Month: October 2020
Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards – Finding a Niche with Unique White Wines
Last evening at our informal Friday Night Wine & Dine group, two unique white wines were tasted with one of the chef’s special. The word was received earlier in the day that “fish special” was grilled halibut, thus the choice of the wines. Dinner was at the Vine 18 at the Copper Valley Golf Course. For those unfamiliar with Acquiesce, Susan Tipton rolled into Lodi and decided not only to make white wines in the middle of an area known for producing almost one hundred red wine varietals but choose some “lesser known” grapes. More can be read at:
Two of Acquiesces wines tasted were 2019 Clairette Blanche and 2019 Ingénue. The 2019 Clairette Blanche is a rare varietal in California. Clairette Blanche is a white wine grape known mostly in the wine regions of Provence, Rhône and Languedoc areas in France. The name “Claire” means clear, fair or bright and “blanche” means white. It is one of the few French wines with a feminine name. This grape has been growing since the 1500’s in these areas. The uniqueness of this grape is the citrus quality of grapefruit, floral notes and minerality. Aromas of pineapple, mint and lime can also be found. The finish is clean and slightly nutty.
The other wine tried this evening with the halibut was the 2019 I Ingénue. This is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc and Picpoul Blanc. This clear white wine had aroma of hibiscus and sage. Barely recognizable were a mixture of soft lime and orange. You can read more about Ingénue at:
The Food Pairing
Grilled halibut with a lemon caper sauce server over a Parmesan risotto and summer squash was one of the Chefs’ features. Four of the eight of us ordered the halibut and did a compare and contrast with these two white wines. While both are outright winners, this evenings conclusion was the 2019 Clairette Blanche paired best with the fish by unanimous vote! The depth and citrus qualities provide the right punch with the halibut.
Dessert was a chocolate lava cake with caramel and sweet chocolate with coffee flavored ice cream for “good measure”.
A few other very nice wines were brought to compliment other meals this evening as well as to be shared at the table. All were outstanding.
I have always believed Susan Tipton is unique in her vision for the AVA and has produced wines to showcase her ability as a top rated winemaker and trailblazer. The 2019 Clairette Blanche just made my short list of the Best Wines of 2020! While I have always kept her Picpoul Blanc wine in the cellar, I will now keep her 2019 Clairette Blanche ready for the next fish dinner.
2016 Zuidema Grenache – Spice in a Bottle
Had this spectacular wine last night with seasoned pork chop and a Yukon potato. The wine was an excellent complement to this slightly spicy pork chop. Rudy Zuidema’s 2016 Grenache is his third release. You can read more on the background of this project at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/…/zuidema-wines…/ .
His Clone 515 Grenache from Chateauneuf du Pape heritage continues to produce a delightful summer and fall wine. Minerality and a rustic flare still persists in the wine, but the 2016 is aromatic with black cherry and as Rudy states “notes of cocoa and fig newton”. Add to this plum and soft tannins it surrounds the spicy edginess of the pork. A wine very worthy to have in the cellar for this and other meals. This has made My Best Wines of Year, 3 straight years. To get such aromas and character from a Grenache, at $42, this is a steal!!
2018 Gossamer Cellars Mariposa Roja – A Blend of Two Solid Sierra Foothill Grapes
Two of the wine varietals which thrive in the Sierra Foothills are Tempranillo and Grenache. Gossamer Cellars through the creative genius of Gary Grant, combined these two grapes to form their 2018 Mariposa Roja. The growing climate (diurnal temperature swings) are more akin in Calaveras County to Spain, Portugal, southern France and Italy. If you think of those areas (but not next to the seaside), you will find some impressive varietals being made into excellent wine.
Gary combined these two grapes, Grenache and Tempranillo to formulate this intriguing red blend. The Grenache represents your typical strawberry and raspberry fruits, with soft tobacco, cinnamon and medium oak characteristics. Grenache is lighter in color and has a soft finish. Coupled with Tempranillo having characteristics of cherry, plum and dry fig fruits with additional hints of leather, vanilla and sweet tobacco, with a tad more oak. Soft earthy notes and a full body wine are dominate in Tempranillo. The combination of two provided a dark reddish wine with purple hues on the eyes and a finish that provided a wide range of expressions of both wines!
The food pairing last night was baked chicken enchiladas. The enchiladas were made with chicken, flour tortillas, cream cheese, corn, salsa and spices. A homemade red enchilada sauce was prepared using tomato sauce, lime juice, crushed red pepper flakes, mesquite seasoning, chili powder, ground cumin, Sriracha, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, ground Himalayan salt and ground black pepper. Served with fresh purple onion slices and topped with salsa. Muy caliente (very hot) for sure, but the with the fruit profiles of the both Tempranillo and Grenache, it was a soothing influence of the spiciness of the enchiladas and sauce.
You can read more about other wines at Gossamer Cellars at:
This wine could be enjoyed with so many different foods as it flavor profile range is large and all encompassing. This food and wine were made for each other and their warm embrace served for an enjoyable dinner!
2016 Cecu d’la Biunda Roero Arneis DOCG – An Overlooked White Wine from Piedmont, Italy
Going out of California once again with this wine from dinner last night at Vine 18. Vine 18 is the new restaurant at The Golf Club at Copper Valley. Piedmont is well known for Nebbiolo and production of Barolo and Barbaresco. Arneis is well known in the region but not so much in the United States. This wine is dedicated to Grandfather Francesco Carbone (or “Cecu d’la Biunda” or “son of the blond woman” in the local dialect. The wine grows in the limy soils of the surrounding Vezza Valley. Historically it has been referred to as the “white neighbor” of Nebbiolo to signify its quality and importance to the region.
Roero wines include red Roero as well as white Roero Arneis. The name “Roero Arneis” are made from 95% Arneis grapes and the balance from non-aromatic white varieties of the Piedmont region. Roero became a DOC region in 1985 and a DOCG region in 2005.
On the eyes a straw yellow color with sparkling golden highlights. On the nose and palate extremely floral nuances, orange blossom, mint and sage. Cecu has a strong minerality in the mouth but play harmonious with the floral notes. This wine while from an inland area, is ideal for fish.
Since this was my first time tasting this wine, I also brought a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as a backup! The Arneis was so refreshing and paired exquisitely with the fresh halibut served over “dirty rice”. Two others had the halibut and agreed the Arneis was the wine of choice with this meal.
We also tasted a 2017 Duckhorn Monitor Ledge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2015 Young’s Reserve Petite Sirah for good measure!
I am now looking for this beautiful white wine to keep in stock in the cellar, especially for fresh fish dishes.
2018 Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay with a New Delightful Dish
Tried a new recipe for stir fried chicken last night and the wine suggestions were German Riesling, Torrontes, Semillon, Chenin Blanc, Gruner Vetliner or Gewürztraminer. While I like those choices, none are found in the home cellar. They also suggested Champagne or Chenin Blanc. The issue with these two is that the Champagne in the cellar is reserved for special occasions and my wife is not a fan of Chenin Blanc! Since she was preparing the meal we went with our “utility wine” and one of our favorite wines. Picked out a bottle of 2018 Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay.
Turns out the Wood Family Chardonnay was perfect with the meal. Wood Family Vineyards 2018 Para Mas Amigas Chardonnay, Gold Medal Winner from SF Chronicle Wine Competition in 2019. Not too “oaky”, this wine burst with lemon and pear, followed by butterscotch and as Rhonda Wood states “crackerjack flavors”. Not an over the top buttery Chardonnay like Rombauer, but just enough to provide a light buttery caramel and texture in the mouth. First on the eyes, a golden hue and medium viscosity is obvious. On the nose and palate, the wine has lingering tropical fruits, peach and pear in the palate. A portion under goes 100% secondary malolactic fermentation, but allows a final mix, to allow old world and new world Chardonnay to coexist in harmony. In a recent conversation, Rhonda stated she blended her Chardonnay from both “tightly grained barrels and loosely grained barrels” into the final production wine.
The meal that accompanied the wine (I know it is usually the other way around!), was a sesame chicken and bok choy stir fry served over Udon noodles. This was a Weight Watchers recipe and was prepared with sliced boneless/skinless chicken breasts, canola oil, dark sesame oil, sliced uncooked white onions, ginger root, minced garlic, uncooked bok choy (sliced crosswise) and soy sauce. A small amount of Sriracha sauce was added to provide a hint of heat to the dish. Served over a bed of Udon noodles.
Turns out the new dish with a trusted solid Chardonnay was again a delightful dish!
2010 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc – Simply Astonishing!!
Having met with Larry Dino earlier this summer and drinking a 2016 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc we digressed in our discussion. We started discussing the age ability of Livermore wines and specifically his Cabernet Franc while drinking his 2016. He then provided me a 2010 Cabernet Franc to try and proven how they can mature.
Tonight this 2010 Cabernet Franc blew me away!!! It 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 were structured and sharp but not mouth biting. In the mouth, the blueberries and dark cherry were prominent along with a modicum of your typical bell pepper, black pepper and sage qualities. Stronger leather, a dry rockiness and pipe tobacco lingered to make the finish long lasting and inquisitive. This 2010 evolved and matured into thoroughbred contender!! An awesome wine this evening with a seared BBQ’ed ribeye steak cooked medium rare.
Based on tonight’s experience, I will stay far away from any poker night with Larry!! Larry was absolutely correct!!
2018 Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay with Fresh Swordfish!
A wonderful food and wine pairing tonight. Wood Family Vineyards 2018 Para Mas Amigas Chardonnay, Gold Medal Winner from SF Chronicle Wine Competition in 2019. The oak tree reflection in the glass gives you an indication of oak, but “just the right amount”. This wine burst with lemon and pear, followed by butterscotch and as Rhonda Wood states “crackerjack flavors”. Not an over the top buttery Chardonnay like Rombauer, but just enough to provide a buttery caramel and texture in the mouth. First on the eyes, a golden hue and medium viscosity is obvious. On the nose and palate, the wine has lingering tropical fruits, peach and pear in the palate. A portion under goes 100% secondary malolactic fermentation, but allows a final mix, to allow old world and new world Chardonnay to coexist in harmony. In a recent conversation, Rhonda stated she blended her Chardonnay from both “tightly grained barrels and loosely grained barrels” into the final production wine.
Paired with an one inch+ cut of pan grilled Swordfish, cooked with capers, olive oil, lemon juice, Chardonnay wine, peppercorns, Himalayan salt, ginger paste and garlic. Plated with fresh chopped parsley. Served with a Yukon Gold potato. One of my favorite pairings with two of my favorites: Swordfish and Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay.
2014 YoungInglewood Malbec – Smoky and Tasty
One of my favorite wineries in Napa Valley for so many reasons. First the owners are dedicated to making excellent boutique and artisan wines. Small lots with handcrafted TLC. Secondly I was there during their opening and still frequent them as often as I can for their great wines and unlimited hospitality. You can read previous stories at:
Their wines, especially their Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon make my Best Wines of Year historically. This Malbec may also make this years list.
This 2014 YoungInglewood Malbec has all the typical Malbec characteristics with dark fruit flavors and a light smoky finish and a generous finish. On the eyes a dark magenta color and medium viscosity. On the nose light smoky, plume and blueberries. On the palate, black cherry and pomegranate come through as does a slight coffee, mocha, leather and gravel earthiness. On the finish a tinge of vanilla & clove and soft rounded acid and tannins.
The Food Pairing
Paired this evening with a Carne Asada using a flank steak. Fresh ingredients of chopped cilantro, olive oil, soy sauce, fresh squeezed orange and lime, chopped jalapeno pepper, minced garlic, cumin, kosher salt, ground pepper and marinated for 9-10 hours. Then BBQ’ed on high heat to medium rare, sliced and then drizzled with marinated sauce for plating. Jalapeno and cheese rice served as a side with a fresh garden salad. First time trying this recipe and Susan Kelly did a marvelous job with the preparations.
This sauce will be tried again with pork and chicken!! A real winner and the wine made this Carne Asada deliriously delicious.
2015 Tate Wines Merlot – A Muscular Merlot!
Last night opened a 2015 Tate Wines Merlot from St Helena, Napa Valley. Suzanne and David Tate have provided an extremely robust Merlot. Dark ruby on the eyes with a medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose a dark fruit compote leads to a beautiful sweet & sour cherry and plum fruit with red licorice. The finish provides a hint of oak and cedar with soft tannins but with some edginess not often found in a “smooth” Merlot which was an enjoyable treat! Also on the finish pomegranate with medium acidity. This is not a soft and comforting Merlot more like a bone embracing bone breaking solid bear hug with a big squeeze! A remarkable Merlot made for Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers.
For more background on Tate Wines read this earlier post:
2012 Jazz Cellars Rhapsody – One of my favorites!!
Last night a 2012 Jazz Cellars Rhapsody from a Saralee’s Vineyard in the Russian River, this wine is an equal blend of two mouthwatering grapes- Marsanne and Roussanne. On the eye, the wine is a medium-heavy viscosity and golden straw in color. The wine exudes flora and honeysuckle notes on the nose. In the mouth you get a wonderful mix of the two varietals. With the Roussanne, pear and roasted chestnuts are the predominant flavors. With the Marsanne, it gives depth and rich textures on the palate with a touch of honeydew melon. Additionally Marsanne helps in the viscosity of an almost oily quality with the silkiness of the Marsanne.
The food pairing was fresh halibut. Baked with thyme, olive oil, Himalayan sea salt, black pepper, fresh scallions, cilantro and parmesan cheese. Plated and served with fresh chopped parsley and lemon juice. Sautéed asparagus as the vegetable.
A wonderful paired meal and wine!!