Month: August 2022

Clams and Opakapaka and 2020 Mer Soleil, SLH Reserve Chardonnay

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We were invited to a wonderful seafood treat this last weekend in the neighborhood. Our host, Peter and Ansuiya Singh prepared a gourmet dinner. The clams came from the recently discovered seafood purveyor, Ohana Seafood in Modesto. Peter had the Opakapaka flown in fresh from the Pacific.

This large bowl contained seven pounds of clams!! Barely visible is the butter, dried red peppers, garlic and Sauvignon Blanc sauce it was cooked in and at the bottom of this bowl.

Garlic bread was served with the calms and made it perfect for soaking up some of the sauce with dinner! Besides the 2020 Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, many other wines were served to bring out the best of the meal.

The main dish was the Opakapaka fish baked with Alaea Hawaiian salt. Opakapaka has been one of my favorite fish of all time with it being clean, delicate and having a slight sweet finish. A must have when in the Hawaiian Islands!

The meal was accompanied by Taro root sautéed in onions. Taro is a tropical plant and excellent source for fiber and good carbohydrates. It has high levels of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin E to maintain a healthy immune system.

A fresh Thai chilly and smoked paprika aioli was prepared by Peter and provided just the right amount of flavor and spice to enliven both the fish and Taro dishes. Unfortunately no picture was taken.

Also a spicy coconut cream shrimp sauce was offered. It consisted of finely chopped prawn’s sautéed with garlic and fresh basil, and finished off with coconut cream and homemade sweet chili jelly pureed in a blender.

If that were not enough, a beautiful fresh salad with mandarin oranges, green olives and an assortment of lettuces was scrumptious. Dessert consisted of sliced fresh mangos, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.

Thank you Peter and Ansuiya for such a rare treat prepared to perfection! Your Fijian culinary skills are extraordinary!!




2012 Larkmead Vineyards LMV Salon

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A real treat the last week when returning from Arizona. This sat in the cellar for almost eight years and came up on the “To Drink” list for 2022. Larkmead Vineyards located in Calistoga California on the northern portion of Napa Valley has always been one of my favorites. Their specialty are Cabernet Sauvignon based scrumptious wines as well as some unique white wines. You can read about their rich history at: .

This wine is comprised of 100% estate grapes and is composed of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Cabernet Franc. LMV is always made up of this these two varietals and yearly in different percentages. The wine was aged 19 months in 66% new French oak barrels from Tonnelleries Bossuet & Ermitage. The combination of these two strong varietals proved to be a winning combination.

The first impression on the eyes is the astonishing “darkness of the wine” with an almost blackish coloring. A definite heavy viscosity. On the nose an eloquent and stirring aroma of raspberries and blueberries. On the palate, those fruits coupled with the dense vineyard minerals and vanilla pipe tobacco explodes wonderment in the mouth. The finish is long lasting revealing both eloquent, finesse and strong tannins and layers of structure. Always a remarkable wine with this year being no exception. Pricing for this vintage varies but is somewhere today between $150 and $175/bottle.

Enjoyed by itself but surely any tri-tip steak, ribeye or filet mignon and many other dishes would only increase this remarkable wine.



2021 Wood Family Chardonnay Release August 28th

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We are almost ready for fall, which is beginning to be my favorite time of the year! Harvest has begun in August and will continue through September with work continuing all the way into November. Fall is also the demarcation for the beginning of football season, new shows on television, new car introductions, saying goodbye to the hot days of summer and best of all the ushering in of some wonderful holiday traditions like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We now can add the release of the annual Wood Family Chardonnay “Para Mas Amigas” which will be released August 28th.

The Winery

Located in eastern Livermore Rhonda has been a mainstay of the Livermore Valley for over two decades. You can read more on her background from airline pilot to award winning winemaker at:

Here is a partial listing of her current winning wines:

  • 2021 “Pink Pearl” Rose – Best of Class – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2021 Albariño – Best of Class – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 Cabernet Franc – Double Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 LVVC – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 “Viva” Cabernet Sauvignon – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 Merlot – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 “The Captain” Red Blend – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 “Big Wood” Zinfandel – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 “Woody’s” Cab Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2018 “Especial” Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2018 Clone 30 Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 “El Loco Rojo” Bordeaux Red Blend – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 GSM – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
  • 2019 ‘Muy Bueno” Zinfandel – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition

The Wine

Rhonda Wood, owner and winemaker, has consistently made award winning wines and truly one of my favorite Chardonnay’s for the last six years. While always delicious and winning awards, with caramel and full secondary malolactic fermentation creating a tinge of buttery finish, each year has a slight change. The 2020 introduced a new slant of her Chardonnay with a modicum of citrus introduction. And every year she has won Gold, Double Gold and Best of Class at various competitions around the United States.

So when doing this review of her 2021 Chardonnay I wanted to compare to her 2020 Chardonnay which I have written about previously. The 2021 came in with about 98% of the same “deliciousness” as her 2020. The slight changes were twofold, the first being a more “mouth filling” slightly heavier body due to more stirring of the lees during barrel fermentation. The second was a hint of an ever slight sweetness on the finish. The balance of the wine was almost identical in color (golden yellow), aroma (fresh brioche), taste (pear and apple) and a beautiful finish! I was so please that this wine was as “comfortable and inviting” as her previous vintages once again. It is like coming home from a hard day at work and collapsing in your favorite recliner!

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired this evening with a lemon garlic shrimp recipe. Ingredients included linguine, olive oil, unsalted butter, minced garlic, crushed red peppers, dried oregano, baby spinach, Parmesan cheese, large shrimp, chopped parsley and lemon juice. The combination of the mouth filling Chardonnay “calmed” the red peppers and the lemon juice frolicked with the citrus qualities in the wine. A wonderful food and wine pairing!

So now that fall is on the horizon, you can also be assured that awards will be forthcoming for this vintage of Chardonnay!



Adega do Mestre André – A Dinner at André’s Cellar

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It is always a please when visiting a new city to get a solid and excellent recommendation for a restaurant. This was the case in Ponta Delgada on São Miguel Island in the Azores. The concierge at the hotel recommended Adega do Mestre André.

This square is home to a statue of Goncalo Velho Cabral, the Portuguese explorer who discovered the islands. The three Baroque arches represent the gateway to the city.

A walk through various cobblestone avenues to the small boutique Adega do Mestre André restaurant where reservation are required. We took the first seating at 7 pm and were the first to arrive. Within 15 minutes the entire restaurant was filled. While we ate dinner more people popped in and were turned away than those seated!! We knew this was going to be a great treat!

One of three areas of the restaurant

We started the evening out with local fresh baked bread served with a garlic spread and fresh green olives. Also an order of sautéed mushrooms were heavenly.

This was followed with the freshest and best Lapas grelhadas, grilled limpets in butter and lemon sauce which we so enjoyed.

Entrees’ included Filetes de Abrotea fritos (fried Forkbeard fillet), Filetes de Peixe Porco (Grey triggerfish fillet), another fish and a chicken breast. The meal came and was consumed so quickly as the aromas were so inviting and it even tasted better, no pictures were taken!!

To go with the limpets and seafood, a white wine was suggested by our server. It was the 2019 Eruptio from the Cooperativa Vitivinicola Da Ilha Do Pico. While normally not a person impressed with labels, this truly stood out representing all that makes Pico such a wonderful island. Showing its history with whaling, volcanic Mt Pico, the vines of Pico bringing forth the deep minerals and with all the wonderful fish available. This was tied for the best white wine from the Azores!!

The second wine was a 2017 Inevitavel, a blend of Alicante Bouchet and Syrah. The 2017 Inevitavel was aged 14 months in French oak barrels and from the south central region of mainland Portugal called Alentejano. This wine provided such a depth of character and layers of flavors and structure we had this almost like an after dinner drink. This also tied for the best red wine during our visit.

Igreja Matriz de São Sebastião, this is Ponta Delgada’s main church with Gothic and Portuguese architecture. It is also a National Monument.

The light drizzle of moisture on the stroll back to the hotel brought us to a local square. The square was framed by boutique shops, café’s and this beautifully lighted church. On one of the corners in the shadows a man was playing a mellow jazz sax solo, embracing the drizzle without fanfare and the melodic sounds bouncing off the cobblestones and filling the square for all to enjoy. What a perfect way to end the evening. It is one of those memories that will be forever etched in my mind



2015 Oakville East Cabernet Franc – A Great Wine With Filet Mignon Kabob’s

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The Name – Franc ‘N Stern

The name is intriguing as is Elliot Stern, owner, who has called his Cabernet Franc, Franc ‘N Stern since the introduction. I met Elliot many, many years ago and went through his lineup of wines at his kitchen table. I immediately enjoyed his Cabernet Sauvignon and the Cabernet Franc. I have always kept both in the cellar as “trophy wines”. The Franc ‘N Stern Cabernet Franc is an easily remembered name and his wine notes are whimsical and play on the “Frankenstein or Frankenstern” theme. His notes alone are price worthy.

The Wine

On the eyes this wine is extremely dark purple with dark crimson red hues and full body. On the nose, dark fruits, pipe tobacco, dark chocolate and fresh ground black pepper. On the palate, spices, including bell pepper, along with blackberries swarm the mouth with enticing polarizing flavors. Defined yet velvety tannins with some edginess provides a medium long finish. Also a trace of dark chocolate on the finish. As Elliot states in his humorous notes, “IT’S ALIVE, IT’S ALIVE!!” The current release of this wine retails for $100 and is worth every penny. At the annual International Cabernet Franc Competition & Celebration his wines have received both Gold and Silver Medals over the years in a very competitive bracket.

The Food Pairing

Paired this evening with a filet mignon kabob marinated in Kinder’s Sweet and Spicy sauce. BBQ’ed with pieces of red & yellow bell peppers, mushrooms, purple onions and pineapple. The wine with its pyrazines and embracing dark fruits made this a delightful meal. In fact, at dinner we put this wine & food pairing in the top 10 of the year!



2020 Wood Family Vineyards – A Versatile Wine Going, Going, Soon Gone!

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The end is near for the 2020 Wood Family Vineyards excellent Chardonnay! They will be introducing the 2021 Chardonnay soon, which I have not paired with a meal. But I have over the last year purchased some dozen or more cases of her 2020 Chardonnay!! Yes I am convinced it is one of the best Chardonnay’s with excellent versatility and pairs/compliments an array of foods, and the price point is exceptional for the quality.  

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 and still an extremely enjoyable experience. All have won Gold, Double Gold and Best of Class at various competitions – so they all have rated high reviews.

Last night we pulled out the 2020 Wood Family Vineyards 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 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 some of her Chardonnay’s. Currently listed on their website for $32/bottle.

Food and Wine Pairing

Paired with both an appetizer and main dish. First the appetizer was medium size shrimp with a red cocktail sauce and lemon juice.

The main dish was a bok choy stir fried chicken. The ingredients included cornstarch, canola oil, dark sesame oil, uncooked onions, ginger root, minced garlic, uncooked bok choy, mushrooms and low sodium soy sauce. The flavors of the bok choy, mushrooms with the lightly tossed and cooked onions (in the stir fry) provided a wonderful and mouth filling herbaceous flavor mixed with the texture of the stir fried chicken with the Chardonnay. The 2020 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 such a versatile wine and co-exists with so many different foods. An enjoyable and delightful wine.



Cuda Ridge Wines Carménère and Uncle Yu’s Fine Chinese Restaurant Pair Up

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Typically one does not pair up Carménère, the 6th varietal of Bordeaux with exquisite Chinese food, but last week it was done to perfection!   Carménère had been considered the lost Bordeaux varietal since the Phylloxera plague in Europe in 1867. It was actually mistaken for a Merlot grape in Chile until 1994 and confirmed via DNA. You can read more on this at:

There is anonymous saying that “Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you” is no truer than in this wine and food pairing. When initially invited, admittedly I had some skepticism to understand how Larry Dino, owner and winemaker for Cuda Ridge Wines and Nick Liang, SOMM and owner of Uncle Yu’s were going to pull off this pairing. However when you pull together excellent wines and creativity in food preparation, they achieved their goals with an outstanding performance.

Larry and Nick invited a few folks to come partake is a few versions of his Carménère along with Master Sommelier Randy Caparoso. In attendance were two other SOMM’s, wine writer and some of Larry’s staff. A deep dive discussion into each vineyard and some of the difficulties in bringing forth the fruit with extreme temperatures and challenges for the first Carménère vineyards in Livermore/Pleasanton area.

As a precursor to the meal, several special appetizers were prepared and served with a scrumptious Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve Champagne.

First up was a pairing of the 2019 “Insel Family Vineyard” Carménère from Pleasanton with a stir-fried wild white prawns with basil. This first dish with the trumpet mushrooms and basil, coupled with a startling delicious Carménère exceeded the expectation of the pairing. The basil paired with the herbaceous wine, were like two old friends shaking hands and then embracing with a manly hug. I had reviewed this wine over a year ago with the following comments This wine lived up to and exceeded some of the key characteristics of Carménère. On the eyes, a medium-heavy viscosity wine with a unique inviting deep purple coloration. On the nose, ripe Bing cherries greeted the senses.  The palate is where this wine excelled. First the bright cherry taste was intense and concentrated. Plums and dark fruits then came forth with a hint of soft dry and wet earthen tones (minerality and forest floor) with black tea in the background. The earthy notes are generally found in Chilean Carménère but not found too often in California. The finish was long lasting with mocha and pepper finishing off the enjoyment. The wine is aged in French oak barrels (100%) for 18 months”.

The next wine was the 2020 “Insel Vineyard” Carménère. This year provided an increase in yield and with less pyrazines. The barrel treatment of 66% new French oak and 34% new American oak. This provided a very slight sweetness in the finish. This was magnificently paired with Mu Chu Pork with Kim Chi. This pairing with Kim Chi and the “softer 2020” (than the 2019) paired up extremely nice with the spiciness of the cilantro topping off the dish and bell pepper in the Mu Chu. Many of us, simply tasted the cilantro with the wine and found it to be heavenly match!

The third wine was the 2020 Carménère “Little Dog Vineyard” from Livermore. This newer vineyard provided a much softer and mellower Carménère than from Insel Family Vineyards. Yet still providing adequate tannins and structure. This was done in new French oak. This was paired with one of my favorite dishes of the day, roast rack of lamb with Thyme and Szechuan pepper corns. The sauce was spicy and tangy and with the wine produced an extremely compatible partner.

The fourth and final Carménère was Cuda Ridge’s 2018 “Insel Family Vineyards”. This was served with a most creative seared medallions of Snake River Farms Wagyu short ribs with mini Heirloom tomatoes in a black pepper sauce. Mushrooms, bell peppers and shavings of red pepper, provided a wonderful spice and texture along with the beef. A little soy was also added. This paired with the 2018 Carménère provided a mouthful exuberance that concluded the Carménère and food tastings.

A special sparkling was also supplied, Bugey-Cerdon “La Cuielle” from Savoie Switzerland. This was paired with an exotic dish with mango, passion fruit & raspberry sorbetto formed in a ball & dipped in white chocolate. I didn’t know if I wanted to eat this dessert or frame it as artwork!

A final few thoughts on this wine and food pairing:

  1. Carménère, which I have for years generally paired with traditional tri-trip, marinated flank steak, etc., is a wine with immense diversity.
  2. Once you have identified the spices and aromas in the Carménère, try to incorporate those in the meal, be it meat, chicken, pork, seafood, different ethnic cuisines, etc.
  3. Food and wine experimentation is the key to a rewarding culinary and wine understanding.
  4. When sampling/tasting wines, keep some of each in your glass and go back and taste with all the food dishes. You will be amazed on how some align and some not as well, even with the same varietal.

As I stated in the beginning, “Adventure may hurt you, but monotony will kill you” now is time to pick up a bottle of Cuda Ridge’s Carménère and begin experimenting and be creative. You will be rewarded as was the group by Nick and Larry who worked together, pulling off this food and wine pairing not considered conventional but with amazing success.



Wine In Pico, Azores – An Intriguing Story Including Crabs Singing!

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A Brief History

Pico was discovered in 1427 by Diego de Silves. It was best known shortly afterwards around 1460 for exporting small quantities of wheat and sugar cane to Portuguese settlements in Africa. Later high quality oranges were shipped to England. Additionally hunting of Sperm whales including a processing seaside village of Lajes until hunting of whales was abolished.

It is generally believed that the Franciscan friars brought Verdelho to the Azores Islands as it had a similar climate as Sicily. What is not understood is having a variety (Verdelho) that genetically has nothing to do with any other in the world, the only similarity that it has and is a very distant family is with Malvasia Fina. While not knowing the origin is in Sicily, however the Island of Pantelleria in Sicily, has one of the most ancient varieties in the world (Zibibbo = Muscat of Alexandria) and they produce it in stone corrals like Pico.

Verdelho is originally from Pico, there are no records of Verdelho in Madeira until 200 years after our appearance on the market. The Arinto dos Açores, in the ancient records was referred to as the Verdelho with force (Verdelho Valente) and is an evolution of the original Verdelho (we don’t know genetically who the father is, but the mother is Verdelho), the Terrantez do Pico is a spontaneous hybrid between the Verdelho and the Bastardo variety.

One of the first stops was the Museum of Wine in Madalena. Here we were given a personal tour by the extremely knowledge and friendly Ana Isabel Ferreira, who works there. Her intimate understanding of history and winemaking made this one of the highlights of the island. A must visit to get an appreciation of Pico wines.

At the harbor called Rola Pipas. This is where the barrels were rolled down a track on top of the stone. So much wine went down it actually left a groove in the stones (seen at the museum called Riheiras). The marks of the shrouds were left by the wheels of the bull-cars. This started in late 1400’s and continued until 1750. The barrels were then floated out to sea to be picked up by small vessels and then uploaded to a large sailing ship to be transported around the world. This included Verdelho reaching the Czars of Russia wine cellars to Thomas Jefferson’s wine cellar in America. This is a rich history of wine making not generally known in America.

Pico followed suite with Europe and lost most of their vines in the mid-19th century due to oidium mildew and phylloxera pest attacking the vineyards. The recovery has been slow in rebounding for Pico. The government stepped in and is now helping and providing incentives to “kick start” wine production once again.

Geography of Pico

Pico was basically under the land barons or captaincy of Faial, who were given grants by the throne in Lisbon. The land barons would have workers in Pico who worked the land harvesting and toiling with the soil. At the Wine Museum in Madalena, a re-enactment of the workers working the currais or corrals of a few vineyards growing on the ground. The currais were loose rock walls 3 to 4 feet in height with large basaltic rocks and smaller pebbles filling in the spaces.

Picture taken at the Pico Museum of Wine

The intent of the walls is to minimize the impact to the vines (contrasting the tall Mt Pico, 7713 foot elevation verses the ocean) of salty sea breezes on the vines with the winds blowing in both direction at time.

Picture taken from ferry returning to Pico Island from Faial Island

The land barons in Faial actually sent “soil” since Faial was a much older island than Pico (3 million years old verses 300,000 years old). Each vine was given a bucket of soil and a vine then planted in the rocky soil. The vineyards have similar higher rock walls designating one owner from another called “jeirões”. It is said that with these volcanic rocks forming the various “currais and jeirões” since the mid 1400’s, if all those stones were laid out end to end, it would circle the equator twice!

Note the rocks which vines are planted in the currais

One of the more unique growing regions in the world. The vines are generally planted to only about 300 foot elevation above sea level. So from the seashore up the hill is where 99% of the vines are planted. There is an old saying that the vines like to be planted close to the ocean in order to hear the crabs sing!

Banding Together and Formation of the Coop

In 1949 the Pico Island Wine Cooperative was founded called Ilha do Pico, Coop Vitivinícola. They banded vineyard producers to leverage production of their historic grape culture. Today they are have almost 300 associates made up of small family vineyards producing grapes based on their traditional production ancestry. The Coop votes for a President, Losménio Goulart who votes for a General Director, Pedro Cavaleiro to serve a two year stint. Today the Coop represents about 60% of the grapes grown in Pico. The Coop has at least 14 different wine labels and counting in their portfolio.

We were hosted for the tasting by Bernardo Cabral, head winemaker for the Coop. While we tasted over a dozen wines here is brief description of a few of them:

*Terras DeLava 2021 Rose – Strong aromatics and mineral qualities.

*Terras DeLava 2019 Vinho Branco – comprises Verdelho, Arinto and Tinto. Light yellow with a green tint. Again, tropical and citrus fruits with a vivid freshness.

*2018 Frei Gigante – combining Arinto, Verdelho and Terrantez. Light yellow, tropical & citrus aromas with bright acidity.

*Terras DeLava 2019 – Merlot. Full of red fruits (raspberry/strawberry) and a slight smoky finish.

** Additionally we tasted several “still in the barrel” wines which will be released mid-2023 made with rare Portuguese oak providing a white chocolate with varietals comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon (12.5%), Cabernet Franc (12.5%), Merlot (50%) and Syrah (25%). Another three tasted were versions of Isabela, the forbidden grape, a 2018, 2016 and 2014. The 2016 was very good and the other two were just a bit “strong” in flavor for my tastes, albeit only 10-11% alcohol. Lastly was a 10 year old Tawny with 17% brandy fortification which would served as a wonderful after dinner cordial.

A personal tour of the Coop was provided by Pedro Cavaleiro and so appreciated. While extremely knowledgeable about the Coop, the Island production, vineyards, grapes, etc., the key was his (and also Bernardo’s) enthusiasm and emotional connection to the families working and producing grapes. Also both Pedro and Bernardo exuded an uncompromising optimism regarding the Coop’s future.

Here are a two pictures of the Coop during the tour.

Pedro Cavaleiro conducting the tour in great detail

Contrasting new French oak wine barrels with 50-70 year Portuguese oak barrels. Both are used by the Coop.

New French oak barrels
Contrasting 50-70 year Portuguese old barrels still in limited use

One of our favorite wines from the Coop but not tasted during the visit, rather enjoyed at a local restaurant was Eruptio, not only for the quality of the wine, but the historic rendition of the label:

While many grapes thrive, their key and highest qualities grapes of Pico are Arinto, Terrantez and Verdelho. Most of these grapes show a remarkable salinity and mineral quality perfect for typical Azorean seafood dishes or any seafood dish.

Hope you enjoy this story on Ilha do Pico, Coop Vitivinícola and now have an appreciation of their rich and difficult history of growing vines in such rocky soil. Their wines are very well renowned in wine circles and just now becoming more and more familiar in the general public.

I want to personally thank Ana Isabel Ferreira, from the Museum of Wine in Madalena. Her understanding of the history of Pico and the wine industry was invaluable and so appreciated. Also a special thank you to Pedro Cavaleiro and Bernardo Cabral in educating us on the splendors of Pico wines.



2017 Maquis Franco Cabernet Franc, Named Top Cabernet Franc From Chile 5 Years In A Row!!

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Maquis Franco represents four generations of painstaking effort and care by the Hurtado family to craft their exceptional wines. This Cabernet Franc is outstanding in quality and its long lasting finish.


Map from

This Cabernet Franc is grown in the Colchagua Valley in the Maipo Province.  This lower altitude growing region is home not only of Cabernet Franc, but also Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. The lower altitude of the coastal hills allows the Pacific breezes to mix with the Andean winds and keeps the valley cool in the evening. This prolongs the grapes maturation period in the region.

The Wine

Maquis Franco was named Chile’s top Cabernet Franc for the past 5 years. Rating scores range from 92 points to 96 points and Robert Parker providing a very nice 95 point rating. The grapes are 100% handpicked and put into French barrels for 12 months. On the eyes a very deep dark red coloring and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, old world hints waft into the senses of oak and leather. On the palate, blackberry, earthy & mineral notes along with fruits of blackberry and dark cherries. On the finish edgy tannins let you know the strength of this wine. Also tobacco and a trace of vanilla are found. Pricing ranges from around $60 to $80 per bottle. This definitely tasted “old world” and was delightful.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired this evening with a marinated Tri-tip in Chaka sauce and seared on the BBQ. Served medium rare with a nice char on the outside. A warm evening and just paired with a refreshing potato salad. The wine and meat were excellent together.

A nice break from “ultra-smooth” Cabernet Franc’s (not that I object!) for a unique change of pace.



When Life Gives You Figs, Make Fresh Compote And Enjoyed It With 2019 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc

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Background Information

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:

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.

The Wine 2019 Picpoul Blanc

Yesterday late afternoon, several figs were ready to be picked from the yard. Made a fig compote hollowing out each fig. Cut up a freshly baked baguette and spread a double cream Brie from France called Claudel. Then garnished with the fig compote and served with the 2019 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc for an appetizer.

The 2019 Picpoul Blanc as I have 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”.

On the nose pineapple was the predominate scent coupled with minerality. Lemon and green apple with a silky mouth filling sensation on the palate. This wine looks like a “light weight wine” but packs a delicate punch of enjoyment.  For my taste, it is the best Picpoul Blanc I have tasted!

Her 2020 received a score of 96 points and has won the following awards:

*Best White Wine & Double Gold Medal at 2021 American Wine Society Commercial Competition

*Best of Class & Double Gold Medal at 2021 Hilton Head Food & Wine Competition

*Double Gold Medal at 2021 SF International Wine Competition

*Double Gold Medal at International Women’s Wine Competition

Her current release is the 2021 and for $30/bottle is a real bargain!  Obviously pulling this bottle out of the cellar, the 2019 Acquiesce it was still an absolute winner!