mountain Tides Fall Release 2019

The fourth wine tasted was the 2018 Palmero Family Vineyard Petite Sirah. The Palmero Family Vineyard is located on a rocky swale in the Borden Ranch sub AVA of Lodi. This is the most intensely dark wine Mountain Tides have produced to date. An intense royal purple coloration with layers of opulence. Those layers include blackberries, black plums, violets and floral characteristics. 50% whole cluster soaks provide just a hint of spiciness, but overall the velvety smoothness was dominant in the finish. This wine will standup to a variety of meats and dishes.

In just a few short years, Scott & Allison have embarked on a “road less traveled” but yet rewarding with various high ratings/scores on the wines, a loyal wine club and Petite Sirah lovers clamoring for more! Can’t wait for their newest release………





2017 Cuda Ridge Wines – A New Discovery

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Had the opportunity just before the “stay home quarantine” to sample a few of Cuda Ridge wines. This new discovery was shocking on various levels. First Larry Dino was “unknown” by me but has been a knowledgeable and standout winemaker for years in Livermore Valley. Secondly, he makes some incredible award winning wines. Thirdly and greatly appreciated, is his sense of humor which was contagious, amusing and had just the right amount of an edge to keep one on their toes!!



So let’s talk about one wine in particular, his 2017 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc. This is part of his Bordeaux Collection. He has two other “wine labels” called the Black Label and Reserve Collection. His Bordeaux Collection as imagined has besides Cabernet Franc, the other key varietals of Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. In our conversation, he mentioned he will be coming out with a Carmenere to help round out his portfolio of Bordeaux varietals soon.


This 2017 Cabernet Franc showed some “old world characteristics” as well as unique Livermore Valley traits. The coloring of this wine was so dark and alluring with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, blueberry, cherry and a hint of plum and floral notes abounded. On the palate, the naturally higher acidity was milder for a Cabernet Franc as well as the tannins subdued as expected. In the mouth, the blueberries and dark cherry were prominent along with a modicum of your typical bell pepper, black pepper and sage qualities. Soft leather, a dry rockiness and sweet pipe tobacco lingered to make the finish long lasting and inquisitive. I can only imagine what this will evolve like given some more years in the bottle.


Larry’s awards are numerous for all his wines, but specifically his Cabernet Franc over the years has won the following distinctions:
• 2017 Wine Enthusiast 91 points; Silver Medal at 2020 SF Chronicle Wine Competition
• 2016 Wine Enthusiast 90 points: Silver Medal at 2019 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and Silver Medal at TVC Uncorked
• 2014 Best Livermore Cabernet Franc; Silver Medal 2017 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and 90 point from Wine Enthusiast
• And many more awards going back to 2008 including more Silver Medals, high ratings from Wine Enthusiast and a Gold Medal from SF Chronicle Wine Competition.


While only having a short time with Larry Dino this one afternoon, the wine sampled were extraordinarily mouthwatering and left a lasting impression. Especially noteworthy were his Malbec, Petit Verdot and his Cabernet Sauvignon (2020 Gold Medal at SF Chronicle). As I appreciated the opportunity to finally meet him, I promised to return soon to appreciate his full arsenal of award winning wines.


It was my loss for not having met Larry Dino and Cuda Ridge years ago, but will make up for it going forward.




2012 Pasetti Tenutarossa Montepulciano D’ Abruzzo – A Real Red Wine

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Once or twice a month, I showcase a non-California wine even while having the website, BLOG, etc., named California Wines and Wineries! I do believe diversity and exploration in wine are some of the key tenants of authentic wine enthusiasts.


Last evening, I opened one of my favorite Italian wine, Montepulicano D’ Abruzzo from Pasetti. First Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo and Montepulicano are two entire different wines. Montepulicano d’ Abruzzo is a totally unique and wonderful wine from the Abruzzo region in east-central Italy and not to be confused with the Montepulicano which is mainly Sangiovese grapes from Tuscany.

This is a family run vineyard and winery. Franco, of Pasetti Winery, along with his son Mimmo who was at the time studying oenology, helped in the naming of this now well recognized label. The name Testarossa means red hair or redhead. Mimmo’s first daughter had red hair as did many of the women in the family lineage. Thus the name of this wine was originally called Testarossa to pay homage to the women in the family. The name was later changed to Tenutarossa meaning “red seal” which is found on top of the bottle.

Domenico Pasetti has a great quote and now Mimmo adheres to this in the vineyard and making of the wines “the wine is a life experience, not an exact science”. Very refreshing thought process verses some of the “manufactured wines” here in the United States. They have won numerous awards for their wine on the international level. This being their flagship wine, it is stored for 18 months in steel tanks, then the wine is aged for between 18 and 22 months in oak barrels. After bottling, it is stored another 6 months before being released.

On the eyes, it is a deep colored inky red/purple with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, dark cherries, soft leather and violets are prominent. On the palate, the wine opens up to licorice, tobacco, black pepper and cocoa. The finish is medium lasting with an ongoing beckoning to entice you to take additional sips. The tannins are “mellow” and the structure is solid with an ability to last many years. After one or two sips, you are immediately drawn to the country hillside of Abruzzo.

Enjoy a glass of Montepulicano D’ Abruzzo and find yourself transported to a rustic village in central Italy.


This wine can be purchased at: