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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:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/04/05/shadybrook-estate-purchases-chateau-lane-winery/

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2019/09/23/rudy-zuidema-a-look-at-the-extraordinary-winemaker-golfer-husband-father/

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!

Sláinte,

Michael


https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://www.shadybrookestate.com/

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

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.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.acquiescevineyards.com/

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

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://woodfamilyvineyards.com/

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 https://ledson.com/discover-ledson/history/ . 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!

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2018/06/26/ledson-winery-an-opulent-castle-only-overshadowed-by-the-wine/\

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.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://ledson.com/

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: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/04/15/lautre-cote-cabernet-franc-a-tale-of-two-vineyards-ghielmetti-and-sachau-vineyards/. 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!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.lautrecotecabfranc.com/

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.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://cornerstonecellars.com/

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:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2018/07/22/hanna-winery-vineyards/

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!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://www.hannawinery.com

2020 Hindsight Sauvignon Blanc With Unique Ora Salmon from New Zealand

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Last night our Friday Night Wine & Dine group ate at Verona18 restaurant at The Golf Club Copper Valley. This is still their “soft opening” but with a more extensive menu mimicking their Modesto restaurant, Verona Cucina Italiana.

The meal started off with a Caprese Salad. Fresh tomatoes (Beefsteak?), fresh mozzarella, basil, Kalamata olives, olive oil and with a balsamic glaze. Perhaps one of the best I have ever tasted! Paired with a Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo Riserva to cut through tomatoes and olive oil. Perfectly paired.  The wine is especially tasty but I want to clear up a common misconception. Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo and Montepulicano are two entire different wines. Montepulicano d’ Abruzzo is a totally unique and wonderful wine from the Abruzzo region in east-central Italy and not to be confused with the Montepulicano which is mainly Sangiovese grapes from Tuscany. Colline Teramane became a DOCG region (denomianazione di Origine Contraollata Garantita) in 2003. Essential by being a DOCG vs DOC, they must follow stricter guidelines in producing their wine. Only four provinces can produce this wine. The wine must be 90% Montepulicano with only 10% being Sangiovese grapes.

This wine is deeply colored inky red/purple with pepper spices notes. Often it is called “rustic”. In general, it is “aromatic, tannic and with low acidity”. It is aged in oak for twenty-four months.  Key flavors of earthiness, blackberries and prevalent. Often it is also beholds sweeter tannins and is appropriately paired with hot & spicy peppers and pork dishes. Its ability to age in the cellar is up to 20 years and the price point can range from $8 to $200+. A delightful treat which is often overlooked and confused with the lighter Montepulicano from Tuscany. As the winemaker Antonio Lamona states “I want to make wines that are pleasing to the body and the spirit”. For the typical California wine drinker you will pleased if you get a nice bottle of Montepulicano d’ Abruzzo.

Looking at the menu in advance, I had decided on the Grilled Salmone. It was an Ora King salmon, with fresh herbs, olive oil served over saffron risotto.  Ora King salmon is not commonly found so here is a quick background. First it is the only saltwater farmed salmon given best choice ranking. I am generally opposed to any “farmed fish” but this is very different. There are a variety of reasons that Ora King Salmon should be your #1 choice in farm raised salmon: healthy feed and fish growth, location and farming techniques, as well as a unique skin that is uncommon to anywhere else in the world. Critics believe the best of the best salmon in the world actually is farm raised in New Zealand. This special king salmon has been described as the “Wagyu of the Sea” because the taste of this fish compares to no other. From the crystal clear waters flowing from Te Waikoropupū Springs in Takaka, to the pure and isolated sea waters of the Marlborough Sounds. Several 3 Star Michelin restaurants have served this fish including The French Laundry in Yountville, California (Napa Valley). After tasting it last night I have to agree this was outstanding.

This was paired with a 2020 Hindsight Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley. Previously I have written about the Hindsight Winery in Calistoga and their excellent red wines, especially their Cabernet Sauvignon’s.  About 10 months ago their long time winemaker, Jac Cole retired. Now some excellent news—they hired Michael Weis, who was the head winemaker at Groth. He is well known for making spectacular wines and I believe he received 100 points from Wine Spectator for one of his Sauvignon Blanc vintages. Additional reading on the winery and ownership can be found at:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/07/16/hindsight-wines-cabernet-sauvignons-calistoga-estate-howell-mountain/

Their inaugural Sauvignon Blanc release under Michael Weis was handcrafted with an artisan touch. First on the eyes it is a golden straw color and medium viscosity. On the nose, floral aromas waft into the senses, along with green apple which is most prominent. On the palate, citrus accents of lime and lemon come into play and are kept in check with flavor but not overpowering. The finish provides a mouthful feeling of a much heavier wine rather than a “light Sauvignon Blanc”. This is most likely due to the addition of nine percent Viognier. This also helps lower the acidity. This wine goes for only $25.99! I literally felt while eating the salmon with this wine, I had achieved a state of Nirvana!

The group also had several other wines to go mainly with Italian pasta dishes and all were absolutely solid.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwines.com

http://www.hindsightwines.com/

https://www.coppervalleygolf.com/homepage/current-operations

Love Cork Screw Wines – The Road Less Traveled

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Chrishon Lampley is a négociant and owner of Love Cork Screw and Lampley Reserve Wines.  Firstly, what is a négociant? A négociant is a French word for a wine merchant or wholesaler. More specifically one who buys grapes, grape juice or partially fermented or finished wine from others and sells the wine produced under their name/label. Thus Chrishon does not own a winery or vineyards and yet has sold over one million bottles of her wine!

Now about the “road less traveled and that has made all the difference” as Robert Frost stated in his poem. Her less traveled road contains the following elements: target marketing, keen understanding of developing wine consumers, family/friends and a modicum of light heartedness.

Target Marketing

Many “sophisticated wineries” are all chasing the $78.3 billion USA market with many high end offering. Chrishon has targeted both the grocery store consumer and the developing “alphabet consumers” (Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z). In a lengthy conversation, her insight to the grocery consumer is based on the following priorities: Label, Price and Quality. She has an answer for each. The label I will discuss later, but the price issue, is something she attacked head on. She wants the consumer in her words “to pull a $20 bill out of their pocket and buy her wine”.   To this end, her Love Cork Screw Wine portfolio comprises eight varietal wines with over half under twenty dollars. Her labels are light hearted, not to intimidate the grocery store shopper.  The names of the wines for example are “Head Over Heels” (Riesling), “We’re Moving On Up” (Cabernet Sauvignon), “Be The Light” (Sauvignon Blanc), “Good Times Good Friends” (Pinot Grigio), etc. They are eye catching phrases and friendly/light hearted when going down the grocery isle. They also serve as gifts for a promotion, moving to a new home, a party and other events. Her wines can be found at Target Stores, Walmart, Total Wines and many other locations. One of her creative marketing tactics is putting the nutritional and serving information on the back of the wine bottle. This is highly regarded by the “alphabet consumers” wanting to know this type of information.


Quality

As a négociant she can pick and choose the wine varietals to suit her market. One of the key markets is the mid-west. Her assessment of this market is for a “sweeter palate”. She has wines from Fenn Valley in northern Michigan peninsula (Concord, Riesling, Pinot Grigio), Summerland Wine Brands in Buellton, California (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Healdsburg, California (Sparkling). She is currently working with a winery in Chile on a Sauvignon Blanc.

Lampley Reserve

I was sent a bottle in advance of our conversation. My “left brain” was in a bit of shock that someone was producing a Demi-Sec sweet sparkling wine. A quick recap of Champagne/Sparkling residual sugar levels. First Brut Champagne is 0-12 grams/per liter sugar level and Demi-Sec is 32-50 grams/per liter. The market in the USA is definitely a Brut or drier level as evidenced by 97% of all Champagne imported is Brut from France. Prosecco follows a similar guideline. Again this is where Chrishon follows the road less traveled and is targeting the “alphabet generations” and grocery store novices. However as stated earlier, she is keen on family and friends. Adorning the label of her second and higher end wine label Lampley Reserve is a picture of her mother when she was twenty. Chrishon’s mother likes a sweet sparkling wine, so this first varietal in the series is to honor her mid-eighties mother! It is comprised of 53% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Meunier grapes with a light alcohol level of 12.17%. Only 432 cases were produced. While not a big fan of demi-sec sparkling or Champagne, it was difficult to assess the quality, but I am not part of Chrishon targeted market.

Conclusion

However, her success cannot be denied as she has sold over 1,000,000 bottles of wine since starting in 2013. Her target marketing (demographics, geography, price point, label design) and much more has put Chrishon on the map and makes her a force to be taken seriously. Her Lampley Reserve line of wines is just launching and she is doing a refresh on her Love Cork Screw labels in Q3 2022.  She is not finished by any means and discussed briefly a plan to import wines from South Africa. She described her wines as being in a mood and one of her tag lines sums up appropriately “enjoy it, drink it, don’t think it”. Her road less traveled is wide open with her focus, creativity, attitude and bringing new wine lovers into the fold.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.lovecorkscrew.com/

For more on Chrishon Lampley visit her TEDx talk at  https://lovecorkscrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/How-Success-Screwed-Me-Chrishon-Lampley-TEDxGrandBoulevard.mp4?_=1

Why I Love and Hate Social Media – My Nightmare

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This may be a strange title, but it perfectly sums the diabolical relationship with all forms of current social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Now this may seems a bit odd considering my daily and numerous posts on Social Media. This relationship of love/hate is much more than a passing fad, as I have had these feelings for years trying to understand and comprehend the significance and impact of social media.

So let’s start off on a positive note before my rant or negativity. Social media allows ones to connect with like-minded folks on a variety of subjects. In my case, wine, wine education, the wine industry and foods to pair with wines. I would not have the reach and diversity in my “social family” if it were not for the various forms of social media. But how deep that impact and connection is based on individuality of the audience not a “total number of readers”.  

Now the dissatisfaction with social media. In Alan Toffler’s FUTURE SHOCK, published in 1970, he stated “minimum involvement is precisely what the user of the throwaway society gets for his money”. So a percentage of well-intended readers are interested a specific subject, their interest wanes with the amount of “involvement” or connecting with the author. If they connect, the reader most likely will follow that author. If something is askew, the reader becomes lost or disheartened with thought, the article is summarily dismissed.  The baby is thrown out with the bathwater. Toffler also stated that in our society becoming “even faster pace we are headed towards further and faster cognitive overstimulation”.  I think this a solid reason that a five-ten second clip is gaining popularity as it requires so little involvement of thought and time.  The content if more than a picture, it is just the medium to entice the reader to the article.

Another great quote is by Os Guinness, in his book The DUST OF DEATH, states “the printed word has ruined the intellect. It has given fools and fiends the same power as wise men and saints. It has made a jumble of the mind, a burlesque of reason. No one any longer knows how to think clearly and cognitively to a finish”.  Also the statement appropriately sums up where our culture is today with Os’s comment “the option now is not one-dimensional uniformity but multi-dimensional over choice”. We are facing paralysis of thought and action due to so much abundance of choice. So when a blogger states sulfates are ok and the next wine writer states sulfates are damaging  it causes confusion and halts the cognitive process except for a few who venture forth to do research and ferret out a conclusion.

Now add today with new social media mediums constantly changing and emerging, TikTok, Instagram and iTunes for example. The printed word is being swallowed up for clips and five-ten second bits of information. While it is always interesting to see a traffic accident (provided no one is seriously hurt), an apparent living tree actually being a person scaring pedestrians, cars sliding down an icy hill, etc., what is the message? It appears that Instagram, TikTok, etc., are really a passing opium for the one dimensional non-thinking masses. While a picture may we worth a thousand words, it really only provokes a thumbs up or down, without a thorough comprehension or investigation of intent or reasonableness.

In 1847 Soren Kierkegaard stated “reflections …… must not so much move, mollify, reassure, persuade as awaken and provoke men and sharpen thought”. 

Yet here we are today being entertained to death via our cellphones clinched in hand. Halford Luccok in one of my favorite quotes once said, “We are going to have eyes the size of cantaloupes and brains the size of peas”.

So when an author, blogger communicates on a subject, they are asking for your consideration of the content and an informed response. A response not necessarily of agreement but of a mindful retort. Giving just a thumbs up, is essentially a “non-event”. Engagement of thought is the underlying request not an emoji.

So there I have shared just a skosh of my love and hate relationship with social media with you the readership. It is the best and worst of our collective communication systems today. So living with it is paramount, but loving it may not necessarily bring us to Nirvana.

Now back to sipping some enjoyable wine…………

Slainte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/