Month: June 2021
Last week enjoyed two Cabernet Franc’s from 6th generation winemaker, Steven Kent Mirassou. The first wine was the 2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc. I previously wrote a story on his two single vineyard Cabernet Franc’s. One being the Ghielmetti Vineyard and the other Sachau Vineyard. You can read the previous story at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/04/15/lautre-cote-cabernet-franc-a-tale-of-two-vineyards-ghielmetti-and-sachau-vineyards/ . In that story it is outlined why Livermore Valley is ideally suited to grow Cabernet Franc. Thus Steven introduced a new label L’Autre Côte Wines with a focus on single vineyard production. This wine comes in a two pack for $98/per bottle. From that tasting with friends, the winner was Sachau Vineyards by a “nose”. Both wines received an “A” for quality.
What I tasted last week was his 2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc which is a blend of both vineyards with 67% Ghielmetti Vineyard and 33% Sachau Vineyard both in Livermore Valley. This Cabernet Franc will be taking over from his previous vintages of Cabernet Franc Small Lot series. The good news is that this wine sells for $45/per bottle! While not showcasing each vineyards merits it does provide a solid glimpse into the flavors, structure and finish of an eloquent wine.
The other wine was Steven Kent Winery 2016 Small Lot Cabernet Franc. This wine was aged in 20% new French oak barrels for 18-20 months with only 3 barrels being produced. On the eyes a beautiful crimson and royal purple coloring. With only a light touch of oak, Steven allowed the pyrazines to show through (herbal aromatics qualities) and allowing the interplay between red and dark fruits to shine on the palate and finish. Combining two vineyards, he was able to also extract different fruit and levels of acidity, to blend to a desirable level. A lot of thought and effort went into this vintage. On the eyes, a purple and red brick hue with a vivid clarity. On the nose, blackberry, blueberry, fig and prunes were present along with floral notes of violets. On the palate, the key herbal quality of bell peppers and herbal qualities were interlaced with the sweetness of vanilla and caramel. Additionally, minerality and soft leather came through in the finish. A complete story can be found at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/06/18/2016-steven-kent-cabernet-franc-a-mistaken-identity-by-me/ .
The lucky consumer now has three excellent Cabernet Franc’s to choose from the L’Autre Côte portfolio going forward!
We played golf at Sequoia Woods Country Club today with another couple. A beautiful course set in a spectacular redwood forest near California State Park Big Trees. Picture of a tight uphill par 4 on the back nine!
Afterwards, came home to an Asian theme dinner that was beautifully cooked by Susan Kelly. It started out with our guests bringing a shrimp appetizer cooked in garlic, Portuguese chili, parsley, butter and olive oil.
The entrées consisted of sautéed chicken, simmered with sweet chili sauce which was delicious as none was left over! The next entrée was fried rice with carrots, onions and shrimp with soy sauce as needed. The final entrée was tempura shrimp with a dipping sauce of sweet chili. Asparagus was the vegetable of the evening sautéed in garlic.
See’s assorted candies was the perfect dessert brought by the guests.
Now what wine to serve with this meal? While many choices could be had, we started out with a 2018 Maritana La Riviere from the Russian River, Sonoma County by Donald Patz. This was a creamy and lush mouth filling Chardonnay. It was a refined and delicate Chardonnay with 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. (Read a previous story on this wine at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/03/24/2018-maritana-chardonnay-la-riviere/ )
Also on tap was a 2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling from Napa Valley, extremely aromatic with floral notes and green apple on the nose. A light yellow straw color and medium viscosity. On the palate, strong lime and citrus. (Read the full story at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/01/28/2016-smith-madrone-vineyards-riesling-and-firecracker-chicken/ ).
A couple wanted some red wine and the first one tasted was the 2015 Tobin James Lagrein Silver Reserve from Paso Robles. This wine provided an “old world” flavor with leather, spicy pepper and dried fruits. (Read the full story at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/02/01/two-special-wines-and-a-great-meal-oshaughnessy-cabernet-sauvignon-tobin-james-lagrein/ ).
The next red wine selected for dinner was a 2016 Pasanau Ceps Nous from Spain with a Grenacha base of 77%. The wine produces a strong and concentrated fruit, with aromas of licorice and brandied cherries. They have “rounded” it out with Merlot (16%) and Syrah (7%) for structure and a beautiful taste profile. On the eyes it has a dark red ruby color with a medium heavy body. The aromas and tastes are complex and layered with blackberries, chocolate, tobacco and vanilla. (Read the full story at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/01/21/2016-pasanau-ceps-nous-intense-wine/ ).
And the last wine of the evening to be enjoyed with various chocolate treats was an extremely enjoyable 2014 Arkenstone NVD Cabernet Sauvignon from Howell Mountain (Napa Valley). Intense purple coloring, the aroma of black cherry burst into the nose. Black cherry, chocolate, blueberries and red cherries in the palate. (Read the story at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/01/18/arkenstone/ )
Now with so many of excellently prepared foods, which wine would you suggest to pair?
The informal “Friday Night Wine & Dine” dinner was held on Tuesday night. Several folks were traveling, so a small group of seven met at one of the homes. Each person brought a dish, a bottle of wine and the host couple provided the main entrées and a few others. Such a wonderful meal mid-week it was amazing!
The evening started with appetizers of smoked salmon, cream cheese with capers and purple onion on sliced French bread Baggett. Gouda, Portuguese cheese and crackers were also served. And lots of wine was served on the deck overlooking the golf course.
For the entrée, several dishes were served: baked octopus, cod fish with potatoes, BBQ filet steaks and butter, garlic and red pepper shrimp. Sides included roasted garlic asparagus with mushrooms, a beautiful garden salad with Cara oranges, feta and dried cranberries, two different types of sweet potatoes (purple and yellow) and French fried potatoes. A few other sides but I honestly can’t remember.
Again this was for only seven people!!!
The wines were wonderful with 2019 Wood Family Chardonnay (Livermore Valley), 2017 Neyers Chardonnay (Sonoma Valley), 2018 Lavender Ridge Roussanne (Sierra Foothills), 2013 Leal Vineyards Franc Five blend (San Benito County) and a few others.
Our host did a phenomenal job preparing so many foods and the other couples brought delightful side dishes to share. All the wines were exquisite and paired with many of the foods.
I can hardly wait for Friday!!!
At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held December 2nd, 2020, Jeff Runquist Wines earned a Bronze Medal Award from the Professional Judges and a Silver Medal from the People’s Choice Judges. This was for their 2019 Cabernet Franc from Clarksburg, California. You can read more about the event at:
The winemaker/owner can be called a man of “many vineyards”. Jeff’s career history is via Paul Masson Sherry Cellars (Madera) as an intern while studying enology at UC Davis. Upon graduating, he worked at Montevia (Amador) and was subsequently promoted to winemaker in 1982. He then spent 3 years at the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery, followed by J. Lohr winery in San Jose. Then in 1996-1997 made wine at Sycamore Creek Winery (Morgan Hill) followed by 12 years at McManis Family Vineyard (Ripon). With this history, Jeff and his wife Margie, opened their winery in 2011, Jeff Runquist Wines in Amador.
During his sojourn, Jeff understood the “terroir” of each vineyard and decided to arrange contracts with no less than six vineyards from the Sierra Foothills, three from the Napa Valley, and two from Paso Robles. And now one in Clarksburg! With this diversity in vineyards he has been able to produce a portfolio of a wide range of wines, which provides Jeff a challenge with each varietal. The offerings are numerous but highlighted by Tempranillo, Cabernet Franc, Barbera, Petit Verdot, Zinfandel “Z”, etc. He has conquered all them as evidenced by 28 Gold Medals and 80 Silver Medals in 2012 alone! And his awards have continued steadily to present.
On the eyes, a unique purple / maroon coloring (the picture does do justice to this beautiful coloring) and with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose a combination of cherries, raspberries and fresh cut oak trees waft into the senses. On the palate, spices, black cherries, soft vanilla scented pipe tobacco and young leather develop and surround the mouth to provide an all-encompassing sipping experience. The finish is long with just enough angular tannins and pyrazines (green bell peppers) and peppercorns to enough. This turns out to be one of my favorite Cabernet Franc’s for unique color, smoothness and of course taste.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Paired with a Chaka marinated seared tri-tip steak BBQ’ed to medium rare. Accompanied with roasted brussel sprouts with a balsamic glaze and a fresh garden salad.
The winery was founded by Tom Jones (and family) from Lava Cap Winery fame in the Apple Hill area near Placerville. Tom completed his Master Degree in Viticulture & Enology from UC Davis, and for almost 30 years developed award-winning wines. His new endeavor in 2014 was purchasing a 33 acre property that had been known as Amador Foothill Winery. Having control of the grapes from vineyard to bottle was key in his quest for quality control.
The name came about from Tom’s mountain sojourns in the area. On an adventure he discovered an antique, hand-forged wagon wheel hub in a remote area. So thus this small winery on Steiner Road drew a parallel with his goal of making small lot artisan wines similar to the craftsmanship of the found “iron hub”. The beautiful new tasting room was opened in December 2017.
The 2018 Small Lot Chardonnay
The previous time I tasted this Chardonnay was at the winery. Chardonnay typically does not do well in the warmer climate of Amador County, so I was intrigued and anxious to taste it. It was explained that the vineyard for this wine is in Amador County but located at a much higher elevation called Spanish Creek vineyard in the Sierras. The cooler climate is ideal for producing exquisite Chardonnay grapes.
The small lot 2018 Chardonnay on the eyes was a golden straw color with medium viscosity. The first aromas on the nose, was like a lightning strike! Fruits of apple, apricot and pear shouted out their presence in the glass. On the first sip a creamy textual wine with previous mentioned fruits came together like a well-orchestrated symphony. Added to the mix was vanilla which was just slightly present on nose and became infused in the glass with gentle oak overtones. The finish was long, poised and glamorous like a royal family event. This review was done while tasting at the winery and still was stop on at home! 285 cases were produced and spent 13 months in the barrel. It sells for $32 a bottle. Immediately, this wine made my list of Best Wines Tasted in 2021!
The Food and Wine Pairing
The Chardonnay was paired with a lemon garlic shrimp pasta dish. It consisted of fettucine, shrimp, olive oil, unsalted butter, garlic cloves, dried oregano, spinach, crushed red pepper, chopped parsley and lemon juice. Topped off with Parmesan shredded cheese. Additionally a fresh garden salad with Blue cheese dressing was served. The “lightness” of the meal paired wonderfully with this exquisite Chardonnay. Having the wine at home with a meal reconfirmed my voting it for the Best Wines of 2021! I now need to head back to pick more up!
Went into the cellar and pulled two relatively scarce and lovely wines this week for a compare and contrast tasting experience.
The first wine was 2011 O’Shaughnessy 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from the west side of the Napa Valley, Mount Veeder. On the eyes, a dark ruby coloring with medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, a woody but sweet briarwood, with blackberry and black cherry fruits wafting into the nose. On the palate, extremely concentrated fruits, licorice, plum and black cherry exploded in the mouth with a background of sweet tobacco smoke and leather. The finish had some strong tannins, but without any “edginess” which provided for a long velvety crescendo. Rated at 94 points by Vinous. This wine could go another 3-5 years! I believe the cost was approximately $100 to $120 originally back in 2013.
See a previous story on O’Shaughnessy wines at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/04/18/virtual-wine-tasting-continued-the-right-glassware-for-a-near-perfect-wine-2010-lineage-wine-livermore-california/
2011 Lineage from Livermore California, out of the Lineage Collection by Steven Kent Mirassou. A dark deep brick red on the color and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, black fruits and a soft roasted coffee are predominant. On the palate, the black fruits (blackberry & dark cherry) and exotic oak with spices are dancing rapidly with joy! The finish provides violets, semi-sweet mocha in the throat. Structure and tannins are prevalent but not overwhelming, just a silky smooth drink to be enjoyed. It is a blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec. Originally this retailed for $135 and his current release which scored 100 points sells for $175.
See a previous story on Lineage Collection at:
These two wonderful treats came up on the “To Drink List for 2021” and I was very pleased and was aptly rewarded for waiting!
While taking the physical inventory of the cellar this week and then correlating it with the computer, I happened upon a “missing child” in the cellar. It was a 2010 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. For over 50 years, this has been the hallmark signature of the winery, as well as Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, and I was ecstatic to find this bottle. Robert Parker rates this at 95 points and the Tasting Panel gives it 99 points.
This wine is a blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. On the eyes is a deep royal purple color and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, blackberries and violets spring forth with a trumpet reception knowing something special is about to take place. On the palate, dark berries coupled with dark chocolate lava cake are the most prominent descriptors. Secondary tastes range from vanilla and Rutherford dust or minerality. The structure and tannins are strong and bold but at the same time tame enough to be considered round and not overly intrusive. The finish was long and so enjoyable. The current release is the 2017 and it sells for $173.
As a footnote, Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve has always been a “go to wine” for me. It was the first case of wine I purchased in 1978 (it was a 1974 Reserve). The reason this wine is so special and a memorable “ah-ha moment” was that Robert Mondavi sold me the wine. I still have one bottle of the 1974 Reserve in the cellar to remember that day. It figures into one of my “special wines” not to be opened but cherished for meeting one of the icons and pioneers of Napa Valley.
Pulled out a Wood Family Vineyards Grenache last night to have with a spicy dinner. This wine was a perfect complement to the meal. First on the eyes it was extremely light in a color almost translucent. So the immediate thought was this was going to be a light or wimpy Grenache. In fact it was far from that! On the nose, floral aromas of cherries. On the palate, obviously sweet ripe cherry and a secondary flavor of savory vanilla (not overly sweet) provided an intriguing allure of this classic grape. Soft tannins and mild acidity provided a long finish. This was aged in new oak for 10 months in a combination of new French oak, 1 year old French oak and 2 year old French oak. The alcohol level is 14.9 percent. It currently lists for $32.
Food and Wine Pairing
It was paired with a bowtie pasta dish with sliced smoked chicken sausage with habanero and green chili. The dish was prepared using garlic, white wine, small amount of chicken broth, sliced white onion, sweet multi-colored bell peppers and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Lightly sautéed broccoli was added and topped off with a combination of Parmesan, Romano and Asiago shaved cheeses. The warmth of the meal was complimented with the fruit of the Grenache for a wonderful meal.