The name Gracianna is for Trini Amador III’s (owner) great grandmother (Gracianna) and they wanted to incorporate all they had to be grateful for and show their gratitude. The winery is set on the Russian River in the well know “Miracle Mile” 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 the Sonoma Mountain range which carried with it eroded volcanic material–all of these factors created soil 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 2014 Gracianna Estate Pinot Noir is one of the wineries 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, with just the appropriate amount of pepper, minerality and leather lingering in the background. The wine peeled backed invigorating layers upon each sip. Very similar aromas and tastes were present in their other Pinot Noir offerings. The finish was semi-sweet and graceful.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Thai or Phad Thai, is commonly served as a street food and at restaurants in Thailand. Tonight’s dish was prepared by Vine 18’s chef Joe Garcia as a pickup order at the Copper Valley Golf Club. It was a chicken and shrimp pad with rice noodles, egg and a savory Pad Thai sauce. Served with lime wedges, chopped scallions, and roasted peanuts. While the “safe choice” of wine is a Riesling, I tried the 2014 Gracianna which proved to work wonderfully with the food. A winning combination for sure!
My wife and I met Laura many years ago, I think exactly 2 dogs ago (reference her dog which 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 consistently year to year. When we can all get back to visiting wineries this is not “showy or upstaged” opulence, 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.
Last night pulled a Laura Michael 2015 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon. A beautiful dark red on the eyes with a medium heavy viscosity. Aromas of red cherry, sweet pipe tobacco and a hint of mocha. On the palate, additional smooth French oak coat the mouth with a modicum of dark chocolate and peppercorns. The famous Rutherford dust is dominate after each perfect sip, and is a lasting and telling finish. Priced fairly for a classical Napa Cabernet Sauvignon at $65. This one will be hard to keep long in the cellar!
Smith-Madrone Vineyards is located on 200 acres on top of Spring Mountain west of St. Helena with 38 acres planted in vineyards. The vineyard elevation ranges from 1,300 to 2,000 feet. The Founder, managing partner and enologist is Stuart Smith, Charles Smith is the winemaker and Sam Smith is the assistant winemaker. Truly a family affair! All the wines are estate and dry-farmed on top of the mountain. Annual production is between 3,000 to 4,000 cases a year. Currently they are producing Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and their iconic Cooks Flat (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc). A note on the September Napa Valley Glass Fire: No vineyards or buildings were damaged but communications, fences and gates were damaged on the property. They hope to be fully operational soon.
(Photo taken by Matthew Denny)
The 2016 Riesling is extremely aromatic with floral notes and green apple on the nose. A light yellow straw color and medium viscosity. On the palate, strong lime, mixed with stone fruits (white peach and apricots) tame the lime citrus. On the finish, the minerality comes through strong and pure from either the volcanic soil, or sandstone, limestone or the general rocky soil found on the property. The minerality and acidity is jovial and enticing with a semi-sweet crescendo. Smith-Madrone Vineyards produced 1,199 cases and sells it for $32.
The Wine & Food Pairing
The Smith-Madrone 2016 Estate Riesling was chosen for last night’s meal due to the spiciness of the dish called Firecracker Chicken. This used skinless chicken breast (cut into 1 inch pieces), cornstarch, eggs (beaten), vegetable oil, Sriracha, chunky garlic pepper sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar, red pepper flakes and sliced green onions. To say this dish was HOT and SPICY is an understatement but it was delicious. Having the 2016 Smith-Madrone Riesling was a godsend. The wine was refreshing and quenched the palate. The semi-sweet finish was spot on for the meal!
Hope to try this Riesling with another spicy dish in the near future that is not as hot, called Shanghai Chicken.
Rhonda Wood, winemaker at Wood Family Vineyards, is a charismatic person which influences the entire winery. From high in the sky to down to earth wines!! Yes Rhonda Wood, winemaker/owner of Wood Family Vineyards used to fly planes (US Airways) but now can be found in the vineyards tending vines. She and husband Michael (with their two sons), have a winery in eastern Livermore. Rhonda started making wine in 1996. Besides sourcing wine on their property (Merlot), they have 17 specific vineyards which are manicured to their specifications throughout Livermore’s ideal climate.
Rhonda and the family winery are small in comparison to some of the Livermore’s known name wineries, but have been regarded for years as one of the top quality wine producers. For example, just recently they received the following accolades for her 2017 Malbec:
• 2017 Malbec – 93 points Wine Enthusiast
• 2017 Malbec – Best of Show – SF Chronicle Wine Competition 2020
This wine on the eyes is medium viscosity and with a deep royal purple coloration, yet around the rim it is almost translucent (per the picture). On the nose blackberries and dark red plums are the leaders rushing into claim dominance in the olfactory senses. 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 ground stone minerality. Alcohol was 14.5% with only 210 cases produced and listed at the winery at $34.
The Food Pairing with 2018 Wood Family Vineyards Malbec
When the weather doesn’t allow for BBQed short ribs, here is a great alternative! Oven baked Country Pork Ribs with a homemade rub and either drizzled or covered with a barbecue sauce. Ingredients for the rib rub include: chili powder, dark brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, dried oregano, kosher salt, red pepper flakes (crushed) and black pepper. Total cooking time was 2 hours and 30-45 minutes on low heat. The aroma and flavor was very similar to just coming off the grill. We used a “spicier” BBQ sauce, but that paired nicely with the wine. The fruit and smoothness of the wine, calmed down the spice and smokiness on the ribs and BBQ sauce very nicely. An excellent choice of wine with the meal.
My wife and I have been working on perfecting the right combination of meat, spices and wine for a Carne Asada meal. After many attempts, pleased to announce we have a delicious recipe!
Change #1 — So we scratched the idea of using a skirt steak and went with a flank steak! 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 in the refrigerator. The bag and meat were turned and shaken anytime we passed the refrigerator.
Change #2 – It now sat in the refrigerator for 24-26 hour instead of 4-6 hours.
Change #3 – We exchanged the Habanero peppers and used Jalapeño peppers. Also all the seeds placed in the marinated freezer bag to marinate.
Change #4 – On a tip from our friend after cooking the meat, it was sliced across against the grain.
The Food Pairing
The Carne Asada was flavorful and spicy without being in your face red-hot! A drizzle of fresh squeezed lime juice topped off the meat. Served with a Spanish rice dish that was spicy with crushed red peppers and tomatoes. Sautéed asparagus with garlic and a fresh baked French roll topped the meal. The bread came in handy with the heat of the rice mostly.
The Wine Pairing
Two wines were served with the meal. The first from the cellar, was the 2012 Crocker & Starr Casili 5. This is a blend of 82% Malbec and 18% Cabernet Franc. 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 very enjoyable wine to “balance the heat of the meal”. Only 500 cases were produced and the current release ‘Casali 11’ is sold out at $90. ‘Casali 12’ will be out in April 2021.
The second wine was brought by our friends of 45 years plus. They brought a 2006 Ridge Syrah from the Lytton Estate. This winery is located in Cupertino and used 92% Syrah and 8% Viognier. The wine spent twenty-four months in American oak with various levels of age (new and old). This was a full body and nicely structured wine which also proved excellent with the meal.
This meal was “spot on” with flavor, aromas and just the right about of heat/spice in the beef. This took four variations but the journey was worth the end result! Both wines provided a great compliment with the pairing of the meat.
At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Rosa Fierro Cellars 2016 Cabernet Franc earning a Gold Medal People’s Choice Judges and a Silver Medal from the Professional Judges. For Rosa Fierro Cellars this was an excellent showing as it was her first Cabernet Franc produced. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges in different areas. This wine was in Category 2 (priced at $31 to $50) from around the United States with it priced at $40. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see:
Rosa Fierro Cellars
Rosa Fierro opened Rosa Fierro Cellars in 2014 and recently left her full time job and career as a legal assistant to concentrate 100% on the winery. “Rosie” as she is called, had worked in tasting rooms, made port in her garage and eventually worked with many of Livermore’s better winemakers at a production facility in Livermore. The winery is 100% woman owned and operated with women staff. Rosie specializes in hand crafted, limited production wines. Her wines come from both Livermore and Napa Valleys. One of the key points of making wine was instilled in her to work in the vineyards to select the best grapes. Each varietal is limited to 50-200 cases each. Those wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay (both oaked and unoaked versions), Merlot, a Rosé (from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes), Zinfandel, Primitivo, a Red Blend and her latest being the Cabernet Franc. Her total production is approximately 1,000 cases. She has won many awards in a relatively short time. The tasting room is located at 2245 South Vasco Road, Livermore. The backgrounds on her and her staff on the website are especially creatively done! Rosie’s other passion is photography and her pictures adorn each unique label.
2016 Rosa Fierro Cellar Cabernet Franc
She calls her Cabernet Franc “Big Daddy”. When asked how that came about her response was “my friends and I have always referred to the varietal of Cabernet Franc as the ‘Big Daddy’ of varietals because of its masculine characteristics….”. While not wanting to create any “sexism or controversy”, I have often mentioned Cabernet Franc as being feminine, with its silky smooth finish and being the “seductress of wine” luring one into the far reaches of the wine world. I will leave that up to your determination.
Rosie’s 100% Cabernet Franc grapes come from the White Cat Vineyard on Crane Ridge in Livermore. The wine on the eyes is very dark red with purple hues. On the nose blueberry aromas abounds predominantly. Once into the mouth, the blueberry takes a back seat to raspberry and anise with just a slight hint of tobacco and vanilla to counterbalance it. The finish is definitely “feminine” with silky smooth tannins that slide down the back of your throat. While smooth, the structure of the wine came through. I had tasted the wine before release and now after just a month or two in the bottle, I truly was impressed with the morphing of its enhanced quality. She made only 50 cases with her wine club getting it first. As of this writing, some wine is still available.
The Wine Pairing
The wine was chosen to go with a homemade Salsa di Pomodoro. The salsa was prepared using fresh plum tomatoes, Italian tomatoes, extra-virgin olive oil, chopped onion, finely shredded carrots, crushed hot red pepper, chopped celery and bay leaves. Needed was a strong Cabernet Franc to embrace the acidity in the tomatoes. A grilled chicken, then was baked with the salsa and parmesan cheese added on top! The salsa was also used for the Bucatini pasta and accompanied with a fresh garden salad with Blue cheese dressing.
So no matter how you think of Cabernet Franc, feminine or masculine, Rosie’s Big Daddy 2016 Cabernet Franc is on target with full flavor and an excellent representation of Cabernet Franc.
While watching the football Conference Championships and subsequent Super Bowl, perhaps add to the enjoyment by picking up some Tillamook Reserve Collection cheese. The specific one is called Maker’s Reserve 2015 and 2017. This handcrafted artisan cheese is made from milk from cows raised near the Oregon coast and aged to perfection.
I have paired the 2015 Maker’s Reserve cheese with a 3 Steve’s Winery 2019 Reserve Chardonnay. This wine was not filtered nor fined, so its cloudy presence on the eyes beckons you right from the start to seek clarity. First on the nose, white and stone fruit waft with a strong peach aroma. On the mouth, pear and peach are the dominate tastes along with the creamier texture of the wine on the finish. A very well balance fruit and light touch of oak. A solid compromise of old world and new world flavors. The charcuterie plate includes peppered salami, crackers, Jalapeño/garlic stuffed olives and the Tillamook 2015 Maker’s Reserve cheese. The aged characteristics of the cheese and wine melt in your mouth.
The second pairing is Tillamook’s 2017 Maker’s Reserve cheese. This is paired with Wood Family Vineyards 2018 Chardonnay. Not too “oaky”, this wine burst with lemon and pear, followed by butterscotch and as Rhonda Wood states “crackerjack flavors”. Not an over the top buttery Chardonnay like Rombauer, but just enough to provide a light buttery caramel and texture in the mouth. First on the eyes, a golden hue and medium viscosity is obvious. On the nose and palate, the wine has lingering tropical fruits, peach and pear in the palate. A portion under goes 100% secondary malolactic fermentation, but allows a final mix, to allow old world and new world Chardonnay to coexist in harmony. This paired with the 2017 Tillamook Maker’s Reserve cheese. The charcuterie plate includes summer sausage, whole natural almonds and pistachios. Again this cheese melts in your mouth with the wine.
As a long footnote, Tillamook has a cult following and is almost a household name with their regular cheeses, butter and ice cream, they more recently have launched and are expanding their distribution nationally. Firstly, Tillamook is a unique company of around $600 million being a farmer owned and operated “cooperative” with local dairymen in Tillamook, Oregon. This co-op is comprised of 80+ local family farms and has been in existence for over 110 years representing dairy experience, quality and a commitment to future generations. “Terroir” is a taste of place from the environment. It is the flavors and nutrients in the grasses reflected in the cow’s milk and ultimately the cheese.
Enjoy the games today and Super Bowl in two weeks.
Last evening we were treated to some outstanding food and wines at a friend’s house. Appetizers started with garlic cheesy artichoke bread and two types of meatballs, venison and pork with homemade mildly warm dipping sauce. Sorry no pictures!
Then dinner had three main dishes: Chicken, shrimp and a Portuguese Roast with the trimmings. Other trimming like fresh baked rolls, seven layer salad and rice accompanied the meal. Dessert included fresh baked apple tart, wine Bundt cake and ice cream. Again, sorry no pictures on the dessert!
Everyone brought a wine to share, the evening conversations kept ramping up and the host kept bringing out more wines! A quick highlight of the wines which included varietals from Livermore, Chile, Spain, Fairfield, Napa, San Benito and Paso Robles.
*Darcie Kent Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon – An enjoyable sipping wine before dinner and with appetizers from Livermore, Calif.
*3 Steves 2017 Carmenere – 3 Steves is located in Livermore but this wine is produced in Chile. Excellent with the Portuguese roast with an “old world” taste. Also the venison and pork appetizers.
*Robert Sinskey 2016 Pinot Noir from the Carneros region in Napa Valley. A good Pinot Noir but a bit light and airy. Did pair up with the shrimp and chicken.
*Alaya Tierra 2018 Garnacha Tintorera. A fantastic thick and dark wine that is hearty, robust and almost midnight coloring in the glass. Excellent with the Portuguese roast.
*Leal Vineyards 2013 Cabernet Franc from San Benito inland of Central Coast AVA south of Hollister. Unfiltered and always an outstanding Cabernet Franc.
*The finishing wines were the 2018 Austin Hope Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles and the Tenbrink 2016 Petite Sirah from Fairfield, Calif. Both wines were a wonderful pairing with the Bundt cake and fresh apple tart.
Some of the above wines made my list of best wines of the year previously: Alaya Tierra, Austin Hope and 3 Steve’s Carménère.
While only six of us participated in this delicious meal, it went on for five and a half hours. One of those evenings you didn’t want to end! Thanks to the wonderful chef extraordinaire Maria Goulart for the meal entrées, hospitality and great conversation. Ditto on the thanks to Ansuiya for the venison and pork meat balls with homemade spicy sauce and Susan for the mouthwatering cheesy artichoke garlic bread! And lastly Joe Goulart for opening up some exquisite wines for pairings and the continuous laughs!! Peter and I attended as polite spouses with voracious appetites!
Over the last week two 1 hour seminars were held by Silicon Valley Bank hosted by Rob McMillan EVP, on the state of United States wine industry. This was held with a panel of experts and the discussion was based on the 82 page report that was provided. While eighty –two pages is a bit much to summarize as I have in the past, I will simply provide some key talking points.
Last year I wrote a story in January and a follow up on March 2020 on the status and direction of the wine industry. They can be found at:
Obviously the previous year’s topics looking out into 2020 were significantly changed with the Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented fires on the West Coast. Those key points outlined last January 2020 were:
#1 – Wine sales are down
#2 – Grape supply is at an all-time high (more supply than demand)
#3 – Contracts by wineries to wine growers are being cancelled
#4 – Millennials and Gen-X and Gen-Y wine consumption is not meeting expectations
#5 – Wine industry is losing ground to “health conscious next gen’s”
#6 – Packaging challenges from “form” and “portion size”
While many are still important, the impact of Covid-19 and the fires shifted or influenced those topics in many unforeseen ways. The scope of this is not to rehash the above topics but outline and communicate some of the key topics going forward in 2021.
Here is a combination of the challenges and the state of the United States wine industry from the seminar, the report and my personal observations.
#1 – Channel Shifting.
*This is due to many of the tasting rooms having an “on and off again” closing and opening, inside or outside or no tasting policy as deemed by the government.
*Restaurant closures or only outside dining with limited seating and social distancing impacted the three tier distribution system wineries have enjoyed (selling to distributors and distributors selling to restaurants). This has affected both the high end wines as well as mid-priced wines in volume and revenue.
#2 – Wineries Focused on Retention.
*It was imperative that the wineries held on to club members since a portion of their channel was disrupted (restaurants). Those who were selling mostly DTC (Direct to Consumer) were impacted less.
*Wineries spent significant time making sure their members solidly supported them. For the most part wine club members stood tall and supported their favorite wineries. This was critical for the smaller wineries to survive.
*However, while the wineries did work at on-line sales for expansion, 60% of all orders were from “new customers”.
* Focus going forward will be how to keep/retain these “newbies” and convert to wine club members.
*Wine club members will only keep their engagement for so long. While the turnover may have slowed during the first year of the pandemic, as this continues, those commitments may be in jeopardy.
#3 – Wineries Still Need to Improve Qualifying Their Customer Base.
*Appointments may have helped get name, email, phone data but what are the wineries doing with it?
*When tasting rooms have been opened, many have used part time help with little or no training on the product or selling wine club memberships and missed the opportunity for the winery to better know their customer!
*When surveyed the results were lackluster on the wineries understanding of data analytics to review their customer data. In fact fully 48% stated they had “no one” looking at any customer data! And 30% stated they only had someone part-time looking at customer data. Only 16% of respondents stated they had some one full time! It is like steering a ship without a captain.
#4 – New Model of Wine Shopping & Purchases.
*With many “working from home”, this has increased and fostered the mind set to further “shop from home”.
*This has broken the ties with many consumers to buy within the “90 mile radius” of their home. Subsequent the same for shopping for wine.
*E-business and internet shopping has increased significantly for the wine consumer. While many wineries may have a website, I am constantly reminded and astonished how many do have an outdated information or non-current material on their site. This is a major black hole for wineries in their existence, quality and ease of directing the consumer.
#5 — Priorities of Wineries.
*Touch customers at home. Zoom meetings started out as an effective tool, but after dozens of “talking heads videos” most consumers are becoming numb. While initially a good filler, other tools are needed.
*Phone sales. While this was highlighted, most consumers are also getting frustrated with endless calls on being contacted with “deals”. Having the right data base and history on who to call would make it more effective for both the wineries and consumers.
*Other curated DTC programs are needed. Creativity and “thinking outside the box” will determine the winners and losers.
#6 – Lack of Socialization During the Pandemic.
*Wine clubs can fill some of the social bonds but communication is equally as important between members as opposed to be talked to! I personally can attest to listening to “smart qualified winemakers” telling me about their wines and wineries, but without any customer engagement.
*Key is to provide club members/interested parties lateral exchange of ideas, comments, and antidotal exchange. This helps in a “group think” and team commitment to the winery. I have been with only one winery via a Zoom meeting where this consistently happens and without “hard data” know that each of the 30-40 consistent participants are 100% supportive of that winery.
#7 – Diversity in Many Ways needs to be Embraced.
*With Boomer and Millennials coming on stronger verses the Baby Boomers (twilight direction) in purchases, changes in social values are coming into play.
*Some of those changes may include: labeling (calories in a bottle/serving), ingredients (natural or chemical), asking for transparency of winery social values, diversity in hiring & advertising, requiring wineries to have a lower carbon footprint in vineyards, production and packaging. Boomer & Millennials hold these values in higher esteem than the previous customer demographics of the wineries.
*Diversity can include medium (digital) and people.
*People want to be treated with respect and fairly by first contact people in the tasting room (when they reopen). Emphasis on how important this is amazing and often overlooked by winery owners. Over a year ago, without an appointment, I dropped by a winery to an impromptu tasting. There I was pushed aside for a “club member” by the tasting room hostess. After finishing, she spent the balance of my time there on her phone texting or doing some social media. Later that year, the winery was name winery of the year (due to their good quality of wine) but how many potential wine club members have they driven off that should have been captured in the tasting room?
#8 – Financial Status of Wineries.
*In data compiled from 2017 to 2020 two significant trends were revealed. First in 2017 wineries, 18% stated they were financially “rock solid”. In 2020 that percentage fell to 11%! A similar fall in those wineries stating they were financially very strong or strong. Conversely those wineries stating they were financially “slightly weaker, very weak or on life support” had shifts respectfully upwards of 11% to 15%, 2% to 4% and no change on life support.
*Margin compression continues to be felt by the wineries. Huge discounting was implemented by wineries throughout California (every AVA) in order to turn inventory/supply into cash. Incentives on shipping are a given!
This is just a quick temperature check and reading of the state of the industry in the United States and what 2021 may end of looking like going forward.
We all need Covid-19 and subsequent mutant viruses to be contained and vaccine shots implemented ASAP to keep us all safe, the wine industry can only go on so long. The other is the realization that wineries must face some hard decisions in changing their personnel, their data system and on-going relationship with existing and potential new customers. These challenges will come with a cost, but fighting for them is better than burying your head in the sand thinking the issues will be magically solved.
At the National Cabernet Franc Wine Competition held in December 2020, Palazzo Wine Cabernet Franc Reserve 2016 was in an elite status earning a Gold Medal by both the Professional Judges and People’s Choice Judges. A great accomplishment with only six wines receiving Gold or Double Gold from both sets of judges. This was a blind competition with two sets of judges in different areas. They were in the Category 5 (priced at $100 and up) from around the United States. For more on the wine competition sponsored by California Wines and Wineries see: https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2020/12/04/national-cabernet-franc-wine-competition-results-are-in-happy-cabernet-franc-day/
Palazzo Wine & Scott Palazzo
This was Scott Palazzo’s first entry into the National Cabernet Franc Competition. His background is both unique and fascinating how he ended up being a winemaker. Scott grew up in an Italian family which influenced both his understanding of wine as an everyday event as well as with food and celebrations. At age 19, Scott set out with his guitar on his back and ended up in Europe. There he ended up in Saint Émilion (on the Right Bank of Bordeaux’s Gironde River). This became his wine paramount experience shaping his palate for years to come and the foundation for Palazzo Wine some 20+ years later. In 2003, after establishing a career as a television director/producer (by the way a Grammy nominated for Music Video & Television Director/Producer), he began searching for a similar terroir that he enjoyed while living in Saint Émilion.
Key to his success was his charismatic and energetic personality! Scott combined his past experience with Old World Wine in the cellar with New World Fruit from lower Napa Valley rolling hills. Today his wines are featured by some of the wine world’s most famous restaurants. A small partial listing is French Laundry, Gary Danko, Michael Mina, Per, Daniel, Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Spago, Bouchon, Mastro’s Steakhouse, Emeril’s, Valintino’s, etc. The full list of restaurants can be found on his website, suffice to say, in any major city, find a prestigious restaurant and you will find Palazzo Wine!
Today Scott’s portfolio of wines include his Master Blend Series, The Reserve Wine Series and perhaps a few others in the cellar.
The 2016 Cabernet Franc Reserve
Scott started making his Cabernet Franc exclusively for The French Laundry in Yountville. This catapulted his wine instantly to “cult status”. The 2014 is his current release Cabernet Franc. What Scott entered was his 2016 Cabernet Franc into the wine competition. First on the eyes, this is a very deep crimson red color with medium-heavy viscosity. What wafts into the nose is symphony of aromas from floral notes of crushed violets to red fruits like cherries and raspberries. Once entering the mouth all parts of the orchestrated flavors burst into a flavor profile similar to the 1812 Overture. Red and black cherries, subtle spices like pepper are counter balanced with hints of dark chocolate. On the finish only a hint of pyrazines, this wine is vibrant, yet silky smooth beckoning one to take another sip. Structure and defined but not jagged tannins are present. One of the smoothest finishes on a world class Cabernet Franc I have tasted. The current release is the 2014 with only 300 cases being produced and priced at $115.
The Food Pairing
This week since the weather hit 75 degrees the BBQ begged to be operational! Two aged ribeye steaks were seared and BBQ’ed to have with this extraordinary wine. Accompanied by Bucatini pasta prepared with garlic, purple onion and broccoli with a fresh garden salad and Blue cheese dressing. Each bite of the steak with the wine was spectacular beyond belief! Truly a memorable experience. This wine instantly made my list to be on my yearly publication “Best Wines of Year – 2021”.
Scott is referred to as being creative, energetic and fervent in his convictions. All these traits can be attested to in his wine. Enjoy!