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2012 Realm Cellars, The Bard

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The Winery

Realm Cellars a small boutique winery seems to purposely be under the radar as a cult wine in Napa Valley. The have a small vineyard but generally gather their grapes from some of the more prestigious vineyards in the valley. Those include Beckstoffer To Kalon, Blair, Houyi, Larkmead, Farella and others. The two owners are Scott Becker and Benoit Touquette. Benoit is the winemaker with an excellent pedigree making about 4,000 cases a year. Some of his wines have scores of 100 points like the 2013 The Bard and most are between 96 and 100 points! The 2013 currently shows a price of $484.  Currently it takes 1-2 years just to get on their mailing list.

They have two series with the first being blends called The Bard, The Tempest, The Falstaff and the Absurd. Obviously, all with a respective nod to William Shakespeare, highlighting the phrase on The Bard referencing their desire to make excellent wines from the Napa Valley.  From King Richard the line is “this blessed plot, this earth, this realm”. Their second series is the single vineyard labels designated by vineyard plot names.

The Wine, 2012 Realm, The Bard

Pulled this from the cellar for a dinner party at a very good friend’s home, I had yet to taste the wine. Knowing that it received 99 points from Parker and 100 points from Dunnuck obviously intrigued my interest. It had been resting comfortably in the cellar for many years without having been tasted before purchase, but on a good friend’s recommendation. The wine is 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot and the grapes came from To Kalon, Dr. Crane, Fortuna and Weitz vineyards.

On the eyes a lush deep crimson/purple hue with heavy viscosity. On the nose lavender and violets are predominant. Where the wine shines is on the palate with a complexity of flavors chocolate, licorice, expresso, plums and blackberry. On the finish a light cedar and oak mixed with sweet vanilla pipe tobacco provides an exquisite and lasting finish. Today, the average price for this wine runs about $295, but with some keen sleuthing, a lower price may be found.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired with a prime rib cooked medium, potato, broccoli and a fresh garden salad the meal and wine were simply heavenly. I can’t wait until summer to experience at least one more bottle with a BBQ ribeye steak or tri-tip.

Perhaps the line that should be quoted from Richard is “the ripest fruit first falls” (Act 2, Scene 1) and in this case, it fell into the harvest bins of Realm Cellars.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.realmcellars.com/

2016 Twisted Oak Spaniard and 2015 Crocker & Starr Casili 8th Edition

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After spending eight out of twelve days feasting for the holidays with family and friends, we opted for a quiet New Years’ Eve dinner with wine, watching a few movies. This was a welcome break!

First up for the evening was the 2016 Twisted Oak Spaniard, a blend of three beautifully constructed wines by Jeff Stai. The blend is 46% Tempranillo, 31% Grenache and 23% Graciano. The wine is so very complimentary with this blend. Tempranillo with its red ruby coloring, strong berry flavors, plum, tobacco, vanilla, herbs and leather blending with the two others. Grenache with added body, fruitiness and without hearty tannins with a pale coloring coupled with the Graciano with its dark juice, intense blackberry flavors and with spices of cinnamon and cloves made for a compelling blend.  The wine sells for $49.

Paired with a chicken enchilada made with corn, sour cream, cream cheese, onions, cheese and salsa. The wine provided an explosion of flavors and became a perfect companion this evening.

Second up for the evening while enjoying a couple of movies, we wanted to keep with the “Spanish theme” so pulled out a 2015 Crocker & Starr Casili 8th Edition. It is a blend of 55% Malbec and 45% Cabernet Franc. This has always been an easy sipping and enjoyable wine albeit rich and full bodied. Blending “milder” and “spicier” varietals provided just the right balance of roundness, yet structure and mild tannins to appreciate this 93 point wine. This wine sells out every year and goes for approximately $80.

Definitely a simple way to end a very trying 2021 and prepare for an exciting 2022!

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.twistedoak.com/

https://www.crockerstarr.com/

The recently released 2020 Acquiesce Roussanne

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The Winery

Acquiesce Winery continues to impress with their white wine portfolio on French varietals.  There is so much to state about Susan Tipton, owner and winemaker of Acquiesce Winery. The key takeaway is that she established her winery in Acampo (just north of Lodi) with the expressed purpose of bringing French white wine varieties to market. Lodi had been primarily known for red wines, but she turned heads with some of her unique wines such as Picpoul, Clairette Blanche, Ingénue (blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc & Picpoul Blanc), Roussanne and more. Here are some reviews of her wines and her impact:

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/10/31/acquiesce-winery-vineyards-finding-a-niche-with-unique-white-wines/

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/09/20/2018-acquiesce-vineyards-picpoul-blanc/

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/08/30/2018-acquiesce-ingenue-french-and-more-french/

Her awards are too numerous to list!!

The 2020 Roussanne Wine

Her 2019 Roussanne and earlier vintages have made my Best Wines of the Year list.  The 2020 Roussanne on the eye is a light-medium golden straw color and medium viscosity. On the nose, 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. The current release is the 2020 and winery price is $34/bottle. This wine will make my Best Wines Tasted in 2022 (Dec 15th, 2021 to Dec 14th, 2022) Click on previous article on Acquiesce Winery:  

https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/10/31/acquiesce-winery-vineyards-finding-a-niche-with-unique-white-wines/

The Food and Wine Pairing

The 2020 Acquiesce Roussanne wine was paired with a spinach tomato feta stuffed chicken breast recipe. Ingredients included paprika, kosher salt, garlic powder, chopped baby spinach, sundried tomatoes, shallots, garlic clove, fresh basil, oregano, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. Accompanying dish was Yukon Gold smashed potatoes. . Dessert was a beautiful pineapple upside down cake.

I have always believed Susan Tipton is unique in her vision for the AVA and has produced wines to showcase her ability as a top-rated winemaker and trailblazer. While I have always kept her Roussanne in the cellar, this last year Picpoul Blanc, Bourboulenc, Ingénue and Clairette Blanche are also always stocked and featured in the Best Wines Tasted in 2021.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.acquiescevineyards.com/

2009 Lineage Collection Bordeaux Style Wine

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The Winemaker


Steven Kent Mirassou as a 6th generation family winemaker had to set new goals. He set as his pinnacle development to produce the best “Bordeaux style” wine California could produce. A lofty and perhaps extreme goal for one man in Livermore Valley. After many years as a successful winemaker at Steven Kent Winery, he decided to make 3 to 5 barrels a year of the absolute premier “Bordeaux style” wine. On Christmas we opened this 2009 vintage, which is the third of the Lineage release. This release entailed only six barrels. The blend which changes year to year based on flavor profiles, consisted of Cabernet Sauvignon 63%, Merlot 27%, Malbec 5%, Petit Verdot 3% and Cabernet Franc 2%. While blending is an “artistic” endeavor, Steven also is analytical in his pursuit of the perfect Bordeaux blend.


Here is Steven’s write up on why these varietals and clones were chosen. It is like an artist mixing paint colors for right shading, hue and expression of a painting.

 
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 30: Dark cherry and cassis flavors, fine-grained tannins and acidity. Less opulent but more age worthy than Clone 4. (the 2009, only Clone 4 was chosen).
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 191: Cassis, coffee, and mocha flavors, angular, tannic structure and lengthy, persistent finish.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 4: Powerhouse rich, viscous flavors of dark fruit and chocolate with broad tannins.
Cabernet Franc: Not as “big” as CS but with more finesse and an aromatic palate of sandalwood and chocolate. Acidity is the watchword of this variety. Its acid-based red fruit flavors marry well with the darker more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon to enliven and length Lineage’s finish.
Petit Verdot: Contributes tannin, color, and grapey aromas and flavors of violet and black fruit. This variety helps to build density in the mid-palate of the wine.
Malbec: Adds fruit and tannin; quite different from Cabernet in its sauvage mix of dried berry and raspberry fruit notes. It signature aromatic note is obvious when the wine is young. As Lineage ages, the Malbec takes on a dried-fruit edge and nice acidity.
Merlot: Noble variety of Bordeaux’s Right Bank; as counterpoint to CS’s austere structure, Merlot is fleshy and opulent; ripe red/dark cherry flavor, a touch of herbal complexity which adds to Lineage’s rich mid-palate.”

 
The key take way on blending is that it is extremely selective and requires rigorous decision making of not only varietals, but the correct Clones of the varietals to get the flavor profile. Add another step of both winemaking and personal craftsmanship and abracadabra you have a gorgeous and refined Bordeaux blend called Lineage. I am sure Steven wished it was that simple, but this is the shortened version.


Two of many other detailed undertakings are his hand selection of French oak barrels (Taransaud, Le Grand and Francois Freres) and his constant monitoring of the development of the wine in the barrel. The 2009 Lineage was aged 26 months in barrel and released approximately 34 months after harvest.

The Wine


As I went back through my notes, it seems this is our Christmas wine 3 years in a row! The flavor profile and experience of this wine is truly remarkable. First on the eye you see a medium to medium dark red tint and medium viscosity wine. Very different than some of the bold Cabernet Sauvignon’s coming out of Napa Valley. Your first whiff reveals “black fruits, exotic woods and spice aromatics” with aromatic Bing cherries. On the palate, you get all the above characteristics that Steven purposed in his selection of varietals and clones to produce a crescendo of semi-sweet mocha, dark cherry, dark roasted coffee, sweet tobacco, violets, black fruit, etc. On the finish, you are a bit mesmerized in trying to dissect each essential trait in this wine drinking experience. Since it is the season, imagine the finish was akin to the soft ballet of the Nutcracker combined with the strength and precision of the high-kicking Radio City Rockettes. It is a wine to simply enjoy and savor the existential engagement and relationship of such a rare and eloquent treat. Paired with a prime rib, twice baked potato and roasted brussel sprouts, it was heavenly.

Lineage has made my Best Wines of the Year tasted, ten years in a row! The current release is the 2018 and sells for $175/bottle.

Sláinte,

Michael
https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://www.thelineagecollection.com/lineage/

Bentley Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford by Laura Michael Wines

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The Winery

My wife and I met Laura many years ago, I think exactly 2 dogs ago (reference her dog which would greet you when you pull up to the winery). She acquired the property in 1999. Laura has always been a one-woman show until her husband Michael is now helping out in the vineyard management and Laura continues as the winemaker. Laura has for over two decades focused on small production artisan wines with consistently quality year to year. When we can all get back to visiting wineries this is not “showy or upstaged” opulence facility, it is essentially their lifestyle and home. That said after spending some time with Laura, you immediately come away with the appreciation of her craft and pleasant personality. This quite boutique winery is just outside downtown Calistoga heading east on Lake County Highway. She currently produces three Zinfandel’s from different vineyards, Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, two Cabernet Sauvignon’s from Rutherford and Calistoga, a dessert wine made with 50% Zinfandel and 50% Petite Sirah, a Dry Rosé of Zinfandel and last but not least her flagship wine Bentley Cabernet Sauvignon. I still have a few bottles of her Bentley and one comes up to drink in 2021 and another in 2024. Unknown to Laura until she reads this, I have always kept her 2009 Bentley in a place of honor in the cellar on the display rack. Wines get this status either because the wine is exceptional or the winemaker/owner is someone special. In her case, both got her this position.

The Wine

The Bentley Cabernet Sauvignon is named for Laura’s maternal grandmother, this wine is dedicated to all of her grandparents, each of whom influenced and instilled the hard work ethic needed to produce great wine. I purchased a few bottles of the 2009 but had never drank (only tasted at her winery) until the other night with friends. On the eyes a very deep and dark color with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose a most intriguing and alluring red & black berries, cedar and vanilla aromas. On the palate, black cherries and mocha countered balanced with cedar and oak provided a luscious and mouth-filling wine. The finish is long and enduring with the classical Rutherford dust lingering and the aging in new French oak barrels provided the panache for a great finish. Laura and Michael manage the vineyard in Rutherford. The current release is the 2018 which goes for $100/bottle and is stated to last 20 years!!

I waited 12 years to enjoy the 2009 and my patience was extremely rewarded.

Sláinte,

Michael
https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://www.lauramichaelwines.com/

2020 Acquiesce Grenache Blanc

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The Winery

When Sue Tipton founded Acquiesce Winery, she was on a mission unique to Lodi AVA and in fact, most vinicultural areas. She sought to offer only “white Rhone wines”!! She was chastised and admonished why she should not focus on “solely white wines”. Yet based on her passion and life experiences in France, she proceeded without wavering. She sourced and planted the best vines from the Chateau de Beaucastel of Chateauneuf du Pape on her quest. Today she has and continues making artisan and award winning boutique wines. Her awards are too numerous to list, but include International Women’s Wine Competition Gold Medal, California State Fair Commercial Wine Competition Gold Medal, American Fine Wine Competition Double Gold, SF Chronicle Wine Competition Gold Medal and many, many more.

The Wine

Pulled this bottle of 2020 Acquiesce Grenache Blanc from the cellar to have with our meal last night. I am a big fan of Grenache, but had never tasted this Grenache Blanc from Acquiesce. Acquiesce Winery has 3 acres of Grenache Blanc near the Mokelumne River in the Lodi AVA Appellation. The vines come from the famous French Château de Beaucastel via Tablas Creek. The cool nighttime breezes from the Mokelumne River provide the necessary climate for the grapes to ripen with fruity flavors and balance. Susan Tipton as always handpicked and pressed as whole cluster to the essence of this varietal. The wine has a residual sugar of zero and aged six months sur lie which provides a round and mouth filling flavors.

On the eyes it appeared a light golden color and medium heavy viscosity. My initial thought was it would be a very light flavored wine and perhaps I might have chosen the incorrect wine with this meal. Once on the nose, I was immediately introduced to spicy, explosive and intriguing floral aromas. Then on the palate, green apples, brioche and soft Meyer lemons but not edgy like a Sauvignon Blanc. The wine lists for $28/bottle and for such a subtle powerful wine, this is a bargain. It won a Gold Medal at the 2021 San Francisco International Wine Competition. This wine now made my Best Wines Tasted of 2022. The timeframe runs from December 16th 2021 to December 15th 2022. I just published the Best Wines Tasted in 2021 last week.

The Food and Wine Pairing

Last night pulled this out to go with one of my favorite dishes, a special Shrimp Pad Thai recipe. At first I thought it might be “too light” but I was quickly corrected with the first sip! This Pad Thai recipe packs a little heat flavoring/spices with 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. Accompaning the meal was a fresh garden salad with an Asian dressing. The wine was mouth-filling refreshing to quench the palate. A wonderful pairing and sipping wine. I knew it was a white wine to go with seafood but when I looked up the winemakers’ notes, she specifically stated it went well with “spicy Asian food”—Susan Tipton was absolutely correct!

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.acquiescevineyards.com/

2016 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Franc

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Steven Kent Winery has always come through with great wines. I am a BIG, BIG fan of Steven Mirassou wines (Lineage Collection, L’Autre Côte, Steven Kent Winery) for twenty years. Fortunately, and the good news, is that I have many of his varietals which still occupy my cellar today. One which I had been historically slow to pull the trigger on, was his Cabernet Franc. I had remembered it being a “lighter Cabernet Franc” both in texture, color and flavor (more French style). Last night as the temperature was dipping to freezing, I opened his 2016 Cabernet Franc and I was once again pleasantly surprised and astonished by the aroma, complexity and finish of this wine.

His 2016 Cabernet Franc is a part of his Small Lot offering made of 100% Cabernet Franc. He sources the grapes from Ghielmetti Estate Vineyard 67% and Sachau Vineyard 33%. It is 100% Cabernet Franc. It is aged in hand selected 20% new French oak barrels for 18-20 months. Steven, ever the perfectionist, proposed to mitigate the “oak influence” so that the herbal (green bell pepper, pyrazines) could be juggled with the fruit characteristics. Combining two vineyards, he was able to also extract different fruit and levels of acidity, to blend to a desirable level. A lot of thought and effort went into this vintage. On the eyes, a purple and red brick hue with a vivid clarity. On the nose, blackberry, blueberry, fig and prunes were present along with floral notes of violets. On the palate, the key herbal qualities of bell pepper were interlaced with the sweetness of vanilla and caramel. Additionally, minerality and soft leather came through in the finish. The winery is “re-branding” the lineup and going forward his Cabernet Franc will be listed under the L’Autre Côte label. This wine is not the single vineyard series, but a combination of the two vineyards in 2018 and lists for $48/bottle.

I have L’Autre Côte, both the blend and his single vineyard series Cabernet Franc in the cellar. All of them are outstanding and worth consideration, especially if Cabernet Franc is on your radar!

Slainte,

Michael
https://californiawinesandwineries.com
https://stevenkent.com/

Vine18’s Inaugural Winemaker Dinner with Hill Family Estate

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Vine18 is initiating a series of winemaker dinners and kicked off the venue with a small twenty person dinner last evening. The new management and Executive Chef wanted to “work out the kinks” with service and food preparation in a small kitchen with a reduced crowd before opening it up to a broader cliental. The feature winery and one of the owners was Ryan Hill, 5th generation farmer and now wine producer out of Yountville, California.

Ryan Hill spoke about his family lineage with antidotal stories from gopher extermination to securing first right of refusal on vineyards in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. One gets a greater appreciation of a family run business/winery when its history, the ups and downs, are revealed. Three wines were served during the course of the evening: 2017 Reserve Chardonnay, 2018 Stewart Ranch Pinot Noir and the 2019 Like a Hawk (blend).

The first course of the evening was the Sea Bass croute with stone fruit chutney and toasted hazelnut béchamel. Paired with this dish was the cream rich 2017 Reserve Chardonnay with a golden color and heavy viscosity on the eyes. On the nose, a vanilla and light oak were present. On the palate, toasted hazelnut and brioche were noted. The finish was especially long for a Chardonnay. The Chardonnay comes from the American Canyon region with the cooling winds effects of San Francisco Bay. The presentation of the dish was stunning.

The second course was the seared duck breast with spiced date, peppadew and chorizo demi-glace and crispy rainbow kale. The wine served was the 2018 Stewart Ranch Pinot Noir from the Napa Carneros region with cool winds from the adjacent San Pablo Bay. The wine was dark in color with a 30 day contact with the skins. Flavor profiles included black cherry and plum flavors. The wine and sauce were excellent together.

Dessert was a mocha pot de crème with a pastis berry compote with had an unique coffee/toffee flavoring. This was paired with the 2019 Like A Hawk, a blend of 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Syrah, 17% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. A dark rich wine in the glass with mocha and black cherry being predominant on the palate.

For the inaugural dinner and with a limited attendance, it went well. The areas of improvement and logistical shortfalls are being asked and rectified by management. The Executive Chef, Albert Sandoval and pastry chef prepared the food very well. By the end of the evening all these glasses and a few others were filled and filled again!

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://hillfamilyestate.com/

https://www.coppervalleygolf.com/

Best Wines Tasted in 2021

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2021 continued to be an unusual and strange year with fires and Covid-19 especially in California. While I am generally fortunate enough to taste and appreciate over 1600+ wines, this year with Covid 19, fires, etc., I was only able to taste a little over 1400+ wines. This list roughly represents the top 5.5% of those wines. I have broken it out by price point, those $50 and under and those $51 and up—-something for everyone! The picks also span almost the entire state AVA’s and sub-AVA’s. I believe whole heartily and stand by these picks. There were many other very good and solid wines, but these “stood out” in the crowd.


No matter which category, each wine listed will enhance your tasting experience. These wines represent some of best quality for California wines. Most can be purchased at the winery only and are based upon availability. On the California Wines and Wineries website (not blog) you can put the name of the wine/winery in the search engine and most have stories associated with each wine for a deeper dive.

During the year I have kept meticulous notes on each wine tasted and hope you enjoy these selections in the coming year. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and that your New Year be prosperous, meaningful and find you in good health.

Sláinte,

Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

$50 and less

VintageWineryVarietal
20163 Steve’sCarmenere
2018AcquiesceRoussanne
2018AcquiescePicpoul Blanc
2018Acquiesce“Ingenue”, Blend
2019AcquiesceClariette Blanche
2019AcquiesceBourboulenc
2017, 2018Acre WinesZinfandel
2018Acre WinesMerlot
2015AlyrisChardonnay, The Audition
2017BorjonPetite Sirah
2019Cellar 13Chardonnay
2017Cuda RidgeCabernet Franc
2019Cuda RidgeCarmenere
2019Dave’s Porch WineSauvignon Blanc
2017Dracaena WinesCabernet Franc, Reserve
2017HindsightCabernet Sauvignon, 20/20
2020HindsightSauvignon Blanc
2018Iron HubChardonnay
2018Lavender RidgeRoussanne
2016MadoroMSauvignon Blanc
2016Mineral WinesMeritage
2019Prospect 772“Black Tie Charlie”, Blend
2017Rosa Fierro CellarsPrimitivo
2018Smith-MadroneRiesling
2019TenbrinkChardonnay
2016Tobin JamesNebbiolo
2016Tobin JamesLegrein, Silver Reserve
2016Twisted OakMourvedre, River of Skulls
2016Twisted OakGraciano
2018Wood Family“Against the Grain” Blend
2018Wood FamilyMalbec
2019, 2020Wood FamilyChardonnay
2016ZuidemaGrenache

Add 2015, Shale Canyon, Cabernet Franc to Below $50.

$51 and up

VintageWineryVarietal
2014ArkenstoneCabernet Sauvignon, NVD
2018Austin HopeCabernet Sauvignon
2013Barnett VineyardsMerlot
2014BlackbirdContrarian, Blend
2016, 2018BreconCabernet Franc
2016Calla Lily EstateCabernet Sauvignon
2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015Crocker & StarrCabernet Sauvignon, Stone Place
2014, 2015Crocker & StarrCabernet Franc
2011Detert FamilyCabernet Franc
2013DuckhornCabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mtn
2017DuckhornMerlot, 3 Palms
2017Hawk & HorseCabernet Sauvignon, Block Three
2017Hawk & HorsePetit Verdot
2010HewittCabernet Sauvignon
2015HindsightCabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mtn
2011, 2017Justin VineyardsIsoceles, Blend
2009KeenanCabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mtn
2013KeenanCabernet Franc
2017L’Autre CoteCabernet Franc, Sachau
2008, 2017LineageBordeaux Blend
2016MadoroMCabernet Sauvignon
2016MadoroMMerlot
2018MaritanaChardonnay, La Riviere
2014Meyer VineyardsCabernet Sauvignon
2010Nickel & NickelChardonnay, Branding Iron
2008Oakville EastCabernet Sauvignon, Exposure
2007, 2011O’ShaughnessyCabernet Sauvignon, Mt Veeder
2010OutpostCabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mtn
2012OutpostCabernet Sauvignon, True Vineyards
2013Peter MichaelChardonnay, Mon Plaisir
2009ProgenyCabernet Franc, Mt Veeder
2016PrueCruCabernet Franc
2010Robert MondaviCabernet Sauvignon, Private
2012SarockaCabernet Sauvignon
2005, 2006Silver OakCabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
2010SkipstoneCabernet Sauvignon, Faultline
2018Smith-MadroneCabernet Sauvignon
2017Summit LakeCabernet Sauvignon,” Emily Kestrel”
2012Tate WinesCabernet Sauvignon, Mt Veeder
2015Tate WinesMerlot, Spring Mtn
2019Titus VineyardsCabernet Franc
2019Titus VineyardsCabernet Sauvignon
2012Trespass VineyardsCabernet Sauvignon, Rendezvous
2013Villa VallecitoSagrantino
2010Vineyard 29Cabernet Sauvignon
2018VinoceCabernet Franc
2017VJB CellarsAglianico, Estate
2015YoungInglewoodMalbec

Also $51 and up are:

2017 Diamond Mountain, Cabernet Franc

2016 Palazzo Wine, Cabernet Franc

2017 Shadybrook Estate, Cabernet Franc

Titus Vineyards – Two Brothers and A Winemaker

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Background

Going back about 20 years I had an opportunity to try Titus Vineyards Cabernet Franc. My initial impression was that it was a solid wine. But over the years never had another encounter with their wines until last week at a Wine Writers/Media Event at the winery called “Celebrating the 2019’s”. Eric Titus and Stephen Cruzan hosted the event. The event focused on the vineyard, a tour of facility, a gourmet luncheon and of course wine tasting.  In retrospect, I missed some 20 years of enjoying some remarkable wines.

The Winery

(Phillip on the left and Eric on the right)

The winery is run by Eric Titus and Phillip Titus which they took over from their father. Both brothers spent their youth and summer working around “the farm” which sold their grapes to various local wineries. Eric went off to pursue his degree (and PhD) in Biology focusing on marine science and toxicology. He continued this work through the 1990’s. He return to the winery full time in 2002 to help with the management of the family’s flourishing business. Today he is the General Manager and Vineyard Operation Manager of the winery. With his background, he has adopted both green practices and sustainable farming of the property. Eric has served as President of Napa Valley Grape Growers Association, St. Helena Viticultural Society and promoting the St. Helena Appellation.

Phillip studied agronomy, viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis. He also traveled extensively getting an appreciation of many wine areas including Bordeaux. Phillip began his career working at Quail Ridge Winery, Stratford and Chappellet. In 1990 he was named Winemaker at Chappellet and continues to make the wines there today. That same year he also became Winemaker at Titus Vineyards. It was on the Titus Ranch Estate, some 40 acres, with 34 planted in 14 separate parcels/vineyard blocks with varying soils and clones that provided the background for Phillip to understand the difference and unique characteristics of each. His goal was to showcase the highest quality of fruit from each lot to make distinct Titus Vineyard wines.

Again, fast forwarding to 2015 when the new production facility was constructed, they hired Stephen Cruzan. Stephen a graduate from North Carolina State in biochemistry, was gearing up for a life in research. While working at a restaurant, he met with a winemaker from California. He decided to combine his enjoyment of fine wine and his technical degree to making wine. He started at Kathyrn Hall in the lab, then harvests at Sacred Hill in New Zealand, Domain d’ Ardhui in Burgundy and Clemens Busch in Germany’s Mosel River Valley. In 2009 he joined the team at Chappellet under Phillip Titus and worked his way up the ladder to Enologist and thru Phillip met Eric. Later he went to Cade Winery as the Assistant Winemaker.  His focus was on the differentiation of wine barrels completing the end desired result.

The totality of the three as a biologist focused on ecology/sustainability, an enologist focused on the unique characteristics of each vineyard block (14 on the estate and 3 at their Ehlers Lane Vineyard) and a well-traveled winemaker with a keen focus of barrel selection, Titus was positioned to launch even further in the wine business from 2015 on.

                                                                                                                    I

The Wines

The welcome included a casual discussion on the patio overlooking the estate vineyard blocks sipping a glass of their 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, a light and refreshing wine.

While taking the tour a tasting of their 2019 Zinfandel was poured as we strolled the production facility. This wine hit my personal wheelhouse as dry but enough spicy fruit and rated one of higher ratings for the day. The stainless steel tanks ranged from small (6 ton) to massive (10 ton) and used appropriately depending on how many tons of fruit were harvested for a specific varietal.  When viewing the barrel room the smell had a heavenly fragrance (pic just shows one side of the storage and they also have another off site location).

Food and Wine Pairing

(Gougeres, black pepper, thyme chestnut soup with Hazelnut, Pomegranate, crème fraiche)

We then sat down for a gourmet lunch prepared by Michelle Mutrux a free-lance chef from Calistoga. As you can see from just a couple of pictures, it was something extremely spectacular. We discussed each of the wines and tasted with the various bowls/plates of food offered.  All the wines were outstanding and two rose to the level of “Best Wines Tasted in 2021” (coming out December 2021). The first being the 2019 Cabernet Franc ($60) with a beautiful color, black tea flavoring and in the mouth just a sufficient amount of classical pyrazine flavors and a subtle smokiness.  The second was their 2019 Titus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($105) dark and luscious on the eyes with blackberry, Bing cherry and plum on the palate. They used 90-100% new French oak each year for their Reserve. Not too oaky, not too sharp of tannins, but an enjoyable smooth and robust Cabernet Sauvignon.  We finished off with a 2002 Napa Cabernet planted from their newer vineyard block as a question came up on how long to hold the wines to maturity. The 2002, so 19 years old was still tasting exquisite but was beginning to reach it’s maturity level. This was a perfect wine for the dessert made from Titus Vineyards walnuts and olive oil for a Browned Butter Frosting cake.

(Red wine-braised short ribs, Maitake mushrooms, Rosemary polenta, Gremolata warm Levain, garlic butter)

While we discussed many items during the tour and meal, perhaps the most heartfelt and goose bumping tale was with the impending fire reaching just across the Silverado Trail (less than 100 yards) and how the two brothers and Stephen fought off flying embers with firehoses from their 50,000 gallon water tank. It was like a band of brothers standing arm in arm against overwhelming odds of a wild fire. At the conclusion of the meal after much discussion on the fires, vineyard orientation, leaf canopy, future direction, wine clubs, etc., I will end as I started, that I missed some 20 years of enjoying some remarkable wines created by some talented individuals.

Sláinte,


Michael

https://californiawinesandwineries.com

https://www.titusvineyards.com/