Month: September 2020

2018 Yorkville Cellars, Eleanor of Aquitaine – Elusive and Fascinating

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A rather long name for a white blend!  That said, this wine comes from the kingdom of Yorkville Cellars in Mendocino County so royalty is expected. As with their handcrafted red wine called Richard the Lion-Heart (see full story at:, Edward and Deborah Wallo, owners and winemakers, reached into the history books to call this Eleanor of Aquitaine.


To catch up on the history of Eleanor, Eleanor married Henry II in the twelfth century. With the marriage, her inheritance of Bordeaux and the Graves regions of France passed to the English crown. It remained there for almost three centuries. The history books are somewhat vague about her life, but suffice it to say, the monks who did most of the writing then, wrote more about rumors surrounding Eleanor’s life and her association with the Courts of love and the arts of the Troubadours who were known to be “scandalous and controversial”. Even to this day, most scholars don’t know if records were of historical accuracy or merely as moral teachings. Either way, Eleanor remains “tantalizingly elusive and fascinating”. Thus the name of the wine!

2018 Yorkville Cellars, Eleanor of Aquitaine

This is a wine made from the best barrels of Semillon (60%) and blended with Sauvignon Blanc (40%). As they call it “wine fit for royals”. This proprietor’s blend is made in the classic tradition of Graves style Bordeaux Blanc. It is 100% barrel fermented in small French oak barrels to garner the mouthful feeling and provide complexity often only seen in red wines.

The 2018 Yorkville Cellars, Eleanor of Aquitaine besides using French oak are sur-lie aged for 10 months. The blend gains complexity as it ages and can be enjoyed now or even 3-5 years from the vintage date. On the eyes, a clear and medium viscosity wine. On the nose, distinct floral notes of honeysuckle and pear. On the palate, honey, pear and apricot in a rich mouthful feel come across. The finish is surprisingly long and smooth for a white wine. Historically, they have received Gold Medal (2015 Orange County Wine Group), and 93 points (and a Gold Medal) from Tastings. A unique blend and something not commonly found.

The Food Pairing

Paired with fresh scallop’s sautéed in olive oil and pinch of brown sugar plated over a combination white and brown rice. Served with an artichoke and fresh garden salad.



2018 Acquiesce Vineyards Picpoul Blanc

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Tonight’s wine was an unusual and beautiful white wine, 2018 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc produced by winemaker/owner Susan Tipton.. Visually this varietal is faint in color and almost translucent with a pale yellow hue. On the nose pineapple was the predominate scent coupled with minerality. Picpoul means to “sting the lips” yet this wine was much more embracing and had a disguised light sweetness. The finish produced a full mouthful of wonderment. This wine was made to pair with oysters in Europe. Susan Tipton also believes in the New World, it is excellent with spicy Thai food and dishes with cilantro. In 2017 only 220 cases were produced and all going to wine club members. In 2018 based upon expected yields, she increased that number to approximately 350 cases. As an aside, only 40 acres were planted with this grape varietal in the USA in 2017!

Paired this evening with a fresh Swordfish cooked in Chardonnay, olive oil, purple onions, Himalayan sea salt, coarse ground rainbow peppers, lemon juice, capers and sliced Kalamata olives. Served with fresh fettuccine with garlic and broccoli and topped with parmesan cheese.

Another excellent wine by Susan Tipton of Acquiesce. These wine has made my Best of the Year Wines two years in a row and again will appear in 2020!!

Some other stories on Acquiesce and their unique wines:



2013 Mira Cabernet Franc from Hyde Vineyard – A Wonderful Treat

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The Winery

The winery was co-founded by winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez and Jim Dyke. The name Mira comes from a Latin root meaning miracle. Mira has a dual meaning for the winery. First it was happenstance or a miracle that the two meet to form this venture as they came from different world experiences. Secondly, the other meaning comes from their exquisite wine birth at each new harvest, a miracle in exotic taste profiles. Located in Yountville, they have 16 acres and typically do 100% varietals. Some of the wines produced are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Mira’s production is approximately 6,000 cases per year.

The 2013 Mira Cabernet Franc from Hyde Vineyard

On the eyes, the deep crimson color and medium heavy viscosity alerts one that something special is being poured into the glass. On the nose, red currant, soft pipe tobacco, black licorice and herbal fragrances are dominant.  On the palate, a range of dark fruits (blackberry and blueberry) counterbalance with dark chocolate and mild oak notes envelop the mouth.  The finish is well structured and layered providing a long lasting smooth finish with strong but tamed tannins.

In the 2019 Cabernet Franc Wine Competition, hosted by California Wines and Wineries, 2013 Mira Cabernet Franc scored a Gold Medal in their class by the Professional Judges. See the complete story at:

This was a very limited single vineyard production, but one worthy of seeking out. Listed at the winery for $144 it was a treat to sip leisurely. This made my list of The Best Wines of 2020!  Looking forward to trying some of their additional wines.



2016 Yorkville Cellars, Richard The Lion-Heart – A “Bordeaux Style” Blend

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I have been anxiously awaiting to try the 2016 Yorkville Cellars (Bordeaux Blend) wine called Richard The Lion-Heart. It is a blend of all organic grapes from the estate vineyard. It consists of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 15% Merlot, 5%, Carménère, 5% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc all six Noble Reds. The grapes are grown from their Mendocino highlands (1,000 foot elevation) vineyard and handcrafted by Edward and Deborah Wallo. For “their regal” wine, they select the best barrels of each varietal and work on a harmonious blend, then it is rested in 100% French oak barrels for 21 months.  The wine has won numerous awards such as: Best of Class, California State Fair; Gold San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition; 96 Points from Critics Challenge and many more over the years.

The 2016 Yorkville Cellar, Richard the Lion Heart Wine

The 2016 on the eyes appears as a dark ruby red and crisp in color with medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, floral aromas of dark red and black berries, specifically raspberries and blackberries, cocoa and a tinge of smoke. It has the floral aromatics from Cabernet Franc, the unique taste profile of Carménère, dark fruits and spices of Petit Verdot, plum jam and smoothness of Malbec, structure and cherry of Cabernet Sauvignon and the roundness of Merlot. In the mouth you are awakened to all of the components of this lush wine of Noble heritage and together they provide another dimension found in classical “Bordeaux wines” with a near perfect blend. The finish was medium length and silky smooth. The sum experience was definitely greater than the standalone wines.

The Food Pairing

Paired this evening with two Chaka marinated & seared and BBQ’ed tri-tip steaks. Served with a fresh garden salad presented as “mosaic masterpiece’ (our friend Candy Strubbe), twice baked potatoes topped with cheese and bacon pieces. Additionally, roasted halved Brussel sprouts drizzled with balsamic reduction completed the meal.  I will only in passing mention the lovely angel food cake with pineapple and ice cream.

Further reading on Yorkville Cellars can be found at:

As a side note, this “Bordeaux or Meritage blend” was considered by most at the table as “delicate and refined” and compared to the gracefulness of a Pinot Noir, not in taste but how it interacted with the food. The lightness of the blend would be better suited for a less bravado dinner steak. One could make this Richard The Lion-Heart a stand along sipping wine with its precision character and traits.

Perhaps the name “Richard The Lion-Heart wine” is similar to the person. Richard I, King of England (1157-1199) a military strategist putting down rebellions in Poitou against his father, commander during the Third Crusade and leading the campaign against his Muslim counterpart shows the “strength and might as the warrior” spirit of him but may have an analogous meaning with the wine components as strong character of themselves. Yet Richard The Lionheart also published two poems and “had a softer side of his personality”. Thus similar to the finish on the wine. I will let you draw your own parallels for me, the name seems very appropriate for this wine.



2016 Vall Llach “Idus” Priorat, Spain

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Yes once again, I depart from California wines and wineries and specifically this time to the Priorat wine region in Spain.

Where and what is Priorat?

Priorat is area about 2 ½ hour drive west/southwest of Barcelona. Priorat consist of ten small villages in the southern portion of Catalonia in the province of Tarragona.

Brief History and Background of Priorat

This wine area has over two thousand years of history from the Romans. Due to the proximity of the Iberian Peninsula, it was controlled by the Moors until the twelfth century. In this area you get a fabulous combination of architecture from the Moorish influence as well as Romanesque.

The Priorat district gets its name from the Carthusian order who founded a monastery in the region in the end of the 12th century. Interestingly, the more changes have transpired during the last 30-40 years. Winemakers in the region upgraded their methods and equipment and began a modernization and professional approach to wine.


Weather, climate and soil are the major components of this region. The wine area receives 3000 hours of sunshine and roughly 15 inches of rainfall per year. The soil in the area is rich in hard slate but the roots can go through seeking underground water. A lot of the vineyards in the area follow the terrain with terraces and steep slopes.

The two grapes which are used in this 2016 Vall Llach “Idus” are Garnacha (Grenache) which is the predominant grape in the region due to its survivability to the dry climate. One of the distinct traits of the grapes from the region is its ability to produce a strong, yet fresh wine. The second grape varietal used in the making of Idus is the Cariñena in the USA called Carignan. Carignan grows very well in the drier regions of California like the Central Valley and Sierra foothills.

Typically wines from the area have intense red coloration, with aromas of ripe fruit with a minerality from the slate vineyards. In the mouth a fleshy, strong flavoring with tannins being present are common.  They present black plum, licorice and have a black pepper spice quality, coupled with berry and chocolate with a smoky scent. Cariñena is a unique black skinned grape varietal. It typically is used in blending in many wines.

The 2016 Idus is multifaceted, with alluring aromas of red forest fruit, fleshy black plums, with hints of forest herbs, wood smoke and dark minerals. Wide on the palate, the wine is both powerful and fresh for an old-vine Priorat; displaying good acidity, round tannins and an incredibly long finish.

2016 Vall Llach “Idus” Priorat

The 2016 Idus provides multiple levels of aromas and tastes. The percentage mix is 90% Cariñena and 10% Grenacha. A dark color and medium to medium heavy viscosity is present. You immediately pick up on the palate, wood smoke from cedar and the minerality from the slate. It is what I describe as a representation of “old world” wine. Powerful with enough acidity to give an edge, but with round tannins so as not to overwhelm ones senses. Together they provide a long and satisfying finish. On the label it states this wine can age up to 30 years with proper storage.

The Food Pairing

Paired was a grilled pork chop with an apricot and chipotle sauce, with fresh wide fettucine with broccoli and topped with parmesan cheese.  A fresh garden salad was also served.


I hope you enjoy the side trip to Priorat as this growing region is extremely well-known in wine circles and the grape varietals Grenacha (Grenache in USA) and Cariñena (Carignan) are extremely tasty and wonderful grapes grown both in Priorat and the USA. I have for years now always kept wine from the Priorat region in the cellar for the uniqueness, quality and delightful expression of the local area.



2019 Lavender Ridge Vineyard Blanc de Blancs – Just Released!

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Lavender Ridge Vineyard has just introduced a new wine to their outstanding existing lineup. It is their 2019 Blanc de Blancs. It is half Viognier and half Roussanne and thus formulating the “Blancs”. It is a Brut sparkling made in the Method Champenoise style. While the sugar level is ½ gram per liter is “dry by standards”, it seems just a tad bit “sweeter” due to the fruit primarily from the Viognier grapes.  Both grape varietals come from their organically farmed vineyard and the quality is easy to recognize on the palate. In total only 130 cases were produced and it is listed for $32. This is a refreshing and inspiring bubbling sipping wine.

The Viognier provides a silky and mouth full feel which adds depth to the honey and floral fragrances.  Typically Viognier is low in alcohol and has characteristics of peach, apricot and honey. Roussanne, which Lavender Ridge has won numerous Gold and Gold Double Awards in the Sierra Foothills Wine Competition for their stand-alone Roussanne, also provides powerful floral aromatics, with hints of peaches, pears and a silky mouthful experience. The fullness of body provides a creamy sense to the drinking experience. The wine is only 12% alcohol but this is no second class Sparkling wine!

For reference, a couple of previous stories on Lavender Ridge Vineyards and their wines can be found at:

The Lavender Ridge Blanc de Blanc’s was paired with various appetizers one evening last week, including fresh shrimp, cheeses, vegetable dips and more.

I will taste it one more time in the next 30-45 days but this definitely has the possibility to make the Best Wines of 2020!



2016 Yorkville Cellars Carménère – A Special Treat

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Before talking about the wine, here is a quick overview / refresher on the history of Carménère:

History of Carménère

The history of the Carménère varietal is as fascinating as it is happenstance! It was once one of the grapes in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. It served a similar purpose as Petit Verdot does today – producing a deep red ink on wines. It was one of the original six 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 150 years later that when it was discovered that Chile had preserved the Carménère grape thinking it was Merlot (from clippings planted from France). DNA confirmed that it was the missing 6th varietal of Bordeaux.

Carménère Today

Carménère grows mainly in Chile, specifically the Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley and in the Maipo Province. It is also grown in the Veneto region of Italy, and recently several wineries in Mendocino, Livermore, Lodi, Napa and Calaveras are producing it, albeit in small quantities. Walla Walla also has some root stock growing in Carménère. Here is a picture of Yorkville Cellars Carménère vineyard the third week of October last year.

Uniqueness of Carménère

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

2016 Yorkville Cellars Carménère

This wine lived up to and exceeded some of the key characteristics of Carménère.  On the eyes, a medium viscosity wine with a unique deep purple coloration. On the nose, ripe Bing cherries greeted the senses.  The palate is where this wine excelled. First the bright cherry taste was intense and concentrated. Plums and dark fruits then came forth with a hint of soft dry and wet earthen tones with black tea in the background. The earthen notes are generally found in Chilean Carménère but not found too often in California. The finish was long lasting with mocha and pepper finishing off the enjoyment. The wine is aged in French oak barrels (15% new) for 19 months. About 150 cases were produced.

Edward Wallo, owner and winemaker for Yorkville Cellars, has planted all six of the Noble Bordeaux red varietals. He makes stand-alone varietals as well as a traditional Bordeaux style blend incorporating all six varietals which are organically grown.  To read more on Yorkville Cellars see a previous published story at:

His Carménère has won many awards over the years. He has received 94 points from and 93 points from the San Diego International Wine Competition, including a Gold Medal. The wine lists for $40. Truly a remarkable price given the uniqueness and scarcity of Carménère plantings in the California.

The Food Pairing

The 2016 Yorkville Cellars Carménère was paired with a seared and BBQ’ed Filet Mignon and topped with a homemade blue cheese, chive and butter compote, served medium rare. Accompanied were pan seared Bok Choy in garlic, olive oil and chili pepper flakes. Also, sliced shiitake mushrooms were lightly grilled on the BBQ with a Chaka sauce and a Yukon Gold potato (not shown).

A wonderful meal this evening along with an extraordinary wine was the ultimate way to end the week!



2017 Wood Family Vineyards Petite Sirah – A Very Pleasant Surprise

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This didn’t start out to be one of my “wine stories” as we just wanted a simple wine without pulling something very special out of the cellar. When I heard what the meal being prepared, I thought Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, etc., to counterbalance the spiciness. Looked up some different varietals and decided to grab this Petite Sirah. What transformed was spectacular for an impromptu decision.

This wine had an intense deep red/purple hue that was almost “black” in color. It possessed a heavy body and viscosity. On the nose dark fruit, cocoa and black pepper. On the palate blackberry, blueberry were dominate with strong hints of ripe plums and just the right amount of oak from the barrel, tempered with vanilla residue. The finish was long lasting and powerful which was needed with the food pairing. The acidity and tannins were big and bold but the fruit kept them “in check”.

As an educational note, Petite Sirah is not a “smaller” version of Syrah as it is a wholly different varietal. The background on Petite Sirah is that it is the offspring of Syrah and Peloursin (a scarce and almost extinct grape).

A fantastically prepared Andouille Cajun Rice Skillet dish was chosen to pair with the wine. This was a “warm temperature flavor” dish with spiciness and far reaching textual appeal in the mouth. The recipe called for Andouille Cajun sausage, yellow onion, red & yellow bell peppers, minced garlic, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, kosher salt, tomato paste, fresh sliced Roma tomatoes and brown rice. Paired with the Wood Family Vineyards Petite Sirah was an excellent choice.

This wine goes for $30 at the winery and is worth every penny. I am headed back this week to pick up a few more bottles as that was the last one!



2018 Yorkville Cellars Cabernet Franc

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Had never experienced Yorkville Cellars Cabernet Franc before this evening. They continue to impress me with their organic grapes and Bordeaux varietals. For a story on who Yorkville Cellars is, click on:

On the eyes this medium weight with a vibrant and royal purplish coloration beckons the adventure to unfold. On the nose soft violet aromas coupled with plums and cherries awaken the senses. On the palate, cherries and a spiciness of everything quintessential to Cabernet Franc present themselves (dried figs, raisin, raspberry, vanilla, sage) in a joyful reunion in the mouth. The tannins are held in check and balanced nicely with the acid (6.3 g/l for acid and 3.70 pH). The abbreviated finish is complex and structured.  The 2018 vintage is 90% Cabernet Franc with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon providing just enough structure and body but does not overshadow the Cabernet Franc.

The grapes come from Yorkville Highlands in Mendocino from the Rennie Organic Vineyard.  It is aged 14 months in French oak barrels. Over the years, Yorkville Cellars Cabernet Franc has won Double Gold at San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in 2015 and has scored up to 93 points from Beverage Tasting Institute in 2014.

The Cabernet Franc was paired with a stir-fried ginger steak with green onions and broccoli. A mix of white and brown rice and fresh side salad finish completed the meal. The pairing was harmonious and allowed both the steak and wine to shine on their own merits.

I will be very curious how this wine rates in the Cabernet Franc Wine Competition on December 3, 2020 as they have entered the competition.  All wines will be “judged blind” by both Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges.

Edward Wallo, the winemaker and owner, believes this will continue to age nicely between 3 to 8 years. Currently listed at the winery for $36.



2017 Maritana Chardonnay Sonoma County Russian River LA RIVIÈRE

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Dinner last night with a magical 2017 Maritana Chardonnay Sonoma County Russian River LA RIVIÈRE (meaning the river, Russian River). While Donald Patz had many years ago produced Chardonnay’s he has been known as an industry leader for his Pinot Noir’s (Dr Pinot!). I was expecting a good solid wine, but what my palate tasted was “total astonishment”. First on the eyes, a bright clarity and ethereal straw golden yellow color. It was a refined and delicate Chardonnay with hints of soft lemon custard and a Red Delicious apple, mildly sweet with a caramel finish. As the wine settles in the back of mouth, a minerality of a babbling brook or creek came to mind. This wine was of another spectrum of quality found only in wines in a much higher in price range ($100). LA RIVIÈRE is a blend of 55% Dutton Ranch Shop Block, 22% Martinelli River Road Vineyard and 18% Susanna’s Vineyard and finally 5% Ritchie Vineyard for the 2017. It uses 90% once and twice used French oak barrels and 10% new French oak barrels. It is sur lies aged and goes through 100% malolactic fermentation. Donald’s Chardonnay’s will continue to develop complexity while aging over 5 to 8 years (stored properly).  This wine reminded me of the higher end Kistler Chardonnay or Peter Michael Chardonnay, specifically La Carriere. The current release and price for LA RIVIÈRE is $55 for the 2018.

Garlicky shrimp with broccoli, served over spinach fettucine noodles and topped with toasted Panko crumbs with lemon zest and parmesan cheese. Additional baby asparagus and a fresh garden salad were served for a delightful pairing.

For a complete story on Donald Patz’s wines see: