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2018 Wood Family Vineyards “Viva” Cabernet Sauvignon – A Mellow Cabernet Sauvignon

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The Wine

Lots of California Cabernet Sauvignon wines are “big, bold, tons of tannins, oaky and structured” which is great, especially with a big rib eye steak. However for those occasions where a softer, more refined and gentler Cabernet Sauvignon is required this Wood Family Vineyards “Viva” Cabernet Sauvignon is spot on!  Rhonda Wood does make your bigger and heartier Cabernet Sauvignon’s (“Especial”, “Clone 30”, “Woody’s Cab”) for those characteristics and for heavy food and wine pairings. She calls those Cabernets “fork & knife Cabernets”. I call them “chewy Cabernets”. Each has its place and found a perfect home for Wood Family Vineyards “Viva”.

This wine reminds me of the 60’s and early 70’s with a mellow and laid back attitude. It is a perfectly good wine to enjoy with or without food. On the eyes a deep and bright purple stands out in the glass with a medium viscosity. On the nose aromas of raspberries and cherries waft gently into the senses. On the palate this wine cuddles up like a down comforter on a cool winter evening. No harshness of tannins or overwhelming oak or layers upon layers to debunk. Vanilla, raspberry and a hint of blueberry swarms about to provide a compelling wine to sip and enjoy. The finish is medium and harmonious. Alcohol percentage is 14.1%, aged 20 months in French oak and 500 cases were produced. It is listed on their website for $38/bottle.

The Food & Wine Pairing

Paired with BBQ Country Ribs slow cooked (baked) in the oven. The pork boneless ribs were prepared with a rub consisting of chili powder, brown sugar, BBQ sauce, smoked paprika, cumin, dried oregano, kosher salt, crushed red pepper flakes and black pepper. So originally I was thinking of a Merlot or Malbec to go with the spicy and flavorful ribs, but then remembered this “soft and gentle” Wood Family Cabernet Sauvignon. It was spot on with the meal, caressing each delightful morsel with this wine. A baked Yukon potato was also served. A great food and wine pairing.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://woodfamilyvineyards.com

2018 Vinoce Vineyards Mt Veeder Cabernet Franc – Sweeping Awards from National Cabernet Franc Competition

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Vinoce Vineyards located in Napa, California participated in the December 2nd, 2020 National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition. The Competition was hosted by California Wines and Wineries at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges (Professional and People’s Choice) in different areas of the facility. Vinoce Vineyards 2018 won a Gold Medal and Best of Class from the Professional Judges. And from the People’s Choice Judges, they won Double Gold Medals, Best of Show and Best of Class. An extremely impressive showing!!  Wines were submitted from 14 states and numerous AVA’s from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/12/04/national-cabernet-franc-wine-competition-results-are-in-happy-cabernet-franc-day/

 

The Winery

Brian and Lori Nuss are the founders of Vinoce. The meaning of Vinoce (vin-o-chay) is a play on his name and German-Italian background. In German “nuss” translates as “nut”. In Italian “noce” means nut and thus Vinoce means “wine nut”. But there is nothing nutty about this wine, specifically the 2016 Vinoce Cabernet Franc from Mt Veeder! Today they produce Sauvignon Blanc (2), Cabernet Sauvignon (3) besides their Cabernet Franc.

The Wine

Their Cabernet Franc from Mt Veeder is exceptional, partly due to the geology of this designated sub-AVA of Napa Valley. The area is about 25 square miles with approximately 1,000 acres planted. The area is known for its thin volcanic soil and steep mountain face, some as much as 30 degrees. The steepness of the vineyards provide more sunlight and better drainage. Berries are generally smaller than the valley floor as they have to work harder in the volcanic soil with less water. Wines from this region possess strong structure, briarwood flavors and are typically bold. No exception for this Vinoce Cabernet Franc. Mt Veeder accounts for only a little over 1% of total Napa Valley production

First on the eyes, a dark ruby red with a slight purple hue. On the nose, aromas of dark cherry, blackberry and cocoa. On the palate, floral notes, cedar, briarwood, blackberries, cherry, blueberries, along with black pepper/peppercorns engulf ones mouth with a robust explosion. The finish is long with soft leather, a hint of sweet vanilla pipe tobacco, dried herbs and earthiness from Mt Veeder. The tannins were present but not obtrusive. 60% new French oak barrels were used and 40% neutral. This was an extremely enjoyable wine today and will continue to age gracefully. This is a great example of one of the premier Cabernet Franc’s coming out of Napa Valley. This is a must have to keep in your cellar. Current list price is $85 at the winery and only 56 cases were produced.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Last evening, BBQ’ed beef Filet Mignons and covered with a Point Reyes Blue cheese and chive butter glaze! Sautéed baby asparagus with garlic and seasoning completed the meal. The Cabernet Franc wine engulf the seared filets and made an exquisite meal.

Sláinte

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.vinoce.com/

Tate Wine – 2015 Spring Street Merlot

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The Winery

David Tate and his wife, Suzanne Tate are partners in TATE Wines. First a little history on how TATE Wines came to existence. Suzanne’s brief history while going to college in Austin, Texas (where she was raised), she very much enjoyed a wine appreciation course. She then went to study culinary arts at CCA in San Francisco. She went to work in Houston at a fine wine distributor for five years. It was a wine dinner that she met David Tate.  In 2010, she moved to Napa Valley.

David Tate’s credentials as a winemaker span over 20 years with a very strong background: Ridge Vineyards, as an assistant winemaker; worked in Barossa Valley, Australia; Provence, France; Canterbury, New Zealand. He also has travelled to just about every fine wine region in the world. David graduated from Brock University in Enology and Viticulture with honors. David is originally from Vancouver, British Columbia. David currently is the winemaker at Barnett Vineyards, winning many outstanding awards for their wine.

In 2011 David and Suzanne formed TATE Wines. So here again is a perfect blending of the two, David as the artisan winemaker, Suzanne as the marketing and sales arm, one from Canada and one from Texas. Yet combined they make a synergistic and complementary team of two, ready to take on the world with their wines. Today they have a tasting room in St Helena and offer besides the Merlot, 4 Cabernet Sauvignons from different vineyards and a Chardonnay.

For more background on Tate Wines read this earlier post:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/02/08/tate-wines/

The Wine

Opened a 2015 Tate Wines Merlot from the cellar that comes from St Helena, Napa Valley. Suzanne and David Tate have provided an extremely robust Merlot. Dark ruby on the eyes and purple hues with a medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose a dark fruit compote leads to a beautiful sweet & sour cherry and plum fruit with red licorice. The finish provides a hint of oak and cedar with soft tannins but with some edginess not often found in a “smooth” Merlot which was an enjoyable treat!  Also on the finish pomegranate with medium acidity. This is not necessarily a soft and comforting Merlot, more like a bone embracing solid bear hug with a big squeeze! A remarkable Merlot. Currently they are offering the 2018 Reason Vineyard Merlot at $55.

The Food & Wine Pairing

The food pairing with the Tate Merlot was a stir fried teriyaki chicken with Bucatini pasta and broccoli. Also a fresh garden salad was served. The smoothness and fruit of the Tate Merlot complimented some of the spice in the dish. An excellent pairing.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://tatewine.vinespring.com/

Wood Family 2018 Zinfandel “Big Wood Zin” – When the Meal Requires Zinfandel

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Starting off the afternoon around 4 pm, my wife let me know a Louisiana Jambalaya was on the docket for dinner. Started thinking about what wine to pair and I was a bit befuddled. Then did a little research and believed the consensus was Zinfandel. Then the beads of sweat appeared on my brow as I did not believe we had any Zinfandel in the cellar!  Now it is not an issue of whether I like Zinfandel or not, but many folks in our community do enjoy Zinfandel and regularly bring it to dinner.  That said Zinfandel is also not one of my go to wines either, with lots of choices in the cellar of many different and unique red wines.

I looked in the log book and to my amazement I actually found a whopping 4 bottles of Zinfandel, from four different wineries.  The one selected, as I remembered was a filler on a case procurement from Wood Family Winery about 6-8 week ago. Seemed like I enjoyed it at a tasting so mentioned to the GM, throw a bottle in to round out the case of wine. Logged it into the computer but obviously I had forgotten all about it. Turned out I was more than delighted to have found this “lost treasure”.

The meal recipe called for Creole seasoning, skinless boneless chicken thighs, cooked Andouille sausage links, red bell peppers, chopped white onion & celery stalks, minced garlic, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, long grain rice and sliced scallions. For good measure she added some dry red chili flakes for additional “heat”! All of this was cooked in a slow cooker for six hours.

The Zinfandel was amazing with the dinner. First on the eyes, it was opulent dark red and medium-heavy viscosity. On the nose, blackberry and boysenberry were the first aromas discovered. Then on the palate, is where this wine stood apart from so many “Amador fruit booms” as they are called and profoundly available in the Sierra foothills. Here spices of cinnamon, vanilla, herbal qualities and a dusty earthiness develop while moving about in the mouth. Definitely fruit forward with flavor but not “syrupy”. The wine presented other notes of chocolate and mocha. The softer tannins were a welcome treat to the “heat of the meal”. The finish was long lasting and with the various fruits which again counter balanced the spiciness of the meal.

This is one of the two Zinfandels that the Wood Family Vineyards offers. The “Big Wood” is 97% Zinfandel and 3% Petite Sirah. 700 cases were produced and it has a high 16.8% alcohol level. The “Big Wood” Zinfandel currently sells for $34/bottle per their website.

I am heading down to Livermore this week and will stop by to get a “few bottles” of the “Big Wood” as we seem to be having more and more spicy meals. The Wood Family Zinfandel is a beautiful match for these occasions.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://woodfamilyvineyards.com

A Wide Variety of Wines Recently Enjoyed

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Here are some excellent wines we have enjoyed over the last week (one in December). I have written previous stories on the wine or the winery and wanted to share these with you. I have referenced the link to previous stories.  Enjoy!

Tate Wines – 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mt Veeder.  An excellent wine representing this well-known region within Napa Valley. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/10/07/2015-tate-wines-merlot-a-muscular-merlot/

Borjón Winery – 2017 Petite Sirah Reposado. From Amador County in the Sierra Foothills. Known for their Barbera’s and Petite Sirah’s. A mouth filling wine with character. See: https://www.facebook.com/mkellywine/posts/10218046643373388?__cft__[0]=AZUhIua3SeCOzc1EFBAQcIxLsxUJKmBvmD11tqdfj12czfcG949p_1ZN6s2JlcMtr0HimsITW9tmJzlE4DEOFwVznI7n7ongI3i7EMteiQYACuBsL4Sxb7LgzlM4bZKk-A4&__tn__=%2CO%2CP-R

Smith-Madrone – 2016 Estate Riesling. An unusual wine dry farmed from Napa Valley on Spring Mountain. Minerality ++ and more on the dry side of Rieslings. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2021/01/28/2016-smith-madrone-vineyards-riesling-and-firecracker-chicken/

Alaya Tierra – 2016. A wine from Spain that is a deep red, almost black, Grancha Tinotorera. One of my annual imported favorites. Actually no previous story but has made my Best Wines of the Year of Imported Wines!

Yorkville 2016 Carmenere. An unusual variety, called the lost varietal of Bordeaux or 6th wine originally from this iconic French region. Now grown on estate in Mendocino County, California. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/09/07/2016-yorkville-cellars-carmenere-a-special-treat/

Mendel Malbec 2018. From the well-known and respected winemaker and producer in Argentina. This Finca Mendel, wine is spicy and rich. Pairs well with so many foods. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/12/29/carne-asada-and-malbec-wine-the-challenge-and-experiment/

LangeTwins Midnight Reserve 2015. Opened two nights ago and what a wonderful “Bordeaux style” blend from Lodi, California. It has aged gracefully and with rigor. See: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/03/10/2013-teroldego-single-vineyard-from-langetwins-family-winery/

Enjoy these wonderful wines!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

Narmada Cabernet Franc Reserve – From India with Love

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Narmada Winery located in Amissville, Virginia participated in the December 2nd, National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition. The Competition was hosted by California Wines and Wineries at The Golf Club at Copper Valley in Copperopolis, California. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges (Professional and People’s Choice) in different areas of the event. Narmada Winery 2016 Reserve won Bronze and Silver Medals.  Their 2017 Reserve also won identical Bronze and Silver Medals   Wines were submitted from 14 states and numerous AVA’s from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/12/04/national-cabernet-franc-wine-competition-results-are-in-happy-cabernet-franc-day/

The Winery

(Sudha Patil)

This winery is new to me, so after talking with Jim Hollingshead, the winery manager, some interesting facts came to light. The winery was founded by Pandit and Sudha Patil. They were both originally from Mumbai, India. After each had a successful education with Pandit earning a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and Sudha getting BS in chemistry and her DDS, specialty in Endodontics from the Georgetown University , towards their retirement, they had always been interested in wine. Thus the first wines were planted in 2004 and the winery opened a few years later in 2009. Sadly, Pandit passed in 2018. Tom Payette has been the consulting winemaker assisting Sudha for many years. They are producing today approximately 3,000 cases a year. They also produce Petit Verdot, Viognier, Merlot, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Merlot and a port.

I was curious as to the name Narmada and Jim told me about the background. Pandit who was awarded a full scholarship to the University of New Mexico while living in Mumbai  India, could not afford the plane ticket to attend. His mother Narmada, hearing this great news of a full ride, decided to sell off her family jewelry that had been passed down generation to generation in order to get Pandit a ticket to attend college. Fast forward after a successful career for both of them, knowing that the start of their journey began with the love and generosity of his mother Narmada, it was an easy choice to honor his mother. Today the centerpiece of the wine portfolio is called “Mom”.

The Wine

The 2016 and 2017 Narmada Cabernet Franc Reserve wines were tasted last evening. The bad news is that the 2016 Reserve is now completely sold out!  The good news is that the consensus of us who tasted both, preferred the 2017 Reserve. One of the contributing factors of the purple hue is most likely due to 6% Petit Verdot being in the mix. As you can see the color was a deep purple in the glass with a medium viscosity. On the nose spices and violet flowers abounded. On the palate a joyous melding of raspberry, Bing cherry, soft leather and a hint of tobacco. The finish was spectacularly round, soft and with a forest meadow earthiness. This wine was in barrel for 30 months.  Narmada Cabernet Franc vintages have won over 40 Gold Medals at various wine competitions! The 2017 Reserve will not be “generally released” until the fall of 2021 as they are currently re-releasing their 2014 Reserve which has been in barrel for five years!  The 2014 is listed for sale at $48 and the 2017 will be sold at $50.

The Food and Wine Pairing

The wine was paired with a beautifully BBQ’ed filet mignon steak, garlic baked scampi, fettucine Alfredo with Gruyère cheese and a fresh garden salad (sorry no pictures!).

One of the fascinating takeaways from last evening for those “hooked on California wines” was the exposure to the excellent quality of this Virginia Cabernet Franc. In the conversation with Jim, there are approximately 350 wineries in Virginia with a majority making Cabernet Franc.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://narmadawinery.com

3 Steves 2019 Reserve Chardonnay – A New Addition to the Cellar

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A refreshing change up to our normal “everyday Chardonnay”. Just picked up some 2019 3 Steves Reserve Chardonnay. A light golden straw color on the eyes and light to medium viscosity. A mild bouquet on the nose, with white fruit and extremely soft citrus. On the palate, mild acidity and oak with an almost old world (non-buttery) taste in the mouth. It provides a mouthful sensation due to not being filtered or fined before bottling. The finish is extremely clean, crisp and creamy.  Definitely a new wine to be stocked in the cellar for our warm summer months while sitting on the patio (assuming Covid is contained by the summer months!).

The next big question is what food pairing will work well with this wine?  Stay tuned.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://3steveswinery.com/

2012 Sarocka Cabernet Sauvignon and Fat Tuesday Fofas!

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The Winery

Sarocka vineyards is located on the top of Spring Mountain. In 2020 with the devastating Glass Fire in Napa Valley, it was reported that they lost all their vineyards and all other structures on the property burned except the home and guest house survived. It also is the home of Irene Scully and family. I have not heard if they will be replanting. It was an amazing 2.5 acre property grandfathered from county ordinances with slopes greater than 30 degrees. It sits at 1200 feet elevation. Well known and respected winemaker Michael Hirby (Realm and Husic wines) today is making this exquisite wine. Typical vintages were typically between 100 to 150 cases each year.

(Photo from Sarocka Wine. no copyright infringement is intended)

The label and name is to honor Irene’s Lithuanian heritage. The label is modeled after an artwork she purchased from a Lithuanian street artist. It represents the “tree of life” in agricultural mythology in Lithuanian. Sarocka is Irene’s Lithuanian maiden name.

The Wine

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable wines tasted in the past few years! The last time I tasted this wine was in 2020 and it was another vintage. This 2012 is one of 8 bottles left in the cellar. It was on the “Drink in 2021 List” and I was pleased beyond belief as it was fabulous. I still have some 2013’s and 2014’s left in the cellar but have yet tasted them! I have been purchasing wine from this boutique winery since they opened. Knew the 2012 would improve with aging, but this became even so much better than anticipated.

The 2012 was almost black with a dark red tint around the edges with medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, floral aromas, soft licorice and pepper. On the palate blackberries, dark cherry notes, vanilla, soft oak, cinnamon, chocolate and sweet tobacco abounded. An almost never ending long finish, with rounded smooth tannins and a firm structure showing its pedigree was evident. The wine aged gracefully with new vigor and life. Made with 85% of estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Petit Verdot and 1% Cabernet Franc.  They show on the second label Scully website the2017 Sarocka being offered at $135.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Unbeknownst to me a tradition exists in the Azores Islands (Portugal), where on Fat Tuesday, Fihos a traditional pastry is made and given out that evening. Filhos are fried and require yeast, sugar, butter, flour and yeast. You need to wait for the dough to rise and then they are fried in oil. Our local “Portuguese fairy” (name withheld) phoned and stated she would like to give us a Fat Tuesday sweet.  Fofas only take flour, milk, eggs, oil and are baked in the oven. Then a sweet coating on top. Apparently in the Azores, it is similar to New Orleans where you “party on the tables until midnight” when the Lent season begins at midnight to start Ash Wednesday leading up to Easter.

I can report no dancing on any tables occurred but when paired with the wine, if we had opened more, shoe scuffs marks would have had to have been removed from a few tables!!  It certainly was a great surprise to be presented with this wonderful tasting dessert/tradition and the wine was simply amazing.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

http://scullywine.com/

2016 Smith-Madrone Vineyards Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – An Uncommonly Smooth and Mouth-Filling Cabernet

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The Winery

Smith-Madrone Vineyards is located on 200 acres on top of Spring Mountain west of St. Helena with 38 acres planted in vineyards. The vineyard elevation ranges from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. The founder, managing partner and enologist is Stuart Smith, Charles Smith is the winemaker and Sam Smith is the assistant winemaker. Truly a family affair! All the wines are estate and dry-farmed on top of the mountain. Annual production is between 3,000 to 4,000 cases a year. Currently they are producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and their iconic Cooks Flat (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc). A note on the September Napa Valley Glass Fire: No vineyards or buildings were damaged, although there is repair work going on to restore fences and gates. The winery’s tasting room hasn’t yet reopened but they welcome sales through their website or over the phone.

(Photo taken by Matthew Denny)

The Wine

The 2016 Smith-Madrone Cabernet Sauvignon provided a unique perspective to Cabernet Sauvignon’s from Napa. While I have enjoyed many Cab’s from Spring Mountain, I suspect it is the dry farmed quality that presents such a welcoming twist. First on the eyes a deep red crimson color, along with royal purple hues, presenting a medium heavy viscosity, intrigues your visual awareness. On the nose raspberry, dark Bing cherries, vanilla pipe tobacco waft up to stir up your excitement. Then once in the mouth dark fruit and leather weigh in with the fulfillment of the aromas previously mentioned. On the finish, which is smooth and silky at first, but later puffs out its structure and tannins as a proud authentic wine. Also traces of minerality provide a complete and enjoyable wine. The wine contains 89.7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3.4% Merlot and 6.4% Cabernet Franc. It spent 19 months in barrel, 45% new French oak and 55% neutral oak.  Smith-Madrone made 1,375 cases and this is a solid mid-priced wine at $58 at the winery!  I have had many others wines much closer to $100 that did not provide the balance, fullness and enjoyment that this did!

The Food and Wine Pairing

Since the weather was clear and sunny although a cool 54 degrees, decided to BBQ. Paired with a marinated and seared tri-tip steak, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes with Blue cheese and steamed broccoli and tomatoes. The tri-tip was garnished with small pieces of Point Reyes Blue cheese making it so delicious with the wine.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.smithmadrone.com/

2017 LangeTwins Petite Sirah from One Hundred Acre Vineyard

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The Winery

Established in Acampo (north of Lodi in the Central Valley of California), they have been around since 1870 as farmers and purchased their first vineyard in 1916. They have historically made some delicious wines but wanted further to enhance their presence in the market with an offering called their Single Vineyard Series. The winery has vineyards in Jahant, Mokelumne River, Clements Hills Appellations of Lodi as well as Clarksburg. The desired goal of the Single Vineyard Series is to make a wine that expresses the character and “terroir” of a specific area and their agricultural skills of sustainability and care.

 

The Wine

This is the first vintage Petite Sirah from the One Hundred Vineyard by LangeTwins. The Jahant AVA is the smallest of Lodi’s seven AVA’s. This area is unique as it sits on a river terrace and old flood plain with rich soils and deposits. The first thing you notice is the immensely deep color and the lushness of the viscosity. On the nose, aromas of blackberry and blueberry abound and beckon the first sip. Once on the palate, violet and bittersweet chocolate swirl with delight. The aging in both French and American oak adds just enough influence and spiciness to make a long and enjoyable lasting finish.

As an educational note, Petite Sirah is not a “smaller” version of Syrah as it is a wholly different varietal. The background on Petite Sirah is that it is the offspring of Syrah and Peloursin (a scarce and almost extinct grape).

The Food and Wine Pairing

Last evening pairing with the LangeTwins Petite Sirah was a pork chop sautéed in garlic, white wine and ground coarse black pepper. Accompanied with a fresh garden salad and Yukon Gold potato. I did a thin glaze of Tabasco on top of the pork chop and the Petite Sirah with its fruit was a smooth and soothing wine!

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://langetwines.com