Month: January 2022

2012 La Quercia Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOCG

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Two nights in a row last week, pulled a non-California wine out of the cellar. Today’s wine is especially interesting, and I want to clear up a misconception. Montepulciano are two entirely different wines. Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo is a totally unique and wonderful wine from the Abruzzo region in east-central Italy and not to be confused with the Montepulciano which is mainly Sangiovese grapes from Tuscany. Colline Teramane became a DOCG region (denomianazione di Origine Contraollata Garantita) in 2003. Essential by being a DOCG vs DOC, they must follow stricter guidelines in producing their wine. Only four provinces can produce this wine. The wine must be 90% Montepulciano with only 10% being Sangiovese grapes. Wines from this area overlooking the Adriatic Sea have ample sunlight, fog and ocean breezes to produce some highly developed and well-structured wines.

This wine is deeply colored inky red/purple with pepper spices notes. Often it is called “rustic”. In general, it is “aromatic, tannic and with low acidity”. Key flavors of earthiness, blackberries and prevalent. Often it possesses sweeter tannins and is appropriately paired with hot & spicy peppers and pork dishes. Its ability to age in the cellar is up to 20 years and the price point can range from $8 to $200+. A delightful treat which is often overlooked and confused with the lighter Montepulciano from Tuscany. As the winemaker Antonio Lamona states “I want to make wines that are pleasing to the body and the spirit”. For the typical California wine drinker, you will be pleased if you get a nice bottle of Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. This Riserva is aged two years in oak barrels creating spice and aromas with dark fruits and briarwood flavors.  Always a favorite wine! Price per bottle was $35/bottle.

Next article will be back to California wines!!



I purchased this wine at The Wine Steward

2014 Vatan Tinta De Toro, A Long History

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Wines from Toro, located in Northwest Spain and their noted Tempranillo wines, are especially known for coloration and boldness. The literally translation is “dark bull” – meaning this Tempranillo is not for the faint of heart! The Tinta de Toro Spanish grape dates back to the 2nd century B.C. It was the drink chosen for Christopher Columbus’ trip to India when he discovered America. A fun fact is that so much wine was stored for the voyage, one of the ships was name “La Pinta” (pint) because the cellars of ship were full of this dark beautiful wine.

The name Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word temprano (meaning early), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most other Spanish red grapes. That said most Tempranillo’s exhibit a big blackberry, leathery and a slight smoky aroma – an earthiness character.

Enjoy this wine last night for something “different” from the cellar. For the 2014 Vatan Tinta de Toro, a large portion of the grapes come from a vineyard planted in 1943 with some coming from their renown 1910 vineyard. After fermentation the wine is aged in new French oak barrels for 22 months. What comes out on the other side is a mouthful of wonderment! The 2014 vintage also came out at 15.5% alcohol adding to the robustness of this vintage.

Antonio Galloni stated it best in his review stating it is a “Dark purple. Fresh black and blue fruits, pipe tobacco and candied violet on the highly perfumed, smoke-accented nose. Fleshy, seamless and broad in the mouth, offering intense blueberry and cherry-vanilla flavors and an exotic touch of Indian spices. The spicy quality carries strongly through the finish, which clings with excellent tenacity and smooth, building tannins.”

photo credit of almost black Tempranillo grapes on the vine in Toro, Spain by Fabio Ingrosso.

Most California Tempranillo’s do not come close to this intensity. So if you are looking for a “different big red” without the stark tannins, pick up a bottle of Tinta de Toro for a big, bold, exotic yet integrated wine.



I purchased this wine at The Wine Steward.

2021 Wood Family Vineyards “Groovy Wagon” Pét-Nat

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Wood Family Vineyards just introduced their new wine called 2021 “Groovy Wagon”. It is a Pétillant Naturel, or Pét-Nat for short, style using 100% Grenache grapes. First a quick tutorial on pet nat. Pét-Nat is a not a new method of making a “bubbling wine” as it dates back to the pre-Champagne era. The process in making Pét-Nat is called méthode ancestral. The wine is bottled prior to fully completing its first fermentation. This allows carbon dioxide to develop by the natural sugars in the grapes. Méthode champenoise requires a secondary fermentation of yeast and sugar. Champagne must be disgorged. Pét-Nat may or may not be filtered on completion of fermentation. The bottle is cloudy due to the remaining lees present and no filtration.  This produces a more rustic and lively wine reflecting the terroirs of the grapes. Wood Family Vineyards Pét-Nat provides the basic Grenache profiles, but with effervescence and brightness of the fruit.  A beautiful peach color on the eyes and has a slight tartness on the palate of green apple and grapefruit, along with more typical Grenache fruit traits.  A wonderful patio pounder on a warm afternoon or evening.  Only 30 cases produced and it is an exclusive for their Club Members. This wine sells for $30 minus wine club discount.

Key hints for serving Pét-Nat:

  1. Serve it very cold
  2. Have your glasses ready to go as up to a quarter of the bottle may froth over. Best to let the beginning sentiment (dead yeast) come out then catch some of the clearer “foam” with the glasses. Then pour the remaining wine.
  3. Best to open over a sink or some kind of containment (large pot).

Who knows with an impending Champagne shortage on the horizon due to global warm, supply chain, government directives, etc., (read:,1TNVH,7D4YXZ,6BH74,1) Pét-Nat may be your more convenient chose of bubbles in the future???



For more background information on Wood Family Vineyard click on:

2012 Realm Cellars, The Bard

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The Winery

Realm Cellars a small boutique winery seems to purposely be under the radar as a cult wine in Napa Valley. The have a small vineyard but generally gather their grapes from some of the more prestigious vineyards in the valley. Those include Beckstoffer To Kalon, Blair, Houyi, Larkmead, Farella and others. The two owners are Scott Becker and Benoit Touquette. Benoit is the winemaker with an excellent pedigree making about 4,000 cases a year. Some of his wines have scores of 100 points like the 2013 The Bard and most are between 96 and 100 points! The 2013 currently shows a price of $484.  Currently it takes 1-2 years just to get on their mailing list.

They have two series with the first being blends called The Bard, The Tempest, The Falstaff and the Absurd. Obviously, all with a respective nod to William Shakespeare, highlighting the phrase on The Bard referencing their desire to make excellent wines from the Napa Valley.  From King Richard the line is “this blessed plot, this earth, this realm”. Their second series is the single vineyard labels designated by vineyard plot names.

The Wine, 2012 Realm, The Bard

Pulled this from the cellar for a dinner party at a very good friend’s home, I had yet to taste the wine. Knowing that it received 99 points from Parker and 100 points from Dunnuck obviously intrigued my interest. It had been resting comfortably in the cellar for many years without having been tasted before purchase, but on a good friend’s recommendation. The wine is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot and the grapes came from To Kalon, Dr. Crane, Fortuna and Weitz vineyards.

On the eyes a lush deep crimson/purple hue with heavy viscosity. On the nose lavender and violets are predominant. Where the wine shines is on the palate with a complexity of flavors chocolate, licorice, expresso, plums and blackberry. On the finish a light cedar and oak mixed with sweet vanilla pipe tobacco provides an exquisite and lasting finish. Today, the average price for this wine runs about $295, but with some keen sleuthing, a lower price may be found.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired with a prime rib cooked medium, potato, broccoli and a fresh garden salad the meal and wine were simply heavenly. I can’t wait until summer to experience at least one more bottle with a BBQ ribeye steak or tri-tip.

Perhaps the line that should be quoted from Richard is “the ripest fruit first falls” (Act 2, Scene 1) and in this case, it fell into the harvest bins of Realm Cellars.



2016 Twisted Oak Spaniard and 2015 Crocker & Starr Casili 8th Edition

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After spending eight out of twelve days feasting for the holidays with family and friends, we opted for a quiet New Years’ Eve dinner with wine, watching a few movies. This was a welcome break!

First up for the evening was the 2016 Twisted Oak Spaniard, a blend of three beautifully constructed wines by Jeff Stai. The blend is 46% Tempranillo, 31% Grenache and 23% Graciano. The wine is so very complimentary with this blend. Tempranillo with its red ruby coloring, strong berry flavors, plum, tobacco, vanilla, herbs and leather blending with the two others. Grenache with added body, fruitiness and without hearty tannins with a pale coloring coupled with the Graciano with its dark juice, intense blackberry flavors and with spices of cinnamon and cloves made for a compelling blend.  The wine sells for $49.

Paired with a chicken enchilada made with corn, sour cream, cream cheese, onions, cheese and salsa. The wine provided an explosion of flavors and became a perfect companion this evening.

Second up for the evening while enjoying a couple of movies, we wanted to keep with the “Spanish theme” so pulled out a 2015 Crocker & Starr Casili 8th Edition. It is a blend of 55% Malbec and 45% Cabernet Franc. This has always been an easy sipping and enjoyable wine albeit rich and full bodied. Blending “milder” and “spicier” varietals provided just the right balance of roundness, yet structure and mild tannins to appreciate this 93 point wine. This wine sells out every year and goes for approximately $80.

Definitely a simple way to end a very trying 2021 and prepare for an exciting 2022!