Month: January 2021

2016 Palazzo Wine Cabernet Franc Reserve – A Major Winner

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At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Palazzo Wine Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016 was in an elite status earning a Gold Medal by both the Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges.  A great accomplishment with only six wines receiving Gold or Double Gold from both sets of judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges in different areas. They were in the Category 5 (priced at $100 and up) from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:

Palazzo Wine & Scott Palazzo

This was Scott Palazzo’s first entry into the National Cabernet Franc Competition. His background is both unique and fascinating how he ended up being a winemaker. Scott grew up in an Italian family which influenced both his understanding of wine as an everyday event as well as with food and celebrations. At age 19, Scott set out with his guitar on his back and ended up in Europe. There he ended up in Saint Émilion (on the Right Bank of Bordeaux’s Gironde River). This became his wine paramount experience shaping his palate for years to come and the foundation for Palazzo Wine some 20+ years later.  In 2003, after establishing a career as a television director/producer (by the way a Grammy nominated for Music Video & Television Director/Producer), he began searching for a similar terroir that he enjoyed while living in Saint Émilion.

Key to his success was his charismatic and energetic personality! Scott combined his past experience with Old World Wine in the cellar with New World Fruit from lower Napa Valley rolling hills. Today his wines are featured by some of the wine world’s most famous restaurants. A small partial listing is French Laundry, Gary Danko, Michael Mina, Per, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Spago, Bouchon, Mastro’s Steakhouse, Emeril’s, Valintino’s, etc. The full list of restaurants can be found on his website, suffice to say, in any major city, find a prestigious restaurant and you will find Palazzo Wine!

Today Scott’s portfolio of wines include his Master Blend Series, The Reserve Wine Series and perhaps a few others in the cellar.

The 2016 Cabernet Franc Reserve

Scott started making his Cabernet Franc exclusively for The French Laundry in Yountville. This catapulted his wine instantly to “cult status”. The 2014 is his current release Cabernet Franc. What Scott entered was his 2016 Cabernet Franc into the wine competition.  First on the eyes, this is a very deep crimson red color with medium-heavy viscosity. What wafts into the nose is symphony of aromas from floral notes of crushed violets to red fruits like cherries and raspberries.  Once entering the mouth all parts of the orchestrated flavors burst into a flavor profile similar to the 1812 Overture. Red and black cherries, subtle spices like pepper are counter balanced with hints of dark chocolate. On the finish only a hint of pyrazines, this wine is vibrant, yet silky smooth beckoning one to take another sip. Structure and defined but not jagged tannins are present. One of the smoothest finishes on a world class Cabernet Franc I have tasted. The current release is the 2014 with only 300 cases being produced and priced at $115.

The Food Pairing

This week since the weather hit 75 degrees the BBQ begged to be operational! Two aged ribeye steaks were seared and BBQ’ed to have with this extraordinary wine. Accompanied by Bucatini pasta prepared with garlic, purple onion and broccoli with a fresh garden salad and Blue cheese dressing. Each bite of the steak with the wine was spectacular beyond belief!  Truly a memorable experience. This wine instantly made my list to be on my yearly publication “Best Wines of Year – 2021”.


Scott is referred to as being creative, energetic and fervent in his convictions. All these traits can be attested to in his wine. Enjoy!




Steven Kent Winery, 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sachau Vineyard

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Steven Kent Mirassou

A simple and lofty goal was the background for Steven Kent Mirassou to begin his winery in 1996, called Steve Kent Winery. That goal was simply to make Cabernet Sauvignon wines in Livermore Valley that rival in quality with the greatest red wines made anywhere in the world. Fast forward to 2021 and in 2020 Steven Kent Winery received the first 100 point wine rating giving to a Livermore Wine with his Lineage Wine.  Wine Enthusiast stated “Steven Kent is producing today’s greatest Livermore Cabernets, wines that hearken back to the valley’s roots as one of California’s best wine regions”. Today Steven Kent has at least seven wine labels in his portfolio: The Lineage Wines, The Premier Cabernet line, The Steven Kent Cabernet, Various Red Wine & Blends, Mia Nipote and Ragbag Works. I am sure a few more wines are hidden in the cellar!

Here is a previous story on his Lineage line with more details of his craftsmanship as a winemaker:

The Single Vineyard Series – Sachau Vineyard

Steven Kent’s Single Vineyard Series is a limited offering of wines that highlight the unique characteristics of a specific vineyard. This vineyard is located just west of Mines Road and south of Tesla Road in the center of Livermore Valley at an elevation of a little more than 800 feet above sea level. The vineyard has four of the Bordeaux varieties planted on it. The skins were allowed to macerate in the wine for 12 to 14 days, then aged in mostly new French oak barrels for almost 24 months. Only 5 barrels were produced of this wonderful 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sachau Vineyard

Choosing this site for one of his high quality Cabernet Sauvignons, the wine is extremely dark in red and purple hues with medium viscosity. Aromas of dark black fruit, oak and chocolate waft into the nose. In the palate, the expansion of the aromas become black cherries, plum and raspberries. The long dusty finish shows only a portion of the unique character of Sachau Vineyards with a hint of dark chocolate. The acidity and tannins are so well balanced with no sharp edges. Just smooth and mouth quenching juice is experienced sip after sip.

If you have not had the pleasure to taste his now “world class and 100 point wines”, hurry because they will be sold out in the near future!



2017 Russian Ridge Winery Cabernet Franc from the City of San Carlos??

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The Winery

Russian Ridge Winery is family owned producing less than 1,000 cases of wine annually. They are located at 919 Washington St. San Carlos. Not your typical urban winery. Their fruit comes from single vineyards around northern California from areas like Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains and even portions of southern Santa Clara County. Most of their wines are done in small lots from 40 to 200 cases. Scott Townsend owner and winemaker, embraces a California winemaker Shawna’s saying “that grapes care where they are grown, not where they are fermented into wine”. Today his son Spencer is the winemaker.

2017 Russian Ridge Winery Cabernet Franc, Santa Cruz Mountains

Having tasted his Concerto blend using Cabernet Franc, figured it would be an enjoyable wine. First on the eyes, a deep red coloring with earthy brown hues. On the nose, aromas of cherry and black fruits, like blackberry were prominent. On the palate, some unique flavors of black tea, bramble brush, and dark fruits. The acidity and tannins were extremely tame on the finish with no sharp edges. The lingering flavor profile of natural oak and an earthy quality on a smooth and mid-lasting finish made this a wonderful sipping wine.

The wine was aged nineteen months in new 100% air dried American oak. This wine is 14.4% alcohol and comes from the Monte Bello vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Scott did not enter the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition this year, but with this solid wine, I fully expect him to enter for 2021.

A footnote:  The city of San Carlos and Russian Ridge Winery has a list of urban wineries springing up locally.  Worth checking out if they are all as high quality as Russian Ridge Winery!



2018 Wood Family Vineyards, Cabernet Franc

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National Cabernet Franc Competition Results

At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Wood Family Vineyards 2018 Cabernet Franc earned a Silver Medal by both the Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges in different areas. A great accomplishment knowing that twenty-four quality wines were in the Category 2 (priced at $31 to $50) from around the United States.

2018 Wood Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc

The 2018 Wood Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc is perhaps Rhonda Wood’s best to date. On the eyes a dark ruby red and medium heavy viscosity.  On the nose blackberry, cherry and violets were dominant. On the palate, plum and caramel pipe tobacco engulfed the mouth with a hint of milk chocolate. The finish was medium with soft edges and extremely smooth with an earthiness, an absence of any strong pyrazines made for a soft and smooth landing and lingering finish with a hint of vanilla.

Food Pairing

Since we were both glued to the NFL playoffs, dinner was simple comfort food of cube steak, Yukon potato and fresh garden salad. We ate the meal rather quickly so we could continue watching the back to back games today. The wine was equally enjoyable with dinner and watching the second quarter.

So while watching the Bills and the Raven game and only a field goal up to this point, Rhonda Wood’s 2018 Cabernet Franc was a winning touchdown!



2018 Maritana Vineyards Pinot Noir, Moonshine Ranch

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Dr. Pinot or Donald Patz, has introduced to his lineup of Maritana Vineyards a new designated single vineyard Pinot Noir. This now makes four single vineyards for his 2018 released wines. The others are Martaella Vineyard, La Russe and Jenkins Ranch. Stories on the other vineyards can be read at:

Jenkins Ranch and Martaella Vineyard –

La Russe

Moonshine Vineyard is well- known as it is the vineyard that Martinelli Winery farms. They provided a portion called the “Square Block” with two different clones on it (Dijon 828 and UCD 04 “Pommard”) for Maritana Vineyards. This designated single vineyard Pinot Noir from Maritana Vineyards is a new release located not far from the Russian River in Sonoma County. Moonshine Ranch is has its own unique characteristics not found in the other offerings.

Visually on the eyes you see a very light translucent mix of purple and crimson coloring. This immediately leads one to believe you will be introduced to a bantam weight (light) Pinot Noir. But hold on!  On the nose, rose petals and strawberries first waft into the olfactory senses. Once on the palate, the seemingly light weight turns into a mid-weight with raspberry, pomegranate, bright Bing cherries and a slight creaminess in the mouth. The finish shows the balanced structure with a soft and rounded crescendo. 

The food pairing this evening was with a dish called Skillet Cajun Potatoes with Andouille Sausage. The meal was prepared with quartered red potatoes, olive oil, Creole seasoning, salt & pepper, leeks, minced garlic, white onion, fresh chopped thyme, cumin seed and sliced Andouille sausage. The slight spiciness of the meal with a moderately chilled Maritana Vineyards Moonshine Ranch was again “spot on”. The lively interchange of the wine and meal provided an excellent Yin and Yang effect. {Definition: in ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected and interdependent as they related to each other}.

I believe this may be Donald’s most intended crisp and lean Pinot Noir in the lineup but with an abundant bouquet. This is a standalone Pinot Noir to be sipped or paired with just the correct food to be another winner in Maritana Vineyards offering.



LangeTwins Single Vineyard Series – Teroldego and Montepulciano Wines

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LangeTwins Winery

Established in Acampo (north of Lodi in the Central Valley of California), they have been around since 1870 as farmers and purchased their first vineyard in 1916. They have historically made some delicious wines but wanted further to enhance their presence in the market with an offering called their Single Vineyard Series. The winery has vineyards in Jahant, Mokelumne River, Clements Hills Appellations of Lodi as well as Clarksburg. The desired goal of the Single Vineyard Series is to make a wine that expresses the character and “terroir” of a specific area and their agricultural skills of sustainability and care.  When you want to go to Italy but have a directive to “Stay at Home”, this is a great Italian style wine!

The 2017 LangeTwins Teroldego from Jahant Woods 02 Vineyard

The Jahant AVA is located in the center of the Lodi AVA. It is geographically the smallest of Lodi’s seven AVA’s, with a total size of 28,000 acres and only roughly 9,000 acres planted. It sits on highly dissected river terraces and old flood plain deposits. The classic Mediterranean climate has Delta fog influence, and receives cold air drainage.

Teroldego was originally grown in northern Italy in the Südtirol and Trentino-Alto Adige regions. Your typical Italian Teroldego wines are dark colored, have bright fruit notes of cranberry and pomegranate along with blackberry and raspberry. Notes of pepper, cinnamon, licorice and earthy aromas and tastes are common.

The 2017 exhibits the dark inky coloring associated with a classic Teroldego. It has aromas and taste of dark cherry, pomegranate and cranberry. The wine is aged in neutral French and American oak barrels for twelve months to allow the strong tannins to soften. This is evident in the smooth and rounded finish in the mouth. Sipping this wine brought me back to northern Italy just after one sip! Only 185 cases were produced.

Awards include 94 points, Double Gold from San Francisco Int’l Wine Competition 2019 and Best of Class from San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition 2020.

2018 Montepulciano River Ranch Vineyard

Montepulciano is a well-known wine from central and southern Italy. Key areas are Abruzzo, Lazio, Umbria and Apulia.  This is not to be confused with the Tuscan wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano which is made with primarily Sangiovese grapes.  Montepulciano typically is known for its deep color, powerful and sharp tannins with high acidity.  Key traits of Montepulciano are oregano, pepper, tobacco, black fruits, plums and sour cherries. On the finish a smoky tobacco is common as well as a countryside rustic quality.

The 2018 LangeTwins Montepulicano also has many of these characteristics and traits. It is a bright and has on the nose and palate, red berries and dark stone fruit. It is aged for 15 months in neutral French and American oak barrels. The finish is long and pairs with many foods especially with meats and cheeses found in Italy. The finish was a tad “heavy and meatier” but it fit my wine profile perfectly.  The River Ranch Vineyard is also located in the Jahant AVA. Only 399 cases were produced.


LangeTwins Winery which already made some good and expressive wines, just soared in their quest to make excellent wines for the consumer. They also make Nero D’ Avola, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot in their Single Vineyard Series of red wines. They also have a collection of Single Vineyard white wines. Moderately priced for designated single vineyard wines, the Teroldego and Montepulciano are worthy of your tasting! The deal maker is that at $32 each it is a lot less expensive and safer today than traveling to Italy.



2017 Lemon Creek Reserve Cabernet Franc

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National Cabernet Franc Competition Results

At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Lemon Creek Winery Reserve Cabernet Franc earned a Silver Medal by both the Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges in different areas. A great accomplishment knowing that twenty-four quality wines were in the Category 2 (priced at $31 to $50) from around the United States. The Professional Judges also awarded the 2017 Lemon Creek Winery Cabernet Franc a Silver Medal. This was their first entry into this wine competition.

The Winery

The Lemon Family first established in Berrien County, Michigan in 1834 and at its present farm on Lemon Creek Road in 1855. Benjamin Lemon had a saw mill on a creek near Berrien Springs, MI, the creek thus became known as “Lemon’s Creek”. The soil near Lake Michigan is rolling clay loam and the weather is mitigated by the Lake. They were the first winery planting Cabernet Sauvignon in the state of Michigan.

Lake Michigan Shore is a well-known AVA is the southwest area of Michigan. The AVA is by far the most important in the state with more than 90 percent of Michigan’s vineyards found within Lake Michigan Shore AVA and more than half of the state’s wine output derived from there.

The Lemon Creek Winery has approximately 170 acres of planted wine grapes. They also have about 60 acres of a variety of fruits. They are located at 33 East Lemon Creek Road, Berrien Springs, MI 49103 and their phone number is (269) 471-1321

The 2017 Lemon Creek Reserve Cabernet Franc

The wine is aged over 24 months in French oak barrels. This allows a “depth of color and fullness of body” per their website. From a traditional California Cabernet Franc, it is a bit lighter in color and has a medium viscosity on the eyes.  On the nose is where this wine stands out with both a combination of fruit and a heavy vegetable characteristics.  The pyrazines in the Lemon Creek have a slight classic bell pepper, but also other vegetable flavors as peas, herbs and also mint appear. This coupled with the strawberry and raspberry fruit offer a pleasant change to a hearty Cabernet Franc. The finish is balanced between the fruits and vegetable traits and the silky and rounded tannins slide easily down ones throat.

The Food Pairing

Having the herbal qualities in the wine made for a delightful pairing last evening. A winter comfort food of meat loaf, Yukon gold potatoes and brussel sprouts was perfectly aligned.  The meat loaf was prepared with the following spices: garlic, dried tomatoes, onion, salt, basil, parsley, black pepper, oregano and safflower oil. This with the wine matched seamlessly. The brussel sprouts were slow roasted and drizzled with a balsamic and brown sugar reduction. Again the “green vegetable” with the wine was spectacular.

Personally, I had never tasted a Michigan Cabernet Franc, but having done so last evening, I now can appreciate their “terroir” and why Lemon Creek Winery 2017 Reserve won Silver Medals from two separate sets of judges.



A Great Meal and 3 Wonderful Wines — 4 Winners in Total

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Saturday night’s dinner was a smash hit! Started out with an Alaskan salmon appetizer. Pan fried in butter, olive oil, garlic, bourbon, white wine, minced purple onion and capers. Served on sliced baguette, half toasted in olive oil/butter and half just plain. Added cream cheese, capers and minced purple onion. Also a bacon smoked Gouda cheese and crackers were plated.

Served with a 2013 Léal Vineyards Cabernet Franc from San Benito, the Popescu Terrace Estate Vineyard. This area is located in California’s Central Coast AVA in San Benito County in the Uvas Valley that is inland from the coast.

The wine was dark violet on the eye and medium viscosity. On the nose, cherries and a hint of cedar. On the mouth a wondrous blend of blueberry, plum and chocolate. The 2013 Cabernet Franc had mild tannins and strong oak but was exceptionally smooth and silky with a long lasting finish. A great pairing with both the salmon and Gouda bacon cheese.

Next up was the entrée of carne asada. This was similar to the recipe about ten days ago but more Habanero peppers were used with the seeds (4).  Cooked in a cast iron skillet, the skirt steak was prepared with fresh squeezed juice from both a lime and orange, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, Habanero peppers and Chipotle peppers in an Adobo sauce put into a plastic bag and left to marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator. The bag and meat were turned and shaken frequently.

Accompanying this was a very spicy shrimp dish with garlic. The jumbo shrimp was prepared with olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, seafood seasoning, fresh lemon zest and juice.

With the above two entrée dishes, three sides were served. The first was Mexican Street Corn off the Cob. This was cooked in a cast iron skillet and prepared with unsalted butter, corn with kernels removed, mayonnaise, freshly grated cotija cheese, smoked paprika, chopped green onion and a small amount of salt & pepper. The other side dishes was a 7 layer fresh garden salad. Grilled garlic French bread also accompanied the meal.

 A fresh baked Meyer lemon pie was served for dessert. Unfortunately it was eaten too quickly to take any pictures!!!  Seriously that is how good it tasted!

Two wines were served for the meal. The first was a 2012 Crocker & Starr Casali Five from Napa Valley. This was a blend of 82% Malbec and 18% Cabernet Sauvignon. Typical of Pam Starr’s Casali, the percentages change yearly, but all are always on the eyes a dark purple coloration and medium viscosity. On the nose and palate, raspberry, dark plum and floral aromas abound. The acidity was mellow and the tannins were rounded and silky smooth. The current release will be “Casali 12” and will be out in April 2021.

The other wine served was from Castillo de Cuzcurrita and it was their 2015 Señorío de Cuzcurrita Rioja from Spain. This has become one of my favorite new wines. On the eyes, a dark ruby red color with medium viscosity. On the nose aromas of blue and black fruits that open up in the mouth as blueberry with strong hints of toasted oak, cocoa, minerality, toffee and licorice. The finish is powerful but still elegant and flavorful.

Both wines were equally excellent with the meal. So after some three and half hours the evening dinner and conversation concluded with the four of us “stuffed to the gills”.  It was a wonderful meal and three spectacular wines. Special thanks to Susan Kelly for preparing an exquisite meal!



2018 Maritana Chardonnay, La Rivière – An Incredible Food Pairing

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Dinner last night with a magical 2018 Maritana Chardonnay Sonoma County Russian River La Rivière (meaning the river). While Donald Patz had many years ago produced Chardonnay’s, more recently he has been known as an industry leader for his Pinot Noir’s. I have had this wine before, but what my palate tasted last evening was close to “a perfect Chardonnay”. I know that is a remarkable accolade, but it is deserving!

First on the eyes, clarity and brightness and ethereal straw golden yellow color. On the nose and mouth, it was a refined and delicate Chardonnay with soft lemon custard and a Red Delicious apple, vanilla, slight pear overtones with a caramel finish. Of noteworthy importance is the “creaminess” of the wine. It provided an enormous mouthfeel. As the wine settles in the back of mouth, a minerality of a babbling mountain 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), it reminded me of the higher end Kistler Chardonnay or Peter Michael Chardonnay, specifically La Carriere. Current price for La Rivière is $55 and frankly a true bargain to treat your palate.

The wine was served with a stir-fried chicken and Bok choy served over a bed of white rice. The chicken & Bok choy was prepared using sesame oil, white onions, ginger root, minced garlic and a smidgen of soy sauce, garnished with sesame seeds.

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



2017 Ledson Winery Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley

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This wine normally makes my list of “Best of Year California Wines Tasted” but with the Covid-19 issues, I unfortunately did not visit Ledson Winery nor happen to open a bottle out of my cellar. On New Year’s Day, I did take a bottle of this to dinner at a friend’s house.  As soon as it was opened I remembered why it made the list for the last 3 years!

On the eyes, a beautiful golden color with a mid-heavy viscosity (odd for a Sauvignon Blanc).  On the nose, aromas of pineapple were dominate with guava and papaya following closely behind. On the palate, a unique soft citrus taste challenged the pineapple. In the mouth it was perhaps the most robust and mouth filling Sauvignon Blanc tasted in recent memory. It was also unique in tasting somewhere between New Zealand and the United States style Sauvignon Blanc on flavors. On the finish, it was medium length with a clean crispness, dry and yet exotic tropical fruits abounded.

Paired with a spicy shrimp and baked cod, this provided a wonderful pairing. The wine has received 93 points and a Gold Medal from the 2019 American Fine Wine Invitational and 90 points and a Gold Medal from the 2019 Winemaker Challenge International Wine Group.

It will once again get mentioned in the 2021 Best California Wines Tasted list at the end of this year!