Month: May 2022

2020 Mendel Malbec – Young with Old Characteristics

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As is custom, a few times a month I select a wine other than from California. Went to the cellar before dinner and grabbed one of my favorite Malbec’s from Argentina from the famous 3,000-foot elevation Uco Valley, in Mendoza wine region Argentina. This was extremely young 2020 and had not tasted it prior to tonight but have tasted older vintages.

The Wine -2020 Mendel Malbec

This wine is full bodied on the eyes with dark royal purple coloration. It has on the nose aromatic floral violets are also present.

On the palate almost overpowering black and dark red fruits come to the forefront with tobacco, French oak, chocolate, black licorice and fresh leather.  On the finish a smoky almost open fire flavor resides in the mouth along with sharp and defined tannins. Subtle vanilla and caramel sneaks in to round out the finish. Great structure, depth and enjoyment. The wine provides an “old world sense of being” from the Uco Valley. Average price is roughly $23 to 25/bottle. This wine typically gets between 93 to 96 points year after year. James Suckling rated this 93 points.

The Food and Wine Pairing

An Argentinian Malbec was suggested from various sites for the meal this evening. The meal was a Mongolian Beef recipe. Ingredients included Coulotte steak, cornstarch, canola oil, minced garlic cloves, soy sauce, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, water, red pepper flakes, black pepper and green onions cut in 2-inch pieces. The wine paired terrifically like two old friends shaking hands, firm and with warmth and understanding of each other’s personalities. Other possible wines included Zinfandel, Grenache and Riesling but this hit the bullseye! Long grain rice, broccoli and a fresh garden salad accompanied the dish for a complete meal.

If you like Malbec, this is surely one to have in your cellar.




YoungInglewood Winery – Small & Boutique Winery, Yet Enormously Large Wines

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On our recent trip, the fourth winery visited was YoungInglewood Winery in lower St Helena in Napa Valley. Traveling down an unassuming lane resides grandeur on an immense scale, not showy but with substance. We enjoyed the time discussing and sipping some exceptional wines. First here is a quick background on the winery.

The Winery

This small winery is best-known for their Cabernet Sauvignon and “Bordeaux blends”, as they are situated on historic vineyard land in St. Helena, California. However, they also have a passion for several white wines like Chardonnay, Vin Clair and a rare Aligote that is oak aged.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of visiting YoungInglewood Winery is not just the tasting of exquisite wines, but partaking in intelligent, purposed and thoughtful discussion of wine with the owners, winemaker and staff.

To begin, Jim and Jacky met while in college and shared a passion/drive with wine. Jim and Jacky Young bought a historic piece of land in southern St Helena and have today all five Bordeaux varietals planted. It is truly a family winery with Jim handling the operations and Jacky and son Scott, being the co-winemakers on property. Their daughter, Mary helps in the operations as well as providing an occasional flute recital.  Their Wine Education Director/Membership Director, a longtime friend Mark Simon is always there to help out in various capacities.

Their time spent in Europe cultivated a real sense of old world wines and that is exactly how they construct both their red and white wines. They like to describe themselves as presenting “old world non-interventionist” winemaking techniques. It surely shows in their incredible wines.

I seldom talk about wine labels but theirs is the exception. The label is one of the simplest yet says so much about their wine with the balancing of the tightrope walker. This is a paradigm for balance in the fruit, tannins, acidity and color. A little too much of any one item, and a misstep happens. Even deeper is their aspiring sense of balance in life, starting in the vineyards with organic and sustainable practices.

You can read previous stories:

The Tastings

We were greeted with a glass 2019 Vin Clair made from Malbec and Merlot. Cold pressed with a short skin contact so almost a “white wine”. An extremely dry elegant and aromatic wine with strawberry and orange blossom notes. This acidic wine provides a tart and minerality on the finish. Refreshing on warm afternoon while sitting outside. 200 cases were produced. The current release is the 2021 vintage and only 40 cases produced and it is listed at $40/bottle.

When then moved to the tasting room adorned with beautiful pieces of art. The next wine tasted was the 2019 Napa Valley Chardonnay from the Linda Vista Vineyard. This was aged in 1/3 new oak, 1/3 neutral oak and 1/3 stainless steel. A light golden color, with aromas of lemon custard. Followed by an almond and creaminess in the palate. Just what was needed on this warm day with temperatures in the high 80’s. Only 58 cases produced and is listed at $75/bottle.

The last white wine setting the stage for the upcoming reds was a little known Aligoté which was their 2020 vintage. A luscious yellow, almost golden color with aromas of peaches and pear greet the olfactory senses. It is a “big white wine”! Again toasted nuts and lemon were present on the finish. 66 estate cases produced and goes for $60/bottle.

Now the transition to YoungInglewood reds, my personal favorites!! Started off with the 2018 Right Bank Blend. This is a mouth-filling wine with 42% Cabernet Franc, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot and 3% Malbec. Dark richness greets the eyes and followed by a symphony of flavors of boysenberries, blackberries and raspberries. The underlying structure and layers begs renewed sips of enjoyment. Again only a small 140 cases produced and sells for $110/bottle.  This is surely a blend not to taken as a compromise or an averaging of various blends. Strong with characteristics fitting only one of the best “Bordeaux style blends”.

The last wine enjoyed was the 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. This consisted of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot and 1% of Merlot. Such a deep cavernous wine of immense proportions. Boysenberry with chocolate infused espresso made this a voluminous sipping wine. Strong but rounded tannins make this a classical Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. $150/bottle and only 200 cases produced.

A bonus wine was served their 2018 Cabernet Franc. An unbelievable 100% Cabernet Franc farmed from their estate of Cabernet Franc vineyard. A dark lush ruby coloring with heavy viscosity, with aromas of Rose petals and floral notes. In the palate, raspberries and chocolate open up to some mouthwatering finish. Smooth and silky best describe the wine in the mouth.  Absence was the pyrazine characteristic, but this is still a sought after bottle of wine. It hit my bullseye for Cabernet Franc and I targeting the cellar with my purchase to gracefully age another 3-4 years. $125/bottle and only 47 cases produced.

What a great way to provide a quick overview of some of the quality wines of Napa Valley for our friends. I have one additional story, our 2nd stop and that will be out in the next couple of days.



Crocker & Starr Winery – 25 Years of Excellent Wines

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I have been visiting Crocker & Starr Winery for almost 25 years and have bought just about every wine varietal Pam Starr has produced! It is no wonder why of all the wines in the cellar, Crocker & Starr label garners one of the highest quantities of bottles.  Over the years I believe I have written a dozen stories, countless blog posts on the wines, visited the facility almost yearly and have enjoyed every wine. So continuing our journey last weekend giving an overview to our friends of Napa Valley, which is a Herculean task, Crocker & Starr Winery was selected as one of four to visit and taste. Her wines range from sparkling, Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc blend, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Franc blend, Malbec and a couple of versions of Cabernet Sauvignon including her coveted “1 Post”. This named after her handshake partnership with Charlie Crocker in launching Crocker & Starr Winery. For more information see an earlier story at: . Crocker & Starr wines have for every year for the last ten years made my “Best Wines Tasted of the Year” list for several of her wines.

Upon arriving we were met by Katie Grady our hostess for the afternoon. A glass of their 2017 Blanc de Noirs sparkling was poured for each guest. This was made in celebration of their 25th Anniversary. While this wine was new to me, I am generally reluctant as I am typically not impressed with domestic sparkling wines. However I do very much enjoy Champagne. The taste was as close to Champagne as  anything experience stateside! It is made with 96% Pinot Noir and 4% Chardonnay grapes. A creaminess, vibrant and aromatic sparkling like none other. The price is $58 and such a bargain, I actually added it to the cellar. This wine was enjoyed while Katie provide a guided tour of the winery production and pointed key geography of the property.

Once returning to the covered outdoor seating area, the 2021 Estate Sauvignon Blanc was poured. This wine has for years been one of my favorite to pair with various seafood dishes. Bright, clean, aromatic, stone minerality and without excessive citrus notes. Melon, mango and kiwifruit notes with a minuscule of lime. Some of my favorite pairings with her Estate Sauvignon Blanc include fresh brook trout müllerin, grilled halibut, Ahi ceviche, various Irish cheddar and Mozzarella cheeses and my favorite Maguro sashimi. Pictures and stories are on my website ( ) and can be found using the Search Engine. With just drinking the last bottle earlier this year, it was time to pick up several bottles for some upcoming meals. At $45 this is one of my special wines for seafood.

Next up on the tasting was the 2019 Crocker & Starr “Casali 12”. This is a one of her go to wines and the grape mix changes year to year. This year was comprised of 85% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. You can see the royal purple coloring in the glass and the taste is fit for a king or queen. Depth, color, layers of absolute enjoyment, structure and a finish that is “other worldly” makes this one of my favorite wines. This wine pairs so nicely with short ribs and carne asada (see a previous article: The wine goes for $95/bottle. The Estate Sauvignon Blanc and the “Casali” labels are only available to club members.

This is the view of the vineyard while seated enjoying sipping and tasting all these spectacular wines.

Last up on the tasting this afternoon was the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “1 Post” made with 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. To describe this wine, I will defer to their tasting notes “this wine boasts a deep garnet purple color and bursts with aromas of sweet cassis, violets, toasted spice and black forest cake. The palate is screaming with elegance and energy with rich layers of chocolate covered cherry’s, dark plums, dried flowers, velvety texture and seamless freshness”.  Wine critic Jeb Dunnuck called it “just-about-perfect” and “incredibly elegant…..and magical”. I was so enjoying the wine and simply mesmerized, I didn’t even take a picture!  Aged 22 months in 90% new French oak and only 239 cases produced. The price is $225/bottle and worth every penny. Our guests pounced on this wine and walked away carrying many bottles.

This proved to be another stellar winner on our tour of four wineries this weekend. I would never hesitate to recommend Crocker & Starr for wines that take your breath away and leave you speechless.



Shadybrook Estate and Rapp Ranch – A Quintessential Napa Valley Experience

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Last weekend four of us venture up to Napa and what an amazing visit. Only went to four wineries, which is unheard of for me, but our guests had done little or no wine tasting to speak of in Napa Valley. Had to pick out just four wineries to “showcase Napa Valley”. The first winery was Shadybrook Estate at Rapp Ranch in Coombsville. For some additional background on this beautiful property and the master winemaker, Rudy Zuidema see two previous stories at:

Today’s Line Up on the Veranda

First up after meeting our knowledgeable host Jorge, we sat on the veranda/deck to begin to enjoy some beautiful and refreshing wines.


A beautiful, arranged charcuterie board was presented with cheese, fruits, nuts, seeds and meats, as well as some desired water. The day was about 86 degrees with a light gentle breeze as we welcomed the 2019 Rapp Ranch Chardonnay. Light golden straw coloring and always a winner vintage to vintage. While Rudy is known for his reds, he is equally skilled in producing Chardonnays. Stirring of the lees in the barrel provided some “weight and definition” of this enjoyable wine providing a slight modicum of buttery flavor but mostly a soft lemon and brown sugar finish. Only 312 cases and it was $50/per bottle.

The second wine was one I had never experienced at Rapp Ranch, the 2019 Rapp Ranch Pinot Noir. These first two are the only ones that are not estate grown. The Pinot Noir provided a translucent ruby color with a brilliant and radiant draw from the eyes. The aromas were classical strawberry and hint of rhubarb. Once tasting it, the minerality in the palate added minerality of wet stones from a babbling brook on the finish. An exquisite and seldom found Pinot Noir. Only 373 cases produced and is $60/per bottle.

Now the transition to red wines once we were sufficiently cooled down and palates had come alive. First up was the 2018 Rapp Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon. A graceful and complete Cabernet Sauvignon with hints of eucalyptus, black licorice, vanilla and cherry aromas and tastes. Smooth and silky are the key words to describe this wine with its textual taste in the mouth. 620 cases produced and it sells for $70/per bottle.

Next was the 2018 Shadybrook Estate V red wine blend. This is patterned on your typical blend of the noble Bordeaux grapes with the following percentages: 34% Cabernet Franc, 22% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Petit Verdot and 13% Malbec. These grapes come from their 15 estate acres. While “a typical Bordeaux blend” this is anything but typical tasting! Plum, black cherry, chocolate and vanilla pipe tobacco come together is a symphonic tribute to each varietal with none dominated the music in the palate. Medium tannins makes this a wine to enjoy standalone or with food. Only 319 cases and it goes for $95/per bottle.

A special treat was offered to do a comparison between their 2018 “red wine blend” and a 2018 Shadybrook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2018 Shadybrook Cabernet Sauvignon provided a deep crimson coloring and medium viscosity on the eyes. The nose provided aromas of boysenberry, black tea and a slight licorice hint. On the palate and finish a tremendous blueberry and chocolate components engulf the senses. Stronger tannins but controlled and not sharp, provided a structure and layers to be deciphered and enjoyed. A very age worthy wine for at least ten years and made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Aged 30 months in 85% new French oak barrels. A limited 262 cases were produced and goes for $125/bottle.

What a great start for the weekend and truly a memorable experience with some of the best wines Napa Valley has to offer. A special thank you to Jorge and Rudy for their hospitality. Only 10 minutes from downtown Napa and definitely will meet and surpass any wine aficionado’s desires!



2019 Acquiesce Winery Picpoul Blanc verses 2019 Acquiesce Winery Roussanne

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To set the stage correctly a little background information on Acquiesce Winery located in Acampo, California, just north of Lodi. Susan Tipton set out on a mission to do only unique and lesser-known white varietals in a predominately red wine area! You can read more on her journey and the winery at:

Just last week Susan Tipton was awarded 2022 Best Woman Winemaker award from the prestigious International Women’s Wine Competition. At the event her 2021 Picpoul Blanc was named Best of Class and won Double Gold, scoring 98 points. This on top of so many other awards for the winery and her wines. At the largest wine competition in the United States, the San Francisco Chronicle Competition, she was awarded Best of Class. Her 2019 Picpoul Blanc won Double Gold Medal at the International Women’s Wine Competition and her 2020 has won Best White Wine & Double Gold Medal at the 2021 American Wine Society Commercial Competition as well as many others.

Susan Tipton’s 2020 Roussanne won at the 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Best of Class and her 2019 Roussanne won various Gold and Double Medals at various competitions. All her wines continue to win awards since she opened in 2012.

The Wines:  Head to Head Battle

With last week’s announcement, I decided to have “some fun” comparing these two wines with a special meal at Verona18 restaurant at the Golf Club at Copper Valley albeit her 2019 vintages. On of her previous vintages, a 2019 Picpoul Blanc in an article I wrote stated “Visually this varietal is faint in color and almost translucent with a pale yellow hue. On the nose pineapple was the predominate scent coupled with minerality. Picpoul means to “sting the lips” yet this wine was much more embracing and had a disguised light sweetness. The finish produced a full mouthful of wonderment. This wine was made to pair with oysters in Europe. Susan Tipton also believes in the New World, it is excellent with spicy Thai food and dishes with cilantro”.

My previous comments on the 2019 Roussanne and earlier vintages have made my Best Wines of the Year lists year after year. “The 2019 Roussanne on the eye is a light golden straw and medium viscosity. On the eye and palate, it possessed an elegant finesse with floral aromatics, hints of pear, apricots and with a rich and silky smooth mouthful texture almost creamy. The finish had a soft nutty texture of almond and a hint of honey with a distinct minerality with a medium long finish. Roussanne brings more acidity, elegance and floral aromatic complexities to the wine which makes it perfect for chicken, turkey or fish”.

Now the battle lines were drawn tasting both of these exquisite wines with the special meal of calamari steak, called Calamari Livornese. It is sautéed with capers, lemon juice, and a special sauce served with an elegant polenta and topped and speckled with a minced tomato and fresh garden spices. The sauce was amazing, and I have yet to get a hint of what went into it!! 

Four of our nine Friday Night Wine & Dine group ordered it. Each tasted both wines with bites of the calamari. Both wines were obviously great, but the unanimous vote was for the 2019 Picpoul Blanc and declared the winner of the contest.

Mike Dunne, wine writer and fellow judge, did an excellent review of each of her wines from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition from a story in SFGate “who calls this Best of Class sweep unprecedented, explains that each Acquiesce label was up against formidable competition. “More than 5,800 wines from throughout North America were entered, broken down into almost 200 classes, evaluated by some 50 judges. And these weren’t small classes. The Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc was up against 41 other white varietal wines. The Acquiesce Roussanne competed with 19 others. The Acquiesce Viognier was up against 52 others.Dunne notes that the Acquiesce quartet also encountered formidable and varied competition in the sweepstakes, including very familiar fellow competitors.

No matter which Acquiesce wines you choose or vintage you will find a winner! Looking forward to tasting her latest releases of Picpoul Blanc and Roussanne.



2020 Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay – The Utility Player of Wines

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Rhonda Wood, winemaker and owner, continues to make consistently outstanding Chardonnay’s. Her previous vintages (2016, 2017, and 2018) had in her words a bent to being “crackerjacks in a bottle” with caramel and a slight secondary malolactic fermentation creating a light buttery finish. Then the 2019 brought forth more citrus flavors. See a previous story at: . The 2020 vintage has once again brought a different slant on her Chardonnay but still an extremely enjoyable experience. All have won Gold, Double Gold and Best of Class at various competitions – so they are all excellent.

Last night pulled out this Chardonnay to enjoy with dinner. The 2020 has a beautiful golden coloring that glistens on the eyes with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, minerality and flint are predominate with secondary aromas of pear and Golden Delicious apple.  Once on the palate, a definite “full on” fresh bakery brioche with lightly smoked almond, and crème brûlée flavors abound. Secondary flavor produced a hazelnut taste. With a little more new tight French oak barrels this year, the wine came across with a refined, old world and lightly oaked finish. A miniscule lemon fragrance towards the end of the finish was also present. Absent is the “crackerjack and buttery finish” Rhonda had previously noted in her Chardonnay. Currently listed on their website for $32/bottle.

Food and Wine Pairing

Prepared two filets of fresh Mahi-Mahi last evening. Decided to do a blackened Mahi-Mahi with the help of the internet. The recipe called for olive oil, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, ground black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper, oregano and thyme. After preparing the seasoning, dried the Mahi-Mahi using several paper towels to ensure the seasoning stuck and avoid any extra hot oil splatter from additional water on the fish. Essentially the fish filets are “breaded” in the blacken seasoning mix. The end result was a crispy exterior with a smoky complex flavor. The Wood Family Chardonnay was a perfect complement with its creamy medium-heavy viscosity, slight fruit nuances, tinge of vanilla and bright freshness.

Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay is like a utility player in baseball, it can play any position or in this case, pair and co-exist with so many different foods. An enjoyable and wonderful wine.



Ledson Winery – 2017 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley Reserve

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(Picture from Ledson Winery)

The story begins in England in 1896 and is detailed out on the website . It is a tale of hard work, family ties and a desire to do more for the community. Steve Ledson’s history is both unique and common—unique with background and successful venture and common with family ties. His demeanor and casual manner bespeaks volumes. A couple of years ago, I had a friend come down from Oregon and had Assistant Winemaker Jerry Padilla conduct the private tasting. On the way out, Steve walked in with jeans and tee shirt having worked some aspect of the vineyard only to greet us, genuinely happy that our tasting went well.

The Castle is the official tasting room of Ledson Winery and the architecture and construction alone are worth the visit! Ledson Winery is offers the largest premium wine portfolio of any family owned winery in the United States. Today their offering numbers more than 70 wines annually!\

Tonight’s Wine -2017 Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley Reserve

Pulled this wine the other night. This wine is from Sonoma County in the Russian River Valley. The wine is significantly darker than some of the more opulent and feathery ones, but don’t be fooled.  On the eyes a beautiful dark crimson color and medium viscosity. On the nose and palate so many flavors and aromas burst forth. A complex tension of fruits like cranberry, strawberry contrast with spices of nutmeg, cinnamon and even a cola presence. The finish provides even a bit of earthiness and is delightfully refreshing.  Just looked at the website and today they appear to be getting their Pinot Noir’s from Anderson Valley and do not show any Russian River Valley Pinot Noir’s.

Over the years I have recommended to friends and visitors going to Sonoma to make a stop at Ledson Winery. Obviously from their current wine list, they do offer a bit of everything for the casual wine taster to the wine aficionados’, be it Millennials to Baby Boomers, you will find the wine that envelops your palate and is sized to your pocketbook.



2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc – A Big Winner at the International Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration

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At the April 2022 International Cabernet Franc Blind Wine Competition and Celebration held in Copperopolis, California, 2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc won several awards. Two sets of judges presided over the tasting, one being the Professional Judges and the other being People’s Choice Judges. The Professional Judge’s in the $76 to $100 price range category, awarded a Gold Medal and Best of Class to the 2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc. This was the only wine in this prestigious category to receive a Gold Medal from the Judges.

Background on L’Autre Côte and Steven Kent Mirassou

It is not often that one sets out to turn the world upside down, but that is exactly what Steven Kent Mirassou is attempting with his newest label call L’Autre Côte meaning the “other coast”. The L’Autre Côte brand falls under The Lineage Collection. The goal is to make world acclaimed Cabernet Franc wines from two of Livermore’s well-known vineyards. He accomplished that in 2017 with his two versions of Cabernet Franc, one from Ghielmetti Vineyard and one from Sachau Vineyard. He made 50 cases. Both sold out almost immediately and for the full story on his 2017 read: Since that article was written he received 96 points for his Ghielmetti Vineyard and 94 points for his Sachau Vineyard Cabernet Franc wine. Remember this was his inaugural release. He was just awarded 95 points from Wine Enthusiast for his 2018. His Lineage “Bordeaux Style” wine and his Cabernet Sauvignon were both rated 100 points and the only Livermore Valley wine to be rated so highly.

The 2018 L’Autre Côte continued with using two designated vineyard Cabernet Franc wines, but this year he combined the two together as it produced a higher quality Cabernet Franc. In Steven words “the wine is truly magical because their irreducible wholeness comes about as a function of their purity of fruit, balance of acidity and overt sexiness”.

Steven poured his2018 L’Autre Côte at the Cabernet Franc Celebration which included wine tastings and appetizers. The wine was also featured the following evening a Winemaker’s Dinner in conjunction with the Cabernet Franc Celebration which Steven was a guest speaker.

The 2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc

Ghielmetti and Sachau Vineyards have been a long-time source for Steven’s wine be it Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. The one block at Ghielmetti of Cabernet Franc Clone 332 is 3.7 acres in size. Sachau vineyard is six acres in size with a loamy soil. The 50/50 combination of the two (each aged separately) then with 4% Cabernet Sauvignon added provided the best of both vineyards.  On the eyes, a bright and dark reddish/purple coloring and with medium viscosity. On the nose a very fruit forward aroma of raspberry and blackberry fruits.  On the palate, besides the fruit bursting with excitement, you are rewarded with chocolate, jasmine tea and minerality. The finish provides rounded and defined tannins without overt edges, giving one a silky landing. The finish is mid-lasting and a tinge of fruit sweetness, yet with subtle pyrazines in play. Using once used French barrels, this wine does not have a predominance of oak but rather allows the fruit to be showcased. This wine was released in early March and is $98/bottle with 145 cases produced.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Recently paired with a Filet Mignon, pan seared and then baked shortly and served medium rare. Topped with a Blue cheese-chive butter. Accompanied by a baked Russet Potato and roasted brussel sprouts. The acidity in the wine was spot on to provide enough power to pair with the beef. A delightful meal for sure.

This wine is surely destined to be age worthy for 10-12 years and obviously from the ratings from both the International Cabernet Franc Wine Competition & Celebration and Wine Enthusiasts it a great wine to drink anytime!



2017 Cornerstone Cellars Cabernet Franc – Winner of Best of Class and Gold Medal Winner

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2022 Cabernet Franc Wine Competition & Celebration Winner

At the April 2022 Cabernet Franc Blind Wine Competition and Celebration held in Copperopolis, California, Cornerstone Cellars won several awards. Two sets of judges presided over the tasting, one being the Professional Judges and the other being People’s Choice Judges. The People’s Choice Judge in the $101 and up category, awarded both a Gold Medal and Best of Class to Cornerstone Cellars. This was the only wine in this prestigious category to receive a Gold Medal. The Professional Judges awarded a Silver Medal, thus tying for the best score in this category.

The Winery

The word cornerstone is an architectural term, for the first stone being laid for a structure. After the cornerstone is laid, all the other stones are laid in reference to this critical first step. Cornerstones have been around for thousands of years since the ancient cultures of Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures.  Builders today when laying out a home stills sets a cornerstone reference, then lasers laying out and setting the house construction.

The winery started in 1991 with Michael Dragutsky and David Sloas with 5 tons of grapes from the famed Randy Dunn vineyard. During the last three decades, they have had a few winemakers including Kari Auringe who was hired an assistant winemaker in 2001.  She later returned in 2014 as the head winemaker at Cornerstone Cellars and is still producing excellent and award winning wines. She also is a consulting winemaker for various wineries in Napa Valley including one of my recent favorites Silver Trident.

For the Wine Competition, I was working with Lynn Prescott, Director of Operations and she was delightful to work with from registration to shipping the wines in time for the event.

Their portfolio of wines are made from vineyards in Rutherford, Howell Mountain, Oakville, Calistoga, Santa Rita Hills and Sonoma. The varietals besides Cabernet Franc include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc Rosé of Pinot Noir.

The Wine

I had not tasted the 2017 Cornerstone Cabernet Franc until last evening.  First on the eyes a lush and dark color of royal purple with crimson awakened your vision, then with a swirling motion the medium-heavy viscosity wine beckoned one to go to the next steps.  On the nose aromas of black cherry, blackberry provided any additional incentive, if really needed to partake in the wine. In the palate, a beautiful wine unfolded with smoothness with dark fruits and notable but not harsh tannins. Secondary flavors of herbs, and pyrazines kept in check. A beautiful enticing floral quality with a just a modicum of chocolate provided a beautiful wine. The intense structure of the wine continued to provide layers and layers of enjoyment through the long lasting finish. The wine is comprised of 86% Cabernet Franc, 11% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine comes from Oakville and only 170 cases were produced. Their website shows it as $110/bottle. Truly a magnificent wine.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired with marinated and seared tri-tip steak, twice baked potatoes, asparagus, fresh garden salad and brown rolls this was a memorable food and wine pairings. All the table guests present concurred this was an exceptional wine. The wine with the tri-tip steak danced with joy in the mouth.

Cornerstone Cellars cornerstone was set back in 1991 and the building of great Cabernet Franc wine continue to provide quality, character and a mouth filling experience. I look forward to tasting their Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc in the near future.



2015 Hanna Winery The Titan, A “Bordeaux Style” Blend That Delivers!

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The name Hanna means different things in various languages. For example Hanna in Kurdish means hope, in Persian the name means flower and in Arabic it means happiness for example. Those various meaning might just sum up the experience of Hanna Winery—hope, flower and happiness. Hope the vision and expectation of winery founder Dr. Elias S. Hanna. Christine, his daughter is today the President of the Winery. Flower in that the bouquets of Hanna wines are fresh and lively and all their wines extoll happiness on those who experience them on their palate. See a previous written story on Hanna’s Winery background at:

Wanted something “good but different” last week so pulled this wine.  This is Hanna’s 2015 Bismark Mountain Vineyards, called Titan. The word Titan means a person or thing of very great strength, intellect or importance. This wine comes from Moon Mountain District, the Bismark Mountain Vineyard in Sonoma County. This wine is a red blend comprised of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Malbec, 16% Petite Verdot and 14% Cabernet Franc. A great “Bordeaux style” wine. Only 370 cases were produced. Naming it Titan is appropriate with its bold taste, structured tannins and deep coloring. Oak, tobacco and vanilla are the dominant aromas and tastes of blackberry and black fruit are delicious.  Layers of smooth enjoyment and a mid-lasting finish.

A memorable wine living up to its name, Titan!