2018 Tenbrink Vineyards Chardonnay

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Pulled of the cellar a 2018 Tenbrink Chardonnay from Suisun Valley. When I first tasted this wine in January 2019, I immediately rated it as one of the Best of Year wines on the nose alone without even tasting it. I can’t recall giving a “score” to any wine before tasting it! When I first sipped the wine it was inspirational. The pale straw coloring provided an array of honeysuckle, pear and apple on nose and later on the palate. It had a touch of citrus on the finish and was clearly going to be a winner! All the kudos for this wine still ring true! It made the Best Wines Tasted in 2021. I am so pleased I continued to purchase this wine. A tremendous bargain now at $32 retail price for the 2020 release. See a previously written stories on this boutique winery at:



The Food and Wine Pairing

Last evening paired with a grilled Swordfish at Vine18 restaurant. Topped with a pineapple salsa, garlic mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.  The Swordfish dinner was a great pairing with the floral and fruits in this flavorful Tenbrink Chardonnay.

Suisun Valley is definitely one of the most underappreciated and under the radar wine regions in California.






2019 Wood Family Vineyards Malbec Being Released in March, 2022

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The Winery

Rhonda Wood, winemaker at Wood Family Vineyards, makes some exceptional wines from Livermore, California. The background on the winery can be found in another story at:


Rhonda and the family winery are small in comparison to some of Livermore’s known name wineries, but have been regarded for years as one of the top quality wine producers. For example, just recently they received the following accolades for her 2017 Malbec:

• 2017 Malbec – 93 points Wine Enthusiast

• 2017 Malbec – Best of Show – SF Chronicle Wine Competition 2020

The Wine

I received this wine before it’s official release to do a review and was I pleased. This wine on the eyes is medium viscosity and with a deep royal purple coloration, yet around the rim it is almost translucent (per the picture). On the nose blackberries and dark red plums are the leaders rushing into claim dominance in the olfactory senses. Also present were violets and roses. On the palate, besides blackberries and plums, you experience a soft note of milk chocolate and gentle smokiness counterbalanced with fresh ripe cherries and soft spiciness.  The finish is velvety smooth with medium acidity and tannins with no sharpness. Also on the finish the presence of ground stone minerality provide a juicy and mouth filling finish. Alcohol was 14.7% with 108 cases produced and listed at the winery at $34. This is one of my four favorite wines from Wood Family Vineyards! Wood Family 2018 Malbec made the list of Best Wines Tasted in 2021 and the 2019 definitely will make my Best Wines Tasted in 2022!

The Food Pairing with 2019 Wood Family Vineyards Malbec

Paired with a beef Teriyaki with snow peas and green onions. Ingredients included thinly sliced flank steak, teriyaki sauce, snow peas, Mirin, cayenne pepper, cornstarch, sliced shitake mushrooms, sliced garlic cloves, grated ginger root and scallions. The flavoring of the meat was so delightful and with the mouth filling Malbec, a truly memorable meal.





What do these 8 wines have in common besides being award winning Cabernet Franc’s?

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They each will be pouring their Cabernet Franc at the Cabernet Franc Celebration wine tasting & appetizers on April 6th at Copper Valley Golf Club in the Grandview Room. Vintages will most likely be their current release.

Reservations can be made by clicking this button:

Or calling 209-783-9933. Here is a listing of just a few of their prestigious awards:

Wood Family Vineyards (Livermore) 

*2017 Double Gold Professional Judges California Wines & Wineries Wine Competition

*2018 Silver Professional Judges at California Wines & Wineries Wine Competition

*2019 Double Gold 2022 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Dracaena Wines (Paso Robles)

*2016 Double Gold, Best of Class, Best of Show California Wines & Wineries Wine Competition

*2017 Reserve Double Gold SF Chronicle, 2021

*2018 Gold Central Coast Competition

*92 points Wine Enthusiast 

*2018 Silver SF Chronicle Wine Competition, 2021

*2019 Gold SF Chronicle Wine Competition, 2022

Cuda Ridge Winery (Livermore)

*2017 Gold, Best of Class, California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

*2018 Gold SF Chronicle Wine Competition, 2022

Brecon Estate Winery (Paso Robles)

*2018 Double Gold, Best of Class California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

*2019 Silver SF Chronicle Wine Competition, 2022


(These wineries did not submit wines to SF Chronicle for 2022)

Kenefick Ranch Winery (Napa)

*2016 Gold, Professional Judges California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

*2017 Silver, Professional Judges California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

L’Autre Côte (Livermore) 

*2017 Sliver from Peoples Choice, California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

*2017 Gold from Professional Judges, California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

*2017 L’Autre Côte Ghielmetti Vineyard, 94 points Wine Enthusiast

*2017 L’Autre Côte Sachau Vineyard, 96 points Wine Enthusiast

Shale Canyon Wines (Arroyo Seca)

*2014 Double Gold, Best of Class, Best of Show, from Professional and Peoples Choice Judges, California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

*2015 Gold, Best of Class, from Professional Judges California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

Rosa Fierro Cellars (Livermore)

*Gold 2016 Professional Judges, California Wines and Wineries Wine Competition

Wood Family Vineyards 2020 Chardonnay, The Changes Continue to Make the Best Chardonnay

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Rhonda Wood’s legacy continues in her 2020 Chardonnay. Her legacy, is one of wining Gold, Double Gold Medals, Best of Show and Best of Class, will still continue with this vintage, but it is very different from her previous vintages.

So how is it different? 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 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.

This week pulled out this Chardonnay to enjoy with the college BCS game. 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 flavor abounds. 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”. Currently listed on their website for $32/bottle.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired with a tempura chicken, noodles and carrots in a sweet sesame sauce. The wine was strong enough to cut through the sweetness of the dish and paired with the wine, to formulate an enjoyable meal.

In a blind tasting, you could easily think it was an old world Chardonnay from Europe. Different from previous and many will embrace it and enjoy it more!





2015 Hindsight Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

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The definition of hindsight is the “understanding of a situation or event, only after it has happened or developed”.  For me having the opportunity to taste this Hindsight wine was similar.  It is always noteworthy to try a wine after you have laid it down for a while. Last night, pulled a wine which had morphed even better than when I tasted it last!

The Hindsight 2015 Howell Mountain 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Bella Vetta Vineyard was absolutely delightful. This vineyard is owned by Jac Cole on Howell Mountain at 2,000 foot elevation along the La Jota Ridge.  Jac the winemaker states due to a late spring cold snap, the yield was less than 50%. The good news: those vines produced grapes that provided intense flavor. On the eyes, by comparison, a darker fruit in the glass due to a longer extraction by the wine maker. Viscosity is medium to medium heavy. On the nose, distinct blackberries and raspberries. On the palate, some dark cocoa, soft pipe tobacco, plum and licorice. Angular tannins and multi-layered structure provide a finish of delight and quality. This wine is aged almost two years in 60% new French oak barrels. It is Napa Valley, Howell Mountain fruit at its best!   This was rated a high mark in “my book” of the Best Wines of 2020 and was noted as the Best Wines Tasted in years 2020 and 2021. It again will make the Best Wines of 2022 at years end, and goes for $95/bottle.

Food and Wine Pairing

Recently I have had so many great meals, I wanted to take a night off so went with some blackberries, Blue cheese, crackers, almonds and pistachios. A perfect quick and light meal and the wine was simpatico with the blackberries and perfect dichotomy with the Blue cheese.

I am so very pleased with its development and in hindsight, wished I had ordered more!!





Cabernet Franc Celebration reservations are now open!

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For this year’s event:

  • We have the annual Blind Cabernet Franc Wine Competition, by both Professional Judges & People’s Choice Judges
  • A Wine tasting from 8 previous Gold, Double Gold & Best of Class and appetizers.
  • Keynote speeches from renowned winemakers, Steven Kent Mirassou, Pam Starr and Lori Budd. Followed by a winemaker’s dinner featuring their Cabernet Franc wine.

See the attached fliers for details. Register by clicking: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/wine-tasting-and-wine-makers-dinner-tickets-242991322587  or call 209-783-9933.

2020 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc – Her Best Picpoul Yet!

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Tonight’s wine is one which has made my yearly Best Wines Tasted for years 2018, 2019 and 2020 for previous vintages. However, this was the 2020 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc, which up until now I had not tasted.  As usual this was a beautiful white wine, produced by winemaker/owner Susan Tipton. Visually this varietal is faint in color and almost translucent with a pale yellow hue. 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.

The Wine

On the nose pineapple was the predominate scent coupled with minerality. Lemon and 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 she has produced! It 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

All those awards for this distinctive and coveted wine which sells for $30 is a real bargain!  Again, Susan can count on this wine to be in the Best Wines Tasted for 2022!

Wine and Food Pairing

Paired with a spicy Shrimp Pad Thai dish. The ingredients were flat rice noodles, virgin oil, minced garlic, uncooked shrimp, eggs, bean sprouts, red bell pepper, green onions, peanuts, chopped cilantro and lime juice. The Pad Thai sauce included fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, Sriracha and creamy peanut butter!  Limes were plated to squeeze the juice over the top of the dish. Accompanying the meal was Thai-style green beans cooked in a skillet with the following ingredients: soy sauce, hoisin sauce, creamy peanut butter, crushed red pepper flakes, chopped shallot, minced fresh gingerroot, canola oil and chopped dry roasted peanuts. Also served was an Asian cabbage salad. This was an excellent pairing.

Susan Tipton continues to push the quality of her wines to extraordinary levels. Thank you!





2012 La Quercia Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo DOCG

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Two nights in a row last week, pulled a non-California wine out of the cellar. Today’s wine is especially interesting, and I want to clear up a misconception. Montepulciano are two entirely different wines. Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo is a totally unique and wonderful wine from the Abruzzo region in east-central Italy and not to be confused with the Montepulciano 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% Montepulciano with only 10% being Sangiovese grapes. Wines from this area overlooking the Adriatic Sea have ample sunlight, fog and ocean breezes to produce some highly developed and well-structured wines.

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”. Key flavors of earthiness, blackberries and prevalent. Often it possesses 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 Montepulciano 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 be pleased if you get a nice bottle of Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo. This Riserva is aged two years in oak barrels creating spice and aromas with dark fruits and briarwood flavors.  Always a favorite wine! Price per bottle was $35/bottle.

Next article will be back to California wines!!




I purchased this wine at The Wine Steward http://thewinesteward.com/

2014 Vatan Tinta De Toro, A Long History

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Wines from Toro, located in Northwest Spain and their noted Tempranillo wines, are especially known for coloration and boldness. The literally translation is “dark bull” – meaning this Tempranillo is not for the faint of heart! The Tinta de Toro Spanish grape dates back to the 2nd century B.C. It was the drink chosen for Christopher Columbus’ trip to India when he discovered America. A fun fact is that so much wine was stored for the voyage, one of the ships was name “La Pinta” (pint) because the cellars of ship were full of this dark beautiful wine.

The name Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word temprano (meaning early), a reference to the fact that it ripens several weeks earlier than most other Spanish red grapes. That said most Tempranillo’s exhibit a big blackberry, leathery and a slight smoky aroma – an earthiness character.

Enjoy this wine last night for something “different” from the cellar. For the 2014 Vatan Tinta de Toro, a large portion of the grapes come from a vineyard planted in 1943 with some coming from their renown 1910 vineyard. After fermentation the wine is aged in new French oak barrels for 22 months. What comes out on the other side is a mouthful of wonderment! The 2014 vintage also came out at 15.5% alcohol adding to the robustness of this vintage.

Antonio Galloni stated it best in his review stating it is a “Dark purple. Fresh black and blue fruits, pipe tobacco and candied violet on the highly perfumed, smoke-accented nose. Fleshy, seamless and broad in the mouth, offering intense blueberry and cherry-vanilla flavors and an exotic touch of Indian spices. The spicy quality carries strongly through the finish, which clings with excellent tenacity and smooth, building tannins.”

photo credit of almost black Tempranillo grapes on the vine in Toro, Spain by Fabio Ingrosso.

Most California Tempranillo’s do not come close to this intensity. So if you are looking for a “different big red” without the stark tannins, pick up a bottle of Tinta de Toro for a big, bold, exotic yet integrated wine.




I purchased this wine at The Wine Steward.  http://thewinesteward.com/

2021 Wood Family Vineyards “Groovy Wagon” Pét-Nat

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Wood Family Vineyards just introduced their new wine called 2021 “Groovy Wagon”. It is a Pétillant Naturel, or Pét-Nat for short, style using 100% Grenache grapes. First a quick tutorial on pet nat. Pét-Nat is a not a new method of making a “bubbling wine” as it dates back to the pre-Champagne era. The process in making Pét-Nat is called méthode ancestral. The wine is bottled prior to fully completing its first fermentation. This allows carbon dioxide to develop by the natural sugars in the grapes. Méthode champenoise requires a secondary fermentation of yeast and sugar. Champagne must be disgorged. Pét-Nat may or may not be filtered on completion of fermentation. The bottle is cloudy due to the remaining lees present and no filtration.  This produces a more rustic and lively wine reflecting the terroirs of the grapes. Wood Family Vineyards Pét-Nat provides the basic Grenache profiles, but with effervescence and brightness of the fruit.  A beautiful peach color on the eyes and has a slight tartness on the palate of green apple and grapefruit, along with more typical Grenache fruit traits.  A wonderful patio pounder on a warm afternoon or evening.  Only 30 cases produced and it is an exclusive for their Club Members. This wine sells for $30 minus wine club discount.

Key hints for serving Pét-Nat:

  1. Serve it very cold
  2. Have your glasses ready to go as up to a quarter of the bottle may froth over. Best to let the beginning sentiment (dead yeast) come out then catch some of the clearer “foam” with the glasses. Then pour the remaining wine.
  3. Best to open over a sink or some kind of containment (large pot).

Who knows with an impending Champagne shortage on the horizon due to global warm, supply chain, government directives, etc., (read: https://www.winemag.com/2021/12/15/champagne-shortage-why/?utm_campaign=3063581_BIE%2012%2F27&utm_medium=email&utm_source=dotmailer&dm_i=28KR,1TNVH,7D4YXZ,6BH74,1) Pét-Nat may be your more convenient chose of bubbles in the future???





For more background information on Wood Family Vineyard click on: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/02/10/wood-family-vineyards-2/