Month: March 2021
Was at a friend’s home for dinner the other night. He wanted to open something special but suspected it may have gone bad. He was correct, as soon as the cork was supposed to be “popped” it let out a slight whimper of “psss” and came out with no pressure. After he found it, it was put the kitchen refrigerator for a few hours before we came for dinner. He wanted me to write a story as this $230 to $500 Champagne promptly went down the drain and does not want anyone else to suffer this kind of loss.
Here is how this came about. They were given this bottle as a gift approximately 16-18 years before. It was stored in their basement wine racks. While generally a constant 66 degrees, but with no formal temperature or humidity control. It remained there for about 12 years. About 4 years ago they moved to our neighborhood but had yet to get a wine refrigerator. They stored it upright under their bar sink. It remained there for 4 years until he accidentally found it. The new home area in the summertime gets to between 90 to 100 degrees for about 4 to 4 ½ months and has very low humidity.
He has since secured a nice wine refrigerator and will not make that mistake again. As he lamented when he found the hidden bottle, that “I had probably just destroyed a very good bottle of bubbly”. He concluded with “What a shame. I am sure it would have been spectacular!”
So in the end the key elements of keeping wine are fairly simple:
*Keep the temperature constant with a condenser of between 55 to 58 degrees
*Keep the humidity between 50 to 70%
*Store the wine out of visible and reflective sunlight as UV will harm the wine
*Minimize the movement of the wine
An expensive lesson learned and one not soon forgotten nor to be repeated by my friend. We were all looking forward to tasting this Champagne. Fortunately we did have a few others nice bottles to enjoy!!
While everyday Chardonnay does not mean that you only drink Chardonnay every day. It does mean what is your go to Chardonnay on a warm summer late afternoon or early evening while on the deck/patio for a refreshing wine?
I break down my Chardonnay’s into 3 distinct categories which have some price guidelines:
- Everyday Chardonnay $15 to $30
- Nice Chardonnay for special occasions $31 to $60
- Exceptional Chardonnay for monumental occasions $61 to $125
Superseding the above categories may be the opportunity to enjoy a lovely meal like fresh Branzino, lobster, scallops, swordfish, etc. Then of course you may want to pull from a higher category.
So for everyday Chardonnay my five regularly stocked wines and purchased in volume are: Wood Family Vineyards (Livermore, $30 & 2021 Double Gold Medal Winner at 2021 SF Chronicle Wine Competition), 3 Steves Reserve Chardonnay (Livermore, $29), Harken (Central Coast, $15), Tenbrink Chardonnay (Suisun Valley, $28) Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Reserve (Monterey County, $24). The first, third and fifth wines have been my go to wines many years. Recently added was 3 Steves and Tenbrink. While these wines can be enjoyed as standalone sipping wines, they also pair nicely with fish, chicken, pork and even pizza(per Steve Burman!).
Key is always having some cool everyday Chardonnay’s in the cellar for (pre-Covid), impromptu neighbors stopping by, larger gatherings and parties. All these wines “fit the bill” and will not cost you an arm and a leg. They are also wines which I am proud to serve and always get compliments as solid wines. These wines also provide an answer when a new face shows up at the house to my question providing they want a Chardonnay, do you want an old world or new world Chardonnay. When the perplexed look falls upon the guest and they finally respond with anything but “add one or two ice cubes”, I have the perfect wine without breaking the bank.
Other Chardonnay’s in the other two categories are:
- Nice Chardonnays for special occasions- Alyris, Duckhorn,, Hoopes Family Vineyard, Kistler, Ledson Russian River, Maritana La Riviere, Tate Wines, etc.
- Exceptional Chardonnay for monumental occasions- Peter Michael La Carriere & Mon Plaisir), Domain Jomain Les Perrieres’ 1er Cru, etc.
Summertime white wines are not limited to Chardonnay’s and can include many other varietals like Picpoul Blanc, Champagne, Arneis, Assyrtiko, Bourboulenc, Chatenaeuf du Pape Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, white Meritage blends, Prosecco, Reisling, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Viognier, etc.
The question of the day: What is your everyday Chardonnay? Would enjoy hearing your favorites.
It has been mentioned several times that I may provide too much coverage to Wood Family Vineyards. Yes it is true I have a long standing relationship with the winemaker and staff. But still that would not influence me if the wine was not OUTSTANDING! Rhonda Wood just received confirmation today from the largest wine competition held in the world, the San Francisco Chronical Wine Competition with the following awards. I have inserted my articles for easy reference. Congratulations Rhonda Wood and staff for an outstanding accomplishment. I buy a lot of Wood Family Vineyards wine and now you know why! All the Gold and Double Gold winners rest comfortably in my wine cellar.
Double Gold Medal Award:
2018 “Big Wood” Zinfandel
2018 “Viva” Cabernet Sauvignon
2019 Chardonnay “Para Mas Amigas”
2018 Cabernet Franc
2018 “Woody’s” Cabernet Sauvignon
No story yet, but have it in the cellar!
No story yet, but have it in the cellar!
Gold Medal Award:
2018 “Pink Pearl” Rosé of Grenache
2018 LVVC Red Blend
Brecon Estate located in the hills outside of Paso Robles, California participated in the December 2nd, 2020 National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition. The Competition was hosted by California Wines and Wineries at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges (Professional and People’s Choice) in different areas of the facility. Brecon Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve 2018 won a Gold Medal from the Professional Judges and a Silver Medal from the People’s Choice Judges. They also submitted their 2018 Cabernet Franc that won a Silver from the Professional Judges and Double Gold and Best of Class from the People’s Choice Judges! An exceptional showing by both wines. Wines were submitted from 14 states and numerous AVA’s from around the United States.
For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:
First time I had experience tasting these two wonderful wines and I was extremely impressed. Surprisingly, while both wines did well, the regular won a slightly higher award than the Reserve and also Best of Class by the People’s Choice Judges.
On the eyes the regular 2018 Cabernet Franc possessed a very dark crimson color with a purple hue. On the nose a beautiful raspberry, violet floral and dark cherry wandered into the olfactory senses. On the palate this continued to unfold with vanilla, soft leather, graphite and a tinge of green bell pepper (pyrazines). On the long finish, moist gravel minerality and fruit forwardness beckoned yet another sip. This is another “chewy” Cabernet Franc with the right amount of tannins and structures to be appreciated. 234 cases were produced, this wine was recently released and sells for $64. The winery suggests to drink now and up to 2030. Absolutely agree if you can hold out that long!
Food & Wine Pairing
Last evening while unseasonably warm (68 degrees), it was time to BBQ. Seared ribeye steaks and served medium rare with a nice juicy pink center. Yukon potatoes were also served. The 2018 Brecon Estate was perfectly matched for the meat.
This wine is definitely a contender to make my Best Wines of Year that will be published in December.
Gracianna Winery makes some delicious Pinot Noirs. One of my favorites was the 2013 Bacigalupi Vineyards and the 2014 Estate Pinot Noirs. Had the opportunity to taste the 2019 Lasaga Estate Vineyard the other night. You can read more about this winery and history at:
The 2019 Gracianna Pinot Noir, Lasaga Estate Vineyard was extremely delicate both on the eyes and palate. Strawberries were the dominant aroma and flavor tasted. On eyes an extremely purple hue that was almost translucent but with brightness. On the nose wafted fresh strawberry fields and violets. On the palate you got an enormous strawberry jam, mushroom and Bay leaf. On the finish a combination of strawberries, pomegranates and red licorice. The finish was mid-length and enjoyable.
Paired with Garlic Butter Mushrooms Pork Chops. This was cooked in a cast iron skillet and the ingredients included salt, coarse black pepper, olive oil, sliced mushrooms, unsalted butter, minced garlic cloves and smoked paprika. The food and wine pairing was excellent with the fruit forward Pinot Noir, while delicate, stood up and counterbalanced the pork chops and sauce.
Their name Dracaena (pronounced druh-see-nuh) is a bit longer story, but suffice it to say, it started off as a memory of their beloved Weimaraner, which they had named Draco. You can read the complete story on their website. Draco’s hand drawn image appears on all their bottles.
Dracaena Wines located in Paso Robles, California participated in the December 2nd, 2020 National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition. The Competition was hosted by California Wines and Wineries at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges (Professional and People’s Choice) in different areas of the facility. Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc Reserve 2017 won a Silver Medal from both the Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges. Wines were submitted from 14 states and numerous AVA’s from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:
The Winery and Owners
Michael and Lori Budd are the owners who fell “into love with Cabernet Franc”. While today still working full time jobs, they are planning their future in the wine business down the road. They purchased property in Arroyo Grande, near Pismo Beach, and use a custom crush house to produce their wine. Their grapes come from The Plummer Vineyard in Paso Robles. Mike and Lori’s backgrounds are primarily in Food Science and originally met back on the East Coast while working. Lori who has since continued her education as a WSET II with distinction, is a regular blogger, holds various certifications on wine, an award winning writer and podcaster on a variety of wine subjects. Both Michael and Lori are co-founders of International Cabernet Franc Day, December 4th. Today besides producing their Reserve Cabernet Franc, they produce a Rosé (Grenache & Tempranillo), a soon to be released Chenin Blanc (4/15/21) and their Classic Cabernet Franc. Their wines have won a tremendous number of awards including the 2017 Reserve Cabernet Franc receiving a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.
See a previous written story on Dracaena Wines at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/01/14/dracaena-wines-a-david-verses-goliath-story/
On the eyes this lush purple juice is radiant and bright with medium viscosity. On the nose aromas of raspberry and strawberry are predominant. Once on the palate, vanilla, sweet pipe tobacco, and mocha flavors resonate. The classic and appropriate “green bell pepper” (pyrazines) are present. The finish provides sufficient tannins and structure to a wine to cellar 5-7 years. Also a spiciness makes the finish long lasting. One of the heralded “chewy Cabernet Francs” with abundant flavor. Only 65 cases were produced using 30% new French oak barrels. The price is $45 for the 2017 Reserve Cabernet Franc.
Why would I ask if a Peter Michael Mon Plaisir Chardonnay is worth $6? Fairly simple, but admittedly I have to backtrack a bit. It starts with golf, yes that insane sport/activity/headache that many of us attempt and continue to repeat.
Playing a typical betting game in golf called a Nassau, which is actually three bets, one on the front 9 and one on the back 9 and then the overall. Often golfer’s call it “nausea” due to the sickening feeling one gets when knowing no matter how well one does, he is destined to lose. Now the bet can be any amount from a dollar to hundreds of dollars. So for example if you had a simple two dollar Nassau, you would adjust the handicap with one player receiving strokes (called pops) or simple play even. If you won the front by two and lost the back by three you would have won one, lost one and then lost the overall by one. So you would owe $2. And it goes up from there depending on the value of the Nassau.
So without mentioning any names, but a friend and I have a standing $2 Nassau twice a week. Strokes are adjusting (with me giving him between 3 to 6 strokes). So thus a whopping $6 dollars twice a week is at stake. While this is a wager among two friends, the intensity and needling is the same as a thousand dollar Nassau! Truth be told he has been the receiver of more of my money, than I of his over the last few months. Now on to the wine……
So this last Friday, I surprised both my friend and frankly myself, and pulled off wining the Nassau. At the course we play, during the winter a 10 am shotgun is the order. We started near our house, so thus we finish near the house. With the win of three ways, which had not happened in months, I was ecstatic with excitement and joy to win the $6. I invited my opponent/friend and his wife to join us for a glass of wine. He is a wine collector and enjoys wines and often has keen insight into the aromas, flavors and understanding the nuances of wine.
So I opened this age worthy 2013 Peter Michael Chardonnay Mon Plaisir which came up on my “To Drink in 2021 List”. It was served with appropriates cheese, crackers and even candied pecans, along with chicken wings with a delicious sauce. The wine which means “pleasure”, is truly that with creaminess and aromas. It is one of the fullest body Chardonnay you can experience. On the eyes golden in color and viscosity of a “milk shake”! On the nose soft and sweet lemon, pear and honeysuckle. On the palate, vanilla and brioche are the two predominant features. On the finish perhaps a little green apple, but oh my long and enticing the finish.
While not discussing any price of the wine nor the quality of such a treat, we all enjoyed the wine and conversed about each other’s “trials and tribulations” over the preceding four hours much to the dismay of the wives. We enjoyed the one hour following the round and went about our merry way.
I sent a quick note to my friend last night with the rating of this wine by Robert Parker of 97 and others of this wine. Also a clip that K & L Wines had this for sale for $130 and JJ Buckley had it for $145. Many fine wine shops in “wine country” show it for up to $190/bottle.
So in the end to answer the question was the Peter Michael worth $6? The answer is yes on many levels. One because it was a great wine to “quietly celebrate” my win, but also because a friend who you needle and cajole with for over eight hours a week in golf, is essentially priceless. And you now have bragging rights until the next match.
The conclusion this morning is that my competitor and good friend, states “you should have opened the screw top wine” plonk that he brought over two nights before that we did not drink…….the needling never ceases, nor would I want it to.
Leisure Street Winery located in Livermore, California participated in the December 2nd, 2020 National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition. The Competition was hosted by California Wines and Wineries at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges (Professional and People’s Choice) in different areas of the facility. Leisure Street Winery Cabernet Franc 2017 won a Silver Medal from the Professional Judges. And from the People’s Choice Judges, they won a Gold Medal. For their first time entering an extremely impressive showing!! Wines were submitted from 14 states and numerous AVA’s from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:
Leisure Street Winery is owned by Rick & Kelly Volpatti and they started in March 2016 in Livermore. Their new tasting room is located at 8953 Tesla Road. Again a small artisan and boutique winery making only 1,500 cases a year but handcrafting each barrel of production. Today besides the Cabernet Franc, they also produce Barbera, a red blend and Zinfandel.
Have never had any wine from Leisure and was looking forward to tasting this wine which did so well at the event. First on the eyes, a light red brick color and bright purple hues with medium viscosity. On the nose this wine announced itself with gusto with a bouquet of aromas. One of the most aromatic Cabernet Franc’s that I can remember! On the palate, it provided all the vigor of a Cabernet Franc – raspberry, cherry, dried herbs, bell pepper and black pepper spice. On the finish it was delicate like a Pinot Noir, long and beckoning you to take another sip. Soft tannins made this an extremely comfortable wine to enjoy. Made from 100% Cabernet Franc from the Clarksburg AVA (south of Sacramento). 75 cases were produced and currently sells for $35 at the winery.
The Food & Wine Pairing
Paired with a BBQ’ed beef filet mignon, country style potatoes, beans and a roasted assortment of vegetables. With any good steak, Cabernet Franc is an excellent choice, but especially Leisure Street for the aromatics. Personally I tend to lean towards a more “chewy Cabernet Franc” but this was especially good with the meal.
Looking forward to tasting this again and other wines at Leisure Street Winery in the near future.
Calla Lily Estate is located in Pope Valley. Pope is just on the other side of Howell Mountain. This is an area under the radar yet some excellent wines come from this area. The Calla Lily Estate rests at 800 foot elevation which is higher than the Napa Valley floor and cooler. The grapes produced on the estate “are smaller, intensely-flavored and finely structured tannins…” according to Cary Gott, winemaker for Calla Lily Estate. Cary Gott is a fourth generation winemaker in California who has cultivated his craft working with more than 20 wineries.
The owners of Calla Lily Estate are Anthony Fung and Andy Chui, two Hong Kong based entrepreneurs who purchased the land in 2013. It was the former Budge Brown Winery.
The calla lily was chosen as the symbol for their project because in China calla lilies are considered the flower of elegance, beauty and purity. The artwork on the label was done by an artist in the Hebei province of China and given to the winery’s owners.
I had never had this wine before last evening and was curious as I have had a few wines from Pope Valley. The Calla Lily symbolically could not have described the wine much better. First this wine is a blend of 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot and 4% Malbec which all comes from the estate vineyards. The barrels used were in 40% new French oak and aged 22 months. Only 1,032 cases were produced and the website shows availability at $65. This is a flat out steal!
The wine characteristics were a deep royal purple in coloring and medium heavy viscosity. The aromas were very pronounced with red and black fruits, a strong bouquet not found in many Cabernet Sauvignons. On the palate is where this wine became a phenomenal success. The first thing that you recognize is raspberry and cherry counterbalanced by sweet pipe tobacco with vanilla and mocha flavors. The finish was mid length and enjoyable until it faded. Now the surprise kicker: while the calla lily represents “elegance, beauty and purity” the expectation of a smooth and mild Cabernet Sauvignon would naturally be in store. Actually it produced (to my liking) strong with edgy tannins, layers and layers of structure which made it a fabulous “chewy Cabernet”. This is definitely a pleasant and surprising wine!!
The Food & Wine Pairing
Paired with a penne pasta and homemade Bolognese sauce simmered for 6 hours. Accompanied with steamed broccoli. The spicy and flavorful sauce using diced pancetta, chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, thyme, Italian seasoned ground pork sausage, ground beef, red wine, bay leaves, tomato puree and other items contrasted and embraced the 2016 Calla Lily Estate Cabernet Sauvignon perfectly. Garnished with fresh Romano cheese. The spicy Italian sausage along with the others flavors and tomato was exactly what was needed with this wine. After dinner, as the wine continued to open up it proved not only to “be deliciously chewy”, it also by itself provided the “elegance and beauty” of a solid Cabernet Sauvignon. This for $65 just made my Best Wines of Year list which comes out in December of each year.
pureCru Wines located in Napa, California participated in the December 2nd, 2020 National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition. The Competition was hosted by California Wines and Wineries at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges (Professional and People’s Choice) in different areas of the facility. pureCru Wines 2014 won a Silver Medal from the Professional Judges and their 2016 won a Gold Medal. And from the People’s Choice Judges, both wines won a Silver Medal. This was their first time entering the competition and they did very well. Wines were submitted from 14 states and numerous AVA’s from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:
Firstly this has been a tasting room set up by the well-known Mitch Cosentino to showcase handcrafted and artisan wines in downtown Napa. They are in the midst of looking for a new site as the building was sold. Mitch began his winemaking career in Modesto producing small lots in 1980. Ten years later he moved his operation to Napa Valley. Today he is producing many award winning wines, both single varietal and blends. Initially focused on fruits from Napa Valley, his gift is to seek out unique sources of fruits. Once found, he is a believer in hands-on winemaking including “old world use of punched cap fermentation, a labor-intensive, hand-crafted method of winemaking”. The Club Cru wine club includes benefits of up to 25% discount and first offers on special small lots, private tastings and other items.
Both wines, the 2014 and 2016 Reserve, at this past weekend tasting were very similar in the tasting profile. On the eyes, a very deep crimson red/black with a deep purple hue on the rim and medium heavy viscosity. The aromas on the nose brought forth black fruits, with hints of spices. Once in the mouth, the lively juice dance about in the mouth highlighting close, pepper, red & black fruits with oak being easily recognized. On the finish, strong tannins along with the abundant structure beckoned the next well balanced sip. One item “missing” was the classic pyrazines (green bell pepper), but 2016 was still the standout wine of the evening! A big chewy wine for sure! Long lasting and needing food to fully enjoy.
Both wines are 100% Cabernet Franc and aged in selected French oak barrels (33% new). The 2014 for 55 months and the 2016 for 40 months. Approximately just less than 200 cases were produce for each of these two years of Cabernet Franc. The 2014 is almost sold out and the 2016 will be released in April and will sell for $75.
The Food and Wine Pairing
For the meal a BBQ’ed Carne Asada flank steak entrée that was marinated 48 hours. It was marinated with fresh cilantro leaves, olive oil, low sodium soy sauce, orange juice, lime juice, minced garlic, six diced Habanero peppers, cumin, kosher salt and course black pepper. While tangy but not too hot, the meat and both wines brought out the best in each other! A perfect marriage. Served with Spanish rice with diced jalapeno peppers and tomatoes. Also a salad and lemon and garlic shrimp a. For dessert a wonderful parfait was prepared.
The 2016 pureCru Cabernet Franc will make the Best Wines of 2021 which comes out at the end of the year!