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.