Dinner last night with a magical 2017 Maritana Chardonnay Sonoma County Russian River LA RIVIÈRE (meaning the river, Russian River). While Donald Patz had many years ago produced Chardonnay’s he has been known as an industry leader for his Pinot Noir’s (Dr Pinot!). I was expecting a good solid wine, but what my palate tasted was “total astonishment”. First on the eyes, a bright clarity and ethereal straw golden yellow color. It was a refined and delicate Chardonnay with hints of soft lemon custard and a Red Delicious apple, mildly sweet with a caramel finish. As the wine settles in the back of mouth, a minerality of a babbling brook or creek came to mind. This wine was of another spectrum of quality found only in wines in a much higher in price range ($100). LA RIVIÈRE is a blend of 55% Dutton Ranch Shop Block, 22% Martinelli River Road Vineyard and 18% Susanna’s Vineyard and finally 5% Ritchie Vineyard for the 2017. It uses 90% once and twice used French oak barrels and 10% new French oak barrels. It is sur lies aged and goes through 100% malolactic fermentation. Donald’s Chardonnay’s will continue to develop complexity while aging over 5 to 8 years (stored properly). This wine reminded me of the higher end Kistler Chardonnay or Peter Michael Chardonnay, specifically La Carriere. The current release and price for LA RIVIÈRE is $55 for the 2018.
Garlicky shrimp with broccoli, served over spinach fettucine noodles and topped with toasted Panko crumbs with lemon zest and parmesan cheese. Additional baby asparagus and a fresh garden salad were served for a delightful pairing.
For a complete story on Donald Patz’s wines see: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2018/12/06/maritana-vineyards-four-aces-on-the-first-vintage/
The title is appropriate on a few levels. First Susan Tipton’s Acquiesce Winery features exquisite white French wines exclusively. When Susan Tipton founded Acquiesce Winery, she was on a mission unique to Lodi AVA and in fact, most viticultural 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. For the full story on Acquiesce see a previous story at:
Secondly last night’s wine featured a combination of French varietals combined in her 2018 Acquiesce Ingénue. Don’t let the name fool you as its definition states “an innocent or unsophisticated young woman, especially in a play or film”. This is a unique white blend of Grenache Blanc, Clairette Blanche, Bourboulenc and Picpoul Blanc. The gestalt of this wine, when you combine the Grenache Blanc (pleasant minerality with hints of green apple and apricot), Bourboulenc, a rare varietal in the United States with as Susan states “…beeswax on the nose, citrus flavors of orange and key lime…..with a honeyed finish”, Picpoul (with pineapple, lemon custard and floral nose) and Clairette Blanche (again an uncommon varietal in California (with a medium-heavy viscosity, mild grapefruit and a floral bouquet) you have an exquisite and one of kind experience. Each of the varietals received an award winning Gold or Double Gold in various competitions. The Ingénue won Best of Class & Double Gold at the 2019 International Women’s Wine Competition plus Best of Class in the 2019 Sunset International Wine Competition. A great uncommon find and worthy of honor in any cellar!
Thirdly, the dinner was a French style chicken with sautted onion topped with mozzarella cheese. This was combined with fettucine pasta with mushrooms, baby asparagus and parmesan cheese, accompanied with a fresh garden salad. The meal and wine were extremely simpatico. Vive la France!!
Met Katy Wilson in the midst of California’s annual fire season a few years ago. While we walked the vineyards and sampled some of her wines in the smoke, it wasn’t until this week I opened her 2016 La Rue Charles Heintz Vineyards Chardonnay. The Heintz Vineyards are well known for their Chardonnay grapes. The Heintz family has operated the vineyards since 1912, located just east of Occidental. It is about 800 feet elevation on Goldridge sandy loam soils. Key to the vineyard is the cool ocean influence that makes Sonoma coast wines intriguing and spell binding.
Here is a picture from two years ago of Katy. It is still one of my favorite as Katy was so serious talking about her wines. I finally got her to laugh and caught this picture. For me this captures what Katy feels about her wines.
For the previous story on La Rue Wines (Pinot Noir’s and Chardonnay’s) see:
The 2016 La Rue Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay possesses an embracing golden coloration that is beautiful on the eyes with medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, aromas of pear, golden apples and aromas of spring flowers. On the palate, leaving the wine on the lees with minimal stirring allows as Katy stated “to develop complexity and structure”. She also leaves the wine, in the once used French barrels for between 16-18 months! The rich mouthful feeling of this wine is spectacular! The finish is as on-going as Katy’s smile is wide! She does take the Chardonnay almost completely through a secondary malolactic fermentation but with the high acidity from this coastal Chardonnay, it does not have your typical over the top buttery finish. The wine is a great mixture of aroma, acid, texture and oak influence which provide a clean crispness with a slight minerality for the finish.
The wine was paired with a Lemon Chicken Piccata dish coupled with baby asparagus and a fresh garden salad. The fresh lemon in the sauce played perfectly with the wine.
Besides, being the winemaker and owner of La Rue Wines, Katy today is consulting winemaker for Anaba Wines, Claypool Cellars, Reeve Wines and Smith Story Wine Cellars.
Steven Kent Mirassou set out to showcase Livermore Valley’s wonderful wines from the beginning of opening his winery, Steven Kent Winery. Steven has felt that the west to east orientation of the valley allows for even more natural fog layer to come into the valley especially during the hot summer months. Additionally there are so many different soil types present within the Livermore Valley and many other attributes.
To that end, one of his favorite Cabernet Sauvignon’s is the Home Ranch. The Home Ranch is a 5.6 acre site planted on Tesla Road. It sits at 610 elevation and is planted on gravel riverbed measuring some 600 feet in depth. Originally planted in 1996, it has provided some of his best wines. Home Ranch is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Drank this wine at the beginning of the summer and unfortunately just now getting time to write about it. On the eyes, you notice the deep lush coloration with medium viscosity. On the nose, aromas of dark fruit, raspberries and earthiness arise to great you. Upon the first sip the wine provided hints of cocoa, expresso, dark meaty cherries with tinge of oak and soft vanilla pipe tobacco. The finish is classical Steven Kent with an elegance of velvety tannins and structure with no sharp edges providing a wonderful balance and long lasting presence. Just one of his fabulous wines along with his Premier, Single Vineyard Series, BDX Collection and Lineage Wines, all of which proudly reside in the cellar.
It should be noted that Steven Mirassou has had the goal of making exquisite wines in Livermore for 20+ years. He believes Livermore wines can compete on the world stage of opulent wine. This summer it culminated with his first 100 point wine awarded for his 2017 Lineage Bordeaux style blend by wine critic Steve Heimoff. Those that have known Steven decades could not have been happier for him and the winery. The good news is that he is looking for even more 100 point scores! (Read the full story at https://www.lineagewine.com/). Also a previous story on Lineage can be found at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2019/08/25/2008-lineage-wine-a-culmination-of-heritage-and-personal-drive/ .
Background of Petit Verdot
Petit Verdot is one of the five main grapes in a classical modern Bordeaux blend. Verdot translates roughly as “green one”. This grape tends to be under ripe and in cool season Petit Verdot vines have “bunches of grapes speckled with green and un-ripened berries” (Wine-Searcher). Petit Verdot generally possesses high levels of anthocyanins in the berry’s thick skin. When in contact during processing this provides a dense, inky, violet-black appearance. This also gives the wine high tannin levels or a real bite in the mouth. On the palate the wine is dry and full bodied, with black fruits and has a medium acidity. Petit Verdot has typically been a blending grape in Bordeaux and other regions imparting the color, tannin and floral aroma of violets. It is a strong, call it a longshoreman type of wine. Historically less than 10% goes into a blend so as not to overpower the other components of the wine. In recent years, more and more wineries are making a true Petit Verdot Varietal (75% +), but this is not for the novice wine drinker. Petit Verdot has had its best success growing in warm dry climates.
Who is Yorkville Cellars?
They are a family owned winery located in the rolling hills of southern Mendocino County around 800 to 1,000 feet elevation. They are proud of their relationship with the land having been certified by the California Certified Organic Framers in 1986 (long before fashionable!). So over three decades, no synthetic pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers have been introduced. Truly an Organic Wine. Additionally, they maintain California Certified Sustainable Vineyard status. Their mission is to produce the six red (adding in the lost varietal of Carmenere) Noble grapes of Bordeaux as stand-alone wines as well as producing a Bordeaux blend from their estate 16 acres. All wine is hand harvested and hand sorted for quality fruit to make into each bottle. They also make a Sauvignon Blanc and white blend of Sauvignon Blanc with Semillon.
Who are owners and winemaker? Deborah and Edward Wallo are the Founders and Winegrowers of Yorkville Cellars. Deborah was raised in England and knew European wines. Edward, spent a lot of time in Europe working as an international Marketing manager. There they both appreciated the wines of Europe, especially the Bordeaux’s out of France. They lived in France, Germany and northern Italy (near Lake Como) where they were able to explore many vineyards and wineries.
In the mid 1980’s, they purchased the land and their intent was to be stewards of the land as vineyard managers. They sought to produce the varietals that played in the classic Bordeaux blend. Originally wanting to sell their grapes as vineyard growers, it soon became apparent they should cultivate, bottle and present their own brand to the wine world. Besides the experience in Europe, Edward continued his education doing course work at both UC Davis and Sonoma State University. Today their production quantities range from 6,000 to 8,000 cases a year with production totaling 14 wines. Typically only 300-400 cases per varietal or type of wine is produced. All their wines are meticulously hand produced. Edward and Deborah do the vineyard management, choose dates to pick, and make the wine. They have been doing this for 26 years.
2016 Yorkville Cellars Petit Verdot
Tasting the 2016 Petit Verdot was amazing! On the eyes, an extremely dark almost black/purple coloration with a heavy viscosity. On the nose, black fruits of plum, blackberry and blueberry were the first hints that something special was about to happen. Coupled with floral notes, the palate was in anxious anticipation of the first sip. On the palate, violet, lavender and other florals roamed joyfully in the mouth. This wine offered up black cherry, vanilla, mocha, and provided a hint of smoke and anise. The finish had a soft minerality/earthiness and extremely long finish with tremendous structure. They used 86% Petit Verdot and added a rounder Merlot of 14% to make a smooth wine. The red wines are aged 20 months in French oak barrels (15% new). In 2016 they won a Double Gold at the Pac Rim International Wine Competition for their Petit Verdot.
The Food Pairing
A fantastically prepared Andouille Cajun Rice Skillet dish was chosen to pair with the wine. This was a “warm temperature flavor” dish with spiciness and far reaching textual appeal in the mouth. The recipe called for Andouille Cajun sausage, yellow onion, red & yellow bell peppers, minced garlic, Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning, kosher salt, tomato paste, fresh sliced Roma tomatoes and brown rice. Paired with the Yorkville Cellars Petit Verdot was a match made in heaven.
This wine immediately made my Best Wines of Year (published every December) with just one sip! The great news is the winery sells it for only $34. It will reside prominently in the cellar going forward as an excellent wine and a great value.
Last weekend spent some time “glamping” with one of our daughters, her husband and three grandchildren. Did a preview of one of three wines being released first week of September by Wood Family Vineyards.
The 2018 Wood Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc is perhaps her best to date. On the eyes a dark ruby red and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose blackberry, cherry and violets were dominant. On the palate, plum and caramel pipe tobacco engulfed the mouth with milk chocolate. The finish was medium with soft edges and extremely smooth with an earthiness, an absence of any strong pyrazines and a soft and smooth landing with a hint of vanilla.
Paired with a grilled filet mignon with seasonings and baked beans with ground chuck and many spices prepared and brought with us before going camping. The exquisite paper plate was the only option to highlight this wonderful meal. It reminded me of the adage “clothes does not make the man” or in this case “the China does not make the meal”.
I know Rhonda Wood is entering this wine into the Annual Cabernet Franc Wine Competition (Blind tasting) which has two sets of judges: Professional and People’s Choice. Would not be surprised if this did win a few awards.
While the wine and food presentation may not be glamorous, the wine was a glorious beauty even in plastic wine glasses and the accompanied food on paper China (ok paper plates!).
While perhaps cool liquid sunshine is misleading, nevertheless this Sauvignon Blanc looks like sunshine and is cool and refreshing as a rushing stream in the Sierra’s. First time I have reviewed a Mendocino wine and was perhaps a bit apprehensive, but what an unexpected pleasure. The wine on the eyes was a light golden yellow with medium viscosity. On the nose, the predominant aroma was lemon zest. I was immediately thinking a sharp New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, but the first sip told me otherwise. While having a softer lemon in the palate, it also provided green apple and a trace of pear and pineapple. The finish was dry and had just enough “puckering power” to leave you desiring another sip.
Paired with a fresh linguine pasta. The pasta was prepared with lemon, broccoli, red chili flakes, garlic and Himalayan salt. Additionally fresh prawns and sautéed Panko crumbs in olive oil. Accompanied with a large beautiful artichoke. A refreshing light meal on a warm summer evening. This Yorkville Cellars 2018 Sauvignon Blanc caressed both the linguine and prawns for a delightful dance in the mouth.
Thus the cool sunshine colored Sauvignon Blanc tamed the chili flakes & garlic and was an overwhelming endorsement of Mendocino wine from Yorkville Cellars. Can hardly wait to taste others from Yorkville Cellars and Mendocino AVA!
While not being able to enjoy a full season of baseball, you can at least be pleased by the home run by Rhonda Wood and her soon to be released Malbec. This wine will be released the first week of September and I was fortunate enough to get a “sneak preview”.
This wine on the eyes is medium viscosity and with a deep royal purple coloration, yet around the rim an almost translucent (per the picture). On the nose blackberries and dark red plums are the leaders rushing into claim dominance in the olfactory senses. On the palate, besides blackberries and plums, you experience a soft note of milk chocolate, gentle smokiness counterbalanced with the fresh ripe cherries. The finish is velvety smooth with medium acidity and tannins with no sharpness. Also on the finish the presence of wet stones from a babbling forest brook.
With the preceding description, the Wood Family Vineyards Malbec is a perfect fit with spicy foods. This was paired with a taco salad, with spicy ground chuck, lettuce, fresh garden tomatoes and purple onions. An overall wonderful companion to the wine.
This wine was not just a sure hit but a deep home run to center field. When released it will be regularly stocked in the cellar.
Last night a special treat a light summertime meal with some exquisite wines!
Fresh vegetables, grapes, cherries and homemade pizza. One pizza was baked with Brie cheese, bacon and a walnuts. Then topped with arugula. The other pizza was made with a homemade sauce with mozzarella, sautéed Italian sausage and peppers. Both were manifico!! Also three different dips were made for the vegetables. Paired with a couple of extraordinary wines, Peter Michael 2013 La Carrière Chardonnay and 2010 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.
The 2013 Peter Michael La Carrière Chardonnay is a wine that can be aged similar to many French Chardonnays. The golden color was striking along with its minerality (La Carrière mean the quarry), almond, jasmine, lemon and pear notes. The intense creaminess was the hallmark of this wine coupled with a heavy viscosity. Robert Parker gave this wine 98 points.
2010 O’Shaughnessy Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Malbec and Merlot added for roundness. On the eyes an extremely dark purple and med-heavy viscosity. On the nose an almost overwhelming experience of aromas of violets and blackberries. On the palate everything imaginable from a mountain fruit from Napa Valley. Ranging from dark chocolate, granite to boysenberry. Largely structured similar to the Rock of Gibraltar with immense tannins but is balanced as a tightrope walker with a silky smooth finish. For the last 15+ years always a perennial favorite wine. This was a perfect wine with this summer dinner. Robert Parker rated it 97 points, but I believe it is even higher!
Gary Grant continues his quest to produce every varietal on the De Long’s Wine Grape Varietal Chart. Gossamer Cellars is located in Murphys in a small wine tasting room. His goal is to go wide and not deep in producing varietals to challenge everyday consumption of red and white wine presuppositions. Recently for example he has produced Treixadura, Negroamaro, Teroldego, Torrontes, Nebbiolo and may more. For the complete story see a previous story at:
Last evening, I opened up a 2017 Gossamer Pinotage. The grapes come Lodi. For those unfamiliar with the varietal it is South Africa’s signature red wine. In 1925, Izak Perold cross pollinated Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Pinotage is as prevalent in South Africa as Malbec is in Argentina or Cabernet Sauvignon is in Napa Valley. The reason it flourishes in South Africa is that it can withstand drought conditions. A typical South Africa Pinotage characteristics are a deep purple color, plum and black aromas and a silky smooth finish.
Gary has captured many of these traits in his 2017 Pinotage. First on the eyes it exhibits a medium dark purple with light edges in the glass. While dark, it is still clear and translucent. The fist scent on the nose provides ripe strong summer strawberries and red cherries. On the palate, while “cool from the cellar” a distinct rhubarb came through. Later while warming up, blackberry, licorice and bramble underbrush were present. The rocky minerality and earth tones rounded out the sipping experience. The finish with rounded tannins, was smooth and provide a medium finish.
While this Pinotage is slightly different from a classical South Africa Pinotage, it still possess many of the key traits of this delightful varietal. Gary continues to be one of the most unique winemakers with his vision and definitely a pillar of creativity for wine aficionados with a sense of adventure. Thanks Gary!