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Alyris Vineyards

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Ever wanted to be at the start of something new and explosive? Here is the one to bet on, a “brand new” boutique winery, Alyris Vineyards.

First a background about the ownership, property and the winemaker. The owners Ewan and Cyndie Downie purchased the property in June 2014. The vineyards were planted in 1996 under the supervision of Bob Egglehoff. Their goal is take this hillside property and cultivate handcrafted, limited production wines all which will be organically farmed. Secondly, Alyris is located 1,100 feet elevation on the eastern hillside of Mt George allowing for sun drenched growth and just east of the city of Napa. This area provides for the cool marine breezes in the evening. And lastly, they hired one of the best winemakers Rudy Zuidema with 25 years’ experience to work the vineyard from roots to exquisite dark wine – and everything in between being given his microscopic detailed attention.


Besides being “mountainous” with steep inclines, the soil is coarse and rocky making the vineyard “work hard” to produce their quality results (see picture). The rolling hills produce three distinct terrains. As Rudy states, this “allows rich long tannins, powerful fruit and a long aging acid profile”.



Today they are offering their two initial releases. First is the 100% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon using 100% French Oak barrels (60% new) and cave aged for 22 months. This wine is dark, sensual with a mouth filling viscosity similar to some of Napa’s best. Rudy’s comments are this allows “rich black currant, bing cherry and toasty brown sugar. The finish is long and fresh with rose pedal, pipe tobacco…” This has the potential to last up to 15 years but Rudy suggested 9-10 for optimal drinking.


The second wine they are offering is their 2014 Chardonnay from Carneros Region. It is aged 10 months in the cave with 50% new French Oak barrels. Per Rudy this produces “core flavors of peach, ripe fig and fresh lavender are held together with a rich and smooth structure that lasts through the finish of minerals, nutmeg and allspice”. The Chardonnay goes through a partial second malolactic fermentation and will last 3-5 years.

These are their initial offerings— a pair of Aces! In fact just last week, in the SF Chronicle blind wine tasting for Chardonnay’s (category over $42) which is the largest blind tasting with multiply judges, their Chardonnay came in third against some very prestigious and established Napa & Sonoma wineries. These means every judge ranked the Audition as a gold (the highest available). Very impressive for their inaugural release.…/2016-medal-winners/2016-217/

Today they are just launching their wine club and in store down the road in 2017, is a limited ultimate “Carnal” Cabernet Sauvignon to be released 2017. Contact them at their website and don’t miss getting in on this opportunity.


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Keever Vineyards

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A few years ago on our anniversary, we had scheduled a visit/tour/tasting with a relatively unknown winery called Keever Vineyards in Yountville. How we found out about Keever Vineyards was our quest in following influential winemakers around Napa Valley.  They hired renowned Celia Welch as their winemaker. We arrived at our pre-set time and met with the most charming “lady of the vineyard” Olga Keever. Not only was she extremely welcoming, but went the extra mile with a handmade congratulatory anniversary card. After that kind of a welcome, what transpired next was even better!!

Olga explained that the winery was opened in 2006, but their first vintage was 2002. This was their vision and dream which would be passed down in their family. After and during the tour, which included much discussion and some casual wine tasting, we were “blown away” by Celia Welch’s 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I immediately purchased a case and we have never been disappointed with subsequent 2010, 2011 and 2012 releases. It is no wonder why Keever has made my “Top Wines of the Year” for two years. (

Celia used in the 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon release 96% Cab Sauvignon and 4% Cab Franc. She used 79% new French Oak for aging. The 2012 produced a dark cherry, with a cacophony of aromas which drinks well today and will be developing per Celia “for the next 6-8 years”. It can easily be held for up to 15 years.

Keever is kicking off their 2016 by releasing their 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon on January 13th (consider this a candid pre-announcement!).  They also have available today both their Sauvignon Blanc (pineapples, peach) and Inspirado (Red Blend).

The facility is kept pristinely clean (pic taken looking down De-stemmer). Private tours are by appointment and they offer a Cave Wine & Cheese pairing for their Wine Society Members.  The views from their Yountville west hillside allows one to look both north, south and west with vistas pictures cannot show properly. Should you arrange to tour/taste, you might even be greeted by the infectious smiling “lady of the vineyard” Olga – please say hello for me!!

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20160106_140218California Wines & Wineries Blog's photo.


California Wines & Wineries Blog's photo.California Wines & Wineries Blog's photo.


Shadybrook Estate

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What a magnificent hidden gem beneath Mt George in the Coombsville AVA. Owners David and Alice Alkosser found a piece of heaven (see picture below). They are situated on 25 rolling hillside acres with a phenomenal views facing west and south. They have planted the five key Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec on this property.

I was introduced to Shadybrook by their prominent winemaker Rudy Zuidema with their inaugural 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon release. I have been a buyer for two additional releases without hesitation with the 2012 being exceptional. The 2012 Cab made my listing of “Top Wines in 2015”. Currently they are offering three wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Platine Blanc (in the tradition of whites from Bordeaux). All their wines are available with quantity limitations on purchases.

The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon is large, smooth and with many layers of complexity. Rudy’s description includes “with accents of ripe black cherry and berries accented by notes of kirsch, mocha and spice along with fresh hints of forest floor and earth after a spring rain.” And “with core flavors following on from the nose and underlying highlights of cocoa and sweet tobacco”. That alone should motivate anyone to secure an allocation with Karen McFarland, the General Manager who is both pleasant and helpful. It is a wine to drink today and will only improve will laying it down (if you have the patience!).

Rudy has tipped his hat that 2014 vintage will include an additional new wine from Shadybrook which will incorporate all five Bordeaux varietals.  Also that the 2015 wines, while less tonnage, have made for a complex and concentrate juice with great color and tannins.  This assures continued quality wines being produced for their loyal following.

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Lail Vineyards

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New to me, Lail Vineyards Blueprint 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon made the “Best of 2015” on my list. Lail can be tasted at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville. Philippe Melka lends his winemaking skills to this full body, rich and drinkable wine. Antonio Galloni rated it 94 pts. It is not a wine to hold, but to enjoy today. One of the best young wines I have tasted. Grapes come from a variety of areas: Howell Mtn, Oakville, Calistoga, Yountville & Coombsville. When they say the sum is greater than parts, this is the wine that exemplifies this saying! At $80 list price, this is a solid find.
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Entre Nous Winery

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Tip of the day between us, which happens to be the translation of “Entre Nous” Winery– one of Napa Valley’s gems located in Oakville. Small boutique production from winemaker Philippe Melka producing their award winning Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine Advocate rates their wines consistently between 94-96 points, including the 2009 at 98 pts by Parker. The Cab is so smooth with cherries, plums and violets on the palate, yet with strong tannins strong enough to lay the wine down until 2030. Kristine Klussman, owner has assembled the best of the best (Philippe) and General Manager Joe Filippini. I have had the pleasure to know Joe for the last 6 years, he is truly genuine with an exuberant personality worthy of representing this wine. Entre Nous also features a crisp & mineral Sauvignon Blanc and an unique Cabernet Sauvignon Rose. This is the real deal, so let’s keep it “between us”.

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Detert Family Vineyards

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When looking at the Detert Family Vineyards logo one might expect a “gnarly, rough and tumble” wine perhaps. Nothing could be further from the truth as their Cabernet Franc is smooth, a full mouth lingering pleasant concoction of chocolate, and numerous layers of berries and tobacco. Tom Garret hosted me two years back and with his experience at Turley, Joseph Phelps, Robert Mondavi, and under Heidi Peterson Barrett as her assistant winemaker for Revana, he has “it down pat”. This fall they hosted an event at their property in Oakville (pictures). Here I met John Garret but did not meet Bill Cover – all three are involved in running the business. For two years in a row their Cabernet Franc made the “Best of the Year” on my favorites for the year.

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California Wines & Wineries Blog's photo.
California Wines & Wineries Blog's photo.
California Wines & Wineries Blog's photo.

Food Pairing with Sashimi

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Question: What is your choice of wine with this nice looking plate of Maguro sashimi? Mine is a Crocker & Starr Sauvignon Blanc.
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