Month: January 2021

2014 Grizzly Peak Winery Cabernet Franc – Awarded a Gold Medal and Best of Class!

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At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Grizzly Peak Winery earned a Gold Medal and Best of Class by the People’s Choice Judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges. The Professional Judge’s awarded them a Silver Medal. A great accomplishment knowing that twenty quality wines were in the Category I (priced at $30 and less) from around the United States. The Judges also awarded the 2015 Grizzly Peak Winery Cabernet Franc a Bronze Medal. This was their first entry into this wine competition.

The Winery

The winery is located in Oregon’s Rogue Valley AVA on 40 beautiful hillside acres. The winey was established by Al and Virginia Silbowitz and the vineyard planted in 1998. Situated on the east side of Highway 5 at an elevation of 2200 feet with breathtaking views of Grizzly Peak and Mt Ashland, the winery enjoys warm summers and cool evenings.  

The winemaker is Linda Donovan, graduate of UC Davis in enology. She produces the wines at her custom crush facility called Pallet Wine Company. The 2014 Cabernet Franc has won at other events, Double Gold and Best of Class. Other wines have won awards at Oregon’s Toast of the Coast competition. In talking with Virginia, she mentioned that the Rhone varietals do exceptionally well in their location. She referred specifically to their Marsanne/Roussanne blend and their Syrah wines. An interesting note is that this area now has over 70 wineries.

In their portfolio of yearly production of around 3,000 cases, they also produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, white Cab Franc, white Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris and a Syrah Rose.

The Wine

The Cabernet Franc represents a lighter and more subtle Cabernet Franc described as being a “European style”. On the eyes a soft and almost translucent red color and a light to medium viscosity.  On the nose and palate soft fragrances of raspberry and plum. The finish, perhaps due to the combination of volcanic and alluvial soils, present almost an absence of tannins but did possess a soft bell pepper flavor. The finish was medium long and airy with a soft minerality.  This worked perfectly for the food pairing!

The Food Pairing with the 2014 Cabernet Franc

Paired with a pappardelle pasta and homemade Bolognese sauce simmered for 6 hours. Accompanied by a fresh garden salad with blue cheese dressing. The spicy and flavorful sauce using diced pancetta, chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, thyme, ground pork, ground beef, red wine, bay leaves, tomato puree and other items contrasted and embraced the 2014 Grizzly Peak Cabernet Franc perfectly. Garnished with fresh parmesan, Romano and asiago cheeses. I do not believe this would work with many Cab Francs of stronger flavors with sharper and distinct tannins. However this wine was versatile and welcoming to perhaps some typical unconventional food pairings associated with Cabernet Franc’s.

Next up on my list to do is to try their Marsanne/Roussanne blend as well as a Pinot Noir from Grizzly Peak Winery.





2017 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc – Best of Class and Gold Medal Winner!

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At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Cuda Ridge earned a Gold Medal and Best of Class by the Professional Judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges. A great accomplishment knowing that twenty-four quality wines were in the Category II ($31 to $50) from around the United States. The Professional Judges also awarded 2018 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc a Silver Medal.

The Wine

The Cabernet Franc is part of Larry Dino’s (winemaker/owner) Bordeaux Collection. He has two other “wine labels” called the Black Label and Reserve Collection. His Bordeaux Collection as imagined has besides Cabernet Franc, the other key varietals of Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and most recently added Carmenere.

This 2017 Cabernet Franc 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 subdued as expected. In the mouth, the blueberries and dark cherry were prominent along with a modicum of your typical bell pepper, black pepper and sage qualities. Soft leather, a dry rockiness and sweet pipe tobacco lingered to make the finish long lasting and inquisitive.

The 2017 and 2018 Cabernet Franc also won Bronze Medals from the People’s Choice Judges.

Specifically his Cabernet Franc over the years has won the following awards and distinctions:

• 2017 Wine Enthusiast 91 points; Silver Medal at 2020 SF Chronicle Wine Competition
• 2016 Wine Enthusiast 90 points: Silver Medal at 2019 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and Silver Medal at TVC Uncorked
• 2014 Best Livermore Cabernet Franc; Silver Medal 2017 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and 90 point from Wine Enthusiast
• And many more awards going back to 2008 including more Silver Medals, high ratings from Wine Enthusiast and a Gold Medal from SF Chronicle Wine Competition

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired the 2017 Cuda Ridge with a pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, fresh garden salad and broccoli for a wonderful meal.

This was Cuda Ridges’ first time participating in the Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and I have a strong suspicion Larry Dino will be entering again to add to his war chest!



Complete Results of the Cabernet Franc Wine Competition can be found at:

Maritana Vineyards – A Tale of Two Vineyards

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Donald Patz continues to amaze the wine community with his innate knowledge with Pinot Noirs!  Last evening, a side by side comparison of two of his premier wines was held. Initially it was not planned but as I will explain it developed during the meal.

The Background

First for those who do not know Maritana Vineyards or Donald Patz, here is a quick recap. Donald’s career has spanned some 35+ years making wine. After selling the iconic Patz & Hall Winery, Donald embarked on setting up three separate wine entities. The first, Secret Door, is producing exquisite and sought after boutique Cabernet Sauvignon’s. Why “Secret” as a name? In a face to face meeting, Donald while known for his Pinot Noirs, told me he actually started his career making Cabernet Sauvignon! They have already won national acclaim and are actively sought out. I think the other “secret” is that Donald is rejuvenated and energized with creativity in this venture.

The second wine label is called Terminim Wines. This is a collaboration of Francois Villard and Donald, with small lots of artisan wines called Cepages d’ Or (grapes of gold), a mix of Marsanne and Roussanne from a vineyard in Mendocino County. The name is derived from the “terminus” the Roman God of borders and boundaries. Syrah is also in this lineup of wines. Together they have developed and implemented some unique techniques to the traditional punching down the cap. This new “Methode Francois” allows them to make a wine “without searing levels of tannin and creates a smoother more rounded and elegant presence”.

The third is Maritana Vineyards and this is for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay line of wines. Maritana Vineyards is a project for developing and producing the highest quality of grapes for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Here Donald is implementing his strategy to develop a more balanced, “elegant and perfumed version to show through” with choices of grapes with selected aged barrels. On his Pinot Noir, he has secured four vineyards in the Russian River AVA. They are Le Russe, Jenkins Ranch, Martaella Vineyards and Moonshine Ranch. For this varietal he is using approximately 60% new oak barrels.

The Two Wines and Food Pairing

The two wines tried last evening were both 2018 from Jenkins Ranch and Martaella Vineyards. The first, Jenkins Ranch, started out paired with a slow cooked seasoned pot roast for eight hours. Served with broccoli and mashed Idaho potatoes.  The Jenkins Ranch vineyard is located in the hills southwest of Sebastopol. Loam soils provided a soft and layered Pinot Noir. On the eyes this wine was light colored brick with an almost translucent quality. On the palate, Bing cherries, strawberries and airy minerality abounded. The medium finish provided a gracefulness of spirit with a trace of sweetness. While a great wine for sipping and enjoying with the right food, unfortunately this was too light with the meal.

Thus the second Pinot Noir was introduced. This was the Martaella Vineyard which 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. I immediately “fell in love” with it as I had back in June 2020 in a previous story. 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. 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 structure for soft tannin, not typically shown in most Pinot Noir’s. The finish, was chewy and mouth filling, which provided an earthiness, almost a damp forest floor flavor (mushrooms). A strong hint of licorice was also noted on the finish. This wine can be enjoyed immediately or one to age for 5-10 years.


For the meal last evening, both wines were spectacular in their own right. The Jenkins Ranch Pinot was a great wine for introducing Pinot Noir to non-Pinot Noir drinkers with its softness and gentle characteristics. The meal however demanded the Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir. The tasting once again highlighted the differences of “terrior” (soil, weather, vineyard layout, etc.) and the impact on the grapes. Donald is no one trick pony or “one size fits all” winemaker.   His wines are distinct and unique from vineyard to vineyard. Can’t wait to taste his other two Pinot Noir vineyards!



The Mystery Wine on New Year’s Eve – Buccella 2010

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No one guessed the wine in the picture posted on our New Year’s dinner!  It is not often a wine goes without an identifying label with the winery name on it. Collectors know that Buccella wines have this identifiable wax logo stamped on the bottle. It is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional silver tastevin cup used for tasting in Bordeaux and other areas. This along with the name “bucella” a Latin word meaning mouthful provides a perfect sampling of this exquisite wine.

The Wine

The 2010 Buccella is a Cabernet Sauvignon (86%) with Malbec 6%, Petit Verdot 3%, Merlot 3% and Cabernet Franc 2%. Robert Parker rated this 95 points a few years back. I acquired it seven years ago and it has been resting with “its brothers” very quietly. On eyes this is a deep black color and medium-full viscosity. The fragrance is black cherry and blueberry. In the palate, it opens up to express both the blueberry and cherry with distinction. Secondary flavors of vanilla and dark fruits abound. Key to this wine is the finish with soft and velvety tannins, this is not your normal big and sharp Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Rather than pick you up and slap you upside the head, this comes and caresses and warms you like a comforter next to a fireplace in winter. The style is as unique as its label.

The Winemaker & Consultant

This wine was made under the wine consultant Philippe Melka. Philippe is known as one of the top 10 winemakers/consultants in the world. His resume is too long to list but some of the key wineries he has consulted for are: Gemstone, Cliff Lede, Hundred Acre, Vineyard 29, Seavey Vineyard, Parallel, Lail Vineyard, Quintessa, Bryant Family, Westwood Estate and the list goes on. In fact, he and his team claim to have made or consulted with over 150 wineries!  His list of 100 point wines is remarkable. Today he also spends time working at his own winery Melka Estates.  Buccella’s current winemaker is Landon Donley with his own pedigree coming from Spottswoode. It also runs in the family with his wife, Sarah, the winemaker at ADAMVS.

The Winery

Buccella is a small artisan and boutique winery committed to making limited quantities of luxury wines. They are located in the southern area of Napa with fruit coming from some of the premiere vineyards in Napa Valley.