Month: December 2022
Last evening opened this unique 2021 Leah Jørgensen Blanc de Cabernet Franc. Leah has been making wine for over 15 years in Oregon focusing on Cabernet Franc varietal and a few others from around the state. She has established a solid reputation for her limited volume Cabernet Franc wines which are hand-crafted with minimal intervention from various vineyards.
The Wine – 2021 Leah Jorgensen Blanc de Cabernet Franc
This wine is from Mae’s Vineyard located in Jacksonville, Oregon part of the Applegate Valley west of Medford. On the eyes a medium viscosity with an unusual color with tinges of faint yellow (golden rod) and apricot blush. On the nose aromas waft upward of green apple, tea and assorted floral notes (Jasmine). On the palate, a subtle hint of lime & lemon (Sauvignon Blanc characteristic), apricot and black tea surround the mouth. The finish possessed a strong acidity with salinity. This 2021 is listed on their website for $40.
The Food & Wine Pairing – A Conundrum
While easy to figure out what pairs with a traditional red Cabernet Franc with its defined personality be it from Paso Robles, Livermore, Napa Valley or Loire, France, or elsewhere, it was a bit of a puzzlement with this Blanc de Cabernet Franc. Went with a seared, on the stove mesquite chicken breast and a fresh garden salad. Tried to embody the lighter white meat of chicken with the flavors of mesquite to go along with this strong “white wine”. The food and wine pairing was very good.
Now the question for you: What would you serve with her Blanc de Cabernet Franc?
Located in eastern Livermore Valley, Rhonda Wood owner & winemaker, has been producing award winning wines for over two decades at Wood Family Vineyards. You can read more on her background from airline pilot to award winning winemaker at:
Here is just 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 2021 Wood Family Chardonnay
This wine has truly been 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. Her 2021 Chardonnay is 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! This wine was as “comfortable and inviting” as her previous vintages once again. The bottle sells for $32.
The Food & Wine Pairing
Paired this evening with two fish dishes. The first was a fresh “fish burger” comprised of salmon and halibut (80/20) with seasonings. This was a special today at Ohana Seafood in Modesto and decided to give it a try. Very much enjoyed it and will definitely buy it again. The second was a fresh Swordfish filet cooked in white wine and lemon juice sauce. A fresh fruit salsa medley of pineapple, mango, Mandarin orange slices, cut green onions and Thai sweet & spicy sauce topped off the fish. The fresh fish dishes with the Chardonnay was again spot on for a great meal.
Aristotle in his writings 2,372 years ago in his book on Metaphysics stated “in the case of all things which have several parts and in which the totality is not, as it were, a mere heap, but the whole is something besides the parts”. Then Euclid with his mathematics approach from his book Elements, Common Notion, stated “The whole is greater than the part(s)”. So it is with the 2012 Lineage Wine. I will explain below.
The Wine Maker
Steven Kent Mirassou as a 6th generation family winemaker has set high goals. He set as his pinnacle development to produce the best “Bordeaux style” wine California could produce. A lofty and perhaps extreme goal for one man in Livermore Valley. After many years as a successful winemaker at Steven Kent Winery, he decided to make 3 to 5 barrels a year of the absolute premier “Bordeaux style” wine. We just opened his 2012 vintage, which is the sixth of the Lineage releases. The blend which changes year to year based on flavor profiles, consisted of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon (Clones 30 & 7); 14% Cabernet Franc; 10% Merlot; 4% Petit Verdot.
While blending is an “artistic” endeavor, Steven also is analytical in his pursuit of the perfect Bordeaux blend. Here is Steven’s write up on why these varietals and clones were chosen. It is like an artist mixing paint colors for the right shading and expression of a painting.
“Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 30: Dark cherry and cassis flavors, fine-grained tannins and acidity. Less opulent but more age worthy than Clone 4.
Cabernet Franc: Not as “big” as CS but with more finesse and an aromatic palate of sandalwood and chocolate. Acidity is the watchword of this variety. Its acid-based red fruit flavors marry well with the darker more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon to enliven and length Lineage’s finish.
Petit Verdot: Contributes tannin, color, and grapey aromas and flavors of violet and black fruit. This variety helps to build density in the mid-palate of the wine.
Merlot: Noble variety of Bordeaux’s Right Bank; as counterpoint to CS’s austere structure, Merlot is fleshy and opulent; ripe red/dark cherry flavor, a touch of herbal complexity which adds to Lineage’s rich mid-palate.”
The key take way on blending is that it is extremely selective and requires rigorous decision making of not only varietals, but the correct Clones of the varietals to get the flavor profile. Add another step of both winemaking and personal craftsmanship and abracadabra you have a gorgeous and refined Bordeaux blend called Lineage. I am sure Steven wished it was that simple, but this is the shortened version.
Two of many other detailed undertakings are his hand selection of French oak barrels (Taransaud, Le Grand and Francois Freres) and his constant monitoring of the development of the wine in the barrel.
2012 was marked by nearly perfect weather throughout the growing season, and the temperate year produced perfectly ripe and balanced fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon contribution had a significantly larger role by percentage than it did in the previous releases and shows in Lineage and generous structure. Again, Cabernet Franc beautifully serves its role as the contributor of verve, style, and vitality. Merlot provides a great mid-palate roundness while Petit Verdot adds tannin and exotic fruit. The overall feel of Lineage is one of beauty and elegance with a fairly low alcohol level of 13.9%. The suggested maturity of this wine is recommended from 2018 to 2030. The wine was harvested from the Ghielmetti Estate and Home Ranch Vineyards in Livermore Valley. This library wine today from Lineage goes for $245. The current release is the 2018 and available for $195. The 2018 was given 97 points immediately by Wine Enthusiast and the 2017 received 100 points from Steve Heimoff.
The flavor profile and experience of this wine is truly remarkable. First on the eye you see a medium to medium dark red tint and medium viscosity wine. Very different than some of the bolder Cabernet Sauvignon’s coming out of Napa Valley. Your first impression is perhaps this may be a bit light. But hold on until you get your first whiff which reveals “black fruits, exotic woods and spice aromatics”. On the palate, you get all the above characteristics that Steven purposed in his selection of varietals and clones to produce a crescendo of semi-sweet mocha, dark cherry, dark roasted coffee, sweet tobacco, violets, black fruit, etc. You are a bit mesmerized in trying to dissect each essential trait in this wine drinking experience. But it is a wine to simply enjoy and savor the existential engagement and relationship of such a rare and eloquent treat.
The Food and Wine Pairing
After a round of golf on Monday (10:30 am shotgun) we descented on one of the golfers home and enjoy an impromtu and assorted foods and called it lunch & dinner. Various foods (shrimp, mackrel, cheeses, etc.), desserts and treats were presented. So no direct food and wine pairing, but that did not lessen the impact of the wine!
The Outpost Wines under years of leadership of Frank & Kathy Dotzler was sold July 23, 2018. Located at 2200 foot elevation in Angwin on Howell Mountain (east side of Napa Valley). The buyer being AXA Millésimes, the wine division of the large French insurance company. They own wineries in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Portugal and Hungary. Those wineries include Château Pichon-Longueville Baron in Bordeaux, Domaine de l’Arlot in Burgundy, Quinta do Noval in Portugal’s Douro Valley and Disznókő in Hungary.
Previously I visited the winery yearly picking up allocations of wine, but have not visited since the buyout.
100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged 20 months in 80% new French oak barrels. Double decanted and filtered before serving. The wine on the eyes is a deep brick red with a medium heavy viscosity. Blueberry, pepper and fresh violets on the nose. On the palate, it burst forth with vanilla pipe tobacco, licorice and both blueberry and blackberry flavors. The tannins are present but caressingly soft and Howell Mountain minerality lingers on the finish. The 2014 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon retails today for $200/bottle per Wine Searcher and was rated 95 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Paired this evening with a prime rib, twice baked potato, roasted Brussel sprouts drizzled with balsamic vinegar reduction, garlic bread and a fresh garden salad. This was an amazing food and wine pairing for our Christmas dinner.
First Susan Tipton’s Acquiesce Winery features exquisite white French wines exclusively (and one Rosé). When Susan Tipton founded Acquiesce Winery, she was on a mission unique to Lodi AVA and in fact, most vinicultural areas. She sought to offer only white Rhone wines. She was given many reasons why she should not focus on solely white wines. Yet based on her passion and life experiences in France, she proceeded without wavering. For more background information click on the follow link:
Here are the awards just for 2021 Grenache Blanc:
*Double Gold 2022 International Women’s Wine Competition, 96 pts
*Gold 2022 California State Fair Wine Competition, 96 pts
*Double Gold 2022 Sunset International Wine Competition, 96 pts
All these awards and she was named 2022 Best Woman Winemaker at the International Women’s Wine Competition. She and her wines are all winners!
A light refreshing wine. On the eyes a soft golden color and medium viscosity. On the nose white fruits waft into the senses. On the palate, the predominate flavor of honeydew melon followed with white peach. On the finish clean and crisp with acid layers of enjoyment. 100% Grenache varietal grapes. Only 573 cases produced and it sells for $30/bottle.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Paired this evening with Coconut Shrimp. The recipe called for salt, black pepper, eggs, Panko bread crumbs, shredded coconut, vegetable oil and fresh shrimp. Not shown was a sweet Thai chili sauce drizzled over the shrimp. This was an excellent dish with the recipe provided by our friend. Accompanied by a fresh garden salad and brown rice. A very compatible food and wine pairing. Susan Tipton suggests pairing it with “seafood, salads, spicy Asian and Mexican food and especially sushi!”
During the Christmas holidays, we usually go deep in the cellar for wine. Tonight pulled out 2012 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon at 79%, and Malbec and Merlot added for roundness. On the eyes an extremely dark purple and med-heavy viscosity. On the nose an almost overwhelming experience of aromas of violets and blackberries. On the palate everything imaginable from a mountain fruit from Napa Valley. Ranging from dark chocolate, granite to boysenberry. Soft vanilla pipe tobacco lingers in the background. Largely structured similar to the Rock of Gibraltar with immense tannins and is balanced as a tightrope walker with a silky smooth finish. For the last 15+ years always a perennial favorite wine.
This was a perfect wine with dinner. Decanter rated it 96 points, but I even believe it is higher! Current release is 2019 and listed at $110/bottle.
The winery was started with Carmen Policy back in Youngstown, Ohio. There wine was very popular in his largely Italian-American family. His grandfather and neighbors made their own wines handed down from their fathers in their basements. They would go to the railroad yards and purchase grapes off the boxcars coming from California. Then typically share amongst the community. So when the winery was founded in 1991 it made perfect sense to call it Casa Piena, which translates means “full house”.
Carmen Policy, originally a lawyer, joined the San Francisco 49’er football team where he played a role in their dynasty of winning 5 Super Bowls. Then temporarily moved back and worked a short time with the Cleveland Brown football team. He has returned to make Yountville his permanent home. Carmen, as with football, has a keen sense for talent, and hired Thomas Rivers Brown (one of the top 5 winemakers in Napa Valley) to make the wine. Additionally he hired one of the best vineyard managers, Jim Barbour to “tend the garden”. Jim worked the planting of the 9 acres including four preeminent clones of Cabernet Sauvignon (7,337,341 and 6).
In 2019 the property was sold to Pulido & Walker who now feature the Casa Piena single vineyard on their label.
The Wine – 2009 Casa Piena, Cabernet Sauvignon
The wine on eyes was a deep purple/brick red color and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, soft blackberries and floral notes. In the palate, blackberries, blueberries and soft leather flooded the mouth. Followed by a touch of oak, a hint of cedar providing a rich and robust wine. On the finish the tannins were silky smooth and yet an underlying structure with a long lasting finish. Hard to find this vintage today, but some of the wine sites show it for $145-$150/bottle. The 2019 Casa Piena still shows on their website. The 2009 made my annual list of Best Wines Tasted in the year for 2022:
The Food & Wine Pairing
Pulled this aged bottle from the cellar to have for a special dinner with longtime friends. We enjoyed many wines this evening and kept this one especially for the dinner pairing at their home. The meal consisted of a filet mignon done perfectly medium rare and accompanied by a twice baked potato, fresh garden salad and garlic French bread. The only thing better than the meal and wine were the conversations that evening around the table.
Looking forward understanding and tasting Pulido and Walker wines as I have not experienced them.
First Susan Tipton’s Acquiesce Winery features exquisite white French wines exclusively (and one Rose). When Susan Tipton founded Acquiesce Winery, she was on a mission unique to Lodi AVA and in fact, most vinicultural areas. She sought to offer only white Rhone wines. She was chastised and admonished why she should not focus on solely white wines. Yet based on her passion and life experiences in France, she proceeded without wavering. She sourced and planted the best vines from the Chateau de Beaucastel of Chateauneuf du Pape on her quest.
Many people have heard and experienced Chateauneuf-du-Pape as a red wine. The reality is that it comes in a white format also! The region allows six white grape varieties: Grenache Blanc, Clairette, Roussanne, Bourboulenc, Picpoul and Picardan. Grenache Blanc, a mutation of Grenache noir, is the most commonly used grape variety. The Belle Blanc is Susan Tipton’s homage to the white Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Today she has and continues making artisan and award winning boutique wines. This wine is a combination of 50% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc and 20% Bourboulenc. Here are her recent awards on the 2021 Belle Blanc and the wines that contribute to the Belle Blanc:
2021 Belle Blanc: Double Gold, 95 pts, 2022 International Women’s Wine Competition
2021 Roussanne: Silver, 2022 Sunset International Wine Competition
2021 Roussanne: Silver, 2022 International Women’s Wine Competition
2021 Grenache Blanc: Double Gold, 96 pts, 2022 International Women’s Wine Competition
2021 Grenache Blanc: Double Gold, 96 pts, 2022 Sunset International Wine Competition
2021 Grenache Blanc: Gold, 2022 California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition
2021 Bourboulenc: Gold, 93 pts, 2022 International Women’s Wine Competition
2021 Bourboulenc: Gold, 91 pts, 2022 Orange County Wine Competition
All these awards and was named 2022 Best Woman Winemaker at the International Women’s Wine Competition. She and her wines are all winners!
The Wine – 2021 Acquiesce Belle Blanc
Served in a Chardonnay glass for the full effect of the wine. First on the eyes, it is a soft golden color and medium to medium heavy viscosity. The aromatics of this wine are by far the most intriguing and surprisingly fuller than any white wine I have experienced. As Susan Tipton states “aromas of pear, stone fruit, violet, and passionfruit…”. As the wine wafts into the nose you are immediately mesmerized, and aware that this is no ordinary wine. Without even tasting it, it instantly became one of the Best Wines Tasted for 2023 (Dec 15th, 2022 to Dec 14th, 2023). The combination of Bourboulenc per Susan “lengthens the finish while emphasizing body and texture on the mid-palate”. The grapes are hand-picked and immediately whole cluster pressed to capture their true essence of flavor. It is then sur lie aged in the tank with periodic stirring until bottling. It is listed on their website for $36/bottle and is 13.0% alcohol.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Tonight’s dinner is a longtime favorite Swiss Cheese Chicken. With the three varietals going into the wine, it made the choice a bit of a gamble. Pairing for Roussanne suggest buttery meats like lobster, crab foie gras and pate. Grenache Blanc suggestions include chicken, Friday fish fry or a white meat with a fruit based sauce. Lastly the Bourboulenc food pairing suggests pork steaks, steamed scallops and a goat cheese salad. Susan Tipton on her website suggested the Belle Blanc with its elegant finish to pair with salads, pork, chicken, and buttery dishes.
The Swiss Cheese Chicken ingredients included boneless chicken breasts, chicken soup, white wine, butter, Swiss cheese and seasoned croutons. Accompanied by sautéed asparagus and mashed potatoes.
This made for a wonderful food and wine pairing last evening. Additionally, sipping it on its own after dinner was also delightful and outstanding!
The Winery Background
Earlier this year had an opportunity to visit the tasting room of Silver Trident. Beyond excellent wines, they provided a unique pairing with their wines – potato chips from around the world. Here is the link to this quick story:
The Wine -2019 Silver Trident Symphony No.9 Sauvignon Blanc
One of the wines purchased was their delicious 2019 No.9 Sauvignon Blanc. This made my annual list of Best Wines Tasted, for 2022 (published last week). A very unique Sauvignon Blanc. On the eyes, very pale straw in color, but it packed a startling punch. On the nose, floral scents of honeysuckle and mellow green apple. On the palate, soft embracing citrus of Meyer lemon zest, a hint of lime and blanched almonds. The finish provided a honeydew melon that was welcomed and provided a medium long conclusion to each luscious sip. The current release is the 2021 vintage and is listed at $36/bottle.
The Food and Wine Pairing
A light dinner last week with some fresh Ahi tuna, sashimi style. We were in Modesto and picked up almost three quarters of a pound from Ohana Seafood. Went with a modicum of wasabi and ginger in order to appreciate this wonderful, crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc.
Pinot Noir is an elusive grape and difficult to make into a wonderful wine. A good friend of mine always stated “Pinot Noir is either wonderfully delicious or absolutely skunky bad”. I thought he might be overstating his affection or hatred of the wine, but I have grown to appreciate his position. After trying so many Pinot Noir wines, there is very little in the cellar, even though I vehemently seek to find a solid one! While I have found a few in the “stratosphere pricing range”, it is difficult to find one in the more every day category.
I recall a similar conversation with another friend from Scotland, who helped me find a solid whisky. He mentioned that a typical Scotch drinker finds just one or two that “hit the mark” and stay with it. Many years ago after a golf match, we tried sips of 12-14 Scottish whiskies. Finally found just one and I have not wavered since discovering my seldom enjoyed new drink from Scotland, but when we do meet up, we are very good friends!
Many recommendations have been given to me and tried, but I finally found one last evening! The 2019 Walter Hansel Pinot Noir, Cahill Lane Vineyard hit a bullseye with my palate profile for Pinot Noir. Not an earth shaker in the $100 and up range, but a solid aromatic and tasteful Pinot Noir in the mid $40’s. A big shout out and thanks to my friend Jim Denham of The Wine Steward in Pleasanton for this recommendation. I have had many of Walter Hansel Chardonnay’s and was never disappointed.
The 2019 Walter Hansel Pinot Noir, Cahill Lane Vineyard was also not disappointing. I have often compared the contrast between Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon being the 300+ pound defensive lineman in football (bold, heavy and strong) versus a Pinot Noir with the grace and finesse of a world class ballerina (light, airy and graceful). Last evening as I poured the wine into the glass, I was wondering which direction this would take. Only purchased this one bottle, but now can imagine bringing in a few more to the cellar. First on the eyes, a lovely purplish color, semi-translucent in depth of color (picture does not show this). On the nose aromas of blooming roses and strawberries. On the palate, fresh firm strawberries and red cherries surround the mouth as the primary flavors. Secondary and slightly hidden scents of vanilla and clove are present. The finish is a mild and comfortable acidity as it danced down the throat with a brightness. The current vintage is 2020 and is listed at $46/bottle on their website.
So it is with great pleasure I introduce you to my new friend, Walter Hansel Vineyards Pinot Noir, Cahill Lane Vineyards!