Month: July 2021

Iron Hub 2018 Chardonnay Reconfirmed As A Winner!!

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The Winery

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

I tasted this Chardonnay one other time since being at the winery. Chardonnay typically does not do well in the warmer climate of Amador County. 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.

Last night pulled this wine our to the cellar to go with the dinner meal. 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 in the past! 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 fresh rainbow trout. It was pan fried with fresh lemon juice, lightly floured, white cooking wine, garlic salt, onions and a few spices. A side of wild long rice accompanied the meal. The “lightness” of the meal paired wonderfully with this exquisite Chardonnay. Having the wine for a second time with a meal reconfirmed my voting it for the Best Wines of 2021!  



2013 LangeTwins Family Winery & Vineyards Teroldego

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Teroldego Grape History

Teroldego is an ancient grape variety that has been grown in Italy for hundreds of years. Teroldego is a deep colored red grape that grows in the northern region of Italy, mostly in Trentino. The wines there are deep ruby in color, almost inky in color, with intense fruit characteristics. Right after bottling the wine is soft and needs very little aging but can be cellared for up to 10 years. Teroldego is known for its spicy red fruits, faint aromas of pine & almond and edgy acid. Aromas of dark cherry and blueberry are present through the finish. 97% of worldwide production comes from Italy and 2% from the United States. The remaining 1% is spread between Australia, Argentina and Brazil and Canada. Of the 629 bearing acres of Teroldego in California, 70% is from Sacramento and San Joaquin counties (per Wine Institute 2018 figures). 97% of the world production comes from Northern Italy from the Trentino-Alto Adige DOC. In California most of the Teroldego comes from Lodi, Sierra Foothills, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbera.

The Wine

This is a wine from their highest quality barrels, comes a handcrafted single barrel wine. This is a limited release of some of their most prized wines. This was from barrel #2 and is bottle #266. This Italian varietal is fruit forward with texture and solid tannins to be a real winner. The grape is a dark skin, it comes out originally soft and with age develops character. Recently discovered to be a relative of the peppery Syrah thru DNA testing. On the eye it is intensely inky dark and almost black looking down into the glass. On the nose & palate, it can be a bit bitter, but paired with a solid piece of beef, it is remarkable. It is complex, spicy and chocolate flavors abound. This is not a stand-alone wine, but one to be consumed with hard cheeses, red meat, red sauces and cured meat.

LangeTwins Winery has undertaken a commitment to bring forth single vineyard production of varietals. One of those varietals being Teroldego. Their Teroldego has some of the traditional flavor profile, but also adds some cranberry and blackberry with some black pepper and cinnamon. Not an everyday wine for all foods, but that is excellent with anything that includes bacon, pork, BBQ’ed chicken or beef.

Today LangeTwins offers the 2017 Teroldego from Jahant Woods 02 Vineyard in the Jahant AVA. Retail is $32.

Food and Wine Pairing

One of our neighbors, Denise LaBrie, prepared this excellent spaghetti sauce and was kind enough to share. It was seriously one of the top five Italian sauces I have enjoyed. The sauce included chopped sausages, fresh tomatoes (skinned, seeds removed, chopped), tomato sauce, tomato paste, red wine (Tempranillo), sugar to balance acidity, yellow onion, celery, shallot, cloves of garlic, dried oregano, basil, bay leaf, rosemary and fresh ground salt and pepper to taste. Sausage could be beef, Italian or chicken.



3rd Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Celebration

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For Immediate Release                                                                                                                              July 20th, 2021    

Copperopolis, CA – The California Wines and Wineries is hosting the Third Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Celebration. This will include wine competition, keynote speeches, wine tasting, a winemakers dinner and much more. Judging will be held at The Golf Club at Copper Valley, in the Grand View Room. It will be held on April 6th and 7th, 2022, celebrating Cabernet Franc as much more than a blending grape!!

This event is open to wineries both within the United States and internationally who produce Cabernet Franc as a single varietal or have a mix with at least 50% Cabernet Franc. So this year there will be two categories. The event will have two different judging tables. The first being Professional Judges, SOMM’s, noted winemakers and WSET members. To further make this an enjoyable and impactful event, a table of consumer wine enthusiasts called The People’s Choice Judges will hold a parallel tasting in a separate area. These will consist of everyday wine enthusiasts providing the people’s choice wine winners. They will be scoring on the varietal characteristics being true to the classical definition to determine an “objective” winner. The event will be a blind tasting with wines open to all AVA’s in the United States. Each group, professional and people’s choice judges, will be using the “Danish System”, sometimes called the “Group Method”. Each wine is measured against standards and not ranked against competitors. Awards will be given for Double Gold, Gold and Silver. They will distinguish and nominate wines in five categories based upon pricing: Cabernet Franc’s less than $30, $31 to $50, $51 to $75, $76 to $100 and $101 and up. The Judges will be awarding the Medals and Best in Class (price category) by both Professional and People’s Choice.  Two Best of Shows will be awarded- one for domestic and one for international as overall winners.

Tom Bender has agreed to lead the “professional judging”. Tom Bender has served as the Sierra Foothills Wine Competition organizer (California) for over 35+ years and is a contributor on food and wine to several foothill and valley magazines and newspapers. Tom also serves as a judge at the California State Fair Wine Competition. We have two well-known winemakers one from Napa and one from Lodi, a WSET III & PhD and more being added.

This will be a two day event with public participation, wine tasting and food pairings. Currently, we are limiting the food and wine tasting event to 150. A winemaker’s dinner will be limited to the first 125 to sign up. Details and costs will be announced in January 2022.

The recently remodeled Clubhouse at Copper Valley, in Copperopolis will be an exquisite venue to hold this event. The new hotel in the Copper Valley Square the Gateway has provided special pricing for Wednesday and Thursday evening. You can view the venue at:   and you can call at 209-785-2500 for reservations.  The Bungalows at Copper Valley are also available and can be booked by calling 209-785-7415 or emailing . You get an overview of the area at: . For a complete listing of activities in the area see: .

Winery registration can be found at clicking on Cabernet Franc Celebration Winery Registration towards the top of the page. Public registration for wine tasting or winemakers dinner registration will be available in January. Any questions and further details can be directed to Michael Kelly at or (408) 605-1292.


Michael Kelly

Crystal Wine Glasses verses Glass Wine Glasses – A Reality Check

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To start of the discussion, crystal is a sub-category of glass. They are often made in the same manner but with differing materials. Glassware are made with a variety of minerals/materials, for example: silica, soda-ash, soda-lime, potash, zine, lead, barium and titanium.

In 1969, the European Union established criteria for crystal and is still used. Crystal must met the following three criteria:

  1. Lead content in excess of 24%
  2. Density in excess of 2.90
  3. A reflective index of 1.545 (more on this a bit later)

Outside of the European Union, this definition is widely ignored which adds to the complexity of knowing the differences.

The key differences can be summarized by this understanding of the two products.

Glass key traits:

  • Generally made thicker for endurance and “less breakable”. Used in commercial settings or everyday use.
  • Glass is dishwasher safe and non-porous. Again in commercial settings or everyday use.
  • Thicker on the rim and stem. Again for durability but has some drawbacks for “exquisite wine tasting”.
  • More affordable than crystal due to materials and intricate designs.

Crystal key traits:

  • Rim is extremely thin while maintaining strength. This is due to augmenting materials like lead, magnesium, zinc, etc.
  • Crystal is porous and as such should always be hand washed.
  • Crystal refracts light and provides a more translucent coloring which allows the wine to be seen more naturally and without any hues from glassware.
  • Outside of the European Union, you can get both lead and lead-free crystal options. As a FYI, in the course of drinking wine, no leaching of the lead from crystal goes into the wine!
  • Crystal is typically more expensive and more “delicate” than glass.

In researching I have narrowed it down to two key differences between crystal and glass stemware for consideration. First is the clarity or brilliance of crystal verses glass. Crystal has a much higher refractive index, 1.52 or higher than glass of 1.46 or lower. For a common comparison a cut diamond has an index of 2.42. This scale, refractive index determines the clarity of any clear material by its ability to transmit light through it or deflect light traveling at it, at the speed of light. So if clarity is a key decision in your wine drinking, the clarity of crystal is your target. Personally I prefer the coloration especially when it comes to Chardonnay’s, Sauvignon Blanc’s, Pinot Noir’s and many others. Slight color changes can be easily seen.

The second key difference is the thickness of the rim lip. While this may sound perhaps trite, it does make a big difference. On thicker glass stemware, one tends to gulp rather than sip the wine. By almost eliminate the edge of the lip of the glass (due to its strength), is allows the wine to be sipped without the tongue and lip being set up to do battle.

Of course other considerations play a part in your choosing as discussed previously like cost, cleaning method and durability for your situation. Now the size/shape of stemware, be it crystal or glass, is a whole other story!  Riedel has spent 100’s of years addressing that issue and would refer you them for a detailed understanding.

No matter your choice, enjoy your wine!



2nd Annual Ride to Wine via Golf Carts, Wines of the World

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Another tough Saturday evening with the Wine Society here at Copper Valley. It was a world wine tour via golf carts to four countries with wine and heavy appetizers/hors d’oeuvres specific to that country. Four houses were used. All groups of eight started in France and travelled around the world in 20 minute increments in the order of icons above.

In France where two French Champagnes were enjoyed – Taittinger & Joseph Perrier.

Next stop was wine from USA, specifically Lodi, California. Wines served were two of Jessie’s Grove Winery, a 2018 Alicante Bouschet and a 2017 Westwind Zinfandel.

Third stop was Spain with two Spanish wines 2017 Tempranillo/Grenacha and a 2019 Monastrell and some of the best pictures!!

The last stop, which we hosted along with Heaton’s, was Italy. Wines served were LaMarca Prosecco, 2015 DEI Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano and a 2018 Cantine Colosi Nero D’ Avola. Special thanks to Tom Bender at O’Brien’s Market wine department.

In total 48 tourists got their passports stamped and 12 volunteer tour guides were involved for a robust and fun event. The tourists voted for their best wines with the following results:

1st Place: 2018 Alicante Bouschet, Jesse’s Grove Winery

2nd Place (tie): 2017 Tempranillo/Grenacha, Monticello and 2015 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Dei

3rd Place (tie): NV Champagne Brut La Francoise, Taittinger and 2017 Zinfandel, Jesse’s Grove

Great photography work by David Ray & Brynne DesMarteau-Ray .

2018 Wood Family Vineyards “Against The Grain” – Making Great Bourbon Barrel Aged Wine!

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The History of Using Bourbon Barrels For Wine

In the early 1980’s, American oak barrels where expensive for many start up wineries. By law bourbon barrels have to be 100% American oak and can only be used one time to distill bourbon in the United States. So after their use, many barrels became available for “other distilled spirits” and wineries to purchase at a fraction of the price of new French or new American oak barrels.  So why doesn’t everyone purchase used bourbon barrels? Key is that whiskey barrels are produced differently than wine barrels. Whiskey barrels are charred on the inside verses wine barrels which are toasted. By only toasting wine barrels, the wine while aging develops many nuances of flavor. Bourbon barrel aged wines tend to be bold with ripe reds, vanilla, smoky and with muted tannins.

The use of bourbon barrel aging has taken off more recently with wineries using these barrels. Some view it as a trend to attract Millennials who buy whiskies. Others view it as a cross over from spirits to wine and yet the resulting wine is unique, smooth and provides an enjoyable sipping experience.  The spirits barrel aged category of wine earned $91 million in 2018 compared to $800,000 in 2015. This market is exploding due to the flavor profile not just with Millennials but with wine aficionados looking to enhance their experience.

Wood Family Vineyards 2018 Against the Grain

Last evening reached for a 2018 release of “Against The Grain” that uses the following blends: 28% Merlot, 28% Syrah, 14% Mourvèdre, 9% Petite Sirah, 7% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and 7% Cabernet Franc. Each year it is a different blend. All the components of the blend are aged in traditional wine barrels (30% new and mostly French oak) before blending and transferring to the bourbon barrels. The first year production was 2016 with 43 cases produced, 2017 it increased to 88 cases and the 2018 vintage, 138 cases were produced. This year Rhonda Wood purchased 6 “new/ 1 time used” bourbon barrels to infuse her wine! This vintage was aged nine weeks in bourbon barrels.

The wine on the eyes was a cavernous purple coloration with medium heavy viscosity.  On the nose, the flavors of Syrah like blueberry, mocha and roasted coffee came to mind. The first sip on the palate detonating the senses with a smooth bourbon along with some jammy, cinnamon, smoke and dark berry characteristics of the actual wine blend. The finish was equally pronounced with smoothness, smoke and a hint of bourbon on the back of the throat. The tannins were unnoticeable but layers of flavor and structure were present due to the wines used and the bourbon barrels. This year’s wine comes in at 15.8% alcohol.


I had purchased the previous releases and always pleased to have a few bottles in the cellar. It is really a wine to be consumed. Rhonda states on the back of the bottle “let this bold wine, with unique bourbon influences of vanilla, caramel and smoke, remind us to step outside of the box, go against the grain and have a little fun in this life of ours”. Truer words could not sum up this wine experience better!



One Acre 2017 Zinfandel – A Perfect Complement To A Warm Summer Evening

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The Winery

“One Acre, One Guy, One Wine” slogan is the quintessential meaning behind their wines and success. It started in 2002 with Dave Becker, who founded the One Acre label with just one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon planted at his family home in the Oak Knoll region of the Napa Valley. The success of One Acre led to the launch of Acre Wines, a portfolio of classic wines from sustainably farmed, family-owned estate vineyards in Napa Valley.

Industry veterans, Mike and Talley Henry purchased the winery in 2017. Together, with well-known consulting winemaker Richard Bruno, they continue to carry on the One Acre and Acre Wines legacy that Dave created nearly two decades ago. Today, the One Acre portfolio includes an Oak Knoll Cabernet sourced from Dave’s original one acre vineyard, and a Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon, planted on one acre with identical clones, varietal, spacing and row orientation as the Oak Knoll Cabernet to be able to understand and appreciate the differences of “terroir”. The highly acclaimed Acre portfolio includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc sourced from family-owned vineyards within the stellar AVA’s of Oakville, Yountville, Calistoga, and Stags Leap.

The Wine

The 2017 Acre Zinfandel was a deep purple and ruby red coloring on the eyes. The aromas of red and black fruit engulfed the olfactory senses. On the palate, one juicy Zinfandel opened up with raspberry, blackberry and most pronounced blueberry tastes. Secondary notes of vanilla and cinnamon were present. This was no Amador “fruit bomb” Zinfandel, but rather a well-balanced fruit wine with restrained tannins and acidity providing a delightful “mouthful experience”. The finish was “juicy and long lasting” with a tinge of earthiness and herbal qualities which made for such an enjoyable wine. A beautifully balance semi-dry Zinfandel with sufficient fruit. The grapes came from two separate vineyards and is 90% Zinfandel with 10% Syrah grapes. The wine was aged 15 months using both American and European barrels, with 70% being new. The wine alcohol percentage is 14.9%. It also won Best in Class for Zinfandel at the American Fine Wine Competition in 2020 (right before the shutdown) with 94 points One Acre website shows this selling for $29.

This was a beautiful standalone wine while enjoy the warm summer evening on the patio deck.



Twisted Oak Winery – 2016 River of Skulls (Mourvèdre)

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The Winery

I recently wrote a complete article on the winery, the history and iconic owner, Jeff Stai. The article can be found at: . One of the sidebars is that the winery is located in Calaveras County, part of the Sierra Foothills AVA. Calaveras County got its name from the Calaveras River which meanders through the county. It was name Rio de los Calaveras (River of Skulls) by members of the 1806 Spanish lead Gabriel Moraga expedition who discovered the skulls of Native Americans along it banks. It is believed they had died of famine or been killed in tribal conflicts over hunting and fishing.  This was near New Hogan Dam.

(from Calaveras County site)

Today Calaveras County is home of car shows/parades, film festival, music festival, annual grape stomp, Big Trees State Park, Blues festival, 4 championship golf courses, 35+ wineries, 25+ wineries to stroll along Main Street in Murphys, snowmobiling and downhill skiing in the winter, cavern exploration and five recreational lakes (Camache, Tulloch, Alpine, New Hogan and New Melones to name but just a few of the activities and sites to see in the County. For a complete listing visit: .

The 2016 River of Skulls Mourvèdre

Firstly what is Mourvèdre? Mourvèdre (aka Monastrell) can range from a medium to full body and often has medium to strong tannins with a rustic finish. It is a major wine in Spain. Rumor has it that the seafaring Phoenicians brought it over as early as 500 B.C. Mourvèdre is used in blending such as a GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) and a blending grape in popular wines such as Châteauneuf du Pape. It’s one of the major grapes of the Rhône, along with Grenache and Syrah.  Some of the key traits of the wine are on the eyes a medium dark to a very dark coloring. On the nose, fruits of Blueberry, Blackberry and luscious Plum. Other secondary traits of black pepper, violet, smoke and gravel can sometimes be found. This wine is 100% Mourvèdre and comes from Dalton Vineyards, Angels Camp in Calaveras County. It is a thick skinned and enjoys both the heat and drought conditions.

This wine had some great characteristics of a “Spanish” Mourvèdre with dark coloring, strong tannins, smokiness, black pepper yet more than sufficient fruit on the nose and palate of blackberries and blueberries. On the finish a gravel / rocky intertwined with the fruit provide a long and enjoyable finish. This lists for $49 at the winery.

Food and Wine Pairing

Last Friday, not knowing what the specials would be, took a chance on a “meat dish” to enjoy with this wine at Vine18. Unfortunately, no meat dishes hit our fancy, so went with two interesting appetizers. While at first thinking the wine would not be suited, it turns out it was very pleasant even with our alternative meal. First up was a shrimp tempura with battered shrimp with a Thai Chili sauce with rice puffs.

Second up was a New Orleans Crab Cakes, with Blue claw meat, breaded in panko and served with a lemon caper aioli. Perhaps not my first choice in a food/wine pairing but the food was delicious as was the wine. I can’t wait to try it with another “meatier” dish at Vine18 or home with a Carne Asada steak!



2014 Blackbird Vineyards Contrarian

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This wine has always been a favorite with the percentages of grape varietals changing yearly under the watchful eye of their winemaking team lead by Aaron Potts. Blackbird Vineyards prides their care of the vineyards from vines to bottle with every detail measured and weighed to produce an excellent Right Bank wine style to be enjoyed.  Just some of the details of their processes:

* Premium vineyard management – Renteria Vineyard Management for precise agricultural development.

* Sustainable farming – Blackbird Vineyards seldom uses commercial pesticides, herbicides or artificial fertilizers. All organic materials from farming and harvest are returned and put back into the soils as compost. The vineyard has a permanent cover crop of native grasses, flowers and legumes planted as ground cover between the rows of vines.

* Rigorous grape selection – in some cases, Blackbird Vineyards winemaking team will double or triple sort their fruit for top and exclusive quality.

* Indigenous yeasts – this means Blackbird wines are made with less interventionist techniques since the vineyard’s native yeast starts the fermentation process naturally.

* The list goes on with blending process, detailed barrel selections, toasting requirements, etc.

Tasting can be arranged at RiverHouse, their downtown Napa hospitality facility.

Pulled out of the cellar last night a 2014 Blackbird Vineyards Contrarian, a red blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc and 13% Merlot. Immediately the dark ruby and purple coloration and heavy viscosity resonated on my eyes. The nose was an aromatic mixture of intense black and red fruit with blackberry leading the charge. On the palate, mocha and vanilla with hint of “pencil shavings” gently coated the mouth. The finish was smooth with soft velvety tannins and structure which endured a long time. The retail price is currently listed as $180. Today the 2017 is available at $135 from the winery and its ability to age will only make this wine better! Wine rating is 95 points.

Paired last evening with a filet mignon, seared on the BBQ to a beautiful medium rare presentation.

Truly one of the “keeper bottles” for any wine cellar.



St. Rose Winery 2014 Pinot Noir – A Small Winery With A Big Wine

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Went to the cellar to find a wine to take to dinner at a friend’s house. Found a gem from about four years ago! St Rose Vineyards and Winery is unique in many ways, from being the smallest bonded winery in Sonoma Valley to having two of the more talented & personable owners. Yet being as small as they are, they received 93 points from Wine Enthusiast for their 2014 Pinot Noir. Most of their grapes are sold to wineries with the designated Nunes Vineyard being noted. For a complete story on Fred & Wendy Nunes and their meandering journey into the wine business see a previously published story at:

This 2014 Ten Block Pinot Noir on the eyes is a deep violet and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, violets, Rose petals red berries, strawberries and cherry. On the palate, vanilla, nutmeg, strawberry abound with baking spices and a tinge of French oak. The finish is excellent producing a smooth, textual and long lasting experience. Only 51 cases produced! Last night paired with a pork loin roast with fresh garden salad and mashed potatoes. With only a bottle remaining in the cellar, I will be ordering more as this is an elegantly refined, complex and quintessential Pinot Noir.