Month: April 2022

2019 Wood Family Vineyards Petit Verdot – Dark, Luscious and Bold

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(Photo from SevenFifty Daily)

First, what is Petit Verdot? The literal translation is “little green one”. This is because it is a late ripening grape from the Bordeaux region in France. It is a commonly used grape in blending, usually in small amounts to add color, tannin, structure and herbaceous notes of violet and sage. Today it is common to see 2% to no more than 10% in many Cabernet Sauvignon’s and other wines. More recently Petit Verdot is being seen as a 100% bottled wine.

The Winery

Rhonda Wood, winemaker at Wood Family Vineyards, makes some exceptional wines from Livermore, California. The background on the winery can be found in another story at:

Rhonda and the family winery are small in comparison to some of Livermore’s known name wineries but have been regarded for years as one of the top-quality wine producers.

From high in the sky to down to earth wines!!  Yes Rhonda Wood, winemaker/owner of Wood Family Vineyards used to fly planes (US Airways) but now can be found in the vineyards tending vines.  She and husband Michael (with their two sons), have a winery in eastern Livermore. Rhonda started making wine in 1996. Besides sourcing wine on their property, they have 17 specific vineyards which are manicured to their specifications throughout Livermore’s ideal climate. 

The Wine

While I have written and very much enjoyed all of Rhonda wines, I tasted the 2019 Petit Verdot about a month ago at her winery in Livermore.  I was taken back and savored every sip so much I walked out with a case of Petit Verdot! First on the eyes this is a cavernous dark wine, almost black. It possesses a medium heavy viscosity when swirling in the glass. On the nose intense aromas of red (cherry), black fruits (plums) and violets greet you. On the palate, the predominant trait are chewy cherries, but not sweet! Followed by leather, tobacco, anise and a slight vanilla quality. The finish was dry and the tannins were present but not “pointy”. The winery used 25% new French oak, 25% one-time used French oak and 50% twice used French oak.  The 2019 release sells for $34/bottle.

This wine is “so delicious” and strong, we simply had it as an after-dinner wine. Previously, we paired it with a roast beef, and it was a great combination.

I am certainly pleased to have more 2019 Wood Family Vineyards Petit Verdot in the cellar!




2019 Villa Vallecito Vineyards Cabernet Franc Named Best of Class and Best of Show by the Professional Judges at the 3rd Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration

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This was Villa Vallecito Vineyards first time entering the competition. Their tasting room is located at 263 Main Street in Murphys, California. I had the privilege to taste their 2018 Cabernet Franc wine about one year ago and mentioned to Ghee Hagedorn/owner, she had something very special in her Cabernet Franc. Literally on the last day of registration, she entered this year’s competition! I know she was extremely excited when her wine was announced. Being the Best of Show takes in all the wine categories (5) based on price including the last category $101 and up. She won Best of Class in the $31 to $50 range and the 2019 Cabernet Franc goes for $45/bottle.

Key is that this is a blind tasting competition using the Danish methodology of getting a consensus from the judging panel. A very special feat indeed!

The wine comes from their vineyard located in Calaveras County. Villa Vallecito Vineyards sits up on a valley overlooking New Melones Lake. The cooling breezes off the lake are credited with helping the vineyards.

A key point not to be lost is that the five Professional Judges hailed from various regions and variety in their backgrounds.  One is a wine educator/judge/home winemaker, another a winemaker for seven Napa Valley wineries, one a Sonoma County/Lodi winemaker for several wineries, and two are WSET graduates with distinction. This is the first time a Calaveras winery has won Best of Show for their Cabernet Franc from the Professional Judges. Previous winners were from Napa Valley (2017 Diamond Mountain Vineyard) and Paso Robles (2016 Dracaena Wines).

This was the only wine to win both a Double Gold Medal from the Professional Judges and a Gold Medal from the People’s Choice Judges!


Ghee Sanchez-Hagedorn considers herself blessed and fortunate. Her parents were migrant farm workers in Healdsburg, California. She was the 10th child of 15!  She has gone from playing in vineyards to owning a beautiful vineyard and winery in Calaveras County. She freely admits to not being a trained “wine or winery owner” but she more than makes up in enthusiasm, determination, smarts and engaging people skills. A virtual force to be reckoned with. She and her husband, Alan Hagedorn (CFO and official quality control taster), started out in 2001 planting some very rough terrain with the help of a vineyard manager. For approximately 5 years until 2010, they sold the grapes to a variety of wineries in Northern California. Then in 2010, they took the next step to make their own wine and hired Nathan Vader, graduate of UC Davis as their winemaker. Nathan also has his own award winning winery, Vina Moda in Murphys. Today they produce approximately 1800 to 2000 cases a year. Quality wine is their motto from sorting three times to finding the right barrels.

Recently at the 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, they won the following awards:

*Best of Class, 2017 Syrah

*Double Gold for 2018 Barbera, 2018 Syrah and 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

*Gold for their 2018 Syrah Reserve

*Silver for their 2019 Cabernet Franc and 2019 Sagrantino

During the Wine Competition Event, I was not able to taste the wine, so I took a drive up to Murphys and met with Ghee. We sat in the quaint tasting room discussing the history of the vineyards and winery. We also tasted the 2019 Cabernet Franc. Here a beautiful purplish hue surround the glass, with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose soft new leather, pepper and raspberry wafted into the senses. Secondary flavors of dried fruit and bramble, coupled with an “earthiness (rich soil & gravel)” highlighted the taste and the soft finish. The wine was not originally scheduled to be released until the fall, but with these recent awards, they are going to release right away. Only 100 cases of the wine were produced, between club members and the general public, it will go quickly.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Taking home the remaining open bottle of Cabernet Franc, we seared some specially cut (thick) Filet Mignon from a local market. Topped with a dollop of blue cheese-chive butter and accompanied with a Russet baked potato and asparagus. The wine was perfectly matched to be enjoyed with meat and the blue cheese topping.

I mistakenly thought about 30 minutes would be sufficient to get the missing information from Ghee to finish this story! After 2 ½ hours we finally realized we needed to stop but believe our conversation could have lasted for days. I can’t wait for my next visit and to taste some of her other wines.



2019 Dracaena Wines Cabernet Franc Named Best of Class and Best of Show by the People’s Judges at the 3rd Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration

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It is often stated that “success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally, it come from what you do consistently”. No truer words sum up what Dracaena Cabernet Franc has done over the last three years. The first year of the Cabernet Franc Wine Competition, Dracaena won Best of Show (overall) by the Professional Judges. Repeating this performance in April 2022, Dracaena just won Best of Class ($31 to $50) from the People’s Choice Judges and Best of Show! As a reminder this is a blind tasting competition. The Professional Judges awarded them a Silver Medal.

The wine comes from the Plummer Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County. Dracaena Wines is located in Paso Robles. The current price is $34 on their website, and it is described as being filled with “aromas of dark cherry, baking spice and plum. The long finish is framed by structure tannins thanks to the added eight percent of West Side Paso Petit Verdot”. A key point not to be lost is that the five People’s Judges hailed from various regions such as San Ramon/Copper Valley, Milpitas/Valley Springs, San Jose/Copper Valley, Napa/Angels Camp and Sunnyvale/Fresno. So not a single judge was from Paso Robles and yet bestowed on them these high marks.

What makes this achievement even more grand is that Dracaena Wines only made 170 cases of their 2019 Cabernet Franc and their total production is 400 cases (includes Chenin Blanc, Rose and a Cabernet Franc Reserve). Previously I wrote a story comparing Dracaena as a David verses Goliath story.

Michael & Lori Budd were the force behind getting December 4th on the calendar as International Cabernet Franc Day. Lori, besides having a food science background and a graduate degree from UC Davis in the winemaking program, is a published author, award winning blog writer and podcast producer/host for Exploring the Wine Glass. Lori also gave a keynote speech about how Cabernet Franc has grown out of the shadow of its progeny at the Winemaker’s Dinner held during the Cabernet Franc Celebration. Below is quick wrap up on the Winemaker’s Dinner featuring Lori Budd and a story on the Wine Tasting and Appetizer Event which both Lori and Michael Budd poured at their booth.

This small boutique winery is definitely getting noticed with winning a Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition for their 2019 Cabernet Franc. They have also won at the 2022 Los Angeles Invitational Wine and Spirits Challenge a Gold Medal and Best of Show for their Chenin Blanc.



2017 Gossamer Cellars, Alicante Bouschet

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What is Alicante Bouschet?

First this grape has both a red skin and red flesh, known as teinturier. Henri Bouschet, a French botanist, created it when he crossed Grenache with Petit Bouschet in 1866. Alicante Bouschet was planted heavily during prohibition in California and exported to the east coast. The dark and intense skins made it resistant to rot while being transported. The deep dark color allowed the wine to be “cut down” (diluted) without noticing.

The grape is the 12th most planted red grape in France and found mostly in Languedoc, Provence and Cognac regions. In California the grape was and still is popular among home winemakers and grown in Napa, Sonoma, Madera and Calaveras counties. Other areas growing this varietal are Algeria, Israel and central Italy. In Spain, Alicante Bouschet is called Garnacha Tintorera and is intensely black with one of the heaviest viscosity I have experienced. FYI- Alaya Tierra is one of my favorite producers in Spain of this wine.

Gossamer Cellars – The Winery

Gossamer Cellars in Murphys, California is unique in so many wonderful ways. Gossamer’s owners, Gary and Sue Grant are unique in their wine making endeavors. Gary has always wanted to make every wine in the De Long Grape Varietal Table. This unique approach is wide rather than deep, which provides the wine consumer with just about everything to taste and imagine. Just a quick listing of some of the wines he has produced are Torrontes, Nebbiolo, Teroldego, Negroamaro, Alicante, Treixadura, Pinotage, Tannat and the list goes on. Gary subscribes to the saying proudly displayed on the chalkboard in his quaint tasting room “Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you”- Anonymous. I personally appreciate and applaud Gary’s quest in educating and bringing wines to the consumer which would normally be obscure.

The Wine, 2017 Alicante Bouschet

This 2017 Alicante Bouschet is a strong and hearty wine, completely opposite any debutante or wimpy Rose! This is a muscular and gnarly wine only for those completely sold on intense flavors. First on the eyes in the glass, it is literally blackish in color and with a heavy viscosity. On the nose aromas of black cherry and black pepper waft into the sense. In the palate, blackberry, black plum and sweet pipe tobacco are the primary tastes. Secondary flavors of blueberries and smokiness come across. The finish is long with gritty tannins and a dryness. The roof of the mouth and teeth shout out intense tannins and deep colored fruits, reminding you of an old world wine but it is only 5 years old!

Gary gets the grapes from a recent relationship with Dutchman Vineyards located in Ripon (central valley). It is only 4 acres and planted in 2010 and is one remarkable source for these grapes.  Gossamer only produced about 100 cases of Alicante Bouschet. Gary kept the 2017 in barrel for 24 months and used 25% new French oak barrels. At $28/bottle this is a fantastic price point in trying an often overlooked, but enjoyable red wine.

The Food and Wine Pairing

This was paired with a meat ravioli and red sauce of mushrooms and garlic. The sauce had a bit of sweet tomato taste and the wine with its acidity and tannins, cut through it perfectly. Accompanying the raviolis were sourdough French bread and a fresh Cesar salad. One great and harmonious meal.

Remember the saying on his chalk board as it constantly rings true “Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you”. Expand your horizons and try this 2017 Alicante Bouschet.



Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration – Winemaker’s Dinner

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The third and final event for the two-day Cabernet Franc Celebration was the winemaker’s dinner for 80 people. This featured three different winemakers’ chosen back in September (2021) to participate in this event. The idea was to show three regions (Paso Robles, Livermore Valley and Napa Valley). Each winery/winemaker would present an 8–10 minute keynote speech on their “love affair or experience” with Cabernet Franc. Then the winners announced from the 2022 Wine Competition before sitting down for a gourmet dinner in the Grandview Room at The Golf Club at Copper Valley.

The evening started off with magnificently arranged tables of eight by the Vine18 staff. Additional bottles of wines from the competition were placed on each table for the guest’s enjoyment prior to the start of the evening.

First up was Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines a small boutique winery in Paso Robles, California. She and her husband, Michael were the force behind getting December 4th on the calendar as International Cabernet Franc Day. Lori besides having a food science background and a graduate degree from UC Davis in the winemaking program, is a published author, award winning blog writer and podcast producer/host for Exploring the Wine Glass. Her keynote speech was how Cabernet Franc has grown out of the shadow of its progeny. She also touched upon the amount of Cabernet Franc produced today and the relationship to Cabernet Sauvignon.

The next speaker was the dynamic and delightful Steven Kent Mirassou from his latest label L’Autre Côte, specifically showcasing Cabernet Franc. Steven is the 6th generation winemaker from the first family of American Wine and made his first vintage of Cabernet Franc in 2006 from Livermore, California. His Bordeaux style wine, the Lineage Collection was the first 100 point wine scored from Livermore Valley. He has since received his second 100 point score on his Steven Kent Winery label for a Cabernet Sauvignon. In 2017 Steven created L’Autre Cote, a wine brand/label devoted exclusively to the production of Cabernet Franc. His keynote speech was titled, “Finding Home: Why the Livermore Valley Should Become Cabernet Franc’s New Spiritual Center”.

The final speaker was Pam Starr of Crocker & Starr Winery located in St Helena (Napa Valley), California. Pam is the co-owner, manager and winemaker at Crocker & Starr. Pam comes from a rich pedigree of winemakers before starting the winery in 1997 with Charlie Crocker. Her special skill of passion and dedication are self-evident especially with her inaugural label launch of Cabernet Franc. Pam also makes distinctive Bordeaux style wines from the estate. Her keynote speech was titled “The non-fruitedness of Cabernet Franc Wine”.

After these speeches concluded, the announcement of the previous day’s Best of Class and Best of Show were made public. The irony for the evening is that two wines featured at the dinner won Best of Class (Dracaena and L’Autre Côte) and Dracaena winning Best of Show from the Wine Competition (a blind tasting!).

The evening started off with Dracaena Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles with a smoked pork belly served with parsnip puree, marble fingerling chips and plum cassis chutney. The 2019 Cabernet Franc was produced with 92% Cabernet Franc and 8% Petit Verdot.

(Photo by Harrison Wood)

The second course was L’Autre Côte from Livermore Valley paired with a Roquefort infused with raspberries, blackberries and apricot, wrapped in a puff pastry with a jasmine tea anglaise. The 2018 Cabernet Franc is 100% Cabernet Franc.

(Photo by Harrison Wood)

An intermezzo sorbet was then served to cleanse the palate.

The third course was Crocker & Starr 2018 A.V.A. Cabernet Franc Estate Blend from Napa Valley. This consisted of 70% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 10% Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. This unique characteristic wine was paired with a mole chuck Wagyu beef, served with crispy plantains and a cardamom radish slaw.

(Photo by Harrison Wood)

We had originally looked for a Cabernet Franc Blanc but could not find one that was up to the quality of this event. Thus, we finished off the evening with a non-Cabernet Franc, but certainly one of the most creative dishes for dessert. Rhonda Wood provided her award winning Wood Family Chardonnay which was paired with an apple cinnamon Crème Brûlée topped with pear sorbet and a macadamia nut crumble. Perhaps unique but a totally outstanding food/wine pairing.

(Photo by Harrison Wood)

Executive Chef Albert Sandoval provided and showcased his culinary skills which left the sold-out crowd amazed. Between two of dishes, he quickly ran out from the kitchen to describe the food and wine pairing with the winemakers. Two others from the club deserve kudos, Cindy Acre and Christina Germolus for their tireless effort in arranging the room and attention to details not just for this evening but for the entire two-day event.

It was truly a unique evening pairing four winemakers with diverse and scrumptious foods and their excellent wines. A very enjoyable and noteworthy meal.



Wine Tasting & Appetizers at the 3rd Annual Cabernet Franc Celebration

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The second event at the International Cabernet Franc Celebration and Wine Competition was held at the Grandview Room at The Golf Club at Copper Valley, Copperopolis, California. A bright and beautiful day in the Sierra foothills hosted all the guests. The Tasting & Appetizers event was held just after the Wine Competition, in the late afternoon/early evening tasting for eight previous year’s winners. The wineries were invited to pour their Cabernet Franc’s (current vintage) which they had previously won Gold or Double Gold Medals, Best of Class or Best of Show. Each winery had on their table a display with the left side describing their Cabernet Franc and the right side providing information on their winery, offering, club membership, etc. Each winery was allowed to have “other stash wines” under their tables but not on the table should someone desire something other than a Cabernet Franc! AVA’s represented were Paso Robles, Arroyo Seco, Livermore Valley and Napa Valley. This allowed guests to taste excellent Cabernet Franc’s from four entirely different terroirs to find their ideal wine and experience different regions all at the same venue.

Vine18 restaurant provide a twelve foot spread of delicious appetizers for the guests to enjoy. The constant replenishing of appetizers kept the guest tasting with the various wines.

Here were the wineries and how they scored this year from the two sets of judges, Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges.

At first table were Lori and Michael Budd of Dracaena Wines from Paso Robles, California. As it turns out, this year Dracaena Wines 2019 Cabernet Franc won Silver from the Professional Judges and Double Gold, Best of Class and Best of Show from the People’s Choice Judges. Their smiling faces were a precursor to their winning all those awards (announced the day after this event!).

Next up was Larry Dino, winemaker/owner of Cuda Ridge Wines from Livermore, California. Larry this year was pouring his 2019 Cabernet Franc and received a Silver Medal from the Professional Judges and a Gold Medal from the People’s Choice Judges. Now his smile has a background story as in just four days from this pouring his daughter was getting married. He left first thing the next morning. Thanks, Larry, for making this event, especially with so much going on!

As guests continued throughout the room, they came to Steven Kent Mirassou’s newest label, L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc. This is the second year of production of this wine/label, showcasing only Cabernet Franc. Shown with his assistant winemaker Beth Refsnider. The Professional Judges awarded the 2018 L’Autre Côte a Gold Medal and Best of Class! Nice going Steven!

Up next was Keith Prather from Shale Canyon making their wines from Arroyo Seco AVA, Monterey County. His wines had previously won Best of Show and Best of Class. This year both sets of judges were tougher critics and awarded him Silver and Bronze Medals.  He and his wife came for this event and also stayed for the Winemaker’s Dinner and won over many new customers!

Next up was Damian Grindley winemaker of Brecon Estate from Paso Robles. Previously Brecon Estate had won a Gold Medal and this year, from both sets of judges was awarded Bronze Medals. I double checked the scorecards and it was correct. That said, I will never call the Judge’s opinion into question, but will state his Cabernet Franc is a refined Cabernet Franc and delicious. It was a pleasure to finally meet Damian in person after three years of corresponding via emails and thanks for making it to the event.

Next up was Wood Family Vineyards, Livermore, California. The tag team of Rhonda Wood winemaker/owner and Harrison Wood VP are two of the most enjoyable people you can imagine! They had previously won Gold for their Cabernet Franc and recently won Double Gold at the SF Chronicle Wine Competition. Our judges were tough this year and both awarded them Silver Medals. Wood Family Vineyards knows I believe they are “golden” not just for their Cabernet Franc but many other wines!

On the next to last table is a relative newcomer, both as a winery and a producer of Cabernet Franc, Rosa Fierro Cellars from Livermore, California. Rosie, always smiling is both the owner/winemaker and featured her 2019 “Big Daddy” Cabernet Franc from Cienega Valley vineyards. Her wine labels are unique and creative photos of wine production shots and her 2016 Cabernet Franc had won a Gold Medal.

The final table featured Kenefick Ranch Vineyards in Calistoga (Napa Valley), California. Chris Kenefick represented Kenefick Ranch pouring their 2018 Cabernet Franc. The Professional Judges awarded this wine Double Gold which is an outstanding achievement! FYI, the Professional Judge’s only awarded three Double Gold Medals across the entire competition. The People’s Choice Judges awarded him a Silver. This is one excellent wine in my opinion.  Chris was a real trooper coming down in the morning and heading back to Calistoga after this event. Thanks Chris for pouring and making a lot of new friends and customers.

Each of these winemaker’s and owners spend a lot of time & effort getting to the event and it was greatly appreciated.

Now on to the appetizers that were served on this twelve foot long table or one of the largest “charcuterie boards” you will experience! The Executive Chef, Albert Sandoval did an amazing job and praises were heard all during the event. He certainly exceeded expectations and this was equal to all the excellent wines served during the event. So long was the presentation that it has to be shown in three pictures!

This was the first time and definitely not the last time that the Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration will include this type of activity. All the guests enjoyed the tasting and appetizers featured during this unique event.

If you want to read more about each these wineries, I have provided a link to just one of the many stories written on these excellent wineries and their Cabernet Franc. Each story has the link to the winery.



3rd Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Competition & Celebration Results

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(Some bottles not shown)

The format for the blind competition utilizes the Danish system, where the wines are “bagged”, separated by price categories (5) and a table of judges each votes on medal designation. If not all agree on the medal, which seldom happens, then a lively discussion going over the key characteristics of the specific wine is debated to reach a consensus award. Sixty-six wines went through this process starting at 9 am and concluding at 2:15 pm on April 6th in the Grandview Room at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California.

The Professional judges consisted of veteran judge Tom Bender, Sierra Foothills Wine Show organizer for 40 years. He also is a judge at other prestigious wine competitions, writer, college professor and has won extensive awards for his home wine making. Two other judges are professional winemakers. Rudy Zuidema from Napa, head winemaker for award winning Shadybrook Estate, Rapp Ranch, Red Cap, Alyris, Zuidema Wines and many other wineries. Tana Cole has winemaking experience from Michigan, Napa Valley, Lodi AVA and now at Vintage Wine Estates in Sonoma County. The other two judges are Debbie Miller WSET I and II with distinction and Sandra Hess WSET I.

The Results of the Professional Judges

Best of Overall Show – 2019 Villa Vallecito, Murphys, $45

Results by Price Category

(Silver and up medals are noted with Bronze and No Awards not being shown)

Blend Division (having a minimum of 50% Cabernet Franc No Best of Class Awarded

2019 Villa Vallecito Vineyards, Murphys, $45                                Silver Medal

2018 Crocker & Starr, A.V.A., St Helena, $58                                  Silver Medal

2017 pureCru CFM, Napa, Valley, $65                                              Silver Medal

Category 1 ($30 and less)  Best of Class – 2020 Jeff Runquist Wines

2019 Ironstone Vineyards, Reserve, Murphys, $28                      Silver Medal

2018 Kautz & Kramer, Lodi, $28                                                       Silver Medal

2020 Jeff Runquist Wines, Amador, $26                                         Gold Medal

2016 Shale Canyon, Monterey County, $30                                    Silver Medal

Category 2 ($31 to $50)   Best of Class – 2019 Villa Vallecito

2018 Lagana Cellars, Washington, $38                                          Silver Medal

2019 Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, $34                                        Silver Medal

2019 Andis Wines, Amador, $40                                                     Silver Medal

2017 Eliana Wines, Oregon, $42                                                     Silver Medal

2018 Kenefick Ranch Vineyards, Calistoga                                   Double Gold

2017 Narmada Winery, Virginia, $48                                              Silver Medal

2017 Lava Cap Winery, Placerville, $40                                          Double Gold

2014 Narmada Winery, Virginia, $48                                             Gold Medal

2019 Wood Family Vineyards, Livermore, $36                            Silver Medal

2018 Mineral Wines, Murphys, $34                                                Silver Medal

2019 Villa Vallecito Vineyards, Murphys, $45                              Double Gold

2017 Russian Ridge Winery, Woodside, $42                                 Silver Medal

2018 Russian Ridge Winery, Woodside, $42                                 Silver Medal

2019 Cuda Ridge Wines, Livermore, $42 Silver Medal

Category 3 ($51 to $75)  Best of Class – 2019 Titus Vineyards

2018 Vezer Family Vineyards, Blue Victorian, $69                    Silver Medal

2018 Blue Rock Vineyard, Cloverdale, $65                                   Silver Medal

2019 Titus Vineyards, St Helena, $60                                            Gold Medal

2018 Lightpost Winery, Morgan Hill, $65                                     Silver Medal

2013 Deerfield Ranch Winery, Reserve, Glen Ellen, $75         Silver Medal

2019 Rosa Fierro Cellars, Livermore, $55                                    Silver Medal

Category 4 ($76 to $100)  Best of Class – 2018 L’Autre Côte

2018 Oakville East, Oakville, $100                                                 Silver Medal

2018 L’Autre Côte, Livermore, $98                                                Gold Medal

2019 Vinoce, Napa Valley, $85                                                      Silver Medal

2018 Bianchi Winery, Laguna Beach, $80                                     Silver Medal

2019 Chateau Margene, Creston, $78                                          Silver Medal

Category 5 ($101 and up)  No Best of Class Awarded

2018 Middle Oak Wines, Texas, $125                                          Silver Medal

2017 Cornerstone Cellars, Napa $110                                          Silver Medal

2018 Palazzo Wine, St Helena, $115                                           Silver Medal

2018 Diamond Mountain Vineyards, Calistoga, $175             Silver Medal

International Division No Best of Class Awarded

2015 Maquis Franco, Colchagua, Chile, $85                               Silver Medal

People’s Choice Judges Results

Secondly an additional set of People’s Choice Judges are assembled at a distance so not to overhear any Professional Judge’s conversations. The People’s Choice Judges are serious wine drinkers, each generally have 20+ years of experience visiting wine regions around the USA and the world, each enjoy cellaring wines and attending an occasional class to learn more about wine. They included Steve Besst (San Ramon/Copper Valley), Candy Strubbe (Milpitas/Valley Springs), Gary Miller (San Jose/Copper Valley), Shelby French (Napa/Angels Camp) and John Krause (Sunnyvale/Fresno).

The Results of the People’s Choice Judges

Best of Overall Show – 2019 Dracaena Wines $34

Results by Price Category

(Silver and up medals are noted with Bronze and No Awards not being shown)

Category 1 ($30 and less)  Best of Class – 2018 Kautz & Kramer  

2018 Kautz & Kramer, Lodi, $28                                                          Silver Medal

3 Oaks Vineyard, Clovis, $30                                                                       Silver Medal

2019 Grizzly Peak, Oregon, $26                                                                  Silver Medal

2019 Brice Station Vineyards, Murphys, $27                                        Silver Medal

Category 2 ($31 to $50)   Best of Class – 2019 Dracaena Wines

2017 Crystal Basin Cellars, Camino, $32                                                 Silver Medal

2019 Trefethen, Napa, $50                                                                          Silver Medal

2018 Lagana Cellars, Washington, 38                                                      Silver Medal

2019 Dracaena Wines, Paso Robles, $34                                              Double Gold

2018 Pearmund Cellars, Virginia, $39                                                      Silver Medal

2018 Kenefick Ranch Vineyard, Calistoga, $50                                    Silver Medal

2019 Cuda Ridge Wines, Livermore, $42                                                Gold Medal

2017 Narmada Winery, Virginia, $48                                                       Gold Medal

2014 Narmada Winery, Virginia, $48                                                       Silver Medal

2019 Wood Family Vineyards, Livermore, $36                                    Silver Medal

2018 Mineral Wines, Murphys, $34                                                         Silver Medal

2019 Villa Vallecito, Murphys, $45                                                           Gold Medal

Category 3 ($51 to $75)  Best of Class – 2017 De Tierra Vineyards

2017 De Tierra Vineyards, Carmel, $65                                                   Silver Medal

2019 Titus Vineyards, St Helena, $60                                                      Silver Medal

Category 4 ($76 to $100)  Best of Class – 2018 Bianchi Winery

2019 Vinoce, Napa Valley, $85                                                                 Silver Medal

2018 Bianchi Winery, Laguna Beach, $80                                               Silver Medal

2019 Chateau Margene, Creston, $78                                                     Silver Medal

2018 Brick Barn Wine Estate, Buellton, $85                                          Silver Medal

Category 5 ($101 and up)  Best of Class – 2017 Cornerstone Cellars

2018 Middle Oak Wines, Texas, $125                                                    Silver Medal

2017 Cornerstone Cellars, Napa, $110                                                   Gold Medal

2018 Palazzo Wine, St Helena, $115                                                     Silver Medal

2018 Diamond Mountain Vineyards, $175                                            Silver Medal

2017 Howell Mountain Vineyards, $120                                                Silver Medal


2018 Maquis, Colchagua, Chile, $14                                                        Silver Medal

2015 Maquis Franco, Colchagua, Chile, $85                                          Silver Medal


Medal Award    Professional Judges       People’s Choice Judges

No Award            4                                              4

Bronze                  25                                           33

Silver                    30                                           24

Gold                      4                                              4

Double Gold      3                                              1

Wine with awards that were the same by both sets of judges:

No Award            1

Bronze                  15

Silver                    10

Gold/DG              1

Wines which scored within one medal rank by both sets of judges:


I wish to thank each winery, domestic and internationally who submitted wines to be judged for this competition. Additionally, I want to thank the Judges who took the time to judge this one varietal of grape from so many regions.

May the Franc be with you!



2020 Girasole Vineyards Pinot Blanc – The Story Behind The Grape

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I recently wrote a story on the history of BARRA of Mendocino. The winery also has two other labels, one of them being Girasole Vineyards. All their wine are California Certified Organically Farmed (CCOF) and have been for 20 years. Even before certification, Charlie Barra had been doing this twenty plus years before “being certified”. You can read the history, the vision, the family and vineyards at:

History of Pinot Blanc

So what is Pinot Blanc? The history of this grape is a bit tangled with mystery and misunderstanding. This white wine grape is essentially a mutation but sharing mostly the same DNA with Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Pinot Blanc has wide ranging descriptors: high in acidity, low in acidity, mix of fresh fruits, aromas (apple, citrus), pear, a little buttery, a bit creamy, hint of spiciness, dry, floral characteristics, honey, sweet, possessing stone fruit aromas, heavier minerality, cabbage odor, etc.

Alsace fronts the Rhine River in eastern France, and borders the countries of Germany and Switzerland (Map from

Where is it grown? The main areas for this variety are Alsace (northeast France), the Alto Adige region in Italy and neighboring areas of Alsace in Germany & Austria. Pinot Blanc is also taking a hold in Canada’s Okanagan Valley as one of their signature wines. Other areas include Hungary, Croatia, Spain, Washington, California and Oregon. In France it is permissible to blend this varietal with other grapes in some quantities.

What other names does it go by? Warning: the list is a minefield for possible mispronunciations: Austria (Weissburgunder or Klevner), Hungary (Feher Burgundi); Spain & Italy (Pinot bianco), Czech Republic (Rulandske Bile), Slovakia (Rulandske Biele) and Argentina. In the Champagne region, Pinot Blanc is often called Blanc Vrai. In the United States, besides Pinot Blanc, it is often referred to as a white ABC (anything but Chardonnay) or a stepchild to Chardonnay. The truth of this varietal is very different!

The number of acres planted of Pinot Blanc are a bit of a mystery but estimated around 300 to 400 acres statewide in California. Upon previously tasting various Pinot Blanc’s, I was more than impressed with the aromas, flavors, textures and tastes of this varietal. What stood out was this wine was significantly different from France to California. Admittedly, I have not tasted this varietal in all the previous countries mentioned earlier. In France Pinot Blanc can actually add Auxerrois (from the town in Chablis region) but still labeled as Pinot Blanc. Auxerrois often has a “green vegetable quality” to it. When I first tasted it, I was so “un-impressed” by the taste. Turns out it often has a cabbage tinge. What are the differences between California and French Pinot Blanc? Apart from “terroir”, as mentioned the French often blend in Auxerrois and it has a distinct “green vegetable” on the palate. When I had a Sonoma Valley, Pinot Blanc I was taken back with a soft “cotton candy sweetness” verses “cabbage” on the palate and finish.

2020 Girasole Pinot Blanc

First on the eyes you are greeted with a bright pale golden hue for color and a medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose honeysuckle, green apples, and orange blossom greet the senses. Secondary aromas of a soft sweet vegetable characteristic of snow peas and a hint of citrus are present. On the palate, tastes of a slight gritty earthiness, intense floral, coupled with pineapple and guava provide a rich a flavorful experience. The finish was full and multi-layered especially as it went from chilled to warming up but always smooth and mid-lasting. This wine recently was rated at 96 points and won a Double Gold Medal at the Sunset Magazine Wine Competition. The grapes were harvested from their Redwood Valley Vineyards in Mendocino and then “cold aged in stainless steel at 40 degrees to retain freshness and fruit character”. This is now on my list for summertime enjoyment as a wine of balance and place. It is 100% Pinot Blanc, vegan friendly and goes for only $15/bottle!!  I know this wine will make my yearly Best Wines Tasted (comes out annually mid-December).

The Food and Wine Pairing

What foods pair well with California Pinot Blanc? Almost anything with subtle flavoring, so soft cheese (goat or sheep), salads with cheese dressings, or mild fish to taste this “more delicate varietal”. Conversely, if you want to highlight the meal and want a complimentary wine, you can serve California Pinot Blanc’s with Salmon, shrimp, scallops, far eastern chicken dishes, pizza, sushi & sashimi and even cured Italian prosciutto. This evening had a fresh trout sauteed in a mixture of a trace of wasabi, minced garlic, sea salt, pepper, garlic salt, Chardonnay, butter and olive oil. A Mediterranean salad and roasted asparagus rounded the meal.

The quintessential take away is that California Pinot Blanc possess wide ranging characteristics and flavors. It is much more than your “ABC” wine and will provide you a new adventure and a great addition to your everyday whites. The 2020 Girasole Pinot Blanc was a real treat.



Copper Valley Wine Club – A Taste of France

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Our local community, Copper Valley held a wonderful event this last Saturday called a French Wine Dinner. It was sponsored by the Copper Valley Wine Club with various homes (six in total) following the same recipe and holding dinner for eight people. At the conclusion of dinner, everyone met at one of the Board Members houses for dessert.  The Copper Valley Wine Club, like so many organizations impacted by Covid but are now springing forward with a variety of events, wine activities and trips.

Our hosts started out with Champagne, with or without raspberry, and appetizers

The dinner served was Beef Bourguignon (which was delicious) with sides of chive mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus. Each guest was to bring a side dish as well as a French wine.

Wines included Champagne, Chêne Bleu (Syrah/Grenache), Beaujolais-Villages (Gamay) and a few more!! Here is a previous written story on Chêne Bleu:

At the conclusion of the evening the desserts were various macaroons and cookies. Also, any wine left over was brought to share.

A very thoughtful and enjoyable event. Can’t wait for the next theme dinner and wines.