Month: July 2020

Koyle Royale, Carménère – A Great History

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Yes I am going outside California once again to mention one of my favorite wines and one that I collect, Carménère. Opened this bottle last night and thought it worthy of repeating a good story and one a lot of people are not familiar with today.

History of Carménère

The history of Carménère varietal is as fascinating as it is happenstance! It was once a blending wine in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. It served a similar purposes as Petit Verdot does today – producing a deep red ink on wines. It was part of the original seven red grapes of Bordeaux. Carménère originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the crimson color of the autumn foliage.

When the Phylloxera plague hit in 1867 destroying most of the vineyards in Europe, many thought the Carménère grape was extinct. It wasn’t until approximately 150 years later that it was discovered that Chile had mistakenly preserved the Carménère grape thinking it was Merlot (from clippings planted from France). DNA confirmed it was the missing 6th varietal of Bordeaux. The 7th missing varietal of Bordeaux can be found at the following link in the third paragraph:



Carménère Today


Carménère grows mainly in Chile, specifically the Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley and in the Maipo Province. The Koyle Royale wine comes from Alto Colchagua and is 85% Carménère, 8% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot.  Wines from Chile must have 85% Carménère grapes with the other 15% being “others”.  It is also grown in Italy, in Veneto and recently several wineries in Lodi, Napa and Calaveras are producing it, albeit in small quantities. Walla Walla also has some root stock growing in Carménère. This year a wine from Livermore Valley will debut and showcase a locally grown Carménère by Cuda Ridge Winery.

Uniqueness of Carménère

As a blend varietal it has the deep ruby coloring and aromas of red & dark fruits, plum and berries. Tannins are softer, milder and more refined than a Cabernet Sauvignon tannins, thus its use in blending to soften a strong Cabernet Sauvignon.  Chile produces a 100% Carménère which has a cherry and fruity flavor but has traces of smoke and earthy notes with the inky coloration.

Where to get Carménère


In Napa one of wineries who has planted and blends Carménère to offer a unique “true Bordeaux” is O’Shaughnessy Winery. Their 2013 Howell Mountain uses all seven of the Bordeaux grapes. Both Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni rated this wine as 95 points. Truly a wonderful wine, worthy of tasting and putting into your cellar.

Most 100% Carmenere wines are available from Chile and offer a unique “change of pace”. Stay tune for the announcement of the first Livermore Valley grown Carménère this summer by Cuda Ridge Winery. 





Nenow Family Wines – Artisan Rhone Varietals Extraordinaire

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The Winery/Winemaker

Had the opportunity to speak with Drew Nenow, winemaker for Nenow Family Wines this week. He is in partnership with his sister and brother in law on this venture. The family impetus started many years ago and includes his father who was a wine hobbyist and later did a private label as well as his Aunt and Uncle. Drew graduated with a degree in enology and immediately started working at several wineries. Today he is the head winemaker at ONX Wines in Paso Robles. His approach is refreshing and authentic to his vision of showcasing how southern Rhone varietals with single vineyard designations express their uniqueness.


Their goal is modest and focused on being small and having organic growth. They are seeking out single vineyards that can bring to light the essential characteristics of Rhone varietals. Drew looks to stay in the Paso Robles, Santa Maria and even Santa Barbara County areas to find his grapes. Today they are producing between 600-700 cases and went live in April, 2020 with their release and website. The goal is to have 75 to 80% of their sales through the Wine Club. Here I heard something unique and refreshing, the first 250 members will be locked in to the initial pricing! Definitely something worthy of consideration. Starting the company during the midst of a pandemic is no easy matter, but they are on their way with approximately 50% of sales with Club Members.


The Wines


Nenow Family Wines, 2017 Righetti Grenache. From Edna Valley, just outside San Luis Obispo, this wine benefitted from the region’s warm summer days and cooling overnight fog. 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.


Wine labels are a whole science unto themselves and I was drawn to this label. It seems like a classic label but must have some meaning. When talking with Drew, the story behind the curtain was revealed. The sister he went into this venture with is his half-sister, Tracie. While they grew up in a blended family, it was a beautiful environment to grow up in and one in which Drew and Tracie’s relationship flourished. The label design, which Drew called a daunting task, revealed itself in a most serendipitous way. Tracie had a cell phone cover depicting Kintsugi, a century’s old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the cracks with gold. , creating a wholly new, beautiful work of art. Drew and Tracie inspired by the parallelism of their family and the ancient Kintsugi tradition. Thus the label was born. So not only a wonderful wine label story, this wine already has made my “Best Wines of 2020” in scoring!


The second wine is Nenow Family Wines, 2017 Eleven. The number 11 comes into everyone’s life at some point. The number 11 is an indicator that one is seeking balance. It can be in your work/home life, raising children/career and even in making an exceptionally drinkable wine! Drew Nenow, has taken this principle and proceeded to make a wine “in balance” comprised of 80% Grenache, 18% Syrah and 2% of Viognier. This wine took the “spices” from the Grenache and added the complexities of the Syrah. Most notably was the dark berries and herbs de Provence especially on nose and palate. The finish was a great dialectic between the Grenache and the jammy flavors of the Syrah. The question of 2% Viognier is for the chemical reaction of the varietal to provide in his words a “high tone with floral notes and increase the brilliance” on the eyes. You can see that in the wine glass. This was paired with a marinated mesquite chicken, pan roasted potatoes with olive oil, garlic salt and parmesan cheese. Also a fresh garden side salad.


The next time I try his wines, I am looking forward to trying his two 100% Syrah’s, one from Santa Barbara County and one from Paso Robles.  That would be a great side by side comparison of these two single vineyard designated wines.


I believe Nenow Family Wines are on to something real and genuine. Drew, today is only 29 years old, who knows what his ultimate wines will taste like starting at such a high level.





Fathers and Daughters Cellars – A Road Less Traveled

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Nothing could be truer than Robert Frost poem and the conclusion “Two roads diverge in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference”. Located in Philo, Anderson Valley, about one hour northwest of Healdsburg (Sonoma Valley). At Ferrington Vineyard where they source most of their fruit on 72 acres.  At Ferrington they get their Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. They do use two other vineyards for some other varietals. Here is where Guy Pacurar and his wife Sarah, with their two daughters have established Fathers and Daughters Cellars. They hired Phil Baxter of Baxter Wines to oversee the production of the wines.


The road less travelled is exhibited by three of their wines, the first being the 2018 The Dance. A blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Gewurztraminer and 10% Chardonnay. Not your common everyday white table wine! This was a blend that worked in an unorthodox manner. The bright grapefruit coupled with the Gewurztraminer made your palate and mind at first confused and almost schizophrenic and then pleasantly relieved with a mouthful feeling of exuberance and harmony. This wine sell for $25. Previous years have won a USA Wine Ratings Gold Medal.


Another wine called Sarah’s 2017 Rustic Bubbles is a Pétillant Naturel, or Pét-Nat for short, style using 100% Chardonnay grapes. First a quick tutorial on pet nat. Pét-Nat is a not a new method of making a “bubbling wine” as it dates back pre-Champagne era. The process in making Pét-Nat is called méthode ancestral . The wine is bottled prior to fully completing its first fermentation. This allows carbon dioxide to develop by the natural sugars in the grapes. Méthode champenoise requires a secondary fermentation of yeast and sugar. Champagne must be disgorged. Pét-Nat may or may not be filtered on completion of fermentation. The bottle is cloudy due to the remaining lees presence and no filtration.  This produces a more rustic and lively wine reflecting the terroirs of the grapes. Sarah’s Rustic Bubbles provides the basic Chardonnay profiles, but with a slight effervescence.  It is crown capped and has “baked bread on the nose”.  A wonderful patio pounder on a warm afternoon or evening. Again a small winery on their own road to making a difference. This wine sells for $21.


The third wine is their 2016 Ella’s Reserve Pinot Noir. This was named for their first daughter, Ella Mac. This varietal is the Ferrington Vineyard signature grape. The wine was light red color on eyes and medium viscosity. On the nose a light and delicate floral fragrance wafted from the glass to the olfactory senses. On the palate, strawberry, cherry and rhubarb were dominate. On the medium finish, plum and a slightly sour rhubarb lingered. 100 cases were made and were aged in 100% French oak, with 20% being new. This wine sells for $52 and won a Sunset Magazine Gold Medal.  This was paired with a pork chop, Yukon Gold potatoes and a fresh garden salad.


In addition to the three mentioned above, they do produce a Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Rose and a few others. All of their bottles have the father/daughter picture theme walking holding hands. That alone is worth the price of the wine. But in addition, you get some unique and tasting wines!  I wish I had tasted the Sauvignon Blanc (old vines) and their Chardonnay. Next time when I travel up and take the road less travelled to visit Fathers and Daughters Cellars.





2013 Rapp Ranch, Cutter’s Reserve – A Real Thoroughbred of a Wine

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When I grabbed this Rapp Ranch Cutter’s Reserve from the cellar, it had been awhile since I tasted it. Those not familiar with Rapp Ranch Wines and Shadybrook Estate Winery, co-located are also the home of Alko Equestrian Center and Napa Valley Trail Rides in Coombsville (Napa Valley). The owners, the Alkosser’s purchased the property in February 2016 and have combined two of the favorite interests, wines and horses to form Rapp Ranch. They have also hired one of the top winemakers in Napa Valley to produce their wines for both Rapp Ranch and Shadybrook Estate, Rudy Zuidema. You can read a previous story on Rudy and Rapp Ranch/Shadybrook Estate at:


The 2013 Rapp Ranch is a powerful stallion for the wine world! The alcohol level is 15.2%, but the flavor provides a remarkable depth of taste. It is comprised of 42% Petit Verdot, 33% Malbec, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 7% Merlot. It is aged for 23 months in 55% new French oak and 45% used French oak. Here the strong and edges of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon are subdued by Merlot and Malbec. But do not be misled, this is a wild ride while enjoying this wine!


On the eyes this startlingly deep purple with medium to medium heavy viscosity, visually awakens the wine drinker. It is only the beginning. With these four varietals, on the nose and palate, a complex and layered profiles come into perfect proportion. Oak, vanilla, pipe tobacco, leather, plum and blackberries converge in the mouth. Licorice both red and black, along with cherries swirl about intermingling with some of the stronger notes. The finish is complex, with the round tannins of Merlot combined with the spiciness and edges of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. The current vintage is 2016 and is listed at $70 and each year provides a different mix and percentage of Bordeaux varietals.






2009 Larkmead Vineyards Solari on 4th of July – Fireworks For Sure!

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For those not living in California, most areas are under a “no fireworks ordinance” due to the dry vegetation growth, heat and low humidity (plus social distancing). That said, this wine was pulled from the cellar and created a spectacular “fireworks display” on the nose and palate. Dan Petroski, winemaker for Larkmead Vineyards, has consistently produced exquisite and age worthy wines for years. This has rested comfortably for 8 years in the cellar and was truly worth “stashing away”. It received 96 points and could have easily received 98 (IMHO). It was aged for 20 months in 72% new French oak barrels and being 100% estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Firstly, this wine was filtered and decanted for 2 ½ hours before the meal. On the eyes, an extremely dark purple color and medium heavy viscosity. One smell of the wine, your expectations were focused and expectations set! It is a fruit driven vintage, with aromas of raspberries, blueberries and vanilla. On the palate, it burst open with an extravaganza of flavors like the conclusion at a major fireworks display. The earthiness counterbalanced with floral notes, soft vanilla tobacco, black cherry and licorice provide explosion after explosion in the mouth.  The finish was one of the longest lasting wines this year. The tannins were still omnipresent with structure and the acidity was truncated due to the expressive fruits. This is a wine that beckoned one to sip and savor each droplet in the glass.  This definitely will make my Best Wines of 2020! The current release is 2016 and the winery sells it for $200.


Paired with a seared BBQ New York steak marinated in Chaka sauce for 24 hours. Accompanied with roasted Yukon Gold cut potatoes with olive oil, garlic and seasonings. Also a fresh garden salad followed with Blue Cheese dressing.


I have a few more bottles still to open, but will push out a year or two as it has the staying power to continue to age and develop.


While we definitely did not have outdoor fireworks this year, having this Larkmead Vineyard 2009 Solari provided an equally satisfying substitute with heart pounding explosions and colors. Excellent wine Larkmead Vineyards!







2013 Trésor from Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery – Treasure Found

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Last night, this came up on the “to drink” list for 2020. I had purchased this wine a year and an half ago at an event. While technically not a small winery, they do produce some boutique and artisan wines. The also produce large quantities of wine for the retail market. However this was an unexpected pleasant surprise. Trésor translation means treasure. The blend is comprised of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 9% Petit Verdot, 5% merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc which provided a mouth filling “Bordeaux style wine”.


The wine on the eyes had a dark lush red color with purple hues. On the nose and palate, one picks up plum, vanilla, black tea and hint of chocolate. The finish provides a roundness of soft tannins, with the structure there, but in the background. Blackberries, cherries and gentle acidity makes this a very palatable sipping wine. This was an outstanding wine for the price. The current release, which is the 2014 and it retails for $50/$37.50 for club members. 


I am now looking forward to trying some of their other artisan wines very soon and perhaps finding another treasure!






2015 Band of Vintners, Consortium Cabernet Sauvignon – Another Great Find!

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Band of Vintners

(picture from Consortium website)


Pulled this previously untasted wine from the cellar this last week. First, this bottle had been cellared for two and an half years. It was recommended in article I read. So what is the Band of Vintners? It is a group of Napa Valley friends with over four decades of winemaking and wine knowledge. They created a wine due to one simple fact, that high quality wines can be both delicious and affordable. They banded their resources and formed the resulting company of Consortium, Band of Vintners. Knowing a couple of the members and having tasted their wines, I figured it was a sure bet to purchase a couple of bottles!



The 2015 vintage was dark red on the eyes and medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose and palate, black licorice, caramel pipe tobacco and blueberries abounded. The structure and finish was more than acceptable and long lasting. The winemakers’ comments stated it could be cellared for 5 to 10 years. This being the 5th year, it popped up to be tasted. The wine is comprised of 93% Cabernet, 4% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It was aged 15 months in French oak barrels (no mention of new verses old). Now the kicker: The list price is $40 and has the current vintage (2017) for $33! Their vintages get typically 91 to 93 points.



I think this is a solid wine for newbies to cut their teeth into good quality wine from Napa Valley. It has some of the key components of wine two and three times the cost. It is also a wonderful price point wine for everyday consumption. The Band of Vintners have achieved their goal in making their wine delicious and affordable. Wish I had purchased more than two bottles!