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:  https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/05/25/2019-wood-family-vineyards-chardonnay/ . 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 Vineyards.com

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:  https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2018/09/09/acquiesce-winery-vineyards-an-unique-offering/

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!




2016 idus de Vall Llach, An Enjoyable Priorat Wine From Spain

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Where and what is Priorat?

Priorat is an area about 2 ½ hour drive west/southwest of Barcelona. Priorat consists of eleven small villages in the southern portion of Catalonia in the province of Tarragona. In comparison to the country, it is an extremely small region. Priorat is a Denominació d’Origen Qualificada (DOQa), in the southwest of Catalonia. It is one of only two wine regions in Spain to qualify as DOCa, the highest qualification level for a wine region according to Spanish wine regulations, alongside the better known Rioja DOCa.

(Map from Quintin Sadler’s Wine Page, https://quentinsadler.wordpress.com/)

Brief History and Background of Priorat

This wine area has over two thousand years of history from the Romans. Due to the proximity of the Iberian Peninsula, it was controlled by the Moors until the twelfth century. In this area you get a fabulous combination of architecture from the Moorish influence as well as Romanesque.

The Priorat district gets its name from the Carthusian order who founded a monastery in the region in the end of the 12th century. Interestingly, the most changes have transpired during the last 30-40 years. Winemakers in the region upgraded their methods and equipment and began a modernization and professional approach to wine.

Weather, climate and soil are the major components of this region. The wine area receives 3000 hours of sunshine and roughly 15 inches of rainfall per year. The soil in the area is rich in hard slate but the roots can go through seeking underground water. A lot of the vineyards in the area follow the terrain with terraces and steep slopes.

One of the two grapes which are used in this 2016 Vall Llach “Idus” is Grenacha (Grenache) which is the lesser grape. One of the distinct traits of the grapes from the region is its ability to produce a strong, yet fresh wine. The second grape varietal used in the making of Idus and the predominate percentage  is the Cariñena in the USA called Carignan. Carignan grows very well in the drier regions of California like the Central Valley and Sierra foothills.

Typically wines from the area have intense red coloration, with aromas of ripe fruit with a strong mineral trait from the slate vineyards. In the mouth a fleshy, strong flavoring with tannins being present are common.  They present black plum, licorice and have a black pepper spice quality, coupled with berry and chocolate with a smoky scent. Cariñena is a unique black skinned grape varietal. It typically is used in blending in many wines.

The 2016 Idus is multifaceted, with alluring aromas of red forest fruit, fleshy black plums, with hints of forest herbs, wood smoke and dark minerals. Wide on the palate, the wine is both powerful and fresh for an old-vine Priorat; displaying good acidity, round tannins and an incredibly long finish.

2016 idus Vall de Llach Priorat

The 2016 Idus provides multiple levels of aromas and tastes. The percentage mix is 90% Cariñena and 10% Grenacha. A dark color and medium to medium heavy viscosity is present. You immediately pick up on the palate, wood smoke from cedar and the mineral traces from the slate. It is what I describe as a representation of “old world” wine. Powerful with enough acidity to give an edge, but with round tannins so as not to overwhelm ones senses. Together they provide a long and satisfying finish. On the label it states this wine can age up to 30 years with proper storage. The wine is almost “blackish” in color with just a slight deep purple rim. This is a very strong wine and recommended to be enjoyed with food.

The Food Pairing

Paired was a seared Tri-tip Kabob marinated in Chaka sauce with pieces of purple onion, bell peppers (red, green and yellow) and pineapple. Accompanied by a Shitake mushroom with a light glaze of a sweet and sour sauce. The wine and food was an absolutely delicious pairing.


I hope you enjoy the side trip to Priorat as this growing region is extremely well-known in wine circles and the grape varietals Grenacha (Grenache in USA) and Cariñena (Carignan) are extremely tasty and wonderful grapes grown both in Priorat and the USA. I have for years now always kept wine from the Priorat region in the cellar for the uniqueness, quality and delightful expression of the local area.




2019 Dave’s Porch Wine Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

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My turn in the kitchen tonight for dinner with exquisite food matching wines. 2019 Dave’s Porch Wine Sauvignon Blanc and 2010 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.

First up for appetizers some thirty fresh clams brewed in a white wine, butter, garlic and parsley sauce. Accompanied with a triple Brie cheese with mushrooms from Germany called Champignon. Spread on some fresh bakery sourdough bread. Wine paired was the 2019 Porch Wine Sauvignon with some tropical spices.

Next up were two entrees. First a flank steak wrapped around cheese, tomatoes and spinach. Served with a 2010 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Rated by various sources between 95 and 99 points! Smooth velvety tannins and aged in French barrels. Opulent and dark fruits abound. Price of the wine is anywhere from $200 to $350+ a bottle.

The other was a fresh yellow fin tuna seared on the BBQ with ground peppercorns and served rare. Topped with pineapples, Mandarin oranges, red pepper flakes and green onions. Served with the 2019 Dave’s Porch Wine Sauvignon Blanc with tropical aromas and flavors. Today’s vintage goes for $13.50 a bottle.

For me, one of the key takeaway is not the cost of the wine but what food it is paired.






Gastrónomo – A True Azorean Restaurant With Food & Wine

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Azores may be a group of Portuguese islands in the Atlantic, but what I discovered the last 3 weeks is that Azores really mean family and community. Families that have struggled toiling the rocky island of Pico planting vineyards, battling seasonal weather swings, enduring a tumultuous history and today enjoying the freedom of a new Azores. Today they are proudly doing it as a family and community. No where was this more exemplified than by the restaurant Gastrónomo on the island of São Miguel.

It is not an opulent setting, nor a view of the ocean but a simple local restaurant for the community and tourists seeking out an authentic culinary experience. The concierge tried to make reservations the night before but they were sold out! The charm of the restaurant was embodied by two factors. The first being the family that owned and ran the restaurant. We were greeted by a young man (son of the owner) with a grin from ear to ear that immediately disarmed you as a stranger and welcomed you to his family. We quickly met Mama, sister and tasted grandma’s homemade blackberry jam.

The second factor was the fresh fish of the day proudly displayed in the restaurant. We were encouraged and fully participated in walking up to view which seafood looked inviting for the evening meal. Choices made included squid, triggerfish and tuna. Each were served with local spices and prepared in typical Azorean fashion. All were delicious as each was shared.

The white wine, recommendation provided the perfect compliment to fish dishes enjoyed by all. It was a 2018 Mau Feitio, which had a blend and taste/aromas of both a Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in a beautifully integrated and harmonious wine. This white wine comes from the Douro region of mainland Portugal. Mau Feitio in Portuguese means a “good bad temper of qualities, expressions and righteousness”.

The second wine of the evening which functioned more like an after dinner wine, was a 2017 Fraga da Galhofa, a Grande Reserva also from the Douro region. It was a blend of Touriga National, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Alicante Bouchet. It tied for the best red wine for the trip. Worthy to seek out and purchase.

This was the a perfect crescendo to the Azorean experience-family, community, fresh foods, friends and beautiful wines. It doesn’t get much better than what we experienced.




2019 Pico do Verdelho, Adega and Rocky Vineyards

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Started off the day with a late lunch at Aldeia Da Fonte in Lajes on island of Pico.

Fresh fish of the day was grilled Yellowmouth Barracuda! It was so tasty and ate it like locals with olive oil and wine vinegar. Paired with a 2019 Pico do Verdelho.

Then off to very special friend of Goulart’s. Went to his adega (stone building) where families make wine, moonshine, cognac and who knows what else. Fernando makes all kinds of wine to moonshine to cognac in his tiny adega. His generosity in sharing will never be forgotten.

He has 16 hectors of grapes and fruits (figs for example) which are used in his fig moonshine for example.

One is amazed anything can grow in this rocky soil throughout the island!!

Isabela and Merlot grapes are planted on his property. Seems like half the population of Pico have their personal adega for production.

If you walk a road lined with adega’s, it is considered bad luck if you are asked to stop for a drink and don’t partake. In the short 500 yard walk, we passed at least 12 to 14. Fortunately no one was at their adega so we were safe!!!!




2017 De Tierra Cabernet Franc – Best of Class at the International Cabernet Franc Wine Competition & Celebration

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The Awards

At the April 2022 International Cabernet Franc Blind Wine Competition and Celebration held in Copperopolis, California, the 2017 De Tierra Vineyards 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 People’s Choice Judges for category 3 ($51 to $75), awarded a Silver Medal and Best of Class to the 2017 De Tierra Vineyards Cabernet Franc. The Professional Judges also awarded it a medal. For more information on the Annual International Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and Celebration click on the following links:

Blind Wine Competition: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2022/04/09/3rd-annual-cabernet-franc-wine-competition-celebration-results/

Wine Tasting & Appetizers: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2022/04/11/wine-tasting-appetizers-at-the-3rd-annual-cabernet-franc-celebration/

Winemaker’s Dinner Featuring Cabernet Franc’s: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2022/04/14/cabernet-franc-wine-competition-and-celebration-winemakers-dinner/

The Winery

The vineyard was planted in 2003 in De Tierra Valley, between Salinas and Monterey about 6 miles south of Hwy 68. The vineyard is called the Russell Estate and has been organic since the beginning. The co-owners of the winery are Dan McDonnal and Alix Lynn Bosch. The wine maker is Olivier Rousett, originally from France but has been making wine for the last 12 years in America and another 8 years previously in France. He has been with them approximately one year.

De Tierra tries to focus their production on Monterey varietals. Other wines produced by De Tierra Vineyards include: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Riesling, Sangiovese, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, three proprietary red blends and of course Cabernet Franc. All the wine varietals are small lot with only 200-300 cases per each varietal. They have gained some excellent traction in winning 2021 Gold Medal Monterey Wine Competition in 2021 with their Syrah. Ditto for their Rose. In 2022, their Chardonnay was Gold and their Riesling was rated 98 points.

Their tasting room is located in Carmel-By-The-Sea at Mission 3SE, 5th Ave in downtown Carmel.

The Wine – 2017 De Tierra Cabernet Franc

First on the eyes a deep purple hue and medium viscosity. On the nose, dark cherry and hint of smokiness. Where the wine excels is on the palate with blackberry, black tea, plum and a strong sense of trace minerals. On the finish damp musty forest meadow surrounds each sip. Missing were the strong pyrazines but such a soft rounded finish with embracing tannins makes this wine enjoyable. The wine is held in 25% new French oak and balance being various countries of neutral oak.  The wine was aged two years in the barrel before bottling. The wine is listed on their website for $65/bottle. This Cabernet Franc also won a Gold Medal at the 2018 American Fine Wine Competition and scored 92 points.

The Food and Wine Pairing

The meal for the evening consisted of a tri-tip steak marinated 24 hours in a Chaka marinade, then seared on the BBQ at 650 degrees and served medium rare. Accompanying the meal was a fresh garden salad and garlic French bread. Additionally a Greek Pesto Pasta Salad was served. Ingredients for the salad included: Kosher salt, fusilli pasta, pesto sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar, black pepper, feta cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, purple onions and Kalamata olives. The meal with this wine and friends was fantastic.

Looking forward to my next visit to Carmel and stopping by to taste some of their other award winning wines!