Month: June 2020

Nenow Family Wines 2017 Righetti Grenache & Point Reyes Blue Cheese — A Winner!!

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What a delightful treat tonight! Never tasted this before, but had Drew Nenow’s 2017 Righetti Grenache. This was such a wonderful and surprising wine with a light summer meal. From Edna Valley, just outside San Luis Obispo, this wine enjoyed the warm days with cooling fog in the summer.


This produced a beautiful translucent light red hue on the eyes and medium viscosity. On the nose, aromas of sweet cherries and a smoky essence were the first fragrances acknowledged. On the palate, dark cherries, strawberries burst into an almost fireworks display in the mouth. Clove and vanilla gave this Grenache the knockout punch on the finish. With a hint of black licorice and lots of red & black fruit, the finish was long lasting. The wines goes for $45.


The meal accompanying this wine was a simple seared BBQ burger with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and purple onion. Bucatini noodles with garlic, mushrooms, broccoli and parmesan cheese. Also a side of fresh garden salad with blue cheese crumbles.





2008 Oakville East Cabernet Sauvignon, Exposure

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Pulled this 2008 out of the cellar as it was on the “To Drink List” for 2020. An old favorite from Elliot Stern. Besides this lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon Exposure he produces an outstanding Cabernet Franc called Frank N’ Stern. This Cabernet Sauvignon was deep purple on the eyes and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose blackberries and blueberries were the dominant fragrances. On the palate, dark cherries, blackberries, light Christmas spices and a hint of honey tobacco. The finish still had plenty of panache with structure, punctuated tannins that could still go 2-3 years. Great job Elliot!! $100 at the winery.






Dave’s Porch Wine – An Unbelievable Wine For The Price!

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It isn’t often I talk about value wines, but this is no ordinary wine! Rudy Zuidema of Napa Valley fame, making wines for many “higher end wines” (up to $125), is the winemaker for Dave’s Porch Wine. Dave Yewell set out ten years ago to make an everyday table wine for his immediate family and extended friends after retirement. Today, they celebrate their anniversary in the wine business. It really started as a home hobby and for the first two years as it was just family and friends appreciating the wine. He makes just two wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and a GSM blend.


Sauvignon Blanc
The current release is the 2019 and comes from Lake County AVA (northeast of Napa Valley). I now have in the cellar the 2018 and just purchased the 2019. The 2019 is even better than the 2018! The 2019 has all the typical citrus flavors of Sauvignon Blanc but a bit less acidic than the 2018. You can also pick up honeydew melon to round out the flavors. It is light straw coloring on eye and is such a refreshing “porch pounder” in the late summer afternoon or early evening. 328 cases were produced.


Red Blend (GSM style)
Here the grapes were grown in Paso Robles. Dave and Rudy made a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and a touch of Zinfandel. If you are GSM fan, this will more than appeal to you! A deep crimson red on the eyes but with lots of fruit and layers of each of the varietals. While perhaps not a porch/patio wine in the heat, you can definitely enjoy it with many foods. This was consumed back in March with slow cooker beef Ragu with Pappardelle pasta. The tannins are round and soft, which makes it appeal to so many casual meals (pizza, burgers, chicken). 209 cases produced.


The Kicker and Saved for Those Reading to End!!
I started off stating it was an unbelievable wine but up to this point have not mentioned the price of either. **Warning please sit down before proceeding**. The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc is $120 a case and the Red Blend is $130 a case. The wine must be purchased on line in case lots and includes tax and shipping to anywhere in California. Yes that is $10/bottle for the Sauvignon Blanc!! (No typo). Mostly this is for California residents, but call Dave as he may have some association with entities outside California.


This is a wine I have served to many, many people with total confidence in the quality of the product. The astonished reactions by people when the price is revealed is somewhere between non-believing to how can I order immediately. With so few cases produced it will go fast.



Hovey Winery – Great To Be Wine Tasting Again!

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Hovey is located on Main Street in Murphys, California in the Sierra Foothills. Hovey and its founder, Chuck Hovey, was one of the original winemakers and tasting rooms in Murphys. I had never visited nor tasted their wines until a recent meeting with one of the managing partners, Rick Lowell. Having not interviewed with a winery for nine weeks (Covid-19), I sat down with Rick, what a delightful experience. While most winery personnel are ecstatic about their wines, Rick was both excited and realistic about the wine especially with the current state of the economy. We tasted many wines and wanted to highlight two in particular that caught my fancy.

Hovey C2 White Blend

The 2018 Hovey C2 is their white blend which changes year to year. This year they used 50% Albarino, 40% Viognier and 10% Chardonnay. This is one refreshing dry patio wine on a warm summer afternoon or evening. The C2 is their acknowledgement of Albert Michelson, the 1907 Nobel award winning physicist measuring the speed of light (if you remember Einstein’s equation E=MC2). So much going on in the mouth with this wine. The result is a refreshing, dry white that goes down easy on a hot summer afternoon. On the eyes a light straw yellow in color. The viscosity is heavy with one twirl and it slows down immediately. On the nose an assortment of tropical fruits of pineapple, mango and honeydew. On the palate, the Viognier comes thru with a Golden Delicious apple and a slight tartness of lemon. A mouthful taste and finish. This would go so well with any fresh white fish, scampi or shrimp. The light and crisp wine comes in at 13.7 percent alcohol and only 247 cases were produced. The wine goes for $22.


2017 Tempranillo, Rolleri Vineyard
The Rolleri Vineyard is located on the Murphys Grade Road, just outside Angels Camp on the way to Murphys. Having had some wine which Rolleri personally made (that was top notch), I was anticipating some unique and flavorful wines. The vineyard is on a south facing hillside and the grapes picked up some of the earthiness of the location. On the eyes, a lighter than normal Tempranillo appeared in the glass. But that “negative thought” exited as soon as the nose entered the glass. Here wafted aromas of dark cherries, dark fruit, coffee and a slight smell of cocoa. On the palate, this Tempranillo moved you across the continent over the Atlantic and put you in the high plains of Spain sipping a humble earth infused Tempranillo grape. One difference was this Tempranillo possessed smooth and rounded tannins to make this fruit come through on the finish. The earthiness and fruit danced together like one did as a child with their shadow. The wine is 14.8 alcohol and 299 cased were produced. We paired this with a taco salad, but any BBQ food would suffice to make a great pairing. This wine is offered at $30.


Next time you are walking Main Street in Murphys, stop by Hovey and taste and bring home a bottle or two of each of these wines. You will not be disappointed.




2010 Skipstone Faultline Vineyard Blend

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Pulled this out of the cellar last night for a birthday dinner. It had been laying down for over 7 years. This is a blend of 40% of Cabernet Franc, 38% of Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% of Merlot. Combining these three varietals allowed renown winemaker Phillipe Melka to bring forth some of the best qualities and depth of character for these Alexander Valley (California) grapes.


(pictures from Skipstone Winery)


Interesting story on how the owner Fahri Diner came to own this remarkable vineyard. Recounting the story told to me by him seven years ago, he was undecided on purchasing the property. Located on the property was an irrigation pond. Perplexed, he told his wife, if he could skip a stone from one side to the other, he would buy the property. So not only the decision to move forward with the vineyard and winery, but the name seemed appropriate. He then convinced Phillipe Melka to be the winemaker and it was his sole winemaking venture in Alexander Valley at the time.


On the nose soft fragrances of blueberries and dark fruit. On the palate, the berries (Blue & Black) and herbal qualities meshed seamlessly to provide a mellow taste. No hard edges considering the two Cabernets in the same bottle. It was smooth and tannins were sufficiently tamed to provide a balanced and enjoyable wine. The finish provided hints of chocolate and roasted light coffee. An exquisite wine for special occasions and food pairings. The current vintages goes for $165.


This was paired with a seared BBQ tri-tip steak marinated in a Chaka sauce for 24 hours. Accompaning were baked Yukon Gold potatoes rubbed in olive oil, Himalayan pink sea salt and topped with Parmesan cheese. A fresh garden salad and baked Hawaiian rolls topped with garlic butter (unfortunately not shown!). Dessert was a homemade cheesecake by Susan Kelly served on the patio.  A meal and wine for a perfect birthday celebration!




Summer Wines – Transitioning from Reds to Refreshing White Wines

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Every year as the temperature rises, I purposely reach for more white wines than reds. You still need a good solid red when you BBQ a tri tip steak or ribeye, but most likely it will be eaten indoors in air-conditioning. But while sitting outside on a warm late afternoon or evening, nothing quenches your thirst and hits the bullseye better than a cool white wine.


I have been asked repeatedly by friends to provide some guidance for white wines to be consumed as the thermometer soars above 90 degrees. All of these wines I have tasted in the last six months.  Some white wines have nuances and specific flavor profiles that still are excellent with meals and some are flat out “porch pounders”. So here are my recommendations being sorted by three categories, all which can be enjoyed with or without food. I have purposely not provided information on Rose’s or light reds like Grenache for this article. Those designated with an asterisk are stories that I have written about previously. Those can be found on the website https://californiawinesandwineries and simply use the search button to find out more information.


3 Steves*



Arroyo Cellars*

Cellar 13*


Harken (Barrel aged)

Hoopes Family*


Hunter Glenn*

La Rue Winery*

Maritana La Riviere*

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve

Nickel and Nickel Stiling Vineyards*

Raeburn (Russian River)*

Rapp Ranch*

Rosa Fierro (Oaked)

Tate Wine*


Wood Family Vineyards*



Sauvignon Blanc


Crocker & Starr*

Cuda Ridge*

Jazz Cellars*

John Anthony

Ledson (Russian River)*

Porch Wines*



Unique and Other Whites

Acquiesce* – Picpoul Blanc

Acquiesce* – Roussanne

Hovey C2 – white blend

Jazz Cellars – Rhapsody (blend)

Lavender Ridge* – Roussanne

Ragbag Wine Works* – Albarino

Saddleback Cellars* – Pinot Blanc

Tenbrink* – Assyrtiko

Terminim* – Cepages d’ Or – White Blend

Tolenas* – Eclipse – White Pinot Noir


Enjoy the summer with any of these refreshing white wine recommendations!




2012 Coup de Foudre Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California

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The Name Coup de Foudre
First off how does one pronounce Coup de Foudre? Relatively easily as “koo dah foo drah”! Now that we have established one fact, what does it mean? Coup de Foudre translated means “when lightning strikes”. It is basically that moment that is special and you want to capture it forever. The romantic story behind the label is easily read on their website as told by the owner John Schwartz, is good read. A nice touch with a bonus. Not only is the name unique, but the label was a big surprise! It is a peel off label with one side the same as the bottle label and the other side a notepad of who, where, when and why you shared this wine. A very clever and smart idea for a remembrance!

The Winery and Winemaker
This wine comes from their four acre Calistoga vineyard. They also produce a Cuvee blend, Les Bouquinistes (Bordeaux blend), Pinot Noir (from vineyards in Sonoma), their Lightning Bolt (Cabernet Sauvignon with special barrel treatment), Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc and even offer their Coup de Fole (Brut Champagne from Epernay, France). Most of their wines rate between 94 points to 97 points by Antonio Galloni and Robert Parker. The winemaker is Kent Jarman learning and perfecting his trade at Kenefick Ranch, Somerston and Chappellett Winery to name a few.


The Wine  – 2012 Coup de Foudre Cabernet Sauvignon
This vintage was made up with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. It was aged 22 months in 75% new French barrels. The added grape varietals can be seen in the deep red/purple coloring in the glass. On the nose, black and blue fruits abound. On the palate, one quickly picks up a dusty earthiness, slight tobacco and vanilla. The finish has both structure and defined tannins. I picked up this bottle almost five years ago and it could have gone another 3-4 years in the cellar. Only 650 cases were produced. Current release of this wine sells for $115.

The Food Pairing
Last night a 1 ½ inch Ribeye steak, seared and BBQed and served medium rare with a luscious pink center. Sides included a thin whole wheat noodles coked in olive oil and Parmesan cheese. A Blue Cheese & bacon fresh garden salad (not in the picture) was also part of the meal. A wonderful marriage of food and wine!


While I don’t want to be hit by lightning, I could easy be convinced to drink another bottle of Coup de Foudre.





2018 Terminim, Cepages d’ Or – When Four Varietals Produce a Great Wine

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Terminim, a collaboration between Francois Villard and Donald Patz, produced this 2018 Cepages d’Or. The grapes come from Alder Springs Vineyard in Mendocino County, California. Here they combined four exquisite grapes to form a blend of golden wine (Cepages d’ Or). The four grapes were 54% Marsanne, 22% Roussanne, 12% Viognier and 12% Picpoul Blanc. This golden concoction provided the most robust wine I have tasted in recent memory. The viscosity was heavy, one twirl and it stopped in its tracks! On the nose and mouth, a symphony of flavors burst every nanosecond to provide one of the most thrilling white wines in the market. Strong praise and strongly deserved.

So let’s discuss the key varietals used and each of their contributions to this wine:


First, Marsanne. Marsanne provides depth and rich textures on the palate with a touch of honeydew melon. Additionally Marsanne helps in the viscosity with a fine silkiness. Some of the key components are highlighted by honey-melon and apricot notes with layers of almonds and hazelnuts. It is a good counterbalance to Roussanne.

Secondly, Roussanne. Roussanne is powerful with floral aromatics, with hints of peaches, pears and with a rich and smooth mouthful texture. Roussanne on the eye is a light golden straw and medium viscosity. On the eye and palate, it possesses an elegant finesse with floral aromatics, hints of pear, apricots and with a rich and silky smooth mouthful texture almost creamy. The finish provides a soft nutty texture of almond and a hint of honey with a distinct minerality. Roussanne brings more acidity, elegance and floral aromatic complexities to the wine. Perfect for fish and shell fish.

Thirdly, Viognier. Viognier provides mouth filling textures of minerality, flowers and chalkiness.

Fourth and lastly, Picpoul Blanc. On the nose pineapple is one of the predominate scents coupled with minerality. Picpoul means to “sting the lips” yet this varietal has a much more embracing and disguised light sweetness. Picpoul is meant for seafood. As an aside, less than 100 acres are planted with this grape varietal in the USA!

Add some unique barreling and production secrets and one can only marvel sipping this wine.


These ingredients make one great wine, especially for seafood. Paired with a lightly seared sashimi grade ahi tuna (pink in the middle) with a homemade recipe of soy sauce, white wine vinegar, minced garlic, wasabi, ginger paste, fresh squeezed lemon juice, lemon infused olive oil, rainbow peppercorns and Himalayan pink sea salt. This wine and fish become one delightful and filling meal. Add a garden salad and life is good!

This wine has already made my list of Best of Wines for 2020 which comes out in December. The winery sells this for $40.



2018 Maritana Vineyards Pinot Noir – A Pinot Noir for Cabernet Drinkers!

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This 2018 Pinot Noir has enough power and kick to entice and win over any Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers. A bold statement, but Donald Patz has once again provided a “knock out” Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, specifically the Martaella Vineyard. This is not your “delicate, light and feathery” Pinot Noir. Maritana wines, both Chardonnay and his Pinot Noir’s are all being sourced from various Russian River vineyards.


The Martaella Vineyard


It is located west of Santa Rosa in the Russian River Valley (AVA). Some of the best Pinot Noir grapes are grown in this valley, with the cool fog from the ocean, advancing along the meandering river. The Dijon clone 943 grapes were the majority used for this production. He also sources grapes from Dutton Ranch, Jenkins Ranch, Moonshine Ranch and Martinelli River Road Ranch for his Pinot Noir’s. To read more about Maritana and his other projects, Secret Door Wines & Terminim Wines, see a previously published article: and


The Wine


First on the eyes you can see an enchanting purple hue with a deep crimson color. On the nose and palate, this wine wins you over immediately with notes of Bing cherries, cranberries, strawberries and a hint of rhubarb. Spices delightfully dance in the mouth with nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. The interplay between the sweet (fruit berries) and sour (cranberry & rhubarb) was spectacular. Noted was that the wine provides a strong tannin and structure, not typically shown in most Pinot Noir’s. The finish, which was chewy and mouth puckering, which provided an earthiness almost a damp forest floor flavor (mushrooms). This wine can be enjoyed immediately or one to “lay down” for 5-10 years. On their website the price is listed as $70.


The Food Pairing


With the warm summer heat upon us, the meal that accompanied the wine was a “light lemon chicken Piccata”, Udon noodles with Teriyaki spices (but no Teriyaki sauce) with sautéed broccoli and a garden salad with Blue cheese dressing. This played harmoniously with the Pinot Noir.


As I stated in the title, this Pinot Noir will win you over, even as a Cabernet Sauvignon enthusiast! As Pinot Noir enthusiast, you will be enthralled with this presentation.




2016 Steven Kent Cabernet Franc – A Mistaken Identity (By Me)

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The mistaken identity was not by Steven Kent Winery but by me! I am a BIG, BIG fan of Steven Mirassou wines (Lineage, Steven Kent Winery, Mia Nipote and Ragbag Works) for almost twenty years. Fortunately I have had many of his varietals which occupy my cellar still today. One which I had been historically slow to pull the trigger on, was his Cabernet Franc. I had remembered it being a “lighter Cabernet Franc” both in texture, color and flavor. The other night, we opened his 2016 Cabernet Franc and I was pleasantly surprised and astonished by the aroma, complexity and finish of this wine. I should have been trying this wine each release!

His 2016 Cabernet Franc is a part of his Small Lot offering made of 100% Cabernet Franc. He sources the grapes from Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard 67% and Sachau Vineyard 33%. It is 100% Cabernet Franc. It is aged in hand selected 20% new French oak barrels for 18-20 months. Steven, ever the perfectionist, proposed to mitigate the “oak influence” so that the herbal (green bell pepper, pyrazines) could be juggled with the fruit characteristics. Combining two vineyards, he was able to also extract different fruit and levels of acidity, to blend to a desirable level. A lot of thought and effort went into this vintage. On the eyes, a purple and red brick hue with a vivid clarity. On the nose, blackberry, blueberry, fig and prunes were present along with floral notes of violets. In the palate, the key herbal quality of bell pepper were interlaced with the sweetness of vanilla and caramel. Additionally, minerality and soft leather came through in the finish. The winery retails it for $48.


I now will be gathering a few bottles of this 2016 for the cellar. Additionally, I will not make the same mistake twice and will be tasting each subsequent release of Steven Kent’s Cabernet Franc.