2014 Grizzly Peak Winery Cabernet Franc – Awarded a Gold Medal and Best of Class!

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At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Grizzly Peak Winery earned a Gold Medal and Best of Class by the People’s Choice Judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges. The Professional Judge’s awarded them a Silver Medal. A great accomplishment knowing that twenty quality wines were in the Category I (priced at $30 and less) from around the United States. The Judges also awarded the 2015 Grizzly Peak Winery Cabernet Franc a Bronze Medal. This was their first entry into this wine competition.

The Winery

The winery is located in Oregon’s Rogue Valley AVA on 40 beautiful hillside acres. The winey was established by Al and Virginia Silbowitz and the vineyard planted in 1998. Situated on the east side of Highway 5 at an elevation of 2200 feet with breathtaking views of Grizzly Peak and Mt Ashland, the winery enjoys warm summers and cool evenings.  

The winemaker is Linda Donovan, graduate of UC Davis in enology. She produces the wines at her custom crush facility called Pallet Wine Company. The 2014 Cabernet Franc has won at other events, Double Gold and Best of Class. Other wines have won awards at Oregon’s Toast of the Coast competition. In talking with Virginia, she mentioned that the Rhone varietals do exceptionally well in their location. She referred specifically to their Marsanne/Roussanne blend and their Syrah wines. An interesting note is that this area now has over 70 wineries.

In their portfolio of yearly production of around 3,000 cases, they also produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, white Cab Franc, white Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris and a Syrah Rose.

The Wine

The Cabernet Franc represents a lighter and more subtle Cabernet Franc described as being a “European style”. On the eyes a soft and almost translucent red color and a light to medium viscosity.  On the nose and palate soft fragrances of raspberry and plum. The finish, perhaps due to the combination of volcanic and alluvial soils, present almost an absence of tannins but did possess a soft bell pepper flavor. The finish was medium long and airy with a soft minerality.  This worked perfectly for the food pairing!

The Food Pairing with the 2014 Cabernet Franc

Paired with a pappardelle pasta and homemade Bolognese sauce simmered for 6 hours. Accompanied by a fresh garden salad with blue cheese dressing. The spicy and flavorful sauce using diced pancetta, chopped onion, celery, carrot, garlic, thyme, ground pork, ground beef, red wine, bay leaves, tomato puree and other items contrasted and embraced the 2014 Grizzly Peak Cabernet Franc perfectly. Garnished with fresh parmesan, Romano and asiago cheeses. I do not believe this would work with many Cab Francs of stronger flavors with sharper and distinct tannins. However this wine was versatile and welcoming to perhaps some typical unconventional food pairings associated with Cabernet Franc’s.

Next up on my list to do is to try their Marsanne/Roussanne blend as well as a Pinot Noir from Grizzly Peak Winery.





2017 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc – Best of Class and Gold Medal Winner!

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At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Cuda Ridge earned a Gold Medal and Best of Class by the Professional Judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges. A great accomplishment knowing that twenty-four quality wines were in the Category II ($31 to $50) from around the United States. The Professional Judges also awarded 2018 Cuda Ridge Cabernet Franc a Silver Medal.

The Wine

The Cabernet Franc is part of Larry Dino’s (winemaker/owner) Bordeaux Collection. He has two other “wine labels” called the Black Label and Reserve Collection. His Bordeaux Collection as imagined has besides Cabernet Franc, the other key varietals of Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and most recently added Carmenere.

This 2017 Cabernet Franc showed some “old world characteristics” as well as unique Livermore Valley traits. The coloring of this wine was so dark and alluring with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, blueberry, cherry and a hint of plum and floral notes abounded. On the palate, the naturally higher acidity was milder for a Cabernet Franc as well as the tannins subdued as expected. In the mouth, the blueberries and dark cherry were prominent along with a modicum of your typical bell pepper, black pepper and sage qualities. Soft leather, a dry rockiness and sweet pipe tobacco lingered to make the finish long lasting and inquisitive.

The 2017 and 2018 Cabernet Franc also won Bronze Medals from the People’s Choice Judges.

Specifically his Cabernet Franc over the years has won the following awards and distinctions:

• 2017 Wine Enthusiast 91 points; Silver Medal at 2020 SF Chronicle Wine Competition
• 2016 Wine Enthusiast 90 points: Silver Medal at 2019 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and Silver Medal at TVC Uncorked
• 2014 Best Livermore Cabernet Franc; Silver Medal 2017 SF Chronicle Wine Competition and 90 point from Wine Enthusiast
• And many more awards going back to 2008 including more Silver Medals, high ratings from Wine Enthusiast and a Gold Medal from SF Chronicle Wine Competition

The Food and Wine Pairing

Paired the 2017 Cuda Ridge with a pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, fresh garden salad and broccoli for a wonderful meal.

This was Cuda Ridges’ first time participating in the Cabernet Franc Wine Competition and I have a strong suspicion Larry Dino will be entering again to add to his war chest!



Complete Results of the Cabernet Franc Wine Competition can be found at:


Maritana Vineyards – A Tale of Two Vineyards

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Donald Patz continues to amaze the wine community with his innate knowledge with Pinot Noirs!  Last evening, a side by side comparison of two of his premier wines was held. Initially it was not planned but as I will explain it developed during the meal.

The Background

First for those who do not know Maritana Vineyards or Donald Patz, here is a quick recap. Donald’s career has spanned some 35+ years making wine. After selling the iconic Patz & Hall Winery, Donald embarked on setting up three separate wine entities. The first, Secret Door, is producing exquisite and sought after boutique Cabernet Sauvignon’s. Why “Secret” as a name? In a face to face meeting, Donald while known for his Pinot Noirs, told me he actually started his career making Cabernet Sauvignon! They have already won national acclaim and are actively sought out. I think the other “secret” is that Donald is rejuvenated and energized with creativity in this venture.

The second wine label is called Terminim Wines. This is a collaboration of Francois Villard and Donald, with small lots of artisan wines called Cepages d’ Or (grapes of gold), a mix of Marsanne and Roussanne from a vineyard in Mendocino County. The name is derived from the “terminus” the Roman God of borders and boundaries. Syrah is also in this lineup of wines. Together they have developed and implemented some unique techniques to the traditional punching down the cap. This new “Methode Francois” allows them to make a wine “without searing levels of tannin and creates a smoother more rounded and elegant presence”.

The third is Maritana Vineyards and this is for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay line of wines. Maritana Vineyards is a project for developing and producing the highest quality of grapes for both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Here Donald is implementing his strategy to develop a more balanced, “elegant and perfumed version to show through” with choices of grapes with selected aged barrels. On his Pinot Noir, he has secured four vineyards in the Russian River AVA. They are Le Russe, Jenkins Ranch, Martaella Vineyards and Moonshine Ranch. For this varietal he is using approximately 60% new oak barrels.

The Two Wines and Food Pairing

The two wines tried last evening were both 2018 from Jenkins Ranch and Martaella Vineyards. The first, Jenkins Ranch, started out paired with a slow cooked seasoned pot roast for eight hours. Served with broccoli and mashed Idaho potatoes.  The Jenkins Ranch vineyard is located in the hills southwest of Sebastopol. Loam soils provided a soft and layered Pinot Noir. On the eyes this wine was light colored brick with an almost translucent quality. On the palate, Bing cherries, strawberries and airy minerality abounded. The medium finish provided a gracefulness of spirit with a trace of sweetness. While a great wine for sipping and enjoying with the right food, unfortunately this was too light with the meal.

Thus the second Pinot Noir was introduced. This was the Martaella Vineyard which is located west of Santa Rosa in the Russian River Valley AVA. Some of the best Pinot Noir grapes are grown in this valley, with the cool fog from the ocean advancing along the meandering river. The Dijon clone 943 grapes were the majority used for this production. I immediately “fell in love” with it as I had back in June 2020 in a previous story. This 2018 Pinot Noir has enough power and kick to entice and win over any Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers. A bold statement, but Donald Patz has once again provided a “knock out” Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley, specifically the Martaella Vineyard. This is not your “delicate, light and feathery” Pinot Noir. First on the eyes you can see an enchanting purple hue with a deep crimson color. On the nose and palate, this wine wins you over immediately with notes of Bing cherries, cranberries, strawberries and a hint of rhubarb. Spices delightfully dance in the mouth with nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. The interplay between the sweet (fruit berries) and sour (cranberry & rhubarb) was spectacular. Noted was that the wine provides a structure for soft tannin, not typically shown in most Pinot Noir’s. The finish, was chewy and mouth filling, which provided an earthiness, almost a damp forest floor flavor (mushrooms). A strong hint of licorice was also noted on the finish. This wine can be enjoyed immediately or one to age for 5-10 years.


For the meal last evening, both wines were spectacular in their own right. The Jenkins Ranch Pinot was a great wine for introducing Pinot Noir to non-Pinot Noir drinkers with its softness and gentle characteristics. The meal however demanded the Martaella Vineyard Pinot Noir. The tasting once again highlighted the differences of “terrior” (soil, weather, vineyard layout, etc.) and the impact on the grapes. Donald is no one trick pony or “one size fits all” winemaker.   His wines are distinct and unique from vineyard to vineyard. Can’t wait to taste his other two Pinot Noir vineyards!



The Mystery Wine on New Year’s Eve – Buccella 2010

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No one guessed the wine in the picture posted on our New Year’s dinner!  It is not often a wine goes without an identifying label with the winery name on it. Collectors know that Buccella wines have this identifiable wax logo stamped on the bottle. It is a contemporary interpretation of a traditional silver tastevin cup used for tasting in Bordeaux and other areas. This along with the name “bucella” a Latin word meaning mouthful provides a perfect sampling of this exquisite wine.

The Wine

The 2010 Buccella is a Cabernet Sauvignon (86%) with Malbec 6%, Petit Verdot 3%, Merlot 3% and Cabernet Franc 2%. Robert Parker rated this 95 points a few years back. I acquired it seven years ago and it has been resting with “its brothers” very quietly. On eyes this is a deep black color and medium-full viscosity. The fragrance is black cherry and blueberry. In the palate, it opens up to express both the blueberry and cherry with distinction. Secondary flavors of vanilla and dark fruits abound. Key to this wine is the finish with soft and velvety tannins, this is not your normal big and sharp Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Rather than pick you up and slap you upside the head, this comes and caresses and warms you like a comforter next to a fireplace in winter. The style is as unique as its label.

The Winemaker & Consultant

This wine was made under the wine consultant Philippe Melka. Philippe is known as one of the top 10 winemakers/consultants in the world. His resume is too long to list but some of the key wineries he has consulted for are: Gemstone, Cliff Lede, Hundred Acre, Vineyard 29, Seavey Vineyard, Parallel, Lail Vineyard, Quintessa, Bryant Family, Westwood Estate and the list goes on. In fact, he and his team claim to have made or consulted with over 150 wineries!  His list of 100 point wines is remarkable. Today he also spends time working at his own winery Melka Estates.  Buccella’s current winemaker is Landon Donley with his own pedigree coming from Spottswoode. It also runs in the family with his wife, Sarah, the winemaker at ADAMVS.

The Winery

Buccella is a small artisan and boutique winery committed to making limited quantities of luxury wines. They are located in the southern area of Napa with fruit coming from some of the premiere vineyards in Napa Valley.





Carne Asada and Malbec Wine – The Challenge and Experiment

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The Background

Yesterday the idea of going back to a “regular meal” entered into my thoughts after all the elegant Christmas meals. With that, the thought of a nice prepared Carne Asada marinated steak came to mind. So after discussing this with my wife, an excellent cook, and finding a recipe that she had prepared before, I went to the grocery store to find the perfect skirt steak. While talking to the butcher about the meat, I noticed in the meat counter display already prepared and marinated Carne Asada steaks. We seem to always be doing wine comparisons, why not a meat comparison. So this would be a taste off between the meat market prepared steak verses a home marinated steak. That is the background on last night’s meal and this subsequent story.

The Meats

So back to the house to discuss my idea of the challenge of the two meats. The marinated recipe that my wife prepared called for juice from one lime, juice from one orange, soy sauce, garlic, cilantro, Habanero peppers and Chipotle peppers in an Adobo sauce put into a plastic bag and left to marinate for 6 hours in the refrigerator. The bag and meat were turned and shaken about once an hour. The meat counter steak was already marinated and sat waiting in the refrigerator. Curiosity was building as to which was going to be the winner.

One More Twist

Unbeknownst to me, my wife also put a different twist on the challenge. She cooked them both in a different hot skillet on the stove stop. She used a “non-stick heavy duty frying pan” and a heavy throwback cast iron frying pan.

The Food Pairing

Served with corn the two steaks were plated and served with a drizzle of fresh lime. The result was hands down on the home marinated recipe cooked in the cast iron pan!

The Wine Pairing

Went to the cellar before dinner and grabbed a favorite 2016 Malbec from Mendel, Finca Remota from the famous 3,000 foot elevation Uco Valley, Argentina. This wine is full bodied and tannins thick as molasses on the eyes. On the eyes dark coloration and on the nose, floral violets are present. On the palate almost overpowering black and dark red fruits come to the forefront with tobacco, French oak and fresh leather.  On the finish a smoky almost open fire flavor resides in the mouth along with sharp and defined tannins. The wine provides an “old world sense of being” in Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina. The wine paired like two old friends shaking hands, firm and with warmth and understanding of each other’s personality. This wine typically gets between 93 to 96 points year after year. Average price is roughly $85.

Also compared this to another favorite Malbec from Crocker & Starr in Saint Helena (Napa Valley) called ‘Casali 9’.  This wine changes year to year but 2016 was 80% Malbec and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was aged 18 months in 60% new French oak. On the eyes a dark purple coloration and medium viscosity. On the nose and palate, raspberry, dark plum and floral aromas abound. The acidity is mellow and the tannins were rounded and silky smooth. This turned out to be a much more enjoyable wine to sip standalone with more forward fruit. Only 499 cases produced and the current release ‘Casali 11’ is sold out and was sold at $90. ‘Casali 12’ will be out in April 2021.

So in the end, what started out as a simple meal, ending up being a more developed and detailed challenge and experimental meal with the winning results clearly decided. The wine however was a toss-up: one provided a remarkable glove fitting like experience and the other a contrasting more fruit forward and softer, rounded edges to make the meat stand out. Both wines had great merit in the pairing to the meat.

Hopefully tonight’s dinner will be less complex in constructing!





The Year 2020 and Hindsight Wine 20/20

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The year 2020 will forever be known for the following:

 *Worldwide pandemic from Covid-19 and the subsequent horrible number of deaths

*Financial strain on various segments of the economy, health care workers, wine industry, restaurants, etc.

*Uncontrolled and unprecedented fires in the western United States

*the emotional impact of “social distancing” which has caused emotional turmoil for families.

In the midst of all of this some good things have emerged, like getting a vaccination fast tracked and now just being distributed to contain the virus. Work places being flexible and agile in adapting to “the new order” and individuals recreating and adapting their lifestyles. Those new lifestyles with social distancing, no indoor dining, no social gatherings, etc.  For me and on a much smaller scale was getting to know and understand a small boutique winery called Hindsight. While I have written a more in-depth article on the winery at:  https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/07/16/hindsight-wines-cabernet-sauvignons-calistoga-estate-howell-mountain/ here is a story on one of their wines.

While the Hindsight Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon made the list of the Best Wines Tasted in 2020, one of their other wines, 20/20 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2017) should not be overlooked. At the San Francisco International Wine Competition it earned a 95 point rating. It is a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wine using grapes from some of the best areas of Napa Valley like Rutherford and Spring Mountain.  Five day cold soaking shows in the deep rich red color.  A real bargain for a Napa Valley wine at $40. Recently they have had some sales at 50% and should not be overlooked for “a steal”.  I know many friends and I have purchased the 20/20 as well as others.

Let us all hope that in 2021 we can find our way back to “a normal way of life” and in the interim, enjoy the Hindsight 20/20 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (2017).





2010 Larkmead Solari – Christmas Dinner

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Dan Petroski, winemaker for Larkmead Vineyards, has consistently produced exquisite and age worthy wines for years. This has rested comfortably for 8 years in the cellar and was truly worth “stashing away”. It received 96 points and could have easily received 98 (IMHO). It is 100% estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon.

Firstly, this wine was filtered and decanted for 2 ½ hours before the meal. On the eyes, an extremely dark purple color and medium heavy viscosity. One smell of the wine, your expectations were focused and expectations set! It is a fruit driven vintage, with aromas of raspberries, blueberries and vanilla. On the palate, it burst open with an extravaganza of flavors like the conclusion at a major fireworks display. The earthiness counterbalanced with floral notes, soft vanilla tobacco, black cherry and licorice provide explosion after explosion in the mouth. The finish was one of the longest lasting wines this year. The tannins were still omnipresent with structure and the acidity was truncated due to the expressive fruits. This is a wine that beckoned one to sip and savor each droplet in the glass. This definitely will make my Best Wines List! The current release is 2017 and the winery sells it for $200-$225.

Paired with a 4 bone standing rib roast with a local fresh un-cut horseradish. Accompanied with cheesy potatoes and a garden salad with Blue cheese dressing.

While we couldn’t gather as a large family, this Larkmead Vineyard 2010 Solari provided a boast to the Christmas celebration. Excellent wine Larkmead Vineyards!





Gracianna Winery – 2013 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard

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Their label and name signifies the perfect gift for the season. The name Gracianna is for Trini Amador III’s great grandmother (Gracianna) and they wanted to incorporate all they had to be grateful for and show their gratitude. In addition having the “present with a bow” on the label, makes this wine story timely.

The winery is set on the Russian River in the well know “Miracle Mile” is home of some of the best Pinots just outside of Healdsburg. The “Miracle Mile” is the “confluence of a tectonic age, alluvial soils left by a wandering river, water flowing off of the Sonoma Mountain range which carried with it eroded volcanic material–all of these factors created soils with large amounts of clay in the central portion of the Russian River Valley appellation”.

Gracianna produces approximately 2,000 cases per year of which 70% is for various Pinot’s. The balance of production is for Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Sparkling Brut Rosé – Blush Cuveé. All their Pinot’s are produced in the Burgundian style with French barrels. They use clones 667 and 777 for their Pinot’s in the vineyard and then blend the two. The wine making is a “family affair” with all giving “gratitude” for the fruit of the vineyard.

The 2013 Gracianna 2013 Pinot Noir Bacigalupi Vineyard was one of their outstanding wines. Immediately, even upon just inhaling the aromas, I knew it was going to be a provocative Pinot Noir. With the first sip, was a fruit forward taste of both cherry & strawberry, yet subtlety intensity with just the appropriate amount of pepper, minerality and leather lingering in the backround. The wine peeled backed invigorating layers upon each sip. Very similar aromas and tastes were present in their 2014 Estate Pinot.

Ironically and not known to Trini in our discussion, that in Gaelic, the name Gracianna means “beautiful and graceful, free sweet and innocent”. No wonder why I was immediately seduced to thoroughly enjoying this Pinot.

So no matter if you are being grateful this time of year or wanting to be “seduced”, this wine makes a perfect gift!

Paired this evening with a seasoned pork roast, this was a heavenly meal on Christmas Eve.

Grateful for today and looking forward to tomorrow.

Sláinte and Merry Christmas,




My Best California Wines Tasted in 2020

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2020 was by all standards an unusual and strange year with fires and Covid-19. While I am generally fortunate enough to taste and appreciate over 1600+ wines, this year with Stay at Home, fires, etc., I was only able to taste about 1200+ wines. This list roughly represents the top 6% 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 New Year and that 2021 be prosperous, meaningful and find you in good health.




My Best Wines of the Year $50 and less

2018 Tenbrink Chardonnay

2018 Tolenas Sauvignon Blanc

2018 Coquecicot Chenin Blanc

2014, 2015 Shale Canyon Cabernet Franc

2017 LangeTwins Petite Sirah 100 Vineyard

2018 Wood Family Vineyards Chardonnay

2018 Lavender Ridge Roussanne

2014, 2016 Zuidema Wines Grenache

2016 3 Steve’s Cabernet Franc Cienega Valley

2016 Allegorie Tempranillo

2017 Stringer Cellars Syrah Harrison Clark

2018 Dave’s Porch Wines Sauvignon Blanc

2018 Cuda Ridge Winery Sauvignon Blanc

2013 LangeTwins Teroldego

2016 Arroyo Cellars Zinfandel Dry Creek

2019 Arroyo Cellars Chardonnay

2016, 2017 Cuda Ridge Winery Cabernet Franc

2017 Wood Family Vineyards Petite Sirah

2016 Prie Old Vine Zinfandel

2016 Rapp Ranch Chardonnay

2016 Val Du Vino Spanish Dragon (Tempranillo)

2016 Dracaena Cabernet Franc Reserve

2016 Kenefick Ranch Cabernet Franc Catlins Select

2017 Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc

2015 Jessie’s Grove Carignane

2016 Casino Mine Ranch Marcel Tempranillo

2018 Wood Family Against the Grain Red Blend (Bourbon Barrel)

2016 Yorkville Cellars Petit Verdot

2016 Yorkville Cellars Carmenere

2017 Cuda Ridge Winery Malbec

2018 Cuda Ridge Winery Carmenere

2018 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc              

2015 Tate Wine Company Merlot

2019 Acquiesce Clairette Blanche

2019 Acquiesce Ingenue

2016 Jeff Runquist Petite Sirah Reserve

2017 Borjon Petite Sirah

2017 Leisure Street Cabernet Franc

2019 Acquiesce Bourboulene

2015 Russian Ridge Concerto (blend)

2017 Silenus Cabernet Franc

2016 Rosa Fierro Cellars Cabernet Franc

My Best Wines of the Year $51 and up

2009, 2010 Lineage Collection blend

2011 Crocker & Starr Stone Place Cabernet Sauvignon

2010 Steven Kent Winery Premier Cabernet Sauvignon

2016 Outpost Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

2014 Crocker & Starr Casili 7 blend

2010, 2015 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mtn Cabernet Sauvignon

2017 Frog’s Tooth Alicante Bouschet

2016 Tenbrink Petite Sirah

2010 Nickel & Nickel Branding Iron Cabernet Sauvignon

2009, 2010 Larkmead LMV Salon blend

2010 Shadybrook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

2008, 2010 Detert Winery Cabernet Franc

2009 Larkmead Solari Cabernet Sauvignon

2012 YoungInglewood Cabernet Sauvignon

2006, 2007, 2010 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

2017 Outpost Grenache

2016 J. Davies Malbec

2016 YoungInglewood Cabernet Franc

2014 Arkenstone NVD Cabernet Sauvignon

2009, 2010 O’Shaughnessy Cabernet Sauvignon Mt Veeder

2014 St Rose Winery Pinot Noir Ten Block

2016 Steven Kent Winery Cabernet Franc

2016 Vinoce Cabernet Franc Mt Veeder

2017, 2018 Maritana La Riviere Chardonnay

2018 Terminim Cepages d’ Or Blend

2010 Skipstone Cabernet Sauvignon Fault Vineyard

2008 Oakville East Cabernet Sauvignon Exposure

2013 Rapp Ranch Cutter’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

2015 Hindsight Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain

2013 Mira Cabernet Franc

2014 YoungInglewood Malbec

2010 Justin Isosceles Reserve blend

2018 Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon

2015, 2017 Duckhorn Merlot Three Palms

2010 Mountain Terraces Lex Cabernet Sauvignon

2017 Shadybrook Cabernet Franc

2017 Hunter Glenn Estate Cabernet Franc

2018 Brecon Cabernet Franc

2016 PrueCru Winery Cabernet Franc

2016 Palazzo Cabernet Franc

2017 Diamond Mountain Vineyard Cabernet Franc

2015 Russian Ridge Concerto Blend

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The Winery

Russian Ridge Winery is family owned producing less than 1,000 cases of wine annually. They are located at 919 Washington St. San Carlos. Not your typical urban winery. Their fruit comes from single vineyards around northern California from areas like Paso Robles, Santa Cruz Mountains and even portions of southern Santa Clara County. Most of their wines are done in small lots from 40 to 200 cases. Scott Townsend owner and winemaker, embraces a California winemaker Shawna’s saying “that grapes care where they are grown, not where they are fermented into wine”. Scott made this 2015 wine and today his son Spencer is the winemaker.

The 2015 Russian Ridge Concerto Blend

This wine is from the Santa Cruz Mountains and a blend of 53% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 7% Malbec and 6% Petit Verdot. The Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot came out of Therese Vineyards and Cabernet Franc out of Copper Garrod and the Petit Verdot and Malbec out of Mannstand Vineyards just north of San Ysidro district in Santa Clara.

On the eyes a very deep crimson and medium viscosity. This “Bordeaux blend” possessed all the key characteristics of a top notch blend.  Dark cherry and blackberry are the first aromas that waft into nose. On the palate, the fruits come fully forward along with coffee, vanilla and a faint black licorice. The finish is both soft and silky (Merlot), but still has a firm edginess (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc). It provided a long lasting crescendo with its structure, tannins, minerality and acidity. At the San Francisco International Wine Competition it received Double Gold and 94 points. Only 202 cases were produced. It is isted at $40 on their website.

The Food & Wine Pairing

Last evening dinner was a slow cooker beef and broccoli. A flank steak thinly sliced and combined with soy sauce, brown sugar, beef broth, sesame oil, Sriracha, garlic and green onions. Cooked on low for 4 hours hours. Just before being served steamed broccoli combined in serving bowl, topped off with sesame seeds.  The meal was spicy and tangy, so wanted a “mellower wine” to counter balance the heat of the beef. This was an excellent wine to pair with this delicious dish.

A footnote:  San Carlos has a list of urban wineries springing up. Worth checking out if they are all as high quality as Russian Ridge Winery!