Month: March 2020

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

Posted on Updated on


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!

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on


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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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

Posted on

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:

Saint Patrick’s Day – Corned Beef, Grenache, Jameson and Friendships – A Personal Tradition Continues

Posted on


A wonderful Instant Pot Corned Beef with mustard and peppercorn spices for St Patrick’s Day dinner. Cooked in Guinness beer and with a side horseradish deli mustard. Thanks Susan!! Paired with one of the best Grenache wines from Napa (Zuidema Wine yours is the other one) from Outpost Winery on Howell Mountain. Outpost winery is well known for the Cabernet Sauvignons made by Thomas Rivers Brown with scores of 95-100 points. A whole cluster soak produces one of the tanginess and spicy Grenache’s ever, which paired extraordinarily well with the corned beef. A great St Patrick’s Day treat all around.


A 38 year old tradition continues despite the quarantine request by the Governor and President. I have had three half shots of Jameson Whiskey on St Patrick’s Day every year, usually at a restaurant or drinking establishment. The first toast is to my grandfather Lewis Kelly who always had a shot on St Patrick’s Day. My father used to take him to a local bar despite the protestations of my grandmother! 39 years ago my father passed, so I took my grandfather out for a shot of Jameson. It only happened once, as subsequently later that year at 89 he too passed. I had a very good friend Tom Mollard an industry mentor and every year since we met for 37 years having 3 half shots of Jameson. During this time we told a tale or two of the those we were toasting. The first shot was for my grandfather, the second shot was for my father (and subsequently Tom’s wife Ann who passed) and third was for good health and life for those we were drinking with on St Patrick’s Day-Slainte. No surprise, there was always lots of others around us who joined in!! Besides telling some stories of those we toasted, many Irish toasts were given.


Tom Mollard passed 6 or so years ago. So today the second toast is to the key and influential people in my life who have passed: Dr John Rhodenbaugh (golfing buddy, former NCGA President, mentor), Tom Mollard (a great friend in the high tech industry, mentor), Margaret Houghton (one of our adapted grandmothers, former member of Castlewood CC), Richard Becker (the greatest father in law one could have!) and Deidre Comerton (a Saint in Dublin Ireland, mother of my good friend David Comerton) and continuing with my father, William Lewis Kelly. The third continues to be with those we are with this evening. Being quarantined, it was Susan and  I, but with the power of video chatting, we toasted with one daughter and son in law. 38 years of tradition continues with toasting and speaking about great friends and relatives, despite being quarantined.




The Cork – The Unsung Hero of Wine

Posted on


(Stored correctly, meaning temperature & humidity, this cork is over 7 years old)


The history of using corks for closure on wine bottles dates back to the late 1600’s. Prior to that everything from cloth, leather, wax and glass stoppers were used. Why do you want a good seal? One is to retard the chemical reaction between fruit acids and alcohol. The second one is the oxidation process which needs to be curbed or suspended. But total suspension is as bad as too much oxygen.

Some of the interesting facts about cork are:

• The higher quality of corks allow approximately 1 milligram of oxygen to enter the bottle each year. Why is this important? Air allows the sulfites to be removed that are added in the
bottling process to keep the wine fresh and not have harming effects from oxidation.

• Cork harvested off Oak trees needs to be at least 25 years old before being considered top grade.

• The cork from Oak trees is known as Quercus Suber. Cork Oak trees grow to 60 feet in height and 12 feet in circumference. The trees are harvested once every 9 years.

• After harvest the cork needs to be “dried out” which takes between 1 to 6 months.

• After the drying process, the cork is boiled to sterilize and clean it. This process also “softens” the cork material.

• The major issue with cork is TCA or tricholoroanisole. This is recognized as the smell of wine as being rotten eggs or moldy sneakers!

• Approximately 70% of worldwide wine production uses cork to seal their bottles.

• Portugal provides almost 50% of the world’s cork and Spain 31%. The balance is spread between Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, France and Italy.

• Only about 1 to 2 percent of wines today are “corked” or affected by TCA. Some figures show as much as 3-5% can be “corked”.

• The standard cork that fits a typical 750ml bottle of wine is ¾ of an inch. Various lengths are also available.

Alternative methods from glass to plastic to synthetic to manufactured corks are being used but the long term viability is yet to be determined. Similar with screw caps. That said with most wine being consumed within seven to ten days of purchase, synthetic, glass and screw caps are gaining some ground. This actually helps the cork industry as it is a renewable and limited resource.

So the next time you pop the cork out of the bottle, think about its long history and its vital function in delivering you a wonderful wine.




A Unique Idea – Livermore Valley Vintners’ Collective

Posted on Updated on


Livermore Valley Vintners’ Collective is a group of winemakers in Livermore who are taking on a new challenge. The idea is to make a wine from each winemakers’ perspective using local grapes with pre-assigned percentages to show case the winemakers’ quality and artistry. The group was open to all Livermore wine producers using Livermore Valley grapes. Six winemakers joined this initial launch and the LVVC group is anticipating many more to join.


The parameters of wine were fairly simple:

The Base: 100% Livermore Valley fruit. No more than 50% new oak is to be used and no adjuncts may be added.
Production Guidelines: Primary varietals were selected and percentages. They were: 30-40% Merlot, 30-40% Syrah, <25% Cabernet Sauvignon, <25% Malbec,<25% Petite Sirah,<25% Zinfandel, <5% Winemaker’s Choice (any varietal).
Getting a Taste: The final wines will have a minimum of 6 months of bottle aging and all participating wineries would release at the same time. The first release being 3/13-15 and one weekend monthly until the wine is all sold out. The wine comes in the wooden case with six bottles, with one bottle per winery.


Each of the six LVVC wines were entered in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in January 2020 with varying results. The wines received 2 Bronze, 2 Silver, 1 Gold and 1 Double Gold for their inaugural release. The wineries  who participated initially are 3 Steves, Fenestra, John Evan Cellars, Las Positas Vineyard, Page Mill Winery and Wood Family Vineyards.


I attended the LVVC Inaugural Release Party on Thursday, March 12th as part of the media coverage. This was held at Las Positas Winery with each winery pouring and many delicious appetizers served to compliment the wines. Having tasted all the wines, each were of substantial quality and showed excellent artisan skills. All the wines were on a “grade scale” of either an A or B level. The wines were “mellow and smooth” and very drinkable.  Only one had little “edge” due to their percentage mix and all will mellow in time.


Here are wines and their percentage mix which is located on the back of each bottle.


So stop by any of the six wineries and pick up a “six bottle case” and you can be the judge as to which winemaker did the best job in expressing their wine.




Michael   (John Evan Winery)