Went to the cellar to find a wine to take to dinner at a friend’s house. Found a gem from about four years ago! St Rose Vineyards and Winery is unique in many ways, from being the smallest bonded winery in Sonoma Valley to having two of the more talented & personable owners. Yet being as small as they are, they received 93 points from Wine Enthusiast for their 2014 Pinot Noir. Most of their grapes are sold to wineries with the designated Nunes Vineyard being noted. For a complete story on Fred & Wendy Nunes and their meandering journey into the wine business see a previously published story at: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/03/17/st-rose-winery/
This 2014 Ten Block Pinot Noir on the eyes is a deep violet and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, violets, Rose petals red berries, strawberries and cherry. On the palate, vanilla, nutmeg, strawberry abound with baking spices and a tinge of French oak. The finish is excellent producing a smooth, textual and long lasting experience. Only 51 cases produced! Last night paired with a pork loin roast with fresh garden salad and mashed potatoes. With only a bottle remaining in the cellar, I will be ordering more as this is an elegantly refined, complex and quintessential Pinot Noir.
This story originally published in 2018 and it still rings true two nights ago. 2018 Tenbrink Chardonnay from Suisun Valley. Ever pick up a bottle of wine that tasted really good at the winery but a week or later, you taste it and it doesn’t seem as good!! While this is just the opposite!! Knowing full well of the San Francisco Bay fog streaming up into Suisun Valley, this wine was an immediate hit at the winery. I rated it on the nose alone. I can’t recall giving a “score” to wine before and then only on the nose! As I sipped the wine 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 was clearly going to be a winner! This evening opening it open it still surpassed my high expectations set at the winery two years ago! For sure it will be on my List of Top Wines of 2021. To show my support for this wine, I immediately purchased six bottles when I was at the winery and will have to reorder soon. A tremendous bargain now at $32 retail price for the 2020 release. Looking forward to trying it!
See a previously written stories on all their wines at:
What is Bourboulenc?
This varietal comes from southern France, primarily the Languedoc and Provence appellations. Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards claim to be the first winery to release this fascinating and somewhat obscure varietal in the USA. The variety first mentioned in literature goes back to the 16th Century. While the grape is known to be native to Provence, Bourboulenc has a Greek origin where it was known as Asprokondoura. Bourboulenc is often used in blending with Grenache Blanc and Clairette. Bourboulenc is a white wine giving off intense floral aromatics, with a tremendous mouthful feeling of citrus, smoky and soft spicy notes forming a complex finish.
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), Roussanne and more. Here are some reviews of her wines and impact:
The Wine – 2019 Bourboulenc
The first thing you notice is the golden color in the glass, and the wine possesses a medium heavy viscosity. Intriguing and frankly startling, was the bouquet of aromatics. On the nose were diverse and numerous floral notes. Over temperature they range from stone fruit, almond, pineapple, honeysuckle, orange blossoms, tropical fruits and stone fruits. Once in the palate, they engulf and dance amusingly in the mouth. All these flavors came forward to introduce themselves and left you with a rich textured enchanted mouth feel with sufficient acidity. The finish provides a polarizing effect of softness and minerality at the same time.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Last evening pulled out of the cellar the 2019 Bourboulenc as I was able to pick up fresh swordfish. With any “flakey” seafood, this an excellent wine! Cooked with olive oil, white wine, minced garlic, wasabi and ginger. Accompanied with a baked potato. I rated the 2019 Acquiesce Bourboulenc highly and can tell you it has made the Best Wines of Year for 2021 as it did also in 2020.
When is being “out”, in? When you enjoying Outpost wines of course! Pulled this out of the cellar this week to be enjoyed with family. I became acquainted with Outpost Wines over 14 years ago and knew immediately they were on a path to destiny. Outpost is located near the top of Howell Mountain at 2,200 feet elevation.
The owners Frank and Kathy Dotzler, started Outpost in 1998 on this sloped hillside comprising 28 acres. What they have accomplished with their Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Grenache, etc., is nothing short of remarkable. With Thomas Rivers Brown at the helm of the winemaking, the wines continue to garner acclaim. Dry farming and being totally organic are the mantra at Outpost. Outpost was sold to AXA Millésimes, the wine division of the French insurance giant on July 23, 2018. I have not been there since they sold the winery.
Going back to their 2009 Cabernets, some of the ratings were in the “93 range“. Even then the potential of their Cabernet Sauvignon was ready to blossom. On their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon True they received a score of 99 points from Parker. This vintage was aged in 90% new French oak and only 250 cases were produced. The “step-sister” Cabernet Sauvignon Estate was rated 95+. In a more recent vintage they received a 100 point score!
I had spent some time with Frank previously discussing their Grenache and whole stem clustering soaking which produced a wonderful spicy and peppery bouquet. I am now a “major advocate” of whole cluster soakings! The Zinfandel is a hearty and mouthful Zin. They produce around 1,100 cases a year and is a force to be reckoned. Both their True Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache have consistently made my Top Wines of the Year since 2015.
On property they produce other wines and would encourage a visit. Not only are the views spectacular, the hospitality will astound you. The tasting room can be both inside and outside, pending weather conditions.
The 2010 Outpost Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
The wine on the eyes was a deep brick red with a medium heavy viscosity. Blueberry, pepper and fresh violets on the nose. On the palate, it burst forth with vanilla pipe tobacco, licorice and both blue and black fruits. The tannins have soften and Howell Mountain minerality lingers on the finish. Parker may years ago called their pricing, the “least ego driven” in Napa Valley—a rarity in today’s fine wine market. That said this 2010 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon retails today for $210 to $225 in a recent search.
Before talking about the wine, here is a quick overview / refresher on the history of Carménère:
History of Carménère
The history of the Carménère varietal is as fascinating as it is happenstance! It was once one of the grapes in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. It served a similar purpose as Petit Verdot does today – producing a deep red ink on wines. It was one of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux. Carménère originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the crimson color of the autumn foliage.
When the Phylloxera plague hit in 1867 destroying most of the vineyards in Europe, many thought the Carménère grape was extinct. It wasn’t until 150 years later that it was discovered that Chile had preserved the Carménère grape thinking it was Merlot (from clippings planted from France). DNA confirmed that it was the missing 6th varietal of Bordeaux.
Carménère grows mainly in Chile, specifically the Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley and in the Maipo Province. It is also grown in the Veneto region of Italy, and recently several wineries in Mendocino, Livermore, Lodi, Napa and Calaveras are producing it, albeit in small quantities. Walla Walla also has some root stock growing in Carménère.
Uniqueness of Carménère
As a varietal, it has the deep ruby coloring and aromas of red fruits. Tannins are softer and milder than Cabernet Sauvignon, thus its use in blending to soften a strong Cabernet. The use is similar to the use of Merlot in formulating an enjoyable blend. Chile produces a 100% Carménère which has a cherry and fruity flavor but has traces of smoke and earthy notes with the inky coloration.
The 2018 Cuda Ridge Carménère
One of the solid and simple marketing ideas that Larry devised is his coloring scheme: White label for his Reserve wines, Black label for his non-Bordeaux wines and Purple label for his Bordeaux varietals. Obviously the Carménère falls in his Purple label.
This wine lived up to and exceeded some of the key characteristics of Carménère. On the eyes, a medium-heavy viscosity wine with a unique inviting deep purple coloration. On the nose, ripe Bing cherries greeted the senses. The palate is where this wine excelled. First the bright cherry taste was intense and concentrated. Plums and dark fruits then came forth with a hint of soft dry and wet earthen tones (minerality and forest floor) with black tea in the background. The earthen notes are generally found in Chilean Carménère but not found too often in California. The finish was long lasting with mocha and pepper finishing off the enjoyment. The wine is aged in French oak barrels (100%) for 18 months. This wine immediately after tasting made my “Best Wines” tasted in 2021 (full list published in December). It was still a bit “tight” but will last 5-10 years in the cellar.
Larry Dino owner and winemaker for Cuda Ridge Wines now has all six modern Bordeaux varietals available at the tasting room. The Carménère is the first locally produced wine varietal in the Livermore AVA. This second release is larger than the first year but will be flying out the door. Inquire at the winery for availability.
His Carménère will surely garner many awards in the upcoming wine competitions. The wine lists for $50. Truly a good price point given the uniqueness and scarcity of Carménère plantings in California and the only current Livermore grown Carménère being offered.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Carménère is a wine that pairs well with roasted meats, barbequed ribs, rack of lamb, bacon encrusted meats, curry seasoned meat dishes, pork asado, chicken mole, beef brisket and many more. This evening a 24 hour marinated tri-tip beef, seared on the BBQ and served medium rare. Accompanied with cheesy potatoes, garlic French bread and a fresh Caesar salad. Such an enjoyable and satisfying pairing. This wine was exceptional and worthy of any cellar!
At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held December 2nd, 2020, Constant-Diamond Mountain Vineyard won just about every award for their 2017 Cabernet Franc!!! They earned a Double Gold Medal Award from both the Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges. In addition, they won Best of Class from both set of Judges in their category ($101 and up). The Professional Judges also awarded them Best of Show across all categories! That is an unprecedented achievement and this was their first year participating. You can read more about the event at:
(From Constant-Diamond Mountain Website)
The winery sits on top of Diamond Mountain in the northwest corner of Napa Valley. It was first settled in 1895 by Andras Rasmussen. After studying viticulture at UC Davis, Andras purchased 120 forested acres on the top of Diamond Mountain. He cleared 30 acres and planted the grapevines at the summit.
When prohibition came it was let go to be natural. Then in 1993 Fred and Mary Constant purchased the vineyard with the land overgrown and wild. The first wine under Philippe Melka came in 1995. The current consulting winemaker is Paul Hobbs with his first vintage being the 2009.
The next change was in 2016 when Aries Liu and Sai You became the property’s caretakers. This beautiful piece of property produces some of the most elegant, rich and powerful Bordeaux varietals Napa has to offer as well as other varietals. The wines offered today are: Rose, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Claret and their Cabernet Franc.
The 2017 Cabernet Franc
This wine from the mountain top of Diamond Mountain is a “beast” like none other! With being above the fog, the growing season produces luscious, dark and rich fruit. First on the eyes, it is so dark, almost a reddish black coloring with a medium heavy viscosity. On the nose a fragrant but soft lavender fills the senses with cherry coming in as a secondary aroma. Once on the palate, it bursts with plum, blackberry and a forest mountain earthiness. The finish is long with silky smooth tannins and a strong structure is present. The only thing missing was a pyrazine characteristic, but that was easily overlooked by the sheer enjoyment of the wine. Only 70 cases were produced and it sells for $175/bottle.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Paired with a 24 hour marinated tri-tip aged steak, then seared on the BBQ to both a medium and medium rare levels. Accompanying the meal were garlic, butter and chili pepper shrimp, cheesy potatoes, stir fried garlic asparagus, a freshly tossed garden salad and fresh sourdough bread. The beef and wine were heavenly together and made such a fabulous meal, it lasted for a couple of hours!
If you are looking for a scrumptious wine for a special occasion, look no further than this Cabernet Franc!
Had a great opportunity to spend time with Jeff Stai, owner of Twisted Oak this week. Before exploring the title, the winery in Vallecito started with the purchase of the land in January 2002 by Jeff and his wife Mary. Jeff, previously an electrical engineer in Southern California had spent a lot of time in the Calaveras and Alpine foothills. Jeff’s idea of building his own winery, with his detailed background, merged the two disciplines rather easily. This is the beginning of the paradox. Wine is a creative and an experiment at best coupled with science and the whims of a farmer at the beckon of Mother Nature.
Jeff designed and cleverly implemented a gravity fed winery with four separate tiers. The grape harvest come in bins on the first level and is fed into the de-stemmer and crusher on level two. From there the juice is feed to the holding tanks on level three for soaking and punch downs. (Writer’s note: Jeff designed a “trolley” system coupled with hydraulic punch down capability over each tank! See picture). The fourth level is the underground cave that is some 300 feet in length for barrel storage and aging. In the late summer and early fall, special events are held in the cave before the barrels are filled with the current harvest so they can move the “unfilled barrels” outside for a day for their wine club members.
They use the cave for various events and have adopted a “pirates theme” for one club member (members are called the “Twisted Few”) event and is decorated in a pirate theme including “loot” usually in August. Another theme is the “twisted chicken”. Rubber twisted chickens adorn the tasting rooms – both in Murphys and at Vallecito. Again a paradox of being fun and lighthearted yet a very real business! This statue greets you upon arriving. It is a combination of the historical “Jumping Frog” made famous in the area by Mark Twain combined with the “chicken theme” called the Fricken.
Today they have about fifteen different offerings from Chicken Bubbles (méthode champenois), Calaveras Rosa to solid reds like River of Skulls (Mourvedre), Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional and many red blends with some unusual names. Those names include their 2017 *%#&@! (Yes that is the correct spelling), 2016 Murgatroyd, 2016 Pig Stai, etc. Again while making some serious varietals that are exceptional, Jeff with his creativity and light heartiness, has ample wiggle room for humor!
Without going into too much detail, he also provides a custom crush service, has one of the best winery gift shops (Mary is in charge of merchandizing), a free delivery to the local counties for wine delivery and has developed a flexible and imaginative wine club program. Today they produce approximately 4500 cases per year. You will find their wines without a heavy hand on the oak as 70% are neutral and the new barrels are a combination of French, Hungarian and American oak. The lightest wines like Garnacha are aged one and two to three years for their Spaniard.
The wines I tasted were extremely well produced and true to their varietal heritage. The “twisted chickens” had made me previously think this was a light hearted and not serious winery, but the reality, is that Twisted Oak Winery is a serious wine making operation with a light hearted approached to making their customers and wine clubs members feel welcome. Perhaps the real paradox is that it is working extremely well for all!
Stories forthcoming on a couple of the wines. Stay tuned…….
Tonight’s wine was an unusual and beautiful white wine, 2018 Acquiesce Picpoul Blanc produced by winemaker/owner Susan Tipton. Visually this varietal is faint in color and almost translucent with a pale yellow hue. On the nose pineapple was the predominate scent coupled with minerality. 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. Susan Tipton also believes in the New World, it is excellent with spicy Thai food and dishes with cilantro. In 2017 only 220 cases were produced and all going to wine club members. In 2018 based upon expected yields, she increased that number to approximately 350 cases. As an aside, only 40 acres were planted with this grape varietal in the USA in 2017!
Treated to a nice dinner at Baldi’s at Copper Valley in the Town Square. Had three tacos of breaded shrimp stuffed into double tortillas, loaded with spicy slaw and garnished with cilantro.
Another excellent wine by Susan Tipton of Acquiesce. These wine has made my Best of the Year Wines two years in a row and again will appear in 2021!!
Some other stories on Acquiesce and their unique wines:
At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held December 2nd, 2020, Ciccone Vineyard and Winery earned a Silver Medal Award from the Professional Judges. This was for their 2017 Cabernet Franc. This was their first year participating and expect even higher awards in their future! You can read more about the event at:
The winery is located on the Leelanau Peninsula in the upper portion of Michigan (#2) on the map.
(Picture from Michigan Wine Country)
Tony and Joan Ciccone are the co-owners and founders of the winery. After a career in Detroit, Tony in his previous homes always had a few rows of grapes in his yard and made wine by hand. He had the notion to build a winery after he retired. The land was purchased in 1995 and the following year, Tony planted 5 acres in Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Gewürztraminer. Today, his son Mario and daughter Paula are now tending the vineyard and making the wines respectively. Today besides the original varietals, they also offer Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and various blends.
The 2017 Ciccone Cabernet Franc
As mentioned earlier, this was one of the original varietals planted in 1996 and is considered one of their signature wines. On the eyes and enticing but a bit lighter than some Cabernet Francs. On nose, dark berry fruits of blackberry and cherries arouse the senses. On the palate, mild oak and black peppercorns make this a mild but still “spicy” Cabernet Franc. The finish is medium long and can be consumed with or without food as it is very enjoyable. The price on their web shows the wine going for $27.
The Food and Wine Pairing
The meal was a Carne Asada dish. It was seasoned for 36 hours, seared briefly and then BBQ’ed for a few minutes. The Carne Asada was a recipe from Damn Delicious (with a couple of modifications) and included in the marinate: fresh chopped cilantro leaves, olive oil, reduced sodium soy sauce, juice from one orange and one lime, minced garlic cloves, 2 minced jalapeno’s (one with seeds and one without seeds), cumin, Kosher salt, ground black pepper and a flank steak. It was then drizzled with lime juice before being plated. Accompanied the dinner was a Spanish rice with chopped tomatoes and chili peppers along with some baby asparagus.
Perhaps one of the best meals of the year. Unfortunately the citrus characteristics took the wine to a different dimension. So we stopped drinking the wine with the meal. Had some bread to neutralize the palate and the wine was delightful after the evening meal. The individual wine and meal were excellent, but together they were non-compatible.
(picture from Consortium website)
First, this bottle had been cellared for three and an half years. It was recommended in article I read. So what is the Band of Vintners? It is a group of Napa Valley friends with over four decades of winemaking and wine knowledge. They created a wine due to one simple fact, that high quality wines can be both delicious and affordable. They banded their resources and formed the resulting company of Consortium, Band of Vintners. Knowing a couple of the members and having tasted their wines, I figured it was a sure bet to purchase a couple of bottles!
The 2015 vintage was dark red on the eyes and medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose and palate, black licorice, caramel pipe tobacco and blueberries abounded. The structure and finish was more than acceptable and long lasting. The winemakers’ comments stated it could be cellared for 5 to 10 years. This being the 5th year, it popped up to be tasted. The wine is comprised of 93% Cabernet, 4% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. It was aged 15 months in French oak barrels (no mention of new verses old). Now the kicker: The list price is $40 and wineaccess.com has the current vintage (2017) for $33! Their vintages get typically 91 to 93 points.
I think this is a solid wine for newbies to cut their teeth into good quality wine from Napa Valley. It has some of the key components of wine two and three times the cost. It is also a wonderful price point wine for everyday consumption. The Band of Vintners have achieved their goal in making their wine delicious and affordable. Wish I had purchased more than two bottles.
One thing I just notice is the cork! I will dig in to find out more information but thought it extremely interesting.