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A midweek Mexican food feast celebrating birthdays and anniversaries with some delicious foods and wonderful wines with friends.
The evening started off with a Freixenet Italian dry Prosecco DOC sparkling Rosé wine. Besides being a dry brut style wine, the bottle is an outstanding “art piece”. All while enjoy appetizers of olives, salmon, capers, white onion slices, cheese and slightly grilled baguette slices in olive oil roasted with Habanero peppers on the patio.
Dinner consisted of many dishes, mostly a Mexican theme menu. First up was a 48 hour marinated Carne Asada. It included fresh cilantro leaves, olive oil, soy sauce, juice from an orange and lime, minced garlic cloves, a diced Jalapeno with seeds, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper and two large flank steaks. Then quickly seared on the BBQ and sliced cross cut to be served. Extra “marinade” was made and then drizzled on top of the meat to be served. We have had this dish many times, but the extra marinade made this so outstanding.
Next up was a dish called Mexican Shrimp Diablo. Ingredients included olive oil, diced yellow onion, minced garlic cloves, diced fire roasted tomatoes, chopped cilantro, chopped chipotle in adobo, brown sugar, kosher salt, unsalted butter, corn kernels, cut zucchini wedges, garlic powder, dried oregano, ground black pepper, fresh squeezed lime juice, avocado slices and large peeled and deveined shrimp. Two pans required for preparation and food to be sautéed over the stove. First time for this dish and the spicy flavors brought the shrimp to a new level of enjoyment.
An original roasted corn relish was prepared by one of the guests with fresh corn off the cob, roasted with bell peppers and jalapenos. This dish was also a great hit with spices and just a little punch of “hotness” to be savory and delightful.
Another guest brought a “large bowl”, about 16 or 17 inches in diameter and 5 inches deep, filled with a delicious salad with shredded Romaine lettuce, green onions, cucumbers, black olives, tomatoes, crumbled cotija cheese and jicama cubes. The dressing was another original consisting of an avocado cream, olive oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice, cilantro and a dash of sugar and blended with a touch of half and half. Then garnished with tri-color tortilla strips. The presentation was overwhelming and the texture and taste superb.
Concluded the evening with a fresh baked carrot cake from scratch with cream cheese frosting that was heavenly in every sense of the word!
And for the toast to start the evening off was of course Champagne. Wines from Napa Valley, Paso Robles, Calaveras Foothills and Livermore Valley were enjoyed with dinner. What was not paired with the various dishes were casually sipped while conversing around the table.
A marvelous evening of food and wine. Perhaps one of the best of the year only overshadowed by the friendships and conversations. Happy Birthday to two and Happy Anniversary to two couples!!
Sláinte or perhaps more appropriately Salud,
At the April 2022 International Cabernet Franc Blind Wine Competition and Celebration held in Copperopolis, California, 2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc won several awards. Two sets of judges presided over the tasting, one being the Professional Judges and the other being People’s Choice Judges. The Professional Judge’s in the $76 to $100 price range category, awarded a Gold Medal and Best of Class to the 2018 L’Autre Côte Cabernet Franc. This was the only wine in this prestigious category to receive a Gold Medal from the Judges. For more information you can read the following story:
The Wine – 2018
Ghielmetti and Sachau Vineyards have been a long-time source for Steven’s wine be it Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. The one block at Ghielmetti of Cabernet Franc Clone 332 is 3.7 acres in size. Sachau vineyard is six acres in size with a loamy soil. The 50/50 combination of the two (each aged separately) then with 4% Cabernet Sauvignon added provided the best of both vineyards. On the eyes, a bright and dark reddish/purple coloring, with medium viscosity. On the nose a very fruit forward aroma of raspberry and blackberry fruits. On the palate, besides the fruit bursting with excitement, you are rewarded with chocolate, jasmine tea and minerality. The finish provides rounded and defined tannins without overt edges, giving one a silky landing. The finish is mid-lasting with a tinge of fruit sweetness, yet with subtle pyrazines in play. Using once used French barrels, this wine does not have a predominance of oak but rather allows the fruit to be showcased. This wine was released in early March and is $98/bottle with only 145 cases produced.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Last night wanted a very opulent and tasty wine to go with a seared BBQ’ed ribeye steak served medium rare. Accompanied with twice baked potatoes, garlic bread and a fresh garden salad. The wine and steak were not just compatible, but rather gave a huge “bear hug” to each other. Cabernet Franc with a seared ribeye is perhaps one of my favorite food and wine pairings. Now add one of the best Cabernet Franc’s available, it made a wonderful meal.
What is Cinsaut?
Cinsaut (sin-soh) also spelled “Cinsault” is a red wine grape varietal that is found in the hot and sunny climate of Southern France and typically goes into red wine blends in Southern Rhone, Languedoc, Roussillon and Provence. In California, Cinsaut thrives in the Lodi region of San Joaquin Valley as well as along parts of the Central Coast where temperatures can be very warm. Cinsaut is used to generally produce red wines with aromatic and floral qualities and if well-made are typically smooth with subtle tannins. Acquiesce Winery elected to complement their white and rose line up with whole cluster pressing and sur lie aging in the tanks of this grape. A great wine just added to their Provence line up.
Acquiesce Winery, Susan Tipton makes so many wines that have topped the wine charts with high ratings. Her latest claim came from the International Women’s Wine Competition being named Best Woman Winemaker in 2022! You can read more about this and her wonderful and unique white wines coming out of the Central Valley at:
Among my personal favorites are her Picpoul Blanc, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ingénue (blend) and Clairette Blanche. All of which are proudly stocked in my wine cellar.
The 2021 Acquiesce Cinsaut Rosé
The Bad news first: only 50 cases were produced for the 2021 and it sold out in two weeks. Now the good news, with such success they planted another two acres for the future and will be releasing the 2022 vintage in May of 2023. This truly is a heads up on this delicious wine.
First on the eyes, a golden/copper coloring that is unique and enticing just to view! It has a medium viscosity in the glass. On the nose, the aromas of honeydew melon, strawberry and summer fruits arise to greet the palate. Once in the mouth a light but lively wine opens up to the fruits and a slight mineral flavor. Each sip beckons one to dissect the aromas and convert to their favorite summertime fruit such as watermelon, guava, papaya, etc. The finish is dry and a hint of cantaloupe sneaks in for a soft and round finish. Tannins are not present to help with the subtle fruit finish.
The Food & Wine Pairing
We paired the wine with Ahi Tuna from Fiji quickly sautéed in white wine, oil, red pepper flakes, ginger paste, garlic salt, etc. Then served with a topping of fresh minced papaya, pineapple, Mandarin oranges and slice green onions. Accompanied with long & short brown rice and sliced of fresh massive Beefsteak tomatoes from a farm in Brentwood. The fish and toppings enhanced the wine and made a spectacular meal. In fact Susan Tipton’s food pairing for this wine suggest “sushi, Thai food, or a fresh fruit dessert”.
BTW, the fresh Ahi Tuna came from Ohana Seafood in Modesto.
2018 Lavender Ridge Vineyard tasting room is located in the town of Murphys in the lower Sierra Nevada foothills. To read more about Lavender Ridge, see a previous article:
The Roussanne is powerful with floral aromatics, with hints of peaches, pears and with a rich and silky smooth mouthful texture, almost creamy. Roussanne on the eyes is a light golden straw color with medium to medium heavy viscosity. On the nose floral aromatics, hints of pear, apricots waft into the senses. On the palate, you are treated to a silky smooth mouthful texture. The finish provides a soft nutty almond, compounded with a hint of honey and distinct minerality. Lavender Ridge Vineyard Roussanne has made my Best Wines of the Year since 2019. The current vintage 2019 retails for $30
The Food and Wine Pairing
While enjoying this wine last evening by itself, it is a perfect wine for fish and shell fish. It also works with spicy dishes with its mouth filling texture and flavors.
Lavender Ridge Vineyard 2018 Roussanne is always displayed in the wine cellar as an exceptional wine. This wine is one of the least expensive wines on the display row in the cellar, but is still one of my all-time favorites!
If you have never tasted Roussanne, you are missing a delightful experience in wine.
Here is a link to hear more about this remarkable winery and their award winning wines! https://californiawinesandwineries.com/2016/02/10/wood-family-vineyards-2/
This wine is destined to be one of the Wood Family Vineyards quick sellers. First on the eyes, a deep almost “blackish” color but with a rim of mesmerizing magenta/purple hue and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, berries, leather and spices are the predominate aromas that waft into your senses. But on the palate is where robust, dense and lively blackberry and blueberry flavors engulf the mouth with the fruit and black pepper/sweet pipe tobacco. On the finish, velvety texture and very subtle tannins caress the back of the mouth to provide a long lasting enjoyable tasting. Listed at $36/bottle and only 110 cases produced.
The Food and Wine Pairing
When the temperature hits triple digits, the food choices get paired down quickly. Correspondingly, the red wine choices follow. Last night had a taco salad with lettuce, fresh diced tomatoes, sliced purple onion, meat sautéed in a “taco mix”, cheese and covered in a chipotle salsa. Paired with the 2019 Syrah made a refreshing and enjoyable meal combination.
The Wine Maker
Steven Kent Mirassou as a 6th generation family winemaker has set high goals. He set as his pinnacle development to produce the best “Bordeaux style” wine California could produce. A lofty and perhaps extreme goal for one man in Livermore Valley. After many years as a successful winemaker at Steven Kent Winery, he decided to make 3 to 5 barrels a year of the absolute premier “Bordeaux style” wine. We just opened his 2012 vintage, which is the sixth of the Lineage releases. The blend which changes year to year based on flavor profiles, consisted of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon (Clones 30 & 7); 14% Cabernet Franc; 10% Merlot; 4% Petit Verdot.
While blending is an “artistic” endeavor, Steven also is analytical in his pursuit of the perfect Bordeaux blend. Here is Steven’s write up on why these varietals and clones were chosen. It is like an artist mixing paint colors for the right shading and expression of a painting.
“Cabernet Sauvignon, Clone 30: Dark cherry and cassis flavors, fine-grained tannins and acidity. Less opulent but more age worthy than Clone 4.
Cabernet Franc: Not as “big” as CS but with more finesse and an aromatic palate of sandalwood and chocolate. Acidity is the watchword of this variety. Its acid-based red fruit flavors marry well with the darker more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon to enliven and length Lineage’s finish.
Petit Verdot: Contributes tannin, color, and grapey aromas and flavors of violet and black fruit. This variety helps to build density in the mid-palate of the wine.
Merlot: Noble variety of Bordeaux’s Right Bank; as counterpoint to CS’s austere structure, Merlot is fleshy and opulent; ripe red/dark cherry flavor, a touch of herbal complexity which adds to Lineage’s rich mid-palate.”
The key take way on blending is that it is extremely selective and requires rigorous decision making of not only varietals, but the correct Clones of the varietals to get the flavor profile. Add another step of both winemaking and personal craftsmanship and abracadabra you have a gorgeous and refined Bordeaux blend called Lineage. I am sure Steven wished it was that simple, but this is the shortened version.
Two of many other detailed undertakings are his hand selection of French oak barrels (Taransaud, Le Grand and Francois Freres) and his constant monitoring of the development of the wine in the barrel.
2012 was marked by nearly perfect weather throughout the growing season, and the temperate year produced perfectly ripe and balanced fruit. Cabernet Sauvignon contribution had a significantly larger role by percentage than it did in the previous releases and shows in Lineage and generous structure. Again, Cabernet Franc beautifully serves its role as the contributor of verve, style, and vitality. Merlot provides a great mid-palate roundness while Petit Verdot adds tannin and exotic fruit. The overall feel of Lineage is one of beauty and elegance with a fairly low alcohol level of 13.9%. The suggested maturity of this wine is recommended from 2018 to 2030. The wine was harvested from the Ghielmetti Estate and Home Ranch Vineyards in Livermore Valley. This library wine today from Lineage goes for $245. The current release is the 2018 and available for $175. The 2018 was given 97 points immediately by Wine Enthusiast and the 2017 received 100 points from Steve Heimoff.
The flavor profile and experience of this wine is truly remarkable. First on the eye you see a medium to medium dark red tint and medium viscosity wine. Very different than some of the bolder Cabernet Sauvignon’s coming out of Napa Valley. Your first impression is perhaps this may be a bit light. But hold on until you get your first whiff which reveals “black fruits, exotic woods and spice aromatics”. On the palate, you get all the above characteristics that Steven purposed in his selection of varietals and clones to produce a crescendo of semi-sweet mocha, dark cherry, dark roasted coffee, sweet tobacco, violets, black fruit, etc. You are a bit mesmerized in trying to dissect each essential trait in this wine drinking experience. But it is a wine to simply enjoy and savor the existential engagement and relationship of such a rare and eloquent treat.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Last night our Friday Night Wine & Dine group ventured to Verona18 in Copperopolis. Paired with an eight ounce pan seared filet mignon with herb encrusted Gorgonzola compound butter cooked medium rare. Served with steak fries and a medley of fresh vegetables. The wine embraced the exquisitely tender filet mignon and was a perfect dinner companion.
“One Acre, One Guy, One Wine” slogan is the quintessential meaning behind their wines and success. It started in 2002 with Dave Becker, who founded the One Acre label with just one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon planted at his family home in the Oak Knoll region of the Napa Valley. The success of One Acre led to the launch of Acre Wines, a portfolio of classic wines from sustainably farmed, family-owned estate vineyards in Napa Valley.
Industry veterans, Mike and Talley Henry purchased the winery in 2017. Together, with well-known consulting winemaker Richard Bruno, they continue to carry on the One Acre and Acre Wines legacy that Dave created nearly two decades ago. Today, the One Acre portfolio includes an Oak Knoll Cabernet sourced from Dave’s original one acre vineyard, and a Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon, planted on one acre with identical clones, varietal, spacing and row orientation as the Oak Knoll Cabernet to be able to understand and appreciate the differences of “terroir”. The highly acclaimed Acre portfolio includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc sourced from family-owned vineyards within the stellar AVA’s of Oakville, Yountville, Calistoga, and Stags Leap.
While not a big “wine label” person, their wine bottles are unique and a piece of art! They researched out many ways to get their label on the bottle and chose Bergin Screen Printing & Etching in Napa. The process is “glass printing” with proprietary colors and have perfected the glass printing process. The printing process uses a steel screen with the ink applied to the glass. They are able to screen around the entire bottle 360 degrees. The bottle is then baked in a Lehr at temperatures of 1160 degrees permanently fusing the label with the glass. This makes for a decorative bottle on the outside to hold some exquisite wine.
The Wine – 2018 Acre Cabernet Sauvignon
The 2018 Acre Cabernet Sauvignon follows the pedigree of the 2017 in many remarkable ways. The wine comes from the organically farmed single vineyard Mill Race Vineyard in Yountville. It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. On the eyes a deep crimson color almost black and medium heavy viscosity. On the nose, aromatics of black cherry and luscious blueberries invites you to taste the wine. On the palate, layers of spices and structure greets one initially. Then texture of mild chewiness and flavors of soft new leather, light oak, currant and a tinge of licorice swell up in a beautiful crescendo in the mouth along with the aforementioned fruits. The finish of tannins is soft, velvety and caressing not harsh and edgy like some Cabernet Sauvignons of Napa Valley. A wine to be enjoyed by itself or with a spicy dish to help “calm it down”. The 2018 is just now being released and is $60/bottle. A truly remarkable offering.
The Food and Wine Pairing
Our Friday Night Wine & Dine group at Verona18 and enjoyed various dishes. I ordered the 12 ounce Blackened prime rib with topped with citrus-Pico de Gallo. Served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. The spiciness of the blackened steak along with the mellower Acre Wines Cabernet Sauvignon was truly a perfect match for the evening.
We were invited to a wonderful seafood treat this last weekend in the neighborhood. Our host, Peter and Ansuiya Singh prepared a gourmet dinner. The clams came from the recently discovered seafood purveyor, Ohana Seafood in Modesto. Peter had the Opakapaka flown in fresh from the Pacific.
This large bowl contained seven pounds of clams!! Barely visible is the butter, dried red peppers, garlic and Sauvignon Blanc sauce it was cooked in and at the bottom of this bowl.
Garlic bread was served with the calms and made it perfect for soaking up some of the sauce with dinner! Besides the 2020 Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, many other wines were served to bring out the best of the meal.
The main dish was the Opakapaka fish baked with Alaea Hawaiian salt. Opakapaka has been one of my favorite fish of all time with it being clean, delicate and having a slight sweet finish. A must have when in the Hawaiian Islands!
The meal was accompanied by Taro root sautéed in onions. Taro is a tropical plant and excellent source for fiber and good carbohydrates. It has high levels of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin E to maintain a healthy immune system.
A fresh Thai chilly and smoked paprika aioli was prepared by Peter and provided just the right amount of flavor and spice to enliven both the fish and Taro dishes. Unfortunately no picture was taken.
Also a spicy coconut cream shrimp sauce was offered. It consisted of finely chopped prawn’s sautéed with garlic and fresh basil, and finished off with coconut cream and homemade sweet chili jelly pureed in a blender.
If that were not enough, a beautiful fresh salad with mandarin oranges, green olives and an assortment of lettuces was scrumptious. Dessert consisted of sliced fresh mangos, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries.
Thank you Peter and Ansuiya for such a rare treat prepared to perfection! Your Fijian culinary skills are extraordinary!!
A real treat the last week when returning from Arizona. This sat in the cellar for almost eight years and came up on the “To Drink” list for 2022. Larkmead Vineyards located in Calistoga California on the northern portion of Napa Valley has always been one of my favorites. Their specialty are Cabernet Sauvignon based scrumptious wines as well as some unique white wines. You can read about their rich history at: https://www.larkmead.com/pages/about/ .
This wine is comprised of 100% estate grapes and is composed of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Cabernet Franc. LMV is always made up of this these two varietals and yearly in different percentages. The wine was aged 19 months in 66% new French oak barrels from Tonnelleries Bossuet & Ermitage. The combination of these two strong varietals proved to be a winning combination.
The first impression on the eyes is the astonishing “darkness of the wine” with an almost blackish coloring. A definite heavy viscosity. On the nose an eloquent and stirring aroma of raspberries and blueberries. On the palate, those fruits coupled with the dense vineyard minerals and vanilla pipe tobacco explodes wonderment in the mouth. The finish is long lasting revealing both eloquent, finesse and strong tannins and layers of structure. Always a remarkable wine with this year being no exception. Pricing for this vintage varies but is somewhere today between $150 and $175/bottle.
Enjoyed by itself but surely any tri-tip steak, ribeye or filet mignon and many other dishes would only increase this remarkable wine.
We are almost ready for fall, which is beginning to be my favorite time of the year! Harvest has begun in August and will continue through September with work continuing all the way into November. Fall is also the demarcation for the beginning of football season, new shows on television, new car introductions, saying goodbye to the hot days of summer and best of all the ushering in of some wonderful holiday traditions like Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. We now can add the release of the annual Wood Family Chardonnay “Para Mas Amigas” which will be released August 28th.
Located in eastern Livermore Rhonda has been a mainstay of the Livermore Valley for over two decades. You can read more on her background from airline pilot to award winning winemaker at:
Here is a partial listing of her current winning wines:
- 2021 “Pink Pearl” Rose – Best of Class – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2021 Albariño – Best of Class – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 Cabernet Franc – Double Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 LVVC – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 “Viva” Cabernet Sauvignon – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 Merlot – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 “The Captain” Red Blend – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 “Big Wood” Zinfandel – Gold – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 “Woody’s” Cab Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2018 “Especial” Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2018 Clone 30 Cabernet Sauvignon – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 “El Loco Rojo” Bordeaux Red Blend – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 GSM – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
- 2019 ‘Muy Bueno” Zinfandel – Silver – SF Chronicle Wine Competition
Rhonda Wood, owner and winemaker, has consistently made award winning wines and truly one of my favorite Chardonnay’s for the last six years. While always delicious and winning awards, with caramel and full secondary malolactic fermentation creating a tinge of buttery finish, each year has a slight change. The 2020 introduced a new slant of her Chardonnay with a modicum of citrus introduction. And every year she has won Gold, Double Gold and Best of Class at various competitions around the United States.
So when doing this review of her 2021 Chardonnay I wanted to compare to her 2020 Chardonnay which I have written about previously. The 2021 came in with about 98% of the same “deliciousness” as her 2020. The slight changes were twofold, the first being a more “mouth filling” slightly heavier body due to more stirring of the lees during barrel fermentation. The second was a hint of an ever slight sweetness on the finish. The balance of the wine was almost identical in color (golden yellow), aroma (fresh brioche), taste (pear and apple) and a beautiful finish! I was so please that this wine was as “comfortable and inviting” as her previous vintages once again. It is like coming home from a hard day at work and collapsing in your favorite recliner!
The Food and Wine Pairing
Paired this evening with a lemon garlic shrimp recipe. Ingredients included linguine, olive oil, unsalted butter, minced garlic, crushed red peppers, dried oregano, baby spinach, Parmesan cheese, large shrimp, chopped parsley and lemon juice. The combination of the mouth filling Chardonnay “calmed” the red peppers and the lemon juice frolicked with the citrus qualities in the wine. A wonderful food and wine pairing!
So now that fall is on the horizon, you can also be assured that awards will be forthcoming for this vintage of Chardonnay!